30 September 2015


"While a strait jacket of absolutism was being fastened on the foremost Catholic country in Europe, a more fundamental perversion was taking hold of the Protestant societies. The name of the perversion is capitalism which now began its triumphant career over the economies of the modern world." Mr Sire traces the growth of capitalism through the Dutch alliance with the Barbary corsairs (how many people know that these North African raiders used to fall upon the helpless villages of Cornwall and Devon and carry off their inhabitants into slavery?) and then the take-over of England after the Dutch Invasion in 1688; in lapidary phrases (you get lots of these in Phoenix from the Ashes... see earlier posts) Sire writes of "a [Dutch] programme of the most ruthless capitalist buccaneering in history", and of capitalism as Britain's "baneful gift to the world". 

Sire's prose is often vivid: he writes of "the herding of the poor into grimy cities ... " "country dwellers had to be exiled from their villages; children had to be put to work day and night in relentless mills; Africans had to be packed into lethal holds to meet the demand of the cotton machines: factories and grimy streets engulfed the open fields." " ... In alliance with liberal ideology, capitalism broke down the institutions that had given cohesion to society on the smaller scale. Its end was to leave no social bonds except the legal and the economic, the relation of the citizen to the state and of the wage earner to the employer." The downfall of the Christian Order and the destruction of Catholic Europe; the destruction of legitimist monarchy and of the feudal jurisdictions; such are his themes. He reminds us of the decatholicising of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America after purchase or conquest by the United States: in "the Spanish and French colonies that fell to republican expansion, ... their institutions were overruled in favour of the self-evident truths of Thomas Jefferson." America achieved a dominance which was encapsulated in the "rise of the robber barons of large-scale capitalism". 

But at the heart of this survey lies Sire's reminder that the Council of Vienne (1311) authoritatively defined that it is heresy to deny that Usury is a sin. I think you will want to read for yourselves his survey of the teaching of S Thomas Aquinas and of the growth of the systems of Western countries in which "the domination of usury ... was complete by the middle of the nineteenth century, and inflation has been their almost constant feature since." I will leave you with this concluding paragraph of his discussion:
"If we accept that the Church's teaching on usury is sound, there remains the doctrinal question of whether it has been changed. Strictly speaking it has not . There has never been an authoritative revocation of the medieval doctrine, and in practice it continued to be taught in seminaries until scholastic teaching was destroyed by the Second Vatican Council.  ... That does not, however, make the topic of usury a precedent for doctrinal change; rather, it is an object lesson in its misguidedness." (I.e. this historical narrative affords a lesson in the misguidedness of doctrinal change.)

28 September 2015


Archbishop Lefebvre died while still the victim of a latae sententiae  excommunication. It would be one of Clio's more droll exercises of humour, wouldn't it ... go on, agree with me just this once ... if the Cardinal Villot who so detested him, and who defamed him to Blessed Paul VI and poisoned the Pontiff's mind against him, also died while ... er ... still the victim of a latae sententiae excommunication. But I never know what to think about these Freemasons. The English breed seems rather ridiculous than sinister. Can one really believe all the conspiracy-theory stuff? The stories about curial cardinals (in Masonic aprons) creeping around with phials of deadly poison on the night Papa Luciano died ... well, I wouldn't want to end up as a Bishop Williamson lookalike, explaining to people that the CIA blew up the twin towers. But, on the other hand, that banker chappie did end up pretty dead, didn't he, dangling from Blackfriars Bridge. And they do say that the continental breed of Masons is deadlier than the English.

Why should a prelate, or even a priest, get kicks out of all that spurious history and daft adolescent ritual? Or did they simply believe that it might help one to get on? That is Mr Sire's supposition: "one may suppose that the majority had joined the society from motives of self-advancement." He surmises that "the disclosures seem to represent a leak of the confidential list of members that, under Italian law, secret societies are obliged to deposit with the government." The list included Villot, Suenens, Poletti, Baggio, Casaroli, Macchi, Marcinkus and ... Bugnini. And the man who purveyed the list to Pope John Paul I was himself murdered a few months after handing it over ... but, on the other hand, a really efficient gang of ruthless conspirators would, surely, have murdered him before he went touting his list around. Yes? No? But stay: there is the sudden sacking of Bugnini and his
reassignment to go and evangelise the Iranian Ayatollahs ... that would be very well accounted for if B Paul VI had just been told of Hannibal's naughty little secret ... but then, there are other naughty little secrets as well as freemasonry ... the world contains women ... and boys ... and money ... or perhaps the Pontiff simply received proof of how Bugnini had duped him and manipulated the process of liturgical reform. Naughty, indeed.

