30 July 2015

Bishop Eric Kemp ... I wish I'd asked him ...

Back in those heady days in the 1960s and 70s, when most of us thought that the Council had made the possibility of Christian Unity so much easier by 'balancing' the teaching of Vatican I, Bishop Eric Kemp of Chichester (one of the very few Anglican bishops to be a canonist), Visitor of Staggers and President of the Woodard Corporation and for two and a half decades my Ordinary, commented that whatever ecumenical problems there were in the teaching of Vatican I about the Papacy, they had been made very much more acute by Vatican II. Eric, I should make clear, was not a papalist: he had a soft spot for those silly schismatics, the Dutch so-called 'Old Catholics'; he contrived that two of their bishops should be aequiprincipal coconsecrators at his own episcopal Consecration.

I wonder what he really made of the complete surrender of that minute body to the Zeitgeist, women priests and all. Further, I wonder what he would have made of the two traditionalist Chartres pilgrimages of our era; because he much valued the twinning of Chichester with Chartres. When he sang Pontifical High Mass in Chartres Cathedral, they used to put out for him, his deacons and ministers, a superb gold set given to the Cathedral by (yes, it would have to be by her, wouldn't it?) the Empress Eugenie (her of the pretty feet ... you know the burglar story?). I wonder what the post-Catholic clergy of Chartres made of the reappearance of proper Catholic finery in their city! Pictures rather like the (Fr Zed phrase coming up) 'eye candy' you nowadays get in Traditionalist magazines and websites appeared in the Chichester Diocesan Magazine. Chichester clergy went over there ... and came back with whispered accounts of the corruption of the French Church ("The Chartres Chrism Mass ... the bishop consecrates the same lot of oil three times ... so there's only one oil ..."). Eric used, I think, this connection to procure a relic of S Richard of Chichester to reinstate in his own Cathedral. He was pleased to be a Canon of Chartres (I am confident that his appointment as Canon was watertight because, since nobody in Chartres knew any Latin, I was asked to compose the Letters of Appointment myself).

As the French Church continues its terminal decline, I gather that a very considerable percentage of French ordinands now come from one or other of the Traditionalist groups or from dioceses where a bishop vigorously encourages both forms of the Roman Rite. I can't help feeling that Bishop Eric might have transferred his affections from the gloomy death-wish 'Old Catholics' to these points of authentically Catholic New Life in French Christianity.

Long time readers of this blog will know of my own great antipathy, which I share with Joseph Ratzinger, towards the grossly exaggerated and false idea of the Papacy which grew up in the 1960s, and my preference, also shared with Ratzinger, for the Papacy as it was defined and limited by Vatican I. I am less than happy when I see that perverted 1960s conception of the Papacy again utilised by unscrupulous innovators today as they attempt to manoeuvre our beloved Holy Father into being an instrument of their own tired old heterodoxies.

Which is why I so dearly wish I'd asked Bishop Eric what he meant when he said that Vatican II and its aftermath had made the Papacy more of an ecumenical problem. Could it be that he was among the first to realise what so many are now belatedly coming to understand?

27 July 2015

'High Church' or 'Catholic'? (2): within the Catholic Church

I may very well be wrong, but I think I sometimes detect a distinction just the very tiniest little bit like this in the Catholic Church; the distinction between those whose preoccupation is with Liturgy and, for preference, very fine Liturgy; and those for whom liturgical questions are part of a larger whole. For example: in England, the 'traditionalist' movement concentrates, for the most part, on Liturgy. Indeed, I get the impression that it is policy not to confuse Liturgy with other matters or different causes. So we emphasise that, in our strong preference for the Extraordinary Form, we are totally in unity with the pope and the hierarchy. Little mention is made of problems in Conciliar texts. Great appreciation is shown for any signs of friendship from bishops.

I do understand this strategy. It means that bishops, if they are honest and honourable, cannot make problems for EF liturgy on the grounds that it is bound up with, even perhaps a front for, other agendas. And the Liturgy, in and for itself, very definitely is a cause deserving very high priority.

But the annual Gardone Roman Forum symposia illustrate that there can be, indeed is, a different possible approach. At Gardone, the liturgy is in the Extraordinary Form, and superbly done, but nobody spends all their time talking about it. It is simply the assumed, natural, and obvious  background and basis to the fortnight; there is no fascinated preoccupation with ritual adjuncts. The talk is about the conceptual questions which are at the heart of intellectual debate in European and American Catholicism, particularly at this present time. The addresses are not all given by clergy intent on deepening the liturgical spirituality of the laity; they are, for the most part, given by lay philosophers and historians and academics intent on 'discerning the times' in the light of the Gospel. They are, in fact, nothing less than a dutiful response to the Holy Father's repeated calls for lay participation and for frank openness, Parrhesia.

So perhaps there is just a minute difference of tone between the Traddidoms of Britain on the one hand; and of America and Continental Europe on the other. Moreover, it seems to me that there may also be some such cultural difference between the 'Ecclesia Dei Communities' and the SSPX, in that the former appear sometimes more liturgically preoccupied than does the latter. It is clear ... well, to me, at least ... that the contentious issues at stake at the moment in the Western Church centre around the claim that Christ is Lord; in other terms, the truth of the Social Reign of Christ the King. Or, to chase the same rabbit from the other end of the warren, the relationship between Zeitgeist and Faith. This was the truth that Archbishop Lefebvre saw with great and luminous clarity. "They have uncrowned Him."

