30 November 2016


There may be readers here who have not yet made the acquaintance of the blog written by Dr Geoffrey Kirk, formerly Vicar of Lewisham and now in the Ordinariate. It is called Ignatius his conclave and I access it by googling gkirkuk.

Dr K used to write beautiful satire about the liberals and their entire project when we were still in the C of E. They used to complain about the 'tone' of the magazine we published. In the words of an old and much loved British Soap, they didn't like it up 'em.

Dr Kirk's views and his targets have hardly changed. All that has changed is that the baddies are now riding high within the Catholic Church herself.

S Andrew's Day ...

... is not only the Patronal Festival of Scotland and of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also the felicitous and significant day upon which Cardinal Pole absolved this realm from schism in 1554. Moreover, it is the anniversary of a marvellous scene on S Andrew's Day in 1569: the Absolution of the Diocese of Durham from Heresy and Schism. (Also a day to reread Eamon Duffy's Fires of Faith. Do it now before you forget.)

It is, moreover, if we gaze back at the Protohistory of the Ordinariate, the anniversary of the Consecration of Andrew Burnham as Bishop of Ebbsfleet (it was to be Bishop Andrew who appealed to Pope Benedict for help; thus formally setting in motion the process that led to the Ordinariate). In those days, the old system persisted in the Province of Canterbury of consecrating all bishops in London, and Andrew was 'done' in S Paul's Cathedral. My three main memories (apart from George Carey's dismal liturgical instincts) are of someone trying to die in the pew behind me in the South transept; of a remarkably inapposite sermon in which the preacher appeared to be making fun of the Orthodox (which is also the Catholic) practice of the Veneration of Relics; and of the scene, afterwards, on the steps outside.

As the custom used to be, the Consecration had been of two pontiffs for the price of one. The other consecrand was being provided to be a new suffragan for that illiberal liberal bishop, Selby of Worcester. Afterwards, at one end of the steps, a large queue formed up to kiss Bishop Andrew's ring and to receive his episcopal blessing. At the other end, the Worcester consecrand seemed to be doing a strange little ritual dance amid a small group of friends and family, intermittently yanking up his trousers to show off his Socks Of Many Colours. Perhaps he was a Mason, or an animist, or both.

The Ebbsfleet years were fun. And fine preparation for the real fun: the Ordinariate!

29 November 2016

Pio Vito Pinto

Name of the Dean of the Rota. I have warned you about him several times. He's one of those who believe that whatever Bergoglio says is the voice of the Holy Spirit - the hypersuperueberpapalists. He's been doing it again, in Spain, and talking about the Four Cardinals being stripped of their dignity. (I thank Professor Tighe for this information.)

Go and look at him. You can see him at EWTN News (English). Captured in the act of doing it.

I looked at the picture and asked myself:
~ is this the face of someone through whom the Holy Spirit is speaking?
~ is this the Face of Mercy?

Dead scary.

I hope that all our Partners in Ecumenical Dialogue are carefully reading about what being in Communion with a Bergoglian Papacy would really be like.

29 November, 2015, was the memorable ...

... day upon which the full Ordinariate Missal entered into lawful use. The day which confirmed the status, for example, of We do not presume as an official liturgical prayer within the English Catholic Church ... the day which formally established the possibility of celebrating something very much like the good old English Missal High Mass ... the day when our immensely distinctive ... the more distinctive the better ... liturgical Patrimony became dono papae Benedicti a family member of English Catholicism. Not, surely, a day which either poor, confused Archbishop Cranmer, as they tied him to the stake in the City Ditch outside the Master's Lodgings of Balliol College, could possibly have imagined; nor could that admirable Cardinal Allen, at the dark moment when they brought him news of the failure of the Armada. But a day on whose anniversary, doubtless, addicts of Lesbian poetry all over the Ordinariates will be singing Nun khre methusthen kai tina per bian ponen ... interspersed with vinous cries of Vivat Benedictus! Eis polla ete, Despota! Quantus et qualis Pontifex! Nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus! Redeant dies fausti, annique Benedicti! Deprome, depromite!!

The song, indeed, of them that triumph, the shout of them that feast!

At this depressing moment in the history of the Church, how good to have something which is 101% worth celebrating!!

The Prayer I mentioned ... We do not presume ... is sometimes known among Anglicans as the Prayer of Humble Access or demotically as the Humble Crumble; a pre-Tractarian title was "The Address". Our greatest modern Anglican Thomist, Professor Canon Dr Eric Mascall, used to substitute it, in his daily private celebration of the Tridentine Rite in Mags, for the Priest's two private prayers immediately before Communion ... which is exactly the place it has been assigned in the Ordinariate Order of Mass. I append (look two lines lower) an older piece of my own about its unusual and distinctive theology.

27 November 2016

Suspense of the Magisterium: a footnote

Professor Tighe draws attention to two articles about the teaching of John of S Thomas (1589-1644), in which that writer treats, with discussions of the great writers of earlier centuries, the question of the Deposition of Popes.

These pieces are to be found on the website of the Dominicans of Avrille, under November last year. In commending them ... in this febrile atmosphere I had better make this clear ... I imply neither that I look for the deposition of this pontiff, nor that I subscribe to the ecclesiological analysis of these Dominicans.

But there are people whose temptation to the absurdities of sedevacantism seems impervious to my own repeated words of reason. Hence my commendation of other explorations of relevant theological resources.

26 November 2016

Going Shopping in North Oxford

Pam being away for a couple of days, I took myself off shopping. Nowadays the old Radcliffe Infirmary site in North Oxford, enhanced with the much grander title of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, is finally 'redeveloped'; so one can walk though from the Woodstock Road to Walton Street with, to ones North, the perfectly exquisite Tower of the Winds, built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus a couple of thousand years ago while he was paying one of his flying visits to Oxford ... or have I got my details a bit muddled here ...

