31 October 2014


A few days this week and next week to revisit that nice section at the end of the Missal, Votives (and the equally nice Spanish-shape purple vestments kindly given by some very dear friends across the water).

For example, Contra paganos, which a different friend across several different bits of water tells me used to be contra Turcos et paganos ... I rather like that title; it's so very Patrimony, reminding one of the Good Friday prayer in the Church of England's normative book of worship ... "have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites ... " (no nonsense, we infer from this, in official Anglican doctrine about the Jewish Covenant still being salvific!!! ... I wonder why the Church of England doesn't receive the same Good Friday battering from 'dialogue' bigots over this as the Catholic Church does when she prays for the removal of the veil ...).

But, of course, I said the Mass with a basically IS reference. Its texts remind me of the spirit of the Gesima Sundays, with their vivid picture of the Christian people grievously afflicted, calling upon a God who might seem to have deserted them.

Then there is the Mass labelled in the Missal I use as Ad tollendum Schisma; said with particular reference to Anglicans. A lovely, theological Mass, with those superb readings from Ephhesians and our blessed Lord's High Priestly Prayer. It takes me back to the 1960s, when Christian really wanted Unity and didn't just spout the rhetoric. What a popular Votive it was then. I wonder how often any of us say it nowadays.


Extracts from a three-part review which I published in August; all three parts now together. It seems to me that our present 'Between the Synods' era makes it very topical.

For those of us who do get a buzz out of history, The Second Vatican Council An Unwritten Story by Roberto de Mattei (Loreto Publications)  provides a read which is as gripping as it is erudite. Professor de Mattei has mastered a vast body of material and he weaves the results of his immense learning into a narrative which, more than any novel, keeps one turning the pages to discover what happens next. The only problem I can discern is that as bedside reading it is likely to make your wrist ache, even if you have acquired the paperback version. 598 pages; but, unlike many books, this one does not have large elegant empty spaces in order to set off its text (the bottom margin is only about eight millimetres); the whole thing is workmanlike and useful. Its usefulness is enhanced by the the fact that Professor Mattei makes no assertion for which he does not point you to the published evidence. For this reason alone ktema es aiei xugkeitai. The introductory matter includes good summaries of the State of the Question, just before the Council began, in matters ranging from Biblical to Liturgical studies. Footnotes give concise descriptions of the actors as they appear on the stage.

Mattei writes, he reminds us, as a historian rather than as a theologian. But, inevitably, history throws up its theological questions. A survey of the vota submitted by the Fathers when, before the Council, their views were sought, reveals preoccupations which failed to influence the Conciliar documents. One is the assumption that the Council would continue the very popular and triumphalist Mariology which, in the grim aftermath of the Second World War, kept up the spirits of bishops and flocks alike. The Definition of the dogma of the Universal Mediation of the Mother of God was confidently expected. Why did it not ....
See below.


But, in a Council whose convoking Pontiff expected it to end by Christmas, Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces soon disappeared from the agenda. Even stranger is the question of the dog which barked in the night (But, Holmes, the dog did not bark in the night! Exactly, Watson). Vatican II was supposed to be a Council about the world of Today and the problems of its own day. And there is no doubt that, at the heart of the Cold War, in the decade when the Cuban crisis nearly precipitated a holocaust, Communism, a militant ideology claiming to be the end of all religion, was the great Question of the Day. Previous Councils had condemned the errors of their own day; Vatican II failed even to mention Communism, either in practical terms or by addressing its errors. This was not for want of attempts by Council Fathers to raise the question in the aula; Fathers who had themselves physically suffered at the hands of the oppressors (pre-Constantinian Christians termed them confessores) addressed their Venerable Brethren movingly ... good quotations are given in Mattei. But any and every such initiative mysteriously disappeared.

The reason seems to be twofold. S John XXIII wished the Council to be positive rather than negative; to discern what is good in the World rather than to condemn its errors. And, under B Paul VI, the Ostpolitik made it impossible to mention the enemies of the Church behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, there seems to have been an agreement with Moskow that, in return for the Vatican's silence on Communism, observers would be allowed to travel from Russia to the Council.

The final part of this review should follow below.


I wish, finally, to have a look at the Council's oddest feature: the contrast, contradiction, between the expectations the Fathers had in their suitcases as they set out for the Council, and the documents for which they eventually voted and which they (even Lefebvre) signed.

In historical terms, a reason for this is to be found in the brilliant organisation of a Conciliar minority of 'progressive' bishops from Northern Europe, who succeeded in gaining control of the levers of power ... a full account passim in Mattei. Here is his summary: "The Council did not heed the requests that emerged from the vota of the council fathers, but rather favoured the claims of a minority which, from the outset, managed to put itself in charge of the assembly and to orientate its decisions. This is what emerges indisputably from the historical data". 

But I think I can also discern here a theological factor. A Bishop is supposed to be the Man of his Church. The prohibitions in earlier centuries directed against the Adultery of Translations express this instinct. From the second century, a bishop was seen as possessing the charisma certum veritatis because, as the Man of his Church, he could bear witness to the teaching received from his predecessors and witnessed also by his presbyterate, diaconate, and laity. (An enquirer could be invited to visit the Apostolic Churches, and the churches founded by the Apostolic Churches, to verify that their doctrine was indeed identical. Such an enquirer could be confident of the inevitable identity of the teaching of all those Churches with that of the Church in Rome.)

It is this profound embeddedness of a Bishop in his own Church that should guarantee the authenticity of his judgements when, exceptionally and untypically, he is absent from his ekklesia and sitting with his fellow-bishops in Council. One thinks of those memorable phrases of Pope Francis, that a pastor should smell of his sheep; that he should not be an airport bishop. Both of them bear directly upon this point. Lamentably, the unexpected length of Vatican II meant that its bishops became very much airport bishops. They got to know each other extremely well and acquired a distinct odour of the seminar-room and of the Roman trattorie; they became politicians; they became, some of them, more preoccupied with the views expressed a moment ago by some glamorous peritus than with the opinions of tedious old Fr Black back in Great Snoring, and his even more boring parishioners. Some may have asked themselves only very infrequently whether the exciting novelties in the air of S Peter's were congruous with the teaching that our dear old predecessor Bishop Brown (never an emeritus because he died in office) had hammered away at, in season and out of season, for the fifty five years of his episcopate, not to mention his predecessor Bishop Green, who was born before the Restoration of the Hierarchy. Heaven forgive them, some of the Fathers of Vatican II may even have congratulated themselves on being so much more Modern and Enlightened than Black, Brown, or Green!

After all, had they not sat, entranced, only yesterday evening, listening to the views of professor Hans Kueng?

30 October 2014


(1) I suggested that the Holy Father's claim that "the presence of the Pope is, for everybody, a guarantee of orthodoxy", implies, for completeness, assumed presuppositions. Now I see that Cardinal Meissner has also taken up this point: "The Continuity in the teaching and preaching was always the guarantee of the soundness of our faith". I think this phrase is just what is needed. Its addition brings the Holy Father's claim fully into line with the teaching of the Fathers going back to S Irenaeus, and with Pastor aeternus, the decree of Vatican I by which canonically his Petrine ministry is supported.

(2) In the Homily which he wrote for the 10th Anniversary of Juventutem, Cardinal Pell made two immensely wise points.
(a) That the Papacy, despite being of immense importance and being completely essential to the Church Catholic as Christ founded her, is not guaranteed against malfunctions due to human weakness. His Eminence pointed out that "For the last 150 years ... the Church has been led by Popes, who were better, wiser, holier, and more learned, than the historical papal average for the two millennia." In other words, having wise and good popes is not something which the Holy Spirit guarantees; not part of the divinely-protected essence of the office. Regular readers will remember my own emphasis on the absurdity of claiming, after every Conclave, that each elected pope is "God's Choice". Cardinal Pell himself goes on to remind us of the 'Pornocracy' (google Marozia), the Avignon papacy, and the Renaissance. I would add, in particular, the papal madman who, out of anti-Spanish paranoia, fatally and malevolently weakened the Church in this country during its Marian Renaissance and, arguably, is the answer to the question "Why did Elizabeth Tudor find it so easy to destroy Catholicism in England?". It is neither true that every pope is a good pope, nor that bad popes are not really popes. Later in his homily, Cardinal Pell returns to this theme: "the contribution of the many good Popes far outweighs the sins and mistakes of the minority".

