30 September 2014


Summing up the splendid Ordinariate Festival which left us all in such elevated moods, may I repeat my sense of enthusiasm with regard to what Mgr Newton said about the importance of the the Ordinariate Liturgy. And I recall that, at the end of the day, the Ordinary said that somebody had suggested we repeat the event next year: did we want to: to which he received a loud and enthusiastic response. One questioner had already asked about the possibility of having the Cathedral choir: Cardinal Nichols had replied that if we had our Mass at the time the Cathedral choir was scheduled to sing their Sung Mass, we could. Cardinal Nichols had also intimated that we were very welcome to enjoy again the facilities of the Cathedral Hall. This is all immensely generous.

Curiously, the morning Mass was not the Ordinariate Rite. It seems to me that the obvious thing to do next year is to have a celebration of the Ordinariate Rite at a time when the Cathedral choir can find it convenient to be functioning. And, given the great affection and wild enthusiasm which greeted the Cardinal's presence, to have him presiding from his throne while the Ordinary celebrates the Mass. As either speaker or preacher, how wonderful it would be again to greet Fr Aidan Nichols, who was consistently such a tower of strength to us before we entered into Full Communion. Might Cardinal Burke, or Cardinal Mueller, or Bishop Schneider, have gaps in their diaries? Members of the English hierarchy who are anxious to show affection for us? The Ukrainian eparch, another symbol of the glorious diversity within the Church? A special honoured place in choir for Bishop Lindsay Urwin and any of the PEVs who wanted to come ... after all, we are, are we not, intended to be a bridge and to have an ecumenical role?

A procession of our Lady with the Walsingham Hymn? Special indulgences from the Apostolic Penitentiary?

It could be an even greater event than this year's, and would have the additional merit of showcasing the Ordinariate Rite.

28 September 2014

This and that

I did rather wonder why Cardinal Cormac had a private Audience of the Sovereign Pontiff last Tuesday, September 23.

Before we were admitted to the presbyterate of the Ordinariate, we were all given a very rigorous going-over at a place in Manchester. Are the same precautions taken with would-be bishops?

26 September 2014

Hermeneutic of Continuity

I regard as extremely good news the report that the Holy Father has said that the Pope cannot change the Lord's doctrine with regard to the indissolubility of marriage.

This is a welcome reaffirmation of the teaching given by Cardinal Ratzinger. He criticised the idea which had got around in the 1960s, that a pope, especially if acting on the mandate of an Ecumenical Council, can "do anything". It was indeed an absurdity, the idea that the Council had in some way sanctioned a maximalising Papacy which could "do" anything, change anything. Especially as such a notion contradicted the teaching of Pastor aeternus, in which Vatican I made clear that the Holy Spirit is not entrusted to the pope to enable him to innovate doctrinally.

And, splendidly, S John Paul II dealt with the error of the sacerdotal ordination of women by simply saying that the Church facultatem nullatenus habet to innovate in this way. This is exactly the way to deal with 'liberals' who try to maximalise the Papacy by implying that a pope, if he has a Council, or a synod, or whatever, behind him, can change anything. They promote this approach, of course, because it makes the integrity of the Church's teaching into something which is vulnerable to political machinations within gatherings of talkative ecclesiastics. They need to be reminded what the Church, what the Pope, what episcopal gatherings, cannot do.

There have been worries in some quarters that Pope Francis might be returning to a maximalising Papacy such as that which Benedict XVI discerned in the culture of the 1960s, and so admirably reprobated. Those who entertained such anxieties should be greatly reassured by the Holy Father's words.

