27 April 2016

Parochial affections in Alnwick

While looking round the old Medieval Parish Church at Alnwick in Northumberland a few months ago, I got talking to the Steward by whose kind presence the church was open for people like me to look around it. He lamented that the church, although handy for the Castle, was very uncentrally placed as a place of worship for the town. "Well," I said, "perhaps you should have kept S Paul's in the middle of town and sold this church to the Catholics". (You see, the Anglican early Victorian church of S Paul ... by Salvin ... was, a few years ago, sold to the Catholic Church.)

"Yes", was his reply, "that would have been a rational thing to do. But it would have been unthinkable."

It has a lot of Christian sense to it, this very Anglican and very lay attitude. A church was solemnly anointed and consecrated and for, perhaps, a millennium has been a place where prayer has been valid and generations have been christened and churched, married and buried, in which the community has had its centre ... and such things do matter. Ours is an incarnational religion, in which places are sacred. Matter matters.

But ... affection for a building can become a fetich, an idolatry. It is no secret that this is the factor which led to a smaller percentage of layfolk than of clergy making the transition to the Ordinariate. It is why the Anglican Bishops, Olympic gold medallists in Anal Retentivity, desperately made sure that no church, however much unwanted by the Church of England, fell into the hands, or even the shared use, of the Ordinariate.

S Paul's, in the middle of Alnwick, is a fine building with a tall, assertive, rather East Anglian tower. It is a curiosity in as far as, built by the Third Duke, it contains his effigy over his tomb. It was carved by J E Carew, the irascible Irishman who did so much neo-Classical sculpture for the Earl of Egremont at Petworth in Sussex, not to mention that large marble carving of the Assumption which used to be the altar piece in the Ordinariate Church of our Lady and S Gregory in Warwick Street. His Grace lies wearing his ducal coronet and his Garter robes ... is this a customary combination? I wonder what he would have thought if he could have known that his building, which makes such a statement, now makes that statement for the papists of Alnwick. And I wonder if the pp has him on his obits list.

Those papists, incidentally, had previously worshipped in a much smaller church, S Mary's, lower in the town, which was built in the decade after the Emancipation and is now the Town Museum. Gothic as that style was before it became grammatical, even in alienation it still feels a friendly, homely little place. As congregations numerically decline, I wonder if it is now actually just about the right size for the Catholic congregations of Alnwick. But it doesn't have its own carpark. Beside it, part of the ensemble, is its convent, with a statue of the Mother of God in a niche high up above the entrance, so that still, happily, survives. Or rather, it did do until the end of last September when the few remaining sisters were relocated and the House closed. You knew I was going to add that last sentence, didn't you?

At nearby Berwick on Tweed, the Catholic church is still the intimate unobtrusive building that was put up in 1829, lurking well back from the street and behind the presbytery; accessed through an alleyway. Georgian-gothick windows; still, despite the 1970s, with more than a whiff of the era of Mrs Fitzherbert about it.

There is something, to me, exquisitely, intensely, appealing about Catholic churches of that era. Before the great expansion of the earlier twentieth century, yes ... but before the catastrophic post-conciliar collapse. Have you read Blessed John Henry Newman's description of those years in The Second Spring?

26 April 2016

April 26: Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

150 years since the great Ikon, after repairs, was enthroned in Rome.

Prayers for the brthren of the Redemptorist community on Papa Stronsay.

23 April 2016

Sacking bishops

Back in the 1850s, Cardinal Wiseman had a falling-out with his Coadjutor, Archbishop Errington. For these purposes, we do not need to know much about why, nor to speculate on the involvement of Henry Manning.

The plain fact was that Wiseman and Errington could not work together, and Errington made little effort to conceal the fact. The matter went to Rome, where Mgr Talbot, not one of our heroes, exacerbated matters by accusing Errington of Gallicanism. It is perhaps fair to say that Errington was out of sync with the current style of Catholicism represented by Pio Nono, Wiseman, and Manning. It sometimes can happen that a bishop may be out of sympathy with the Roman Pontiff ... or even vice versa.

Errington went to Rome and, of course, was received by the Pope. It is, surely, well-nigh inconceivable that a bishop whose job was in question should not be welcomed fraternally and paternally and sympathetically in Rome by the Sovereign Pontiff. Pio Nono begged Errington, as a personal favour to himself, to resign his coadjutorship and to accept the Archbishopric of Port of Spain. Errington refused to resign, but made clear that he would obediently leave his job if the Pope so ordered him. Papa il conte Mastai-Ferretti was unwilling to take such extreme action; and again implored Errington to accept the post offerred him in Trinidad. It was made clear that Talbot's slanders were not believed. Errington took out a pocket book and started to transcribe the Pope's words, which was a novel experience for the Pontiff. Matters deteriorated; soon the guards and the prelates in the ante-chamber were surprised to hear, from behind the closed doors, the two hierarchs shouting angrily at each other.

Errington stormed out of Rome crying Vim patior; patior iniustitiam. The Holy Father felt he had no alternative but to relieve him of his Coadjutorship; upset by the uniqueness of the action to which he was driven, Pope Pius referred to it as Il colpo di stato di Dominiddio. Brian Fothergill, the author (2013) of a biography of Wiseman, quotes a description of it as "an exercise of [the pope's] supreme authority and an exertion of power altogether unwonted and perhaps unprecedented".

Of course, Blessed Pio Nono was an ultramontane tyrant; a baroque throw-back to the unhappy days of Renaissance absolutism. Everybody knows that. Equally, everybody knows how inconceivable it is that, in our happier age, a pope would dismiss or constructively dismiss a bishop for anything other than the very gravest doctrinal or moral delinquency. Deo gratias.

