31 March 2015

Our Chrism Mass

Another splendid Chrism Mass yesterday! Celebrated as ever by the Nuncio, as the Holy Father's particular representative; a lovely piece of symbolism since it reminds us that canonically and ecclesiologically we are directly under the Sovereign Pontiff himself; a detached portion, you might say, of the Church of Urbs Roma herself, miraculously transplanted into this our land. To great applause (I have to admit we did become a trifle unliturgical in our exuberance) Archbishop Tony, as I have heard him called, assured us (and not just once!) of the very special affection in which Pope Francis holds us. Among the massed concelebrants, our six formerly Anglican bishops. And Keith was very persuasive on Mission ... Chrisma as the "Oil of Mission". What a privilege it is to be incardinated into this splendid body.

Through an open door, I happened to notice, over the fireplace in the Ordinary's study, a fine painting of Bishop Graham Leonard. I felt quite touched; how marvellous to be reminded of that great Pontiff but, even better, to be reminded by him of our continuities ... that we lineally constitute as a Coetus  that Ecclesia Anglicana planted by S Augustine Romanissimus Romanorum which was violently wrenched into schism under the Tudors but then, over the grace-filled centuries, felt its way back to full Catholic orthodoxy and the fullest and most whole-hearted adherence to the Magisterium. (You should have heard us sing Praise to the Holiest at the end!) We have so much to be proud of ... Oops; I should have said, "Grateful for"; grateful for Grace, grateful for each other, grateful for Pope Benedict. God bless him! I am sure it is his prayers, joining with those of the amoluntos Theotokos of Walsingham and of Blessed John Henry, that propel us on our Way.

How the Clergy did chatter, before and after. We are so far flung that we have a lot of catching up to do. I don't think I heard one little bit of bad news; just talk of growth ... and "How's your family?" ... and "I didn't hear about the Letter until it had gone to press" ... and "What a lot of laity this morning, and weren't they cheerful?" ... and "Thank you so much for your blog" (Thank YOU, dear Fathers.) The only hints of sadness were occasional reminiscences of those who had said they would join us on our journey into unity with Peter, but who drew back at the last moment. How much more we could be doing if only ...

Perhaps we have spent too much time enjoying ourselves and not enough time in penitential prayer for them? I, for my part, plead guilty to that failing. God give them the grace to understand, and give to me the grace of self-denial.

28 March 2015

Two notes in response to queries.

Gardone 2015 ... the Roman Forum ... google it ... I plan to write about it next Wednesday, but I do urge readers who can devote 10 days to high living combined with top-notch intellectual pursuits to suss it out and book now. I went last year and it was the experience of a lifetime. All that and Venice too!

Anthony Kenny wrote A Stylometric Study of the New Testament in 1986, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

25 March 2015


There are customs surrounding the Angelus, familiar to those of the Anglican Patrimony, which I do not see in 'diocesan' Catholic churches.

(1) The use of the Angelus immediately after the main Sunday morning Mass;
(2) the singing of the Angelus;
(3) genuflexion at Et Verbum caro factum est; and
(4) the sign of the Cross at per passionem eius et cru+cem ... .

Can anyone throw any light on these customs (particularly their origins), which seem to me thoroughly admirable?

I rather incline to the narrative according to which the Angelus was instituted by Pope John XXII, who certainly did institute the Solemnity of Corpus Christi as we have it today. He 'provided' that great pontiff and builder and liturgist John de Grandisson to the See of Exeter, and I have long wondered whether that can possibly have anything to do with the fact that Grandisson's patron is commemorated in Avignon by a fine tomb of English manufacture.

24 March 2015


Rorate reproduces a superbly savage piece by Cardinal Cordes smashing a great big hole through all the twaddle we hear from some leading members of the German hierarchy. Read it not only for its truth but for its wonderful rhetoric!

AND The Hermeneutic of Continuity contains an important letter signed by a very large number of British priests on the same subject of Marriage and the Synod. When Vatican II was happening and in the era of Humanae vitae, orthodox presbyters were largely quiescent. It is very good news that so many are resolved not to make the same mistake this time round. Apparently there have been some signs of pressure and intimidation to discourage clergy from signing. I have not been aware of any in the Ordinariate or in the Diocese of Portsmouth. Had I experienced such, I suspect I would have responded with brisk decisiveness, possibly citing the teaching of Dignitatis humanae on Conscience.

Dignitatis humanae: Fr Zuhlsdorf's QUAERITUR

An acute reader of the Archiblogopoios has pointed out to him a slipshod piece in the Vatican website English Language translation of Dignitatis humanae. This does not surprise me; long-time readers will recall that, until I came to fear that they would regard me as a bore for doing it almost daily, I repeatedly gave examples of the truth that very few people in the Vatican appear to have any competence in Latin.

I think I may be able to explain how the problem arose with this passage in Dignitatis humanae. It is easily explicable by recalling the methodology of Textual Criticism, which means the study of different versions of a text so as 
(1) to recover what the original text read before, in the course of scribal transmission, it became corrupt; and
(2) to demonstrate how the corruption occurred.

