29 December 2014

A Good Christmas for principled leadership

Our beloved Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has put out an absolutely superb, first-rate, nuclear-dimensions, demolition of the Kill-the-Wrinklies bill currently before their Lordships' House;

Our beloved Holy Father has spoken of "infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life";

and the Sovereign Pontiff has also, after mentioning the Jewish couple Simeon and Anna, spoken of Jesus as "salvation for every person and for every people", thus not excluding the Jewish people from the Salvation brought by and through and in the Jew Jesus Christ and Him alone (as so many anti-semites do).

Let's not go into the 'stands' being taken by the dreary has-beens of History, the Careys, the Tutus, the whatevers. This should be a day of celebration.

27 December 2014

Fr Valentine Young, Fr Charles Wesley, and Mgr Andrew Burnham

Mgr Andrew kindly sent me a link to Views from the Choir Loft, in which sixteen Christmas Carols are rendered into Latin by a Fr Valentine Young (except that, I rather suspect, Adeste fideles may originally have been composed in the Latin!). They provide a very festive seasonal treat, even if quite a number of them are unknown to me in the original English (are they American?).

On a serious note: they demonstrate that translations can never express the real sublimity, or even the full sense, of an original (I might conceivably allow John Mason Neale's versions to come closest to being an exception to that generalisation). An example:

One of the most nearly perfect hymns ever written in any language is the Reverend Charles 'Anglican Patrimony' Wesley's Hark how all the welkin rings, usually sung in the impoverished version Hark! the herald Angels sing*. I have particularly in mind the stanza in which Wesley puts into our melodious mouths the Mystery of the Incarnation, and does it
firstly in the Teutonic dialect we learned at our Mothers' knees
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
and then in Latin
Hail the incarnate Deity
and finally in Aramaic/Hebrew
Jesus our Emmanu-el here.
It is as if the Poet is excavating downwards through our own crude maternal patois, and then penetrating the Latin in which the Gospel was brought to our land, right back to the raw data of first-century Palestine.

Most importantly, this is superb as dogma; and it is breathtaking in the apparently effortless ease with which it draws these three linguistic and cultural traditions into a harmony of joyous proclamation. But, to us literary types, it is also a first rate example of the sort of verbal and interlingual tropes enjoyed so much by S Ambrose and his admirers, and then by the poets of the Carolingian Renaissance and their followers such as S Peter Damian. It is, quite simply, classical Western Christian hymnography at its finest.

But it is impossible, totally impossible, to render Wesley's sublime English into Latin. Fr Valentine gives us the bare bones very well with
Carne tamquam obsitus,
Homo ex Deo factus.
(although perhaps a really pedantic dogmatician might pause for just a tiny moment over the ex). But you can't drag more than about 15% of it, at the most, out of the fine English original into a Latin crib.

So try to imagine this scenario. Up comes some benighted, arrogant, ignoramus, fluent in Latin but ignorant of English. He, posturing fool, announces to us (via the Google Translation Facility) "I don't have to learn English in order to understand or appreciate Wesley's hymn. Latin translations are just as good as the English originals. Latin is just as good a language to address God in as English is. I've got Father Valentine's Latin translation. That's all I need".

Compelled by the truth to be brutal, we would simply have to say (again using the Translation Facility), "No, Sunshine, you jus' gotta learn English, otherwise you're deceiving yourself. Only the English original does the job. As we English love to put it, Traduttore traditore."
* Personally, I object to the ruin later meddlers, from Whitefield onwards, have made of this exquisite poiesis. "Rise the Woman's conquering Seed,/ Bruise in us the serpent's head" is a sad typological loss, and the echo of the Christmas antiphon O admirabile commercium, which Wesley worked into his last stanza, was clever; perhaps too clever, or, indeed, too Catholic/Orthodox in its assertion of Theosis, for some eyes.

22 December 2014

Christmas Address to the Curia

If somebody addressed a body to which I belonged,  just before Christmas, in that sort of way, with sixteen paragraphs of sustained and immoderate abuse, I think I would  ...

I think someone should have a word with him.

20 December 2014

Dear Old Mother Hilarious

A friend tells me that at the moment, the C of E, dear sweet old thing, is agonising over 'the Green Report'. It's a laugh a line. Don't miss it. It reads like a satirical spoof by Mgr R A Knox. Perhaps it is.

Another friend tells me of an Anglican Diocese which has invented an 'Archdeacon for Generous Giving'. In other words, the pew-fodder shell out for the stipend of an archdeacon whose job it then is to screw even more money out of them! (But 'Green' is going to cost £2,000,000.)

Turkeys not so much voting as paying for Christmas! Like buying tickets to gain admission to the abattoir!

Magnifique!! Trebles all round! Pass another mince pie!

2014/5, YEAR OF THE SYLLABUS: more guidance from Dr Jalland

Surely, even if the British Post Office does not do so, the Vatican Post Office will issue stamps commemorative of the Sesquicentenary of the Syllabus Errorum?

I wish to quote just once more from the distinguished Anglican scholar Dr Trevor Jalland in order to ease us a little forward in our study of that admirable document the Syllabus of Errors of B Pius IX, the sesquicentenary of which we joyfully celebrate this year of 2014/5 (see earlier post). The Anglican Tradition (now of course to be found safely incarnate and incardinate within the Roman Unity in the Ordinariates) can often be relied upon to give you a more balanced and nuanced judgement than ... er ... Well, anyway, here goes Jalland, again:
"The syllabus naturally evoked a great deal of interest, though in Catholic circles it was not unmixed with some measure of alarm. For the latter the form of the document was no doubt in some degree itself responsible. Dupanloup, who may be taken as representative of its more moderate critics, published a pamphlet on the encyclical as a whole, in which he called attention to the need of interpreting the language of the several views condemned in the light of their proper context ... the distinction made by Dupanloup in the course of his exposition between thesis and hypothesis, between the ideal and the actual, was later formally endorsed by Pius IX's successor Leo XIII. And even if it is true that Dupanloup was less concerned to say what the encyclical was than what it was not, it is at least noteworthy that Pius himself commended his work."