23 September 2014

Ordinariate Festival (2)

Cardinal Nichols' very fine address took place immediately after lunch on Saturday. It constantly returned to the question: "those who have joined the Ordinariate will ask if they are being truly distinctive enough" (Absolutely! Our Ordinary dealt with exactly that question later in the afternoon: vide infra.). "The balance between distinctiveness and familiarity is still evolving". Things should "not be done as a matter of personal taste, of subjective likes and dislikes". We should strive "not to satisfy [our] own tastes, [our] own personal preferences". "... personal ... subjective taste ...". "Often the experience of many within the Church [is] that I am fashioned more deeply ... by what I do not particularly like ...". The Ordinariate should "not be shaped by the individual preferences of the members, by personal likes and dislikes which are so often contentious".

I think that is highly important advice to which we should pay close attention, and indeed be guided by. This is both because of the obvious importance of anything Cardinal Nichols says (Coetus Episcopalis totius Angliae et Cambriae Praeses perpetuus), and because it spoke accurately and precisely and helpfully to the liturgical situation we have inherited. Perhaps, for those not within our tradition, I might explain a little of our history in this matter.

One of the liturgical problems of the English Ordinariate (things were different in America and Australia) is that our movement, when it entered into Full Communion, had very little that distinguished it from worship within the Catholic Church. Before the Council, we had worshipped with what is now called the Tridentine Rite or the Extraordinary Form, usually in Tudor English and combined to a greater or lesser extent with the Prayer Book. But in the late 1960s, many of us adopted lock, stock, and barrel the new Catholic liturgical formulae which emerged in the post-conciliar period; even the 1970s ICEL translations. So, for more than forty years, most of our congregations worshipped in an almost exclusively Novus Ordo way and with the same flawed (and now most happily superseded) English translations as those used throughout the Anglophone Catholic Church. As our Ordinary said later on Saturday afternoon, "Some of us have tried so hard in the past to be like Roman Catholics that we have sometimes ignored or forgotten the good things from our own tradition that we are invited to bring with us". Exactly. Believing that being Roman was important, when we were told in the 1970s that Rome had abolished the pre-conciliar Tridentine Rite, we discontinued the use of our English Missal (containing the Tridentine Rite in Tudor English and combined with The Book of Common Prayer) and adopted the new rites. But in this we were, I think we should now admit, rather misled. As Benedict XVI was later forcefully to explain when he issued Summorum Pontificum, the old rite was not canonically abolished; indeed, he said that it could not be. With hindsight, we should have kept our nerve, and kept our English Missals working hard upon our altars. But, however that may be, most of our communities in England have, for more than a generation, been accustomed de facto to worship from the same texts as English Roman Catholics; that culture of worship, in the Cardinal's words, has become for many of us our 'personal taste'; our 'subjective like'; our own 'individual preference'.

But now the Ordinariate Rite offers us what we sadly lost in the late 1960s: Cranmer's exquisite liturgical English and many of his de novo compositions, together with the texts and much of the ceremonial of the Tridentine Rite, as in the old English Missal. In other words, something approximating to the way we worshipped from around the beginning of the twentieth century, during those triumphalist days when Corporate Unity seemed possible. So what we have here is not some individual taste but the embodiment of our own tradition evolved 'on the ground' through many decades in countless churches and congregations and now most happily authoritatively sanctioned by the Holy See.

So it is very appropriate that Mgr Newton should say, in his final address, "The liturgy and the way we celebrate it is one particular aspect of that distinctiveness. Mgr Burnham has spoken a little about the Rites which have been provided for us by the Holy See. I do ask those who have not yet done so to consider using them even if it is for an experimental period. If one thing is true about liturgy it is that it must be prayed for some time before one can make judgement about it. Many people who have experienced the Ordinariate liturgy have been moved by the beauty of its language and devotion".

Who am I to lay down the law to brother priests and their congregations? Absolutely nobody at all. But I have spent much of my life since I was about twelve studying liturgy, and I am deeply convinced that our Ordinary is thoroughly right in his call and his advice, and that his words deserve the most respectful consideration (in a day or two I will write succinctly about the Ordinariate Rite). We should be engaged in the active promotion of our Ordinariate Rite of Mass. If it seems initially a little strange or even alien, we should remember the Cardinal's wise and insightful words "Often the experience of many within the Church is that I am fashioned more deeply by what I do not particularly like".