I also deplore the hollywoodish personality cult of popes. I think that perhaps the most striking sentence in Cardinal Pell's homily is the following, which simply praises Francis factually for what the homilist knows he is to be honestly applauded for, without sycophantic overstatement or fawning hyperbole: "Today we have one of the more unusual popes in history, enjoying almost unprecedented popularity. He is doing a marvelous job backing the financial reforms."

(b) "The college [of bishops] and all synods work by consensus, and teachings and pastoral practice can only be changed by consensus ... We all have an important task during the next twelve months i.e. to explain and build a consensus out of the present divisions ... this is a unique opportunity which we must seize in God's name". Cardinal Pell is right. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of synodal consensus, both in Ecumenical Councils and in lesser bodies such as synods.

(3) The subject of consensus brings me on to the thinking of B Cardinal John Henry Newman, after Vatican I: if the bishops who opposed the decision of the Council "allege in detail acts of violence and deceit used against the Fathers, if they declare they have been kept in the dark and been practised on, then there will be the gravest reasons for determining that the definition is not valid". Manipulation and bullying can render a conciliar decision void because of the lack of true, moral, consensus.

29 October 2014

Different Gifts of the Spirit (and VARIA)

A very nice video over on EPONYMOUS FLOWER of the SSPX Pontifical High Mass in the Concrete Submarine at Lourdes. When they were there in 2008, they were only allowed a presbyteral High Mass, which naturally irritated them because (this was before Benedict's Ordinariate had swept us Anglicans into full communion) our Anglican pilgrimage a few days previously had generously been given all possible facilities. As an Anglican, I felt rather ashamed of the nastiness of this treatment of the SSPX, even though, of course, it was in no way our fault. But now there is a new Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes. We were told that it was the old bishop who made the 2008 decisions, to humiliate SSPX and to direct that, contra legem, during the International Mass Archbishop Rowan preached after the Gospel had been solemnly sung by an Anglican deacon (Cardinal Kasper presided at that Mass). So this year's decision in favour of the SSPX must be by authority of the new bishop. How civilised.

But the news is not all good. An Italian bishop has informed his diocese that people should not approach SSPX clergy for Sacraments. If they do so, says his excellency, "si porra di fatto nella condizione di non essere in communione con la Chiesa Cattolica". What, canonically, does this mean? Does Canon Law say that, by receiving the Sacraments from a priest who lacks faculties, one incurs Excommunication latae sententiae? If so, why does the bishop not explicitly say this and cite the canon concerned (I can't find it in my little book). Or does he mean that he is himself excommunicating such lay people? But wouldn't he have to say "I, Bishop of X, by virtue of such-and-such, hereby excommunicate etc.."vel simile? I'm mystified.

He says that such people will "not be in communion with the Catholic Church" (and goes on to tell them how they can get back into communion). But I rather thought that nowadays one spoke about non-Catholics as being not in full communion? The bishop speaks in the way hard-line Catholics did before Vatican II (Unitatis Redintegratio). Or are SSPXers somehow more out-of-communion with the Catholic Church than are (ex.gr.Lutherans and Methodists? Again, I am mystified.

It all seems to me very strange. But who am I to judge? I find Canon Law so mystifying.

One final point about SSPX. One of the basic principles of Ecumenism in the twentieth century was that the various and variously divided communities of Christians each had their own particular strengths, charisms, to bring into Unity for the good of all. The essential charism of the SSPX, as it seems to me, is its resolute and manly witness to the Kingship, to the Social Rule of Christ. 

Rarely has the Church Universal stood in more need of this particular charism.

(1) Does anybody know where to find the full text of Cardinal Pell's recent homily in Rome, read for him by his secretary? UPDATE Thanks to all of you who replied to this. I didn't think of Zenit.

(2) In answer to an enquiry sent to me without an email address for me to reply to: I know no reason why a Catholic should not attend the Divine Office in an Anglican Church. I would myself warmly encourage it (although, of course hearing the Office in an Ordinariate church would be even better). But if you're in Italy, you'd better check with the local bishop.

28 October 2014


There's never any harm in reviewing a book that came out some time ago: so, today, you will have my views on Piero Marini's book A Challenging Reform (2007), in which the former papal Master of Ceremonies justifies the 'reforms' introduced after Vatican II (largely by the drive and enthusiasm of his hero, Annibale Bugnini, whom B Paul VI inherited from his predecessor).

Marini's theme, from which he never diverges by a millimetre (there are no shades of grey to spoil the grandeur of his blacks and whites), is how goodies pushed through 'reforms' in the face of resistance from baddies who did their best to prevent the implementation of 'what the Council wanted'. Quite where all these baddies came from, he never makes clear. The Council's document on the Liturgy was finally approved by 2,147 votes in favour and 4 against. (Yes: only four votes against. Among the multitudes who were happy to vote in favour were Archbishop Lefebvre and other 'reactionaries' who clearly never dreamed that they were voting for radical innovations).

The secret of Marini's sleight of hand is to confuse two fundamentally distinct things: what the Council Fathers did mandate; and what Marini's associates subsequently forced through without sanction from the Council. We must indeed acknowledge examples of changes made by the 'reform' which can claim a basis in the Council's instructions. The Council did mandate that a wider diet of Scripture should be put before the faithful in the Mass. So the Three Year Lectionary can at least claim Conciliar sanction. Or take the Breviary hymns. The Council did say that other hymns from the Church's lyric treasury should be added. So the hymns in the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours can claim Conciliar mandate. And these reforms, whether you or I like them or not, were done in the consciousness that they were the Council's wish ... otherwise, one wonders if even the Readings and Hymns would have been tampered with.

But, at the heart of the Roman Rite, there is something which is far more ancient and infinitely more central than the Readings and Hymns. The unchangeable Canon of the Mass. The Eucharistic Prayer.

Yet, in the period after the Council, alternative Eucharistic Prayers (originally three; later something like a dozen) were added to the Roman Canon. And this addition is completely absent from the Conciliar shopping list. Only a few years before the Council, an Anglo-Catholic writer, Dudley Symon, had written of the Canon Romanus, the immemorially ancient Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Church, "This was the Prayer that S Augustine brought with him to England in AD 597 and which for a thousand years was familiar to and loved by the English people. It is almost incredible that by a stroke of the pen it was made illegal [in 1549] by State action, though not so strange that revolts were widespread against this piece of tyranny, revolts that could only be stamped out by German mercenaries ... it is most unlikely that [the Roman Rite's] chief glory, the Canon, will be touched or cease to be said in Latin even if elsewhere much more of the vernacular is permitted."

So this move was intensely revolutionary. I am aware that some Fathers from non-European cultures had not felt that the Roman Canon was universally suitable (although my recollection is that they called for the resurrection of other ancient liturgies, not for the composition of new Eucharistic Prayers by committee). And I certainly know that 'Progressive' liturgists took a very dim view of the Canon. But the suggestion of offering a broader provision, which was accepted (with very little dissent) by the Fathers with regard to the Readings and the Hymns, was not extended by their Decree to cover the Canon. The suspicion has to be that those most enthusiastic about devaluing the Canon had the prudence not to be too noisy about their wishes, out of a fear that such a campaign would have alerted many of the Fathers to their real game. You disagree? Come, come! Do you really expect us to believe that Ottaviani and Lefebvre, and their Conciliar associates, would have voted for Sacrosanctum concilium like lemmings charging for their favourite cliff-top if they had been told that the down-grading of the Canon was what they were giving a mandate for? 

Now look at how Marini slithers round these facts: "The fact that four Eucharistic Prayers were approved was consistent with the early Roman liturgy, which actually had used several anaphoras". One sentence; and a sentence culpably crafted grossly to deceive. Is there any truth in it? It is indeed likely that in Rome, as elsewhere, in the very earliest days of the Church, the Eucharistic Prayer was extemporised (just as there was perhaps a period before the Lord's deeds and words were written down and regarded as 'Scripture'). There is evidence that the text of the Canon evolved through various stages (just as the texts of what became the Gospels may have done). After all, classical liturgy did not flutter down from heaven ready made and with every i dotted (and neither did the text or canon of Scripture).

But to give the impression that the Roman Rite, as soon as we have Latin texts to bear witness to it, was a rite in which alternative anaphoras were on offer each morning to every celebrant, so that introducing after Vatican II alternative Eucharistic Prayers is 'consistent with the early Roman liturgy', is either very ignorant or very dishonest.