21 April 2016

Censing the Altar at High Mass

Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice: words said by the Priest as he censes the Altar at the Offertory at High Mass.

The evening sacrifice:
That is, the Minchah, or 'meat-offering', of fine flour, mixed with oil and frankincense, and salted, which was added to the daily burnt-offering of a lamb, both morning and evening; but, for a typical reason, a greater stress was laid on the evening rite. The Minchah was, first of all, made of corn, the chief food of man, but not until it had been made, by bruising and grinding, into flour; thus typifying the sufferings of CHRIST, the Bread of Life, which fitted Him to be the offering for the sins of the world. Wheaten flour so ground is pure white, marking CHRIST'S perfect holiness. It had to be fine flour for the Minchah, boulted more than once, to make it free from husks and other foreign matter; as in CHRIST there was no unevenness nor inequality, no changefulness nor uncertainty. Oil was poured upon it, to denote His anointing by the Holy Ghost; frankincense because of His acceptance, sweetness, and Ascension; salt because of His incorruptibility and preserving power. His prayer for man's salvation ascended with Himself into Heaven in perpetual mediation as the incense at the golden altar. His lifting up His hands upon the Cross where they were nailed was the evening sacrifice, at the close of the Mosaic day of legal ceremonies, for the sins of the whole world; wherefore too it was on the night before His Passion, He constituted that new Minchah of the Gospel which Malachi foretold, offered now in all places amongst the Gentiles, and made the food of his royal priesthood.

And therefore, O Lord, as my trust is in that all-sufficing oblation upon the Cross, let the lifting up of my hands in final penitence, in the evening of my days, when the shadows of the night are coming fast around me, be like that evening sacrifice, and in union with it, be acceptable unto Thee, that as I have abided by Thy Cross in the sorrows of the Passion, so I may offer Thee the morning sacrifice too, in the bright dawn of the Resurrection!

John Mason Neale

A typical piece of Anglican Patrimony from our 'Classical' period. A superb example of what we have to offer for the restoration of Tradition within the maimed and limping Catholic Church.

Neale exegetes Liturgy and Scripture with an erudition that extends with moving devotion to the Old Testament, as well as to the New and to the great Tradition of the Worship of the Universal Church. I feel that if our beloved Jewish brethren understood how it truly is their Temple Faith which still lives and is practised among us, they would hurry from the Synod of Jamnia to ascend the Temple Mount with us to offer daily the Tamid lamb. 

Furthermore, if ignorant people who write Papers for the Vatican on Christianity and Judaism really understood the Traditional, Biblical, Patristic way of handling Scripture, called Typology, in which the OT antitype is fulfilled and replaced in the NT type, we would get less nonsense put before us.

20 April 2016

Commemorating the Cross

In the pre-1960s Roman Rite, during most of Eastertide, the rubrics sometimes ordered that a commemoration at Lauds and Vespers be made of the Holy Cross. I find this wholly edifying, as a reminder that Cross and Resurrection are two sides of the same redemptive coin. Although divided chronologically, they are inseparable doctrinally; so that it is bad method to forget the Resurrection when concentrating on the Lord's Passion, or the Cross when glorying in his Resurrection. Thus in the Western Rites the triumphalist hymns Pange lingua and Vexilla Regis are sung during Holy Week and even on Good Friday.

Here is the Commemoration, which followed the Collect of the Day.

Antiphon The Crucified hath risen from the dead and hath redeemed us, alleluia, alleluia. V Tell it among the nations, alleluia. R That the Lord hath reigned from the Tree, alleluia.
Let us pray.
God, didst will that for us thy Son should undergo the suffering of the Cross that he might drive out from among us the power of the Enemy: grant to us thy servants; that we may attain unto the grace of the Resurrection. Through the same.

The Response (" ... YHWH hath reigned from the Tree") comes from a version of Psalm 95 (aka 96) verse 10. This was how it read in early Latin translations of the Psalter, and it is known that the reading goes back at least to S Justin. It is found in many later Latin Fathers, and in Venantius Fortunatus' original text of Vexilla regis. The admirable (Anglican Patrimony) translator of Latin hymnology, John Mason Neale, renders Venantius thus: 
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
Amidst the nations, God, saith he,
Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.

The more recent history of this stanza is highly interesting and significant. The first (1968) draft of the hymns for the new breviary finds Dom Anselmo Lentini (who was in charge of the post-Conciliar coetus set up to revise the hymns), explaining the unbelievably venerable history of this reading; he concludes by observing "So we do not dare to suppress the stanza or change the line". But, in the three years before the Liturgia horarum was actually published in 1971, that stanza had bitten the dust. Somebody had 'dared'. Here we have a minute footnoted detail which penetratingly illustrates the entire post-Conciliar process; "Experts" feeling increasingly liberated, as creative day followed inventive day, from a need to respect texts which had fed the Latin Church for 1,500 years. The Council had wisely mandated only such changes as were certainly necessary; in less than a decade the "Experts" had gradually come to gloss this as meaning Fay ce que voudras. (Was Theleme a Benedictine House?)

It is easy to see the 'problem'. The old text of this hymn alleges that King David, regarded as the composer of the psalms, had written the words about God having reigned "from the tree". Pedantic 'Enlightenment' readers of the Hebrew Massoretic Text will speedily if ponderously point out that they are absent from it. Indeed, even in the Greek Septuagint only the bilingual 'Verona' psalter, I think, gives this reading (apo xulou).