22 September 2014

Ordinariate Festival (1)

Quite a remarkable event occupied some of us over the weekend of Friday September 19 to Sunday September 21: a great and happy Ordinariate Festival. We have not had too many of these. Clergy meet frequently; but this was the laity as well ... loads and loads of them. The meetings in Westminster Cathedral Hall were absolutely glorious ... you could tell it was all clicking superbly by the way that everybody laughed at even the slightest provocation. Highlights were the Mass in the Cathedral (there were some seats available at the back, but most of the Cathedral looked pretty jam-packed) and the final address by the Ordinary, which found him in his finest and most rousing form. There was also an extremely important address by Cardinal Nichols, who will have been left in no doubt from the response he received how enthusiastic the gathering was and how very warmly his most gracious visit was appreciated. On the Friday evening, those present had been able to hear a lecture in Warwick Street by Dr William Oddie, who had been invited by the Ordinary to be 'indiscreet'. He responded with a fascinating account of the unsuccessful attempt to set up an Ordinariate-style-organisation back in the 1990s and the negative response it had received in those faltering days before the great and glorious Pontificate of our very own Pope You-Know-Who XVI!  Enormous appreciation is also due to those who organised everything, and not least to Fr Ron Crane, responsive as ever to the mood of the occasion. How very much happier and more forward-looking we are now than we were when we used to meet as Forward in Faith in that strange cold evangelical hall near Church House! How very truly we have come home; and what a warm and welcoming home it is. Somebody whose name I cannot now quite remember used to keep saying, on those earlier occasions, "RITA! Rome Is The Answer!" How right he was. Or, I should say, is.

I hope soon to give some account of the addresses.

21 September 2014

Is this year a record?

On 24 August I  gave an account of the superiority of the rules in the pre-Pius XII liturgical books, which enabled a Double of the Second Class to supersede a Dominica post Pentecosten. Thereby those who are at Mass only on Sundays are exposed, something like every six years, to one of the Church's major festivals.

This year, as well as Doubles of the First Class (Ss Peter and Paul; Christ the King) and Second Class feasts of the Lord (Holy Cross; Dedication of the Lateran Basilica) which supersede Sundays even under the Novus Ordo, we have Ss Lawrence, Bartholomew, and Matthew (today) turning up on Sundays. And - in Oxford - S Frideswide, Double of the First Class, will occupy Sunday October 19. Annus vere aureus! This year's Sunday Letter is e.

I wonder if anyone has the leisure to find out whether this year is a record, or whether there are other Sunday Letters which, under the 1939 rubrics, are even more generous to the Sanctorale than is Year e?

18 September 2014

Thanks ...

 ... to all those who offered comments during the last fortnight, while I have been away on a family holiday. I have read them all; many I have enabled, but some rejected.

I remind all who try to comment that my Blog has a firm policy of rejecting comments which are disrespectful towards our beloved Holy Father, or towards the English Catholic Hierarchy, either collectively or individually. Nor do I accept comments which I fear may upset individuals or cause any divisiveness in the Church. So you could save yourselves some time by not submitting such comments!

I had better make clear that I do not do Facebook, largely because I do not know how to do so. So it is not possible to contact me by that means. If you wish to contact me ... as one highly valued reader has tried to ... the simplest way is to submit a comment to the blog marked PRIVATE and including your email address. I will then delete the comment but be able to get back to you.

17 September 2014

The demise of Friendship

It is not easy for us to understand the concept of Friendship as it existed in earlier Christian societies, because of presuppositions innate in our own society; a society which, compared with earlier societies, seems to me to be riddled with abnormalities.