In neither case can Piero Marini be regarded as a liturgist whom it is safe to trust. He is a determined ideologue with a narrow agenda.
Footnotes: the Prayer which used to be called 'Hippolytus' has long been known to be neither as ancient as was thought, nor to have any connection withe Roman Church.
Piero Marini should not be confused with Guido Marini.

27 October 2014

"The written Word"

The Holy Father has criticised  the fault of "wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises; within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve". (He went on to make balancing criticisms of other and contrary attitudes.)

When the first wave of Ordinariate clergy were being 'formed' at Allen Hall, our teaching was solidly, insistently, based upon the Conciliar and post-Conciliar Magisterium. This meant the written words of Vatican II and, mainly, the Magisterial documents of our recently canonised S John Paul II. Written documents like Veritatis splendor and Familiaris consortio. Is the Holy Father now telling us that we ought not to be 'closed within' such written words? Heaven help us; it's only a couple of years since we learned all that stuff from expensive written texts provided for our education by funds which, I think I understood, the English Bishops generously made available! Making a bonfire of them seems a bit premature!

Of course, those written words did not represent the end of the Magisterium. There must be development! But, surely, any developments cannot just ignore or rubbish the teaching of those documents? S Vincent of Lerins and B John Henry Newman analysed the difference between change and development. A human foetus cannot develop into an octopus, nor an acorn into a lemon tree.

I have heard it suggested that rhetoric like the Holy Father's is a danger to his own authority, rather like cutting off the branch that one is sitting on. If the magisterial documents, the written words of a predecessor are now of negligible consequence, how, people wonder, is his own authority any greater? When Pope Francis issues some written words which he desires to be seen as having Magisterial authority, what would be his answer to the naughty little boy who said "Ah, Holy Father, I'm not going to close myself within your written word. Give me the God of Surprises any day"?

I'm not sure what the answer is to all these troubling fears. But I do sometimes feel a little uneasy lest there be a tendency among loyal and well-meaning people to regard the lightest words obiter dicta of whoever may be the current Bishop of Rome as having enormously, fabulously, greater authority than those of boring earlier pontiffs which are now merely part of a dead old world we call History. If such assumptions are around, I can only say that I do not agree with them. On the contrary, I share the Patrimonial, 'Inklings' views expressed by CS Lewis and DL Sayers about the importance of being open to the wisdom of earlier ages which may not be flawed by resting upon the same implicit assumptions as is our own age. Indeed, I'm sure it cannot really be the hope of the Holy Father that, as soon as he is dead, everybody will heave an enormous sigh of relief and dump his written Magisterial legacy into the bin, and start going into ecstasies about Pope Leo XIV and the daily wonders of his every word and gesture.

The speech of Pope Francis which I began by quoting, with its initial cautions about closing oneself within the written word and the law, ended with quotations from Canon Law about the Pope's own supreme authority. But canons 749, 331, 332, 333, and 334, all of which he referenced, are, surely, the written word? And, moreover, are they not all written in ... um ... a law book?

I have expressed myself rhetorically ... because the Holy Father spoke rhetorically. I share his evident view that rhetoric is enormous fun. That much we both certainly have in common! Another habit I share with the Sovereign Pontiff is that of sometimes letting my rhetoric carry me away into saying something at the start of a piece which I then inadvertently contradict at the end of it, without even noticing that I have done so!!

25 October 2014

New Sins

In Mgr Ronald Knox's brilliant collection of Essays in Satire, there is a piece about a 'Professor' who invents a new sin. Now, even Knox's brilliance has been quite superseded. Now, you see, we have completely new types, genres, of Sin. The Third Millennium has branched out into a whole novel taxonomy of Sin.

Earlier this month I approached this subject and asked three simple questions, as tests to apply to any newly fashionable theory about Sin. Here they are again:

(1) Can you square it with the Sermon on the Mount and the ethical teaching of S Paul?
(2) Can you square it with the Lord's parables about not knowing 'the Day or the Hour'?
(3) Does it apply to murderers and paedophiles?

Let me remind you what the New Casuistries teach about Sin.
(a) Graduality. "People cannot give up their Sin instantaneously. They should be given the time, and the grace of the sacraments, to wean themselves off it gradually."
(b) Acceptance without Approval. "Remarried divorcees may be in a position to which the Church cannot give formal approval; but she may welcome them as they are into her Sacramental life."
(c) Elements of truth. "Outside the relationship of heterosexual monogamy, other models of relationship exist in which important elements exist of the values proper to Marriage itself: and it is these elements which we should emphasise (permanence; self-sacrificing love ...)."

Now apply Fr Hunwicke's Question (3).  Would you accept that, since a paedophile has very strong inclinations, his aim should be to work hard to abuse children less and less frequently? How do you feel about the Church accepting that some paedophiles are gentle and affectionate to the children they abuse, and that we should concentrate our attention on those good elements of gentleness and affection? Take someone with a pathological impulse to murder: would you want the Church to continue to maintain the teaching of the Ten Commandments about Murder, but, without approving of the murders, to accept the unrepentant murderer as he is?

Probably you wouldn't. Probably most people, even very liberal Catholics wouldn't, unless they are themselves paedophiles or murderers or both. Why not?

What we have is, in fact, the adoption by liberals of two quite distinct categories of Sin.  There are sins which (most people would agree) are really sinful. Such as abusing and/or killing children. The clever little games (a), (b), (c), would never be acceptable here. If somebody suggested that it really is in accordance with a nuanced Christian morality for a paedophile to abuse children as long as he does it gradually less frequently, most of us would probably kick him. However they contrive to control their behaviour, paedophiles should just give up, or genuinely try to give up, their vice. They should receive Absolution and then "Go and Sin No More".

But there is now, for the Liberals, an additional, quite different category of Sin. It consists of things which, because they are condemned by Christ or by long centuries of Christian Tradition, liberals might agree are in some sense technically sinful. But liberals do not feel that they are really wrong. So they devise sophisticated ways of avoiding the requirement of the Gospel: repentance and a firm purpose never to offend again and to avoid the occasions of Sin. Like children who have cheated and found out the answer to a sum, they start with the conclusion and then try to find the right 'workings' to get to the answer. "I want to argue that a homosexual couple may continue to live in a genitally sexual relationship: where can I find clever arguments to support that conclusion?"

                                    SO WE NOW HAVE

(I) REALLY WRONG SINS; they really turn me upside down in my tummy.

(II) SINS WHICH ARE ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG; my tummy feels completely OK about them. We've just got to find a way for the Church to shift her line without completely losing face.

Those are the two radically distinct categories of Sin in which Liberals now believe.

Neither in the Bible nor in two Christian millennia is there evidence for (II).


Bibliography: the important discussion here in the Church's Magisterium is paragraphs 79-83 of the Encyclical of S John Paul II Veritatis splendor, together with its footnoted sources. The Holy Pontiff quotes (para 81) a passage of S Augustine in which that Doctor discusses the 'absurdity' of any notion that sins done for good motives (causis bonis) might be thought of as 'sins that are justified' (iusta peccata: I think this would have to be S Augustine's Latin term for what my account above calls (II) SINS WHICH ARE (in the view of Liberals) ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG).

The Holy Pontiff cleverly takes (para 80) the list of sins in para 27 of Gaudium et Spes and says that they are good examples of acts intrinsice mala, that is, always wrong, independent of circumstances. What is neat about this is that it includes sins which Liberals would consider (I) REALLY WRONG SINS (such as genocide, trafficking in women, slavery) and mixes them up with (II) SINS WHICH ARE (in the view of Liberals) ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG (such as abortion). He then goes on to the intrinsically evil contraceptive acts and, in para 81, includes S Paul's condemnation (I Cor 6:9-10) of categories including the sodomised and the sodomites (malakoi, arsenokoitai; molles, masculorum concubitores).

Slips of the tongue: a frivolous interlude

How easy it is to make a slip of the tongue ... last Sunday morning, introducing Cardinal Nichols on the Radio, Edward Stourton mispronounced his name before hastily correcting himself. Ah, these freudian slips ... I've never liked Stourton ... or was it his pathetic, distinctly Lower Third Form, idea of a joke? Not a good advertisement for Ampleforth.

