31 January 2017

Cupich and the last periphery

UPDATE: I first published this on October 17 2015. On rereading it, I feel that (even in a period in which ecclesiastical politics have moved entertainingly fast) it has aged really quite remarkably well, although I say so myself as shouldn't. The last, italicised, paragraph at the foot seems to me even more relevant after Amoris laetitia (especially paragraphs 301 and 302) than when I wrote it before AL.

I have been very impressed by the views of some American called Cupich. He shares, enthusiastically, the attitude of our beloved Holy Father on the marginalised, the rejected, the despised. He lists "the elderly, divorced and remarried, gay and lesbian individuals and couples. I think that we really need to get to to know what their life is like if we're to accompany them ".  I have to say that I think he has a point which it is very hard to argue against. (Mind you, I think I know quite a lot of 'elderly' people who would turn nasty at being bracketed with rest of those in the list, but that just goes to show much further we have to go before the Bergoglio Revolution has finally arrived at its triumphant conclusion and what a grumpy lot we elderly are.)

Cupich adds ... goodness, what a sensitive pastor he is ... "If people come to a decision in good faith then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I have always done that". (I think he has in mind the reception of communion by these marginalised groups.)

There is one group which he has not mentioned, but which ... he is such a very sensitive pastor ... I am quite sure Cupich must also have in mind. Paedophiles. And, especially, paedophile priests. This latter sub-group must be the unhappiest of the lot. In addition to the calumnies that all paedophiles undergo, there is the additional ignominy heaped upon them. Even as gentle an individual as Papa Ratzinger referred to them as "filth" ... goodness, what a hard and rigid and uninclusive and rule-bound and unforgiving person he was. Thank goodness we now have a Pope whose policy is Mercy. Although, come to think of it, I don't recall that paedophiles have ever occurred on Pope Francis' lists of those deserving of Mercy, although of course he has sometimes done what he can by favouring and promoting those who protected paedophile clergy. But, come to think even more of it, I'm not sure how often I've noticed him including paedophile priests among those he is specially determined to embrace publicly in front of the world's cameras. [UPDATE: On 2 January 2017 Pope Francis spoke again about the importance of zero-tolerance with regard to paedophile priests, but without offering any guidance about the means of exercising Mercy towards those who are zerolly tolerated.] And ... a liturgical question ... does he wash their feet on Maundy Thursday? And if not, why not? [UPDATE: He wouldn't have needed to change the rubrics to do that.] But I'm sure he must have them in mind. That is probably why he is sending out these Missionaries of Mercy to absolve everybody and everything without question. Thankfully, these very up-market Absolution-machines will not make unmerciful and rigid remarks like "I think you ought to hand yourself in to the police and make a full confession to them before I can absolve you" ... the sort of thing that hard-faced and rule-bound clergy might have considered saying before the onset of the Pontificate of Mercy. [Update: Irony here!]

Back, finally, to the exemplary Cupich. I am sure that it must be paedophiles that he particularly has in mind when he says "I think we have to make sure that we don't pigeonhole one group as though they are not part of the human family, as though there's a different set of rules for them. That would be a big mistake".

Wotta Pastor!! I'm impressed to think of all the time Cupich must spend going around and 'getting to know' paedophiles and 'what their life is like', so that he can 'accompany them' as, buoyed up by their 'inviolable consciences', they 'move forward'.

Cupich for Cardinal, that's what I say. Would anybody like to estimate how long it will be? [UPDATE: it didn't take very long, did it? Bergoglio, poor old thing, is so naively transparent, isn't he?]

My point was that there is a tendency among some members of the Church to view with ostentatious sympathy certain groups (remarried divocees; 'monogamous and caring' homosexuals), while leaving paedophiles as the one group to whom no mercy need be shown. For everybody, there are extenuating circumstances; there is the Gospel teaching that nobody is beyond the scope of God's mercy. Except for ... er ... [UPDATE: Damian Thompson has recently written about this subject in the  Spectator, in his usual measured and, er, restrained way.]

30 January 2017

Dix and Liturgical Reform

This is to make space for our contributor Mark Wauck to make some interesting remarks. See the Thread.

29 January 2017

LITURGY: the simmering warfare bursts out into the open again

Three years ago, a Fr M J Butler, at that time the liturgical supremo in the diocese of Brentwood, wrote to the Tablet  a letter which he then sent to all the clergy of the diocese; and a Mr Denis Archdeacon, writing on the Tablet website, backed him up. They demonstrated that everything we thought was wrong with the liturgical culture of the post-Conciliar Church, as it had developed in Anglophone countries, was wrong. I think it is worth adding that Butler wrote his letter, not as a private individual, but as from the Brentwood Liturgical Commission ... that is an indication of how high these gentry were then flying.

Now they're right up there, flying, if anything, even higher.

OK, the then Bishop of Brentwood dealt admirably with that little local difficulty. But it demonstrated (to adapt Gerry Adams' observation about the IRA) that they hadn't gone away. And, according to reports, they're now back at work in a CDW committee, revisiting the splendid document Liturgiam authenticam. In other words, they still haven't gone away. The menace has returned. I blogged a little while ago about the immensely sinister words of an Andrea Grillo who had gone public on how, very soon, something would be done about restoring full episcopal authority over liturgy in a diocese. And about the 'Commission' set up some weeks ago in CDW.

 Perhaps a prayer for isolated, beleaguered, devout, admirable Cardinal Sarah would be in order.

Curmudgeons had for years complained that there was a self-supporting, self-validating network of so-called 'experts' or 'liturgists' who were determined to impose their own very narrow group agenda upon the Church. Fr Butler's actions confirmed this. He told us that the Roman document Liturgiam authenticam was "a laughing stock among academics and scholarly linguists". Clearly, that last phrase means, in the (much desired) Vernacular, 'me and my chums and people who agree with us'. So Butler was not a lone, ridiculous, figure. His own claim was that he represented a significant group. These were, presumably, the same jokers who, when Joseph Ratzinger started to write about Liturgy, threw up their hands in outrage and cried "But he's not a liturgist!" The ones with regard to whom somebody coined the good old witticism about what the difference is between a terrorist and a liturgist ("You can negotiate with a terrorist").

And it is an apparently illiterate group. Specimens of its illiteracy were Butler's absurd discussion of the word 'vernacular' and Archdeacon's bizarre statement that "there is nothing sacred about Latin". Clearly, despite the lofty manner which each of them adopted in putting us lesser mortals straight, they did not have at their finger-tips ... to take but one example ... any of the many works of the great linguist and liturgist Christine Mohrmann, who dominated her field for decades. Writing in English, French, German, and Dutch, she demonstrated how Christian Latin emerged, was consciously developed, in order to fill the needs and instinct of the worshipping community for a deliberately sacral language. She felt that the time was not ripe for vernacular liturgies in the late twentieth century, because modern European languages had not developed their sacred vernaculars. Liturgiam authenticam, interestingly, echoed her words in its call for the development of such vernaculars, even if this meant the possible use of archaisms. In other words, 'vernacular' does not possess anything like the univocal, simplistic sense which Butler implicitly claimed.

Now: I'm not saying that everybody has got to share my own views about Mohrmann (I think she's Mega) or the questions her work raised, or about Liturgiam authenticam (which I happen to regard as a particularly fine document); I am only saying that such people as these are either ill-informed illiterates for not being aware of such matters and of the existence of opinions different to their own; or else dishonest charlatans for concealing them from the readership of the Tablet (and from the diocesan clergy of Brentwood). I'm waiting to see if the new Committee shows any awareness of such scholarship ... but I'm not hlding my breath.

Like many such agenda-driven single-issue enthusiasts, Butler mentioned Sacrosanctum concilium of Vatican II. But SC 22 (3) (the sub-section which lays down that nobody is to do things by their own authority) did not deter him from informing his readers that "it is legitimate to use our previous Missal". And it was clear from his letter that, in his official capacity, he had been going round the clergy of his diocese with an agenda which did not noticeably include encouraging them to behave legally, or helping them by explaining to them things they do not understand. By listing dissentient malpractices with such cheerful relish, he was either naive or he was encouraging others to join in breaking the Law.

Perhaps the most entertaining of his absurdities was his characterisation of the current 'new' translation of the Missal as 'illegitimate'. Amusingly, this precisely echoed the rhetoric of Archbishop Lefebvre, who often remarked that the post-Conciliar rites were "illegitimate" (sometimes translated as 'bastard')!

I might remind you of the old adage about the Extremes Meeting, were it not that this would be an insult to the Archbishop.

28 January 2017

Dixit et loquitur: the Reformation and the Mass (2)

This continues from the post of 23 January; Dom Gregory Dix is writing: Isn't it the same problem with the question of the 'sacrifice' of the Mass? The kind of thing which was being fought about over about the 'sacrifice' - the question of 'How' - was precisely the kind of thing which Trent would not and did not endorse, if you look at the canons. The kind of thing which was being denied was just the kind of thing a man like de la Taille, or Masure, is trying to avoid in our own day. But for contemporaries on both sides it seems to me that it was a battle in a fog - starting from false premises on both sides! So they tried to short-circuit the question, or rather to ignore it.

What I think is clear is that the Church of England, as such, meant to have real bishops and priests, and meant to have a 'real Eucharist' conveying the Body and Blood of Christ, and not a 'memorial service'. (Cranmer did not mean the real Eucharist and I doubt very much indeed whether he meant the real episcopate.) What is clear is that nobody was at all sure what was involved in either. But the goverment had to do something to satisfy these desires, though it did as little as it could, because it meant to have a 'National Church'. Remember, Philip of Spain had been crowned King of England! And the 'Universal' Church, at that moment, meant 'King Philip's' Church! What was involved in having real bishops only came out much later, when the 'National Church' came up against the jure divino claims of the Geneva polity! It is only then - in the 1590s - that the Anglican Church discovered a theological reason for having bishops - men who could fulfil the traditional duties of bishops in Church and State. (Hence the quite extraordinary statements of the Anglican Preface to the Ordinal. They aren't intended as theology!)