The Latin original passed by the Council Fathers, which of course does not need to be recovered because it is on record, reads ... contra suam conscientiam neque impediatur quominus iuxta suam conscientiam agat ...

What has happened here is that the English translator's eye slipped from the conscientiam at the end of the first clause to the conscientiam in the second clause, with the consequent omission of the words between. This slipping of the eye is called technically parablepsis. The fact that it is caused by two phrases or two lines ending with the same word (or even, sometimes, with just the same or a similar run of letters) is called homoeoteleuton.

These two phenomena in combination account for a considerable number of scribal errors both in Biblical and in profane manuscripts.

The interesting point here is the evidence that some people both inside and outside the Vatican really do not give a damn what the Council actually taught. Like all good old-fashioned witch-doctors, they use the words "The Council" as an arcane mantra, devoid of meaning, wherewith to beat SSPX or other traditionalists. But we knew that anyway.

23 March 2015

Genetics ...

... is a subject in which I have nil competence. And I haven't been able to obtain and read the widely reported Nature article (March 19, I think) about the genetic composition of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; I have had to rely on the reports in the 'broadsheet' papers.

But I feel two main problems (which of course may be dealt with in the full article). Firstly, the statement that "there is little Roman DNA in the British genetic make-up". You see, I don't even understand what such a negative actually means in this context. "Roman", in the first four centuries of the Christian Era, refers to people who could have come from the whole Mediterranean region. "Roman" soldiers and merchants came from anywhere between our Portugal and our Iraq; our Scotland and our Algeria. Many of them will never have visited Rome.

But more: if "Roman" is, on the contrary, intended to mean "only from the city of Rome", the problem is just as great. By the first century, Rome was a gigantic multiracial mix rather like modern London or New York. Even if everyone who came here between 40AD and 400 AD did come physically from the city of Rome and nowhere else, that, surely, still would not offer the investigator a single and simple genetic pattern to recognise or to fail to recognise.

Secondly: the investigators say they were surprised that "Celtic" turns out genetically to be a totally meaningless term. I am immensely surprised by their immense surprise. The "Celtic" myth was exploded in the 1990s at the latest. The word as currently used to bracket together the peoples of Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Man, Scotland, and Ireland, or to refer to the pre-Roman Iron Age inhabitants of Great Britain, is devoid of significatory content except in as far as it may retain linguistically a usefulness based upon the fact that it has conventionally come to denote two groups of similar languages. That convention, of talking about "the Celtic languages", itself goes no further back than 1707, when the Welsh scholar Edward Lhuyd invented it. As long ago as 1998, Simon James wrote "Society as a whole simply accepts Celtdom as a fact, and has made it part of itself. Scholars started the Celtic hare running. The hare has now turned into a chimera, and the debate over how to kill it - if we can, and if we have the right to try - is only just beginning." If people, even academics, persist in being misled into thinking that the term does have any substance, it might be better for the philologists to dream up a replacement term.

And can it be that this 'surprising discovery' is another example of the dividedness of the modern Academy; a world in which geneticists do not read archeologists? I'll stick my neck yet further out and say: a world in which 'scientists' are too grand to bother with 'historians'?

Can anybody supply me with a link to this article? If I have been completely, comprehensively, unfair, It's my duty to admiy it!

Footnote: The alleged distinctiveness of 'Celtic Christianity' was disputed by Kathleen Hughes in 1981 followed by many since; Professor Thomas Charles-Edwards of this University has written dismissively of "that entity beloved of modern sectarians and romantics, but unknown to the early Middle Ages - 'the Celtic Church'."

21 March 2015

The Magisterium: latest on the limits of Papal authority

Recently, Cardinal Mueller, in the faithful discharge of the office mandated to him by the Holy Father, has spoken frankly and lucidly about the limitations of the papal office. You will have seen his letter to the Hungarian bishops dated 13 January 2015 (in Vatican Documents).

His intervention is closely in line with the words of  Pope Francis' immediate predecessor: "In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ... the authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."

Thus wrote Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as part of his attack on that maximalising concept of the Papacy which, in the years after the Council, led to the notion that "the pope could really do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the the mandate of an ecumenical council". Let us be clear about this: he was explicitly criticising, not Blessed Paul VI, but an incorrect understanding prevalent during the Montini papacy, and doing so forcefully at a time when he was Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It is not always observed
that our Holy Father the Pope Emeritus was alluding to a controversy which arose after Vatican I. Chancellor Bismarck had accused Vatican I of creating a view of the Papacy under which the Pope was an absolute monarch ... to the detriment of political and other liberties. The German bishops replied (Denzinger 3114) by denying that the conciliar decrees had this sort of effect upon the the civil loyalties of Catholics; and went on to say that "praeterea neque quoad res ecclesiasticas papa monarchus absolutus nuncupari potest, quippe qui cum subordinatus sit iuri divino et obstrictus sit iis quae Christus pro Ecclesia sua disposuit ... ". B Pius IX himself subsequently, formally but with great warmth, approved this statement.