I throw these thoughts out merely as speculation.

I thank God that the Ecclesia Dei Communities are in a canonically regular situation, and I pray for the canonical regularisation of the SSPX. 'Unity' is not just a gracious adornment, oil running down the beard, but a demand made by the ontological reality of the Christ's Body the Church. I believe the clergy of that Society need this as much as the rest of the Church needs them. At the same time, I value the persistent witness which the SSPX has relentlessly brought to the heart of the Gospel message, to the primitive kerygma "Kyrios Iesus"; "Viva Cristo Rey". (This does not mean that I in any way undervalue the fact that it was also the Society that, almost single-handed, kept a form of the authentic Roman Rite alive and well through the darkest years.)

It is not, to resort to the familiar cliche, either / or but both / and. 

The Liturgy builds the Church and sustains her witness; and our witness to the Gospel is the soil in which the Liturgy bears fruit.

25 July 2015

'High Church' or 'Catholic'? (1): Church of England Games

Bishop Christopher Luxmoore, now departed, was a friend, as well as being the Provost of Lancing, who quite often graced our breakfast table in Common Room during his (very happy) years as our Provost. He appeared gentle and gentlemanly; but beneath the patrician charm there lurked a most agreeable capacity for waspishness. I remember, for example, the morning after a cleric of slender intellect had been nominated Bishop: "B.A. Leeds, John! B.A. LEEDS!!" he snarled. And, another morning, after a cleric who had been 'one of us' had (as Bishop Christopher considered it) made the appointed sacrifices to Moloch in order to acquire a mitre, after giving his order to the Common Room Steward, Luxmoore just looked across and said "Venner has ratted!". Unlike most Tabs, he was not a man who always felt the need for subordinate clauses.

Memorable, also, his equally laconic definition of the difference between 'High Church' and 'Catholic': "Catholics go to Confession". Exactly. Outsiders often failed to appreciate that there was a difference between the two terms. If  ceremonial went on in a church, they called it 'High Church'. They thought 'the High Church will join the Ordinariate'. However, for those of us who were in the know, the term was used quite differently. 'High Church' used to mean 'rather given to ceremonial but without real substance'. Many of its members were in fact, doctrinally, very far indeed from discernibly Catholic or even, dare I say it, in some cases, even Christian, Faith. 'High Church' meant an attachment to those of the externals which would not impede your career.

But 'Catholic', either on its own or with an 'Anglican' or an 'Anglo-' added, implied seriousness; commitment; dogma. You could, indeed, be 'Catholic' without being particularly attached to ceremoniousness, without being 'High Church', at all. Moi, I've never needed highchurchery: my first, 'title', parish was just surplice-and-stole; I've never owned an inch of lace; I rather enjoyed the ritual simplicity of the Church of Ireland. Blessed John Henry Newman, I believe, was not an addict of ritual. A failure to grasp this distinction is what caused all the puzzlement when large numbers of very 'moderate' clergy joined the Ordinariate, while the 'extremists', the 'advanced' men who owned yards of lace, and were repositories of exquisite lore about coloured pompoms on birettas, stayed, almost to a man, in the C of E, where they still produce cheerful magazines with beautiful pictures of exotic liturgy.

Is any such distinction discernible in the Catholic Church? To be continued.

21 July 2015

Owen Chadwick, priest

Of your charity pray for the soul of Owen Chadwick, priest, recently entered into rest, anno aetatis suae 99 et sacerdotii sui 74.

He was the very epitome of English Anglican scholarship.

He believed, like Gregory Dix, Dorothy Sayers, and others, that the soul of the Church of England was the sober and solid learning, piety, and pastoral care of the parochial (and, particularly, country) clergy.

I think it probably was.

May he, and it, rest in peace.

The British Way of Life

On July 20 the R/t Hon/ble David Cameron, First Lord of the Treasury and prime minister, made a speech in which I might be capable of being convinced that he made some practically sensible suggestions. However, it seems to me, conceptually, to be based upon premises which constitute an attack upon the liberties of every believing Christian in this country. The following sentence is the heart of the error:

"We believe in respecting different faiths but also expect those faiths to support the British way of life".
What does this mean but that different religious groups are required to subscribe to the British way of life? I grant that Cameron leaves the phrase distinctly undefined, but the fact that something is not defined and given clearly described limits makes it more, and not less, dangerous. It becomes all the more capable of manipulation, of being twisted to mean whatever a tyrannous ideology chooses. 

But, to be objective: can anybody deny that divorce,  fornication, adultery, abortion, sodomy are widespread in all sections of our society, and, in a number of cases, are promoted with pride by the governing class, the legislature and the courts of this country? If these things are not now at least parts of the British way of life, I do not know how any concrete meaning can be attached to that phrase.

