31 December 2017

Ovidius in Luca ludit ... for classicists only

I can't let the last hours of the annus Ovidianus slip away without a few last lingering sips from this two-thousand-year-old vintage which never fails to exhilarate however often one raises the glass.

I want to suggest that the writer of the Corpus Lucanum in the New Testament was at least familiar with the Metamorphoses. Yes; you're right; I'm going mention the pericope at Acts 14: 8-18. Surely, if one met this in profane literature, one would cheerfully analyse it as a witty, even frivolous, inversion of the topos of the Unrecognised Gods as at Metamorphoses VIII: 611-724. An inversion and a frivolity almost worthy of Naso himself.

Indeed so. But I want to pitch the hypothesis more broadly.

Perhaps the theme most central to the Metamorphoses is the stylistic metamorphoses within the work itself*, as it swings gaily from genre to genre pastiching wildly as it goes ... Homer and Ennius and Accius and Vergil and Theocritus and the 'neoterics' and the elegists and Euripides and Lucretius and Callimachus ...

Surely, the writer who composed the first two chapters of the Ad Theophilum I in such a convincing Septuagintal pastiche could, if he had wished, have claimed Naso magister erat.

But S Luke has pressed his lusus into the service of God, rather than drawing his gods into the service of lusus.


*Surely we must, with Tarrant's OCT, emend the last word  of  I:2.

30 December 2017

Cookies

What knowing things "cookies" seem to be ...

... I was recently offered a full video of Pope Ratzinger's last Easter Sunday as occupant of the Roman See. How lovely to see him again; that devout and self-effacing manner ... but how weak he already looked. What a good illustration that Liturgy was of how the Novus Ordo can be done in a convincingly baroque idiom! If only that style had proved to be ... what is the word ... irreversible!

I was reminded of his use as a staff of his Anglican Cross. By 'Anglican' I mean, not that we gave it to him, but that it is a design once very popular in the C of E for Altar Crosses. Instead of a crucifixus attached to the Cross, there is an Agnus Dei in the middle. (Often, the four extremities of the Cross are marked by medallions of the four Evangelists.) My assumption has always been that in early twentieth century Middle Church Anglicanism, this seemed a little less in-your-face popish than a Crucifix.

Presumably, the design has medieval origins or analogies? Who knows about these things?

Does PF ever use the Anglican Cross?

29 December 2017

"Almost Infallible" ... an old Irish joke?

Cardinal Mueller recently used the phrase "almost infallible" to characterise the status being claimed by PF's associates for some of his initiatives. There have been one or two criticisms of Mueller.

I have to say that, having looked carefully at the context, I am convinced that his Eminence, far from inventing a new formal status in the hierarchy of papal statements, is talking with angry sarcasm about those who wish to deck out some of PF's more dubious utterances with an appearance of authority.

It is as if one were to refer to a young woman as "almost 99% a virgin".

Which reminds me of the (extremely) old Irish joke about the unmarried girl who, criticised by her pp for having a baby, replied "But it's only a very little one, Father".

By the way: the Bishop of Plymouth apparently has a splendid repertoire of old-fashioned pre-Enda Irish jokes. Some years ago when he was Rector of Allen Hall, he told an assembly of Ordinariate clergy a story about a peasant from the other side of the mountain; it ended with the punch-line "I didn't mean the whole b***dy bucket". But I can't remember the narrative in between.

Can anybody out there supply the missing material?

27 December 2017

Fr H's Vaticinia for 2017 UPDATED

UPDATE I offered these prophecies on January 1 this year (2017).

I don't think I got it terribly wrong, did I?

I offer them again for the coming year, 2018.

Our Holy Father will open his mouth when it would become him to keep it shut, and keep it shut when it would become him to open it. Thus he will maintain and continue, by the exercise of that sovereign will with which he is always free to act, the Suspense of his Petrine Magisterium (I use this term strictly in the sense made clear by Blessed John Henry Newman and not otherwise).

Our Holy Father will provide further proofs of the truth of an observation made in 1944 by the late, great Anglican Benedictine mystagogue, Dom Gregory Dix (1901-1952).
"Old men in a hurry to realise their dearest dreams can be very short-sighted."

Mary's Immaculate Heart will prevail. Never forget that this is Fatima Year

UPDATE for 2018: Perhaps I will add that the CBCEW will still fail to reach a common mind on Amoris laetitia. And that Cardinal Burke will return to the questions posed in the Dubia.

26 December 2017

Are they excluding orthodox priests from the episcopate?

When is a hint a hint? If I say "Don't do X", I think a future historian might draw the inference that X was really happening, or might at least be a real possibility. In other words, the Slave of Clio might detect a pretty potent hint as he/she interprets such words. When I was in teaching, we did not put up notices saying "Students must not frequent the pubs in Manhattan during term time", because of the unlikelihood that students might do such a thing, or even, given the distances involved, think about it. We did put up notices regarding rather closer watering holes, particularly the Sussex Pad: a nearby hostelry at which some prankster always seemed to have removed the first three letters of the first word of its name.

The interview with Cardinal Mueller last October, published in the National Catholic Register by the admirable Ed Pentin, contained a number of things which I am surprised have not made more of an impact among people with an eye for hints. Here is one such passage.

"A certain interpretation of the document's [Amoris laetitia] footnote 351 cannot be a criterion for becoming a bishop. A future bishop must be a witness to the Gospel, a successor of the Apostles, and not someone who repeats some words of a single pastoral document of the pope without a mature theological understanding."

If this isn't a hint as to what's now going on in the Congregation for Bishops, I don't know what such a hint would look like.

Recently a kind reader sent me a copy of the oath that new bishops are made to swear (Fr Zed subsequently published it). It included these words: "I will guard the unity of the Universal Church, and therefore I will work hard to see that the Deposit of the Faith handed down from the Apostles is kept pure and whole ..."

Indeed; and how splendidly edifying. You will remind me that it is positively Irenaean. But it is preceded by three paragraphs, some of them rather slavishly expressed, about how obedient the newly consecrated bishop will be to the pope, to his legates, and [then in the final paragraph] to Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

In my opinion, this reprents an inversion of the proper order of things. The faithfulness of a bishop to the Tradition is conceptually prior; his faithfulness to the current occupant of the Roman See is something which, by Divine Institution, ministers to that faithfulness. Reread your S Irenaeus!

The bishop is not faithful to Tradition because the pope orders or requires him to be; he is respectful towards the pope because the pope is supposed to embody the Tradition, venerable and normative, of the Roman Church.

If my discernment of the hint in Cardinal Mueller's words is accurate, then the question might arise (see my post of December 13) of ones attitude towards the 'magisterium' of those appointed to the episcopate since Amoris laetitia.

Were they selected on the grounds of their reliable heterodoxy?

It seems to me humili presbytero that the very wells of Apostolic Teaching are being deliberately poisoned, if not by PF, then by his agents (cronies, for example, in the Congregation for bishops ... I must remember to look through their names some time). Blessed John Henry Newman our Patron, writing at a time when ultrahyperueberpapalists were on the rampage, felicitously referred to them as "an arrogant and insolent faction". Surely, the same  phrase applies a fortiori to the equally fanatical Ultras of our own age.

25 December 2017

A GIRL FULL OF GOD

In a patristic reading recently offered (remarkably) both by the Roman Breviary and by the Liturgy of the Hours, S Ambrose reminds us that the first thing our blessed Lady did after the Annunciation was to hurry into the hill country to visit Elizabeth; and asks, rhetorically, 'For whither, now Full of God [plena Deo], should she hurry if not to higher places?'

The greatest of the Roman poets was Publius Ovidius Naso, whose rococo imagination and baroque syntax would have made him a most wonderfully Counter Reformation Catholic, had he lived a millennium and a half later. In this year, we of the elite have been commemorating the 2000th anniversary of his death. I wrote about him a little while ago. And it is purely and simply the Spirit of Ovid that animates the exuberant baroque statuary in the fountains and squares of renaissance Rome. In his youth, the dear old boy appears to have written a tragedy, the Medea, of which only two fragments remain as citations in later rhetorical treatises ... yes ... a sad fate ...

One of these fragments gives a few words of Medea, the Colchian Witch, a liberated feminist girl who engagingly terminated her children in order to irritate her husband; a wench quite worthy to be adopted as their tutelary deity by the crazed half-naked demonstrators plenae Diabolo [full of Satan] who riot for Abortion; the Choroi whose spondaic-dactylic-spondaic-dactylic incantation orders us "keep your rosaries off our ovaries". Apparently, in her frenzy, Medea cried out in Ovid's play feror huc illuc, ut plena deo [I am carried this way, that way, as full of (a) God].

In Roman literature, it is not unnatural for one in the grip of madness or, indeed, merely alcohol, to be called 'Full of (a) God', because Roman deities were so often personifications of dangerous or even disastrous things. So, after your Christmas celebrations, you might be (but I trust you will not be) said to be full of Bacchus. Medea was, I'm afraid, merely demented, poor thing.

I wonder whether S Ambrose, as an exercise in what we Classicists call Creative Intertextuality or imitatio cum variatione [copying something but with a significant change] but which lesser mortals mistake for Plagiarism, has consciously transposed this witty topos from the demented, noisy and bloody mythological figure of Medea, to the reality and hesychia [quietness] of a particular Jewish Girl who, quite literally, carried God Eternal and Incarnate an inch or two south of her fallopian tubes and is now Queen of Heaven. If so, he certainly put his finger on the Culture War, the essential enmity, between the Theotokos and today's maddened Satanic perversions of her icon.

But her heel will tread down the Serpent's head; and the Immaculate Heart of our Lady of Fatima will prevail.

Lectoribus omnia felicia, omnia fausta, omnia precor sancta.

24 December 2017

Prayers and best wishes ...

... to all readers, not least to those who kindly sent me cards and presents. I will remember you all at the Altar.

