29 December 2013


I was glad, just before Christmas, when the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate vigorously defended themselves  against the Commissioner's vague but nasty accusation that their leading members had 'distorted' the charism of their order and had had an improper influence over the male branch of the order. It reminded me of how, in the early days of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, enemies of Catholicism criticised Dr Pusey for being too much influenced by Mother Sellon.

Throughout the history of the Church, strong, holy, orthodox and intelligent women have played decisive roles. In English Church history, we think of S Hilda. In the history of the Papacy, S Bridget was a crucial influence in its return to Rome from Avignon. Foundresses of religious orders have had influence far beyond their own orders. Recent work in Recusant history has demonstrated the powerful parts played by the married women who in fact maintained, organised, and defended persecuted Catholic groups centred upon the gentry houses of seventeenth century England.

It would be quite preposterous to exclude women religious from the fullest part in the evolution of the charisms and ethos of their orders. Half the world's population, and perhaps rather more than half its religious, are female. There is something distinctly unpleasant in attempts to marginalise or denigrate them or to restrict their influence.

We have all met the sort of inadequate men who have problems coping with women, and especially with intelligent women. Perhaps this could be one of the problems with the small group which has precipitated the onslaught upon the Franciscans of the Immaculate. If so, these men should be eliminated from positions of influence and offered counselling. Meanwhile, there should be an end to threats to place the Sisters under the authority of the Commissioner.

Come to think of it, perhaps the Big Solution would be to put the Friars under a Commissioneress. That might teach the malcontents a lesson or two.

28 December 2013

Call for help: Dom Aelred Sillem??

I wonder if my readers, whose erudition never ceases to impress me, could help me to get to grips with Dom Aelred Sillem, Abbot of Quarr. I am interested in his views on Liturgy and in his role as a member of the Coetus Internationalis Patrum at Vatican II.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents: how should we teach Abortion?

One of the biggest moral issues which Catholics in Education will have to face in the decades ahead is how to respond to Government diktats requiring the teaching of Zeitgeist Dogma on matters such as Abortion and 'Marriage Equality' and 'plural lifestyles'. I've been out of the teaching game for thirteen years now; like most retired paedagogues I will now bore you with "What I used to do", and invite your speculations on whether you think the Thought Police will, in future, permit the Hunwicke Game.

I used to give both sides of an argument. First, using every rhetorical trick known to me, specks of my saliva penetrating to the furthest corners of the lecture room, I would explain  and defend the Zeitgeist Dogma: for example, that a woman has an uncircumscribed "right to choose"; or that homosexual liaisons and marriage are equivalent. By the time I had finished, the students were convinced that this was something that Father H would go to the stake to defend. Then I would do the same job for the proposition that the unborn baby has the right to live ... and so on ... you get the point.

The advantage to this was twofold. Firstly, the students were going to hear the arguments in favour of the Zeitgeist Dogmas soon enough anyway (almost certainly, had already heard them); there was no possibility of concealing these things from the young people, even if I had wanted to, which I didn't. So it might as well be me who enunciated things. At least they couldn't go off with the belief that Fr H, poor ignorant old fellow , had never heard the 'facts' about it all. Secondly, there was still a prejudice at the end of the last century that the young should be encouraged to think for themselves; that counselling and ethical education should be "non-directive". By giving both sides, and encouraging the little blighters to think, how could I be wrong-footed? But I had had the opportunity to give a thoroughly robust, no-holds-barred, account of Catholic moral teaching. And, cunningly, I had controlled the teaching experience.

Non-directive instruction was favoured by the Enemy in the last century because it provided a superb methodology for subverting Christian morality. My suspicion: As soon as They are firmly enough in the saddle themselves, they will attempt to see to it that no alternative morality gets a look-in; and this policy will be justified by the argument that allowing uncensored discourse would be offensive or hurtful to those whose choices might be queried.

Will someone in my position be able to get away with my old games in ten years time, or by then will the Thought Police be enforcing a strict discipline of Completely and Invariably Directive Ethical Instruction?

Or has it happened already?

27 December 2013

private message to stephen

I have enabled a couple of your comments, but not the one in which you say that the Pope introduced the Filioque. This is because I have a policy of not enabling comments which ignore, as if I had never said it, something that I explained carefully and in detail only a few days previously. See my piece published on December 16. Hope you don't mind. My sincerest wishes for a very happy New Year.

26 December 2013


"Souped up Marxism" is a charge which the wealthy world seems inclined to hurl at Roman Pontiffs. Paul VI certainly suffered from this in the aftermath of Populorum Progressio, and the people we loosely call 'neocons' have again dug into the same rather dog-eared Rhetoric Bag in their response to the social and economic observations in our present Holy Father's Evangelii gaudium. This reaction to Pope Francis' words about poverty and exploitation is inevitable. And it seems to me that questions of War and Peace belong to a neighbouring area of discourse. Here, again, the World is not always anxious to accept papal guidance. I recall George Weigel ... you remember him ... the biographer of B John Paul II, who praised almost everything his hero did or said, but complained that the Polish pope was strangely unenthusiastic about Western military adventures in Islamic countries. "No more war, no more spiral of violence" was the cry of B John Paul II, which was admirably taken up by Pope Francis during the dark days when the Obama was trying to cobble together a coalition to regime-change in Syria without too much American expenditure on body bags.

It seems an eternity ago now, doesn't it ... That happy evening when, just for once in a while, Britain's own lethargic, neutered, venal House of Commons actually for once did something laudable which had results in terms of global politics. The picture, caught by the television cameras, of Cameron scampering grim-faced along the Treasury Bench to phone the news of his abject failure through to his 'friend' Barack was truly a sight for sore eyes ... but I digress.

Liberation Theology is a part of the Church's Magisterium which could do with development, and it doesn't worry me in the least that Gutierrez has been to Rome. The old Liberation Theology was not interested in looking at the Church's Tradition and Scripture and asking what teaching may be discerned there with regard to the Poor; instead, it came with a ready-made ideology which it had borrowed from secular and revolutionary sources, and sought tenuous ways of attaching it to the Christian Tradition. That, we can do without. We are, happily, not now so naive. We no longer seek to idolise a Fr Camillo Torres, who abandoned his altar to die as a member of a guerrilla band. The CDF's two documents on Liberation Theology - the first apparently negative, the second much more balanced - are still in place as part of the resources upon which the Roman Magisterium can draw. We now know that a Theology dealing with the economic malaise needs to grow organically from the Tradition. Because there are still Poor and there are still economic systems which maintain their poverty; and the Church, from the time of Leo XIII, has not wanted in such circumstances to be saying nothing. Indeed, centuries before Leo XIII the Church had her teaching on Economic Sin, commonly known as Usury. As a soppy old Englishman, I even wonder if Chesterton and his Distributivism might have a contribution to make.

And we have the Church's very ancient tradition with regard to the Just War. The Magisterium of B John Paul II increasingly suggested that wars in the modern world need to work very hard indeed to be able to snuggle under the umbrella of the 'conditions' elaborated by the Church's tradition. And the deployment of these principles by deeply traditionalist moralists such as Germain Grisez and his collaborators, demonstrating the immorality of both nuclear warfare and of the policy of nuclear 'deterrence', should attract the attention of the Magisterium. Yes ... I know ... Obama and Putin currently have little interest in mutual extermination, so worrying about the 'Nuclear' question can look like an archaic, 1960s, preoccupation. But an American protectorate in the Middle East continues to build up its nuclear arsenal unrebuked and to threaten any regional competitor it fears might try to do exactly what it has, with ruthless determination, done itself. This is bound up with the continuing merciless oppression of the Palestinian people, which fuels militancy and terrorism throughout the Islamic world and brings bloodshed to our streets. It is also fueling a process by which the Christian communities of the Middle East, more venerable and ancient than Islam, are being driven out and even murdered. The long-standing desire of the Curial bureaucracy to achieve a concordat with Israel ought not to prevent the Vicar of Christ from speaking prophetically. Above all, we must not allow certain interests to bully us into a fearful silence by the threat of accusing us of anti-semitism.

