28 April 2015


Two or three weeks ago, our beloved Holy Father set us another of his delicious brain-teasers! Better than a Sudoku, any day of the week! I don't know why the sourpusses criticise him: I can't get enough of the mind-games he sets us! Vivat Papa! In aeternum garriat!

Speaking about his Synod, he has recommended us to turn to prayer and to give up chatter/gossip ["chiacchiere"; is it onomatopoeic?].

EXEGESIS. (1) We should presume that, as so often over the last two years, the slang expression is intended to convey a criticism of someone.
(2) And it is almost invariably fellow clergy that the Sovereign Pontiff is taking a swipe at in his demotic cracks. But he always, intriguingly, leaves us this guessing-space: whom, precisely, is he criticising this time?
(3) So to whom does his term "chiacchiere" point? To Cardinal Marx, perhaps, whose scary near-schismatic ravings about ignoring the Universal Church and "not waiting for the Synod" would be enough to worry even the most laid-back of popes? This is my very much preferred hypothesis.
(4) Pope Francis cannot have in mind Cardinal Mueller, I think, because, in asserting orthodoxy His Eminence is simply doing what, given his job, he is supposed to do. You don't set the dogs on the postman when all he's trying to do is to deliver the post. This is my discarded hypothesis.
(5) But possibly he is thinking of Cardinal Cordes, Cardinal Koch, and other orthodox cardinals? Could it be that Papa Bergoglio and his intimates thought that they could start a ball rolling which would then gain its own momentum and triumphantly deliver the desired goods? And that now they are worried by the unexpectedly robust and extensive orthodox reaction which they have stirred up, and wish, at any cost, to try to stuff it all back into Pandora's box and shut everybody up? So as to gain time to work quietly on the Synod Fathers by that subtle combination of carrot and stick which back-room party-managers so love to deploy? This is my very much less preferred hypothesis ... less preferred because it would run directly contrary to the Parrhesia which the Holy Father has so often and so loudly and with such evident sincerity called for.

You tell me! Without any of your chiacchiere! Parrhesia Yes! Chiacchiere No!

25 April 2015

"The Beautiful City": ANZAC, April 25 1915

Kallipolis, Gallipoli, is not just yet-another First World War centenary. It is one of the significant moments in World History. It is the last occasion when the forces of what we could then still call Christendom engaged the Ottoman Empire. It was the last Crusade, when we set out to retake Constantinople. It was an enterprise which was part of our alliance with Christian Russia, Holy Russia. Strange, though, that Churchill was its begetter.

It was a failure. Even though Turkey was involved in the eventual defeat of Germany and her associates, and Constantinople was indeed occupied by the victorious Allies between 1918 and 1923, the Gallipoli campaign itself ended in ignominious defeat. It involved a great loss of life. As well as all the Allied troops who died, we remember most particularly on ANZAC day the Anzacs, "the poor dead Australians", and the New Zealanders, our kinsmen, and we pray for the repose of their souls. That defeat was the baptism of fire which represented the birth of those two great nations ... for which we also pray, for their good estate, for Christian civilisation which is still alive in their Christian communities.

It was a failure. The problem about the triumphalist, Whiggish view of History upon which many of us were brought up is it indoctrinates its victims with the idea that the Goodies always win; that the winners must therefore have been the Goodies. That this is not so, is one of the most important lessons to be learned; and we British Catholics, with our counter-cultural hermeneutic of our own Island History in the centuries after 1559, ought to be among the first to understand this and to teach it.

Like many British families, mine still has the little brass tin which the Princess Mary had sent to all fighting men (and women auxiliaries) of the "Imperium Britannicum" at Christmas 1914. It reminds us that we bore arms with the French and the Russians. Every time I look at it, I wonder whether our politicians are right so to demonise Russia, without qualification, at a time when, whatever its failings, Russia is no longer an atheist power and when it faces the same threats from militant Islam as we do ourselves.

I trust that all my readers will remember to pray for the soldiers who died near the Beautiful City, and for the sailors who died in the seas around Constantinople.

24 April 2015

Misericordiae vultus: an amplification

Our Holy Father, in his Bull about Mercy, observes at one point Iesus legem praetergreditur [Jesus goes beyond the Torah, the Law]. I think a rereading of Jesus of Nazareth, written by his learned and distinguished predecessor Pope Benedict, would enable Pope Francis ... and you ...  and me ... to sharpen our thinking and nuance its expression. I repeat here something which I first posted last December (with the original thread). It is the view of this Mutual Enrichment Blog that the Scholar pope, and the Pastor pope, together, have much to say to each other.

As Joseph Ratzinger engages with the eminent Jewish Rabbinical scholar Jacob Neusner to discuss the Sermon on the Mount, we enter a world in which we can breathe fresh air, set free from the fug of 'liberal' expositions. No longer are we told that Jesus is simply a teacher of an elevated morality, but a morality which nevertheless can be interestingly paralleled from the sayings of many other great moralists Eastern and Western. No; what we encounter is One who sits on Mount Sinai throned in the Teacher's cathedra as ... No; not as an appealingly 'liberal' rabbi - forerunner of all Christian liberalism - not even as a New Moses - but as the Torah Itself, God's Eternal Word to His People, God-Enfleshed-Speaking. As Benedict XVI puts it, "The issue that is really at the heart of the debate is thus finally laid bare. Jesus understands himself as the Torah - as the word of God in person." The Torah, that is, no longer as it was to be heard when it was the discriminating marker of one privileged race, but that 'fulfiment' of Torah which is equally and without discrimination for every man and woman.

I will not spoil the adventure which Neusner and Ratzinger lay out before you by giving my poor summary of their dialogue; I will simply point out that this analysis links up with the Pauline teaching that Christ is the Wisdom ... that is, the Torah ... of the Father; and with the credal chant of the Johannine prologue which we read at the end of each Mass: God's Own Utterance (Logos, Verbum) which is God, became Flesh. (So, happily, we can dump that grim orthodoxy of the old debunked 'New Testament Scholarship': the idea that the 'different strands' of the New Testament are quite unrelated to each other.)

And the Jesus who is the Torah, also is the Temple, as I have explained before. That is why he can forgive sins. True, expiation for sin could be sought, only of God, and only in His Temple ... but Jesus is that person, that place.

So how does this relate specifically to our present situation in the Catholic Church? I will attempt to explain.