Moreover, when I was young, Blasphemy, Abortion and Sodomy were still illegal. Is the British way of life something which metamorphoses every decade or so? Was I, in the 1940s and 1950s, not brought up in the British way of life? When did Cameron's British way of life come into existence? When the mores of this country will have changed from how they are now, will they no longer constitute, for Cameron, the British way of life? Or does the British way of life mean in each decade whatever is culturally fashionable at that precise moment? If so, Cameron's rhetoric constitutes a requirement that believers of all cults should regularly and very promptly accommodate themselves to the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age. In these circumstances, were not the "German Christians" of the 1930s absolutely correct? If Christians or others are forbidden to be counter-cultural, was there any ground for not assenting to the Holocaust?

In as far as I understand the British way of life, I repudiate, with very great emphasis, all or at least large parts of it.

" ...equal rights ... sexuality ... "
 This recurs throughout the speech. Cameron does not explicitly in this speech mention his own enthusiastic promotion of sodomitical relationships and perverted lifestyles, but in a speech of 23 July 2013 he repeatedly expressed his pride in the legislation which he had recently passed into Law. In that same speech, he spoke about his determination to "export" "same sex marriage" around the world, so that other countries could follow suit. 

The fact that Cameron's July 20 2015 speech fails to be as explicit as the 2013 speech is easily explained, and the explanation does very little credit to Cameron's frankness or honesty. He is now attempting to carry along with him the greater part of the Islamic community in this country. It would not serve his devious purposes to be too explicit about some of the contents of the British way of life to which he is now imperiously demanding their (and my) allegiance. In the slippery tradition of the card-sharper who stacks his cuffs, or the spiv with his contraband merchandise, Cameron finds it convenient to conceal things in the recesses of his clothing.

"... theocracy ... fusion of religion and politics ..." 
Cameron dislikes this pair. I am not convinced that he would be a supporter of the Catholic teaching of the Social Rule of Christ the King, if someone were to explain it to him.

" ... reforming and moderate Muslim voices ... moderate and reforming voices ... critical reforming voices ... "
 I do not know how expert Cameron is on Islamic history, jurisprudence and theology; just possibly not a great deal more that I am. But let me put a hypothesis before you. Suppose, please, just for the sake of the argument, it were true that authentic Islam were something inconsistent with that British way of life to which Cameron demands the assent of Faith Communities. This would mean that he is only offering toleration, to Islam and to other Faith Communities including Christians, as long as they reform, moderate, and critically change their religions so as not to be contrary to the British way of life. Taken to its logical conclusion, as it is very likely to be taken, this would return Catholicism to the threatened state it was in during the reign of the first Elizabeth.

My faith is not at Cameron's disposal for him and his cultural allies and their masters below to reform, moderate, or change.

" ... a review of the Sharia Courts ..."
You can see why Cameron gets rather tentative and vague here. It would be embarrassing to condemn the Sharia court system in terms that also rendered illegal the Canon Law courts of the Catholic Church or the Court of the Chief Rabbi. You're going to have to tread carefully there, David.

"[You in the Media should] recognise the huge power you have in shaping these debates in a positive way".
Splendid! A candid admission! We are on familiar and agreed ground here! Christians, and especially Catholics, are very experienced in the huge power the Media have in shaping debate. We get the rough end of it almost daily.

I will conclude by pointing out that Cameron here gives us a good example of the particular English dialect sometimes known as Management Speak. In this unpleasant and aggressively manipulative dialect, positive means "what I approve of", just as negative inevitably means "what I disapprove of". Somewhere at the back of his Etonian mind, Cameron has the speech patterns used by his Head Master and his House Master in their attempts to assert dominance and secure compliance. Truly, culture wars are won or lost on the playing fields of a large school near Slough.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps not.


20 July 2015

Justice: Oskar Groening

It may be 70 years since he worked at Auschwitz, and his occupation may have been no more than clerkly; he may even, as he claims, have have protested against what was happening and attempted to extricate himself from it; but it is thoroughly and totally right that an old man should be tried, sentenced, and punished for his involvement in the monstrous horrors of the National Socialist holocaust. If is true that his actions, according to the perverted legal code in place in Germany at that time, were not illegal when he performed them, that makes not one iota of difference. Every innocent Son of Adam or Daughter of Eve is protected by the commendment "Thou shalt not kill". 'Laws' which permit killing are not laws but abuses of laws. There are no such beings as subhumans. Neither Jews, nor members of any other race or human category, are vermin to be exterminated. Every instinct of human decency demands that a significant marker be placed against any surviving man or woman who gave any sort of collaboration whatsoever, immediate, proximate, or remote, to actions so grossly obscene, so unmistakeably and self-evidently horrible.

Otherwise, why should anybody ever be punished for anything?

I shall not live to see it, but I would like to think that, even if it takes 70 years, a similar retribution will one day befall those involved in the slaughter of unborn humans in our own time.

Otherwise, why should anybody ever be punished for anything?

It should not just be the 'doctors' who are involved; nor even also the nurses. Administrators, accountants, publicists, receptionists, 'counsellors', profiteers, even if they are well into their nineties; manufacturers of surgical appliances designed to facilitate abortion, and those supplying abortifacients, chemists who provide the abortionists' equivalent of Zyklon B; none of these should escape scot-free. Supreme Court 'judges' have handed down decisions such as the one denying legal protection to the Glasgow senior midwives who, on grounds of conscience, were unwilling to administer the killing machine: these purveyors of perverted 'law' should receive particularly exemplary punishment. Above all, legislators responsible for this monstrous evil, if still alive, should be hunted down and brought before a tribunal similar to that at Nuremburg. But there should be one difference. Such a tribunal should not, ever, apply the death penalty. Those convicted should be given their entire natural span of life to understand and to repent the evil in which they have participated. Every morning they should be given the reminder "You are enjoying the gift of life which you denied to others".

