30 September 2016

I am NOT, NOT, NOT making this up!

After my frivolous account of modern Anglican wedding rites, you might easily think I am making this next bit up.

I'm not.

A day or three ago, some dear friends, devout Anglicans, whom we got to know well when we were in our Devon parishes, came to see us, and most generously took us to have a look around Blenheim Palace together. At the end of the tour is the Chapel. People often make jokes about the fact that everything else in the Chapel is dwarfed by the ginormous Kentissimo monument to the First Duke (alias Johnny Churchill). Doesn't worry me. Rysbrack carved it, and I like the baroque. And Sir Thomas Jackson, who designed so very much of Oxford in his 'iconic' Jacobethan style, including my own college, worked intelligently there.

But we didn't have a look around; because our friends very properly shepherded us out in horror. We discussed whether to demand our entrance money back.

There, in the sanctuary, concealing the altar, was a (temporary?) display the main feature of which appeared, to our fleeting glances before we fled, to be a large white marble statue of the back of a naked woman.

It is fair to assume that the new Bishop of Oxford, a former S Ebbesite Evangelical, has granted faculties for this. And the General Synod, which is qualified to pronounce what Anglican doctrine is without there being any possibility of appeal, must have altered the beginning of the Anglican Creed to Credo in anum Deum. And, of course, appropriately felicitous liturgical formulae will be in the process of being drafted.

I seem to recall ... or am I imagining it ... that, according to Pausanias, Praxiteles' first Greek statue of Aphrodite gumna, at Cnidos, was housed in a tholos and that proctophiliacs used to bribe the Verger to let them peep in at the back. Perhaps such proctoscopy will be the new Anglican way of fund-raising. The tax levied from parishes, which used to be called the quota and is now renamed the share, will have its name further abbreviated to the nomisma procticon.

But Papists, believe me, are in no position to mock. Whatever the Anglicans do today, the blessedly eternal Spirit of Vatican II will ineluctably prescribe tomorrow. Roll on, Pope Francis III! Clothed or unclothed!

28 September 2016

The Revd Prebendary Michael Joseph Moreton

A couple of years ago, I published this account of an Anglican liturgist who had just died. Before those who despise all things Anglican ignore it and move on, I would draw their attention to some aspects of what follows which are relevant to the current situation within the Catholic Church. 

A very great priest, a very great scholar, a very great man died on [25 September 2014], three years short of his century and in the 65th year of his Sacred Priesthood. He was a fine example of what Archdeacon emeritus Henry Manning disapprovingly called the old Oxford, Anglican, literary, Patristic tone. Others will write detailed and accurate obituaries; I warn you that I can only give a deplorably self-regarding sketch of what, in just one decade of his long life, Fr Michael Moreton meant to me.

I think of Michael as one of the Exeter mafia; priests who spent their entire priesthood with a sense that the Diocese of Exeter was their real home ... Bishop 'JR' (John Richards), Prebendary John Hooper were two such others who had an impact on my life. (The Church of England does not have a system of incardination, but clergy who have this sort of local identification seem to have a great capacity for enriching their priestly environment.) I did not become one of Michael's friends until Pam and I moved in retirement to the edges of Devon, and JR took me along to the Society of S Boniface. This priestly society, of which Michael was the dominant member, met monthly for Mass, for study of the Greek New Testament, lunch, and an academic paper. The Biblical exposition was always done by Michael, with immense and painstaking care; but it was in the old spirit of the sort of' 'modern biblical scholarship' in which by that time I had realised I no longer believed. So when we 'passed it round' after he had finished his exposition, we both knew that my contribution would be subversive. I suspect I might even have deployed the phrase 'More Dead Germans' to characterise the modern commentaries he so often cited. Life was fun.

Michael was, I believe, the first modern liturgical scholar to explode the myth that versus populum was the 'primitive' custom; he did this in a crisp brief paper read at one of Betsy Livingstone's Oxford Patristic Conferences. He was indeed a link with an older generation of scholars in the last golden age of classical Anglican Divinity; he recalled buying a copy of a 'large book with a dark green cover' (Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy) in the SPCK bookshop in Calcutta immediately after its publication. 'Boniface' had been founded by Canon Jasper, who used to report to it on the progress of Synodical liturgical revision in those heady days before it became clear that the Evangelicals would veto any viable Eucharistic Prayer. Michael had also known Dr Jalland, my erudite predecessor at S Thomas's in Oxford, and had said the Mass at his funeral. Ignoring the prejudices of some of those present on that occasion, he had used the Canon Romanus. "I decided that since he was a Patristic Scholar, he should have a Patristic Eucharistic Prayer".

Indeed, it was Michael who brought home to many thoughtful priests the importance of that great monument to Christian antiquity, to Catholicity, to Romanita, which we call the Roman Canon. I remember JR, an old-style 'Prayer Book Catholic' and a former (very disciplinary) Archdeacon, sheepishly borrowing a copy of the Canon Romanus from me when he was due the say the Mass at 'Boniface' ("Michael likes it so much, boy ... I'd better use it"). Michael used to explain that, far more important than mere legality, what mattered was the auctoritas which the Canon Romanus had in view of its origins in the same period in which the Canon of Scripture and the threefold Apostolic Ministry crystallised within the Church. [Pope Benedict XVI was later to write something rather similar to this.] I still vigorously assert Moreton's perception that this incomparable Prayer does have the same immoveable canonicity as Scripture, Creeds, Ministry. With some encouragement from another valued Exeter friend and fellow-member of 'Boniface', Fr Peter Morgan (who had the distinction of being the first priest ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre for his Society), I began to celebrate on weekdays the Latin 'Tridentine' Mass instead of the Novus Ordo in Latin. What happy days they were. What precious memories to cherish.

