31 December 2015

"None of their business"?

I am indebted to David Schutz for an article in an American magazine, apparently Jewish, called Tabletmag. The author is a Rabbi David Berger, who teaches in a Graduate School of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. It is highly intelligent, and an intelligent person will enjoy finding thought-provoking things in it with which creatively to disagree or even agree. (Notebook: Vatican II at 50: Assessing the impact of 'Nostra aetate' on Jewish Christian relations. December 15, 2015.)

Berger deprecates "the inappropriate dictation to others of what their own religion must teach", and goes on: " ... Jews active in interfaith affairs have not infrequently denounced the Christian belief that the entire world will recognise Jesus as the divine Messiah at the end of days. This, in my view, is none of our business, especially in light of the corresponding Jewish belief strikingly expressed in the High Holiday liturgy and the Aleinu prayer". (That particular "Christian belief" is of course precisely what S Paul teaches in Romans 11:25-26, and what Pope Benedict in 2008 took as the theme of his newly-composed Good Friday Prayer. Rabbi Jacob Neusner made a very similar point to Berger's some years ago in one of his own elegant defences of Joseph Ratzinger.)

He also reminds us that Maimonides, cited sometimes 'ecumenically' as a witness to a positive Jewish attitude towards the existence of Christianity, only saw it in a positive light as one step in the direction of the conversion of the whole world to Judaism, after which Christianity would be destroyed.

And, if I understand aright one of his faintly elliptic remarks, he delicately suggests that Christians who are anxious to describe Judaism as possessing a still salvific Covenant may accidentally be saying something rather embarrassing about the large numbers of Jews who do not live according to the Torah which expresses that Covenant (cfr. Ed Sanders' Covenantal Nomism). Had that thought occurred to you?

Berger thinks outside very many boxes!

As far as I can make out, none of the German or English bishops appears to have been in touch with Berger to explain to him how upset and confused he is by the Latin Prayer for the Jews used on Good Friday in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

30 December 2015

Vulnerable architecture

My recent use of the name Armitage Shanks inspired memories in a coeval friend ... I had intended the name simply to revive recollections of when Shanks was a mere archdeacon, and his doings were chronicled monthly in New Directions by the Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk, Vicar of S Stephen's Lewisham, and now an Ordinariate Blogger (I hope you read him daily). But my aged friend's memories took him back to ancient and dimly remembered Urinals. And their vulnerability. He mentioned Thomas Crapper (poson O poson to kleos); and the Joseph Pontifex whose oeuvre could be found in Pusey House in Oxford.

He's dead right. When I first taught at Lancing, the urinals were still called 'The Groves', because it was in groves, in the College's earlier and primitive days, that such functions were ... er ... discharged. The groves behind Field's House were built in the indigenous vernacular architecture of the Sussex chalk downlands: worked masonry framing knapped flint. The building was so superbly done that there was not a millimetre between the beautifully knapped and fitted flints. Sir John Betjeman, on one of his visits, referred to it [fact!] as the finest Gothic Revival Urinal in England. It may well have been. In fact, far too fine a building, in the minds of provosts and bursars, for its designated functions. Naturally, it is now a Pottery. As we finally close down our last coal-mines and steel-refineries, there is very little now left of England that is not either a pottery or a craft-shoppe or a merchant bank.

Near enough actually to be seen from that despoiled urinary masterpiece there is another similar tragedy of 'reordering'. On the coastal plain below the great heaped Gothic mass of Lancing College on its hill-top lies Shoreham Airport, London's first international airport in the days when you took the train from Victoria and hopped off at the very edge of the Channel waves and got onto a plane which could, just about, get you across to the French coast. Here, in the 1930s, was built a fine Art Deco airport building ... which is still there. And, inside it, was a superb, pure, Art Deco loo (or bath room or rest room or WC or whatever ...). As you stood in your 'standing', a little below the level of your nose was a small cigarette-shaped ledge on which the sophisticated air-traveller could rest his cigarette so as to have both hands free for enabling his function. I am not a smoker ... but I surmise that this provision may also have been a safeguard against dangerous avalanches of glowing ash.

Now the whole dam' shootin'-match is no more. Eheu, you are so right to say, fugaces.

29 December 2015

Barchester (2)


I had forgotten that Barchester was now twinned with a liberal Episcopalian diocese, thereby providing the reason why Bishop Armitage Shanks was accompanied into the Cactus House by some very obviously American women clergy of an extreme type. But I had little time to think; Shanks homed in on me with a manifestly malevolent intent. "My dear John", he cried. "I was so sorry there was all that trouble about your ordination in the Roman Church, and so terribly glad that you eventually managed to get it sorted out. And all for no better reason than your praise of Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, and the Latin Mass! How incredibly unjust!". In plain English this translates as: "How amazingly amusing it was, after all those decades you spent agitating for union with Rome, that one or two members of the English Roman Catholic Church didn't want to be saddled with such a trouble-maker! What a laughing-stock they made of you! How we did all enjoy it!".

I dislike condescension; and my experience - I pass this tip on to juvenile readers for whom it might be useful - is that it is best dealt with by immediate verbal brutality. People who are accustomed to receiving deference and Yes Bishop or Yes Minister or Yes Headmaster have generally grown so unaccustomed to the rough and tumble of real life that it hits and hurts them all the more to get an occasional dose of it. "My dear Shanks," I said "I'm sure you're aware that I've never liked you. Would you like me to explain why? Shall we discuss what your nickname was at Staggers and how you acquired it?"

But, to do him justice, just for once my favourite tactic totally and dismally failed. The fixed and insincere smile on his beautifully groomed face never for one nannosecond faltered. He did his retaliation by addressing the clergywomen: "Sistren", he said, "these are a couple of loud-mouthed former Anglican clerical troublemakers whose crude and rampant misogyny and homophobia led them to become Roman Catholics. The shabbily dressed one with the badly tended beard is the worse ... he is even a pathological reader and admirer of ... Rat-zinger". A murmur of horror filled the Cactus House. I looked more closely at the ladies. Somehow ... you know the tricks memory plays upon one ... there came into my mind (I can't for the life of me place where from) ... some hexameters starting tristius haud illis monstrum nec saevior ulla / pestis .... Some of the clergypersons were wearing badges. One such badge showed the Obama in its Messianic pose; another had the inscription TRANSGOD YES CISGOD NO.  But one of them was wearing a much more interesting badge; "Gracious" I thought, "a fellow Classicist ... and a Patristics scholar ... and it's not often you meet a girl who keeps S Vincent's Commonitorium in her boudoir". It read "FOETICIDIUM SEMPER ET UBIQUE ET AB OMNIBUS".

Meanwhile, the Sisterhood had discovered that Jill was married to Colin, and were engaging polemically with her, urging upon her like Workshops and like Role Plays and like Group Massage Sessions to like sort of liberate her you know from like the Shackles of Patriarchy. Colin, feeling that he ought to protect his wife, was hobbling ineffectually about and bleating on the periphery of the melee ... dear friend that he is, I would have to admit that he is a trifle wet, even when not lamed. But he need not have troubled. After all, Jill did box for St Hugh's, and, I think, got her Blue in a year of particularly fierce competition. And she was the founding Chairman of the universally feared Oxford University Inter-Collegiate Women's Pancration Group (OUICWPG). Drawing herself up majestically, and enunciating clearly so that however dense their colonial patois they would at least assimilate the essential core of her message, she proclaimed "D*rty P*rv*rts".

"Oh dear", I thought. "I really had better dissociate myself from this. Not only is she jumping to totally unwarranted conclusions about the sexual orientation of these estimable ladies; she really has not understood the CDF documents, and the very definite utterances of the recent Magisterium - including the Catechism of the Catholic Church - about the total right of homosexual persons to full and unambiguous human respect, both from Society and from individuals, in thought, word, deed and omission. Such a clever girl ... after all, her doctorate on the Collyridians was supervised by dear Rowan himself before he changed his mind on the 'ordination' of women ... but very seriously off-message as regards correct Modern Catholic Attitudes. It will be terrible if the Tablet hears about all this. But who am I to judge?"

So, stepping carefully over Fr Colin's prostrate form, I motored off at a rate of knots towards the quieter if damp joys of the Tropical Rain Forest ... just as the less immovable of the cacti began to hurtle through the air. As the door closed behind me, a prolonged scream suggested that Bishop Shanks himself was undergoing a novel vegetable experience from which a full recovery might prove improbable. Girls will be girls!

A full account of the free-for-all that followed and the latest up-to-the-minute bulletin on Bishop Shanks' deteriorating condition can be read in The Barchester Chronicle incorporating the Hogglestock Times and Silverbridge Morning Examiner.

28 December 2015

A penitential day?

Those of you who, very sensibly, keep at least one eye on the illuminating St Lawrence Press ORDO will know that, before the liturgical tinkerings initiated by Pius XII, today, Holy Innocents' Day, the Mass was penitential: Violet colour; no Gloria; no Alleluia; Benedicamus Domino.

How very, totally, immensely, completely, indisputably, brilliantly suitable for a Day which has justly come to be an occasion of penance for our present politically-correct and on-going daily Holocaust, that of the pre-born. I wonder how many have already been finished off this morning in Oxford.

This sick age of ours craves Moral High Ground; so people luxuriate in the easy and cost-free deploring of a previous Holocaust; daft youths endlessly prose on about the rights of sodomites and eunuchs and demonstrate for the demolition of statues of people they hadn't heard of until yesterday. And, in an even greater access of diseased bloodthirstiness, they are programmed to shriek for the 'no-platforming' of anyone who does not chant their own slick up-to-the-minute Horst Wessel Song, "A Woman's Right to Choose".

Perhaps Ecclesia Dei, when it has finished obeying Cardinal Marx's lordly and arrogant demand to 'review' a Good Friday Prayer, could move on to 'reviewing' the liturgical arrangements for December 28.