The style of much modern dialogue is to set things against each other as polar opposites. Law vs Freeedom; Judgement vs Mercy; Cultus vs Prophecy; Demands-of-the-kingdom vs Compassion-and-Love. Any such cheap game needs to be exposed to the fact that Jesus is both. Writers often give me the impression that the Demands of the Kingdom, God's commandments, are something which we can't, unfortunately, get round, get out of, much as we might wish to do so. So we grit our teeth and loyally get down to compliance with as much dutiful obedience as we can muster. But ... if only we could square it with our consciences ... we would so very much rather be singing, to our congregations and to the World, great paeans of sentiment about God's Compassion, Mercy, and Love. So we do our best to circumscribe and render practically ineffective the Truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, out of our fear that, by laying too much emphasis there, we shall be robbing people of the Compassion and Love which we would so much rather be seen to be dispensing to a waiting World. I hope I am not being unfair or too cruel when I share my fearful suspicion that the anonymous ghost-writer of that CBCEW document is, with the best will in the world, at just about that stage of thought.

But Jesus is there in both places. The Truth that you cannot divorce a spouse and then acquire a replacement, without committing Adultery, is the Merciful Love of Christ. He is like the loving and compassionate Land-owner who puts a safe fence along the edge of a dangerous cliff in countryside where people are strongly tempted to behave carelessly, and then sets up as Law the truth (which in fact is inscribed into the very situation itself) that we cannot leap over that fence without falling to destruction. Any contradicting definition of Mercy, of Compassionate Love, is a fabrication of the Anti-Christ, who decks himself with devastating plausibility in the most apparently authentic religious language so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

You can't set Love or Mercy against Law because Christ has you in the most unavoidable of all pincer-movements: He is both.

23 April 2015

Misericordiae vultus

Firstly: a very happy S George's Day to all who count themselves English; and to those of other countries or places beneath the Patronage of S George! God bless Pope Benedict XIV, who decreed that S George was Totius Regni Angliae Protector; interestingly, doing so at a time when, according to Whig constitutional thought, the Kingdom of England had (in 1707) by statute been decreed out of existence. A great Pontiff, one of whose first actions was (upon the nomination of our late Sovereign Lord King James III) to appoint the admirable Richard Challoner (Beato pronto!) to be a Bishop.

Secondly: A very Happy Name Day to our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis! May the Protector of the Realm of England, his own Patron, pray that he have every Grace! And ... how can I have forgotten? Matthew Roth reminds me ... Ratzinger Major; and Archbishop Gaenswein!!

Thirdly: Thank You to readers who very kindly kept me informed when the definitive Latin Version of his Bull on Mercy appeared ... rather later than the vernacular versions. (Incidentally, has a Latin text for Evangelii gaudium appeared yet? If not, this will confirm Cardinal Burke's analytical judgement that it is not part of the Magisterium.)

I haven't been through Misericordiae vultus with a fine toothcomb; but my first impression is positive. Let me just, for now, share one highly important detail with you.

Long time readers will recall that one of the preoccupations to which I often come back is: that the Covenant of Salvation in Jesus Christ is freely offered to all men and women through Faith in our Saviour. Mercy is for all ... and through Jesus. I am very much opposed to the fashionable heresy that one race alone ... the Jews ... is excluded from this; and that, for them and them alone, the Old Covenant with its Torah (its prescribed way of life, its Law, its marker which identifies Jews and sets them apart as the Chosen Race distinct from the Gentiles), is still salvific, still their road to Salvation. No; the New Covenant in His Blood supersedes the old dispensation for all of humankind, just as Antitype supersedes Type, as antiquum documentum gives place Novo Ritui, as (you will remember Blessed John Henry Newman's motto) we come out of Shadows into Truth. Page after page in the New Testament makes this point. And the Fathers and the Liturgy.

And, gratifyingly, the Holy Father very firmly teaches this currently unpopular truth. Let me translate for you an important passage near the end of his Bull.  
"Before [S Paul] met Christ on the road to Damascus, he dedicated his whole life to fulfilling in every way the Righteousness of the Torah. But, converted to Christ, he so radically [prorsus] changed his mind that he wrote in his Letter to the Galatians: 'We have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we are made righteous out of Faith in Christ and not out of works prescribed by the Torah.' Paul turns totally upside down the basic idea of Righteousness [rationem iustitiae omnino evertit]. He puts in the first place, not now the Torah, but Faith. Keeping the Torah does not save, but Faith in Jesus Christ, who through his death and resurrection brings His salvation through the Mercy which makes righteous".
[The Holy Father appropriately cites Philippians 3:6 and Galatians 2:16, in both of which S Paul is concerned to emphasise strongly that Salvation is not by means of Judaism and its identity markers.]

Exactly. Precisely what S Paul taught. Couldn't be more clearly put. If this is what the Holy Father intends very firmly to continue to teach, even when he is attacked for it (as he must be) by the "Two Covenant" enthusiasts for "Inter-religious dialogue" (I wonder if Kasper has already raised the question?), then I have good vibes about this Year of Mercy.

19 April 2015

Sweet little lambs and family memories

We walked up to the Trout, passing on the way fields with new lambs. Ah ... memories ... when our family was young, and all the other kiddies were Ahhing and Ooing at the sight of the lambs, our five, who had not been brought up to be sentimental, were climbing up the field gates and yelling "Mint Sauce! Mint Sauce!" at the lambs.

How tempus does fugit. Trinity Term is about to start with what is nowadays called Noughth Week, and Senior Granddaughter is coming up again today. At the end of last term, she got 88% in her Koine Greek paper; I gather that anything above 70% is currently reckoned first class.

It's all in the genes, y'know. In this case, her Grandmother's.

18 April 2015

Two cultures, two languages: Bishop Egan and the MP

Sometimes, when the Media are interviewing Catholics on controverted issues, they tell us the religion of the person they have with them, as if to say "Of course, you should take account of the fact that X is a devout Catholic, and so what he says must be taken with a pinch of salt".

The BBC, in the person of Ed Stourton, a Catholic remarried after divorce, gave radio space on Sunday March 22 to the RC MP for Bournemouth, Conor Burns, to make another attack on Bishop Philip Egan, Burns' own diocesan Bishop.

I think it would have been helpful to listeners to mention Stourton's own status, so as to remind them that he is himself not impartial and unbiassed when it comes to Christ's teaching on Marriage and associated matters.