Michael was an immensely kind and gentle man; with a great natural generosity. He was also an endearing example of conjugal devotion. How many of us remember and celebrate each year the Day upon which we first set eyes upon our wives? Few things meant more to Michael than his memories of long and happy years with Peggy; quorum animabus propitietur Deus.

27 September 2016

More about Effchurch (see a recent post)

I forgot to mention that Effchurch Priory is in the custody of "English Heritage", and that, after the Tridentine High Mass, an Anglican Wedding took place. We found a comfy seat in the warm sun and watched the external accidentia of this bizarre event.

D'ye know, there were ten bridesmaids! But that wasn't the really odd thing, which was: not one of them seemed to be doing any actual bridesmaiding. They were all in an advanced state of squealdom and it took some time to get them lined up before the entry into the church. And they were lined up to precede the Bride! So who, you ask, went behind and held up the Bride's dress out of the mud? ... It fell to one of the two English Heritage employees in black skirts and pullovers! And the Bride's Father held her bouquet for her!

Finally they all tottered into church twenty minutes after the advertised time.

I know I still have some readers out there who have not yet succeeded in liberating themselves from the shackles of Old Mother Damnable; perhaps they will be able to explain these ritual changes which have occurred since the days when I was still around to lend the C of E a touch of style. Is it something in the spirit of Bubbles Stancliff's didactic ceremonialism, designed to evoke the Parable of the deka parthenoi and the eschatological krauge Ecce sponsus venit? Or, as one of my family suggested, might the Ten have been girls who had previously enjoyed the addresses of the numphios? So that as he looked down the church at the Entry, he would have to meet the eyes of each of them, and remember? Another of my family, who has perhaps read too much of Sir J G Frazer, Robert Graves, and poor gullible Margaret Mead, wondered if, in the nox nuptialis, it might be deemed the duty of the numphios to favour each of the ten girls before approaching his Bride, so that it would be a tribute to her hyperaphroditic excellences if she still had the power to move his sated and enervated capacities. Like Heracles and the Forty Nine Daughters of Thespios, sort of, as you might say, or up to a point.

And ... perhaps there are other amusing weirdnesses in up-to-the-minute rapidly-evolving post-Christian Anglican liturgical praxis which Anglican readers could reveal for our delectation? Go on! Spill the beans!

I think I got out just in time. Call me a rat if you like; but the ship was undoubtedly sinking pretty fast, leaving behind it just the flotsam and the jetsam. The Ordinariate, although smaller than the creaky, leaky old Tudor warship, is a very trim and attractive little craft. And we have a lot of fun.

26 September 2016

On the Internet ... the limits of papal authority

(1) The latest Catholic Herald has a good piece by a Fr Mark Drew on the ongoing Amoris laetitia  crisis. (I cannot resist entering here a snide comment that visitors to this blog have already repeately read most of his points here ... Parrhesia and all.) Father refers to the intimidation experienced in this country as  'discreet' ... but then, we are English, aren't we? In some other places, it has been anything but discreet.

(2) Sandro Magister (Chiesa 21 September) quotes an Andrew Grillo, whom he calls a keen Bergoglian, as forecasting that the next Synod will, among other things, deal with
"The Collegial exercise of the episcopacy and the restitution to the Bishop of full authority over the diocesan liturgy".

I presume we all know by now that 'Collegiality' is well established as a code-word for giving improper competences to Episcopal Conferences ... a serious potential ecclesiological corruption (upon which Cardinal Mueller spoke well a year or two ago). But what I am particularly drawing your attention to this morning is the part of the sentence I have put into italics. It means that the bully-boys who hate Ratzinger and his legacy are beginning to set their sights on demolishing Summorum Pontificum and eliminating its admirable doctrinal emphases on Subsidiarity and the auctoritas of Tradition.

I am only surprised that it has taken the Wolves and their cubs so long to get round to this.

Both of these two superficially diverse items exemplify the same over-arching problem which this increasingly dysfunctional pontificate continually throws up: the limits of lawful papal power. Time to read again what Ratzinger so wisely said on this. And to revisit Pastor aeternus (together with Denzinger 3114 and 3117).

25 September 2016

Offchester and Effchurch

While Doing the North, we found ourselves looking over a perfect 'transitional' Augustinian Priory Church, which, as Pevsner observes, was in ruins but still complete enough in the 1840s to make its restoration at that time almost totally reliable. It is beside a ruined Regency house: if only the Priory were still in ruins; and the Regency house were not in tatters; the whole (immensely romantic) site would be a perfect setting for S Jane's Northanger Abbey. I will call it Effchurch Priory; we visited it at noon on the Saturday when forty or fifty people were gathered there for a Tridentine High Mass. It happens, I gather, once a year. An elegant and very accessible sermon on the day's Saint (S Nicolas of Tolentino); perfect liturgy; excellent singing. An enthusiastic and very participatory congregation, who knew their way around the Church's immemorial Liturgy and took part in a natural, relaxed, unforced, often quite loud, way.