And all this is simply a rolling-out, an explicatio, of the Great Negative of Vatican I in Pastor aeternus; its vitally important teaching that the Holy Spirit was not given to Roman Pontiffs so that they could teach novelties. Moreover, by defining the authority of Roman Pontiffs, that admirable Council automatically set limits upon it (this is a point emphatically made by Newman, LD. 170, 204). That is what the verb definire means. Finis is Latin for a boundary.

What is particulaly interesting and immensely reassuring about Cardinal Mueller's recent intervention is that he explicitly cites the CDF document of 1998, paragraph 7, signed by Joseph Ratzinger, about the Papal Primacy. And that document itself cited with equal explicitness the Declaration of the German Bishops which I quote above (Denzinger 3114), and which was both confirmed and warmly applauded by none other than Blessed Pope Pius IX himself.

It is very disheartening to some faithful Catholics that some Eminent voices appear to ignore this clear Conciliar teaching by advocating a return to that maximalising, innovatory, exercise of papal authority which Benedict XVI discerned as having been so corrosive during the period following Vatican II; accurately discerned and appropriately condemned

The sort of faithful Catholics, who in the 1870s after Vatican I were criticised as maximalists for asserting what the Council did decree about extent of papal authority, seems now to run the risk of being criticised as minimalists for asserting what Vatican I decreed about the limits of papal authority. And behind it all is an uneasy feeling, I am sure, groundless, among some such people, that our beloved Holy Father may see them as a Problem standing in the way of what he wishes to achieve. Trust between the Roman Pontiff and those whose great wish is to be his faithful children, is thus damaged. Hence the anguish about this pontificate in 'traddy' areas of the internet.

I write personally as one individual in the communities which entered into Full Communion via the Ordinariates. We had spent decades asserting and defending the decrees of Vatican I on the Primacy and Infallibility of the Successor of S Peter (I particularly have in mind Dom Gregory Dix's papers on Vatican I, and the 'Centenary Papers', both from the 1930s). Our position since we came into Full Communion, I presume, continues to combine (a) full acceptance of both the positive and the negative formulations within Pastor aeternus of Vatican I, with (b) the summary of Catholic Doctrine in the Catechism.  

Meden huper ha gegraptai! 

20 March 2015


The GIRM (Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani) at the beginning of the Missal explains the contents of the Eucharistic Prayer. The First Edition informed us that, in the Epiclesis, "Divine Power" (divinam virtutem) is invoked to change bread and wine into the Lord's Body and Blood. It does not say "the Power of the Holy Spirit", presumably because back in 1969 everybody still remembered that the Roman Canon, Eucharistic Prayer 1, did not contain any reference to the Holy Spirit (until it got to the doxology).

But, in the current Third Edition, the words "Divine Power" are changed to "Power of the Holy Spirit".

All I can think of is that, by 2002, even 'professional' Vatican liturgists had become unfamiliar with the words of the Roman Canon.

There must surely be a better explanation?

19 March 2015

SSPX and Unity

As a beneficiary of blessed Benedict XVI's ecumenical goodwill, an Ordinariate Catholic naturally prays that the SSPX communities, to whom Benedict also reached out, might also receive the same joys and the same benefits as we received. I hope that the SSPX will soon have a canonical status which will protect its distinctive charism as an authentic part of the Latin Church. I write this on the Feast of S Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, a day this year made that bit less joyful by Bishop Williamson's sad if characteristic decision to create a new schism and himself to become a non-Catholic by incurring excommunication latae sententiae and conferring that same excommunication, with his own two hands, upon his consecrand. But let us today consider the SSPX itself, which so wisely dissociated itself from this Wyccamical eccentric.

Nothing is gained by the present situation between the SSPX and the 'mainstream' Church. Absolutions are given and Marriages solemnised which are of doubtful (or if you prefer it, doubted) validity. Who gains from maintaining that situation? If some piece of canonical ingenuity, without necessarilly granting full faculties to SSPX clergy, were at least to eliminate this particular pastoral anomaly, who would be the loser? Would a shepherd who achieved this end not smell of his sheep? Would this not be Merciful? Is the SSPX not a Periphery as deserving to be reached as any other?

The SSPX can currently set up a Mission in an area where the local bishop may have well-founded reasons for prefering this not to happen. But because of the present situation, there is nothing he can do to prevent it. Paradoxically, the Society, because it is deemed to be canonically non-existent, actually has complete freedom of action! So how does the bishop gain from this situation? Similarly, I know a town, not within these Three Kingdoms, with a well-established SSPX presence where, after Summorum Pontificum, the local bishop started up an EF Mass at exactly the same time  as the SSPX Mass, thereby denying traditionally inclined laity the pastoral flexibility of two different Mass-times. The SSPX has no redress against such obvious, and childish, 'spoiling' tactics clearly designed to hamper, wound, and divide its pastoral mission.

Nobody apart from the Evil One gains from the present stand-off. If I'm wrong, tell me who does.

