8 June 2011

After 1991

This continues my series (see June 1 and June 5) about the background of the imminent new English translation of the Mass.

We have seen that the old 1970s translation of the Missal was regarded by all, at each end of the 'political' spectrum, as Unfit for Purpose. This is worth emphasising because there has recently been a tendency among those most radically opposed to Pope Benedict's liturgical aims to try to hang on to that old translation. An organisation, I believe, sprang up in America called "What if we just said wait?" - which I think means "What if we just said wait until Ratzinger is dead?". There have been similar moves, reported in the Irish Times, among the more radically politicised of the Irish clergy. Frankly, there never was much chance of their achieving what such people seek: for the following rather banal reason. All over the world, wherever there is a hierarchy with an interest in Anglophone liturgy, episcopal conferences have, for years - well, No, decades - been making their way through Green Books, Grey Books, Heaven-only-knows-what-sort-of-colour-books, containing successive drafts and revisions of translated texts. In addition to this, there has been the labour - not an inexpensive labour - of harmonising the preferences of the different hierarchies involved. We know a little about this entire process because, in America, the Episcopal Conference meets openly, and verbal transcripts of the debates, and details of the votes, are regularly published. And there is a distinct sense, as one reads through it all, that the number of bishops prepared to vote for the daunting prospect of going through the whole laborious process yet again, has been limited. In America, a Bishop Trautmann led the resistence to next September's translation, fighting a deft 'sound-bite' campaign which focussed on certain allegedly "incomprehensible" words ("consubstantial"; "ineffable"), and making a final desperate attempt to persuade his confreres actually to defy the Vatican. The support he received gradually diminished. He retires, I think, next year. If, that is, the Holy Father accepts his resignation. One rather suspects ... not that anything is certain, of course ...

This blog, moreover, has shown that the essential problem about both the 1970s translation, and the second (abortive) version which was finished in the early 1990s, was that each embodied a policy of rupture: it was designed to cut off the worshipping community of its own day from the memory and continuities of Tradition - that is to say, from the the old Testament and New Testament echoes in the Latin prayers; from the actual meaning of the Latin; from the great paradosis of worship which has been evolving, generation by generation, for nearly two millennia. It is no exaggeration to say that, since about 1970, English-speaking Catholics have been deprived of the authentic worship of the Roman Catholic Church by having 'translations' used in their churches which express only a minuscule amount of the content of the Latin originals. And I am not talking about the elimination of the 'Tridentine' liturgy. It is the post-conciliar Missal - the Latin Missal of Pope Paul VI - that people have been prevented (by bad translations) from being able to appropriate and to internalise in their Christian consciousness. It is worth emphasising this, because some interests, with a slipshod grasp upon history as well as upon rhetoric, have been suggesting that the new translation which we shall begin to use in September represents some sort of retreat from the agenda of Vatican II. In fact, it does exactly the opposite. September's new translation means Onward To Vatican II.

Quite apart from the different questions surrounding the elimination of the Tridentine Rite, it is the post-conciliar Missal, the Missal authorised by Pope Paul VI "by the mandate of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council", that was kept hidden, by faulty translation, from the ears of the faithful for four decades. It is, substantially, the Missal of Paul VI that the new translation will now begin to make accessible to the People of God. Enthusiasts for Vatican II, and its aftermath, and for Paul VI, should be applauding the new translation. It provides what they claim they want.

Remember: the Council never said that the Mass had to be in English; it simply authorised some degree of vernacular use. This guarded permission was subsequently extended, not by the Council but by a series of unilateral decrees emanating from the Curia. And the Council certainly did not decree that vernacular translations should be such as to obscure a large amount of the meaning of the authorised Latin texts. The Instruction which bears responsibility for the currently expiring translation, Comme le prevoit, had nothing to do with the Council. Again, its origin was in the Curia. People who claim to have a suspicion of the Curia and of its 'dominant role in the Church's life', should, if they have any consistency or logic, be prejudiced against the 1970s translation of the Mass.

The new translation, which our bishops, laudably, are bringing in earlier than most other hierarchies, means: back to Paul VI; back to the Missal which derived from the Conciliar impetus. Those fighting a rear-guard action against it should sort out their own confusions.

Next time, I shall write about the Roman Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, which is the methodological basis of the translation due to come on stream in September.

4 June 2011

Symmetry of Dissent

Intellectually, academically, the most exciting thing about Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae is that they establish a level playing field in discussion about the relative merits of any conflicting provisions in the OF and the EF. Perhaps this is one of the things the Holy Father had in mind when he spoke about mutual enrichment. Previously, as enactment after enactment emerged from the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de sacra Liturgia and its successor bodies, it was plausible to hold that these represented the Magisterium of the Church. Here was the Holy See making liturgical enactments by mandate of an Ecumenical Council: what more could anyone want in terms of authoritative teaching about the meaning of the Church's rites? If one dissented, was one not dissenting from the direction in which the Holy Spirit was leading the whole (Roman Rite) Church? Surely, one was dissenting from the mind of the Holy Father, from the Bishop of Rome who, surely had to be the normative authority about the rite of his own Church? Dissent from the old rite had now - surely - become privileged; dissent from the new rite had become inherently dubious, a sign of disloyalty.

At a stroke, SP/UE changed all this. We now had two forms of the Roman Rite "one alongside the other" (qui ad invicem iuxta ponuntur). Thereby we were authoritatively given, in areas where the two rites and their accompanying liturgical cultures happen to be at odds, what I would like to call Symmetry of Dissent. It is now no more 'disloyal' or 'contrary to the mind of the Church' to evaluate critically the OF and its culture than it is to criticise the EF and its culture. Such critical evaluation, it goes without saying, ought to be done - in each case - with a humble recognition of one's own fallibility, and with a charitable instinct not to hurt fellow Christians whose faith in the living Lord is fed from different sources than those which nourish one's own. It is right that those who enthusiastically favour the EF, and who feel a certain triumphalist joy about Pope Benedict's liturgical legislation, should if necessary be reminded of this. However, I do not always sense - least of all in the periodical called the Tablet - an awareness that those, too, whose orientation differs from the OF, have a right to be treated with a similarly charitable exercise of the acceptance of diversity.

It was in the spirit of the Principle of Symmetry of Dissent that I ventured recently to evaluate critically the post-conciliar valde optatum that communion be given from Hosts consecrated at the same Mass. I called it 'dated', because it seemed to me to have all the marks of the (to me, as to Pope Benedict, questionable) liturgical culture of the enclosed circle - the celebrant facing the people; the location of the entire liturgical event as situated in the middle of a closed group. This culture is 'dated'; it is of the 1970s. And there are things about the Mass of S Pius V which I would have to admit are dated: for example, the assumption in its rubrics that Mass normatively does not include a Communion of the People - yes! look at the rubrics! It is not even mentioned in passing as an occasional possibility! Yet I have never witnessed a modern Old Rite Mass in which there were not communicants ... usually an awful lot of them. That lacuna in the rubrics ... and the cultural assumptions it implies ... is dated; and I doubt if anyone would deny it. Have another look at that half-hour video of the Econe Consecrations!

24 May 2011

Universae Ecclesiae: final notes

para 1 Universae Ecclesiae One might have expected Universali Ecclesiae; the normal term for "the Universal Church". Universae seems to me deliberately to avoid the formulaic expectation so as to emphasise per variationem that it really is the (yes!) entire Church which is to have a richer appropriation of the Roman Rite. (I take this literally. Just as Latins would have their spirituality immeasurably enriched if they knew the Byzantine Rite better, so Byzantines will be enriched the better they know the riches of the ancient Roman Rite.)

paras 1,2,3,4: Notice how, in accordance with this same stylistic trope of variatio, the Pope is referred to differently as Summus Pontifex, Sanctitas Sua, Apostolicus Dominus. This last of these seems to me to have an early first-millennium flavour to it; I have traced the language of it back to a letter from the Emperor Maximus to Pope Siricius (384-399); and there is a whiff here of the Ordines Romani (except that later in the first millennium dominus would have been syncopated to domnus). A tiny verbal harbinger of a more First Millennium Papacy?

para 5 heic How delightful to see this unusual orthographical rendering of hic! OLD says that it is common in inscriptions. Does this mean that the official responsible spends most of his spare time with his nose in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum? Let us hope that he is not too addicted to all those naughty graffiti in Pompei!

para 10(2) emanat seems to have acquired a transitive sense in the corridors of modern Rome.

para 20(c) Slightly odd. It seems to imply that if only a malevolent bishop could prevent a priest from ever saying a first EF Mass, that priest would never attain to full idoneitas.

para 21 enixe is missing from the English version. In the Latin, ordinaries are strenuusly asked to ensure the appropriate formation of clergy. But we English are so laid back that the Vatican dare not strenuously ask Anglophone bishops to ensure this provision.

para 21 providebitur. The English reads ... seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the EF ... The Latin says ... seminaries, in which it will be provided that future priests are given proper formation, by learning Latin and, where needs suggest it, the EF itself. I think that the Latin indicative future providebitur means "we assume they will be taught Latin because Canon Law explicitly requires that anyway ... but whether they are taught the EF too depends on circumstances." There seems to be an implication here that seminary principals may have in the past been negligent in obeying CIC 249 (on the teaching of Latin), not to mention the explicit mandate of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum concilium 36; and see Optatam totius 13). Surely not!

para 24 I presume this means that SSPX priests will have to buy birettas. And I think it means that when the Oxford Oratorians sing 1962 Sunday Vespers on Septuagesima, they will have to do it in purple ... and that they will have to keep Christ the King in October, Ascension and Corpus Christi on Thursdays, et sim..

para 25 aliquae So it appears that not all the new OF Prefaces will enter the EF wholesale. The addition of just a few will be in line with the gradual tendency to add individual prefaces, which was established in the first half of the twentieth century.

para 32 et quidem integre et Latino sermone. Vernacular translations appear to take this as meaning that the Breviary office must, if the 1962 Breviary is used, be said in its entirety from that rite ... i.e., if you don't say it all, you can't say any. This would make it illegal for Oratorians to sing Sunday Vespers according to 1962 unless they were all in the habit of saying their entire office according to 1962 .... Prime and all. But Laudis canticum of 1970 established a precedent by envisaging permitting decayed clergy sive ex toto sive ex parte retinere the old Breviary. I would take the Latin of UE to mean "and what is more*, they have the facultas [if they desire to use it] of reciting it in its entirety and in Latin".