The Vatican, as Stalin memorably observed, has few military divisions. But the world has rarely stood as much in need of the clearest moral guidance. Guidance in these ethical areas would help the world to understand that Christian morality is not solely about sexual ethics. Not that this will make the Pope popular: those with 'liberal' agendas in sexual and 'life' matters may not always be the same people as those who are prepared for their own creature comforts to be threatened by a more equitable world economic order. 'Liberals' may turn out to be surprisingly conservative when it comes to holding on tightly to the loot.

The Holy Father's friend Cardinal Hummes whispered to him, just after the election, "Do not forget the poor". I pray that the Holy Father will continue to take that advice seriously. To be frank, I do also pray that he will take the traditional precautions which have prepared the way for utterances of the papal Magisterium; there have been signs in the first nine months of this pontificate of a tendency to speak hastily and unecclesially. This is not what popes are for.

Just as our beloved Pope Benedict was given to the Church in order to rebuild the bridges of continuity stretching back from the 'Conciliar Church' to the 'Church of all Ages', so I believe that the areas of Poverty and Peace may be what Francis has been raised up to address. Benedict's repair work was and is and always will be absolutely and totally essential, and any move to dismantle any of it would precipitate a crisis of unpredictable but extensive seriousness. But, despite one or two faux pas, I do not believe that Pope Francis has either the inclination or the intention of doing that. Our duty now is to be open to a pontificate which has its own creativity. We must not think the less well of it simply because it does not merely repeat the excellences of the last one.

Our prayers and our words should support Pope Francis.

23 December 2013


I regret that there have been Comments which I have not enabled to appear. I am sorry about this; my own instincts are antipathetic to censorship. But I do think that, in what many clearly find a very difficult period, harm can be done by certain sorts of comments about the Sovereign Pontiff. I would urge readers to hang on and not to panic.

On an entirely different subject: the American SSPX site, which often offers interesting articles, has just suggested for pre-Christmas reading two pieces by Chesterton and one by C S Lewis. Clearly, they aren't snooty about our Anglican Patrimony!

Nihilne obstat?

In 2009 a distinguished Roman theologian, Mgr Brunero Gherardini, published a book called Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II: Un discorso da fare. An English translation, The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A much needed discussion, appeared soon after.

The book contains flaws, and the English translation is unidiomatic. But it is a most important contribution to the on-going debate about Vatican II. Naturally, it was not much welcomed in some circles.

Both the Italian and the English versions were made available by Casa Mariana Editrice, a publishing house associated with the Franciscans of the Immaculate (which has produced other of his books).

I wrote several posts about this book; they can be accessed through the Search Engine in the top left hand corner of this blog by tapping in GHERARDINI. The book carries commendations by Bishop Mario Olivieri and by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

These are both clergymen who are in good standing with the Holy See.

I gather that restrictions have now been placed upon the publishing house Casa Mariana Editrice.

Are copies of this book still freely available?

If they are, I commend the book (as I did three years ago). If you have not read it, get a copy.


If they are not as freely available, then it would be interesting if those responsible could perhaps explain why.

22 December 2013

Fr H's Christmas Games

Contributions of a wildly speculative nature are invited. The question: Eucharistic Prayers. The Roman Canon and the Oriental anaphoras are there, sanctified by time just like so much of what emerged from the early centuries (Canon of Scripture ...). Could there be new Eucharistic Prayers? A distinctively medieval EP? An Anglican EP, Cranmer deftly extricated from the fogs of Zwinglianism?

Say as much as you klike!

21 December 2013


I wish to revert to what I am convinced are some important questions about the implications of the Holy Father's controversial choice last year concerning whose feet to wash and kiss on Maundy Thursday.

Fundamentally, it seems to me that his action ran the risk of multivolent signification: of being a gesture which could bear a variety of different possible meanings, whether one at a time or in combination. I refer, of course, to the Holy Father's disregard of the law restricting the pedilavium to viri, males.

His action is able to mean at least three quite radically dissimilar things; either that
(1) we must love and respect and serve all men and women, even the lowest in society; or that
(2) law may be disregarded whenever we think we know better, or that
(3) the Sovereign Pontiff is above the Law; that his position is so exalted that, unlike every other Christian, he is under no legal or moral or even prudential obligation to obey the Law or to appear to do so. (Morris West, writing during the maximalising papacy of Pius XII, gives imaginative, if chilling, expression to such an inflated attitude to the Papacy in The Devil's Advocate: " ... the Chair of Peter ... was a high leap, halfway out of the world and into a vestibule of Divinity. The man who wore the Fisherman's ring and the triple tiara ... stood on a windy pinnacle, alone, with the spread carpet of the nations below him, and above, the naked face of the Almighty. Only a fool would envy him the power and the glory and the terror of such a principality ..." Oh dear. No, I don't think I want to go down that sort of path.)

I will disregard (2). Furthermore, we must notice that, logically, if meaning (1) is intended, then (3) would have to be intended together with it. This because the Sovereign Pontiff  could have gestured to express (1) without breaking the Law. He could - he is the undoubted Supreme Legislator - have changed the Law before his action; he could have devised a different and lawful gesture to express this love and respect; he could have performed the pedilavium lawfully in exactly the way he did, even on Maundy Thursday itself, by doing it apart from the Maundy Thursday Liturgy (as English Sovereigns did until the Dutch Invasion, and still vestigially do). Meaning (3), on the other hand, could be intended on its own without presupposing (1).

Frankly, I am not keen on (3). This particular, populist, papal gesture undoubtedly seemed attractive and liberating to those who find gesture more important than substance. But even papal chickens eventually come home to roost, and this un-legal action must, once its implications are fully understood, have a very detrimental effect upon ecumenical relationships. The closest historical parallel I can think of is the principle expressed by Ulpian in the third century that Emperors are legibus soluti - free from the Law; an attitude exemplified by the Arian Emperor Constantius, who ordered Egyptian bishops to renounce S Athanasius and, when they declined on the grounds that this was not the Church's rule, replied All'hoper ego boulomai, touto Kanon nomizestho ("My wish has gotta be regarded as having the status of Church Law"). (Who was it who said "L'etat c'est moi"?)

Modern media are understandably impressed by a pope who does his transactions in their coinage: soundbite, impulse, gesture. But we should beware lest the other side of that same coin have an older and a scarier name: Arbitrary Power.

Since I first drafted this piece nine months ago, one or two other things have happened. I have read ... December 19 ... Sandro Magister's piece in which he describes the style of this papacy as "monocratic and centralising"; and, of course, the business of the Franciscans of the Immaculate has erupted and shown no signs of reaching a resolution. I continue ... 

It is for a similar reason that I am most uneasy about the decision of the Commissioner ad interim of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, to require them not to celebrate the Vetus Ordo without a special indult from himself: a decision which he appears to think is within the bounds of the powers given to him, through the dicastery for Religious, by the Roman Pontiff. Of course, I neither have knowledge of what Fr Volpi's faculties allow him to do, nor, since I am most certainly not a canonist, do I have the forensic skills to gloss them. I can only talk about the appearance of things. This action looks like a prohibition inhibiting the friars from doing something which the general law of the Church allows them to do "without permission either from the Bishop or even from the Apostolic See". It looks like a capricious act of tyranny within a legal system in which anybody can be deprived of their rights in universal law at any moment, and even by the extraordinarily delegated powers of a fairly low-ranking official.

This presents the world with an image of papal jurisdiction which will confirm the worst suspicions of Orthodox or Anglican Christians about what being subject to the See of Peter implies.

I spent 43 years as a priest in the Church of England working for unity cum et sub Petro, and I am now incardinated into an Ordinariate. I do not feel the need to prove to anyone either my profound respect for the papal office and its occupant or my deep personal concern for Christian Unity. I would be distressed if, absolutely unintentionally, this pontificate were to lead to an imaging of the Petrine Ministry which put further obstacles in the way of the Lord's prayer that they all may be one.