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus has a number of provisions to the effect that an Ordinary of an Ordinariate can do X or Y or Z "after consulting with the territorial bishop"; or "after hearing the views of the Episcopal Conference". This gives an Ordinary the right to do these things without consent, but gives him a powerful incentive to act collaboratively. Likewise, the bishop or the conference may be the more likely to act reasonably because they know that their failure to do so could lead to unilateral action by the Ordinary.

Isn't this exactly the sort of arrangement which would enable the SSPX and the 'mainstream' Church to grow in trust? To move gently, perhaps through some intermediate stages, to full integration? Wouldn't  this make it easier for the SSPX to move gradually and consensually without abrupt moments which might precipitate schism among those of its members who, because of past wounds, find trust the more difficult?

Who would lose?

In the present situation, the SSPX has no input into Episcopal Conferences, or the Synods in Rome ... so who, except 'liberals', gains from this muting of the witness of the SSPX? Certainly not the 'traditionalist cause' in the Church.

If it ceased to be irregular for a would-be seminarian to choose a SSPX seminary, might not 'mainstream' seminaries be incentivised to bring the Formation they offer more into line with what Canon Law and Veterum Sapientia require? Market forces! Might the more bullying of the staff in 'liberal' seminaries be less inclined to 'sack' a seminarian with traditional instincts if they knew he could knock on another door, and be welcomed?

Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican seminaries have traditionally done 'exchanges'. Who loses if SSPX seminaries join in? Which part of Unitatis redintegratio encourages the warmest sentiments between Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox but demands that Western Catholic groups which have slipped into a canonically anomalous state have got to be kept at arm's length and treated like naughty schoolboys who deserve only relentless discipline until they abase themselves sufficiently low?

In France and England, there are hundreds of little used churches and empty presbyteries. Who would lose if the SSPX had a free hand to hoover the cobwebs out of some of them?

17 March 2015

Ordinariate in Ireland?

I have heard over the last two or three years whispers of interest in the Ordinariate idea, and I believe there are, or were, a couple of TAC groups in Ireland. Does anyone have any information?

15 March 2015

Ireland again

I was mightily privileged to be able to join the Irish Confraternity of Catholic Clergy for their colloquium at Knock (about the shrine, more another day). What an agreeable band of brother priests, mostly young, all intelligent. We were joined by Cardinal Pell, who with his characteristic generosity had taken a couple of days out of his holiday to come and talk to us in a very straightforward way about our shared ministry. Important pieces of very simple advice, such as "play to your strengths". He joined in our life in his easy and unassuming way, wearing a gray cardigan, a priest among priests. We also heard a paper by a canonist member, unpacking the theological riches of Canon 1055. Yes! Because if Canon Law is not firmly and richly based on the Faith, there is, surely, something wrong?

I had flown to Dublin a day early, so as not to miss anything, and was hospitably welcomed by Fr Gerard Deighan, Classicist, Biblical scholar and OT specialist. His church, S Kevin's, which supplies both Forms of the Roman Rite, was already filling up very nicely at 7.15 in the morning, when I went down to say my own EF Mass. The previous evening, we had been invited to dinner at the Kildare Street and University Club on St Stephen's Green, as the guests of a very distinguished Irish and international jurist. Conversation did not flag. The food was not run-of-the-mill.

Over dinner, I renewed, entirely by chance, some acquaintances. Over one of the fireplaces in the dining room, Lady Lavery, painted by her husband. The remarkable wife of a remarkable artist, and a friend of Michael Collins. When Sotheby's and Christie's, back in the Celtic Tiger days, had their lavish 'Irish Sales' in London each May, I got to know her features (and his brushwork) very well. Until Modernity struck, she featured on the Free State's ten shillings up to £100 notes, rather in the same sort of way as Frances Stewart did on late Stuart halfpennies.

Another party came in ... let's not list names ... and I heard a voice saying "I see the Ordinariate is spreading its wings in Ireland". They included someone I had not met since we passed the time of day while he hacked away at the Japanese knotweed on the graves of his ancestors. That was in the years when, each summer, I headed off on the Monday after the end of term to open up (for the summer) the Church of S John the Evangelist, in Knightstown on Valentia Island in the County Kerry, which I liked to think was me presbytero the only fully Papalist church in the Church of Ireland.

No need wistfully to say "Ah, Happy Days", because the days seem just to keep getting happier.

The series on Consecration will resume shortly.

14 March 2015

Press deadlines and Divine Mercy

In one respect, Pope Francis is as bad ... no, I think I must mean, as good ... as his two immediate predecessors. He has the same preference for waiting until the ORDO I compile has been printed, and then announcing Holy Years. I had just opened my Compiler's Packet of ORDOs (dark blue cover for 2016!) when the Year of Mercy was announced.

One particular group on the periphery of Church life, the Franciscans of the Immaculate, must be mightily relieved by this announcement. I expect their restoration to a proper canonical state will be the main content of the Bull on Mercy to be published on Low Sunday.

Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo.

13 March 2015

Returned ...

... from yet another very happy visit to Ireland, I have enabled some comments and deleted others. Reasons for deletion include: One source repeatedly condemns whatever is not Feeneyite. One routinely makes clear that the gap between itself and me is so great that there are no points of contact and just cheerfully tells me what a fool I am over and over again. A third, in comments of only a few lines, contrives to include several typos.