*The normal sense of et quidem is (OLD s.v. quidem 5) "(adding a reinforcement or afterthought) And what is more ... ". ["Provided that they say it in its entirety and in Latin" would, I think, have to be "Dummodo id recitent integre et Latino sermone".]

23 May 2011

I Haven't Finished With Universae Ecclesiae

I feel uneasy about the suggestion that UA would have been better or stronger if it had embraced the Ambrosian, and other, Latin rites. Subject always to correction, my view is that this would have been improper and an improper exercise of papal authority.

The Bishop of Rome necessarily and logically determines what the Roman Rite is. The Bishop of Milan, Successor of S Ambrose, determines what the Ambrosian Rite is. The Dominican and other such usages are, to use Adrian Fortescue's felicitous term, 'dialects' of the Roman Rite (and the usages of the Anglican Ordinariates will themselves have the same status). As such, they come within the natural liturgical ambit of the Bishop of Rome*. Rites such as that of Milan, in my view, do not (unless they contained flaws which might damage the Communio of the Universal Church; in which case, of course, the duty of the Roman Pontiff to strengthen the fellowship of his brethren would come into play).

In my piece of April 28, 4th in my Ratzinger-and-liturgical-law series, I dealt with Cardinal Ratzinger's thought about the Papacy and its limitations. My concern was to demonstrate that he had a nuanced and sophisticated view of papal authority and its limits. He is concerned to emphasise that the Pope is not some sort of omnipotent despot but a person who works within limits which are inscribed in the life and in the very nature of the Church Militant.

Cardinal Ratzinger made clear his view that the immediate post-conciliar period was profoundly in error in its view that a pope (especially if claiming the mandate of an ecumenical council) can do anything. In my view, he was absolutely right. It is a strange age we live in: both those on the 'left' ("The pope should allow the Ordination of Women") and the 'right' ("The pope should interfere in the details of the rites of other churches") seem to be united in holding a crude and maximalising view of the papacy which neither Papa Ratzinger nor I could easily swallow.

I am neither on the 'left' nor on the 'right' ... nec dextera nec sinistra sed ubi Petrus.

I wonder why it is that I sometimes feel that I am part of a despised and ridiculed minority ... even a persecuted minority.


*Para 34 makes clear that the Rites of the religious orders may be used by their members. It is unfortunate that the English "translation" fails to translate the words sodalibus ... licet ... .The same principle of subsidiarity according to which individual secular clergy have the right of using the EF without needing any hierarchical approval is also enjoyed by each individual religious.

22 May 2011

More gems from Universae Ecclesiae

If you want to engage seriously with today's point, you would be well advised to reread what I wrote, just before Universae Ecclesiae came out (honest, nobody broke the embargo by sending me an early copy; nobody ever does; I just have to rely upon my telepathic understanding of the Holy Father's mind), on April 27, the third piece of my Ratzinger-and-liturgical -law series. I was concerned to distinguish between the gradual changes made over the centuries in the Missal of S Pius V, and the radical, ruptured, novelty of the Paul VI Missal.

UE para 4 makes my point with delightful succinctness. It records that the old Missal "prolabentibus saeculis incrementa novisse". That's (almost) exactly right. The old rite had additions made to it; new propers, new votives, new prefaces. Fathers: if somebody gave you a copy of the first printed Roman Missal of 1474, you'd have very little trouble using it ... just three or four handwritten changes needed in the Ordo Missae ... as long as you were prepared to glue new feasts and Prefaces in. Additions constituted overwhelmingly the evolutionary development of the rite. [The English crib inaccurately and most deplorably translates incrementa novisse as "was kept up to date".] Then UA goes on to contrast this with its description of the post-Conciliar Missal as novum.


And para 25 makes clear that the evolutionary development per incrementa of the EF will continue "quam primum".

21 May 2011

Fr Ray Blake of Brighton ...

... has again written a fine piece, this time about the Toowoomba business. With a sound ecclesiological instinct based upon the ancient traditional praxis of both East and West, Father points out that the first steps in dealing with an heretical bishop should be taken by his corporate Presbyterium; if that fails, by his comprovinciales. Only on the rarest occasions, when this has all manifestly failed, should the Bishop of Rome have to intervene.

We sometimes hear bloated rhetoric about the evils of Roman 'centralisation' and the sweetness of Local Autonomy. This will all ring very much more true when all dioceses, and provinces, are more ready to deal effectively with their own heterodoxies and heteropraxies. It is well known that, when he was Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger became increasingly irritated by local establishments who kicked all doctrinal problems into the long grass of the collis Vaticanus so that that they could then play Mr Niceguy with their own cherished local heretics: "I'm your friend, but Rome is putting pressure on me".

Exactly. And something similar is true when the situation is so bad that a Roman Pontiff has to issue detailed legislation to foster licit liturgical communities of a traditional nature, and to protect them. It is splendid that there is an organ, the papacy, which can protect the small people from the bully-boys ... we who have been formed by Anglicanism know that only too well. But it shouldn't be necessary.

Universae Ecclesiae and Redaction Criticism

Immediately UE emerged, I went via a link on Fr Zed's blog to the Latin text and printed it off. As one does, I instantly noticed that the last sentence of paragraph 15 in the Latin text is missing in the English version. It occurred to me today to see whether the other translations omit it ... so I went to the Vatican website and discovered that they did. While I was there, I had another look at the Latin version ... and discovered that the sentence in question was missing there!!!

Here is my hypothesis. Fr Zed provided a link on his blog to a copy of UE which, in breach of the embargo, had been sent to him a little while before. In the interval between Fr Zed getting that version from his leaky chum, and the official publication, a last-minute change was made in the text.

[QUAERITUR (as Fr Zed so neatly says): was that change made after or before the Holy Father saw and approved the text on April 8?]

The sentence concerned: Ad numerum fidelium huius coetus designandum, pastoralis succurrit ratio, cautis tamen circumstantiis aequa lance ponderandis. Is all this evidence that, right up to the last moment, there was still nervousness about the question of how many people it takes to make up a coetus?

19 May 2011

Universae Ecclesiae

I like paragraph 19, ordering the pro-EF Faithful not to "help or give their name to" bodies which impugn the validity or legitimacy of the OF, or are hostile to the Roman Pontiff. This does not, of course, in any way refer to bodies which, while deeming the OF to be both unquestionably valid and canonically legitimate, consider it to be an inferior form of the one Roman Rite. The Ecclesia Dei Commission does not, unfortunately, have any direct jurisdiction over the whole body of the Faithful, otherwise it might usefully have required that those Faithful who strongly prefer the OF should not question the legitimacy of the EF (did I read somewhere that the Tablet's Rome correspondent does question the lawfulness of Summorum Pontificum?) and should not be hostile to the Roman Pontiff. That would provide what we English call a level playing field. Other jolly old English phrases refer to cats and pigeons, and sauce for ganders.

But perhaps I'm wrong; perhaps Ecclesia Dei does have a broader jurisdiction. Para' 8a says that the purpose of Summorum Pontificum is "Liturgiam Romanam in Antiquiori Usu, prout pretiosum thesaurum servandum, omnibus largire fidelibus". Omnibus is not qualified by a clause such as "those who want the EF"; omnibus is just omnibus. The English crib is clearly a bit worried by this, because it translates largire as "offer" ... rather in the manner of the wretched waiter who sidles up to you just when you're leaning over the table to share a conjugal confidence with your wife and "offers" you the pepper: "offer" so often means "take it or leave it but it's here if you want it". But largiri [here we draw a veil over the IV Form error of the Roman official who forgot that largior is a deponent verb] means to give bountifully ...to lavish. This document makes clear that the EF is to be lavished upon, not a minority with a preference for it, but "all" the Faithful.

Isn't that rather thought-provoking? Am I right or am I right? Come to think of it, the very first sentence of UA talks about making the riches of the Roman Liturgy "propiores" to the Universal Church.