If one wants to understand the extraordinary muddle politics made of the whole thing for the bien pensants of the period, one should read 'The Counter-Reformation in England' by a Roman Catholic called Philip Hughes. English Catholicism was thrown away by the Holy See. But I think it is only when you think back, behind all the post-Tridentine precisions, to the wild theological muddle when no-one was at all sure what a 'real' bishop or a 'real' Eucharist meant, that you can understand the sort of rough and ready, ramshackle, solutions men adopted to 'keep the Church going' at all. Some of them were deplorable, some of them were adopted solely for reasons of state, some of them failed to 'work' at all. But considering the confusions of the times, I think the intention - the practical intention - of what was done is clear enough. It is when one tries now, after the clarification of centuries, to make precise arguments on the niceties of theology, that we all fall down!

27 January 2017


As we commemorate the profoundly iniquitous onslaught upon the Jews, commonly called the Holocaust, I hope we will not forget a deeply Christian nation, the Ukrainians, who remember their Holodomor - the deliberately contrived mass starvation which Stalinist Russia unleashed upon them. It is estimated that between seven and ten million of them died.

As well as being a pious act of charity, such remembrance would serve to remind us of one or two things. We live in an age of 'Apologies', when we are supposed to be sorry for acts of oppression and cruelty perpetrated by our predecessors; perhaps, for example, in the Slave trade. I am distinctly dubious about such games. Should those of us now who have the 'Christianity' label attached to us  really have to 'apologise' for iniquities done in past generations by other people who also had the 'Christianity' tag around their necks? Well, if so, then I think it would be rather jolly if those now who wouldn't vastly object to being called Scientific Atheists did a bit of grovelling for what that other soi-disant Scientific Atheist Joseph Stalin did. Perhaps Dr Dawkins and his tribe would like to step up to this pious cultural duty.

And it is good to remember that nations other than Jewry have had their holocausts. Many Jews very generously use Holocaust Memorial Day to make precisely this point; and most laudably. Our Holy Father acted with great courage when he ignored the threats of the Turkish government and referred to the onslaught upon the Armenians as 'a holocaust'. It would be mistaken to act as if any one community had an exclusive right to the status and rhetoric of victimhood. It seems to me sadly, depressingly, ironic that some politicians (who are not usually orthodox observant Jews) appear to treat Palestinians as just a problem, as a group who have so few rights that their land can be appropriated and built on to provide ... what? Have they no memory of the infamous demand for Lebensraum ... lebensraum in the East ... .

But, far, far worse than this, right on our own doorstep, we have our own daily holocaust, the slaughter of the unborn, performed by well-heeled Englishmen with nice accents and clean fingernails who are kind to their wives and wouldn't dream of kicking cats ... rather like the kindly family men who administered the extermination camps, and went home from work to kiss their wives and read bed-time stories to their children.

The smoke that rises from the incinerator at your local hospital is more than a little like the smoke that rose from the incinerators in the death camps.

26 January 2017

Atonement update

A day or two ago, the word was going around that other diocesan pastors were being told that Fr Phillips met the Archbishop and was asked to resign but he did not; so that the 'canonical clock' was now running on 15 days, after which, if Father did not resign, the Archbishop would remove him. The reason given for this was that when the Atonement was established it was done with the understanding  that it would eventually "become Catholic like the rest of us", but that Fr Phillips had resisted the Archbishop's wishes and now had gone behind the Archbishop's back to try to steal the parish away into the Ordinariate.

As Professor Tighe authoritatively points out on one of the earlier threads (I urge readers to turn his explanation up; it's in two halves), Oriental Rite churches are not under Latin dioceses but, where available, under their own dioceses ('eparchies'). When the Holy See erected the American Ordinariate of the Chair of S Peter, this was analogous to creating a new Oriental eparchy, so it is hardly surprising that the 'Anglican Use' parishes should gravitate to the 'Anglican Patrimony' structures which the Holy See had thus put in place. As a matter of fact, this is what has happened, uncontentiously, elsewhere.

The position of a 'diocesan' Anglican Use parish such as the Atonement is not juridically identical with that of churches of Oriental rite, but, in human, religious, sociological, pastoral, and demographic terms, there are naturally extremely close parallels.


I am sick to death of having my worst fears proved right ... daily. Just a few days ago, I wondered on this blog what Bishop Fellay, of the SSPX, faced with a decision about the offer Rome has left on his desk, must be making of Pope Bergoglio's petulant and vindictive onslaught upon the ancient and venerable Order of Malta and its Grand Master (please remember to pray for him and for the Order). And we all know of the suffering inflicted on the young and vibrant Franciscans of the Immaculate. It seems that whether you are a 'military' order fortified by a centuries-old tradition of Catholic loyalty and service, or are a brand-new group inspired by a new charism of the Holy Spirit, there are people Out There who just can't wait to Get you. I also had reason, a few days ago, to mention the way in which the intransigence of some bigoted Latin bishops in America in the 1930s led to Ruthenian Byzantine Rite communities in the USA departing into schism. Going back earlier, I might have mentioned the damage done to ancient Christian communities in India after their reintegration into the Catholicon.

And now the Parish and Academy and Pastor of our Lady of the Atonement are getting 'the Treatment'. A peaceful, happy, united community whose only sins have been to have a distinctive spirituality and to have flourished and to be financially very sound; to have fed thousands of Catholics with the Sacraments and the Word of God and to have taught generations of children Christianity and Prayer and traditional Catholic culture.

The bully-boy culture which is such an evil corruption in some members of the hierarchy of the Latin Church is all the more unsavoury when its persecuted victims are Christians who have made sacrifices (in some cases, great) to enter into full Communion with the See of S Peter. I once spent a pleasant and instructive afternoon reading through in his Bullarium the wise and sensitive provisions made by Prospero Lambertini, Benedict XIV, for the protection of the diversity represented by Byzantine Rite Christians in unity with Rome. And Benedict XVI did everything he could to defend, by the creation of protected structures, Anglicans returning to the Seat of Unity. Not to mention his careful provisions in Summorum Pontificum for the protection of those who use, or desire to use, the authentic liturgical Patrimony (never abrogated) of the Roman Church. (Needless to say, the Wolves have now got these dispositions in their sights. We were fools if we ever thought they wouldn't.)

But not every Roman Pontiff is endowed with the same clarity of vision and the same plain good sense as the Two Great Benedicts. Nor is every Latin Bishop ... or every Archbishop. It's not so much, nowadays, that they resent 'Eastern Rites'. Painfully, gradually, unwillingly, grudgingly, most of them have finally accepted that the Catholic Church can, in S John Paul's words, be allowed to have Two Lungs. Now, the inclination to 'Give Them a Good Stomping' kicks in mostly with regard to Latin Rite Christians who don't knuckle under to the liturgical monoculture of badly corrupted post-conciliar rites performed in accordance with the silly and illiterate fads of the 1970s.

And, as we are increasingly seeing day by day, any priest who shows any signs doctrinally of resisting the modern equivalent of what Blessed John Henry Newman neatly if ferociously called an Aggressive Insolent Faction, runs the risk (depending on the varying whimsies of different bishops or religious superiors) of being badly beaten up. Don't contradict me because I have been closely associated with victim clergy.

Some of us thought that in joyfully embracing full Unity with the See of S Peter and with the Saints of all the Ages, we would become part of a Catholic whole which was less culturally narrow-minded and parochial than the separated communities we were brought up in; a pluriform and rich family of diversity-within-orthodoxy. As far as this pontificate has, so far, shown itself, how wrong we were. As far as the current management of the Archdiocese of San Antonio is concerned, how wrong we were.

May God soon grant us a pope -- whether Bergoglio or someone else -- who will give us back our joy and gladness, and gently, wisely, guide his Venerable Brethren, starting with the Archbishop of San Antonio, back to understanding the true diversity (always subject to the Church's authentic Magisterium) of many traditions in the One Tradition.

If such welcomed Diversity is not an integral ingredient in what is meant by "Ecumenism", I would like to know what is. Surely "Ecumenism" cannot mean the sort of mind-set which animates the Archbishop of San Antonio. Is the Invitation to Separated Brethren simply a demand "Submit yourselves and come close so that we can kick you"?

The 'case' of our Lady of the Atonement is another litmus paper testing the honesty, or lack of it, with which the Catholic Church professes to engage with the Lord's call to Unity.

25 January 2017

Diversity?? (1) [with clarifications]


(1) There are restrictions on who can formally join an Ordinariate. But there are no restrictions on worshipping in an Ordinariate church.
(2) Our Lady of the Atonement has hitherto been a personal parish of the Archdiocese with borders coterminous with those of the Archdiocese, and has been part of the Anglican Use, the original set-up devised by Ratzinger for formerly Anglican parishes coming into Full Communion with their own liturgical heritage, long before the Ordinariates were set up.

 Many readers will have read of the disgraceful treatment which the Anglican Use Church and Parish of our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio has received at the hands of the Archbishop of San Antonio.

The Pastor of that Church, Fr Christopher Phillips, founded the parish with a handful of refugees from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the US of A back in the early 1980s. It has grown into a flourishing and enormous complex in which both the Church and the Academy are packed to the rafters. Splendid Liturgy prevails in the Church, and when I visited the Academy a year or two ago for their Commencement, and nosed around a bit on the ground finding out the facts for myself, I was enormously impressed by the atmospherically high academic standards ... including the large amount of Latin taught. And by the remarkable standards of student piety and devotion in Church. The whole set-up is vastly impressive. When, perhaps, you recollect that most of my working life was spent in a college with academic and Classical ambitions and a claimed Catholic culture, and that I am a critical and cynical old body, you might concede that I have some right to have an opinion and not to have it  dismissed out of hand.

