28 February 2017

Luther, Dix, and the Sovereign Pontiff UPDATED

So now we are settling down into the Year Of Luther, and our Holy Father has done his trip to Lund and said what-ho to the (arch)bishopesses. He may even, for all I know, have kissed them and washed their feet, although I do hope he first checked that he had their Consent, as we chaps have to nowadays before we lay so much as a finger .... And the Pontifical Council for something or other which now eludes me, earlier this year, issued Texts and Materials and Shoe Boxes. I am sure much more enlightenment lies ahead. I can't, er, wait. Neither (I sense it) can you.

Not long before he died, Dom Gregory Dix did a lecture tour in Sweden. That was a time, 1950, before Swedish Lutheranism had descended anything like as far as it has now into the most extreme blasphemies and apostasies of the Zeitgeist. But Dix found already "an appalling stiffness and deadness". He felt that "What they need is daily mass and weekly communion and morning and evening prayer daily in Church to make it all come alive". He did not hesitate to show the way: he insisted on celebrating his own daily (Latin, Tridentine) Mass, and made them fix up an altar for him to do it on in Stockholm Cathedral ... and in Uppsala and Stranghus [See via Google A Tactful God by Simon Bailey page 234].

He wrote to a friend: "If ever I hated Luther I hate that psychological monster three times more now that I have seen his results!"

I wonder if even the most exclusive, anti-ecumenical, and died-in-the-wool traddies might, albeit reluctantly, agree with me that this mere Anglican monk had a sharper nose for psychopathology and monstrosity than some Roman Pontiffs sometimes appear to possess.

But Mary's Immaculate Heart will prevail! Singlehanded, Mary has destroyed all the heresies in all the world! She is more than a match for dead heresiarchs!


27 February 2017


(a) Have you got your spectacular Clement XIV (Papa Ganganelli) mug from Fr Zed (see his blog)? Every Catholic of real 'Discernment' should have one! Offering guests their coffee in a Clement XIV mug will become a sort of secret 'quasi-masonic' way of Discerning who is 'sound'. (Another method, if you still attend the Novus Ordo, would be to murmur 'Ganganelli' as you exchange the Grope of Peace.)

(b) Talking about 'Discernment': have you read Dr Geoffrey (Patrimony) Kirk about this subject, on his Ignatius his conclave blog (alias GKIRKUK)? Dr K is either Brilliant or Megabrilliant. This recent post is a Mega example of the Anglican Catholic tradition of Satire. It's what kept us sane in the C of E when we were being persecuted there. I'm sure we shall never need it for that purpose in the Catholic Church. But read Dr K all the same.

(c) Do you read the top Vaticanista Sandro Magister? His Blog is the Settimo Cielo blog, and offers you the choice of reading articles in Italian, English, or Spanish. The English is well translated. A couple of days ago he had an extremely revealing piece on how Bergoglio's moral teaching was orthodox (i.e. he followed Veritatis Splendor of S John Paul II in condemning the phony ethical theories which spread in the 1960s). Then Bergoglio fell under the spell of the totally dodgy 'Archbishop' Fernandez, who wrote Amoris laetitia for him.

26 February 2017


I wonder if Mr George Lee might be willing to provide me with his email address. Another reader who lives near him would like to get in touch. If you are willing, embody it in a Comment, which I will not publish.

25 February 2017

Regnans in Excelsis

Today is the Anniversary of the promulgation, in 1569 (1570 New Style), of the Bull Regnans in Excelsis.

Those with easy access to the Brompton Oratory will probably not need me to remind them that there is a very nice baroque statue of S Pius V on the right hand side of the pietra dura Lady Altar which originated in the Dominican Church at Brescia. (It is where I said my First Mass in Full Communion with the See of S Peter.) There is a 'Latimer-and-Ridley'-style pricket stand conveniently nearby.

Perhaps the people who organise National Celebrations should start ... now! ... preparing for the big junketings due in 2020 (450 years).

Here is what Evelyn Waugh wrote in 1935 about S Pius V and his Bull: His contemporaries and the vast majoriy of subsequent historians regarded the pope's action as ill-judged. It has been represented as a gesture of medievalism, futile in an age of new, vigorous nationalism, and its author as an ineffectual and deluded champion, stumbling through the mists, in the ill-fitting, antiquated armour of Gregory and Innocent; a disastrous figure, provoking instead of a few bullets for Sancho Panza the bloody ruin of English Catholicism. That is the verdict of sober criticism, both Catholic and Protestant, and yet, as on studies that odd and compelling face which peers obliquely from Zucchero's portait at Stonyhurst, emaciated, with its lofty and narrow forehead, the great, beaked nose, the eyes prominent in their deep sockets, and, above all else, the serene and secret curve of the lips, a doubt rises, and a hope; had he, perhaps, in those withdrawn, exalted hours before his crucifix, learned something that was hidden from the statesmen of his time and the succeeding generations of historians; seen through and beyond the present and the immediate future; understood that there was to be no easy way of reconciliation, but that it was only through blood and hatred and derision that the faith was one day to return to England?