Burns is described by Wikipedia as "openly gay"; surely, it would have been appropriate to inform listeners of this? Perhaps Stourton could have introduced him with something like:

"Mr Burns, who is said to be openly gay, first attacked Bishop Philip last year when the bishop gave his opinion that legislators who voted for homosexual marriage 'shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion'".

This point of mine is pure Common Sense. We all know the phrase "I see where you're coming from". For the members of the Media Establishment to be so coy about letting us know where they and their darlings are "coming from", amounts to a culpable and deceitful suppressio veri.

Readers will remember the occasion of Burns' first attack on Dr Egan. The bishop made it clear that he would not himself deny Communion to legislators voting for laws which contradict Catholic moral teaching unless this were the common policy of his episcopal conference. Some Bishops' Conference employee called "Greg Pope" promptly issued a statement which, while formally eminently correct, effectively cut the ground from beneath Bishop Philip's act of witness. And I am also sure that readers will also remember Cardinal Mueller's recent observations that Dioceses and their Bishops are not 'branches' of Episcopal Conferences or of their bureaucracies; still less should a bishop be subject to the implied supervisory correction of Conference employees. Gerhard Mueller's observation that the diocesan bishop and the Roman Pontiff have a direct and unmediated relationship is not so much pastoral as it is theological: it is the local Particular (i.e. diocesan) Church, and the Universal Church (with their circumincessio), that are, for Catholics, the basic ecclesiological realities.

Let me describe the occasion of Burns' second, Stourton-facilitated, attack. Recently, Bishop Philip, in response to appeals for advice, put out a carefully argued statement on the complex subject of support for 'charities' which have varying degrees of involvement in controverting Catholic teaching. As a bishop has a duty to do, he warned against "formal cooperation in gravely immoral acts". Burns called this "legalistic" [the second time he used the term, he expanded it into "highly legalistic"]  and "rigid".

Now that is an interesting word. Would he describe those who with unflagging determination worked for the passage of the Gay Marriage legislation as "rigid"? Or is this another of those Irregular Verbs ... "I am resolute, You are rigid ..."?.

Burns went on to attack the bishop's paper for causing "worry and anxiety". Having damned his Bishop with faint praise for being erudite, he then waffled on about "the World as it is". He referred to Bishop Philip's "absolute logic" (but, very strangely, these words do not seem to have been intended as complimentary but as a sneer). He revealed that a "couple of priests" were upset and were wailing "What on earth are we to do?". He was clearly enraged about the copious footnotes which support all Bishop Philip's statements. Imaginary "conflict" with Pope Francis got dragged into this load of nonsense.

Bishop Egan does indeed invariably footnote his utterances with great care. Far from being "legalistic", this practice is in the very highest degree reassuring to the ordinary, faithful, cleric or laic. Indeed, it is profoundly humble. A bishop's duty is, very obediently, very humbly, to teach the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles in accordance with the Church's Magisterium; and footnoting exemplifies the authenticity of his teaching as well as drawing his readers more deeply into the authentic sources of the Faith. I hope that there is no Catholic bishop anywhere in the world who, instead of teaching what the Church teaches, uses his office to promote his own divisive whimsies. If there is, then there must be a relevance in Cardinal Brandmueller's recent observation that people who "insistently demand" change in the Church's dogma are "heretics" even if they happen to wear the purpura of a Cardinal. (I am glad, incidentally, that his Eminence has revived this useful analytical category.)

Nor do I like the cheap game of attempting to judge and condemn a bishop by deploying Media fantasies about what the 'policy' of Pope Francis is. Quite apart from the fact that these fantasies are grotesquely garbled, Leo XIII taught ... and so did Vatican II ... that the Bishops are not mere vicars of the Roman Pontiff, but themselves Successors of the Apostles. Here again, we have journalists assuming that maximalising view of the Papacy which I dealt with (yet again) in a recent post. Of course there isn't any "conflict" between the Bishops of Rome and Portsmouth ... the very suggestion is absolute and unmitigated rubbish ... but even to raise the possibility is to be asking a wrong question on the basis of a faulty understanding arising from a false theology.

17 April 2015

A footnote on the Armenians and Holocaust Denial

After the Holy Father's admirable words on Sunday, it would be good to hear just a few Admirable Words from a lot of others. (I apologise in advance if what follows demonstrates that I am not quite up-to-date with the utterances of politicians.) After all, this is the Centenary of the Armenian Holocaust, and everybody all over the world clamours to observe Centenaries. Why do we hear so little on this one?

Successive British Governments of all parties, highly principled in all things, full of moral courage, anxious to lecture other governments all over the world about their poor records on human rights, fortified by a self-confidence based on the sublimely High Ground which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office invariably occupies, have never dared to say anything which Ankara might take amiss.

Obama, before he became Divine Emperor, spoke about the Armenian Holocaust, but since his Apotheosis has done a good line in weasel words and diplomatic ambiguities. Come on, Mr O, this is Centenary time!

Some Israelis have spoken very Admirably indeed about the Armenian tragedies. There have been others who have felt that enormous moral imperatives, like not upsetting a country whose airline does a lot of flights in and out of Tel a viv, counsel prudence. An odd line for Zionists, of all people, to take. Or is it that some of them think they hold the copyright on being victims of a Holocaust? Netanjahu could clear these uncertainties up for us, with the same clarity that Pope Francis used.

I wonder if the Masonic tradition has examined its conscience in this matter? Have there been Apologies which I have missed?

Lombardi boobs again

Outrageous, Wednesday's Bollettino. It refers to someone called "Lord Chris Patten". A totally non-existent person. There is another major Vatican scandal here. Heads should roll.

For there to be any such person, he would have to be the younger son of a Duke. Let us suppose that there is a Thirteenth Duke of Chalice, descendant of King Charles II by his mistress (a very physical girl) Nelly Corporal. His family name is Patten; and, as well as his dukedom, he has some subsidiary titles. So, in full, he is something like this: Charles Patten, Duke of Chalice, Earl of Pall, and Baron Purificator (in fact it would be more complicated that that, but let's not go there). His Grace's personal friends probably call him Charlie Chalice.

Let us imagine he has children and grandchildren. As a matter of courtesy, Chalice's eldest son takes his father's second title and is called "the Earl of Pall" or, more colloquially, Lord Pall. Pall's eldest son, again as a courtesy, bears his grandfather's title of "the Baron Purificator" or, more briefly, Lord Purificator.

