31 March 2016

EPISCOPAL CONFERENCES in the climate of the German claim to leadership for the Universal Church.

So might the Holy Father try to cut  the Gordian Knot about Holy Communion for remarried divorcees by kicking the ball into the long grass of Episcopal Conferences? He has already dropped hints about elevating the doctrinal competences of such Conferences.

I find myself entirely out of sympathy with any such agenda. Partly, this is on personal and pragmatic grounds. We, in the Church of England, saw what happened when 'Provincial Autonomy' was allowed to ride rough-shod over Doctrine, Tradition, Bible ... and even the Dominical Imperative of Unity. It is a thoroughly nasty and miserable experience. Any attempt to introduce anything remotely like it, or anything that could act as a first step towards anything remotely like it, into the Catholic Church, should be resisted by any and every means of Resistance that orthodox Catholics have or can devise. As a former Anglican, I warn you: decades of internal warfare within the Church on this subject are exactly what the Church Militant can do without. For most of my priestly ministry in the Church of England, this question hung like a dark shadow over my head. Any attempt by anybody to inflict a similar wound upon the Catholic Church merits, as Cardinal Burke has intimated, Resistance in whatever forms may be necessary, and with as much vigour as God's Grace gives us.

But my main reasons for queasiness are doctrinal rather than merely practical.

As Pope Benedict XVI made clear, the Universal Church has both a temporal and an ontological priority (i.e. it came first in historical time and it comes first in the realm of Being) over the local (i.e. diocesan) Church. Setting up powerful regional bodies would have a disastrously fissiparous effect on the Church Universal. The promoter of the opposite idea, that the local Church has ontological priority, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has made no secret of the fact that he sees his theory as justifying the possibility of different Catholic Regions, as it might be Sophisticated Germany and Primitive Africa, having different disciplines even in matters where discipline and doctrine are indissolubly bound up. This is to revisit the question upon which S Thomas More chose martyrdom: whether a portion of the Church Militant has any more right to go against the the whole Church than the city of London has to go against the whole realm of England.

Secondly, such a proposal is ecclesiologically illiterate. There is one Body of Christ, One Catholic Church. It subsists in two modes. There is the Church Universal spread throughout the world. Then there is the Particular (i.e. Diocesan) Church with its Bishop, priests, deacons, people. This distinction goes back to S Paul, who uses 'Ekklesiai" in the plural to refer to the local churches, but "Ekklesia" in the singular to refer to the Universal Body of Christ which lies behind, as it were, each local church. Yet the two are one. The Catholica is in the local church, and you cannot participate in the Catholica without participating in your local Church. The Body of Christ subsists in the Particular Church.

This theological simplicity calls into question any attempt to muddy its waters, unless it is firmly understood that that any 'groupings' of dioceses are merely functional and ad hoc. Powerful regional "churches" ("the French Church"; "the African Church" ...) introduce a, to me, incomprehensible and intolerable confusion into the simple teaching of Scripture and Tradition. And they are subversive both of the unique role of the local bishop (with his curia of presbyters and deacons) and of the unique role of the Roman Pontiff (with his curia). I was very pleased when Benedict XVI dropped the title of Patriarch of the West. A real contribution to ecclesiological lucidity.

This means that the Curia Episcopalis, and the Curia Romana, are both in no way lacking in theological garments, while the Episcopal Conference with its bureaucracy, however grand, powerful, and well-paid, is an Emperor entirely without theological clothes.

Frankly, I have come to doubt whether the Holy Father quite understands the politics sometimes inherent in theological discourses. Upon coming to power, he lost no time in praising Walter Kasper; and he has repeated his praises since then. But, in the decades before the election of Pope Benedict, there had been some years of argument, in public periodicals, between Ratzinger (the Universal Church has the ontological priority) and Kasper (the Local Church is ontologically prior). Ratzinger argued with his customary gentle but compelling courtesy; Kasper in his characteristic bully-boy style.

I hope that Cardinal Bergoglio was ignorant of this background. If he was aware of it, it would show remarkably bad taste that he should have chosen, so soon after his election, to ladle such extravagant and unnecessary encomia over the head of a Kasper who had been something of a thorn in the side, theologically, of his immediate predecessor ... whom the new Pope Francis claimed to respect.

But doctrine is more important than any light all this throws upon Bergoglio's character. Talk about "Ontological Priority" can very easily sound like some sort of irrelevant academic nonsense. Rather like how many Angels can dance on the Head of a Needle. But the question of the ontological priority of the Universal or the Local Church is in no way some academic and theoretical  irrelevance. Kasper, to be fair to him, would agree with this. It is a very practical question.

It is the theological basis of the question whether Germany, or wherever, can go its own way and "find its own solutions in response to the questions and problems of its own culture".

It raises the ultimate question of whether Christ is King, or whether each nation bows down before the idol of its own national Zeitgeist.

Some of this occurred on my blog some time ago; and the question of the title Patriarch of the West interested some readers. I reproduce some input by Professor Tighe upon this question, from an earlier thread.

30 March 2016


I am reassured to be told that SSPX priests whom readers know do indeed follow the rules laid down by the Society. Furthermore, I would accept that the presence in the Sacristy of a picture of Papa Bergoglio, or the customary NOMEN SUMMI PONTIFICIS FRANCISCUS NOMEN EPISCOPI VINCENTIUS, would be a sufficient indication that all is well. I can only say that I wished to offend no-one but had heard that there were clergy who ... I will say no more.

Also, I know of a European city where the Bishop himself suddenly provided an EF Mass at exactly the same time as a very long-established SSPX Mass ... instead of providing people with a second EF Mass at a different time for their potential convenience. I cannot convince myself that this was an initiative likely to build up the People of God in a unity of sincere affection and trust.

I'm not a canonist; but I'll take the risk of answering two recent queries about attendance at SSPX chapels.

(1) Different vibes have come from different Roman authorities about this question at different times; my own pastoral and moral praxis has always been what the old manualists called Probabilist; so I would say that there is certainly sufficient doubt about this to make the liberty of doing it at least a probabilis opinio, which, accordingly, you are at liberty for sufficient reasons to follow. But ...
(2) Practically if there is a diocesan Traditional Mass reasonably handy, I think it is by far the best to go to that, not least so as to encourage the flourishing of Tradition within the mainstream. And ...
(3) Theologically I think one should be extremely careful about the rumoured risk that some SSPX clergy might not be entirely in line with the very proper course which has been steered by their Superior H E Bishop Fellay. It seems to me that a crucial question is whether a celebrant is really a Sedevacantist either quoad papam or quoad episcopum. How to find out? I would be inclined to ask "Father, I have a rather impertinent and personal question to ask you ... I hope you don't mind ... but it's important to me ... in the Canon of the Mass do you Name Pope Francis and Bishop X [the diocesan]?"

Actually, it's not personal or impertinent for you to ask this, because, although the Canon of the Mass is said secreto, it is a very important public Prayer of the Church, and the Naming of the Vicar of Christ and of the local Ordinary is a desperately significant marker of Communio (or the lack of it). So you really have every right to ask and to be told and to know ... but it is best to be diplomatic!

Remember: Communion with Rome is what the martyrs and confessors suffered for under Elizabeth Tudor! In 1558/9, the surviving primate, Archbishop Hethe of York, risked the royal wrath by delivering a courageous speech in the Lords in which he did not conceal his immense dislike of the Pope, Caraffa, whose malicious Westpolitik (he hated Spain, and England was allied with Spain) had led him intentionally to weaken and humiliate the English Church. But, good pope or bad pope, Hethe made clear the duty of being in communion with the See of S Peter. As did every single English diocesan bishop, large numbers of the Upper Clergy, and most senior academics at this University.

If a celebrant cannot say Yes, or declines to answer, then I wouldn't attend his Masses. I would, if necessary, go to a poorly celebrated Novus Ordo rather than to the Mass of a priest who, every time he says Mass, formally and deliberately sets himself before God out of Communion either with the Successor of S Peter or with the lawful bishop of the place. Remember that the Te igitur is not a prayer for the Pope or the Ordinary; it is a prayer expressing Communio with them ... or not. That is its function. This is important! Do you want to become, in effect, a non-Catholic?

