24 June 2016

A splendid day for PARRHESIA

Here is a post I published in April last year, just after the Holy Father had hosted an 'Armenian' Liturgy in Rome and had referred to the Armenian Genocide. I reproduce it here because, according to Chiesa, the Pope has just decided to stop using the word Genocide, out of fear of the Turkish authorities. Is the Chiesa report accurate? If not, justice towards the Roman Pontiff demands that this be known. UPDATE I gather that the Holy father has spoken with his previous Parrhesia.

The Holy Father's decision to validate with his authority the memory of the Armenian Church and People, despite knowing the rage this would stir up, is heroic. Perhaps it is a new kind of Papal Parrhesia. Pius XII has been unfairly criticised because, although he very clearly condemned the murder of people by reason of their race, and did what he could in Rome to save large numbers of Jews, he did not speak with undiplomatic clarity about who exactly was doing exactly what to precisely whom. Francis has. His action may have repercussions on Catholics in Turkey; I think I recall that S Edith Stein was arrested by the Germans when they decided to collect and exterminate the Dutch baptised Jews after the Dutch episcopate had issued an unambiguous Pastoral Letter condemning the rounding up and deportation of the Dutch unbaptised Jews. And so now, it may be some time before the Holy See, or Turkish Catholics, are in a position to ask a favour of the Turkish government. But if Francis has decided that Parrhesia is more important than Diplomacy, I think his judgement is to be respected. It certainly fits my own feelings.

And his action negates the spirit of the Ostpolitik of an earlier pontificate: delicate and deferential treatment of unfriendly regimes in the hope of securing concessions. Not that modern Turkey is an enemy to Christianity in anything remotely like the way that the Stalinist puppet regimes in Europe were; but it remains true that there is something seedy about refraining from speaking the truth out of prudence. What advantage did we ever gain from being so careful in what we said about the Katyn massacre?

This is a time when atrocities very much like the Armenian Genocide are again happening in the Middle East. It is a time when Western 'Enlightenment' governments are shy with regard to talking about the extermination of Christians, even when it is Christian who are being exterminated. The mobs who roamed through Paris chanting Je suis Charlie have not been moved by the most horrendous videos to march with the cry Je suis Chretien or Je suis Copte. There was a time when the Yazidis were being destroyed ... and journalists very properly reported those horrors with explicit naming of names. The shameful and cowardly mass murder by jihadis of Shia prisoners of war is properly reported. Those same journalists, however, having spent their professional lives deriding and attacking Christianity, feel very reticent about headlining with equal explicitness the fate of the Middle Eastern Christian communities. The Holy Father's frankness is a splendid rebuff to this whole, sick, 'liberal' mentality of airbrushing the Christ word out of the News. It gives a new meaning to the phrase 'Pope Frank'!

Moreover, it shows the Pope as the Father of the entire Christian world, and his Church of Rome as the Mother Church of all the Particular Churches. As well as the hierarchies of the Armenian Christian Communions, the President of Armenia was there. The proclamation of S Gregory of Narek as Universalis Ecclesiae Doctor highlights, in a particular way, the solidarity between the whole Catholic world of Particular Churches in Communion with S Peter, and those other bodies which, having preserved Hierarchy and Sacraments, are true, but wounded, Particular Churches in which the Universal Church is herself manifested (Communionis notio 17).

I think, for the first time in this pontificate, I felt my spirits rise and had a real sense of pride in the present Pope!

Viva il Papa!

RITUAL FOOTNOTE: I thought the liturgy was appropriate. The use of the Third Eucharistic Prayer, with its Orientalising elements, reminded me of Aidan Nichols' valuable suggestion that the Novus Ordo should be renamed as the Ritus Communis. It is not, indeed, authentically the Roman Rite but, as Fr Aidan suggests, could function as a common rite for use among Christians of different rites and traditions. On Sunday, it very fittingly had Armenian elements, particularly musical, worked into it; the Gospel Procession, with two clerics walking backwards in front of the Gospel Book so as continually to cense it, was very memorable (did I hear one of the deacons chant Proskhomen before the Gospel?). On such an occasion as last Sunday, this Ritus Communis might even, surely, include an actual Eucharistic Prayer from an Eastern Rite. The formal proclamation of the status of S Gregory was in Latin, reminding us that enactments which bind all Catholics need to be shown as such by being in the Language of the Church.

23 June 2016

Europhilia or Dr Carey?

What a tease this Referendum is. On the one hand, surely it is good to repudiate Henry Tudor's assertion that the Kingdom of England is an Empire; videlicet exempt from external jurisdiction of any kind. And I've always liked the European Flag, with its overt Marian allusions. Surely, much nicer than the Union Flag which has so many echoes of our imperialist past, before we wisely handed over to the US of A the burden of maintaining a world-wide empire.

But on the other hand, does not the current European Union somewhat promote the secularist agenda of the Enlightenment? Surely, Napoleon is its Godfather? Is this not the Union which declined to allow mention of the Christian centuries in a preamble to its Constitution? Is it really through the machinations of Frau Merkel and the small but perfectly formed Monsieur Hollande that our Lady's Immaculate Heart is to prevail?

