29 February 2016

A Bluffer's Guide to Pauline Pseudonymy (3)

Continues. [Personal note to Mr Bellord: the first paragraph is just as I wrote it before you made your appeal!! Truly!]
You may have been wondering about Hebrews. Kenny does not analyse Hebrews as part of the Pauline corpus because it does not claim to be by S Paul. But in his Table 13.2 he compares it with various NT writings and finds ... wait for it ... that it achieves a correlation with 'Paul' higher than any other correlations in the NT except that between the three Synoptic Gospels. Draw your own conclusions!

In conclusion, a few minor observations of my own ~ ~ ~ ~

~ Poor old I Corinthians! But might its lowly status be due to the participation of its joint author Sosthenes? Indeed, the "unusual versatility" which Kenny discerns within the Pauline authorship may owe a lot to the presence of scribes (like the Tertius who scribed Romans), and coauthors such as Timothy and Silvanus.

~ Does a Catholic need to be worried about the 'authenticity' of Titus? Well, it doesn't worry me. One can think of any number of hypotheses ... like a busy Paul saying to somebody with whom he has been discussing Titus "Go and write it all down for me ... I'll leave the details to you". In any case, what matters is that it is canonical. That is, in the last resort, all that matters about the entire Biblia.

~ Some earlier thinkers had already entertained doubts about NTE orthodoxy. G D Caird, Dean Ireland Professor in this University, had pointed out that the almost lyrical constructions in Ephesians (often with accumulations of genitives), which led some writers to say "How unlike the style of Romans, etc.", do appear in the other Pauline writings, even if only in patches here and there.

~ The Pastoral Epistles, we have seen, were the most despised by NTEs. But within these letters there are paragraphs, often about little practical and personal things like "Don't forget the parchments and please bring my chasuble", which seem to have such a raw immediacy that even the most rigid and bigoted NTEs found their hearts being touched and softened: so there grew up the now widespread theory that these are 'Genuine Pauline Notes' which the pseudonymous writer cunningly incorporated! ... talk about having cake and eating it! 



28 February 2016

A Bluffer's Guide to Pauline Pseudonymy (2)

 In the decades following Morton's work, doubts fell upon both his methodology and his conclusions. It was demonstrated that the logic by which he discerned such a plurality of authors in the 'Pauline Corpus' had a similarly fissiparous effect upon James Joyce. (Some of you will remember the earlier and hilarious satirical papers in which Ronnie Knox exposed to ridicule the fissiparous NTEs of his own time.) Morton had actually appeared in court as an expert witness for prosecutions: I wonder how many unfortunate people did time ... 'porridge', as we call it this side of the water ... as a result of his 'scientific' evidence. He was a Scottish Presbyterian minister.

Moreover, things developed in the field of computer science. And, in New Testament studies, new methodologies; accumulations of data made by other workers in the field; enabled Kenny to publish, in 1986, A Stylometric Study of the New Testament. (We will concentrate on his conclusions with regard to 'S Paul'.) Unlike the Protestant writers who had dominated the scene, Kenny declined to begin from a doctrinaire assumption that Romans and Galatians are self-evidently Pauline simply because Martin Luther thought he had discovered in them the Essence of the Gospel, the 'Canon within the Canon'; instead, "the better method is surely to start with the corpus of Pauline writings handed on by tradition, and ask whether within that corpus there is any Epistle, or group of Epistles, which is marked out as different from the body as a whole". His work is intricate and I will not attempt to reproduce it all. Suffice it to give his conclusion that "on the basis of the evidence in this chapter for my part I see no reason to reject the hypothesis that twelve of the Pauline Epistles are the work of a single, unusually versatile author". The only letter which on stylometric grounds Kenny regards as suspicious is Titus.

Kenny, you observe, has moved a fair distance from the certainties of the NTEs. But yet more revolutionary is a list he presents to us. "We can take a rough measure of how well each Epistle is at home in the Pauline corpus ... [t]hose which fit snugly ...". If you are a NTE, take a deep breath before you read on.
II Timothy
II Corinthians
II Thessalonians
I Thessalonians
I Timothy
I Corinthians
You will observe with amusement that the concept of the Tuebingen Four, as including Galatians and I Corinthians with Romans and Galatians and holding all the rest at arm's length, has been comprehensively torpedoed below the waterline. Even less survives, bobbing around on the surface, of the traditional Protestant NTE contempt for II Timothy as one of the 'Pastoral Epistles'.

Let us now concentrate on Ephesians, a letter much disliked by Protestant writers, and, if I remember aright, by Walter Kasper, because of its Catholic ecclesiology. In Kenny's Table 14.27 (yes, I'm afraid it's that kind of book), Ephesians correlates better with Romans than does any other letter except for II Corinthians, Galatians, and II Thessalonians.

To be concluded. No comments yet.

27 February 2016

A Bluffer's Guide to Pauline Pseudonymy (1)

Every Traddy knows that S Paul wrote all the letters assigned to him in the New Testament. Even the one that he didn't put his name to, Hebrews. But every New Testament Expert (NTE) knows that he wrote Romans and Galatians, I and II Corinthians, and probably not much else. Those four are sometimes called the Tuebingen Four, because F C Baur of that University demonstrated that they alone are Pauline in the early nineteenth century. This conclusion (surprise surprise) fits snugly into the Lutheran assumption that, since Justification by Faith Alone is manifestly the heart of S Paul's Gospel, Romans and Galatians are clearly his most important writings. I think I remember that the dear old New English Bible of the 1960s actually had "The Gospel according to Paul" as the page heading above much of Romans.

At the other extreme from the Tuebingen Four are the Pastoral Epistles, I Timothy, II Timothy, and Titus, about which the kindest thing a NTE can say is that they are "Deutero-Pauline"; the work of an admirer (admirers?) of S Paul well into the next generation. They clearly breathe a quite different atmosphere from the Four. In between the Four and the Pastorals lie the other 'Pauline' letters; NTEs differ in their judgements about these. But if you were to refer, in the hearing of a NTE, to "S Paul's Letter to the Ephesians", you would see passing across his sophisticated face that tolerant, amusedly superior smile which we save for simple if earnest folk who do not know all the complexities of which we cognoscenti are aware.

In 1966, A Q Morton brought the science of 'Stylometry' to bear on the New Testament. This involves constructing a computer print out of the minutiae of style of a Greek writer. Things like sentence length, use of passive verbs, anacolouthon, use of the articles ... I could fill a page with it all. Establish a writer's 'stylistic fingerprint', and then you can test any other writing to see whether it bears that 'fingerprint'. Scrupulous in his scholarship, Morton demonstrated that the NTE community was right: the Tuebingen Four form "a group"; "between the group and the other Epistles exist a large number of significant differences ... It is not possible to explain these differences without assuming a difference of authorship". This is a very satisfactory conclusion, is it not?

Let me now hare off at a tangent and introduce to you ... I'll explain why in the next part of this treatise ... a very able scholar, who is a Catholic priest who, sadly, lost his Faith. Sir Anthony Kenny left the Church and worked as a teacher of philosophy. An academic of immense distinction, he became Master of the intellectually prestigious Balliol College in this University (where he still was when our Middle Daughter was an undergraduate there). Many of the Catholic-haters in the Media grew up Catholic, then lost their Faith (sometimes because it conflicted with their genital urges) and turned violently against the Church. Not so Sir Anthony. As a sympathetic agnostic, he attended the Anglican Divine Office in Balliol Chapel (but did not join in the Creed). Such was his reputation for laid-back impartiality that he was the agreed chairman for the Debate beteen Professor Richard Dawkins, and Archbishop Rowan Williams, in the Sheldonian Theatre. It was a fascinating encounter; Dawkins' peasant illiteracy held up very poorly in the face of the high culture of both Kenny and Williams. Dawkins: I've never heard of Wittgenstein. Kenny: Oh. The Archbishop and I both find him very interesting ... or words to that effect. I think you can still find that Debate on the Internet.

I shall delete unread comments sent in before I have published the next two parts of this piece. I apologise in advance to those of you who think I should not write disdainfully about peasants.

26 February 2016

We are a touchy nation.

So, in today's news, we have, pretty high up, the information that some North American journal called Time Magazine is under the impression that Evelyn Waugh was a woman novelist!!

Is this faux 'mistake' intended as some sort of cheap retaliation for his The Loved One, which must be just about the funniest satirical demolition of North American culture, language, art, architecture, politics, literature, sentimentality, gullibility, sexuality, loquacity and self-importance since (Sir) Max Beerbohm created the character of Oover in Zuleika Dobson?

