28 April 2014

Psssssssst ... there is Irony in what follows .......

We once did a Summer Locum in the Church in Wales back in the lovely days when it still existed, and I very much liked it (and the Welsh people, just as I do the peoples of Cornwall and the County Kerry). A shame it is no more. It is good to hear of signs of the growth in Wales of the Ordinariate. (No irony in this paragraph. Honest!!)

According to the media, the 'archbishop' of its surviving rump has talked about divorce and pseudogamy as being justifiable in terms of Evolution. You won't catch me disagreeing with him. Herr Hitler, another progressive ethicist, very plausibly took the view that "Thou shalt not Kill" was also rendered obsolete by Evolution. Indeed, he sincerely and passionately believed that the Darwinian mechanics of Evolution through the Survival of the Fittest justified his own extremely consistent and totally scientific policy of Eugenics. Who am I to condemn him? (Some irony here, I'm afraid.)

I think it is most unfair for anyone to criticise Hitler for losing the War by just one single mistake. If only he had not delayed the start of Barbarossa, Wales could already have been a Nazi paradise more than half a century ago. (Beware of irony here, too.)

Greetings ...

All over the world, there must be members of that great network, koinonia, of Latin Rite Christian Communities whose Patron, whoever (s)he may be, has been transferred this year out of Holy Week or Easter Week - a magnificent but inhospitable fortnight - to this happy, easy-going, inclusive, catholic, receptive day, the Monday after Low* Sunday.

As I said the Mass of S George Regni huius Patroni today, Double of the First Class, I recollected also my dear friends on Papa Stronsay, celebrating the Mass of S Magnus, Great Patron of Orkney (yes, that splendiferous Calendar hangs prominently above my desk.) So greetings to you! Nice to think that you were in red vestments too!

And greetings to all of you out there who are also keeping your Patron's festivity today.

'Translations Monday' deserves a more romantic name. Any ideas?

*BTW; it suddenly occurred to me .... could Low Sunday conceivably be a corruption of Close Sunday, videlicet  the Sunday in clausa festorum Paschalium? My edition of the OED seems unable to take the name further back than the fifteenth century.

The Sunday morning after we were married, we went to Mass at S Mary's Bourne Street, where a large clergyman talked (it's the only thing I recall from his sermon) about the certainty, before the War, of finding the entire Bench of Bishops, on Low Sunday, upon the shores of Lake Como. I wonder if Mgr Newton has persuaded his episcopal colleagues to adopt this piece of Patrimony. The week could be renamed Canon Vesey Stanhope Week.

16 April 2014

Evangelii gaudium

As far as I have been able to discover, the above two words are still the only ones available in Latin.

Given the Holy Father's demotic style, and his ability to say or write quite a lot, I rather wondered how those responsible for the Latin, official, version, would get on. I don't envy them.

But I can't imagine this Pontiff allowing a shortage of those adept in Latin Prose Composition to hold him up.

Will he take to issuing his texts in another language? Mit brennende Sorge springs to mind as a precedent ... but that was not addressed to the Universal Church.

When the Latin version emerges, official and definitive, its expression of nuances and ambiguities in the text will be very probably the doing of fairly low-level assistants put right up against the considerable problem of translating modern Spanish slang into formal Latin. One doubts if the Pontiff will have the time or the inclination to go through the Latin with a fine tooth-comb ... I don't get the impression that such linguistic games are among his favourite hobbies. So the 'official' words will not really be his. Is this not rather unsatisfactory too?

15 April 2014

Chrism Mass

A glorious occasion, yesterday, in the Assumption. A real expression of what we are as a people. As ever, Archbishop Mennini came to consecrate the Oils; he knows us well by now, shows every sign of liking us, and has settled down so well with us that you'd think he'd been an Anglican bishop all his life. Vivat. And fun to meet old and new friends; from the old Chichester diocese, they included my former colleague and long time friend, Fr Simon Heans, now assisting at the Minor Basilica (I nearly said "Where's Fr Tim?" before correcting myself; one instinctively assumes that all right-thinking people will be in the Ordinariate). From the old Exeter diocese, Archdeacon Ellis and the old Mafia; from the TAC, Bishop Mercer, Fr Brian Gill and Fr John Maunder (of the Major Basilica of S Agatha's). The cleverest man in the Church of England, Fr Geoffrey Kirk ... I must not go on. All the faithful remnant gathered in: Staggers and Pusey House and the SSC and Walsingham, now with one single corporate expression and identity in our Ordinariate. A notable absentee; but he was present in each of us: Pope Benedict XVI, most learned, most saintly, humblest of all the modern popes. Eis polla ete Despota.