To speculate further: on the one hand: could it be that Poland and Hungary represent the first dawn of a newer yet older Europe, a Europe which remembers its 'Christendom' past? Surely, this would be a Europe worth cosying up to?

But on the other hand, might the participation in the counsels of Europe of our own, British, relativist and violently anti-Catholic political and cultural classes hinder rather than help such a welcome reditus ad fontes?

On the one hand, one Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and an emeritus ditto, and one Archbishop of Canterbury and an emeritus ditto, are unanimously Europhile. These are all, of course, immensely wise men whose lead I would, needless to say, follow on absolutely anything whatsoever except, I rather think, for Doctrine, Liturgy, Sex, Money, or other such-like trivia.

On the other hand, an Archbishop emeritus of Canterbury and Primate of All England (who was once, back in the 1980s, rude about me personally in the correspondence columns of the Tablet) is Europhobe.

I just don't know what to think. Do you?

22 June 2016


O magnam concordiam mentium magnarum! In Encaeniis (quibus hodie interfuimus)  Oxoniensibus Orator Publicus, ducens ad Cancellarium Musicum quendam Estoniensem ARVO PART 'tininnabulorum magistrum', haec locutus est: "Callimachus [videte inferius] integros fontes e quibus olige libas fluit lutoso flumini Assyriae anteponit; ita multi sonis chromaticis exsatiati, limpidos huius viri numeros gratis auribus hauriunt."

I found recently at the bottom of a drawer a piece of advertising, infra, which must have struck me a few decades ago as worth cutting out and keeping ... and certainly still so strikes me now ... as being a superb example of a particular literary genre. This genre I met as a youth when, for the first but not the last time, I read Evelyn Waugh's diverting send-up, not simply of the American Funeral Industry, but of what Europeans naughtily imagine to be the entire North American way of life and death ... and way of speech. (Some readers may also be reminded of Max Beerbohm's Rhodes Scholar Oover.)

Waugh is especially cruel about American advertising. I suppose among the characteristics of what he satirises is an aspiration to literary diction which succeeds in achieving pretentious pomposity. I wonder, too, if it is influenced by a hankering among post-moderns for an imagined Arcadia. This would bracket efforts like the following with the idylls and eclogues of Theocritus and Vergil, peering out from the crowded, violent and dirty megalopoleis of the Greco-Roman world and seeing melodious shepherds wooing uncomplicated shepherdesses with a penchant for speaking Doric in a never-never countryside devoid of thistles.

This is what I found at the bottom of the drawer:

                                   THE BEE ON THE BARLEY

In the ancient Lordship of Badenoch, at the wild heart of the Scottish Highlands, Stag's Breath Liqueur is created with dedicated care, inspired in its baptism by the epic Whisky Galore.

Here is the outcome of the mystical alchemy of distillation that transforms the grain of the bearded barley and cloud-pure burn water into the golden liquid of life of the Gaels.

Husbanded to mellow maturity in the cool aisles of glenside bonds it has been married to another fermentation - no less magical - the crop of the honey bees working their quiet purpose across the slopes of the heather-clad Highland hills.

It is the lightness of summer sun entwined with the limpid depths of Northern lochs. Sip and savour it. It is an essence of Scotland.

Other such 'essences' 'of the Gaels' might, I suppose, include the effluvia in Sauchiehall Street after a  Saturday evening.

Come to think of it, "cloud-pure burn water" suggests a topos favoured by Callimachus and his imitators. I wonder if this piece was composed by an American Classicist with his/her tongue in his/her cheek? I honestly don't think that Dorothy Sayers and her colleagues at Pym's Publicity would have run to anything as extravagant as Stag's Breath or mystical alchemy. I assume that "inspired in its baptism by" is High American for "we got the name from"? 

21 June 2016

Prelatical unemployment??

You won't catch me agreeing with all those dreadful traddies on blogs like Rorate in criticising our Holy Father's splendidly crisp new system for getting rid of "bishops" he doesn't like.

Since the Roman Pontiff is in the strict sense the only true Bishop in the Church, it follows that other "bishops" are Romani Pontificis vicarii tantum et legati. Since the Spirit, who is always waiting to surprise the Church with new truth, reveals His New Things through the Pope, and since all "bishops" are under an obligation to follow this "Spirit who speaks through Francis" [Mgr Pinto], it follows that the Pope must have the inalienable right to mould and fashion the universal "Episcopate" so that, both corporately and individually, it expresses precisely the style and policy and culture which, guided by the Spirit, he wishes all the "bishops" to have.*

Having listened to ones "Bishop", one ought to be able confidently and joyously to proclaim [ex. gr.] Verba Vincentii, Vox Francisci!

Pope Francis' new motu proprio about getting rid of unsuitable "bishops", the title of which might be loosely but happily englished as Mummy loves you, truly and most admirably fills a gap in the Church's Law. Don't listen to Rorate; this legislation is to be warmly welcomed.

This also is the moment, I feel, to plug yet another lacuna in the Church's canonical armoury: the lack of a section in Canon Law headed De Pontifice Romano semovendo [Provisions for the Removal of the Roman Pontiff].