I learn* that Dietrich von Hildebrand observed, after Roe versus Wade, "Hitler has won". And Tolkien wisely observed "Always, after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again" (vide Mt 12:43-45).
*Thanks to Professor Tighe.

18 July 2015

Christ is King: Lake Garda (4)

In conclusion, as I finish my journey through the conceptual background of the Lake Garda Declaration, I return to a sensible little book on the Council by the Dominican polymath and theologian Fr Aidan Nichols (The Council in Question, 2011). I quoted it in earlier parts of this post; it has a characteristically down-to-earth Foreward by Cardinal Pell ( "When the reforms of Vatican II were imposed, unexpected consequences followed, especially when leaders were naive and optimistic, underestimating the virulence of hostile forces ..." Bull's eye, Eminence). This is what Fr Aidan has to say:

" ...the 'Declaration on Religious Freedom' occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics ... it is not immediately apparent how to reconcile its acknowledgement of the traditional teaching about the Christendom State with its development of the teaching about the freedom of the act of faith. If we are unpersuaded of a difficulty here, we have only to look at its aftermath. Except among two groups, the period since the Second Vatican Council has witnessed a withdrawal from 'theo-politics' on the part of the hierarchy. Traditionalists and Liberation theologians, neither group popular with Rome, are the two constituencies that have most vocally supported a continuing appeal to civil society to recognise evangelical and Catholic truth not just in the private lives of individual citizens but also in its public  institutions, which include, of course, society's own legal form, the State. Does the Declaration bear some responsibility for this dereliction of duty? I do not think we can wholly exculpate the fathers of the Council ... . ... publicly recognising divine revelation is an entailment of the Kingship of Christ on which, despite its difficulties in a post-Enlightenment society, we must not renege."

I will not dispute with extreme violence Fr Nichols' view that the withdrawal from theo-politics on the part of the hierarchy constituted a dereliction of duty. And even when he concludes with a final suggestion that "a truly excellent statement on this whole topic" by the Holy See and the SSPX could "renew the Christendom aspiration of the whole Church", I will only throw my hands up in moderate and distinctly attenuated shock and horror.

17 July 2015

The Social Reign of Christ the King: Lake Garda (3)

I have considered Fr Genovesi's hymns which were eviscerated, emptied of the Social Kingship of Christ, in the post-Conciliar years. But there is even worse. The Collect for Christ the King, used at every liturgical celebration on that feast, also had its guts wrenched out.

I wonder how many people realise that the original Collect for the Feast of Christ the King put in place under Pius XI in 1925 was radically changed and given a new meaning in the post-Conciliar 'reforms'? And I suspect that even fewer are aware that, by what just must be a most amusing paradox, the Church of England still employs, for the Third Sunday Before Advent, that original papal collect, unmodified, ungutted! Vatican II had mandated that liturgical changes should only be made when the certa utilitas of the Church requires it; can it have been all that necessary to change this Collect if the original version remains uncontroversially acceptable even in the Church of England? Yes! The dear old C of E! It makes you wonder if B Paul VI might not have been a trifle over-carried-away by his Ostpolitik.

You see, the Pian Collect expressed clearly the Sovereignty of Christ over all the nations (... ut cunctae familiae Gentium, peccati vulnere disgregatae, eius suavissimo subdantur imperio). But the modern version eliminates that and introduces instead the notion of the eschatological transformation of the whole of creation. We can hardly complain about that doctrine in itself. S Paul clearly teaches, in Romans 8, just such a glorious understanding of the End. But we must complain about the concomitant loss of the old concept of Christ's Lordship over all sorts and conditions of men, and over all areas of communal life including sexual morality, here and now.

For a quite a time in this country, the only doctrine deemed more or less peculiar to the Church of England was that of the union of Crown and Altar, the old Tory 'Squire Western' toast of 'Church and State', an understanding in which a Christian government sustains the Christian State, its rules, its worship, its moral code. This old Stuart, Jacobite, Ancien Regime notion, so dear to the country squirearchy and the Inferior Clergy, was despised by the Whiggish Court Party, the Upper Clergy, and the 'Hannover Rats'. You won't find me criticising you if you argue that this is a piece of Patrimony which the Ordinariate should be bringing back into the Catholic Church! And it is very close to the polity to which Mgr Lefebvre and French adherents of Tradition and Integrisme bore and bear witness. Are we really totally sure that, on this question, Classical Anglicanism and French Traditionalism, not to mention the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, are all so completely misguided? Or, OK, if they are, what about the Magisterium of Pius XI? By what sophisticated hermeneutic do you propose to rubbish that?