Sadly, I did not feel that having heard Mass on Saturday at 12:00 would fulfill the Sunday obligation; so in the evening we went to a Vigil Mass in a town some miles away, which I will rename Offchester. The difference was palpable. The 1969 rite done very badly. Very little participation; the organ droned out eight stanzas of a hymn tune and not a person made a sound. The pp obviously deemed himself a brilliant mystagogue, because every single 'presidential formula', even the pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer, was either changed or interpolated. There was, unsurprisingly, no sermon. I say "unsurprisingly" because I have met the same liturgical corruption in the South of England, not least in a church where the priest proudly referred to it as "a Vatican II church".

I wonder why some priests of a certain generation and a 'Conciliar' culture have such a rooted aversion to preaching. This leads me on to wonder what exactly it was that they were taught in the corrupted and emptying seminaries of the post-Conciliar decades. We know that (despite Canon 249 and the Veterum Sapientia of S John XXIII) they were not taught Latin or Greek; because of this, they were blocked from sudying Patristics. They did not ... clearly ... do Liturgy or Liturgical Theology or Practical Liturgy; it appears that they received no education in Scripture, Biblical Theology, or how to open the Word of God for their people. I somehow doubt that they were all given a deep formation in traditional moral theology or the hearing of confessions, because I know of (another) church in the South of England where the priest explained that the difficulty about hearing confessions was that the Confessional had for many years been used for stacking away the unsold debris of Parish bazaars. What, in the Name of God Almighty and God most Adorable, did all those men learn in those seven expensive years of 'priestly formation'? 

I know some traddies cheerfully but (IMHO) irresponsibly point out that Monsignor Time will solve the problem of that generation of clergy; but, in a decade or two's time, will the joyless and infantilised congregations still be in existence? These are souls for whom Christ died.

If I were a bishop, I would send round formidable, even terrifying, hit squads of bright, orthodox, and cheerful young clergy with the oil of ordination still damp upon their hands, to teach the dear old gentlemen all the things that their lecturers forgot to mention in the 1970s and 1980s; and to overhaul a radicibus the parish liturgies. Cardinal Sarah's recent extremely sound suggestions could provide a lively and exciting start to a programme of restoring catholic authenticity in the desert areas. And His Eminence, with his true and accurate pastoral heart, clearly understands the urgency of this need. Happily, one hears of diocesan bishops loyally responding to his timely initiative. Let us hope that, on Advent Sunday ...

But not, sadly, quite all bishops. One or two Ordinarii locorum prefer to resemble stewards careering crazily around on the Great Liner's dangerously sloping decks while shouting noisily and inaccurately at anyone they meet about the 'true post-Conciliar' alignment of deckchairs.

23 September 2016

Bishop Fellay and Mutual Enrichment

I was very moved when I listened to the two videos of His Excellency Bishop Fellay, justifying his hope of leading the Society of S Pius X into a canonically regular situation.

And particularly by the section in which he read long extracts from a letter sent to him by a diocesan bishop. (I suspected that he laid emphasis upon the fact that his correspondent was a diocesan bishop to prevent it being assumed that the writer was Bishop Schneider!) It seemed to me sad that His Excellency felt that he needed to conceal the bishop's identity; such, I suppose, is the result of the atmosphere of fear which pervades Christ's Catholic Church militant here in earth during the current pontificate. (Although no steps appeared to be taken against Reinhardt Marx when he said all that stuff about not being a subsidiary of Rome and not being prepared to 'wait' ... which is confusing. Might there be different standards of punitive retaliation for the differently dissident?)

It is no secret that there is a tendenz within the Society which favours an ecclesiology of remaining dug into a heavily fortified defensive position. I would not myself find this at all easy to justify. It can never be safe to be out of perfect canonical unity with the Successor of S Peter. And such a position can never be free of a suspicion that a schismatic mentality is being generated; a mentality which can only harden over the years. The longer communities exist in separation, the less easy it is to reconcile them. Surely, whatever else History teaches, it teaches this. Every unreconciled year is 365 more days' journey into the land of hardened cultural arteries

It is very much to the Holy Father's credit that, apparently, he has lowered the doctrinal bar for reconciliation, in line with the interesting remarks made by Archbishop Pozzo ... who had (or has a friend who had) clearly been diving into the Conciliar archives and unearthing formal statements made in the aula about the non-binding status of certain documents. And the Pope's statement that he had not spoken infallibly when he performed certain recent canonisations must help reconciliation. Obviously, a formula of canonisation does not fall within the parameters of Pastor aeternus; additionally, there is significance in the changes Pope Francis made in the rites of Canonisation. (The Search Engine would reveal my extensive views on this subject.)

The nameless bishop, in his letter to Bishop Fellay, was in fact echoing the appeal recorded in Acts 16, Come over to Macedonia and help us. But the Society has only some 600 priests. How can it possibly 'help' the so much vaster Universal Church Militant? As the disciples said to the Lord, alla tauta ti estin eis tosoutous? [John 6:9]. 

He answered their very natural apprehension non verbo sed actu. Such is the way with God.

Perhaps the fostering of vocations and seminary training could be areas in which the Societry's long, well tested, and proven experience could be of general usefulness. I gather that one in five of the priests ordained in France this year was ordained in the Extraordinary Form ... Possibly this is what that rather sporting Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had in mind when he observed, I think in 2012, that he would be happy to see the Society running his seminary. Does anybody have any better plan for reviving Wonersh? An Ushaw redivivum might end up full again, just as it was in that splendid old black-and-white video of High Mass on the eve of the Council!!