You see how helpless a mass of indecision I am. Altogether useless. But read it all in Phoenix from the Ashes (see earlier posts) and see what you think.

27 September 2015

Church tasting

While away from home, we attended one of the local Catholic Parish Churches for its Vigil Mass; since it was that 'musical chairs' period at the beginning of September, we coincided, like many in congregations all over Britain and Ireland, with the first Sunday of a new Parish Priest. What, with some degree of curiosity I wondered, does one talk about during ones 'inaugural' sermon, out there in the mainstream Catholic Church? What programmatic initiatives does one announce? What advances of pastoral evangelism does one introduce? What new charisms of the Holy Spirit does one invoke upon ones new flock?

Well, he decided to address us at some length on the CDF document Dominus Iesus of 2000, with regard to which he used the epithet "infamous". I thought that was an intriguing choice both of subject and of adjective. After all, that thoroughly admirable document is not currently exactly the hottest news ... He said that it was negative about the Church of England, which, perhaps, although defensible, has a tadge of the suggestio falsi about it (since it doesn't actually mention the Church of England).

At the end of Mass, Father gave us his CV; he has just returned from studying Liturgy in foreign parts. Had I been one of his own parishioners, I might have asked him as I left why he used Prayer 2, the pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer about the dewfall, even at a Sunday Mass. Had he, I would have asked, spent long in the Trastevere?

But it isn't right for a tourist to be a nuisance to the bloke who's trying to do a job. I remember once, in my Anglican days, standing to gladhand the congregation outside the Church of Ireland church at Sneem in the County Kerry (in the parish of the diverting 'Hiberno-Catholic' Canon Charlie Gray-Stack, who loved to preach about the glories of the Holy Rosary), and being approached by a large visitor who looked down at me and declared himself 'Dutch Orthodox' and, for light conversation, started up (somewhat gutturally) with "I am very irritated indeed to find that the Church of Ireland still has the filioque in the Nicene Creed".

So I do know what a presbyter feels like doing in such circumstances. But, being on the smallish side ...

26 September 2015


You will enjoy (or have enjoyed) Mr Henry Sire's book Phoenix from the Ashes (see earlier posts) because of its dry and cutting wit. "Modernists shrink from beauty like a vampire from holy water". "If words were sufficient to bring men to him, God would not have needed to become a man and die for us; he could have founded a newspaper." " ... in the new rite, the Mass has become a lecture delivered to the people by the priest, with the altar as his lecture table." This last observation, of course, is along the lines of the criticisms levelled against modern liturgy on the grounds of its 'Enlightenment' ancestry; its didactic nature, its intellectualism, its linear avoidance of repetion. I have in mind particularly the writings of Dr Aidan Nichols OP and of the Anglican Catherine Pickstock, who has very acutely written about the 'oral' nature of traditional liturgy, its repeated beginnings and its "liturgical stammering". But you get a particular bite in Sire's book which, I think, comes from the facts that he writes from outside the 'professional liturgist' 'community'; and writes as a layman. "In an ordinary Mass today, the sense one has is not the offering of an eternal sacrifice but a lecture conducted by the priest and two or three women of the public-librarian class, to whom the readings and other duties of the church are allocated. The verbosity and preachiness of the liturgy is itself a middle-class characteristic with which many ordinary parishioners feel little rapport; and the alienation of working-class worshippers, in a way that was never true of the old Mass in poor parishes, has become a peculiar feature of the liturgical reform."

I agree with that sentiment, except that my own instinct would have been to put the last word of that sentence into inverted commas. Indeed, if one desires to waste the money, one can see all this illustrated weekly in the house-journal of those who, through the desacralised finger-wagging wordiness of the modern rite, have been enabled to to intrude upon it and to assert their own personal power over the Church's worship; a desired status which they very accurately see is threatened by the authentic Mass ... I refer, of course, to the weekly called the Tablet. It is the culture in which endless and endlessly daft songs (whose mummies sent them out into the world beautifully dressed in choruses) and questionable intercessions take up time which is then recouped by the use of a most improper Eucharistic Prayer. The Eucharistic Prayer is, of course, the only part of the new rite which speaks of Sacrifice and implies a sacrificing Priesthood; and which in this great mystery links Heaven and Earth as the Incarnate Word is offered to His Father in a propitiatory oblation. So, of course, if it can't be eliminated entirely, it has to be made as perfunctory as possible.