If, happily, Father's answer is satisfactory, then your subsequent decisions should reflect prudent consideration of the good and/or harm that the various options open to you might have on yourself and your family and on the other worshiping Catholic communities nearby. No man (or family) is an island!

Never forget that there are loads of keen young diocesan priests out there just longing to discover enough well-instructed laity around for it to be possible for them to start an Old Mass! Have you ... delicately ... tactfully ... tried any of them out? Never forget that there are Catholic churches in which you may find the Melkite or Ukrainian or Ordinariate liturgies.

And if you attend the SSPX chapel, don't share in a lot of cheap schismatic chatter. It's not good for you and it's not good for those who hear you.

29 March 2016

Another Must Read

After Fr Ker's biography of Blessed John Henry Newman, I want to commend to you the biography of Archbishop Lefebvre by H E Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. The book, and its English translation, are more than a decade old, but it seems to me to have a lot to say to our current ecclesiastical malaise.

As a biography, it is a finely detailed and balanced account of someone whom the author loved and respected, but with regard to whom he was determined to find out the truth. So one can find in this book a very 'conflicted' person. Sometimes he seems to be leaning over backwards to show proper deference to the Vicar of Christ; on other occasions, he seems almost sedevacantist (ET p 549 "the See of Peter and posts of authority in Rome being occupied by anti-Christs ..."; et cf ex gr pp 487, 506, 508). I do not see this inconsistency as unforgivable. The Archbishop was reacting to an ecclesial situation which has little parallel in the more recent history of the Church and accordingly has few guidelines provided for it in Canon Law and the Manualists. And the p 549 I cite in my parenthesis follows closely upon the Assisi Event; one can understand why the vision of the Antichrist, sitting where he ought not, as pagan idols did in the basilica at Assisi, should have been particularly vivid in Lefebvre's mind. But he remained firmly and resolutely opposed to the seductions of sedevacantism at a time when a lesser man might have sought its easy and 'logical' solution.

When there are dysfunctions in the institutions of the Church Militant, the problem is that the old markers, including the Rule-Book, do not, cannot, function in the same way that they are designed to work in 'normal' times. The history of earlier centuries does provide examples of behaviour, not much less uncanonical than Lefebvre's, which was subsequently validated by History. The Arian crisis, marked by widespread episcopal heterodoxy, is one example. The Avignon exile and the Great Schism of the West afford a veritable laboratory of confused crises in which tidy solutions were beyond the grasp of good men and eventually order was restored by untidy expedients. These were not neat solutions; but perhaps an openness to untidiness is sometimes the only sort of solution available to Christians in via.

But is it true that Marcel Lefebvre was faced with a situation of grave disorder? I think we can avoid just loudly shouting at each other about our own individual subjective judgements; instead we can simply consider objective, Magisterial  decisions. Summorum Pontificum confirmed juridically that the Latin Church had lived for some four decades under the dominion of ... yes ... a lie. The Vetus Ordo had not been lawfully prohibited. Much persecution of devout priests and layfolk that took place during those decades is therefore now ... officially ... seen to have been vis sine lege. For this so long to have been so true with regard to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which lies at the heart of the Church's life, argues a profound illness deep within the Latin Church. And that Big Lie was reinforced by multitudes of Little Lies ... that the Council mandated reordered Sanctuaries ... that the Council mandated exclusive use of the vernacular ...

So, I suggest, we can read Bishop Tissier's book as a narrative of how a good, but very often puzzled, man coped with the incomprehensible. And we can do this to our own benefit. Many Catholics find our present situation incomprehensible. As in the situations which Lefebvre faced, some Catholics may naturally feel inclined to act as though the rule-book does still apply (and so to treat the Church's current office-holders with the same obsequium as if we were still in the pontificate of S Pius X); on the other hand, others may discern the dysfunctions and ask their consciences what God expects of them by way of resistance, as many did during the Arian crisis and the Great Western Schism.

But I must express my own considered judgement by saying that the Church Militant, and her institutions, have not collapsed to the degree that many fear. Proper respect for the Roman Pontiff, despite all; and to the Bishops of the Catholic Church; are still our obligation. It is conceivable that graver deterioration may occur (again, vide the Arian crisis and the Great Western Schism): it has happened before without the Church's ultimate indefectibility being affected, so, in theory, it could happen again; but it has not happened yet.

But what about if it does? Frankly, I do not think it is is our Christian duty endlessly to be anxious about worrying contingencies. There are millions of these, and what eventually does happen will probably not be any of them. That's what happens in History. But ... OK ... I have just agreed that such things, theoretically, can happen ... they can happen because they have happened ... so: what did previous generations of Catholics do?

Both Councils and popes have behaved very foolishly in the past. What followed? Christian people kept their nerve and got on with everyday faithful obedience and, eventually, the disordered Council or the nutty pope or the barmy bishops were quite simply forgotten.

Time itself possesses a quasi-Magisterial status. The decrees for regulating the Jews of the Fifth Ecumenical Lateran Council are now simply matters for embarrassment. What was iffy about that Council, or about the Pope who presided over it, has disappeared or gradually merged into what one might call the Church's general background noise (dogmatic decrees and anathemas of dogmatic councils are, of course, a different matter). What was unhelpful in Conciliar texts or their consequences or their "spirit" ... and when, after the Ecumenical Council of Vienne, the Templars were being led out to be burned, they probably thought that was unhelpful ... Time has purged away; or will purge.

Take the long view. Never panic. Stick to the Sacraments. Read your Bible. Stay in Communion with the Bishop of Rome and with your own local bishop, however silly either or both of them seem to you to be.

27 March 2016

Fr Hunwicke's 2016 RISUS PASCHALIS: Medical Documents galore

In the Vatileaks trial, Mgr Vallejo rebutted the accusation that he had passed a confidential medical report on Papa Bergoglio's health to the Chinese Secret Service in Dubai (sic; sic; sic), by saying that he only gave them a medical report on his own 82 year old Mother, with the name (and, one hopes, the gender) changed. He claimed that his leaky behaviour was occasioned by attempts to blackmail him after he was allegedly led slightly off the paths of monsignorial rectitude by a fellow defendant.

The trial was later adjourned after Ms Chaouqi's lawyer handed the court a certificate from her doctor saying that she needed riposo assoluto a letto. Eye-tie doctors, indeed!

I wonder what Johnny Chinaman makes of it all.


In the Ordinariate Mass, as the Priest breaks the Host he says

V Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
R Therefore let us keep the feast, Alleluia!

This is derived from a formula in "The Masse" which Cranmer composed for his 1549 Prayer Book. For explanation, let us turn to the Easter Homily of Pope Benedict XVI in 2009:

" Christ our Passover is sacrificed: S Paul's triumphant words ring forth ... It is a text which originated barely twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and yet - like many Pauline passages - it already contains, in an impressive synthesis, a full awareness of the newness of life in Christ. The central symbol of Salvation History - the Paschal Lamb - is here identified with Jesus, who is called 'our Paschal Lamb'. The Hebrew Passover commemorating the liberation from slavery in Egypt, provided for the ritual sacrifice of a lamb every year, as prescribed in the Mosaic Law. In his passion and death, Jesus reveals himself as the Lamb of God, 'sacrificed' on the Cross, to take away the sins of the world. He was killed at the very hour when it was customary to sacrifice the lambs in the Temple of Jerusalem. The meaning of his sacrifice he had himself anticipated during the Last Supper, substituting himself - under the signs of bread and wine - for the ritual food of the Hebrew Passover meal. Thus we can truly say that Jesus brought to fulfilment the tradition of the ancient Passover, and transformed it into his Passover".

Footnote: the Alleluias are added during Easter. The passage of S Paul is at I Corinthians 5. "For us", not in the earlier manuscripts, is found in the Textus Receptus, the common Greek text of the Middle Ages, but not in the Vulgate Latin.

26 March 2016

Unburnt Cranmer

Poor Thomas Cranmer, long since degraded for heresy, long since burned. But, in this first Holy Week since the authorisation of the Ordinariate Missal, he is quite the man of the moment. Cranmer, perhaps almost single-handed, created the sacral dialect which was identical with the notion of Anglican worship until the 1970s; and it is worth noting that even when the Church of England followed (bad old) ICEL into unfortunate modernity, little of what it created was quite as horrible as what (bad old) ICEL had produced. It is clear that Cranmer's periods and cadences continued to influence and constrict his successors, while the 1970s Roman Catholic translators were culturally free to construct ex nihilo their own new disastrously bathetic liturgical style.