27 December 2015

Some jolly hymns

Leo XIII deserves to be better known. And he deserves to be better known for his hymns. He wrote two of those which we use on the feast of the Holy Family, which some of you may be observing today ... and the rest of you in a fortnight's time.

Dulce fit nobis is a cut-down version of his Sacra iam splendent. Leo wrote it in the Sapphic Metre, which was either invented or brought into prominence by Sappho, a poetess of the Greek island of Lesbos around 600ish BC, and made popular in Latin by Catullus and Horace; a metre which has always been popular among schoolboys because it is one of the easier metres in which to write Latin verse. Perhaps that is why it became a popular metre in the Carolingian period; but Leo was too good a Latinist to have chosen it from such a base motive. [Incidentally, you can always recognise this metre  it because it is the metre where the fourth line is shorter than the first three, and goes Tumtitty Tumtum; e.g. English Hymnal 335 Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants, which was used (and probably written) to cover the silent repetition by the Anglican Catholic clergy of the Unde et memores etc. of the Canon Romanus, the oblatory language of which it echoes.]

Back to Leo and his Holy Family hymn. He bequeathed three problems to the post-Vatican II revisers.
(1) Horror of horrors, the hymn was ten (10!!) stanzas long. Far too long for modern clergy.
(2) The first stanza contains a lovely picture of a Catholic (or Orthodox) church at festival time; lights burning; altars wreathed; clouds of incense. That had to go for obvious reasons.
Sacra iam splendent decorata lychnis
Templa, iam sertis redimitur ara,
Et pio fumant redolentque acerrae
Thuris honore. 
(3) "fessis". Disgusting? You may wonder what is problematic about that word.

Leo wrote that Mary, a good Mother and a good spouse, gave a helping hand to both Son and husband,
.................. felix
si potest curas relevare fessis
       munere amico.
[ ................. happy
if she can lighten, with a friendly duty,
      cares for the weary.]
But, apparently, 'fessis' suggests to the Francophone ear not 'weary' but 'buttocks'. So Dom Anselmo Lentini changed it to the problem-free word 'lassis', thus spoiling the alliterative "felix ... fessis" but sparing the blushes of that notoriously bashful constituency, the French clergy. (I will award this Blog's Order of Chastity, Fourth Class, which authorises you to have a pink pompom on your biretta, to any reader who can demonstrate that there is another language in which 'lassis' is even more indelicate than 'fessis' is in French.)

Leo was a fluent French speaker. Yet, as a cultivated Latinist, he wrote "fessis" without a moment's anxiety. What sort of cultural shift has landed us with an 'emancipated' society in which the word is too sniggerworthy to be printable?

26 December 2015

Barchester Diary

Last year, I printed the first half of this piece, as below, but never got round to getting the second half out of storage. I plan to unveil it in two days' time.


 "Be careful what you say to Jill", Fr Spikenard had murmured to me as his wife was out of the room and doubtlessly powdering her extremity. I had come down to Barchester to pay them a spring visit, and to see how the Barchester Ordinariate Group was flourishing. "She's in a foul mood ... some 'liberal' Catholic journalist has just written that the Ordinariate is a Damp Squib, and she wants blood". I was not surprised; even when we were all in the Church of England the womenfolk of our movement were combative far beyond us chaps. So, as we made our way, for a pre-lunch stroll, to the Botanical Gardens (constructed in the old Kitchen Garden of the Bishop's Palace: modern Anglican bishops, despite their impeccably 'Green' credentials, prefer the Waitrose delivery van to the employment of gardeners and under-gardeners), I let the other two do the talking. Jill was full of what, in her view, "the Ordinary should do" to put Catholic journals, Catholic journalists, Catholic basset hounds, Catholic whatevers, in what she noisily but imprecisely called 'their place'. "My dear", urged her spouse, "do be careful what you say. The Monsignore, poor chap, has to get on with these people". Jill swiveled gracefully on the heel of her left foot and, perfectly balanced, delivered with her right foot what I can only call a practised kick to her husband's left ankle. "Don't you mydear me, you ... you ... you ... husband", she purred. I felt that, whatever the risks, it was my duty to provide a distraction from this developing 'domestic'. So ...

"So how are you getting on with your three o'clock slot on Sunday afternoons in the the Sacred Heart?" I hastily and heartily enquired. Fr Spikenard let out a roar of laughter ... he always was noisy in his mirth, even when, as now, he was in acute pain. "None of that now. We've really fallen on our feet". We had got as far as the Carnivorous Plants House; he bent momentarily to examine a Drosera erythrogyne, which, red in tooth and claw, was terminating a small fly (and to rub his ankle). "Mercifully, the old Bishop of Hogglestock retired, and we got a new one. Another really alpha-plus Mennini appointment." "Anyone would have been better than that nasty old *  *." said Jill. She is not the easiest of women to please. Thank God that I ... er ... Her husband was less reserved. "Absolutely marvellous bloke. The first thing he did was to give us S Philomena's ... lock, stock, and barrel, church, presbytery, school, parish endowments, clerical stipend, and all." S Philomena's Barchester, as readers of Mgr Knox will know, is a glorious extravaganza in High Puginesque; the 'Mr Roodscreen' credited with its design is usually thought to be a pseudonym for old A W himself. "It needed a lot of work", said Jill. "We had to get back the roodscreen from some nice sensible high church Methodists who gave it a home when the Romans threw it out in the early seventies, and to reverse the complete vandalisation of the Sanctuary". "That must have cost you a pretty penny", I suggested. With a modest, triumphant smile, but withal a noticeable limp, Fr Colin remarked, as he led us on to the Cactus House, "As the Bishop suggested, I got together with the Latin Mass Society group in Barchester and we shared the costs. I'll show you the result after lunch".

"You see, this is how we divide up Sunday", he went on to explain. "9.30, I celebrate a Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form for their lot. Then, at 11, I do the Anglican Use solemnly for our lot from S Gregory's. I don't think most of either congregation can spot much difference between the two rites ... the congregations are getting more and more interchangeable  ... E and B at 6 ... the Saturday Vigil Mass I retained as a 1970s retro period piece for those who like that sort of thing; it's celebrated for me by an aged retired monsignore ... claims to have been a peritus at the Council of Vienne ... all the authentic rituals of circa 1972 ... archaic ladies with jangly necklaces as Eucharistic Ministers ... sub-orthodox ditties chosen by a 'Liturgy Committee' all in their eighties ... girl servers ... ". "They have trouble keeping those", said Jill, with glee. Her bloodlust appeared to have abated. "The girls soon realise there are better things on offer and buy themselves mantillas and go to the Sunday Masses instead, so as to watch the rather nice-looking boys we have in our serving teams ... I think this year's Chartres Pilgrimage may result in our first engagement ... wonder what their children will be like ... S Pius V crossed with Thomas Cranmer ... ". "Mutual Enrichment", I helpfully suggested, first having checked that my ankles were out of her range.

At this point a most unwanted interruption broke in upon our idyll. From the other side of a large and undisciplined Agave americana 'Variegata' came the sound of a loud and confident voice. It was extremely arrogant, cut-glass and English Establishment; and had all the hallmarks of being an accent, and a timbre, picked up, not from m'tutor at a large school near Slough, but from an expensive elocutionist. The sort of accent Americans can't make up their minds whether they 'just love', or totally hate. The vegetable monstrosity itself seemed to shrink under the burden of the assertive decibels. Then emerged the dapper figure of a carefully groomed gentleman dressed as a bishop. He was accompanied by what was clearly a gaggle of American clergywomen. "Armitage Shanks" hissed Jill under her breath. Her foot (her right foot) began to quiver.

Can this really be the Right Reverend the Father in God the eighty third Lord Bishop of Barchester, Armitage Jefferson Millhouse Shanks, in propria persona? Continued after tomorrow.

23 December 2015

Cuddly UPDATE

I wonder if there is a list available of the images illustrating Biodiversity which are being projected onto the facade of S Peter's ... the only pictures I have seen have been of the more "Attenborough" bits of fauna ... furry mammals ... graceful whales ... you know what I mean. What about the rest of God's creation? All of it, so Dogma informs us, is Good (or are you a Manichaean?).

I will believe that this show is about something more than childish sentimentality when I hear that an image of the Ebola Virus or of an advanced brain tumour has been 'screened'. Or Adolf Hitler. Or, as an example of the wondrous symbioses of Nature, the maggots on the decomposing corpse of a Black Rat.

(I invite readers to nominate their own varied and illuminating examples of Biodiversity.)

"The Papa Bergoglio Cuddly Pets Show" is my own private title for this daft misuse of a superb piece of baroque architecture.

UPDATE is it technologically possible to project three-dimensional images? So that, when the Holy Father makes his public appearance on Christmas Morning, he could appear to be wearing the Triregnum?

22 December 2015

There is a thoroughly admirable section in our beloved Holy Father's admirable Year of Mercy Homily which will undoubtedly have the German and English Cardinals and Bishops dashing around frantically to "correct" what the Holy Father has said. His words: " ... the Church ... has set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey ... *wherever there is one person, the Church is called to reach out to him and to bring the joy of the Gospel and the Mercy and Forgiveness of God."*. "No No No" Their Eminences will feverishly cry, the cry dutifully re-echoed by Their (conclamant suffragan) Lordships. "You mustn't get the wrong impression. It really is absolutely totally wrong even to think of converting Jews. When Francis said 'wherever there is one person' he most definitely never meant a Jewish person. Obviously, no sensible individual thinks of Jews as persons. Certainly not nowadays after Nostra aetate. We must never ever suggest that Jews might be brought the 'joy of the Gospel' or the 'Mercy and forgiveness of God'. Our Ecumenical Advisers would never forgive us".