Surely this is not what our beloved Holy Father wishes to do?

19 December 2013

Ecumenism and the Ordinariate

Not long ago, there were reports that the Catholic Chairman of ARCIC had raised the possibility of the Catholic Church extending a general permission to Anglicans to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches. I think it should be realised that such a move would lead to an explosion of ill-will against the Catholic Church. You see, there would be an initial Anglican euphoria: Rome at last is recognising us!!! In some Anglican reactions to Archbishop Longly's words, signs of this have already been apparent. You wouldn't believe how deep the Anglican hunger for recognition by Roman Catholics is, even though they rarely translate this longing into a resolution not to diverge any further from Catholicism. But this euphoria would soon give way to the realisation that the arrangement was not reciprocal (i.e. did not allow Catholics to approach Anglican clergy for the Sacraments). The reaction to that would be that the new Roman initiative constituted an outrageous insult to the reality of the priestly ministry of Anglican clergy. And even if Rome did allow Catholics to ignore Apostolicae curae and receive the Sacraments from Anglican clergy, would she allow such reception from Anglican women clergy? It is not easy to imagine any imaginable Rome wishing to go down this path. (Although, of course, that admirable, liberal, and politically correct pontiff, the Next Pope But One .... or Two ... or Three ... the only pope that liberals are prepared to obey ... he can always be relied on ...)

I do, however, feel that the Ordinariates, given their own particular charism, ought to utilise the current canonical arrangements so as to be generous to those Anglican Catholics who, while repudiating the present policies of the Church of England, still, for whatever reason, linger the other side of the Tiber. Let us examine those current arrangements.

The Catholic Ecumenical Directory, to which Longly referred, deals sensibly and straightforwardly with the question of sacramental sharing between Catholics and non-Catholics. I do not propose to look at the norms concerning such sharing between Catholics and members of those Churches whose sacraments are accepted as valid by the Church. Nor at the rules concerning Catholics and the sacramental celebrations of ecclesial bodies where the Church does not discern sacramental validity; but simply at the admission of non-Catholics to Catholic sacraments. I have in mind particularly the Mission and Apostolate, in terms of its own specific charism, of the English Ordinariate.

I will not repeat all the provisions of Canon 844, or of Directory Paragraphs 129ff., nor of the 1998 document of the (English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish) Hierarchy One Bread One Body. I will start with the following: the Church "recognises that in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments [of the Eucharist, Penance, and Unction] may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial bodies"[my italics]. The conditions "are that the person be unable to have recourse for the sacrament desired to a minister of his or her own Church or ecclesial Community, ask for the sacrament of his or her own initiative, manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament, and be properly disposed". It is understood that "unable" does not mean simply physically unable, but extends to morally unable.

The Directory urges ordinaries to establish norms concerning "grave and pressing need", and leaves it to individual ministers to judge according to the norms of the Directory when an ordinary has not done so. When an ordinary has done so, the individual minister acts in accordance with that ordinary's norms.

One Bread one Body cites the phrase "unable to have recourse" and comments "In our countries, occasions when such fellow Christians cannot physically find a minister of their own community will be rare". This was true in 1998; but a very much more complex situation holds true today. True, there are still quite a lot of Anglican clergy scattered around England; but, for Anglican Catholics, most of them are not much use. Some Anglican clergy may be women, and the layperson concerned may not be able to discern that they truly are priests. Even where a local Anglican priest may be male, even perhaps a male who belonged to Forward in Faith, a thoughtful and conscientious layperson may be unable to accept his ministrations if he acts as an alternate sacramentally with an ordained woman, or (because his Parochial Church Council has declined to pass Resolution C) is under the sacramental care of a bishop who accepts women into his presbyterium. There are already vast swathes of the country where such devout laypersons are in effect unchurched. People used to travel to my church from forty miles away. As the Church of England moves inexorably towards Women Bishops, this situation will become even more extreme.

It would be quite improper to suggest that Canon Law should be flouted ... and I am not even suggesting that CIC needs to be changed. I do not think that it does. Its provisions seem to me to be thoroughly well-judged. But there could be quite a gulf between a narrowly restrictive interpretation of what Canon Law says; and a pastorally sensitive deployment of the permissions and possibilities which it envisages. I myself when in the Church of England benefited, in Ireland, from just such a pastorally sensitive approach on the part of an Irish diocesan bishop, and I would like to feel that members of the Ordinariates will be no less pastorally sensitive and generous.

16 December 2013

Mons Sion, ne timueris, lauda Dominum!

It's funny how ones mind works ... I woke up this morning with a phrase reverberating in my mind from somewhere near the end of Jeremiah's Lamentations ... Mons Sion disperiit quia vulpes perambulant in eo ....vel similia. Dunno how that got there. Tricks in the subconscious, I s'pose. Suggestions on the back of a postcard.

By the way ... those of you who were kind enough to read my convoluted piece on the Benediction Laudate psalm ... did you notice recently that on the Second Sunday of Advent, in the Epistle from Romans 15, where S Paul quotes it (I think he must have gone to Benediction quite regularly), the second of the words meaning praise is translated into Latin as "Magnificate"? The Greek, by the way, of both the mss of S Paul and the mss of the LXX is very confused; Sinaiticus doesn't even agree with itself! Variations centre on (i) should there be a prefix ep-; (ii) should the inflexion be -esatosan or -esate. (Some of the maelstrom of confusion is the result of scribes spelling phonetically, naughty things.) I wonder if we should blame Atticising ... or even de-atticising? Suggestions on the back of a postcard.

Ah well, Veritas Domini manet in aeternum.

14 December 2013

Bishop Williamson

Many of my best friends are Wykehamists ...

Connoisseurs of Ecclesiastical History will be admiring the deft way Bishop Richard Williamson may be situating himself. A little while ago, what he wrote left in ones mind the suspicion that in the not-too-distant-future he may be found ordaining 'seminarians' who have been trained in a 'seminary' in which the texts used will be kiddies' books; on the grounds that Econe has been such a failure. More recently, he manipulates texts in such a way as to suggest that, in his view, Sedevacantism may possibly be merely a harmless 'opinion'.

I wonder ... I wonder ... in the Canon of the Mass does he murmur " ... una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Francisco ..."? Or ... not ...

Many of my best friends are Wykehamists ...

S Peter, custos portarum Caeli, is not a Wykehamist ... is he .........

Virgo Deipara de Wintonia ora pro eo.

Franciscans of the Immaculate; more oaths

From 1910 onwards, during the campaign of S Pius X against Modernism, an 'Anti-Modernist Oath' had to be sworn by all office-holders in the Catholic Church. But, in the aftermath of the Council, that Oath was abolished; its doctrinal precision and its evident intent to discipline doctrinal dissent seemed no longer to suit the Spirit of Age; the Spirit of the student riots of 1968. Freedom and Hair and the Age of Aquarius, when All You Needed was Love, sat uncomfortably with Papa Sarto's laudable determination to maintain Orthodoxy in its most precise form.

It's surprising how things creep back. Ordinands of the Franciscans of the Immaculate are now to be required to ... guess what ... to swear a new oath ... but not at all the same sort of oath as the Anti-Modernist Oath. But the context for this novel imposition appears to be a culture just as ferocious as anything ushered in by Pascendi Dominici gregis: refusal to subscribe will mean instant dismissal from the Order. The required undertaking is described as "accettazione formale ... dei documenti del Concilio Vaticano II, secondo l'autorita riconosciuta loro dal Magistero". The problem that I have with this is that either it imposes an impossibly heavy burden upon those swearing it; or it means nothing. Let me explain what I mean, by a particular and precise example; an example which could, however, be multiplied paene ad infinitum from the Conciliar documents. Woods are made up out of trees.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 101 prescribes that in the Divine Office the Latin language is to be kept (servanda) for clerics. It does go on to give bishops power to allow the vernacular to clergy who have a grave problem with this in individual cases (singulis pro casibus). How many clergy say the Office in Latin? How many of those who say it in the vernacular have had an individual dispensation to do so from their bishop? Clearly, nobody takes that piece of legislation at all seriously; Rome doesn't; Bishops don't; clergy don't. Two delicious paradoxes: (1) if there are hypertraddies among the Franciscans of the Immaculate, they probably are among the few who do take seriously the conciliar obligation to use Latin! And (2), those most vocal in their enthusiasm for "the Council" are likely to be those who sit most lightly on SC 101. I wonder which language Basil Loftus says his Office in.