At this point, I would add the briefest and humblest footnote to Mr Sire's admirable demolition of "Eucharistic Prayer II". This prayer is taken from a very ancient Roman prayer by Hippolytus. Except ... current scholarship is convinced that this identification, widely accepted in the 1960s, is completely wrong. The document concerned is less ancient than was thought; did not originate in Rome; and has nothing to do with Hippolytus. Sire's already cogent argument is thus made very much stronger.

I append a repetition of my own translation of the description offered by Fr Louis Bouyer of the seedy origins of "EPII".

25 September 2015

Now we know

During his Inauguration Homily, our Holy Father the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI asked for prayer that he might not "flee for fear of the Wolves".

Now, very usefully, the unspeakable Daneels has blurted out information about how the Wolves described themselves: they were "the St Gallen Group". Their declared purpose was to oppose the mission of Pope Benedict to reconnect the Catholic Church with Tradition. Apparently these lupi see no disgrace in likening themselves to the Mafia.

Interesting. If it is OK for Cardinals to gang together to subvert the Roman Pontiff during Pontificate A, then clearly it must be OK for Cardinals to gang together to subvert the Pontificates of Popes B, C, and D. And if it is OK for Cardinals, the sworn intimate collaborators of the Roman Pontiff, to gang together against him at all, then clearly there can be nothing unOK if mere clerics and laity do the same. Or if there is, please tell me why in simple words of one syllable.

Or is it only after the end of a pontificate that the brave souls who have conspired against the Pontiff have the courage to rubbish him publicly? During his pontificate, did they proclaim their loyalty to him from the housetops? While putting in the boot behind closed doors? And then boasting noisily about their doings as soon as he was gone? Is that how the Church is supposed to operate? I'm uncertain whether to call this 'group' a latrocinium or a lupanar.

What a seedy gang of hypocritical crooks at the very heart of the Church, plotting ... even as I write this and you read it ... to corrupt the imminent Synod of Bishops.

A final question. The "Team Bergoglio" that we read about a year or two ago ... does that group have any overlap with the "St Gallen Group"?

24 September 2015


"On [the illicit consecrations] let me say that at the time I believed he was wrong. Twenty years after his death, I believe he was right." Thus Mr Henry Sire in his must-read Phoenix from the Ashes (see earlier post). I suspect many readers have undergone this shift in attitude, taught by the history of those twenty years.

Sire situates Lefebvre historically, which is important because he has so often been seen as an isolated phenomenon. "There were many in the Church, like Cardinal Browne, who were more rigid in their theology; many, like Cardinal Bacci, who were more unconditional adherents of the old rite; many, like Cardinal Oddi, who subscribed to a cruder conservatism; many, like Cardinal Staffa, who were more addicted to ritual; many, like Archbishop Proenca Sigaud, who were politically further to the right." So how did Lefebvre become the pariah; the only post-Conciliar rebel? Read this book; you may not agree with Mr Sire's judgements, but at every turning point he gives you information and provokes you to thought. A point to which he alludes, which I would put more strongly, is the attitude of the French Church after the Liberation. There was a feeling that 'integral' Catholicism was tarnished by the Vichy years, from which the Church wished to distance herself. Furthermore, there was the malign influence of Cardinal Villot. But, as far as concerns the influence of the Freemasons in the post-Conciliar processes, I will perhaps speak at more length in a later post about this important book.

I found especially interesting Sire's account of the canonical irregularities involved in the treatment of Lefebvre and other traditionalists (one such was interested to find that his appeal to Rome was dismissed before he had put it into the letterbox). All of this reminded me of how, when attempts were being made from within the English hierarchy to prevent my entry into the presbyterate of the Ordinariate, I was never shown any written document, or told in any face-to-face interview, what the reasons were for the refusal of a positive votum. I remember thinking, month after month, "Do these people have no concept of Natural Justice?"

Sire's main criticism of Lefebvre is that he was not a natural politician; not a schemer; not a crafty networker able effectively to build up a party. Is Sire right? Tell me, but not until you've read his book.

21 September 2015

The Council: Essential Reading

Fact: the question of Vatican II is a more open topic than it had been for decades. That Council was described by pontiffs as a New Pentecost, and as More important than Nicea, but the stranglehold of the 1960s conciliar documents upon historical and theological research has, in the last few years, come to an end. Their hands have been prised away from our windpipes. The significant moment, of course, was when Cardinal Ratzinger (who had spoken in a relaxed way about the limitations of some the Council's Acta and had relativised it by writing about the shortcomings of a number of earlier Ecumenical Councils) became Pope and used his Magisterium to establish the principle of Reform within a Hermeneutic of Continuity. This initiated an era of free study and discourse such as had not existed since the 1960s, except behind the battlements of the SSPX.  

