31 December 2009

Ashmolean Museum

Well, it's open after its major refit and rebuild. Goodness only knows how many extra galleries. Except that it isn't really open, because two of my favourite galleries, the Roman and the Casts Galleries, aren't yet ready. And I've got a nasty suspicion that the great majority of the Greek vases is now hidden away in storage.

And what a disappointment, for the country's oldest museum to be so dumbed down. What a disgrace that a collection belonging to one of the world's greatest learned communities should manifest persistent illiteracy. When I am shown an ivory ?Viking crosier head, I expect to see more on the label than a Primary-School-style invitation to fantasise on the carved animals. It's like that now. Except that actually finding any labels at all for a lot of exhibits is terribly difficult. And if you do find a label for any exhibit which has a Eucharistic connection, you will find the Eucharist referred to as 'Holy Communion'. This is very unlikely to do more than confuse the unchurched reader, who may not readily understand why a picture of a Monstrance holding a wafer for 'Holy Communion' was painted over by Protestants. He will have been told either too little or too much. And I suspect he is plain misinformed when told that the design cut from the top of an amnos is from bread used in 'Holy Communion'. If that amnos was consecrated, it was presumably cut up and immersed in the chalice, not given to a tourist.

The same illiteracy extends to sexual matters. A Greek vase showing one of those common scenes described by the late President of Corpus, our own dear Sir Kenneth Dover, as "intercrural intercourse" is explained to Jo Public in terms of a Pedophile and a Victim, thus ignoring the historical and social nature in its own context of the exchange portrayed in favour of irrelevant modern stereotyping. (It was just near there that we were swept aside by an angry mother who was explaining to a tiny girl, who looked all of two-and-a-half, that "Women had no public role in ancient Greece". Honest: those were her exact words. For so many people Antiquity is indeed a very strange country.)

It's yer whiggery everywhere; Butterfield never lived. History is shoved into your face according to the preconceptions of a certain school who imposed their patterns on it after it had all happened. Take the "Oxford" gallery. Most of the wall on one side is a time-chart. And on that we learn about the Foundation of Duke Humphrey's Library ... but not that the Protestants gutted it and burned all the books. About how Henry Tudor founded Christ Church ... but not about the destruction of the five grandest buildings in medieval Oxford: Oseney and Rewley Abbeys and the Houses of the Black and Grey and White Friars. About Cranmer and Ridley and Latymer being burned, but not about how Oxford's brightest and best under Elizabeth Tudor had to slip away to foreign seminaries and upon their returns were horribly executed (at least the modern memorial in the University Church decently lists indiscriminately all those who died in the Reformation turmoils).

I could go on. Ashmole has the best Minoan collections outside Greece, because of the contributions of Sir Arthur Evans (the excavator of Cnossos). The old gallery was arranged by Evans himself. You might have thought that his arrangement could have been reproduced, as being a significant cultural construct in its own right.

The best room is probably the ground floor gallery with the Arundel marbles ... more or less as they were before the interior decorators struck. My hero Menander is still there.

Go to the Pitt Rivers if you want to see a sensitively restored museum.

29 December 2009

Fun with Dr Dawkins

A contingent argument follows ... if the pope's itinerary does, as rumours have suggested, include Oxford and the giving of a lecture there, and if it were suggested that representatives of the University took a formal role in welcoming him to the apices somniantes, the prospect might make Dr Dawkins the Barmy Biologist superbly, delightfully, hopping mad.

Fingers crossed and pray hard.


He is fantastic, isn't he? But ... rather like characters in Dickens ... just that bit too exotically overdrawn for plausibility? Any suggestions as to other authors who might have invented him, or story-lines which he might have graced? Or ways of enjoying him even more?

27 December 2009

Tablets all round

A kind friend has shown me three old Tablet articles on the Apostolic Constitution. Gracious, what bile! And not, apparently, any old nonsense about the 'Enlightenment' ideal of giving a balanced space to opposing opinions.

I was intrigued by the name Nicholas Lash. It rang a bell. When I was a young priest in Buckinghamshire, back in the 1960s, a notion got around that I was a bright and clever and up-and-coming young C of E priest. "There's a RC just like you just down the road", people said. "Two such bright young priests should meet up". This bloke's name was, I am pretty sure, Fr Nicholas Lash. Could he be the same one? We never did meet.

Since Lash doesn't seem to have a "Revd" attached to him, there must be a story here. Is he what we used to call, in the happier and more innocent days of the Irish Church, a 'spoiled priest' - i.e. one who had run off with a woman?

If so, our stories contrast. I, mindful that Holy Order was a diriment impediment to matrimony, took care more Byzantino to get married six weeks before the Diaconate. I'm still married and I'm still a priest, thanks be to God for his grace. He, on the other hand ...

But perhaps it's not the same person at all.

25 December 2009


On Christmass Day here in S Thomas's, there was one Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and one Syrian Liturgy in the Mallalam language. No a whisker anywhere of the English language, or of Common Worship, or of the Novus Ordo. We were an entirely Enlightenment-free and Protestantism-free zone.

I wager there's no other Anglican church in the whole wide world that can better that.

I wonder about cross-fertilisation. Can anybody make a suggestion about how we could incorporate use of the flabella with which we are now equipped into the Roman Rite?

The author of the best suggestion gets made an Honorary Fellow of this blog. Unfriendly suggestions about where I can stick the flabella will be deleted.

21 December 2009

Climate Change and the Holy Rosary

Heard some fool on the wireless saying that Climate Change is totally obvious; "You only have to look out of the kitchen window to see it". I promptly looked out onto a frozen scene and entered upon a discussion with Pam about whether it was sensible for her to set off for Sussex. Not that I'm a Global Warming Denier or anything as wickled as that. I just wish I could See a bit more of what, in obedience to the scientific Magisterium, I devoutly Believe in - after all, this is S Thomas's Day - without being able to See. Or feel.

Comments on a recent post rightly point out that the earlier history of the Mysteries of the Rosary was quite flexible and fluid*. Very true. What I think was a little unfortunate about the Mysteries of Light was
(1) there should be 150 Aves, not 200, because the Rosay is (and in medieval texts is usually referred to as) Our Lady's Psalter; and
(2) JP2's initiative complicated the traditional distribution of the Rosary over the days of the week.

Nevertheless, I do say them from time to time ...'for a change' ...


*On appropriate days I say this five: Immaculate Conception; Nativity; Presentation; Espousals; Annunciation of our Lady; or these of S John Baptist: Annunciation to Zachary; Visitation of our Lady; Nativity of S John; Baptism of Christ; Decollation. (I think it is not entirely happy that in much of the Western Church the ancient and ecumenical devotion to S John Baptist has been de facto replaced by that to S Joseph ... not that I have anything against him ... )

20 December 2009


I am sorry to have confused readers with this slang term. I think people have found Novavulgata a bit of a tonguetwister, especially when drunk.

The Psalter in the Neovulgate (now appearing in editions of the Liturgia Horarum) is certainly not the very wayward Pius XII translation. So within two generations we have had three psalters in public (Latin) worship: Vulgate, Pius XII, Neovulgate. (I expect some learned person will remind us of the even-older Latin Psalter.) I call this scandalous. How can a text settle into one's being and feed one's spirituality if Clever People are endlesssly "correcting" it?

The rabbis, wise chaps, know better than to muck around with the Massoretic texts. I am told that the Byzantine churches have resolved to try to prove their credentials in terms of "modern" scholarship by redoing the Septuagint. Barmy. Why can't they learn from our (Western) mistakes?

If I were an Orthodox, such a move would drive me to become an Old Believer or else - more probably - to ask Rome to grant an Old-Septuagint Ordinariate.

18 December 2009


O virgo virginum the Antiphon at the Mag in the office of the Expectation. So I have used the antiphon which Sarum and other medieval dialects added to the series of Roman "O" antiphons. (O Adonai , of course, I said in the commemoration of the feria.)

Blackfen and the Ordinariate

Fr Hermeneutic has a couple of pictures on his blog of how he will have Blackfen church Reordered if the Lottery delivers for him. My only criticism would be that both look rococo rather than, as Father suggests, baroque. It was as a boy wandering round such churches in Bavaria and the Tyrol that I realised what Christianity is really all about.

Father Tim does have very Anglican Catholic instincts. Anglicanorum coetibus should be amended so that he and his church qualify for admission to an Ordinariate, with or without his reordination.

Some good quality comments ...

on my posts of earlier today.

I think threadwise I do better than Fr Zed ...

17 December 2009

The Supreme Court ...

... which has recently replaced the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords, has just published a decision (5:4) denying the right of an Orthodox Jewish school to regulate its admissions policy according to rabbinical definitions of Jewishness.

I'm not a lawyer, but this seems to me worrying. When the secular state intrudes into the self-definitions of religious groups, it is tet another step towards the dictatorship of secularism. And dangerous to all of us.

16 December 2009

John of Salisbury

An interesting post today ... oops, I must get out of the habit of thinking of the VIS as the Holy Father's personal blogspot ... about S Thomas a Becket's buddy, John of Salisbury.

The more I think about it, the more convinved I am that S Thomas's in Oxford is the obvious focus for the papal visit to England. We are well set up for whether he wants to celebrate the Extraordinary Form in Latin or our Cranmer-language rather conservative Novus Ordo. BTW, I wish they'd hurry up and publish the schedules. I want to book my holidays.


Dear me ... I have just deleted a comment because it talked about 'intention' in a way that clearly indicated that the reader had not read a careful post on precisely this, which appeared on December 10. Yes; I know that nobody is under any obligation whatsoever to read every word I write - so, sorry, K. But just imagine what it is like to try to build something up cumulatively over a few days and then ...