Just thinking of Chichester and Exeter and all the rest, calls up memories of that last, long glorious Indian Summer of the Church of England, before finally the sun set behind the clouds and the wind felt cold. To adapt Newman: "Exeter has gone, and Chichester, and ... ; it was sore to part with them. We clung to the vision of past greatness, and would not believe it could come to naught ...".

But there is Resurrection.

13 April 2014


Before I went to be incommunicado on Alderney, The Tablet had "suspended" their Rome correspondent. I've not been able to find out what's happened since then. Does anybody know? Have they sacked him, or are they waiting for it to blow over?

12 April 2014


After my fortnight doing Parish Duty on Alderney, and thinking about the controversies which have recently surrounded blogging, I have two conclusions to share with you.

1. Attacking living people. I think this should always be done temperately, if at all. Normally, and, preferably, it should be done without making things personal by using names. But this cannot unambiguously apply when a person deliberately puts himself in the public eye. The Diocesan Director of Liturgy who wrote a letter, on his office notepaper, to all his clergy, with copy to the Tablet, can hardly be deemed a shrinking and vulnerable violet at the edge of a field ... I like to throw in occasional allusions for readers of Sappho ... OK; he got a rocket from his bishop; so is that an end of the matter? Not necessarily. Because what he did represents a mind profoundly out of sympathy with the current liturgical law of the Church. It raises the question of whether he is suitable to do his job. I would not, for example, expect a bishop to make me a diocesan director of Novus Ordo Liturgy, in view of my known dislike of those post-conciliar liturgical innovations which explicitly or implicitly contradict the mandates of Vatican II. I would not have an appropriate mind for the job. And ... I don't know what's happened in the case of the Tablet Rome correspondent; but the question is not whether he has been rebuked, or has even apologised, but of the mind which he manifested.

2. Anonymity/Pseudonymity. I don't like it. I think people should put their (real) names to what they do. Especially if they wish to express themselves strongly; even more so if they wish to attack vigorously, even for plausible reasons, another named person. I accept that there can be exceptions justifying anonymity; a scholar may wish to float an idea without being held to it in foro academico ... I have been told that some Catholic priests and seminarians are afraid of their bishops or seminary rectors reading their views ... I don't think this says much for the health of the culture concerned, but, well, there you go ... Anyway; I have decided that attacks on other living people will not be accepted on this blog, even when thoroughly justified, if the comment is anonymous.

Another side of the anonymity problem: it is rumoured that one bishop acted against a blogger who is a subject of his, as the result of continuous pressure from other bishops; and rumour has it that Cardinal Mueller made those remarks about Ordinariate bloggers because of pressure from bishops, whether American, Australian, or English. I have not the faintest idea whether such rumours of anonymous episcopal back-stabbing have any truth in them whatsoever, but were [imperfect subjunctive] this to be so, my opinion is ...
...  it would provide the world with an attractive picture of a modern, open, inclusive, grown-up Catholic community at ease with itself and with modern ways if any bishops so concerned devised less Byzantine methods for expressing their views. They could try actually talking to bloggers. But I hope that the rumours, in each case, are as maliciously untrue as rumours so often are.

Not long ago, I was in a European capital city, to say some Masses for the Latin Mass community there and to give a couple of lectures. The Bishop of the city invited me to breakfast; before breakfast, I said Mass in his private chapel: all laid out for the Vetus Ordo. His lordship most graciously served my EF Mass. After a truly sumptuous breakfast, he drove me round some of the more spectacular churches of the city.

True xenia, true episcopal hospitality in the spirit of the Fathers! It is a sort of thing that leaves an extremely pleasant taste in the mouth, in more senses than one.

9 April 2014

Sorry ...

... to those who commented on this blog and haven't seen their comments. I returned this evening from a fortnight on Alderney, and have now enabled a selection of the accumulated Comments. And have tried to rush through the more personal of the mails. So you may find that a number of threads have suddenly materialised, attached to the pieces which I drafted before my departure and left to pop up as scheduled.

After the Protect the Pope affair, and Cardinal Mueller's words about Ordinariate bloggers, I decided that it was appropriate to consider at leisure a number of matters relating to blogging. So I went off to a fascinating island fragment of the Duchy of Normandy and did a lot of thinking, while watching the gannets and tramping the cliffs of an island where every headland is crowned with a superb mid-Victorian castle (my Lord Palmerston, who wanted to keep Napoleon III out) and, juxtaposed, elegant if menacing Art Deco fortifications (Herr Hitler, who wanted to keep the Allies out). Not to mention an exquisite Roman Naval Signal Station ... I can't quite remember whom they wanted to keep out.

In a day or two I'll tell you what I thought.

5 April 2014

A Barchester Diary (2) (date: early in 2012)

I had arranged to meet Fr Colin Spikenard, and Jill his wife, at the Italian restaurant just over the river and looking back across to Hiram's Hospital. Not Michelin Five-Star, but good real Italian. We all knew we would be happy in the Sole di Capri. It is not without a hint of a bit of a dash of a suggestion of the Bay of Naples (very Pauline, all those genitives, yes?).