Books followed. A canon of S Peter's Basilica, Professor Mgr Brunero Gherardini, published Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II: un discorso da fare 2009; it appeared in a rather stilted English translation by the Friars of the Immaculate as The Ecumenical Vatican Council II A much needed discussion (later in the same year, with a Forward by Cardinal Ranjith). The distinguished Church Historian Professor Roberto de Mattei published his magisterial account of the Council the following year: Il Concilio Vaticano II: Una storia mai scritta, which became available in a good English translation in 2012, The Second Vatican Council (an unwritten story). Essential reading for anyone who is serious about the problem of Vatican II! In 2011, a much slenderer, but highly significant, volume was produced by the doyen of English and Anglophone theologians, Dr Aidan Nichols OP. The complaints of supporters of the SSPX were courteously considered by Fr Aidan; and, in his gentle and unhysterical way, he spoke frankly about the Council's shortcomings; he even used the phrase "dereliction of duty" for the conduct of the Hierarchy since the Council (The Council in Question: A dialogue with Catholic Traditionalism).

Meanwhile, in Italy, Dr Serafino M Lanzetta, of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, was responsible for a succession of writings: including, in 2012, Iuxta modum: Il Vaticano II riletto alla luce della tradizione della Chiesa and in 2014 his doctoral thesis Il Vaticano II: un Concilio Pastorale: Ermeneutica delle doctrine Conciliari. Rumours, of course, spread that the persecution of the Friars and the suppression of their publishing house were not unrelated to its list of publications. I was not surprised when that astute fellow the Bishop of Portsmouth secured the services of this distinguished young theologian for his diocese: Fr Serafino, and a group of brothers and sisters, now work in a Gosport parish where, in precisely the style of the old Victorian Anglo-Catholic clergy houses and parish sisterhoods, they are conducting a personal visitation of every home in their parish. Goodness me, how upset everybody is at the Tablet, poor dear poppets. Rumour has it that Dr Lanzetta's books are to appear in English translations. Pronto!!

All this is but a prologos to my warm commendation of an important book I have just received. Mr H J A Sire, a professional historian who works in Rome, has just published (Angelico Press) his Phoenix from the Ashes: the Making, Unmaking, and Restoration of Catholic Tradition. I plan to share with you some of his insights. You will not regret getting a copy!

20 September 2015

Longest Reign??

Our Head of State has recently been congratulated on becoming our longest reigning monarch, upon surpassing the 63 years and 216 days of Queen Victoria (aka Princess Alexandrina of Saxe Coburg Gotha). Now ... I would not wish to say anything which even seemed discourteous about a lady who is ten times the superior of any of her detractors ...

 ... but among those who have submitted messages of congratulation are the Roman Pontiff and His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. And there is a diverting little historical oddity tucked away here.

From his Accession on September 16 1701 until his demise on January 1 1766, our late Sovereign Lord King James III and VIII was recognised as the Sovereign of the Three Kingdoms by European states which included the Holy See. And it was he who formally nominated the Vicars Apostolic of the London District (whom Cardinal Nichols proclaims, on the brass tablets inside his Cathedral Church, to be his predecessors).

And King James III reigned for 64 years and more than 100 days ... being lazy I won't try to tot up exactly how many days because I'd probably get it wrong by juggling the OS and NS dates clumsily.

But I'm sure that, some time next year, Pope Francis, and Cardinal Nichols, will congratulate the Head of State again, on her surpassing the length of the reign of that august Sovereign who, so far, is the longest reigning British Monarch recognised as such by the Holy See, King James III.

Catholics who truly respect the Papal Magisterium will be expecting this to happen. Surely, all those popes ... Clement XI, Innocent XIII, Benedict XIII, Clement XII, Benedict XIV, Clement XIII ... can't have been wrong about who, in the sight of God (non voluntate hominum sed Dei, as a later Most Eminent King was to put it on one of his medals), was truly our Sovereign?

19 September 2015

Dear S Januarius!