15 December 2009

Dogma and the Ordinariates

Ordinariates are to have their own "authoritative expression of the Catholic Faith". And it will be the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is perhaps the most revolutionary feature of the Apostolic Constitution, and I suspect its implications for Ecumenism will be teased out for decades to come.

When, in my mid-teens, I joined an Anglican papalist organisation called the Catholic League, I had to sign my adherence to the definitions of all the Ecumenical Councils down to Vatican I (Vatican II being at that time merely a twinkle in the eye of Cardinal Roncalli). Trent and Vatican I were explicitly mentioned. So I thereby committed myself - for example - to the Decree Pastor Aeternus, which defined the Primacy and Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. I have never regretted this; indeed, it has been a source of inspiration to me for more than half a century. But an Ordinariate will not have Pastor Aeternus as part of its dogma-book (except by remote implication in as far as the Catechism does state that Ecumenical Councils are infallible, and Vatican I was such a Council). It will have the Petrine Ministry as seen through the balancing prism of Vatican II and summarised in the Catechism.

Ecumenical Councils are relativised as they disappear further and further into history. When did you - even if you attend SSPX chapels - last hear a sermon on the Council of Florence? Vatican I - and Vatican II - will, likewise, come to be seen in a more contextualised and embedded way than they were in the raw and acrimonious days after their respective conclusions. AC implicitly acknowledges this. And in the last pontificates, Christological agreements were signed between Rome and 'non-Chalcedonian Churches' - such as the Copts (1973) and Assyrians (1994), communities hitherto suspected respectively of Monophysitism and Nestorianism. This appeared to be an Ecumenism of getting round conciliar antitheses by contextualising formulae. I wonder if the provision for the Ordinariates to have their own "authoritative expression of the Catholic Faith" should be glossed in a not totally dissimilar way.

And what about the status of Apostolicae curae, which condemned Anglican Orders? Is that - or at least, its conclusions - such as to require the assent we owe to faith? Of course, the Apostolic Constitution assumes the juridical force of that Bull in its provision for the 'ordination' of Anglican clergy entering the Ordinarites. I don't think many of us have much problem in giving other Christians certainty about the validity of our sacramental ministrations. I have no objection whatsoever to submitting to the juridical implications of Apostolicae curae. On the contrary. (Although the Commentary printed in Osservatore Romano by a Fr Ghirlanda, which states that "ordinations ... will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae curae " appears to be unaware that in the case of Bishop Graham Leonard, the CDF concluded that there was uncertainty about the invalidity of his orders, because of the Dutch Touch [see in this blog, via Search] since the 1930s. I will return to some practical matters in this area tomorrow.)

But that does not impinge upon the question of whether we have to believe in Apostolicae curae. I have always been intrigued by the fact that the original text of the Bull described the question as idem caput disciplinae, implying that this is ultimately a disciplinary rather than a doctrinal question. There's a Dan Brown story somewhere here: much later printed versions craftily omitted the word disciplinae. I suspect that Cardinal Merry del Val, a crony of Cardinal Vaughan and a fellow plotter, might have had something to do with the change. The mere fact that someone did think it necessary to tamper with the text in this way itself rather implies that he did find the implications of the original text an embarrassment.

But in any case, Apostolicae curae is not part of the Catechism. So it will not be "professed by members of the Ordinariate". And, notoriously, men consecrated Bishop in the Anglican Church are encouraged to ask for the jus pontificalium. That hardly sounds like a desire to rub Anglican noses in Apostolicae curae until ... if you follow me ... the pips squeak.

As I see it, Anglicanorum Coetibus allows the following provisos (among others) to be attached to the initial proposition "We willingly submit to what Apostolicae curae requires of us, but Anglican Orders were ...
(1) not in fact invalid in 1896"; or
(2) were invaid in 1896, but the Dutch Touch dealt with the question".

The good thing, of course, is that the matter will be completely academic. But, whatever the future holds for me personally, I do not envisage ceasing to celebrate June 9 as the Anniversary of my Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of the Catholic Church.

Before the more uberCatholic RC readers start frothing at the mouth, I ask them to consider the views of Fr Aidan Nichols (1993; the emphases are his), and just check that their own credentials, both academically and as a soundly traditional Catholic, are superior to his. "Those Anglican clergymen who feel morally certain of the sacramental reality of their Orders can draw consolation from the fact that, whereas the practice authorised by Apostolicae curae still continues (since the teaching of that bull remains the thesis in possession), the applicability of its teaching to their own Orders today is not itself unconditionally proposed by the contemporary Roman Church."

Catholic Heritage blogspot

I warmly commend this admirable Blog to readers. The interest of its posts extends beyond the circles of those who love Traditional liturgy ... and those who love Ireland!

14 December 2009

ARCIC and the Apostolic Constitution

Archbishop Rowan didn't - despite the claims of his critics - call the ecclesiology of Anglicanorum Coetibus eccentric. He suggested that there are others who might say it. A characteristically elegant dodge; not as crude as Cicero's favourite, praeteritio ("I forebear to say that my opponent is a proved embezzler and paederast; let me simply ..."). Is there a techical name in Rhetoric for "Others may say X "? Is it the same device as "You may say that, Matty; I couldn't possibly comment"?

His Grace has a point. The ecclesiology of AC does diverge from the norms to which we are accustomed and which he himself has lucidly expounded: that a "local church" is not a denomination or a province but bishop-and-presbytery-and-diaconate-and laos. Perhaps his words indicate that he is going to make one last herculean effort to secure just such an uneccentric provision for us from General Synod. If he is, all power to his elbow. If the Westminster monsignori do succeed in sabotaging the Holy Father's initiative, we could need something to fall back on. Mind you, I devoutly hope not ...

Where Rowan fails is in not taking account of some aspects of the exercise of Primacy. This was well set out in The Gift of Authority (ARCIC 1999). "We envisage a primacy that will even now help to uphold the legitimate diversity of traditions, strengthening and safeguarding them in fidelity to the Gospel ... This sort of primacy will already assist the Church on earth to be the authentic catholic Koinonia in which unity does not curtail diversity ... Such a universal primate ... will promote the common good in ways that are not constrained by sectional interests ..."

Such an understanding of primacy implies primatial intervention to protect diversity which is under threat. It indicates the strong hand of Peter stretching out to protect and uphold those who are threatened by local sectional interests which are powerful and even possibly menacing. It draws strength from the principle of Subsidiarity, which in the 1990s made the tortuous journey from papal encyclicals tp documents of the EU: the principle that decisions should be made at the lowest possible level. And AC is shot through and through with imaginative devices to ensure that the instruments of the Roman primacy support the tender shoots of an Ordinariate vis-a-vis strong established structures such as Episcopal conferences, their bureaucracies, and the diocesan bishops. Switching jargon, one could say that the primacy is putting itself alongside the Base Communities.

Ordinariates are to be set up by the CDF, not a Conference. They are subject to the senior dikastery, the CDF, not to a Conference. Ordinaries are answerable to the Sovereign Pontiff through the CDF. The Ordinariate's liturgy will have the approval of the Holy See. The jurisdiction of the Ordinary will not be a matter of bits and pieces "transferred" from diocesan bishops - the dramatically 'eccentric' idea which seems to be as far as General Synod can be persuaded to go. His jurisdiction will be vicarious: that is, it will be exercised in the name of the Roman Pontiff. Tangle with an Ordinary, you are tangling with the Pope. The Ordinary, with Rome's approval (a Conference does not even have to be informed), can erect institutes of consecrated life. He can erect personal parishes ... and note the proviso "after having heard the opinion of the diocesan Bishop". Of course an Ordinary will wish to work in the closest harmony and amity with his brother bishops. How could he not? Quite apart from the principle of the thing, he has so much to gain from it. But he does not, in the last resort, juridically need their agreement.

And an Ordinary will be selected from a terna - list of three name - submitted by the Ordinariate's own Council of Priests: not from a list submitted by the Papal Nuncio after extensive consultations among the members of an Episcopal Conference. This is probably the most revolutionary feature of the Holy Father's arrangements. It reverses the tendencies of the Pian Era: the period of centralisation which marked the pontificates of and between Pius IX and Pius XII. And the powers given to the Council of Priests mark a return in the direction of structures which are positively ante-Nicene.

It is the ministry of the Roman Church to uphold diversity. Roman Pontiffs have not always done that as robustly as they should; in North America they once were less forthright than they ought to have been in defending the patrimony of Eastern Catholic communities - or even the Poles - against local Irish and German diocesan bishops.

But this pope, as far as one can see, has got a well screwed on head.

13 December 2009

By special Appointment, HOOP MANUFACTURERS To The HOLY SEE

The Roman Catholic Church, God bless its cotton socks, is currently blessed with a new growth industry. The manufacture of Hoops. An example: think what happened in 2008 after the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. This had the deceptive superficial appearance of being a document crafted to enable any Latin Rite priest to say the Old Rite, without any sort of license or permission from the Holy See ... or the local episcopal conference ... or the diocesan bishop ... or even (in the case of assistant priests) the Parish Priest. Indeed, that is what the document started off by saying, in words which, to untutored Anglican eyes like mine, looked quite clear and unambiguous. But of course, we Anglicans have no expertise whatsoever in the exquisitely fine finer points of Canon Law.