Traditions, Christmas traditions ...

It hasn't taken long for the Tradition to take hold that, just before Christmas, PF berates the Roman Curia for its shortcomings, polymeros kai polytropos, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it in the Epistle in die for Christmas Morning. Rather as with the Queen's Christmas Address to the Empire and the sound of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in Tescoes, we would miss this terribly if it no longer happened.

This year, however, the customary pontifical malevolence was confined to just one single rather lonely paragraph, giving it a distinctly perfunctory appearance. Did someone slip some paracetamol into the papal coffee? (That is the paragraph, of course, that all the ordinary blogs have been commenting on.) Elsewhere in the address, there are some really quite good bits. I will single out in particular what PF says, fairly early on, about the ministry of Deacons. (I do hope Cardinal Burke and the other Cardinal Deacons were listening carefully.) But first, a little local background.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my irritation when well-meaning people repeat the tired old historical and sacramental nonsense (vastly popular in the 1960s but unmitigated rubbish in that and every other decade) that the purpose of a Deacon is to minister to the poor and needy and sick and disadvantaged within, or even beyond, the Christian community. (Somebody included this stuff recently in a comment on this blog ... don't worry, I know you only did it in order to infuriate me! I know where you live!) Newer readers who care can use the search engine to discover a series I wrote on this particular topic. I haven't the energy to repeat it all here, not even as a Brand New Christmas Tradition!

This year, PF, or whoever tittivated his draft for him, included quotations from authentically early Christian writings, giving a very clear explanation of what the real, Traditional understanding is of deacons within the Church's ministry.

So credit where credit is due. Viva il Papa! I hope that Cardinal Sarah will take the hint and expunge from the Ordination Prayer of deacons in the modern Pontificale Romanum all the weary old 1960s twaddle which was so crudely interpolated into that fine old Roman Prayer in the meddlesome years that followed the Council, thereby pretty well doubling its length.

[I wonder if Cardinal Sarah is among those PF had in mind when he said they were being given just a weeny bit more time to come on-message before being sacked ... or 'sidelined', delicatamente allontanate, as we say nowadays ... ]

23 December 2017

CELTIC

As Christmas approaches and you look for suitable presents along the shelves of 'Church' bookshops: a word of advice. Don't buy anything from the shelves in the section labelled 'Celtic'.

Historians have decisively abandoned the concept of the 'Celtic' and especially of a supposed distinctive 'Celtic Church'. In a recent major scholarly work on this subject, Professor Charles-Edwards' Early Christian Ireland (Cambridge, 2000), the distinguished author writes dismissively of 'that entity - beloved of modern sectarians and romantics, but unknown to the early Middle Ages - ''the Celtic Church'' ', and surveys in a footnote the scholarly work of the last thirty years which has established this.

'Celtic' is the sexy religious thinggy because the 'Celtic' saints are distant figures in the past who , when they were alive, were rather combative old people but pose no particular threats to us now because they're dead except in in books and so they can easily be moulded to our own fads by suppressions and misrepresentations. And because 'Celtic' Christianity is in the past, people with hangups about the actual real Christianities available in the present day can invent their own 'Celtic Christianity'. Commonly such DIY constructions are all about being rather Mystical in pieces of remote and beautiful countryside, and about being 'close to nature'. If you are tempted to buy their books, check carefully whether the contents actually are sourced somewhere ancient or are merely the author's own compositions 'in the Celtic Spirit'.

If the 'Celtic' industry really had any serious interest in the Christianity of the 'Celtic fringe' during its first millennium, they would be rather keener to revive use of the earliest surviving Missal from these islands, the Stowe Missal, which dates from the 790s but was copied from an original which must have dated from before the changes made in the Mass by Pope S Gregory the Great in the late 500s. It is of southern Irish origin. I published a little academic something on it a few years ago. Its Eucharistic Prayer is almost entirely identical with the current Roman 'First Eucharistic Prayer', except that it contains rather more saints and describes the Pope as 'thy most blessed servant N our Pope, Bishop of the Apostolic See'. It has a lovely Prayer of Humble Access, so much more mystical and uplifting than Cranmer's, which includes beautiful (if possibly politically incorrect) phrases like 'I am unworthy because I filthily adhere to the mire of dung and all my good deeds are like a rag used by a menstrual woman'.

See if you can find it on those bookshelves!


22 December 2017

NOT FOR ANTIPODEANS

When you get old and confused and start taking your pills for Osteoporosis, you become prejudiced against ice and rather look forward to the end of Winter. And ... here we are in the December Ember Days, originally the Feriae Sementinae  of pagan Rome, when the sowing was done. So already we are allowed to look forward to the Return of the Sun and to the fertilities of Spring and Summer. Incidentally, the earliest liturgical formulae we have for these Ember Days predate the invention of Advent and seem completely oblivious of the approach of Christmas. Could it be that they predate even the invention of Christmas?? For example:
Humbly O Lord we beseech thee that, being sufficiently aided by the full measures [commodis] of earthly fruits, we may advance towards thee the Author of all things. 
How redolent of the unfussy workaday matter-of-fact genius of the old Roman Rite.

And then, yesterday, the Feast of S Thomas the Apostle, we had the Winter Solstice. Not a day too soon, sez I.

At least, we did if we follow the Gregorian Calendar. I expect solstices and equinoxes and all that sort of stuff come later for all you followers of the Julian computation. Three cheers for pope Gregory XIII! Perhaps one day we may have a pope sufficiently enlightened and Flexible to move the solstice even earlier! Perhaps ... this is just a thought that has popped into my mind ... back to the Feast of S Lucy! Frankly, I don't go for all this Rigidity.

21 December 2017

Professor Peter Geach


Today is the obitus, or Year's Mind, of Peter Geach, whom readers will recall as a philosopher of distinction; he converted to Catholicism in the early 1940s while reading Greats at Oxford ... and married a no less distinguished philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe, who also converted while reading Greats. The Geaches formed a last link with one of the principal philosophers of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and helped to ensure that in extremis he had a priest at his bedside, and received a Catholic burial. Quorum omnium animabus propitietur Deus.

The young Geach proclaimed King Robert I & IV, in 1937, standing on the steps of the Martyrs' Memorial, wearing his scholar's gown and doffing his academic cap. He was not arrested. Not even by a stray passing bulldog. Newspapers in the distant and dusty climes of Texas and the Malay Straits as well as in England covered the event. It would be very jolly to know whom the fifty-odd gathering of undergraduates included.

I shall return to Geach and his Jacobitism in January, a month when you may need cheering up. What better cheer than a Toast to the King over the Water! And, I think, to Geach.

20 December 2017

"Fas est doceri ab Anglicanis "

"Things are rarely so dire that they can't be made worse by an episcopal cover-up".

Comment on the Bell case.

Women Bishops

I wonder if I am out of date with regard to Anglican canonical niceties?

My recollection is that 'suffragan' [i.e. auxiliary] bishops are commissioned by their diocesan, and that their commission becomes void when the diocesan retires ... until the new diocesan grants them a new commission. Is that still the case?

This means that those congregations which reject the sacerdotal ministrations of women in the London diocese, who hitherto have been 'under the care of' Jonathan Baker, will henceforth be under the care of a Jonathan Baker who acts in the name of and by the authority of a woman 'bishop'.

When there is a woman at Canterbury, the same will true of those who are under the care of the bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough.

Will this be an acceptable situation? Personally, I don't see how it can be. But those clergy who hung on in the C of E in 2011 are now very adept at staying put. There is always, they explain, some further Enormity, still a few years ahead, which will finally make their position impossible, but this Enormity is just about tolerable.

If I had any power in the matter, I would offer such clergy a period of, say, eighteen months during which they could enter the Ordinariate (or a diocese) on special terms ... such as reordination within six months.

For some, such an offer would be a lifeline, a godsend; for others, it would call their bluff.

19 December 2017

Anglican bishops (2)

And yesterday's London appointment, surely, lends massive support to the thesis in my yesterday's post. And how similar Sarah is to Justin!! I don't mean that Justin is effeminate or that Sarah is butch: rather, that each of them achieved eminence outside the Anglican Ministry; each served rather briefly in the presbyteral and parish ministries; did a fairly perfunctory stint bishopping; and bob's your uncle. Carey, likewise, rose from Bath'n'Wells to Canterbury without pettifogging delays. And for his successor, the Wise and the Good turned to ... somebody who was not a Church of England bishop at all! And Archbishop Eames was another name that had been mentioned!

Given the judgement thus effectually passed upon the Church of England's Bench of Bishops, you hardly needed me to make the unkind remarks about their quality which I offered you yesterday.

Time was, when some Sees (notably, Durham and Oxford) were reserved for academics of eminence. It was felt useful that they would be able to keep their heads above water as they navigated the Senior Common Rooms. But, with the increasing secularisation of the older Universities, that instinct has disappeared. It is rumoured that Rowan had been "in for" a number of Oxbridge headships of house before, by a narrow margin, he secured Magdalen. The Church of England is no longer a real part of the English Establisment, incredible though that may seem.

Justin's major success has been keeping the anti-woman-priests brigade happy by giving them an attractive little ecclesiola in ecclesia ... something that the liberals consistently vetoed during Rowan's pontificate. But I don't put that down to Justin's superior diplomatic skills as much as to the success of the Ordinariates and a nervous sense that a leakage needed to be blocked up. PF has helped too ... he is nothing like as attractively Anglican as dear Professor Ratzinger was. Indeed, PF has been a godsend to the C of E. One Anglican cleric said to me: "You know, I just don't feel nearly as papalist now as I thought I was"!

I imagine that the idea will have been in many minds that Sarah would make a good shoe-in for Canterbury when Justin cuts and runs. They must be rather worried about the current calls for his resignation ... "a bit too soon, old man" they will be murmurring. "Most people outside the Athenaeum have never even heard of Bell ... stick it out".