The Parish, now that the American Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter is up and running and flourishing under the admirable Bishop Steven Lopes, naturally wishes to join its brethren of the Anglican Patrimony in the Ordinariate. But the Archbishop resents this and has put in a replacement pastor while Fr Phillips is sent off for Reflection and Prayer. The parishioners, several of whom alerted me to what is going on, resent this and suspect that the 'temporary' sidelining of Fr Phillips is, in fact, final. It seems to be their impression ... how am I to know where they got it from ... that such a slippery way of acting is the sort of thing you expect from Catholic bishops.

"We want our priest and our Church back".

The said prelate acknowledges the strengths and excellences of the Atonement set-up, although the letter he sent to the parishioners deftly contrives to suggest that everything was built up by his own predecessor (who died recently) and makes no mention that Fr Phillips might have had anything whatsoever to do with it all. The Archbishop professes to intend to maintain the Parish's Anglican Patrimony for those who come from Anglicanism; suggesting by this sinister qualification that he does not think it right that the large numbers of cradle Catholics (including many Latinos) who worship there should be exposed to the perils of the Anglican Patrimony and the enormities of Anglican-style liturgy.

Why? Any Catholic of any Rite is entitled to worship in any Catholic Church and Rite he desires. Why is it necessary to discourage Latin Catholics of that diocese from attending Ukrainian Rite or Anglican Use or Melkite Rite or Extraordinary Form liturgy? Is the Archbishop afraid that they might discover something he would rather they did not know? Or a spirituality by which he would rather they were not fed? Or a culture which makes him feel threatened?

Otherwise, he makes vague and unspecific comments about the Parish being out of sync with the Diocese. If this man had an Anglo-Saxon sense of Natural Justice he would be man enough to let it be made public what his case against the Pastor is, so that the parishioners had the materials to form mature and adult judgements. All that stuff about Discernment and the Sacrosanctity of Conscience appears to have flown out of some window.

But here we have yet another example of the sad need which a certain sort of sad Catholic cleric seems to have to keep the laity safely and permanently infantilised; a damning reflection on their poor relationships with their lay people and on a profoundly "pre-Conciliar" mind-set towards them.

As Cardinal Ratzinger memorably said about the English Catholic bishops in the 1990s, "What are they so afraid of?"
I have a lot more to say on this.

24 January 2017


Going back to the dark sub-Freudian preoccupations of those 'Successors of the Apostles' who base their own arcane apostasies on their interpretation of some ambiguous footnotes in low-level papal documents ... it occurs to me that perhaps they are properly termed Podophiles.

Intention yet again UPDATED

Yet again, I repeat these old posts about Sacramental Intention because, yet again, there seem to be readers who do not understand what the Catholic Church teaches in this matter.

 In this morning's thread [September 4], there are two entries which express the common mistake that the 'intention' a minister needs to have is something which must include a correct orthodox doctrine of the Sacrament ("If a Bishop doesn't believe in Sacrificing priests, how can he intend to ordain them?"). This error is so grave (you'd never know for sure whether any sacrament was valid because you could never be sure that the bishop's or priest's views were orthodox) that I have, below, wearied the patience of regular and long-time readers by reproducing posts dating from 2010 9 August, 2013 21 November, 2014 1 March.

PS There is far too much of the waspish schoolmaster in me ... which is why I have, I am afraid, been refusing comments from those who, it seems to me, have simply not read the three old pieces I reproduced yesterday. There is, of course, no reason why anybody should read anything I write. But if you decline to do so and then write comments, there is no reason why I should consider them useful contributions.

I don't see how I can express myself any more clearly than I have, more than three times now, attempted to. But one last try ...

Simple rule: (1) If someone says that a Sacrament is invalid and that this invalidity results simply and solely from some mistake, or some heresy, in the mind of the Minister, then he is wrong. This is contrary to the Church's teaching.

(2) If, however, someone says that, because of his mistake or heresy, the Minister used Form [words] or Matter [physical things or actions] which are not adequate to convey the Sacrament [this was the argument in Leo XIII's bull Apostolicae curae], then Catholics can discuss in detail about the adequacy of the Form and Matter which the silly fellow did use.

This discussion might lead to all competent people being 100% sure that what he did was inadequate; in which case the Sacrament must be repeated absolutely. If, on the other hand, competent people disagree or entertain differing degrees of probability, then the Sacrament is to be considered doubtfully conveyed and should be administered conditionally. 

If the Magisterium gives a ruling, that, while not being infallible in terms of Pastor aeternus of Vatican I, provides a judgement which should in practice be followed because Sacramental validity matters.

That's it!

Novus Ordo hosts being administered at a Traditional Mass: the Problem

For a Mass to be valid, the celebrant has to "intend to do what the Church does". So, if a priest does not believe in Transsubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass ... and even perhaps openly says so ... is his Mass 'invalid'? It seems common sense, yes? How on earth can he intend to celebrate the Mass if he does not believe in the Mass? I can understand the anxieties people have. And it is very wrong, as Fr Zed often and rightly points out, for clergy by their clerical tomfoolery to put the plebs sancta Dei into such states of anxiety. But help is at hand. Read on.

This anxiety does deserve an answer. It deserves an answer based not upon modern or trendy theological speculation but upon the settled teaching of the Church, upon which she has for centuries acted when doubts or worries have arisen. And the locus classicus here is S Robert Bellarmine*, de Sacramentis in genere chapter 27 paragraph 8. (My translation.) As you read it, remember that Bellarmine was not writing during a period of cosy and iffy ecumenism, but when the Reformation controversies were raging at their height.

"There is no need to intend what the Roman Church does; but what the true Church does, whatever that True Church is. Or what Christ instituted. Or what Christians do. Because these all amount to the same thing. You ask: What if someone intends to do what some particular and false church does, which he himself believes to be the true one - for example, the church of Geneva; and intends not to do what the Roman Church does? I answer, even that suffices. Because the man who intends to do what the church of Geneva does, intends to do what the universal Church does. For he intends to do what such-and-such a church does, because he believes it to be a member of the true Universal Church, granted that he is mistaken in recognising the True Church. For the error of the minister about the Church does not take away the efficacy of the Sacrament. Only defect of intention does that."

'Geneva', of course is a reference to the stamping ground of the great heresiarch John Calvin. Bellarmine means that, provided the celebrant is a validly ordained priest and uses real wheaten bread and real wine, the only thing that invalidates his 'Mass' is if he deliberately says to himself  "I do not intend to celebrate the Lord's Supper". And that is infinitely improbable. Father Daft is much more likely to think that his own totally wonderful understanding is closer to the mind of the Lord in his Supper than are the 'views' of those boring 'establishment' clergy. The more grossly misguided his opinions are about what the 'Supper' really is, the more humanly certain it is that Fr Daft really does intend to celebrate it. And, says Bellarmine, that is a sufficient intention.

In reality, just about the only way a 'trendy' priest is likely to be able to invalidate a Mass is if he does not use Bread and Wine (but, for example, out of a misunderstanding of 'Inculturation', uses rye cakes and cider or rice bread and saki). Apart from that risk, there is nothing for the devout and orthodox layperson to worry about. After all, if mere doctrinal error, or improper ritual, were sufficient to invalidate a Sacrament, one would never have any certainty that any Sacrament had not been invalidated by the celebrant's own silly doctrinal mistakes or his personal whimsies. And the Sacraments are Christ's Sacraments, valid by virtue of his promise. Christ is true to you.

So if, by misjudgement, you were present at a Mass where (I imagine an improbably extreme case so as to put the point I'm making beyond doubt) the priest wore jeans and made up a lot of the prayers himself and Sister A strummed on a guitar and Sister B stood beside Father and pretended to concelebrate and the altar was a plywood coffee table and some floosies did a belly dance at the Offertory ... then, wotta mistaka to maka by going there in the first place, but having done so you should kneel and worship the True Body and the True Blood of Christ, because they are truly present.

And do not be anxious about receiving Communion in a church where both forms of the Roman Rite are in use; do not bother about hosts consecrated at a novus Mass having been mixed up in the Tabernacle with those consecrated at a Traditional Mass. Because    
                            THE BODY OF CHRIST IS THE BODY OF CHRIST.

                                                        Realiter et substantialiter. 

          And the Mass is the Mass, whatever the rite, however perverse its celebrant may be.

And so it is not right to call any Mass "EVIL". The smoke of Satan may have got into the celebrant's lungs, but his Mass is still the august and adorable oblation of the Divine Victim. God's power is stronger than the perversity of Man or the machinations of the Evil One. That is God's infallible guarantee. Because he loves you.


* !542-1621, a vigorous and successful opponent of Protestant heresies. Canonised 1930; declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931.

Untraddy Traddies

I have written before about the frantic desire some who think of themselves as Ultra-Traditionalists have to discover 'invalidity' in the sacraments of the non-traddy part of the Church. Indeed, there are ultra-ultra-traddies who passionately seek out 'invalidity' even among plain traddies.

The last time I wrote about this, I quoted the locus classicus among traditional Catholic theologians discussing 'validity' - a passage of S Robert Bellarmine. I don't feel like repeating either the passage or my detailed explanation: you will find them both by tapping Bellarmine into the box at the top left-hand corner of the page. Here, today, is an explanation by an Englishman, the Fr Adrian Fortescue who wrote The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, still the standard handbook for the Vetus Ordo . This is what he wrote in a book published by the Catholic Truth Society in 1908.
"People who are not theologians never seem to understand how little intention is wanted for a sacrament (the point applies equally to minister and subject). The 'implicit intention  of doing what Christ instituted' means so small and vague a thing that one can hardly help having it ... numbers of Catholics confused intention with faith. Faith is not wanted. It is heresy to say that it is (this was the error of St Cyprian and Firmalian against which Pope Stephen I, a.d. 254-7, protested). A man may have utterly wrong, heretical and blasphemous views about a sacrament, and yet confer it or receive it validly."