This is where the Hoops come in. When a papal document says that X can do Y without needing permission from Z, what that really means canonically, you see, is that before X can even think of doing Y, he needs permission from Z. So, dutifully, loyally, some of those RC bishops in 2008 immediately turned to the ancient craft of Hoop Manufacturing. And, my goodness, the quality of those hoops! It quite takes our poor Anglican breath away! Special examinations turned out to be the the classiest hoops: examinations in Liturgy; examinations in Latin. "Jump through these, my boy", said the bishops, "and jump through the additional hoop of an interview with me to explore just why you want to do this, and then ... well .... we'll think about it. There! Can't say fairer than that! That's what the Holy Father had in mind!"

One of the most under-discussed elements in the policies of the current pontificate is the principle of Subsidiarity. A few years ago, this notion was quite popular: the idea that decisions are best made at the lowest possible level. There was a brief period when this was seen as a welcome, a refreshing, antidote to a culture of bureaucratic, anally retentive, centralisation of power and of decision-making. Episcopal Conferences did very well out of the fashion. "Devolve it all to us", they cried. "We're the local chaps; we know the local circumstances. Subsidiarity!! It affirms the local Church! It strips power from those beastly bully-boys in the Roman Dikasteries!" And my, were these 'local chaps' angry when John Paul II and his henchperson Ratzinger had the nerve to suggest that, theologically, the 'powers' of Episcopal Conferences were the Emperor's New Suit.

But, on the other hand, it has become clear that when - as in the case of Summorum Pontificum, which devolved liturgical decisions to the lowest conceivable levels - it comes to devolving something below the level of episcopal conferences and their entrenched incestuous power-hungry bureaucracies, Subsidiarity suddenly stops being sexy and becomes a sharp-edged implement of which it might be said (in the immortal phrase of our Anglo-Welsh World War II hero Corporal Jones) that They Don't Like It Up 'Em.

Like our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, we Anglican Catholics think that Subsidiarity is a Very Good Thing. It has been one of our central ecclesiological principles for 150 years. Come to think of it, it's what we mean when we talk about our Patrimony.

Vespers of our Lady

Grateful thanks to a kind and painstaking correspondent who found me musical texts for these Vespers. We accordingly did them and (yes, I know this is not how one should talk about the worship of Almighty God) they were much enjoyed by all. And grateful thanks, too, to Cantors, Choir, Musical Director, and Servers.

Our congregational booklets at S Thomas's were produced in 1925 by the Society of SS Peter and Paul and are in that Society's distinctively baroque and triumphalist style. It is born upon me that singing this service is a tradition going back to the League of Our Lady, founded in 1904 by that great ecumenist and protector of the Catholic Revival, Lord Halifax (and probably beyond that, to the guilds of the late Victorian Ritualists). And to the Hermeneutic-of-Continuity Catholicism of the Walsingham Pilgrims' Manuals before the Spirit of the Council laid a sometimes rather dead hand on the jolly times.

I had never before heard the Roman melodies for the Antiphons fitted to the Authorised Version's translation of the Song of Songs. Lovely ... indeed, exotic; dare I say sensuous. " ... my spikenard sendeth forth the perfume thereof ... his left hand is under my head ... arise, my love, and come away ... How fair and pleasant art thou in thy delights, O Holy Mother of God". I devoutly hope and trust that those involved in developing the worship of the Ordinariates will adhere to the Anglo-Catholic custom of translating the scriptural quotations in Roman Rite by way of the Authorised Version. It's a very valuable part of the Patrimony.

Is there a politically-incorrect implied antithesis in the phrase "I am black but comely"?

12 December 2009

Claw-back time?

The BBC website has an interview about Anglicanorum Coetibus with a Mgr Andrew Faley. If this man's attitudes and views have been accurately reported and accurately represent those of his masters ...


(This carries on from my recent post on the S Thomas's High Altar.)

There can be no doubt that all right-thinking people regard Fr Jeremy Hummerstone, Vicar of the small Devon town of Torrington, as not only a good thing but a very good thing. He is the epitome of the old-style Anglican Catholic Parish Priest: literate, well-read, acute, and with a laugh never far away. Merton College Oxford was the stable that trained him (and Somerville College produced Clarissa: happy days, when Clergy Wives were good quality girls). I was fortunate enough to get to know him when, during my short six years in Devon, we were members of the clerical society for Catholic Anglicans in the diocese of Exeter, the Society of S Boniface (Mass; exegesis of the Greek NT; lunch; Paper; chat. It is still going strong and still blessed with the sempiternal Fr Michael Moreton). The months we went to Torrington afforded the opportunity, in Torrington church, of praying before the shrine of our Lady of Czenstochowa.

Fr Jeremy has kindly shown me a copy of what I take to be* the elusive first Edition of the English Missal, published with the date 1912 by W Knott, Brooke Street, Holborn. And bound into that volume - in between Holy Saturday and the Ordinary of the Mass - is a quite different volume published the same year, The Music of the Mass, published by the SSPP. The insertion, unlike the rest of the Knott Missal, is in the characteristically and sumptuously Baroque style of SSPP - woodcuts; borders; large print. It is not just the sung bits of the Mass with the chants, but a collection of the1549 rite, the Asperges, the Nuptial Mass, the 1662 rite (with, in what looks to me rather like a joke, under "Canon of the Mass" Dr Cranmer's Prayer of Humble Access interpolated with the rubrics from the Tridentine Missal that go with Te igitur). At the start of the missal, inserted just before the Knott's title page, an additional frontispiece reads just "Missal", with a badge for the SSPP (curiously, not their usual one).

In other words, SSPP piggybacked their material onto the Knott Missal. And the designs embossed on the front and back covers are from the Music (which I last met in Lancing Chapel's Sacristy). I wonder what the relationship was between SSPP and Knott.

Has anybody else come across anything like this?


*Unlike all other English Missals, it doesn't say which edition it is. So that means it must be the first?

11 December 2009

The Western Catholic World

NLM had, yesterday, a pretty feature showing blue vestments - that delightful Spanish custom - in use "in the Western Catholic World". I was afflicted by an ineluctable fantasy that one of the figures portrayed had a curious but striking resemblance to the luxuriantly, exquisitely, Hispanic figure of the Principal of an Anglican seminary not a million miles from here. Nice to know that NLM, unlike some people I could mention, regard us people as authentically Catholic.

Incidentally, the chasuble showed just before the picky of Fr Robin looked, to my untutored eye, distinctly like an example of opus Anglicanum. Does anyone know where it comes from?


At the recent meeting in the University Church about Anglicanorum coetibus, a jesuit canonist (I think his name may have been something like Orsy) said that he had searched and searched - but had been unable to discover another example of an ecclesiastical structure such as the "Ordinariates" being subject to a Roman dikastery.

Notoriously, we Anglicans know nothing about canon law. I don't, for example. And since I have a disinclination to be a laughing-stock, I tend to steer clear of subjects in which I do not feel confident ... such as canon law.

But I can't get it out of my mind that the bloke was wrong; because there is a very obvious ... and distinctly interesting ... example, of just such a phenomenon. Isn't there?

Before the "Restoration of the Hierarchy" in 1850, is it not true that the "Vicars Apostolic" who presided over the "Districts" of England were subject to the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide?

9 December 2009

Vatican Information Service ...

... carries two interesting pieces preached by our Holy Father on December 8. In one he talks about "the City" with considerable penetration. In the other he speaks about Rupert of Deutz; he says that it was he that first applied the texts about the Bride of the Song of Songs to our Lady.

Presumably this means that the antiphons of Vespers of our Lady are subsequent to Rupert? Anybody out there got more on this?

Feeneyism: I looked at Vatican documents via a link on the Wikipedia article.

More traditionalist than Tradition?

A brief post about a phenomenon that I find a little bit worrying; although perhaps it is inevitable in a situation in which there were fracturings of many continuities in the 1970s which many very admirable people are trying to repair: Being More Traditionalist Than Tradition; making up our 'Traditionalism' as we go along on the basis of insecure or even erroneous foundations. Sometimes, this ubertraditionalism is itself, paradoxically, actually heresy (vide five paragraphs down).

It seems to be part of a new quasi-Orthodoxy that Mass must be celebrated with the priest facing in the same way as his people. It is my own distinct preference. I opposed, in the 1980s, the reordering of Lancing Chapel so that the riddels of the "English" altar were removed. BUT the rubrics of the Missal of S Pius V provide very fully for Mass versus populum. And the Patristic evidence is not in favour of Mass facing away from the people except incidentally as that is a product of saying Mass facing East. Which is what the first millennium really was sold on.

Earlier this year, two very fine blogs, far better than mine, gave totally erroneous guidance on how to say the EF Mass if no-one else is present; and how loud the secreto parts of the EF Mass should be. O'Connell, a painstaking author who reproduces the wisdom of generations of rubricists and, more important, the innumerable decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, gives full information to anyone who takes the trouble to read him. [Ad primum: omit nothing; ad secundum: so as not to be heard by those nearby.]

And Concelebration: on which, this year, I have done two long series because a very interesting author, in a stimulating book (of which I provided a very positive review in New Directions), includes a throw-away footnote in which he dismisses the whole notion of concelebration in the Roman Rite, even in the Rite of Presbyteral Ordination. He gives no evidence and appears to be totally unaware that the magisterium of two popes - both of whom had a reputation for erudition and both of whom wrote centuries before our post-Conciliar ruptures - is perfectly clear about the matter (see my posts). Not to mention S Thomas Aquinas. My posts will also reveal, if you look back at them, my own disquiet about a number of practical aspects as Concelebration has evolved in the last half century. But to deny that the Western Church has any real tradition of Concelebration at all is poppy-cock. Whatever that is.