11 March 2015

Fr Zuhlsdorf and the SSPX

I subscribe to the nuanced views expressed recently by Fr Zed archiblogopoios. I also think that what appears to be the current policy of the Holy See is intelligent: the old idea that a meeting of theologians will deliver results has given way to a sensible policy of multiplying personal contacts, by means of visits both to and from Econe. If the Holy See ever wants an Ordinariate priest to visit Econe and report back to the Holy Father, I am their man! No no! This is not a joke!

I have had a soft spot for the Society ever since, while I was still in the Church of England, the family sent us to Avignon on the occasion of our fortieth wedding anniversary. We went to a 'mainstream' church for the Sunday Vigil, and then on Sunday morning I went to the exquisite little SSPX chapel (Chapel of the Black Penitents, Rue Banasterie). It is a baroque/rococo masterpiece; amid all the splendours of the City of the Popes it was the highlight of my trip! I did not conceal that I was an Anglican priest, but they treated me to a very warm welcome. These were not prickly bigots. The congregation embraced all age groups ... unlike the congregation we had joined the previous evening ... and the liturgy was reverently done ... and I felt very much at home. This is the only SSPX Mass I have ever been to: perhaps it was untypical, but I take people as I find them.

There is one thing that Bishop Fellay could do which might be understood as significant (I very humbly suggest) in Rome. On Good Friday, he could be known to use the elegant, biblical, and sensible Oratio pro Iudaeis composed by Benedict XVI. After all, the Society does already use the highly modified 'Bugnini' Holy Week Rites which in the 1950s Pius XII substituted for the ancient Roman rites. And, in the 1962 Missal, the Prayer for the Jews was itself modified by S John XXIII. If the Society were still using the ancient pre-1950s forms, I would sympathise with a disinclination to fiddle around with them. But if they are going to use Pius XII-as-modified-by-S John XXIII anyway, is it a big deal to use Pius XII-as-modified-by-S John XXIII-and-by-Benedict XVI? It would be an edifying act of acceptance of a living Magisterium

Or perhaps Bishop Fellay already does this. Does anybody know?

I shall not enable comments which show disrespect to the Society. The Ordinariates are Pope Benedict's remarkable gesture towards Christian Unity, and this post stands in the same spirit of a desire to see gathered into one the orthodox broken fragments of Latin Christendom.

FOOTNOTE It is interesting that the Bugnini Commission had not tampered either with this prayer, or with that for Heretics. Incidentally, in the Church of England its (still doctrinally normative) liturgy, that of 1662, still prays on Good Friday " ... Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ ... ". I wonder why all the noisy bigots who so malevolently attacked the Vetus Ordo and Pope Benedict and the prayer he composed never get hot and bothered about this. I believe that Prince Charles filius Fidei Defensoris is Patron of the Prayer Book Society, which advocates use of the 1662 book.

8 March 2015

Spring pays a visit to Oxford

Lovely spring day, yesterday. The previous owner of the house, a Professor Whittaker, was a keen plantsman who contrived that there be blossoms at all seasons. So I watched the butterflies and bumblebees and bees in the garden as I lunched well on Canteloupe and Prosciutto [notice the Father Zed touch here], and then fell asleep in the sun. We walked down to the Isis to see the last day of Torpids: Senior Grand-daughter's College was Head of the River. How noisy these triumphs do make the young people! My own college, Hertford, achieved Blades. Even that created massive decibels.

Then on to Holy Rood, just a stone's throw from the river, to sing the Ordinariate Vigil Mass at 6.00. Among the visitors, from all over the world, a lady with Anglican Previous who expressed great pleasure at again hearing We do not presume ...

Simple pleasures, all of them.

Senior Grand-daughter is sitting Prelims this week. Perhaps those of you who believe in a helping-hand prayer for nervous undergraduates ...


Plans are afoot, it seems, drastically to reduce the number of 'smaller' Italian dioceses. I'm not terribly enthusiastic about this. There have already, I understand, been too many amalgamations.

History has known different models of diocesan episcopacy. One thinks perhaps primarily of (1) the old 'city-state' model: a middle-sized market town and the villages socially and economically attached to it; and (2) the gigantic northern European dioceses based upon pre-urban tribal boundaries (medieval Oxford was in the diocese of Lincoln).

(1) goes back to the first evangelisation, when Christianity took root in the polis well before it spread out among the pagani. It is still alive in the dreamier parts of the Mediterranean. Or rather, it was back in the '60s. I rather liked it. The Bishop was not a distant prelate or what Gregory Dix called a cheerfully brisk businessman in gaiters. People could drop in for a cup of coffee and to gossip, and, most Sundays, he celebrated in his Cathedral in the presence of a sizeable percentage of his people. Perhaps most of the babies were still baptised in the Baptistry attached to the Cathedral. The boundaries were there; you never forgot he was the bishop, but the sort of prelacy which sadly encrusts episcopacy in this country was happily absent. Having a Bishop in the Apostolic Succession does not have to mean that he lives a couple of hours' driving away and has all the apparatus of secretaries and menials to keep the common people at a distance; the over-loaded diary; the perpetual feeling that you're taking up too much of the time of somebody with terribly important things to do. "Call me Bob" is no substitute for feeling that somebody really has got space for you. I remember Mervyn Stockwood who, even before his Chauffeur had got the car moving after a parish visit, was already talking into his dictaphone.