It was a gloriously sunny spring day, and the Oxford sun, quite different from any other known sun, was shining directly onto the golden sandstone of the Tower, picking out the carvings of the Winds and of the Zodiac: can there be a lovelier architectural grouping than this? I fought Distraction down by comforting myself with promise of walking back the same way; and by recollecting how, when we were undergraduates, the Gazette carried this annual notice: The Director of the University Observatory gives notice that on fine and clear Thursday evenings in the Michaelmas and Hilary Terms between the hours of eight and ten celestial objects will be shown through the telescope to members of the University and friends accompanying them.  I wonder if still does. Male undergraduates used to make the usual sort of adolescent jokes about which women undergraduates might qualify as celestial objects.

While the Tower was being built, Andronicus, so our venerable paradosis has it, took his meals up Walton Street at the nearby Greek Taverna and Deli to which I was heading: Manos's. Spetsofai, Melitzanosalata, you name it: I stocked up with a couple of days' worth of goodies. It was while I was returning that Disaster struck, as she so often does. Had you noticed?

You know how it is when you are retracing your steps in an opposite direction. Things strike you ... visually, I mean ... which you hadn't spotted on the first leg of your walk. What now caught my eye, to the South West of the Tower of the Winds, was a most singular structure; something like cheeses piled untidily on top of each other and covered with glass. Do you think that Aristophanes, in one of his more skittish moments, might have called it the Hyalotyropyrgoma? I investigated. It was called the Blavatnik School of Government. Callimachus might have been driven to add a fifth book to his Aitia in order to account for such a preposterous edifice.

Ronald Knox would probably have won a bar to his Gaisford by picturing Andronicus perched on the carving of the wind Lips and gazing across at the Blavatnik through his telescope while uttering plaintive but perfect Greek elegiacs. I wonder how that poor young Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, if he had wandered across from Alyoggers, would have described it in his poem about Oxford ("Glassy Towery city and Yank-surrounded"?).

I'm sure the Blavatnik will serve its purpose of seducing architectural aesthetes (as well as wealthy foreign students) away from the Daughter University. Why waste precious time visiting the Fens to marvel at the Cambridge History Faculty Library when you can come to Oxford and boggle at the Blavatnik?

24 November 2016

Advent Sunday ... versus Orientem

I do beg Reverend Fathers to remember, as Advent Sunday gets closer, that there are people who have been made to suffer for the principle of Mass celebrated ad Orientem. Not only our Anglo-Catholic Fathers; Cardinal Sarah has been much mauled by the Nasties. Now they are turning on a worthy African Archbishop who is encouraging his clergy to return to this ancient practice ... the unwholesome Robert Mickens (the former Tablet chappie who just simply can't wait for the pleasure of attending "the Rat's" funeral) has been writing about it on the internet in his inimitable style.

There are those who seem to be terribly prejudiced against sub-Saharan Africans. In Anglicanism, we got quite accustomed to that because a number of Anglican liberal bishops are homosexualist ideological fundamentalists, while Africans tend to be more nuanced. The word GAFCON still makes some American and English eyes pop. It may also be relevant that one particular component of the groups that viscerally detest Joseph Ratzinger is the 'gay' lobby.

Time was when white lefties were very soft on Blacks and Ruskies. It soesn't seem like that nowadays. Whether the subject is Sex or Liturgy, these Anglowhities seem as unwilling to accept enlightenment from the South or from Moskow (I am alluding of course to the splendid recent interview given by Patriarch Cyril) as they are to look to the East for the coming of the Messiah. So your modern Black, in the view of these arrogant Caucasians, has got to be made to know his place, as Walter Kasper made clear when he (silly chap!) didn't know the journalist was wired up.

I applaud the courage of those who, in this very unpleasant cultural conflict, are prepared to stand up alongside Cardinal Sarah and be counted.

To stand up, in fact, facing East.

Quick-fix anxious Absolution Oz-style ... a cry (two cries) for help

Some Oz prelate, referring ... without, I feel, demonstrating the sort of respect traditionally shown to their Eminences ... which is why I don't feel that he merits much more respect from me ... to the Letter of the Four Cardinals, has said "Pastoral care moves within ambiguity. We now need pastoral patience not the quick-fix anxiety voiced here".

I thought I would write this valuable perception into the margin of my New Testament at Mark 10:12; but I am having a lot of trouble converting it into Koine Greek. Can somebody help?

Perhaps, too, we should incorporate these apercues into the Form of Absolution. "And I absolve you ambiguously from your sins without any quick-fix, in the Name ...". In Latin, ambigue would do perfectly well, but I can't think of an economical unperiphrastic way of saying "without quick-fix". Any ideas?

23 November 2016

Ad Orientem! Vivat Connecticut!

Two or three weeks ago, I had the privilege of staying with Fr (Dr) Cipolla at his splendid church in Norwalk in Connecticut (you've read a lot of his sermons on Rorate). What congregations! What liturgy! What music! What an MC and what a Director of Music! What hospitality! What a priest (and a cook)! And, as well as Father, I was privileged to get to know the celebrated Mgr Ignacio Barreiro ... what a long-standing champion of Life and of Tradition.

And what a Sacristy! And, just above the Vesting Board, what a notice! It gave instructions to priests celebrating in that church; and the two most important rules (this may not be verbatim) were:

In this Church, the First Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon, is always used.

In this Church, Mass is always celebrated ad Orientem.

What an example to us all! 



20 November 2016

SSPX Faculties

Fr Zed acutely reminds us* of the strange statement by the Holy Father at the start of the Year of Mercy that the Faithful could go to Confession to priests of the SSPX. Father pointed out that this, apparently, was not a formal and juridical granting of faculties. Indeed, it appears that it was not.

However, such a statement by a Roman Pontiff must inevitably create a common opinion that those clergy must have faculties to absolve, otherwise the Vicar of Christ would not have urged the laity to visit their confessionals. And Canon 144 makes clear that in cases of common error, the Church supplies the necessary jurisdiction. Hence there can be no doubt about the validity of such absolutions, however peculiarly roundabout the canonical means adopted by the Pope to achieve this end.

It would, surely, be simplest, in this age when so few are accustomed to make use of this sacrament, if every priest had jurisdiction to absolve vi ordinationis unless he had been explicitly denied that jurisdiction by a competent tribunal or superior, and except where the law itself witholds jurisdiction in the case of particular offences. I am surprised that 'liberals' do not agitate for this. Is it because they don't care about Confession?  