And some of our Ubertraditionalists also have a very unTraditional view of certain ecumenical matters; they appear, for example, to be unaware of the easy relationships between Latins and Byzantines, especially in the Levant and up to the end of the eighteenth century. It included frequent and unselfconscious "Intercommunion". And when fragments of the Byzantine community sought unity with Rome, it was granted on the basis of acceptance, even, in the 1720s, of the Patriarch of Antioch and his clergy and bishops corporately. Their jurisdiction was confirmed.

A few days ago, a correspondent on this blog brusquely advanced the view that outside the (Roman) Catholic Church valid orders simply do not exist. This may be a terribly satisfying position for a certain sort of mentality, but it goes contrary to the practice of the Church for sixteen centuries. It means that when Roman praxis has, for so many years, allowed an Orthodox priest ... or Coptic ... or an Old Catholic .... who comes into full unity, to be permitted to exercise priestly ministry in communion with Rome, it has been deliberately allowing Christ's Faithful to be deceived with pseudosacraments. It means that when Pope Eugene IV, at the Council of Florence, accepted into unity the whole Byzantine East (except of course those who themselves refused the union), he was deliberately and wickedly accepting as bishops and priests those who in reality were nothing of the sort. This is not Traditionalism; it is either dangerous ignorance or a deliberate repudiation of many centuries of Roman teaching. It is quite simply and unambiguously heresy. Like all heretics, the gentleman concerned should inform himself of what our Holy Mother the Church does teach, and then submit himself penitently to it.

Readers with good memories may remember the tragic figure of the Boston priest Fr Leonard Feeney, who in 1949, did get himself condemned by the Holy Office for a similar heresy involving just this sort of attempt to be more traditionalist than Tradition. He maintained, citing the bull Unam sanctam, that no one would be saved who was not in full visible communion with the Catholic Church ... no nonsense about 'invincible ignorance' or anything like that. He refused to submit himself to what the Magisterium - in the person of Pius XII - actually taught on this point, and eventually incarnated his own paradox by being excommunicated.

And in the next day or two I hope to say a few words about a recent Post by Bishop Williamson of the SSPX.

5 December 2009

More on ALL THAT

Recently I wrote about the unpopularity of Nathaniel Woodard. In fact, it has to be admitted that we Anglican Catholics are, like the early Christians, among the most disliked of humanity. The visceral English hatred of Catholicism (if you haven't, despite my urgings, read Dr Dawkins' diatribe against Catholicism - in the Washington Post - you should do so) provides one reason. Englishmen, brainwashed for centuries about Popery, very naturally did not take kindly to walking into their Parish Church and find that the new Vicar had apparently introduced it there. Probably the clergyman concerned showed them the Ornaments Rubric of the Book of Common Prayer, which, if taken plainly and literally, says that the ornaments of the Church and the Minister should be as they were in 1548 - the year before the first Prayer Book came in. They couldn't see the flaw in his logic, although they were convinced that there must be one since what he was saying and doing flew in the face of everything they thought they knew. So another element came into play: the dislike that the Plain Englishman has for the Cleverclogs. Victorian parishes were flooded with rumours that the new 'Ritualist' parson was a "Jesuit in disguise", since, as everyone knew, Jesuits were as amazingly clever as they were totally unprincipled.

And the RC church just up the road didn't like what was going on close by, either. The simple distinction between Catholic and Protestant had suited them very well. A lot of churches became indistinguishable from RC churches; and there were even some in which the entirety of the worship was in Latin and according to the Roman rules. (There were clergy of the C of E who had never said Mass in any other rite that of the Latin Missal; if you spent the first two thirds of your priestly life working up the long cursus honorum from most junior curate to most senior curate and then some years as incumbent in a like-minded church before retiring to a chaplain's cottage attached to some congenial convent, you could do this.) Not a little of the persecution such clergy endured had a lot to do with the local RC bishop complaining to his Anglican opposite number about the "confusion" such churches engendered. Perhaps here we find the genesis of the ease with which the Anglican elite and some of the English RC establishment collude in antipathy towards us.

And now there is yet another gang of jokers on the block: liberal RCs. They can see that we are so much more the real thing than they are; that all the beliefs and practices they are so proud to have jettisoned in the 1960s are alive and well with us. It is not surprising that the Tablet was so cross about Anglicanorum coetibus. This fact is what makes the views of the SSPX clergyman, whose problems with our lack of orthodoxy I quoted recently, so off-centre. Incidentally, I am glad to read that Mgr Fellay entertains quite a different view from that of 'Fr Scott'.

Could it be that at long last we Anglican Catholics have a friend? The old Bavarian gentleman? Let's try to treat him well. We are so unused to having friends that there is the risk of our being somewhat unpractised in our handling of them.

4 December 2009


A correspondent wisely reminds us of C S Lewis's essay on 'Bulverism'. You can get to Lewis's original paper via Wikipedia. Bulverism is a phenomenon of which every person should be aware who finds themself* rebutting the logical incoherence of the Zeitgeist.


*I make no apology for this curious usage.

Anglicanorum coetibus and SSPX

The views of a Fr Scott of the SSPX are brought to my attention by a reader. I agree with most of what he actually says. Where he is off-centre is in simply knowing nothing whatsoever about us. His doctrinal comments are particularly inapposite. We are not heretics. Unlike the Orthodox, whom Fr Scott interestingly thinks are hardly heretics at all, we fully accept all that the Magisterium of the Church has defined de fide, including the decrees of Trent, Vatican I (and Vatican II where it is de fide ... mind you, I think there would be no harm in having one or two clarifications about the Vatican II decree on Religious Freedom; I hope Fr Scott will not condemn me out of hand as a dangerous liberal for this). Is it so wrong for us to accept the Catechism CC as a useful popular compendium of what is taught authoritatively as de fide in the primary Conciliar and Pontifical dogmatic documents and by the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, and to treat things in it which are not so based with the appropriate obedient respect (obsequium) that falls short of acceptance by divine Faith?

I know SSPX has resolutely defended the use of Latin in the Worship of the Western Church, and I admire them for their long and often lonely act of witness. I myself say the Tridentine Mass, in Latin, several times a week. I am aware of other Anglican clergy who are learning it and will use it with enthusiasm. But - just suppose the Holy See authorises for us a version of the Tridentine Rite in 'Tudor' English. Would this really be so terrible? There are examples from before the twentieth century of the Roman Rite being allowed in East European languages. However glorious the Latin language is, is it doctrinally unthinkable for the 'aloud' bits of the rite to be vernacular? Did not the admirable Mgr Lefebvre sign the Conciliar decree on Liturgy which allowed the possibility of some use of the vernacular?

As far as Orders are concerned, Fr Scott may not be aware that since the 1930s, schismatic Dutchmen called 'Old Catholics', whose orders Vatican praxis has always accepted, have been taking part "as aequi-principal consecrators" in Anglican episcopal consecrations. Secret archives which I have seen make clear that this practice was introduced precisely in order to ensure that "even the strictest RC" would not be able to question Anglican Orders in the future (a fact not made public at the time out of a desire not to give RC controversialists evidence for saying "even the Anglicans are doubtful about their own orders"). The Dutch, as they did the Touch, have said, in Latin, that formula from the Tridentine Pontifical which, before the twentieth century, was regarded among commentators and manualists as the form (Fr Scott can rest assured that the Bugninified post-Conciliar Roman Pontifical has not been involved in this process). But in any case, I do not know of any Anglican Catholic bishop or priest who would not be willing to have any doubts about his status set aside by a new 'ordination'. This is what happened, decades even before the Dutch Touch began, when Newman (whom Fr Scott appears to view with approval) went to Rome; he was not convinced that Anglican Orders were invalid - and he records that nobody else in Rome was either - but he submitted to a 'reordination' when he was assured that it was, in the mind of the Church, conditional, although its liturgical form did not make this conditionality explicit.

If we can make the Apostolic Constitution work ... and if SSPX sorts itself out with our Holy Father ... I will be very happy to recommend to my PCC that we welcome SSPX to our altars. Especially Fr Scott. He will not find much evidence of Dr Bugnini in S Thomas's.

3 December 2009

Masturbation and all that.

During the happy three decades during which I taught Greek and Latin and Theology at Lancing College in Sussex, and offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each morning in those most exquisite of surroundings, I did quite a lot of work in the Archives. Our Founder, Nathaniel Woodard, had a most satisfactory habit, not only of keeping every letter he received, but also of preserving the drafts of his replies - so that one could actually follow the workings of his mind as he drafted, added, scratched out, and rethought.

Woodard was one of the most unpopular religious figures of Victorian England. His unpopularity came not, as in the case of the Ritualists, from cultic exoticism. In fact, the College still retains the black stole which represented the limit of his advance in matters of liturgical vesture. No; his problem was that he thought that everybody needed to go to Confession, and he was constantly attacked for the structures by which he attempted to ensure that every pupil did so. And it is clear from the Archives what his reason was: that the sexual urge is immensely strong and can only be controlled by the means of Grace offered in the Catholic Sacramental system. Without it, he clearly believed, pretty well every male, at least if unmarried, was likely to be a habitual masturbater.

In one of his writings, the metaphorical comes perilously close to the physical; he wrote of Victorian culture as drenched in a sea of uncleanness. And herein lay the reason for the loathing he inspired. He called the bluff of the Victorian Gentleman's comfortable (and Pelagian?) self-construction. Victorian culture regarded Masturbation as a very disgusting and sinful thing to do; believed that only the weakest and most contemptible would fall so low. I, of course, so everyone implied, would never sink so far. But as a Victorian gentleman looked into Nathaniel Woodard's eyes, he knew ... that Woodard knew ...