As we all know, reputable authors have for centuries been in disagreement as to whether
(1) a heretic pope ipso facto loses his Office -  but then needs the Church authoritatively to declare that this has happened; or whether
(2) a heretic pope needs to be removed actu Ecclesiae before the Apostolic See is vacant.

This detail can easily be sorted out, and Bergoglio is just the man to do it.

I suggest that when a Pope is accused of doctrinal error or Narcissism or other grave misbehaviour, he should be tried by a Jury of 201 of his Venerable Brethren in the "Episcopate": fifty nominated by the Pope himself; fifty nominated by his accusers; and 101 selected (as in Ancient Athens) purely by lot. That's fair, surely?

In the text of a motu proprio which I have already carefully drafted laying out the appropriate procedures, my final section reads like this:
Qualora ritenga opportuna la rimozione del Papa, la Giuria stabilira, in base alle circonstanze del caso, se:
(1) dare, nel piu breve tempo possibile, il decreto di rimozione;
(2) esortare fraternamente il Papa a presentare la sua rinuncia in un termine di 2 giorni. Se il Papa non da la sua risposta nel termine previsto, la Giuria potra emettere il decreto di rimozione.

Anybody see any flaws in that? Italian grammar OK? Rather nicely drafted and crafted, don't'ya think? Or is potra a bit weak? Isn't fraternamente a lovely adverb? And esortare a beautiful verb?

*POST SCRIPTUM To avoid scandal, I ought to make clear that every single statement in my second paragraph is completely contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. I think I must have just been carried away by a Whimsical Spirit of Irony.

20 June 2016

20 June 1916

A century ago today, Viscount Halifax delivered an address to an Anglo-Catholic Society; it seems to me that the remarks he made then to his fellow Anglicans apply now in so many parishes of the Catholic Church.

"How many feel when they are assisting at Mass that they are kneeling at our Lord's feet, beneath His Cross? That here is the offering which pleads for the whole world, for the sins of all, living and departed, the one offering of infinite worth we can make to "Our Father", the one offering which enables us to say with a sure confidence: "Look on the Face of thy Son, and only look on us as found in Him". Look on us who plead for the living and the dead that one Sacrifice offered by Him for all the sins of the world, past, present, and to come, that Offering by which Christ our Lord set Himself apart as the Victim for our salvation on the night of His Passion, that Offering completed on Calvary which is offered in all the plenitude of its power and efficacy wherever there is a priest to make the oblation of Christ's Body and Blood, and which has constituted the one great and abiding  Sacrifice of the Christian Church since the Day of Pentecost. When this is not realized, no wonder that the altars of the Church are deserted. "I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men unto Me". How, if there is no consciousnes of that lifting up, no horror of the sins that necessitated so great an expiation, no sense of the need of the application of that expiation to ourselves, no perception that here and now the Lamb as it had been slain on Calvary is the one Offering that satisfies human needs and the cry of human souls? Surely, if there is any lack here, this is the point which most demands attention; surely here is the supreme object towards which all our efforts at improvement should be directed."

19 June 2016

Ecclesiology and our current problems

I suspect that if you were to use the word Ecclesiology in any gathering of clergy or laity, eyes might glaze over. Yet in Ecclesiology is the major internal crisis afflicting the Christian world.

Perhaps the Anglicans started it ... with their notion of Provincial Autonomy; their belief that Scripture, the Law of God, the Sacraments, Holy Order, Gender are all interminably mutable at the say-so of a Parliament or a quasi-Parliamentary "Synod" in each local ecclesial community. Of the once proud Anglican Patrimony, the only authentic fragments surviving its inevitable and total collapse are the Ordinariates.

But things ecclesiological are not too well in the Catholic Church. After Vatican II, the idea arose that a pope could do anything; that he is an absolute monarch. The Vatican I linkage of the Papacy with Tradition was found to be an obstacle to the urgent need felt by powerful influences to utilise the Papacy in order to make a completely new start, and to do so within months rather than within decades.

That dangerous culture of rupture is now reaping its harvest during this calamitously dysfunctional pontificate, in which (not to stray beyond the immediately topical) the Roman Pontiff can apparently declare one day that the great majority of sacramental marriages is invalid, and a day later order the record of his words to be changed. I, as a married man with married children, have found this episode both cruel and unFatherly and deeply offensive. More importantly, it is but another example of Bergoglio's disturbing disregard of the Magisterium of his predecessors. Compare, if you will, his views with the considered and nuanced words of Pope S John Paul II on the same subject, expressed in his Address to the Roman Rota of Friday 21 January 2000.

Might some minds turn Eastwards? They would be ill-advised to do so. Whatever the official theoretical ecclesiology of the Separated Byzantine Churches is, whatever their practical ecclesiology, it seems to be unravelling before our very eyes. The Conciliarism promoted by some Orthodox apologists has often appeared to us Latins to be a convenient ad hoc paper polemic against Papism rather than something which vitally sustains Orthodoxy itself. And as the 'Holy and Great Council' of the Orthodox Churches meets this morning, we are told that it lacks the largest of those Churches; as of yesterday, the oldest of its Patriarchates, and a couple of other national churches, were not intending to be present and the Greek Church had needed to revise its list of representatives after (according to the Greek media) a dozen or so hierarchs declined to participate. So the Council is unable to provide, as was previously promised, unanimity of consensus even among the 'officially recognised' Orthodox Churches. How will it not instead merely precipitate a distinction within Orthodoxy between 'Conciliar Orthodox' and 'Anti-Conciliar Orthodox', to add to the existing division between 'Recognised Churches' and 'Unrecognised Churches'?