But this demonstrates exactly what is wrong with that sort of approach to the august interwoven synthesis of littera scripta and Tradition which is at the heart of our Faith. And even some secular literary critics would inform you that "Reception is part of Text".

This reminds me of the point made by Benedict XVI in his Regensburg Lecture about the divine inspiration of the Septuagint. And Mgr Andrew Burnham, in his splendid book on Liturgy, pointed out that, for the Orthodox, the Septuagint is a divinely inspired correction of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Footnote Before 1956, the 'Commemoration of the Cross' was somewhat more complicated than the simplification I give above.

19 April 2016

19 april

Thirteen hundred years since the Monks of Iona adopted the Roman Easter. So the beautiful calendar produced by their spiritual successors, the Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay, reminds us! What do readers suggest is the the great lesson we should learn from this centenary?

16 April 2016

Pontifex magnus sed Magnus non pontifex

A day of great whooppee for all good men and women and true, a day marked for us by the birthday of our Holy Father the Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, the Pope of Unity to whom we in the Ordinariate owe so much; to whom the Whole State of Christ's Church Militant here on Earth owes so much. The erudite Pope who was able to set the problematic decades since Vatican II into a conceptual framework which enabled us to make sense of the Divine purpose during those difficult years; the Pope who made clear that it is theologically impossible for a Catholic Rite to be abolished - and went on to legislate that, whatever any nay-sayer of whatever dignity might wish, any presbyter of the Latin Rite has an inalienable right to celebrate the Mass we associate with the name of his great predecessor, S Pius V. How can any of us tuck into our lunches today without thinking of that gentle old pastor and wise scholar tucking into something Bavarian, in the company, one hopes, of his brother?

This day will always remind me of my unforgettable visit to Papa Stronsay two years ago; a break in my journey enabled my kind hosts to take me to visit the exquisite rose-coloured Romanesque Cathedral at Kirkwall in the Orkneys. At the Reformation, the relics of the martyred Earl Magnus were removed from their shrine but carefully preserved behind a stone in the transept arch; so his presence is still living in his own Church. Because, you see, today is the Feast of S Magnus the Martyr! I think of my dear friends on Papa Stronsay solemnly celebrating the Patronal Festival of the Orkneys in their wind-swept but immaculate chapel.

It doesn't end there. We in the Ordinariate owe our present laetitia in large measure to the work and witness of Fr Henry Joy Fynes Clinton, Rector of S Magnus the Martyr by London Bridge, Founder of the Catholic League, Apostle of Romanita within the Church of England; Confessor of the Faith; another devoted lover and upholder, against whatever Anglican episcopal persecutions, of the liturgy we used to call "the Western Rite". One of those intimately involved in the restoration of the Holy House of the Mother of God at Walsingham, to whom our Ordinariate is dedicated.

So it is surprisingly unsurprising that, upon this day of days, the Particular Calendar of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham offers us this Nordic Saint to celebrate, enabling us Caecubum depromere in honour of a great Pontiff; to celebrate our fellowship with the Redemptorists on Papa Stronsay whose regularisation, like ours, is the fruit of that great Pontificate of Christian Unity, and who, like us, suffered in their journey into full canonical status; to remember with affection and prayer our own Anglican Fathers in the Faith who did not live to see the the new dawn of Anglicanorum coetibus.

Sancte Magne, quot habes et quales filios tuos et clientes tam vivos quam defunctos pro quibus ut preces effundas deprecamur! Ora pro nobis, ora pro omnibus!

13 April 2016

Can my eating slake your hunger? (2) The Transalpine Redemptorists

There is little point in reading this if you have not read Part 1
Pickstock, drawing heavily upon Bossy, emphatically demanded a positive answer to Luther's typically late medieval and individualistic question Can my eating slake your hunger? She demonstrated the profound authenticity of a corporate understanding of Christianity in which what we do does affect our fellow-members of the Body of Christ. You may wonder how anybody who had read I Corinthians 12 could possibly not be familiar with this truth. It is a measure of the intense individualism which Protestantism inherited from some of the latest strands in medieval thought, that the implications of S Paul's teaching were so long ignored. (It is relevant to recollect Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix's demonstration, Shape pp 605 sqq., that the characteristic tropes of Protestant public worship constitute nothing other than the objectification and canonisation of what in late medieval piety had been the subjective devotion of the individual layman.)

This recovery of Pauline corporatism places in an entirely new and favourable intellectual context some of the most derided loci of medieval theology. You may indeed think of the Treasury of Merit and of Indulgences. I would like, today, to concentrate upon the medieval system of chantry Masses for the departed; and I might as well quote Pickstock.
"The doctrine of Purgatory permitted both the living and the dead both to be involved in one unfinished story of salvation and reciprocal aid. ... Such active charity was grounded in a concern with their members beyond the point where those members could possibly be seen to confer any positive, immediate or predictable benefits back towards the fraternity ... [and Pickstock goes on to speak of] the working out of salvation itself as a process of interpersonal support and reconciliation."

Above my desk as I write this I have a Certificate of Perpetual Membership of the the Purgatorian Archconfraternity in honour of The Most Holy Redeemer of Golgotha For the Relief of the Poor souls in Purgatory, maintained by the Transalpine Redemptorists who pray and work and live on the northern island of Papa Stronsay. I find it a source of great strength to know that both now and after my death I shall be in the fellowship of prayer which this represents, that the One Sacrifice will be offered again and again for me. Does it seem like a throw-back to a departed model of Catholic life, to a style of Catholicism which has faded like a dream in the clear dawn of the Spirit of Vatican II? Is there a danger even that some may value it merely because it has the charm of something retro? Or that we shall simply make lofty and detached observations about how the pendulum certainly seems to have swung back rather since the 1970s?