Personally, I am a terribly simple sort of  ... er ... person. I assume that the Successor of S Peter meant precisely what he said, not least because what he said is totally at one with the teaching of Scripture and with the Church's Tradition. "Wherever there is one person". Pope Francis' words remind us of the Good Shepherd who wasn't content to have the 99 safe and sound but searched and searched for the One Sheep until he found it. And I think that, in their implicit disagreement with these words of Pope Francis, and with what Pope Benedict wrote, and with the teaching of so many Roman Pontiffs, the German and English Episcopal Conferences have recently given us the very best reason to be extremely apprehensive about the idea of allowing Bishops' Conferences a greater doctrinal competence. It pains me to have to say this, but they have demonstrated with the utmost clarity that this is not the time to entrust them with something so dangerous: I mean, with the capacity to impose upon the consciences of dutiful Catholics possibly dubious teachings which they would be supposed to receive with religiosum obsequium. 

In my - as ever - extremely humble opinion, Apostolos suos rules, OK. It settled the question of what such conferences are ecclesiologically, and what, consequently, their doctrinal status is. And the teaching of the John Paul II and Benedict XVI Magisterium on the integrally related question of the ontological priority of the Universal over the Particular Church, rules, too. The 24 years between the appointment of Joseph Ratzinger as Cardinal Prefect of the CDF, and his abdication as Pope, represented doctrinally and intellectually a most significant and satisfactory period in the Church's life. Hans Kueng's impotent fury and the pathetic figure of Walter Kasper whinging on the sidelines were, and are, deplorable irrelevances. So is the nastiness of those, of whatever rank in the Church, who attack Ratzinger and his legacy when he is no longer able to answer back.

(*-* Original text as delivered in Italian by the Holy Father: "Dovunque c'e una persona, la la Chiesa e chiamata a raggiungerla per portare la gioia del Vangelo e portare la misericordia e il perdono di Dio." The translations into the other three Romance languages have the equivalents of 'una persona'. The English translation which was put out reads ".. wherever there are people ...". A probable grammatical motive for the unfortunate change is that in English the word "people" can be resumed by the non-gender-specific pronoun "them", whereas "one person" forces a speaker into the politically-incorrect gender-specific "him". ~ ~ ~ What about the Arabic, German, and Polish versions?)

21 December 2015

The BBC, Edward Stourton, and an ex-Jesuit mock and misdescribe Indulgences

In the December 20 'Sunday' programme, the presenter, 'Ed' Stourton, a Catholic who 'remarried' after divorce, invited 'Michael Walsh, a papal historian', to explain Indulgences.

He did not mention that Walsh is an ex-Jesuit with a history of attacking the Vatican and the previous pontificate; a Tablet contributor. 'A papal historian' sounds so much grander than 'a failed Jesuit who has attacked the Vatican in the Tablet.'

By the way ... I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this ... Stourton, inevitably, is a Trustee of the Tablet.

The first conspicuous feature of the episode was the laughter. The pair kept giggling together: I counted six pieces of mirth.

I wonder if either of this spiteful and malevolent pair would ever dare to deal with any other religion ... Islam, say ... by continually laughing as they talked about it. Or, if they did, how fast the Beeb would sack them.

And there were two major pieces of misrepresentation. (1) The 'papal historian' appeared unaware that, as long ago as 1967, the practice of attaching periods of time to partial indulgences was abolished. He described this practice using the present tense.

And, (2), either out of ignorance or mendacity, 'papal historian' Walsh went on to claim that Pope Francis "has never mentioned [indulgences]"; and "that's not where we are at the moment". The implication of the interview appeared to be that Indulgences are a load of old rubbish which Sensible Pope Francis is burying by very studiously not mentioning. So what is the truth of the matter?

"This practice [gaining indulgences] will acquire an even more important meaning [magnum pondus] in the Holy Year of Mercy." This is from a paragraph in the Bull of Indiction, in which the Roman Pontiff goes on to commend the practice. Furthermore, in a Letter dated 1 September 2015, our Holy Father set out at length the methods of securing Indulgences during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. And, in his Bull, he carefully explained their purpose: that Absolution remits sin, but "the sin leaves a negative effect [contradictionem]". An indulgence "frees us from even the residue [vestigia] left by the consequences of sin".

I fail to see why this weekly BBC programme, its 'flagship' religious slot, should be left in the hands of Stourton, a lapsed Catholic who, like so many of his type, seems to me to be very far from being neutral with regard to the religion which he once professed. And why, if it must give space to someone like Walsh, the Beeb doesn't balance him with somebody who will defend the Church, even if only by giving accurate information about her.

I thought 'balance' was supposed to be one of the BBC rules.

20 December 2015

Christmas Cards (2)

 ... and, carrying on from the previous post, I would like to express my appreciation in hoc tempore Adventus et Natalis Domini to those who work in the Curia Romana, and especially in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I do so in advance of the Holy Father's imminent good wishes on Monday December 21!

I have no way of knowing what truth there is in the easy denigrations made so often of the Curia. I can only say that my own experiences have been invariably and unambiguously favourable. When we were formally applying to the CDF for the necessary dispensations to join the Presbyterate of the Ordinariate, I was impressed by the speed and efficiency and kindness with which they dealt with the necessary matters. It compared very favourably with the conduct at that time of some other Catholics. Friends with whom I have spoken have had the same good experiences as I did, both with regard to that particular period; and also on other occasions when they have been in touch with members of the Curia, both high and less high. Such members have often, I have been told, gone well beyond the call of duty to be as helpful as they could. And during the period of the gestation of the Anglican Use Missal, we have been dealt with in the kindest possible way, as well as with good sense and meticulous learning.

Journalists do not often clutter up their copy with the undramatic News of how hard, and how well, members of the Curia work. I would like to take the opportunity of filling this lacuna; and, not least, because this is a time when working in the Curia, and particularly in the CDF, may be accompanied by unusual complications.

So ... both humble thanks and dutiful best wishes to His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Mueller; thanks to those highly important people in Ecclesia Dei; and to all the Cardinal's collaborators ... and especially to one particular worker who is due, I gather, in 2016 to leave Rome to return to America. I wrote that before his appointment was gazetted!

Ubicumque fueritis, fausta vobis precor tempora.

Christmas Cards (1)

Out of pure idleness, Pam and I stopped sending Christmas Cards some years ago. But I would like to thank all readers and correspondents for their kindness in reading what I write, and the additional kindness of ensuring that I get to know that there are people out there reading it! I do offer Mass for my readers.

 A Blessed Advent and a fruitful Expectation of the Lord's Coming.

18 December 2015

ABSTINENCE

Since Canon 1251 makes clear that there is no Abstinence on Solemnities, today has been the last day you have an obligation of Abstinence until Friday 8 January.

Obcessions, obcessions

While some of you are obc{P}essed with reviving archaic orthographies, here am I working my socks off at the philological coal-face of logogenesis. I do this by combing through the undergraduate freebie newspapers. Here is a recent specimen of my discoveries (do not write in giving examples of the use of the following word as far back as 1464 or even 2014, or I may have to hurt you, as we schoolmasters say).

CISHET. (Substantive.) The syllables apparently divide between the S and the H. A combination of "cismale" or "cisfemale" with "heterosexual". In other words, a "cishet" is the sort of tedious and boring person whose physiology is surgically unmodified, and who also is forced to spend his or her life labouring under the burden of an incurable heterosexual orientation. I suspect it may be designed to supplant the now obsolete term "straight". (Readers who hobble on walking sticks to 'bus stops while clutching their 'bus passes in their arthritic fingers may remember a distant day when the word used to indicate this phenomenon was "normal". My assumption is that each term, after achieving acceptance and usage, gradually comes ... for whatever reason ... to be deemed politically incorrect. Rather as we always seem to be in need of a new term for Urinals.)

In case it might help, I invite you to consider the picture at the side of this blog.

This is what a cishet looks like. 

Father Tim ...

 ... has had a "cardiac episode", and I imagine that those who will remember him in their prayers will be very many. Dear Father, very best wishes.

17 December 2015

George Weigel ... and Unresolved Juxtapositions

So some American neocon called George Weigel has assured us that 'supersessionism' is a heresy. A bit lordly; who is this inquisitorial individual that he has the competence to tell us that we are heretics? The Vatican Document on Catholic-Jewish relations which I have been discussing itself informs us that supersessionism was the teaching of many of the Fathers and of the medieval, not to say post-medieval, Catholic world. And the Document itself describes itself as non-Magisterial, non-doctrinal. But, if my memory serves me, this is the same Weigel who wrote a hagiographical extravaganza about S John Paul II, in which just about the only criticism he could bring himself to make is that the Holy Pontiff was insufficiently enthusiastic about neocon- and zionist- backed military adventures in the Middle East. And he's a tough man, Weigel, on anybody who doesn't accept his own favoured option with regard to the horns of the dilemma left to us by Dignitatis humanae (he had his reservations about rapprochement with the SSPX).

Most people who are into this sort of stuff know that the text of Dignitatis humanae of Vatican II began by saying that it changed nothing of the Church's previous doctrine about Religious Liberty; and then went on to give teaching that most people (both those who liked it and those who disliked it) thought contradicted that earlier Magisterium. And no hermeneutic was offered to guide anybody who wanted to fit these apparent polar contradictions into a unity.

My own instinct is that this is an unhelpful way of carrying on. But I accept that disagreement is possible here. Perhaps such teaching can helpfully impel theological practictioners towards a valuable new synthesis. I'm open to persuasion. You convince me.

The Vatican discussion Document on Catholicism and Judaism plays the same game. It asserts with ringing clarity that all men need Jesus for Salvation, and repudiates the idea that there can be two covenants, one for Jews and one for Gentiles. Those who put the Document together understand the fundamental grammar of the Christian Faith well enough for this. But they then place beside it the idea that God's covenant with Israel is not revoked. Realising the prima facie contradiction, they fall back upon invoking Divine Mystery.