Incidentally, it could be useful for orthodox presbyters being hounded by unsympathetic diocesans to have a refuge into which they could be incardinated. The Society might end up growing faster than it anticipated!

Indeed, things after the regularisation of the SSPX might be fun. Since the Society's priests are relatively thick upon the ground in France, there would just have to be some entertaining exchanges of opinions as they took a full part in deliberations with the aged liberals in French dioceses and deaneries. And just suppose the Savoyard Bishop Tissier de Mallerais were nominated to sit in ... merely as an observer, you understand ... on the meetings of the CBCEW ... imagine that engagingly dismissive flap of the hand and the laconic verbal grenade blandly lobbed across the table, just when some item on the Agenda seemed to have been safely sewn up ... and, incredible though this must seem, Tissier might just possibly not be overawed even by Vincent Nichols ...

21 September 2016


I hope that the 'Spirit of Assisi', which has so worried many good Catholics, may be losing its power to offend.

It is well known that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger felt that he must absent himself from one of the 'Assisi Events' sponsored by his admired friend and Pope S John Paul II. Indeed, I do not think it is disrespectful to suggest that the great 'showman pope' may have been even culpably careless with some of his gestures; or that some of the arrangements at 'his' Assisi came near to the sacrilegious. Complaints were in order.

But I felt that some traditionalists failed to give Pope Benedict XVI credit for the differences which he introduced when he made his own papal journey to Assisi. Had he simply discontinued these events during his own pontificate, he would have left, among the precedents from the previous pontificate, objectionable arrangements which subsequent popes might have accepted as normative, and followed. I believe that this is one important reason why Benedict went to Assisi ... to change the precedents; to correct and sharpen the implicit meaning of the event.

And now our Holy Father, in his Address at Assisi, has explicitly and clearly renounced "syncretism and relativism". This is splendid; and, because of its formal and scripted nature, is worth far more than those off-the-cuff observations which cause such justified unease.

'Assisi events' may still not be entirely to our taste. I can't imagine taking part in such things myself. But I think that anybody who claims to raise questions of principle must think very carefully about which details he/she finds radically unacceptable.

I add, as a footnote, my own warm approbation of the repetition by Pope Francis of the spirit and much of the language associated with S John Paul's condemnations of war. I wish that the Camerons of this world had listened more attentively to such teaching when they were wildly and irresponsibly clamouring for Regime Change in the Arab world under cover of the daft and murderous slogan "the Arab Spring". It was like handing out matches and encouraging the kiddies to run along and celebrate Bonfire Night in the forecourt of a petrol filling station. There is much blood on many fastidious hands. But not on the hands of successive Roman Pontiffs, who have discerned with clarity and have given their warnings in unmistakeable language.

20 September 2016

The Catholic Herald

It seems to me a bit of a pity that the ability of what the CIC calls Christifideles to make their views known via the Internet, courtesy of the Catholic Herald, is, apparently, no more.

More important, however, than my personal 'seemings' and my subjective 'bits of a pity' are the right, and indeed duty, prescribed in Canon Law (vide Canonem 212), for Christifideles to make their necessitates et optata et sententias known to their pastors and to each other. A valuable forum for the the exercise of this ius et officium is being removed. The all-important Spirit of the Code of Canon Law is thus being gravely infringed. We really can't be having that, can we?

Surely we may with confidence expect our beloved Episcopal Conference to take steps to ensure the restoration of this or a similar forum; and to encourage clerics and laics alike to practise thereupon the fullest Parrhesia. Since the Catholic Herald mentions the enormous economic burden of providing this service, perhaps the Conference could make a financial contribution, saving an equivalent sum of money by effecting extensive economies in Eccleston Square.

Indeed, discussion about the nature of such economies could be the initial topic which a revived and revamped Internet Forum (Forum Interretiale Christifidelium) could open up for discussion by clerics and laics. In accordance with Canon 212, I would nominate for the First Big Wave of Major Chops all the Liturgy wallahs, especially the one who provided a misleading translation recently with regard to the ad Orientem question; and all the chaps (and chappettes) who deal with Inter-faith Relations, particularly the one who advised the bishops with regard to the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; and all the Spokespersons, especially the one who made a statement a couple of years ago dissociating the Conference from Bishop Egan's reminder about the canonical provisions for refusing communion to legislators who legislate against Catholic morals. Oops: I nearly forgot to include the anonymous lady (or gentleman) who wrote the document I analysed in my recent "BUT ..." post. Clear 'em all out, sez I. Surely, such people precisely represent all the dangers Cardinal Mueller has had in mind when he has spoken over the years with such clarity and wisdom about the problems inherent in powerful 'Conference' bureaucracies. To His Eminence's words, with which I entirely concur, I will add my own humble ha'p'orth: that the mischief is increased when, as so often, these people make their utterances anonymously, thus, as dear Mr Baldwin put it, exercising power without responsibility, 'the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages'.

And the CBCEW could discontinue any subvention the Conference makes to ARCIC and other time-wasting bodies (I know you will all be able to nominate some).

We could save oodles of dosh.

But that's all just my own personal and deeply subjective and whimsical view. Please, in accordance with the Holy Father's wishes, use much Parrhesia in making your own suggestions.

19 September 2016


Readers will remember my Notice of 2 September explaining that I would no longer be taking in-coming computer traffic, including comments offered to this blog, until today, September 19.

I am now willining to consider any comments that anyone may wish to offer with regard to any posts during this very refreshing period.