How times change. Woodard knew that the sexual temptation was very strong and that self-abuse was humanly inevitable. They hated him for it, persisting in the delusional cultural conspiracy of the assumption that nice people with clean collars ... like oneself ... did not do it. Now, our culture knows that sexuality is powerful and itself now proclaims that masturbation is very common - and it hates the Christian Tradition for suggesting that there is anything disordered about it.

The one constant is that the children of the Zeitgeist loath Catholic Truth. If we say "X is common but sinful", one century will spit its hatred at us for the first half of the statement, and the next will turn on us in fury for suggesting the second part.

2 December 2009

It's none of my business but ...

I expect many of you will have read on Fr Zed about the RC bishop of Calgary and his clever dodge for making trouble with the FSSP about Holy Communion in the mouth. What price 'subsidiarity'!

Didn't the Holy Father, when he issued his motu proprio, assure his Venerable Brethren that there would be a review in three years' time of any problems that arose?

Could it be that this crafty b****r in Calgary is trying to get ammo by deliberately provoking a confrontation in the hope of getting an angry or 'disobedient' response?

BTW, the photo' makes him look just like the moustachioed Low Church Clergyman in Eric Mascall's poem.

Bishop Margot

Apparently the German Lutherans, or some such body, and the Russian Orthodox, were going to have a big Do to celebrate the 50th (or 500th? I neither know nor care) anniversary of their Dialogue, or something. Then the Germans elected a female presiding "bishop", or whatever. Then Archbishop Hilarion said that protocol prevented him from attending. Then the Prods got all huffy and called the whole thing off, or something.

They just don't get it, do they? German Lutherans or English liberals; however much the representatives of the ancient Churches spell things it out to them, they cheerfully go their own (ever so highly principled) way and expect to get away with it. Doubtless the Germans are even now busily blaming the Moscow Patriarchate for welching on ecumenical dialogue and poaching and poor communications and discourtesy and heaven knows what. "Does Moscow any longer take Ecumenism seriously?", I can just hear them whingeing. "This raises serious concerns about whether there is any point in Dialogue". I can just imagine it. Pathetic lot, all of them.

Vivat Cyrillus, sez I. Eis polla ete, Despota.

30 November 2009

Damp squibs all round

What a dismal wash-out as an entertainment - the 'Panel Discussion' in the University Church about 'The News from Rome'. Hard work, too. I expect it's because I'm so old and senile, but I couldn't actually hear everything that most of the distinguished Panel said, except for the words of Bishop Andrew Burnham, who spoke loudly and with clear enunciation and accurate use of the microphone. That made him sound a trifle assertive compared with most of the rest of them, which was unfair because he was simply doing his I'm-a-reasonable-man-and-goodness-me-I'm-certainly-not-a-bigot turn, which he does so well.

The Master of Benet's, Dom Felix Stephens (is the denomination 'Dom' politically incorrect now? We never seem to hear it) described himself as 'A benedictine liberal' and explained that the problem was that the chaps in Rome didn't understand England and the English. Twice he said that Rome would not have women priests and each time carefully added the adverb 'now'. His manner was rather like that of the late Cormac; of being an old dodderer who hadn't quite mastered his brief. I presume that in Felix' case this is a jesuitical affectation designed to lull us unsuspecting Protestants into a coma, because I gather he is a distinctly natty operator when it comes to finances. And he was certainly decisive enough when the Vicar of the University Church appeared rather unpleasantly to imply that a shortage of priests in the RC church might have something to do with it all.

Felix explained how much he loved the Church of England and simply adored her worship; gosh, I thought, Dr Dawkins last month and now Dom Felix; is there anybody who isn't just filled with admiration of the dear old C of E? From outside?

A Baptist woman called Myra Blyth (what had it got to do with her? We don't get asked to express our views about the internal affairs of the non-Conformist community ... thank God ...) had a delightfully Mummy-will-now-put-you-straight-on-everything manner. Not that she seemed to know much; she thought that the acceptance by Rome of married priests was some sort of doctrinal break-through, apparently unaware that there are tens of thousands of married clergy in communion with Rome. I didn't like her : she called the Pope 'medieval'. It's not so much that I feel defensive about the Roman Pontiff ... I'm sure he's capable of looking after himself ... but I dislike the use of the word 'medieval' as an all-purpose term of abuse.

The highlight of Canon Dr Judith Maltby's contribution ... Oh dear, I'm already bored with doing this post and I haven't got through the half of them. Good night, all. Oh; and, no, nobody mentioned that today was the happy 455th anniversary of Cardinal Pole reconciling England from heresy and schism. What an opportunity missed.

29 November 2009

Ecce sacerdos magnus

I have just heard that Bishop Eric died just before midnight, surrounded by his wife and family, fortified by the rites of our Holy Mother the Church. More later. Cuius animae propitietur Deus.

So What? Mitres and Rabbits

I think I've said most of what I want to, now, on Archbishop Williams' Roman Lecture. Although I might return to it if I feel I have radically new illumination from correspondents (but I would prefer comments only from those who have actually read the lecture at least once).

I have dwelt upon it for obvious reasons: this is a crisis point in ecumenism, and a lecture by the Archbishop of Canterbury - and by the first Archbishop for some time who can read and write - must be a significant document. What an able man in such a position says at such a juncture in such a place is not just any old chat.

But I am left mystified. With the best will in the world (and I did not, as did not a few of Rowan's critics ... the Usual Suspects ..., read it with the intention of cobbling together a case for dismissing it as rubbish), I am having trouble construing its intent. It occurred to me that he has given up on Catholics - both on Rome and on Catholics within his own Church - and has decided to chuck it as far as that end of the spectrum is concerned and build up support elsewhere. But, quite simply, I don't think he is that sort of person. And even if he were, this would be a very strange sort of way of going about it. The feminists do not want to be told that we are still within a process of Reception. The judgement that women's ordination is not first-order, and the idea that we can fudge things a bit by myopically pretending that on a broad enough canvas we can't quite see the women priests, will not appeal to those who, having conscientiously thought these things through, believe that the ordination of women is required by first-order theological imperatives.

As far as I can see, all that is left is the likelihood that Archbishop Rowan, if I may richly mix my metaphors, has painted himself into a corner and has suddenly found himself bankrupt. At this juncture, he needed to pull several rabbits simultaneously out of his hat; but he found that, despite all his conceptual versatility and verbal dexterity, his mitre was a rabbit-free zone.

28 November 2009

The first Anglican Pope again

It is nice to know that, as he gears up to his visit to England, the Holy Father has got a new cross to carry. Instead of a corpus cruci fixum in the middle, it has a representation of the Lamb of God.

Has someone explained to him that this prcisely reflects the preferred usage of middle-of-the-road Anglicans of the I'm-not-too-extreme-party?

The Lamb of God, in the Book of Revelation, is the Lamb slain in sacrifice from before the beginning of the world; the Redeemer who ever lives to make intercession for us at the Heavenly Altar.

At this rate, by the time he gets to London Benedict will be wearing a surplice and stole to celebrate the Holy Communion Service.

One Father

Rowan Williams asks whether, "when so much agreement has been firmly established in first order matters about the identity and mission of the Church, it is really justifiable to treat other issues as equally vital for its health and integity". And: "In what way does the prohibition against ordaining women so enhance the life of communion, reinforcing the essential character of filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and ecumenical agreement, that its breach would compromise the purposes of the Church as so defined?" Behind this surely lurks a question which, if we are honest, many of us sometimes have worried about: " How do we present to the world a gloomy prohibition against Women Clergy as being positive Good News?"

The answer is in Rowan's own summary of the new consensual ecclesiology: "God is eternally a life of three-fold communion; and if human persons are to be reconciled to God and restored to the capacity for which they were made, they must be included in that life of communion. The incarnation of God the Son recreates in human persons the possibility of filial relation with the Father ... etc". The Church images and embodies that divine life of communion in which the Father stands as as the principal of unity because he is the pege theotetos or its arche, the Source of Godhead. The Father, as S Paul writes in Ephesians, is the One from whom all patria, Fatherhood, comes, and in the ekklesia the Bishop is the typos tou Patros [Ignatius Trallians 3:1; Smyrnaeans 8:1; Magnesians 3; 6:1], the 'minted' sacramental reproduction of the One Father. This preoccupation with Fatherhood presumably goes back to the Incarnate Word who used the Aramaic term Abba, and who is reported in John 17 as having prayed that the Holy Father would keep his disciples so that they all might be one. The description, in I Timothy 3, of the episkopos as the paterfamilias of God's Assembly is also significant.

If sacraments as efficacious signs bear a natural resemblance to what they signify (compare the formulation of Hugh of S Victor: that there is an analogy between the visible and invisible elements), it is difficult to see how a woman can image or deliver the Fatherhood of God unless one empties that notion of signi-ficant content. (It is wise to recall that the New Testament does not see God the Father as the Mother of the hypostatically united Word. It suggests that his Mother was a Palestinian Girl called Mary. Nor do its semantics allow that, rather than a Father, he possessed a single undifferentiated 'Parent'.)

It seems to me wholly subversive of an ecclesiology which derives from the Communio of the Trinity to place in a cathedra episcopalis a person who cannot be seen as the typos of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ*. In other words, a woman-bishop subverts the Patri-archal life of the Church as an expression of that very life in the communion of the Blessed Trinity which Rowan seeks to establish. Prescinding from Scholastic categories of 'valid' and 'invalid' (not that the scholastic formulation causes me any anxieties), this is what it really means when we say that a woman 'cannot' be a bishop.

Putting it demotically, Women Bishops bugger up the Trinity and they bugger up sacramental signification.