The most obvious of these is the assumption that the only relationships that can exist between humans must necessarily be sexual or have strong sexual components. Thus people can even assume that the great love that existed between David and Jonathan must have been sexual. But, given the prescriptions in the Torah concerning homosexual actions, such an eisegesis is manifestly ludicrous. Quite apart from that, the other textual evidence concerning David and Jonathan is very far from suggesting that the tradition regarded them as 'homosexuals'. Their love 'surpassed that of women'; this means that it was not a physically transposed version of the sexual relationship of man and woman in which (except that anus is substituted for vagina) the physical and emotional modalities are closely parallel. It means that it was different in kind. In the Greek epic tradition, the great love between Achilles and Patroclus is contextualised by the information that, in the hut they shared, each slept with his own concubine.

I believe that another problem arises from a Romantic preoccupation with an intense, exclusive and (commonly in literary terms) often 'tragic' passion between lovers. This owes a great deal to stories such as those of Aeneas and Dido, and to some of the plays of Euripides (especially those with 'Cretan' connexions). What is forgotten nowadays is that this love was commonly regarded as a 'madness' and as a 'wound' and that it always ended in blood and tears. Perhaps a significant moment in cultural history was when Shalespeare's Romeo and Juliet was transformed into an opera with a happy ending. In earlier societies, to 'be in love' was commonly shameful; even being 'in love' with a spouse. A Greek who was deeply fond of his wife might use the verb philein, which he would also use for his affection for brother or son, rather than eran. Paris flirting with his wife among her maidservants is, as far as Homer is concerned, reprehensible; Hector, who will not even cross the threshold of the room where this is happening (still less sit down beside his sister-in-law and Talk Things Through), is commendable.

The modern concept of the relationship between husband and wife as uniquely, absorbingly, profound, and exclusive of all other deep relationships, is not easily paralleled in earlier societies of which I have any knowledge. The social conditions which have created it have created also and inevitably a matrix in which homosexual partnerships mimic it. That this whole scenario, whether heterosexual or homosexual, has its problems, is suggested by the breakdowns in structured relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, formal or informal, which surround us.

It is also worth recalling that the very concepts of 'homosexuality' and 'heterosexuality' are not much more than a century old. The modern assumption of a sexual 'orientation' is anachronistic as far as earlier societies are concerned. In the ancient society to which we have the most extensive literary access, that of ancient Athens, a variety of sexual activities may be described or referred to, but without the modern delimitations. Different actions might be performed by different persons in different contexts and at different stages of their lives, but modern categorisations ('gay', 'straight', 'bi') are unknown, however readily Athenian comic authors might find it dramatically appropriate to mock an individual for a personal predilection.

Such Athenian societies would have regarded as the purest delirium the idea that two men (or two women) should vow and live a 'monogamous' life together. Indeed, I do not find it in the least surprising that more 'advanced' homosexual thinking nowadays also derides this model, argues that homosexuality is inherently promiscuous, and regards the promotion of homosexual patterns of monogamy as being a heterosexual imperialist attack upon - and attempt to control - homosexuals. Given the evidence, and the presuppositions, that view seems to me to have a lot to be said for it.

My argument is that a particular and dominant modern model of 'heterosexual' marriage (or quasi-marriage) is historically atypical, unsustainable in itself, and has done great harm by evoking mirror-image mimicries of itself among people who are deemed to have 'homosexual' 'orientation'. In particular, it has rendered incomprehensible the notion of a deep but asexual relationship.

'Friendship' has become little other than a way of referring to the people one has a drink and a gossip with after work, plays golf with on alternate Saturdays, or has to dinner three or four times a year.

13 September 2014


Ecumenism, and Interfaith dialogue, have for long been done in an accepted and unquestioned way which is quite inimical to the admirable instincts of the present Holy Father Pope Francis. Let me explain what I mean.