If the Holy Father wishes to leave a real Monument of his Year Of Mercy, I think this modest canonical adjustment would demonstrate serious intent. 

A broad solution of the status of the Society would be even more significant.

UPDATE I wrote this piece after reading Fr Zed's piece on Tuesday 15 of this month. There are more exotic rumours afloat now!

I know one should not look a Guest Horse in the Mouth ... but I would scratch my head a bit, and meditate upon Vergil's alliterative warning about Danai and their dona, if a 'regularisation' were to be accompanied by either (1) "We've let these chaps off believing loads of Vatican II so it's only fair to let the other lot off believing most of the Catholic Faith; or (2) "Now that I've been Merciful to these liturgical eccentrics in their irrelevant ghetto, we don't want any more of that ad Orientem et cetera stuff in the mainstream Church."


The collects we use at the beginning of Mass, and in the Divine Office, quite often have the pattern 'O God, who ...., mercifully grant that...' Thus, in the rather legalistic manner which is characteristic of the ancient Roman rite and of pre-Christian Greek and Latin poetry, some characteristic or deed of the Deity is cited as an appropriate precedent for the grace which is now sought of him. Many of Cranmer's collects in the Prayer Book reproduce this style, either because they are translations from collects in the old Roman Sacramentaries (most of his Sunday collects are) or because he was so used to the pattern that he automatically reproduced it in his own compositions.

But the ancient liturgical books of the Roman Church often abandon this style during Advent. They replace the sonorous descriptive relative clause ('who......') with an almost breathless opening imperative, demanding of God immediate and decisive action. Many of them take off from a phrase in Psalm 80 (Vulgate 79) ‘Stir up [Excita in Latin] thy power, and come and help us'. (This suits Advent: that psalm calls in the name of oppressed Israel upon her Covenant with God for help against her enemies: why not read it as an Advent devotion!)

In the pre-Reformation service books, Cranmer found four of these Excita collects appointed for Sundays and some more on the weekdays of the Ember Week. He kept two of them; and so does the Ordinariate Missal (which also admirably provides the old Collects for Advent II and the Ember Friday). Those two are:

(1) The collect for the last Sunday (and its week) before Advent - that is, today. Sadly, this collect is rarely heard nowadays on Sundays because it is displaced by the proper collect for Christ the King. It used popularly to be associated by English tradition with the start of work upon the Christmass pudding. The references to stirring and fruit helped here!
(2) Advent 4. Unfortunately (there is evidence that when he did this work in 1548-9 he was working fast and not going back over his drafts with a revising hand) Cranmer obscured in translation the Biblical origin of the original by writing 'O Lord, raise up...' instead of retaining - as he did for Trinity 25 - the vivid 'Stir up...'. And the end misses a point in the Latin, which could literally if nastily be translated ‘..that what our sins get in the way of, the forgiveness of thy mercy may accelerate.’ I suspect that this may go back to an early Christian and Pauline notion that whether the parousia comes later or earlier may to a degree depend upon the actions of Christians.

This collect survived into the English Anglican Common Worship for use on Advent 2. In the revised post-Vatican II Roman rite it is relegated to the relative obscurity of a weekday. Indeed, modern Roman liturgical tinkerers seem even more hostile than do Anglican ones to these superb and virile old collects. They replace them with other collects which may be taken from old Roman sacramentaries, but which are more pedestrian in their syntax and shy away from mention of Sin. The pre-Vatican II liturgy had a fair bit to say about human sinfulness and its disastrous consequences. Post-Vatican II, the ethos seems too often to be 'God, because of your grace, we are not really too bad; a bit more of your grace will make us even better’. What the Holy Father would rightly condemn as Pelagian.

For Advent I, Cranmer composed a stately expression of the Advent themes - indeed, some of its phrases are reminiscent of parts of the post-Conciliar Roman Advent prefaces. It is preserved in the Ordinariate Missal. When it used to be said at least twice daily all through Advent, it must have provided a superb catechesis of the meaning of the season. Nowadays it usually only gets a showing on the Sunday, and I rather wonder whether it says too much for one collect used once (of course, we could use it throughout Advent to conclude the Intercession). The old Roman Sacramentaries, in my view, were right to be terse and thematically tight. Renaissance writers such as Cranmer tended to a greater verbosity, and later practitioners were worse: see, for example the collect for Epiphany 6, where the writer (Cosin?) seems actually to forget, by the time he gets to the end of the collect, that he started off by addressing the Father.

My views will be clear: few people have written better collects than popes Leo, Damasus, Gelasius or Gregory; and if Cranmer has provided an English Version, why look a gift-horse in the mouth? Christian people whose Latin is rusty, whether or not they originate in the Anglican Patrimony, can do worse than to have a look at the Ordinariate Missal.

17 November 2016

A medlee of bloodsports metaphors

Surely, there are few pleasures more acute, more delightful to savour, or with more superb an after-taste, than that of watching another human impaled, wriggling, writhing, on the horns of a dilemma.

In a post some time ago, I relished the fact that the Anglo-Saxon Council of Hatfield, which promulgated filioque, was presided over by a Syrian monk of Byzantine culture, S Theodore. I had wondered how those rather pushy 'Orthodox' for whom it really matters to prove that the Saxon Church was "Orthodox" would get around that amusing little quirk of history.

Happily, my fishing line did not lie upon the water long without enjoying a catch. The suggestion duly appeared that the filioque in Hatfield must represent a deliberate Filioquist perversion of the authentic text of Hatfield. Oh frabjous day! Exactly like the claim that some Latin pervert must have added the filioque to the Quicumque vult.

To make that hare run, it would have needed the attachment of at least four bionic legs. Our account of Hatfield rests upon a text of Bede which is commonly constituted on the basis of four manuscripts all of which are eighth century. And there is, at this point, no variant reading in their texts. One could only get round that by positing a hypothetically "corrupted" archetype. But that would not have been able to be much later than the time of Bede himself. Whether the alleged filioquist perverter of the text of Hatfield is ipsissimus Baeda or someone very soon after Bede wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica, we would still be left with a very embarrassing piece of evidence for the filioquist enthusiasm of the Anglo-Saxon Church (is S 'Filioquist' Bede, incidentally, regarded as a Saint by "Saxon Orthodoxy"?).