Incidentally, our Cardinal gave a characteristically sure-footed performance: no slips-of-the-tongue on his side. He corrected Stourton while always sounding quiet, laid-back, and reasonable. Stourton, for example, had quoted the Pope's speech at the end of the Synod as having a paragraph criticising Conservatives. Which it did. But, just like all the other journalists I have heard, Stourton did not go on to quote the following, balancing, paragraph criticising Progressives: dearie me No; that's not in their agreed narrative! Cardinal Vincent didn't let him get away with this seedy little suppressio veri cum suggestione falsi. And when, later on, Stourton, to the accompaniment of sarcastic pull-the-other-one background laughter, contrived to suggest that the Cardinal was a liar, His Eminence kept his cool. These may seem minor details, but I think it's very good for the English Church to have a Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster who is thoroughly media-savvy and thinks fast on his feet.

During Sunday's Beatification, the Holy Father referred to the Bishop of Brescia in the genitive case as 'Episcopi Brixiensi' (a mistake, actually, already in the printed Bollettino), and then seemed to say 'fratrorum' rather than 'fratrum'.

What I found interesting ... I'd never looked into this matter before ... was how much less dogma-laden the rite of Beatification is than that of Canonisation. There are none of those rather heavy suggestions that the act is pretty well guaranteed certainty by the Magisterium. Beatifications are very much more take-it-or-leave-it than Canonisations. All that we are given is the facultas of calling the candidate beatus. Presumably one may decline to avail oneself of a facultas?

Not that I would wish so to decline when the beatus we are talking about is the Pope who issued Humanae vitae, and Mysterium Fidei, and who eventually had the discernment to see through Pius XII's liturgical protegee Hannibal Bugnini and to send him packing to Tehran.

Trebles all round, as they say in Private Eye, in honour of Blessed Paul VI.

23 October 2014

Francis on the Petrine Ministry

Towards the end of his speech concluding his Synod our Holy Father Pope Francis delivered the following very fine passage:

"Il Papa, in questo contesto, non e il signore supremo ma piuttosto il supremo servitore - il servus servorum Dei; il garante dell'ubbidienza, della conformita della Chiesa alla volonta di Dio, al Vangelo di Cristo e alla Tradizione della Chiesa, mettendo da parte ogni arbitrio personale, pur essendo - per volonta di Cristo stesso - il Pastore e Dottore supremo di tutti i fedeli (Can. 749) e pur godendo della potesta ordinaria che e suprema, piena, immediata e universale nella Chiesa".

This is reassuringly similar to the teaching I quoted recently from Cardinals Ratzinger, Burke, and Newman, and from Vatican I. Indeed, it so resembles the words of Benedict XVI that I have wondered if Francis, or his drafter, had a passage of Ratzinger before him. All splendid stuff. But there are perhaps a couple of Benedictine nuances left implicit rather than being fully expressed. I will begin with the passage about the pope as il garante.

Earlier in the speech, referring to his Synod, the Pope used similar terminology: "the presence of the Pope is the guarantee for everyone"*. In commenting on this, the great Father Zed, Archiblogopoios, acutely commented "I don't think [it is] the mere presence of the Pope that guarantees anything". I think this is a very good point to make. On Tuesday the 24 June this year, the Pope was addressing some of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Apparently (the account made available was very summary) one of the younger members of the Order, who had been moved from the FFI theological institute to study in the Roman universities, asked how he could be confident of the orthodoxy of what he was now being taught: that this was the young man's question is suggested by the statement that the Pope "then explained that the Church guarantees orthodoxy through the Pope".

But, as Fr Zed points out, the Pope is not some sort of talisman or magic totem or animistic fetich, the mere presence of which automatically sticks or stamps a guarantee onto something which is happening . The Pope must speak, write, or act to discharge his Petrine Ministry. This, I imagine, is why Cardinal Burke has opined that the Pope has done a lot of harm by not stating openly what his position is, and that a statement from him is long overdue. We may disagree ... many do ... with Cardinal Burke's personal prudential assessment of how matters stand, but we cannot, I think, dispute the categories within which he is working.

Secondly, this passage does not make explicit some interesting negatives and implied negatives which exist in the passages I quoted in my earlier post: negatives which ultimately go back to Pastor aeternus of Vatican I, reminding us ... and even reminding the popes themselves ... what they cannot do. There are cannots inscribed so deeply in the Tradition that not even Canon Law, not even papal enactment, can override them (as Benedict XVI pointed out when he issued Summorum pontificum). Even when backed by an Ecumenical Council (let alone by a mere Synod), there are very many things which Popes cannot do (not merely should not do.) After all, the Spirit is not given to them so that they can make known some new teaching (doctrinam), but so that they might religiously guard and faithfully set forth (sancte custodirent et fidelier exponerent) the revelation or deposit of Faith handed down by the Apostles (Denziger 3070). (So that if a pope were to teach error, as, for example, John XXII did, it would not be by the inspiration of the Spirit.) While clever people can often prove that black is white, prima facie the words custodirent and exponerent indicate preservation rather than daring openness to a Spirit Who can surprise us, or clever doctrinal innovation. The Commonitorium of S Vincent of Lerins, and B John Henry's Essay on Development still have much to teach us; as well as the term phrouria as used of episcopal and papal ministries; and Newman's interesting commendation of the Roman Church as a remora against innovation. 

So: I vigorously applaud the words of our beloved Holy Father with which I began this post. They are bang on, and admirably expressed. But we must understand them, as I am sure Pope Francis himself does, in their full context of (1) the need for the Pope to act/speak to guard the depositum, not just to 'be present'; (2) the need for the Pope to understand the very considerable limitations of his Office. He, and those from whom he accepts collegial or collaborative advice, are under a solemn obligation to be aware of all the things which are ultra his vires. 

The Sovereign Pontiff ended his speech with a quotation derived ultimately from Pastor aeternus; it is good to know that this is a document to which he pays careful attention. We should do no less.
*I owe to a learned correspondent this corrected version of the English translation put out by Rome. It all goes to show ...

21 October 2014

Further and further apart: the seal of the Confessional.

There was something in the Public Papers to the effect that the Church of England's General Synod is to debate modifying the Seal of the Confessional. This is all part of the anti-paedophile hysteria.

Occasionally one comes across people who think we left the Church of England because of quaint hang-ups about women ministers. Far from it. As long ago as 1944, Dom Gregory Dix, writing about proposals to accept the 'Orders' of Protestant bodies, observed "The Anglican Church and Ministry would have been equated with various Protestant societies and Ministries as slightly variant specimens of the same thing ... what these proposals amount to is an official Anglican admission that Pope Leo XIII was right after all in his fundamental contention in Apostolicae curae." But that is precisely what the Church of England did with the 'Porvoo' agreement (1996), and the Anglican-Methodist 'Covenant' (2003).

The ARCIC process began in the 1960s with an agreement that neither 'side' would put new obstacles in the way of convergence. The Anglican 'side' ignored this in the following decades, and an effective abolition of the Seal of the Confessional would be just another nail in the same old coffin. 

Will the C of E consult its 'partners in ecumenical dialogue' about the 'Seal' before deciding? It should, really, because for the C of E to abolish it would put the RCC under more pressure and lead to secularists accusing the Church of being motivated by a desire to 'protect' paedophile clergy.

I have fewer contacts now within the C of E. More's the pity. But I would bet on it not abolishing the Seal, at least this time round (even though the Australian Anglican Church unanimously did so), because even among what are called "Affirming Catholics" and among some high church ordained women, there are still a lot of memories of Catholicism. If I am wrong, this will prove that what Wilfrid Ward naughtily called Old Mother Damnable has deteriorated even further than I suspected!
 Footnote When the Canon Law of the Provinces of Canterbury and York was being revised in the 1960s, Crown lawyers advised that the C of E wouldn't be able to secure for the clergy the right to refuse to give evidence in court about confessions. Hence the Seal could not be included in the revised Code. So the C of E got round this by leaving unrepealed  one single canon of the 1604 code: the 1604 canon prescribing the Seal. So there it is, like a Stuart sore thumb, tacked on at the end of the 1960s code! The only problem about it is that it is not absolute: it allows for a priest to break the seal if observing it would result in his own life being legally forfeit. I've always suspected that detail of being included to prevent recusant clergy, accused of complicity in treason for not informing on Catholic 'plotters', from citing the Anglican canons in their defence.

