30 August 2016

Important Details

(1) Don't forget Cardinal Sarah!! He has repeated the excellent advice he gave gave about ad Orientem  worship, despite the hooha which this created. Do my brother priests have their catechetical addresses on the subject prepared and ready, now that the holiday season is drawing to its close? Don't let His Eminence down!!

(2) A recent comment referred to b*****t. Isn't there an asterisk missing here? Or does the writer have in mind some term with which, in my clerical ignorance or prudery, I am unfamiliar?

(3) The Magical Magisterium: Naught for your comfort

As readers will have surmised from my narrative and my rhetoric so far, it is my view that a dogma with an implicit "Use Before" note on the packaging is not really dogma at all, however much it blusters and flusters.

This pontificate, whatever ever else it has done, has forced upon us a reconsideration of the question "What degree of obsequium religiosum is to be attached to the statements of Roman Pontiffs, or of Episcopal Conferences?" This is far from being a new question; but the eccentricities and unpredictabilities of the current Successor of S Peter pose it in a new and acute form. I have lived under six previous Roman Pontiffs and one Ecumenical Council, and, without attempting detailed and precise discrimination of the levels of authority involved in different types of document, I received everything they said in the simple hope and expectation of being fed and led by it. Benedict XVI was a fantastic Leader and Feeder!! But Francis has completely changed (what I believe North Americans for some peculiar reason call) the Ball Game.

I assure you that I am not sitting here in front of my computer impatiently waiting to unload upon you my own instantaneous and brilliant solution to this most grave problem. Indeed, I feel that I have 'naught for your comfort' to say to you.

For starters ~ I feel I have nothing much better than this to suggest: a piece of teaching makes a claim on our assent and respect directly in proportion to the extent to which it can be most plainly seen to be in unruptured continuity from, and compatible with, what has been taught before.

Sadly, this puts the old, easy, comfortable, perhaps even lazy, receptivity and docilitas I describe above in my second paragraph out of court.

Even more deplorably, it puts us to a degree into the hands of "Experts"; those with the technical expertise to help us to discern how 'continuous' and 'compatible' a particular papal or episcopal statement is. But is there any alternative? In any case, under the old system we did rather tend to need experts to analyse the magisterial level of a document.

One example, indeed, of the technical expertise we're going to be needing more of in the future is the judgements Cardinal Burke, a canonist, has expressed about the extent to which Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia can attract the convenient old label of 'Magisterial'. One might, indeed, fearfully wonder whether Papa Bergoglio has volens nolens rendered the entire concept of the 'Magisterial' potentially obsolete. I simply do not know. I hope not. The Church so badly needs it. Let us pray that damage already done will not prove irreparable. Deep waters.

A second example has to be the Letter to the Cardinals which 45 writers from all over the Catholic World sent to Their Eminences, humbly asking them to beg the Sovereign Pontiff to resolve apparent ambiguities in his strange document Amoris laetitia. If you have not yet read that Letter, I urge you to do so, and to urge others to do likewise. Do not be put off by the hostility shown towards the Letter by some prominent cardinals and other prelates. After all, one of the practical difficulties in this present crisis is working out whether such Eminences and such Most Reverend Gentlemen are parts of the problem or parts of the solution. We had a similar problem a just few years ago during the Arian Crisis.

Hard days. Hard graft.

One more section will, Deo volente, conclude this piece.

29 August 2016

Metropolitan Hilarion

The Moynihan Report (my thanks to Professor Tighe) has a fascinating interview with many people's  favourite Orthodox, Metropolitan Hilarion, which I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Longish; but never boring.

His account of 'modern biblical scholarship' is bang on; this is how he concludes his own demolition of that farrago of superannuated nonsense: "This, in my view, absurd and blasphemous approach to the Gospel now almost dominates Western New Testament scholarship".

And what a very 'Oxford' man the Metropolitan is (DPhil Oxon). In the interview you will meet Timothy Ware (aka Metropolitan Kallistos), and the superb Sebastian Brock, "the best specialist in Syrian literature in the world". Would anybody, except Sebastian, dispute that verdict?

How jolly ... to soak himself in the Eastern Fathers, Hilarion went to Oxford and sat at the feet of Anglo-Catholic or ex-Anglican scholars! Is he to be categorised as yet another product of what Manning so bitterly but so beautifully called "the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone"?

More prosaically: Hilarion has a very simple but wonderfully good piece of advice on how to learn a language. He should have patented it.

28 August 2016

(2) The Magical Magisterium: now you see it, now you don't

I would like to put the argument of my first piece with the above title a trifle more crudely, just to prove that I am as adept as the next man at smelling of the sheep. 'Demotic' is my middle name.

As we have seen, we now have a situation in which a Pope, or an Episcopal Conference, can apparently disregard or treat with contempt what a Pope taught or enacted as little as seven (or nine) years previously. Let us explore the implications of this. Are you sitting comfortably?

Suppose you have a Church which claims a Magisterium, a Teaching Authority which (it says) possesses a divine guarantee. Now ... be realistic. Such a body might, if sufficiently dishonest, be able to get away with unobtrusively ditching some unwanted doctrine in a few centuries. Only dusty old pedants might notice. What I am suggesting is that such a Church will find it much, much less easy to get away unnoticed with ditching a dogma in less than a decade. People remember; people notice ... people who accepted the earlier teaching and have a problem with the change will notice it; and so will the people who disagreed with the original formulation and are now cock-a-hoop about the fact that our wonderful new pope Francis IV has just dumped it. The change will be obvious to both sides.

What is going on now is, in my view, gravely worrying, for the following reason: the whole plausibility of the Papal Magisterium, and of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, is being severely undermined. Perhaps, already has been.