What was less fortunate in Anglican liturgy was that there was very little inclination, after one or two efforts in 1928, to translate from those ancient Latin sources upon which Cranmer drew. Indeed, this must give rise to a suspicion that many modern Anglican liturgists may not be comfortable in dead languages. The English Common Worship provided a complete set of proper postcommunions, but not a single one of them came from the thousands of postcommunions in the ancient Roman sacramentaries. Perhaps those Latin postcommunions are just too simple and workmanlike; not 'clever' enough? Whatever the reason, the result has been that new compositions often look like pompous products of late twentieth century middle-class wordsmiths, convinced that their own talents and insights absolve them from the need felt by the early popes, who composed the old Latin prayers, to express a limited number of ideas in a few elegant words.

Happily, help comes to us, by the grace of God, through the Anglo-Catholic Altar Missals produced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although they did not always attain the heights of Cranmer at his best, they provided usually good and often excellent renderings of the formulae in the Sarum or Tridentine Roman books. Among them are gems like Mgr Ronald Knox's Cranmerian pastiche of the Exsultet, a snatch of which I have just republished on this blog. This is a tradition which has now been reappropriated by its heirs: the Ordinariate Missal contains Knox's Exsultet in its elegant, sacral English.

Now I have a subversive thought for you. I do rather hope, in the furtive recesses of my soul, that elements of the Ordinariate Rite may spread like a joyful osmosis through the 'Mainstream Church'. OK, as a priest privileged to say a Latin EF Mass most mornings, I thank God for Summorum Pontificum. But the additional availability of the audible parts of the same rite in the dignified, hieratic sacral dialect of the Anglican tradition could only enrich an Anglophone Catholic Church which already encompasses so much (mostly unedifying) variety. And such Mutual Enrichment would, after all, merely fulfil the provisions of Vatican II about maintaining the 'substantial unity' of the Roman Rite; about allowing a 'suitable' place to vernacular languages; and about ensuring that new forms should in some way grow 'organically' from forms already existing.

25 March 2016

Twenty five years

... since the death of H E Archbishop Lefebvre. The first occasion, perhaps, on which he has not been remembered at Mass on his Year's Mind since his death.

I know many people are worried about the present situation in the Church. In my opinion, there is no need for the panic which some feel. But above all it is important never even to THINK of taking actions which would put one outside the community of Christ's Church. Adhering to Sedevacantism would be one of these dangers.

It is very sad that the Great Archbishop died, at least ostensibly, under excommunication latae sententiae. But he and his sons bore a solid witness against all the heresies which have attacked the Church since the 1950s; and one of the worst of those heresies is Sedevacantism.

Worst, because it is the Devil's ingenious way of attacking good orthodox Catholics whom he has failed to seduce in any other way!

22 March 2016

The Royal Banners Forward Go! IO TRIUMPHE!

I have never known a Chrism Mass with such a completely joyous atmosphere. What a happy chance I did that post on Sunday about our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman: because at the end of the Mass our friend Archbishop Tony Mennini blessed a splendid new picture of the great Beatus, given by the generosity of some of the Friends of the Ordinariate. He also waved around triumphantly a letter intimating that our Holy Father had made a financial contribution to the training of our seminarians ... and brought the house down by almost handing it over to one of them, but withdrawing the text at the last moment with the words "I'd better just check there aren't any secrets in it!". Viva il Papa! Viva Antonio! He is an ever-present reminder to us of the joy of being in Full Communion with the Successor of S Peter and, through him, with the Whole State of Christ's Church Militant here in Earth.

The music was superb; indeed, triumphalist, as befits the wonderful triumph of Realised Ecumenism which our Ordinariate represents. And a brilliant sermon on the role of the perfumed in human memory and in the Liturgy. It set me wondering about a stanza in Vexilla regis prodeunt which was cut out of the liturgical text in Antiquity: fundis aroma cortice ... etc.. [Literally: You, Tree, pour forth perfume from your bark; you are superior to nectar in flavour; joyful with a fertile Fruit, you clap your hands at the famous triumph.] Perhaps it was thought to be just too intoxicatingly, surrealistically, exultantly, exotic? Bring it back, sez I.

I'll return DV to S Venantius Fortunatus and his Passiontide hymns tomorrow. Where would Holy Week be without them? Lacking in expressions of Triumph!

20 March 2016

A Must Read

Yes, this book is more than a quarter of a century old; but I am still going to recommend it to you ... well, to those of you who don't already have it, or who don't refer often to it ...

John Henry Newman A Biography by Ian Ker (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988) (available in paparback).

Blessed John Henry Newman is exactly the man you need to read now. And "Dr Ker's biography is gripping because it allows Newman to speak for himself. An acknowledged master of Newman scholarship, he writes with sympathy and fairness of the polemical masterpieces written during the Anglican half of Newman's life ... Dr Ker has been able to use a goldmine of unpublished papers and correspondence. The letters fascinate not only for their style or for the religious and educational topics central to Newman's mind, but also for the accidental flashes of social and personal history ..." So went the review by the late Henry Chadwick, who was himself one of the last of the great Anglican minds of the twentieth century, before the noble construct which had been Anglicanism collapsed into women bishops, Area Ministerial Training Schemes, and Messy Church.

But why should a modern Catholic read Newman, just one of those cobwebby Victorians, in 2016? Because his world was, to an uncanny degree, our world: the problems he faced were so often the problems we as Catholics face. His was a a world in which hyperultrapapalists were trying to impose a bloated and maximalised and unCatholic model of Papacy upon the Catholic world ... the notion that a Pope can do anything. Nor was Newman sentimental about bishops: he had studied deeply a period of Church History in which the majority of the Episcopate had been heretical. Liberalism and relativism stalked the world hand in hand; Newman's detestation of those errors is expressed in the speech he made when he accepted his Cardinal's hat: if you haven't read it, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Read it; and never again will you be able to keep your temper when some ignorant fool implies that Newman was a 'Liberal Catholic'.

This great Blessed lived through a Council in which a gang of bullies tried to take control, and he was prepared to entertain the speculation that it had not been a genuinely Ecumenical Council at all. He talked about the problems which could arise if the Magisterium attempted to impose dubious doctrine. He even wished that the pope under whom he lived had not survived so long. He was subtle; but his sophistication had nothing soft or soggy about it. It better resembled a sharpened steel blade.

The best reassurance I can give you about Blessed John Henry's character and hence his readability is that he was not always very 'nice'. He took no prisoners.

Ker's biography is a big book; but you can get into it in sections, subject by subject, through the index at the end.

I conclude with another quotation from Chadwick: "[Newman] is an unsurpassed master of English prose. Deeply sensitive and subtle (some of his contemporaries thought too much so), stamped with high culture so as to give the lie to the venerable myth that unreformed Oxford was intellectually torpid, he was a formidable controversialist, as supreme a master of irony and satire as any in our literature."

Blessed John Henry Newman is fun to read, and so, very often, is this book about him.

Beate Iohannes Henrice, ora pro nobis.

19 March 2016

Three more bishops

Well, this planet by now supports three more bishops than it did a few hours ago; two consecrated lawfully in S Peter's by and in full communion with our Holy Father Pope Francis, the Successor of S Peter; one consecrated unlawfully and schismatically by His Excellency Bishop Williamson. What all three of them have in common is (1) that they were validly consecrated; and (2) that they were not consecrated to be Bishops of Particular Churches. All that splendid stuff about Episcopacy in the endless pages of the documents of Vatican II applies to them ... er ... hardly or not at all. Not one of the three will have one single presbyter to Name him as antistite nostro ... in the Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon of the Mass.

"Many [curial bishops] are bureaucrats and this is not good. Episcopal Consecration is not an honorary title, it is a Sacrament; it is to do with the Church's sacramental structure. So why must a bishop carry out bureaucratic tasks? That is where the Sacraments risk being violated, in my opinion". (Walter Cardinal Kasper.)

Just for once, I agree with him. Just for once, Papa Bergoglio appears not to agree with him!

Strange world!


