31 August 2014


I imagine that in quite a number of English Catholic parishes, priests and people are saying good bye to each other as clergy move to take up new appointments under the authority of the bishops into whose dioceses they are incardinated. The prayers of many will go with these clergy as well as with the 'old' parishes which are losing them and the 'new' parishes which are getting them. I particularly have in mind Fr Sean of the Valley of the Adur, a learned Church Historian, who was so immensely kind to Pam and me when not everybody in the English Catholic Church seemed very keen to have me. He is a priest in a million.

Perhaps the highest profile transferee is the distinguished and erudite blogger, Fr Tim of Blackfen. In accordance with the mind of the Church and the wishes of Sovereign Pontiffs, he has ensured that not only are the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite both generously available in his present parish, but even the Anglican Use. Indeed, he is a very dear friend both to the Ordinariate and to its priests. How he manages to run a busy and vibrant parish, and to lecture at Wonersh, and to discharge a blogging ministry to thousands, is quite a marvel. He saw off a less than positive intrusion into his parish by unfriendly journalists from a predictable stable. He is the very model of a modern major general parish clergyman (perhaps somebody could think of words which would preserve Gilbert's and Sullivan's alliteration?).

A priest I shall particularly miss is Fr Nominis Obliviscor, whose church I have occasionally attended when visiting family. His parish, he proudly proclaims, is "A Vatican II Parish". So, when in his congregation, I have been careful to memorise the various markers of this arcane culture in case I ever need to practise within that unfamiliar idiom. For example: it is, I have noticed under his tutelage, "Vatican II" to involve the laity in reciting parts of the Eucharistic Prayer (employing the ecphonesis "All together now"). And never to preach on Sundays in August. (If anybody ever publishes an Anglican-style Church Directory for Catholics, I suppose the abbreviation NSA could stand for 'No Sermons in August'.)

The hostility of the enlightened Fathers of Vatican II to the reactionary, pre-Conciliar, sin-obsessed, obscurantist, rigid, formalistic, medieval, and thoroughly disgusting practice of preaching in August is something which, I feel, deserves to be much more widely known. I wonder if Fr Obliviscor will immediately set about converting his new cura into 'a Vatican II Parish'. The English Catholic Church would be that bit poorer without his particular eccentricities.

Back in the days of the Church of England, cuius animae propitietur Deus, it was not unknown for parishioners (especially unmarried ladies) to sell their properties and to buy new homes in a parish to which a priest whom they favoured was himself moving. They naturally wished to continue to enjoy things like "Western Rite" and "Full Catholic Privileges". I wonder if Zoopla will notice a spike in business during the first half of September.

28 August 2014

Pignus futurorum bonorum ...

Rorate has a nice little video of an SSPX clergyman saying Mass in S Peter's in Rome; a votive of our Lady ... in red vestments ...... presumably because, when he said it on August 9, the sacristy had red vestments laid out for S Edith Stein, and Father didn't want to put the Sacristy to the trouble of finding vestments of the right colour ... I'm sure this is the way ahead!

27 August 2014

Francesco de Zurburan

... died 350 years ago today, and the always admirable Rorate blog has a good piece with two videos. I add:

(1) Z featured in the Sacred made real exhibition at the National Gallery in London 2009/10. So if you went to that and were wise enough to buy the Catalogue, today is a day to fish it out and revisit Z.
(2) That exhibition emphasised the significance of Z's early work as one who painted polychromatic wood-carvings.
(3) One of the videos provided by Rorate shows an American Art Historian talking about Z. What she ... like most Art Historians ... fails to understand or to know is that the Man from Nazareth is God. They refer to Him ... usually reverently ... as the [Most High] Son of God; but without realising the Truth of Nicea. This means they miss (for example) the point of S Gabriel kneeling before the Annunciate Virgin ... because what is in her womb is God.

Sub Conditione (1)

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that certain Sacraments leave a mark (character) upon the soul which can never be erased  ... or duplicated. An apostate may renounce their baptism with all the formality they can devise .... but they are still baptised and, if they repent, will be absolved but never rebaptised. A disgraced priest may be laicised and forbidden even to dress as a priest, but he is still a priest and, in extreme circumstances, may absolve the dying. (Confirmation is the third such Sacrament.)

But what if there is some doubt about the validity of a Sacrament? That doubt needs to be removed; but simply to repeat the Sacrament would be sacrilege if the original administration of that Sacrament was, after all, valid. So the Sacrament is administered sub conditione; Si non es baptizatus, ego te baptizo etc..

I believe there are two areas where Conditional Administration ought to be part of the Church's normal practice. The first regards the baptism of converts. In a less ecumenical age, converts were always conditionally baptised in England in case their baptisms had not been adequately carried out in another ecclesial body. But nowadays, since there is no doubt that Anglican baptism, according to the rites authorised in the Church of England, is certainly valid, current Catholic praxis rightly accepts it.