An able Orthodox writer, Protopresbyter Dr Peter Heers, in a persuasive book (The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II), has argued in effect that Pope S Stephen was wrong and S Cyprian was right; that outside Orthodoxy there is no authentic ecclesial life. I am unconvinced that such 'back to the third century' radicalism can even be found consistent with large portions of Orthodox history. Did S Markos Eugenikos and his brethren really arrive at Florence loudly proclaiming that the Latins were all unbaptised pagans? But this is a book [my grateful thanks to the friend who sent me a copy] which intelligently and eruditely interrogates our assumptions and is impossible to ignore.

Perhaps out of the wreckage of our different crises we might be able to start to work our faltering way laboriously across the ruins to a new and vivifying integration of Ecclesiology. The writings of Joseph Ratzinger might provide some hand-rails through the trickier places. And we of the Anglican Patrimony could do worse than to blow the dust off the writings of Dix and Mascall and Jalland.

16 June 2016


This won't mean anything at all to you unless you've read the first two parts.

In 1570, S Pius V promulgated the Missal with which his name is associated. In it, as we have seen, he continued the use of the Versio Romana for the snippets of psalm which occur (Introit, Gradual, etc.) in the Mass propers. Despite the fact that they were a text which differed from the standard Vulgate text of the Bible which was used in the Breviary, S Pius, as a good conservative Pontiff, perpetuated the use of the 'obsolete' psalter. With collaudate in that psalm.

But 1570 was followed by a period in which the Church was consolidating against heresy, and part of this process was the establishment of the Vulgate Latin Bible as the standard version of reference for Catholic theologians (Popes Sixtus V and Clement VIII through the 1590s). Printers are clever and energetic men. So, without encouragement from the Holy See, they began to print editions of the Missal in which they replaced the Versio Romana texts by the equivalent translation in the recently affirmed official Vulgate. With laudate in that psalm.

In 1604, Pope Clement VIII reacted to this. He issued his own edition of the Missal of S Pius V. In it he wrote:

"... errors have crept in, by which that most ancient translation of the Holy Bible, which even before S Jerome's times was held to be well-known (celebris) within the Church, and from which almost all the introits of Masses, and what are called graduals and offertories, have been taken, was totally taken away ... we, having noticed this, by virtue of our pastoral solicitude, by which in all matters, and especially in the sacred rites of the Church, we are anxious to keep and preserve the best and ancient norm ...

and he went on to prohibit absolutely these Improved and Modernised Missals with which the printers were filling the bookshops. Back to collaudate!

Here we see two Roman Pontiffs performing their age-old duty of being a breakwater, a defence (remora was Newman's term) against unnecessary innovation and trendy Improvements.

We see Clement VIII doing this even though those printers had only been guilty of prioritising that very text of Scripture which he himself had just published and had ordered to be deemed authentic.

That is what Roman Pontiffs are for.

To sum up this three-part dissertation:
PIUS XII ... ... er ...

Isn't that a lovely phrase ..."the best and ancient norm ..."?

15 June 2016


This is only comprehensible to those who have read part (1).
Notice the word in the psalm which I put in italics I am going to use it as a 'litmus paper'.

When the Pian psalter appeared, it changed that second laudate to praedicate. Why? the meaning in each case is "praise". I am not a Hebraist, but I suspect that the reason was that, in the original Hebrew, two different words were used for "praise" ("O praise the Lord, all ye heathen: praise him all ye nations"). I have of course my trusty Brown Driver & Briggs beside me, but I can't see any difference in meaning between these two words. The first was the usual Hebrew verb for praising: HLL (which gives us Halleluia, and Hallel and is the first word of the 'Laudate' psalms). The second was a rare word, an Aramaic importation: SBH. So Bea and his merry men decided to reproduce this difference by using two different Latin words.

As I said, the Wicked Bea translation was so hated by the Good and True that, when under Bl John Paul II a revision of the entire Vulgate was taken in hand, it was unceremoniously dumped and replaced by a translation which paid proper respect to traditional Christian Latin. Hooray.

So did praedicate disappear to be replaced by the 'original'  laudate?  Er ... no. It was replaced by collaudate ...

Bear with me; we're nearly finished. Let's go back to the time when the Latin Bible first appeared, translating Scripture from the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. We need to know that two versions (at least) emerged. The first, commonly called the Versio Romana, was probably constructed by S Jerome using the even earlier Latin translation called the Vetus Latina. The Versio Romana survives to this day in the snippets of psalms which we get in the Mass propers of the Missale Romanum of S Pius V. So check - if you feel inclined -  the Mass of the Pentecost Ember Saturday. It has collaudate in the text of this psalm ... because that is what the Versio Romana had. But a later version by S Jerome, commonly called the Versio Gallicana, is used in the Breviary. It gives us laudate at this point; which is why this word is familiar to those of you who say the Breviary ... from which it was borrowed for the nice, snappy, happy psalm which we sing at the end of Benediction as Father manipulates the lunette back into the standing pyx and returns our Blessed Lord to the Tabernacle.