S Paul, also, believed in both of these truths. But he did not leave the matter dangling between unresolved polarities. For him
(1) Israel is God's Olive Tree.
(2) When the Messiah came, most of Israel did not believe, while a few did.
(3) This is within the familiar Old Testament theme of the small Faithful Remnant.
(4) So the unbelieving Jewish branches are broken off the Olive Tree and thrown aside.
(5) And wild olive branches, believing Gentiles, are grafted into the old stem in their place.
(6) But at the End, when the fulness of the Gentiles has accepted God's offer, then the broken off branches, moved by jealousy at this Gentile success, will turn to God.
(7) And will be grafted back in.
(8) So that God will, indeed, have been true to his Covenantal promises to Israel.

What this means is that in the Now, the Age between Incarnation and the End, unbelieving Jews are in a broken-off state; not part of God's Olive Tree. God has certainly not revoked his Covenant; but unbelieving Jews have walked away from it and their privileges are occupied by the abiding faithful covenantal community composed of the Faithful Jewish Remnant and of Gentiles who by that same Faith have joined them; videlicet the Catholic Church. [In other words, the Vatican Document deftly hides (4) out of view like the hired conjuror at a children's party, and, having distracted you from it by sleight of hand, loudly trumpets a version of (8) which has been denuded of the logical and biblical substructure given in (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), and (7). This is the sort of jiggery pokery you always end up being served in 'ecumenical' documents. And it is the sort of slipshod game played by Weigel in his article.]

I imagine that the embarrassing conclusion I have printed above in red is the practical reason why the Vatican Document (not to mention Weigel) steers clear of S Paul's perfectly logical construction with all the fastidiousness of your maiden aunt giving a wide berth to a hippy orgy.

Or perhaps your maiden aunts are all liberated ladies.

16 December 2015

The Synodal report ...

 ... having, at very long last, officially appeared in English (not, incidentally, the natural English of an Anglophone) has received some approval. I really can't see much wrong with it at all ... er ... except that I can't find any affirmation of the principle of the Church's Magisterium that adulterers need to refrain from Holy Communion (Familiaris consortio [1981] para 84; Sacramentum Caritatis [2007] para 29).

Perhaps this is time to re-examine the document called the Henotikon [482]. It couldn't be called heretical because of what it said ... but how about what it didn't say at a time when it should have said it?

Was Pope Honorius a heretic? I'm not sure I can remember.

Some people still criticise Venerable Pius XII ... not for being antisemitic, but for lacking in public clarity with regard to the slaughter of millions of Jews ... is that right?

After 1950, would it have been an adequate expression of Catholic orthodoxy to say that our Lady's soul had been assumed into heavenly glory?

Extraordinary Form Mercy

I haven't read anywhere about provisions or suggestions put officially in place for the benefit of those who use the EF and who, praiseworthily, might wish to associate themselves with our Holy Father's Jubilee Year of Mercy. If somebody else has heard of official suggestions, perhaps they will share them with me and their fellow readers.

The Mass Pro Remissione Peccatorum seems very suitable and even refers to knocking at the Holy Door! (Under the 1962 rules, one can't say Votives in Advent or Lent.) Any ideas?

The Appendix pro aliquibus locis gives, in July, a Mass of our Lady Mother of Mercy, consisting simply of the Common Mass Salve with a proper Collect.

My own Anglican and Patrimonial instincts incline me to remind you of the Litany, or Litanies. Perhaps of the Quarant' Ore?

Any other ideas?

15 December 2015

Homily at the Opening of the Holy Door (1)

"How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgement before we speak of them being forgiven by his mercy". This statement of our Holy Father Pope Francis, with which I have no disagreement whatsoever, is followed by a suggestion that we should go and look at S Augustine's De Praedestinatione Sanctorum XII 24.

Obedient to our beloved Holy Father's lightest suggestion, I duly turned up that locus in S Augustine of Hippo. And I am left a trifle bewildered. It is a discussion of the views of people who, in S Augustine's time, debated the very different destiny of those babies who died without Baptism, and those who died baptised. There were, apparently, those who argued that babies who died baptised went to heaven because God knew that, if they had lived, they would have lived well; the unbaptised went to a different fate because God knew that if they had lived they would have deserved condemnation. I've never met anybody who discussed that ... might it be a common discussion point amongst those subtle chaps the Argentinian Jesuits? ... and I can't see its relevance to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. And does the Holy Father really believe that unbaptised babies go to Hell? Even during a Year of Mercy? An unusual idea to grandstand.

I did notice a nearby passage (VI 11) in which S Augustine brings up and juxtaposes both Mercy and Judgement as he discusses the different fates of those Jews who refused the Gospel and those Jews, rather fewer, who accepted it. His discussion is based upon a careful exegesis of Romans 11:5-10. S Augustine concludes: "Here is Mercy and Judgement ... Mercy towards the Election [= those Jews who, chosen by God, accepted the Gospel] which has obtained the Righteousness of God; but Judgement to the rest [unbelieving Jews] who have been blinded". "Blinded" is a theme S Paul had deployed earlier in his life when he discussed Jewish unbelief in II Corinthians 2: 7-18; and the idea that those who rejected the Gospel have been deliberately blinded by God so that "seeing they might not see ... lest they turn and receive forgiveness", on the biblical evidence, arguably goes back to the teaching of the Lord himself as reported at Mark 4: 11-12.

Could this be the teaching of S Augustine which the Sovereign Pontiff had in mind?

What a bold Pope. Not many modern Pontiffs choose to address the philosophical and theological problems of Predestination. Nor do I often preach about it. Perhaps another Holy Year after the present one? A Jubilee Year of Predestination? With special indulgences for Calvinists? It could be celebrated with a double Holy Door; one entry for those predestined to Heaven, the other for those predestined to Hell. Confessarii specially commissioned by the Roman Pontiff could be there to tell everybody which category they were in. I bet that would get the crowds flocking along!! Wow!

14 December 2015

Fr Hunwicke admits he's wrong

That post of mine about how I won't accept comments spelling supersession as supercession ... a learned reader has deftly attacked me at the indubitably weakest chink in my armour: PEDANTRY. He has pointed out that Middle English offers examples of the spelling with -c-.

Fair enough. OK. I'll buy that. Mea culpa: I withdraw. I had thought that it was just a mistake, a confusion of supersession with all the -cession nouns, not an exquisite and erudite Medievalism. You get your own way, accompanied by sincerest apologies for my heavy-handed incomprehension. Schoolmastering is such a soul-deadening profession.

But will you meet me half way? When you play these delightful games of Pedantry with me, could you very kindly indicate this by inserting into your text {P} so that I know what's going on?

Thus, when you spell possession as poscession or pocession, because of Medieval precedents, could you write it as poc{P}ession?

Gosh, isn't this fun?!! 

13 December 2015

Here comes that schoolmaster again ...

 ... irascibly to make clear that, from this point onwards, I will not consider comments which spell "supersede" as "supercede". The word comes from the Latin super + sedeo. Perhaps a contrary orthography has grown up in North America; some years ago now I found the incorrect spelling in something I was reviewing by an American Orthodox writer who was edging her way towards favouring the 'ordination' of women. But ...

... don't bother to tell me that languages evolve; because this Edict is final. Don't evolve on this blog. Go away and evolve instead on Dr Kirk's blog Ignatius His Conclave ... which, incidentally, is in strikingly good form at the moment. Dr Kirk, formerly Anglican Vicar of a South London Parish, is a fellow member of the Ordinariate. Vivamus. Vivemus.

(Tomorrow, Deo volente, the final two pieces of my series on Nostra aetate.)

11 December 2015

Ordinariate Use (14) [and "the Vatican Document"]

A small but growing group of clergy consists of priests incardinated into one or other of the three ordinariates from time to time use the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, as well as the Ordinary and Anglican Use Forms. The Pope Francis (i.e. Ordinariate) Missal helps to solve one or two minor rubrical problems which such admirable (often younger) clergy might have. Example:

When Blessed John Henry Newman was beatified, he acquired a liturgical Collect for Mass and Office. But as far as I know, no provision was made for which of the two alternative Commons for a Confessor Not A Pontiff in the 1962 Missal should be used: Os iusti or Iustus ut palma. So ... on his feast day, or if you wish to say a Votive, which Mass should you select?

The Pope Francis Missal (substantially) reverts to the provision of Commons found in the old English Missal, which, of course, was an English rendering of the Missal of S Pius V. So ... look up Blessed John Henry on October 9. Do you see the words "From the Common of Confessors ... (pp 932-934)"? If you turn to those pages, you will discover ... the Mass Os iusti!

MY DAILY PIECES ON NOSTRA AETATE WILL CONTINUE TOMORROW. And: I have read the Vatican Document and find it distinctly more nuanced than do either those who laud it or those who are appalled and horrified. But there are glaring omissions, of which I will briefly list one. Videlicet: it sets rabbinic, Synagogue, Judaism beside Catholicism, without mentioning Temple, sacrificial Judaism. This is of course because the latter no longer (really) exists. And possibly because Catholic ecumenists, since the liturgical corruptions that followed the Council, do not see their own Faith through sacrificial lenses. BUT ... I shall, of course return to this.

10 December 2015

Jews and Christians dialogue in Rome: a bad day for the Tablet

As write this after lunch on Thursday, I have not yet discovered the new document on Catholic-Jewish relations on the Vatican website; but one can find, on the Vatican Player TV, its interesting Press Presentation. Behind the table were the sempiternal Fr Lombardi; Cardinal Koch; a Fr Hoffmann (of whom I had not heard); Ed Kessler, who runs the Woolf Institute in the other University and is a Fellow of S Edmund's College there; and the always immensely impressive Rabbi David Rosen, who was once Chief Rabbi of Ireland and now works in Jerusalem as Adviser on Interreligious Affairs to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

It is not my purpose to give you an account of the Presentation; you can watch/listen yourselves. (The two Jews spoke in English, and Cardinal Koch sometimes did.) I think you will not be sorry if you find the time to do this. Ah ... I should have mentioned ... Rosen and Kessler were not part of the group who produced the new document, and I think you will find that the criticisms they made of it ab extra were of no little interest.