Of course, this culture of prayer for the departed is 'old' in the sense that it represents the ancient and authentic conviction of the Church that the Sacrifice of Calvary ought to be offered for the departed; that we and they remain one fellowship of life and prayer, members still together of Christ's Body. One remembers S Monica's last words to S Augustine and her other son: "Tantum illud vos rogo, ut ad Domini altare memineritis mei, ubicumque fueritis". One thinks with affection of the armies of Chantry Priests at their laudable work in our English parish churches during the Middle Ages. I have so far associated myself with this wholesome tradition as to add my name to the list of those who who offer Masses on behalf of those enrolled in the Rorate Confraternity!

But I thought there would be little harm in pointing out that this wonderful culture of interdependence is actually also the culture of the best liturgical thinking and rethinking of the last three decades. What the dear fathers and brethren on Papa Stronsay do is not only immemorially ancient; not only ineradicably founded in the teaching of the New Testament; not only rooted in the unavoidable command to apply the benefits of Christ's redemption to quick and to dead; but is also at the Cutting Edge!

God bless them and reward them for what they do on behalf of all of us.

12 April 2016

Anglican Proselytism

I noticed the other day the phrase "The Rt Revd Nick Baines Bishop of Leeds". Gosh, I thought, Bishop Marcus Stock must have "reached the retirement age", or else fallen foul of Pope Francis for more interesting reasons. Good Heavens! Poor chap! He's young enough to be my son! But No. Happily, his Lordship continues to lead with great distinction the Ecclesiam Loidensem in Full Communuion with the See of S Peter. It turns out that this Baines chappy is the C of E Bishop of Leeds, in Full Communion with the Successor of Matthew Parker.

I've no objection to the body called the C of E continuing to have district managers it terms 'Bishops' for as long as it is allowed to do so by a General Synod which is omnicompetent to juggle around with Faith and Order. But I do think it is ecumenical bad manners for these people to claim "sees" which are already long-since occupied by validly consecrated bishops in Peace and Communion with the Holy See.

The Catholic Church in England has always acted scrupulously in this regard. Out of pure unalloyed ecumenical courtesy (let's have no nonsense about some so-called "Ecclesiastical Titles" Act), Catholics avoided from the beginning proselytising Anglicans by using Anglican titles so as to confuse and deceive. Has there ever been a post-Reformation Catholic Archdeacon of Barchester?? Exactly! 'Nuff said. But the C of E has never shown the same ecumenical good manners. So is this an attempt to proselytise? I suspect it must be. Faced with their collapsing pewfodder numbers, the few surviving Anglicans hope that seizing Catholic titles will enable them to mislead and to pervert newly-arrived Lithuanian immigrants. Lithuanian clergy, it is well-known, give this advice to the hordes setting off to invade Yorkshire before Boris pulls up the drawbridge: "Be careful! Don't be tricked by the Anglicans! You will know that a church is genuinely Catholic ONLY if it in communion with the Bishop of LEEDS".

It makes things no better that it's all been going on for decades ... the country is littered with towns (Birmingham ... Liverpool ... Southwark ... Portsmouth ... Plymouth ... etc. ad inf..) where Johnny-come-lately Anglicans have come trotting in without even knocking on the door, and have said to established incumbent Catholic bishops "Move over in bed! Quick about it! I'm getting in too!".

Have Anglicans never heard of the Ba'alamond declaration banning proselytism? Cheeky lot.

Perhaps ARCIC should deal with this during its next sumptuous meeting at the Palazzo Dogale, perhaps during the daily coffee break in Florian's.

11 April 2016

Can my eating slake your hunger? (1) Bossy and Pickstock

Martin Luther notoriously, and polemically, asserted "As you massmongers cannot be baptised nor believe for someone else, similarly you are unable to receive the Sacrament for someone else. As every man is baptised for himself, so he has to eat and drink for himself. Can my eating slake your hunger? No more can your eating of this Sacrament do me good". Two late twentieth century writers effectively turned the question in Luther's rant back on itself and returned to Luther a positive answer: indeed - my eating can slake your hunger. The first was John Bossy, whose Christianity in the West 1400-1700 (1985) charted the breakdown, towards the end of the Middle Ages, of a corporate conception of society which Bossy had examined in terms of kinship patterns and economics as well as religion. The second writer was Catherine Pickstock, a Cambridge member of an Anglican group called Radical Orthodoxy, who titled a major section of her After Writing (1998) with Luther's question. [The "Radical orthodox", I fear, were not particularly orthodox with regard either to the 'ordination' of women or the integrity of Christian marriage, sed fas est doceri ab inimicis!]

Pickstock's book is not often found to be easy going. She has a donnish weakness for neologisms and an assumption that any potential reader will be happy to work hard to understand her sometimes contorted jargon means. But her book deserves to be rescued from its ... frankly, not entirely undeserved ... obscurity, for several reasons. One such reason is her importance in the establishment, in the 1990s, of the reaction against the assumptions and presuppositions of the post-Conciliar liturgical 'reforms'. When Fr Aidan Nichols wrote his Looking at Liturgy in 1996 (and, goodness me, how well that volume has worn: dust it down and reread it), he was able to incorporate a discussion of Pickstock's work because he had read parts of it, in its earlier guise as a Cambridge thesis submitted for the degree of Ph.D.. By her study of 'liturgical stammering' and 'repeated beginnings', she demonstrated the essentially 'oral' generic nature of liturgical language, vindicating it against 'Enlightenment' fashions for 'linear clarity' and for the avoidance of what Vatican II question-beggingly called "unnecessary repetitions" (how can an ecumenical Council have been so oblivious that this is contemptuous of the ancient and venerable Byzantine Rite which so unashamedly re-echoes - again and again - its call "Again and again let us pray to the Lord" .... Kyrie eleison ...  ?).