But more. I had craftily perpetrated a slight simplification by saying that Hatfield sanctioned filioque. The text actually reads "et filio". In other words, the Council, using a minutely different lexic for saying precisely the same thing, sanctioned the substance of filioque before the advocates of that formula had even decided to promote it in exactly that verbal form.

Tally Ho! The bloodlust of the hunt!

16 November 2016

Parsons Galore

Entering Ireland recently, I was asked whether I was a "minister".

How that takes me back. It must be some fifty years since I was last described as a "minister". The family was on holiday in the South of Scotland, and we desired entry to a Church of Scotland church which contained one of those marvellous Anglian carved crosses. When the aged crone who kept the key had got my profession straight, "Och", she cried, "ye're a meenister". 

I once found a similar but much more culturally nuanced crone in County Kerry (Ireland does very good quality crones and the Kerry ones are best of all). I had knocked on a cabin door in the hope of finding a boatman to take me across the straights to an ancient monastic settlement on a tiny island called Illaunloghan. As she retired into the back room I heard her describing  me to her husband in awed tones as the Pairson. Although I have never held a benefice, I'm distinctly fond of that nice old term. I would never bridle at it. Infinitely better than the fearful American vocative "Reverend". I came across Parson later in a Breton church when I was looking at a bilingual monument to a former Parish Priest. The French version called him the Cure; the Breton, Parsoun. And you find it in medieval texts in the old Cornish language. (I did get the boat.)

In the novels of Dorothy 'Patrimony' Sayers, full of accurate observation of the usages and social delicacies of the 1930s, I recall an account of an old West Countryman telling an anecdote concluding with the words "And Old Parson [i.e. a previous incumbent], how he did laugh!" 'Parson' also has a whiff about it of Anthony 'Patrimony' Trollope and the rooks cawing over the Close at Barchester ... and of old well-worn much-loved Edwardian jokes ("What do Hell and the Smoking Room of the Athenaeum have in common?" "You can't see the fire for parsons".).

I think we need to restore this decent usage in the Ordinariate. They don't need it any more in the Church of England, because their country churches are mostly now in the hands of ladies of a certain age who prefer to be addressed and referred to as Jill or Jan or Jen. Come to think of it, the most authentic old-style Parson I can think of is the emeritus Bishop of Ebbsfleet (now disguised as a popish priest and pastoring a couple of the learned and admirable Dr Egan's country churches). I'm pretty sure he has never once ridden to hounds without wearing gaiters.

S Edmunde Abendoniae, ora pro nobis

How clever of the Moon to go into overdrive so as to illuminate and emphasise the Festival today of S Edmund, Patron of the diocese in which I am domiciled (Portsmouth; I am of course incardinated into the Ordinariate). This suddenly occurred to me as I was halfway through the Reading at Mass: "quasi luna plena in diebus suis lucet".

At Lauds and both Vespers, we have the V Nobis in hoc exsilio, sancte Pater Edmunde. R Caelestis patriae amorem, quaesumus, infunde. Antiphona Dilexit iustitiam et odivit iniquitatem, propterea moritur in exsilio.

A good day to be mindful of all the exiles in the world, all the millions of them.

15 November 2016


News that the refugee Franciscans of the Immaculate, to whom Bishop Egan gave a parish in Gosport, are to start up an internet radio station called Immaculata. On December 8.

I've not heard of a diocese that goes with more of a fizz than Portsmouth. Although there is good news of Plymouth under Mark O'Toole, who was so friendly to the Ordinariate clergy when we were paying our visits to Allen Hall during his rectorship there ...

14 November 2016


Readers will have read the news, at Fr Z and Rorate and Sandro Magister, about the Letter of the Four Cardinals to the Holy Father, seeking clarity on certain aspects of Amoris laetitia.

It must be a matter of sadness to all Catholics, whatever their 'political' complexion, that the Roman Pontiff apparently decided not to reply to their Letter. If this pontificate was not already in crisis, it most certainly is now.

It must be a matter of grief that other Cardinals and locorum Ordinarii have felt unable to join this initiative because they still have diocesan or curial responsibilities. I have heard from several sources about the atmosphere of fear that exists in Rome and elsewhere. It reminds me of the cruel attempts at intimidation which followed the publication of the Letter of the 45, of which I felt honoured to have been invited to be a signatory.

Apparently, it is now to be the particular ministry and calling of the elderly or the retired or the already sacked (because they have nothing to fear being sacked from) to speak with Parrhesia.  

Reliance upon fear is not Christ's way to govern His Church.

13 November 2016


Last night a couple of pieces I had in storage for the future escaped and elicited some admirable comments. Sorry. They're both back in storage.

Pelagianism and Prayer for the Departed

May the Souls of the Departed, especially of those who died in the wars between 1914 and the present day, by the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and the prayers of his Immaculate Mother, rest in peace.

Some time ago we took buses to Shipton-under-Wychwood (don't we have entrancing place-names in England?) and did a walk in the valley of the Evenlode (and beautiful river names?). In Shipton church is a palimpsest brass (the search engine should enable you to find my account of the palimpsest brass at Waterperry).

The 'front' bears an inscription about a woman who died in 1548. Interestingly, it bears no hint of expectation that it might be appropriate to pray for the repose of her soul. This calls for explanation: out in the Oxfordshire backwoods in 1549 the people rose in rebellion against the Prayer Book. So you don't expect to find there evidence of a Protestantism which by then had made little progress beyond some very small areas in the East of England. But the inscription cheerfully assured us that her virtues and her virtuous deeds had undoubtedly brought her straight to heaven.

You don't need to remind me that this assumption is not quite what poor dear Brother Luther thought he meant when he was plugging Justification By Faith Alone. But it is in line with the tens of thousands of funerary inscriptions dating from the ensuing Protestant centuries, postulating certain and immediate sainthood for every deceased person on account of their unbelievably virtuous lives (there is that old story about a little girl who read the gravestones in a churchyard and asked "Mummy, where are all the bad people buried?"). I wonder if anyone has ever written an interpretative account of how the academic doctrinaire Protestantism of Luther and Calvin led with such immediate and apparently automatic ease to its precise and polar opposite, a practical popular Pelagianism.