OK, we are a sadly pathetic little country, full of whinging has-beens. Quis ausit negare? But North Americans should realise that the truth of this analysis makes us resent it all the more when in their frank and open generosity they point it out to us. So I will toss back at them just one single offensive word, heavy with ridicule:



Lent, I suppose, shouldn't be fun, but liturgically it can provide novelties, and, to the still childlike parts of our minds, change is always fun. And Lent does provide us with novelties, or rather, with whatever the opposite is of novelty ... antiquelties, perhaps. Take the Prayer over the People which concludes the Lenten Masses ... the postconciliar 'reform' abolished them. The Editio Tertia Missalis Romani of 2002 brought them back, and so you again find them in the current ICEL translation.

Before the final blessing of the Mass was introduced into the text of the Ordo Missae, first by Dr Cranmer and then by his imitator Pope S Pius V, there had been no sacerdotal dismissal of the people for centuries in the texts of the Roman Liturgy. But, anciently, the Pontiff dismissed the people with a prayer said 'over' them. When, in 538, Pope Vigilius was arrested just before the end of Mass by the Imperial Byzantine Special Branch and dragged off to the East (have the Orthodox apologised yet for all those Popes who were arrested and dragged off to Constantinople to be tortured, imprisoned, or starved to death?), the pious Roman mob followed him to the boat yelling that they wanted 'the prayer'. He chanted it; the mob yelled Amen; and the boat moved off. The Prayer over the People was a blessing, in the sense that blessing means the priest prays a group from which he implicitly excludes himself by praying, not for 'us', but for 'you' or 'them' (that is how it differs from the post communionem prayer). In the Extraordinary Form, it is preceded by Let us Pray; and a diaconal Humble your heads before God; in the Ordinariate Missal Bow down before the Lord

Archaisms tend to survive in seasons like Lent. One reason why this is particularly true of the Roman Rite is that only in Lent was there an unbroken sequence of daily masses, stational masses presided over by the pontiff himself rather than by parish priests. Daily through the streets of the City there were the busy processions of the Pontifical plate and of the curial clergy and the pope himself journeying first to the Church of Meeting for the Collecta and thence to the church appointed for the Statio. The entire Christian people of Rome witnessed this great annual exercise and the deeply sanctified memories thus created tended to make Lent a time more than usually resistant to innovation.

And of course, there may be different vestments in Lent. We must remember that the chasuble was not always exclusively worn by bishops and priests. It was the normal out-of-home garment of middle-class citizens of the Empire (like S Paul - see II Timothy 4:13 "ton phelonen"; the toga being by then every bit as universally worn as top hat and tails are among us), and so it was worn, if not by everybody, at least by the clergy of all ranks. (The practice of tarting up deacons and subdeacons in dalmatics or tunicles invaded Rome rather later; in the period of the classical sacramentaries they wore just chasubles.) In the archaising season of Lent, Mass began with the deacon and subdeacon wearing chasubles folded up in front (or chasubles made to look as if they were folded up in front); when it got to the parts of the Mass where deacons and subdeacons have to be physically quite busily active, they took them off and rolled them lengthways, slung them over the left shoulder and tied a knot in them under the right armpit ... a rather jolly example of the down-to-earth matter-of-fact-ness of classical Roman liturgy. At least, that's the origin of it all; in recent centuries those rolled-and-knotted garments evolved into bands of cloth which became popularly known as 'broad stoles' because they do rather look like stoles worn deacon-wise, but, er, broader.

I dragged our 'folded chasubles' and our 'broad stoles' out into the light of day when we were at S Thomas's; I rather miss them now! In places where they still lurk in corners of sacristies ... er ... well ... if you were to bring them back into use, who am I to judge?

24 February 2016

My answer to a query

A reader would like an explanation of why I regard the Roman Canon, Eucharistic Prayer 1, as the Genuine Article, the authentic Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Rite expressing the early Roman theology of Oblation and Consecration; and why I therefore dislike the other three (and, in particular, regard the Pseudo-Hippolytan Dewfall at a Trattoria in the Trastevere shall we order another bottle Prayer as the absolute antithesis of the Roman Tradition). The answer is that those other three Prayers implicitly repudiate that Roman tradition by orientalising and importing a contrary doctrine of Oblation and Consecration; a contrary doctrine which is later than, and (of course, in my view) far less satisfactory than, the older Roman tradition.

A good starting point would be a series that I did in March last year: six parts, on March 9; 10, 12, 13, 16, 18; 2015.

I admit that I do sometimes tend to write as if every poor reader has been reading me for years and knows the basic motivations of my liturgical judgements, so that I don't need to keep repeating it all. Honestly: new and occasional readers are very welcome! And I hope all this doesn't sound too self-important, as if I think it is crucially important for all the world to fall down in adoration before my wonderful views. But somebody did ask!!

King Ethelbert of Kent

Continues ...
 I should add that Jesse Billett gives critical editions of three unregarded liturgical fragments, relegated to 'Appendix' status but all of them important and with each detail treated with scrupulous attention. I have not checked through the tables which are a prominent feature of the book and which make it easier to follow his discussion, but, in what I have looked at, I have not noticed errors.

This is an age in which Anglicanism, for reasons detailed as long ago as 1987 by Gary Bennett in his Crockford's Preface, has lost all the varied sustaining and combining features which, as recently as my youth, still gave it mutual coherence. I think Professor Billett has proved that the ecclesial community which produced fine Patristic scholarship in the nineteenth century and superb liturgical scholarship in the twentieth is still capable of producing scholars who provoke our admiration and enlighten our understanding.

The Roman liturgical Tradition does lie at the heart of our common Western experience, and to understand it, in depth and with clarity, is to understand what B Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey combined to call "the common ancient traditions"; and is thus, in the deepest possible way, to Do Ecumenism. That is why I characterise a book crammed with detailed footnotes and painstaking references and illuminating the daily and hourly life of prayer of the secular and religious English clergy of the period from 597-c1000 as a work of profoundly ecumenical significance. And I feel that we in the Ordinariates, in particular, should take this sort of scholarship immensely seriously. Such books; such studies; such interests; such writers; are part of the Bridge which the Ordinariates are meant, in God's Providence, to be. We shall be less than we should be if we do not ourselves sustain this Bridge.

I think there is a particular question which may in judgement be put to those of us who belong to Benedict XVI's Ordinariates: And what did you do to keep the Bridge open for those still on the other side?

King Ethelbert of Kent

Continues ...
 Professor Billett establishes with a high degree of probability that the form of the Office brought to England by the Augustinian Mission was not the form which was later to be thought of as 'Benedictine'. It was 'Roman' in the sense of replicating what was done in the great Roman basilicas ... the dedications of which (Christ; Ss Peter and Paul; S Mary) S Augustine was recreating in his See city. What happened in Rome was itself, of course, not static; and evidence can be complicated by this fact, as well as by the probability that local religious Superiors exercised a degree of liberty. But the main outlines are clear and, needless to say, evolution, both in Rome and in England, was 'organic'. It was not until the middle of the tenth century that a monastic 'reform' in England resulted in a 'strict observance' of the Benedictine liturgical rules in a group of monasteries, leaving other monasteries, and the secular clergy, to continue the old Roman basilican liturgical tradition.

There is something very distinctively 'Anglican' in Professor Billett's thesis. The Romanitas of the English Church received much emphasis from an earlier generation of Anglican liturgists, not least Geoffrey Willis. Many readers will remember the conclusion of a particular 'purple passage' by Gregory Dix: "This very morning I 'did this' with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he landed". And Billett, in a book which I suspect will not be superseded for a very long time, draws into his conclusions a vast amount of secondary literature, some of it largely ignored today because of the lack of interest displayed, since the 1960s, in anything which did not point towards the targets desired by the dominant fashionistas of that decade. One example is Camille Callewaert: not a name to conjure with among the Diocesan Directors of Liturgy of our generation ... but his little finger was thicker than their thighs. (Even the biggest names are now little known ... Bishop ... the Benedictine liturgical school of the Interwar Period ... Eizenhoeffer ... Christine Mohrmann ... are these names that crawl all over the notebooks of modern seminarians or even DPhil students?) Billett also summarises and utilises the work of scholars currently active, such as our own very popular Professor Regia of Ecclesiastical History here at Oxford, Sarah Foot.