But it is, in particular, her emphasis on the corporate quality of Christianity that I desire to consider; that your eating does slake my thirst. Every man is not an island.

This piece will be concluded with an examination a Purgatorian Archconfraternity.

10 April 2016

Inspiration and cuckoos

The Holy Week liturgies afford  ... to put it mildly ... food for thought. Example: those who attended Chrism Masses will have noticed that the Bishop 'breathed' the Holy Spirit into the Chrism. This is because the Greek word Pneuma means breath/spirit/wind; and the Bishop is the supremely potent spirit-filled charismatic Minister of his church. He also breathes the Spirit into the water which he blesses for the Holy Baptism which is part of the Easter Vigil. Here we have an ancient liturgical convention of the Roman Church, rich in meaning.

It set me thinking ... you know those Eucharistic Prayers which a succession of passing Byzantine cuckoos laid in the unfortunate nest of the Roman Rite in the 1960s and 1970s, all glistening with dewfall, and which all invoke the Holy Spirit in order to transsubstantiate the elements ('the Epiclesis'). Regular readers will recall insistent articles of mine in which I express my strong preference for the true Roman doctrine of Consecration: that bread and wine become the Lord's Body and Blood simply by being accepted in sacrifice by the Father. This, of course, is a much older idea than the 'Eastern' notion that we secure consecration by getting the Father to send down his Spirit; a fashion which dates from a sudden outburst of enthusiasm for God the Holy Spirit which swept through the Church in the fourth century.

So ... if those Cuckoo's-egg-Canons are to stay in the Roman Rite, Epicleses and all, they should surely be accompanied by proper old Roman ritual. The bishop/presbyter should breathe on the elements, taking care, so as to be absolutely certain about validity, that his breath reaches everything which is to be consecrated (even if he's got a bit of a bad cold ... better a good sneeze than the risk of invalidity ... the laity will understand ... there would be no risk that it might make them think more carefully before approaching Holy Communion ... ).

You know it makes sense.

Frankly, I don't like cuckoos and I think their eggs are best tipped out of nests and trodden under foot. Altar books which contain them and which have the words "Roman Missal" on their spines are in breach of the Trades Descriptions Act. Inspector Knacker should send Mr Plod round to confiscate them, and hurry them on to the Director of Public Prosecutions.


Because of the pressures of work and family life, although I hope usually to put something on my blog each day, I shall not have leisure to moderate comments. This blog will therefore be COMMENT-FREE until, perhaps, as late as Ascension Day, when I plan to resume Usual Service.

There is nothing sinister about this!

8 April 2016

How to succeed

Well ... I think ... as we approach the wire ... no Frankileaks on this pontifical document!

I won't need to persuade readers of my deep admiration for Pope Benedict XVI. But he never grasped one point which Pope Francis has got straight.

When it comes to the Press and to leakers of confidential documents, there's only one thing that the b*****s respect.

A very unmistakable big stick.

And if the sultry Ms Chaouqi has to suffer to prove the point, so be it!

Has a new adage been coined: Misericordes sicut Papa?

Yet again, probably for the last time this year, the Pope and the Foot-washing.

This is my contribution to answering a question I myself posed on March 24, Maundy Thursday. I thought it might keep you interested until everybody gets really excited about Amoris Laetitia ...or not ... later this morning.

In this Kingdom, proposed legislation has to receive assent from each of the three Estates: the Commons; the Lords; and the Crown. A 'bill' finally becomes an 'act', and is thus law, during a ceremony in which its short title is read out by the Clerk of the Crown, and another lawyer called the Clerk of the Parliaments intones the words "La reyne le veult": this is called 'the Royal Assent'. Somebody then catches a calf (or kid) and someone else kills it and the text is written onto vellum to make sure that it is still around in a thousand years' time when all the computers have long-since crashed.

Just suppose (please try to imagine this) that our legislators decided, like those of France, to pass a law against the wearing of the burka. Suppose that, once it had successfully negotiated its Parliamentary stages, all the legislators who had passed it gathered together in Westminster Hall ... and put on burkas! Just imagine them all, male as well as female, climbing into burkas! The Queen, presumably, would have her Crown (the light-weight Imperial State Crown, of course, just a few thousand diamonds, not the gigaheavy S Edward's Crown with its massive weight in gold) balanced on her burka. The Clerk of the Crown and the Clerk of the Parliaments would probably join the legislators with their horsehair wigs on top of their burkas. I suppose they would look rather like second cousins thrice removed of Darth Vader.

As soon as all were ready, they would then process out (this is my hypothesis) into Parliament Square, where the World's Press would be waiting. The Press would be waiting because they had been specially and pressingly invited to record the event ... the passing of a law against the wearing of the burka, followed by the legislators concerned displaying themselves, proudly burka-clad, in public, in front of the flashing cameras.

Just suppose this really did happen. Being English, I find it difficult to be intuitively sure about the views and reactions of other, more ordinary, peoples. But would it be possible, do you think, that some Foreigners, benighted members of lesser races, would, in their bewildered ignorance, consider that British legislators must be stark, raving, barking, mad? That demotic equivalents of English terms such as 'bonkers' would be murmured? That they might even judge our entire legislative system to be surreally dysfunctional to the point of total and manifest insanity?