Suppose this pope, or any pope hereafter, puts out some, any, piece of teaching. Any Catholic will have every right to ask a question somewhat along these lines:

"Thank you very much indeed, Holy Father. Most interesting. Lovely stuff. Now ... can you just clarify one detail ... that teaching you've just given us ... when is its use-by date? Is it one of the cut-price Seven Year Decrees favoured by the English bishops, or one of your own much more durable Nine Year Jobs?"

So when ... for example ... will Laudato si get to the seven-year expiry date which the CBCEW has with such sophistication imposed on a magisterial enactment of Benedict XVI? By my calculation, on 24 May, 2022. Then we shall all be able to heave a great sigh of relief and happily get back to the agreeable occupation of trashing "the Common Home". Yes?

But stay: what's so Magical about seven years? Surely the CBCEW will not want to be reported to Bergoglio as being Inflexible and lacking in Mercy? I'm sure its members all have salami slicers in their kitchens. Why not five years? Three? One? Or ... yes ... surely, "Six Months" has a rather lovely flavour to it?

So perhaps Laudato si expired on November 24 2015? Or will you accuse me of irrationally fetichising the Sixness of that? "You idiot, three months is more than long enough", I hear you all noisily cry. I "fess up", as the young people say. I have not a leg to stand on. Perhaps, just for bureaucratic neatness, we should assume that a papal teaching enjoys validity between the date of its official promulgation, and the date when its text is released.

To be, just for one moment, dead serious and to drop all that irony: I very much fear (1) lest this pontificate go down in history as the occasion when Pope Francis I cut off the magisterial branch he was sitting on; and  
(2) that it may be very much more difficult for a future pope to glue the branch back onto the tree.

We did once see, in Ireland, a man demolishing a wall by standing on top of it and whacking it with a crowbar. Happy days. Happy country.

Deo volente, this piece will continue with two more sections.

27 August 2016

Ordinariates and Thompson

A reader has asked my comments on a recent Catholic Herald article by Damian Thompson. The notes which follow are, of course, purely and entirely my own private opinions.

DT, poor poppet, rarely gets things quite right. Hostility towards the Ordinariate is by no means anything like universal among the CBCEW. Quite the opposite. I have experienced only kindness and generosity from Crispian Hollis and Philip Egan, successive bishops of the diocese in which I geographically reside. Bishop Egan is a most distinguished and orthodox bishop who is exercising a very fine teaching ministry and is admired as a pastor by his laypeople and clergy alike. I consider it a piece of great good fortune to be living within his jurisdiction, even though he is not my bishop; and (from what I hear) there are not a few benevolent Catholic bishops around.

Nor is DT anywhere near being right in suggesting that the Ordinariate is about to fade away. The enthusiasm for it, and the sheer joie de vivre at our meetings, are almost palpable. It is true that one or two priests have "gone native" and submerged themselves into the Diocesan Churches, but this is not our major problem. Lack of money, of course, is. We had, as Anglicans, built up a number of quite wealthy organisations in our 150 years, but some 'continuing Anglo-Catholics' were so unkeen to see any of this shared out between them and us that they went to the Charity Commissioners. I can hardly deny that our poverty holds us back. It makes us, and our Ordinary, rather ... er ... beholden ...

But we do have a splendid organisation of Friends of the Ordinariate, which helps us in financial and other ways. Catholics sympathetic to our Ordinariate vocation to promote vernacular but highly traditional and beautiful worship, could stand with us by joining with or contributing to the Friends.

One reason why we in the Ordinariate are admittedly a bit shorter on laity than we would like to be is the policy of the Church of England, of never allowing us to take a church with us or even to share a church with a 'continuing' congregation. Anglican layfolk are extremely attached to their church buildings, which very often embody the endearing evidences of the struggles of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. One C of E bishop allegedly said "I'd rather see one of my churches bulldozed than let the Ordinariate have it [or even share it]"; which may be a very natural episcopal attitude in fallen, human terms, but it would have been Nice to see some evidences of Christianity and of grace among the Anglican Episcopate. Of our two churches, one came our way because the C of E had already got rid of it into secular hands; the other, because some Methodists, anxious that their chapel should remain in Christian use, with a generosity of mind which should shame the Anglican episcopate sold it to our local Group on reasonable terms.

I might add that the Anglican Use Church of our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio gives a splendid example of what can be done by a truly dynamic pastor. By now, only a minority of Fr Phillips' congregation have 'Anglican Previous'. But his numerous Masses and his very fine school are packed. It is quite an experience to hear so many Hispanic voices getting their mouths round Cranmer's Tudor English!

One reason why we lack a little (but not very much) of our original sense of impetus is an unwillingness somewhere in the Catholic system to make it easy for Anglican clergy to transit into the Ordinariate. I know quite a number of priests who had always planned, when they qualified for their full C of E pension (at 65ish), to be able to offer themselves for ministry full-time in the Catholic Church for no more recompense than a rent-free presbytery. The guidelines for their admission to the Ordinariate presbyterate seem to me, as far as I understand them, a bit ungenerous. One almost wonders if there might not be Catholic bishops who would rather see one of their churches bulldozed that to let Ordinariate Anglicans staff and maintain it! One hears quite often, or so it seems, of Catholic diocesans planning to amalgamate parishes and close churches. But, properly managed, there could have been an available pool of experienced pastors willing to help out and thus keep the churches open. It is not quite too late, even now, to adopt such a policy. We could call it the Flood Gates Initiative.