So you see: those responsible for the Neovulgate of Bl John Paul II sadly, in my own view, did not give us back the words which many of us were familiar with from the Breviary or from Benediction. But by looking back at the Versio Romana they did at least conduct themselves within the boundaries of the authentic Latin Christian tradition.


Pius XII, in 1945, two decades before the Council, behaved himself in a way exemplifying the Hermeneutic of Rupture. He may be the favourite Pope of the Sedevacantist Tendency, but, in this respect ... BAD

S John Paul II, in 1987, two decades after the Council, behaved himself in a way rooted in the Hermeneutic of Continuity; his change was 'organic'. Despite the fact that this pontiff is a bete noire among some traddies ... GOOD

Well, there you go. But I do have one more, very tasty, detail, relating to Good Popes and Bad Popes, to share with you.

14 June 2016

Organic Development (1)

Vatican II, in Sacrosanctum Concilium, mandated that liturgical innovations, if required by a 'true and certain usefulness', should happen 'organically' (organice quodammodo). I would like to explore this a little by taking a magnifying glass to one particular detail. The tiniest details can illustrate big facts.

Here is a psalm which will so familiar to nearly all readers from Benediction that I will not bother to translate it.

Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes, laudate eum omnes populi. Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia eius, et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.

During the War, Pope Pius XII ordered a new Latin translation to be made of the Psalter. The work fell into the hands of a protege of his, Cardinal Augustin Bea, who was to play a destructively 'progressive' role during the Council. When the finished product appeared in 1945, there was horror on all sides except among the people involved in producing it. The Committee had translated the Hebrew text into a sort of Classical Latin and had obviously regarded with contempt, not only the texts which the Church had previously used but the whole tradition of Christian Latinity and the culture it embodies.

Readers of this blog will know that the Latin Church's Bible and Liturgy are in a particular dialect of Latin which developed in the first Christian Centuries. And those of you who have heard lectures I have been privileged to give in variously places when I have been invited to do so will be familiar with the name of the great Dutch Classical scholar Christine Mohrmann; who analysed and wrote brilliantly about this ancient and specifically Christian dialect of Latin which has fed and nurtured Latin Christianity for nearly two millennia. My heroine! She and experts like her castigated the Pian psalter.

She - and they - were right to do so. The entire exercise constituted a massive and contemptuous disdain of the worship, theology, and spirituality of Latin Christianity. It exemplified the Hermeneutic of Rupture with a vengeance, and did all this some twenty years BEFORE the Council.

In the second part of this piece, I am going to argue that Pius XII's action gives us a powerful example of change which is not organic and which therefore ought to be resisted by right-thinking Catholics. And we shall see that the Magisterium of the Church itself came, within a generation, to the conclusion that a big mistake had been made. So the Magisterium itself, by its own example, taught and teaches that non-organic innovation should be resisted and, ultimately, reversed! But we have further episodes to study before we have that conclusion safely in the bag.

To be continued

13 June 2016

Requiescant in pace

Those who died in the most truly appalling events at Orlando ... may they, through the all-atoning Sacrifice of our most sweet Redeemer and our suffrages, have remission of their sins: we pray this for them as we pray it for all the departed, since as Christians we believe that anyone who claims to be without sin is deceiving himself and the Truth is not in him. This, of course, goes equally for popes and for rent-boys and for you and for me.

Humanly, we may surely hope that many of those killed in a situation which prima facie may have been at least a proximate occasion of mortal sin, may, through their own ignorance, not have had that full knowledge and consent which would render their deeds and intentions as lethal subjectively as they are objectively. It is a sobering thought that it may be easier for us, who are instructed Catholics, to go to Hell than it is for the uninstructed.

And we pray for the wounded; for the families, friends, survivors, witnesses of those who died. Perhaps a particular prayer is appropriate for those who were not aware that their sons or daughters were being drawn into intrinsically disordered actions: parents for whom the horror of so dreadful a bereavement may even be  increased by that realisation.

And I think we need to be aware that the Hierarchs of the Spirit of this Age will use this fearful atrocity for their own purposes. Treating the victims of a deranged murderer as martyrs for a noble cause is likely to become a stock element in the perverted parody of the moral high ground which the Powers of Evil seek to inculcate. And it will become part of a campaign which, if it succeeds, will lead to the increasingly violent persecution of anybody who articulates the teaching of Scripture and of the Catholic Church (Catechism paragraphs 2357 and following).

12 June 2016

Papal footwear

Sometimes it is suggested that we should see a significance in the fact that the beloved Pope Emeritus, our Holy Father Benedict XVI, continues to wear 'papal white'.

A historical error is embedded in this proposal. For Popes to wear white simpliciter has a complicated history but, briefly, is a fairly recent innovation. Traditionally, the papal colour was red (with a dash of white undergarment). This is another reason why it was a pity when the newly elected Bergoglio declined to wear the traditional red papal overgarments offered him by Mgr Marini.