But what had me keeling over with laughter was ... the Questions! And whod'yethink asked the first one? No contest! Christopher Lamb, Rome Correspondent of the wad'yethink ... the Tablet! And wad'yethink he asked? He had two questions, utraque quaestio tablettissima.

(1) He pointed out that the document, as it is self-described, was non-doctrinal and non-magisterial, and asked whether there should now be a second Nostra aetate. You get it? I think he has read (which most people haven't) Nostra aetate and he realises that it doesn't actually say the stuff he wants; so now he demands something "doctrinal and Magisterial" so as to be able to rub in the gravel the noses of those of us who are not of the Tablettentendenz. The Tablet has not always been so enthusiastic about getting new doctrinal Magisterial statements from Rome nor always so very ostentatious about its adherence to what the Magisterium has already uttered. When Professor Ratzinger presided at the Palazzo of the Holy Office, the Tablet was not always hanging around his door whining "Please Eminence give us more Dogma"! But now ...

Nobody on the Panel seemed inclined to run with this idea. Rosen, in particular, was grandly dismissive.

(2) Next, Lamb asked about the Good Friday Prayer composed in 2008 by the Holy Father Pope Benedict for use in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Yes! Uncanny ... one might almost call the Tablet the House Journal of the English Bishops ... and of course, of those nice German ones too. But the poor little fellow got precious little out of his brave attempt to Give a Helping Hand to the Bishops' Campaign. Kessler diffidently said that the word Perfidia was rather questionable ... strange, don't you think, that a Fellow of St Edmund's, a 'Catholic' college, isn't aware that Perfidia exited the text in the time of S John XXIII. (But it does at least demonstrate that there hasn't been much debate among academic Jews about Benedict's prayer of 2008, otherwise Kessler would not have been so poorly informed about the question.) Cardinal Koch explained that the Benedict Prayer had not been properly understood; and gave an account of its eschatological thrust (its teaching that, as S Paul taught, it is at the End that all Israel will be converted). Rabbi Rosen clearly wasn't interested in Lamb's puerile attempts to make trouble; he very courteously observed that only a tiny percentage of the Catholic world used the Latin prayer and that most of it used the prayer in the Novus Ordo ... a prayer which he called "very fine". He thought that the problem about the EF was not in the Prayer but in the title. Koch then observed that this was like a problem one so often got with journalists: a good article but a bad heading. This seemed to amuse the panelists more than it did the journalists. Hoffmann and Koch both thought that Benedict's prayer would be a valuable stimulus to further discussion and dialogue.

A few moments later, Rabbi Rosen praised Benedict XVI for his wisdom and his humour, observing that people did not often notice the latter (I do). Perhaps this will be next Friday's Tablet banner headline:

        TOP JEW PRAISES POPE BENEDICT'S WISDOM AND HUMOUR

What odds would you offer me on that possibility?

If Ecclesia Dei does make any change with regard to Pope Benedict's prayer about which the English bishops have got themselves so strangely excited, my money would be on a tweaking of its title. I can't help wondering if some of our Fathers in God, the more thoughtful ones, might be rather wishing that somebody or other hadn't got them all mixed up in this unnecessary little piece of Germanic nastiness ... which, on today's showing, doesn't seem to have gone down very well in Rome.



9 December 2015

Ordinariate Use (13)

In the Decree authorising the Pope Francis (i.e.our) Missal, Cardinal Sarah writes about Pope Benedict's "desire to heal the wounds of division in the Body of Christ" (Christi Corporis exoptans divisionis vulnera benigne sanare). 

I cannot help wondering if the plain words of this imply that our former sad lack of full canonical unity with the Churches in Full Communion with the See of S Peter was a division within rather than from the Body of Christ. 

Who is entitled to use the Pope Francis Missal?

A valued clerical reader and supplier of comments raises a good point which has been made to me by quite a number of clergy. There is now a canonical lack of fairness and balance in the liturgical Law of the Latin Church. Any priest thereof, including of course any Ordinariate priest, has full liberty to celebrate the Roman Rite in both its Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms without seeking permission from anyone. In addition, the Ordinariate clergy can, of course, use the Ordinariate Rite. But that disadvantaged sector, Latin-priests-not-in-the-Ordinariate, poor victims of unfair discrimination, are not allowed to use the Pope Francis (i.e.Ordinariate) Missal, except in circumstances where they are ministering to an Ordinariate Group.

I do not even know if there are provisions for them to seek an indult to secure this privilege. That would, indeed, give a new meaning to the now obsolete expression "an Indult Mass"!

The only way I can see round this problem is for every well-disposed and sensible cleric who, very naturally, wishes for this privilege, to find, or create, within his parish, an Ordinariate Group for whom he could say Mass. It need only be a couple (preferably stable). As long as Father makes sure, when receiving Mr and Mrs Ex-Anglican into Full Communion, to have them canonically entered into the records of the Ordinariate, they will provide him with a canonical context for using the Ordinariate Form. (Actually, you only need one ex-Anglican, because just one ex-Anglican, even if he/she entered into Full Communion decades ago, can transfer to the Ordinariate and then carry members of his/her family into the Ordinariate with him/her.)

Oops. Mea culpa. I had forgotten. During this blessed Pontificate, we rather despise legal minutiae. We are not rubric-fixated. Anybody who still has feet can have them washed on Maundy Thursday. We do not run around devising heavy Burdens to lay upon people. Liberation!! Mercy!!! Everybody, especially those bishops who are most committed to Papa Bergoglio's ideologies, will be consumed with unalloyed joy when parish priests within their jurisdictions introduce the Pope Francis Missal to diocesan congregations without bothering about silly old Canon Law and its petty paltry piffling pettifogging prohibitions.

Just imagine it. Your Bishop or Archbishop is paying his regular visitatorial visit. You have got him togged up and have fitted his polyester pallium neatly round his shoulders. He had, just previously, Bergoglio fashion, been embracing the necessary clutch of repellent babies, so you have wiped him down carefully and now you are manoeuvring him towards the Sacristy door for the start of Mass. "Oh, by the way, archbishop", you purr nonchalantly as you offer him Holy Water, "there's been just one little change since you were here last. We're Ordinariate Rite here now ..."

Worth it, just for that, surely?

Go for it, Fathers! Don't risk waiting until Papa Bergoglio has retired to some argentinian favela and been replaced on the Throne of Moses by some neo-Pharisaical Gnostico-Pelagian!

I hope readers appreciate that the second half of this piece comes within the genre "Light Hearted Frivolity". LHF is one of God's greatest gifts. BTW, in answer to a comment on one of my other posts, I refer to the Missal as the Pope Francis Missal because I don't see why a Pope should be denied the credit for what happens on his watch. Each of them gets enough brickbats as the result of things for which they can't justly be held responsible. Perhaps I am even trying to burnish his image a bit in the eyes of fellow-traddies! I think he may yet surprise them!

8 December 2015

Misericordia et Supplex Omnipotentia (in English!)

Today, looking forward, we thank God for the Jubilee Year of Mercy which the Sovereign Pontiff has declared; and we thank Him for one particular Mercy already bestowed, that on this most blessed day fifty years ago the Second Sacred Ecumenical Vatican Council, through our Lady's powerful intercession, came to an end.

Talking about Mercy, I wonder if our Holy Father has still got the Monsignore and the Brunette locked up in his little prison. Probably he plans to visit them on Christmas Morning disguised as Santa Claus and carrying crackers and Indulgences.

Lucky things! What a Christmas of Mercy that will be!!

7 December 2015

Ordinariate Use (aka the Pope Francis Missal) (12)

Ah, the Nicene Creed. It's almost died out in a lot of 'diocesan' churches. So many clerics seem intensely focussed on achieving extreme brevity in the important parts of Holy Mass (by using, pretty exclusively, the Dewfall Trattoria Eucharistic Prayer; the Apostles' Creed ...) so as to provide plenty of time for highly unfortunate unmusical ditties to drivel on and on. No wonder so many of their faithful are so poorly catechised. The Pope Francis Missal will prevent that from happening among us! Viva il Papa!


A brief lesson for Germans (and their disciples) on how to gloss the words of Pope Francis

Reading the accounts in the Bolletino of what our Holy Father said to the Evangelisation people the other day, I was constantly reminded of how his words must need henceforth to be glossed, if we are to accept the unscriptural and novel dogma of the German episcopal conference (and their disciples) to the effect that the Gospel is not for the Jews. Here are some snippets in black from what the Sovereign Pontiff said, to which I have added in red what henceforth, in Germany and its cultural colonies, will need to be added, at least tacitly, as essential glosses.

" ... projecting [missionaries] in every direction, to the very limits of the world, except to Israel and anywhere there are Jews ... going forth is innate in our Baptism, and its boundaries are those of the World, except where there are Jews ... so that [the Church] may always know how to listen to the cry of the poor and the distant, unless they are as distant as Jews, to meet all and announce the joy of the Gospel except to Jews ... ." etc.etc.. You get the hang of it?

Gracious me, how difficult missiological discourse, not to mention the sort of vivid papal rhetoric which is so dear to our beloved Holy Father, is going to become under this Kasper/Marx/Nichols dogma ... "The Gospel According to St Gallen", as we shall have to learn to call it. And how rigorously somebody is going to have to censor the New Testament so as to eliminate all signs of that silly stuff about preaching the Gospel to all the world; not to mention the texts of Vatican II. My tip to readers: buy shares in companies that manufacture blue pencils. And parish treasurers should start setting money aside for the purchase of new extrasuperexpurgated Lectionaries and Missals.