But poor old DT did get it dead right at one point. Not that his words represent Rocket Science: even I with my very modest intellect have often advocated this on my blog. I refer to the releasing of the Ordinariate Mass for every priest who wished to use it. That would be a tremendous leap forward in the Church's Mission to the English people. An obvious way of doing this would be to empower our Ordinary to grant faculties to Diocesan Clergy to celebrate our Mass for their people. Again, however, this matter is not entirely in our hands. Some Catholic bishops might be less keen than others. Who knows. 

But it is lawful already for a Catholic priest who is asked by members of the Ordinariate (who lack an available Ordinariate priest) to celebrate our Mass to do so, without any special faculties. Perhaps local on-the-ground initiatives are called for.

26 August 2016

(1) The Magical Magisterium: now you see it, now you don't

Mine is a nation which has produced some magnificently Eminent Magicians. The great Tommy Cooper, and the recently deceased Paul Daniels, spring to mind. But neither of them was ever created a Cardinal Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon, of the Holy Roman Church. Yet each of them was a masterly exponent of the the principle which, apparently, now animates some our most senior cardinals: Now you see it, now you don't. The Magisterium pops up, and then as rapidly gets its head down again. One moment, the rabbit is in full view of the audience. The next, it is nowhere to be seen. "Magisterium? What Magisterium?" cries the Magician, carefully adjusting his zucchetto. "I think you must have been imagining it".

Let me explain what I mean by giving two examples.
(1) In 2007, Benedict XVI restated (Sacramentum Caritatis para.29) the immemorial praxis of the Church, based upon the ipsissima verba Domini, articulated in successive magisterial documents, of declining to offer Holy Communion to unrepentant adulterers, i.e. "remarried" divorcees. But in 2016, nine years later, Francis published Amoris laetitia, which has been interpreted by many, both friends and critics, as opening a door to modification of that praxis; or as "generating processes" which must inevitably lead to its replacement.
(2) In 2008, Benedict XVI introduced into the Extraordinary Form Liturgy a revised Prayer for the Jews (based upon Roman 11:25-26), doing so explicitly so as to resolve the controversies involving earlier forms of that Prayer. This is of significance because of the intimate connection between the Lex orandi and the Lex credendi. Indeed, both those who stand by Pope Benedict, and those who now collaborate to rubbish his pontificate, may be said to agree on the profound importance of this question (otherwise they wouldn't keep on about it, would they?). Yet, in 2015, the English Bishops asked a Vatican sub-committee to "review" what a Roman Pontiff had enacted only seven years before. An accompanying document made clear that "review" meant "change".

Any ecclesiology which can be adduced to give support to a situation in which, seven or even nine years after the act, a magisterial pronouncement or enactment of a Roman Pontiff, expressive of Scripture and of Apostolic Tradition, can be treated as so much disposable garbage, now you see it, now you don't, is an ecclesiology which I, for one, repudiate from the bottom of my heart. And will continue to repudiate as widely and with as much energy as my advancing years allow me.

Some people tell me that the Graf von Schoenborn is a man of immense and winning personal charm. I can only say that when he gave that sweetly shifty smile and in effect told a questioner at the News Conference introducing Amoris laetitia "Well, dear, it's all about development, don'tya know", I found myself instantly convinced that I would not buy a second-hand can of baked beans from a man like that.

To be continued.

25 August 2016

The Roman Rite of 1965

In 1965 two liturgical texts appeared and were imposed by authority. It was ordered that they be incorporated in the Roman Missal and faithfully observed "ab omnibus".

The first was an Ordo Missae. It was a very lightly revised Order, which nobody could criticise as belonging to a hermeneutic of total rupture. Its 'organic' changes were, mainly, the elimination of the psalm Judica (which was in any case not invariably said in the earlier rite) and of the Last Gospel (which also already had its rubrical elements of instability). The Doxology of the Canon and the Libera nos were to be said or sung aloud. Corpus Christ became the form at the administration of Holy Communion to the people - a rite which now became integral to the Order of Mass instead of an occasional appendage. Optionally, the Liturgy of the Word could be done at the sedilia.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre himself contentedly used this revised Order of Mass for some years, and only reverted to the books of 1962 in the mid 1970s when it had become clear what a disastrous rupture had been introduced. Indeed, there was a decade or so during which priestly celebrants at Econe differed slightly among themselves as to how they offered the Old Mass.

I have two suggestions to adumbrate. (1) A few weeks later, Rome issued an Order for Concelebration to go with the revised Order of Mass. That rite of Concelebration presupposed the substantially unspoiled Old Rite of Mass. The concelebrants were to wear all their vestments - including the maniple. They were recommended to hold a paten under the Host after receiving it. But I find most interesting the features of this rite which were forgotten when the Novus Ordo, and its associated rite of Concelebration, were authorised. The 1965 rubrics were very concerned about the numbers of concelebrants (Bad Marini's book gives background to this particular worry). The bishop was ordered to keep an eye on this. The controlling principle was to be that all the concelebrants be able to stand around the altar, even though each one might not be able directly to touch it. This would exclude the monster concelebrations which have become fashionable, and which are so profoundly unedifying.

The rite also repeated the Conciliar provision that every priest retains an almost absolute right to say his own separate Mass.

It has, I know, been suggested that this Rite of Concelebration is still legally available to accompany the Traditional Mass. You need to imagine a procession of priests, not in 'concelebration chasubles' but respectable chasubles ... and maniples ... and birettas ... processing up the Church, perhaps holding in their hands before their breasts the patens they will be using. Vessels for the purification of their fingers will need to be provided ...