18 December 2017

"astonishingly unimpressive and tricky"

This is the analysis by Peter Hitchens, a well-known journalist (an English Anglican of Marxist origin), of the Management of the Church of England. It was elicited by a Report, written by a very distinguished barrister (of Polish Jewish extraction), dealing with the trashing, on minimal evidence, of the reputation of George Bell, an Anglican bishop. Bell had been highly regarded hitherto because of his support of the German Protestant opposition to Hitlerism, and his subsequent condemnations of the Allied blanket bombing of German centres of civilian population. But a single female complainant had made accusations of sexual abuse, several decades after Bell's death. The Church of England adopted its normal modern fall-back positions: panic and incoherence.*

"Astonishingly unimpressive and tricky" is undoubtedly a fair description of your modern Anglican bishop. Managing an institution in terminal decline is an unattractive proposition, and, in a fallen world, it is not surprising that it gets left to third- and fourth-rate men and women. Hence the Careys and the Welbys. And they got to be Archbishops of Canterbury!! Even poor Sentamu managed to collar the See of S Wilfrid! An influential Anglican blog has commented that "it is time for a fundamental debate about what is wrong at the highest levels of the Church of England". Well, that would lead us not higher but deeper down, to where lies the root problem.

Ours is a culture in which it is impossible to avoid the immense chasm which has opened up between those for whom inherited patterns of sexual morality still retain a normative status; and those who (either out of an instinct for organisational survival or out of a notion of what "the Holy Spirit" is calling for) believe in an accommodation with the Zeitgeist. Adopting either premise can mean that a man will suffer a lifetime of abuse and calumny. First- and second-rate men naturally assume they can do more good, and live more agreeably, in less exposed positions.

So the third- and fourth-raters to whom Management does by default fall waste their time in pursuit of compromises "which everybody will be able to live with".

I have not been in full communion with the Catholic Church in England and Wales for long enough to know how generally true such things may also be of Catholic bishops. I am not encouraged by the fact that (as far as I know) no report has been published revealing who knew about Kieran Conry's womanising before the baloon went up; and whether they had read a media report of it before his Consecration. And now, of course, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is no longer available to answer questions.

*To be fair: the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral here in Oxford did not behave like that. And analysis of the Carlile Report has suggested that the major faults lie with the central Management of the C of E rather than with the Diocese of Chichester. Of course, the hooha will die down over the Christmas and New Year Holidays, and I think we can confidently assume that no resignations will follow. Back to business as normal! ... er ...

17 December 2017

Salome non sine mentula

It just plopped through my door earlier in the year ... a leaflet inviting me to see a production of Oscar Wilde's Salome by the Royal Shakespeare Company. I am reminded of it as we reach this 3rd Sunday of Advent, on which Holy Mother Church sets S John Baptist before our eyes.

"Portrayed by Matthew Tennyson wearing a dress and high heels, the 'Salome' ... is not depicted as male or female ... we can't shoehorn everyone into being either a 'he' or a 'she' ..."

Poor dear Oscar, what a wonderful, counter-cultural, time of it he had. What an amusing era that was, when you could use homosexuality to set yourself up as a wit and to provoke and disquiet the grim, stuffy, pompous old bores of cultural conformity.


And I wonder what poor dear Oscar would have made of our era, in which we are required to preach the normality of sodomy and to inculcate the bizarre rubbish of fluid gender among the young. It's a tough time now for the counter-cultural, isn't it? A time in which the rules are rigidly enforced  and carefully policed by the grim, stuffy, pompous old bores of cultural conformity. I wonder if Oscar might have banged on the gates and sought readmission to Reading Gaol.

Ah well. I expect the RSC is glad to get an occasional break from endless performances of Transqueen Lear.

16 December 2017

Pope and Curia

In his recent Interview, Cardinal Mueller said: "As the first and the last, the highest most important interpreter of that revelation of God in Christ Jesus, [the pope] is not an isolated person, but head of the Roman Church ... and, therefore, he is reliant on the qualified and engaged cooperation of that Roman Church in the form of the Cardinals and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia".

Obvious stuff ... but perhaps not so obvious in this ultrahyperueberpapalist age, in which PF shows himself impatient of the more intelligent and theologically formed members of his Curia; and happily dependant upon questionable collaborators. I wrote about this not very long ago; I venture to repeat my earlier pieces below. As Cardinal M emphasises, the Curia has a theological status.

14 December 2017

The Anglicans are dumping the Common Ground: Welby on Abortion

When formal ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans began in earnest in the 1960s, there was a strong ground assumption. It was this. We were glad that we had so much in common. We recognised that there were things upon which we differed. So dialogue would serve to remove the differences; meanwhile, what we had in common would stay safe. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury had agreed upon a formula which made much of "the Common Ancient Traditions". Neither side would introduce new differences.

(We Anglo-papalists, of course, already agreed with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church on everything. I'm talking about the general assumption among non-papalist Anglicans and Catholics.)

Recently, there have been reports about Justin Welby. He is said to have declared that the (admirably clear) views on abortion held by a Catholic MP called Rees-Mogg are not held in the Church of England.

He could have said that these views on abortion were not universally held in the Church of England. That would have been a (depressing) statement of fact. But his actual words, reportedly, were that such views are "certainly not held within the Church of England".

That is a plain untruth. His predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, held very clear views on abortion. You could find them by googling 'Rowan Williams abortion'. And Williams, sadly, is still in the Church of England. Ergo ...

The Anglicans appear to have no shame about ditching those things which, a generation ago, they held in common with Catholics. And, as far as I know, Catholic spokesmen, whether in Rome or Westminster or Birmingham, never waggle a finger and say "'ere 'ere 'ere, what's going on? Are we still in dialogue or are we not?"

The ARCIC methodology would be best served if both sides were required to give, say, ten years' notice of the next load of innovatory departures from the Common Ancient Traditions which they intended to introduce.

12 December 2017

Obituaries

Fr Zed, and the Obituary writers of the Times, often combine to remind us wrinklies of the imminence of Death ...

Firstly, King Michael of Romania. He visited us several times at Lancing; we provided the Romanian royal National Anthem and treated him as befits a ruling Monarch. In the slippery years from 1930 to 1950, years (as General Kim Philby, I believe, put it) of the King Carols and the Prince Pauls, of Fascist strong men and ambitiously unscrupulous Marxists, His Majesty ... kindly; decent; honourable ... deserved better than he got. The detail of his life which I liked best was that after he used his royal prerogative to sack and arrest Marshal Antonescu, the Man of Steel was confined in the strongest room they had in the Royal Palace. Which happened to be the room in which the Royal Stamp Collection was kept safe. Let us hope that he did not interfere with the perforations or smudge any of the postmarks. Somehow, there is just a whiff of P G Wodehouse about this, yes?

And now, Enoch Powell's widow has died. I never met her, but we did once have Enoch himself to dinner. My main recollection is that we discussed Rhetoric, Classical and modern, and the sad days upon which that noble art had fallen. With due and deferential reference to his own eminence in this field, I asked him who else, in the politics of the early 1970s, he believed to be considerable in the art. With no hesitation, he replied "Michael Foot". I had not known, until I read it in last week's obituary of his widow, that the Powells and the Foots, at the opposite extremes of politics, were close friends who often dined together.

Quorum animabus propitietur Deus.

11 December 2017

Will he never stop ... (2) Pope Francis, the Our Father, and the next Conclave

Lead us not into temptation. It is unlikely that the Greek and Latin words translated by temptation meant the sort of thing we mean by 'temptation' in the confessional ... the 'temptation' to steal something, or to speak uncharitably, or to suspend the Custody of the Eyes. Peirasmos has been thought to refer much more probably to the time of testing, that is to say, of being tortured or intimidated to give up our Faith. Scripture teaches us that the End Times will indeed be marked by just such testings or persecutions. It is natural to ask God, whose providence disposes the times, to spare us this. [See for example Mt 26:41; Luke 8:13; Apocalypse 2:10 and 3:10.]

(And, by the way, Evil could be either masculine or neuter (tou ponerou). Many, probably most,  people think it refers to the Evil One.)

So, in my opinion, PF is proposing a revision which is not, as he appears to have been told, a revised translation but a radical change in the meaning of the Greek original. With sorrow, I have to say that this new example of his gigantic self-confidence does not surprise me.

What repeatedly ... it seems, almost daily !! ... irritates me about PF is his endless propensity to treat the Depositum Fidei, the Universal Church and what she has inherited from the Apostles or from the generations since, as something which is at his disposal to change, to criticise, or to mangle in any way that appeals to his personal whimsy at any particular moment. He is like a toddler who has been given toys to play with ... a big, boisterous and wilful child who likes to play with them rather roughly; whose commonest phrase is "I want ...". If anyone suggests that he should perhaps handle them rather more gently, he throws a tantrum. I am immensely sorry to have to write like this about Christ's Vicar but, ever since his election, PF has appeared to me to want attention to be drawn particularly to those parts of his personal 'style' which mark him as most radically different from his predecessors. A pope who disliked close scrutiny and the consequent criticism would keep the journalists and cameramen at a distance, say a very great deal less, and speak only after taking competent advice. An ecclesiastic who deliberately sollicits attention is ill-placed to complain if he gets it, nor can his sycophants plausibly do so on his behalf. This pontificate did not invent the unfortunate modern phenomenon of the celebrity pope, but it has shown how very dangerous and divisive that cult is.

PF's election was, I suppose, the responsibility of the Cardinal Electors ... to whom one has to add such Cardinal non-Electors as Murphy O'Connor, who, we are told, dinnered his way around Rome encouraging his friends, and the other Anglophone Cardinals, to vote for Bergoglio (as he had every right to do). But there are also perhaps systemic problems here too. I do not think that even those whose analysis of this pontificate is totally different from mine will wish to disagree with much in what follows. Firstly ...