19 October 2014

A Man to Watch?

One of the Holy Father's first nominations to episcopacy in 2013 was Victor Manuel Fernandez, Rector of the Pontifical Argentinian Catholic University; a post to which he had been appointed by Cardinal Bergoglio. He is only 52; his consecration was not followed by assignment to any pastoral episcopal ministry ... he remains merely Archbishop titularis of Tiburnia. He is thought to have collaborated with Bergoglio in the drafting of the Apparecida document from CELAM.

Fernandez was one of those specifically added to the recent Synod by act of the Sovereign Pontiff.

Before the Synod, the Holy Father very laudably urged the Synod Fathers to speak with parrhesia, a useful Greek term meaning completely unfearful boldness of speech. Immediately afterwards, Archbishop Fernandez was reported to have been heard saying "The pope told us to speak frankly. That means that we don't have to worry about Cardinal Mueller coming after us".

I think such words ... from such a person ... really are quite interesting, from quite a lot of different points of view. But I won't pompously spell it all out myself.

17 October 2014

So what do we learn from all this?

Not to overreact. That Relatio was in no sense magisterial but simply an unsubtle attempt by a tiny faction to promote an extreme agenda; unsubtle because they attempted to land their paratroops at least one bridge too far ... far further than they could have realistically hoped to get away with. It is very good that they made such a bad mistake.

It is clear that the panic which followed the publication of the Relatio was right over the top. The publication of the comments of the circuli minores revealed that the Fathers themselves were determined not to let their Synod be kidnapped in the way that the First Session of the Council was.

One reason why I reproduced in red that passage recently from Newman ... itself reproducing a passage from S Gregory the Theologian ... was to make the point that the Church has been through ropy moments often before, and that Black Monday was by no means the ropiest of them. In fact, it was really quite low in the Richter Scale of Ropiness. Ask S Athanasius, when you get a chance.

As Newman found, it helps to keep ones nerve, having a bit of knowledge of the messiness of Church History. Joseph Ratzinger, also, showed that an examination of the messiness of earlier Councils enabled one to see Vatican II in a balanced way, and to avoid hysteria.

Unlike Fr Zed, I have no experience of Vatican politics. I merely spent three decades mastering the politics of an English Public School (and great fun it was too). But it seems to me that (exempli gratia) manoeuvring the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith into the position of being a rebel against the system just has to be one very serious piece of bad politics. The wise general selects a modest and attainable objective and then organises a broad coalition in support before he advances, keeping a prudent eye all the time on his lines of supply to make sure that the enemy doesn't snip them off with a pincer movement (as happened when poor Bruno Forte was hung out to dry by the Hungarian cardinal with the umlaut).

If I have a fear, it is that their next attempt (because, as somebody once said about a different gang of terrorists, "They haven't gone away") will show that they have learned elementary tactics from this particular dismal failure.

15 October 2014

More Glyptotek

A very interesting and important new comment on the thread of Glyptotek (1). As well as the point it is quoted to make, it also exemplifies the fact that the 'Church Fathers' were part of the period we loosely call Antiquity, and can be found to illustrate it. Some years ago, somebody spotted that there were allusions to lost poems of Sappho in one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

During the entire period until 1453, I bet literate people could have found mss of the Hecale, the Menandrian Corpus and the Lesbian poets, in libraries in Constantinople and throughout the East. (What a tragedy the Fall of the Great City to Islamic barbarians was ... and I don't suppose certain earlier Frankish episodes helped much, either. Nor, indeed, that little Roman accident in Alexandria.)

Sadly, Classicists tend to steer clear of the Fathers (indeed, the Ninth Edition of LSJ omitted the 'Byzantine' material which had survived until LS Editio Octava, which is why still I keep my Eighth Edition on my own shelves). "Ecclesiastical writers" tend to be a closed book ... and world ... to them. Part of the unfortunate narrowing and compartmentalising  of scholarship.


Cardinal Mueller's latest comment on that infamous Relatio post disceptationem.

You don't know Italian?

I suggest this for a Latin version:


Perhaps readers could offer translations in as many modern languages as possible?

14 October 2014

The Synod

I read the document which recently emerged from Rome with increasing disbelief. 'Is this some sort of joke?' I wondered. I checked in my diary that the date was not April 1.

What has reassured me is the uproar among the Synod Fathers which followed its publication. One friend has described the Synod as a latrocinium. I think this is quite the wrong end of the stick. I don't think it is 'disloyal' for a Catholic to say that the Holy Father was very poorly advised by those who suggested to him some of the names to be involved in spinning the Synod's deliberations to the world. And also by those ... probably the same lot ... who put into his head the idea of making the thing secret. But they have been unable to get away with it. Powerful heads are well above the parapet. The first sign of the impending storm was when Cardinal Mueller made robustly and publicly clear his disagreement with the policy of secrecy. Cardinal Mueller is an able and acute man. He has realised that the Holy Father's appeal to the Synod Fathers to speak with parrhesia is a factor that can apply in more than one direction. And he is, like Miss Jean Brodie, in his prime. I do not think it will be easy for the malign interests in Rome to sideline him as their fathers did the ailing Cardinal Ottaviani. I will be surprised if heterodox plotters succeed in their attempted coup in the way that those earlier plotters did during the Sessio prima of the Council.

I do not think that 'going to the SSPX' is a surefooted option ecclesiologically. What does the Society say about itself? That it is a canonically erected society within the Catholic Church with a certain very important charisma. It does not even claim to be some sort of separate, more 'pure' Church than the Church herself. By its own constitution, none of its bishops possesses or claims to possess episcopal jurisdiction. 'Going to the SSPX' doesn't put you into a comfortable refuge guaranteeing total security behind some sort of Starwars shield which will protect you from incoming missiles. It simply gives your enemies the opportunity of claiming that you always were schismatically inclined. In other words, it blunts your witness.

Catholics have a canonical right to make their concerns known to their pastors, especially to their bishops.

The Sovereign Pontiff himself would wish you to express yourself with parrhesia.

Glyptotek footnote

I forgot to mention: there is a bust (to a pattern which was mass-produced by the Romans and can, for example, be seen in the Ashmolean), with accompanying cast showing a reconstruction of the colour, of the Greatest of the Greek Comic Dramatists, the inventor of Situation Comedy, Menander.

S Paul would be pleased, wouldn't he?

What a satisfying trip to Copenhagen, and what splendid fellowship with the members of its Latin Mass Group (of all ages)! What food!

Rosary Processions

What a splendid time last Saturday! The Rosary Procession, of Reparation, from Westminster Cathedral down to the Oratory. At the beginning of October, Month of the Rosary, one naturally feels in a Lepanto mood, so I duly preached on that. It seemed so appropriate as we tottered past Harrods with the Knights of Malta and their flag leading the way just in case of any rough stuff ... after all, they did have four galleys at Lepanto. All the way down Knightsbridge we were walking directly into the sun, and it seemed as if we were heading for a mighty bonfire, so big and billowy were the clouds of incense which they were preparing for our Lady. The Altar of our Lady of Victories inside, pietra dura, is always dear to me because it is the altar upon which I offered my first Holy Mass after entering into full communion with the See of Peter. And, to the right of the hupermakhos strategos is a statue of S Pius V, who had ordered a Rosary procession for the very day of the Battle and who was granted a vision of the victory  that evening. What a Pontiff: Lepanto AND Regnans in excelsis!

I think Fr Faber, on some such occasion, said "Won't Mamma be pleased!".

12 October 2014

No Africans, no Married

The great Father Zed points out that the Holy Father's additional appointees to the group that will process the work of the Synod do not include any Africans. What an admirable point. Africa, I have been told, is a big place.

Moreover, they do not include married clergy (or laity). But the Catholic East has very many married clergy.

So do the Ordinariates.

If the Holy Father will only undertake to pay my air fares, I will drop everything and hasten to Rome and take over the Synod for him. I have the qualifications of having been married for 46 years, of not having mislaid my wife, and of having five children; qualifications which are not on the public CVs of any of his appointees. I also possess copies of both Casti connubii and Humanae vitae.

I am keeping my diary empty.

So is my wife.

It would be nice if we could bring the grandchildren along too.

Except perhaps Toby, who s not yet two.