Passing a law and then breaking it! Legislators proudly, publicly, ostentatiously, breaking the law which they themselves had only just so solemnly passed?!?

Only Englishmen could do something as mad as this! Or possibly, I suppose, just conceivably, dogs out in the midday Sun.

If I were merely a poor foreigner, that is what I think I would think. Thank Heaven I am English. It helps one to accept what is ostensibly pure and total self-contradiction as if it were the most natural and obvious thing to do in all the world.

Viva il Papa! 

7 April 2016


I have just got back from the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy retreat ... and what a good one it was.

And I have just been through the accumulated comments and authorised them. If something of yours has not popped up, then that is probably due to some malfunction on the part of my index finger, and I apologise for it.

And I thank readers who have taken the trouble to send me comments.

"Bishops' Conferences" and Dom Gregory Dix.

The great Anglican Benedictine Church Historian Dom Gregory Dix wrote (in 1946) about episcopacy in the fourth century; and, of course, things may have changed a bit since then. But it seems to me that there is something quite fresh and thought-provoking about the following passage.

Dix has been writing about the old notion of the Bishop as the 'man of his own Church' and the damage done to this idea by the careerist notion of 'promoting' bishops by translation. He goes on:
"In the West, translation was still rare down to the eleventh century. But what proved far more unsettling to the old system was the new habit of holding frequent episcopal councils. The pre-Nicene bishop had had to decide his policy chiefly in conjunction with his own Church. He had been obliged to pay heed to his own council of presbyters, still in many ways the governing college under his presidency, and to take into account local wishes and the 'tradition' of his own Church. If he went to a council, he went to it to represent his Church and to voice its mind in deliberation with other Churches. In the fourth century this is altered. The bishop now decides policy not at home but away from home, in a gathering where the final decision rests with him and his brother bishops only. Councils assume the right of intervening in the self-administration of local Churches, and of over-riding local wishes and decisions. The bishop in synod no longer represents his own Church in the conference of a number of independent societies. Instead he represents the external controlling authority of the synod to his own Church; he is becoming the local representative of an ubiquitous organisation of government rather than the fount and centre of spiritual life in a local society ... The mediocrity of the Christian leadership ... is striking in all the records. The fact is that the new system promoted administrators rather than leaders. And there can be little doubt that it was the new irresponsibility of bishops towards their flocks which made possible the interminable distraction of the Church from her urgent missionary task by the long-drawn-out Arian struggle. The government and the bishops open to its influence were Arians or Arianising; the bulk of the lower clergy and laity were steadily orthodox, but had no real say in the innumerable councils of the time. Taking them by and large the bishops of this period are an unlovely lot, venal, unscrupulous, and intriguing ... there was probably much truth in the remark of Nazianzene, himself a Bishop, that he had never known a synod of bishops end in any good, nor one that did not increase mischiefs rather than ending them."

This reads to me very much like Blessed John Henry's survey of the same period! And I think Cardinal Ratzinger may have read those remarks of S Gregory Nazianzenus (in Epistula 120 alias 55) about councils! It is most telling that the 'mediocrity' of the modern episcopate became really acute in the years during and since Vatican II, when the bishops met together for long periods apart from their dioceses and passed a succession of resounding decrees about ... the importance of bishops! And now their increasing preoccupation is ... the importance of Episcopal Conferences!

Where have all the bishops gone? Long time passing! Where have all the bishops gone? Long time ago! Where have all the bishops gone? Gone to Conf'rences every one! When will they ever learn? When will they e...ver learn?

6 April 2016

Violent Death

I am as horrified as anybody by the unleashing of violent death upon unsuspecting people who have been convicted by no tribunal and are in quite a few cases probably innocent of any deed that could be deemed, in penal terms, capital. Those who in recent weeks have died in such a way require of me the charity of my prayers.

But am I alone in noticing an ... er ... imbalance between media reactions to the death of 31 such people in Brussels; and the death, a year or so ago, of 21 Coptic peasants, beheaded by adherents of Islam, who died with the Sacred Name of our Most Holy Redeemer upon their lips, and whose only offense was to refuse to deny their Saviour?

I listened to a Media Person explaining that the Lahore atrocity actually killed ever so many Moslems ... these people have a diabolical instinct to avoid facing up to the martyrdom of Christians because, for them, Christianity is something they have with intense hatred put behind them and which they regard as a standing condemnation of their own corrupt and perverted life-styles. Which, of course, it is.

If I were cynical, I would wonder if the media outcry at the Brussels atrocity were less a matter of sympathy for the dead, the bereaved, and the wounded, than an anguished personal yelp occasioned by the realisation that unexpected death could be visited upon people exactly like us.

Yes ... as Our Brussels Correspondent and Our Security Specialist share on camera their nervous speculations, and the sentimentalists light scented candles and mouth 'Je suis Bruxelles', and the politicians raid the Thesaurus for Adequately Outraged Vocabulary, it is all really just a matter of old-fashioned and boring self-pity.

If they fully realised how ultimately defenceless their own morally and intellectually bankrupt culture truly is, I suspect their reactions would be even more nervously acute.

5 April 2016

Good Reading during a Crisis, if there is a crisis

This is really a footnote to my recent piece on the status of episcopal conferences.

I commend to those desiring a close understanding of this subject the following three Magisterial documents, and, in particular the third:

Communionis notio (CDF 1991/2)
Dominus Iesus (CDF 2000)
Apostolos suos (S John Paul II Motu proprio 1998).

Dominus Iesus was much derided by the heterodox; the hysterical; those who had not read it; and persons falling into more than one of those categories ... in fact, a surprisingly large number of people.