24 April 2011


I wish all the joy of Christ to those who read this blog; to the friends who have written comments since it began and to those who have arrived more recently; to those who have prayed for me and said Masses on my behalf.

22 April 2011

Highlights of Holy Week so far?

Well, attending the Westminster Chrism Mass. Not so much the Mass itself - it was certainly well enough done but former Ebbsfleet clergy have been somewhat spoiled in this respect - as the scene beforehand outside: the Association of Catholic Women with posters and little cards to hand out saying We Love Our Priests. I would have liked to kiss them all. What a lovely lot. Catholic Women are obviously a very superior breed. Why has nobody ever told us this?

Another high point must be the recollection that, Deo volente, this will be the last Holy Week in which the faithful will have been fobbed off with the Comme le prevoit mistranslations by Bad Old ICEL. I thought of this at the Oratory today when we got to the bidding 'translated' as "that God may ... free those unjustly deprived of liberty", as if God were some sort of rather superior Parole Board. The original, you will recall, is the terse, forceful, brilliant, aperiat carceres, vincula solvat. I wonder how Good New ICEL renders this.

G G 'Patrimony' Willis demonstrated the extreme antiquity of those biddings - older even than the beautiful ancient collects which they introduce - by pointing out that they lack cursus.

20 April 2011

National Unity again

I trust that no-one will have been deceived by the mannered frivolity of my last post into thinking that I am anything but horrifed at the sight of the Camerons of this world defining for all of us the markers of common 'British' national identity. The fact is that the dominant culture of this country is now not so much non-Christian as anti-Christian. Increasingly, definitions of the 'tolerant' 'inclusive' character of our 'British Culture' mask an ideological determination to eradicate Christian morality and Christian assumptions from our national way of life; and to exclude their assertion from public discourse. Much the same appears to be true of other Western European and North American cultures.

An interesting example is provided by recent French legislation to Ban the Burkah. Almost every degree of female immodesty is, apparently, treated as normative ... but modesty is put on trial. A newspaper cartoon, showing a beach full of topless female sun-bathers ... and a gendarme chasing one topless sunbather who happened also to be wearing a burkah over her face ... made this point rather neatly. Happily, the British political class is not, at the moment, much minded to go down this path.

But notice the way in which the secularist zeitgeist, with its libertine determination to promote sexual promiscuity, now occupies the central ground - that is, the cultural assumptions behind the arguments - in Western societies. I heard some Moslem women interviewed on the wireless; they justified their wearing the burkah on the grounds that this was what they freely themselves wished to do. Well, good for them, I have respect for their choice and their courage in expressing it. But the assumption underlying this dialogue was that a woman's 'choice' is paramount; so we are not surprised to find in the French legislation exemplifies, that the greater penalties are reserved for men who constrain their womenfolk to cover their faces in public.

Of course I am not a Moslem and of course I do not campaign to promote either Islam, Sharia law, or Islamic styles of feminine conduct, in our British society. But let me make clear: I do think it is entirely acceptable - and even laudable - for a man to be concerned for the modest dress and conduct of his wife and daughters without being at risk of prosecution. And it would be nice to be able to walk through the streets of this city on Friday and Saturday nights without being confronted by acres of bare thighs, as the bimbo classes hunt in packs for a Good Time; and not to have to make my way around drunken mobs of them and their followers while lethargic policemen whose overtime my taxes pay wait to intervene. And then to hear in the morning news bulletins that the 'Morning After Pill' is to be made more readily available, paid for out of my taxes.

When the insufferable Cameron pontificates upon the need for immigrant communities to accept 'British Values', I feel rather as German Jews must have felt in 1933 when they heard the mobs beginning to chant "Ein Volk ...". You think I'm overstating this? Well, a society formed by 'British Values' already slaughters hundreds of thousands of innocent lives each year - lives, one suspects, largely conceived as the result of the sexual incontinence it has fostered; while, in 1933, the extermination of European Jewry was still only a manic gleam in the Fuehrer's eye.

'British Values and Culture' as defined by our cultural elite, an elite class hell-bent on the promotion of sexual promiscuity of every kind, are a corrupt menace. When I hear of proposals to constrain 'immigrant communities' to accept and conform to these notions, I feel that the bell is tolling for me as well.

I am not prepared to subscribe to what I perceive to be the modern British way of life. In my humble way, I shall do everything in my power to subvert it. When some future SuperCameron ships the 'unassimilated' Pakistanis back to Pakistan, where will he send unassimilated me?

19 April 2011


I give notice that, on May 3, this blog will enter upon a Summer Vacation. There are some academic pieces that I need the leisure to complete.

18 April 2011


Launceston is a small, pleasant, but not terribly remarkable town in Cornwall; well, just on the boundary of Cornwall. We lived nearby for six years. It was for long - anachronism coming up - the Capital of Cornwall, at a time when Capitals might not be in the middle of an area but on its edge, so that Crown officials could enter the territory upon their circuit. (Thus the President of the Council of Wales had his base at Ludlow in Shropshire.) For Catholics, however, the main glory of Launceston (by the way, it is pronounced Lahns'n) is that it is the place of the martyrdom of S Cuthbert Mayne, Protomartyr of the seminaries (whose skull is venerated not far away in Lanhearne).

But stay. A marvellous book has just plopped onto my doorstep full of the most marvellous, atmospheric, pictures of Launceston and district. People stand above the terrifying torrent of floodwaters in Launceston's Cataract Gorge; flowers stand in the City Park with their heads held high; the autumn leaves lie upon the ground in Brickfield's Reserve. The area is clearly very lush; rather as in Co Kerry, tree ferns and myrtles appear to germinate naturally (I believe that, in the old world, tree ferns made their way here from the Antipodes by accident, as ballast in ships, which was noticed to be sprouting!). Strangely, a Georgian house, with a Gothick church nearby, dominate the ridge above a vineyard in Coal Valley. Interesting, that; since I had not known that there were vineyards in Cornwall. There are quite a lot of fields there called Vineyard Field, but experts in Celtic philology suspect that this is an Anglophone misunderstanding of minnack (vinnack with lenition), or 'stoney', in the old Cornish language.

Thanks, Joshua, it is really lovely book, and I had no conception, despite the vivid description brought back from Tasmania by one of my daughters, that your native land was quite so beautiful. We did know that Tasmania had a Launceston - the result of generations of Cornish tin miners taking their unneeded skills to that and many other distant places.

A classicist cartographer seems to have wandered around Tasmania: Pelion Plains; Mount Geryon; Lake Oenone; Meander Valley (with awesome falls); Mount (yes!) Olympus; Styx Valley. The last of these, readers will not be surprised to learn, does not look in the least sulphurous!

16 April 2011

Situating John Paul II

While I do not make a habit of questioning the judgement of Roman Pontiffs, I have never concealed my feeling that John Paul II's Assisi Event would not lose any of its value if it were given just a little clarification. Similarly his action in kissing a copy of the Koran. The ill-disposed could so easily misinterpret these events as giving some sort of cover for syncretism or religious relativism. I have recently twice suggested that the structuring of the Next Assisi might constitute just such clarification.

I found the newly published Collect* for Blessed John Paul II interesting in this respect. It hopes that we will be edocti by his instituta, but, lest any should deem those instituta to encourage syncretism, it concludes by describing Christ as the unus Redemptor hominis. Thus it takes up the theme of the admirable CDF document Dominus Iesus, which so lucidly explained that only in Christ can be found salvation. Thus by one word the nature of JP2's Magisterium is definitively and permanently clarified by having a Hermeneutic associated with it.


*Personally, I feel that it would better have read ... praesta qs, nobis, eius institutis edoctis, ut corda nostra ... aperiantur. Primacy of Grace, and all that.

On the train to Allen Hall on Thursday, I took my schoolmaster's correcting pencil to the texts published by the Vatican. There is one patent typo; another place where I don't quite see what the meaning is unless there is a typo. And the Eulogium reads to my eye rather oddly. I invite periti - or do we nowadays say idonei? - to join in the hunt. As a start ... how would you account for 'reditus' in line 2?

15 April 2011


Since Fr Blake's tiscali machine refused to accept a comment I tried to put onto his (most admirable) blog, I repeat here the message which modern technology bounced back to me.

When disposing of old Altar Books, always keep the tabs and ribbons; they can be most useful when renovating and bringing back to use old EF Missals.

Some people might find it useful to remove from old ICEL volumes the Missale parvum which is incorporated towards the end, giving a basic minimum of what is necessary for saying the OF in Latin when one is travelling and has no access to a complete OF Missal and Lectionary in a language one knows. It can then become a light-weight addition to ones travelling Mass kit.

14 April 2011

The Bishop of Bruges

Oh dear! I gather he was the most exciting, charismatic, of the Belgian bishops.

Peter Ball was undoubtedly the most exciting and charismatic of the English bishops. And, across the sea in Ireland, Eamonn Casey, aka Mr Annie Murphy, wowed the folk of Kerry and then of Galway. Kerry is still filled with the aging, embarrassing, Modern churches he built. He vandalised Killarney Cathedral in an incredibly exciting and charismatic way.

Being exciting and charismatic seems to provide dangers to the soul as well as sometimes to cathedrals.