I quite like to live dangerously ... in the sense that I like to venture a prophecy about what will happen, so that I either have the opportunity of crowing ("I told you so!!"), or else I have to say "How wrong I got that!"

So, with my gambler's instinct, I will now tell you about the contents of the document which our Holy Father Pope Francis is to sign today, Solemnity of the great and chaste Spouse of Blessed Mary Ever Virgin, and which, on past showing, will be published in the main vernaculars some time later. (I am reconciled to the likelihood that an official normative Latin text will be delayed.)

So here goes.


The Document will be long. Never has there been a Pontiff who so predictably refuses to say something in one word if a mere 500 will do.

It will be full of flowery language about the Family and about Marriage and the will of the Lord with regard to its indissolubility.

It will be full of flowery language about the anguish of those who 'find themselves' in situations which objectively contradict that ideal.

It will not open up a regular public pathway to the admission of such people to the Sacraments without the regularisation of their matrimonial situation through the Nullity system.

But it will promote the inclusion of such people fully within the life of the Church in ways which do pragmatically contradict the objective fact that they are public adulterers (so they will be able to act as godparents ... as Church representatives and employees ... as readers ... in any conceivable public role ... but not to approach the Sacraments).

There will be much flowery language about how deeply the Church loves them, how much she values the important contribution they can make to her life and mission and finances.

Yet, very likely, there will be Something in the document, possibly with regard to "exceptional circumstances", perhaps with regard to "more work which has to be done" [I most devoutly hope we shall not have any suggestion that a new Ecumenical Council could resolve the matter], perhaps with regard to local Episcopal Conferences being accorded a degree of autonomy in this matter [the Kasper-Marxist and Anglican heresy], which will make it possible for the heterodox to say that the door is ajar.

Whatever this Something is, it will not be such as to compel the conclusion that this Roman Pontiff has actually, by this document, formally and unambiguously taught Error.


There! I've told you! But, whatever befalls, remember the logic that this post-Synodal Exhortation cannot have any greater doctrinal, Magisterial, authority than any other document at the same Magisterial level. Such as Familiaris consortio. The authority that any pope has is precisely identical to the authority that any other pope had. Not smaller, not greater, not by a nanogram. Remember, above all, that ...

"The Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter so that, by His revelation, they might make known new teaching, but so that, with His assistance, they might devoutly guard and faithfully set forth the Tradition received through the Apostles, i.e. the Deposit of Faith".

Whatever teaching Pope Francis gives, remember that it is obliged to be ...

"Eodem sensu eademque sententia" with what has been taught in the past.

17 March 2016

Our Lady of Sorrows

Perhaps this is the time to recall the devotion of the Via Matris; seven stations of the seven sorrows, dolours, of our Lady. These are not hard to find on the Internet; if you want traditional language devotions, you will find them at http://www.liturgies.net/saints/mary/viamatris/viamatris.htm

Our Lady of Sorrows has a feast very appropriately situated on the old Octave Day of our Lady's Birthday, September 15, which by a Providential neatness is the very day after Holy Cross Day (how can anybody doubt that Providence is a Catholic Liturgist?). The old Roman Rite and the Ordinariate Missal also had a commemoration on the Friday after Passion Sunday, i.e. the Friday last before Good Friday. Missale Parisiense - does anybody recall a post I did about this, not very long ago? -  gave the text (and I invited readers to contribute translations; which they did) of the collect for that day. In fact, the collect concerned appears in Servite texts of the Via Matris. Does that mean that, rather than being composed by one of Archbishop de Harlay's 'Gallican' and semi-Jansenist young men, it is an older Servite formula? Or did the Servites get it from the Paris Missal? And I see it in my old pre-Conciliar Walsingham Pilgrim's Manual, to be said in the Chapel of our Lady of Sorrows, the fourth of the Stations of the Cross, in the Shrine grounds. I wonder how precisely Fr Hope Patten came by it. Or probably, since HP was not much of a latinist, it was Fr Fynes-Clinton.

Of course, the Passion Friday commemoration went for a Burton in the Bugnini deformation of the Roman Rite. But, fathers, the Editio Typica Tertia Missalis Romani inserts a new optional collect for use in the ferial Mass of that day. I give the text; translation  will be found in the Daily missal.
Deus, qui ecclesiae tuae in hoc tempore tribuis benigne beatam Mariam in passione Christi contemplanda devote imitari: da nobis, quaesumus; eiusdem Virginis intercessione, Unigenitio Filio tuo firmius in dies adhaerere et ad plenitudinem gratiae eius demum pervenire.
No harm in it; but ... don't you agree ... it plods. I also observe that it contains a phrase that I keep seeing in post-Concilar liturgical formulae: plenitudo gratiae. I suspect this of being semi-Pelagian: in these blessed guilt-free times, we no longer grovel in our wretchedness but just ask God for a bit of a top-up; not for grace but just for a bigger dose of it..

In these post-Conciliar days, we no longer commemorate the Dolours of our Lady; we make it personal and celebrate Maria Perdolens (the prefix per- intensifies the meaning of dolens.) The great 'Avignon' Bishop of Exeter, John de Grandisson (pronounced Grahnsen) in his arrangement of daily Marian votives to be said in in the Lady Chapel of his Cathedral listed the Friday Mass as Maria Compatiens.

Now - do I mistake me - we have there a way-in, do we not, to an understanding of Maria Coredemptrix?

16 March 2016

A Chilly Ecumenical Scene

Imagine this ... the great gaunt prison at Princetown on Dartmoor, cold always, colder in February; a priest (with bag) waits in the dark outside the entrance until it opens at 6 o'clock. Upon admittance, he goes ... not to the Anglican Chapel, but to the Methodist meeting-house. He sets up his altar; lays out his vestments; then goes into a corner to hear Confessions. That done, he vests, and celebrates (what we are now bidden to call) the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass with a small congregation. At the back, sitting quietly, are some probably bemused Quakers ... yes, I did say Quakers. Oh ... and did I mention this ... the priest is an Anglo-Papalist.

I heard recently that some Methodists are in a few days going to be celebrating the Conscription Act of 1916; celebrating the fact that it had a provision within it for Conscientious Objection. This was, of course, a great advance on the clever notion of sending "conchies" to the Front in sealed trains so that they could be court-martialed and shot for refusing orders in the presence of the enemy. But the 'tribunals' were very sparing in accepting that those appearing before them were genuinely conscientious objectors. So the prison was full of some six hundred conchies; Welsh Marxists only prepared to fight in a class war; religious fanatics with precise interpretations of the Prophet Daniel; mathematicians; scholars; musicians; actors; miners; farm labourers. And Quakers. Since these inmates were unlikely to escape and, had they done so, might have been very little danger to Society, I rather wonder if the choice of this cold and remote place for their incarceration was another piece of the cruelty engendered by the war-fever of the time.

Fr Bernard Walke, Vicar of S Hilary in Cornwall, was the priest involved, and he said his Mass in the Methodist Chapel because he was denied use of the Anglican Chapel. He was a pricipled opponent of the war, an admirer of Pope Pius X "who when asked to bless the armies of Austria replied, 'I bless peace and not war'. I [Walke wrote] had also instituted the service of Benediction on Sunday evenings, as an act of reparation to the Sacred Heart for the wrongs of war, and as a means of uniting ourselves with our enemies in that Sacrament that knows no frontiers."

Father had himself been beaten unconscious by a mob while addressing a peace meeting in Penzance.

He faced that mob with the same quiet courage with which, after the War, he faced the Protestant mob which came with crowbars and wrecked his church.

I wonder if anyone will trouble to remember Father Walke during this centenial 'celebration'; I would wager Not. Tridentinist Anglo-Catholics with rigid principles are not the sort of public heroes for which facile modern fashion thirsts.

But how wonderful Grace is. I hope you see why some of us have a tenacious resolve to maintain our sense of community with such brave and holy priests (and their layfolk), separated heroes of the Catholic Faith.

15 March 2016

It's A la Carte for some!

Back in the 1990s, when we made our first, unsuccessful, attempt to secure a Corporate Solution to our desire to enter into Full Communion with the See of S Peter, Cardinal Basil Hume (rightly desiring to make clear that opposition to the 'ordination' of women was not the only doctrinal requirement imposed by the Catholic Church) said that the Church's Doctrine was Table d'hote rather than a la Carte. Personally, as someone who had spent his entire ministry advocating Unity on precisely that basis, I found this a trifle condescending, but I could hardly deny that he was right.