In the next part of this post, I shall cite a passage of Fr Aidan Nichols, arguing that the Social Kingship of Christ is something on which, "despite its difficulties in a post-Enlightenment society, we must not renege". There is here a troubling question which the annual celebration of Christ's Kingship places starkly before us all; every year more starkly as every year the powers that be in this country repudiate ever more decisively our Saviour's Lordship ... and most especially in areas of sexual morals. This repudiation renders them - and us - subject to the rather striking menace in the final Antiphon attached to the psalmody of Lauds in the old Pius XI Office: The nation and kingdom which shall not have served Thee shall perish: and the nations shall be laid waste with a wilderness. I think somebody should explain this delightfully juicy threat to the Obamae and the Camerones.
Viva Cristo Rey.

16 July 2015

Christ the King: Lake Garda (2)

The elimination, the uncrowning, of Christ the King, against which the Lake Garda Statement is essentially a protest, can be discerned in the details of the liturgical history of the post-Conciliar years with quite as much lucidity as it is explained in any pamphlet by Archbishop Lefebvre. Let me take you through some of them.

In 1968, the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia published the draft texts of hymns for a new, revised Breviary. For the Feast of Christ the King, it continued to provide the old hymns, composed for the Breviary Office by the talented Jesuit hymnographer Fr Vittorio Genovesi (1887-1967). These included such passages as Scelesta turba clamitat:/ "regnare Christum nolumus" ... [the depraved mob keeps yelling/ "We don't want Christ to be King"]; Te nationum praesides/ honore tollant publico,/ colant magistri, iudices,/ leges et artes exprimant. [May the leaders of the nations/ give you public honour,/ may teachers and judges worship you/ may the laws and arts proclaim you]; O ter beata civitas/ cui rite Christus imperat,/ quae iussa pergit exsequi/ edicta mundo caelitus. [Thrice blessed that state/ over which, as is fitting, Christ bears rule,/ which directly aims at fulfilling the commands/ which Heaven imposes upon the world.].

The Liturgy of the Hours was authorised in 1971. In the three years since the publication of the draft, some edict had clearly gone out from somebody that those words were unsuitable; that the certa utilitas of the Church required that they be censored out of the text. And censored they were. Rarely can a major feast in the Christian year have been papally established to celebrate a great dogmatic truth; then the Office Hymns composed to express that truth; and, finally, that truth liturgically trashed only four years after the death of the hymnographer, and less than half a century after the establishment of the feast.

With hindsight, we can see that those censored words express, with pinpoint accuracy, precisely what has needed to be said with increasing urgency since 1971; but the voice of the Ecclesia Hymniens  was silenced. It seems that Fr Genovesi had insights not granted to so many of the Council Fathers, and which were certainly denied to those who subsequently got their corrupting hands on his hymns as well as on the rest of the Church's Liturgy.

Scelesta turba: this depraved mob has now grown in size. It includes the 'Justices' of the American Supreme Court; 'law' makers in Britain and elswhere; 'Human Rights' professionals; the perverted cacophony of those who strive to influence the policies of the 'United Nations' and of international agencies; all of them extremely nice and highly important and well-paid people with clean fingernails who know exactly how to deliver what their Master demands.

To be continued.

15 July 2015

The Lake Garda Declaration: (1) Is Christ King?

I expect that you have all read, over on Rorate, the text of this document. If not, I think you should. It has been suggested to me that it is a trifle long. Let me explain why I think it says a number of things that badly need to be said.

I think it is becoming ever more clear ... well, clear to me, anyway ... that what was wrong with Vatican II is not that it promoted explicit heresy. Persistent and painstaking attempts to detect doctrinal error in its documents have, I believe, tended to reveal that this particular haystack does not in fact conceal a needle. What was wrong ... and this is something perhaps only discernible with hindsight (I am not claiming that I had such hindsight half a century ago; I was as blind as the blindest of the Conciliar Fathers) ... is that it completely misread the signs of the times, and thus set the Church upon a mistaken course. The assumption was that the culture of the World had reached a point at which it would be open to mutually profitable dialogue if only the Church herself became more open; if she attempted to move beyond stale and formulaic statements of dogma, accompanied by anathemas, into new expressions of evangelical Truth which the World would take seriously, if only it could be brought to see that they reflected its own deepest and most honourable concerns.

Fr Aidan Nichols has wisely written: "I do not see any theological difficulty about querying the wisdom of some of the reform provisions made by the Council. Matters that turn on the exercise of practical wisdom in particular sets of circumstances do not involve the 'charism of truth' given to the total episcopate". He goes on to write about the Council's "misjudgements about contemporary trends". He is dead right. The World of the Conciliar decade was in fact on the point of tipping over into a new and greater apostasy as a result of which, within a couple of generations, Christians in the 'Christian heartlands' would actually become liable to persecution for resisting the imposition by 'law' of patterns of sexual perversion and the holocaust of the unborn. It is true, and it needs to be said, that the Conciliar documents do indeed contain explicit condemnations of abortion and of sexual immorality. But the overall cultural bias of those documents is of optimistic engagement with the World.

Put in traditional terms, the Council Fathers failed to discern that the World was on the verge of a new great onslaught upon the Kingship of Christ. Despite the fact that National Socialism had used the very concept of Law itself to impose a monstrous and murderous tyranny, the Fathers did not foresee that Law was again about to be perverted, in the 'civilised' 'democracies', in precisely the same way as it had been perverted in the Germany of the 1930s. If you say to me that it is unreasonable to expect the Fathers to have had a crystal ball, I supppose I will have to agree with you, but I will come back at you with the plain and irrefutable point that, however inculpably, they did not see all this, and did not equip the Church for the dark days which in fact did lie ahead. In this failure, whether culpable or not, I discern the roots of our current problems.
To be continued. Comments will be considered for moderation only when this series is completed.