It seems to me that we traditionalists ought to be open to proper 'organic' development of the Liturgy. At the moment, in the RC Church, traditionalists are naturally so wounded by the traumata of the last 40 years that they need the stability of the 1962 rite in its unmuckedaboutwith state. That is natural.  But in principle, Traditionalism is damaged by being turned into Fundamentalism. Liturgy has always - organically - developed, and so, paradoxically, this mutability is part of Tradition. Ultimately, we are all going to have to free ourselves from unnecessary hangups and a fetich for the rite of some particular year. After all, what is so splendid about 1962? In my view, the usages in place before the Pontificate of Pius XII began would be distinctly preferable to the maimed usages of 1962.

And in my opinion, a 'traditional' mindset would restrict Concelebration to the Chrism Mass, Ordinations, the Pontifical celebration of the Easter Vigil, and perhaps when the Bishop comes on Visitation; in other words, occasions when the summus sacerdos offers the August Sacrifice in intimate union with his presbyterium and thus manifests the unity of of the sacerdotium. And it would insist on Concelebration being done as described in 1965. And make clear that daily celebration is the norm for each priest each day.

And (2) ... much as I love High Mass, I think there could be a place for Mass Sung by a Priest and a Deacon. Who would lose anything if the rubrics for such a liturgy were devised and authorised?

If people comment angrily to the effect that Concelebration is in itself objectionable and unCatholic, I shall repeat  ... yet again ... one or both of my two old series about the teaching and practice of the popes from Innocent III (d 1216) to Benedict XIV (d 1758). You have been warned!

22 August 2016

Adrian Fortescue

A kind friend has alerted me to a fine piece on the blog Eastern Christian Books (August 12), with regard to the use and overuse of the Petrine munus docendi. It ends with a good quote from Adrian Fortescue.

Adam deVille, unlike some people, is never boring and never talks nonsense.

We should never forget that there are some very level-headed chaps over there in the Byzantine Rite sui iuris Churches. Perhaps, after Cardinal Sarah, it will be time for a Byzantine-rite pope. It would be quite like being back in the first millennium, wouldn't it, to be having African and Greek popes again.

I must read that blog more regularly.

Eirene pasin.

21 August 2016

Mostly Philology

~ For some months now, I have noticed this phenomenon: some people being interviewed by journalists begin their every reply with the word "So ... ". (Rather as, for years, some of us began every answer to a question with "Well, ... er ...".)

Does anybody have any ideas about how, why, where, this arose?

I have never noticed any analogous changes in the use of particles in the Attic Greek of different periods. Have you?

~ I rather think that the more extreme "Yer-knowers" are now an aging minority. Yes? No?

~ "I was like" meaning "I said" still seems to me as common as ever among the bimboid classes to whose noisily confidential exchanges I hungrily listen as I sit in my no 35 'bus into Oxford's City Centre. Have you monitored this usage recently?

~ One of our politicians claimed that those now flocking into our Labour Party are Trotskyites. An opponent ridiculed this by saying "Most of the people I saw there were grandfathers and grandmothers". At which end might one begin an analysis of this exchange?

~ One day recently, the main News item was the "issue" of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women being so tremendously difficult to persuade to "enter the workplace". The very next day, the main item was the "issue" of flirting, stroking, groping, touching-up, et huius generis alia, in places where men and women work together. I have heard no member of the Commentariate suggesting that there might, even hypothetically, be any relationship immediate or even mediated between these two "issues". Have you?

~ Do you think "issues" are here to stay, or will they soon be circumvented by a new circumlocution?

My theory about "issues" is that the previous term, "problems", acquired a bad reputation because of aggressive usages such as "I'm a murderer and an embezzler ... (sticking his chin out) ... do you have problems with that?" Thus "problems" became things that it was increasingly difficult to admit to having, and a neutral or non-loaded term was required. Evidence for, evidence against this hypothesis?

20 August 2016

FR LOMBARDI (updated)

Is there any truth in the rumour that vast log-jams built up in S Peter's yesterday among the people queuing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation as Fr Lombardi, on relinquishing his PR appointment in the service  of the Holy Father, made a General Confession?


On reflexion, perhaps unkind. Presumably Fr L is actually a human being with his foibles, his besetting temptations, his own struggles to let Grace dominate his life, just as we all are. But he has been forced by his job volens nolens to create for himself a persona, that of somebody who repeatedly pops out automatically at the pressing of a button to say "When the HF said X, what, of course, he really meant was non-X". This has, I am afraid, become quite funny, and it is not entirely our fault that it has. It was very much this comic persona, the circus clown, that I meant to mock, rather than a real existent Christian Priest, almost certainly a better one than I am, called Federico.

Dawkins and Bugnini are another couple who, I feel, are pretty well metamorphosed into their personae. Possibly also the Holy Father himself, with his "Butterflies" and his "Neo-Pelagian Narcissists" and (a crude, offensive, and inaccurate parody) his "Pharisees". Possibly (a maioribus ad minimum iam descendo) even I ... er ...  

19 August 2016

Rubrical specialists out there ...

The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae says that Religious Orders may use their propriis libris liturgicis anno 1962 vigentibus. Does anybody know whether such books, in, for example, the Dominican or Franciscan or Cistercian or Carmelite Rites, were "kept up to date" (perhaps by an Authority within each Order?) in accordance with the general "reforms" of Roman Rite in the 1950s?

I have in mind things like the decimation of Vigils and Octaves ... the insertion of feasts like S J the Workman (May 1) and BVM Queen (May 31) ... the replacement of Gaudeamus with Signum magnum ...

18 August 2016

Assumpta est

A recent author of a comment on this blog very reasonably argued that Pius XII, if we perform a holistic reading of Munificentissimus Deus and apply a hermeneutic of Continuity, actually does teach that our blessed Lady died. The very same day, I received an intelligent email from a friend who found it repugnant to imagine that she could have been dead, even for a moment. One can, indeed, argue that the restraint of the actual Definition is laudable for not imposing beyond what is necessary upon either 'side'. Fair enough. I am no Torquemada.