Fascist Flags

Last Sunday I watched the first episode of the BBC dramatisation of Len Deighton's intelligent SS-GB. How droll to see the Nazi banners dangling and flapping from London's public buildings.

The next day I went into the city centre and saw the 'Diversity' flags dangling and flapping from Oxford's public buildings.

Should one be grateful for the distinctions and differences between the bad old brutal Hard Fascism and the nice new shrill Soft Fascism?

Warm cosy non-judgemental Abortuaries are so much more civilised than grim old-style Extermination Camps.

24 February 2017

Society of Pope Clement XIV (SPCXIV)

TRAGEDY! I wrote the following yesterday morning and scheduled it to pop up now ... only to discover last evening that Fr Zed has got in first with his marvellous, splendiferous Clement XIV mug! (I would very much welcome a gift of one of those mugs.) But I'm not going to waste my own humbler effort, so here it is:-

Dear Readers

                                                    Society of Pope Clement XIV (SPCXIV)

I have been strangely moved to found a new Society with the above name. You know how these inexplicable inspirations do suddenly come upon one, tumbling out of the heavens without any warning. (If I were a Bergoglian, I would of course attribute such agency to "the Holy Spirit", but I am anxious to avoid blasphemy.) Can any reader explain to me why that particular Pontiff (1769-1774) might be deemed to have an exemplary role in today's ecclesial situation? What was there about that particular pontificate which will make "Clement XV" such an obvious and suitable name for the next (and restorationist) pope?

Vivat Ganganelli! Vivat!! Vivat!!!

When our family was young, they sometimes stood at the gates of fields containing newly-born spring lambs and chanted in their sweet tiny voices "Mint Sauce! Mint Sauce! Mint Sauce!"

Next time I pop into the Santa Marta for the daily homily, I shall set up a great chant of

Ganganelli! Ganganelli!! Ganganelli!!! 

I wonder why. 

Yours truly

John Hunwicke SPCXIV

PS All who read this are automatically Members unless, within five minutes of reading it, they make a deliberate Act of Witholding their Intentions. 
PPS The Society is a Sovereign Entity and I am the Grand Master. 

23 February 2017


It is the custom in Anglican Catholic churches, when the priest or ministers are sitting at the sedilia during readings or singing, for the priest to turn back the foot of the chasuble on his lap so that he then rests the palms of his hands on the lining, and not on the fabric, of the chasuble. Deacon and Subdeacon do the same with dalmatic and tunicle. Thus sweat (or, at the blessing of incense before the Gospel, incense or charcoal) cannot not mark the embroidery of the vestment. My recollection is that this goes back to preconciliar custom; evidence is available in the ancient marks of two sweaty hands on the linings of the vestments in High Mass sets in sacristies all over England.

I have never seen this done in RC Masses, whether OF or EF. Is it an Anglican idiosyncrasy?

22 February 2017

G G Willis and the Ordinariate

... was a distinguished Anglican Liturgist and Parish Priest. At the heart of the post-Conciliar ferment, in 1969, he advocated the adoption within the Church of England of the 'Gregorian Canon' ... just at the time when Roman Catholics were charging like great hordes of daft and mesmerised lemmings over the cliff and down onto the pseudo-hippolytan breakers beneath. He wrote: "It is superfluous to emphasise the liturgical advantages of this proposal. Very many priests supplement the exiguous rite of 1662 by the recitation, silent or open, of the Roman Canon, so that it would be very familiar, unlike an Hippolytean rite. In liturgical quality, both of language and structure, it excells all other eucharistic rites in the eyes of millions of Christians, and it was the only rite known to Englishmen for nearly a thousand years. It says what many people want to say at the Altar, and its use would draw the Church of England closer to to countless other Western Christians, and would therefore have great value in knitting together the splintered unity of Christ's Church ... the Roman Canon is the best one available, setting forth with great clarity the fourfold action of the Eucharist, and falling into three clearly defined stages, the offering of the gifts of bread and wine, their consecration by the recital of the dominical institution, and their offering to God as the Body and Blood of Christ. It is time for the Church Of England to forsake inveterate prejudices derived from Reformation Protestantism, and to accomplish something in liturgical revision which would give unity and peace on the basis of an ancient and well-tried form of prayer."