14 July 2015

Wine, words, sunshine and cicadas; the Lake Garda Roman Forum Symposium

Gardone is a small, very beautiful village set just a little way above the largest and loveliest of the Italian Lakes; indeed, since the beautiful baroque church (where we said our private Masses and joined together for a Sung Chapter Mass after the first Paper of the day) is dedicated to S Nicolas, I have wondered whether it may one have harboured fishermen. A little way down, on the lakeside, are grand Belle Epoque  hotels and villas built by the German and Austrian monied classes for whom it was the  Riviera. It must have been a very plummy posting for the Wehrmacht units which spent 1944-1945 here ... not exactly the Russian Front!

Although the rite normally used at the Roman Forum Symposium is the Extraordinary Form, we did  one morning have a Ruthenian Liturgy celebrated by a participant with biritual faculties; and the Conference group contains a wide spectrum of orthodox Catholics not all of whom are 'traditionalists'. Many and different views are exchanged by young and old, male and female, laic and cleric, religious and secular.

Again, we welcomed the great historian of Vatican II, Professor de Mattei, who read a characteristic and fine paper on Islam. At this turning point in the history of the Catholic Church, the Professor is working very hard; the following Saturday he was in England to give a lecture, the text of which you can find at Rorate, at the Ordinariate's main London Church of the Assumption Warwick Street. I break off to point out, with surely pardonable Ordinariate pride, that this former Bavarian Embassy Chapel, with its history going back to before the Gordon Riots, has become such an important centre in London for the dissemination of orthodox Catholicism. Nobody can possibly deny the contribution we are making to the life of the Church!

I am going to risk being invidious by mentioning only one of the other papers: Professor Dr Thomas Stark, an Austrian who teaches at Heiligenkreuz, lectured on the theology of Cardinal Kasper. I do not think I was the only person to be edified by his exposition of the roots, going back four decades, of His Eminence's errors; he is an exceptionally dangerous man. (A version of Dr Stark's paper can be found on CWR.) Also at the Symposium were Eva Doppelbauer and her brother Fr Markus; she works with Gloria TV and had Professor Stark as her Doktorvater. Neither of them is ever dull!

Later, I will have something to say about the very important Lake Garda Statement, the text of which you can find on Rorate.

13 July 2015

600 of them!

I have been extremely cheered to find, on returning to the blogocosmos, an interview with Bishop Fellay in which His Excellency speaks very favourably about the desire of Cardinal Sarah to see the old Offertory Prayers of the Roman Rite incorporated into a future edition of the Missal of B Paul VI.

As the Bishop observes, His Eminence's proposal has been circulating in Rome for some time now. Its enactment would be a superb and authoritative repudiation of the notion, equally favoured (although for precisely opposite reasons) by extreme traditionalists and extreme liberals, that the Novus Ordo represented a formal rupture in Eucharistic doctrine within the Catholic Church, and a significant apostasy from the teaching of Trent.

Of course, His Excellency is not advocating that such an 'improved' version of the Novus Ordo should displace the older form of the Roman Rite which, in his important clarification, the previous Roman Pontiff as the Church's Supreme Legislator and Judge made clear had never been canonically abrogated. That form will necessarily remain available, not only in the canonically erected groups to whose charism it is integral, but to every presbyter of the Roman Rite, according to the prescriptions of Summorum Pontificum and Universalis Ecclesiae.

But, among some traditionalists, there has sometimes been a tendency to believe in 'all or nothing'; that overnight the Novus Ordo should be abolished and the liturgical life of the Western Church be thereby returned to the state it was in before 1962. What may be highly attractive as a fantasy is hardly a sensible practical policy for the reconstruction in Catholic orthodoxy of the worship of Latin Christendom. 'All or nothing' is also an agenda which would see the Usus Antiquior confined to neatly tended ghettoes outside the walls of which the weeds of heteropraxy would grow ever more luxuriant.

The welcome implication of Bishop Fellay's words is that the enrichment of the Ordinary Form is one important element in the long and laborious struggle to reverse those errors which followed (but were not mandated by) the Council. In other words, we have here a welcome glimpse of a SSPX which can be, not a defensive and heavily fortified military strongpoint, but an open source of God's grace to all the Latin Church. At a time when the Society is justifiably thanking God for the Ordination of its 600th priest, and rejoicing in its growing strength and vibrancy, His Excellency's words are a very good sign. They demonstrate a new self-confidence within the Society; a greater willingness to accept that things can happen in 'the Conciliar Church' which merit approval.

A final point. I wonder if Bishop Fellay is aware that the Tridentine Offertory Prayers (and Praeparatio and Last Gospel) are to be found in the Ordinariate Use. Indeed (it sometimes appears that Rome is a place in which the left hand is not always entirely sure what the right hand is doing) I wonder if the staff of His Eminence Cardinal Sarah are all aware of what the CDF sanctioned for Anglicans.

Precedents are precedents!