Or if they don't (after all, I am not infallible), they are de facto able to focus and articulate neither the unity of the local church, nor its integration by the person of its 'bishop' into the mia Katholike, for as long as de facto there are people who share my misapprehensions. This must be what it really means when Rowan concedes that we are still in an open period of discernment and reception. And given the importance of the episcopal ministry (and its dependant ministries) in structuring the Christian Assembly in Trinitarian communio, the structured and structural doubt implicit in Discernment and Reception disqualifies the innovation from possibility.



I recall reading that in New Zealand, in ordinations, 'bishop' Penny was addressed as "Right Reverend Mother in God". Is that correct? Does anyone know of Anglican Provinces which have had the courage of their feminist convictions to address women bishops as 'Father in God'? Or bishops of either gender as 'Parent in God'?

27 November 2009

Archbishop Rowan's lecture again

An intriguing little nugget: as far as the question of women's ordination is concerned, Rowan says that we are still "in what is formally acknowledged to be a time of discernment and reception".

Intriguing, because proponents sometimes claim that the period of reception is over; opponents of the Ordination of Women pessimistically say the same. Rowan asserts the opposite. In this he has put clear blue water between himself and his befuddled predecessor - as long ago as the early 1990s poor Carey, in his I-am-the-Holy-Office mode, declared that opposition to the Ordination of Women was "a heresy", and, moreover, uttered this formal anathema in as significantly magisterial context as the pages of Readers' Digest, apparently the Anglican Establishment's equivalent to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

The big question, of course, has always been whether we would get ecclesial structures in which to continue Discerning without having in fact sold the pass by equivalently accepting women priests. 'Discerning' is a concept which can be vague and endless when it is applied to ideas which clever people can tweak, adapt, and compromise upon. But wymynprysts are not glossable concepts but physical realities. If we are not given a viable and discrete ecclesial structure in which what can be identified as the authentic Catholic life can be lived out, those who are still Discerning and have not yet Received the innovation are not in fact being permitted to exist. Unlike his dim comprovinciales, Rowan is bright enough to know this. But does anybody seriously think that, even with his backing, they are going to give us a Third Province? And what did we want a Third Province for anyway, except as a lifeboat to get us from the Titanic across to the Carpathia? What have we ever wanted for more than a hundred years except unity with the Barque of Peter? That Ocean Liner which really is unsinkable?

The possibility of continuing what is apparently our Anglican mission of Discerning whether or not to Receive the Ordination of Women, while lounging comfortably on the promenade deck of an ocean liner soaking up the gins (for are we not Anglican Catholics?), seems to me not without its charm.

Oh dear ... somebody cleverer than me will have to sort out metaphor from reality in that last bit.

26 November 2009

Rowan Williams and Bletchley Park

In Rowan's Rome lecture, I am quite unable to understand the last bit of section 5: where he argues that "Even if there remains uncertainty in the minds of some about the rightness of ordaining women, is there a way of recognising that somehow the corporate exercise of a Catholic and evangelical ministry remains intact even when there is dispute about the standing of female individuals?"

Is he saying that if you sort of look in a quick, general sort of way at the clergy of, say, the province of Canterbury, without sort of bothering to spot that nearly half of them are females and to ask any questions about what that means, you can easily get an impression that they sort of look pretty much like a 'Catholic' ministry doing the same sort of 'Catholic thing' (his words)?* And so that's all right, isn't it? Or at least sort of up to a point?

If so, I am reminded of the words of a colleague of mine at Lancing, a brilliant Yorkshire classicist who had spent the War at Bletchley Park. As a nervous new member of Common Room in 1973, I uttered in his hearing one morning a fatuous piece of meaningless small-talk. "Ee", he said. "For an apparently intelligent man, that's a bloody silly thing to say".

But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps Rowan's words are simply the best an able barrister can think up when handed a quite impossible brief.

Or are there profundities in his words that I have been unable to fathom?


*Am I mistaken, or is some sort of circular argument going on here? What we could do with is Eric Mascall. He would have dissected the whole business with terrifyingly mathematical logic.

More Rowan

Rowan's Rome lecture articulates an ecclesiology which is profoundly orthodox. Hoi polloi talk about "churches" when they mean denominations or 'national' churches: the "Methodist Church"; the "Church of Scotland". But Rowan knows that "the retheologising of ecclesiology, especially in dialogue with the Christian East, has meant that we are now better able to see the local community gathered round the bishop or his representative for eucharistic worship not as a portion of some greater whole but as itself the whole, the qualitative presence of the Catholic reality of filial holiness and Trinitarian mutuality here and now". This is profoundly in line with the ecclesiology set out by Joseph Ratzinger in two CDF documents Communionis notio and Dominus Iesus. Church means bishop, presbyterate, diaconate, laos. In this particular church, the Katholike is fully present. In practical terms, Rowan has spelt this out in his assurances that individual American dioceses which are "Windsor-compliant" would not be severed from full communion with the See of Canterbury because of their entanglement with the rest of PECUSA.

Unlike his dim colleagues on the English bench of bishops, Rowan knows that this is why "A code of practice will not do"; pastoral arrangements designed with the discriminatory intent of ensuring that Mrs Bloggs never actually has to see a woman priest in her own church are worse than useless. Whether he has the clout to cajole his colleagues into consenting, even at this late stage, to a Third Province for us seems more than doubtful.

It is on the basis of this ecclesiology that Rowan makes a deft criticism of the 'Ordinariates' which has eluded the journalists but is uncomfortably closer to home than we might care to admit. "It remains to be seen whether the flexibility suggested in the Constitution might ever lead to something less like a 'chaplaincy' and more like a church gathered around a bishop".

Indeed. Rowan does have a point. That was the attraction of a Third Province of discrete and coherent dioceses which, having consolidated themselves and established their corporate life, could make corporate submission to the Holy See. The problem was that no one seemed very keen to give us this. Nor do they now. Or have I missed something?

The answer to Rowan's point is in the question "Which is more like a church gathered round a bishop:
an Ordinariate
or a situation where the Parish of S Bibulus and six others are firmly clenched within the diocese of Barchester and are supposed to be happy because a Code of Practice will prevent them from being given priestly or episcopal ministrations by a woman ... until they have been softened up to the point where they no longer feel their 'difficulties'?"

Ordinaries will in the future, I suspect, normally be bishops - celibate bishops. The permission for them to be presbyters-who-were-married-bishops-in-the-C-of-E is manifestly intended as a transitional arrangement: and an extraordinarily gracious and sensitive one. It would be thoroughly nasty of us to demur.

25 November 2009

Rowan's Lecture

I'm not going to give a long treatise on Rowan's Rome lecture; just to invite you to read the text of it. It raises many questions - one criticism might be that it is more than one lecture - on some of which I hope to publish elsewhere. I hope that others who are so sure that what he has said is risible will put into the public domain precise and argued exposes of his errors. But here is a little detail that intrigues me.

He distinguishes between 'second order' and 'first order' issues. I have a recollection that, in the early 1990s, some liberal bishops made just this distinction, adding that local churches could make their own decisions about second order issues like the ordination of women. They were then attacked by their angry lady-friends, who were quite certain that wymynprysts was a first order question ... and a few days later, much battered, they withdrew the distinction (incidentally, if you read Rowan's text you will see that, contrary to the assumptions of some who haver commented on it, he does very carefully state how he distinguishes between first and second order issues).

Just as in the 1990s, Rowan's comments on First and Second Order Issues can be read two ways. He goes on "When so very much agreement has been firmly established in first-order matters about the identity and mission of the Church, is it really justifiable to treat other issues as equally vital for its health and integrity?" OK ... everybody assumes that this is an ad hominem (or should I say ad Urbem?) argument addressed to the Roman Magisterium.

But couldn't you turn it round and address it to those who seek, whatever the cost, to force wymynprysts upon Anglicanism? "X is not important enough to make a great fuss about" cuts two ways? Yes?

Is there a 'fork'* here?


The Tudor financier Cardinal Morton impaled you on one or the other of the two prongs of his fork by arguing that if you led a sumptuous life-style you could afford to pay a lot of tax; and that if you were a skinflint ...

24 November 2009

More grumbles

You can't expect the journalists to do better than an oversimplification of Archbishop Rowan's lecture in Rome. Some of them, inevitably, fell short even of that. But intelligent people, in an internet age, should read a text before they pontificate. Sadly, among those who disappointed me is the great Fr Zed, whose blog gave only the text of the Grauniad* report with Father's rubricated comments. Needless to say, Rowan's lecture was very careful and nuanced.

Nor do I enjoy the glee with which some quarters report that the 'audience' was only twenty minutes long, and I dislike the disdainful politics of the caption Fr Zed put beneath the picture. Perhaps this is a good moment to be clear about how I see the future. I very much hope that the Holy Father's initiative is a rip-roaring success. But I also hope that the Anglican Entity will be a bridge with an exciting ecumenical function, not a sad, hostile and snide ghetto. We will have large amounts in common with those from whom we have separated, and we should cherish both the shared Patrimony and the personal relationships involved, for the good of all both now and in God's unknown future. I do not see a passion for rubbishing Rowan as part of this agenda. And when I see cheap jibes against him it makes me feel kinda (Americanism? Yeah?) protective of a fellow Anglican. Anglicani contra mundum.

But, you say, what about your own sharp comments on some Anglican prelates? Fair enough. I have been quite frank about some of these gentry. But I have done so when they have conducted or expressed themselves offensively towards my friends or those, like the Holy Father, whom I admire. And they find it quite easy to do this. Nor do I declare any moratorium in my comments on such people. Here's another such grumble. On November 16, I emailed the lady who chairs the diocesan ecumenical committee, expressing a hope that they would put in place policies to ensure the closest possible continuing relationships between those who part. She replied with a brush-off: "I don't think we need any extra policies on this matter".