Such dialogue has tended to be attractively scholarly and impressively academic. The participants have been persons whose qualifications, based upon their published work or upon the teaching positions they hold in academe, have been such as to demonstrate their eminent suitability for their selection. Their meetings have taken place in elegant surroundings conducive to courtesy and the very best manners. And the topics have usually been academic. Take ARCIC. It was, in the era when ARCIC was directed towards full organic unity, naturally felt suitable that all the half-millennium-old areas of division .... Justification ... Transubstantiation ... Priesthood ... should be sorted out. So, words and nuances being deftly weighed up, beautiful verbal formulae were crafted, refined, and agreed. (Topical and live questions such as the Ordination of women were, naturally, ignored, because even the most imaginative wordsmiths cannot fudge them. You either ordain humans of the female gender, or you don't.)

But let us take up instead the instinct manifested by our beloved Holy Father's memorable phrase that shepherds should smell of their flocks. Apply that to Interfaith dialogue, and what do you get? At random, for starters, let's consider dialogue with Islam. What would such dialogue smell like? If conducted by participants who smelt of the constituencies they represented? If it dealt with topics that smelt of the real world, rather than with crafting statements that smelt of the lecture-room and the history book? So ... what topics?

Perhaps violence, and not least sexual violence, is most in the news at the moment. Here in England the media have been dominated daily by stories from city after city in which gangs of Islamic men of Pakistani origin have targeted, groomed, raped, abused young white girls in (literally) thousands. In the Middle East, we have heard how ISIS, after capturing a town and slaughtering men and boys, rounds up girls and women, checks them for virginity, and auctions them. They are then forcibly converted to Islam, forcibly married, and raped. Subsequently, their 'husbands' may desire to divorce them and sell them on, although their value at auction will have been diminished by 'use'. Those kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, who have now so gracefully faded out of the headlines, were declared to be destined to a similar fate.

It would be ridiculous, not to say wickedly inflammatory, to imply that all adherents of Islam share the same characteristics, any more than all Christians, or even all Catholics, are the same. Nor should all Catholics, or all Moslems, be regarded as in some way guilty of and answerable for whatever some other of their coreligionists are reported to think or to do, or to have thought and done in the past. That would be plain unjust as well as plain untrue. But the Church should avoid the other extreme, which could be characterised as the Nice talking to the Nice. Partners in Dialogue on each side should represent the the complete spectrum of the varied tendencies within their tradition. There is no point in dialoguing only with those with whom we ourselves happen to feel most comfortable, those who smile sweetly at us. If anything, it is those who are the least 'clubbable', those who interrupt us in mid-sentence with an angrily jabbing forefinger, that should be given the most detailed hearing. In particular, it would be as well never to use terms which have become laden with approval or disapproval, but which are actually meaningless. I have in mind, in particular, the terms 'moderate' and 'extreme'.

Partners in Interfaith Dialogue should also, I suggest, be less academic, and very much smellier. An exiled bishop, perhaps, who smells of his defiled churches, his slaughtered menfolk, his raped and beaten womenfolk. A Christian woman, if one could be found, who smells  of the violence she has undergone. And, of course, Moslems would be entitled to nominate imams who had seen their mosques being stolen and converted into churches, their women and girls raped by Christian gangs; as well as women representatives who had suffered horrible atrocities at the hands of Christians. Some academics, naturally, could still be there, smelling of their books, to make their own relevant contributions. The meetings would happen in centres of conflict ... Baghdad, perhaps, or Damascus or Cairo, alternating with whatever 'Christian' cities the Islamic side nominated as having hosted anti-Islamic violence (Srebrenica, perhaps?). Archbishop Michael Ramsey memorably described Anglican theology as Divinity done within the sound of Church Bells. I suppose I am suggesting Interfaith Dialogue done within the sound of gunfire and screams.

We have Pontifical Councils for Interfaith dialogue, and all the rest of it, splendid bodies of men with the most splendid intentions, which are presumably funded ultimately by the alms of the Faithful. In future, activities which these bodies finance should smell of the current realities. They should have the authentic smells of blood, of cordite, of semen.