Repeatedly, I found myself reading some single lapidary sentence in this book, perhaps especially one including a negative, and suddenly pulling up short with the reflection: It must have taken him a couple of days to check through that, not only verifying the references but, particularly, looking into every conceivable nook and cranny to assure himself that he hadn't failed to notice a piece of contrary evidence which would subvert his negative.
To be continued.


Saint Ethelbert of Kent: 1400 years.

Today is the 1400th anniversary of the death of S Ethelbert, Confessor, first Christian King of Kent. The Holy King was baptised, together with many of his people, by S Augustine, sent by Pope S Gregory the Great.

It is not often realised, either by Anglicans or by Catholics, what a remarkable phenomenon it was, that little mission which S Ethelbert received and established in Canterbury in 597. It happened a couple of centuries before the Carolingian Renaissance, before an imperious Frankish dynast embarked upon his project of replacing 'Gallican' liturgy with books copied directly from exemplars of the City. S Augustine's 'Church Plant' in Kent resulted in a little island of Romanitas being set up in the furthest North; and was, in political terms, magnificently timely.

King Ethelbert of Kent was clearly aware that Christianity was the cult of the Big World; he so valued his links with that world that he had accepted a Christian Frankish princess as his queen, with a Frankish bishop as her chaplain. Yet, to adopt her religion ... his Father-in-law's religion ... would have made him appear an appendage of her apron-strings, if not a vassal of her father. But the offer of a direct relationship with the Papa Romanus; to have a dialect of Christianity more august than theirs parachuted in; enabled him to trump the dignities of his in-laws. To be addressed as Rex Anglorum and as gloriosissimus, praecellentissimus by a Pope who compared him to Constantinus piissimus imperator ... to be instructed that the dedications and the liturgical dispositions and the choral arrangements of the churches being constructed in Canterbury precisely paralleled those of the great City itself, making Canterbury a new, Northern Rome, so miraculously far beyond the Alps ...

If there was one single over-riding characteristic of Anglo-Saxon Christianity, it was its Romanitas. Professor Jesse Billett of Toronto has recently devoted much erudition to this subject in his The Divine Office in Anglo-Saxon England 597-c.1000. His concern is to examine the surviving evidence for how the Divine Office, the round of daily prayer, was performed in the monasteria, 'minsters', of Anglo-Saxon England; and to demonstrate that it is inaccurate and anachronistic to speak of this as 'Benedictine'. Although there is plenty of evidence for the respectful study of the Benedictine Regula in the English Church, an assumption that this must have included a careful replication of S Benedict's directions with regard to worship contradicts the hints given in the evidence of the period concerned. I say 'hints' because writers naturally fail to describe in detail what they assume their readers will take for granted (throughout my blog posts you will not find any evidence that I use a knife and a fork while eating ... because we all do that ... and the remarkable thing would be if I did not do so ... and in that case I would explain to you my aberrant behaviour). Nevertheless the evidence is sufficient to fill some 500 pages and to build up a formidable case.
So how did they worship? I will repost two more posts on this subject in the course of today.

23 February 2016


A 'flyer' has just popped though our door offering "Dog Walking Services", and assuring us that the operative is "CRB checked".

This suggests to me quite a new sense of the term "Dog-lover".

Agony Aunt

People sometimes do me the honour of asking for solutions to problems ... which is one reason why I endlessly reprint my old articles on how the Novus Ordo may be (as it is commonly done) an unpleasant experience but no way is it invalid. Abuses do not make a Mass invalid. (I imagine these articles can easily be found via the search engine attached to the blog.) But I don't think I've ever tried to offer an answer to what a devout Catholic might do if he/she has no choice but to fulfil the Sunday Obligation by his/her presence at a Mass which in important repects is contra mentem Ecclesiae (perhaps, for example, because of its disobedience to the rubrics and the GIRM).

I do have some experience of this unpleasant dilemma: I had to spend fifteen months 'in lay communion' after we joined the incipient Ordinariate. And in so many churches, the problems are considerable. I do know.

Even Bishop Richard Williamson is prepared to discern patches of sunshine in what he calls the newchurch. I would advise everybody whose local church does the Novus Ordo decently to join their fellow-Catholics in praying that Mass devoutly. But there are very many churches in which (to give an important example) the First Eucharistic Prayer is never used; and, even worse, hundreds of churches in which, at Sunday Mass, the second Prayer is invariably used, despite the very clear language of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. This latter I would regard as a very serious abuse. In such circumstances, what is one to do?

It is, I think, advisable to consider the possibility of reverting to habits which sanctified Christians in many earlier centuries. If you foresee that, by Communion time, your mind is going to be full of irritated thoughts about the illegalities and irreverences you have experienced, it is probably best not to receive Holy Communion. Most people, through most of the Church's history, have 'received' very rarely. This abstinence can have the effect of making your much rarer communions more significant. Old-fashioned books of devotion used to suggest forms of devotion on preparation for Communion to be said on the Friday and Saturday evenings beforehand.

Does the church have a quiet corner near the back, or behind a pillar, where you might be able, without being too conspicuous, to kneel quietly down and to pray the Rosary throughout Mass? Millions, over the years, have done that for centuries. But DON'T make a show of it.

Or might you prefer to take your Missal along and prayerfully go through the propers of the Day's Mass? If you do that, I would recommend that you 'labiate'; i.e. gently and inconspicuously move your lips silently as you read the words. (Clergy do this with regard to the Divine Office.) Otherwise, the risk is that your eye will just slide down the page without your really 'inwardly digesting' anything. Remember that the celebrant will probably be using the ultra-short pseudo-Hippolytan dewfall-in-the-Trattoria-in-the-Trastevere shall-we-order-another-bottle Eucharistic Prayer (or else something even iffier), so it might be best to start the Secret, Preface, and Canon in good time. Do not fail to break off and to worship most devoutly when the celebrant gets to the Consecrations. At Communion time, remember that the people moving around you have God Incarnate within them. Try not to feel superior to them, because there are rumours that God rather dislikes that sort of thing. And, in any case, you aren't. Considering the graces that have been lavished on you, why are so much less holy than your fellow-worshippers to whom God has not given nearly as much?

Indeed, all through the Mass remember that (even if you are the only person there, possibly, who understands this) you are present at the Most Holy and Adorable Sacrifice, the Oblation of the Incarnate Word, the Immolation of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

This is what the Church means by Actuosa Participatio.

ON NO ACCOUNT start persuading yourself that, for some reason, you might be exempt from your Sunday Duty. You aren't. Don't go there.

I'm sure some readers will have other, far better, ideas.

22 February 2016

Et in Anglia Simonia?

In the Patristic passage offered in the (old) Breviary for the Tuesday after Lent I, we found S Bede doing his best to explain why the Lord expelled all those commercial people from the Temple, when all the poor chaps were doing was to enable the Temple Worship as laid down by God to be duly performed. Eventually, after a bit of a struggle, he comes up with this: they were selling doves; the dove is a Biblical symbol of the Spirit; so the Lord is condemning those who, in the Church, confer the Holy Spirit by the imposition of hands pretio; "for a fee".

My instinct is that he isn't talking about the imposition of hands in Absolution or Confirmation ... so, presumably, he has in mind bishops acepting fees for conferring Ordination. I recall that one possibility suggested by historians for S Theodore's view that S Chad was invalidly ordained to the Episcopate was that Chad's Consecrator, Bishop Wine, had been guilty of Simony. We have to remember that, at different times and in different places, very different impediments have been considered sufficient to render Ordinations invalid. Basically, it seems often to have boiled down to a sense that, if one disapproves of someone enough to want their Ordination to be invalid, one can usually find something. Rather like American Marriage Tribunals in the 1970s.

An antidote here, perhaps, to any naive picture of the newly-founded Anglo-Saxon Church as invariably shining brightly with evangelical fervour and untarnished sanctity!

Let us hope that the custom of neoconsecrati offering their Consecrator loaves of bread and barrels of wine does not constitute Simony. And how about neopresbyteri handing over candles?

21 February 2016

Is the Magisterium safe under Pope Francis?

Fr Zed has a very important piece today (February 20) about (1) how the media invented a plain untruth about "what B Paul VI said"; (2) how Papa Bergoglio has just repeated the error as if it were historical, and part of the Church's Doctrine.

I am increasingly worried about the safety of the Magisterium under this Pope. Just look at the paragraphs in blue at the end of this recent (January) post of mine, and ask yourself if I am not right.