But I would add the following: the lex orandi should help us to constitute the lex credendi (I am not too sure what I think about a proposal of Pius XII that this venerable tag operates both ways round). And this suggests to me a massive bias towards the immemorial assumptions of the common ancient traditions of East and West as found in their liturgies. And why should this symphonesis be a problem rather than a source of joy?

And I will repeat a point I made originally: that, as a result of the apophaticism of the Definition, the originally common traditions of East and West have de facto disappeared from the consciousness of the West. Can this really be a matter for denial? It is easy to get the impression that the Western Church regards the old apocryphal stories of the death, burial, and Assumption of our Lady with suspicion; as being rather dubious and 'medieval' and politically incorrect 'folk religion'. Indeed, they are not canonical Scripture. But our ignorance of them means that we can see a medieval alabaster, or mural, of the Assumption - or a Byzantine ikon of the Dormition - and not have the faintest idea what on earth they are all about. Why is that man shown on the Ikon with his hands chopped off? Why did the priest after Mass/Liturgy this morning bless and give flowers to the congregation?

I do not think it was wrong of me to discern something (in Ratzingerian terms) of a Rupture in Pius XII's Definition. Rather like those Conciliar formulae which were designed to be interpreted in different ways by different people! Rather like a certain recent Apostolic Exhortation which quoted Familiaris consortio ... and missed out half the paragraph! This sort of game has become all too tempting to the modern papal machine.

But, even if I was wrong, I suggest that we revisit these stories, even if only to enrich our capacities for perception and comprehension in the field of Christian archaeology and Art History!!

SO ... If you, happily, possess a pre-1950s Breviary, you could have a look at the Mattins readings for today, the IVth Day within the Octave of the Assumption. Otherwise, google your way to (pseudo-)Joseph of Arimathea The Passing of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

17 August 2016

Why was she assumed? A Patrimonial answer

Christians have sometimes based a belief in our Lady's Assumption upon her perpetual virginity; or her freedom from actual sin; or her freedom from original sin; or the inseparable physical bond between her and the Son who shared her flesh and blood, her DNA [a point essentially made by Dom Gueranger]; or the unbreakable bond of love that must exist between Mother and Son. All this I agree with. But as I observed yesterday, the reason most consonant with the liturgical traditions of East and West is that she was assumed so that she could be our Intercessor. Sometimes it is considered that the concept of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces is somehow "extreme" and is a horribly divisive extravagance that any sensible ecumenist (oxymoron?) dreads being defined ex cathedra by some maximalising pope. I disagree. I will make the point by giving a translation of a Secret which was often used in many parts of Europe during this season - including England.

O Lord, may the prayer of the Mother of God commend our offerings before thy merciful kindness; for thou didst translate her from this present Age for this purpose, that (idcirco ... ut) she might confidently (fiducialiter) intercede before thee for our sins.

A considerable Russian theologian, Vladimir Lossky, explained that "freed from the limitations of time, Mary can be the cause of that which is before her; can preside over that which comes  after her. She obtains eternal benefits. It is through her that men and angels receive grace. No gift is received in the Church without the assistance of the Mother of God, who is herself the first-fruits of the glorified Church. Thus, having attained to the limits of becoming, she necessarily watches over the destinies of the Church and of the universe".

Our Lady was assumed that she might be the treasury of God's grace, the Mediatrix of All Graces, the mother whose hands stretch out to bestow. In Newman's majestic words, written while he was still an Anglican: There was a wonder in heaven; a throne was seen, far above all created powers, mediatorial, intercessory; a title archetypical; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the Eternal Throne; robes as pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all ... The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

A well-known Roman Catholic (traditionalist) scholar once said to me that he felt Newman wrote better when he was an Anglican than when he was a Roman Catholic. This passage could stand as evidence. When Newman was beatified, the author of his Anglican writings was beatified too. Nobody is more Patrimonial than Newman.

16 August 2016

Assumptive collects

Forgive, O Lord the offenses of thy servants, that we who by our own deeds are not able to be pleasing unto thee, may by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord [God] be saved.

Thus a literal translation of the collect which, until Pius XII, was said on Assumption day; after the 1950 proclamation of the dogma of our Lady's Corporal Assumtion, it was replaced by a collect more explicitly asserting the corporality of her Assumption. Incidentally, the word [God] appears in earlier texts and I think it ought to be restored because in this age of weakened faith we ought to lose no opportunity of hammering home the Godness, which is not a misprint for goodness, complete and unambiguous, of the rabbi from Nazareth. This old collect, by the way, survives as one among the options in the new rites for the Common of our Lady, and for use on Saturdays, and for August 5, now seen as the commemoration of the Ephesine definition of Theotokos.

Another reason why this collect might give pause for thought is its apparent assertion that we are 'saved' by the intercession of our Lady. A trifle (as some Anglicans might put it) 'extreme'? I do think this needs unpacking. And so I would make two points. (1) Earlier tradition asks the question "why was she assumed?", and gives an answer quite different from that offered by some modern theologians (i.e. that being immaculate she was not subject to death). She was assumed that she might intercede for us. You will find this in a sermon of the great hesychast Father S Gregory Palamas. This Eastern idea appears also in Western texts such as the Gregorian Sacramentary: "Great, O Lord, in the sight of thy loving kindness is the prayer of the Mother of God, whom thou didst translate from this present age for this reason, that (idcirco ut) she might effectually intercede for our sins before thee". "Let the help, O Lord, of the prayer of the Mother of God come to the aid of thy people; although we know that after the condition of the flesh she left this world, may we know that she prays for us before thee in heavenly glory".