Ecumenism apparently means being nice to 'vanilla' RCs, Methodists, Quakers ... you name it; nice in fact to pretty well everybody you can think of except Catholic Anglicans ... and, of course (remember the disgraceful behaviour of the Bishop of Manchester?) the SSPX.

I suppose, in a way, it's quite fun to be so far beyond the Pale (after all, my beloved Co Kerry is well beyond the Pale). It's the hang-ups of the malevolent that intrigue me.



The Manchester Guardian, Britain's Liberal broadsheet newspaper, now sometimes just called the Guardian, has a long history of hilarious misprints. It was, I believe, the satirical Magazine Private Eye which coined the dyslexis "Grauniad" to refer to it.

23 November 2009


I read, even in Newspapers whose Religious Affairs Correspondents are, you might have thought, paid to know better, that the saintly Walter Kasper ... No: scrub the sarcasm. It's not him I'm getting at but the black-versus-white simplicities of the media who cast Kasper as the Good Guy and Ratzinger as the Bad Guy ...

To resume: Walter Kasper, they say or imply, knew nothing of the Apostolic Constitution and had nothing whatsoever to do with the iniquitous plot to keep it secret from poor Rowan. My problem with this is that Kasper is on the Board of Cardinals of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Presumably he was present at some of the meetings of that Dikastery as they discussed and redrafted versions of the Constitution? According to the rumour mill, the gestation had been going on for months; originally, the news had been expected as early as 'after Easter'. Do Roman dikasteries circulate papers?

The Constitution was announced on Tuesday October 20. This was fortunate, because Forward in Faith was due to meet the following Friday and Saturday for its regular annual autumn conference. The papers for which, sent out some weeks beforehand, had given an agenda in which we were told that the subject to be discussed would be announced later.

It was. We discussed it. The timing could hardly have been better. The Vatican apparatchiks deserve warm congratulation.

After the Williamson affair, Papa Ratzinger was admonished that he should employ people to watch the internet for him and prevent him from dropping bricks.

Perhaps Rowan should be given similar advice.

Mortally or venially sinful?

At the end of Mass the other day - I was just finishing the three invocations at the end of the Leonine Prayers - a bloke wandered into the church. "Hello Padre", he called. "Hi! But I'm English, not Italian", I replied. "But I was in the Army", he retorted. "The Italian Army!" I cried. "Eccellente! Buongiorno, Capitano! Un espresso, per favore!" "No, the British Army", he carefully explained. " We used to call our Godbotherers 'Padre'".

I felt a bit of a cad afterwards.

20 November 2009

Naming the Bishop

The 1984 Statement of the Jouint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church which included such heavyweights as John Zizioulas and Joseph Ratzinger described mention in the Canon of the bishop by virtue of communion with whom one offers Mass as "essential". This may seem a trifle overstated - after all, there are extant Eucharistic Prayers which have failed to do this; are they therefore lacking an 'essential'? - but I believe it does express the ancient notion that the Bishop is the true primary celebrant and, as S Ignatius put it a long time ago, that Eucharist is to be accounted bebaios which is celebrated by the Bishop or by one to whom he commits it.

In the Te igitur of the Roman Canon, the mention of the Bishop is not a prayer for him but an expression of the fact that the presbyteral celbrant offers qua delegate of that bishop.

Together with the mention of the Roman Bishop, the Te igitur thus gives full expression to the synchronic unities which constitute a particular Eucharist as the Eucharist of Christ's entire Catholic Church, and not a ritual activity of a local gathered and autonomous group. The presbyter is at one - ideally! - with his Bishop; the bishops of the world are at one with each other through the ministry of Peter. Ideally!

19 November 2009

Gathering in the Patrimony

These are early days - we don't even know that the Apostolic Constitution will deliver what the Holy Father desires. The Devil has many tricks. But if it does, it is only the beginning of the process of patriating our Tradition and Ethos and Spirituality to Catholic Unity.

Eventually, we shall have to face the question of saintly Anglicans who lived after the schism; and the Calendar - the Canon or List of those commemorated at the Altar.

There are, of course, precedents for regarding as Saints or Beati those who lived outside full communion with the Successor of Peter. There were Saints on each side in the Western Schism - yes, you don't need to remind me that they didn't deny papal authority and they didn't want to be outside the Unity of Peter and they didn't think they were. But IN FACT they were out of communion with the true pope. Whichever one he was: remember, the Magisterium has never definitively decided all the questions there are about which claimant was the pope and which the antipope*. (What is your view about the validity of the elections of Leo VIII and Benedict V?)

Orthodox saints who lived after the breach between East and West have been formally admitted to Calendars of communities in full communion with Rome. I have on my desk a Melkite Calendar which lists some quite recent Russian saints.

And, of course, if Rome is sincere (as I am sure she is) in wanting unity with the East, she can hardly expect Orientals to forget so many of their saints whose names are on the various Orthodox Lists and whose ikons in churches are darkened with centuries of candle smoke.

So this question - or one very much like it - will eventually have to be faced. After all, S Photius was not all bad.


*I am reminded of the old Jacobite doggerel

God save the King; God save our Faith's Defender;
God bless - no harm in blessing - the Pretender.
But who Pretender is, and who is King -
God bless my soul! That's quite another thing!

18 November 2009


November 19 is the (earthly) birthday of Blessed King Charles the Martyr (not his heavenly natale). Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus ...


You may have noticed that I don't have any links to other blogs. That is because, in my untechnological illiteracy, I don't know how to do it. But it does have the advantage of sparing me the obligation to attempt to exercise a charism of discernment. In addition, I have a profound suspicion of some areas of the American "Continuum".

But I am told of something called the ACA (correct me if I've got this wrong) which is with the TAC and is part of the TAC impetus towards submission to the Holy See. That being so, I suggest that all good chaps/chappesses and true should give a whirl to a new blog, the anglocatholic, which emanates from that stable. This is certainly a time for all right-thinking people to rally round and support each other, blogically as well as in other ways.


A friend who recently crossed the Tiber recalls with 'guilt' that she helped to persuade Graham Leonard that Women Deacons are Kosher. I'm not sure that guilt isn't anachronistic. At that time we determined to be principled and not to deny something which could, we thought, be found in the Paradosis. Bishop 'Kallistos' Ware gave some impetus to this by, I was told, encouraging one very Catholic young woman to accept (permanently) diaconal orders - and she was publicly applauded as one of us by Bishop Graham. I know that the poor girl (a distinctly clever product of Girton College) was given a very rough time by the wymynprysts and their male running dogs (good Maoist expression, yes?) for declining to seek the presbyterate.

I won't soldier through the evidence on which such assumptions were based nor the reasons why current theological research doubts whether the 'female diaconate' was really such. Even now, however, I am not sure that the Magisterium has explicitly and definitively judged upon this question. If it hasn't, neither have I. If, on the other hand, it has, I support 100% what it has decided. You can't say fairer than that, guv.

I don't know if there are Permanent Women Deacons in our Integrity who might seek reconciliation with the Holy See. If there are, I hope that at some stage Authority can deal sensitively with them; not inconceivably by restoring the old Anglican "Order of Deaconesses", who were explicitly not in Holy Orders and whose functions closely paralleled those of 'women deacons' in the early centuries (would it be appropriate for them to wear stoles, and maniples on their right wrists?). While I'm on about it, may I raise the question also of Readers - men and women - who have given and do give our Church splendid service and deserve not to be discarded in 'Ordinariates'. These are all parts of our Patrimony, and must be items on an eventual list of agenda.

I expect there will be some who will conclude that, after all, Hunwicke is Unsound!

Baroque again

I have been interested by the response to my question about the Baroque.

One intelligent email suggests that the English have a particular problem with the Baroque, and links this with the emotional side of it and the Incarnational. I think this is dead right. The Reformation taught the English to be wary of the Flesh; "Spirituality" has to be etherial and other-worldly. A "spiritual" girl is one with an unhealthy washed-out complexion and vague watery eyes. Mind you, English medieval art was intensely emotional and Incarnational. You can find faded murals in medieval churches, revealed after the removals of layers of whitewash, showing in lurid (Oh dear! Would I have used that philologically inapposite adjective if I were not English?) detail the lacerations of Christ's flesh. It's all a bit like Guinness: we tend to think of stout porter as an Irish beverage, while until the first world war it was made all over the Atlantic archipelago: it's just that it is in Ireland, because of historical accidents, that it has mainly survived. Or bagpipes: they were common to most of Europe until the twentieth century, but in most places they have disappeared, leaving a popular impression that they are mainly Scotch. There's nothing inherently unEnglish about Emotion and Incarnation in ones spirituality; it's just that since the cultural schisms of the sixteenth century, they have been phased out of English religion: leaving them to appear foreign and alien. Yes? And since the Baroque is so superbly capable of expressing the emotional and the Incarnational - and is foreign and papist - the Baroque magnetically attracts to it all the suspicions generated by 450 years of religious and cultural heresy.

Remember Dr Dawkins' illuminating diatribe in the Washington Post: for heavens sake read it if you haven't already. I mean it; you'll learn more from that one interview than from volumes of history, sociology, or psychology. It is so revealing because it shows that it's not religion as such or belief in God as such that gets under his skin, but that horrible thing Catholicism. Dawkins is your typical ignorant English bigot. Honest: scratch nine English out of ten and you'll find Dawkins just under the surface.