It's the system I blame, not the Bishops. Even though I'm not incardinated into the Diocese of Portsmouth, Bishop Philip Egan has been a model of a kindly pastor (and he has got a real reforming grip upon his diocese and writes delightful Pastorals of refreshing orthodoxy). And I hear well of Mark O'Toole ... but, good heavens, his diocese stretches from the Scillies to the Eastern borders of Dorset. (Does anybody remember that very funny joke he told us in Allen Hall? I've completely forgotten it except for the punch-line "I didn't mean the whole b****y bucket".)

We learned what true, pastoral episcopacy was when we had our flying Bishops. I had learned it earlier, in South London, in my friendship with Bishop Christopher Commodatos and his Cypriot congregation. The Bishop as the high-powered District Manager is a concept that leaves me cold.

I hope those dozy little Italian dioceses survive. But I bet they won't.

6 March 2015

The Joseph Goebbels Award

UPDATE: Father Zed's graphic account of the attacks upon Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco illustrates the determination of an educational, social, and legal establishment to preserve its right to groom children to participate in the Pornosphere.
Apparently, there are Primary Schools where a (private) programme called CHIPS is in use. Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools uses brilliant methods to get its message across. It retells the story of Noah's Ark in terms of fictional animals which are left behind because they are "different". Eight and nine year old children are made to "create a wedding scene with two princes in the front getting married". Six and seven year olds design a dress for a "Princess boy". "What do we think in our school about gay people getting married (we say it's OK!)." The plight of a transgender six year old in Colorado is to be discussed in class.

The government has issued new standards requiring that even free schools "actively promote" equality of sexual orientation as specified in the 2010 Equality Act. And schools will be expected to "challenge" parents who disagree. How very much like the Russia of dear Marshal Stalin, our popular wartime ally! We can envisage a future in which both Jack and Jill will be encouraged to report their parents to the Commissar if they overhear them uttering Speech Crimes!

This is all absolutely superb. Just think how totally brilliant it is. You might have supposed that children would have to be of an age to know what Sex is before they were taught to welcome Sexual Perversion. But No!!! Even before they know about penises and vaginas and their inherent functional complementarity, you can start preparing the ground for indoctrination about the desirability of making other, much more creative, uses of those organs! Get Perversion into the infant mind even before it understands Normality! It's like using well-constructed educational courses about the simple wholesome pleasures of Embezzlement on children who have not yet been taught about Money! That distinguished member of the Lowerarchy, Mr Undersecretary Screwtape, has lost nothing of his inventive and imaginative brilliance!

I think it is clearly necessary to create, at the heart of our British honours system, a suitable recognition for those whose contribution to corrupting public perceptions and, particularly, to indoctrinating the very young (through their imaginations) so as to embrace the normality of perversion, has been particularly noteworthy. The obvious choice here of a role-model is that towering figure, Joseph Goebbels. I know what you're going to say: we can't make role-model of someone who laboured with such success to convince the population of an entire nation that Jews were proper objects of hatred. I agree. And I know that Enthusiastic Hatred of Judaism and Enthusiastic Acceptance of Sexual Perversion are not in any way parallel evils (a very clear difference is that the latter, happily, does not embrace the taking of human life). But what both of these causes do have in common is the poisoning of the mass imagination, the use of sophisticated propaganda to pollute the common culture, and awareness of the need to begin this process as early as possible by planting Evil in the hearts of the very young. And in all this, Goebbels was a superb, a consummate practitioner. We shall not see his like again; but we should not, for that reason, ignore what our age can learn, not from his own particular abhorrent ideology, but from his general working methodology. After all, anti-Christian ideologies come and go, and good riddance to them once they're gone, and Nazism is, most fortunately, not the dominant ideology of our age; but the existence of perverted anti-Christian ideologies, differing from generation to generation, but always needing to be promoted, is a given.

We could have an Order of Joseph Goebbels (OJG), in which there could be the rank of Member (MJG), Companion (CJG), Knight Commander (or Dame: KCJG or DCJG), and Knight (Dames too, of course) Grand Cross of Joseph Goebbels (GCJG). Knights and Dames Grand Cross could have a pink sash to wear and, on great occasions, a pink cloak. The Church of England could provide, perhaps in Southwark Cathedral where Dean Colin Slee toiled so devotedly, a Chapel for the Order where the GCJGs could hang their banners and have their Plates on their Stalls. Processions of the GCJGs could be integrated into Pride Week, participation in which will very soon be compulsory for all Government Employees. A popular musician who has always promoted Orientation Equality could be rewarded for his life's work by being made Sovereign of the Order. The Prelate of the Order, in these ecumenical days, should not be required to be an Anglican Bishop.