I commend such breaks to all readers!

18 September 2016

Elephants never forget

Is it really true that Archbishop Bugnini's baptismal name was Hannibal? Is it really permitted to baptise with a name that perpetuates the memory of the old Semitic fertility god Ba'al? Wouldn't such a name imply that its holder was destined to be a promoter of idolatry? Or that he was philoprogenitive?

Is the name Annibale common among Italian Freemasons?

15 September 2016

(3) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem

DIX: "The doctrine of the full Deity of the Holy Ghost ... was defined in 381 against the teaching of Macedonius that the Holy Ghost is not God as the Father and Son are God, but is in some way subordinate and intermediate between God and creatures. There is nothing in the NT which clearly indicates that the Orthodox doctrine is certainly right, or which is irreconcilable with Macedonianism in some form. Even the baptismal formula of Mt 28:19 can scarcely be pressed (as it was pressed then) in such a sense, seeing that baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus" only is scriptural, and so late as the ninth century was still an officially accepted alternative. S Athanasius and S Basil both raised the question of the Third Person, but their controversy was waged with those who had followed them against the Arians. They appealed, naturally, to Scripture and Tradition, and it is notorious how defective in substance their appeal is found to be when it is closely examined. It is also remarkable that in the works which they wrote to vindicate this doctrine both carefully avoid even once applying the decisive word "God" to the Holy Ghost, though in this they are but following earlier writers, even professed Trinitarians like Novatian, and the NT itself.

"S Gregory Nazianzen, "the theologian" par excellence for the East, under whose presidency the Oecumenical Council of 381 actually defined the doctrine, is explicit that there were but "few" who accepted it in his day, and that Athanasius was the first and almost the only doctor to whom God had vouchsafed light on this subject. Elsewhere he is even more devastatingly honest with the admission that while the NT plainly revealed the Godhead of the Son it no more than "hinted at" that of the Holy Ghost, which was now being plainly revealed in his own day. This is some distance from talk of "most certain warrants of Holy Scripture". It was neither Scripture nor Tradition which imposed the dogma of 381, defined by the most thinly attended and least unanimous of all the assemblies which rank as General Councils, but the living magisterium of the Church of that age.

"That the full doctrine of the Spirit's Godhead was then believed in some sense "everywhere" we may hope, though the evidence is not reassuring. That it had "always" been believed by some we may suppose, though the evidence is at least defective. That it had previously been believed "by all" is demonstrably untrue."

This piece by Dom Gregory Dix is to be read in conjunction with the recent post titled Argumentum ad hominem.

12 September 2016

Maria Rediviva

Today is the Feast ... or Memoria ... of the Most Holy Name of Mary. This festivity is itself sort of weathercock of liturgical fashions in the Roman Rite.

It already existed in certain parts of the world when it was extended to the Universal Church by Pope Innocent XI in 1684 in memory of the defeat of the Turks near Vienna in Austria in 1683; as the old Breviary puts it, 'on account of the remarkable victory won under the patronage of the same Virgin over the most monstrous Tyrant of the Turks, who was jumping arrogantly upon the necks of the Christian people ...'. Pope Innocent fixed it for the Sunday in the old Octave of the Nativity of our Lady. For this was a period when commemorations such as this one were considered more important than the ancient 'Green Sunday' Masses inherited from the old Roman Sacramentaries, By the end of the nineteenth century very few of those Masses survived on Sundays.

The earlier proponents of the Liturgical Movement, such as Fr Adrian Fortescue, deplored this and begged: 'Give us back our old Roman Masses'. The reforms of Pope S Pius X, at the beginning of the twentieth century did just this, and the Name of Mary was shifted onto September 12 so that it should not permanently and automatically supersede a Sunday Mass. There it remained until the post-Conciliar reforms; when 'it is suppressed, because it seems to be some sort of duplication of the feast of the Nativity of the BVM'.

Pendula swing; when the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal graced the dawn of the twenty first century, this commemoration was restored as an optional memorial. Better than nothing.

11 September 2016

The Problem about Pedestals

There is an old joke ... I apologise in advance; what follows is most definitely not the sort of course vulgarity you have come to expect to find in this blog ... that an American and a European were arguing about Women; and the European said "We like to put our women on pedestals", to which the American (probably a New Englander rather than a Texan) replied "Good idea: see their legs better".  

Pedestals (observe my alliterative facility) are the principal problem of this pontificate.

Especially the exquisite Parian marble, neo-Classical pedestal, attrib. workshop of Canova, six feet high, upon which the present pope has respectfully enthroned Doctrine.

Get a load of this: "The question is not that of changing doctrine, but of digging deep and making sure that pastoral care takes into account situations and what it is possible for persons to do."