I believe that these are dangerous days.

I thank a reader who has appended a comment on my recent post ... the "Have a good summer" post ... quoting an American canonist. The gentleman is cited as opining that the dodgy "Vatican Document" on Christianity and Judaism must be, even if only in some small degree, magisterial.

This is actually ... I think ... extremely funny.

You see, the document itself is careful to say, in its own first paragraph, "The text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church".

So, if the document is magisterial, then it teaches, magisterially ... that it is not magisterial! We are back with something very much like the dear old whiskery joke: "X is a Cretan and X says that all Cretans are liars ... is X telling the truth?".

To put it differently: the extent to which this document is magisterial is precisely the same as the extent to which (by its own assertion) it is not magisterial!

Or, mathematically, +1-1=0.

One of the problems about such a very 'maximalising' papacy as the present one is that its promoters and defenders ... the people who hope to piggy-back their own agenda onto the back of it ... actually reduce the whole idea of a Papacy, and of a Magisterium, to a laughing stock. In their passion to inflate the Teaching Authority of Holy Mother Church, and of the Sovereign Pontiff himself, for their own private political ends, they end up having defaced that Authority so that it looks like a derisory piece of rubbish which nobody could possibly take seriously. (I do not find it easy to believe that this is what the Holy Father himself desires.)

These people are in fact depriving us of the Magisterium we have a right to possess by emptying it of all plausibility; by blunting its edges. They are trying to steal from us the Papacy which Vatican I so succinctly and so accurately defined for us. I can only think of one Power in whose interest it is to do this.

And there is another dangerous aspect to their unfortunate and sinister game. Magisterial teachings in the Catholic Church gradually acquire, and grow in, substance and precision on the basis of precedent and of claimed support in the acta of previous authorities. Is there a risk that some pope in the future might issue, with claimed authority, an edict in which his argument is propped up by a footnote .... a footnote which gives chapter-and-verse drawing upon an earlier document which had unobtrusively started its own life as a discussion paper explicitly disclaiming magisterial authority? Or drawing upon some phrase Bergoglio had used (without giving it any particularly deep thought) in one of his Santa Marta homilies? Or while talking to the Press in an airliner?

The present Roman Pontiff is the fount of endless words, all day and every day. No human being could possibly talk as much on the record as this one does without accidentally saying a certain amount of nonsense as well as, one tremulously hopes, a large amount of very good sense. Attempts among those who plot to be his controllers to dress up in garments of awesome authority his lightest obiter dictum, or to do the same to the questionable meanderings of some committee set up by some dicastery, come very close to sacrilege and strike me as being most probably a device of the Enemy.

20 February 2016

Bishop Richard Williamson ...

... gives an account this morning of the thinking of the trio of bishops in the SSPX, as background to his own decision to bring his own episcopate up to a trio by consecrating a Dominican next month.

When all is said and done, his decision seems to me to be solipsistic, in a way that Archbishop Lefebvre's actions were not. It reminds me rather of the episode when a Patriarch of Jerusalem charged uncanonically around the Ukraine consecrating schismatic bishops after the Union of Brest, doing his best to devastate the Byzantine Catholic dioceses and, as the Cuba Document puts it, to detach Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics from their ancient Church.

18 February 2016

Facit Indignatio Versum .... "Ordaining" women

"The Ordination of Women" bores me beyond tears. My idea of Hell is to have it as a endless topic of conversation, as we did in the C of E. Bargepoles, you say? You'd need more than that to get me to touch it.

Why? Because most of those who favour it never listen. They positively know that you are doing just one thing ... displaying your fear/hatred/contempt for women ... so they never listen to a word, not a word, that you say. Archbishop Rowan Williams had a mission: to get the Church of England to have a real in-depth theological discussion about the subject; so a thing called the Rochester Report was produced, painstakingly and accurately laying out the arguments on each side. But the bigots made clear that they were not going to to have a debate ... because of their deaf certainty that there aren't any arguments against such an obvious truth. "Women Bishops Now" was their demand; and they got it. The convenor of the group that produced the Report, the then Bishop of Rochester, who has himself ordained women, was so horrified by this disgraceful episode that he he began the journey which led him to abandon episcopal ministry in the Church of England.

Dr Geoffrey Kirk is not like me. He is still prepared to revisit all that stuff. I think I know what motivates him: it is his sense of righteous outrage at the lies, the perversions of history, the dishonest rhetoric spewed out by most of the proponents of this disorder. The Roman satirist Juvenal asserted that it was his indignation that drove him to write. It is something like that which drives Geoffrey.

It is lamentably possible that the Catholic Church may have to go through the same Calvary that we experienced in Anglicanism. Which is why anybody under the age of seventy ought to buy Dr Kirk's new book and read it. Regard it as a gift from the Ordinariate.

Without Precedent is a fine but brief guide to this ghastly subject. He has a few words about it on his blog Ignatius his Conclave ... a blog you ought to read anyway ...

16 February 2016

Missionaries of Mercy ...

 ... can absolve absolutely everything, can't they ... murder and paedophilia and genocide and sadistic rape and human trafficking and war crimes and torture and mutilation and slavery and subjecting people to inhuman living conditions and arbitrary imprisonment and ... you name it  ... because God's Mercy is, isn't it, boundless ... except ... it has just been revealed ... they may not absolve the sins of consecrating or being consecrated to the episcopate sine mandato Apostolico.

Ah well, each of us, even a pope, just has to have something he feels really strongly about, doesn't he?

Professor J R R Tolkien (Updated)

I am not a Tolkienologist ... but who can fail to be moved by these two 'newly discovered' poems ... a taster:

 ... In the dale of dark in that hour of birth/one voice on a sudden sang:/ then all the bells in Heaven and Earth/ together at midnight rang./ Mary sang in this world below:/ they heard her song arise/ o'er mist and over mountain snow/ to the walls of Paradise,/ and the tongue of many bells was stirred/ in Heaven's towers to ring/ when voice of mortal maid was heard/ that was mother of Heaven's king./ Glad is the world and fair this night/ with stars about its head,/ and the hall is filled with laughter and light,/ and fires are burning red. ...

1936; that magic decade, that sparkling inter-war literary period, has an exquisite tang to it, doesn't it ... perhaps the last age when Catholicism still had a toe in the World's cultural door; when English poetry could still be written by the pens of the Chesterbelloc and of Eliot ... the era that gave us Betjeman. How dark and joyless the time in which God's inscrutable wisdom has set us now to bear our martyrion, as we shiver in the Northern winds.

UPDATE Thanks to readers for corrections; I wrote that piece in a hurry.

Sadly, I have seen no literary comments in any of the news reporting. 

15 February 2016

Information: FACEBOOK and LINKEDIN

I do not do (and never have done) Facebook or LinkedIn. I keep getting notifications that people want to meet me in such places; this is the only way I have of explaining that I have not accepted these invitations because I have no way of doing so. I am very sorry if I have seemed unfriendly or unresponsive.


The "Bishop of Rome" signed the Cuba Declaration with the additional title "Pope of the Catholic Church". I wonder if readers know anything about the past use of this title. I can't find it in the Annuario.


Patriarch Sviatoslav has made it known that, despite being a member of the Secretariate for Christian Unity, he was not consulted about the Cuba Document.

Since Collegiality is something of a buzz-word, these snippets of information are useful for all of us and for our partners in Ecumenical Dialogue in helping to build up a picture of what the word actually means ad mentem Summi Pontificis.

Prisons, prisoners, prison chains, and the Prisoner of the Domus Sanctae Marthae

Today is the Monday after the First Sunday in Lent. The devout among you, as you opened your Missals at Mass this morning, will have seen the magic words "Statio ad Sanctum Petrum ad vincula". Because, today, the 'Stational Church' in Rome is Ecclesia sancti Petri ad Vincula. That is where, before the Avignon days, the Pope, clergy, and People gathered for the Holy Sacrifice. Before going there, however, Pontiff and People met for the Collecta at the church of Ss Cosmas and Damian: which was right in the heart of Old Rome.

Strange - I know you are thinking - because, you ask, surely really old churches are built over martyria, "Tropaia", in cemeteries, which (because Roman law forbad interments within the walls) are always outside the City gates.

So, if you're all sitting comfortably, I will begin.