13 April 2011


VIS seems to indicate that a lot of new Provinces are being created all over theplace. What might be the ecclesial or ecclesiological significance of this?

12 April 2011

AD ORIENTEM, every morning

The common ancient tradition of the Universal Church was, until recently, to offer the Holy Eucharist facing towards the rising sun understood as as an an Ikon or Type of the rising Lord, the one who comes to us from the Beyond to give us his daily gift of newness. East and West have commonly interpreted psalm 19(MT)=18(Vg & LXX) verses 4-6, referring to the sun, as giving an image of our Lord as the Bridegroom leaving the chamber of his Mother's virginal womb like a strong man running his course with joy. And this insight is now tardily being reappropriated by Western Christendom.

I would like to suggest another application of these truths. Should not the normative time for celebrating the Holy Eucharist and receiving communion be at the beginning of the day, as the sun rises, as Christ, new every morning, comes to us from his Father's House and is given to us by that maternal womb which is the Mediatrix of all Graces? This has, of course, been historically the general custom in the Church (even if in fasting seasons vesperal masses sometimes concluded the day's fast). It coheres with the ancient Eucharistic Fast, from the night before. Everything here speaks of newness, of the Father's eternal gift of the Son; of the Bread of Life as the Fount of the graces and deeds of the day.

I am not suggesting a new burdensome rigidity. My own discipline is that whenever I celebrate Mass after Noon, and there can be few modern pastors who never do this, I avail myself of the newer discipline of the fast. And I applaud the modern provision of a Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. We cannot afford to miss any opportunity of giving people the means of fulfilling their Sunday obligation, or of daily Mass and Communion. But there is a certain breathlessness about the modern arrangements, however splendid it is when an office worker gives up part of her lunch-break to go to a midday Mass. And the gathering on Saturday evening of those Getting It Out Of The Way so that they can sleep in on Sunday morning seems to me to lack the wholesomeness of a regular congregation meeting in the newness of Sunday Morning to consecrate the week to God: perhaps the Anglican Patrimony (not to mention Orthodoxy) has something that is of value to the whole Latin Church.

I affirm all the modern arrangements whereby modern Western Christendom makes our Eucharistic Lord available to a world in a hurry. I am simply suggesting that Mass before breakfast, and on weekdays as well as Sundays, is worth considering as an ideal; after all, it is a norm which most Christian cultures and most Christian generations have found normal.

5 April 2011


A very satisfactory session at Allen Hall yesterday; what, I gather, is known as Twenty-four Hour Pork. My goodness me, how tasty, how succulent.

As a brother priest murmured, what an excellent thing it is that modern Roman Catholics have a ... er ... nuanced view of Lent.

4 April 2011


For those who use the Liturgia Horarum: today's readings are important. I'm not going to expound them in detail because I think anybody can work the business out for themselves, and I hope they will do so. Just a pointer.

Home in on Leviticus 16: 13-14. Compare the translation of this in the Biblical Reading, as offered you in LH Second Edition (it comes from the Neo-Vulgate), with the translation of the same Hebrew verses in the text of the Patristic Reading, Origen's exegesis of the Leviticus passage. You will notice that the Neo-Vulgate offers you "contra frontem", while Origen read "contra orientem". Origen's text comes from the Septuagint, the Greek translation used by the first Christians (and, if I am right in my own conviction that our Lord normally spoke Greek, by him too). For your information: the traditional Vulgate had a reading similar to that of the Septuagint: "ad orientem". ["orientem" means the East.]

Now go on reading Origen's exposition, reflecting on its significance for the direction of Christian Eucharistic worship.

[A subsidiary point: this does also raise the question of the propriety of providing new translations, such as the Neo-Vulgate, which may be closer to what philologists and Rabbinic Judaism agree the Hebrew means, but which close off from us Patristic understandings of Scripture. I suspect that when the Neo-Vulgate was substituted for the Vulgate in LH, nobody quite noticed that this rendered Origen's exegesis rather mysterious.]

3 April 2011

Clergy Appeal: Auxilium petitur ...

His hebdomadis in quibus prohibitione obstringimur quin sacrosanctum Missae Sacrificium offeramus, nonulla occasio oritur in qua pastorali cura motus desiderio haud parvo offerendi afficior pro salute vel pro bono statu alicuius viri seu mulieris, aegrotantis fortasse seu dolentis.

Rogo confratres caros compresbyteros meos ut sua benevolentia velint litare pro intentione et ad mentem Ioannis Hunwicke, idque mihi significent, ut missas eas (quot et quando?) ad bonum applicem eorum quibus opus est huius tam salutiferi beneficii.


I gather that the eldest grandson of the Head of State is to be married in the Octave of Easter; and that he has favoured the public sheets with the intelligence that he will not be wearing a wedding ring. There was a little debate on the Home Service a day or two ago between two opposing 'celebrities' (of neither of whom I had heard); the one who deplored the young man's decision and who upheld the desireability of husbands wearing wedding rings was introduced as "holding the traditionalist view"!

When I got married in 1967, for a husband to wear a ring was the innovation of a small minority. I had one colleague at Lancing who wore one; my suspicion was that this was something to do with the fact that he was a Francophile.

I am not particularly interested in joining a debate about the goodness of each partner in a marriage wearing a wedding ring, or even about the evolution of different customs in different regions. What absolutely fascinated me was the apparent fact that what was in England a little known innovation in 1967 is now regarded as the 'Tradition' which holds sway! So brief a period, apparently, now suffices to establish a 'tradition'!

There is a yawn-making old joke that, however unfashionable one is, if one waits long enough one will be in forefront of fashion. I now know that the prescribed period of time for this process is 44 years.

31 March 2011


In the past, I have - on, I think three occasions - deleted comments which I considered offensive. Today I have deleted a comment which simply invited readers to transfer to the writer's own blog in order to get the Real McCoy on something. If the writer concerned wishes to give his substantive reasons for disagreeing with me and is prepared to write it on the thread of my blog, I assure him that (unless he writes in a gratuitously offensive way) I will not delete his views. But, if I choose not to let him use my blog to advertise his own, that's my business.

What's Mass for?

I was reading some time ago an article in an American Orthodox periodical about whether the Eucharistic Prayer should be audible or silent. It is sometimes illuminating to see how our Western scene looks from the other side of the Eastern wall. Frankly ... I hate to interfere in the religion of others, but I feel strongly about this ... in my view, Byzantine Christians should stick to their traditions.

In the West, the EP has been audible in the C of E since 1559 and in most of the rest of the West since the 1970s. The Orthodox writer drew attention to listener fatigue; among RCs, he said, the audibility of the EP has led to an almost universal preference for the shortest EP (and it is indeed very short). In the C of E, he thought, the EP is commonly regarded by the laity as an irrelevant clerically-intruded piece of boredom which merely delays the all-important act of Communion.

I think he's absolutely right. And, looking at our Catholic Anglican tradition, I suspect that one reason for it is this: in our context it has seemed of crucial importance to avoid sacrilege by making our people understand that the Eucharistic elements truly are the Lord's Body and Blood. Especially since the restoration of mass communion, we have constantly (and probably rightly) postponed everything else to this agenda. But the centrality of Sacrifice, in the last resort, is more important than the worship or reception of the Sacramental Christ. I hesitate to blunder carelessly and over-simplistically around in so great a mystery; it is certainly true that both ....and is more important than either ... or. But, to be simple and crude, the Eucharist is firstly a sacrifice; only when we have said this do we go on to say that it is (we can't get away from the terminology of our Jewish roots here) a communion sacrifice. In the last resort, the Lord's Body and Blood are present substantialiter et realiter upon our altars primarily to be the propitiatory sacrifice which (since the first Holy Week) replaces the the Temple cult; secondarily, to be received so that Christ's Body and Blood can (Dr Pusey's banned sermon citing a great crop of Eastern Fathers is good on this:) be commingled with ours; thirdly, to be adored. Look at it diachronically: most Christians in most Chrisian centuries have attended Mass without communicating. S Pius X's great campaign for Frequent Communion does not need to be denigrated but it is not simpliciter the whole Christian tradition.

Back to the EP. If it is to be audible, its text should make very clear its sacrificial nature, and clergy-talk ('Today we are offering this Holy Sacrice especially for', for example) and sermons should frequently emphasise this. Or it can be done done silently; catechesis will have no trouble explaining that it is silent because it effects the great act of consecration and sacrifice; silent becuse it effects this without essentially needing lay participation or even understanding; silent because the priest is in the holiest possible commerce with God rather than saying something for the interest, diversion, or even edification of the people.

If it can't be said inaudibly, the next best thing is that it should be said very quietly. Yes, I know the OF rubrics specify an audible voice. But they do not say that the priest should bellow nor that there should be electronic amplification. If it is important that the people should hear the prayer, well, any schoolmaster knows that the best way of securing dead silence in a classroom is by speaking very quietly.

30 March 2011

More on the Ukrainians

By the kindess of a friend, I regularly read the newsletter of an American church of the Ukrainian diaspora. And what constantly strikes me is the determination of the Ukrainian Church to maintain and, if necessary, to restore, its own authentically Byzantine traditions; and to emphasise to its people that they are not 'Roman' Catholics. Reading between the lines, I suspect that there is even some resistance to this among some of their laity; that delatinisation legislation stimulates the angry question "Why are we being turned into Orthodox?"