(1) Source: Papa Bergoglio, Corriere della Sera, March 5, 2014.
(2) Observe the disjunctive but performing its customary role of privileging what follows it over what precedes it [vide my piece of September 10]. 
(3) Notice the term situation, which acquired a dubious reputation in the ethical discourse of the 1960s. 
(4) Consider the apparent suggestion that there are things which even the redeemed Christian with the help of Grace may not find it possible to do.
(5) Compare the coherence of this teaching with the reference by S John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor to "acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed "intrinsically evil" [intrinsice malum]: they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that 'there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.'" " ... an attempt is made to legitimise so-called 'pastoral' solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium ..." [Paragraphs 80 and 56].
(6) Recall the claim of Graf von Schoenborn that Amoris laetitia is a "development" of Familiaris consortio, and then attend to this: If Pope A condemned Proposition X, how plausible would it later be for the minions of Pope B to maintain that B's assertion of X was a legitimate development of A's condemnation of X?
(7) Discursively meditate on the extent to which the Church at the moment, even in this pontificate of Mercy, considers sympathetically the situation of paedophile priests. These are a category of men so manifestly prone to repeated recidivism, so apparently beyond the reach of all therapeutic techniques, that they, above all others, might expect to benefit from a gracious attitude of "taking into account what it is possible for persons to do". Yet this pontificate (in my disgracefully traddy view, absolutely rightly) adopts a very hard line towards them. Is it, are we, right to do so?
(8) Discuss quietly among yourselves, while I polish off part of the Divine Office, Bergoglio's attitude of burning incense before Doctrina kallisphuros sed intacta high up upon her marble pedestal, and of assuring her that her person is safe from all dubious interferences or change, while at the same time he entertains inconsistent methodologies for everyday ethical praxis.
(9) Ask yourselves whether this attitude is dissolvent not only of Christian dogma and ethics, but even of unredeemed human rationality.
(10) For your next project, read a few Socratic Dialogues and then construct in Greek a Dialogue in which Socrates debates these questions extensively with Pseudolus and Ballio.

10 September 2016


Here is most of a post I first published on 28 12 2014. It raises the question of a rhetorical game which is as alive and kicking today as ever it was. I wrote about ....

... devices used by people whose intention is to dominate some particular discussion. I am inspired to do this more immediately by seeing a document headed CATHOLIC BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES  Reflection Document for the Clergy on Marriage and the Family. It begins with a couple of pages of introduction in which some highly personal views are expressed, but without any indication of who wrote it, or of its status. (The drift of its argument makes it unlikely that it represents the united view of each and every individual bishop, unless they are truly a miraculously homogeneous group. There are, incidentally, signs of very hasty composition.)

More broadly, these months before the next [2015] Synod are months in which people on each 'side' will be deploying their best rhetoric to promote their own strongly held prejudices. It seemed to me useful to point out some of the devices which can and will be used. I often use just such dodges myself; there is nothing shameful in doing so; I am criticising neither the anonymous episcopal ghost-writer nor anybody else. Equally, there is nothing shameful in analysing these smart tricks, as an aid to assessing the probative quality of a piece of argumentative rhetoric, and thus advancing dialogue.

I begin with BUT. BUT links up two statements and, I think almost invariably, privileges the statement which follows the BUT over the statement which precedes it. Often the statement before the BUT is put in solely to pre-empt and thus debilitate what could have been a powerful response*.
"You have worked for this firm for 45 years and you have always put its interests before your own or those of your family or even the dictates of Morality, but you are sacked". 

There is an extremely fine example of this phenomenon in the CBCEW document.
"The Synod does not shirk from the truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, urging us to make the demands of the Kingdom of God but this must be accompanied with a compassion and love, seeing firstly persons who are loved by God ..."
Here, the part which follows the BUT is clearly the part which the writer desires to promote as the dominating idea. This can be seen by inverting the sentence thus:
"[Action] must be accompanied with a compassion and love, seeing firstly people who are loved by God, but the Synod does not shirk from the truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, urging us to make the demands of the Kingdom".
Whereas the first version can roughly be summarised  as "Be nice", the second would as clearly suggest "Be strict". Yet each alternative deploys the same two data.

Another clever trick which BUT can play is to suggest polarised contradictions between key words or phrases in each half of a sentence. Thus, in this anonymous passage, "truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom/demands of the Kingdom of God" are clearly set in contrast with "compassion and love". The writer, an able rhetorician, skilfully contrives to smuggle into our minds the assumption that these are two ideas which pull in different directions. He or she hopes that you will not spot the logical possibility that "making the demands of the Kingdom" and "compassion and love" could be but two ways of saying the same thing. (One does not say "A must accompany B" if one believes that A and B are, in fact, identical.)

9 September 2016

Papa Lambertini and Callimachus: is it a mega kakon?