12 July 2015


I have just returned from the Roman Forum at Lake Garda; if last year's was wonderful, this year's surpassed it! More about that in a day or two. You will remember that I am so primitive that, when I'm away from my home computer (which I think may be a temporis Leonis X model) my emails just stack up.

Earlier today, I had a spot of trouble with the aged computer, which delayed my reading of emails and moderating of comments. I've now been through the 300-odd emails which had accumulated, and done my best to answer those which call for an answer. I think I've enabled all the comments, except for two or three which I binned for the usual idiosyncratic and arbitrary reasons. My apologies if, in my desire to get all this out of the way, I accidentally deleted some proferred comments which I should have enabled. "Publish" and "Delete" are side by side! How can you expect a chap always to get things right?

I add, that I was very impressed by the quality, and the kindness, even of those comments with which I disagreed!

Now I must try to come down to earth. Gardone is a totally magical place; the papers which were read this year were of outstanding quality; and the conversations, especially over lengthy meals, with participants both female and male and of every conceivable age, taught me more than a dozen books could have done.

Why weren't you there? Have you booked for next year yet?

11 July 2015

MACARONICA only for Classicists

Ibam forte per Viam Belli Montis .... agnoscitis, docti, sermonis genus ... well, as one does, I turned into Mr Cockerell's Ashmolean ... Atria Gallinacea, do you think? ... for a chin-wag with Papa Lambertini quem dii vocant Benedictum XIV. Haec secuta sunt.

"Ek Dios archomestha ... Papa Franciscus, Beate Pater, dic mihi cur contraria semper dicere videatur?"

"Qualia quibus contraria?"

"Ferream videtur habere mentem qua omnia quaelibet velit propriae suae subicere voluntati. Sed ut omnes sibi cedant eadem voce postulat qua per alios disseminat fore ut episcopi seu eorum conferentiae dispositiones varias faciant quinimmo contrarias et dissonas quibus fidem seu saltem praxim Christianam ad cultus et mores populorum suorum accomodent, repugnantibus aliis aliorum locorum episcopis. Nonne contraria proferre invenitur?"

Pope Benedict looked quizzically down at me. "Quae vos hodierni subsidiaritatem seu decentralisationem vocatis?" He smiled as if inviting me to show my appreciation of his witty descent into trendy barbarisms, rather like a pre-war British judge asking defense counsel And what, pray, Mr Woggins, is a camisole?

"Acu, sancte Pater ... "

"... rem tetigi", he completed the sentence. He cast his eyes around the gallery as if wondering what his fellow Roman Pontiffs in the room thought of the question. "Pusille, audi me. Callide iste meus successor rem gerit. Quae vos Anglicani gessistis ille bene novit. In regione quadam rerum novarum auctores nescioquid agunt quod, si statim per totum orbem terrarum agatur, omnia in ruinam cogat. Quod autem in angulo quodam agitur nonnunquam non animadvertitur. Similem agendi rationem in Ecclesiam Catholicam illi trahere placet, quomodo episcopi Romani permissu Pontificis  id agere possint suis in hortulis quod nullo modo in omnibus passim regionibus licitum fuisset. Sed aliud habetis verbum ... "

"Hairesim, Holy Father?"

"Graecismum illudst ... gradualismum volui dicere!"

I must have looked puzzled. He explained.

"Haereses morbi sunt qui gradatim repere affirmarem si gradus ponere possent. Quod uno in loco natum est scelus in alia loca spargitur et deinde in plurima disseminatur. Ut dicam flaminicas digamiam pseudogamiam foeticidium. Haec omnia tu timuisti vidisti nosti."

I must have looked very woeful.

"Tharseite pantes! Nescitis an ille cras moriturus sit seu gubernacula depositurus! Nescitis an successorem habiturus sit Pium quemdam XIII qui pietate Petrina omnia in Christo instauraturus sit! Quid vestra fides valet?"

And lo! I woke up, gallo canente but far from Cockerell's galleries, to find that I was still in my bed. Phantasmata fugite! Omnia optima in omnibus quibusvis optimis mundis!

9 July 2015

Signing things

Some admirable American clergymen have got rolling a Letter to the Synod Fathers in which they express their support for what the English Clergy said in our letter. Despite some alleged intimidation, nearly 500 English Clergy signed it; considering how large the American church is, surely they will get thousands? Last time I looked, 775 and four bishops.

And where is the rest of the world?

This is the sort of matter in which bulk breeds bulk. It needs to roll and roll. We have an intransitive verb 'to snowball'.

Perhaps in America also there may be pressure or intimidation. I have been told that Catholic clergy generally are more nervous about getting on the wrong side of their bishop than we of the Anglican Patrimony have grown up to be. Our great Patrimonial Dom Gregory Dix deftly said that "the historian grows accustomed to the idea that even the best and most energetic of bishops will one day have rest from his labours and that the lance of his successor often delivers the diocese from the menace of some different windmill." You will remember his quip that, heraldically, the symbol of a Bishop is a crook; of an Archbishop, a double cross.