And I have just spotted - in the March 20 newsletter - that the Second Sunday of Great Lent is also the Feast of "St Gregory Palamas" ... reminding me of a question that I raised in posts a little while ago. S Gregory was a great fourteenth century Archbishop of Thessalonica whose teaching, mediated to him from the earlier Greek Fathers through S Symeon the New Theologian, claimed to describe and to justify the teaching and ascetical practises of Athonite monasticism (he was also very explicit about our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces, but that's another question). For a long time, S Gregory was attacked as a heretic by Latin theologians; and I think I am right in saying that he has never popped up in the Martyrologium Romanum! The fact that large Churches in full Peace and Communion with the Holy See (the Ukrainians and the Melkites) commemorate him liturgically on a Sunday in Lent must have ecclesial significance for all the particular churches in Peace and Communion with Rome, Latin as well as Oriental.

I see these Byzantine communities as valuable reminders that the Catholic Church is more than just the Latin Church; and that the "Eastern Rites" (a horrid phrase) are not simply 'ordinary' or 'mainstream' Catholics who are graciously permitted, for reasons of ancestral fetich, to dress up in funny clothes (the other day, in the library of Allen Hall, I browsed through the Bullarium of Benedict XIV, my second most favourite pope, rereading his enactments preserving the rights of the Patriarch of Antioch and of the Melkite tradition against disdainful and illiterate Latins). I am currently trying to get out of the habit of criticising the Church of England; but I can't resist the temptation to point out the the Churches who are at one with the See of Rome contain within them an infinitely greater variety of (encouraged) diversity than you could ever find within Anglicanism. Two lungs, indeed. Or more.


By the way ... the video from the Ukraine suggests that the solita oscula are still very much alive and kicking among Byzantines!

29 March 2011

Whispers in the Loggia ...

... gives a wonderful opportunity of savouring the enthronement of the new Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Church. Since my Ukrainian is frail, I will simply have to fall back on Eis polla ete, Despota.

As I do so, I express my hope that valued Orthodox friends will not be too cross with me. I do know that things are not all as simple as the "Patriarchate Now" lobby believe. And, while the new Apostolic Nuncio to this country may have expressed himself loosely, I do rather sympathise with what I take to be be his underlying motive (in not encouraging that young Orthodox man to become a Catholic): a determination not to weaken the Patriarchate of Moskow and of All the Russias. Given the doctrine expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger in Communionis notio (para 17) and Dominus Iesus (para 17 again!) about the Orthodox Churches as "True*- but wounded - Particular Churches", I do wonder whether there is the same absolute necessity for individuals within those "true particular churches" to make individual submission as there is in ecclesial contexts where a valid episcopate and sacramental life cannot be discerned; since, by belonging to a "true particular church", one does, surely, belong to the Catholic Church. I speak humbly and very much subject to correction.
More on the Ukrainians.


*As I understand it, the advance made in these two CDF documents over the words of the conciliar decree Unitatis redintegratio is the unambiguous - and insistent - addition by the CDF of the adjective "True". "Integralists" who might regard the teaching of Vatican II and of the CDF in this matter as yet another example of post-conciliar Vatican "Apostasy" should, as the Transalpine Redemptorist blog neatly and extensively demonstrated a few months ago, pay rather closer attention to the legislation and praxis of Roman Pontiffs well before period of Vatican II: ex.gr., to the example of S Pius X with regard to Russia.

28 March 2011

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2)

In the first half of this piece, I pointed out that in declaring the CCC the doctrinal standard of Ordinariates, the Sovereign Pontiff did not intend to impose either a heavier or a lighter burden of doctrinal belief upon members of Ordinariates than upon other Catholics. I now go on to enquire what exactly the doctrinal standing of CCC is.

The highest form of legislation in the Roman Magisterium is an Apostolic Constitution. On October 11, 1992, Pope John Paul II wrote about the genesis of the CCC, and what its purpose was seen to be (Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum). On August 15, 1997, promulgating the Editio typica of the CCC, he repeated the crucial terminology of that Constitution in his Apostolic Letter Laetamur magnopere.

According to John Paul's narrative, the Synod of Bishops which met in early 1985 expressed a desire for a "Catechism or compendium of the whole of Catholic teaching, both of Faith and of Morals". It was to be a "point of reference" for catechisms or compendia which might be written in different regions. The pope says he adopted this intent ("Nostrum reddidimus hoc propositum"). He goes on to desribe the CCC as a "reference text" (this is is how the English translation renders the phrase "comparationis textum") for "catechesis renewed by the living founts of Faith". He goes on to describe it as an "expositio" of the faith of the Church and of Catholic doctrine, and describes it as a firm rule ("regulam") for teaching the Faith, and therefore a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. In Laetamur magnopere he says that the catechetical industry ("catechetica institutio") will find "an absolutely safe way for demonstrating the Christian message with renewed fervour ... from this document each master of catechesis will find a solid help by which he will be able, within the local Church, to communicate the single and eternal deposit of the Faith".

It is important to notice what the pope does not say. He does not say that new dogmatic standards are being imposed either on the Universal Church or on local Churches. There is no suggestion that any alteration is being made in the structure of domatic belief or in the degree of assent with which anything is to be accepted. What he does say is that the Tradition, as it currently stands, is being given a convenient summary and exposition so that those whose duty it is to teach that Faith will have a most valuable resource.

Communities, such as Anglicanism, which have existed for centuries without an effective magisterium will obviously be much empowered by having a clear account in one volume of what the Magisterium currently teaches. CCC, admittedly, is superficially in line with the continental instinct for all-embracing codes and much less like our Common Law tradition of a sackful of statutes, statutory instruments, European regulations, commentaries, case law, observations obiter, analogies drawn from decisions within other Common Law jurisdictions, and unwritten assumptions. But the latter style of things does require professionals who can reconcile and make sense of a mass of varied data. I suspect that many a parish priest will be feel empowered by having so much of the work done for him. That is the strength of the CCC.

But I do have an uneasiness about a possible misunderstanding of the status of the CCC among members of Ordinariates. The intelligent laywoman, layman, parish priest, as he/she works through it, is bound to come upon passages she/he finds not totally convincing ... pieces of logic which appear not quite to follow ... illustrations which he/she finds inept. The risk is that she/he might wrongly assume that every sentence in CCC is endowed with the same demand upon our assent, and might thus become discouraged at finding sections where assent is problematic. (It is helpful, in this respect, to read the intelligent and nuanced CDF commentary (1998) on Ad tuendam fidem, dealing as it does with the different levels and types of assent.) Put crudely, there are some things in CCC - such as, for example, the Doctrine of the Trinity and the Doctrine that the Lord's Body and Blood are truly and substantially present in the Eucharist - which you are supposed to commit yourself entirely to with complete faith. On the other hand, there are things which are part of the Church's Tradition which any sensible Christian will just accept without bother, but which do not demand the assent of Divine Faith. If, after much prayer and infinite study, you were to come to the conclusion that the matter demanded a bit of a rethink, you would be entitled to your view, but you should still - as a member of the club - treat the established formulation with religious respect and not go around fomenting mayhem.

And we all need to remember that even ex cathedra pronouncements of the Roman Pontiff or similarly binding decrees of dogmatic councils have limitations as far as assent is concerned. We are not obliged to believe that the dogma has been expressed in the best possible way; simply that the definition was preserved from positive error. We are not required to accept or like or find plausible the arguments which are offered in support of the defined dogma. Above all, nobody insists that, as a matter of divine faith, we must agree that it was opportune to define this dogma at this time or in this way or, indeed, at all. It is most certainly decent, in all these matters, to treat the judgements of those whom the Holy Spirit has set over us with respect, obsequium, and to accept (unless we have very strong grounds for hesitation) that they know better than we do. But as far as the assent of divine faith is concerned, it is only the words of a formal definition which oblige.

What is true of ex cathedra pronouncements is all the more true of areas in which there has never been such a conciliar or papal declaration. A random example: the teaching in CCC about the Just War tradition. I have no criticism at all of this; I happen to subscribe with enthusiasm to this teaching. Back in the 1960s, as a 'bright' young priest, I was asked to write an article about it; I slanted my exposition in such a way as to make clear its bearing on the 'doctrine of nuclear deterrence'; and the editor deemed my piece too contentious to publish. But it is clear to me that this magnificent tradition does not make the same unconditional claim upon the ex animo assent of each one of the faithful as, for example, does the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union. The section on prayer*, moreover, which comes at the end of the Catechism, is an afterthought which, I imagine, most Christians will find helpful. But it is not presented to us as a piece to every sentence of which unconditional assent is demanded.

As both clergy and laity use the Catechism, it is, I think, very important for them to remember that not everything in it is proposed for assent in the same sort of way. If you do find something in it which you don't like, then, as Corporal Jones used to advise, Don't panic. _________________________________________________________

A Fr Jean Corbon, a Dominican of Oriental rite, dashed it off in Beirut as the bombs thumped down around him during the Lebanese civil war.