Talking about the Government reminds me: we clearly need a dedicated Ministry to coordinate the indoctrination of the populace and to disseminate information about Worst Practice. I suggest the resurrection of the Ministry of Instruction and Morale, for which that great public servant Helen, Duchess of Denver, worked during the last War. It should be given the largely redundant Treasury Building as a marker of its national importance. A statue of Goebbels should grace the central atrium, a copy perhaps of the one which must be erected on the vacant plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Information from the Autumn 2014 Bulletin of SPUC Safe at School. Yes, you're quite right, today's is an abrasive post, with its talk about 'perversion'; not at all in my usual emollient style. It has always been my desire to avoid any slightest risk of hurt to friends who have a homosexual inclination. But I would never use the term 'pervert' to apply to chaste, celibate homosexuals, because in my view someone (of whatever orientation) who lives, despite the pressures of our culture, a chaste and celibate life, is a distinctly nobler person than comfortable happily married heterosexuals like me. And I even feel more sympathy for genitally active homosexuals than for heterosexual fornicators and adulterers, since the latter, unlike the former, have been given by Providence an Estate in which those that have not the gift of continence might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's Body.

So why the change of style? Since the murder of the Paris Blasphemers, we have been so lectured by the Camerons and Hollandes and Obamas about tolerance (tolerance even of the grossest sacrileges and insults), that it seems to me that a 'rougher' style cannot possibly be the object of any criticism. Frankness, free speech, that is, Parrhesia, even if it hurts, is officially ring-fenced. Isn't it? And now dear Stephen Fry has led the way in demonstrating the excellence of unrestrained Frankness. Ole, or whatever the word is!

5 March 2015

Episcopal Translations.

I know little about the relationship between the Holy Father and his bishops. But Stay: why do I call them "his" bishops? As Leo XIII stated, and Vatican II agreed, bishops are not Vicars of the Roman Pontiff. They, like him, are Successors of the Apostles. But it is praiseworthy that the Bishop of Rome takes such a careful brotherly interest even in his Venerable Brethren the Assistant bishops ... for example, in a new coadjutor bishop, for Albenga Imperia in Italy.

And I know even less about the rights and the wrongs in the 'emeritusing' of the bishops who fall foul of Rome ... but I am curious about the canonical procedures involved. Because it does not sound as if they all just resign.

When, years ago, the Bishop of Evreux was Got Rid Of in the time of S John Paul II, my recollection is that he was actually translated to a see in partibus infidelium, somewhere in the middle of the Sahara: I believe it may have had some such amusingly improbable name as Parthenia (what a wag Cardinal Gantin was!). So I wonder what they did with that more recent Toowoomba chappie down in Oz? Perhaps there was a derelict shanty-town in the Outback to which he was translated? I suppose the Australian equivalent of Parthenia might be something like Sheilas' Rest (Refrigerium scortorum in partibus infidelium), perhaps? No? OK, I apologise to those who discern a patronising 'colonialist' slur.

In English constitutional practice, Members of the House of Commons who 'Want Out' apply for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds or of the Manor of Northolt which, being technically Offices of profit under the Crown, automatically disqualify the holder from membership of the Commons. A list of those honoured with these dignities would afford a peepshow of some of the most diverting characters to have served their country, or, er, not.

Would it be a Jolly Thought if there were a similar special Titular See to which errant bishops were automatically translated? The Successio Apostolica of that See would be terribly interesting. In an age of virtual Anythings on the Internet, it could have its own virtual Cathedral with sumptuous but virtual monuments to the glories of previous virtual pontiffs. Just virtually think! Virtual Bernini wall to wall! There could be a virtual Shrine, thronged by virtual pilgrims, to that great liturgical reformer S Rembert Weakland, with, in the background, an immense virtual painting, in the style of Rubens' Triumph of the Church, of the archbishop's friend upon a great baroque chariot, triumphantly on his way to the bank with the archdiocesan virtual finances! The virtual Spirit of Vatican II! If I knew how to put illustrations on to blogs, I would design its armorial bearings for you.

4 March 2015

Obama and the Da Vinci Code

There is a report that some daft archbishop somewhere has suggested that since the Pope has the power of the keys, perhaps he can dissolve valid consummated sacramental marriages. But, however hard these extreme ultrapapalist mavericks struggle to portray the Holy Father as some sort of magically cunctipotent wizard or godlike superman or supremely effective alchymist, the fact remains that only a nutter, surely, really believes the Pope could do anything. He can't, for example, in my humble and respectful but cynical and decided opinion, turn the Alps into cheese or add the Da Vinci Code to the Bible or beam Obama up to Mars or grow a tail or turn Walter Kasper into the Dalai Lama or abolish the Sacrament of Baptism or suppress Easter or turn a pumpkin into a carriage or abolish bodily death or transsubstantiate a consecrated Host into bread or dissolve a Christian marriage or erase the character of Holy Order or transmute lead into gold. 

I repeat, underneath, a previous post about what the Pope is for and is supposed to do and does have the grace of the Holy Spirit guaranteed to him to accomplish. You might have thought that someone, such as a seminary lecturer, would have broken this somewhat ancient news, dating from at least 1870, to wannabe archbishops.