And, (2), I feel we should give a broad sense to the word intercession. Yes, it means that she prays for us. But it also means that Mary came between (cessit inter) God and Man when by her fiat she gave birth to the Divine Redeemer. And, in Mary, function and ontology merge; she is eternally what she was in the mystery of the Incarnation.What she did at Nazareth and Bethlehem is what in the Father's eternal creative utterance she is. And so these two senses of 'intercession' are really one.

That is, surely, the root of the dogma of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces.

15 August 2016

Pius XII and the Assumption.

The simplistic notion that the Definition of 1950 regarding the Assumption of our Lady somehow constituted the 'imposition' of a 'new' dogma is quite the opposite of the truth. Put crudely, rather than being Doctrinal Augmentationism, that Definition constituted Doctrinal Reductionism.

The first millennium texts common to Rome and Canterbury expressed a belief common also to the East: that Mary 'underwent temporal death'; that nevertheless she 'could not be held down by the bonds of death' and that the precise reason why God 'translated her from this age' was that 'she might faithfully intercede for our sins'. This is the Ancient Common Tradition of East and West. It is, in fact, expressed clearly in much of the liturgical and patristic evidence which Pius XII cited as evidence for the dogma in Munificentissimus Deus; one suspects that this is because the Pope would have been much shorter of evidence if he had omitted this material. But it is left out of the definition. Which means that it has de facto disappeared from the consciousness of Latin Christendom.

And in the subsequent liturgical changes, our Lady's death and resurrection were censored out of the Divine Office. Yet the old beliefs were good enough for the pages of the Altar Missal of the Anglo-Saxon Archbishops of Canterbury (the 'Leofric Missal'), the faith of S Odo, S Dunstan, S Aelfheah, S Aethelnoth, S Eadsige and very probably of so many other archbishops of Canterbury stretching beyond Plegmund to S Augustine. They were good enough for the Breviary lections during the Octave. Blessed John Henry Newman's justly celebrated sermon on the Assumption makes the same point. She died and was resurrected. Authoritative, surely?

Yet this is not what Pius XII defined. His 1950 definition, as the ARCIC document on Mary accurately reminds us, does not 'use about her the language of death and resurrection, but celebrates the action of God in her.' [A very strange 'but'!] In other words, Pius XII took a machete and slashed ruthlessly at the Common Ancient Tradition about our Lady's end, not simply by ignoring the apocryphal stories about how the Apostles gathered and what they found in the tomb and how S Thomas arrived late and all the rest of it; but also by pruning away even the bare structural bones of what Christians Eastern and Western had harmoniously thought they knew: that she died and was resurrected.

The 1950 decree was not the imposition of some new dogma but the elimination of 99% of what the Common Ancient Tradition had for centuries comfortably shared. Those whose instinctive disposition is to avoid speculation about our Lady's End ought to applaud Pius XII and the radical austerity, the innovative agnosticism, of his definition. He went almost all the way to meet them.

13 August 2016

Meet on Monday??

Deo volente, I shall be celebrating a High Mass of the Assumption on Monday at 7.00 p.m., in the Central Ordinariate Church of the Assumption and S Gregory, Warwick Street in London. The Mass will be in the Latin Tridentine Rite; it would be jolly to meet any reader who happens to be in London on Monday for the Assumption (in England, the actual Obligation is transferred this year to Sunday August 14).

Since it will be the Solemnity of the Titular of a Parish Church, our Blessed Lady Assumed into Heaven, you could also kill two birds with one stone by collecting the available Plenary Indulgence suetis condicionibus!!

Many will know that this historic church was once the Bavarian Embassy Chapel, and has therefore hosted down the years many celebrations related to our de jure Royal House. It had the great distinction of being sacked during the Gordon Riots.

If the Sanctuary looks a bit familiar, that is because the architect of Westminster Cathedral, J F Bentley (1839-1902), rebuilt that end in what looks like a trial run for the Cathedral. If you like that sort of thing, you may very well like it. The rest of the church (as well as its unassuming frontage to the road) looks, with its galleries, reassuringly like a Methodist Chapel.

However, what I particularly enjoy is a relief of our Lady's Assumption, which is a relic of the Georgian or Regency fittings before Bentley started striking blows for Revived Byzantine. This relief was originally over the High Altar but now lives over the door to the left of the Altar, which leads to the sacristies. It is pure nineteenth century neo-Classicism, carved by John Edward Carew (1785-1868). Yes ... I know you've heard of Flaxman and Chantrey and Westmacott, but ... Carew ... ?

However, if you've been to the majestic stately home at Petworth, in Sussex, you will certainly have met Carew there. He was an extremely talented but irascible Irishman whom the third Earl of Egremont (1751-1837) employed from 1822. There, just North of the South Downs, Belloc's beloved Eternal Hills, you will find naked nymphs, as smooth and icy as anything by Canova or Thorvaldsen, with Regency ringlets and names like Arethusa or Hebe; as well as Vulcan and Venus and Cupid; Prometheus and Pandora; Adonis and his boar ...

I don't know whether Carew did many other Catholic ecclesiastical commissions, or how he came by the Warwick Street job.  But I think it's worth making the effort to come and look at it.

And, of course, on Sundays you could combine a visit with an experience of the splendid Ordinariate Rite.