Benedict XVI as pope made his knowledge of this clear by changing the colour of the crosses on the papal Pallium from black to red. And also by resuming the wearing of red shoes. Similarly, and most significantly, he ceased to wear them when he abdicated. He now appears in brown shoes.

Because he is no longer Pope.

It is a shame that his successor has given up the traditional chromatic indications that he is Pope. Or rather, has decided that he believes "white means Pope". Such ruptures in continuity (and misunderstandings) diminish the power of all symbolism. But ...

There is only one Pope, and his name is Francis. And wearing white doesn't make a man a pope.

Incidentally, white cassocks must show the dirt, and need cleaning, very much more often than a black cassock would. A sympathy for all things ecological would suggest that Pope Francis should give up the wearing of a white cassock. Appearing as an ordinary priest in a black cassock would also be a real sign of humility. Patriarch Bartholomew is not ashamed to appear in black.

I wonder how old the custom is of the Patriarchs of Moskow and Romania wearing (some) white.

11 June 2016

Second Vespers of S Barnabas ...

 ... are to be sung tonight in Merton Chapel at 8.30, by the Schola Abelis.

Wozzat you say?  Vespers of a III class feast displacing a Sunday First Vespers?

I like to think of it as II Vespers of the Titular of S Barnie's sung especially for former members of the Barnie congregation now in Full Communion. Or in memory of them ... sic transit gloria mundi ...

Because what a role Barnie's did play back in those golden days when Anglo-Catholicism seemed triumphant. Not that I ever strayed, myself, far from the Tridentine precision of Mags, unless to cross the Bosporus to Canterbury Road and the Zernovs. Barnie's glory was really of an earlier generation than the Sixties ...

" ... polychromatical lacing of bricks./ Good Lord, as the angelus floats down the road,/ Byzantine St Barnabas, be thine abode.// Where once the fritillaries hung in the grass/ A baldachin pillar is guarding the Mass./ ..."

The power of those anapaests ...

8 June 2016

Politticians? Flowers?

The other day, I was reading some Art History in the Italian Language, in which I am very far from competent. I found myself stumped by the information that "il polittico e stato assegnato a Jacobello del Fiore ... ".

Politico? No; polittico with definitely two ts. It's not in my Collins Italian Dictionary. A misprint? But how could (exempli gratia) Signor Berlusconi, given his reputed sexual interests, be "assigned to Little Jaimie of the Flower"?

Only some hours later did it dawn on me that Polittico must be Eye Tie for Polyptych.

What a fool I felt! And am!!

No need to to express warm agreement with this post, or to give additional evidence for coming to the conclusion supra.

7 June 2016

"Pope Francis"?

In Amoris laetitia, in the English translation of the authoritative but non-existent Latin, such phrases as "Irregular Relationships" are always printed thus, i.e. within inverted commas. I decided to demonstrate this blog's loyalty and subservience to the current regime by always printing the words "Pope Francis" or "Holy Father" (etc.) within inverted commas.

But then I realised that such a convention would make it appear, to those who do not regularly read this blog, that I espoused the silly but also disastrously dangerous heresy of Sedevacantism. Which I most certainly do not.

Can some intelligent reader suggest a way in which, without creating such a misunderstanding, I could emulate the Holy Father's new and exciting typographical usage?

Just a moment: I've had a brilliant idea: could we not commission a Revised Standard Version Even-More-Catholic-Edition lectionary in which, within the Decalogue, the terms "Kill", "Adultery", "Steal", "False Witness", "Covet" will all be printed within inverted commas?

And how about a new liturgical convention: whenever the priest, or deacon or subdeacon, has to read/sing some unBergoglian judgmental term in the silly old Scriptures, he will (first having made a moderate inclination to the crucifix) turn towards the people and make the conventional "inverted commas" sign (putting both his hands up by his ears and waggling the index and middle fingers) ... Ecclesia Dei must lose no time issuing a formal decree to this effect ... we shall need a new edition of Fortescue O'Connell ... preachers will need to get into the habit of doing the same thing during homilies ... perhaps the entire congregation should do it during the Pater noster when we get to the word "Evil" at the end ...

There! I bet some of you doubters out there never thought this pope would usher in a great new era of ritual innovation and pedantic rubricism!!!

Viva il Papa!!

6 June 2016

Ecumenism!! Vivat! Vivat!!

What a wonderful picture last Saturday on Fr Zed's blog! A Macedonian legislator giving our Holy Father a Triregnum, a triple papal Tiara! Made by Orthodox nuns! Covered with fresh water pearls from the lake near their Convent! Long live the nuns! Long live the true (if wounded) Particular Churches of Macedonian Orthodoxy, Sister Churches of the Church of Rome! (Vide Dominus Iesus para 17; Communionis notio para 17.) Sadly, there are historical factors which mar the unity of the Macedonian Churches, not only with the See of S Peter, but also with other Orthodox Churches. May the Lord gather us all into unity.