His powerful point is that this is an area in which one can fall into heresy. If you say that "Fr X does not have one ounce of Catholic belief about the Mass, so his Masses are obviously invalid, because he doesn't intend to do what the Church does", you are not being a rigidly firm splendidly orthodox Traditional Catholic, defending with your lifeblood the Faith of our Fathers. You are being a heretic. Well, no, not really: because you don't want to contradict the Church's established dogma about 'intention'; you are just terribly confused about what that teaching is. But what you have actually said still technically is, in Fortescue's word, 'heresy'. Seriously: the danger for us all at this time is that some of those trying to restore Tradition will erect new and untraditional home-made shibboleths of their own. This is not a help; it is an unwelcome distraction from the real problems.

I occasionally get the impression that some ultra-traddies desperately need untraddy sacraments to be invalid because they see this as essential to validate an exclusivist stance. I rather suspect that those who do this are not only lapsing into error; they are guilty of a want of charity in desiring their fellows not to be fed with true sacraments. What they would do better is to attack extreme antitraddy clergy of sacrilege: of defiling by abuse sacraments which are valid (if sacraments are not valid, then sacrilege does not exist).

The only way a daft priest can invalidate a Mass is by forming a deliberate interior intention "I'm not performing any sort of Christian rite at all; I am just play-acting"; or by not using real wheat bread and real grape wine; or by not using words which mean This is my Body, This is my Blood. There are a lot of other bad things he can do, but they are what we call "abuses" and abuses do not invalidate. They might, however, give one a thoroughly good reason for seeking out a Mass celebrated by a less daft priest.


Gosh, what a set-up! I had the privilege of a week-end at Newman House, centre of the Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of Cardiff. A remarkable combination of Oratorian culture (a strong and vivid reality of Prayer ... a great deal of hard and sacrificial work ... with the accidentia  of 'the Cardinal's' arms, portraits, busts, engravings, dolci, wine, formal meals, good conversation, fine liturgy) and the liveliness of a student body. Both of those sides come nicely together at table, when the students in the Hall of Residence which the Chaplaincy maintains wear gowns and it all has a formal atmosphere uncommon in modern life (not much of it in Oxbridge nowadays). The bright young people, in their compassionate kindness to the poor old gent, really seemed interested during the couple of lectures I gave.

It's amazing, isn't it, the vibrancy and missionary power which the Sons of S Philip have brought to the Anglophone Church, notably in the last decade or two. I can't for the life of me think why that is. (Dash of Irony there. I can.) And I was much touched by the warmth of their welcome and their hospitality.

On Friday night, the venerable Pelican Club had invited me to dinner; I seemed to be surrounded by judges and Lords Lieutenant. In my after-dinner speech, I explained to them what the "Anglican Patrimony" which the Ordinariates had brought into the Catholic Church really meant. They, mysteriously, kept laughing at all the erudite information I gave them and, noticing my sartorial exigencies, gave me some cuff-links.

My visit to the Principality coincided with the 'consecration' of a 'woman bishop' in some body called the 'church in Wales'. But I wouldn't want you to think that there was any causal connection. Bad taste, I think, to time such divisive events during the Church Unity Octave. In an act of retaliation (no, I don't mean that) the Chaplaincy complex will soon be flying a replica of the Flag of the Five Wounds which our forefathers carried in their acts of witness against the Tudor Tyrants. Four cheers for the inventiveness and imagination of Dr David Woolf!

23 January 2017

Dixit et Loquitur: the Elizabethan episcopate (1)

Courtesy of my friend Mrs Jill Pinnock, here is an extract from a letter written by the great Mystagogue and spiritual guide, Dom Gregory Dix, OSB, who dominated the Papalist movement in the Church of England in the middle years of the twentieth century. Dix was one of the great English prose stylists; this letter of 1948 is less polished than what he was willing to put in print, but it conveys his vivacious dash and spirit. I repeat this piece from 2009, with its original thread, for its possible historical interest to newer readers. Dix's argument is dated, and datable. But I think it a superb example of Dix manipulating history to his own ends, more concerned really with the 1940s than with the 1560s.

One must remember the extraordinary muddle of the whole pre-Tridentine Western Church. What did 'consecrating a Bishop' mean theologically to a man brought up on a work like the Pupilla Oculi - the 'Bicknell' of the period. The whole of medieval theology denied that Bishophood was a separate 'order' or 'sacrament'. Bonaventure is quite representative when, in his Comment on the Sentences, he says that a bishop only ordains in virtue of the sacerdotium given in ordination to the priesthood! The episcopate as such is an 'administrative office', not a sacrament. Apostolicity has been concentrated in the 'Apostolic See'. The 'Apostolic Succession' had, in the sixteenth century, no meaning in connection with the Episcopate (it has, so far as I can see, very little meaning in current Roman theology). Deny the sine qua non nature of the 'Apostolic See', and away goes any idea of 'Apostolic succession' as such. Bishops had been the administrative vicars of the Pope. They became the administrative vicars of the Crown, as the new 'Supreme Head'. The 'Protestant ' position is a quite logical development of the late medieval outlook. When Calvin said Presbyters could ordain, he was talking good medieval theology.

What rather staggers me is that Elizabeth bothered to get Parker consecrated at all! She might very well have simply nominated him - as Lutheran princes were doing. Wasn't it the fact that the first Convocation of the reign took the line it did; and that Parker took the line he did; i.e. the fact that the Church in England was obviously going to insist on having 'bishops' of some sort, which forced the hand of the government? BUT what sort? The only legal, as well as canonical, rite, was 'the' Pontifical. But which Pontifical? There was no standard edition in England before the Reformation. Every bishop had his own manuscript - and even the sixteenth century ones differ surprisingly about the rite of Consecration of bishops. They fell back on a rite which was both uncanonical and illegal (and I'll bet the consecrators were more nervous about the latter than the former) but which was the rite by which three of them had been consecrated. They could hardly doubt its sufficiency. And in fact there is no need to do so, or ground for doing so - in itself.

I know all the song and dance which has been put up about what happened in Mary's reign. The fact remained that the Papacy had (at great inconvenience all round) refused to condemn it clearly and plainly. (I agree with Fr J B Scannell - one of the Commissioners on Anglican Orders in 1896 - that all through Mary's reign the English Catholics were trying to get an unequivocal condemnation out of Rome - and failed. How could the Holy See condemn it without prejudging the exceedingly difficult and delicate discussions on Orders due to come off some time at Trent?) What the Holy See all through Mary's reign was trying to do was to satisfy the English Hierarchy without upsetting the apple-cart of Trent. The result is all those curious briefs which must have tried Pole's patience severely.

To continue.

22 January 2017

Married Clergy

I am willing to accept contributions on the following topic: the maintenance within the Ordinariates of the tradition of a married clergy.

I shall not enable anything scary or paranoid or uncharitably stated.

20 January 2017

Bishop Stephen Lopes and Remarried Divorcees

Bishop Lopes, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of S Peter in North America, has issued a very fine instruction on the question of the "remarried" divorced.

In this document, printed in its entirety in the National Catholic Register, he binds together formulae from our Anglican (Patrimony) Marriage Service; from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which Benedict XVI's Anglicanorum coetibus formally declared to be the official doctrinal statement of the Ordinariates); from S John Paul's Familiaris consortio; and from Amoris laetitia. Drawing sensitively upon our corporate experience when we were still separated from the Unity of the See of S Peter, he shows how the whole Biblical doctrine of the use of sexuality handed down by Tradition unravels, with increasing rapidity and violence, once an ecclesial body starts 'making exceptions' which the Incarnate Word Himself explicitly excluded.

Bishop Stephen's Letter demonstrates exactly how immensely valuable it is for the Catholic Church to have a separated tradition such as ours, with its own liturgical inheritance, its own centuries-old experience of the Christian life, entering, enriching, and strengthening the Tradition which is from the Apostles. It is, surely, for fine teaching such as this that God called us into unity.

As it happens, our liturgical inheritance in this matter is not in its origins Protestant at all. Of all the Sacramental rites in our Prayer Book tradition, the service of Holy Matrimony is the one which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer messed around with least. This is because, despite Henry ("It was null just like the last time!") Tudor, the Church of England substantially preserved Catholic Truth in the matter of the indissolubility of Marriage. Accordingly, much of the traditional Anglican Marriage service stays word for word in line with that of the Medieval Catholic Sarum Manuale (i.e Rituale). There, of course, much of the Wedding Service had to be in English ... so that bride and groom understood to what they were assenting. And perhaps also because the congregations knew the words so well.

After the Reformation, English Recusant Catholics continued to use Sarum, so that for centuries Catholics and Anglicans in England got married with (almost) the same words; words already sanctified by centuries of use.

Cranmer's main change was to introduce a text for the priest to read at the beginning of the Service ... which was very orthodox!

19 January 2017

S Markos Eugenikos ... a political canonisation?

A colleague of mine at Lancing, a very learned Presbyterian Classicist, was chrismated into Orthodoxy around this time of the year, and took the name Markos in honour of S Markos Eugenikos, the leading opponent of Unity at the Council of Florence (1438-1439). (My friend later tested his vocation on the Holy Mountain, where they made him repeat his Baptism!)

I was reminded of S Mark when Professor Tighe told me about a very positive article on Palamism by a Greek Catholic scholar Fr Christiaan Kappes (afkimel wordpress 27 June 2016) which contextualises S Mark. Perhaps he is rather an interesting Saint to think about on this his Feast Day, on the Second Day within the Chair of Unity Octave!

S Mark was not immediately canonised by the Byzantine Churches. Perhaps, in those decades, they had more pressing things to worry about! Finally, in 1734, Seraphim Patriarch of Constantinople did canonise him; I wonder if this action can possibly have had anything to do with the decision of the Patriarch of Antioch and his Synod, the previous decade, to enter into Full Communion with the (other) See of S  Peter. Was Patriarch Seraphim making a point in his own contemporary church politics by canonising this figure from a controversial past? Some Latin Catholics might be able to think of modern examples of this very same phenomenon of Political Canonisation!