Dear, dear S Januarius! Quite certainly one of my favourite saints! The Patron, surely, of all the counter-cultural? What a nerve he has, what impudence, to continue to liquefy even in our unbelieving age! And just because a crowd of evil old Neapolitan crones truly believe that if they heap impatient abuse upon him for long enough, the liquefaction will happen! Does the Saint not realise, has nobody explained to him, has the Almighty not informed him, that this is the age of Dawkins, the age of Obama, the age of Kasper, in which such things just do not happen? Heaven help us, has he not even heard of the Enlightenment??

We of the Patrimony are off today, to Westminster, to hear our good friend Archbishop di Noia. I wonder if the splendid news will come through from Naples before Mass?

Vivat Rex! And, on this day, I am not referring to some Bavarian gentleman ... although we of the Patrimony have a natural affection for Bavarians ... but to King Charles, august Monarch of the Two Sicilies. Whichever Charles it is.

17 September 2015


I have just returned from a fortnight in loveliest Northumberland, and have whizzed through comments ... enabling most.

One detail. A couple of people have assured me that ... for example ... Benedict XVI referred to himself as "I" in Deus Caritas est. But, in the Latin text, he doesn't. He refers to himself as "We". The point of my "We" post was to point out that although popes continue to use the dignified "We"in the normative Latin texts of documents, the English translators of their documents have for some time now been mistranslating "we" as "I". I'm a little puzzled that people misunderstood my original post, because I've looked back at it and found it quite clear. Humbly, most humbly, I beg: please read what I write before commenting; it is rather dismissive for readers to glance quickly through and get a quick general misunderstanding! (The most recent papal documents published a week or two ago modifying Canon Law continue to represent Pope Francis as referring to himself as We.)

A plea for help from a brother priest. He needs the texts of an EF Mass for our Lady of Salette on September 19. If anyone can provide this, could they put it into the thread?


Whether to genuflect in an Anglican church where there is the customary white light burning before the Tabernacle? This is not a small problem; I wish to propose a solution, with the help of Mgr Ronald Knox and the Magisterium of the Church.

One is obliged to worship the Lord present in His most blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Not to do so is a grave irreverence. But, (Knox) there is "danger of idolatry. For, if Christ is not present in a particular host, then every gesture of of adoration which you address towards it is, materially, an act of idolatry. (I say materially, because of course it is not a formal sin of idolatry in one who mistakenly supposes Christ to be present)".

What is the current juridical situation for Catholics with regard to Anglican Orders? Addressing the circumstances of the 1890s, Leo XIII declared them absolutely null and void. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, reconsidered the question in the 1990s when the former Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, became a Catholic. After examining the considerable documentation regarding the participation of Dutch schismatics with valid Orders in Anglican episcopal Consecrations since the 1930s, the CDF declared that there was "a doubt about the invalidity" of his presbyteral ordination and recommended that Bishop Graham be ordained sub conditione. Which recommendation was ratified by S John Paul II, and is accordingly Magisterial. The same circumstances apply to many if not most male Anglican priests in England.

So there is a real doubt about whether the contents of that Tabernacle are the Lord's Body; and, equally, a doubt about whether they are bread. (In fact, Pope Benedict XIV pointed out that, logically, even in the Catholic Church, there is no total certainty that any particular host is validly consecrated. This is because it is theoretically possible that the celebrant was mad or bad and deliberately witheld his intention validly to consecrate; or that his ordaining bishop somehow failed validly to ordain him; or that the manufacturer accidentally used flour other than wheat flour; or that somebody for some reason has been tinkering ... there is a story from our own period of an officious but uninstructed Catholic Sacristan who thought that he was helping the clergy by keeping the ciboria inside the Tabernacle 'charged' by 'topping them up' regularly with ... unconsecrated hosts!)

Back to Knox. " ... the best you can do is a kind of conditional adoration; you can tell our Lord that you adore Him in all the consecrated Hosts of the world, and here in this host if indeed He is present here. This does not sound much better than the famous prayer 'O God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul', but, as I say, it is the best you can do. And that kind of conditional adoration cannot bring with it any danger of idolatry, any more than, e.g., the priest who conditionally administers Extreme Unction when it is uncertain whether life survives is in danger of profaning the Sacrament".

16 September 2015

The limits of Papal authority over the Sacraments (2)

Can a Roman Pontiff by an administrative act so override the sacramental structures of the Church as to delegate to a presbyter the right to ordain to Major Orders?

After that admirable Council, Vatican I, which so happily defined (set the limits of) the infallible teaching authority of the Bishop of Rome, the German Episcopate replied to Bismarck's attacks on the Council thus: "The pope cannot be called an absolute monarch, since he is subject to Divine Law and is bound to those things which Christ set in order (disposuit) for His Church. He cannot change the constitution (constitutionem) of the Church which was given to it by its Divine Founder ... the constitution of the Church in all essential matters is founded in the divine arrangement (ordinatione) and is therefore immune from every arbitrary human disposition."