Chalice's three younger sons are respectively called (so let us fantasise) Lord Andrew Patten, Lord Benjamin Patten, and Lord Christopher Patten. The duke's daughters are called the Ladies Yolanda and Zuleika Patten. That's how it is with Dukes' children in civilised countries. How dukes organise matters in Lombardy, I just hate to imagine. There are things that don't bear thinking about. Do the Lombards still rampage around Italy looting and kidnapping people to sell into slavery?

Chris Patten is not the fourth son of a Duke. Fr Lombardi, by implying that he is, might even be committing a libel by suggesting that Patten's Mother once comforted a duke. I would suggest that it could be extremely dangerous for Fr Lombardi ever to set foot within these Three Kingdoms, because he would very probably find himself instantly served with a writ and dragged off to the Tower of London, there to be photographed daily by Japanese tourists and pecked at by ravens. Or perhaps the delinquent is not Fr Lombardi, but that Fr Rosica, the cut of whose jib I have never liked. Is he aware that the Tower is where, in English tradition, prisoners are racked?

Patten is a Life Baron; his patent of creation makes clear that his peerage dies with him. Although the College of Heralds designed for him arms with a Supporter each side of the Shield, as befits a peer, they, poor wee beasties, will be sent off to the abattoir the moment their owner dies ... the Supporters, that is, not the Heralds.

And in correct English usage he is just called Lord Patten or, if you feel like being completely  formal, "the Lord Patten of Barnes". And he is the Chancellor, and a very good one, of this University. Italian and Canadian priestlings, hands off!

13 April 2015

Francis follows Benedict; what will the Wolves make of it?

As an unashamed admirer of the emeritus Roman Pontiff, I feel dead chuffed that his successor has chosen to follow right in his footsteps in two highly significant ways ... and on the same glorious day!

(1) Pope Benedict fearlessly delivered his Regensburg lecture, undeterred by the probability of uproar from the Wolves. And now our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis has shown his fearless solidarity with the magnificent Christian Armenian people by refusing to be be bullied by the Turkish Government into Holocaust Denial. Let us hope that pusillanimous Western governments will have the guts to follow his courageous lead. It will be amusing to see if the Wolves who attacked Benedict after Regensburg will deploy the same splenetic malevolence against Francis. I'm betting that they won't, because so many of them were endlessly devising flimsy pretexts for attacking Benedict XVI, but have invested a lot of their own tenuous credibility in their confected image of "Good Pope Francis". Armeniagate, of course, will be argued to be subtly different from Regensburggate!!

(2) Pope Benedict also received endless flak from the Wolves for Mercifully remitting the excommunications upon the four bishops consecrated by His Excellency the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. They particularly went into paroxysms of their usual simulated fury about the Merciful inclusion in this package of Bishop Williamson, reputed to be a Holocaust Denier. More recently, His Wykehamist Excellency has re-incurred, only last month, the same excommunication latae sententiae for consecrating another bishop absque mandato Apostolicae Sedis. But now Pope Francis, even more Merciful than Pope Benedict, is to send out confessarii with extensive faculties to absolve even the matters most specially reserved to the Holy See. So all that Richard Williamson will need to do is to catch an early train in from Broadstairs (just eighty minutes to S Pancras) and get into the queue in Westminster Cathedral when one of these Grand Penitentiaries is installed there hard at work absolving ("And finally, Father, I have performed Episcopal Consecration without a Mandate from the Holy See". "Male or female, my son, and how many times?" "Male ... once." "... te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis suspensionis et interdicti, in quantum possum et tu indiges ... "). Just the cost of a single train ticket! Can ripping up into tiny pieces a major reserved papal excommunication ever have been such a total doddle? Oodles of Mercy for Williamson toties quoties!!! How will the Wolves handle that possibility? By discovering, d'you think, some handy canonical small-print meaning that the Jubilaeic Mercy will be just a trifle less all-embracing than the Holy Father clearly intends? Wait for it!

11 April 2015


So the Bull of Indiction for the Year of Mercy is, at this very moment ... 5.30ish, as I potter off to say a Vigil Mass for a brother priest ... about to be published on the steps of S Peter's!! Exciting!!! Except that you already know what it must contain: the reiterated assertions of the Hebrew Bible, and especially of the inspired Psalmist, that Mercy and Truth go together, like (as we Anglo-Saxons put it) a Horse and Carriage and, er, Love and Marriage. See Psalms (LXX numbering) 24:10; 56:3; 60:7; 84:10; 85:15; 88:14; 97:3. Eleos kai Aletheia in the Greek. For your convenience, I reprint an earlier Post of mine about Mercy and Truth, which includes a fine passage from S AUGUSTINE, a currently fashionable Patristic writer. How can any of you doubt that Pope Francis will cite this very passage too?

Wednesday April 1 2015: Today comes the news that Cardinal Mueller, Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has made very emphatically the point hammered home by S AUGUSTINE in the passage I quote at length at the end of my piece. His Eminence said: "We must remember also in the Holy Year that we cannot speak of mercy without truth". He also, memorably, said: "The mercy of God accepts us as we are, but it does not leave us as we are". Cardinal Mueller, admirably, like S Augustine, does not write or speak anonymously!

Monday March 30 2015: I repeated parts of a piece of mine from last December. Its context was the issuing, by the CBCEW, of a document giving no clear statement of authorship. Worse, it appeared to me to be designed to advance strategically the theological opinion of Walter Kasper (contrary to the Magisterium as expressed by Benedict XVI), that the Local Church (which appears to some theologians to mean the Episcopal Conference) has an ontological priority over the Universal Church. Readers will recall the practical conclusion to which Kasper's argument was designed to point: that the bright and sparkling Local Church can make its own decisions about certain Matrimonial matters without having to wait for the sclerotic Universal Church to catch up.

It seemed to me that when a document emerges from the bureaucracy of an episcopal conference with an at least prima facie appearance of calling into question what has hitherto been clear Magisterial teaching, there should be the very clearest indication of who bears responsibility for it.

The abiding topicality of Kasper's errors has recently been highlighted by its vigorously crude  reassertion in statements from Cardinal Marx, and - on the opposite side - by the superb interview given by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the fine Letter from Cardinal Cordes; a most useful intervention by Cardinal Koch, and the courageous Letter of the English Priests. The, frankly, sinister revelation (itself an act of courage) that some of those English priests were subjected to "pressure and intimidation" not to sign the Letter suggests that the anonymous person responsible for last December's deplorable CBCEW document has, in the memorable words of Gerry Adams, "not gone away".