12 August 2016

Assumptive discontinuities

We are all a little more aware nowadays of the need for liturgical change to to be gradual and, as Vatican II put it, 'organic'. As we approach the majestic climax of High Summer (apologies to Oz), the celebration of the glorious Eschaton of the Theotokos, I do just occasionally have an uneasy moment wondering how the principle of organic change applies to August 15 (similarly, December 8). A dogmatic proclamation led to the complete rewriting of liturgical texts. A new collect gave voice to the new doctrinal precision, and new hymns enhanced the whooppee, triumphalist, quality of the day. It could be argued that they reduced the Roman 'sobriety' of the liturgy as Edmund Bishop so memorably described it. I particularly have in mind the hymns which Fr Genovesi composed in the Sapphic metre for Assumption day. The post-conciliar revisers, indeed, decided to reduce these to only one and to introduce two hymns by S Peter Damian. (In doing so, incidentally, they ejected Ave Maris Stella, which even under Pius XII had survived as the II Vespers hymn. And they followed Pius XII in eliminating the more ancient perception of the Assumption: the idea that Mary was Assumed so that she could become Mediatrix of all Graces.)

Frankly, I am in two minds about what to make of this incessant juggling with what is traditum. I do ... a shamefaced confession now ... rather like the Pius XII office. It has a lovely gung-ho cheerfulness about it, redolent of the Marian confidence of that Pontificate. We can do with more of that confident spirit nowadays. (Particularly as we prepare to celebrate, next year, the centenary of the Fatima Apparitions. Her Immaculate Heart will prevail!)

But should I like it?

11 August 2016

Nostra aetate; its authority; Judaism; good news

In December 2015, the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with Jews released a document The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable (which described itself as "not a Magisterial document or doctrinal teaching"). It combines some sadly unbiblical and unpatristic sillinesses of its own with an honest and accurate account of the actual contents of Nostra aetate

"The Conciliar text is not infrequently over-interpreted, and things read into it which it does not in fact contain. An important example of over-interpretation would be the following: that the covenant which God made with his people Israel perdures and is never invalidated. Although this statement is true, it cannot be explicitly read into Nostra aetate".

The objectionable and absurd clause "Although this statement is true", when you think about it, makes the frank admission which follows it all the more significant. This Commision thus concedes, against its own (mistaken) opinion, the mendacious character of many claims often made about the contents of the Conciliar document. One thinks not least about the implied 'over-interpretation' of Nostra aetate by the CBCEW in its thoroughly disgraceful attack last year upon Pope Benedict's Prayer for the Jews (and, by implication, upon the entire trajectory of the last pontificate, and upon that splendid, incomparable, confessor pontiff himself, kindly Father of the Ordinariates ... eis polla ete Despota).

But now Archbishop Pozzo, an official within the CDF, is reported to have made an even more interesting statement about Nostra aetate.
"The Secretary for the Unity of Christians said on 18 November 1964 in the Council Hall about Nostra aetate 'As to the character of the declaration, the Secretariate does not want to write a dogmatic declaration on non-Christian religions, but, rather, practical and pastoral norms'. Nostra aetate does not have any dogmatic authority and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognise this declaration as dogmatic. This declaration can only be understood in the light of tradition and of the continuous Magisterium. For example, there exists today, unfortunately, the view - contrary to the Catholic Faith - that there is a salvific path independent of Christ and His Church. That [he apparently means "The unfortunate existence today of such an unCatholic view"] has also been officially confirmed last of all by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith itself in its declaration Dominus Iesus. Therefore any interpretation of Nostra aetate which goes into this direction is fully unfounded and has to be rejected". 

Things get better and better! Why do some people just continuously panic during this (admittedly occasionally weird) pontificate? Why do we hear so little about the good news?

9 August 2016

rhododaktylos kai bathykolpos?

On June 7, a new artistic exhibit was unveiled ... if that is the right word ... in Westminster Hall, the only truly pre-Victorian portion of the ancient Palace of Westminster. It was a new window, designed  to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the movement for Women's Suffrage. (Notice the plural here: "Woman's Suffrage" would of course have to refer to the Intercession of our blessed Lady, Omnipotentia supplex and Mediatrix of all Graces.)

The title of this highly meaningful window is "New Dawn". I expect you can find it on the Internet, if you're interested in either Art or Women or Suffrage or any combination of these three. If in none of them, give it a miss.

A woman for whose judgement I have considerable respect took one look at the image on the television screen and instantly commented that it "looked like a window full of nipples".

Immediately, that jolly Callimachean witticism in Catullus LXIV came to my mind, 'nutricum tenus'.

Beyond that, I couldn't possibly comment.

Or, for the Hyperpapalists Ultrabergoglians and rabid Pintoists among you, "Who am I to judge?"

8 August 2016

Reunifying the Calendar

When should the Cure of Ars be celebrated?

Many traditionalists are uneasy about any rapprochement between the EF and the OF. Their suspicions are understandable. There has been a surfeit of ill-advised tinkering. People feel wounded. But a semi-unified Calendar would be of inestimable benefit from the point of view of the celebration of Patronal Festivals and Name Days et cetera. I say semi-unified, because there are some things, such as Christ the King, where the teaching given in the EF is so different from that in the OF that the distinction should be maintained. Vivat Christus Rex. And no sane person wishes to give up Stir Up Sunday!

But why should traditionalists be at all prepared to give up the immemorially ancient days on which saints are celebrated? To the barricades! Marchons!! But ... calm down, dear.The point here is that some of the dates in the 1962 Calendar are not ancient at all; they are extremely recent; they date from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Can it really be set in stone by 'Tradition' that a Saint must be observed on a particular day because it says so in 1962, when both 1950 and 1970 might agree in having him/her on the same day as each other, a day which differs from the 1962 date? And, if we love reading Quo primum and feel uneasy about any changes to what S Pius V put in place 'for ever', how can we possibly, logically, have rooted objections to going back to a date which the Missal of S Pius V prescribes?