But these assumptions are no longer safe. We hear of fashionable Anglican churches with fashionable, indeed episcopable, clergy where, contrary to the rules of the Church of England, baptism is invalidly done in the name of Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. It is probable that such aberrations will become more, not less, common (indeed, an Australian Catholic parish proved to have been doing exactly the same). The baptismal register of such churches will not record that this illegal and invalid formula was employed. Baptismal certificates may then subsequently be issued certifying that N or M was baptised "according to the rites of the Church of England", when this will be untrue.

Former Anglicans need no 'rebaptism' when there is evidence that the Sacrament was validly administered in accordance with the rites and ceremonies authorised in the Church of England. But I believe that a mere certificate of baptism is no longer adequate proof of this, and that when this is the only evidence provided, Baptism should be administered to a convert conditionally.

A safe rule of thumb would be to apply this praxis to Anglican baptisms done later than, say, 2000. Or 1990?

24 August 2014

S Bartholomew?? He could Mutually Enrich you

Those of you who keep by you for your enlightenment the Saint Lawrence Press Ordo Recitandi Officii Divini Sacrique peragendi (an admirable guide to the state of the Roman Rite before the process of reforms initiated by Pius XII got under way) will be aware that today ought to be the Feast of S Bartholomew. The 1962 rules reduced him to a Commemoration at Low Mass, and according to the post-Conciliar dispositions, the Apostle rests in complete oblivion for this year. In the Church of England, the observance of these Doubles of the Second Class on Green Sundays was never abolished; under Common Worship the festal option is the first possibility listed, although transference to Monday (or even a more convenient feria ... but never complete suppression) is sanctioned. Catholics who are enthusiastic ecumenical admirers of all things Anglican will be impressed by this. It is what is known as Mutual Enrichment.

There was a time when the Roman Calendar was encrusted with commemorations linked to a particular Sunday in a particular month (and comparatively minor festivals could displace a Sunday). This meant that the old 'green' propers from the ancient Roman Sacramentaries continued to be printed but were very rarely heard. Adrian Fortescue wrote "The liturgical student cannot but regret that we so seldom use the old offices which are the most characteristic, the most Roman in our rite, of which many go back to the Gelasian or even Leonine book. And merely from the aesthetic point of view there can be no doubt that the old propers are more beautiful than modern compositions ... We obey the authority of the Church, of course, always. But it is not forbidden to hope for such a pope again as Benedict XIV who will give us back more of our old Roman Calendar."

In a footnote Fortescue added: "Since this was written the hope has already been in great part fulfilled [by S Pius X in 1911]". It is difficult not to point out that Fortescue's fulfilled hope was to be rubbished only seventy years later when the post-Conciliar reforms again robbed priest and people of "the old offices ... the most Roman in our rite". And it is difficult not thus to adapt his words: "It is not forbidden to hope for such a pope as Benedict XIV or Benedict XVI who will give us back our old Roman propers."

I agree with Fortescue's judgement. I would not wish to see, in the Vetus Ordo, the old 'green' propers submerged again. But there is a great deal to be said for the arrangements left in place by S Pius X, whereby Doubles of the Second Class do supersede a Green Sunday. This means that Sundays-only worshippers would, once every six years, be exposed to these festivals. Would that really be such a terrible thing? Many of them are, of course, Days of Devotion; that is to say, days which were originally of obligation but which have had the obligation suppressed (Common Worship includes a broadly identical list  of "Festivals which are not usually displaced"). The Novus Ordo lists many of them, including S Bartholomew, as days on which the Roman Canon, the First Eucharistic Prayer, should for preference be used.

A final footnote. According to the pre-1939 rules, the Sunday Mass would not be entirely lost when S Bartholomew got his once-every-six-years showing. It would be commemorated by having its Collect, Secret (=Prayer over the Offerings) and Post-communion, read after those of the Sunday. And the Sunday Gospel would be read in place of the "Last Gospel" from S John at the end of Mass.

11 August 2014

Caserta and Collegiality

There appears to be a story among Vaticanologists that the Bishop of Rome ... as the Sovereign Pontiff likes to call himself ... planned to visit non-Catholics within the diocese of Caserta and to do this without any collegial reference to to his Venerable Brother the Bishop of Caserta; and that it was a week before he could be persuaded to nuance his plans.

This story, like so many stories about our Holy Father, may very well be badly garbled or even totally untrue. I hope it is. Because ...

... can anybody name another pontificate within the last two millennia in which such a thing could plausibly even have been imagined as happening? Pope S Damasus, for example, going privately to Milan, without informing S Ambrose, to tell the Arians how sorry he was about their ill-treatment? S Celestine I creeping into Hippo to cosy up to the Donatists while S Augustine slept unaware?

Will the SSPX now stop banging endlessly on about how Collegiality is one of the worst errors of the Council? They have ... if these improbable stories do have any truth in them ... apparently convinced the Pope himself.