December 2014, I wrote: The anonymous document suggested that we should derive from the Donatist controversy a way to "reach out to people in their very diverse situations". The Donatists died out a long time ago; they were opponents of S Augustine of Hippo. Yet, apparently, S Augustine, in his dealing with the Donatists, "offers us a way of looking at the Church from his age which is still relevant today". Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am in favour of learning from the past and that I deplore any inadequacy of Formation which leaves clergy without enough Latin to be able actually to read for themselves all these interesting, and, apparently, now immensely important documents relating to S Augustine's long battle with the Donatists. The question, however, which does have to be asked, is: what is the motive here for dragging in the Donatists and, for that matter, S Augustine? There does appears to be a subtext. Could it possibly be to imply that those who stand by the currently well-established disciplines of the Church are behaving like the Donatist heretics whom Augustine condemned? 

As far as I can make out, the message which the anonymous author wishes to derive from the case of S Augustinus versus Donatum, is that sinners should not be excluded from the Church; the Church should not attempt to be the Pure Few. S Augustine, we are told, favoured "patience and tolerance"; not the exclusion of sinners from the Church. I certainly buy that. 100%. Not least because I am a sinner. But ... neither, as far as I am aware, does anybody in our present debates make any such proposal. It is true that a question arises (in fact, is raised by S Paul I Cor 11:27) about the reception of Holy Communion by those who, without repentance and a purpose of amendment, live in sin, whether that sin be adultery or fornication or homosexual genital relationships or embezzlement or pride or theft or mendacity or murder or spite or people-trafficking or torture or arbitrary imprisonment or slavery or sexual and economic exploitation ... I think I must have been spending too much of my time reading Gaudium et Spes and Veritatis Splendor ... or whatever other common sins you care to name. But that is not the question which S Augustine is addressing. He condemns, it is very true, the error of "making rash or premature conclusions" about who will, on the Day of Judgement, be saved ... and I do most certainly agree that "we are not in a position in this life to pass judgement on others".

But there is a gap in logic between that, and the conclusion that "such key words of S Augustine can help us move the debate beyond particularly difficult issues* and set these same issues* in a wider context." I wonder what you think those 'particularly difficult issues*' are which, in view of the anonymous writer, will benefit from the 'wider context' of S Augustine and the Donatists a millennium and a half ago? Could they ... just possibly ... I make a wild guess ... be the 'issue*' of the admission to Holy Communion of those living in the objectively disordered and unrepented states of Moikheia, adultery ('remarried divorcees') or Malakia, homosexuality genitally expressed ('Gay Marriage')? If not this, then whatever else can possibly be in the anonymous mind? In a word, how can the rather obvious fact that we do not know who will end up saved, have anything to do with the question of whether or not the Church should adjust her teaching or her rules?

Consider these words, also from the same anonymous document: "Can charity allow us to live with difference, without diminishing what is essential in our Catholic faith?** ... Liberty in what is doubtful, unity in what is essential, and charity in everything". This reminds me disturbingly of Walter Kasper's claim that "the disagreements at issue fall into the category of those where the Church has historically recognised legitimate differences of opinion" - and he was writing about the admission to Communion of 'remarried divorcees', a policy which he had tried to implement in Rottenburg-Stuttgart when he was its diocesan bishop. (Who put the stoppers on him? Joseph Ratzinger. Eis polla ete despota!)  

I will, indeed, let S AUGUSTINE, Hammer of the Donatist Heresy, have the last word. We will take him up, in translation, as he quotes the Lord's words to the Woman Caught in Adultery.
" ' Neither will I condemn you'. What is this, Lord? Do you therefore favour sins? Not so, evidently. Mark what follows: 'Go, henceforth sin no more'. Therefore the Lord did also condemn, but condemned sins, not man. For if he were a patron [fautor] of sin, he would say 'Neither will I condemn you; go, live as you will: be secure in my deliverance; how much soever you will sin, I will deliver you from all punishment even of hell, and from the torturers of the infernal world'. He said not this. Let them take heed, then, who love his gentleness in the Lord, and let them fear his truth [veritatem]. For 'The Lord is sweet and right [rectus]'. You love him in that he is sweet; fear him in that he is right. As the meek, he said 'I held my peace'; but as the just [iustus], he said 'Shall I always be silent?'  'The Lord is MERCIFUL and pitiful'. So he is, certainly. Add yet further: 'Long-suffering'; add, even further still: 'And very pitiful'. But fear what comes last: 'And TRUE [verax]'. For those whom he now puts up with [sustinet] as sinners, he will judge as despisers. 'Or do you despise the riches of his long-suffering and gentleness, not knowing that the forbearance of God leads you to repentance? But you, after your hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up for yourself wrath against the Day of Wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgement of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds' [Romans 2:4-6]. The Lord is gentle, the Lord is long-suffering, the Lord is pitiful; but the Lord is also just, the Lord is also TRUE. He bestows on you space for correction; but you love the delay of Judgement more than the amendment of your ways".
* Notice this very modern use of the word issue here instead of the older term 'problem'. 'Problem' would admit, give away, the fact that there is a problem. By calling a thing an 'issue', it is turned into something much more neutral ... something to discuss.
** Another very useful rhetorical dodge here, not to be missed by the connoisseur: the anonymous writer desires to promote a certain agenda, but he or she sets his or her desired innovation in the form of a question, so that, if it becomes politic, he or she can hide behind the the formula "I didn't argue in favour of X; I just asked the question". (This is often combined with another similar common modern rhetorical trick: the implication "I just want to make a contribution to debate". But the implication, smuggled in here like the illegal immigrant underneath the chassis of the lorry, is the idea that the subject concerned is truly open to debate. Those who are inclined to doubt this are thus cast in the role of nasty rigid inflexible legalistic people who 'refuse to listen'. Which is to be unmodern.)

9 April 2015

Yesterday ...

... a splendid time strolling round Oxford with a group of very intelligent, well-informed, and engaged young German clergy (they even knew about Sir Ninian Comper!). We soaked ourselves in Anglo-Catholicism (they seemed to think the English Missal was a good thing); Cranmer; Charles I (one of them drew our attention to the significance of an inscription in the Cathedral referring to Charles as beati martyris); Laud; Blessed John Henry Newman; and our great 'Patrimonial' Pusey.

Most enjoyable; and all the more so because it left me with a comfortable feeling that there can't be much, in the longer term, wrong with the German Church if this is what the clerical generation now coming on stream is like.