Jalland had begun his Bampton Lectures with Monsignor Felix Dupanloup, bishop of Orleans. "On the morning of Monday, July 18, 1870, as the early glow of dawn was slowly spreading across the sky of north Italy, an express train which had left Rome at half-past seven o'clock on the previous evening was clanking on its way across the plains of Lombardy". Yes; rather a novelistic style. I doubt whether any previous academic delivering the prestigious Bampton Lectures had  ever similarly begun. " ... Dupanloup ... felt in the pocket of his douillette and drew out his Breviary. His companion, Monsignor Louis Haynald, archbishop of the the metropolitan see of Kalocsa in Hungary ... who was occupying the opposite corner of the compartment, leaned forward ..." Yes, of course you want to know what happened next. You have every right to. This is Gripping Stuff. The lectures were published, in 1944, as The Church and the Papacy a historical study. I recommend it [Wikipaedia "Bampton Lectures" PDF under 1942, so I am told].

Dupanloup and Haynald were leaving the First Vatican Council early, before its final vote had taken place. They were among the leaders of the unsuccessful ('inopportunist') minority which had opposed the formal definition of Papal Infallibility and Primacy. As we edge forward in finessing our approach to the Syllabus, you need to know this; you need to have it clear in your mind that Dupanloup was not an Ultramontane; not someone who lived safely trapped in the pocket of Pio Nono's douillette. Certainly not another Manning or Ward.

By the way, do you know whom Dupanloup had wanted to take with him to the Council as his personal peritus? Have a guess .... .... .... yes! Yes! You will go far! You have sound instincts! An Englishman called Newman! Just imagine what Mr Archdeacon emeritus Manning would have had to say about that! How he would have pursed his thin lips every time he noticed Newman and Dupanloup and David Moriarty* with their heads together murmuring behind a pillar in S Peter's, or laughing in a trattoria! Ah, the might-have-beens of History! Clio, what a tease thou art!

After Christmass, we shall return, DV, to the admirable Dupanloup and his 'take' on the Syllabus. And then move on to Blessed John Henry. And conclude with some speculations about the light the writings of Dupanloup and Newman throw on the topical question of the appropriate nuancing, exegesis, and taxonomia of papal utterances in our own time. I bet you can't wait.

*A close friend of Newman's, Bishop of Kerry; another 'inopportunist', apparently one of only two Council Fathers who never quite found the time to get round to subscribing formally the decrees with regard to the Infallibility and Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. The exquisite (mini-Salisbury) Cathedral (with Close) which he helped to finish in Killarney ... with spectacularly Constabular views of it across the water meadows ... was grossly and disgracefully vandalised in the 1970s by a charismatic, up-to-date and progressive young bishop called Eamon Casey. Its architect was Pugin and J J McCarthy, a Kerryman, had done the interiors. I have myself spoken to venerable ladies who described the endless procession of builders' skips carting off the smashed marble and masonry and plaster, a memory still raw in their minds in the 1990s. And when a Kerrywoman has a raw memory ...


I have added an UPDATE to this post, because there seem to be some worriers. Don't worry. You are NOT obliged to abstain on December 26.

19 December 2014

That splendid Father Ray Blake ...

 ... has a charming little video on his admirable blog showing a lot of clips of Liturgy as it was before the Great [fill in here your own term of preference] of the 1960s. And it includes our wonderful  Anglican Patrimony!! And it involves my own last Anglican church, S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford!!! And it even hints at our magnificent Ordinariate!!!!

At about 3.44 you will find a shot of the Translation of our Lady of Walsingham, October 15, 1931. The rather Protestant Bishop Pollock of Norwich had sniffily asked Fr Hope Patten to remove the statue of OLW from the Parish Church; so Father built a beautiful Shrine Church at the other end of the village, including within it a reconstruction of the Holy House of Nazareth (which had been the focal point of the medieval pilgrimage to Walsingham). Accordingly, on October 15, after the Bishop emeritus of Accra had sung Pontifical High Mass in the Parish Church, our Blessed Lady was carried in solemn procession to her new Shrine while the bells both of the Church and of the Shrine (baptised with the oils on the previous Saturday by the Bishop) rang out her praises. "In the midst of this throng, high and lifted up upon the shoulders of four clergy in dalmatics, and under a blue and gold canopy fixed to the feretory, sat the venerated figure of our Lady, crowned with the silver Oxford Crown, and robed in a mantle of cloth of gold" (the Oxford Crown had been given by the congregation of one of the daughter churches of S Thomas's). That is the moment captured in the video.

The Holy House had ... has ... a Latin foundation stone dating itself by the pontificate of Pius XI and the episcopate of Bishop Pollock. When he heard about this, the Bishop objected to being thus associated with the Bishop of Rome, so Fr Hope Patten duly obscured ... the name of the bishop! But fear not: after Dr Pollock's death, his name re-emerged. When you go to look at it, don't forget to say a prayer for him; and for Fr Hope Patten and Fr Fynes Clinton, the Latinist who composed the inscription. They were both mighty priests in what one might call the Pre-History or the Proto-Evangelium of the Ordinariate.

As Fr Ray says ... Oh, such happy days! But, in the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham, Happy Days live again!!


Like all decent right-thinking people, I rejoice mightily at the idea of Catholics and Protestants celebrating together the centenaries of Martin Luther's Reformation in 2017 and the Convocation of the Council of Trent in 2045.

The joyous celebrations set in place by the Vatican to commemorate, this year, Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Errors, provide a very fine example of how the Reformation could and should be commemorated.


I find it hard to get out of my mind the possibility that the Taliban perpetrated their horrendous and cowardly massacre of schoolchildren as a response to the international parading around of a schoolgirl whom they had previously, criminally, shot for her advocacy of the education of girls (a cause which I strongly favour). It culminated a few days ago in the award to her of a 'Nobel Peace Prize'; the same vacuous but prestigious award which, I recollect, was given to Obama for being black. Not for the first time, I am left wondering how useful provocative gestures are, not least when those making them are not the ones who will probably have to pay the price.

17 December 2014

Midwives, Conscience, and Abortion in the British Supreme Court

" ' Participate' in my view means taking part in a 'hands on' capacity".
Thus the Court dismissed the appeal of two Catholic midwives who are not prepared, even in a solely administrative capacity, to organise and supervise abortions.