27 March 2011

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1)

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus says the the CCC will be the doctrinal standard of the Ordinariates. Naturally, therefore, it is being used in the 'formation' of Ordinariate clergy. I know of no other grouping within the Roman Unity which, apparently, has its own doctrinal standard; not even the 'uniate' Churches with their sense of a distinct theological - as well as liturgical - inheritance. Everybody else is expected to adhere to the doctrine of the Magisterium, in accordance with the the degree of solemnity with which a particular matter has been proposed. For example, decrees of doctrinal Ecumenical Councils and ex cathedra pronouncements of the Roman Pontiff are to accepted as a matter of divine faith; other pronouncements by the teaching organs of the Catholic Church are to be given lesser degrees of assent or 'religious respect', according to their respective status.

I contend that the status given to CCC in Anglicanorum coetibus is not in fact different from the status it has been declared to have in all the other particular churches in full communion with the See of Peter. In other words, I do not think that it imposes extra dogmas upon Anglicans which are not imposed upon others; and I do not think that it imposes a lighter obligation of dogma upon Anglicans than upon others. There are things in CCC which are proposed as infallible teaching to be received with divine faith; but they are not thus imposed by the authority of CCC itself. I have in mind, to give obvious and random examples, the Nicene Creed and the decrees regarding the Sacraments at Trent and the dogma of the Assumption. These are to be received as infallible because of the authority of the organ which first imposed them, not because of the authority of their repetition in CCC. Other things in CCC lack the authority of an Ecumenical Council or a Roman Pontiff speaking ex cathedra; these are to be accorded the same respect as they enjoyed anyway and already by virtue of their standing, whatever it was, in the Church's Magisterial teaching ... which may be lesser. In other words, not everything in CCC is proposed with the same force and authority. Cardinal Ratzinger himself wrote "The individual doctrines which the Catechism presents receive no other weight than that which they already possess".

25 March 2011

Fr Zed reminds us ...

... to say a prayer for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

I do not think that every choice he made was the right one ... particularly his unwillingness at a crucial moment to trust Cardinal Ratzinger. But he tried to discern and to follow God's will for him as best he could. I doubt whether the Benedictine Restoration would be where it is now without the witness of Marcel Lefebvre. Cuius animae propitietur Deus.

Allen Hall

Another splendid day at Cardinal Allen's Foundation, now long departed from Douay and lodged on the site of S Thomas More's house in Chelsea. Allen Hall is well equipped with portraits recalling its distinguished past; upon seeing them, my undisciplined memory jumped to a House in County Kerry, Derrynane, ancestral residence of Daniel O'Connell the Liberator. There the portraits of bewhiskered old gents in military uniforms look much like those you would expect to find in any English stately home ... until you realise that their uniforms all betoken the French or Austrian service. On the walls of Derrynane and Allen Hall, one sees, in effect, the Alternative History of these islands. I once, too, got nattering with a woman who was cataloguing the Library in a Scottish Jacobite house called Traquair; she had been surprised by the fact that the books those Scottish Catholics were reading, around the time they went Out to support the Prince Regent in the affair of 1745, tempore Jacobi VIII*, showed them to be more in the mainstream of continental European culture than were the Whig oligarchs and the Hannover rats. Does the Allen Hall library retain any books from its Douay period?

Incidentally, I wonder whether Cardinal Allen's Alma Mater in Oxford, Oriel College, now sports a portrait of its distinguished alumnus on its walls. The painting of him which greets one in Chelsea suggests a man with whom it would be unwise to tangle ... after all, he was a Proctor of this University as well as being a sort of ecclesiastical equivalent of Ian Fleming's 'M'.

We had a most gracious address from the Rector, Mgr Mark O'Toole (one of the Co Wicklow O'Tooles?), in which he negotiated with immense intelligence and sensitivity the question of our status ... the man is clearly no fool. He then assured us that the dark decades when seminaries were less than totally in tune with Catholic Tradition were now just about over. This reassured many of us a great deal; I had dreaded, after the sour decades in the Church of England, having again to steel myself to argue and to fight for the Faith. I doubt if there will be any need for that. Fr Mark is clearly One Of Us.

The seminarians are both very well-informed and immensely friendly; I think it is they, poor things, who do the washing up after we have wolfed down the lunch (which is better than any institutional food I have ever encountered except, just possibly, in the SCR at Christ Church) ... so I can't think of any reason, apart from the pure Grace of God, why they should be so chummy. I wonder how we can recompense them for this contribution to our bellies and our 'Formation', all the more kind for being so banausic. Is there a Junior Common Room Wine Fund?

One suggestion will I make. Fr Mark does a deft line in humorous anecdotes; my instinct is that they may be Irish (call me a sceptic if you like, but the one about the aged peasant with the twelve chickens who lived the other side of the mountain ... with its punch-line "Not the whole bl**dy bucket" ... did not seem to me to carry the authentic markers of a sitz im leben within the English Home Counties). So why does he not deliver them in a reassuringly West-of-Ireland accent? That would make me feel really at home. I bet he could do it if he tried.


*I was a tiny bit surprised not to see any Jacobite pictures in Allen Hall, not even the weeniest engraving of the Cardinal King. Perhaps I missed them ... or perhaps ...

21 March 2011

Exchanges with a correspondent remind me ...

... of an episode when I still taught GCSE. A paper asked the question "In Christian worship, what symbolises Christ?" My candidates, of course, wrote "The Altar", but the correct answer was deemed to be "Bread".

Next time round, there was a picture of an Anglican clergyman standing at an Eagle lectern, with the question "Name the garment he is wearing". My candidates had not been taught much about Anglican Choir Dress, and could not recognise a surplice. I pointed out that the Subject was called "Christianity as a World Religion"*; asked whether the Board expected candidates to know every vestment used in every Church or Ecclesial Body ... the Byzantine epigonation .... the Lutheran ruff ... ; and suggested that, if they didn't, they should rename their subject as "Middle-of-the-road Anglican Tat".

After this, I and some other Public School Heads of Theology had a meeting with the Board. We were told to calm down and remember that the Board had to take account of the fact that in most schools, Religious studies was provided for by dragging off the games field any 'teacher' who had a gap in their time table. I gave up offering the GCSE, and we just concentrated on the A level which, pre2001, was still examined by people who knew something.


* Strange, this. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, were not described as " ... as a World Religion". Not strange ... what this really meant was "There's no suggestion anybody might believe it".

19 March 2011

Geza Again

So Geza Vermes has written a predictable review of Professor Ratzinger's volume II ... how terribly predictable. Predictably, it's in the Grauniad. A collaboration between mutually back-scratching and predictable has-beens. It will be much more interesting if Jacob Neusner [corrected spelling], an American Jewish scholar of immensely greater stature, first century rabbinic knowledge, and conceptual sophistication, than Vermes, does a review. If anyone notices or spots such a review, I will be very glad to be pointed to it. [UPDATE: The thread directs you to a succinct explanation - and endorsement - by Neusner of what the Holy Father is doing. Told you. Thanks.]


It is well-known that Elizabeth Tudor had a strong prejudice against married clergy: which is why the Lords Spiritual in her parliaments had wives who, unlike the wives of her Lords Temporal, did not share in their husbands' dignity. Poor Mrs Parker. Well, up to a point.

But the Catholic Church has no history of such misogyny. So will the wives of the new batch of Monsignori be Monsignore? Mesignore? Medonne? ... er ... help ... or what about the good old Benedictine style Dame??

Busyness - holy

Any who were interested by my recent post on this subject will find a superb example of the phenomenon in the Transalpine Redemptorists' blog ... in their Life of S Clement Mary Hofbauer.

18 March 2011

Advice to a new Protonotary Apostolic

As soon as you've unravelled all the complicated mystery
About what the Holy Office does, the Rota, the Consistory;
When you've studied more theology, and don't get quite so drowsy on
Attending learned lectures which discuss the Homoousion;
When you've somehow put behind you (with your poor command of French) a list
Of authors whose philosophy is known as Existentialist -
When your learning on a multitude of themes is less bucolic -
There's ne'er a Protonotary will be so Apostolic.

Acknowledgements not so much to Gilbert's and Sullivan's Modern Major General as to an earlier ex-Anglican Apostolic Protonotary who would have rejoiced to see the day of the Ordinariate.

17 March 2011

S Patrick's Day

As I looked at the latest revision of the bumf for the meetings at Allen Hall, I spotted a proposal for a clergy-and-families Mass and lunch. I mentioned this to Pam, who of course instantly gave me a crisp and accurate wifely definition of our joint attitude to the idea of struggling into London in early May for a clerical bunfight.

She went on, as wives so commonly do, to make a very good point. "Why couldn't they have organised an Ordinariate outing to the Cheltenham Races?" Why, indeed. After all, we are supposed, are we not, to be turning into proper Catholics? And is it, or is it not, true that proper Catholic clergy spend at Race Meetings all the time they can salvage from golf and cards? What better Formation could there have been for our new life than spending S Patrick's day imbibing the pure Spirit of Catholicity among the clergy of the Archdiocese of Dublin as they wager their meagre stipends on the Cheltenham horseflesh? The Ordinary himself could have tested the intercessory powers of our Lady of Walsingham and Bl John Henry Newman by betting the entire combined financial resources of the Ordinariate on a promising outsider.