I do have a theory about this. It is that it was precisely the much-derided 'chantry' system, with its financial link between clergy remuneration and masses for the welfare of the souls of the Faithful Departed, which de facto reminded common unacademic medievals that we are all sinners who depend upon God's gracious mercy for our salvation. De facto, take that away and common unacademic folk, needing to fill a conceptual vacuum, will replace it in their own minds with the assumption that since the recently departed Mary Smith doesn't need masses said for her soul - the government has just declared this and has sequestrated all the assets of all the chantries - ergo if we love Ms Smith we need to be convinced that her good deeds outweigh any sins. It becomes psychologically important to shy away in our minds from the disturbing consequence that, if this is not so, then she is, er, in Hell. Moreover, if there is no Purgatory, then she is already in Heaven ... or Hell. So ... this is my tentative hypothetical proposal ... the paradoxical emphasis in popular Protestantism upon salvation by works (which is ultimately to feed into a facile Universalism which assumes that everybody except probably for Adolf Hitler and Myra Hindley will end up Saved), emerged from a mass crisis of popular rethinking about soteriology and the Departed in 1548.

On the back of the brass, in the reused original dating from 1492, we have a potent reminder of the complex and deeprooted system which was destroyed by the suppression of the chantries. It is an account of bequests to the Guild of our Lady in Aylesbury for Masses and Dirges. Presumably it came on to the market in the despoliations which followed the suppression of the chantries (statute of December 1547). It reminded me of the manuscript* description of endowments made by Sir John Percival, Lord Mayor of London in the reign of the first Tudor, which hung by his tomb in the London City church of S Mary Woolnoth; presumably such public declarations were at least partly intended to ensure the compliance of future generations in fulfilling the dispositions.

*Recently rediscovered at the back of a cupboard in S Mary Woolnoth; the interested can find an account in a piece I published in 2007 in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association (they might also reread Duffy Stripping pp 515ff.). Sir John's document survived because, amid all the provisions for masses for his soul, which will have become obsolete in 1548, there were a few other provisions for benefactions which did not thus become obsolete. A later hand has marked these surviving provisions with an arrow in the margin.

12 November 2016

New Papal Condemnation!!

Pope Francis breaks his silence!

A "In authorising regular use of the older Mass, now referred to as the 'extraordinary form', now retired Pope Benedict XVI was 'magnanimous' toward those attached to the old liturgy, he [Pope Francis] said. 'But it is an exception'.

B "Pope Francis told Father Spadaro he wonders why some young people, who were not raised with the old Latin Mass, nevertheless prefer it. 'And I ask myself: why so much rigidity? Dig dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid'".

Marvellously magnificent stuff from the Roman Pontiff!!! I'll try to get in with my comments on it before Fr Z does with his!! Here goes:

A This is splendid: an authoritative declaration that the word "extraordinary" means "exceptional". Let us hope that an appropriate Authority very soon makes it clear that the employment of "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" must only ever be a tremendously rare "exception". Perhaps a simple rule such as this would suffice: "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may only be used in parishes in which there is at least one Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary Form." Could anything be more equitable than that? Anything more ad mentem Summi Pontificis?

B This is even better!!! Liturgical "rigidity ... always hides something"!! After Cardinal Sarah made his splendid and exemplary call for a return to versus Orientem, various hierarchs whom out of respect I am most certainly not going to name got very excited about his words, and even mistranslated some Latin in their Rigid anxiety to discourage clergy from taking His Eminence's laudable advice. So, if we are to assume consistency on his part, Pope Francis thinks that hierarchs with a "rigidity" about liturgical Orientation, are "insecure"!!!

Now: here's a diverting question for readers to mull over. Our beloved Holy Father, having asserted that the "Liturgically Rigid" may be "insecure", gives as an alternative: "or even something else". What is this "even something else", which is clearly "even" worse than "insecurity"? Is he suggesting that the "Liturgically Rigid" may be guilty of a tendency towards Homicide? Or Pride? Or Racism? Or Idolatry? Or Theft? Or Paedophilia? Or Genocide? Or Dishonesty? Or Grinding the Faces of the Poor? Or merely the preferred sin of this pontificate, Adultery?

I think we should be told! I am certainly very keen to know of what, without even knowing it, I am probably, in the Holy Father's view, guilty!! So, surely, are those hierarchs who are with such "rigidity" opposed to versus Orientem!!! 

Dig! Dig! 

11 November 2016

11 November

The 1700th Anniversary of the Earthly Birthday of the Patriarch of the Western Monks, S Martin.

Perhaps an occasion to give hearty thanks for the solid revival of traditional Monasticism in recent decades ... Papa Stronsay ... Silverstream ... Norcia ... Lanherne ... and to pray for the still-persecuted brothers and sisters of the Franciscans of the Immaculate as well as for the dispossessed brothers of Norcia.

And we should not forget that recent legislation from Rome appears designed to inhibit the flourishing of traditionalist religious, and to do so by restricting the previous freedoms enjoyed by bishops in their own dioceses to erect communities.

How peculiar that Cardinal Marx and his lookalikes have not protested against this piece of bureaucratic Roman centralisation. I thought they were against that sort of thing.

No I didn't ... I have just been a little untruthful. Does the fact that I was writing ironically make it all right?

Ah well, at least we can be glad that the oppressive burden of being supervised by the CDF has been lifted from the back of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in America.

Oh dear. I've just done it again. Why is it so difficult to write about any news during this unhappy pontificate without stumbling into irony?

10 November 2016

Two Vestimental and Pontifical queries

Query Number One: A correspondent asked, a few weeks ago, how vestments of the mighty (fourteenth century) Bishop John Grandisson of Exeter ended up in the Azores.

In general terms, I am sure the answer to this is to be found in the despoliations by the regime of Edward Tudor. Exeter Cathedral had its goods inventoried in the first decade of the sixteenth century; and then again less than fifty years later, on the eve of the Great Confiscations. The latter list, in my unchecked recollection, was less than a tenth of the length of the former. Clearly, people knew what was just around the corner; there must have been a cut-price selling-off of plate and vestments to English and foreign merchants on an industrial scale (Duffy in Stripping reproduces a Protestant cartoon of precisely this). I have sometimes wondered if the escape of our Lady (de Gratia) of Ipswich to Nettuno, cast into a piously romantic account, might really have happened in some such rather more prosaically commercial sort of way. Perhaps, indeed, an under-hand commercial way, since the 'burning' of the statue is actually documented. One can imagine the royal officers charged with the burning discerning in subterfuge a mercenary opportunity.