But, of course, that was in the Church of England, where there were deeply held conscientious differences, often between bishops and the Inferior Clergy, about 'what the Church teaches'. In the Catholic Church, however, things are of course totally different. Mercifully, it is clear what the Church teaches; and, helpfully, dear Pope Benedict laid down that, for the Ordinariates, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is our doctrinal standard. As long as we simply stick to asserting, "in season and out of season", its lucid teaching, Catholic bishops will only applaud us and thank us for doing so.

The Holy Father himself expects us to do this with Parrhesia. Nowadays, scarcely a day seems to go past without him praising Parrhesia!

8 July 2015

The Next Pontificate

I will be honest about this: there are elements of Pope Francis' public manner which are not as much to my personal taste as were the (two very different) styles of his two predecessors.

But my tastes are an irrelevance. No pope is ever equally to the taste of everybody; and Catholics are under no obligation to go around pretending otherwise. The Catholic Church is not a Stalinist tyranny in which whoever is currently the Party's General Secretary has to be unconditionally idolised and all the old photographs have been airbrushed and Clio herself has had a face-transplant.

What worries me is something rather more substantial.

Remember what happened after Vatican II. An idea of the Council grew up, sometimes called the Spirit of the Council. This idea bore little .... correction, it bore no ... relationship to what the Council had actually taught and mandated. But there are people, there are journalists, who, never having read the acta of the Council, believe otherwise. Recently, the Wall Street Journal informed us that the Council had taught that the Old Covenant had not been superseded in Christ. Ordinary Catholics will tell you that the Council ordered worship to be in the the vernacular, and sanctuaries to be reordered. All that.

All of that is the purest moonshine. But it is that moonshine which holds centre-stage, so that post-Conciliar popes (from Blessed Paul VI onwards) have been criticised for "trying to reverse the Council", when their actions have simply been directed to maintaining the Council, to securing a rereading (or first reading!) of its texts, and to elucidating the hermeneutic according to which it should be understood. Enemies of the Faith have no interest in understanding this, and stoutly maintain that false and lying image of Vatican II which they themselves, upon instructions from their Masters Below, created and have so sedulously fostered.

When our present Holy Father abdicates or dies, it is my fear that something very similar will happen. Pope Francis has been thoroughly open about the fact that he is a "loyal Son of the Church"; he has notably upheld her teaching in areas in which the World most virulently detests her, such as Abortion and Marriage and the relationship between the Sacrament of Order and Women. Indeed: his expression of the Tradition is ignored by the Media. And this is partly because he has a deft manner of not being 'in-your-face' in dealing with the World. I suspect he feels that a vision of prelates wagging disappoving fingers at the World conforms to an image and expectation which the World has of the Church, so that it acts as an immediate turn-off. That, probably, is why his expressions of orthodoxy so rarely coincide with some major 'news-story' about the World rejecting the Christian Way. Some Catholics criticise him for this: but it seems to me at least prudentially arguable that he is right. Condemnations, indeed, seem to have done little to turn back the tide; Francis may be sensible in adopting his rather more wily approach. But, whether he is or is not, it remains true that he has staunchly maintained the Church's moral teaching, over and over again, and without ambiguities.

My greatest worry is this. After the present pontificate, the Wolves, the Christ-hating journalists, the unfaithful priests, will forget, suppress, Pope Francis' actual record of impeccable ecclesial fidelity and orthodoxy. Just as the Evil One promoted a false image of the Council, so he will present a false image of Pope Francis as someone who "refused to condemn", someone who "had no problems" with divorce and homosexuality and the other aberrances of the Zeitgeist; a "soft" and "humble" and "loving" and "merciful" pope.

And just as the false image of Vatican II has dogged and hampered the life of the Church for more than half a century, so the false image of Pope Francis will dog the footsteps of his successors. They will, whatever they do, be accused of "trying to put the clock back to before good Pope Francis". A totally falsified picture, a completely unhistorical "Pope Francis", will unceasingly be brandished to harrass future popes and to impede their ministry and to hold at bay the sweet breath of the Holy Spirit. The Ecclesia Militans will struggle on in via weighed down by yet another foul hobgoblin upon her back.

I do not know what you and I can do about this problem. But I think a starting point must be an awareness of it.

Do you think that it may soon perhaps be the time for a black African pope? Either that, or someone who knows his way around curial Rome?

3 July 2015

Catholic Ecumenism ... practicalities ...

Fr Aidan Nichols expressed an opinion that the "Declaration on Religious Freedom" of Vatican II "occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics"; and he went on to deplore the "withdrawal from theo-politics on the part of the hierarchy", which he considered a "dereliction of duty", concluding "I do not think we can wholly exculpate the fathers of the Council".

Readers will be aware that the Conciliar document Dignitatis humanae, which affirmed the previous teaching of the Church on this subject and then promptly went on to appear to contradict it, is one of the main theological problems advanced by the SSPX. Archbishop Lefebvre vigorously supported, for all his life, the Rule, the Kingdom of Christ, and regarded this Decree of Vatican II as the main disaster of that Council.

This autumn, at Norcia, the newly formed Dialogos Institute is to take up this subject at a conference October 29-November 1. It will take place in the presence of Cardinal Burke, and include such luminaries as Roberto de Mattei, John Rao, Thomas Pink, Christopher Ferrara ...

Sorting out this problem is one of the real necessities for the reintegration of the traditionalist movement in the Latin Church. Do your bit by supporting this initiative!!