Not that it would be a patch on watching the horses kicking up the sand as they race along the strand at Cahirciveen, with Ballicarbery Castle as the backdrop, in the knowledge that the lobsters are queuing up to jump into the saucepan at the Smugglers. How I do miss Ireland. Well, not Ireland so much as County Kerry. Well, not so much Co Kerry as the Iveragh peninsular. I wonder if Bill Murphy has any empty presbyteries. Sancte Patrici, Sancte Brendane, orate pro nobis.

16 March 2011


I am grateful for all the comments - unfavourable as well as favourable - appended to my series on Councils. Although it was my intention to follow closely the trajectory of thought on this subject in the writings of Joseph Ratzinger - which I have been avidly reading for at least two decades - I am of course neither a theologian nor a historian; when I intrude into these fields I welcome corrections from those more competent than I am. I reiterate that I subscribe to everything defined by Councils and Roman Pontiffs, and submit with religiosum obsequium to their juridical enactments and regard with appropriate deference even their comments obiter.

Pastor in Valle added a very interesting piece on this subject to his own blog. Since he is a Church Historian, his piece is probably distinctly more worth reading than mine. And, who knows, by the time I have finished my 'Formation' at Allen Hall, perhaps I will know better!

15 March 2011

shome mishtake shurely ..

... on the internet; where there are pictures of the two rather different churches in England allegedly respectively on offer

(i) to Fr Wach and the blue birettas; and

(ii) to Fr Newton and the black birettas.

But the answer immediately strikes me: a property in central London must be quite valuable; the Ordinariate could flog it to a developer and use the money to get something better. I somehow feel that it may not have listed status.

9 March 2011

The Simple Joys of Stereotypicality

One of the great shames of our drab age is that so few people any longer match up to their old group-stereotypes. Scotsmen are nowadays so very rarely mean. Frenchmen, lamentably, seem no more amorous than Germans. Swedes are invariably stunted, plump, and swarthy. But one human subgroup bucks this sad trend by its gutsy determination to justify its cartoon image: lawyers, with their age-old reputation for avarice.

As you will remember, a curious suggestion started to circulate that clergy joining the Ordinariate should resign their Orders. This has never been suggested previously to clergy leaving the C of E for another communion, so I suspected that it must have something to do with the new Clergy Discipline Measure. Apparently, it doesn't. I have been reading the document now circulated by the Church lawyers; they make no claim that their proposal results from any change in the law.

These lawyers are obviously sensitive chappies, for they have now grasped the possibility that a priest who is cluttered up with wives and children and isn't yet quite sure where his next bed and pay cheque are coming from might be less than enthusiastic about finding lawyers' fees for a legal transaction which encumbers him with no manifest advantage. So they are now recommending to the dioceses that they should meet the fees inherent in this jolly little earner! Sheer magic! You couldn't have invented that, could you?

It will be diverting to see if any of the Anglican diocesans do fall for this delightful con. If so, I imagine that the Nigerian Widows, who so often crowd into our Spam email boxes with their endless offers of trouble-free dosh, will soon be queueing up too for a share in this evidently boundless episcopal largesse. Con-artists of the World Unite ...

3 March 2011


Sexagesima Last Sunday, Septuagesima, we followed the clergy and people of Rome as they trudged to outside the distant East gate of the City to the Basilica of S Lawrence; today we go with them to the South gate, to the Basilica of S Paul ... whose missionary tribulations he enumerated for us himself in today's Epistle reading from I Corinthians.

I find a particular phrase in that reading rather significant: "the care of all the Churches". S Paul wrote of the Churches in the plural - as he did in all - no, nearly all of his letters. But in a couple of late Epistles, Colossians and Ephesians, we find him talking of the Church in the singular. And, just as in his earlier years he had been concerned with the Unity of the Local Church, so now he shows an acute interest in the Unity of the Universal Church. The Universal Church is no mere federation of all the Local Churches; it is the one Body of Christ. Just as, earlier, he had written to the Corinthians rebuking them for talking as if they were "Paul's Group" or "Apollos'Group" or "Peter's Group" or "Christ's Group", now he is concerned for a wider unity in the Universal Church; a unity between Christians of Jewish and of Gentile background and culture.

The message of S Paul is as relevant today as it was when he told the Corinthian Christians "Christ is not divided". The Church is Christ's Body; Christ's Body is not divided; Christ's Body cannot be divided. It is easy for us to think of Christian Unity as a very good thing; as something, for example, which would mightily assist in Mission. But we need to take a leaf out of S Paul's book. Christian Unity is not just something which would be highly convenient; something which would be jolly, jolly, useful. Being united is not something which we need for lots and lots of very important reasons.

Things are exactly the other way round.

Christians are not entitled to be disunited.


Quinquagesima sermon follows on Sunday.

2 March 2011


Extracts from sermons preached at S Thomas's on the Gesima Sundays this year.

Septuagesima These Gesima Sundays came to England in the baggage of an Italian monk; S Augustine carted them to England in his baggage train. As his monks and his mules struggled through Gaul, they were laden with chalices, vestments, and ... books; including the Altar Books of the Roman Rite, containing as they did the Gesima Sundays which S Gregory the Great had but recently invented. In his little church in Canterbury, S Augustine got them all out and put them to use. Canterbury thus became a decidedly odd place; a far Northern oasis of distinctively Roman Christianity at a time when most of Italy and Gaul used un-Roman forms of worship (a fact which had rather shocked S Augustine, a simple Urban lad, when he discovered it during his journey). So: from the very first, the infant Church of England observed these three pre-Lenten Sundays on which the Bishop, Clergy, and people of Rome met for worship, in turn, in each of the three great basilicas of the three great patron Saints of the City, outside the gates and above the burial places respectively of S Lawrence, S Paul, and S Peter.

And even after the Reformation, the Church of England Prayer Book kept the old Roman readings for these Sundays, reminding generation after generation of Anglican worshippers that the ancient roots of our beloved Church of England and of her worship lie deep in the soil of Rome.
Sexagesima follows.

27 February 2011

The Parish Church of the Nation, Benedictine Abbey, or the Central Ordinariate Church?

A while ago, in the context of talking about the 'Royal Wedding', some idiot calling himself the 'Dean of Westminster' referred to his church as the Parish Church of the Nation. I find it difficult to attach much meaning to that daft and pompous phrase. My suspicion is that the custom of having 'National Services' in the Abbey is - with the exception of Coronations - fairly (comparatively) modern. Royal weddings there are probably the most recent of such innovations. I suspect that the status of the Abbey may have received quite a lift when the Unknown Warrior, whoever he may be, was buried there.

In any case, it ought to be pointed out to the silly chap that in fact a great many National Services happen at S Paul's Cathedral, and always have. This happened even in the Old S Paul's; I believe, for example, that Henry VII's son Arthur was married there to Catharine of Aragon. Since Wren's rebuilding, the practical reasons for choosing S Paul's (ex.gr. for the burial of my Lord Nelson and of the Duke of Wellington and for 'Thanksgiving Services' after our periodic national military adventures) have greatly increased and are usually fairly obvious. And perhaps things go deeper than the merely practical: I have often thought that a good examination question would be:

Why are grandiose National Services so much more conveniently held in a Baroque architectural space that in a Gothic church?

In marking answers, I would mark highly those candidates who carefully analysed the differences between Baroque and Gothic concepts of worship.

By the way - going back to the Abbey - it is well to recall that the College of Heralds has long since, quite rightly and entirely legally, accepted the legitimacy of Ampleforth as the linear successor institution of the medieval Abbey of Westminster by allowing the community to bear and use the medieval arms of the Abbey. I think it is high time for the present irrational set-up at Westminster, Dean and all, daft or not, to be sent packing. In my view, the Abbot of Ampleforth and his familia should do a S-Nicolas-de-Chardonnet take-over at Westminster Abbey, and return it to its original purpose.

If they won't do it, well, it would make a good central London church for the Ordinariate.

Send in the heavies. A Fr Ed Tomlinson could lead the way.

A friend recently explained to me that some of my readers don't realise that there is fantasy and irony in some of the things I write. I find it hard to believe that people can be so dippy, but here is a formal disclaimer:
In a little while, I hope to say a little more about the status of Westminster Abbey.

25 February 2011


I have deleted a few comments on a recent post because I do not like their tone (some sensible comments also went because they were comments on the ones I didn't like). I shall be doing more of this sort of thing in future.

24 February 2011


If any brother priests are down to be on a train going through Oxford to the Athens of the North next Monday, and think it would be good to share a taxi from the station there, they could get in touch with me ...


Quite often I get an email and send a reply via the "reply" button, only to get a pompous message to the effect that I have tried to send an "unrouteable" message. I do reply to personal emails - even if only briefly - so if you were the person who emailed me earlier today ...

22 February 2011


Terrible news about catastrophic damage to the Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand; and that there are people trapped in the rubble. I know readers will pray for them and for all the people of Christchurch.

That Cathedral was built by Henry Jacobs, who had been, in August 1848, the first head master of Lancing College. He only lasted a month at Lancing*; the Founder, Nathanael Woodard, was forced to sack him - rumour had it that he was caught with a matron behind a door, but the archives simply reveal a disagreement about auricular Confession. Woodard believed that all his masters and boys should 'go' regularly, but Jacobs had problems with this and tried to make trouble about it with the authorities. He then went out to Kiwi and founded their first English-style Public School before becoming the founding Dean of the Cathedral.