"What", I began, "about Barchester's new bishop?" Jill scowled, and intimated that sustenance came first. I don't tangle with Girton women, least of all those from 1960s Cambridge when a girl trying to get in had first to surmount the hurdle that there was only one women's place to every nine men's places. So I settled down to the menu. Nothing flash; good old Sixties standbys. Parmigiana di Melanzane, I thought, and then the Saltimbocca. Fried courgettes. We got all that settled with the somewhat non-Italian waitress, and then wrapped ourselves round the alcohol. Jill took her nose out of her glass and snarled "Armitage", paused, and then sibilated "Shanks". She had a point. Armitage Shanks was twenty years junior to Colin and myself at Staggers (one knows one's getting old when bishops start to look as if they've only just got rid of their acne), but his reputation was well known. Very High Church, but mainly preoccupied with the career of Armitage Shanks. One can pinpoint the exact day on which he "changed Integrities" and so merited his first mitre. Jill then said the sort of word which nice girls used not to utter, but after all, she had been at Girton and so she probably knew all about its etymology.

Since his wife, uncharacteristically, appeared only semi-articulate, I turned to Fr Colin. Perhaps I should have mentioned that he is pastor of the Barchester Ordinariate Group. He had run a very good show as Vicar of S Gregory's, Barchester. "Bulldozers", he said, and stabbed one of those cocktail-sticky things at a green olive in a bowl. I was glad about that, because I prefer the black ones myself; but I felt that I was not getting very far very fast with either of them. "Did you go to see him?", I asked. "Yes I did", said Father. "At first, all he would say was that he would rather have S Gregory's bulldozed to the ground than have it go to the Ordinariate". There was a pause while another olive (again, green, mercifully) went unde negant redire quidquam. "I said that the entire congregation was coming with me ... the church would be empty ... but that just made his eyes go sort of bulgy. So I said that all we asked was to be able to hire the church for an economic rent when his Anglicans weren't using it ... if he found any Anglicans to put in it ... no, I didn't say that last bit ... and then he played his smart card ... the Bishop of Hogglestock agrees with the policy ... thinks it would be Divisive for Ordinariate congregations to have their own places for worship ... even more Divisive than the Ordinariate having its own Chrism Mass ... we can have 3.00 on Sunday afternoons in the Sacred Heart ... as long as we remember that we can't use incense because it would set off the fire alarms ... ... and not to try to get into the Confessionals because they're used as stores for the unwanted produce left behind by the Bring-and-Buy sales ... ".

We paused while the waitress, in her deft Slovak way, put our starters in front of us. Jill stuffed one of her whitebait into an evidently hungry mouth and then, in clear, angry tones, said "And now he's handed S Gregory's over to the Evoes".  "For a church-plant", her husband added, "and if they can't fill it he's going to sell it to the Moslems". Focusing, as one does, on details of Churchmanship, "Shia or Sunni?", I enquired. The quip was not well received, especially by Jill, who has not, I suspect, read Nostra aetate with much religiosum obsequium.

I assimilated a mouthful of my egg-plant, thankful that I hadn't ordered church-plant, and pondered the profounder implications of this intelligence. Would the planning authorities insist that the minarets were pastiche Butterfield so as to match the original fabric? Would that make it the first Anglo-Catholic mosque in the world, as well as the first mosque in Victorian polychromatic brick?

2 April 2014

Cranmer redivivus

I have a copy - it was a kind gift from Professor Bill Tighe - of a sermon preached in 1949 by my predecessor as the Parish Priest of S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford, the great patristic scholar Trevor Jalland. In it, Jalland wrote about the 1549 Mass of Thomas Cranmer. The sermon is full of the acid, satirical, and sharply-observed comments which made Anglo-Catholic Sacristy Humour what it was (we were a catty lot). This is how it ends:
[Cranmer was] always, from first to last, dependent on an imperfect text of Scripture, on a narrow range of patristic material, as yet but partially understood in relation to its true historical character, and above all on 'the latest thing from Germany'. It is hardly surprising that his laboriously fashioned structure proved to be, doctrinally and liturgically speaking, a house of cards. But it is ever to his credit that in his command of English and above all of the rhythm and melody of words, he bequeathed to us a treasury out of which may yet be fashioned in the end 'a manner of the holy communion' far more 'agreeable with the institution of Christ, St Paul and the old primitive and apostolic church' than ever was his own.

Jalland might so easily have been talking about the Ordinariate liturgy. Have you taken the opportunity - either in Warwick Street or Oxford - to experience it?

A similar much earlier post on this subject elicited the comments on the appended thread.