Pope Felix IV (526-530) founded the church of Ss Cosmas and Damian at a time when some of the old Roman public buildings were no longer used and were falling into disrepair. Near the Forum Romanum, in the Via Sacra, was the hall in which the City Archives had been kept. Felix added an apse and ... hey presto, the Church of Ss Cosmas and Damian.

After the Collecta, Pontiff and Clerus and Plebs walked under the continuous porticoes which, in those days, provided shelter from February weather along most of the thoroughfares of Rome (after all, Ovid, after telling us that February 10 was the start of Spring, wagged his finger and observed "Ne fallare tamen; restant tibi frigora, restant;/ magnaque discedens signa relinquit hiems"). Their destination: the slope of the Esquiline Hill, where Mass was celebrated in the more sumptuous surroundings of a church built by the Empress Eudoxia [not the showy whore who persecuted S John Chrysostom to his death, but a later and pious Eudoxia]. Originally called simply Ecclesia Apostolorum, it acquired its popular title as the place where the Chains of the Prince of the Apostles are venerated.

Perhaps a day to pray (cf the Gospel: "in prison") for those in prison?

I wonder what it would do for the piety of the City's inhabitants, and of its visitors, if some valiant Champion of the Faith were to unsheathe his trusty sword and, like the Good Angel who loosed S Peter's chains on August 1, were to liberate the Prisoner of the Domus Sanctae Marthae from his incarceration, so that the Successor of S Peter could freely perform his Lenten Collectae and Stationes with his beloved Clergy and People, by trudging round the City day by day throughout Lent. Isn't there some rather jolly old hymn by Cardinal Wiseman about "our pope, the great, the good", which talks about him "panting in the heart of Rome"? Or possibly I've slightly misremembered the words.The years do take their toll. Don't be too hard on me.

Perhaps we should start up a campaign to "Free the Santa Marta One!"

14 February 2016

Does one HAVE to be an illiterate to be a journalist ...

 ... or is it just a wopping great advantage? Media reports of the meeting in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moskow, almost without exception, carried on about how this was the "first" meeting between the Pope and the head of the Russian Church since the "Skism" between East and West "nearly a thousand years ago".

I wonder who told the fools this convoluted nonsense. I hope it wasn't the Secretariate for Unity and/or Metropolitan Hilarion's people; because that would rather suggest that, 1984-style, Metropolitan Isidore has been declared an unperson and is to be written out of history.

Isidore, Metropolitan of Kiev, Moskow, and All Rus was at the Council of Florence in 1439, when the Union between East and West was brought about. Isidore was a keen advocate of that Union (and was in fact imprisoned on this account on his return home). He was made a papal legate and a Cardinal. Can it really be true that he never met the pope?

My suspicion is that the guilt here does not in fact lie with Koch or Hilarion, but with an arrogant laziness which prevents journalists from bothering to brief themselves accurately with regard to any 'religious' matters.

I wonder what we, or anybody, could do to explode the idea that 1054 is the date of the breach between East and West. It was a date, certainly, of a nasty spat in Constantinople when a Papal Legate excommunicated a Patriarch and that Patriarch excommunicated that Legate. But there had been nasty spats before then; and there were unions (such as that of Florence) after then. And analysing relations between East and West has never been a simple matter of assuming that Constantinople is the whole East. There are two other autonomous (and more ancient) patriarchates out there, as well as Jerusalem and Moskow. Moskow certainly doesn't think that Constantinople is the whole East: and Moskow is quite right on this as on many other matters.

I am also much puzzled why are there so few banner headlines saying

Could it be that the text of the Declaration was just that bit too long for poor ill-educated journalists to be able to read all of it?

I have said before, I think, that I find the following a sobering thought: 
When journalists rabbit on about things I do know just a little about, it is clear to me that they totally lack competence in that field. So should I therefore prudently assume per analogiam that, when they pontificate in fields in which I am ignorant, that's all a load of rubbish, too?

13 February 2016

Roman Primacy and Cuba

There is so much that is better than good in the Declaration of Cuba that it seems churlish to carp. But ...

Paragraph 27: I find this enormously strange. Unless the Russian Church is finally conceding that the Bishop of First Rome does have a general supervision of All the Churches so as to maintain or to restore unity and to resolve disputes, I completely fail to see what on earth it has to do with the Pope what the competing Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions do. What standing has Rome to prescribe upon what basis in Canon Law Orthodox should reconcile among themselves? I can't help feeling that Moskow has tricked the Vatican into, rather unwisely, taking sides in an intra-Orthodox dispute. No fools, these Russkies.

Paragraph 25: If a group of Bishops with their Clergies and Peoples decide to seek formal links of Communion with the See of S Peter, I do not see upon what grounds of Catholic ecclesiology their request can be denied or rebuffed. Calling it Unia and then deeming that term to be a dirty word is just ecclesiastical spin-doctoring.

Could it be that Moskow is afraid that some of the Ukrainian Orthodox might seek shelter under a Roman, rather than a Muscovite, umbrella? Or is all this part of Moskow's unease that the Ecumenical Patriarchate might (as it has done before) take a 'primatial' hand in the canonical problems within the former Soviet Empire? Or do we have here a device to pre-empt some possible jockying at this year's Pan-Orthodox Conference? Did Cardinal Koch check with Constantinople that these texts were unexceptionable?

A chap can get himself into trouble by flirting with two girls at the same time.

Only for readers of D L Sayers ...

 ... if there are some out there!

Thrones and Dominations is a Peter Wimsey  novel, abandoned, fragmentary, between 1936 and 1938 and "completed" in 1998 by Jill Paton Walsh.

The context of this book fascinates me. It portrays the equal, and equally passionate, love of PW and H; a love destined to be fruitful although that fruitfulness, Sayers emphasises, will not just be for dynastic reasons! Against this is set the relationship between Laurence and Rosamund, who are married but whose conduct deceives a seasoned observer into thinking it is that of lover and mistress. Their relationship has distinctly sadomasochistic undertones: Rosamund disciplines Laurence to secure her own wilful interests by the giving or witholding of her person. Sayers, and the lapdog, make clear the inherently infertile character of this flawed association. Not surprisingly, the title of the book is ...

What mainly intrigues me is that the narrative is not situated in a novelistic never-never land; Sayers very deliberately places it explicitly within the early months of the reign of Edward VIII. And we now know that the relationship between him and Mrs Simpson was indeed a matter of Thrones and of Dominations. And, of course, for whatever combination of reasons, it was infertile.

As Sayers wrote the surviving six draft chapters, had she read foreign newspapers so that she knew about Simpson? Assuming that indeed she had, could she have known ... did anybody know then, except for the occasional footman who might happen to burst in while the King-Emperor was coram dea provolutus ... how unusual that liaison was? Are the similarities between Sayers' characters and the reality behind the Abdication Crisis sheer coincidence? Or could there be a cultural link: was this type of sexual situation one of the preoccupations of writers and novelists in the 1930s? Is there a symbiosis somewhere here linking Art and Life? I am not very well-read in English fiction written between the wars. You literate chappesses and chaps out there will be able to answer this.

And I have some plain and factual source-critical questions which I share simply on the very remote off-chance that somebody might have some answers. We know that Walsh wove into a unity two differing and often very different drafts left by Sayers. Have any variant versions escaped into the public domain? Do we know if Walsh may have censored from her synthetic narrative typically Thirtiesish tropes in the Sayers drafts because they would be considered politically incorrect nowadays? The 'Diagram' Sayers left of the plot: is that anywhere to be seen? The section we know Walsh omitted ... in which Paul Delagardie describes to Harriet Peter Wimsey's sexual initiation ... has that sneaked out? Why was Walsh ... in our 'liberated' age ... so squeamish about it?

Finally: despite a slight chronological misalignment, might Sayers have based the portraitist Gaston Chapparelle on Philip de Laszlo? (I have a personal interest here: a de Laszlo, a portrait of a disillusioned headmasterly flirt, hung just outside the room I taught in at Lancing, where he had sent his boys. I must have looked at it well above 10,000 times!) In 1933, all London flocked to an exhibition to see and gossip over de Lazlo's portrait of the red-haired Anny Ahlers, who had recently died in very mysterious circumstances.

12 February 2016

Practical Ecumenism

Decades ago when we were still in the House Of Bondage (sic JHN), there was a Church Directory, indicating the level of churchmanship in every English Anglican church which was somewhere on the spectrum between 'Prayer Book Catholic' and 'Full Catholic Privileges'. (And in the episcopopter era, FIF did a list.)