What a shame these judges were not around in time to defend that poor Adolf Eichmann when the Israelis so unfairly tried and hanged him for organising the transportation of Jews to the Death Camps. And they would have been really in their element during the Nuremburg trials, defending the bureaucrats who masterminded the war crimes.

But stay: it is not too late. If the International Criminal Court ever finds itself trying former tyrants who gave orders for genocide, these judicial jokers will be invaluable to the defence teams.

Memo to all those contemplating crimes against humanity: OK, dears, as long as you aren't HANDS ON.

OZ and pervert priests and Celibacy

It is a sound rule never to criticise the words of others unless one has read them carefully and in full. So I Fess Up now, and apologise in advance, if my admitted failure to do this has led to my being unfair in what follows.

Rumour has it, back here in far-away Blighty, that a report  generated somewhere within the Australian Catholic Church has raised a question about a possible relationship between the law of Celibacy, the style of Formation of the Catholic Clergy: and clerical sexual abuse of minors.

If such possibilities were to be explored further and in greater depth, I am in the happy position of being able to suggest a number of extremely helpful lines of enquiry.
(1) It seems to me, anecdotally and from my own experience in my four decades in the Anglican Priesthood, that there is quite a bit of sexual abuse in the Church of England (and that it is by no means confined to unmarried clergy). Australian investigators might like to begin their researches by reading the reports about the scandals and cover-ups in the diocese of Chichester, and those relating to the former Dean of Manchester. Much of this is available online. And the Church of England has not imposed celibacy for some 450 years, and trains its clergy in quite a different way from the Catholic Church. Just as medical researchers like to have 'control groups', so might those researching clerical sexual perversion.
(2) Over here, recently, the Scouts have been paying out big time for abuse by Scoutmasters. Indeed, since the 1920s, if not earlier, 'scoutmasters' have been a common source of vulgar jocosity with regard to paederasty. No law of celibacy there. The Scouts could provide another 'control group'.
(3) Our own much loved Beeb has recently had ginormously large problems in this area. Sir Jimmy Savilles appear, in the past at least, to have carpeted the studios wall to wall! Another culprit sentenced just yesterday. Not much evidence of a law of celibacy in Broadcasting House! A veritably magnificent potential 'control group'.
(4) Our late Holy Father Pope Benedict advanced the theory that the promotion by those teaching in seminaries, during and after the 1960s, of 'relativistic' theories regarding ethical issues, in which nothing is per se wrong, may have contributed to the problem of what, rather neatly, he called 'the filth'. This intellectual fashion cannot be the entire cause of sexual delinquency among Catholic Clergy down the ages; after all, for centuries, Roman Pontiffs were obliged to legislate against Sollicitatio (although that seems generally to have applied to delicts with adult women). But, I would have thought, the suggestion is well worth going into.
(5) Since the 1960s, there has been much talk about mercy, and forgiveness, and similar very splendid things. It has been an era in which we have been urged not to be too preoccupied with sin, particularly sexual sin. A Catholic priest with much professional competence in this area has explained to me that one psychological reason for the bitter hatred of the Extraordinary Form among senior clergy of a certain age has been that they associate it with a cruel, rigid, sin-obsessed sex-proccupied form of Catholicism upon which they look back with fear and detestation. So: 'merciful' bishops were disinclined to 'ruin' a priest for 'just one lapse', or even two or three. Or four. After all, as we have been informed over and over again, sexual sins are not the only sorts of sins; spiritual sins such as Pride, and sins against Social Justice, are far more displeasing in the sight of God than mere lapses from Chastity. Our Oz friends could look into the problem of 'liberal' bishops as well.
(6) My own, again anecdotal, experience has inclined me to think that 'charismatic' leaders, admired by the media and surrounded by adoring groupies, can be peculiarly vulnerable to sexual temptation. J F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and, within the Church, bishop Eamonn Casey ... and Fr Macial Maciel ... and Fr Lelio Cantini ... spring to mind; and one bishop of my acquaintance in the Church of England was another. He was held in such tremendously high regard, not least in the very highest reaches of the British Establishment, that after acknowledging his guilt, accepting a police warning, and resigning his diocese, he immediately started spreading it around that he was completely innocent, but had pleaded guilty to save the Church the embarrassment of a public trial. This claim was accepted by people unwilling to face up to the fact that they had been gullible dupes. So plausible was he that his one-time diocesan superior, when he came later to write his own autobiography, roundly asserted the total innocence of his fellow-bishop and put the entire episode down to a Wicked Plot. I think psychometric experts should examine with even more than their usual acuity candidates for ordination who are at the extreme 'extrovert' end of the spectrum. Oz could look into this side of things as well.
(7) I sometimes wonder if somebody should keep an eye on the troubling question of false or possibly false accusations, sometimes, conceivably, financially generated.
(8) A competent historian might be able to unearth interesting parallels between the present atmosphere, and the use, by the National Socialists, of sexual allegations in order to discredit the clergy and the Catholic Church.
(9) Finally, a somewhat dangerous suggestion. Some say that the pervert priest phenomenon sometimes relates to activity with teenage boys rather than with those properly called children, and in some such cases should be seen as a product of a homosexual orientation. This suggestion creates great outcries of "Homophobia!!". Ideological promoters of homosexualism as a political cause mercilessly persecute anybody guilty of such talk (which, indeed, certainly ought not to be spread thickly around with an indiscriminate brush of generalisation). But if, down in Oz, they really do want to get this business sussed, they should leave no stone unturned. Brave the inevitable huffing and puffing and examine this one too!

Perhaps readers will be able to add (10), (11), and (12)? I'm sure the Wise Men from the Oz could do with all the help they can get.
ADDENDUM I believe it is important not to use the existence of abuse in other groups as a justification for any toleration of abuse in the Church. The Church should not be just-a-little-bit-better than the BBC! My point, which I make three times, is that anybody who wants to do a scientific investigation about alleged links between Celibacy and Pedophilia should do what researchers in other disciplines do: use 'control groups' to discern whether there is a statistical correlation.

A logical question which would remain with regard to pedophile priests and celibacy is: were they perverts who sought the clerical state because of the obscene opportunities it provided; or did celibacy (as the Oz report is inclined to suggest) predispose them to an orientation which they did not have previously?

15 December 2014


(A slightly abbreviated reprint of a piece I published a year ago.)