Time was when the Church was blessed with perhaps a dozen or two cardinals, pretty certainly not more than seventy; so that, in a conclave, each elector was more likely to know something about at least the more prominent and papabili of his brethren. If there are 120 or more electors, you are inevitably going to have the sort of situation in which an Eminent Father "from the peripheries" who knows next to nobody, will be open to be influenced by fellow electors who appear knowledgeable and who combine to assure him that Cardinal X is a Splendid Fellow. Additionally, PF has (significantly) suppressed the open discussions which the Cardinals used to be allowed to have with each other when they met formally in consistories. His once-claimed passion for parrhesia did not survive his experiences in his two 'synods'.

Secondly, it has come to be felt that it is edifying ... that the World will be impressed ... if a pope is elected within a couple of days. Almost as if it would be dangerous if the electors got to know each other, or if it became apparent to the waiting Press that there were deep divisions inside the Sistine Chapel. Even those simple souls (Ratzinger and I think they are misguided) who believe that the Holy Spirit chooses the pope, might have trouble giving a plausible theological explanation as to why the Holy Spirit should be so keen to operate through a quick-fire conclave rather than through a more lengthy and carefully considered one.

And, thirdly, PF will bequeath to the next interregnum a Church ... and a Sacred College ... much more deeply and ideologically divided than has been true for a very long time, possibly for ever.

I pray that the next conclave may be very, very, lengthy, even if that does encourage the Vatican press corps endlessly to lecture the watching World on such arcane mysteries as Blocking Thirds. Surely, their Eminences will have learned the lessons of the last five disastrous, destructive, divisive years?

10 December 2017

Will he never stop ... (1) Pope Francis and the Our Father

PF thinks the traditional translations of the Oratio Dominica need to be changed. Lead us not into temptation displeases him. Why should God lead people into temptation to sin? Obviously, this must be a Bad Translation. Would May we not be led into temptation be better?

Fundamentalist traddies are likely to be outraged. Changing the Our Father!!!!!

Although of course I am a Rigid Pharisee, I am not that sort of fundamentalist. The Lord's Prayer contains a number of mysteries. Let me go off at a tangent and give you an example from elsewhere in the Prayer. Let me tell you about Give us this day our Daily Bread. The Greek word translated Daily is particularly mysterious. Epiousion is pretty well a hapax legomenon (a Greek word occurring only once) and Origen remarked that you never heard it used in his time. It looks as though it should be related to epiouse, which means coming. Put that together with hemera (day) and it would mean our bread of the coming day, and S Jerome knew of a Hebrew Gospel which did indeed render it by mahar, of tomorrow. Might it mean the Bread of the Kingdom? Might it mean the eschatological Food, tomorrow's Bread which we are allowed to receive today ... i.e. the Blessed Sacrament? Or might epiousion mean supersubstantial? Etymologically, it could do so. And so on. Far from finding my Faith disturbed, I find such questions exhilarating. If you wanted to go further, you could compare the Lucan version of the Our Father with S Matthew's. TheTradition, in all its breadth, gives us such riches upon which to meditate ...

Despite the different possible interpretations of parts of this Prayer, if I were a person of immense authority, I would not choose to use my power to change one single inherited rendering. My first reason for not doing so would be that I am profoundly aware that I am not infallible. And that a rendering which appealed to me 100% today might no longer do so in a year's time. And it is worth remembering that the Church has got along for two millennia without prescribing to us what meaning we should each attach to the words of this prayer. Two Millennia of hermeneutical freedom ... until we reached the Age of Mercy, the Aetas Bergogliana. Now, it seems, we need to be tied down to those particular interpretations and meanings which appeal to this particular, all-wise, pope.

It's almost as if PF has decided to give a big plug to the recent e-book, The Dictator Pope by Professor Marcantonio Colonna, about which I wrote a few days ago.

And let me make this clear: the Greek original and its Latin version do not mean what PF wants them to mean. Anybody who claims that they do, is either ignorant or dishonest. PF's proposal is not a translation, but an alteration. But I'll return, D v, to that tomorrow. (I'm afraid it has occurred to me that all this might be a ploy to provoke yet another disagreement with Cardinal Sarah, with the intention of finally getting rid of him. After all, PF is suggesting that a change be made in liturgical texts which involves eliminating the actual words of what the Greek and Latin and Syrian bibles say the Lord actually said, and replacing them with what a twenty-first century Roman Bishop says he prefers. It is Cardinal Sarah's job, quite frankly, to resist the imposition of a gratuitous mistranslation of an authorised original.)

My second reason for making no change is pastoral. Back in the 1970s, we in the Church of England did indeed experiment with 'modern' translations of the Pater noster. Those experimental forms are now, I think, rarely used. The reason is: the clergy discovered that among infrequent church-goers, including the house-bound sick and elderly, and those attending Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals, and the Midnight Mass brigade, the Lord's Prayer was the only formula they knew. Any other liturgical memories they had lingering from their childhoods had been rendered out-of-date by the liturgical revolutions of the 1960s. Was it 'pastoral' to deprive such people of the only remaining bit of a worship-experience which was in the least familiar to them ... which had any sort of purchase upon their memories? So most of us just changed Our Father which ... into Our Father who ... , and left it at that.

Incidentally, the 'modern language' Anglican version ... in case you were wondering ...  finds no problems whatsoever in the phrase which makes PF and, we gather, some French and Italian bishops, lose so much sleep.

We were right not to meddle.

(Concludes tomorrow, by examining Lead us not into temptation.)

9 December 2017

Appeal for information

A kind friend has sent me an interesting text: the oath fidelitatis that (?) newly consecrated or translated bishops have to swear in the Latin Church (how about the sui iuris Oriental Churches?).

My first impetuous reaction was to feel that no man with any sense of his dignity would sign such a grovelling formula (vide praesertim verba atque consilia prope finem) . Then I recollected that, over the last thirty years, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bishops may have signed this piece of paper with no intention (exempli gratia) of doing anything to implement Canon 249 (seminarians being taught to be fluent in Latin). Or of doing anything to repress liturgical abuses. So I expect this 'oath' is just an empty formality that one performs and then has a good laugh about. As when we Anglican clergy used to swear an oath to use only the Book of Common Prayer. Ha Ha Ha. Indeed. Ha Ha Ha.

I would be interested, nevertheless, to know the history of this formula, and to what extent its wording is recent. Quite a bit of it seems to me to be redolent of the catch-phrases of Vatican II.

8 December 2017

Litany to a Lady ...

Stella orientalis,
Fulgidum lumen,
Libertatis propugnatrix invicta,
Exemplum fortitudinis,

... no; good guess; but you're wrong. This is not a recently discovered fragment of a medieval Litany to the Theotokos. Just some of the phrases lavished in this University by Mr Orator Jenkyns and my lord Chancellor upon Aung San Suu Kyi on the emotionally highly wrought occasion when she received the degree of Doctor of Civil Law honoris causa in 2012.

She seems to have been less than successful in teaching Civil Law to her own military. So here is my proposal for succouring the Burmese refugees who have fled to Bengal. Let every institution which has showered honours on Aung San Suu Kyi, from the exquisite heights of Oxford University all the way right down to those risible idiots the Nobel Peace Prize Trustees, chip in with, say, £5 million each.

As a penance for infringing the prerogatives of the Mother of God.

Tu Gloria Jerusalem

Throughout the opening chapters of S Luke's Gospel, like the insistent tolling of Great Tom after nine o'clock each evening, there rings the insistent phrase kata ton nomon Moyseos. Mary, the truest Daughter of Jerusalem, who is herself the antitype of Sion, obeyed punctiliously the Torah, as gradually, storing away like a miser in her Immaculate Heart the wonders of which she had been made a partaker, she came to full understanding that the Child upon her knee was himself the blessed Torah Incarnate. "Whatever he says unto you ..."

Mary Immaculate is, surely, meant to be known as an icon of Redeemed Israel; Israel as she and all men were meant to be if Eve had not fallen; as in God's promises she will be, purged from the disobediences against which her prophets preached, washed in the waters of Baptism, joyful in the knowledge that her God is faithful and that his promises will be fulfilled.

Condemn me as a 'judaizer' if you like, but my heart lifts whenever I see a family of what our nasty secular Media disdainfully call "the Ultra-Orthodox"; the mother caring for her children, the father, as likely as not, with his nose in the Torah. Surely we should pray for those whose devotion to the Torah needs but the gentlest removal of the veil from their eyes so that, seeing, they may grasp Who that Torah is. And especially at this time for those communities in the Holy Land who, I gather, are now at risk of being made to serve in the armed forces of the Israeli state. And for the Departed, especially those millions who were victims of the rabies Germanica.

Living and departed, may they be all faithful, like Mary, to the End (telos), knowing finally Who the End, the Omega, is, and, like Mary at Golgotha, hearing the proclamation tetelestai.

6 December 2017

Terminological inexactitudes? UPDATED

This morning on the BBC Home Service the Mayor of Jerusalem told us that Jerusalem has been the Capital of Israel for 3,000 years.

UPDATE: Motu proprio most kindly supplied a great deal of information about what Jerusalem was capital of for three thousand years. Unfortunately, my aging and moribund computer seemed to have endless trouble showing the Comments on screen. I hop they are now all 'up'.

Magisterial??

So PF's letter to a bishop in Argentina has been published in the AAS. Naturally, people are worried about the status which this might confer on it. Does it turn the letter concerned into a Magisterial document to which we are obliged to exhibit respect (obsequium)? And all that.

I am not going to get into questions such as the different weight to be accorded to different levels of papal documents; or how to construe a papal document which either obviously or apparently contradicts another document of the same Magisterial level. You can find that sort of stuff elsewhere. And the great Father Zed has done the Church Militant another immense service by printing a detailed analysis of the situation by a noted canonist. The gist is: even an Apostolic Letter printed in AAS does not cancel Canon 915 (unless it explicitly and in due form says that it does).