Wikipedia says that S Mark is on the Calendar of the Melkite Church. I haven't found him on the copy of that Calendar (1960s) which I possess, although many of the saints who were canonised by the separated Byzantine churches are there. Can anybody throw any light upon this?

18 January 2017

Pope Francis and papal power (2)

Joking aside, His Excellency Bishop Fellay would be less than human if he were not watching with some apprehension the papal onslaught upon the Order of Malta. The Franciscans of the Immaculate were, after all, a recent and vulnerable order. But ... aggressive interference in the affairs of the ancient and venerable Sovereign Order of Malta ... fortified as it is by centuries of jurisprudence and an international juridical status ...

We do not know what sort of offer is on the table for the SSPX. If it is robust enough so that the Society, were Rome subsequently to act in bad faith, could suspend the accord and resume its present de facto autonomy, then I cannot see that acceptance is too risky. What would have been lost? Much, potentially, could be gained.

But if the draft deal could enable a subsequent Pope to take the Society over in such a way as to expel most of the bishops and clergy from their altars and homes and to leave them bereft of the endowments given by the Faithful during nearly half a century, without churches and chapels and seminaries, back to Square One and saying Mass in garages and Scout Huts ... who could deny that an emergency situation truly existed?

There have been real examples of Roman bad faith in the past; one's mind goes back to the large Ruthenian formerly "uniate" communities in America, savagely driven into schism in their tens of thousands by factional and cultural bigotry. Some might even recall the deliberate weakening of the English Church by Papa Caraffa, in the pursuance of his maniacally hispanophobic policies, which made the 'Elizabethan Settlement' so much easier to accomplish. Not every pope has always been a big enough personality to be able to rise above the petty narrow-mindedness of his own decade and culture. And that is without taking account of the deliberately fissiparous policies encouraged by some of those who surround Papa Bergoglio.

And if, like the admirable figure of Papa Ratzinger, a pope is able to stand above the flux of public affairs, he is likely to find himself opposed by the noisy malevolence of the Wolves.

We live in dangerous times.

17 January 2017

Pope Francis and the Temporal Powers of the Papacy (1): Bring Back DORA

Bishop 'Anglican Patrimony' Andrewes, sadly, found himself having to refute some accusations which S Robert Bellarmine had made against King James VI and I. The Saint had accused the King of denying the Primacy of S Peter: NO, said Andrewes, "immo asserit" ["nay rather, he asserts it"]. And he goes on to explain that what the King does deny is the idea that this involves an earthly monarchy by which the pope has the right [ius et potestas] to strip kings of their authority [imperium] over their subjects and to absolve subjects of their sworn allegiance to their king (it will be remembered that this is only a generation after Regnans in excelsis).

That Andrewes had consulted his Sovereign about his wording is suggested by King James' own use of similar language in his Praefatio Admonitoria of 1610: "Sit [Papa], per me licet, primus Episcopus inter omnes Episcopos; sed eo sensu Episcoporum Princeps quo Petrus Apostolorum Princeps fuit ... pernego terrestrem esse aliquem Ecclesiae Monarcham, cuius verba pro legibus esse debeant, quique infallibilitate spiritus nunquam in suis sententiis errare possit".

Gregory Dix commented: "This, with its nunquam, does not even formally contradict the carefully guarded Vatican definition of Infallibilty in faith and morals only". I would add that this is a passage which, a century and more before Vatican I, could have secured the assent of the Catholic French Bourbon monarchy; and that these possibly 'Gallican ' sentiments seem to have been shared by a monarch, King James VII and II, who lost his thrones because of his dogged adherence to the Catholic Faith.

The hypersuperueberpapalists of Pio Nono's time did, I believe, agitate for a 'dogmatic definition' of the Temporal Monarchy of the Pope; unsuccessfully, of course. But it has commonly been thought that all such notions (except as regards the minuscule Vatican City State) had long since disappeared from the consciousness both of Catholic people and of the Papacy itself.

Until, that is, the larger-than-life figure of our present Holy Father Pope Francis came bouncing on to the scene. Now, apparently, the notion that the Roman Pontiff has absolute monarchical, indeed, imperial, jurisdiction over Kings and Princes is alive again and well. Apparently, a pope can demand prompt obedience from the Order of Malta, a body which in law is an international Sovereign Entity. It looks as if the Most Eminent Prince, the Grand Master, is going to be dragged along to the Headmaster's study and bent over a chair. Journalists discuss whether the Pope has a Nuclear Option available in his dealings with the Knights!

Nuclear Options! Lor, luvaduck! Perhaps Mr Trump and Vladimir Vladimirovich ought to have their Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles retargetted onto the Real Threat, the Casa Santa Marta! Perhaps Elizabeth II had better check that her Crown Jewels have not been snaffled from the Tower of London (and given to 'the poor', i.e. Divorced Germans) by some perfervid Ultra-Bergoglian! At the very least, Mgr Rio Tinto and Cardinal 'Fenian' Farrell ought, under a new Defence of the Realm Act,  to be declared personae non gratae in these Three Kingdoms. Come back, Dr Ian Paisley! All is forgiven! No surrender! Not an inch! Not a nanometre!

16 January 2017

The Maltese bishops and their enthusiasm for papal footnotes

I wrote this at the beginning of December last year. The Maltese Bishops, all two of them, have just spectacularly confirmed the suspicion that led me to write it ... how I love being proved right!

What I suspected was this: that the more heterodox members of the episcopate, in their need to force an extreme hermeneutic onto the grey areas of Amoris laetitia, would have to rely exclusively upon the footnotes. I share, incidentally, what I understand to be Cardinal Mueller's view; that firmly established doctrine and praxis can hardly be overturned without a most explicit declaration that this is what is being done. And, what I suspect to be Cardinal Burke's opinion, that those parts of AL which do not simply affirm what is already clearly taught, cannot be Magisterial.

So this is what I wrote: --

I wonder if anybody has ever seen a theological consideration of the question whether Footnotes ... either in Conciliar documents or Papal ones ... are, or can be, or cannot be, Magisterial?

Furthermore, if anyone has Acta Apostolicae Sedis and Acta Sanctae Sedis sitting cheerfully beside their desks, it would be the work of a moment for them to spot when Roman documents started to appear with footnotes.

I see, in the front of my hand-missal, that Divino afflatu (1909) has footnotes, but only such as identify quotations. (These can hardly be Magisterial; either they provide mere bibliographical facts or, if erroneous, are simply proofs that curial clerks might possibly fail accurately to verify references.) So my query may fall into two parts:
(1) when did such formal documents start to have any footnotes; and
(2) when did they start to have footnotes of any greater significance than references to identify quotations?

The Codex Iuris Canonici, the Ritus Servandus, the de Defectibus, manage without footnotes ... I think ...

15 January 2017

I was quite indignant. You see,

the Provost of the Piskie Cathedral in Glasgow had invited a Moslem to come to his Cathedral at Epiphany and to read some chapter of the Koran which denies the Divinity, or the Divine Sonship or perhaps both, of the Second Person of the Glorious and Undivided Trinity.

And Mr Plod had announced that he was investigating whether a Hate Crime had been committed.

Over the top, I thought. Since I am a Catholic, it would be ecumenical bad manners for me to say what canonical steps should be taken against the daft cleric responsible for the blasphemy. But for Inspector Knacker to prosecute him, and/or the well-meaning Moslem who read the text, for Hate Crime, is quite simply massively disproportionate.

But, as the news item (what journalists revealingly and naively call The Story) unfolded, I suddenly realised that I had got totally the wrong end of Mr Plod's big knobbly stick. The said Plod was not investigating the blasphemers, but ... get this ... the people who had strongly expressed their disapproval of the blasphemy!!! !!! !!!

How very, very, Plod. I am old enough to remember the days of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, when the "Security Forces", poor chaps, had to keep on explaining that dissidents had died in Police Custody because, in their silly Kaffir way, they kept on violently bashing their heads against the boots of their captors.

I don't think the Piskie "bishops" come very well out of it. I am tempted to give them my professional ritual advice on where to put their crosiers. The "Primus" issued one of those shifty hypocritical apologies which are not really an apology at all: he was sorry that people had been upset by the blasphemy. Perhaps, in accordance with Gospel guidelines, he should be renamed the "Ultimus". But that decision, of course, would have to be entirely up to our Partners in Ecumenical Dialogue.

Afterthought: equilibium could be re-established if the Ultimus went along to the Glasgow Central Mosque and chanted the Johannine Prologue in an authentically Scotch dialect of Urdu.

A Bit More Perne

Rather strange, Perne's actions in that year of 1564. I wish I knew more about the day-to-day changes in the direction of the winds which bore upon that Weathercock. I am no historian.

My uninformed suspicion is that 1564 was a time when the future of English Christianity either still hung, or was thought by some still to hang, in the balance. A recent book by John Guy has emphasised that the more murderous part of Elizabeth's reign did not start until around 1584; and the Handlist of the English Martyrs does not resume, after Henry VIII, until the aftermaths of the Northern Rebellion of 1569 and the Bull of Excommunication in 1570. The Missionary priests did not start to arrive until 1574 and John Gerard's autobiography explains how little interest the government took in the activities of Marian priests. 1564 was, after all, only five years after 1559.

As the Royal Visitation of Cambridge drew close in 1564, Edmund Grindal (who had spent the previous reign as a refugee in Strasbourg) was somehow mysteriously outmanoeuvred so as to be unable to prevent the nomination of Perne to preach the sermon. Significantly, Grindal distinguished between "dissemblers and neutralls", and "the zealowse and syncere". Perne, he believed, manifestly and disgracefully fell into the former category, and ought not to be given any encouragement.