11 September 2014


Even critics of Pope Francis can hardly deny that he has placed openness at the forefront of his pontificate. The Catholic Church now has policies with regard to clerical sexual abuse which prioritise transparency first, transparency second, transparency third. Gone, happily, are the days of the cover-ups; of accepting the claims of well-heeled psychiatric quacks to be able to cure paedophilia; the policy of giving a delinquent priest a good telling-off and then sending him off to a new parish; of bullying victims to make them hold their tongues. No longer is 'the Church's reputation' regarded as the most important thing to be 'safeguarded'. (Not, of course, that the Catholic Church was anything remotely like uniquely guilty. The recent history of the Anglican diocese of Chichester has been exposed to public view .... and what a nasty can of worms has been opened up. And gracious me ... the words 'BBC' and 'celebrity' now attract the same aura of suspicion that the word 'priest' acquired a decade ago. And recently we learned that for decades the English liberal professions ignored the evidence for the activities of Pakistani Moslem paedophile gangs because Guardian Readers, passionate to hear any alleged dirt about Catholic priests, did not want to be told nasty things about people with brown skins.)

Pope Francis has also got a grip upon the problem of secrecy in the Church's apparently previously dodgy financial structures. Cardinal Pell guarantees that all will be open and above board. And so he should and so it should be. In the modern world, if you try to hide your seedy secrets, it makes things all the worse when eventually the Truth gets out. Mafia contacts ... dead bankers dangling from bridges ... Masons hiding in the wings ... such would not be a culture which had much potential to enhance the Church's reputation. Three cheers for Cardinal Pell, and six cheers for the Holy Father himself.

One of the major cultural changes, both in the Church and the World, during the last decade, has been this loss, by monolithic and armoured institutions, of the power to defend their secrets against the intrusions of inquisitive media. Military and diplomatic secrets are no longer pilfered by being encoded in microdots and left in safe drops by characters out of John le Carre; modern Information Technology gives power to whistle-blowers to unload secrets by the million upon the hungry media, contained in some jolly little memory stick. It may be amusing for an American President to know what the German Chancellor sings to herself in her bath, but, unless he is stupid, he knows that sooner rather than later the snooping done for him by his spooks will get itself into the headlines and him into trouble (good zeugma, yes?). Then, the more he puffs and blows to persuade Mr Putin or whoever to extradite the whistle-blower, the stupider he will look. And while, previously, Establishment persons and their narratives had little trouble hogging the media, the recent English scandal about the treatment of the family of the little boy with the brain tumour has demonstrated that perfectly ordinary people can now get their side of a story up and running. Dodgy days for the Great and the Good.

Frankly, as a naive and, you are probably anxious to tell me, simplistic product of the 1960s (ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in the very Year of Revolutions itself, 1968), I rather welcome this atmosphere of openness and transparency. Quite apart from anything else, it is quite fun to have it made so demonstrably clear that the Great and the Good are generally so much less than great and almost invariably only rather selectively good.

Whatever else he achieves, Pope Francis has already done the Church a permanently good turn by embracing - and enforcing - openness. He has already ensured that his will go down in history as a significant Pontificate; the moment when the Church's Senior Management genuinely realised what the landscape of the Third Millennium is really like.

Viva il Papa!!
Footnote: The Congregation for Religious, in its handling of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, both the Brethren and the Sisters, would do well to take the Holy Father's policies about openness on board.

9 September 2014

A very long shot

Not long ago I was looking at some rather Arts'n'craftsy stained glass in a domestic porch, with these words from Timon of Athens written on them (Act 1 Scene 2):

Ceremony was but devised at first
To set a gloss on faint deeds, hollow welcomes,
Recanting goodness, sorry ere 'tis shown;
But where there is true friendship, there needs none.
Pray, sit; more welcome are ye to my fortunes
Than my fortunes to me.