And SC101 became a dead letter within a decade of the Council ... it's not like provisions of Nicaea which, over the centuries, gradually became obsolete. Was it formally set aside by a pope or a Vatican Dicastery? In that case you would expect uebertrendies - Lofti - to be up in arms about the total iniquity of the pope or the Roman Curia in quashing, within a few years, the explicit mandate of an Ecumenical Council. Is it the unwritten 'Spirit of the Council' which has taken this burden off the shoulders of Bishops and clergy alike? Or do we have here an example of how laws can become obsolete and so cease to bind if they are ignored for long enough and Authority does nothing to insist upon them? How are ordinands, required to swear such an oath, supposed to know which of the Conciliar mandates have been set aside by some dicastery and which have been airbrushed out of existence by the Spirit of the Council and which have achieved the comfortable canonical status of desuetude? Or, if they are not supposed to know, how does the giving of such an undertaking have meaning?

An oath requiring subscription to precise doctrinal statements, such as the Anti-Modernist oath or subscription to dogmatic decrees of a pope or council, may be hard enough to parse accurately in hermeneutic terms. But those problems are nothing compared with giving meaning to the concept of "accepting" the body of documents emerging from Vatican II, a "pastoral Council". The Superior of SSPX said that his brethren accepted "95%" of the Council, and asked whether 'liberals' (one thinks of the associations of dissident priests in Ireland, Austria, and elsewhere, and the recent meeting of IMWAC ... International Movement We Are Church) accept anything like as much. Of course they don't. Does Hans Kueng? And Fr Aidan Nichols has said that one particular Conciliar decree "occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics". Take, also, the Conciliar decree on the Church in "the Modern [hodiernus = 'of today'] World". The 'today' of 2014 is many ways  very different from the 'today' of 1963. The Holy Father has just pointed this out (EG 84; alluding to the 'naive optimism' of the conciliar period, and adding: "We are more realistic"). So has the Magisterium decided which parts of that document still apply and which do not? Or is everyone free to decide that for themselves?

Where an undertaking or oath is substantially meaningless, the over-scrupulous soul might hesitate to subscribe until someone has resolved all ambiguities. In my judgement, such scrupulosity would be completely excessive and would not in any way represent the obligation placed by God upon a good Catholic. We are expected to get on with living the Catholic life, not to waste our energies in endlessly picking over irrelevant scruples. And the Holy Father Pope Francis has recently and justly urged those in authority in the Church "not to exhaust their energies in inspecting and verifying" (EG 94). If Authority imposes an undertaking which is vague to the point of being meaningless, then one may take that oath. This is not like subscribing to something which is untrue.

At the basis of all this is a very unpleasant implication. Asking these worthy religious men to make these Undertakings is as offensive as it would be to ask a husband to Undertake not to beat his wife. It implies that the exacting of such an Undertaking is necessary. One recalls Pope Francis' words about a "persecution which appears a veritable witch hunt" (EG 100). Apparently the Order has been accused of 'crypto-lefebvreism'. I know no reason to suspect the friars of this. But it would be only human if some of them, given the sort of treatment they are being given, had now started to do an audit of what options they had. Is there some faction in Rome deliberately trying to provoke a schism? And are there people behind the scenes labouring to ensure that an atmosphere is created in which the regularisation of the SSPX is rendered permanently impossible? Let us pray that the Holy Father's reform of the Curia is rapid and radical.

One of the most important initiatives of Vatican II was the encouragement it gave to the work for 'Unity'. In my view, there would be something demonic in an 'Ecumenism' which was preoccupied with bodies deeply sundered from Catholic Truth while at the same time ecclesial divisions closer home were carefully tended, nurtured, extended, and deepened. If not demonic, then certainly hypocritical. It would be like loving all men, especially those a long way away, while fostering domestic hatreds in ones own household. When the Ordinariates were set up, we experienced this mindset: some who had always been so rhetorical in their advocacy of Unity suddenly turned very nasty about an example of Unity actually happening.

I simply do not believe that our beloved Holy Father knows the half of what is being done in his name.

13 December 2013


Before being ordained Deacon in the Church of England in 1967, I, and my fellow seminarians in the great seminary of S Stephen's House in North Oxford, stood around a table in the company of a gentleman wearing an outlandish wig (the sixties were a bit like that). Under his guidance we swore an oath; all speaking together we uttered a formula which was supposed to end " ....and in public prayer and administration of the Sacraments I will use the form in the said book prescribed, and none other, except as far as shall be ordered by lawful authority." However, what we actually said was " ... prescribed, and one other ...". If you feel that this was a not entirely honourable proceeding, then, as the Holy Father said with regard to homosexuals, who am I to condemn you?

The ordinands of the Franciscans of the Immaculate are going to have to swear an oath. I have to say that I could swear this oath with a very much clearer conscience than I had on that day in 1967 ... indeed, without any qualms at all. The text available does not commit them to use the Novus Ordo. They merely have to accept that "the Novus Ordo is an* authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church". That would give me no problems whatsoever. Good heavens, I even use the Novus Ordo when pastoral circumstances require it! Not long ago I actually said it daily for an entire fortnight in a parish of the Portsmouth Diocese where I was doing duty! (Mind you, I am careful always to use the First Eucharistic Prayer, as I trust all my clerical readers are.)

Nor does this oath in any way imply that the one taking it prefers the Novus Ordo. It is inherent in the motu proprio Summorum pontificum that different clergy (and laity) will have different, and lawful, preferences. I can see no objection to the requirement that ordinands formally accept the authenticity of the NO. I personally think the Vetus Ordo is more authentic than the NO because .... er .... no ... that's not what I'm on about today. But the contents of the NO are largely taken from earlier books of the Latin Church; the arrangement is generally speaking traditional; so how could one reasonably deny its positive authenticity? Surely the concept of authentic admits the grammatical modalities of positive, comparative and superlative?

I feel this so strongly that I am prepared to drive my argument even further. In modern Catholic seminaries, so rumour has it, many of the ordinands are much more 'traditional' nowadays than the ordinands of a generation ago were. Eccellente. But there may possibly still be among them just a tiny residual handful of young men who are violently prejudiced against the Vetus Ordo ... quaint young fogies weirdly fixated upon the out-dated fads of the 1970s, eternally mouthing strange mantras about Hippolytus and versus populum, resistant to the Magisterium of Summorum pontificum. The sort of sad little chaps who secretly read the Tablet or even Mgr Loftus (utrumque censeo delendum) and take selfies of themselves in polyester chasubles. I think, therefore, for safety's sake, all ordinands throughout the Church should also have to swear that they accept the Vetus Ordo as "an* authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church".

It would help to weed out such precious young men, and to prevent them from sneaking through to ordination.

You know it makes sense.
*Indefinite article.

12 December 2013

Whatever happened to Genesis? (5)

The Church of England's 1922/1928/1961 Lectionary for the Divine Office is not now its most commonly used lectionary. I think this is a shame (although, of course, this is no longer any business of mine). Its 'Common Worship' replacement is unbelievably complex and convoluted and, following the Bugnini abandonment of the 'gesimas', can make no attempt to start Genesis with Septuagesima. But the 1922/1928/1961 Lectionary is a product of the Catholic Revival's high summer of liturgical erudition. It bases itself patristically on what Pope Gregory the Great devised and explained about the meaning of his 'Gesima' season. It then uses the 'lectio continua' instinct and provides a systematic reading-through of most of the Bible each year (the New Testament, twice a year). This embodies, of course, an aim which the Anglican Patrimony owes to the Reformation period (together with the entire structure of the Anglican Divine Office): the principle that clergy and laity together should "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" the Scriptures.