Was this an early example of Liberalism from the German Bishops? Do we have here the meanderings of a ProtoKasper or of an UrMarx? Not so. Blessed Pius IX praised most fulsomely this Germanic declaration as containing "the genuine sense of the definitions of the Vatican Council". (Denzinger 3114 and 3117.) It is this exchange, of course, that Cardinal Ratzinger had in mind when he famously wrote "In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ..." Ratzinger was engaged in criticising the gross post-Vatican II notion that "the pope really could do anything".

It is, I think, important to maintain the principle, which theologians before the 1950s found comparatively unproblematic, that a Bishop of Rome can, except when teaching ex cathedra in accordance with the limitations defined in Pastor aeternus of Vatican I, be deemed to act ultra vires. The maxim quoted with approval by Journet from Lennerz, "the Pope has done it therefore the Pope can do it", completely subverts the defined doctrine of Vatican I because, quite simply, it renders the entire definition of infallibility ex cathedra completely unnecessary. If any papal enactment is exempt from the test "Is it ultra vires?", then, indeed (contrary to the teaching of B Pius IX) the Church does have an Absolute Monarch who can change the Divine Constitution of the Church. If a pope can set aside the sacramental ministerial structure of the Church as it emerged from the early days, then he could also remove certain texts from the Canon of Scripture (which was finalised rather later than the sacramental structures of ministerial ordination).

The Church would have an Absolute Monarch.

I am not surprised that the exaggerated notion of papal authority which we surveyed in the first part of this post erupted in the 1950s, during the papacy of Pius XII, the decade before the disorders of the 1960s well described by Joseph Ratzinger.

I share the views of the Pope Emeritus that Vatican I gives no basis for the maximalised idea of papal Magisterium which has now bedevilled the church for more than half a century.

I think that the decrees of Vatican I deserve to be heard, read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested, as our Anglican Patrimony so neatly puts things.

15 September 2015

The limits of Papal authority over the Sacraments (1)

As an ex-sailor, my late father never liked to be out of sight of the sea. So, after the War, he sold a country house and estate he had created in the 'thirties and bought a house with a sea view at Clacton in Essex. For all those human generations before the Victorians invented the concept of the Watering Place, the coastal periphery of Essex had counted as the marshy back of beyond. But the next hamlet along the coast to the South of us had the ruins of a medieval abbey, founded as a shrine of S Osyth, a martyred Saxon princess. In view of the remoteness of this place, the Abbot managed to secure from the Pope a delegation for him to ordain his subjects to the diaconate and the priesthood, although he, the Abbot, was only in presbyteral orders. The bishop of London protested, and the delegation was cancelled within a year or so.

At least four cases of such purported delegation have by now emerged. This in the past caused problems to mainline Catholic theologians. Adolphe Tanquerey (1854-1932) wrote in 1897 "Presbyters cannot, even by delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff, be extraordinary ministers of the episcopate or the presbyterate, as is admitted by all". That doughty opponent of the validity of Anglican Orders, Dr E C Messenger (1888-1951), writing in 1936, described the idea that the Roman Pontiff could delegate such power as "completely opposed to Catholic tradition" and "practically given up now". But by the 1950s the wind was changing. Fr Bernard Leeming in 1956 described this alleged papal power as "now admitted by many theologians", and Fr John Bligh, also in 1956, admitted that "Some theologians have held that in the four ... Papal Bulls the popes were acting ultra vires, so that the ordinations performed by priest-abbots in persuance of them were invalid"; but he himself shied away from this conclusion in view of the fact that Cistercian abbots had ordained their subjects to the Diaconate for centuries. Charles Journet in 1955 quoted with approval the words of Lennerz (1953): "Sovereign Pontiffs have conceded this privilege to simple priests. Thus they can so concede it".

The great Anglican Catholic dogmatic theologian, Fr E L Mascall, (from whom some of the above information is taken) wrote in 1958 that the theologians who upheld the right of popes to delegate ordination to presbyters were in effect maintaining "the power of the Pope to overrule by his administrative authority the sacramental structure of the Church: they are arguing not for presbyterianism but for popery".
To be continued. No comments before I have finished.

11 September 2015

Laudato si in Latin?

The Holy Father's encyclical on the environment is still, apparently, not available in Latin. I think this raises questions.