Footnote: I seem to recall that the German episcopate refused to obey Pope Benedict's instruction to abandon their mistranslation of the Lord's words. In the Last Supper Narrative in the Eucharistic Prayer, He speaks of His Blood as shed "for many", which in Germany is still, I think, erroneously rendered as "for all". I wonder what the German is for: "For all except the Jews"? Goodness gracious me, how Hitler must be giggling, if one can do that where he is, which one probably can't.

6 December 2015

A jolly little exhibition in the Ashmolean ...

 ... which has just over a month to go, proving to us that although Venice may have put coloratura before disegno, those Venetians certainly could draw. On show, Venetian drawings from the Ashmolean's own collections; from Christ Church (just think of all those Noblemen Commoners of the eighteenth century, Grand Touring so as  to develop their inner connoisseur and the pox, before returning laden with Tiepolo sketches); and from the Uffizi.

Some happy reunions: a Gabriel from Christ Church beside his Blessed Virgin Annunciate from the Uffizi; the modello for an Our Lady of the Rosary Altarpiece reunited with that of the medallions of the Fifteen Mysteries.

One criticism: the captions give very little information about the subject matter of the drawings, considering that both Classical Mythology and Catholic Devotion are closed books to so many of the poor souls around us.

No matter; the Baroque Rules OK. I realised that as a tiny boy when we had a holiday in the Tyrol, back in the happy days of Christendom well before the Council. For me, the Oratories at Birmingham and Brompton are the exemplaria of Noble Simplicity.

5 December 2015

Ordinariate Use (11)

Rubrical Directory Paragraph 3: the "Anglican liturgical Patrimony, understood as that which has nourished the Catholic Faith through the history of the Anglican tradition and prompted aspirations towards ecclesial unity". In the introductory decree signed by Cardinal Sarah, there is a reference to "Anglican Missals" and the words "Therefore wishing that the fruits of the labours of pastors, religious, and lay faithful of years past may remain ever abundant in the Church ...".

How ecumenical and reassuring to find the Magisterium accepting that, in separation, we did have the Catholic Faith. How understanding to have the years and culture of "The English Missal" (and other such volumes), as it were, validated.


Above all, notice the significance of the term "remain" and the implication that Anglican "pastors" are to be distinguished from "lay faithful". I personally appreciate the sense expressed here of a continuity between our years in the Anglican Communion, and our present status within the Catholic Church.

As well as textually, our Missal is theologically a highly significant ecumenical advance; it is interesting that a CDF official without any "Anglican Previous" so immersed himself in our culture, our ways of thinking, our self understanding, that he was able to secure ... I nearly said, "get away with" ... such an achievement. Again, three and more cheers for Bishop Elect Lopes.

There surely must be Anglicans out there, teetering on the brink, who will be moved to enter into Full Communion by this demonstration of the theological, historical, cultural authenticity of the Ordinariate Enterprise ... the corporate reception into Catholic wholeness of Anglicanism ... Cardinal Mercier's old dream at the Malines Conversations of a Church of England United and Not Absorbed ... the triumphant conclusion of the ARCIC process ... the "Corporate healing of a Corporate Schism" for which the papalists of the Fr Fynes Clinton and Fr Hope Patten era so hoped. Dear Pope Benedict set all this in place by providing that the Ordinariates should not be subject to local Latin hierarchies but directly to the Roman Pontiff; that the terna for a new Ordinary should be sent to Rome by the Council of Priests rather than by a Nuncio who might have been influenced by local Latin bishops. Now comes the Missal, the Icing on the Cake, the great public symbol that we are in Communion with, but not absorbed by, the Diocesan Churches.

What more could anybody ask for?

The Primate of the Americas ...

 ... sounds a thoroughly Good Egg.

Horace and the Vigil of Mary Immaculate: mainly for classicists

December 8 will be the birthday of one of the greatest Roman poets, Quintus Horatius Flaccus. It would be beautifully appropriate if, during these days which precede the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, I could share with you his words on that Immaculate Conception of our Lady. But ... I can do something very much like it.

Readers of my posts on the Hymns of the Roman Breviary will remember my strong preference for the versions of the old hymns which appeared in all the Medieval Breviaries (including Sarum); and in the present Benedictine Breviary; and in the post-Conciliar Liturgia Horarum. Those texts were not in 'pure' Clasical Latin, but in Christian, Liturgical, Patristic, Latin. But this was all changed in the 1620s at the order of a superb classicist, Urban VIII, who wanted them to be in the grammar and metres of Augustan Latin. I believe that this change should not have been made, and I applaud the resolution of Vatican II to reverse it. But there can be no doubt about the brilliance of the enterprise, in itself and in its own terms, and about the sparkling, classical erudition and inventiveness of Papa Barberini and his helpers.

One of his collaborators was a Polish Jesuit Matthias Sarbiewski. He was an enthusiastic admirer of Horace, and wrote poetry himself in the Horatian style and often with allusions to Horace's text. The following has its origins in Horace's Odes, III 28.

Quid muti trahimus diu
Segnes excubias? Suggere postibus
Dereptum, ROSA, barbiton.
Nos arguta manu fila docebimus:
Tu buxum digitis move,
Et mutis animam suffice tibiis.
Nos cantabimus aureos
Stellarum vigiles sistere lubricam
Mundi sollicitos fugam, et
Palantum choreas ducere syderum.
Tu rerum dominam canes,
Et sparsam Zephyrorum arbitrio comam
Nudis ludere bracchiis,
Et nimbos volucrum fundere crinium.
Addes et teretes pedum
Suras non humilem lambere Cynthiam;
Et sutas chlamydum faces,
Indutique togam Solis amabili
Emirabere fistula:
Donec virgineis laudibus, et suis
Placatus, resecet moras,
Et currum madidis flectat ab Indiis.

I could not begin to translate this; Horatian Latin is not only a different language; it is also a radically different sort of way of using words to convey meaning. Translations are either distant paraphrases or else they sound like gibberish.

But lines I have emphasised above, it seems to me, are a superb piece of classicising Latin describing the baroque iconographical conventions of Maria Immaculata. Horace advises his friend Rosa, as they meet in the twilight of a Vigil of our Lady, to sing of the Mistress of Things; of her locks, scattered by the will of the Zephyrs, playing upon her bare arms and pouring forth clouds of flying hairs; with unhumble Cynthia licking the smooth ankles of her feet.

Horace, just like his Polish imitator, rejoiced in a Callimachean allusive intricacy accessible only to his fellow-erudite. Indeed, oderunt profanum vulgus et arcebant.

Her Immaculate Heart will prevail!

4 December 2015

Our Lady; the Moslems; and a great Patriarch.

On December 8, the Feast of our Blessed Lady's Immaculate Conception, brother priests who use the older breviary, in the form bequeathed to us by B Pius IX, will admire the 7th, 8th, and 9th Readings that morning, taken from the writings of S Germanus of Constantinople, a distinguished predecessor of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew. Those who desire a fuller account of this important Saint should summon up Pope Benedict XVI's Catechesis on him from 29 April 2009 (ah; those were the days). He was Patriarch 715-730; a defender of orthodoxy, and an enthusiastic expounder of the Immaculate and of her role as Mediatrix of All Graces. In 717/8, when the Moslems were besieging the Great City, he organised a procession of the Ikon of the Theotokos and of a Relic of the True and Life-giving Cross; the City was saved.

I rather wonder whether the following passage in Reading 9 refers to just such an Islamic onslaught ... which would give it a particular resonance for us today. S Germanus, having reached the peroration of a long address, is addressing our blessed Lady on November 21, Feast of her Presentation in the Temple (a day which often finds Byzantine preachers visiting themes which the later West associates with the celebration of the Immaculate Conception).
The unbelieving nations [kakotekhna barbara ethne] who blaspheme against You and the God who is born of You: lay them low and prostrate them beneath the feet of [orthodox emperors]. Strengthen the subject people, that according to God's command they may persevere in the duty of sweet obedience. Crown this Your City, which has You as its Tower and Foundation, with the triumphs of victory. Guard the habitation of God, girding it with strength. Ever keep the beauty of the Temple. Rescue those who praise You from every crisis [peristasis] and distress. Grant ransom to the captives. Show Yourself a comfort to exiles who lack a roof and any protection. To the whole world stretch out Your hand of assistance [antileptiken kheira], that in joy and exultation we may keep Your festivals ... in Christ Jesus, King of all [ton hapanton basilei] and our true God ...*

Thirteen centuries almost to the day since S Germanus became Patriarch: not much seems to change, does it? What a triumph the creation of Islam, as of all the heresies, is for the Evil One. The captives ... the vast throngs of refugees ... the desecrated churches ... I know, because our politicians have so often explained it, that Islam is a religion of peace; but what a lot of thoroughly atypical Moslems do seem to inhabit the pages of History as century follows century.

I wonder if you dwelt on the logic of the last two or three lines in my extract. In every previous Christian age, and in both East and West, men and women when under affliction have prayed for divine assistance so that they could worship God in "joy and exultation"; or so that "Ecclesia tua tranquilla devotione laetetur". Few of our neighbours, now, pray at all; in as far as hopes are expressed, they seem to me generally to be hopes for a return to Business as Usual; hopes that a decadent Western society may be able to continue its corrupt and sinfully hedonistic way of life without any ill-mannered and murderous interruptions or any vulgar reminders of its own decadence. I am most certainly not saying that everybody who goes out for a Friday Night On the Town in a city like Paris or London or Oxford is manifestly in a state of mortal sin ... Of course all of them aren't. But ... well, if I were to design one of those great baroque pictures abounding in allegorical figures of Virtues and Vices, I think I might portray Decadence and Atrocity in covert alliance. Perhaps we will not be free from our present woes until, as a society, we can again pray and hope for ... peace indeed, but peace-with-the-intention-that, as a community, we will be able joyously to throng our churches; so that in every part of our lives, communally and individually, we may serve Christ our King. 