After the hoped-for regularisation of the SSPX, we could (in this on-line age) have a Catholic version; listing all the churches where the EF was celebrated ... or where the OF was so reform-of-the-reform as to be almost undistinguishable ... or where the Ordinariate Use was done in its more 'Tridentine' version ... or where Ukrainian or Melkite liturgy could be had ... you get the idea.

Not 'pure' enough, some of you think? Well, it's how the once-admirable Good Food Guide used to function: full entries for real food but supplementary information about the best-of-the-rest in otherwise arid areas miles from a decent restaurant.

It would be a charitable ecumenical enterprise enabling Tablet readers to know which churches fail to tick their exacting boxes.

MISSALE PARISIENSE, Feria VI post cineres

Browsing the other day through this Gallican (Gallican in the French eighteenth century sense of emphasising a degree of independance from Rome; not in the pre-Carolingian sense) Missal, I was struck by how right Dom Gueranger was to campaign for the elimination of these confected late French 'rites'. But there are good things in them. At a time when new propers issued from Rome tended to be prosaic, prolix, and very obvious [O God, who dost grant us to celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of xyz ...], there's an elegant simplicity about some 'Gallican' collects.

Take this one, for the Five Wounds (Feria VI post Cineres):
Concede, quaesumus, misericors Deus; ut sacrae Unigeniti tui plagae sint nobis medela vulnerum et fontes salutis aeternae.
Good, yes? Multum in parvo; a lot of ideas in a few words.

And here's one for the Mater Dolorosa (Feria VI post Dominicam Passionis), not quite so tight but still attractive:
Interveniat pro nobis, quaesumus, Domine, apud tuam clementiam, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, beata Virgo Maria mater tua, cuius animam, in hora passionis tuae, doloris gladius pertransivit.

Incidentally, 'Paris' renamed the Dedication of S Michael " S Michael and All Angels". I wonder if they got this idea from Cranmer's Calendar. There were links between the 'Gallicans' and the Anglicans; I suspect the Gallicans thought Anglicans were rather like themselves but had taken local autonomy a trifle too far, while Anglicans saw the Gallicans as Sound Chaps who might easily be persuaded to go the whole hog.

(Would anybody care to translate those collects for the Greater Good?)

PS: According to 'Paris', one covered one's head with one's amice in the winter, assuming the biretta between Easter and the Octave of S Denis. Sometimes I think people forget what life must have been like in the age of unheated churches; we were reminded of this at Lancing by the presence in the Treasury of a pomme; a silver unscrewable 'apple' in which hot water had been poured so that the celebrant had the wherewithal to unfreeze his fingers.

11 February 2016

After the Year of Mercy ...

 ... there will be some unfinished business. After all, Mercy will itself not be just shoved back into the freezer and forgotten next November ... if Mercy is not even bigger, more prominent in the Church than it was before the Jubilee Year, the Year will have been a failure, a farce. Or is there something I'm not spotting?

During this Year, by the Holy Father's personal and gracious say-so, either the clergy of the SSPX have faculties to absolve, or the laity of the Church have faculties to go to confession to clergy of the Society (I'm a little unsure which of these the Holy Father said it was, but it doesn't make a lot of practical difference). Will those faculties be unavailable in November?

I venture to suggest that such an unmerciful possibility is inconceivable. I devoutly hope I am not wrong.

Perhaps a canonical solution will have been found. That would be the first prize. But one can comprehend some of the difficulties: because they are not totally unlike some of the problems which beset the Ordinariates at their inception.

Clergy who have built up a going concern in their local pastoral environment can be nervous about taking a step in which their laity, or a lot of them, may quite simply not follow their pastor. This is understandable. That is why there are priests still in the Church of England who have longed for Unity all their lives but cannot bring themselves to walk out on their laity. I understand the arguments for gentle pastoral caution, even though I believe that things are, in reality, well beyond that point.

I can't see that the Holy See would lose much face if it simply granted the clergy of the Society faculties to absolve and marry (after all, the Ministers of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony are the spouses); and then embarked upon a gradual, gentle process of de facto lowering the barriers.

And the legal framework of the Ordinariates includes some very good ideas. "If the Ordinary wishes to do X, he shall first consult with the Bishop of the place" ... " ... shall first hear the views of ...". That sort of stuff. In other words, officials of the mainstream Church are not given vetoes over the development of the other body, but a situation is created in which it is in everybody's interest to behave consensually. It has, so far, worked well for us.

And I think we should all remember that the Bishops of the Society, already down to three, are a generation older than they were when they were consecrated. The time will come when new consecrations will be needed. Yes, I know, the Society could again just do it and then just wheel out again all the same old arguments about States of Necessity ...

But it would be a crying shame if we had to go back to all that. The Church as a whole needs a robust, active, noisy, SSPX. The Society insisted for years that the Old Mass should be available to every priest of the Latin Church, until, in the end, Pope Benedict did it. I bet there were SSPXers who never really believed that Rome would ever in a million years respond to such an "extreme" demand! Their praiseworthy insistence was surely the result of their determination not to be fobbed off with the status of an isolated ghetto for grudgingly tolerated eccentrics. Tradition, the Archbishop had always insisted, must be given free rein, allowed to run unfettered; which is, after all, the Gamaliel Principle. Again and again he asked "Please try the Experiment of Tradition!". How right he was! But an unreconciled SSPX, getting ever older in habits of isolation, with an ever-decreasing influence on outsiders, is surely just what the Archbishop was so anxious to avoid. Merci, Monseigneur.

Looking through his telescope from his lofty vantage point in distant Broadstairs down at us lowly NewMortals, Bishop Richard Williamson has been insisting recently that he can discern elements of Catholicism left in what he chooses to call the NewChurch. Even to those who cock an ear at this somewhat grudging analysis, isn't it at least arguable that those 'elements' will be strengthened, not weakened, if the voice of the SSPX is heard, loud and clear, within the main-stream Church?

Generous Mercy is called for; and I think this means that it has to come mainly, but not entirely, from the Holy See.

10 February 2016

Frankly, I don't believe it.

That story about the Pope losing his temper.

Frankly, I don't believe it.

I spent three decades in a gossip-riden institution, and learned something of the dynamics of rumour. You can hear a story, vividly recounted, from five different sources; but if each source was simply recounting what X had said, then there is only one actual source. I know this sounds so absurdly obvious, the simplest possible Cmmon Sense; but it is very easy to forget it. Time and time again I discovered, on asking "who actually told you that? Have you heard it from anybody else?" that a tale was traceable to one unreliable origin.

Frankly, I don't believe it. The accounts I have read are very thin on eye witness sources. Autopsy and autography are conspicuous by their absence.

And perhaps unsubstantiated gossip is the sort of thing we should all be giving up for Lent?

Especially when the victim is the Sovereign Pontiff. But not only then.

The Five Wounds pro aliquibus locis.

At the back of preconciliar missals, there is delightfully readable appendix of Masses which at one time might only be used by indult in particular places. For example, on the Fridays of Lent the following Votives were printed:
After Ash Wednesday: The Holy Thorns of the Crown of Christ.
Week 1: The Sacred Spear and Nails of OLJC.
Week 2: The Most Sacred Shroud of OLJC.
Week 3: The Sacred Five Wounds of OLJC.
Week 4: The Most Precious Blood of OLJC.
(In Passion Week, of course, the main body of the Missal gives the Seven Sorrows of the BVM. Interestingly, the Third Typical Edition of the postconciliar Missal gives an alternative Collect for the ferial Mass this day: a new collect of our Lady of Sorrows.)

You will remember that the old English Votive of the Five Wounds consisted essentially of another Mass, the Votive Humiliavit of the Passion, with a few clauses added and a whole lot of very 'medieval' material before the Gospel. Aliquibus locis gives the same Votive of the Passion as the Mass of the Five Wounds, but with different Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion from those used in medieval England. Happily, over here in the Ordinariate we have a good translation of the old Sarum Votive. Happily, our rubrics do not discourage us from using it on ferias in Lent!

When the people of many parts of England rose in rebellion against Edward Tudor in 1549, carrying the Banner of the Five Wounds in front of them, there was one respect in which the peasantry of the South West was fortunate. There was an Exeter man, Vowell, a strong Protestant but a fair historian, who left an account of their insurrection. Other areas lacked a historian, so that we know very little of what happened in them. But we do have lists of those whom the government ordered to be executed in the Oxfordshire Rising - and of where they were ordered to be killed. And the list makes clear that this is only the tip of an iceberg; that very many disaffected have already been killed.