Sometimes people say that Latin is the Church's 'Official Language'. I do not know of any strict basis for this. The decrees of the first seven Ecumenical Councils are in Greek. I cannot think of a reason why the Byzantine and Semitic churches sui iuris should have imposed on them the notion that their 'official language' is Latin. Canon Law does make quite a thing of the 'freedom' of the Holy Father; and I think it would be hard to deny that he enjoys full and entire freedom to teach authoritatively in any language in which he chooses to declare that he is doing so.

But it is important for it to be understood that a statement in any one language very rarely has the precisely same meaning as its 'translation' in another language. Traduttore traditore. Only at the most elementary level ... and often not even then ... does one word have an equivalent in another language in such a way that each word has precisely identical parameters of meaning and precisely the same culturally-generated shades of emotion, suggestion, and allusion. That is why there needs to be text declared 'authentic', so that it is always possible for a person to look at a translation and say "That does not convey exactly the sense of the original".

Ever since I started this blog, I have repeatedly written about the clear evidence that few people in Rome now have even an elementary competence in Latin. Accordingly, I would regret ... but would understand ... an argument that it is rather silly for a document to be drafted, composed, fine-tuned in a modern vernacular, and then laboriously to be turned into a Latin version, which few comprehend, but which is then declared to be the authentic text.

But there does need to be an authentic text in some language of any document which expects to be taken seriously.

Latin has advantages which are too obvious to be spelt out; or, rather, which have been spelt out by S John XXIII in Veterum Sapientia. But if we set all that aside, there are good grounds for selecting one of those languages which are very widely spoken throughout the world: Spanish or French or English. Italian, frankly, is a beautiful but numerically a second order language and I think it would be highly unfortunate if it became de facto the Church's language of commonest use just because it is the lingua franca in which business is done in Rome. Rome is not the whole Church. The bureaucracy of Rome is not the only audience which is expected to read and to respect Magisterial documents.

A Roman document which is meant to be taken seriously, to have a degree of authority, needs to make clear, authoritatively, which of the linguistic versions in which it is published is the authentic one. Back in the days when the CTS produced its own translations of what had been authoritatively published in Rome in Latin, it included a notification of who was responsible for the English translation. That practice showed a praiseworthy sense of responsibility and of accountability which is lacking under the present system

Failure to make clear what exactly is authoritative and what is not must derogate very profoundly from the authority of the teaching of the Magisterium.

If this matter is, in the great rush to get documents out as fast as possible in half-a-dozen languages, treated as unimportant, the chickens will eventually come home to roost.

10 September 2015

More Mohrmann (5)

Since I wrote my posts on the great Christine Mohrmann, I have noticed - purely by chance - in Bodley a translation of the Roman Breviary into English (Imprimatur by that strange character Francis Cardinal Spellman 1964) in which the Prayers are translated by Mohrmann. Samples, with Cranmer in italics Latin in bold.
Pentecost 13
Almighty eternal God, grant us an increase of faith hope and charity; and make us love what you command so that we may be made worthy to attain what you promise.
Trinity 14
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith hope and charity; and that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command.
Per annum 30
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei spei et caritatis augmentum, et, ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod praecipis.

Comments? It seems to me that Cranmer had read Liturgiam authenticam quite carefully.

7 September 2015

Was 1963 the last decent vintage?

A kind friend (thank you ... where would the modern English Church, or any of us, be without the blessed, the God-provided Oratorians?) sent me, the Mass Propers authorised in 1963 after the Beatification of Blessed Dominic Barberi.

The first point of interest is that Blessed Dominic was observed upon August 27, the day of his death. After the 'reforms', this observance was otched a day earlier. That happened for two reasons: (1) Somebody, presumably one of Louis Bouyer's "Trio of Maniacs", had had the bright idea of whizzing S Monica onto the day before the Memoria of her son; and (2) It had been decided by somebody, presumably one of Louis Bouyer's "Trio of Maniacs", without any Conciliar mandate, that the immemorial custom of remembering two people on the same day by means of the sensible, practical mechanism of 'commemoration', was to be rigorously forbidden on pain of a thousand deaths.

Of equally considerable interest is the absence of that Political Correctness which was subsequently to require such exaggerated Ecumenical Sensitivity. So, as late as 1963, a Collect could be composed for B Dominic referring to 'errantes' being brought back ino the unity of the Church; and the Postcommunion asked (quoting Blessed John Henry Newman) that the 'errantes' might 'in unum Christi conveniant ovile'. [In the subsequent English versions, the narrow sense of 'errantes' as meaning schismatics - see the Good Friday Prayers - is made broader and vaguer.]