The Holy Father had clearly been waiting for me. I expect it does get lonely in Ashmole, especially since the canvas of Henrietta Maria the other side of the doorway mysteriously disappeared (Hannover Rats at work?); and Japanese tourists may be rather limited company for erudite canonists. He began the conversation without delay: "Libellus ille pinguis Amoris laetitia ... meministi quae dixit Callimachus de magno libro magno malo ... quid tu de illo sentis? Estne scandalosus?" "Perlegi, Domine", I panted (I had climbed the staircase with only one pause), "perlegi locum quemdam in Sancto Alphonso ubi ille quaedam de Scandalo protulit." He smiled. I decided to take encouragement from this and to strike while the iron was hot. "Scandalum activum est dictum vel factum (quo nomine etiam omissio intellegitur) minus rectum, praebens alteri occasionem ruinae spritualis. ... per se dicitur, quando directe intenditur alterius ruina ... per accidens dicitur, quando indirecte ... omne Scandalum activum directe ..."
"Satis satis satis", he interrupted me, with the impatience of a mind which is always at least three moves ahead. "You've done your lesson; you've read S Alphonsus. I'm very impressed. Scandal, you tell me, is grievously sinful, even when it is indirect. You are familiar with I Corinthians 8:9 ... where the Apostle is speaking about indirect Scandal. I hope you appreciate the significance of those words of S John Henry Newman about the evils of Sin; and clearly, Scandal ... in its sense of providing any occasion of sin to another ... cannot but itself be sinful. Ergo te rogo ... Amoris laetitia ... peccatumne scandali illi commiserunt qui Exhortationem illam composuerunt ... et quanti id aestimas quod ibi cernis esse scandali peccatum?"
"Well", I said, temporising, "I think the guilt of the drafters must have been that of indirect Scandal, because they clearly were not intending directly to encourage Christifideles to live adulterously in a sic dicto 'second marriage' ... ". I noticed his eyebrows lift slightly. He murmured
"Were there, by your casuistry, any aggravating features?"
"I believe, Holy Father, that the gravity of the Scandal may have been the greater because of the considerable influence which those words might prudently be expected to exercise upon others ... and because of the seriousness of the sins involved ... adulterium vix parvi aestimatur ... et in Catechismo nostro hodierno legimus grave esse Scandalum cum ab illis efficiatur qui munere teneantur ad alios docendos; legimus quoque de lupis agnos specie simulantibus ... rei quoque huius fama multis suasit Ecclesiam Catholicam suam doctrinam seu mutasse seu mox mutaturam esse ... "
"Satis! Et quid, dic, sentis de pontifice ipso Romano qui quondam in aeronave rogasse dicitur 'Quis sum ego qui iudicium proferam?' De pathicis et de mollibus amplexibus eo tempore sermo habebatur. Ibine cernis Scandali peccatum?".
"Da veniam, Sanctissime, da veniam!" I cried. "Parce misero! Quis in Romanum pontificem me constituit iudicem?!"
"Responsio bona, care ... sed tu, quibus legibus uteris in temetipso iudicando?"
After a moment I said, very quietly so that only he could hear, "hos d'an skandalisei hena ton mikron ..." He lowered his eyelids a little as if signaling to me to stop talking. I fell silent. He looked at me without speaking for quite a while, and then ... for quite a while after that. Finally, with immense gentleness, he said:
"Testamentum tuum Graecum prope tene et tacitum custodi, fili dilectissime. Verbum Dei periculosum est in istis tuis diebus periculosioribus."

Nutus aequatur nictui?

6 September 2016

"British Values"

Our courts have just convicted by due and proper process a "Hate Preacher" who has "radicalised" a lot of people for quite a long time. You won't catch me complaing. But, in the aftermath, the cry is arising for changes in our laws to make it easier to put away those who do not accept British Values.

Oh dear. I am not blind to the dangers posed by Islam. But I am uncertain how good an idea it is to oppose one enemy by warmly embracing another. As Churchill did when the Bolshevik Monster was transmuted overnight into Kindly Uncle Joe.

I suppose, if one goes back far enough, it would be possible to find a definition of British Values to which I could indeed with a very good conscience subscribe. But if "British Values" compulsorily means the novel "values" which are peremptorily prescribed for us by our political and cultural elites ... now ... today ... then I can only say that I repudiate those "British Values" with some fair degree of warmth.

The "British Value" I loathe most is the mass slaughter of human beings who have been sentenced to death by no court of law. "A woman's right to choose" is, to me, the most demonic slogan since Ein Volk ein Reich ein Fuehrer. The Devil, of course, is never so stupid as to dress in the same clothes as last time. You won't catch the modern British killers wearing jackboots, and I doubt if they could sing the Horst Wessel song to save their clinical lives. But, like the genocidal Hitler, David Steele began his holocaust relatively modestly. He never explained, a few decades ago, that his parliamentary bill would enable abortion on demand; and would mean that midwives refusing to be complicit in organising the Death Clinics would be sacked; and that a "Supreme Court" would find their sacking lawful. Neither he nor his supporters mentioned that, if physicians eased their murderous workload by presigning abortion forms, or if gender-specific abortions were carried out, the Crown Prosecution service would decide that, although these practices are illegal, "it is not in the public interest to initiate prosecutions".

The second filthiest "British Value" is the outlawing of Christian Marriage. We are now told that a marriage can be 'dissolved' even unconsensually; that "Marriage" is still "Marriage" if the relationship involved is sodomitic or tribadic. Linked with this is the other disgusting "British Value" requiring us to accept the anthropological nonsensense that Gender, if it exists, is mutable at the will of each individual. Thus "Homophobia" as a term of abuse has now been joined by its nasty friend and dirty playmate "Transphobia". The law has already intruded itself so far as to persecute Christians by making it possible to prosecute in the courts simple ordinary folk who are deemed to be providing a service (such as baking and icing a cake) if they are found to "discriminate" in providing such services. And we were informed a few days ago that some Police Forces plan to set up units dedicated to searching out and prosecuting "Hate Crime" on the Internet. Does anybody seriously doubt that this provision will, manpower permitting, eventually spread itself so as to enable Mr Plod, with helicopter cover, to bang on our doors at six o'clock in the morning (having tipped off the BBC cameramen) and to drag us off to his custody cells, if we have written in what he deems to be a "Homophobic" or "Transphobic" way on our websites or blogs, or so spoken in our sermons?

OK, they'll go for the Moslems first, but ... they won't want to be seen to be unfair or "discriminatory".

And this could be only the beginning.

If one accidentally touches "British Values", one should give ones hands a very thorough wash afterwards.

5 September 2016

Stowe Hanc Igitur

Here is a translation of the Hanc igitur in the early Irish Stowe Missal (c790, probably from somewhere in Munster); I place in {} the additional bits from Stowe.