The Five Wounds is Patrimony.

9 February 2016


A good piece of artwork on Rorate about the Gesimas, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday. A weeny niggle: it would be nice if it were made clear that the artist, Enid Chadwick, was Anglican. A lot of her stuff is to be seen in the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham. Patrimony, y'know.

8 February 2016

The Answer

Lovely pictures on Rorate of the crowds surrounding the two great Capuchin Confessor Saints being carried to S Peter's; evoking lovely memories of the Grace and Mercy which flowed in great streams from the Relics of S Teresa when she visited Oxford a few years ago.

An inspired idea of the Holy Father.

Sex abuse

By the skilled work of the Enemy, the evil of sexual abuse by clergy continues to harm the Body of Christ. A crisis has arisen in Rome with regard to a man abused as a child, now a member of the Holy Father's Committee on Abuse, with whom his colleagues find it difficult to work; and who, in a logical ellipse which is far beyond me, considers it relevant to his predicament to attack the teaching and practice of Catholics and Orthodox with regard to the veneration of the relics of the Saints. And now the subect of sexual abuse in the Church of England is apparently raised in a book which would have been published this week, had not the publisher's lawyers required the recall even of the review copies.

I have a few rambling observations leading to a couple of unexciting conclusions.

Last year, Bishop Peter Ball, who began his bishoping in the Chichester diocese, was sentenced to a term in prison for using public office to procure his own sexual gratification. A little after, an associate, Fr Vickery House, of the same diocese, was sentenced for offences including offences against an under-age boy. It then transpired that a previous Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, now long dead, was accused of offences against an under-age girl, and that the Church of England had paid compensation and apologised both for the act and for the cover-up. In the modern style, Bell, no longer alive to defend himself, is considered guilty because he has no way of demonstrating his innocence; and the Diocese of Chichester cannot even bring itself to say whether or not those who made this decision had asked themselves or their legal advisers the questions "Does this evidence put the matter beyond reasonable doubt?" and "Does this evidence reach the bar of the balance of the probabilities?" (Details about the specific allegations concerning Bishop Bell have apparently just been printed in the Brighton Press.)

I knew Ball well and disliked him, although I had no actual evidence at all that he was breaking the law. My memory both of him and of House is that other people sat spell-bound during their sermons and addresses ... while what struck me was that they both carefully avoided doctrinal, or, indeed, any intellectual or solid or objective content, whether good or bad. Their homilies seemed often to regard reflexively the preacher himself rather than any broader topic ... our Holy Father might have reached for the term narcissistic. Ball, in particular, rarely omitted a paragraph or two of name-dropping. When the vote for women 'priests' took place in the 1990s, he ostentatiously abstained, sitting in the Chamber 'agonising' with his cowl over his head and face: I had no doubt at that this moving public performance was to avoid taking sides so as not to put at risk the adulation in which he was held by both 'sides'. For Ball was commonly regarded as a Walking Saint, described in his Wikipaedia bio as 'the wisest and holiest man in the Church of England'. Although he admitted sexual misbehaviour towards a novice monk in 1993 and accepted a Police warning, he promptly set about convincing people that his admission was made simply to save the Church of England from the embarrassment of a public trial. Such were his reputation and his very considerable plausibility that this exculpatory campaign was widely successful; and so a whiff of Martyrdom was added to his already bloated public reputation. Numbers of the Great and the Good wrote letters in his defence, which can now be read on the Internet. Establishment figures seem so often to combine a quite extraordinary gullibility with an equally remarkable confidence in their own (often extremely poor) judgement; I remember being condescendingly told off by one of those letter-writers because I made it clear - having by then myself seen the written evidence of which the police were in possession - that I considered Ball guilty of very disgraceful conduct.

Bell, also commonly regarded as a modern Saint, has had since 2010 a liturgical commemoration in the C of E (on October 3). I never knew him, but, of course, I was aware of the immense reputation which led to the widespread assumption that he had been unjustly prevented from being appointed to the See of Canterbury. All sorts of organisations, places, and objects, and not only in Sussex, are named after him: they will find it a complicated business to do a complete Jimmy-Saville-style damnatio memoriae. There is even an altar dedicated to him in the Cathedral here in Oxford. I wonder if the C of E will reconsider the current cheerful and slapdash way they stick people on to their liturgical calendar without any forensic process of enquiry. If they had had anything like the sort of process which the Catholic Church has for beatification, surely the calls for information might have brought to light the evidence against him ... assuming of course that he was in fact guilty. If you make a habit of sneering at the legalistic and pompous procedures of the Catholic Church with regard to who can be commemorated at the Altar, and of going for a low-key approach, you may find you get more accidents.

Not that it's any of my business any more. But I am entitled to wonder how much greater the Media interest would have been if similar offences or alleged offences had been brought home to bishops of the Catholic Church in this country.

And have I learned anything from all this? My experiences have led me to conclude, over the decades, that glamorous and 'charismatic' people can be extremely dangerous people, and are best kept at arm's length, or more, or more.

6 February 2016

MAGISTERIUM: a crisis?

(1) It is claimed, on the Internet, that the 'addresses' given to ad limina groups of bishops visiting our Holy Father are not actually read aloud by him, but are distributed in written form.

(2) It is claimed that this is also true of the very critical address given ... or not given ... to the German bishops last year.

(3) It is claimed that "Cardinal Marx ... says ...

(4) ... that he asked Francis about that speech and ...

(5) ... was assured that he knew nothing about the text, and had not even read it."

I do not have much of a problem with (1) and (2).

I have a big problem with (3), (4), and (5). If they were to be, together and cumulatively, true, well, my immediate (and intemperate?) reaction would be to wonder why anybody should bother to take seriously anything apparently emerging quasi a manu vel ex ore Pontificis during this pontificate.

If (3) and/or (4) are true, but (5) is not true, this would help one to build up a more detailed general picture of Cardinal Marx's moral character.

I hope, for the credit of all concerned, that this report is untrue. If that is so, then I shall regard the Internet source on which these false claims are made as a creator of a skandalon.

This report itself rather reminds me, structurally, of the reported episode, earlier in this pontificate, when the Roman Pontiff was reported to have told some Latin American Religious superiors that they should not be "worried" by letters from the CDF (Rorate 11 June 2013).

5 February 2016

Bishop Schneider and Cowardly Rabbits

With great diffidence and respect, I venture upon the gentlest, most scholarly, most dreadfully pedantic, heraldic disagreement with Bishop Schneider concerning his suggestion that the "semi-heretical bishops and Cardinals" who swarm around everywhere today are to be likened to "cowardly rabbits". You see, our admirable English Cardinal Allen, the chap who was all primed to be Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England if only the Armada had succeeded, had as his Arms Argent three conies passant sable. Yet His Eminence was thoroughly red-blooded: his contingency plans for post-Liberation England appeared to be based on the assumption that the Protestant elite would ... er ... no longer be a noticeable factor in the general over-all situation as such. He is the only Cardinal whose statue stands proudly looking down on the High Street in Oxford, securely perched on the still inviolate Rhodes Front of Oriel College. Viva il Cardinale.

But perhaps they don't have conies in Kazhakhstan.

Nevertheless, if Bishop Athanasius is just the merest tadge unreliable on rabbits, he is absolutely dead right about the evils of "Pope-centrism", "Papolatry". Let us examine that disagreeable subject with all the vigour of General Woundwort ("Come back, you cowards, dogs aren't dangerous") himself. (Google Watership Down if you're a bit lost here.)

Despite the rhetoric that some prelates employ in the rather trying euphoria which follows every Papal Conclave, we have no divine assurance whatsoever that any Pope after S Peter ever has been or is "God's choice" (as Basil Hume foolishly said about the short-lived John Paul I). Even as a corporate collegium, the Cardinal Electors are not protected in their prudential decisions. That would be an absurd dogma. I will not insult my readers by inserting here a history lesson about 'bad popes' (google 'Marozia' or 'Pornocracy') except to say that we can find more whole-hearted moral evil in quite a number of First Millennium popes than in the titillating iniquities of an occasional Renaissance libertine. Popes, needless to say, are protected from defining heretical propositions ex cathedra; but they are not vi ipsius muneris necessarily good or wise or nice men. (In 1559, Papa Caraffa was mad, bad, and nasty, had done a great deal to sabotage the Catholic cause in England, and Archbishop Hethe of York said more or less that in the House of Lords. But Hethe and all the other English diocesans, by God's grace, refused, at great personal cost, the orders of Bloody Bess to break communion with Rome.) Moreover, vi ipsius muneris, popes are not even protected against being heretics or expressing heresy (google Liberius, Honorius, and John XXII); only against  defining a piece of heretical doctrine ex cathedra. As Cardinal Pell made clear more than a year ago, a small number of popes has been very, very good; a small number very, very bad; and the overwhelming majority somewhere or other in between.