So Perne preached eloquently on the Royal Supremacy (Romans 13:1). Eloquently and acceptably. Might he have been planning so to melt the wax in the Royal Ears that they might more graciously incline to his speech at the Disputation, later in the week, in which he set the authority of the Church above that of Scripture? Or was it that the royal favour was made so explicit to him that Perne, as he later hinted, improvised a speech which he had not originally prepared or intended? Collinson points out that "all the old popish guard, the unreconstructed Marian heads of houses, were drawn into the lists ... Apparently in the perception of Cambridge this, rather than the abortive disputation at Westminster Hall in 1559, was the crucial occasion when Protestantism might yet meet its intellectual nemesis". And Perne was cast in the role of Master Doctor Nemesis. A sort of Proto-Pusey?

Perhaps we should revive Grindal's phrase "Dissemblers and Neutralls", or "D-and-Ns", as a 'churchmanship category' when we try to analyse the convictions of an Elizabethan clergyman. It would be jolly to know how broad a category it was! It might not even presuppose that a cleric had been ordained during the use of the Latin Pontificals, since quite a number of the Catholic Martyrs had been previously in Anglican Orders; beginning with the Protomartyr of the Seminaries S Cuthbert Mayne (of St John's College).

In conclusion: another jolly enquiry for some keen youff or youffess might be the publication and acquisition dates of Perne's Patristic texts, combined with a careful reading of his annotations. What about testing a thesis something like this: "While the invention of Anglicanism largely rested upon a dislike of Calvinism and of Calvinists, it also owed a great deal to the dissemination of newly printed Patristic texts".

13 January 2017


The rumour went around the ladies' tea-parties of donnish Oxford:"Have you heard? Dr Pusey sacrifices a lamb every morning in Christ Church".

Of course, what Dr Pusey did was not to slit the throat of a daily ungulate in the sedate surroundings of an Anglican Cathedral, but to offer the sacrifice of the Eucharist ... 'the adorable Sacrifice' as the inscription beside his altar at Ascot Prory puts it. Nevertheless, I have some sympathy for the perplexities of the bewildered ladies. Those who saw S John Baptist, in the ancient Gospel for today, the Octave Day of the Epiphany, pointing at his Nazarean Relative as 'God's Lamb', must have been at least equally perplexed, even without tea.

But - oops - what about the view of liberal protestants, commonly regarded by them as so obvious as not to require argument, that the Eucharist was in origin a simple fellowship meal later perverted, by S Paul or by 'Early Catholicism', into a complex sacrificial mystery? Happily, this widespread but evidence-free myth was exploded by a distinguished American Jewish rabbinical scholar, Jacob Neusner. When Jesus 'cleansed' the Temple by expelling the tradesmen who facilitated its worship, He was symbolising the replacement of that sacrificial system by His own new Eucharistic sacrifice, to be instituted a few days later. And the principal Jewish sacrifice to be replaced was the daily sacrifice of the Tamid Lamb, paid for by the Temple tax of Jewish males and offered for the whole of God's people. "The atonement for sin achieved by the daily whole offering is null, and ... atonement for sin is achieved by the Eucharist; one table overturned, another set up in place, and both for the same purpose of atonement and expiation of sin".

The Lamb of God, the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens He has ordained, is the perfect oblation held in his hands and offered by the Christian priest as he stands at his altar every morning. Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. 

But according to Common Worship (modern language Gloria, Agnus, and Invitation to Communion) He takes away the sin of the World. The Latin and Greek liturgical originals usually speak of sins, while CW has been influenced by John 1:29, which reads sin. This Johannine singular sees sin as a single corporate turning away from God by fallen humankind. And rightly. But in liturgy it may not be best to reflect comfortably on the corporate nature of sin, but instead to acknowledge its specific nature in my life. 

The daily Christian needs to be aware of his own daily and plural sins as he attends the daily pleading of the One Great Sacrifice.

11 January 2017

Andrew Perne a Papist? (3)

Perne's library survives; his copies of the Fathers were well-used and copiously annotated. Perhaps he might have merited the condemnation which Cardinal Manning passed upon our patron Blessed John Henry Newman: of being too patristic. If a less Protestant wind had brought the Armada, Cardinal Allen, and his pallium to England and then on to Cambridge in 1588, Perne would have been able to show him Allen's books upon his own library shelves. Patrick Collinson, author of the first essay in this collection, deems the evidence "not inconsistent with the covert Catholicism with which the Jesuit John Gerard credited Perne. Very possibly he was what might nowadays be called a closet papist. Alternatively, although nobody had yet thought of so defining it, his religion may be thought to have displayed many features of what would later be called Anglicanism, high Anglicanism".

A very fair point, if rather cumbersomely expressed. Dermot McCulloch (however he is spelt) has argued that "Anglicanism" did not really exist until the Stuart period; that the Elizabethan Church was just Bog Standard Prod. Maybe and, well, maybe; but Perne did exist and was once even nominated for an episcopal see. So, in distant Devon, Duffy's Parson Trichay clung on; and a circle of Church Papist clergy has been discerned and documented in Cornwall. Could it be that wherever one looks carefully enough ... ... For example, at Oxford, S John's College harboured just such individuals; and maintained an ill-defined but definite link with Gloucester Hall a couple of hundred yards away, where the popery was much more thorough-going. (St John's carefully maintained its splendid Marian vestments until today.) Archbishop William Laud emerged from this cultural context. Surely we may be justified in seeing in these manifestations the first glimmerings of what was to lead to our glorious Ordinariate!

Collinson writes: "Studying his Tertullian, Perne noted Christianus debet credere credita sive tradita; and also the principle of establishing true doctrine ab antiquitate et consensu et successione episcoporum." I wonder, incidentally, what the publication date of that Tertullian was.

These perceptions leave me reasonably confident that "AP" would have approved of those of us who have done our best, firstly, to spend decades asserting within the C of E the necessity of the Petrine Ministry; and, secondly, more recently, to call to account the misbegotten excesses of Ultrabergoglianism and Hypersuperueberpapalism.

Some afterthoughts about the events of 1564 in a few days' time.

10 January 2017

English Catholic clerical blogs

Sadly, our two premier English Catholic priestly bloggers had, in 2016, nasty experiences of a cardiac nature, and do not publish as often as their countless admirers would love. As we wish beloved Fr Tim and beloved Fr Ray well and look forward, with much prayer, to their completely restored health and return to frequent blogging, I venture to commend, for any who have not discovered them, two Ordinariate bloggers, formerly Anglican clergy, Fr Ed Tomlinson and Dr Geoffrey Kirk. You will find in them much sound teaching and a great deal of wit. It's the Anglican Patrimony. Who knows if it might be for precisely this that God and Pope Benedict sent us into the Catholic Church. And at the time they did.

Other recommendations? I emphasise that it is the Three Kingdoms that I have in mind rather than the entire Anglosphere, and clerical bloggers who publish reasonably often.

Andrew Perne a Papist? (2)

Martin Bucer, a failed Dominican from Strasbourg whom Cranmer had invited to England and eased into the Regius Chair at Cambrdidge, died there in 1551, while the Godly were still in power, and was buried in the University Church. When the Marian Commissioners made their Visitation of the Daughter University in 1557, they were offended, as any right-thinking person would be, to find his remains still interred there. The Vice-Chancellor presided over the highly fitting ritual proceedings which concluded with the incineration of Bucer's remains, those of another Strasbourg 'reformer' called Phagius, and the available books of the said 'reformers'. The country folk who flocked in to watch were apparently vastly amused to see the dramatically decaying corpses chained as if out of a fear that they might do a runner ... what happily unsqueamish days! According to a Protestant woodcut in Foxe, round the conflagration went a procession which looks like a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament ... you will find it on the dust-cover of Duffy's Fires of Faith. (Several of the clergy who go in front, singing Salve Festa Dies, appear to be wearing spectacles.) I wonder how probable such liturgical riches would have been on the Tuesday after Septuagesima. Perhaps Foxe has naughtily let his imagination run away with him.

That presiding Vice-Chancellor was Perne; and he spoke very strongly, and with real animus, against Bucer. Let us now resume our account of his career seven years later, when the political and theological situation had become rather different.

In 1564, when Henry Tudor's bastard daughter was on a state visit to the University, Perne preached so well that "the Queen made her pleasure manifest". But in a later disputation on the question Maior est scripturae quam ecclesiae authoritas, Perne got his head well above a dangerous parapet. He maintained that the Church was the final court of appeal, since it was anterior to Scripture and thus the basis of the authority of Scripture. He quoted S Cyprian ("principalis ecclesia") on the Roman Primacy, and argued that the Roman Church, so far from being (what his opponent had called it) a meretricious whore, was the "apostolica et matrix ecclesia". Anticipating the Tractarians, he drew attention to the fact that many of the texts in the Prayer Book were drawn from Roman Sources. He gave advice that the Queen's religion was a comfortable one in which to live but not a safe faith in which to die ... the Jesuit missionary Fr John Gerard recorded hearing this from an ex-Calvinist convert who had herself consulted Perne.

To be continued. (An earlier version of this post contained, at the end, an error which I have corrected.)

9 January 2017

Infantilising the laity

I'm afraid this is really just an update of my recent post (SEE BELOW) about the enthusiam of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity for silly games with empty shoe boxes.

Readers, of course, intelligently diagnosed (see thread) what was going on here. This is a quality blog!! The whole spirit of the PCCU enterprise resembled ... to a quite uncanny degree ... an English TV programme called Blue Peter in which children are encouraged to be creative with string and boxes. Good for children ... our five children had more fun with string and boxes than they ever did with expensive toys. But ... adults ...?

Much of what is wrong goes back to a wrong turning taken by the Liturgical Movement. The realisation of the immense riches in the Roman Rite led to a very laudable desire to open those riches more fully to the laity. This led in turn to the desire for (some??) vernacular. But the Enemy can pervert any good endeavour. So the ancient Roman Eucharistic Prayer, within a decade, was effectively displaced by a spurious confection which attracted employment by nothing except its brevity. And the seasonal Sunday Collects were eliminated en bloc. Then came Stage 2: the already mangled Roman Rite was corrupted still further in Anglophone regions by being 'translated' into the most cretinous, the most vacuous dialect of English imaginable. And, believe it or not, liturgical translators without Latin (!!) used the English version as the basis of their own renderings into minority languages. You just couldn't make it up.