Eventually, I imagine, Rome will authorise an Office lectionary which will be available to the whole Ordinariate world. I hope she does not base it on the untraditional English lectionaries devised more recently, or upon the equally untraditional lectionary of the American Prayer Book; and I hope Rome does not attempt to construct it out of the post-Conciliar lectionaries of the Latin Church. These were not devised for an Office structured like the Anglican Office, and attempts to adapt them to an Anglican format would only demonstrate what a painful knife and uncomfortable bed Procrustes had. No such option would fulfill the aim of Pope Benedict: that Anglicans should bring into the unity of the Catholic Church the finest elements of their own inheritance. And at a time when some elements of the post-Conciliar settlement in the Latin Church are coming increasingly under critical scrutiny, I think it would be a shame to produce a chopped-up-rearranged-and-pasted version of one of its weakest features - its Office lectionary - and to impose this upon the Ordinariates.

This is the moment to return to the lectionary system the outlines of which go back at least to Pope S Gregory the Great, and which has served not a few provinces of the Anglican Communion well from 1871 until just recently.
This series has now reached its conclusion.

11 December 2013

Whatever happened to Genesis? (4)

Dom Gregory Dix, who did little to endear himself to bishops (had he tried to join an Ordinariate, the Catholic bishops would undoubtedly have been apprehensive that he would turn upon them the the same bright beams of wit and erudition which their Anglican opposite numbers had for so long endured) characteristically observed in 1944 that "even when the stately summer of the Carolines was over, the 'Whig grandee' bishops of the eighteenth century and the 'Greek Play' bishops of eighty years ago still had something for which the genial energy of a business man in gaiters does not always quite compensate". Dix's list of episcopal styles missed out a certain breed of English Anglican bishops, still alive only two decades before he wrote, who were, even by Dixian standards, very impressive men. The Tractarian  movement had already leavened Church of England to a considerable extent. There were members of the episcopal bench who, having been trained in our ancient universities in the Classics, and imbibed [this is Manning's bitter, angry, true comment upon B John Henry Newman:] "the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone", were learned men, far from being Papalists but very much further from being Reformation Protestants. And English Academe was replete with scholars who had spent their lives immersed in the Fathers and in the ever increasing number of hitherto unavailable liturgical texts, in the process of being published by the Henry Bradshaw Society.  During the First World War, a liturgical committee was formed including such bishops as Robertson of Exeter, Chase of Ely, Gibson of Gloucester, and scholars including Swete, Frere, Brightman,Christopher Wordsworth, H A Wilson, J N Dalton ... as well as dear old Percy Dearmer. (Several of those, of course, later became bishops.)

This was the Liturgical Committee which bore responsibility for, among other things, the Lectionary which the Church of England ... well, actually the Crown, but you know what I mean ... authorised in 1922. It was this Lectionary which finalised the return to the old Roman lectionary system which Quinones had wished to preserve and to expand into a full reading of Genesis from Septuagesima onwards; an intention which Thomas Cranmer had once shared but, most unfortunately, had abandoned.

I suppose that Lectionary could be called the Back to Gregory the Great, Back to the Early Roman Rite, Back to Sarum, Back to Cranmer's best draft, Lectionary system.
One more episode ...

8 December 2013

The Franciscans of the Immaculate

Lanherne is a Cornish recusant house situated - like many recusant properties - in the back of beyond. It contains one of the greatest relics in England, which Pam and I had the privilege of venerating when we visited the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, who have a flourishing community there, in 2010 (three posts about Lanherne, its history, its great relic, its sisters may be found by tapping 'Lanherne' into the search engine at the top left-hand corner of the blog).

Where God gives many graces, the envy of the Evil One is always to be feared. Don't you find that to be true in your own lives? I humbly beg readers to pray for the protection of the sisters and for that whole order; if priests, to say Mass for them.


Rigidity, inflexibility, is the hallmark of the Bugnini, post-Conciliar, liturgical Calendar.

Let me explain what I mean. Today is The Second Sunday of Advent. I'm glad. We get the third collect in that wonderful sequence of Excita collects; 'Stir up' is what we pray because we know that our indolence and our Sin call for a rude shake up. (If I were the Holy Father, I would speak about the fact that we are all Laodiceans, which would sort out the Men who had read Apocalypse 3:15sqq. from the Boys who hadn't.) Today's collect in the Vetus Ordo could serve beautifully as the rallying prayer of the New Evangelisation. Heaven forbid that we should lose this Sunday collect.

But today is also the Feast of our Immaculate Lady's Conception. And this feast comes below a Sunday in Advent in the Bugnini Order of Precedence which (forgive me for going on about this, and for the horrible pun) precedes the Council (I have a 1957 ORDO, pontificate of Pius XII, beside me which proves this!). So ... Hard Cheddar ... the Festival gets transferred to Monday. Which is undoubtedly better than completely ignoring it. But there's not a tiniest mention of it in the Sunday Mass. This is the same rubrical problem which I raised in my piece for S Andrew's Day. (You may be surprised to learn that the Church of England's Liturgical Commission, when publishing extensive propers for this feast in 1991, commented on how appropriate they were to the season of Advent. Indeed so. Mary is hardly a person to be ashamed to mention in Advent, even if she is destined to get a bit of a plug in the Novus propers of Advent IV.)

Is there another solution? In the Byzantine Rite, when two celebrations coincide, parts from each are often combined. The attitude behind this is not unknown in Anglicanism, where there were for centuries no rules at all about the problems of Occurrence and Concurrence. So there survive Tractarian sermons for 1842 and 1853, when Good Friday occurred on March 25, combining the themes of the Annunciation with those of Good Friday; a splendid opportunity, indeed, for thinking about the Co-Redemptrix*, the Compliant New Eve, at the foot of the Cross of the Obedient New Adam.

The older Tradition of Latin Christendom provides the neatest answer. It relies upon the simple concept of "Commemoration". So, in the Saint Lawrence Press ORDO on my desk, giving the Roman Rite according to the rules of 1939, Our Lady's Feast occupies the day. (The blog Rorate has reminded us that the Rubrics of 1960, happily, reverted to this traditional, pre-Pius XII, arrangement, although, in less than a decade, the Novus Ordo dragged us back to Pius XII). But there is a commemoration of the Sunday; which means that its Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion are said after those of our Lady. And in the pre-Pius XII rite, on such occasions as this, the Sunday Gospel is read as the Last Gospel at the end of Mass, rather than the Johannine Prologue ... after all, Vatican II did call for a Richer Table of the Word of God ... so why is it so unspeakably dreadful to have two Gospels on a Sunday?.

I prefer the flexible and Common Sense instincts at work here, backed by the authority of Pius XI and B John XXIII, to the rigid winner-takes-all system backed by Pius XII and Paul VI.

*As the (2005) Anglican-Roman Catholic agreement on Mary puts it, "The New Eve shares in the New Adam's victory over sin and death".

7 December 2013

Worrying? [UPDATED]

The adulation surrounding Nelson Mandela reminds me of the Diana Spencer hysteria. I'm not sure what these odd occasions tell us about our society, but, whatever it is, I feel uneasy about it.

This morning, Sunday, I have heard most of the BBC Sunday morning service, from S Martin's in the Fields, with Justin Welby preaching. I do not think I have ever heard a more disgraceful parody of Christian worship.