We are in a new situation under PF, and new hermeneutical methods are both needed and implied. I offer some thoughts ... you might call them the tentative reactions of a Plain Simple Man.

It is an objective and undeniable fact that Amoris laetitia has been interpreted in diametrically  contradictory ways. Some bishops, some conferences, take the view that it has changed nothing of the teaching contained in previous Magisterial documents. Some bishops, some conferences, believe that it has opened up the possibility of giving the Sacraments to unrepentant public adulterers. A sound and common sense principle is A doubtful Law is no Law.  As Cardinal Mueller has pointed out, in a very grave matter a change can only be made in law or doctrine by an explicit statement, with accompanying reasoning, making clear beyond all doubt that a change is being made. Sending Von Schoenborn down to a Vatican News Conference to smile sweetly at Diane Montagna and say "It's a Development!! Read Newman!!!" hardly meets this criterion.

If Amoris laetitia itself is of no effect, clearly a letter (even if it subsequently appropriates to itself the grandiose term 'Magisterial') which purports to interpret AL, can hardly rise much above the level of nugacitas.

Vatican I defined that ex cathedra statements of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable ex sese and not e consensu Ecclesiae. By implication: it has not been defined that lesser papal statements are ex sese irreformable. Thus, it is lawful to take into account what conferences and individual bishops say in interpreting Amoris laetitia. That document is reformable and any force it may eventually after a few decades acquire will depend on the consensus of the Church.

A fortiori, the same is true of the note that Cardinal Parolin has so unwisely attached to the text of "the Argentine letter" in AAS. One of the cheapest and nastiest tricks of the current regime is its facile habit of plastering labels reading "Holy Spirit" or "Magisterium" onto any ill-considered novelty it wants to force down the throats of its unwilling fellow Christians.

Another objective and undeniable fact: although instructed by his Employer to "strengthen your brethren", PF has not replied to Dubia, even when submitted by patres purpurati. Quite obviously, it cannot be argued that he has taught, clearly, explicitly, and as definitive tenendum, any of those contents of the document Amoris laetitia which have caused such puzzlement.

In other words, the Petrine Ministry appears currently to be in the state which Blessed John Henry Newman neatly described as Suspense. I suggest that a general pastoral conclusion to be drawn from all this is that ordinary straightforward Christians have better things to do with their time than worrying about the precise status of ambiguous statements. Better, richer, more God-given things. Qualia essent ...


Open a bottle of wine.

Compose a limerick in English about Cardinal Kasper.

Do the Times Latin Crossword in under five minutes.

Play forfeits with your wife/husband.

Incorporate into a 'Vergilian' eclogue (with goats and shepherdesses galore) Cardinal Mueller's recent brilliant apercu that the Church is not a Field Hospital but a Silicon Valley.

Recite the Quicunque vult and make an Act of Faith.

Cram yourself full of baklava and/or halva.

Listen to the Kyries of the Missa Papae Marcelli.

Go to Ashmole and commune with Menander or Benedict XIV or both.

Walk down the river from Sandford Lock to Abingdon and count the species of waterfowl.

Convert the encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis into Homeric hexameters.

Shoot a magpie or two or three or four.

Find a priest who will take a stipend to offer the Mass Salus populi for the Ecclesia Dei adflicta.

Kai, as Aristotle might have put it, ta loipa panta.



5 December 2017

Is he still Pope?

I sympathise with dear and conflicted layfolk who wonder, in view of the preposterous publication in AAS of a certain letter, whether PF has finally stepped across a certain line and through manifest heresy forfeited the Petrine See.

The answer is
(1) No;
(2) No; and
(3) No.

To suffer canonical consequences for formal heresy, formal canonical procedures, including formal pertinacity after formal warnings, would be necessary.

There is nowhere you can buy a DIY 'deposeapope' kit.

If God spares me until tomorrow morning, I shall as usual say una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Francisco in the Te igitur, bowing my head as I do so.

Sedevacantist comments are never, you will remember, enabled on this blog.

Talk about PF no longer being pope is an easy way out of a very horrible problem. It is a characteristic temptation of the Enemy. You must realise that the Enemy is terribly active at the moment.

I beg you in the Holy Name of our Redeemer to forget it.

Cardinal Parolin on Episcopal Conferences

In his recent paper read to the Catholic University of America, Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State, urged upon us a policy first suggested by PF in Evangelii gaudium: the increasing of the competences of Episcopal Conferences. He appeared to be unaware of the reasons for Apostolos suos of S John Paul II; but he did acknowledge the existence of that document. He proceded to tell us that it should "be understood not as a final destination, but as the basis for a renewed reflection".

This hermeneutical principle seems to me subversive of the whole structure of Catholic doctrine. Consider "[Christ] rose on the third day according to the Scriptures". Well, you can if you like call this a basis for a renewed reflection ... our Faith is always something upon which we should reflect further. But our reflection should always preserve the whole content of the original doctrine, so that the new reflection is eodem sensu eademque sententia.

Parolin then went on to claim that Conferences are "really episcopal" because "they have their reason for being not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred upon each bishop with episcopal consecration". Thus an attempt is being made to give episcopal conferences a basis, a toe-hold, in the Church's Tradition and Dogma.

Whoever drafted this section for his Eminence seems to be ignorant of, or to have ignored, the Magisterium of the last three decades. The Ecclesiology of the Catholic Church sees only two institutions as definitive by Divine Institution: the Universal Church, in communion with the Roman Church; and the local Particular Church, in communion with its Bishop. These are in fact, theologically if not geographically, the same thing; the Universal Church is manifested and made present in the Particular Church. The phrase 'local Church' does not mean a quasi-National 'church', such as "the English Church", which is an aggregation of dioceses. That phrase itself is common, useful, but imprecise slang. But, to be precise, there is the Universal Church and there is the Diocese of Portsmouth.

Groupings of Particular Churches, as Vatican II taught, may for practical and prudential reasons be highly valuable or of venerable antiquity, such as the Patriarchates. But they are not by Divine Law essential. See Communionis notio AAS 85 (1992).

This is why our Holy Mother the Church has been circumspect with regard to Episcopal Conferences. In Apostolos suos she allowed Conferences to have a doctrinal competence, but only if (1) a vote is unanimous (in which case the teaching is the teaching of each individual bishop) or (2) where a vote is not unanimous but is confirmed by the Holy See (in which case the teaching is that of the Universal Church). She is apprehensive about the weakening of the Magisterium of the Bishop in his own Particular Church (i.e. his diocese), and the influence of bureaucracies.

The duty of a local bishop is to ask himself whether a particular idea is in accordance with what has been handed down to him by his predecessors in his See and coheres with the Magisterium of the Church. It is not to ask "Is this a brilliant idea of an amazingly fantastic theologian?", or "Is this roughly in line with what my colleagues bishops X, Y, and Z thought last time we had a chat about it?", or "Can I really go against this when the the Episcopal Conference's ABCDEF Commission has considered it long and hard and come to a definite conclusion expressed in a big Document impressively supported by innumerable footnotes?"

I have throughout this pontificate been afraid that "autonomy and doctrinal Competence for Episcopal Conferences" may be the next major error to assault the whole State of Christ's Church Militant here in Earth. It is the very self-same principle which has corrupted and destroyed the Anglican Communion. It is a Diabolical threat with which those of us with 'Anglican Previous' lived and suffered for decades. Believe me, we know all about it. This is a problem which matters. It is most clearly a strategy elaborated at the very depths of the Lowerarchy.


Here are some remarks, very revealing, made a couple of years ago by a German bishop, Bishop Voderholzer of Regensburg, who seems to have his head screwed on the right way. He speaks of a document of the German Episcopal Conference which
"was released in the name of the Conference of Bishops, of which I am a member, without my having seen its contents, much less having approved it". He goes on to speak of his having "accepted the torch of belief and pastoral responsibility from his forerunners, including S Wolfgang." In other words, not from Cardinal Marx or the Episcopal Conference. And not even from PF. A Bishop and his diocese are not a department of a National Organisation, nor is a bishop Romani pontificis vicarius.

S Irenaeus, with his clear exposition of the handing down of the Faith from bishop to bishop in each Church, would have shaken Bishop Voderholzer warmly by the hand.

Provincial Autonomy (the crisp title by which all this unpleasant stuff is known among Anglicans) is perfectly designed to become a forum within which innovating and unscrupulous bullies will be endowed with the procedural and personal mechanisms to subjugate an orthodox Bishop. And do not underestimate the danger that good and orthodox men may be worn down by a sense that they have a duty of solidarity with their episcopal colleagues. In English English, we call this "clubbing somebody". I am not sure whether this means 'hitting them with a big stick' or 'making them feel warm and comfortable members of a cosy club whose consensus they dread to break'. The practical consequences of each are much the same.

The apparent policy of reversing the teaching elegantly and concisely expressed by Wojtyla and Ratzinger is another major threat to the integrity of the Catholic Faith. 


4 December 2017

Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, Priest

Today is the Year's Mind, as we say within the Anglican Patrimony, of Fr Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton. He died in 1959.

Father was, for decades, a leader ... no; the leader ... of the 'papalist' part of the Church of England. Papalist Anglicans were people who believed in the whole Catholic Faith, including the decrees of Vatican I on the Primacy and Infallibility of the Successor of S Peter. They remained in communion with the See of Canterbury because they believed that, just as the schism of 1559 had been corporate, so the renewal of full communion should also be corporate: after all, the corporate schism of 1533/4 had been corporately absolved by Cardinal Pole on S Andrew's Day in 1554. (It is our view that the erection of our Ordinariate did in fact fulfil the same striving for corporate unity which animated the whole life of Fr FC and of so many like him.)