Fast-forward now, please, to the twentieth century: the Bishop of Oxford from 1937 to 1955 was another mighty pontiff, Kenneth Kirk, who, together with Dom Gregory Dix, was one of the 'leaders of the Catholic movement in the C of E'. I think I have shared with you, before, the jolly ditty which circulated during those enchanted but distant years:

How happy are the Oxford flocks
How free from heretics
Their clergy all so orthodox
Their Bishop orthoDix.

In his will, the pontiff bequeathed his pontificalia to any son-in-law of his who might become a bishop (how exquisitely, delightfully, Anglican!). They were duly in time so inherited and used by Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester (1974-2001) during that seemingly endless bright and balmy Indian Summer of the Church of England in Sussex, when it was so tempting just to live for the moment and to enjoy sine cura the corn, the wine, and the oil, daily lifting up a rococo chalice or a Puginesque monstrance as the sun slanted through the Comper glass; those years when so many of us carefully kept our eyes away from the writing on the wall. Years before Benedict XVI came to our rescue and, by calling our bluff, made everything come right ... cui pius amor.

This morning's second query: does anybody know what happened to the Kirk/Kemp vestments after Bishop Eric's death?

9 November 2016

American Cretics

It is not for me to comment on Foreign Politicks. But I may say how diverted I was by the neat rhetorical device ... or do I mean demagogic trick ... of priming an audience to respond to certain simple stimuli with trisyllabic chants in the form of what Classicist metricians term a 'Cretic' (long-short-long).

"Lock her up."

"Yew Ess Ay."

"Drain the Swamp."

Perhaps the President-elect is a Yale Classicist by training? This would make him a formidable player on the World Stage.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus

In 2003, Remembrance Sunday fell on November 9. I was the house-for-duty Curate of seven Devon country churches, under a full-time stipendiary Rector - except that he had taken early retirement nine days before on account of health problems caused by those who hated him for his opposition to the sacerdotal ordination of women. But I still had the help of a retired bishop, who lived a few doors away and who, in two years, had become a very dear friend. So, that Sunday, at one end of the United Benefice I said Mass and did the village Act of Remembrance; at the other end, Bishop John Richards did the same. After brunch, he went for a walk with his family; a couple of hours later, after a sudden stroke brought on by his years of selfless service, he was dead.

John Richards was a former Archdeacon and a very establishment man who was made one of the first two flying bishops, and in those days after 1993, days heavy with the danger of despair, built up and strengthened a people faithful to the Lord within the apostate body still called the Church of England. The skills which he had used as Archdeacon (and he was a Church Commissioner) to chivvy parishes who were late with their quota were now brought into play to defend the Faithful Remnant against the bullying and cruelty of the liberal establishment.

Going around with John Richards, I soon realised that he had created a new style of episcopal ministry, free from pomposity and prelacy and animated only by the love of God and a perceived calling to strengthen his brethren. PEVs, like ante-Nicene bishops, had no jurisdiction in the modern sense. I think it was Bishop (now Mgr) Edwin Barnes who acutely remarked to his clergy 'Fathers, remember that the only jurisdiction we have is what you give us'. I thank God that one part of the patrimony which we carried into the Ordinariates was this vision of pastoral and unprelatical episkope.

John Richards was an Anglican to his fingertips. As we settled down together in the train for the long haul back to Devon after some meeting in London, and I started (in those days) murmuring the Latin of the Liturgia horarum, he would be fishing out a battered Prayer Book and Bible for O Lord, open thou our lips. But he was far too busy and too big a man to waste his time on anti-Romanism. Whatever he was or did, it was positive and Christ-driven. I think that, had he lived, he would have had no doubts about accompanying his former fellow Archdeacon Robin Ellis and joining the Ordinariate. But he would have done things in a distinctively Anglican way and in his own inimitatively combative way. He would probably have got down straightaway to enthusiastically devising ways of showing those bloody papists how much better we could do things in the Ordinariate. "Now look here, boy, now we're in the Ordinariate, what we've got to do is  ..."

I can almost hear his voice saying it. He was a dear man.

Cuius animae propitietur Deus.

8 November 2016

That Election: C S Lewis comments

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons that under omnipotent moral busibodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some time be satisfied; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own consciences."

Family life in Limerick

A pity: I was unable to get to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy last week because of a clashing invitation to talk in Limerick, which I had not visited since the mid-1990s. But the Conference there held under the auspices of Catholic Voice and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was ...

The Conference was everything ... informative, moving, and happy, and very efficiently organised. If, this year, you were in two minds, and ended up not going, I urge you not to make the same mistake next year! I was glad to meet friends ... from a fortnight ago when I visited Connecticut and New York; from my annual jaunts to Pantasaph in Wales for the LMS Latin Course (I hope people are signing up to that). And to make new friends.

The star speaker was Raymond Cardinal Burke, whom I had not met before. Naturally, I was intrigued by the thought of getting to know him; and I was impressed by what an unaffected, affable and kindly man he is. And by how well he knew how many people. He clearly has a profoundly important world-wide ministry among people and groups who are concerned to restore Catholic authenticity ... for example, after the very taxing Conference he drove off to visit my friends at Silverstream ... whose Prior, Dom Mark Kirby, will by then have got back from the Colloquium of the English Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, at which he was a speaker. And at which my Ordinary and Father in God was one of the Celebrants. A small world ... no! a big and growing world of prayer and sanctity and orthodox witness, but yet with an engagingly 'family' feel to it. How can one not be full of optimism about the future of the Church?