6 December 2013

Whatever happened to Genesis? (2)

Even when Cardinal Quinones published, with papal approval, his very radical revision of the Breviary in 1535, he retained the association of Genesis with Septuagesima, although he gave more space to the reading of greater sections of this book than had the traditional Breviary. In England, an already theologically compromised Archbishop of Canterbury eagerly read the Spanish cardinal's reworked Office, despite the fact that the King's Great Matter put him on the opposite side from Quinones in European politics. There survive a couple of liturgical drafts by Thomas Cranmer from the same period showing that he, too, was working along the same lines as ... er ... well, actually, the similarities are so many and exact that is clear that Cranmer's drafts are closely indebted  to the Spanish Breviary which had emerged under the patronage of Pope Paul III. The two drafts have been variously dated, but it is pretty obvious that Cranmer was devouring Quinones as volumes rolled off the presses and flew across the Channel. And, in one draft, Cranmer follows Quinones in preserving the ancient link between Septuagesima and Genesis and building on it to provide an in-depth reading from the same Book through Lent.

However, Cranmer was obsessed by the need for simplicity. Medieval clerics did not have an ORDO; they had to work things out for themselves. The raw materials were to be found in a Directorium called Pie. Cranmer, notoriously, observd that "the number and harshness of the Rules called the Pie, and the manifold changings of the Service, was [sic] the cause, that to turn the Book only was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out". So, lamentably, in his other draft Cranmer went instead for a lectionary based entirely on the civil year's Calendar; Genesis started at the beginning of January and marched inexorably on, ignoring
the Ecclesiastical year. And this was the model which he followed in his first English Prayer Book of 1549.

That was a shame.

To be continued

5 December 2013

Only for Classicists who like Cicero and Euripides

Scurra nescioquis in interrete scribens conatus est repertorium efficere in quo probra inveniri possint omnia quae in dies effundit domnus apostolicus. Facetus est hic, et illum lepidum Caius Valerius dixisset. Mihi praeter modum et hic et ille et quae scripta sunt probra placent. Hoc tantum addere velim ... assonantiam et alliterationem mihi cordi placere. Ex experimento 'narcissisticos narcoleptas' fortasse insusurrem. Seu potius ad Iasonem coniugi blanditias edentem et litteras i et s vomentem respiciam (o misos, o megiston echthiste ...ktl) et talibus - 'sisypheis semisocinianis' - vel similibus flagellis eiusdem domni hostes quoslibet omnes verberem. Eis polla ete Despota! Oves proculdubio oles!

Archbishop Cranmer Blogspot ...

... has got a superb article on the Maaloula nuns. An exceptional, sinewy, powerful piece of English; every word absolutely right and absolutely in the right place.

Whatever happened to Genesis? (1)

A few years before he sent S Augustine and his little group of monks to bring the Gospel to the Angle and Saxon peoples of the old province of Britannia, S Gregory the Great appears to have reorganised the liturgies of the three Sundays before Lent: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. At this time of both natural and human disasters, the Pontiff arranged pilgrimages of supplication to the three stational churches of the three patron saints of Rome: SS Peter, Paul, and Lawrence, placed as they were like fortresses outside the walls of the beleaguered city. At the same time he explained, in a homily which still survives, the thinking behind the selection of readings which used to be read at the Divine Office during the 'Gesima' season - a selection which survived until the aftermath of Vatican II*. S Gregory is concerned with the Five Periods of Salvation History which begin with the Story of Eden in Genesis. And so it is Genesis which the Latin Church has devoutly read from Septuagesima onwards; those great pre-Paschal narratives of Fall and Sin and Floods, which resonate typologically with the Paschal Obedience of the New Adam and our Redemption through the Flood of the Baptismal font..

So, right up to the eve of the liturgical disruptions of the twentieth century, those who read the Breviary read Genesis. They started on Septuagesima each year, and by the time they reached Ash Wednesday they had read chapters 1-14. On the Sundays of Lent, they read Genesis chapters 27 and 37. Thereby, they read annually the basic narratives of the Judaeo-Christian dispensation. I cannot discover that the Liturgia Horarum provides this same basic annual diet. But ... Salvation may be at hand ... Genesis appears in the post-Conciliar Weekday Eucharistic Lectionary. The good news is that, in weeks five and six of the year, Genesis chapters 1-11 are read.

The bad news is that  they are only read in year I of the two-year cycle. The other bad news is these eleven chapters are at risk of being cut off by the beginning of the Lenten cycle of readings. So, this last year, we didn't get much beyond chapter 1 before Ash Wednesday supervened. In 2015 we shall do better; we shall make it into chapter 7. Not until 2017, in four years time, shall we get the entire eleven chapters. I calculate that between 2000 and 2024, twenty five years, only in eight years are those chapters read fairly fully.

When Easter is safely out of the way, three lectionary weeks get us from chapter 12 to the end of Genesis. But only in Year I.

I intend to explore the question of why this matters so much.

*Readers who wish to remind themselves about the actions and motives of Pope S Gregory the Great with regard to the 'Gesima' Sundays and the reading in these three weeks of Genesis, fully explained as it was in his own Homilies, may find old articles of mine, accessible with the help of the search machine attached to this blog, to be of some help.

3 December 2013

Patrimonial Papacy

I have seen discussions on the Internet about the role of episcopal conferences. I thought it might be of interest to a few to air again this post, written when I was still an Anglican, in August 2010.

Recently, a fashionable Orthodox hierarch, commenting on the dialogue between Rome and the Orthodox Churches, expressed the view that, while Orthodoxy may have things to learn from Rome about a Universal Primacy, Rome had things to learn from Orthodoxy about Intermediate Primacies. How very reasonable. Everybody learns from everybody else's insights and we end up with Wholeness. The essence of Ecumenism.

Except that it's rubbish. The New Testament - well, I mean the Pauline Letters - knows two usages of the term ekklesia. There is the local Church - the Church, let us say, in Corinth. That is how S Paul uses the term in his earlier correspondence. But, without abandoning that usage, in Colossians and Ephesians (yes, he did write them both; Anthony Kenny proved that, even though the NT establishment ignored his scrupulous scholarship) he writes also of the Church as a universal body. In later ecclesiology, that gives us the Local, 'Particular', Church; which means, not the Church in some country or region, but a Christian community with Bishop, Presbyterium, Diaconate, and Laos. Then there is the Universal Church; and the late, great, Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix showed that the role played in the Local Church by the Bishop is closely paralleled by the role played in the Universal Church by the Church of Rome (among other evidence, he illustrated this by examining the language used in the epistles of S Ignatius of Antioch about the bishop in relation to the Local Church, in comparison with that used about the Roman Church in relation to the Universal Church).

The Local and the Universal Church exist as entities jure divino. Indeed, they are in a sense the same entity, because in the Local Church the Universal Church subsists in its entirety (this was explained by Ratzinger in the two CDF documents Communionis notio and Dominus Jesus; this ecclesiology of communion is one of the points of contacts between Ratzinger and the justly celebrated Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas). Intermediate Primacies - such as Patriarchates - do not exist by divine right. They may be given a theological rationale in terms of Incarnational Theology: that is to say, an association of local churches may laudably express forms of spirituality adapted to the instincts of particular cultural groupings (one thinks of the Eastern Churches of particular rites). And Patriarchates and Major Archbishoprics may make organisational good sense. I do not deny that and I do not refuse respect to the Patriarchates of Byzantine and Oriental Christianity. But an Archbishopric or a Patriarchate does not exist in the primary ecclesiological sense in which Universal Church and Local Church exist.

Dom Gregory Dix then went on to show that the belief in the Primacy of the Roman Church existed at a very early date and, when described, was seen in terms of the Petrine status of the Roman Church. He pointed out that there is no evidence in the early centuries of the notion that the Roman Church acquired its status from its location in the Imperial City. This would have been improbable; as Dix says, no other cult (not even that of Dea Roma) assigned primacy to its group in the city of Rome; and early Christianity, far from respecting the city of Rome, loathed it as the Whore of Babylon which slaughtered the Saints. The idea that the Roman Church owes its status to its Imperial position first arose in the Constantinian period, when the New Rome had to find some rationale for claiming first place after Rome. Although (Dix's rather unforgiving term) it 'forged' the pedigree of its bishops from S Andrew the Protoclete, it knew that it needed more than that cheerful implausibility to justify its new claims to take precedence over the venerable and apostolic sees of Antioch and Alexandria.