I think the Secret is an alpha composition showing the sort of patterning of words and clauses that nobody would think of in Rome today: Fac, Domine, ut omnes in unitate fidei ea cum caritate pacificas tibi offerant hostias, qua beatus Dominicus Confessor tuus vehementer aestuavit.

Cursus, you ask? Collect: velox and planus; Secret: tardus and trispondaicus; Postcommunion: velox and trispondaicus.

Perhaps the work of the doomed Sacred Congregation of Rites during this brief, interesting period would repay examination.

5 September 2015


What a joy it is to receive one of Mr Zealley's* catalogues! I have, in the past, equipped myself with Mgr Knox's Essays in Satire, Pilgrimage to Barsetshire, Signa severa and Let dons delight from this admirable and civilised source. But ... £6,000 ... no; it is not so much the price that is the problem. Rather more the difficulty, how and where would I house 221 gigantic volumes?

£6,000 is the price being asked for Migne, Jacques-Paul (ed) Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Latina. 221 vols ...  yet what a tease this entry is; because it goes on: Ex-English Cathedral library! Which Cathedral library? Catholic or Anglican? And why is it being sold?? What conclusions could one draw from this about the decline in clerical scholarship? Worse: the entry continues: Hardly used!!! The picture this conjures up is so depressing ... if they aren't browsing through Migne ... or at least using him to verify their references ... how on earth do modern clergy spend their time? (I will not enable certain categories of comment claiming to answer this purely rhetorical question.)

Less bulky is another of Mr Zealley's offerings, Nouveau Petit Paroissien, signed twice by Louis Napoleon, Napoleon III. Full fresh maroon suede leather, original brass corners and front clasp. Original white watered silk endpapers, darkened. All edges gilt. VG+ £750. But no. Quid mihi cum Corsica? I might have been tempted to purchase it, however, since I am a man burdened by an incurable life-long heterosexual condition, if the book had been owned and signed by the Empress Eugenie. I wonder how much more the price would have been then?


3 September 2015


As we pray, especially today, for the bishops, priests, and seminarians of the Society of S Pius X and the laity whom they serve, I am minded to reiterate the point I have tried to emphasise in so many of my previous posts about the relationship between the Society and representatives of the Holy See (31 July was probably my most recent).

It seems to me that the thing on which both 'sides' appear to agree may in fact be the thing about which both 'sides' are most wrong: namely, the great and permanent importance of the Second Vatican Council, which (according to SSPX) needs to be noisily resisted or else (according to CDF) must be explicitly accepted in every detail. That Council clearly manifested itself as a pastoral Council concerned with hodiernum tempus; with Aggiornamento. But, as I have so tediously said so often, the hodiernum tempus of the Sixties is not that of our present decade; our giorno is not theirs. It is easy, with hindsight, to discern ... for example ... the flawed optimism of Gaudium et Spes; to understand that the mark which Stalinist persecution had left upon the Church is reflected in the ill-thought-out preoccupation with religious liberty in Dignitatis humanae. But we have moved on from the 1960s. The World no longer comes to meet us as a friendly potential partner in dialogue. And we have new and terrible problems and enemies of which the Sixties never dreamed.

It is unacceptable for anybody, including members of the Society, to deny, if they do, that Vatican II was an Ecumenical Council (every little bit as much as was the Council of Vienne). As Bishop Tissier's admirable biography demonstrated, Archbishop Lefebvre signed each one of its decrees.

And it is inappropriate for members of Roman dicasteries to demand, if they do, a degree of assent to the Concilar documents which fails to recognise their relativity: id est, that a number of passages are well past their sell-by date (just like the legislation of Lateran IV on repressing Judaism).

And de facto this is recognised on all sides.

Let me give you just one very simple example.

The Council decreed that all Latin Rite clerics must (unless, exceptionally, a priest has an individual dispensation from his Bishop) say their Office in Latin. Who, nowadays, condemns saying the Office in a vernacular (without individual dispensation) as failing to fulfill the Obligation, because it is in flagrant breach of the clearest possible words of an Ecumenical Council? Surely, what all sensible mainstream Bishops and Clergy instinctively feel is:
The Conciliar decree reflects the exact situation of the early 1960s, which was superseded and rendered irrelevant within a decade. A fundamentalist preoccupation with the words of an obsolete text would be an irrelevance (or worse) in the life of the Church of our own day.