Er ... yes ... sesqui ... well, according to my trusty Oxford Latin Dictionary sesqui is a conflation of sems, an earlier form of the word that became in Classical Latin semi(s), meaning half, and the enclitic (meaning you tack it on the end of the next word) -que, meaning and. So sesqui- is a prefix meaning "and a half". So


means 150 years on, a century and a half.

2014/2015 will be the Sesquicentenary of the Syllabus Errorum of B Pius IX.

 On December 8, 1864, B Pius IX issued his Encyclical Quanta cura; and, apparently at his direction, an (anonymous) collection of 80 theses, already condemned by Roman Pontiffs in earlier Magisterial interventions, was published simultaneously. In some circles "the Syllabus of Errors" is regarded as the quintessential epitome of reactionary ecclesiastical obscurantism; you have to say the very words in the same tones of hushed horror as "the Inquisition". But I am sure that a special Commission has been put together in Rome to organise this Year in which the Universal Church will be called upon to celebrate, to study, to reappropriate the teaching handed down on the instructions of Papa il Conte Mastai-Ferreti. This blog will, as ever, merely follow humbly the lead of the Magisterium, or, if that lead is a trifle late coming, will examine as best it can one or two hermeneutical questions arising from this laudable document.

I shall eventually come on to remarks upon the Syllabus from the pen of our own beloved Patrimonial Patron B John Henry Newman. But I would like to begin, again out of pietas, with a quotation from another, later, distinguished Anglican Patristic scholar, Dr Trevor Jalland, a predecessor of mine as pp of S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford (Ecclesia Sancti Thomae iuxta ferriviam, as the common folk call it). It was in his Bampton Lectures before this University in 1942 that Fr Jalland launched a public, academic, campaign of attrition designed to undermine the great edifice of anti-papal bigotry which lurked and still lurks today in the guts of so many million of our fellow-countrymen (good mixed metaphors, yes?). These are Jalland's words about the Syllabus:
" ...what many of its detractors failed to appreciate was that the real object of the Pope's attack was not freedom but licence, not reason but rationalism, not state sovereignty but secularism ... If the more determined critics of the nineteenth-century Papacy could have foreseen the present-day progress of secularism, they might have been more willing to recognise that the Syllabus, in spite of its evident limitations, had as its purpose that characteristic aim of Roman pronouncements, namely, the preservation of a via media amid the conflicting claims of modern society, between absolutism and anarchy, between theocracy  and atheism. Indeed, it is not difficult to find in this supposedly reactionary document a few at least of the principles on which a modern enlightened democratic regime is based."

I have no doubt that Dr Jalland is part of that great Anglican Patrimony which our Holy Father the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wished the Ordinariates to bring into the unity of the Church, for the benefit and enlightenment of the entire Church. Audite eum!

13 December 2014

Veritatis Splendor and the CIA

Veritatis splendor is, surely, the high point of the pontificate of S John Paul II 'the Great'. In it he did what Roman Pontiffs are paid to do: he refuted and condemned the errors of the age; he maintained the Great Paradosis; and he showed himself a remora against heterodoxy and heteropraxy and their corrupting innovations.

The principal error that he cast down was in the ethical field. Since the sixties, there have been proliferating and fashionable ethical theories which converge on the notion that there are no moral absolutes. Proportionalism ... Situation Ethics ... Consequentialism ... the Fundamental Option ... But the Holy Pontiff robustly asserted that there are actions "which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed 'intrinsically evil [intrinsice malum]'; they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances" (para 80). Adroitly, he went on to give a list of such acts taken from Gaudium et Spes (para 27). We have at work here, quite clearly and unambiguously, the infallible Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, of the Successor of S Peter and, cum Petro et sub Petro, of the Bishops of the Oikoumene.

This is, surely, where we orthodox Catholics stand. For example: Abortion is wrong, period. Even if the foetus is abnormal. Even if it is conceived as a result of rape, incest, or abuse, or there appears to be a need to act in order to save the life of another human being. Because it is never licit directly to intend to take an innocent human life. Nothing is left to be said. Diximus.

But Abortion is not the only sin listed in that passage of Gaudium et spes which Papa Wojtila made his own. 'Physical and mental torture' is there too. In the last few days, since that Senate Report about the CIA came out, I have witnessed a number of people being interviewed on the British media, who, while deeming Torture to be not normally right, have said that, if torturing a terrorist could prevent another Twin Towers atrocity in which thousands of people would be killed and even more left damaged in mind and body, Torture would be the lesser of the evils.

No. No End ever justifies an intrinsically evil Means. And some acts are intrinsically evil, no matter how much good may prudently be foreseen to be the future likely result of committing them. That is the Catholic Faith. And it applies to the deeds perpetrated in the extra-legal Black Prisons maintained by the CIA ... or by anybody else in the service of any other country ... as well as to the killings of the unborn in those dark Satanic Abortion Mills.

Deeds that are done in secret ...

11 December 2014

Papa Coggan?

At a time when B Paul VI was dying, in 1977, Archbishop Donald Coggan made an official visit to Rome. Coggan, it seems, was in an emotional state. He had recently been to Papua New Guinea, where hordes of Catholics had received Communion at his hands, and the local Catholic Bishop, in floods of tears, had embraced him afterwards and said "It will be even better next time you come".

So, preaching in Rome, Coggan called, in effect, for 'Intercommunion' now. He did so as a good, deeply sincere and well-meaning Christian, of very Protestant origins, who had moved a great distance from his background. He simply did not realise how his peremptory, even if praiseworthy, call would be received. Perhaps he thought that this was the moment to cut through Gordian knots; a moment of Grace when a heart-felt call could move a 400 year old log-jam. Perhaps he believed in a God of Surprises!

I thought of Coggan as I watched those clips of Pope Francis seeking a blessing from the Ecumenical Patriarch, 'both for himself and for the Church of Rome'. Here was another good, deeply sincere and well-meaning Christian who was trying to make a dynamic gesture for that most worthy of causes, the Unity of God's people. My assumption is that he meant his request as a captatio benevolentiae: behold, the Successor of S Peter bows himself down to receive the blessing of another ... does not the Letter to the Hebrews make clear that the lesser is blessed by the greater? Had not his chum and 'fellow-bishop' Justin Welby been dead chuffed when he had been asked to bless the Bishop of Rome?