The Roman Primacy is not the institution of Patriarch written larger. It is something sui generis or it is nothing. Now: you may not agree that Rome does have a universal Primacy. You may prove this negative to your own entire satisfaction. But you will not thereby have proved that 'Intermediate Primacies' - Patriarchates and the like - do have status jure divino. You'll have to come up with another set of arguments to establish that.

I for one applauded the move of John Paul II to explain that Episcopal Conferences, unlike the Universal Roman Primacy and unlike the Local Primacy of the Bishop in his own Church, do not have any existence by divine right. And I very much doubt if the papal title 'Patriarch of the West' is any older than the Byzantinising of Pope Gregory I. And so when Benedict XVI, as one of his first moves, divested himself in the Annuario Pontificio of the title 'Patriarch of the West', "Goodie", I cried, "at last we have pope who knows what he isn't".

We Anglican Catholics know what Intermediate Primacies can lead to if left without a check or a balance. They can lead to the mess that the Anglican Communion finds itself in. They lead to the concept of the Infallible Local Synod whose heretical decisions are irreformable. 

They can lead to self-righteous schism. 

29 November 2013

Mix and Match

I am much looking forward to the rolling out of the Ordinariate Ordo Missae tomorrow, Saturday evening at 6, in the Church of the Holy Rood, on the left as you go just a liiiitle way down the Abingdon Road after crossing Folly Bridge, which is the bridge you get to in Oxford as you go from Carfax South past Christ Church (well, Cardinal College, really; they quite often have Wolsey's flag flying) and then the Police Station (which featured so interminably in the Inspector Morse series).

(By the way, earlier on Saturday afternoon at 4.00, the Ordinariate will offer (same place) an Advent Carol service, followed by refreshments; giving you time to rest and fast before the Mass at 6. But you aren't 'expected' to go to both if you just want to go to one.)

An important thing about the Ordinariate Mass is this. It contains much loved elements of the Vetus Ordo Mass associated with the name of that great Saint, S Pius V. Praeparatio at the foot of the Altar; Last Gospel; and, most theologically significant, the proper, pre-Conciliar, Sacrificial, Offertory Prayers. And it combines these with elements, such as use of the vernacular, from the Novus Ordo.

This makes it a pointer towards the reconnection of the Novus Mass with the tradition that went before it. And it points also towards what Benedict XVI hoped for: an eventual convergence of the two Ordines.

Thus it is undoubtedly, together with Summorum Pontificum, one of the two most significant liturgical advances since 1969. Not just for former Anglicans, but for all Catholics with Tradition at heart.

28 November 2013


Query: is The New Liturgical Movement doing a series, or is it not, which will come to a conclusion, on whether the Roman Rite originally had three readings (including the OT) at most Masses? I'm a trifle puzzled.

In Liturgy there often tend to be lots of funny little clues which point to elements which have got lost. I do not know of any such tasty little clues to support the hypothesis of the Lost OT Reading*. I suspect that, quite simply, at some early point somebody/bodies in Rome decided that it would be NT nearly always on Sundays/festivals, with OT on fasting ferias/vigils etc., and in the Divine Office. (Such a system, of course, would be expected to become gradually eroded and 'exceptions' would enter the rite; Masses of our Lady spring to mind.) Substantially, this is very much what we still have now, and very neat it is. And it supplies a very Rich Table of OT Scripture.

I think the way forward might be the re-examination of Patristic remarks about Scripture to see whether there is any evidence of a rationale being offered for such a practice. The reason why this has never been done is that nearly everybody has blindly accepted the unevidenced theory of the Missing OT Reading at Rome.

I would be interested if my erudite readership had any ideas.

*Except, just possibly, the presence of two psalms after the Epistle. But this would point to the 'missing' reading having come between the Epistle and the Gospel.

Vetus and Novus

It has suddenly dawned on me why Benedict XVI devised those rather odd terms "Ordinary Form" and "Extraordinary Form". You bright things out there will have spotted it yonks ago, but we old gentlemen eventually catch up ...

He didn't want to use the word novus. He didn't want to perpetuate the idea, common both to its friends and its enemies, that the Pauline Missal was "new". He would rather it had been promulgated explicitly as within the tradition of the evolving Missals since 1570, rather than as a new liturgical start bestowed upon the Church by the New Pentecost of 1964. Novus/Vetus  seemed to him to express a Hermeneutic of Rupture.

25 November 2013

'The Council' and the Liturgy: an alternative narrative

I suppose a common analysis of what happened in the 1960s might be: The Council mandated a fairly light revision of the Liturgy; however, particular interests subsequently gained control of the levers of liturgical power and pressed things to extremes. I suggest that something really quite different happened, realisation of which might have its embarrassments both for Trendies and Traddies.

The fontal point is this: The process of change was already firmly in place. I do not think that the Council, in fact, made any real difference whatsoever. My train of thought was started by reading some words which Annibale Bugnini wrote in the Preface to his 1956 Commentary on the new Holy Week liturgy. I give my own translation of his Latin:
"When the Easter Vigil had been restored, a certain keen liturgist did not hesitate to assert: Pope Pius XII, in the history of Liturgy through the ages, will be 'The Restorer of the Easter Vigil'. Now, indeed, by the help of God's grace he is to be called 'The Restorer of Holy Week'; while in the secret of our hearts we do not doubt that still greater things await this indefatigable Labourer, and it is very likely (nec veritatis specie caret) that He will be 'The Restorer of the entire Sacred Liturgy'".

Remember, also, the extremely radical nature of the 'restored' Holy Week. I venture to say that it is, if anything, more radical than the post-Conciliar changes to the Ordo Missae itself. 1951 and 1955 were simply two stages of which 1969 was the logically coherent third stage. The changes to Holy Week were only less radical than the later changes in that they affected merely one week of the year ... and services which were not of obligation ... and services which, in fact, for the most part, comparatively few people attended.

Now let me bring in Cardinal Ratzinger's famous words of 1999: "After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. ... In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the Liturgy. It is not manufactured by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity"*.

I think these are admirable sentiments. My only qualification would be is this: Pius XII had initiated the process of radical alteration, using the same people who were to be prominent after the Council, such as Annibale Bugnini, before and without the mandate of an ecumenical Council. We had come a long way since that admirable and erudite Pontiff Benedict XIV concluded that the disposition of the Psalter in the Roman Breviary could not be changed because there was no evidence that the Roman Church had ever used a different one. I suggest the Twentieth Century liturgical changes would most appropriately be called the Pian-Pauline Reforms. They are changes based on exactly that notion of papal power which Benedict XVI so acutely criticises: that the Pope can do anything. The process of liturgical 'reform' has, from the beginning, been the product of the maximalising Papacy of Pius XII. The 'Council' has only been an episode in that process. I never ceased to be amazed by this central paradox of mid-twentieth century Catholic history: that the 'Progressives' and 'Liberals'were able to transform the Latin Church pretty well overnight by manipulating an absolutist model of Papal power.

I think it will be very interesting to see, over the medium term, how Pope Francis understands his Ministry. It can be easy for a good man with admirable motives and who is facing real problems to use the power which his position gives him to take short cuts. It takes a very learned and a very truly humble Pontiff - such as a Benedict XIV or a Benedict XVI - to understand, and to internalise his perception of, what  he ought not to do (and I'm not only talking about Liturgy). Pope Francis's two recent utterances which bear upon the Hermeneutic of Continuity make me cautiously optimistic. If this man can consolidate the gains made by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI and at the same time prudently develop the teaching of the Magisterium about the Preferential Option for the Poor, he could turn out to be a great Pontiff.

*Fr Aidan Nichols reports that Fr Adrian Fortescue, nearly a century ago, wrote "The Pope is not an irresponsible tyrant who can do anything with the Church that he likes. He is bound on every side ..."