11 October 2014

To Copenhagen again

Privileged, once again, to be invited to sing Mass for the Latin Mass Group in Copenhagen and to deliver a lecture (on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio), I again had a marvellous weekend. Danish hospitality is immensely warm; and a lead in this is given by Bishop Czeslaw. He seems to know priests and people intimately and individually, and is very much liked. I can see why. On my first visit, last year, I had breakfast with him, preceded by an invitation to celebrate the Extraordinary Form in his private Chapel ... which the Bishop served. After breakfast, he took me on a fascinating tour of some spectacular Lutheran churches. (This year, because of the timing of my flight back, we could only find time for coffee together.) He is a very nice man and a fine example of a model of episcopacy which is simple, warm, immediate, and unprelatical. He was very interested to have an update on the Ordinariate.

I was taken to see two very remarkable exhibitions which stood in fascinating counterpoint to each other (and indicate what a vibrantly international cultural centre Copenhagen is). One was funded by the Lager trade ... I jest: it was in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek ['New Carlsberg Sculpture Gallery']. It was a state-of-the-question exposition of research into the coloration of Classical Greek and Roman statues and architecture. It illustrated the literary and scientific evidence on the question, showing, side by side, original statuary and plaster casts indicating the original painted state of the original. More on this exhibition tomorrow.

The other was the permanent exhibition of the works of the great Danish Neoclassical sculptor Thorvaldsen, in its own large gallery next to the Royal Palace. So in these two exhibitions, ten minutes' walk apart, is demonstrated the contrast between the Neoclassical presentation of the Classical tradition (Thorvaldsen: pure white marble statues and temples); and our present knowledge about how things really were in Classical times (Carlsberg: statues and buildings richly painted in ways that seem almost garish). In a sense, it is the old dialogue between Venice and Florence, coloratura and disegno, Rubens and Poussin. For those who enjoy the Neoclassical, this gallery is an absolute wonderland.

Thorvaldsen lived most of his life in Rome, where he amassed enough wealth to form large collections of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman statues; paintings; and a particularly fine collection of ancient coins. On his return to his native land, he received a more-than-royal reception.

Many readers will know the collection at Petworth of neo-Classical statues by Flaxman, Westmacott, Carew. Many fewer will know the nearby Sussex village of Slindon where, unusually, there is a little Catholic village church. It was there that decades ago I first, so to speak, met Thorvaldsen, in the form of a small monument carved by him to commemorate Anthony Radclyffe, 5th Earl of Newburgh and de jure 7th Earl of Derwentwater. The Earl was a Catholic and of (ultra-)Jacobite ancestry. He died s.p. in 1814; I presume it was his widow Anne who had the plaque carved and placed in the chapel she maintained in Slindon House. She bequeathed money for the building of the church (and another in Chichester, both dedicated to S Richard) to which, apparently, the memorial to her husband was transferred. I had always wondered why an English Catholic nobleman should have been commemorated by the work of a Danish Protestant; now I understand. Thorvaldsen's extensive practice in Rome made him known to English travellers, and the Radclyffes travelled extensively before their return to Slindon. Here we have another example of an interesting phenomenon: Recusant noble and gentry families were not backwoods Squire Westons; they were sophisticated and travelled and not infrequently more cosmopolitan in their instincts and contacts than were the Whig oligarchy (although the Russells were glad to secure work from Thorvaldsen).

(Incidentally, it appears that Thorvaldsen was carving a Three Graces at almost the same time as Canova was carving the famous group so disgracefully evicted from Woburn Abbey and very nearly sold to America. I suppose this was a pure coincidence ... It would be fun to see the two together, and to muse on the respective talents and reputations of each sculptor.)

Disallowed comments

With regret, I have declined two comments. One appeared to disparage the English Bishops; although it did so with a delightfully satirical wit, this sort of thing is a nono. I really am sorry.

The other referred to Vatican II simpliciter as a 'disaster'. Again, nono. By all means nuance the Council ...

My own instincts are inimical to any form of censorship. But, I have been informed, those who maintain blogs are held in some way responsible for the comments threads. I wish this were not so, but I gather it is.

10 October 2014

Cardinal Mueller

How very reassuring that Cardinal Mueller has been prepared, on the record, to say that Christian people have the right to hear what their bishops are saying in Synod.

This is not the first time that Cardinal Mueller has stood up for the rights of the plebs sancta Dei.

Bishop Kieran Conry

I feel immensely disquieted by the Bishop Conry business. Not because of his sins. We are all sinners, so who am I to throw stones at others? Who has set me up to judge others? It is not given to me to know whether the sins I have committed were greater offences against the graces given to me than were his sins against the graces he received. The safest way is for me to assume that they were, and to repent accordingly.

No; it is his statements, as given in that most public of fora, the Press, that disturb me. Perhaps, in his very understandable panic, he has said what he did not mean to say. We can all 'misspeak'. But, as they stand, his words seem to be so dreadfully revealing. True, he has uttered some words of regret and of acknowledgement that he did wrong. But ...

"I would like to reassure you that my actions were not illegal and did not involve minors". Indeed? So if someone with a pedophile orientation falls victim to his temptations, that is reprehensible, but if someone with a heterosexual orientation falls victim to his temptations, that is a matter for 'reassurance'? Three decades of schoolmastering left me with a conviction that extra-marital relationships contributing to acrimonious marital breakdown often abuse the adolescent children of a marriage very gravely.

"I will now take some time to consider my future". Not "I will accept the immediate judgement of my superiors how I might best atone for my sinful and sacrilegious way of life by living in penitential retirement". Indeed, 'sin' does not feature in Bishop Conry's pronouncements. "I" and "my" seem to be logically as well as syntactically prominent terms. His words almost suggest that his 'consideration' might not necessarily exclude the question of whether to spend that 'future' with some woman.

"In some respects I feel very calm. It is liberating. It is a relief." This is what I find hardest: his ... apparent ... chilling serenity with regard to having lived for years, as he appears to admit (I pray God that I may be misunderstanding his words), in a state of unrepented mortal sin and, in that state, having repeatedly approached and confected the Sacraments; perhaps even having accepted Episcopal Consecration while aware of an ineradicable propensity for womanising (I remember being shown a published account as long ago as 2002 of his alleged conduct just before his Consecration).

"I have been careful not to make sexual morality a priority". This is rather as if an errant banker were to say "At least I am not a hypocrite: I have never made public statements about the importance of financial probity." And, surely, a Bishop's sacred duties do include making appropriate statements, when necessary, about the many various areas of morality, including sexual morality?

"I don't think it got in the way of my job. I don't think people will say I have been a bad bishop". This gets to the heart of the question. It is apparently Bishop Conry's view that being a Bishop is 'a job'; that it is to do with the efficient performance of certain external actions and has no relationship to striving, with the help of God's grace, to conform ones own life to the person of Jesus Christ and to the imperatives of His Gospel.

Even the greatest admirers of S John Paul II sometimes concede that he did fail to get a grip upon the appointment of Bishops in the Catholic Church, so that local hierarchies became self-perpetuating oligarchies. It would not be difficult to incorporate l'affaire Conry into such a narrative. Res scrutanda est usque ad radices.

And it is sometimes suggested that a de facto and totally unintended result of Vatican II was a loss in many quarters of any dread of Sin and of any consciousness of the absolute need for Grace. Bishop Conry, if his words do truly manifest the man, would be a perfect illustration of that.

A symbol ... indeed, a victim ... of his times? A weak and self-obsessed man, poorly formed at seminary; a product of that facile anthropological optimism which characterised the Church in and after the 1960s; a man who deserves our prayerful sympathy rather than a judgement which it is most certainly not ours to pass?

May God sanctify his dearly beloved child Kieran, and all of us, miserable sinners, et, dimissis peccatis nostris, transform us all ever more closely into the likeness of the Incarnate Word.

9 October 2014

Better News

The second Sunday of our visit to England's North, we had a much better experience than we did in Father Etiam Vaticanior's church. I was grateful for it: one does not want to come away from Mass miserable and depressed two Sundays running.

This time, the Novus Ordo was done in an almost legal way ... and more importantly, in a reverent and joyful way. A sermon was preached, for which the pastor had clearly worked hard to bring the liturgical readings for Holy Cross Day ... Crouchmass, as we call it in the Patrimony ... to life for his people, so as to connect both with their intelligences and their emotions. We were allowed to say the Creed. Fr Etiam could benefit from being sent on a Placement to this church so as to learn how to do liturgy from his brother priest and from the servers, musicians, and people.