Unsurprisingly, this has all fed through into the present crisis, in which God's People are treated with contempt; or, to be more precise, treated like very little children. Although the old corrupt translation has now been replaced (despite the fury of Tablet readers) by something markedly less unworthy, the damage had been done. The liturgical texts, in my experience, are still very rarely explained or expounded. Some clergy illegally but regularly paraphrase the authorised texts (even the Consecration), and do so in a way which reveals their own broad and deep incompetences. Nor are the Scriptures expounded, despite the explicit desire of Vatican II. Much preaching is pitiful. To cap it all, we now have a Roman Pontiff who talks about s**t-loving and s**t-eating and clearly feels he is a very fine fellow for doing so. Some clergy, presumably getting the message, break the rules by avoiding preaching whenever they can. Not surprisingly, they hate the Creed, especially if it's Nicene. But time can always be found for daft and soppy music.

The solution is really immensely simple. From Roman Pontifical Councils downwards [or do I mean upwards?], the clergy need to start treating the laity as grown-up Christians who do not need anybody's condescension. Who deserve respect rather than verbal cuddling. And seminarians need to be taught the essentially and unavoidably masculine character of the Roman Rite; they could well start by studying the work of those superb lay Catholic liturgists Edmund Bishop [The Genius of the Roman Rite] and Christine Mohrmann [The Origins of Liturgical Latin].

 The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, invented by Anglican Papalists and originally, admirably, known as the Chair of Unity Octave, starts on Wednesday January 18; which, in the Old Calendar, was the Feast of the Chair, the Cathedra, of S Peter. This year the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in collaboration with some Ecumenical Partners, has set out quasi-liturgical formulae for use. These forms constitute successful attempts to scale heights of risibilty which have not to my knowledge previously been attempted. This is your real hard-core Guinness-book-of-records rubbish.

The central ritual involves the moving of stones. But, because carrying real stones might be a bit like hard work for the aged biddies of each sex who are likely to be symbolising their second childhoods by taking part in these rituals, the "stones" will in fact be shoe boxes covered with packing paper. No, I'm not making this up. Twelve of them. With labels. Labels naming 'things that divide'. The 'stones' will be built up to make a 'Wall of Division' which will then be dismantled and formed into a Cross. (What happens if the officiants disagree about the neatest way in which twelve empty shoe-boxes can be arranged into a Cross, and end up in a melee of fisticuffs, is a rubrical detail which these curial nut-cases have not catered for.)

At least two things worry me here.
(1) Some of the names on the stones involve non-statement, since they imply a tautology. How helpful is it, for example, to say that Division Divides?
(2) The Divisive Factors selected by the PCCU, of course, imply a specific (and distinctly narrow) mindset. I can best illustrate this by telling you some of the things which will not be written on any of the shoe boxes. 'Heresy' is not included. Nor is 'Disobedience to the Commandments of God'. No mention of  'Divergence from Holy Tradition'. Or of 'Failure to Worship God as He has commanded'. Try guessing what, in the Spirit of the Zeitgeist, these Ecumenists have come up with, then turn to the Vatican Website and discover how close you have got to analysing accurately the Spirit of the Age. And, No: 'Following the Spirit of this Passing Age' does not claim the dignity of a shoebox.

Nor does 'Encouraging grown men and women to play daft games with shoe boxes'. 

Andrew Perne A Papist? (1)

High above the fenland landscape of the Daughter University may be descried a weathercock bearing the letters AP. It was placed there by the Master of Peterhouse for thirty five years, Andrew Perne. Wags - for there are such things in Cambridge - opined that it stood for "A Papist, A Protestant [which at that time meant an Anglican], A Puritan". In other words, A Perne was seen as a man who shifted with the various and shifting winds of the Tudor Regimes.

It is easy to see Perne as a Vicar of Bray, because his successful career at Cambridge began in the reign of Henry 'Gestapo' VIII; continued through even the most overtly Zwinglian phase of Cranmer's ascendancy under the Sickly Boy King; gathered impetus and benefices under Good Queen Mary; and continued triumphantly well into the reign of Bloody Bess. But the notion that Perne had any overt or covert sympathy for Puritanism is ... as the essays in this book demonstrate ... a calumny!

Which book? Perne is in my mind because a most kind friend, whom I ask to accept this as a warm thank-you, has had sent to me a thoroughly diverting volume (Cambridge Bibliographical Society Monograph No. 11 Andrew Perne  Quatercentenary Studies CUP 1991; posted to me from Bennett and Kerr Books). It has set me thinking about a number of things.

Weathercock or not, Perne was a man of greater courage ... Parrhesia, indeed ... than he has normally been credited with having. In the first Convocation of Queen Mary, he "spoke against transubstantiation, and with exceptional boldness".  But he soon conformed and was commended by Stephen Gardiner for the Mastership. And he served on the Commission to put down heresy in Cambridge ... a Commission which seemed loath to set alight many of what Eamonn Duffy has called the Fires of Faith (much more satisfactory blazes were lit and fanned here in Oxford).

But when it came to the Reformer Martin Bucer, the treatment dished out by Perne was gruesome in the extreme ... you would never guess what he did so I will have to tell you tomorrow ... get ready to hold your noses ...
To be continued.

7 January 2017

Fr Z and Professor Finnis

I commend to readers a careful reading of Fr Zed's important and scholarly piece dated January 6, in which he brilliantly and painstakingly exposes the unscholarly piffle and twaddle of some cleric called Cameli who has set himself (in some Jesuit magazine) to defend Papa Bergofglio's Amoris laetitia.

Father does not mention that the cleric concerned, in using a faulty translation of a text by S John XXIII, simply repeats claims already erroneously made, decades ago, by a failed Jesuit called Hebblethwaite.

This whole controversy has, in other words, been run before! And the truth was exposed, back in 1991, a quarter of a century ago, by Professor John Finnis, a distinguished scholar of International Law in this University. And he exposed it in the Tablet !!!

I have myself explained this matter several times before, and I repeat, with this, two of my earlier pieces.

The promoters of error hope, by repeating themselves and each other endlessly and ad infinitum, to bamboozle us into swallowing their slanted narratives.

See underneath!

A Happy Christmas ...

... to all readers who follow the Calendar of Caius Iulius Caesar; to all Byzantines, all Orthodox, all Old Believers and old Calendarists; to all 'Oriental' Christians.

And, of course, to all consistently fundamentalist enthusiasts for the liturgical books authorised by Pope S Pius V. (vide the Tridentine Rite Blog)

Happy Christ Mass!

6 January 2017

A ghostly Triple Triumph

Dom Prosper Gueranger suggests that the wonderful Epiphany antiphons Tribus miraculis and Hodie caelesti are designed to trump a commemoration, in the pagan Roman Calendar, of a triple Triumph by Augustus, aka il Duce, on January 6.

I this is rather intriguing; except that I can't find back-up for the assertion. Not in the obvious Internet resources; not in the Res gestae; not in Ovid's Fasti. (Perhaps you would have considered me more scholarly if I had listed those in the reverse order. Think of it as an ascending tricolon.)

But then, Ancient History is not really my professionalism. And Bodley has been closed for its winter break. Can anybody help?

UPDATE I thank learned contributors, both those whom you will find on the thread and those who were in touch with me more privately.

You will see that Orosius is pretty clearly the chappy from whom Dom Gueranger got his information. The thread contains the relevant passage, and a English crib is easily found on the Internet. I suspect that Orosius made up this Triple Triumph in order to provide an aition or, more correctly, a typos, for the Epiphany. The author of the Res Gestae is not, in my judgement, the sort of bloke who hid his Triple Triumphs under either a bush or a bushel.

Here are translations of these two Antiphons:
"We worshipfully keep (colimus) a Holy Day adorned with three miracles; today the Star led the Magi to the manger; today wine was made from water for the wedding; today in the Jordan Christ willed to be baptized by John, that he might save us: ALLELUIA!!"

"Today the Church is joined to her heavenly Bridegroom, since in the Jordan Christ washed away her sins; the Magi run with gifts to the Royal Wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice at the wine made from water [ex aqua facto vino]: ALLELUIA!!"

Textual Note:
In 1972 and 1984 editions of the Liturgia Horarum, the second antiphon ends "... et ex aqua facta vino laetantur convivae". You could easily make an argument that this odd phrase would most naturally mean "and the wedding guests rejoice as a result of water made by/from/with wine". All Breviary editions I possess give the reading and meaning I give above.

UPDATE The textual evidence is all but unanimous that facta is a blunder.

Mgr Graham Leonard

Today is the Year's Mind (as we say in the Patrimony) of the Right Reverend the Father in God the Lord Bishop Emeritus of London, Mgr Graham Leonard.

Having considered the extensive documentary evidence he provided about the participation of Dutch schismatics in Anglican episcopal consecrations since the the 1930s, Joseph Ratzinger's CDF decreed that there was a doubt about the invalidity of his presbyteral ordination, and ordered its repetition to be private and sub conditione. The monsignor was convinced that the CDF declined to consider the validity of his episcopal consecration out of an apprehension that they might have to declare it valid and find themselves stuck with a married bishop!

It our Ordinary's study on Golden Square in London, there is a fine portrait of Bishop Leonard. He is most truly the Forerunner of our Ordinariate.

Ecce sacerdos magnus qui in diebus suis placuit Domino et inventus est iustus. C A P D.

When did the Church of England finally come to an end?

A dodgy question ... which I only revisit because Rowan Williams (for whom, to the surprise of many of my friends, I still retain a very friendly respect), in effect, raised it recently. These were his words:
"The Anglican Church no longer shows so clearly the same combination of rootedness in the early Christian tradition and unfussy, prayerful pragmatism".