I do not think that this move had been checked out with His All-Holiness beforehand; the Patriarch's action of smiling and kissing the Pope's skull cap looked for all the world like the kindly, indulgent gesture of a wise parent whose impetuously unrealistic child had suddenly asked for a space-rocket in which to go to Pluto and back before nursery school tomorrow morning.

Why is this a tricky area?

There are sections of Orthodoxy which do not approve of gestural politics implying that Jorge Bergoglio is, for Orthodox, the canonical Bishop of Rome. Holding to their belief that Orthodoxy is the One (and only) Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, they neither understand nor sympathise with the whole ecumenical project. Some of them baptise converts from the Latin Church and even do this to former non-Orthodox who have already been received into another Orthodox jurisdiction by the sphragis. I wonder if the Experts of the Pontifical Council are keeping the Pope briefed on the progress of the petition which is at this moment collecting signatures from Greek clergy and academics who violently disagree with what did go on last month in the Phanar ... a document which has already secured the signatures of several metropolitans of the Church of Greece, and which raises the question of removing the name of Patriarch Bartholomew from the diptychs. Since a number of Greek bishoprics are still under the Patriarch and are not technically part of the Autocephalous Church of Greece, this could even involve contentious feelings among Orthodox Christians within Greece. One of these bishoprics is that of the Holy Mountain.

So, officially blessing the 'Church of Rome' (whether that means the Diocese of Rome or, by synecdoche, the whole 'Papic Church', is not very important) is an act about which any Ecumenical Patriarch might well wish to think extremely carefully. Francis probably intended his request to be seen as yet another example of his far-famed 'humility' without realising that there are Orthodox who would understand it as an aggressive and cunning plot to secure validation for the hairesis papike.

If the Holy Father did this without seeking professional advice from his ecumenical advisers in the PCCU, then I think that there ought to be someone in Rome with the guts to explain quietly to him, man to man, a few of the ecumenical complexities. Folks report that nobody says or does much in Rome these days because, if they are deemed to have put a foot wrong, they might find themselves in uncomfortable disfavour. When a game of musical chairs is going on among the Heads of Dicasteries, this may be an even more nervous time than usual. Fair enough. But is there nobody, apart from Burke, big enough to put the interests of the Church before their curial careers by making an individual approach to the Holy Father?

If, on the other hand, the Sovereign Pontiff had taken advice, and been given the OK, then I think some more curial heads, this time in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, ought to roll.

10 December 2014

End of Marbles (4)

There is one, just one, rather interesting argument for the 'uniqueness' of the Acropolis Marbles which rises above the banal and the pathetic. At the risk of being accused of deftly constructing my own Aunt Sally so that I can triumphantly knock Her down, I will attempt a summary of what I understand the thesis to be.

"The art and architecture of Periclean Athens constitute precisely the triumphant and uniquely significant moment of the Classical Period in Greek Art. It soared above the rather wooden Archaic Period which preceded it. It was at its height until the brutally militaristic Macedonian Ascendancy destroyed Athenian democracy and independence. What followed it was simply 'Hellenistic decadence'".

The subjectivism of this attitude is, I would have thought, fairly obvious. Who says that any one Art History 'period' is superior (which is what 'classical' really means) to any other? Personally, I prefer the 'Hellenistic' period (Alexander the Great onwards), both in terms of Art (Pythocritos of Lindos) and Literature (Callimachus); and the continuities which link it to Roman Art and Literature. I am absolutely fascinated by the wonders emerging at this very moment from the soil of Macedonia; and I am still reeling from the enormous loan exhibition of 'new' Hellenistic art and artefacts from Macedonia which the Greek Ministry of Antiquities, with such immensely gracious generosity, sent to the Ashmolean two or three years ago. It is in Royal Macedon that great Palaces were designed and built which were imitated in the palaces of Rome and the Bay of Naples (and in Herod's seaside palace in Palestine, and in the palace of another client king at Fishbourne in Sussex).

Other Greek cities, besides Athens, were great political and cultural centres. Miletus had some 90 colonies ... far more than Athens. It was the birthplace of the Greek philosophical (which is to be taken to include what we would call Scientific) tradition called the 'Milesian School'. It is where Greek 'Town planning' was invented. It was a great city in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods; the birthplace, indeed, of the architect of Hagia Sophia (surely a much more significant architectural expression of the Hellenic spirit than the Parthenon?). It possessed a very remarkable structure of its own called the 'Market Gate' ... which was dismantled in toto and re-erected in a museum in Berlin. Why don't the Clooneys go and sit on Mrs Merkel's doorstep and demand its 'return'? What's that you say? ... that the site of Miletus is in modern-day Turkey? Well, of course it is. Everybody knows that. 'Hellas' was a very much bigger thing than the limits of the modern Greek Nation State. So what?

Let me explain where the myth of the uniqueness, and the effortless superiority, of Periclean Athens come from. Victorian Schoolmasters. British Imperialism, at its apogee, identified itself with Periclean Athens. Boys were set to read its texts ... Thucydides and Aeschylus and Sophocles and Aristophanes ... and to write prose and verse in Attic Greek of the 'Classical Period' ... you get the idea. That was the moment in Greek History which seemed so uniquely parallel to the grandeur of the high noon of the British Empire. Schoolboys were invited to absorb the moral Virtues held to be embedded in 'Classical Greek Civilisation'. They hurried from reading Xenophon to winning battles on the playing fields of Eton. Play up! Play up! And play the Game!

Just as ... I explained this in the previous part of this series ... I do not see why Greeks need to form their identity in the matrix of the Western European 'Enlightenment', I also fail to understand why some of them seem so helplessly entranced by the arrogant ideology of British Imperialism and bewitched by the fagging-and-flogging culture of the Arnoldian Public School. The World would respect them so much more if, culturally, they would just stand on their own two feet. In conclusion, let me remind you what those Two Feet are.

I hope that the recovery, in our own day, of an understanding of the marvels of the Royal Establishment in Macedonia, will stir up among Greeks proud and confident memories of when Macedon conquered the World ... well, as far as India, anyway ... and planted its culture in the Alexandrias and the Antiochs and Seleucias which crowd all over the maps of the Middle East; and then, intellectually and artistically, took Rome captive. It should remind the Athenians that 'Greece' is not synonymous with 'Athens' ... a very necessary lesson. And I pray for a realisation by its true heirs of how this scintillating civilisation formed a marriage with Byzantine Christianity, resulting in one of the most amazing syntheses the world has ever seen.