The other 'Lancing' Cathedral is the one at Seoul in Corea. It shows its kinship with Lancing by its dedication - Our Lady and S Nicolas - which is the same as that of Lancing and of the Southern Division of the Woodard Corporation.


*Well, at Shoreham, to be precise. The Folly on the Hill, which you can see in the atmospheric picture at the top of Pastor in Valle Adurni, had not yet been built.

20 February 2011


I have received some appreciative comments about the 'Curwen' series. I should have acknowledged, as a poor classicist disgracefully ignorant about Tudor history, a debt of gratitude to a long-standing friend, Professor William Tighe, whose kindness in helping those who dip into this field is only matched by his encyclopaedic knowledge. I sometimes feel, when talking with him, that I am conversing with a person who was picking up the prosopography and gossip of the Tudor Court only yesterday.

18 February 2011

Summorum pontificum

Well, there's no reason why anyone should be interested in Anglican opinions. But, for what it's worth, I have enthusiastically signed that petition. I am not an integralist but a gradualist; little moves in the right direction are, to my simple mind, a good thing; little moves in the wrong direction are a bad thing.

But I have to say - sorry if this is a breaking of ranks - I would find it hard to condemn (exempli gratia) a clarification which gave the Archbishop of Milan control over the Ambrosian Rite. The Ambrosian Rite is not the Roman Rite. The Bishop of Rome has the right to say what the rite of his Church is; so does the Successor of S Ambrose. Even if the b****r gets it wrong.

I would be a trifle less categorical about (exempli gratia) the Dominican Rite. It is, after all, but a dialect of the Roman Rite. On the other hand, S Pius V gave those older dialects of his rite exemption from papal legislation; perhaps they are morally entitled to keep that autonomy. Dunno.

I am perplexed, as one who takes the long view, about the suggestion that bishops might not have an inherent right to confer orders according to the old pontifical. There would be a quaint irony if those 'liberal' bishops all over the world who have been concerting with each other the expression to Rome of their 'concerns' about SP turned out to have achieved ... a restriction upon episcopal independence of action! Additionally, the Pontifical was the last book of the Latin Rite to be rendered uniform. Until well after the invention of printing, bishops were using manuscript ponrtificals inherited from their predecessors which differed quite considerably from each other. Where is the necessity for uniformity?

By coincidence, I had already prepared, and timed to begin on Monday, a series on the post-conciliar Rite for the Consecration of Bishops. I had a go at the Rite of Deaconing a little while ago.

It's all Go, isn't it?

17 February 2011

Sex Goddesses and Saxon Mercia

As one does, we went to have a look at Birmingham, which we have not visited since the mid 1960s, when Pam, after Oxford, was in management at Bournville. Most of it has been rebuilt; but not the old classicising Victorian civic buildings in the centre ... they're up a little hill, and so it's almost like climbing up to an acropolis.

We homed in on the Staffordshire Hoard in the Museum and Art Gallery - the vast assemblage of seventh century scraps of gold and silver discovered a year or two ago. I remember, just after the discovery, Sarah Foot, Professor of Church History in this University, remarking that they seemed set to bring utter confusion to the work of several of her DPhil students. I gather that we still are not decided whether they are loot from a battle or a jeweller's hoard or an ex voto offering.

To get to them, unfortunately, you have to run the gauntlet of masses of Pre-Raphaelite pictures and artefacts, repeatedly dodging the obsessed and hungry eyes and nightmare lips of Jane Morris. Oh dear, I really don't think it does a girl any good at all being a Sex Goddess ... if Ms Morris were the last woman left on earth, I don't think I would ... er ...... But I did find a deliciously frightening watercolour by Turner of a pass in the Alps (I have faint memories of seeing something rather like it twenty years ago in the Abbey Gallery at Kendall in Westmoreland). If one has to follow Mr Burke in his quest for the Sublime, I'd rather do it in Turner's company than through the 500-page tedium of that demented Mr Wordsworth. Then we had a snack in the restaurant ... rather Midlands food ... which we were just finishing as Mr Mayor came in, chain and all, for fish and chips. Do the mayors of provincial cities live, eat and sleep in their full insignia of office?

Before getting the train back to Oxford, we nipped along for a look at the papist cathedral; vandalised during the Great Disruption, but still unmistakeably Pugin. There - small world - we ran into Bernard Longley, now Archbishop of Birmingham, an extremely amiable bloke whom I think I last met over lunch in the National Liberal Club when he was Doing Time as one of Cormac's London auxiliaries and I was on a FIF theological working party. He rather proudly pointed out that he has S Chad's relics enshrined over his High Altar, and made a quip about recovering the Pugin screen which found refuge in Holy Trinity Reading after its eviction from the Cathedral during the Disruption.

Somehow, I don't think many RC bishops would have expressed pride in possessing the relics of a seventh century Saxon saint, or spoken (even light-heartedly) about reversing the Disruption, two or three decades ago. Things are looking up.

13 February 2011

More on ARCIC

This was back in an age when the Tablet still published my letters; and I was engaged with George Carey, then Bishop of Bath and Wells, in a controversy from which the poor old nincompoop had to retire when Henry Chadwick weighed in and explained to him the point at issue in language a toddler could understand. I also wrote for an admirable journal, The Catholic League Messenger, and one or two other periodicals. I ranted about the fact that the old Reformation differences were being 'solved' by clever people who could agree verbal formulations, while newer problems, which could not be verbally fudged, were ignored. I was, of course, a voice crying in a wilderness.

Not now. Instead of addressing ancient questions which have lost their original biting power, at long last ARCIC III is being required to do what I always said it should have been doing. It will have to solve questions, the real questions, the newly divisive questions, which cannot be verbally fudged. A deft formula cannot paper over divisions concerning homosexual 'marriage' and the 'ordination of women'. Nor, of course, those of Contraception. Or rather, ARCIC is not being made to deal with those questions in themselves, but with the means by which particular churches come to a discernment on such matters. Bingo.

Friends sometimes wonder why I am such an enthusiast for Professor Ratzinger. The reason is that when most of one's adult life has been spent being sneered at for holding unmodish opinions, as mine has been, to have a Roman Pontiff who, as far as I can see, shares pretty well all one's own preposterous mistakes, is ... not so much comforting as exhilarating.

One last point. Rowan Williamson, and others, have attempted to salvage something from the bright ecumenical past which they themselves have sabotaged, by saying that the ARCIC accords are "in the bank" for when they are needed. Rowan is no fool and must know that this is rubbish. In every academic field related to every science and to every humanity, research work, fashions, opinions, external pressures, controversies, assumptions, move on. Theology is not a bit different. In two, three, or however many generations Rowan and the rest of them have in mind, the solemn self-consciously self-pleased accords of the last fifty years will just look quaintly old-fashioned. Not only in minor details; our grandchildren will cry "However could those people in the 1990s have been so blind as to think that this was the real question, when it is so obvious that they should have been thinking about ...".

12 February 2011


... is in the news again; because Grandson of ARIC, alias ARCIC III, is getting under way.

Dr William Oddie is a man for whom Anglican Catholics of my generation have a great deal of respect. He chronicled, accurately and mercilessly, the unfortunate events of the early 1990s, when an English hierarchy - who, of course, are by now mostly retired or dead - was able to prevent a corporate solution to our problems. The kindness and generosity of the present hierarchy and the warmth of their support for Anglicanorum coetibus make this seem like quite another age from the bleak era when a helpless, saddened, Joseph Ratzinger asked "What are the English bishops so afraid of?"

But Dr Oddie is not quite right in saying that Rome - in his view, rightly - never gave a real OK to the ARCIC accords. As far as Eucharist and Ministry are concerned, the process ended in 1994 with Clarifications, agreed by the relevant dikasteries including CDF, to which Rome agreed "No further study would seem to be required at this stage". It is important to correct Oddie on this, because one of the tattered defences employed by shame-faced Anglican Ecumenics to explain the action of the Anglican Communion in walking away from the process is that 'Rome dragged its feet ... people assumed they weren't really interested ... if it hadn't, we would have been able to prevent the Anglican Communion from embarking on new divisive courses of action'. Rome did nothing of the sort. It did keep on returning to particular issues where it thought there was a fudge; but that was quite simply because the process was being taken so seriously. It had to be got right. And methodologically, Rome was (rightly) concerned that, for Anglicans, all that was being agreed was that the accords were within the spectrum of beliefs allowed by Anglicans. Rome wanted to know that what was agreed represented the Faith of the Anglican Communion and was a Faith which, although the language and terminology might differ, really was, substantially, that of the Catholic Church.

Throughout the ARCIC process, I was sceptical. When, in 1987, the accord on Justification was published, I was particularly outraged. This was a time when, in academic Pauline studies, the New Look on Paul, associated with the name of Ed Sanders, was the talking-point in academe. This New Look actually demonstrated that the whole Reformation construct of Justification By Faith Alone was nonsense. Non-Catholic academic scholarship had finally shown up the implausibility of classical Protestant dogma. But not a word of this got into the Report.