Cardinal Burke was, of course, the Eucharistic Celebrant on Sunday, Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, at the Institute Church of the Sacred Heart. It was originally Limerick's Jesuit Church, back in the generous days before Vatican II when the religious orders all had their city-centre churches and so the lucky Faithful had a rich and generous choice of varying charisms. The Church is beautifully restored, although the Clergy House must still be an immensely spartan environment in which to live. They are at the top of a rather grand street of nineteenth century houses, largely unspoilt, and the Church possesses a fine renaissance facade in rose-coloured stone. Unusually for today, it is kept open for visits and prayer (as all Catholic churches were when I was a boy and learned so much by browsing through the CTS pamphlets at the back). I wonder what O'Connell Street was called before it was called O'Connell Street ... his statue outside the Church reminded me of happy days visiting the Liberator's family home nestling beside Kenmare Water at Derrynane in Co Kerry.

I was grateful to Canon Lebocq, and his brethren, for their Eucharistic hospitality, and for the genuine warmth of their welcome. Having watched video clips of some very accurate marksmanship, I now understand why it is a bad idea to tangle with the Institute! And what a memorable meal! This was my first experience of the Institute, and it was an impressive one. It must be a missionary experience in itself for the people of Limerick to see young clergy in their streets wearing cassocks!

7 November 2016

No longer over the water

Tomorrow, November 8, is the Anniversary of the day when HRH the Prince Regent, later HM King Charles III, entered the Kingdom of England at the head of his army. An occasion for a loyal toast?

When the family was young, we used to have fireworks, and a bonfire on which an effigy was burned.

All things shall be well, when the King shall have his own again. Vivat Rex!

6 November 2016

Dicasterial bigotry

I wonder if any of my fellow Ratzingerians would ever have said, during the last pontificate, "If you find Pope Benedict confusing, you have not read or do not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ". I very much hope not. I think not.

There is some American, however, called Kevin Farrell, who is on record as writing "If you find Pope Francis confusing, you have not read or do not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ".

Well, when the list of new cardinals came out, I imagine we all murmured quietly into our cups apekhei ton misthon autou. Additionally, this dottily misguided individual has already been made head of a Roman dicastery! His little old grandmother back in the Emerald Isle must be dead thrilled. I remembered that witty line in A Man for All Seasons "But for Wales, Richard?" But for a Dicastery, Kev?

This sort of thing really does bring home what an unwholesome little gang of nasty narrow-minded bigots we do seem now to be at the mercy of. I would think better of the Holy Father if he didn't seem so comfortable about surrounding himself with these dementedly ultrahyperueberpapalist ... is the noun I am here groping for 'careerists'? Benedict was a big enough man to appoint people whom he knew did not agree with him (Tagle, for one) because he thought he discerned quality. It would be good to see Francis oftener making the same disarmingly generous mistake.

POST SCRIPTUM: I gather this particular narrow-minded bigot has also recently categorically informed us that the deliberations of the two synods, and the composition of Amoris laetitia, were the Work of the Holy Spirit. I wonder if we have on record Bishop Farrell explaining to the world that the Holy Spirit was the pen which wrote Summorum Pontificum and Veritatis splendor.

And if you want to call me an unreconstructed Anglican, as Manning in effect called Blessed John Henry, you can. As often as you like. Sticks and stones ...  But I would rather Kev had said that the Scriptures, Migne, and the pages of Denzinger, not Amoris laetitia, would be the foundation of his dicastery for years to come; and that he always found such amazing new depths in Scripture and in the Fathers rather than in some recent slipshod papal Exhortation that he has "read seven or eight times" [is he a slow reader?].

But her Immaculate Heart will prevail. Never doubt that.

5 November 2016


I rejoice in the facility of offering the Holy Sacrifice on an Altar sealed with Relics; it is a relief to be able to be ecumenical, to conform to the consensus of the Latin West and the Byzantine East, that one should sacrifice over, as it were, the tombs of the martyrs. If a custom was good enough for the shell-shocked Church which in the fourth century emerged, metaphorically, from the catacombs with an overwhelming sense of being surrounded and supported by a great crowd of witnesses, martyres, then that custom is good enough for me. Even if the post-conciliar Church has gone a bit soggy on relics. I commend to those whose breviaries contain the old Appendix pro aliquibus locis the fine collect and the superb reading from S John Damascene they will find on November 5.

Not that the veneration of relics is as late as the fourth century. The contemporary account of the martyrdom of S Polycarp, the disciple of S John, embodied in the Encyclical which his Church at Smyrna sent to the  Catholic world in the middle of the second century, links the desire of the faithful for his relics with the doctrine of the Communio Sanctorum, the Communion of Saints: "they hoped to koinonesai* with his holy flesh". So, although the hatred of the local Jewish community drove the Romans to burn his body, his people gathered up even the ashes and placed them where they could meet for Mass annually on the genethlion* of his martyrion*, for a mneme* of those who had proathlekoton* and the askesis* and preparation of those who were going to bear witness.

Most immediately pre-conciliar local calendars made today, November 5, the Feast of the Holy Relics; according to Sarum it was on the Sunday after the Translation of S Thomas, i.e. in July; at Exeter on the Monday after Ascension Day.

Greek key: *share fellowship with; *birthday; *act of witness=martyrdom; *monument; *previously competed as athletes [a regular term for martyrdom]; *training. [I cannot restrain myself from two catty comments: that the current post-conciliar Roman regulations do not permit the use within altars of such relics as the tiny fragments gathered up by those who loved S Polycarp; and that, for sola Scriptura people, Acts 19:12 appears to encourage the use of Secondary Relics; and II Kings 13:21 the use of Primary Relics.]

4 November 2016


I'm having trouble receiving/sending emails. Friends, contacts, who fail to achieve contact ... this is why.

Sedevacantism yet again

I venture to draw the attention of those readers who write to me about one or other of the many, indeed, Protean, forms 'Sedevacantism' takes, to the fact that Bishop Richard Williamson, on his blog, has written a two-part series on Sedevacantism. It is the second time in recent months that he has done this.

I often don't agree with what his Excellency does, says, or writes; and I wouldn't always express myself as he does. But I warmly second his apprehension that this pernicious error can be a real danger to souls.