They were planning, for the climax of their English visit on Friday, to go to Gilbert and Sullivan. Sezitall, doesn'it?

8 April 2015

"De facto Schism": a useful new theological category of analysis?

A year or two ago, Cardinal Mueller suggested that, although the excommunication of its bishops had been lifted, the SSPX was still in de facto schism.

At first, I disliked this idea, because it seemed to nullify the emollient effects of the removal of the excommunications, as intended by Benedict XVI. But, upon lengthier thought, I came (as I usually do ... honest, no irony here ...) to the conclusion that his Eminence is right. After all, with whatever justification, the SSPX does not have any recognition in Rome or throughout the world-wide churches which are in unflawed communion with the Holy Father. De facto there is no communicatio in sacris between SSPX clergy and a diocesan bishop. They do not attend his Chrism Mass; I imagine it is pretty certain that he does not invite them. Do they use Chrism he has consecrated?? Or, "ex necessitate", do they use Chrism consecrated by a bishop who may be more orthodox than their diocesan but who does not have a canonical missio from the Holy See and does not even claim to possess even a titular episcopal see? And who does not fulfil the ancient custom of going formally ad limina Apostolorum? To call this a de facto schism, which after all does imply that the Society is not in a de iure schism, and thus is not canonically schismatic, does seem at least arguably to be a useful analytical category.

I wonder exactly how far heterodox or heteropractic elements in the hierarchy need to go before they themselves can prudently be judged to have entered this interesting new category of de facto schism. I have in mind Cardinal Marx and his like, with their threats "to go ahead without waiting for the Synod" et similia. How different is this from the SSPX going down its own path without waiting for Rome to "return to the Eternal Rome"? In each case, it looks to me as though submission to the communio of the Universal Church is made subordinate to, or contingent upon, the Universal Church taking particular actions which are being demanded of her. And the admission of 'remarried' divorcees to Holy Communion would be a matter of communicatio in sacris; those officially admitted to the Sacraments within one jurisdiction would be as officially excluded from them within another. It would be interesting to hear Cardinal Marx explain how, essentially, his position, if he "goes ahead without waiting for Rome", will differ from that of Bishop Fellay. (I apologise in advance to those who may take grave exception to my bracketing a Bishop who is endeavouring to lead his associates back into a fuller communio with the See of Blessed Peter together with a Cardinal who appears to be willing to lead his associates in the oppposite direction.)

As a jurist by training, perhaps Cardinal Burke could convene and preside over a small de facto committee to issue advisory (and totally de facto) opinions about this question. I would be happy to volunteer, especially if it meant freebee stays in the Roman palazzo of the Order of Malta. Now here I am back to irony ... I think ... er ... or perhaps ...

7 April 2015

The Wall Street Journal ...

... has authoritatively spoken: Vatican II taught that God's Covenant with the Jews had not been abrogated.

On the natural assumption that the people the paper employs to write about Economics are as grossly misinformed about that subject as its employees who comment on Theology are about their subject, it is not surprising that we had an international banking collapse, and that we're going to have a lot more of the same.

6 April 2015

Clerical bigamy in Italy ... the Albenga files.

I am sure that many readers will have read the theological Scifi trilogy of C S 'Patrimony' Lewis; and will remember the entertaining ... and illuminating ... episode in Out of the Silent Planet in which the hero, a Cambridge philologist called Ransom, has met (on Mars) a rational species called the hrossa, rational and unfallen, who naturally know nothing of sophisticated terrestrial pleasures such as Adultery and Polyamory. The hrossa explain the Facts of (unfallen) Life to Ransom. They cannot understand how a Rational Being might wish to "Love Twice"; the nearest analogy they can drum up from their own culture to so improbable a notion, is a poem about a single crazed individual of their own species:

"There is a poem about a hross who lived long ago, in another handramit [valley], who saw things all made two - two suns in the sky, two heads on a neck; and last of all they say that he fell into such a frenzy that he desired two mates. I do not ask you to believe it, but that is the story: that he loved two hressni [females]".

Ransom pondered this. Here ... was a species naturally continent, naturally monogamous ... At last it dawned on him that it was not they, but his own species, that were the puzzle.

This passage came into my mind when I read the exciting news that an Italian diocese had been granted a 'coadjutor' bishop with the full faculties of a diocesan Bishop. The lucky people of Albenga Imperia will have the considerable privilege ... which Catholics, and especially priests, all over the world will jealously envy ... of seeing their Bishop made Two. And this is of considerable ecclesiological interest. Traditionally, the Bishop has been seen as the Bridegroom of his Church, so that even Translation from See to See has seemed close to being a form of Adultery. But now the Ecclesia Albinganensis-Imperiae ... clearly, a lusty and accommodating Lady ... will delight in the simultaneous and bigamous embraces of a doubled Bridegroom.

This Doctrinal Evolution (fully in accordance, I am sure, with Blessed John Henry Newman's Essay on Development) deserves to be rolled out still further. Why only one Pope? Why not (at least) two? We would, just yesterday, have able, like that frenzied hross, to see videoclips of the two Holy Fathers, both doubly beloved, doubly rain-soaked, delivering simultaneously, from opposite ends of the Piazza di San Pietro, their two Easter Addresses and imparting their two Blessings Urbibus et Orbibus with doubled Indulgences. Just imagine the thunder of the redoubled crowds!

5 April 2015


Readers will be aware of Joseph Ratzinger's explanation of the RISUS PASCHALIS ... in baroque Bavaria, on Easter Morning , the parochus was expected to situate a funny in his homily in the hope of appealing to the sense of humour of the plebs sancta Dei. My Risus Paschalis will come tomorrow morning.

But I feel moved to repeat this evening a Risus, a Iocus Paschalis, passed on to me years ago by an acquaintance of mine of whose death I have only just heard. Professor 'Sammy' Sheppard Frere, Seconds House Lancing 1930-1935, CBE, FSA, FBA, Housemaster of Gibbs, Fellow of All Souls, died on 26 February this year, aged 98, about three weeks after I had given you the following anecdote on my Blog. Cuius animae propitietur Deus.

February 4 2015: Some quite nice sunny weather, recently, fit for strolling across the water meadows of the flood plain and along the Thames. The daffodills have been out for a fortnight now near Sandford Lock. Lots of new molehills; can it be that the little chaps have to scramble above the water table? In the spoil heap of one such tiny excavation, a small piece of coarse red pottery ... what we used to call a sherd ... which, I suppose, must have been deposited, perhaps centuries ago, in a flood.