Nor is a world-wide personality cult of the Roman Pontiff required or even encouraged by Catholic Dogma. Such a cult is, surely, a very modern corruption of the Petrine Office, and indicates too much influence within the Church of the modern, Media-driven cult of the 'celebrity', so characteristic of our global village. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the first glimmerings we had of this cult were during the 1930s, the decade of the Nuremburg rallies, the decade also when Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII, but then Secretary of State) enjoyed displaying his charisma by going on foreign, even world-wide, tours and became known as il vice-Papa, il Cardinale volante. I wonder if these circuses have disadvantages as well as advantages. Poor shy Papa Ratzinger obviously loathed doing them, but went through it all out of a sense of duty: I wonder how much the strain sapped his declining strength. (Even Madonna seems to do them less, dear old thing ... barus de m'o thumos pepoetai, gona d'ou pheroisi/ ta de pota laipser' eon orkhesth' isa nebrioisi ... as Sappho once put it while waggling her Aeolian Senior Citizen's Bus-pass). It was, moreover, Papa Pacelli who appears to have started the silly game of having babies handed up to him while swaying along in his Gestatorial Chair.

We need to clear out of the way the fawning superstition that faithful, obedient Catholics, episcopal, clerical, or lay, are supposed to regard whoever happens currently to be the bishop of Rome as some sort of god-like superman who never makes mistakes and is above all criticism (until he dies or abdicates ... when, of course, the vermin all emerge squealing loudly from the bilge of the Barque of S Peter). When a newly appointed bishop promised that he would strive to be a "worthy representative of Pope Francis [or Pope Anybody]", the silly fellow should have had someone to tell him that bishops (according to the teaching of Leo XIII, not to mention Vatican II) are not Romani Pontificis vicarii, but Apostolorum successoresWe need to do what we can to educate our obtuse and ignorant Media to abandon their assumption that the Catholic Church is some sort of Stalinist or North Korean dictatorship in which a throw-away, off-the-cuff remark made by one man in an airliner might constitute the discarding of the teachings of two or four millennia. Indeed, I wish the last two pontiffs had never started these wretched airliner interviews. Even Pius XII, for all his faults, would have known better than that.

So .... three (cubed?) cheers for Bishop Schneider, and to Rorate for carrying, two or three days ago, that exclusive and important interview. Papolatria delenda est.

If the cry goes up to drink a toast to our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis I the Roman Pontiff and Vicar of S Peter, nobody will spring to their feet faster, or hold their head higher while enthusiastically doing exactly that, than I will. And without any water on the table at all.

But I will drink a toast to Holy Tradition first.

2 February 2016

Jews and Christians

This originally appeared 17 February 2010. I have added a footnote in green. I feel the importance of the points I make is enhanced by the fact that, appropriately, S Luke's Gospel, the Gospel of Mercy, will, in the Novus Ordo, be the Gospel which dominates our beloved Holy Father's Jubilee Year of Mercy. And today is the Feast of Candlemass; for the texts and spirituality of this magnificent festival we owe so much to the artistry of S Luke's pen.

 S Luke's Gospel, which in the Novus Ordo is the Gospel for this year, sometimes puzzles people. On the one hand, not least in the Infancy Narratives, it repeatedly emphasises the the Torah-rootedness of everything our Lady and S Joseph do; on the other, it (together with the book of Acts) seems to have the Mission to the Gentiles as one of its main themes. I will not attempt a long lesson on this point, upon which commentators advance different opinions, but simply share what seems to me very obviously S Luke's thrust: the Jewish people were and continue to be God's People; but some of them do reject the Messiah. To the Faithful Remnant - those Jews who do receive their Messiah - God adds Gentile converts. And that is what the Christian Church is; God's ancient Hebrew people (minus the unbelieving) with associated Gentiles added. One Chosen People (see S Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians.)

So Jewish Christians, far from being an oddity or an anomaly, are symbols of the age-old identity of the Church. The Church did not begin in the first century AD, but when God first Called a People in the dimmest antiquity of Semitic history: a point emphasised by the Roman Canon when it calls Abraham our Patriarch. S Gregory the Great calls it, "The Universal Church, which from righteous Abel right down to the the last to be chosen who shall be born in the end of the world". This means that Christianity is not a religion which grew out of Judaism (and therefore ought to respect its 'parent'), but - in historical terms - one of the two bodies each claiming to be the True Judaism; at a time when, in any case, the literal fulfilment of the religion of the the Hebrew Scripures became de facto obsolete with the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Temple cult. We, and Rabbinic Judaism, both claim to be the Real McKoy; even though we both, to an outsider looking in, inevitably appear different not only from each other but also from the Temple-centred religion which ended in AD 70.

My understanding is that when Rabbinic Judaism remoulded itself as a religion without the Temple sacrificial system, discerning its heart in Torah and Family and Synagogue, it became radically different (there are scholars who have queried whether, despite the evidence in S Luke's Gospel and his Acts, synagogue buildings actually existed before AD 70; I think this is an overstatement, but there can be no doubt that the significance of the synagogue was transformed after AD 70). Christianity retained the inherent sacrificial structure and grammar of Hebrew religion, fulfilled in the Eucharistic Sacrifice instituted on the first Maundy Thursday.

As the distinguished American rabbinic scholar Jacob Neusner has pointed out, what Jesus ejected from the Temple was those selling animals to enable the Temple's sacrificial worship to be carried out, and the moneychangers who enabled pilgrims to bring the shekel-tax which paid for the great daily morning and evening Tamid sacrifice of a lamb, offered for the whole People. Our Lord thereby enacted the replacement of the Temple cult by the Sacrifice which He Himself was to institute the following Thursday; Lamb superseding lamb, Altar superseding altar, Table superseding table; when Antitype (as we Christians put it) superseded type.

Sunday by Sunday, perhaps day by day, you and I go up to Jerusalem and enter into the courts and tabernacles of YHWH in great joy to offer there the Thanksgiving Oblation of the Lamb, and to share YHWH's Communion Sacrifice, our feet firmly upon the hill-top where Abraham stood with Isaac and where the Seed of Abraham was immolated.

I add: (1) S Luke's doctrine is, of course, the same precisely as that of S Paul in Romans 11, in the allegory of the Olive Tree. Have you read it recently?
(2) It occurs to me to wonder if there is any connection between the modern errors among badly instructed Catholics about Judaism, and the disuse of the Roman Canon, with its in-your-face emphasis on the pivotal Old Testament sacrifices.

1 February 2016

The Anathemas Game (for those with a little Latin) UPDATE

UPDATE: It is pure coincidence that I have posted this today ... in fact, I drafted it some weeks ago ... on the same day that Bishop Schneider (Rorate) made the same point that I am in fact drawing attention to here, and a number of other very important points, in an interview.

If there is ever another Ecumenical Council, I suggest the following anathemas;
"Si quis dixerit Spiritum Sanctum Petri successoribus promissum esse, ut eo revelante novam doctrinam patefacerent, ANATHEMA SIT."
"Si quis negaverit Spiritum Sanctum Petri successoribus tantummodo promissum esse ut, eo assistente, traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodirent et fideliter exponerent, ANATHEMA SIT."

These seem to be the main and most basic errors circulating in the Holy Father's intimate entourage.

Those of you who would describe yourselves as 'having a little Latin' would benefit from working out a translation of these texts. Careful readers of this blog will spot whence I have cobbled them together. 

If you've finished those two, here's another couple to try:
"Si quis dixerit Romanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra non loquatur, nihilominus definitiones proferre quae ex sese, non autem ex consensu ecclesiae, irreformabiles sint, ANATHEMA SIT."
"Si quis negaverit Romanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra loquatur, ea tantum infallibilitate pollere, qua divinus Redemptor Ecclesiam suam instructam esse voluerit, ANATHEMA SIT."

If you have sussed the source whence I have adapted these succinct formulations, you might like to offer some candidates of your own ex iisdem fontibus.