Her Immaculate Heart will prevail. If I could tell you when, I would.

______________________________________________________________________________
*A crude translation of the rather erratic Latin translation in the breviary, itself lifted from Migne PG 98. I have given one or two interesting phrases from the original Greek. The breviary text omits a prayer for the Byzantine army!

3 December 2015

Ordinariate Use (10)

The 'Rubrical Directory' to our Missal (Paragraph 11) provides that "another cleric or even an instituted Acolyte may serve the subdiaconal ministry and read the Epistle".

Nice to have this splendid encouragement for restoring the proper old High Mass with the three Sacred Ministers walking one behind another up the church "just like a train", as one very approving girl at S Thomas's commented.

Could be the first mention of Hypodiakonia in a Roman document since the 1960s?

Priests are clerics: so a spare priest could "Do subdeacon". How delightfully flexible we are in the Ordinariate. Since this is possible, ex analogia a presbyter could also deacon.

Browsing in Byzantium: Liturgical Greek (3)

Orthodoxy is not as monolithic as orthodoxophile Westerners sometimes like to imagine. Not surprisingly, there has been (at least) one call, in 2007, from a dozen "dissident" priests within Orthodoxy, for 'antisemitic' texts found on Good Friday and elsewhere to be excised from the Liturgy. [I don't like the word 'antisemitic' because Jews are not the only Semites. I prefer 'antijudaic'.] The 'Foreign Minister' of the Moskow Patriarchate, Archbishop Hilarion, gave a lecture which, I think, I can easily leave to speak for itself. His Excellency is one of the few people around who seem on occasion to be able to put things even better than I could myself!!

"Another divorce which needs to be mentioned is that between theology and liturgy. For an Orthodox theologian, liturgical texts are not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fulness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the contrary, have been accepted by the whole Church as a 'rule of faith' (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox Churches over many centuries ...

" ... The lex credendi grows out of the lex orandi, and dogmas are considered divinely revealed because they are  born in the life of prayer and revealed to the Church through its divine services. Thus, if there are divergences in the understanding of a dogma between a certain theological authority and liturgical texts, I would be inclined to give preference to the latter. And if a textbook of dogmatic theology contains different views from those found in liturgical texts, it is the textbook, not the liturgical texts, that needs correction.

"Even more inadmissable, from my point of view, is the correction of liturgical texts in line with contemporary norms. Relatively recently the Roman Catholic Church decided to remove the so-called 'antisemitic' texts from the service of Holy Friday ..."

(Query: have the liturgical texts of the Byzantine Churches in Full Communion with the Holy See, such as the Ukrainians and Melkites, been tampered with, 'neoLatinised',  for the sake of Political Correctness, or are they still intact? I'm sure the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has carefully checked up on this, considering how enormously concerned they are about such matters.) 

2 December 2015

Browsing in Byzantium: Liturgical Greek (2)

The Good Friday texts we examined in my first post may have seemed bizarrely antijudaic. One could cite a dozen others: there are many texts, along the lines of our Western Improperia, which recount the goodness of God to the Jewish People and, in the voice of the Lord, ask "Why have you treated me thus?". There are repeated cries "Alla dos autois Kyrie kata ta erga auton" [But give to them Lord according to the works of them]. What are we to say?

Much Byzantine hymnody (a subject in which I am but an amateur) appears to my eye to be in quite a different genre of poetry from nearly everything with which we are familiar in our terse and objective and austere Roman Rite (although I think I could possibly find parallels in some Gallican texts). It is as if we are taken back in time to the raw events on the streets of Roman Jerusalem; immersed in the passions, the cries, the agonies, the terrors, the emotionalism of it all; and that we respond in terms of our instinctive human reactions to the immediacy of these events. Naturally, we resent the actions of the leaders of the Jewish people and of the mob on Good Friday. As participants in those hours of the Lord's Passion, we express ourselves vividly, helplessly, and without nuanced reservations. It does not follow that we, in our day jobs as twenty first century Christians, should be thought to direct these same animosities against our contemporaries of Jewish faith or origin in the world of today. As Nostra aetate wisely reminds us, "True, authorities of the Jews and those who followed their lead did press for the death of Christ; but what happened in His Passion cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today"

 There were 'Godkillers' around, because Christ is God and someone killed Him ... the Nicene Creed makes each of these statements a compulsory belief for Catholics; but the killers included Romans as well as Jews. And they include me, whenever I fall into sin, as the Catechism of the Council of Trent pointed out. Clearly Jews who were not in Jerusalem cannot realistically be held to share in the guilt of a Deicide in which they did not share any more (or any less) than I can. Not even all those then physically in Jerusalem share that guilt; one such person whom we know to have been in the Holy City and even in the midst of that Mob was a thoroughly Jewish woman with the name of Mary whom the Catholic Church has formally defined to have been free from all sin and guilt. She stood beside the Cross as Co-Redemptrix. Ergo ... if anyone shall say that all Jews in every age, or all Jews alive at the time of the Lord's Passion, or all Jews in Jerusalem at that time, are guilty of His Death except in the same mode that all sinners are guilty, Jew and Gentile without distinction: anathema sit.

However ... I can understand an argument that, when all is said and done, the sort of texts we have been studying might lend themselves to the encouragement of a practical culture of antijudaism.  And even, that this, historically, has happened. Pogroms ...

I have always followed a personal rule of not lecturing Byzantines on how they should worship; but today I will go as near to doing that as to say: Were the authorities of the Latin Church to attempt to include the sort of Byzantine poetry we have been examining into liturgical forms offered for use  on Good Friday in the Latin Church, I would resist such Byzantinisation as robustly as I resist the Byzantinising incorporation of Epicleses of the Holy Spirit into "Latin Rite" Eucharistic Prayers.

I'm quite a "Purity of Rite" chap!

(One final piece of this follows, and then I will consider any possible Comments.)

1 December 2015

Ordinariate Use (9)

One of the great Anglo-Catholic figures of the first part of the twentieth century (until he entered into Full Communion) was Ronnie Knox, later the Rt Revd Mgr Ronald Arbuthnott Knox M.A. P.A.. He collaborated in the cheeky fun of the Society of SS Peter and Paul. He used to come down to S Thomas's to say Mass in Latin. And he did a superb translation of the Exsultet, for singing at the Easter Vigil.

Yup! You guessed! His translation is in our Missal! All the Patrimony, gathered in so that nothing be lost!

Browsing in Byzantium: a lesson (1) in very simple liturgical Greek

Megas kai hieros SYNEKDEMOS orthodoxou Christianou is always a good book for browsing when you are at a loose end ... or even, to be serious, when a Latin Christian need something not quite within his own usual daily comfort zone. Something we all, from time to time, do need. I turned the pages until I got to Megale Paraskeue ... and stopped there, because, years ago, when I was a curate in Inner London, I used often upon that day to drop into the [Cypriot] Orthodox Cathedral along the Camberwell New Road. Since Archimandrite (later Bishop) Christopher Commodatos had no Deacon, he occasionally used me as a sort of dumb diaconal stand-in, not least on Good Friday. Happy days; happy memories of tottering through the wondering streets of Camberwell carrying the Gospel Book in the procession. I have never lost my love of the Orthodox peoples and their religious tradition. Dear Mr Putin! So, the other day, I revisited the Good Friday services between the covers of my Synekdemos.

Philologically, they provide good examples of the propensity of the Greeks (rather like the Germans) for constructing compound words. Many of you may already know one such Greek compound: Theotokos. Theo- is the Greek root for 'God'; tek the root for childbearing. So Theotokos means 'Godbearing'; the one who gives birth to God; the Mother of God. Along these lines, you get a Good Friday troparion which begins Olethrios speira theostugon, ponereuomenon theoktonon synagoge epeste. Spot the two compound words: theostugon and  theoktonon; again, each takes theo- and combines it with another root. stug is the root for 'abominate' (the Lexicon blandly says "stronger than miseo, to express abhorrence"). So theostugon means 'Godloathers'. kten is the Greek root for 'kill'; so theoktonon means 'Godkillers'. You get the hang of it? So, put together, the line means "A destructive band of Godloathers, a synagogue of wicked Godkillers, was at hand ..." ('Deicida' is the exact Latin equivalent of the Greek 'Theoktonos', giving the English word 'Deicide', which you may still find in some of the more old-fashioned English dictionaries, provided they lack a Nihil obstat from an English or German bishop.)

Let me explain to you about another compound. para, in combination with another word, often means 'against'. nomos is Greek for 'Law', and in a New Testament context refers to the Torah, the Jewish Law or Code of Life (those of you who have dipped into the study of the New Testament may remember dear old Ed Sanders' neat and accurate but revolutionary summary of Jewish religion as 'Covenantal nomism'). So paranomos, which occurs quite often in the Byzantine Good Friday services, means 'against the Torah'. The sublime poets who composed these services were, neatly and succinctly, suggesting "You may have prided yourselves on being enthusiasts for the Torah, but in fact by your collaboration in the Passion of the Messiah, you were great Torah-breakers". paranomos is used together with dussebes; seb is the root meaning worship, perhaps often 'pious'; dus makes it mean the opposite, so that dussebes means something like impious; irreligious. Hence phrases like Laos dussebes kai paranomos; kai means 'and'; I will leave you to guess what laos means! And a final phrase for you to agonise over: O! pos he paranomos synagoge ton Basilea ... katedikase ... The root dik relates to judgement. I suppose the juxtaposition of paranomos and synagoge is what you litcrit types would call an ironic oxymoron. Clever!