Then we entered the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, and he gave us everything we needed. In the following months, we were 'formed' by being drilled in the 'post-Conciliar Magisterium' and little else ... endless large yellow books produced by Maryvale. If you estimated the matter by plain bulk, it would have to suggest that the post-Conciliar Magisterium is infinitely more important than Holy Scripture and the Fathers or School-men. When I suggested that we needed teaching on Scripture, because, coming from a Protestant environment, that was where we were really weakest, the suggestion was treated as a joke. We got just one lecture, from Fr John Hemer; every sentence in it pure gold ... but only that one session.

And, clearly, the post-Conciliar Magisterium was seen as vastly more important than the Fathers.  Patristics was so poorly done that we were told that the teaching promulgated to Chalcedon by S Leo I in his Tomus ad Flavianum was heretical! Whatever would B John Henry Newman have made of that?

And, at my very entertaining 'Faculties Exam', I was comprehensively quizzed about my willingness to be very firm indeed if a nun ("or even a Reverend Mother") ever tried to preach a homily. The restriction of the homilia intra Missam to Bishops, Priests, and Deacons is of course based upon the strict teaching of the Catechism and Canon Law. Now, apparently, Osservatore Romano has recently raised in elaborate detail proposals to allow layfolk of both sexes to preach the homily.

And our 'psychometric' evaluation sessions in Manchester appeared to be designed to concentrate on the Church's current Magisterial teaching on sexual matters. I had to tell one interviewer that my relationship with my wife was not his business. But, despite all this emphasis in 2011-2 on those areas of Church teaching, it appears that, only half a decade later, the Magisterial teaching of S John Paul II and Benedict XVI, on, for example, the readmission of 'remarried' divorcees to Communion, and the disordered state of the homosexual lifestyle, is now all up for grabs.

Moreover, it is my recollection that, at least at one stage, the Vatican asked the Bishops and priests of the SSPX to accept, not only the texts of Vatican II, but also the "whole post-Conciliar Magisterium".

Does all the above read like dyspeptic rambling? Sorry. But I can now come to the question I am asking, with some brevity.  

Why are the Catholic Faith and the post-Conciliar Magisterium Table d'hote for Bishop Fellay and me, but a la Carte for other more Eminent people?

14 March 2016

All change, all change! A hermeneutic of Repetitively Ruinous Rupture.

                                 BRIGHT NEW DAWN Number 1: October 11 1962

Readers will be familiar with the idea that Vatican II (Bologna means rupture not rapture) was a new start. So, in the following years, you damaged rather than enhanced your case by doing anything so absurd as backing up your arguments with the utterances of pre-Conciliar Roman pontiffs. Who, in 1970, looked back to the encyclicals of Pius XII for enlightenment? Or to the teaching of Pius XI on the Kingship of Christ? Or to the condemnations of Modernism under S Pius X? Just when it was most needed, the Anti-Modernist Oath was abolished!

Yes, you do all know all that, and you are aware too that the "Hermeneutic of Continuity" represented Benedict XVI's determination to stitch up the tear in the integrity of the Church's Magisterium; to unrupt the rupture.

                                  BRIGHT NEW DAWN Number 2: March 13 2013

But I think we're in a very similar, or analogous, position now. What preceded Pope Francis is now old Hat. The Magisterium of S John Paul II and of Pope Benedict XVI has become a superseded construct. History began anew at the moment when Papa Bergoglio apparently didn't tell Guido Marini that the Carnival was Over. The very moment that he appeared to the Faithful not wearing the garments of Office worn by his predecessors in the See of Rome, and took a name never before born by a Roman Pontiff, he symbolised the Bright New Rupture.

You think that I am putting too much emphasis on mere symbols? Fair enough. But I ask you to consider the campaign to readmit the divorced and 'remarried' to Holy Communion; a campaign which was in fact invited and originated by the pope himself when he sponsored the heterodox and heteropractic views of Walter Kasper, apparently one of his two favourite theologians. True, the very recent Magisterium of S John Paul II (Familiaris Consortio 1981) and Benedict XVI (Caritatis Sacramentum 2007), not to mention pellucid documents of the other organs of the Magisterium, had been very clear about the impossibility of allowing this. But: So What ... and: Who Cares. Previous Pontiffs ... even great Vatican II itself ... now fell behind the starting-point of the new Age of Pope Francis, who can do anything. Or rather, during whose pontificate any thing can be done if only 'Reformers' can get their own hands on the papal levers of power.

So we have had Reinhardt Marx telling the world that Germany is not a subsidiary of Rome and is not prepared to wait for what she is demanding; Vincent Nichols talking about readmitting the "civilly remarried" after a "demanding penitential pathway". Things in this country reached a disgracefully low point: the organisers of that 2014 document which was signed by nearly 500 English and Welsh priests reportedly had "a certain amount of pressure ... intimidation from some senior churchmen" put on them to shut up (it seems improbable that these pressures were applied, by whoever did apply them, in the knowledge that Nichols would disapprove of such intimidation). And ... God help us all! ... those 500-or-so undisciplined presbyters were doing nothing other than asserting what had been reaffirmed, as recently as 2007, to be the Church's principled and unchangeable teaching! What Naughty Boys we were to do something so daring, and without permission!

We'll be needing special episcopal faculties to say the Creed soon ("Oh dear me, Father, I don't think I can allow that ... ... some of your parishioners would find it very Divisive ... ")!

What an unbelievable situation, this game of declaring the doctrinal slate to have been wiped clean in less than a decade so that pushy new men who've mugged up on the Francis-jargon can rewrite the Church's Magisterium, Sartre-like, on a nice blank page!  

This is all so manifestly silly that it can't go on.

At least, not plausibly in a Church which claims to be a teaching Church.

13 March 2016

Censorship speaks louder than words

Not surprisingly, the Judicial Enquiry into the Jimmy Savile scandal turned up no evidence whatsoever that Senior Management ever heard an inkling of what lesser employees of the BBC knew Sir Jimmy was up to. We have just heard that an enquiry has been set up by the Church of England to find out who knew what when about Bishop Peter Ball. (Incidentally, who knew what when about Bishop Kieran Conry?)

There were curious parallels between the two cases. Both Savile and Ball claimed to be intimate friends of Prince Charles and to have tried to save his marriage (!!). Both cosied up to cabinet ministers. Each was so secure in his self-confidence that he played with fire: I remember Ball preaching to 600 students in Lancing Chapel, and explaining to them that, if a bishop told them to take their clothes off, they should do so. Savile, asked at the end of his Desert Island Discs what he would like to have on his desert island as a luxury, replied "A twelve-year old girl".

At least, that is my recollection. Because I never like to risk misleading readers, I have just tried to check it, only to find that the particular edition of Desert Island Discs appears to have been carefully excised from anywhere on the Internet.

I wonder why. Whose reputation is the Beeb trying to protect by this act of censorship?

(Incidentally, on whose recommendation was Savile given a papal knighthood?)

12 March 2016


Two recent quotes from the Holy Father:

"Criticism helps me to walk on the righteous path of the Lord".

"If you must argue, argue. If you have something to say, say it. But do it like men, face to face, and as men of God who then go together to pray and try to differ together. And if you have crossed boundaries, then ask forgiveness".

Peremptory answers to those who say that criticism of the Roman Pontiff and of the Hierarchy should be done quietly by friends over an intimate drink, behind their backs, and not in a public forum!

Please pray for ...

 ... the Reverend Walter Simon, who is today, the Saturday in Mediana Week, to be ordained Deacon in the Church of God, in the Cathedral Church of S George the Martyr in Limburg-on-the-Lahn, by the Rt Revd Dr Thomas Loehr, titular bishop of Diana Veteranorum in Numidia in partibus infidelium.

In Christo firmus et stabilis perseveret, dignisque successibus de inferiori gradu per gratiam tuam capere potiora mereatur.

11 March 2016

Canon David Windsor Skeoch, MA

Father died, fortified by the Rites of our Holy Mother the Church, yesterday.