I make two points in a sincerely humble and purely positive way.
(1) The pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer II was used. The GIRM expects Prayer I, the Roman Canon, to be used on Sundays and festivals, or at least Prayer III. I believe I have read somewhere that the Bishops have a canonical duty to moderate the Liturgy within their jurisdictions; I wonder how often they draw this point to the attention of their presbyters, since my impression is that this particular abuse is so common as to be almost universal.
(2) The hymns chosen had no relevance to the Festival of the Holy Cross. Perhaps Father had not drawn this point to the attention of his Director of Music? This created a thematic dissonance.

8 October 2014

Synodus Occulta

I am interested in exploring the ecclesiological significance of the current Synod. I invite comments from those better qualified in these matters than I am.

What puzzles me most is the fact that it is secret. I had always rather liked the idea (cf S Irenaeus) that Bishops in Synod are not clever individuals pooling their bright ideas, but Bishops with the charisma certum Veritatis bearing public witness to the authentic Teaching handed down by the succession of Bishops in their own Particular Church as part of the convergent witness of all the Churches; and that this is to be contrasted with the twaddle cooked up privately in Smoke Filled Rooms by Gnostic teachers with their alleged secret paradoseis. I don't mean that there's anything wrong with Bishops getting together privately and informally to share, off the record, their ideas about how to handle some crisis: but that, surely, is not a Synodus. Or is it?

Nor do I like the power that this secrecy gives to the Press and to the Vaticanologists. Because, whether the micromanagers like it or not, reports and spinning will happen. And not least when some bishop feels that the official report is, from the point of view of his contribution or opinion, unbalanced. Spilling the beans to the Press in such circumstances is, I believe, called 'briefing'.

I believe that B John Henry Newman's well-known remarks in the aftermath of Vatican I would naturally apply a fortiori to a mere Synod: manipulation of synodal process might detract from the Magisterial authenticity of what emerges.

6 October 2014

Father Etiam Vaticanior

I wrote not long ago about Fr Nominis Obliviscor; presumably his often-asserted devotion to Vatican II is what prevents him from preaching in August. While travelling North to visit a Daughter, we stopped off for an overnight break and I experienced a clergyman even more apparently totally committed to Vatican II than dear old Obliviscor. Not only did this gentleman, on the first Sunday in September, fail to preach a homily; he also omitted the Creed (and he appeared to have mislaid his chasuble). Needless to say, despite the GIRM, he also used the pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer II at a Sunday Mass.

Not that this meant that we got out of Church any earlier, which troubled my digestive tract because I had spotted an Italian Restaurant offering Lobster Thermidor. Time saved by omitting Homily and Creed was consumed by innumerable hymns (including, of course, Make me a Channel). And after the Acclamation following the Consecration, the congregation sang something metrical rather than one of the legal responses (which made the Therefore at the start of the Anamnesis completely meaningless). And after the Peace there was a long sentimental-sounding chant in which the only word I could hear and recognise was Shalom. Not being familiar with any of this stuff, or knowing the words of the formulae concerned, I found participatio actuosa totally impossible. I have not felt so marginalised and alienated by any Christian worship for many years.

Not that I am a fundamentist advocate of invariably Doing the Red and Saying the Black. My first point is this: the omission of elements positively required by the post-Conciliar liturgical dispositions, homily and Creed, had every appearance of being done to make space for other elements which neither the Council nor the subsequent Revisers felt it necessary to provide. In other words, the service was, if you think about it, a decisive vote of no-confidence in the Novus Ordo as constructed in the late 1960s. Fr Etiam did not value what it does prescribe, and he did value elements which it fails to contain. Not even the most rabid traddy could have expressed more eloquently than this priest did his evident conviction that the Novus Ordo, as authorised, fails to provide for the needs of God's people.

The second thing that struck me was the joylessness of both the priest and his elderly congregation ... there was a real atmosphere of the Dreary and the Shabby. What is more truly joyful for a devoted priest than preaching on the Gospel Words of the Redeemer; what is happier to hear than God's People saying together the 'Nicene' Creed with its moving, thunderous, affirmations of the God from God, the Light from Light, the True God from True God, His Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection? What is more heart-lifting than the Roman Canon with the rising climactic anaphoras of Hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam, panem sanctum vitae aeternae et calicem salutis perpetuae; with its momentous bringing together of Heaven and Earth in the Supplices te rogamus? What have all the vacuous hymns and the moaning chants of the 1970s got to compare with the wonders which the Catholic Church actually provides and requires? I am reminded of Cardinal Nichols' wise words a few days ago, in his brilliant address to the Ordinariate, about how what we do should not be "a matter of personal taste, of subjective likes and dislikes"; that we should not "satisfy our own tastes or personal preferences", our "individual personal preferences and likes and dislikes which are so often contentious"; "personal and subjective taste" should be disciplined. Particularly important, and, I suggest, potentially valuable to clergy like Fathers Obliviscor and Vaticanior is His Eminence's beautifully expressed intuition that "often ... I am fashioned more deeply ... by what I do not particularly like". Even if clergy keen on "Vatican II" have strong personal and subjective dislikes of sermons and creeds and chasubles, and regard the Eucharistic Prayer as a troublesome detail to be disposed of as rapidly as possible, might they not be "fashioned more deeply" by forcing themselves to take seriously "what they do not particularly like"?

I didn't cheer up till I got to the lobster, a masterpiece of Divine Creativity and Human Synergy, well worth waiting for. But it still depresses me to think of the pabulum which the plebs sancta Dei are apparently expected to make do with in some areas within the mainstream Church. And who will be in that particular church in fifteen years' time when the present congregation are all dead?

You will be glad to hear that things were toto caelo better the following Sunday, when we went to a different Novus Ordo church, further North up  in Northumberland. I will write about this later.

5 October 2014

Changing tastes

If you are in Oxford, don't fail to go and have a look, within the next few days or weeks, at S Anne's College (occasional readers might need to be reminded that this distinguished institution is the Alma Mater of my wife and of two of our children).

The 'Gatehouse Tower', which for a few decades incorporated the College Lodge, is in the process of demolition. This is of interest because, when it was built in the 1960s, it was the delight of fashionable architectural pundits. Sir Nikolaus 'Bauhaus' Pevsner wrote " ... a building of wit, if one can say that of a building. For here is the Tudor-Gatehouse-Tower re-incarnate. ... Altogether an original and attractive little building".

Sic transit gloria mundi. When we were undergraduates, it was not yet even built, and the College Lodge was still incorporated into the side of one of the Victorian houses which constituted the College Buildings. Back in those days when the colleges had not yet totally abdicated moral responsibility, women undergraduates had to be back in college by 10.00, and so the shadowy garden in front of that Lodge was where admirers said good-night after an exciting evening spent reading the Nicomachean Ethics together in the Radcliffe Camera.

Oh dear, how old I feel.

4 October 2014

Yet more Environment and Being Natural

I'm rather getting into The Environment ... while renewing old acquaintance with the quite remarkable art collections in Alnwick Castle, I found myself reading a little book hand-written by the first Duchess of Northumberland, one of the two Elizabeths who conveyed the honours of the ancient but extinct Percy family and its Earldom of Northumberland to the Smithsons in the middle of the eighteenth century. It details her own rules of life, including her self-imposed rules for washing. Apparently she did wash her hands every day, but once a month (sic) was good enough for her teeth, her feet, et cetera, and what she called  a "bidet wash". And she was no peasant but a member of the most refined and genteel Georgian oligarchy.

How fascinating. It got me thinking about the use of water in our society. How much does it cost to purify water to the standard we expect in 'first world' countries? And to put taps into every human residence?Having expensively (I suspect) treated it and conveyed it, we individually use it to carry away not only what is delicately called 'body waste', but also the contents of our frequently voided bladders. We bath or shower at least once a day. Young women, I am led to believe, very commonly wash their hair (using electrical current to dry it) at least twice a day. The water which is thereby deposited into our sewers is full of the chemicals they have used to make their hair look the way that advertising and the media have instructed them is correct. I interpret television commercials to mean that shampoos used do in fact damage the hair, so that things called Conditioners have to be used to conceal the damage. If I'm getting all these details wrong, I'm sure someone will put me right.