My often-expressed view (and I think the Bishop's view is along the same lines) is that the Ultrahyperueberpapalism of some who surround Papa Bergoglio, and Sedevacantism, are two sides of the same dangerously erroneous coin. Or, if you prefer, a pair of inseparably joined Siamese Twins. They both massively exaggerate the personal inerrancy of the man who is the Roman Pontiff. Accepting an absurdly inflated notion of personal papal inerrancy, Bergoglian ultras (correctly believing him to be Pope) conclude that therefore his every word and even hint must be the ipsissimum verbum Spiritus; sedevacantists (deeming him to be guilty of repeated blunders) conclude that he "obviously" cannot really be pope.

Both views are equally absurd. And both involve the same erroneous premise: personal papal inerrancy. I have called it an error; I think I could justify calling it a heresy in view of the defined dogma of Vatican I that the Successors of S Peter have not been given the Holy Spirit so that by His inspiration they can propagate new doctrine.

And both are equally dangerous to souls.

Bergoglio is Pope. He's not my own favourite pope, but he's Pope. Vicar of Christ. Successor of the Prince of the Apostles. Capable of being the mouthpiece of the Catholic Church's own infallibility and of binding all our consciences were he manifestly to fulfill the immensely careful conditions laid down by the admirable decree Pastor aeternus of Vatican I.

To deny that is a most grave danger to Catholic Faith and to Communio.

There have been less than good Popes before now, as Cardinal Pell very wisely pointed out a couple of years ago in his Iuventutem sermon. Sensible Catholics take the long view. And sensible Catholics also know that the College of Cardinals is not guaranteed the peremptory guidance of the Holy Spirit when it meets in electoral conclave. Some real 101% shockers have, in the past, emerged from the pope-making process! If that were, sadly, to happen in our own time, there would be nothing new about it!

I remind readers that I do not enable comments which seem to me Sedevacantist or Sedeprivationist or which claim that the elected candidate is in some way not quite fully pope, or that Benedict XVI is still pope or that the real pope is Mr Smith two doors down the road who was elected by a conclave of five and a half laypeople and his Auntie Mildred's cat. Also unwelcome: abusive rhetoric about the man who is also Pope. This is, after all, my blog. Just don't waste your time. Spend it praying for our Holy Father Pope Francis.

2 November 2016


Evelyn Waugh was once described as a man who thought of himself as being, in the sight of God, an English Country Gentleman of ancient and recusant ancestry. In fact, he was the son of a parvenu Anglican publisher quite well down in the Middle Class. I suspect that it is one of the characteristics of this last century and a half ... say, since the time of Disraeli ... I wonder why is it he that comes to my mind ... that we construct our sense of self-identity, not from our actual and family backgrounds, but from what we have discovered for ourselves; and not infrequently in reaction against our real and fearfully prosaic individual inheritances. Is it all to do with the cultural disintegration of this period?

I plead guilty to being myself a prime example of this embarrassing phenomenon of radical inauthenticity. I have always regarded myself as a Latin Catholic, deeply rooted in Classical Antiquity, but at home in ancient Rome while only a sympathetic visitor in ancient Athens ... where my wife, so much more of a Hellenist, is at home. Classicism Baptised makes me feel profoundly the product of the latinate culture and Liturgy which has shaped Western Europe for centuries. I am not, subjectively, in the least English; in fact ... well, Waugh once described me rather acutely in his account of Scott-King, another equally dim classics master: " ... he was filled, suddenly, with deep homesickness for the South. He had not often nor for long visited those enchanted lands; a dozen times, perhaps, for a few weeks ... but his treasure and his heart lay buried there. Hot oil and garlic and spilled wine; luminous pinnacles above a dusky wall; fireworks at night, fountains at noonday; the shepherd's pipe on the scented hillside ... he had left his coin in the waters of Trevi; he had wedded the Adriatic; he was a Mediterranean man." Hot oil and garlic and spilled wine ... ah, how that tugs at me even now while I sit here tapping at my computer in the chilly English autumn. My carnal temptations are to reach for Ovid's Metamorphoses when I should be saying my Office and to dream about Tiepolo ceilings while I should be making my meditation.  I rarely pass through London without going to gaze upon the statue of S Pius V, the Victor of Lepanto and the Author of Regnans in excelsis. He stands on the right hand side of the Lady Altar at Brompton; originally, with its spectacular North Italian pietra dura, from Brescia. It is where, through the generosity of the Provost, I said my first Mass in Full Communion with the See of Rome, before going across the road with two immensely dear friends from Papa Stronsay, and the brilliant, the convivial, Father Ray, to eat a French lunch and to drink a lot of French wine.

My father, on the other hand, was a British naval officer who was otherly romantic and squandered his affections on crooks like Drake and Raleigh; who loathed Irish, frogs, papists, waps, and dagoes; who entertained suspicions about people who mispronounced Trafalgar; and who had an enormous picture of Nelson upon his wall.

1 November 2016


Well, I do not feel a need to be embarrassed by my Prophecy that at Lund nothing horrendous would actually be done with regard to 'Intercommunion'. I am always happiest when I have been proved right. This is why I am so happy most of the time.

The assertion that both Catholics and Lutherans have wounded the visible unity of the Church seems to me radically similar to the language about 'wounds' in Cardinal Ratzinger's Communionis notio. 

I would want to qualify the Holy Father's suggestion that 'more unites us than divides us' by entering a distinguo: I would deem this to be true with regard to many very worthy orthodox Lutherans, but I believe there is evidence that some Lutherans, not least in Sweden, are way out in some quasi-gnostic stratosphere where very little of the Christian God survives. I suspect that there might be Lutherans who would themselves agree with this analysis, and who would be uneasy about 'Intercommunion' with such "fellow Lutherans".

I disliked most a sly little suggestion that Catholics and Lutherans should be 'creative' in their relationships. It seemed to me an example of a dodgy and very typically Bergoglian trick: the use of words which in themselves cannot reasonably be deemed heterodox, but do represent the tiniest of toes gingerly inserted into doors so that those doors can gradually in the future be prised further and unacceptably open.

However, I have my own, immensely creative, suggestion. The erection of a Lutheran Ordinariate, in which Lutherans who are still Christians would retain their own Patrimony in the full Communion and Magisterium of the Catholic Church. I am not convinced that this is as ludicrous a proposal as most of my readers probably will. I bet Papa Ratzinger would have been open to it.