A Christ Church man, Fr David was on the staff of a magical church, S Mary's Bourne Street, for five years; and then was whisked away by Bishop Graham Leonard to be his Chaplain in Truro, at that happy time one of the most Catholic dioceses in the Church of England. After the Translation of Bishop Graham to London was announced, Father achieved a brief notoriety by being reported to have said, at a vinous dinner party, "When we get to London, heads will roll".

Under the Leonard/Skeoch regime, the London Chrism Masses, and the London Ordinations, were models of how such things should be done. After nearly two decades as pp at S Gabriel's Pimlico, he retired to a house in Ipswich to which he (I presume it was he) gave the name La Canonica.

He was in the Ordinariate's First Wave; and I used to wonder what thoughts went through his mind when, in the Ordinary's residence in Golden Square, he saw that splendid portrait of Bishop Graham hanging on the study wall and dominating the room. Canon Skeoch was one of the Ordinariate's links with the last exuberant flowering of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England, before the weather grew cold.

Yet another bachelor??

Cardinal Nichols, I gather, has been mentioned quite a bit by those who like to speculate, as a probable Cardinal Prefect of the new dicastery for the Family. I have nothing against this; if that's the sort of career move that appeals to him, good luck to him.

But Papa Bergoglio would enhance his Media reputation for being a man who thinks 'outside the box' if he appointed a married man or woman to head the Congregation of the Family. After all, there are very many married Catholics in families throughout the world! I am not one of those who assume that celibate clergy know nothing about family life: after all, most of them grew up in families! But ... well ... there are an awful lot of bachelors in the Roman Curia already, and a bit of a break from wall-to-wall bachelordom would make it a trifle less monochrome an organisation. And there could hardly be a better place to start than this.

I see no peremptory doctrinal reason why dicasterial heads should not be lay*; nor would it worry me to see a woman in such a role (Mary Ann Glendon, sadly, is beyond the retirement age). But I would agree that there is a great suitability in the Curia Romana consisting of the Clerus Romanus, in the shape of the Suburbicarian Bishops, the Cardinal Presbyters, and the Cardinal Deacons of the Holy Roman Church.

And it would be splendid if we could move back to having, at least sometimes and in principle, presbyters as Cardinal Presbyters, deacons as Cardinal Deacons. One of the few things on which Cardinal Kasper and I agree is that there is something totally unnecessary about making all top dicasterial functionaries into bishops. As I wrote at the beginning of this Pontificate, Episcopal Consecration should no longer be seen as a snazzy fashion accessory or as a way of giving a bureaucrat enhanced status so that the Swiss Guards have to salute him, just like the sentries at Horseguards' Parade saluting bowler-hatted brigadiers. The rule whereby senior Vatican bureaucrats all have to be hosed down with episcopacy before they can properly push pen on paper is daft. In fact, that silly rule was brought in as recently as the pontificate of S John XXIII. Only then did the mighty Cardinal Ottaviani, for example, deign to accept episcopacy.

And there are very many married priests in the world: the ex-Anglicans now as well as those from the ancient sui iuris Eastern Churches. Since a 'Permanent Diaconate' was set up after Vatican II, there must be thousands of married deacons to choose from. A really presbyteral Cardinal Presbyter, or a really diaconal Cardinal Deacon, accompanied by his wife and children, would make a massively suitable first head of this Congregation.

I have a nominee, who may serve as a worthy exemplar of the point I am making. A truly imaginative Roman Pontiff would give this job to the Reverend Deacon Dr Stephen Morgan of the diocese of Portsmouth. He's an academic expert on Blessed John Henry Newman (incidentally, another nonepiscopal Cardinal); just think how immeasurably the Curia would be strengthened if it contained more Newman experts. And he deacons the Extraordinary Form, which would qualify him to be one of the Cardinals associated with the CDW and Ecclesia Dei. And he's already pretty eminent, so he wouldn't need whatever painful surgical procedure it is that makes all those cardinal chappies so 'Eminent'. And he knows about money, which would mean that Cardinal Pell had a shoulder to cry on. And he's a committed friend of the Ordinariates, so it would give us another chum in Urbe. Remember us, Eminence, when you come into your Deaconry! Who'll open a sub for his Cappa Magna?

As far as I can see, everyone would be a gainer, except for Bishop Philip Egan.

But I expect the job will go to Vin or some other bachelor, who will of course do it well.

 A pity, though. An exciting opportunity missed.


*HURRIED POST SCRIPTUM: Of course, it would he dangerously, disastrously confusing if lay curialists were given the style "Cardinal", an idea the German and Swiss bishops have just been reported to be sponsoring in their media (I haven't yet been able to verify the details). Presumably, if this were to be true, they are pushing the idea in order to be confusing: "If someone as important as a Cardinal can be a woman, why on earth can't women occupy the much lowlier positions of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons?" The devil's wiles are endless, and Marx hungrily gobbles them all up. I wonder if the CBCEW, in their post-Easter Meeting, would again fall into the German line, as they did last autumn in their disgraceful attack on Pope Benedict's Good Friday Prayer in the Extraordinary Form.

10 March 2016

Dr Geoffrey Kirk of the Ordinariate ...

 ... (I google gkirkuk to get onto his admirable blog) has courageously done his own Wikileaks and publishes a leaked memo which is very revealing about Papa Bergoglio. I wonder if the said Pontiff will send a crack hit-squad of aged Jesuits to attack Kirk with their zimmer frames. Perhaps, Assange-like, he ought to take refuge in some embassy.

9 March 2016

Customary use of the Canon Romanus in the Church of England

I reprint this from june 2009, in response to a query.
The Roman Canon was, of course, used in the Church of England from her beginning until the Tudor disruptions which climaxed in its outlawing from S John's Day in 1559, nearly 450 years ago. Nearly a thousand years of use must give it a customary claim of great strength.

But its use has not been infinitesimal more recently. In his 1916 Presidential Address to te English Church Union (in those days, the main Anglican Catholic organisation), Viscount Halifax said "At present, as I think you are aware, it is a very general custom ... for many of the clergy - I should put their number at some two thousand, though I believe I might safely put it at three thousand - to ... say the first part of the Latin Canon (silently, of course) before the Prayer of Consecration in the Prayer book, and to complete the Prayer of Consecration with the rest of the Latin Canon".

This estimate is the more striking since Halifax himself advocated a different reform of the Anglican Liturgy: the use of the 1549 rite.

Does anybody know what percentage of the English Clergy that amounts to?

The Roman Canon in the Church of England

I reprint this from June 2009 in answer to an enquiry.
One of our greatest English Liturgists in the twentieth century was E C Ratcliff. His closest academic collaborator, Canon A H Couratin, long-time Principal of our greatest Anglican Catholic seminary, S Stephen's House in Oxford, wrote:
"As a schoolboy he attended a church in South London which was notoriously 'Anglo-Catholic'. Here the Communion Service of the Book of Common Prayer was celebrated with all the ceremonial of High Mass of the Roman Rite, and the Canon Missae was silently interpolated under the cover of elaborate music. Whatever may have been the devotional value of such a performance, it could not fail to arouse the intellectual curiosity of a highly intelligent schoolboy. Ratcliff never escaped from the influence of this upbringing".

Couratin goes on to decribe the conclusions Ratcliff came to:
"The Canon Missae fascinated him, and references to it are to be found in numerous places in his writings. He regarded it ... as sui generis, 'a combination of the Irenaean and Cyprianic traditions of worship', representing'a stage of liturgical usage earlier than that of the Rites of Jerusalem and Constantinople' ".

Ratcliff's regard for the Canon is the more significant in that he was not a papalist. Indeed, Couratin revealed that he was preparing "to seek communion with the Orthodox, when he died".

8 March 2016

Fr Quintin Montgomery Wright and the Anglo-Norman Patrimony (UPDATED)

Fr Ray Blake gives on his blog a couple of ancient and thoroughly charming videos of this splendid priest, from a Scottish gentry family which is in the stud-book, who ended his Anglican ministry at Holy Trinity Hoxton, the parish in which the English Missal originated. Then he became a cure in Normandy; and maintained to his death the old Roman Rite in his packed rural churches. It's well worth investing an hour of your time watching them. Tissier de Mallerais makes a very sweet cameo appearance as a youthful (practically adolescent) newly-consecrated Flying Bishop to confirm the kiddies prepared for Confirmation by this very Anglican-Patrimony old clergyman.