Many of us use the St Lawrence Press Ordo [giving things as they were at the start of the pontificate of Pius XII], at least to the extent of keeping an eye on the rather more ancient dispositions which held sway before the start of the Bugnini era. This is an important thing to do if one is interested in the present state of the Roman Rite and how we have got to where we are. Get one, if you haven't already done so!

Causes of instability have in the past included: a fashion for moving feasts off Vigils and Octave days, so that they are not cluttered; a silly OF fetich for never observing two saints on the same day by means of the ancient system known as 'commemoration'; and a (laudable) bias for observing a Saint on his/her natale, 'heavenly birthday' (i.e. anniversary of earthly death).

Anybody who wants to do their own research on this could, for starters, have a look at the travels of S Hilary and S Irenaeus.

But back to the Cure of Ars. He first entered the Calendar on August 9. But early in the Bugnini era, he was shifted back to August 8 so that he would not be in collision with the Vigil of S Laurence. Then the OF Calendar put him back to his natale, August 4. But there he would have been in conflict with S Dominic. So S Dominic was shifted to his natale on August 6 ... er ... oops ... no he wasn't, because that would have left him arguing things out with the Transfiguration. So S Dominic went to the day after August 6, where he lived happily for ever after. Except that he didn't, because after a year or two, August 7 itself came under pressure. You see, S Xystus (the Pope whom S Laurence served and who was martyred a few days before him) needed a home which would not leave him hanging around on Transfiguration day ... and there was also the question of S Cajetan ... so S Xystus was budged forward to August 7, meaning that S Dominic went on his travels yet again, to August 8.

In my view, this sort of thing, with Saints endlessly peripatetic, is plain wrong.

A modest reconsideration of the Calendar, in my view, should be undertaken. One of its principles should be that where (1) S Pius V, (2) 1950 (pre-Bugnini), and (3) 1969 (Novus Ordo), or two of these three, are  in agreement against 1962, this concord should stand. There's nothing magical about the books of 1962, which, in the view of many of us, have serious flaws.

Another consideration might be that, other things being equal, a date which also had the support of a Byzantine date would be preferred.

The revision should not be rigid. There might remain many days when OF and EF were out of sync.. But it would be better than the present situation where both OF and EF are in a mess.

I sha'n't enable comments which give me the impression of blustering without the author actually having read what I have written.

7 August 2016

Ad Orientam

Some time ago, Fr Zed published a letter by some unfriendly American bishop doing a bully-boy job on his unfortunate clergy in the hope of making them afraid to celebrate versus Orientam (sic).

When I am made head of the Apostolic Penitentiary (I await the letter daily) my first official action will be to make a new addition to the list of Corporal Acts of Mercy: videlicet
Giving a copy of Kennedy's Latin Primer to an unlatinate Latin Rite bishop.

I will attach to this a Plenary Indulgence suetis condicionibus.

So you want to know my second action? I thought you would ... A Plenary Indulgence cuilibet sacerdoti Ritus Romani qui sacrosanctum Missae sacrificium obtulerit versus Orientem vel ad apsidem, dummodo Ordinarius loci id fieri vetuerit vel saltem minaciter contraria suaserit.

videtis omnes non uno tantum modo pelle posse spoliari felem! ut quondam avia mea essexiensis rustica qua utebatur lingua dicere solebat; ... ... quid? ridetis? nesciebatis me virum esse essexiensem?! rem confiteor ... sed hoc prorsus nego, coniugem meam eiusdem esse comitatus. colonia claudia victricensis me genuit, sed nihil unquam mihi fuit vel est vel erit cum mulierculis illius regionis. 

num in america septentrionali essexia quaedam inveniri potest? nonne vir clarissimus donaldus trump ex antiqua familia saxonum orientalium ortus habendus est?

Has anybody heard a rumour about clergy whose diocesan bishops are unsympathetic to liturgical renewal feverishly learning Latin so that they will be able to converse freely in the presence of their bishops without the pontiff understanding?

3 August 2016

Why Sarah should be pope.

Not because he has recently given very strong advice about celebration versus Orientem or versus apsidem, urging that all we presbyters, Bishops, and Cardinals should spend four months or so catechising about it and then introduce it on November 27. (And so we should. I pray that brother priests are already drafting their catechetical addresses. I pray that they will not be subjected to pressures.)

Not even because he has repeatedly spoken with praise and admiration about our (indeed admirable)  Ordinariate Missal. Readers of this blog will not accuse me of inadequate concern for liturgical minutiae. But there are even more important matters before us.

I do not even pray for a Sarah Pontificate because there appear to be some highly Augean Stables very close to the Domus Santa Marta.

Here is my reason:

Referring to the principle that the Sacraments must not be given to unrepentant adulterers who have been through a form of civil "marriage", Cardinal Sarah has said "Not even a pope can dispense from such divine law".

Popes cannot dispense from divine law.

This is a basic principle of Catholic Theology.

Joseph Ratzinger memorably asserted "The Pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of Faith ... [it] is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition".

This chimes with the teaching of Vatican I, that the Holy Spirit was not given to popes to proclaim new doctrine, but to defend and to put forth the Deposit of Faith, the Tradition received through the Apostles. 

Some of those who surround Bergoglio fail to give much evidence of grasping this fundamental truth.

A Sarah Pontificate would give us a Holy Father who truly humbled himself before his Master.

A Sarah Pontificate would re-affirm the sometimes mislaid Catholic principle that the Roman Pontiff is subject to the Word of God.  

That is why the Church needs a Sarah Pontificate.

1 August 2016


Also Laureati Mgr Andrew Wadsworth (whose eminence is far beyond being raised by any humble award of mine); and "Vetusta Ecclesia" ... for a couple of fine limericks.