That little sherd reminded me of a story I heard from 'Sammy' ('Brittania') Frere, sometime member of the Classics Department at Lancing; sometime Fellow of All Souls College Oxford (back in those primitive days before the rise of the modern narrowly focussed "academic" ... before 'Specialisation', when there was so much more hithering and thithering between Common Rooms at Oxbridge and that at Lancing, and indeed between subject and subject). Professor Frere's anecdote concerned Sir Flinders Petrie (another great archaeologist) and Petrie's wife Hilda (ditto). The pair spent their lives excavating in Egypt and Gaza (back in those dangerous days before European Civilisation brought peace, stability and the Arab Spring to the Middle East).

During one such excavation, probably in the 1930s, a youthful member of the team approached Hilda in a state of some very visible embarrassment. "Lady Petrie", he mumbled, red-faced (and a trifle chiastically), "I'm afraid, er, well, we've nearly run out of ...  well ... er ... lavatory paper". Her reply:

"Young man, for forty years Sir Flinders and I have used nothing but sherds".


4 April 2015

Urbi et Orbi ...

... I send my best wishes; to readers whoever and wherever they are. Especially, if they read this, dear long-time friends at Papa Stronsay, and Sons of S Philip Neri, and citizens of the mighty Lone Star State. And the elegant and beautiful city of Copenhagen. And to more recent friends at Silverstream and in Dublin; as well as to those I have met through the Roman Forum, and that great engine of the New Evangelisation, the Latin Mass Society together with its Latin Summer School, and at Knock. Brothers and sisters in the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham, and fellow-members of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy: that almost goes without saying. All who have contributed comments to this blog ... yes, I mean you. Benefactors who have given me books, articles, and hospitality. Come to think of it, quite a lot of overlapping in this list! And - a very special category - my love to those who kept me going in the dark months after, having entered into Full Communion, I immediately ran into a cruel wall of hostility and rejection. I shall particularly pray this Pasch for the Franciscans of the Immaculate, whose problems have already lasted more than twice as long as mine did; and for courageous bishops who, at personal risk, have given some of the FI a refuge.

But I would also like to greet, if I dare, readers who are still within the Church of England, and who can read this Blog without being too angry with me.

Ecumenism means nothing if we entertain vacuously kindly thoughts about ecclesial bodies theologically far distant from us, while feeling irritated towards those who are so close that you couldn't get an old-style cigarette paper between us. And this means: those who held with us the fulness of the Catholic Faith, yet remain for the time being the other side of the Tiber. I sometimes feel that some who regarded themselves as 'papalists' when we were all together, seem to have been driven to a more distant ecclesiology by beholding us in Full Communion with Peter. I pray that my own words have not been, and may not be, a skandalon.

God bless you; may God bless us all.

Haec nox est ...

Even churches where the kiddies have been persuaded to create an Easter Garden do not attempt a physical portrayal of the words in the Exsultet destructis vinculis mortis, Christus ab inferis victor ascendit. The most stupendous event in the history of the cosmos - the most terrible wonder in the elapse of time betwen the initial and final big bangs - is never actually attempted by artists or even described in words. The Lord's Resurrection is, as it were, wrapped in veils. Jesus' burial may be described; lightning and earthquakes may be mentioned; women and men meet the mysterious stranger in the garden or on the road to Emmaus; but no television camera, no recording historical pen, no purported eyewitness, intrudes into the darkness and mystery of that cave-tomb. No Gospel writer claims to discern a tremor beneath the winding-cloth, no chronicler pretends to be able to describe the aweful countenance of the One who was dead and en atomoi, in a moment, is alive. It is as if to do so would mar the unimaginable wonder and terror of such a ... did I call it an 'event'? I think that was a category error: what we are talking about is not in any cataphatic word-bag. No, for the Gospel writers it is as if even to try to imagine it is an unspeakable vulgarity. And the Church's liturgy is marked by the same awed reticence: in the Song of the Candle the deacon exclaims with fearful wonder: 'O Night truly blessed, who alone wast worthy to know the time and the hour'.

The greater the miracle and the greater the wonder, then the more need for a veil to shield our eyes. S Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the greatest Christian thinker since S Paul, described what Christ did at the Last Supper as 'the mightiest miracle that he ever worked during his life on earth'. That same miracle is repeated every time that Mass is offered; at every Eucharist the stone is rolled from the darkness of the tomb; when the words of consecration 'This is my Body' are uttered, the Easter Lord who was dead and is alive walks out of eternity and comes among us; and the veil which prevents us from being consumed by such a wonder is the forms of bread and wine. The naked brightness of the divine reality would be too much for such as now we are. But as we kneel at the altar, every Mass is Easter and the Lord is the risen and invincible One and He whispers to each of us, as He whispered to Mary in the garden, the name He has given us; and for a moment the veil becomes wafer thin.

Location, location ...

Thank you, SH, aye, in the Kingdom of the North, for a most charming Easter Card, via the Royal Mail Aberdeen Mail Centre! It has just arrived this morning, brilliantly on cue on a grey dismal Holy Saturday morning in the English Midlands, and cheered me up very greatly with its Paschal Candle. Two or three generations ago, we would all by now have been cheered up by the Liturgy itself at its old Saturday morning timing, with the paradoxes Evelyn Waugh observed: seeking illumination in the middle of the day by lighting a fire, and then blessing the fire by sprinkling it with water! I think our beloved Benedict XVI once wrote about those old, easily derided, Holy Week arrangements, deriving Illumination from them and, by doing so, wisely reminding us of his authoritative teaching in Summorum Pontificum, that the Church can never just abolish an orthodox Catholic rite.

Your card  had been forwarded from our former address; it occurs to me that it might be useful to give you my current address. Perhaps other readers, too, who have me in their nice old fashioned pre-email Address Books, could update me in them.

I still have such a child-like joy in being sent things!! There is only one detail that disappoints me: the old-style, round, postmarks, cancelling the stamps (and how long will they survive?) by giving place and time of franking, seem to have been Rationalised away in Britain. But lots of Commonwealth countries still preserve them. Thank God for our loyal Colonies.