This is is very much the conclusion to which Gary Bennett came in his Preface to the 1987 Crockfords (for which the Great and the Good, the Liberal Men of Mercy, hounded him to suicide). He wrote of the demise of "the usual Anglican assumptions about the authority of Scripture and the normative character of patristic usage".

Yes, I know that many of you, with justice, might assign the demise of the Ecclesia Anglicana to the year 1559. But you know what I mean ... or, if you don't, don't bother further with this.

For what it's worth, I think I might pick on the date 2008, the year Henry Chadwick died. Readers who know anything about him will understand why I do this.

4 January 2017

Bishop Philip North of Burnley

Some readers might welcome a little information about an Anglican suffragan (i.e. assistant) Bishop who has been in the news recently.

Philip North was 'one of us'; and when the C of E resolved to have Women Bishops and Pope Benedict offered us an Ordinariate, we each had to decide whether to accept the offer. It became clear from what he said at public meetings that Fr North was not going to accept; his reason being that he wished to discharge a ministry which stretched out to the whole of society in a way that the non-Established ecclesial bodies, in his view, could not. He was subsequently nominated to the see of Whitby, because the Whitby area contained many of the parishes in the North who would need alternative episcopal oversight. Bigotry, however, raised its ugly head, and Father withdrew. Upon his appointment to Burnley, a novel system was put in place ... allegedly, because the powers that be were anxious to save as many people as possible from the clutches of the Ordinariate. The consecration was not performed by the Primatial Archbishop of York, but by a senior bishop who does not ordain women and two coconsecrators who also do not. Thus those dissenting from the ordination of women to sacerdotal ministies secured a sort of ecclesiola in ecclesia. This stimulated some disquiet, and in one parish the toddlers in the Church Primary School, sweet little ecclesiologists, were helped to write letters of protest.

So I am not surprised that Bishop Philip has written a most thought-provoking article in the Church Times, in which he defends ordinary working class people from the contempt of chattering classes. The context, of course, is the aftermath of the Brexit vote, which is thought by many to have been swung by the votes of xenophobic working class people. Bishop Philip names three matters of affection and/or concern which the working classes have: Family, Nation, Work (it has not been revealed whether he is aware of the rather 'Vichy' nature of this triad!). He thinks they deserve to have their concerns taken more seriously.

Broadly, I am in agreement with him. I would only have some hesitations in the matter of country. In Britain, our armed forces have been disgracefully used in immoral (and unsuccessful) military adventures. From the Gulf Wars onwards. We cheered on the fatuous Arab Spring and bombed Libya into a chaos from which it shows no signs of recovering. We bear the main responsibility for the horrors, for the millions of the killed and wounded and dispossessed, in Iraq and Syria. Affection for ones country and respect for her Armed Forces must not be extended to cover unquestioning acceptance of such government decisions.

Where the bishop is arguably right is in suggesting that there are more important things for Christians to be endlessly concerned with than gender and sexual matters. Everybody claims to agree with this. But, in the C of E, those endlessly demanding 'reforms' phrased the matter thus: "The Church should devote its energies towards the needs of the poor, so immediately give us what we demand with regard to the Ordination of Women and Marriage equality".

Poor dim things, they never spotted that there might be an equally logical alternative second half to that quaint proposition. Or did they?

3 January 2017

Newman and the Prayer Book

In his semi-autobiographical 1848 novel Loss and Gain, Blessed John Henry Newman mercilessly satirises all non-conformity, Evangelicalism, and vacuous ritualism. He does not criticise solid old-style Anglicanism (although one can easily discern a hermeneutic of its inadequacy).

In Chapter 8, the Misses Bolton, "very Catholic girls", have just been discussing the religious vocation with two rather handsome young ritualists; the discussion has manifestly been little other than a cover for flirtation. When they get home, their mother bursts out "Catholic, Catholic? give me good old George the Third and the Protestant religion. Those were the times! ... I value the Prayer Book as you cannot do, for I have known what it is to one in deep affliction. May it be long, dearest girls, before you know it in a similar way; but if affliction comes on you, depend on it, all these new fancies and fashions will vanish from you like the wind, and the good old Prayer Book alone will stand you in any stead. Come my dears; I have spoken too seriously. Go and take your things off, and come and let us have some quiet work before luncheon time".

One old Anglican custom was to learn the week's collect each week. Since nearly all of these are, of course, translated from the ancient Roman sacramentaries, this was a way of tapping into and being fed by an ancient and deeply orthodox euchological tradition.

Those, of course, who are in the Ordinariate can quite simply learn the collects in the old Prayer Book, which our Rite reproduces verbatim. I am not so sure what we should be commending to other Catholics.

No sane Catholic, of course, would have learned the old ICEL translations of the Sunday collects off by heart. But, given the current translation, Catholics may have a set of texts which could indeed be so treated. I wonder what readers think. Indeed, Liturgiam authenticam sees the provision of sound translations, and a period of stability, as being an important cultural opportunity for liturgical formulae to become a nutrient part of the spirituality of the Catholic worshipper.

2 January 2017


I have no intention, this morning, of laying down the law about something! I wish, instead, to raise a question. And to ask you to regard most of what follows as a question.

They have got me thinking. By "they" I mean the Hypersuperueberpapalists who seem to me to constitute one of the most problematic heretical groupings currently at work in the Church Militant. The keep on about the Holy Spirit; how He desires us to accept constant surprises; how He speaks to us through the very lips of the Roman Pontiff ... particularly the present one. Kai ta loipa.

But, like Edgar Alan Poe's nocturnally silent dog, the Holy Spirit seems absent from places one might expect Him to be. Vatican I tells us that the Holy Spirit does not inspire the Roman Pontiff with new teaching but simply helps him to plug the old stuff. Ecumenical Councils do not routinely suggest that the Spirit is guiding them in their new articulations of doctrine. Anti-Gnostic polemicists such as Irenaeus find guarantees of pure Teaching in the historical succession of orthodox bishops from the time of the Apostles, not in the activity of the Spirit. Pius popes defining Marian doctrines do not claim the inspiration of the Spirit. The "Nicene" Creed refrains from claiming the Holy Spirit as the church's guide; locutus est per prophetas (contra Marcionem) is the role it appears to highlight (I know of no credal document which offers loquitur in Ecclesia). Yet that Symbolum Fidei was promulgated by Fathers who had everything to gain from claiming the Holy Spirit as witness to their own very decisive doctrinal interventions. And if, while on holiday near Pepuza, we find groups getting excited about the Spirit, we are inclined to be very cautious about their orthodoxy.

In S John's Gospel, the Lord says, indeed, that the Holy Spirit will lead his disciples into all truth: but I discern no evidence that this refers to anything beyond the ambit of the Gospel Narratives themselves. When the Council of Jerusalem writes edoxen gar toi Pneumati toi Hagioi kai hemin, they are surely not so much claiming the inevitable concurrence of the Spirit with their own conciliar decision-making as referring to the Outpourings of the Spirit as narrated in the earlier chapters of Acts.

So; I have offered you something of a clearing of the ground done from what you might loosely call an apophatic stance. Now we come on to the more positive exploration: what is the ecclesiological role of the Holy Spirit? Over to you.

1 January 2017

The Feast of the Circumcision

Why, people ask, was January 1 deprived of its old name of the Feast of the Circumcision? Since it manifestly is eight days after the Nativity, and eight days after His birth was when the Lord was circumcised.

The question is a mere detail. In the Gregorian Sacramentary, today was called simply the Octave of the Lord, and its Collect (as today) concerned the Mother of God (Deus qui salutis aeternae). (The Byzantine Rite also has a natural inclination to concentrate on an aspect of a great feast on a nearby day). During the Middle Ages, today came to have the title of the Circumcision, but the propers were not changed. So even while it was called the Feast of the Circumcision, most of the Mass and Office (except for the Gospel and some readings at Mattins), did not have any reference to the Circumcision. They were about the Incarnation, our Lady's part in it, and her perpetual Virginity.

At Lauds, the first Antiphon (O admirabile commercium) is a superb reminder that the Incarnation of God makes us, the baptised, into Gods (or, to be pedantic, sharers in the Godhead of the one into whom we have been baptised). What a wonderful Swap (commercium)! The Creator of the human race, taking an animated body, has deigned to be born of a Virgin, and, going forth as a human without seed, has granted to us his Divinity. The second antiphon typologically uses the dew that fell upon Gideon's flece; the third sees the bush that was burned but not consumed as a type of Mary's virginity, undiminished by her childbearing.

Personally, I feel that the simplest and best title is that of Octave of the Nativity; surely we could call it that and then leave the unchanged ancient texts to make their own different but interrelated points. I suspect the post-Conciliar tamperers changed it to Mary Mother of God simply to give themselves an excuse for suppressing Pius XI's feast on October 11. (And it would be jolly to start rescuing the term Octave from practical oblivion.)

Mutual Enrichment ... Dom Anselmo Lentini, in the Liturgia Horarum, mandated by the Council to increase the use of ancient hymnody drawn from the vast treasury of the Latin Church, introduced the fine Prudentian hymn Corde natus ex Parentis [Of the Father's Heart begotten] as an Office Hymn for today. A marvellous idea. I love so much of its phraseology ... Corde natus ... ipse fons et clausula ...  as well as those great striding trochaic tetrameters catalectic. A mature and glorious moment in the evolution of Christian Latin. (What a Diabolical scandal that, within a decade of Sacrosanctum Concilium, its provisions [especially paras 93 and 101] were so brazenly suppressed in order to eliminate a latinate and literate clergy connected to their roots ... as part of a wider conspiracy frankly revealed by Screwtape at the end of Chapter XXVII.)

Hymns are a weak point in the 1961 Breviary; their texts still stand as they were corrupted by Urban VIII, and more variety is surely needed. Is there any cleric who really enjoys saying Iste Confessor day after day? It will be a great day when, on both 'sides', we have a sufficiently balanced, relaxed, and distanced  view of Vatican II and its aftermath to be able to incorporate some of their worthier elements into our incomparable ancient rites.