More liturgical Greek another day. Enjoyable, isn't it? I will delete unread any comments until I have published all of the three parts in which this post will, Deo volente, come to you.

30 November 2015

Obeying the Council: the importance of submission to Councils

REPRINTED FROM JULY 31
It is, I hope we would all agree, extremely important that the Council, like all Ecumenical Councils, should be treated with respect and its wishes put into effect.

This is why I am disturbed that some Jews, and some Moslems, are allowed to go around without being distinctively dressed so that it can be seen who is Jewish, who is Moslem, who is Christian. I also have a suspicion that some Jews may even go outside their homes during the Christian Sacred Triduum. This is clearly both illegal and disgraceful, since it is explicitly forbidden by the Council, and with great emphasis.

And, moreover, the SSPX is to blame for not rigorously demanding, in season and out of season, that Jews and Moslems should always wear their distinctive dress.  I cannot recall a single SSPX document which adequately emphasises this important decree of the Council. Frankly, this raises difficult questions about the SSPX itself. Since it so manifestly treats important enactments of the Council with apparent indifference, it is important that it should be denied faculties, and kept at arm's length, until it unambiguously undertakes to do all it can to embrace and enforce the Conciliar decrees regarding Jewish and Moslem dress, down the the last comma, the last detail.  Frankly, I blame Bishop Fellay for this indiscipline. He is a man who, to my knowledge, has never spoken loudly and publicly enough about the importance of the distinctive dress which should be worn by Jews and Moslems. Can you show me one single statement of his about the need for all Moslem women, as the Conciliar Canon implies, to wear the hijab? No group can truly expect to be in good standing unless its submission to the Council, as to all the Church's Ecumenical Councils, is total, unequivocal, and ex animo.

It is not as though the Council to which I am today referring [Lateran IV (vide Canonem LXXXIX); it closed on November 30 1215] is some minor Council. Because of the large numbers of bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs which attended it, it was sometimes called The Great Council. It promulgated the Dogma of Transsubstantiation. Could any Council be more important than Lateran IV?

I hope nobody, on the thread, will dare to speak slightingly about the duty of all Catholics to accept without question every jot and tittle of Lateran IV, as of every other Council. Moreover, its Spirit, easily collected and inferred from its canons about the exclusion of Jews from public life and the iniquity of their usurious behaviour, not to mention the problems of miscegenation, is also something which it is the duty of all Catholics to accept with enthusiasm. Isn't it? You know I'm right.

VIVAT CONCILIUM!!!   VIVANT CONCILIA!!!!!! (ENDS.)

We live in a dangerous world, in which some people tend to be or pretend to be depressingly blind to literary genre. I hope no reader of this blog is so blind as to fail to detect my irony all through the above piece. I neither like nor subscribe to the teaching of Lateran IV about the Jews as being suitable to our time, nor do I condemn the SSPX for being lukewarm about that teaching. My view on Councils, prescinding from those Conciliar decrees (with attached anathemas) which strictly define dogma, is that their teachings and edicts, even if appropriate to the time of the Council itself, which I believe one is at liberty to doubt, gradually merge into the quiet background noise of the life of the Church. I have no doubt that this applies to Lateran Canon 89 as much as it does to Vatican II Dignitatis humanae. But both of these were completely 'valid' Ecumenical Councils; a truth which, I believe, no Catholic is allowed question. I also believe that no Catholic should read the non-dogmatic texts of any Council, or of any Roman Pontiff, without applying a contextualising nuance. Catholics are not fundamentalists. Councils, and popes, when not defining dogma, can, quite simply, be wrong. Especially fifty or more years after their time.

Newchurchier days

I have just read, on the blog of His Excellency Bishop Richard Williamson, Bishop of Broadstairs in partibus infidelium, the following revelation about the Novus Ordo Mass: "by a devout priest its ambiguities can all be turned in the old direction". He also demonstrates that "clearly not all consecrations of Novus Ordo bishops and ordinations of Novus Ordo priests are invalid either".

Woe and alack the Day! The Church was taken from us and became 'newchurch'; the SSPX was stolen and became 'newsociety'; now that Williamson has himself emerged from his chrysalis revealed as 'newwilliamson', whither will the faithful remnant turn?

29 November 2015

Ordinariate Use (8)

Advent Sunday! And a new start! From today, the Ordinariate Missal is authorised in all three Ordinariates. The formal authorising document, signed by Cardinal Sarah (who is reported to have commented "Why can't we have something like this?"), makes clear that it is granted by virtue of faculties conferred on the CDW by the present Sovereign Pontiff the Holy Father Pope Francis. So, just as the post-Conciliar Missal is known as the Paul VI Missal, so, for the rest of time, this Missal will be the Pope Francis Missal! When everything else about Bergoglio is, sadly, completely forgotten, by this he will be remembered!  Exegerit monumentum aere perennius!

Viva il Papa! Viva Francesco! Vivant omnes!

Mark Pattison (2): Problems of Concelebration

Mark Pattison did not confine his uncomprehending contempt to women and papists; anybody who seemed to him to stand in the way of his own boundless self-esteem aroused his helplessly intemperate verbal malevolence. In 1851, the Rectorship of Lincoln College in this University came up for election. Pattison inevitably and with total certainty knew that he was the obvious candidate. Here is his infuriated reaction to learning that another Fellow, John Calcott, also proposed to offer himself. (I should explain to those who are not of the Patrimony that in those days common Anglican Eucharistic practice was for the Celebrant to stand and kneel at the North End of the Altar, and, if there was another priest or deacon assisting, he was at the South End.)

"As I stood opposite Calcott at the altar-table on Sunday, I could not help a feeling, very untimely at that place, that I should be supposed to be engaged in competition with such a snubby, dirty, useless little dog."

You could do worse than read Pattison. I have not laughed so much on turning the pagers of a book since, so long ago now, I read Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall for the first time. For once, the pastiche of Pattison's style confected by Mgr R A Knox (Let Dons Delight, Notes to Chapter VII) is, yes, very funny, but not funnier than the reality (ht to the erudite Sue Sims for the Knox reference). Could any satirist ever have imagined that even a self-obsessed bigot like Pattison would give away his own interior corruption quite as obviously and risibly as in the above sentence?

28 November 2015

A NEW ORDER OF PENITENTS?

I am reprinting here (with its original thread) a piece I wrote last spring; in which I made a proposal very similar to a suggestion which, unknown to me, was being made elsewhere ... see the thread ...

I know it's a bit long, and rambles. The essence of it is the bits in bold print.
 
 Essentially, in this new Dark Age marked by a culture of ostensibly (for we can none of us know the conscience of another) unrepented mortal sin, we need to do whatever can be done to destroy the culture of Almost Inevitable Communion. You may have better ideas than I do about what, practically, can be done. But it seems to me that a basic starting point is the elimination of the Communion Procession. It creates an impression that everybody will receive Communion. It even puts pressure on people to receive communion when they have no desire to do so. In human terms, it is difficult to avoid a fear that it lead to sacrilegious communions. When the person who is directing the Communion gets to the pew in which a person is sitting, it may for some people be embarrassing to be the only person in the row who does not obediently rise and follow directions up to the Altar. We cannot be sure that we are not almost forcing people who may not be in a state of Grace to receive the Sacrament, and doing so, as I explained in an earlier part of this dissertation, in a changed situation in which there are entire categories of persons ('remarried divorcees', 'couples living together', 'Lesbian and Gay and Transexual couples') whose situation objectively contradicts the reception of Communion but who also, in my opinion, most certainly should not be made to feel awkward or odd or conspicuous if they refrain from communion.

And the grim little shuffle up the church in a queue rather like the queue in the bank or supermarket, is just about the last thing that needs to be decked out with some bright new ritual 'significance', yet another ritual straightjacket. "Walking to the Lord together", indeed. What utter, utter, twaddle. But I've read it.

I will conclude with a couple of historical observations, not because they enable me to try to prescribe details of a new praxis but simply because I think we need a wider general perspective on this matter than current praxis gives us.  

In the first millennium, in Ireland, there were innumerable 'monastic' sites. But who were the 'monks'? Burial sites have revealed to the excavator female and infantile inhumations as well as male. It seems that the term monk meant, not a person vowed to celibacy, but someone who was not living adulterously or promiscuously. Perhaps a hermit, but more probably a couple living in the bonds of Marriage. These people were thus, apparently, firmly distinguished from others whose lifestyle was not marked by evidence of chaste living.

And there is evidence that, in the area surrounding the first millennium Irish oratories, there were different physical  levels in which different categories stood to worship. Nearest to the oratory, the monks. Further away, penitents. You get the idea. Everyone in his Order.


We need to move back to a liturgical culture, not (Heaven forbid) of turning people away from the Christian synaxis; not of implying by word or gesture that they should not be here: but of accepting them, welcoming them, as they are and where they are, without a judgement which it is not ours to pass, so that within the Christian community they can grow in love and understanding. As the Irish did more than a thousand years ago, we need to provide for the subchristianised in our congregations a culture in which it is the universally understood thing that a lot of people don't receive communion; that there's nothing odd or unusual about 'not going up'; it is thoroughly natural and normal not to communicate at Mass; nobody will wonder what's 'wrong' with you. (And it's not their business anyway.)

How about this for size: a down-to-earth practical system would be the distribution of Communion from the tabernacle before or after Mass; or, in big well-staffed churches, continuously during Mass in a side-chapel with a tabernacle. And with a presbyter permanently in the Confessional at the same time. Freedom! No regimentation! No grim shuffles up to the (extremely ordinary) Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister! The freedom just to walk around your Merciful Father's house as His free children during Mass, feeling completely at home and doing your own business, whatever it is! No need to feel that self-righteous people are staring at you judgementally!