26, Playfield Road,

Paschal Candles in grouped parishes

I would have put this on Fr Zed's blog if I knew how ... six parishes are grouped together and combining for one Vigil Mass in one of the six churches. How do the other five Paschal Candles get 'done'? A C of E document intelligently suggests that, while only one Candle may be blessed at the Vigil, representives of the other churches might, at the end of the Liturgy, bring up their candles to be lit from the flame of 'The' Paschal Candle, and then carry them in procession out of the church. Creates a link between ... etc. etc.. Not illegal, because it happens after the dismissal; 'extraliturgically'.

1 April 2015

Spring or Summer on the Italian Lakes? Join me there!!.

I remember the beginning of the sermon well; firstly, because it was the day after we got married on April 1, secondly because the preacher was very fat. Low Sunday 1967; High Mass in S Mary's Bourne Street; and the homilist began by remarking that, a generation ago, one could have found the entire Anglican Bench of Bishops on the shores of the Italian Lakes on Low Sunday. I suppose we should all rejoice, we of the Ordinariate, that the English Catholic bishops are planning their ten-day break, so richly deserved, lakeside at Palazzola from April 17: a very Patrimonial thing to do!!

Patrimonial, the Italian Lakes, but Trollopian as well! All I knew about them until last year was that Dr Vesey Stanhope spent the emoluments of his Barchester canonry living there and adding to the collection of butterflies for which he was so famous, until the menaces of a new Bishop ... or his Chaplain ... or rather, the Bishop's wife ... induced him to return to the Close. But last year I did get, finally, to Lake Garda; and the wonders of the place swept me off my feet. The "Roman Forum", run by Dr John Rao, is what took me there.  Beneath is what I wrote on my blog shortly after I returned:
FROM  12 JULY 2014 ...
 What a spectacular ten days! I have just returned from the Roman Forum colloquium organised annually by the brilliant and indefatigable John Rao. Centred at a beautiful village on the hillside above the exquisitely beautiful Lake Garda which Caius Valerius Catullus so loved (I did, of course, take my Catullus with me) the colloquium includes two daily lectures; a Sung Mass at 11.30 (said Masses earlier); drinks at Seven ... Dinner at Eight ... you get the idea. It also included a trip around the lake ... as far as Malcesine where thousands of swallows endlessly circled a Venetian tower ... and a superbly organised expedition to Venice: Dr Rao has his own boatmen and the entire day was magically effortless. Some participants later made up a party to go to the opera in the Roman amphitheatre at Verona.

This is not a liturgical conference (although the liturgy used is of course the authentic rite of the Latin Church, done with a very competent Schola in the beautiful baroque Parish Church). A commitment to Tradition is broader than just being fond of the Vetus Ordo. I'm not going to tell you what the common intellectual theme was this year ... you should jolly well make sure you go in 2015. Suffice it to say that the quality of the lectures was (except for my couple) very distinguished indeed. The participants were of every age and included those with ideas to communicate and non-intellectuals who just wished to learn more about the Faith. (English is the language of the colloquium, but lecturers are from all over Europe and America).

I was very glad to meet and talk with, for the first time, the eminent historian of Vatican II, Professor Roberto de Mattei, whose papers will have fascinated you on the Rorate blog. The lecturers were all (except for me) distinguished. The staff of Gloria TV dropped in and filmed us ... It was fascinating to get the low-down on the Austrian Church ...

You just don't know what you missed. But there is 2015 ...

Thayt's what I wrote last year, 2014, and believe me, I can't wait to get back. There are some rooms still vacant in the village and I'll do another Post later in the day.

Gardone: more ...

THE ROMAN FORUM SUMMER SYMPOSIUM GARDONE 2015 will get you the  details via Google. The dates are June 29 until July 10, and the theme this year is Forbidden Topics: a free and rational Catholic challenge to the frightened Modern Mind. An admirable general subject; it took me some time to narrow myself down to the two choices I am allowed to lecture on. I do beg you to give serious consideration to a ten day treat in which one is unsure whether it is first-rate intellectual stimulation varied by food, wine, good liturgy, good conversation, top-notch sight-seeing ... or the food and the etceteras varied by first-rate intellectual stimulation. I append below what I wrote after returning from last year's Forum; WARNING: its original heading apologised for the excessive Classical references. Don't be put off: the Conference is not a Classical Conference! 

FROM 7 AUGUST 2014 ... mainly for Classicists ...
 .... the drill was that we made our own arrangements for lunch ... usually eating in little groups at the various eateries around the square. On just one occasion I acted antisocially. On my own, concealing shamefacedly a small volume of poetry, some of it sexually explicit, I crept down to the waterfront, lined with lavish villas and hotels built by or for the Austrians and Germans for whom this was a convenient riviera. Under the ample and cool portico of the former Casino, looking out over what must be some of the most wonderful views in the world, I ordered a vitello tonnato  and settled down, undisturbed, to reread Caii Valerii Catulli Carmina.

Well, wouldn't you have done so? Perhaps you have done so. How could one visit Catullus's lake, looking across to his Sirmio over the anerithmon gelasma ton kumaton (did he have this line from the Prometheus Vinctus in mind as he wrote O Lydiae lacus undae, ridete quidquid est domi cachinorum?) and not read his Carmina? And not think of his Phaselus cutting through the water? (The commentators, incidentally, discuss whether the river was still navigable when he brought her home for her retirement; but since more than a millennium later the Venetians hauled their galleys over the mountains to have a naval battle with the French, the question seems otiose.)

I wondered whether it was the limpid waters of Garda that got Catullus thinking, while he was still an adulescens, about luxus et veneres: what Jasper Griffin, the Corpus Professor emeritus in this University, once wrote about as the joys of women, water, and nakedness ... the nymphs nutricum tenus exstantes e gurgite cano ... Ariadne on the beach, mindless of her mitra, her amictus and her strophium all slipping off her body to be played with by the cheeky little waves around her ankles as in Catullus 64, his Epyllion in the purest manner of Callimachus ... until I was woken from reminiscences of Neoteric poetry and Oxford Professors by the waiter, who clearly had begun to think quamquam invito Catullo of taking his siesta. He told me that the premises had been used during the War as a German Officers' Club. For the first time in my life (this will confirm you in your view of how amoral and unimaginative I am) I began to wonder whether I might have had a vocation to join the Wehrmacht.

So I strolled through the gardens of the adjoining villa, where Il Duce, another man not indifferent to pleasures of the flesh, set up Clara Pettacci ... in all the circumstances, let us hope that she enjoyed her all-too-brief stay there ... and then I climbed the hill to listen to another particularly spectacular paper by John Rao.