For a commentary on Apostolos suos, I strongly recommend The Teaching Authority of Episcopal Conferences, Francis A Sullivan S.J., in Theological Studies 63 (2002). This is an important piece because Sullivan, as those who recall his interventions over many years will recall, is not sympathetic towards ecclesiology as expounded by Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. That makes his conclusion all the more significant: " ... these requirements are consistent with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's opinion that the teaching authority of bishops belongs only to individual bishops, and to the entire college with the pope".

This is the highly important truth which we must stick to; which it is our duty to explain to others.

Any attempt to ascribe to episcopal conferences qua conferences any competence in the field of doctrine is a very grave doctrinal error and a source of enormous practical dangers, and needs to be resisted, whoever may propound it, in every possible way.

Not least because it is those who are certain to misuse it who are the ones most likely to use it.

[In the Ordinariates we might have some (albeit small) degree of protection. The Complementary Norms accompanying Anglicanorum coetibus say that "The Ordinary follows the directives of the national Episcopal Conference insofar as this is consistent with the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus". And the Constitution itself makes clear that "The Catechism of the Catholic Church authentically expresses the Catholic Faith, which the members of the Ordinariate confess".]

4 April 2016


Oh dear. Wrong again. I had a wager with myself that Libidinis gaudium would be the title of our Holy Father's imminent bombshell. Instead ... Amoris laetitia ... he does so let one down ...

According to Lewis & Short, a highly useful dictionary for lucky pupils learning the delights of Latin Prose and Verse Composition and for their instructors, Gaudium and Laetitia do differ in meaning. The former suggests the internal Joy one feels; the latter, a Joy which expresses itself externally. So the Sovereign Pontiff's first magis quam magnum opus, entitled Evangelii gaudium, implied that the Gospel makes one feel all jolly inside, while next Friday's opus etiam maius suggests that Sexual Love is manifested externally.

So ... according to these texts, we keep the Joy of the Gospel bottled up inside us, while rushing over to the extrovert side of our personalities for the Joy of Sex (wasn't there some much celebrated booklet with that title back in the seventies? Controversial, I seem to recall, because it included diagrams?). What an interesting distinction. The nuances of Christian anthropology gradually open out before us, like daisies in the dewfall.

Apart from these highly suggestive initial words, leaks of the text are in short supply. If you're interested, I can leak to you the reason for this. Translators, printers, and journalists have been taken, batch after batch, down into the dungeons beneath the Sant'Angelo ... probably the same dungeons where Pope Urban VI, enlightened Pontiff, had some of his Cardinals tortured to death ... and have been encouraged to look through the peep-holes into the cells where the defendants in the Vatileaks trial are being held 'languishing' (as journalists would put it) in irons and dreadful conditions (please forgive the zeugma). The penalties for leaking Pontifical Secrets are then explained to them. Robert Mickens, formerly of the Tablet, was given a specially extended tour which incorporated the unlit lower levels of the prison where the local Biodiversitas (cfr Laudato si) breeds in tenebris et laetitia (please forgive the zeugma). He no longer makes jokes about the Rats.

Personally, I just can't wait to read it. I would be most aw'fly grateful if some kind reader could keep watch and let me know when the official Latin text is 'released'.

2 April 2016

Botte, his bathwater, and his epicleses

Until the post-Conciliar 'reforms', the Roman Church had a very simple doctrine of Holy Order. She taught, by her Liturgy, that in Ordination men become the antitypes of the Jewish sacrificial orders of ministry as we find them in the Old Testament.

Not that this account was unknown elsewhere. S Venantius Fortunatus seems to have met it ... in the Veneto? In Aquileia? ... in the sixth century. He wrote (Carmina II 9) "[the bishop is] like a Second Aaron; bright not because of his vesture, but pleasing by reason of his devotion. Not stones, scarlet, mitre, gold, purple, linen adorn his shoulders; no, it is dear Faith that shines. He is sufficiently better than the Priest was under the Old Law, because this [bishop] worships realities (vera), which previously was a Shadow".

We first meet this approach in the (probably first century) Epistle of S Clement to the Church in Corinth (capp 40-44), a text so early that (like the Letter to the Hebrews) it speaks of the Jerusalem Temple as if still functioning. Its teaching about Christian Eucharistic presidency assimilates it closely (in fact, so closely that one can say indistinguishably) to the Temple High Priesthood. Thus this extremely Roman doctrine of the Ministry appears to go back to the first generation of the Roman Church.

It is found fully operative in the Prayer for Episcopal consecration used in the Roman Church until the unfortunate aftermath of Vatican II. That Prayer asked that whatsoever it was that the vesture of the Aaronic priesthood signified in outward splendour might show forth in the conversation and deeds of the Christian Bishop. For God has chosen the candidate ad summi sacerdotii ministerium, for the ministry of the High Priestood. I doubt if there is a syllable in this prayer with which the writer of I Clement would have been uncomfortable. It is so concerned to balance types, aenigmata figurarum, and antitypes, certiora experimenta, that it has barely a word which is indebted uniquely to the New Testament. It thus appears to go back essentially to that early period when the New Testament Canon was unfixed and the New Testament was not yet seen as a normative text which ought to colour and determine theology and euchology. It is a shame that Roman Catholic scholars had not read the explanations of Dom Gregory Dix and other Anglican scholars, about how the immemorially venerable and ancient Roman Rite contains first century materials arguably older than those in the New Testament writings.