How have we reached a situation in which hair so artificially treated, and bodies so obsessively washed (and caked with deodorants), are believed to be 'Natural'? And is it true that the contraceptive medicaments which our society pours into waste-water make fish develop the wrong gender characteristics? Why do we hear so little about the 'Environmental' costs and consequences of such a culture? Does it have anything to do with the imperatives of aggressive and greedy Capitalism?

3 October 2014

"Nature and the Environment"

Do I really, as I suggested, rather with my tongue in my cheek, in a recent piece, 'loath Nature and detest the Environment'? Well, in one sense, not really. I have spent hours peering through binoculars at fulmars and their chicks in Ireland, shags in Cornwall, choughs both in Ireland and in Cornwall, seals etc. etc.. I have enjoyed long afternoons alone (Pam was playing golf) on a ruined, deserted and overgrown jetty in the County Kerry watching the kingfisher; the otter; and the grey mullet coming lazily in with the tide; no companion with me but a can of Beamish and a pencil wherewith to turn the First Leader in the Irish Times into Latin. Pam and I often make unsuccessful attempts to identify fungi. Sadly, we were also unsuccessful recently in our attempts to see red squirrels in Northumberland; grieved to learn that an adenovirus is now an additional problem for those so very shy and so very English creatures.

But I favour the conservation of such species for my own pleasure; as objects or extensions of my own subjective aisthesis. I view them with the same interest as that with which I would try to reconstruct conjecturally a damaged memorial stone in the Latin tongue, work out from quarterings on a hatchment the history of a long-since defunct family, find the strawberry in a Comper window. My fun; my intellectual stimulus. What I find objectionable is an ideology which has grown up and which surrounds 'Nature' and 'The Environment' with reverence, even deference, and sometimes even what looks like a whole invented morality. (Whom should I blame as the begetter of the idea that Morality is derived from Nature? Wordsworth? Heidegger?) Take the concept of Biodiversity. We are under an obligation, it is suggested, to preserve threatened species and to expand the numbers of different species in the world around us.

Really? What about the small-pox virus? Or Ebola? How much do we welcome their spread? Do we encourage it? But they are parts of Nature, aren't they? Should I explain to my GP that he is wrong to discourage promiscuous young people from providing Welcoming Habitats for Chlamydia? What about fleas? Are they part of Nature, and, if not, why not? What about those wonderful little creatures, lice? Cockroaches in your kitchen and the maggots spreading from the bit of beef which slipped down behind the cupboard? And Weather is Environment, isn't it? Tsunamis are to be welcomed, aren't they? Volcanic eruptions? Floods resulting in the spreading of Bubonic Plague by large black rats? (Perhaps Dr Dawkins will write us a book, with enlarged colour photographs, about the elegant and beautiful symbiosis between the rats, their fleas, and the plague.)

Not all, but a lot of the fashionable nonsense about Biodiversity relates to furry and cuddly mammals with nice eyes; and to other 'attractive' species. As far as anything else is concerned, we are totally ruthless. When you are settling down to an out-door tea party in summer and five wasps immediately appear, how welcoming are you? How sincerely do you rejoice when you discover that these same wasps have created one of their fascinating nests in your attic? You surely wouldn't get the Council Pests Department to come and destroy it, would you?

Recently a television 'Nature' presenter in England called Humble revealed that she liked going around naked so as to be "closer to Nature". She (and the journalist who wrote the story up) apparently saw no inconsistency between this affection for 'Nature' and the decision she said she and her husband had made "never" to have children. How 'Natural' are antiovulant contraceptive pills ... or whatever method she uses to achieve her elected infertility? She tells us that "We usually get up at 6 a.m. to feed the animals". One assumes that she seizes the opportunity to do this naked. I'm sure her house is exquisitely smelly (smells are 'natural') after she comes back indoors with animal excrement all over her (of course) naked feet (mammal excrement is 'natural', isn't it?). And Humble says that "there is something joyous about it [going naked]". I admire her ability to find 'joy' in circumstances which most of us would give a lot to avoid, like going out stark-naked to feed the pigs in a sub-zero temperature, two hours before dawn on a January morning. (Goose pimples are 'part of Nature', aren't they? And icy winter winds straight from Siberia? Or is Nature confined to agreeably warm days and a beneficent Jet-stream?).

Some people moralise about those species or natural phenomena which somehow appeal to them ... bunnies or Summer sunsets. Show them anything even moderately inconvenient ... wasps or the Common Cold virus ... and they are all for slaughter. Suddenly murderous, they swarm through their beloved Environment like armies of croaking Daleks shouting Ex-ter-min-ATE.

It is this modern superstition with its concomitant 'morality' and its silly suggestions about a Moral Obligation to encourage Biodiversity that I find odd. One reason for my feeling is that I suspect it of being a newly created 'easy morality' functioning as a substitute for a Christian (or other) morality which is found difficult or inconvenient.

So this is why I would (if by raising a finger I could do so) exterminate the adenovirus which is attacking the red squirrels in Northumberland: I am smitten by the idea of watching red squirrels while, not possessing a microscope, I have quite simply never learned how beautiful and fascinating an adenovirus can be. The very purest subjectivism.

2 October 2014

When I'm dead ...

One of the most tedious features of modern life is the proliferation of public seats in Beauty Spots, with sentimental little brass plaques ('He loved this place'). I have made it clear to my family that I utterly forbid such a waste of money to commemorate myself. But, out walking the other day, a formula which could be used on such a seat occurred to me.

                              DO NOT SIT HERE

*I'll gloss these terms in a later post.

1 October 2014

Fr Michael Moreton

I have been told that Fr Moreton's Requiem and Funeral will be in the ancient Church of S Mary Steps in Exeter, which he served so long and so faithfully, at 11.00 on Friday 10 October. CAPD

Theresa May and the Zeitgeist

I dislike the Party Conference Season, not least because it showcases pushy politicians in grisly surroundings seeking adulation and applause by promising the crazed party faithful deeply questionable legislation. (At least the Nuremberg rallies took place in spaces made unintentionally amusing by their mutated-Deco architecture.)

Theresa May, one of those hoping to lead the Conservative Party after David Cameron is knifed for losing the next election, wants to go down in history as the one who thumped the Islamic 'extremists'. So she has just promised legislation outlawing Thoughtcrime ... well, at least the crime of daring to express ones views. If she gets her way, it is to be made illegal to express 'extremist' views which might cause "harassment, alarm, or distress" to others.

As we all know, the aggressively ideological section of the homosexual community does a very good line in feeling hurt and Distress and outraged victimhood when faced with any expression of views which goes against its own dogmas ... I mean the sort of people who get kicks out of taking to court proprietors of guesthouses who decline to give double beds to same-sex couples, or cake-makers who decline to bake their 'wedding' cakes.

A populist desire to thump the Islamists is, in itself, a distinctly iffy basis for legislation. Thumping them with legislation which will, undoubtedly, eventually, probably sooner rather than later, be used against Catholics (and Orthodox and Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews) is deeply worrying. We would become a country like Vietnam, in which only an expurgated version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church could be published.

Constitutional reform is never off the British political agenda. I pray for the preservation of that delightful anomaly, the House of Lords. I can imagine a situation in which Their Lordships might be the only bulwark against such deeply anti-libertarian projects as those envisaged by May and Cameron. Politicians who are free to ignore party discipline and who never need to trim their actions in order to secure re-election are the best sort of safeguard against ideological tyranny driven by populist hysteria.


Another category of comment ... yet another ... which I have decided to exclude are those which make libelous comments about myself!

Someone has submitted ... three times! ... a claim that my ordination in the Catholic Church was delayed for sexual reasons.

I had hoped that I would never have to deal publicly with that episode, which is best left to moulder in the archives. But the facts are these.

A Catholic bishop, aware of my strong preference for the Extraordinary Form, deemed that I should be refused a 'positive votum' lest I should go around causing liturgical disorder and division.

This was subsequently sorted out on a personal basis. I came to appreciate the motives  ... and person! ... of the bishop concerned and, I think, he came to see me in a different light. He asked to perform the Ordination himself, and he leaned over backwards to behave with great graciousness. I am left with no hard feelings against this bishop. On the contrary, I esteem him very highly and acceded to his request that I remember him in my prayers.

The author of the comment seems to have a deep visceral detestation of the Ordinariates and of everybody and everything connected with them. If he is a Christian, I ask him in the name of Christ, and for his own good, his own happiness, to stop reading my blog.