Therefore, Lord, we pray: graciously accept this oblation of our service and also that of your whole family {which we offer to you in honour of OLJC and in commemoration of your blessed martyrs in this church which your servant has built to the honour of the glory of your name; deliver him and all the people from the worship of idols and turn them to you the true God the almighty Father} etc

Beside the track leading out to Bolus Head, one of the most westerly - and surely most beautiful - parts of Europe, is the 'monastic' settlement of Kildreelig. Most of the ruins are inside a stout circular rampart which has all the massive appearance of the local circular stone forts. It was probably ... sic Mlle Francoise Henri ... given by a chief (whose fortified house it had been) to a monk who adapted it. One such site (on nearby Church Island) has, on a pillar, the name of the father of the donor - and it is a pagan deity name.

As I tramped, twenty years ago, through the brambles and bracken of such sites, I felt myself transported back to the exact moment of transition between paganism and Irish Christianity, when the New Faith had received some sponsorship from a local magnate - possibly he had in mind the hedging of bets like the King Redwald of East Anglia who had a Christian and pagan altars side by side in one complex - but Christianity was not secure and the advance had to be consolidated; remnants of pagan culture and worship were still abundant and still needed extirpation. Dom Gregory Dix had a different but very similar context in mind when he wrote "Men found nothing better than 'this' to 'do' ... for ... for ... or for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed".

An erudite friend - Oxford readers might well hazard a guess as to her identity - once told me of an unpublished and now missing draft of a paper written shortly before his death by the late Dr F L Cross. He was one of  our great Anglican Catholic Patristic scholars and liturgists in the last generation, and among the presbyters who laid hands on me during my Ordination in 1968 (you probably have his Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church on your bookshelves). In that paper, he advanced the hypothesis that Stowe was first written specifically for use in the dedication of such first-generation Irish churches.

One problem is that Stowe seems to have been written in the 790s. But its version of the Roman Rite comes from at least two hundred years before, since it precedes the changes made by Pope S Gregory I the Great. Which means that it was copied from an archetype, the existence of which indicates that ... centuries before Charlemagne set out on his imperial mission to impose the Roman Rite on his empire ... before, even, Monsignore Agostino dragged a wagon-load of Roman books through Merovingian France to Canterbury ... the Roman Rite had bedded down in some Irish [?] circles. At a time when, we thought, the Roman Rite was little known or used outside the environs of the Urbs itself.

It is a book of mysteries.

If Stowe were a hitherto unknown codex and it were suddenly to be discovered now, I think it would cause revolutions galore in the study of historical Liturgy. It deserves better than to be left, in its fine and efficient HBS edition, gathering dust on library shelves.

2 September 2016


I am, again, taking one of my breaks from the Internet. A few things will go out, including, I hope, a daily or near-daily post on this blog. But I shall be taking no incoming traffic or emails at all; and this includes reading and moderating comments.

This break will last from now, the morning of Friday 2 September, until Monday 19 September, inclusively.

George Orwell

I think all traditional Christians should reread, once a year, George Orwell's 1984 (written, of course, in 1948). It makes two points:
(1) Language is remade to suit new ideologies. A lexicographer in the story is described as explaining that when the process is completed, it will be impossible to express, even to think, ideas that had existed half a century earlier. (We think of 'Equality'; 'Choice'; 'Inclusive'; 'Diversity' ...)
(2) History is rewritten. The central figure in 1984 is employed to 'correct' earlier records, and then to destroy the originals, so that there will be no evidence that what happened did happen.

The sort of 'hard' totalitarian society 'predicted' by Orwell, influenced as he was by memories of Hitlerism and Stalinism, has not come about as he described it; instead, subtle perverts are successful in imposing on us a 'soft' totalitarianism. But his predictions about the corruption of language and the rewriting of History are, it seems to me, pretty well bang on.

For us as Catholic Christians, Freedom will reside in our being aware of what is being done, and in refusing to be complicit. We must be prepared to use words which are now proscribed, or in the process of being proscribed. A gaggle of totally random examples:

 ... "Pregnancies are being terminated", they tell us; we must insist that unborn babies are being killed.  Notice also here the use of a passive verb to elide agency ("We are killing babies ...").

... Why are we no longer allowed to use the word pervert, except, of course, to describe a paedophile?

... I once heard a nurse, who had been efficiently brainwashed, explaining that a certain Pill was not an abortifacient; "It's Emergency Contraception", she insisted.

 ... Spurious Hellenisms or Latinisms are coined: dysphoria and gender reassignment sound so very scientific and medical. Why can't we just talk about castration and eunuchs? (Fr Blake of Brighton has, in the past, been attacked for speaking English.) And, as I will write later, we now have Homophobia and Transphobia. The philologically agile need to be able to juggle with cismen, transwomen ... the nonsense is and will be endless.

 ... Then there are all the mechanisms of Management Talk, designed to make the Manager appear aloof, objective, passionless. So, instead of frantically and humanly saying "You make me hopping mad by doing XYZ", the Manager will adopt measured and disdainful tones in order to say "Concerns have been expressed to me that you XYZ."

 ... The shed at the bottom of the garden is being filled to overcrowding with invented bogeymen. Even ecclesiastics take part in this work of invention. The term Lefebvrian is generally a meaningless way of hurling unargued abuse at a victim (I would say the same about Cryptolefebvrian). It was used when some bullies in Rome attacked the Franciscans of the Immaculate.