If you google Rajcica, and Manastir Rajcica, you will find charming little videos of the Convent; the Sisters (who seem all to be young); the Church with its fantastic late Byzantine murals; its ikons; and its major relic of the hand of S George, its Titular, in a splendid slver reliquary. You will also be able to see the Sisters hard at work producing ... mitres! I mean, those Byzantine crown-shaped mitres which bishops of that rite wear. How fortunate Papa Bergoglio is to be able, now, at long last, to prove his ecumenical credentials by wearing headgear of authentic Byzantine provenance! And what can Bergoglio, what can we all, learn from this charming episode? This is how it seems to me:

We all need to be reminded (in that beautiful old phrase) to Become, to Be what we Are. To live, in God's Grace, the life of the Baptism which incorporated us into Christ; life in the power of the Holy Spirit which came upon us when we received the sphragis. And even the Bishop of Rome needs to be reminded to Be what he Is: the Bishop who builds up and expresses the unity of the Church Militant here on earth; the one whose particular task it is as a remora to repel any 'new doctrine' and to guard and faithfully to expound the Tradition he has received through the Apostles; the Deposit of the Faith.

Any Pope can only truly manifest his unique charism by being Pope in eodem sensu eademque sententia as his predecessors in so august an office. There can never be a 'new' papacy; only the office instituted of old by the Lord in Blessed Peter.

The Triregnum, in its gradually and organically evolved form, as reproduced by these nuns, is a beautiful piece of workmanship and a perfectly exquisite reminder of all those truths; basically, of all those continuities.

Realistically, it may be improbable that Pope Francis will ever wear it (it is a shame that he was not big and generous, human and humble enough a man, to pop it on his head for a tiny moment just for the official photographer; think of the simple but immense pleasure such an impulsive gesture would have given to the women who laboured upon it). But it will still be a gracious mark of respect to the admirable nuns and to the noble Churches of Macedonia if he has it sent to the Sacristies of S Peter's with instructions that it be set upon the head of the statue of S Peter (the seated one cast from the metal secured when they melted down Capitoline Juppiter) when his feast is celebrated later this month.

I wonder if that thought has occurred to Francis or to the circle that surrounds him.

Lux ex Oriente!

5 June 2016

British and Catholic? (2)

But there is a way in which Waugh does harmonise his Catholicism and his Britishness. He is at pains to present a picture of Catholicism which is comfortable with the English mindset. This he does partly by putting less comfortable manifestations of Catholicism upon the lips of characters from whom the author is clearly to a degree distancing himself, culturally although not theologically. "Mr Goodall was [in church on All Souls' Day], popping in and down and up and out and in again assiduously, releasing toties quoties soul after soul from Purgatory. 'Twenty-eight so far', he said. 'I always try and do fifty'". Perhaps  most significantly, in Brideshead Charles Ryder says "D'you know, Bridey, if ever I felt for a moment like becoming a Catholic, I should only have to talk to you for five minutes to be cured. You manage to reduce what seem quite sensible propositions to stark nonsense." One of the intriguing aspects of Brideshead is that Waugh gives the non-Catholic characters all the best arguments against Catholicism, and, at the end, while allusively making clear that Ryder has now become a Catholic, he never gives the 'answers' to all those earlier descriptions of the case against Catholicism.

There are two very minor details which Potter seems to me to have got wrong. (1) Waugh makes it clear that the priest, working as a German spy, who tried to extract military information from Crouchback, made this attempt, not "in confession", but after Absolution, when the Sacrament is complete, and the priest is no longer bound by the Seal. A priest would hardly put "extra questions ... in confession" to a penitent with the intention of reporting the answers to the Abwehr! (2) Julia Flyte's 'marriage' to Rex Mottram was invalid; it would not have been difficult to establish that she was canonically free to marry as a Catholic. The problem was that Charles Ryder was not free to marry while his wife Celia, whom he had validly married as a non-Catholic, still lived. That is why Julia has to "give up this one thing I want so much".

3 June 2016

Sacred Heart Sermon

The picture beside the blog shows me preaching the following sermon at an Extraordinary Form Sung Latin Mass for the Sacred Heart, back in 2010 when I was still pp of S Thomas the Martyr.

 As I read the prayer Iesu dulcissime, prescribed by Pius XI in 1928 to be said in all parish churches, I wondered if my neighbour at S Ebbe's was remembering to do the same. That prayer is an act of Reparation ordered to be offered to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for all the insults and blasphemies against that Sacred Heart. Pius XI, you will remember, was the pope who revised the propers for Mass and Office and endowed the Feast of the Sacred Heart with a (short-lived) Octave. And, in this Act of Reparation, one of the offenses to be expiated is: immodest and unbecoming dress.

Immodest dress in 1928! I rather think that 1928 means we were moving towards the era of the Flappers; slinky dresses; jazz; cocktails; the Charleston. Pius XI was also the pope who ordered the feast of Christ the King to be observed, as a marker against the Age of the Great Dictators and of the overmighty state. What a combative pontiff Papa Ratti must have been, despite his dusty decades as Prefect in the Vatican Libraries. He was a veritable Pope of the Church Militant, with one hand swiping at the Dictators of Left and Right; with the other, administering a firm smack to the Flappers.