If you explain to me that these elevated sentiments of hospitable generosity only led to problems in the life of Timon, I shall send Timandra to breathe her infections all over you. What I am wondering is whether, just possibly, some erudite reader might know of this sort of glass ... made by whom? ... or this quotation being used in this sort of context ... during that sort of period ... er ... anything, really ... er ...

6 September 2014

A splendid idea

Andrew Burnham has suggested that the Ordinariate might take over the Catholic Shrine at Walsingham, which the Marist Fathers are now unable to staff.

What a very splendid idea this is. After all, the Holy See gave to the Ordinariate our Lady of Walsingham as Titular. Walsingham has for nearly a century been at the heart of the Anglican Catholic identity.

Practical advantages of many sorts will spring to the imaginative minds of readers. One that occurs to me is that, while the Administrator would need to be young and vigorous, retired priests could be made use of ... such extra pairs of clerical hands are very useful in busy places, and the Ordinariate might find it easy to recruit retired Anglican clergy for such a purpose. When I first got to know Walsingham, the twenty-odd shrine altars were busy in the mornings as all the retired clergy who had sought Walsingham for retirement said their private Masses.

Just dashing off ...

... to visit a Daughter in Northumberland. I shan't be reading emails or moderating comments for a few days. But here's-one-I-made-earlier type comments should keep popping up.

5 September 2014

Good News and Good News and Good News

(1) Our Holy Father Benedict XVI has recently granted an audience to representatives of young people attached to the Vetus Ordo. While in no way an interference in the pontificate of his successor, this is not devoid of significance. Benedict XVI is not Pope but he is not nobody.

(2) His Eminence Cardinal Mueller is to meet His Excellency Bishop Fellay, Superior of the Priestly Society of S Pius X.

These two excellent pieces of news will rejoice the hearts of all those who admire one particular strand of the the Ecumenical 'policy' of the last Pontificate: what can be summarised as gathering up disiecta membra of the Western Latin Church. That 'policy' had two main aspects: solving the 'problem' of SSPX; and providing an easy 'group' transition into Full Communion for Anglicans whose Faith and praxis are fully consonant with the Catholic Faith.

Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus go hand in hand.

Does Rome, or the Vatican, still adhere to that 'policy'?

The problem with this question is that there is no such thing as 'Rome' and there is no such thing as 'the Vatican' in the simple senses which questions like this assume and imply. There are many different bodies in Rome and many different representatives of innumerable different tendencies all jostling to get at the ears of whoever they think might help to advance their own agendas or to obstruct those with whom they disagree. In addition, there are local interests making their own contributions; readers will recall that the scandalously long interval between the adherence to Catholic Unity of the Transalpine Redemptorists and their canonical erection was the result, not of anything that happened or failed to happen in Rome, but of the determined intransigence of the then local bishop. Non-Catholics who talk about the Church as 'monolithic' could not be more wrong.

An obvious example: Archbishops di Noia and Pozzo have maintained their links with Bishop Fellay; and the meeting with Cardinal Mueller is the next logical step in this happy process. But, while Prefect and Superior are shaking hands in the palazzo of the Holy Office, the world of the ordinary people who love the 'Traditional' Roman liturgical rites is seething with a sense, however naive or unnuanced or plain misguided, that somewhere else in Rome a monstrous injustice has been and still is being perpetrated by the Congregation for Religious against the Franciscans of the Immaculate ... firstly towards the friars and now, perhaps, even towards the sisters. Moderate people in this 'Traditional' world (I am not talking about wide-eyed eccentrics who teeter on the edge of Sedevacantism, but about sober individuals who would never even think of frequenting an SSPX chapel) can be heard saying things like "Fellay would be mad to do a deal ... the wolves would be upon him within months". It is good to know that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos has been reassured by the Holy Father that the treatment of the friars does not imply a general policy of hostility towards Summorum pontificum; but ordinary people see what they see and draw their own (often very wrong) conclusions.