24 November 2013

Article 26

Fr Barry Tomlinson comments upon my piece 'Intention' by drawing our attention to the XXVIth of the Articles of Religion. I did not quote this, because, anxious to reassure fellow Traditionalists, I thought a quotation from the Articles of the Church of England might muddy the water! But Father is absolutely right. That Article was in fact more or less the Fifth of the Thirteen Articles of of 1538, penned in the days of Henrician 'non-Papal Catholicism'. During the 'Reunion' fervour of the 1630s, the Franciscan Francis a Sancta Clara*, in his very interesting discussion of the agreements between the Articles and the Decrees of Trent, had nothing whatsoever to say about this Article except "This is the very doctrine of the Church and of all the Fathers". Although a critic might suggest that this is to forget S Cyprian ...

Ahhh ... did I mention the council of Trent? Interesting to read the recent (Rorate) document on Trent by our Holy Father Pope Francis. It would be splendid if the English Bishops were to follow his lead in encouraging recommitment to the Magisterium of Trent.


*AKA Christopher Davenport, who was an undergraduate at the antecedent of my own college at Oxford and was reconciled to full communion with See of Peter by a priest working probably out of the Recusant centre at Waterperry near Oxford; had a distinguished academic career; was chaplain to Queens Henrietta Maria and Catharine of Braganza; reconciled the first wife of James II to Full Communion. He was acquuainted with the martyred Archbishop Laud and with Richard Montagu, the Anglo-Papalist Bishop of Chichester and Norwich.

Deserves to be better known. His brother, a puritan minister, ended up in Connecticut (is that somewhere in North America?) ... a counter-cultural family?

23 November 2013


A week or so ago I was writing a sermon, and I again discovered, as one so often does, the extent of my own ignorance.

The Coronation Service. The Orb ... the round golden ball surmounted by a cross, symbolising the Sovereignty over all the world, all peoples and nations and potentates, of Christ the King.

I discovered that it seems not to feature in the medieval English Liber Regalis, laying down the procedures for consecrating English Monarchs. Or in the Pontificale Romanum. I don't think an orb was included in the Scottish regalia (so much more ancient and beautiful than the English, incidentally). I don't recall seeing it in those magnificent pictures of Bourbon monarchs, down to Charles X, in their Coronation robes.

Wikipedia does reveal its existence in the Byzantine and Holy Roman Empires.

I believe the Orb was listed in Tudor inventories.

All of the above assertions are not properly checked and may be erroneous.

I wonder: could it be that the Orb was seen as having some connection with notions of Empire and that it was introduced into England in the context of Tudor imperial ambitions?

Somebody out there must know!

22 November 2013

VETUS ... Grammar

If you have some Latin but not a lot, beware of the adjective Vetus. It doesn't 'go' like novus/nova/novum. It's Thirdish. Not vetus/veta/vetum but ... well, you'll find it in your grammar book.

The Sensibility and Sense of Pope Francis

In that August interview which our Holy Father Pope Francis gave to a Fr Spadaro, there was an interesting pair of terminological innovations.

Firstly: the Extraordinary Form of the Mass was referred to as the Vetus Ordo. This, surely, is very useful and in my view most welcome. The word Extraordinary is often currently misunderstood. Words do change meaning; take, as a random example, the word  forensic. It means 'concerning the law courts'. But because it has so often been used in the phrase forensic Science, the ellipse of the word Science means that forensic on its own it has for many people come to mean 'scientific'. (I expect philologists have a technical term for this sort of shift.) Likewise, the commonest ecclesiastical application of the word extraordinary is in the phrase extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and so inevitably extraordinary has for many people come to mean 'You get them absolutely everywhere'. This is quite simply not as yet true of the 'Extraordinary Form' of the Mass. Vetus Ordo, on the other hand, is purely factual, purely descriptive, and, with its pair Novus Ordo, is entirely, and happily, free of value judgements. Pope Francis wished simply to get the ideology out of the 'Liturgy Wars'; and this is absolutely right. There is no place for ideology at the foot of the Altar of God. Or, for that matter, for wars.

So, rather than asking "Was it an Eeee Efff Mass", we can now simply ask "Was it Vetus?" More succinct, more stylish.

The second terminological innovation was the use of the word Sensibility. The Holy Father, in that interview, referred to "alcune persone che hanno questa particolare Sensibilita." And the usage was picked up and applied  by the Nuncio to France in his recent letter to the FSSP in that country: "quelle que soit leur Sensibilite".Hence there are now two Sensibilities in the Latin Church: the Vetus and the Novus.

So, at parties, as we balance our wine-glasses precariously on our cardboard buffet plates and stab with our cocktail sticks at the bits of cheese and pineapple, the new with-it conversation starter will be "What's your sensibility?"

Did I say two Sensibilities? Rather, there are three. Don't forget the Sensibilita Anglicana.

20 November 2013

Should I be so cross?

Well, it did make me rather tetchy. I read somewhere about some 'traditionalists' referring to celebrations of the Novus Ordo Mass as "evil". It made me more than 'rather' cross.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against people arguing, forcefully and rationally, about the process by which the Novus Ordo Mass emerged from the post-Conciliar political skirmishes. It's OK by me if severe criticisms are made of the way in which the Novus Ordo is commonly celebrated. Fair enough, if a priest who feels strongly about things urges his hearers, very decisively, to prefer to go to Vetus Ordo Masses. Just as I couldn't complain if someone like, for example, that Mgr Loftus, were to urge his readers, very decisively, to go only to Novus Ordo Masses. (Although I do rather deplore making the Liturgy a battle-ground, I suppose such differences are inevitable. Like any vigorous institution in this world - and the Church does have one foot in this world -  thesis and antithesis are the very stuff of life.)

BUT ... and it's a very large But ... however it is celebrated, the Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ our Lord and Redeemer, re-presented on Earth and before the Face of the Everlasting Father. By its inherent nature, it is a wonder before which the Angels fall down in worship and the Devils tremble. In it, the Lord of the ages runs to meet us, his outstretched arms marked with the wounds of his love. No valid celebration of Mass can be within a million miles of being 'evil'. No sin, no heresy, no liturgical messing about on the part of a daft celebrant, can change this by so much as a millimetre.

Since I began to exercise sacerdotal ministry in full communion with the See of S Peter, I have been worried by how often I have been asked whether Mass done in such-and-such a way is or is not 'valid'. The traditional teaching of the Church is very clear here. It is extremely difficult for a priest to render his Mass 'invalid'. If he is validly ordained; if he uses real bread and real wine; if he uses words which clearly reference the Lord's utterances "This is my Body", "This is my Blood", and if he intends to 'do what the Church does', his Mass is valid. His way of celebrating may be profoundly unedifying; but the Mass is not essentially about edification. It is the Lord's Sacrifice.

'If he intends to do what the Church does'! So ... you ask .... can a heretical priest be said to 'intend to do what the Church does'? You may well ask.

I will, Deo volente, deal with this tomorrow. Meanwhile, I shall not accept comments. And, by the way, this post is NOT an attack on the SSPX.

19 November 2013

Change of address

A few days ago, we moved house. Readers who had my old address, telephone number, and email address will, if they wish to email me at the email  address they have, be sent my new (geographical) address and telephone number (if we have not frequently been in touch, remind me ...) We are still within the all-important 15-minutes-by-bus-into-Oxford-and-four-buses-an-hour zone.

Personal news: You may know that I broke my shoulder very badly last November ... coming down the steps of S Peter's after visiting the Sacristy to book an altar for the following day. A kind priest friend looked after me and saw me safely home, where I had an operation a couple of days later. I can now be certain of setting off the alarms in any and every airport security scanner.

The surgeon said the maximum I could hope for was 80% recovery, and I think I have that. The arm is fully functional but can get sore if I am imprudent. This hasn't stopped me having wonderful times getting around: some of the highlights have been Copenhagen, Dublin, the first singing in the Birmingham Oratory of the Latin hymn to Bl John Henry Newman, which the Oratory very kindly commissioned from me.