Callimachus and the Akathist Hymn! Both infinitely beyond the capacities of any lesser nation!

A henotikon: the BM could loan Athens half a dozen pieces at a time in rotating exhibitions, changing every 5/10 years or so. This would mean that, if Athens decided to break its word and not send one lot back, then, true, London would have lost six pieces, but it would know better than to send any more pieces across. And where London has tiny fragments 'belonging' to a large fragment held in Athens, perhaps they could be sent on semi-permanent loan (and ditto, mutatis mutandis, the other way round). And both the Athens museum, and the Acropolis, should be open to all, free of charge.

Then we could see how the arrangement developed ...

9 December 2014

Marbles (3)

This series continues.
There are detailed reasons why the return of the Marbles to Athens would be pointless. Some people, for example, are under the impression that the metopes would be replaced upon the Parthenon, thus giving back its artistic integrity to an important building. But they would not. The Greeks plan simply to put them into a museum ... with a distant view of the Acropolis!! ... thus shifting them from one museum to another and leaving the gaps on the Temple itself still completely empty! And there is no reason why a Principle of Return should not apply to the contents of all the great museums of the West ... to the Venus de Milo in Paris, or the very classy exhibits secured by the Getty dollars. True, the Greek Government has given assurances that it would urge no such precedent. For myself, I do believe those who, in this generation, are giving these assurances. But such undertakings, hardly enforceable in, say, two hundred years' time, surely rest upon the pragmatic realisation that it is not a good idea to fight on too many fronts at the same time; and upon a policy of maximising international sympathy for their campaign against the Brits ... after all, who doesn't enjoy seeing the Brits getting a bit of grief? Certainly not FIFA ... but I digress ...

The widespread notion that the Marbles are somehow unique is based principally upon modern concepts of the Nation State. It implies that because Athens is the Capital of the modern Greek Nation State, therefore the Acropolis is the very heart of the identity of what it means to be Hellenic. But, far from being ancient, this idea is recent ... in fact, nineteenth century. Ancient Greece was not a Nation State. And Athens was not its capital. Athens was just one city-state among very many others (the Romans didn't even make it the capital of their province of Achaea, and Constantine set his new capital somewhere else). There was a time when Athens had a short-lived 'Empire', but that was a dominion ruthlessly exercised over a number of city-states who certainly did not all gaze with sentiment at the Acropolis Hill as the centre of their own self-identification. And other states in Greece waged long and bloody wars against Athenian aggression until that imperial arrogance itself died a sordid death in the quarries of Syracuse. If these marbles did not come from a temple in the middle of the modern Greek capital but, for example, from somewhere in a Peloponesian back-of-beyond, how keen would the government be for their return? Why don't they evince any wish to get the very fine Aphaia Marbles back to Aegina from the Glyptothek in Munich? Why so little interest in the Marbles from Bassai?* (Where on earth's that? Ask George Clooney. He's the expert on all this sort of thing.)

I cannot believe that I am the only philhellene to want the Marbles to stay exactly where they are. In their magnificent home in London, they are a superb shrine and monument to the most refined tastes of the French and British and Russian 'Enlightenment', and accessible free of charge to millions from all over the world. The Acropolis Hill in Athens, white, bloodless, and ghost-like, not to mention the shiny new museum some distance away, is now of very little cultural significance. After all, the original appearance of the Parthenon would have been dramatically polychromatic ... the passion for white stone is characteristic of 'Enlightenment' aesthetics (and a taste not even shared by some of the best informed 'Enlightenment' scholars). If the Greek Government badly needs a new, tasty exhibit to get its turnstiles clicking and to distract its suffering people from their financial woes, George Clooney and his current wife (I do hope they are both still together as I write this), both stuffed, mounted, and bleached ... then slightly foxed and with the sticking-out bits distressed to make them resemble Periclean statuary ... would be very suitable. And truly unique. What a tourist attraction!!
To be concluded.
*The German nobleman who packaged up Aphaia and Bassai in 1811 had to pay a (rather small)  bribe to the local Turkish Governor to get them out of the country. Surely that ought to make their removal even more 'illegal' than Lord Elgin's activities are alleged to have been?

6 December 2014

Liturgical Continuity

A number of comments on a previous thread (November 27) have raised interesting questions about the differing degrees of innovation in the liturgical actions of different Pontiffs. I reprint below a couple of old posts of mine (with original threads) which point out that:
(1) It was printing that enabled innovators to impose radical innovations overnight (e.g. Cranmer, Whitsunday, 1549).
(2) S Pius V was not a centraliser imposing uniformity, but a conservative repressing innovation.
(3) The actions of S Pius V, then Urban VIII, then S Pius X, then B Paul VI, show popes gradually becoming bolder in imposing novelties to be accepted and implemented "with immediate effect".

S Pius V (originally posted February 2014)

There are two pervasive myths about S Pius V's liturgical interventions which will doubtless go on being purveyed until the Eschaton.
(1) That he suppressed the local rites of the Middle Ages, only permitting the survival of those which had existed for more than 200 years. He was a centraliser and a standardiser.
(2) That his actions, following on from Trent, are closely analogous to, and provide a close precedent for, what Paul VI did after Vatican II.
Each of these myths is a travesty of history. Each results from a reading of History with the hindsight of knowing What Happened Afterwards, instead of trying to understand events in their own historical contexts. Since devils reside in details, and since I have written before about what he did with his Missal, I shall focus today on what he did to the Breviary.

The papal document Quod a nobis, which introduces the 'Tridentine Breviary', repays careful reading. The Divine Office put in place by Gelasius and Gregory and reformed by Gregory VII had, S Pius tells us, diverged ab antiqua constitutione. So the pope wishes it to be recalled ad pristinam orandi regulam. Some people had deformed this praeclara constitutio by mutilations and changes; an awful lot of people (plurimi) had been seduced (allecti) by the brevity of a Breviary produced by the Spanish Cardinal Quignon. Even worse, in provincias paulatim irrepserat prava illa consuetudo ["that depraved custom"], namely, that bishops in churches which, from the beginning, had used the Roman Office, were producing privatum sibi quisquam Breviarium.