Helpful comments on my thread provide evidence that he was trained at King's College London (AKC=Associate of King's College), but only for a year. I wonder where he went to school.

The Synod of Lvov, and the dangers of Episcopal Conferences

                                    BAALAMOND ... WHO HE??

Eighty years to the day since the so-called synod which claimed to "reunite" the Ukrainian Church with the Patriarchate of Moskow. I've no idea what the word Balamand is supposed to mean, but I gather it is the mantra with which one dismisses the idea of "Unia". "Unia" is the politically-correct term for an act in which a Particular Church (i.e. a Bishop, his presbyterium, his diakonia, and his laos) corporately restore their canonical bonds with the Petrine See of Rome. At the Synod of Brest, 1596, a number of such Churches in the Ukraine, referred to popularly and collectively as "the Ukrainian Church", did precisely that. It seems to me an exemplary course of action to take. I believe this because I am a Catholic with a Catholic ecclesiology.

But whatever problems "Baalamand", whoever he may have been, discovered in this process, they must surely pale into insignificance compared with the horrors of 1946, when the Ukrainian Church was decapitated and, in the absence of its incarcerated Bishops, was declared to have become part of an alien ecclesial structure; and dissentients were cruelly persecuted.


One can only rejoice in the resurrection of the Ukrainian Church. One can fully understand its conviction that it has now matured to a point at which its Major Archbishop is rightly termed a Patriarch, not least because of his diaspora. But perhaps the term Patriarch itself needs some discernment.

Anciently, there were but two Patriarchates: Alexandria and Antioch. In subsequent eras, secular political considerations led to Constantinople and Moskow acquiring the title. Venice and Lisbon, as centres of extensive dominions throughout the world, assumed the dignity ... one rather suspects, out of a desire to assert status vis-a-vis other 'patriarchates'. Recently, some autocephalous Byzantine churches (Romanian; Bulgarian) have adopted the style, perhaps moved by motives not a million miles from phyletism, while others, such as Greece and Cyprus, have felt no need to do so. Quite late in the first millennium, the idea grew up that the Pope was "Patriarch of the West", a thoroughly silly title rightly dumped by Benedict XVI. (Does anybody know of a pope earlier than Theodore I, 642-9, perhaps significantly a Greek, to use the title?)

I am convinced that we should extend a supportive understanding and every possible Christian solidarity to Churches to whom the title is precious. Long live Patriarch Sviatoslav! Eis polla ete, Despota!! What splendid pictures they were over on NLM on March 3 and March 6, showing Patriarch Sviatoslav celebrating a Patriarchal Liturgy in the the Roman Basilica of Great S Mary's! ... although they would have been even finer if the Roman Pontiff had deigned to grace the occasion with his Merciful presence. Sviatoslav is certainly every bit as much a Patriarch as are the occupants of the more recently asserted Patriarchal sees among the Separated Byzantines! And he is a very fine example of a Catholic bishop, who has not been afraid to speak straight and frankly to his Venerable Brother the Bishop of Rome after the latter was betrayed into an imprudence.

                                                THE DANGERS OF AUTONOMY

But, showing myself to be a mere Latin, I believe we should never forget that, according to Catholic ecclesiology, there are two complementary and nodal realities by Divine Institution: the Local, Particular Church, gathered in unity around its bishop; the Universal Church Militant, in unity with the Petrine and Roman Church. Nothing 'in between' these two is of Divine Institution; however venerable, however useful, it may be.

The history of the Church demonstrates that 'Patriarchates', Autonomous Provincial Synods, and 'Episcopal Conferences' can constitute gatherings of churches which offer a threat to the unity and orthodoxy of the Church Militant. Vatican II rightly stated that such organisations can have pragmatic uses, but we are on a facilis descensus Averni if we take them too seriously. Most of all, if they are ever regarded as having doctrinal competences. This would be contrary to the Magisterial teaching of Benedict XVI: let us never forget, despite the determination of many in Rome to make us do so, that Benedict XVI was truly a Pope.

There is comparatively little risk of this particular disorder (the idea that regional episcopates might establish dogma) arising among contemporary Byzantines. But in the West, Anglicanism, Gallicanism, and Germanism (is that how we should characterise poor Cardinal Marx's disorder?) demonstrate very clear dangers.

                                                              THE WOLVES

So there are worrying threats upon the Horizon. The worst scenario would be if the requirement for unanimity, before Episcopal Conferences could act doctrinally, were to be removed. Then we really would be at the mercy of what Benedict XVI called the Wolves. If liturgical competences were allowed to Conferences, there might even be dangers of liturgical persecutions, just like the ones we had back in the Church of England.

We in the Ordinariates are experts in these problems. We fought against National Autonomy for generations in the Anglican Communion. My most anxious prayer is that the wiles of the Enemy will not force us to have to refight these battles against the same nasty old errors, now that we are in the Catholic Church. We did not make the move so as to do that. Perhaps naively, we thought that being in Full Communion with the See of S Peter would give us some rest from endless battles against heterodoxy and heteropraxy. If God has decided otherwise, then there indeed lies His call to us. But it would be His call and not our selected programme.

I continue to hope that there may be better and more joyful things to occupy the energies of Christian people than revisiting such dry and dreary polemics.

6 March 2016

"A spirit of audacious and obstinate mendacity".

Thus Fr Glen Tattersall writes in his newsletter (March 6) from the Personal Parish for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in the Archdiocese of Melbourne in Australibus. He is referring to the misinformation, given by the Pope in some recent airliner and 'confirmed' by Father Lombardi, with regard (1) to teaching allegedly (but, apparently, not) given by B Paul VI about the use of contraception by Congolese nuns in danger of rape; and (2) to its relevance in the currently tragic 'Zika and Microcephaly' situation.

"A spirit of audacious and obstinate mendacity". Can you deny that these words speak in the true spirit of that Parrhesia for which our Holy Father has so often and so loudly called?

It does indeed need to be said, with the utmost clarity, that the Roman Pontiff is every bit as obliged as any seven-year-old queuing up outside a confessional to tell the Truth. Possibly, even more so, do you think?? And so is Fr Lombardi. Do any of us really want a revival of the old English Protestant superstition, itself a lie, that Jesuits are all devious liars?

And no Roman Pontiff has any authority to dispense himself or anyone else from the Law of God. His Office is a lofty one, but it is not as lofty as that. Not even nearly as lofty as that. Agreed?

The Pope, moreover, is not above God. He is not even equal to God. Not even nearly equal. Yes?

"The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter so that by His revelation they might publish new teaching, but so that, by His assistance, they might devoutly guard and faithfully set forth the revelation handed down through the Apostles, or the Deposit of Faith." We are all obliged, are we not, to accept that ex animo? Otherwise, might we not be classified as heretics, and rightly, for denying the infallible dogmatic teaching of Vatican I?

Is it not perfectly, absolutely, obvious that were the man who is also Pope to teach otherwise than thus, he would not be speaking qua Pope nor with the assurance of the assistance of the Holy Spirit? OK?

Would there be, also, a risk of scandalum when a pontificate went off-track?

Vatican II taught (will somebody check this?) the importance of the Collegium episcopale in the governance of the Church Militant. Is it not, arguably, the duty of the Episcopal Order to take some action in the event of dysfunctions in the exercise of the Petrine Ministry?

It is true that the law does not provide canonical procedures by which the Episcopate could call an errant Papacy to order. But times can arise - Pope Francis would (am I right?) agree - in which the charisms of the Spirit may be more important than mere canonical procedures. And it is the current Roman Pontiff himself who has insistently drawn our attention to the charism of Parrhesia. 

It is good to ask questions. Joseph Ratzinger once asked (about some of his brethren in the Episcopate) "What are [they] so afraid of?"

3 March 2016


(1) It has been suggested to me that my use of colours is offensive to the eye. This usage arises from my own temptation to speed-read other people's blogs, and my lazy feeling that, when they're a bit long and involved, it would help me to have the crucial bits highlighted. Views?