A writer deeply involved in the post-Conciliar alterations, Dom Bernard Botte, analysed accurately the spirit of the old Roman Prayer. And he commented "The literary form of this section did not make up for its poor content. The typology insisted exclusively on the cultic role of the bishop and left aside his apostolic ministry... I didn't see how we could make a coherent whole ... Should we create a new prayer from start to finish?" Instead, Botte recommended to his colleagues the Prayer contained in a text of which "I had just finished a critical edition" - the Prayer for Episcopal Consecration in the Apostolic Tradition of an early Roman writer, Hippolytus. Half a century later, academic opinion seems united in the conclusion that this text is not in fact the Apostolic Tradition and is not by Hippolytus and has nothing at all to do with Rome. Talk about all our eggs in one basket ... talk about dangers ... talk about big badly broken eggs. The fad for Pseudo-Hippolytus in the 1960s suggests that they might appropriately be termed the Humpty Dumpty years of Liturgiology.

"The first time I proposed this to my colleagues, they looked at me in disbelief ... they didn't believe it had the slightest chance of being accepted." Interesting proof, is it not, that the post-Conciliar committee-men were only gradually charmed out of assumptions of moderate reform, and were not easily, at first, persuaded to adopt a radical approach contradicting the Council's own insistence upon minimal and organic evolution. But Botte had a trick up his sleeve. The pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer which he was sponsoring was widely used throughout what we now call Oriental Christendom but which our grandfathers more prosaically termed the Monophysites and the Nestorians. "The essential ideas of the the Apostolic Tradition can be found everywhere. Reusing this old text in the Roman Rite would affirm a unity of outlook between East and West on the Episcopacy. This was an ecumenical argument. It was decisive."

So Father Ted was right in our dear old eponymous television series. You will remember that, faced with an unwelcome visit to Craggy Island from the bishop, and fearful that his outrageous retired colleague Father Jack would be an embarrassment, Ted trains the aged and lecherous clerical drunk to reply to any episcopal query with the answer "Well, that would be an ecumenical matter." The strategy works like a charm ... just as it had worked for Bernard Botte. In the atmosphere of the 1960s, you could, it appears, get away with any crime or any deception if you chanted the mantra "Ecumenical".

Secondly: you get an "affirmation of unity of outlook" only if it is true that "Aptrad" is both of ancient Roman origin and is widely used in the East. If, however, the Prayer has no known connections with the Rome, then its adoption there would be ... in fact, was ... and still is ... the imposition of an Oriental formula of dubious origin upon a West whose authentic Tradition had been different.

After the Definition in 1950 of the Bodily Glorious Assumption, done by Pius XII, it was taken for granted that Mass and Office for August 15 should be brought directly into line with the precisions of the new Definition. Thus the Lex orandi, which had traditionally been deemed the basis of the Lex credendi, was instead itself changed in order to be conformed to the latter. That, perhaps, was a minor episode compared with the doctrinaire application, in the next decade, of the same disastrous iron rule to the formulae for Ordination. Readers will recall my demonstration of how the formulae for ordaining deacons were similarly corrupted to express a foolish and baseless 1960s assumption that deacons are ordained as ecclesiastical Social Workers for Philanthropic Outreach.

And the baby that went out when Botte discarded the bathwater was indeed the authentically Roman tradition concerning Holy Order which we found in I Clement and in the Roman Pontifical; a tradition dismissed by Botte in the revealing phrase "The literary form ... did not make up for its poor content." His phrase "poor content" betrays the fact that Typology had ceased to be a living tradition among the 1960s 'reformers'. Yet Typology is at the heart of the appropriation by the New Testament of the texts and traditions of the Old. (Failure to understand Typology and its implications is also what vitiates the analyses of the 2015 Vatican discussion paper about Judaism.)

The Prayer which Botte and his colleagues adopted, smuggled another Epiclesis into the Roman Rite: Consecration apparently is now to be done by the Holy Spirit, invoked, descending, to transubsstantiate the consecrand as a bishop. The older Roman texts were content simply to assume that the Father would bring the consecrand within the Aaronic priestly typology. (Epicleses, in old Roman texts, appeared only at Confirmation, where the accounts of the Lord's own Baptism justify them, or at the Ordination of a Deacon, where His seven-fold power will enable the ordinand to live in clerical chastity.)

A sorry tale; a warning to us all about the dangers of over-confidence in the fashions of our own decade. The tragedy is that so many at the highest levels in the Church have not learned the stern lessons of the 1960s. Imperiously, they demand that the Almighty should have a go at teaching them the same stuff all over again.

1 April 2016

A RISUS PASCHALIS from Pope Francis himself

Pope Francis' says that when he was a boy he used to enjoy serving the Old Mass, and, "for fun, doing imitations of the priest, messing up the words a bit to make up weird sayings". His encouraging words were addressed to youthful modern servers.

Of course, since Bergoglio was young, the Church has moved on from vetus to novus Ordo. But I'm sure the essential principles have not changed; Hermeneutic of Continuity, doncha know.

Gosh! What a splendid reason for having lots of children, so that they can all join serving teams and do comic parodies of what Novus Ordo celebrants get up to! Lots and lots of scope there for imaginative tinies! What "fun", what jolly japes, to ridicule what a priest does and says while offering Mass! Actuosissima Participatio! Ex ore infantium and all that!!

How, I wonder, might an imaginative eight-year-old mime the concept of 'dewfall'?

I'm sure readers will be able to devise "funny imitations of the priest" and "words messed up to make weird sayings" for the kiddies to deliver in order to liven up banal and dull renditions of the  Novus Ordo. Shops like TOYS R US could market special 'Sacrilege Kits as approved by Pope Francis'!!

Thanks to Rorate (February 28) for the background story. Whatever would we do without it?