What S Pius V is dealing with here is the chaotic liturgical result of a century of printing. It may be difficult for us to appropriate imaginatively the differences that this invention made. Only in the age of this new technology could trendy clergy buy and use in vast numbers the new slick and fast Quignon Breviary; only now could meddling bishops, full of Good Ideas, thrust their latest clever novelties with ease upon their helpless dioceses. The words of S Pius seem almost to describe the chaos which was to follow under Pius XII and his successors: "Hence the total disruption of divine worship in so many places; hence a complete ignorance among the clergy of ecclesiastical rites and ceremonies; so that numberless ministers of the churches carry out their duty unbecomingly, not without enormous offence to the devout".

S Pius was reacting to to this technology-driven chaos by a reinstatement of Tradition; by the elimination of novelty and by a return to what had been received. Hence, he provided a form of the Roman Breviary carefully emended by the best scholarship available to him. It was, of course, a paradox that his reform was itself carried through by the use of the same technology which had created the problem!! But that paradox does nothing to change the fact that his action was an assertion of Tradition, a repression of innovation.

S Pius V's reform was thus an act of deliberate and profound conservatism. This is shown by his treatment of local usages which dated from well before the invention of printing. As for uses which were of more than two centuries standing: "that ancient right of saying and singing their office, we do not take away". Recognising, however, that many who possessed such ancient usages might nevertheless themselves prefer the revision which he is now promulgating, he permits them to adopt it, but only if the Bishop and the entire chapter agree. Entire!! Come-lately diocesans were thereby restrained, according to the words of this legislation, from abolishing the ancient uses of their churches; apparently, it needed only one curmudgeonly traditionalist on the Chapter to interpose his veto and thus to preserve the local customs. This seems to me a fairly rigorous affirmation of the the traditional diversities with which a process of organically evolving liturgy had endowed local churches, combined with a determination to eliminate novel fancies which had corrupted liturgy since printing made it easy for hierarchs to impose their whimsies. I wonder what he might have said could he have known that, four hundred years later, his own successors would be using printing to impose their whimsies!

S Pius V's reforms, as I have said, are commonly described as symptoms of counter-reformation centralisation and as an attempt rigorously to standardise the worship of the Latin Church. I think this profoundly and anachronistically misreads both the liturgical situation which he is addressing; and the legal framework which he carefully puts in place. Previous popes had fairly recently flirted with the idea of radical revisions of the Breviary, intending thus to bring it into line with the ('Humanist') fashions of their age. But in S Pius V, a truly great pontiff, we see at its very best the ancient function of the Roman Church as a remora against innovation; as well as an assertion of the principle that the Tradition is not ours to destroy, but to hand on carefully with - as Vatican II actually says - only such changes as grow organically out of what is already there, and are truly necessary. (Among later pontiffs, perhaps Benedict XIV came closest to the instincts of S Pius V.)

If S Pius V had been a B Paul VI, he would have confirmed and extended the papal permission for the use of the Quignon breviary; he would have encouraged diocesan bishops to forge ahead with their own 'inculturations'. He did nothing of the sort; he did the opposite. Perhaps the only faint resemblance to the events of the 1960s is S Pius's somewhat root-and-branch approach to a Calendar which had become overloaded (calendars constantly silt up and then need to be dredged; it's a natural cycle like the successions of ice ages and interglacials)*. But that had the result of revealing old Roman treasures which an excessive Sanctorale had left unchanged in the physical texts while the newer insertions had been preventing their actual use. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was those archaic features themselves that fell victim to an elite in a hurry (during this Advent season, we might particularly remember the demise of the old Excita Sunday collects).

You are entitled to think what you like about the events of the 1960s. I have no power to pop you into my own personal private prison! But please do not go around saying that what B Paul VI did after Vatican II was indistinguishable from S Pius V had done after Trent.

It. Was. Nothing. Of. The. Sort!!
*The elimination as 'non-Biblical' of S Anne and the Presentation of our Lady was very swiftly reversed by a succeeding pontiff.
     Attempts to assert a parallel between S Pius V and Paul VI also involve a massive suggestio falsi: that S Pius's 'revision' was as radical, and with as little rootedness in what had gone before, as B Paul's.

5 December 2014

Blair days: Roads and Marbles (1)

I have not been an admirer of Tony Blair since he took to dragging us into American wars in the Middle East. But I certainly was in 1997, when, immediately after his election, he declared that
(1) a road, planned to be built through an extraordinarily beautiful piece of the South Downs, cutting off Lancing College from the outlying parts of its estate, would not now be built; and
(2) the so-called 'Elgin Marbles' would not be 'given back' to Greece.

Gracious me, I thought, this is the Prime Minister for me!!

(1) Now, that dreadful Mr Clegg, the one who boasted about having committed fornication with 'about thirty' women, has announced the resurrection of the scheme.
     (a) Such proposals cost a great deal for protesters, NIMBYs if you like, to resist. It seems most unfair that when plans are rejected, they should then be brought back, to be fought over again, only 17 years later.
     (b) When such plans are rejected, they keep reappearing ... until eventually they get through. But once the road is built, you won't find then that there is a Planning Enquiry every 17 years about whether to retain the road or to dig it up and restore the site to the status quo antea. Deficit of equity? It amounts to "Heads I win; Tails I'll try again in a decade's time; and once I win, it will be for good". In a rather graver area: we had all that in the Church of England in the repeated votes about the Ordination of Women; which (of course) kept coming back onto the table for yet another vote ... until the Right Answer was secured.

(2) Marbles: this subject is in my mind because the Clooneys have been retained by the Greek Government for a New Push to get the Marbles 'back'.UPDATE: I wrote this post, and numbers (2) and (3) in this series, on December 1. I had ABSOLUTELY no idea that, this morning, it would be announced that one of the Elgin Marbles is being lent to the Hermitage in S Petersburg as part of its 250 year Anniversary, which it is celebrating with an Exhibition on the artistic aspects of the Enlightenment. That is exactly what I have written about in my Part (2).