(2) March 1, Fr Zed gives a quite brilliant, totally hilarious, recording of the retiring Archbishop of Malines speaking Latin with the various European accents, as he experienced them when he was taught in Latin as a seminarian. Includes mimicry of Bernard Lonergan. LATINISTS SHOULD NOT MISS the bit at the end, a parody of the old Cautelae  in the Missal ... if a mus runs off with a host, the sacerdos must chase and catch and trucidare occidere necare strangulare the murem and eum urere et cineres in sacrarium mittere. Si autem a Host falls down the front of a woman's clothing, the priest must chase and catch her, but he must on no account trucidare occidere necare strangulare her ....... Quite right that the Holy Father accepted the Archbishop's resignation with such commendable promptness when he reached the age limit. Humour is dead contrary to the Spirit of Vatican II. As any fule kno. Our Holy Father, quite rightly, does not encourage us to dissipate our energies in frivolity. Heaven forbid that this ultra-loyal blog should ever let him down.

 (3) I think I heard yesterday some woman called Libby Purves, on the Home Service, utter the phrase "the clammy hand of Irish Catholicism was on her shoulder".

"The clammy hand of Pakistani Islam was on her shoulder".
"The clammy hand of Tibetan Buddhism was on his shoulder".
"The clammy hand of Hampstead Agnosticism was on her shoulder".
"The clammy hand of Grauniad Liberalism was on his shoulder".
"The clammy hand of pacifist Quakerism was on her shoulder."
"The clammy hand of Media Homosexualism was on his shoulder".
"The clammy hand of the Russian ghettoes was on her shoulder".
"The clammy hand of a dim BBC chat-show hostess who had come to hate the Catholicism in which she was brought up was on his shoulder". 

I wonder how many of these delightfully flippant formulae would be considered acceptable as obiter dicta on the modern Beeb. Or is there now just one single 'identity' which all Sensible People can join in slagging off to their hearts' content?

If so, then, in the modern fashion, I proclaim Je suis Irish Catholic.

2 March 2016

Hypothetical contingencies (corrected)

Politicians, wisely, refuse to answer hypothetical questions from journalists about what they will do in hypothetical situations. Perhaps one should follow their lead. Why put ones head above a parapet before any conceivable moral obligation to do so is clear? But there seem to be so very many people around who are seriously troubled about what might be God's will in a hypothetical situation in which some Roman Pontiff or other in some improbable hypothetical future tried to impose upon the Church some doctrinal proposition which was plainly contrary to the Paradosis [the Tradition], or some pastoral praxis which had implications plainly contrary to the Paradosis.

But, in a sense, that situation would be the easy one to face: it would be a situation in which matters were completely clear-cut, totally black-and-white. Much more worrying would be a situation (almost as improbable) in which the edges were blurred and it was not quite certain that a fully-frontal breach with the Paradosis was being set before us.

I will simply, and probably unnecessarily, remind you of

                                GENERAL GUIDELINES AND BASIC RESOURCES

(a) Regular readers will have noticed my emphasis on the Magisterial teaching of Ecumenical Councils and of Roman Pontiffs that any 'development' or 're-expression' in doctrine must be eodem sensu eademque sententia. 

(b) And I regularly work into my texts that crucial statement of Vatican I, to the effect that the Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of S Peter so that, by His revelation, they might reveal (patefacerent) new teaching; but so that, by His assistance, they might guard and set forth the Tradition handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith.

(c) And I have written about precedents, of which that of Pope Honorius is probably the most straightforward, when popes have been wrong and have attempted to use their position even to promote heresy. Remember that Honorius was corrected, condemned and  anathematised by successive Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils. So, clearly, it cannot be wrong to work openly and vigorously for the righting of such an error. If it were wrong to do so, then the errors of the pontificate of Honorius would not have been eventually righted.

(d) And, from the time of Blessed John Henry Newman, given as Patron to the Ordinariate by the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI, there have been those who remind us of the Arian Crisis, when there was a substantial and near-universal apostasy on the part of the episcopate. As Newman put it, the Ecclesia Docens ceased to teach; its Magisterium was (not de jure but) de facto inoperative. Of course, he was delated to Rome for this, but God protected him, as He always did. With a considerable exercise of the imagination, one might possibly think of hypothetical reasons why such episcopal apostasy might be a possibility in some remote sci-fi  situation.

(e) And at the end of Vatican I, Blessed John Henry even specified hypothetical circumstances in which it would be his judgement that that Council had not been, despite its appearances, a genuine Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church. Yet, despite all this, Leo XIII made him a Cardinal and Benedict XVI beatified him. I am glad that the Archdiocese of Birmingham the Birmingham Oratory has not abandoned his cause. You might be surprised how dog-eared my copy of Kerr's splendid biography of Newman has become. Santo subito; Dottore subito. Pro nobis deprecetur.

(f) Since we have indeed seen it all before, we are, thank God, protected against reactions which might put our very souls at risk, such as the vile error of Sedevacantism. Whatever mistake might come from any future Roman Pontiff or however many of the bishops, he would still be Pope; they would still be our bishops. We must be aware of the plans which are undoubtedly being laid even now by the Low Command at the Enemy's direct and personal orders. Sedevacantism is one of their most subtle creations.

But ... hey ... good news!! There are perhaps little glimmers of a silver lining, to be derived from our own present Holy Father's useful and most instructive praxis.
(1) When recently asked about the 2003 CDF document on homosexual orientation, our Holy Father replied "I do not remember that 2003 document of the CDF". Now: that particular piece of the Magisterium created a lot of comment, much of it adverse, which still continues today. It is not easy to believe, in a flatly tediously literal sense, that Pope Francis "does not remember" it. We must assume that this is now a morally  acceptable formula of diplomatic evasion, rather like when your butler or your housemaid tells an unwelcome visitor that you are "not at home". It is, perhaps, worth remembering for use if ever any pope tries to saddle you with something disordered. Haec non memini! Practise repeating it!
(2) The current Roman Pontiff has, again and again and again, spoken of, and called for, Parrhesia. This means boldness to speak fearlessly even in situations in which to do so in the face of powerful people may appear (in worldly terms) dangerous. Accordingly, the Parrhesia so repeatedly enjoined by the Magisterium of Pope Francis I could, in the pontificate of Francis IV, be taken up by your great grandchildren and made the theological basis of a practical policy of Resistance.  Never before has this interesting Greek term been so incessantly present upon the labia Magisterialia.

But, in any case, her Immaculate Heart will prevail.

1 March 2016

Musical Chairs?

Some time ago, Prince Hassan of Jordan, so I believe, suggested that Cordoba Cathedral should be swapped for Hagia Sophia ... each building thus returning to the religion, Moslem or Christian, which originally built it. But I am glad that idea came to nothing. Celebrating the Eucharist in a former mosque can be a joyous experience; I remember, in Crete, many years ago, going to the Divine Liturgy in the Church of S Titus, which still retained all the glorious architectural features of the mosque it had once been (built, needless to say, on the site of a church ... such is the Levant).

Rambling still further: I recall a superb Orthodox church on the waterfront at Rhodes, which was built by the Italians and, after the war, "purified from the dogma of the Latins" and adorned with very fine murals in mid-Byzantine style. Rather more depressing is the Hospital Chapel in Exeter; the area directly in front of the Aumbry, where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, is set aside for Moslem prayer and equipped with prayer-mats.

My local Greek Cypriot church along the Camberwell New Road in South London had started life as a "Catholic Apostolic" (Irvingite) church; and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Cathedral in Mayfair was originally the King's Weigh Chapel, a very high church Congregationalist place of worship (I believe the minister, a Dr Orchard, had secured 'vagans' ordination; he eventually ended up as a Catholic priest). Didn't the SSPX church in London begin as a church for Welsh Anglicans? I wonder if they honour their origins by singing Cwm Rhondda at Benediction (not a stupid idea ... you just think about it).

Heading off at a slight tangent ... do British readers recall that marvellously surreal occasion when somebody had himself filmed ranting against Islamic infiltration with Westminster Cathedral immediately behind him ... poor, dim, soul, he had thought it was mosque.

Ah, the thought of the Call to Prayer (Extraordinary Form, I would hope) resounding in Latin from that lofty minaret!

(One of the ... er ... many oddities about Oxford is the very attractive empty mosque built on the Magdalen College vegetable patch but, I believe because of financial complications, never opened. It would make an unusually fine Quaker Meeting House. Magdalen, come to think of it, could be converted into a pretty decent madrassa.)