Those of you who are within reach of London and have not yet done the excellent NG exhibition of Spanish religious art: can I ask you, after you go, to report back on the reactions of the viewers to the realism with which emotion and suffering are portrayed? I recall one arty historically gent peering down at an alarmingly realistic dead Christ and addressing his companion on the views of Vasari. A defence mechanism - contrived dispassion - against the danger of actual response? A friend of mine picked up a rumour that the attendants had been warned to be on the lookout for nutters who might try to damage the exhibits ... or to pray before them! If I'd known before I went, I would have tried it (the prayer, I mean, not the vandalism) to see what happened.

Hint hint.

Taken for a ride

Yes, I know my piece on the pronouncements of a certain bishop not a million miles from here sounded cross. But I am cross. The first three decades of my life were a time when we told repeatedly that we should let nothing stand in the way of the organic unity of all Christ's Church. It was, we were solemnly informed, a Gospel imperative. Some of you may find this hard to believe; but I so far imbibed these prescriptions that, as a young priest in the Oxford Diocese, I voted for the Anglican-Methodist unity scheme in the late 1960s. Then ARCIC was set up with the aim of resolving the old problems in an atmosphere in which each side would not put any new problems in place. How I rejoiced.

Now it is clear that I, gullible fool, was being taken for a ride. The Ecumaniacs never had any intention whatsoever of restraining themselves from indulging any of their own faddish novelties in the interests of unity - the only fads to be dumped in the rubbish bin ("trashcan" trans mare?) were the fads I had; little details like Episcopacy being part of the esse of the Church, and all that. Now some new Pentecost, apparently, has revealed that the Ordination of Women is an imperative transcending any and every other, including Unity.

I've been made a fool of, and I don't like it. More importantly, Rome (like other Christians further East) has been made a fool of. It invested (as Walter Kasper explained) in ARCIC, only now to be told that Anglicanism has more important games to play than Unity with the Ancient Churches. And these people have the impertinence, the gall, to ask sneering little sarcastic questions about whether Rome is ecumenically serious. Just because Rome has extended a welcome to those of us who remain faithful to the ARCIC hope.

Damn them for their impudent condescensions and deceits.

16 November 2009

The Postman knocks

No sooner than I done the previous post when the Royal Mail (Don't make jokes about the Duke of Edinburgh) delivered Litterae ad Clerum on the lovely pink paper upon which the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, communicates with us.

He has an instinctive talent for the sneering put-down. But I won't elaborate upon that in case I get flooded with comments about people who live in glasshouses. What riled me most was : "I wonder what [Anglicanorum coetibus] really says about Rome's seriousness over ecumenical dialogues and whether the ARCIC programme has a significant future".

Why can't these people just robustly say "We decided to terminate the last phase of the Ecumenical Movement - the phase in which organic union was the aim - because there are very important questions on which we are right and Rome, quite simply, is wrong. This was an impasse round which there is no way until Rome changes her mind".

But no; the b*****s have an insatiable hunger for the Moral High Ground. Since the 1970s, Roman Pontiffs and their emissaries have been begging the Anglican establishment not to place new and very grave obstacles in the way of convergence; but, time and time again, they have been categorically ignored.

And yet they have the bare-faced impudence to enquire whether Rome is "serious" about dialogue. "Dialogue" appears to mean "We do whatever we like whatever the difficulties it creates for you, but we expect you to carry on as if nothing has happened. If you decline to fall in with this agenda, we shovel condescending insults down on you from our own righteous eminence".

Papal Power

There seem to be a lot of bits in the media from Important People, even sometimes the Great and the Good, about how Benedict sinned and behaved "uncollegially" by issuing Anglicanorum coetibus without lengthy consultations with mainstream Anglican bishops and their liberal chums among the RC bishops and Uncle Tom Cobbly and All.

Personally, I regard it as one of the prime functions of the Successor of S Peter to reach out and protect small, orthodox, and persecuted minorities against all manner of heterodox local bully-boys and play-ground tyrants/tyrantesses.

I'm not quite sure where that is spelt out in Magisterial documents. "It isn't", you say? Well then, that is an important item for the agenda of Vatican III. What we need is a stronger and more interventionist Papacy.

14 November 2009

Hans Kung and the Apostolic Constitution

Happily, an article in the Grauniad (October 27) finally shows that Hans Kung now understands the position of Anglican Catholics and the necessity of the Apostolic Constitution.

He quotes with approval what he himself said in 1967, in which he envisaged that the Church of England should "recognise the existence of a pastoral primacy of Petrine ministry as the supreme authority for mediation and arbitration between the churches".

Presumably so distinguished and sharp a theologian must be aware that the Church of England is proposing to embark upon an innovation which would make its entire ministry structurally unnaceptable both to the Tradition of the Latin and Oriental Churches; and, indeed, to that of not a few Anglican Provinces overseas. Obviously, the Bishop of Rome would be remiss if he failed to exercise his 'pastoral primacy' and his 'supreme authority' in a role of 'mediation and arbitration' in so serious a situation. If the maintenance of a priestly ministry acceptable throughout all the particular churches which express the Universal Church is not a duty of such a primacy as Kueng has described, what on earth would be?

And so a couple of years ago the Bishop of Rome sent his special representative for matters of Unity, Cardinal Walter 'I'm Moderate and I smile ' Kasper, to warn the bishops of the C of E that, if they went down a certain path, the way towards unity which had been explored since the 1960s would finally be closed off.

And presumably someone as brilliant and perceptive as Hans Kung will have noticed, in whatever newspapers aged Swiss Germans of the Global Ethic Foundation read, that the C of E bishops totally ignored that message.

13 November 2009


It would be interesting to have hard evidence, modern and premodern, for the Consecration of Chrism by prelates not in episcopal orders. For example, within the jurisdiction of an Abbas nullius where does the Chrism come from? This is interesting because Chrism Masses have become very much part of the heart of ecclesial life in PEV-land.

BTW, a correspondent criticises Anglican Catholic bishops for not always nowadays wearing buskins, gloves, slippers, and all the rest. This reminds me of the action of the great Bishop Kirk of Oxford, who left all his very Counter-Reformation pontificalia to any priest married to a daughter of his who should become a bishop. So they devolved AD REVERENDISSIMUM IN CHRISTO PATREM AC DOMINUM ERICUM WALDRAMNUM KEMP EPISCOPUM CICESTRENSEM SOCIETATIS DEIPARAE VIRGINIS ET DIVI NICOLAI VISITATOREM ECCLESIAE CARNOTENSIS CANONICUM, as I recall I used to write him up in the Lancing Register on the occasion of his visits (I wonder if the Lancing Chapel registers are still done in Latin; so often things go to pot when one retires ...). I presume he still has it all.

Not that that exhausts the Kemp wardrobe. Was he the first C of E diocesan to use modern RC choir dress?

The front cover of the Diocesan Magazine sometimes showed lovely pictures of him pontifically clad in Chartres Cathedral (with which diocese we were twinned) wearing their best (Empress Eugenie) cloth of gold set.

Ah, Patrimony, Patrimony.

But perhaps, if the Ap Con really delivers, French Cathedrals may in a few years time be choc a bloc with exPEVs in the guise of Ordinaries singing Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

You think I'm joking?

12 November 2009


People have been, not unnaturally, surprised at the provision in Anglicanorum coetibus that former Anglican bishops who, being married will not have been promoted to episcopacy by sacramental reconsecration, can be allowed to wear episcopal insignia. As many have commented, this is not without Catholic precedent in the persons of Abbots, archpriests, and certain ranks of monsignori; but I doubt whether one Anglican layperson in ten thousand has ever seen a mitre on top of someone who isn't called 'bishop'.

From time to time, people raise the question of Anglican Orders in correspondence with this blog. I have dealt with this quite recently, and I'm not going to re-re-iterate the hermeneutic I've been advancing since the early 1990s. If newer readers (Hi! welcome!) want to know what I have said, I'm sure that a search will enable them to find it. I will, however, iterate the curiosity I feel about the fact that, for a certain sort of RC, the Invalidity of Anglican Orders seems to be one of the central data of their Faith. I've always wondered why (no no no please don't tell me).

It does occur to me that if Benedict XVI had shared this preoccupation, he ought to have been on the look-out to avoid anything that gave the slightest impression that Anglican Orders might be valid. "Gracious", he should have mumurred, flexing his still slightly stiff wrist, "if I let these chaps continue to wear pontificalia, a lot of their laity will assume that good old 'bishop' so-and-so really was and is a bishop. I'd better legislate to ensure that they never absent-mindedly slip their rings on ... let alone anything else. We must make them promise to burn all their zucchetti. Their daughters will have to donate their coats to the Munich or Regensberg branches of Oxfam".

Mitraferous married Ordinaries will be able to do pretty well everything that 'real' bishops do except Ordination and, I presume, Chrism Masses. They will confirm; and this is perhaps more significant than anything else, given the anally retentive way that Anglican bishops, unlike any others in Christendom, have clung to the exclusive right to confirm. So when a congregation is visited by a prelate who, last time he came, was a PEV (flying bishop), and he's wearing the same mitre and ring and cross that he was wearing then with the same dalmatic under his chasuble, and carrying the same crosier, and he administers Confirmation as he did then, it is the continuities that will strike them rather more than some little technical discontinuities of which they may have been informed.

Benedict seems totally unworried by this. Some of my more ferocious readers must be a trifle disconcerted by his irresponsible levity.

Quite possibly, the poor old gentleman is enough of a Christian not to like rubbing peoples' noses in humiliation. More important, it demonstrates the great advantage of having a Pope who is, to his fingertips, a dogmatic theologian and an erudite one too. It makes him able to distinguish between what matters and what doesn't. And to be flexible where dogma is unthreatened.