There is much that one could say about him; not least about his foundation of the Catholic League, which still continues, now as a society for both Anglicans and Roman Catholics. And about his role in the restoration of the [Anglican] Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham. But I will pluck from the record (The Anglican Papalist: A Personal Portrait of Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, A T John Slater, Anglo-Catholic History Society, 2012) his role in the 1933 Centenary Manifesto, put out to honour the centenary of the 'Oxford Movement', the Catholic Revival in the Church of England.

This anniversary happened at a time when many 'Catholic' externals had bedded down in the Church of England, but there were worrying signs of doctrinal modernism and of an accommodation to the Spirit of the Age in matters of sexual morality. The Manifesto stood out against disorders such as 'modernistic teaching', a 'novel comprehensiveness and mutual toleration of opposed teaching', 'the recent readiness to compromise on unpopular doctrines and moral standards'; its authors 'utterly reject[ed] Modernism and reprobate[d] all theories and accommodations of a modernistic character which impugn or innovate upon the Faith ... '. It wholly rejected departures from 'Catholic standards in faith, practice or morals. As a grave instance of the last-named, it is incumbent upon us to reprobate the toleration and even positive support ... of the immoral sanction of artificial contraception given by many Bishops at Lambeth'. Does any of this strike you as resembling any modern goings-on in the Catholic Church?

I put it to you that in this Manifesto we find the authentic tones of S Pius X (Pascendi Dominici gregis) and of the affirmation of Christian sexual mores by Pius XI (Casti connubii) and Paul VI (Humanae vitae), not to mention S John Paul II (Veritatis splendor and Familiaris consortio).

I was received as a teenager into the Catholic League by Father Fynes-Clinton in the 1950s. Recently, as I subscribed to the Correctio filialis, I did so in a vivid awareness that I was partaking in yet another skirmish in that same great conflict which in 1933 had elicited the Centenary Manifesto. Same War, same Enemy, same methods.


Eius animae propitietur Deus.

3 December 2017

ORDO; and Pope Francis

I notice that other blogs are recommending ORDOs for next year. For those who are Ordinary Form chaps and chappesses, but would enjoy something which somewhat elevates bog-standard Bugnini, I commend the ORDO which I still compile, Order for the Eucharist and for Morning and Evening prayer in the Church of England 2018. It gives full information both for the Novus Ordo Roman Rite (Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal) and for the Church of England (Common Worship). Tufton Books. (By the way, it starts with Advent.)

For those who would like something unusual and really quite exciting, I recommend (if you haven't tried it already) the ORDO done by the St Lawrence Press. It will remind you of the days before Ven Pius XII and Hannibal Bugnini started out on their career of liturgical 'reform'. In other words, it offers you the Roman Rite as it was in 1939. You will discover an exotic world in which feasts always had a First Vespers; greater feasts had Vigils; greatest ones had Octaves. You will be surprised to realise how much of what we label 'Bugnini' was really imposed before the Council and before S John XXIII.

It is in abbreviated Latin; but that's how ORDOs were before the 1960s. However, the abbreviations are all very simple and obvious and most people with a dash of liturgical know-how will have no trouble spotting what most of them mean.

Of course, its actual use today would be totally illegal. I am not encouraging anything so improper. No way could you possibly atually put it in your sacristy and ... er ... um ... er ...

... ah ... a thought has just occurred to me ...

PF, by word and example, has insistently made clear his dislike of Rigid Pharisaical people who make a fuss about sticking to Rules and Law and think they are better than everybody else because they do so. Yes! In this pontificate, you need not be legalistic pedants! Get up out of the Seat of Moses! Use this ORDO now, quickly, in case PF is succeeded by someone pharisaical! Could be your last chance!

2 December 2017

Pope Francis

I think the current Roman pontiff deserves great credit for uttering the R-word, after meeting some of the Burmese refugees in Bengal. I write this in complete sincerity and without irony.

I also applaud him for his recent words about the policy of nuclear deterrence. He thus aligned himself with the judgement on this matter of the late, great, Cardinal Ottaviani, the greatest of the Council Fathers, a living martyr for Tradition during the dark days of the 1960s; as well as of Finnis, Grisez, and other more modern very seriously competent and Traditionalist Catholic moralists.

'The Dictator Pope' ... the latest

It appears that some spoiling is going on in order to blunt the impact of this important book. I urge readers to react accordingly. (It appears on Monday in English and can be prebooked.)

No passaran!

1 December 2017

An odd address by Cardinal Parolin?

Speaking at an organisation called the Catholic University of America, Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State, recently gave a lecture which seemed to me to have some distinctly dubious implications ... to which I hope to return later in the week. Just for today, however, a couple of weeny details.

His Eminence based the mission of Episcopal Conferences in the sacramental origin of the episcopal ministry; "in other words, these conferences are really 'episcopal': they have their raison d'etre not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred on each bishop with episcopal consecration".

Interestingly, this appears to run contrary to PF's 'ecumenical' practice. PF meets ministers which are called 'bishops' but who belong to sects which do not possess or claim the Apostolic Succession and do not regard episcopal (or any) ordination as a sacrament. And he makes clear that he regards them as truly bishops. "We bishops", PF pointedly says to them in between the hugs. Clearly, Parolin is on a divergence course from PF in this matter. It is remarkable that he has chosen to make his disagreement so public, especially considering the symptoms of paranoia in PF revealed recently in an interview given by Cardinal Mueller (PF: "they tell me you're my enemy").

Secondly: Latin Catholicism has tended to have an immensely juridical style to it. Sacramental 'consecration' is not enough; a man must also have a missio canonica before he (lawfully) goes bishopping. He needs to have been given jurisdiction in a canonical way which may accompany, but is distinct from, his Consecration. This attitude lay behind the insistence that when Pope Ratzinger remitted the excommunications incurred latae sententiae by the SSPX bishops, they still possessed no licit ministry whatsoever in the Church Militant.

Parolin, in so exclusively emphasising the sacramental rather than the canonical or juridical, clearly implies that if his Excellency Bishop Fellay were to knock on the door of the Swiss Episcopal Conference, their excellencies would welcome him warmly. "My dear fellow", una voce they would cry, "do come in and implement together with us the ministry conferred on you in your episcopal consecration".

Furthermore, if Cardinal Mueller is right in his fear that PF might be leading the Church Militant into schism and division, it will, given Cardinal Parolin's ecclesiology, be pretty unproblematic if, a decade or two down the road, some orthodox bishops consecrate more bishops sine mandato Apostolico. So there may come a time when this ... von Schoenborn would call it "this development" ... might come in useful.

Could it be that Cardinal Parolin is be one of these crypto-Lefebvreists whom we are sometimes warned to avoid?

30 November 2017

S Andrew

I normally celebrate this great feast by reminding you of the Reconciliation of England by Cardinal Pole in 1554 and the taking of Durham by the Northern Rebels temp Bloody Bess, which both happened on this day. And the popularity of S Andrew in old English Church dedications, because of the influence of the Gregorian (and hence andreaphile) liturgical texts brought to England by the Augustinian Mission; and I lament the fact that the Novus dating of Christus Rex inhibits celebration of a Sunday External Solemnity of the Apostle in places where he is Patron.

But this year, an Anglican oddity.

The old Roman Collect for today, a most elegant composition, prayed that S Andrew might be "a perpetual intercessor for us in thy sight". Cranmer had by 1549 moved beyond talk of saintly intercession; so he replaced this collect with
Almightie God, which hast geuen such grace to thy Apostle saynct Andrew, that he counted the sharp and painful death of the crosse to be an high honour, and a great glory; Graunt us to take and esteme all troubles and adversities which shal come unto us for thy sake, as things proffytable for us toward the obtaining of euerlasting life.
[Why "thy Apostle" rather than "thine Apostle" when we later have "an high honour"?]

Just a couple of years later, he replaced this with the current Anglican collect which is based upon the ready obedience of S Andrew in following the Lord's call.

Here is my take on this. When our thinking radically develops ... when conceptually we make a big jump ... not every part of our previously held set of assumptions changes instantly and automatically. Some areas lag behind and need subsequently to catch up and to be made consistent with the new structure.

In 1549, Cranmer had put behind him the idea of asking God for a share in the intercessions of the Saints; but the full narrowness of the Protestant preoccupation with sola scriptura was dawdling behind a little in his mind. And so the hagiographical account of S Andrew's martyrdom was still part of its furniture and informed the collect.

By the way: the printed text of the 1549 BCP offers quite a number of examples of hasty composition.

[Could there also be just a weeny hint of merit in the second half of the 1549 collect?]. 


29 November 2017

Oh dear. They want some more Liturgy Wars. UPDATE

The liturgical destroyers within the Church Militant ... at least, the Anglophone among them ... have maintained a relentless detestation of the current English translation of the Roman Rite. What they have campaigned for is the 1998 feminist draft translation; which was thrown out by Rome (unauthorised, unpublished) because ... it was feminist.

[It also, in accordance with the fashion of the day, added new brilliantly clever English euchological confections as 'alternatives' to the translated Latin texts.] 

These grieving groups were given new hope recently by the motu proprio Magnum principium. They claimed that this document reopened the entire question of English Liturgy, and gave them grounds to hope that they could burn all the current English liturgical books, and spend large amounts of parochial money buying new ones. Back to 1998!! [They failed to mention that Magnum principium gives no permission to anybody to add their own clever compositions to the texts translated from the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.]

The recent meeting of the CBCEW revealed that the CDW had been asked whether this claim was right; and had replied that Magnum principium was not retroactive. No to 1998!!!! Sad days for Tablet readers! Disaster for ACTA!!

A secretary to the Conference announced this to the Press in these words: "There has been a significant amount of information and correspondence received about the 1998 translation of the Missal, unfortunately Magnum Principium does not allow us to go back to that [1998] translation of the Missal; we have the 2010 translation of the Missal which is our standard edition now and we are looking forward to the translation of the new liturgical books".*

Yes ... he said "unfortunately".