(3) On the other side of the road, our very own Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham is, this month, upping its profile. I have no secrets to share with you about what's happening in the exalted upper hierarchy of the Ordinariate, but I can tell you that the spirit among the clergy (and in the congregations of which I have knowledge) is tremendously up-beat and positive. At Clergy Plenaries, you would not believe how loud the laughter gets! And Reverend Brethren no longer come along with the nervous worries they had in 2011 ("I go into the local Catholic school and the pp has instructed me to give General Absolution each week ... what on earth am I to do?" etc. etc..). We are now a body alive with parrhesia, with enthusiastic self-confidence and awareness of our settled and very permanent place in the English Church! But I sometimes wonder if the leap from the Anglican Ministry into the Presbyterate of the Ordinariate seems to outsiders as easy and quick and jolly now as it did in the heady, happy days of 2011! I wonder how we can recreate that sense of "Ten Weeks From Altar To Altar! Come on in!" ... together with the feelings of impetus and critical mass that went with it. And impetus and critical mass are things we need ... together with money!

Most important: I hope that all English readers will find an Ordinariate event to go to this weekend! Faveat et suis famulis Deipara Virgo!

4 September 2014

Sub Conditione (2)

The second case involves Anglican Ordinations. These fall juridically under the the still canonically valid condemnation of the bull Apostolicae curae of Leo XIII.

But, since the 1930s, in a situation which was not foreseen or taken into account by Leo XIII, Dutch schismatics with orders accepted as valid by Rome have participated in large numbers of English Anglican episcopal consecrations. And the Anglican bishops so consecrated have themselves participated in further consecrations. There now can be no more than a handful of English Anglican clergy to whom the infection of the Dutch Touch has not spread.

When the former Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, became a Catholic, he sent to the CDF the set of Latin documents and protocols which had been continually in use since the 1930s whenever these Dutch interventions occurred. The CDF called in the vota of a number of consultors on the question of the validity of his ordination to the priesthood. Instructions were subsequently by the authority of the then pope sent to Cardinal Hume that Bishop Leonard should be ordained to the presbyterate conditionally [the CDF had not considered the question of his episcopal consecration; and he was not required to go through any form of diaconal Ordination]. It was publicly explained that this did not imply that his Anglican Orders were 'doubtfully valid', but that in his case their invalidity was doubtful.

There can be little doubt that what was true of Bishop Leonard is true of nearly all English Anglican priests entering the presbyterate of the Catholic Church. If it is still the teaching of the Catholic Church that Ordination cannot be repeated and that, accordingly, attempts to do so are sacrilege, then their 'reordinations' should be sub conditione. The explicit decision of the Sovereign Pontiff S John Paul II is the Magisterial precedent for this.

I advance the hypothesis that this conditionality may not need to be expressed ritually. A formal document stating that this conditionality was in the mind of the Church would, surely, be adequate. Such an undertaking was given verbally to Blessed John Henry Newman, and satisfied his qualms of conscience [LD xi. 151-2, 283; vide Ker p 321].

2 September 2014

Conjugal dissensions

As my wife and I strolled along a country lane the other day, eating an occasional passing blackberry, a conversation ended up with one of us saying "Ah well; win some, lose some". Immediately, there came into my mind ... you know how these things just spring fully armed from the head of Zeus ... the thought "That would go neatly into Greek as 'ta men nikomen ta de nikometha'". I rather liked it ... antithesis ... parallelism ... polyptoton ... but Pam viewed it with less enthusiasm. I mumbled something about how I have to do things like that ... and writing a blog ... to keep Altzheimer's at bay. She replied that she sought this end with rather greater success by doing crosswords and number-puzzles [she meant sudokus et alia eiusdem generis]. Instantly, punning with my characteristic brilliance, I said "su dokeis hoti ta ainigmata ten Heben trephei?". This simply elicited a slight rise in a disdainful eyebrow. Married men among you will know what I mean ... after all, cosi fan tutte.

I think I am suffering from Domestic Appreciation Deficit, which, of course, would go neatly into Greek as ... er ....