The Hermitage is a remarkably generous Museum which, in the past, has sent some superb loan exhibitions to London. I thoroughly applaud this gesture by the BM towards the Hermitage and the people of Russia ... not least, at this time of international ill-will and Russophobia. No 'sanctions', happily, in this sphere!

More on this later.

4 December 2014

I shall be in town ...

This coming Saturday, December 6, S Nicolas' Day, I shall, DV, be at the Brompton Oratory (a CIEL one-day conference). Sung Mass in the Little Oratory at 11.00; I shall read a paper at 2.30; and the august President of FIUV, Colonel Jamie Bogle, will read a paper after mine. Benediction afterwards; and chat.

It would be jolly to meet friends, both those I've met face-to-face already, and those I haven't.

Ratzinger on Marriage

Benedict XVI, as we all know, has revised for republication an earlier piece on the Admission of Remarried Divorcees to Holy Communion. Both his old and his new texts are at Chiesa.

Brief points: (1) I sense that the Pope Emeritus is rather attracted by the idea that the Matthaean Exception (porneia) is an addition to the authentic words of Jesus which are to be found in S Mark. This whole question is rather amusing. Liberal 'Biblical Criticism' tends to believe in the Priority of Mark ... and thus to favour his record of the verba Domini ... except in this one matter, where they inconsistently clutch at the Matthaean Exception because its content happens to suit them. Traditional Catholics tend to dislike this sort of way of handling Scripture, and accordingly feel obliged to accept the Matthaean Exception ... and are then lumbered with the problem of finding an explanation of it. (The solution propounded by Fr Mankowski in Remaining in the Truth of Christ is attractive and well-argued, but, frankly, is one theory among many.) Benedict XVI ... like Aslan ... is not predictable!
(2) Benedict XVI gives an account of the evolution of the 1983 CIC of which I, for one, was unaware.
(3) He also seems open to development in the matter of 'baptized Pagans', about whom he writes with great pastoral compassion.

Points of my own:
(4) Some 'previous unions' may not have been sacramental unions if the baptism of one of the partners was performed by a minister of a non-Catholic ecclesial community who failed validly to confer that Sacrament. A possible area here, surely, for the exercise of the 'Petrine Privilege'? This situation is commoner than is often assumed by all the 'ecumenical' rhetoric about 'united by Baptism'.
(5) A wild and irresponsible speculation: if a 'first marriage' was disastrous and brief, while a 'second' has lasted a long time and been in every way apparently fruitful, might that fact be empirical and strictly supplementary evidence as to which 'marriage', being valid, was a source of Grace?
(6) Current praxis maintains the validity of a first union until its invalidity is juridically demonstrated. Might we be moving into a social order in which it will  sometimes quite simply be a matter of complete uncertainty whether or not a particular union was valid? Suppose, for example, the validity of this marriage, which is now under investigation, depends upon the invalidity of another wedding 30 years ago ... and, upon examination, that union depends for its invalidity upon another marriage 30 years before that having been valid? How will the Church judge these matters when Western Society has lived for two ... then three ... four ... generations of endemic Divorce, and those whose evidence would be necessary for a tribunal to adjudicate, are long-since dead?

There is no doubt that we are living in a world in which mores and their presuppositions have changed so very radically that the safe assumptions of half a century ago no longer apply. I am not sure that we are still in a position of being able merely to apply inherited rule-of-thumb.

For a variety of reasons, I have after some thought resolved not to enable comments on this post. I take this opportunity of apologising for my discourtesy to those who took the time to write to me, by not having made this decision earlier. 

2 December 2014

catholiclectionary.blogspot ...

... is a blog which provides masses of useful precise information about the Prayers as well as the readings of the OF. Most recently, the Postcommunions. So if you wanted to do a survey of what percentage of the OF postcommunions survived from S Pius V's book; what percentage come from the ancient Roman Sacramentaries but not from S Pius V; how many have ancient origins but have been corrected (and with what motives); what might have been the motives for dumping the prayers provided by S Pius V; and which are brilliant compositions de novo by the wonderboys of the 1960s ... this is where to go for your raw materials.

Why not go for it? It would be very jolly to have the evidence wherewith to answer the following question
"Would the body of postcommunion collects in the Novus Ordo support a claim that the revisers followed the prescription of Sacrosanctum Concilium that there must be no innovations unless the good of the church genuinely and certainly requires them?"

Good News about the Holy Spirit

Two Catholic Bishops have declared that those within their jurisdictions who approach clergy of the SSPX and ask for the Sacraments, excommunicate themselves. But the Society has not withdrawn from its dialogue with the Vatican.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate have been subjected to an onslaught of relentless malevolence. But there have been no signs among them of a schismatic spirit.

A Cardinal publicly advanced proposals with regard to Adultery and the reception of the Sacrament of the Altar, and claimed the agreement of the Roman Pontiff himself. But other Cardinals fearlessly published a defence of the Church's doctrine and discipline.

An Episcopal Synod was the setting for the publication of an improper document, and for an attempt to prevent Christ's People from knowing what their Bishops were doing and saying. But Cardinals and Bishops, publicly and in the sight of the Roman Pontiff, refused these provocations.

Northern European prelates aggressively advocate an accommodation with the errors of the Zeitgeist. But the African churches proclaim the Gospel.

The ecclesial scene seems to some to be dark and joyless and fearful. It is said that the stench of the smoke of Satan is in the Temple itself, and there are rumours that the Evil One is more actively abroad. But, despite the worst that he can do, there is indisputable evidence, daily, of the light and strengthening of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

Accende lumen sensibus,                   [Our senses with thy light inflame,
infunde amorem cordibus,                  our hearts to heavenly love reclaim;
infirma nostri corporis                       our bodies' poor infirmity
virtute firmans perpeti.                       with strength perpetual fortify.

Hostem repellas longius                    Our mortal foe afar repel,
pacemque dones protinus,                 grant us henceforth in peace to dwell;
ductore sic te praevio                        and so to us, with thee for guide,
vitemus omne noxium.                      no ill shall come, no harm betide.]

Those of us in sacerdotal Orders remember the singing of this hymn at our Ordinations. We know that, through the years or decades since that day, the Spirit ... fons vivus, ignis, caritas, et spiritalis unctio ... has never denied us the virtus we have needed, when we have needed it. Nor does he now. Thanks be to God.