Well, we all misspeak. My wife tells me that I do it most of the time. What a shame the clergyman concerned isn't lucky enough to have a wife to keep him on the straight and narrow. He looks and sounds the sort of thoroughly pleasant and sensible bloke that any girl would be glad to have. I'm sure all the poor chap really meant was a kindly "I'm sorry to have to tell the Tablet and ACTA that the answer to their dearest hopes is No".


On the other hand, we are surely entitled occasionally to wonder whether such sweet little slips might possibly sometimes be revealing. One can never be totally sure that one isn't being given a peep into the subconscious assumptions of the bureaucrats who serve Episcopal Conferences throughout the world. 

I remain convinced that Joseph Ratzinger, and more recently Gerhard Mueller, were right to emphasise the very strictly limited competences of Episcopal Conferences and the dangers lurking in their already overpowerful bureaucracies. In my humble opinion, those two Eminences are not often wrong about anything. 

And if they are, my own settled preference is generally to accompany them in their edifying errors.

*UPDATE: Fr Thomas tells me that "The use of the word "unfortunately" was meant not in respect of the bishops not being able to go back to the 1998 translation, but in the fact that the desire of the correspondents with me would not be met. The context therefore of the "unfortunately" is that it is linked to the misinterpretation of the motu proprio and those who had wanted the return to the 1998 translation of the Missal." I am glad to present this clarification to readers, and to have added to my blog posting a fuller citation (supra) of Father's words.

26 November 2017

"They have uncrowned Him" (5)

In practical terms, the difference between the new teaching of Dignitatis humanae, and the previous doctrine, is not great; it is so technical that those who can live without fine distinctions can certainly live without considering this fine distinction! Because, in practice, the settled principle of the Church was that states may legislate for religious liberty for everybody and are not obliged always to maintain laws oppressive to non-Catholic minorities. (I was interested to discover, at Avignon in the Papal States, a very fine synagogue built there when the French Kingdom, just across the Rhone, discouraged Jewish worship but the Papacy allowed it; and B Pius IX boasted to Mgr Dupanloup that Rome itself contained a Synagogue and a 'Protestant Temple'). The only disagreement concerns the theological principle upon which this freedom to pass laws guaranteeing religious liberty is based. We are not discussing whether a rigorously Catholic Parliament at Westminster would pass a law to prevent Methodists from expanding their over-packed chapels or whether a devoutly Catholic James XIV would feel obliged to Revoke whatever may be the British equivalent of the Edict of Nantes! S Bartholomew's Day need hold no terrors for our few surviving Presbyterians!

The 'fine distinction' is this. The Council declared that "the human person has a right to religious freedom". It went on to declare that "the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person". But the earlier Magisterium taught that the State - if it were a Catholic State - should "protect the citizens against the seductions of error, in order to keep the City in the unity of faith, which is the supreme good", and "may regulate and moderate the public manifestations of other cults and defend its citizens against the spreading of false doctrines which, in the judgement of the Church, put their eternal salvation at risk". This teaching (I am quoting, incidentally, from the curial draft which was put before Vatican II but discarded) went on, however, to say that, because of  Christian charity and prudence, a desire to draw dissidents to the Church by kindness, to avoid scandals or civil wars, to obtain civil cooperation and peaceful coexistence, "a just tolerance, even sanctioned by laws, can, according to the circumstances, be imposed".

In other words, non-Catholics in a Catholic state may and perhaps should for good reasons be granted an immunity from coercion. It is not, as the Council asserts, a natural right founded in the dignity of the human person.

There are clever ways round this problem. Professor Thomas Pink argued that the earlier Magisterium did not in fact assign to the State the right to limit liberty; it took the view that the Church has her rights over those who through baptism are her subjects, so that, if the State did coerce, it was acting on behalf of the Church. In other words, within the assumptions of the Christendom State, which we considered in my first piece, the boundaries between Church and State are coterminous (except, habitually, for the Jews) and the problem of Religious Liberty arises only as this unity dissolves, gradually in the early modern period and catastrophically in the Age of Revolutions.

Another factor which should not be forgotten is that the Council admitted that Scripture provides no basis for novel teaching. Indeed it does not: the entire Old Testament is a consistent assertion of the corporate Judaism State, with nation and cult coterminous. This admission perhaps offers a way ahead. Here we have one of the many respects in which the life of the people of Israel before the Christian era, and belief in the Christendom State, are in close agreement. We have much to learn from our Hebrew inheritance. The integration of Scripture into this dialogue constitutes another piece of unfinished Conciliar business.

Furthermore, the curial draft (which Mgr Lefebvre helpfully provides at the end of his book) itself asserted that "the civil Authority is not permitted in any way to compel consciences to accept the faith revealed by God. Indeed the faith is essentially free and cannot be the object of any constraint." This is not quite the same as to say that the right to religious freedom has its foundations in the dignity of the human person, but are not the two positions within reach of each other?

What must  be accepted is the Right of Christ to rule and the unlawfulness of secular legislation which contradicts his Law. Legislation against the will of God is legislation which the Christian is not simply not bound to obey; it is something which he is obliged to disobey. Christ is King and, as S Paul told the Philippians, our politeuma is from above. It will become all the more important to teach this and to preach it, as the social and legal framework of secular society becomes ever more, year by year, a grotesque and Diabolical inversion and parody of the Civitas Dei. Daily, they uncrown him. Thank God for every archbishop or bishop who has bravely made this point, for every priestly or lay society which has preached Christ as King.

CONCLUSIONS
(1) There can be no doubt that the newer elements in Dignitatis humanae are embodied in a Conciliar document ratified by the Roman Pontiff (and, according to his biographer, signed by Archbishop Lefebvre together with an overwhelming majority of the Fathers). But those who promote this teaching will be performing a suppressio veri deserving of grave censure if they fail to state, as the Council did, the abiding authority of the previously established teaching. Because:
(2) The same Council with the same authority reasserted the teaching of the previous Magisterium, without any qualification. Thus any suggestion that people, such as Mgr Lefebvre's followers, who continue to lay great emphasis upon the teaching of the previous Magisterium, are opposing the Magisterium of the Council and of the post-Conciliar Church, would itself be a clear denial of the Council's authority and would seem to me to merit a formal Magisterial correction.

This is the context within which I commend Mgr Lefebvre's book* (although, to be honest, not quite all its rhetorical hyperbole) as essential reading in pursuing tasks which the Council left incomplete.
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*Angelus Press and Carmel Books.

25 November 2017

The Saints of England

A little while ago, we had a jolly period in which within a few days we celebrated S Edmund of Canterbury and S Hugh of Lincoln and S Edmund the Martyr King. For the Divine Office on such occasions, I use a nice old 1874 Breviarium Romanum which has at the back of it Officia propria Sanctorum Angliae. (This supplement clearly goes back to before the decree authorising a distinct Calendar and propers for each of the Flaminian Gate dioceses.)

In my old Breviary, before each of the collects we are told where it comes from: again and again, Ex Missali Sarisburiensi. The Roman liturgical authorities had no desire to sit down at a lordly table and compose new collects for our English Saints. The dear old Sarum Rite was good enough a source to satisfy this need. And those collects continued in use until the period after the Council.

I haven't done a precise survey of this, but I have a distinct impression that the Diocesan Propers for the Novus Ordo largely dispense with those silly old medieval collects. Bright new Woolworths collects take their places. Commonly, they have that verbose floridity and appetite to be clever which are such marks of modern English middle-class drafting. Moreover, I have been told that there still do not exist official Latin versions of the new collects. In other words, the English Hierarchy and the Roman liturgical authorities apparently expect the English clergy regularly to disobey Sacrosanctum Concilium paragraph 101 (1), which directs that the clergy are to recite their Office in Latin unless they have permission from their bishop to do otherwise ... and that permission can only be given "singulis pro casibus" ... on a one by one basis ... not as a general permission.

(To be fair, I should add that the Welsh dioceses do make full provision for observing the Welsh Saints in the Novus Ordo Divine Office in Latin ... we should congratulate the Welsh on being trilingual!)


Incidentally ... 'Jacobites' might be interested to note that in my 1874 Breviary, S George is referred to as "Patronus Regni". S George is patently the Patron of England but not of Scotland, and so he is in no way the Patron of "the United Kingdom". Thus, describing him as "Patronus Regni" implies the position which was maintained by James III, Charles III, and Henry IX, that the "Acts of Union" of 1707 and 1801, passed as they were by an intruded and merely de facto regime without the authority of the de jure Sovereign, did not truly extinguish the three Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

24 November 2017

"They have uncrowned Him" (4)

I return now to what I mentioned in the first of my series: Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's views about Christian and non-Christian Societies ... and, in particular, to the question raised in Dignitatis humanae about the 'rights of Error'. It is with regard to this Decree that a very distinguished Catholic theologian wrote, not very long ago, that it "occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics". And I begin with an anecdote of the Archbishop's which, I believe, goes to the heart of the problem. "Pope John Paul II made [this point] to me on the occasion of the audience that he granted to me on November 18, 1978: 'You know', he said to me, 'religious liberty has been very useful for us in Poland, against communism'".

It is easy to put simply what the ambiguities are. If one is coming from a culture which has been oppressed for a quarter of a century by atheistic Stalinist Communism (and before that, by National Socialism), an obvious truth will prescribe: Religious Liberty must be upheld, therefore the state must cease to prevent Catholic Truth from being upheld. But, against the background of a Christendom State, as we saw it in my first piece, in which the constitution has upheld either explicitly or implicitly the just privileges of the One True Faith taught by the the One True Church, the same truth will receive the expression: Catholic Truth must be upheld, therefore the state must discourage the growth and even the existence of errors against the Truth upheld by the Catholic Church. It is not surprising that S John Paul II, the doughty and effective warrior against a dominant Marxism, and the battle-hardened French Missionary bishop from a background of cultural opposition to the inheritance of the the French Revolution, failed to see eye to eye. Yet those two outworkings of the same principle, for two different contexts, have the same message: Catholic Truth must be upheld. And I could understand that some people might go further and say that, since there are few, if any, Christendom states left, and an increasing number of states in which Catholic Truth is opposed or even persecuted by a new illiberal Secularism or by Islam, we must forget about the second outworking and, out of prudence, make a great deal of the first.

Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP, about whom Fr Aidan Nichols has written a fine book, made this point in a passage which Mgr Lefebvre quotes with approval: "We can ... make of liberty of worship an argument ad hominem against those who, while proclaiming the liberty of worship, persecute the Church (secular and socialising states) or impede its worship (communist states, Islamic ones, etc.). This argument ad hominem is fair, and the Church does not disdain it, using it to defend effectively the right of its own liberty". So far, fair enough. [Those who do not know the real meaning of the phrase Argumentum ad hominem can read my articles via the search engine attached to this Blog; it does not mean "personal attack".]

But Garrigou-Lagrange goes on "But it does not follow that the freedom of cults, considered in itself, is maintainable for Christians in principle, because it is in itself absurd and impious: indeed, truth and error cannot have the same rights". Bang on, surely. Error cannot have rights. But it is not pedantic to observe that the writer is not so much concerned to deny personal liberties to those who belong to such cults as to deny it 'in principle' to the errors asserted by the cults.

Here is the problem: Archbishop Lefebvre, and writers who agree with him, have no difficulty whatsoever in piling up quotations from Popes who wrote before the Council, to the effect that Error has no rights. And the Conciliar Declaration Dignitatis humanae begins with a section including the statement that "it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and of societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ"*. But ... as the Council goes on to "develop" its teaching, it does get quite difficult to see how the so-called 'development' is not in fact a change. This 'development' is said to be rooted in a natural right not to be coerced, which is inferred to exist because of the principle that "Man's response to God in Faith must be free."

To be concluded.
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*The Conciliar Acta  make clear the enormous importance of this sentence for the process of achieving Conciliar consensus. On November 19 1965 as many as 249 Fathers had voted non placet on the draft before them. At the final vote, on December 6, the number sank to 70 as the result of pressure put on many of the Fathers. Those who reluctantly changed their vote felt enabled to do so in good conscience because of the addition of this sentence as the result of a personal intervention by Pope Paul VI. It will be remembered that Conciliar decrees are expected to have the authority of a 'moral unanimity'. Dignitatis humanae, considered without the sentence added by the Pope, would be a document that lacked ... by a fairly hefty margin ... that necessary consensus. There is therefore a sense in which it is the most important statement within this whole Declaration, its clavis aperiendi cetera. It is therefore reasonable to insist that whatever else the document may go on to say, must be understood fully in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of that earlier teaching of the Magisterium.

22 November 2017

"They have uncrowned Him" (3)

When we turn from C S Lewis and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to the texts of Vatican II, I do not think we find a contradiction. In Nostra aetate the Council declared: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions". So far, it is in agreement with Lewis and Lefebvre; as it is when it goes on to say that the ethics and teachings of these religions "often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, [the Church] proclaims and must ever proclaim Christ, 'the way, the truth, and the life, in whom men find the fulness of religious life, and in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself'".

I propose now to speak frankly about the Second Holy Ecumenical Council of the Vatican.
(1) With regard even to infallible definitions of dogma by Ecumenical Councils and Roman Pontiffs, it is a commonplace that, while we are bound to accept them as of Divine Faith, we are not necessarily obliged to accept, on the same authority, the arguments which are offered to us in support of a dogma; or the prudential considerations which led to its definition. A fortiori, the same limitations apply to the documents of Vatican II. Because ...
(2) Vatican II, in any case, was not a Council which proposed infallibly any dogmas (except those which were already de fide by virtue of the previous Magisterium, such as the Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption of the Mother of God, the immorality of procured abortions, etc., etc., etc..). And ...
(3) Vatican II professed to be a pastoral Council. It is a statement of the obvious that pastoral needs (and implied audiences) can vary toto caelo between one generation and another, so that the pastoral observations of the Council will not be expected to speak as directly to successive generations as they might have done to the first half of the 1960s. Conciliar documents Of Vatican II, very helpfully, themselves made this clear by referring to mundus hodierni temporis or the like; and the very document we are now considering makes the same point by its programmatic opening words Nostra aetate.

In the context of these observations, I can only say that, as far as I can see, this Decree of the Council deals with a subject of some complexity with an almost scandalously cheerful brevity. And it is woefully over-optimistic. For example, it addresses an implied audience of non-Christians who are keenly and with goodwill open to a positive evaluation by us of their own religions. It does not - for example - address a world (such as our world) in which very many who profess thus to understand their own faith see themselves as engaged in a Holy War to exterminate, by death or by conversion, those who hold our One True Catholic Faith. Accordingly, I regard as distinctively time-conditioned ... well past their sell-by dates ... passages such as "She [the Church] looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth ...". And it is not so much the actual words of the Council which embarrass me as, firstly, its failure to give us some well-chosen observations about the errors of false religions; secondly, its failure to give any guidance as to how we are to reconcile its new teaching with its own statement that the earlier Magisterium remains fully in force; and, thirdly, what I might venture to call its body-language - what it seems at first sight to be saying ... until one looks more carefully.

To be continued.


21 November 2017

More Martin ... further facts about the Fraterculus

I'm sorry: Luther is a bit passe now, isn't he ... PF has been to Lund, hugged an episcopussy, said ... er ... whatever he has said ...

But there is a very jolly book about Luther, The Making of Martin Luther, which has only just reached me, a gift of a generous friend, and which I can enthusiastically commend. Its narrative has a rather deliciously detached style of faintly amused superiority; it is always elegant, invariably informative, and quite often distinctly funny.

Richard Rex (a Tab) has endeavoured to excavate beneath the historical evidence and to bring us what was truly going on in the mind of Luther. In particular, he avoids the snares of writing with hindsight. He tries very hard to see how new ... or how old ... was every stance that Luther took at the moment he took it.

I really do think that most of you would enjoy most of it. The sort of Revisionism which begins by demonstrating that, pretty certainly, the fraterculus never nailed any theses to any door anywhere in that fateful October of 1517, always brings with it a certain pleasure. And the careful dissection of Luther's treatment of his opponents is fun ... Rex suggests that the unrelenting fury with which Luther treated Erasmus is the product of Luther's frustrated realisation that the great humanist had actually caught him out. I very much enjoyed the author's demonstration that Luther was a thorough-going medieval, not least in his late medieval emotional response to the Lord's Humanity. Revealingly, Luther considered S Bernard of Clairvaux to have "excelled all the ancient Fathers of the Church in his preaching, because he preached Christ so beautifully'". [Anglican readers will probably recall Gregory Dix's pointed proof (Shape pp 605 sqq.) that emotional fifteenth century devotional writings had very little in them which "the sternest protestant that ever came out of Ulster could conscientiously refuse to use".]

A tiny but thought-provoking example of Rex's ability to throw light on how something seemed at the time is his suggestion that "the mother's milk of the [recent invention of printing] in its infancy was meeting the massive demand for liturgical texts which was generated by the almost hyperventilated piety of late medieval Catholicism".

But ... er ... did it necessarily feel exactly like that in, say, Venice? Where Aldus Manutius Plancus insisted that only Greek be spoken in his Printing House ...

20 November 2017

"They have uncrowned Him" (2) False Religions?


Continuing to consider Archbishop Lefebvre's book, from my own background in Catholic Anglicanism, I discern in it more than a whiff of that admirable Anglican Ulsterman, C S Lewis. Not that Archbishop Lefebvre, I am sure, will have read him; but because first-rate Christian thinkers so often, laudably, converge. Take a particular tricky theological problem: explaining how souls rooted in a false religion may find their way to God, without asserting - or leading others to think you mean - that all religions are more or less as good as each other: 'syncretism' or 'indifferentism'. Mgr Lefebvre writes " ... in the false religions, certain souls can be oriented towards God; but this is because they do not attach themselves to the errors of their religion! It is not through their religion that these souls turn towards God, but in spite of it! Therefore, the respect that is owed to these souls would not imply that respect is owed to their religion". And: " ... these religions [he has just mentioned Islam and Hinduism] can keep some sound elements, signs of natural religion, natural occasions for salvation; even preserve some remainders of the primitive revelation (God, the fall, a salvation), hidden supernatural values which the grace of God could use in order to kindle in some people the flame of a dawning faith. But none of these values belongs in its own right to these false religions ... The wholesome elements that can subsist still belong by right to the sole true religion, that of the Catholic Church; and it is this one alone that can act through them"*.

I think this is admirably expressed, and it reminds me strongly of the penultimate chapter in Lewis's The Last Battle. A young Calormene, brought up in the worship of the false god Tash, meets the Lion Aslan, the Christ-figure in Lewis's rich narrative. "Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days, and not him. ... But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true ... that thou and Tash art one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. ... Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I also said (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek".

Whatever in the cult of Tash predisposed the young man to seek the Glorious One still belongs by right to the sole true religion, that of the Catholic Church; it does not belong of right to the cult of Tash. It is not through what is proper to the cult of Tash that he comes to Christ: that is to say, through its errors, but in spite of it. Because Tash and Aslan are opposites.

And it is worth being precise and reminding ourselves that Nostra aetate does not say that we respect the Islamic religion; but Moslems.

To be continued.
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*I think it is clear that Mgr Lefebvre has here in mind the wise teaching of Unitatis redintegratio para 4. " ... haec omnia, quae a Christo proveniunt et ad Ipsum conducunt, ad unicam Christi Ecclesiam iure pertinent"  where iure was added to the text on the orders of Pope Paul VI.