But is there really an equivalence between Stalin and the Flappers? The Flappers may have been a trifle naughty, but they surely weren't murderous? They didn't send you to gulags or contrive a genocidal famine in the Ukraine. Yet ... I wonder. This age of ours, an age of sexual license, of which the Thirties were perhaps the first care-free dawn, has led to a new Holocaust: of the unborn. I don't think you have to be over-imaginative to join up a line of dots between the flirty skirts of the Thirties and the era of the overmighty abortionists. Which may serve to remind us that it was Pius XI who also, in his Encyclical Casti connubii, defended the principles of Christian Marriage.

I suspect one could draw conclusions about the prophetic role of the Papacy from all this. But today, in conclusion, I want simply to underline Pius XI's promotion of the cult of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart is an iconographical topos only too easy to ridicule. You remember how that acute liturgical commentator, Professor Richard Dawkins, not long ago, evoked a wonderful picture of the Church tumbling around Pope Benedict's ears "amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch Sacred Hearts": rhetoric almost worthy of the great Goebbels himself. Indeed. The World does not admire those who find refuge in the widely-opened Sacred Heart of Jesus; our idols, our 'celebrities', are only too often the shallow and the promiscuous and the foul-mouthed, not the quiet contemplative rapt in adoring and intercessory prayer before the pierced Heart of our Saviour. But God has chosen what the World calls Foolish to shame the Clevers; what the World calls weak, to confound the Macho; because in the opened Heart of Christ crucified, what the World calls foolishness and weakness is made to be the strength and the wisdom of God.

2 June 2016

British and Catholic (1)

Martin Potter has written a most thought-provoking book with this title, and the subtitle National and Religious Identity in the Work of David Jones, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark. It is published by Peter Lang in their "Cultural Identity Studies" series (ISBN 978-3-0343-0860-1). His thesis is that these three writers develop a theory of British Catholic identity which emphasises harmony and transcends the potential conflict; which stresses harmonisation between disparate elements rather than conflict; an approach based upon a philosophy of integration.

I am not sure that this is the complete picture, at least as far as Waugh is concerned. I will give later some considerations which do indeed converge with Potter's approach; but I feel that we should also remember Waugh's profound personal dissociation from the British national enterprise in WW2 ... a dissociation which radically severs Waugh from the comfortable self-congratulatory narrative which pervaded this country towards the end of the War in and the years that followed. It is clear that Waugh does not share the view of his character Box-Bender who commends Cardinal Hinsley on the ground that he is an Englishman before he is a Catholic. And in Scott King Waugh opines that the War has become just a tug of war between two teams of indistinguishable louts. Waugh, like his characters, began the War seeing it as a crusade in defence of what, with Aidan Nichols, we will call Christendom; but he ended up condemning it as the Modern World in Arms. The cynicism with which he writes about The Sword of Stalingrad, surely, says it all, and must be seen as the reaction of a traditional Catholic who had been compelled to be personally complicit in the persecution by Tito's partisans of Royalists, Catholics, and Jews. This is not a man whose Catholic identity sets him comfortably in the national mainstream.

Continues on June 5.

1 June 2016

The Power of the Spirit

We who spent most of our lives in the Church of England have had much more experience of the Power of the Spirit than most cradle Catholics. I like to think that we have benefited from this experience.

For the first part of my life, the Spirit was urging the 'churches' towards unity. A pedant might suspect that He was sometimes a little one-sided. In His enthusiasm for the C of E to unite with all sorts of Protestant denominations, He urged Anglicans to go easy on those things they had received which obstructed such 'reunion', such as the sacramental and ministerial structures and doctrines of Catholic Christendom. While maintaining, verbally and formally, His desire for the unity of the Church of England with all Christians, even with "the Great Latin Church of the West", it was clear that what He was in a particular hurry about was getting it into bed with the Methodists next door, the Congregationalists in India, the Moravians, the ... you-name-it. He was consistent in His guidance that we should never make a fetich of the old things which we had received. Although organic unity has not yet been actually achieved as such, He was successful in clearing the ground of any so-called 'principles' which might stand in its way.

Accordingly, some three decades ago, His priorities changed. Unity went on to His back-burner. What the Spirit now saw as the urgent priority was the "justice issue" of the admission of women to Holy Orders. Mightily, yet gently and graciously, He led Anglicans to accept this. Even more recently, openness to and acceptance of "Diversity" in every area of sexuality has become His latest priority. With restless persuasiveness, He pleads in Anglican hearts the needs of the poor and the broken, such as Trans people (although He does not yet deem it quite opportune to advance the cause of pedophiles).

Always the Spirit has been faithfully there, reliably and unfailingly present, urging the Anglican Communion on to that Newness which, in every age, is His real purpose; powerfully calling all Anglicans to be docile to His urgings; leading them away from the old and on to the New Thing; His Great Surprise.

I was rereading the other day the epic narrative of C S Lewis's Perelandra [aka 'Voyage to Venus'], where, in a memorable agon, this very same Spirit urges the Woman on to the great New Adventure of turning away from Maleldil's known command so as, paradoxically, to please him all the more by "doing what he really wants". 

May God mercifully preserve his Catholic Church Militant from all the promptings of this Spirit.