Doellinger, poor old thing, was excommunicated because he felt unable to accept Vatican I. Why do we now have an open season ...

 "The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter so that by His revelation they might disclose new teaching, but that, by His assistance, they might devoutly guard, and faithfully set forth, the Revelation handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith."

A very sensible reader asked me where this came from. I am happy to oblige. I can reveal that it came from the Decree of the First Vatican Council, on Papal Infallibility. It is a dogma which every Catholic, from the Pope downwards or upwards or sideways, is obliged to believe. Here's some more splendid stuff from the same source:

"So this gift of truth and of unfailing faith is divinely invested in Peter and his successors in this chair, so that they may discharge their lofty job [munere] in order that the whole flock of Christ, turned away through them [the popes] from the poisonous food of heresy, may be nourished by the food of heavenly teaching so that, all occasion of schism being done away, the whole Church may be kept as one and, resting upon its foundation, may stand firm against the Gates of Hell."

I will oblige further with a fine quotation from Blessed John Henry Newman:

"It is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection  which I embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift."

And, finally, with a neatly incisive passage from Joseph Ratzinger:

"After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything ... especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. ... In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ... it is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."

Our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis is most truly and visibly pope when you see him formally and officially condemning doctrinal error; when from the Chair of S Peter he carefully and lucidly puts into words what some erroneous innovation consists of, and then, in effect, declares "If anyone says that, let him be anathema". Or "This judgement is to be definitively held by all the faithful."

THAT is the job ['munus' in that Decree of Vatican I] that he's really there for: keeping the Church in unity by banishing the 'poisonous food' of heresy. 

God bless him; may God in due time make of him a worthy successor to his great predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. As Benedict prayed for himself at his own inauguration, so may Pope Francis, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, discover the strength to resist the Wolves. He will not find this easy; but God does provide for our human weakness whatever graces are needful for the job we are, each of us, put here to fulfill. Pope Francis so very badly needs our prayers.

3 March 2015

Apologies ...

... to those who emailed me, or submitted comments, during my week in Ireland. I am afraid that, as ever, the numbers of these were so great that I had to race through at breakneck speed. I am sorry if I mislaid you altogether, or sent you a rather curtly brief reply. No discourtesy intended.

I was surprised to get back home to my computer to discover that in Rome there is going to be a special Mass to commemorate fifty years since the first Mass entirely in the Italian Language. Surely, this sort of rather Renaissance triumphalist crowing is both in bad taste, and sadly divisive? Will the Mass be a Requiem to pray for the souls of those whose faith was disastrously weakened by those of the post-Conciliar changes which were praeter Concilium seu contra Concilium, and which proliferated during this half-century?

If you are a no-longer-fertile Mexican grandmother possessing shares in the Ignatius Press, whose newly ordained narcissistic grandson possesses a semi-Pelagian biretta and works in the deeply flawed Roman Curia, you must be in sore need of something to cheer you up. This event may not be precisely what you've been waiting for.

2 March 2015


What a wonderful place, a monastery in a Classical house (1843, but no suggestion of the Gothic) beside its silver stream in the gentle countryside of County Meath, but within a few minutes of Dublin airport! I was privileged to be asked to give retreat addresses there last week; but what a privilege just to be  there!

I suppose Anglicans of my generation might suffer from a nostalgia trip down memory lane: the particular lane in question being Nashdom in the high days of the Anglican Benedictine House of which Dom Gregory Dix had been such an ornament. The Chapel is not exactly, as at Nashdom, a Russian princely ballroom, but the feel is very similar. Most significant, of course, the melodies of the antiphons in the monastic breviary, and of the Graduale Romanum, which I don't think I have heard in the more than half a century since I visited Nashdom. But there is nothing retro about the community, which is entirely young and very vital, led by its charismatic prior Dom Mark Kirby. It is supplemented by young men known as 'observers', who are having a first nibble at the monastic life. Australian accents are a big part of the mix! And it was fun to meet a priest of the Ethiopian Church, based in Dublin, who feels at home during his visits ... happy to be among fellow monks, and, formed in the Ge'ez Liturgical texts, very appreciative of worship in a hieratic language! I wonder if the Ethiopian Church uses the works of Christine Mohrmann in its clerical formation?!

In many curious ways, the feel of Silverstream is very Anglican (several English Missals seem to lurk around). I was dead chuffed to be asked to celebrate, one morning, the Ordinariate Rite for the Chapter Mass: we rather think that this was the first use of our own particular rite in Ireland. It went down like a ... whatever it is that goes down very well!

The Sunday Mass is probably more redolent of old Ireland before the liturgical collapses of the 1960s: reverent but with that faint sense of perpetual movement which you get from the presence of a lot of children! The builders of the house [possibly as a dower house???], the Viscounts Gormanston (a genuine Irish medieval Viscountcy ... no whiff of the bribery surrounding the events of 1800-1801 about this title), who kept the Faith, would have felt faintly bewildered but very much at home.