Who can doubt that Willis would have welcomed with enthusiasm our Ordinariate Missal?

21 February 2017


During the Stalinist era, the Moskow Patriarchate was complicit in the persecution, even martyrdom, of Catholic Ukrainians. It would be nice if, instead of resenting the resurrection of the heroic and ancient Church of Ukraine, Moskow could express some penitence for a period of its history when it appeared very willing to benefit from the oppression of the Ukrainian Church and even from the genocidal famine which Stalinism unleashed upon the Ukrainians.

Moreover, I have a lot of sympathy for the wish of Russian Orthodox that Latin Christianity should not proselytise in the Canonical Territitory of the Moskow Patriarchate. I know that some readers will disagree with this, but I would wish that Orthodoxy be supported in its desire to be the Church of the Russian people. But a real solution to this group of problems would need examination of the mirror-image problem: the existence of (several!) Orthodox jurisdictions within the Canonical Territory of the Roman "Patriarchate". Or is the "Patriarchate" of Rome a virgin area in partibus infidelium and available as sort of free-for-all for Orthodox to missionise? The recent Great and Holy Council and the fierce wrangling which has followed it suggest that the status of the Roman "Patriarchate" is a profound source of dissension within and between Orthodox.

During the Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, while the Holy Gospel was being sung in Greek, a considerable number of the Orthodox present turned away. I can only suspect that they were so anxious to show (before the world media) disrespect to the "uniate" deacon singing it that they were also willing to show disrespect to the Incarnate Word solemnly proclaimed. I suspect - I don't know how to check this - that the deacon concerned may have been associated with the Abbey of Grottaferatta near Rome in the Alban hills; founded by S Nilus in 1004 and for more than a millennium an oasis of Hellenic Christianity in the heart of the West and never out of communion with the See of Rome. A foundation which survived more successfully than the Latin religious communities which were in Constantinople and on Athos before 1054.

If this were so, it would make that action even more unpleasant.

20 February 2017


I don't intend here to go into the original significance of the Pax at its traditional place in the Roman Rite; in posts some time ago, accessible through the search engine, I showed conclusively that the idea was that a liturgical Kiss concluded and sealed what had just been done (here, in the case of the Eucharist, consecration and oblation). No; I want to put some question marks against the significance assigned to it in the Pauline rite. And in current de facto praxis within the mainstream Church

"The faithful implore peace and unity for the Church and the whole family of men and express mutual charity with each other, before they share one loaf". MR 1969 IGMR para 56 b.

I doubt whether it would be easy to find much patristic support for the thought that Christians ought to be concerned for the unity of the human family qua unredeemed - that is, for humanity before and without Christ. You don't have to be a Calvinist believer in the massa damnationis to have read your New Testament and to know that 'brethren' are brethren because it is Baptism that makes one a co-sharer in Christ's Sonship so that one can cry "Abba" in fellowship with all those others who have been so admitted into His Body.

But my real dubium is about the logical link apparently asserted here between the Kiss and the eucharistic sharing in the Panis sanctus Vitae aeternae, the One Loaf. I do not understand why/how those who are admitted to the Kiss can be excluded from the Loaf ... or why/how those to be excluded from the Loaf are admitted to the Kiss.

Modern custom is that on the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, the Orthodox metropolitan who is visiting Rome to represent the Phanar is the first to receive the Kiss from the Pontiff. And indeed, in ordinary parish churches, there can be no doubt that it very commonly occurs that non-Catholic and even unbaptised visitors at Mass will (whether they like it or not) be given a warm greeting at Pax time (even though the paragraph quoted above technically suggests that the Pax is confined to the fideles).

Old-fashioned worshippers are sometimes opposed to the Peace because this silly little piece of faux-friendly hypocrisy interrupts their private piety. I have some sympathy with this, but I feel there are more profound reasons for deploring what have become the accepted customs of the mainstream Church.

Or at the very least, questions which need answering.

19 February 2017


At the top left hand corner of this blog, there is a sweet little box with a very nice magnifying glass beside it. You can use it to find all sorts of interesting things ... I think of it as a Search Engine ... you'll be surprised ...

... for example: a recent comment enquired where the Anglican evangelical theologian and bishop N T Wright had made his critical remarks about the pre-Advent dating for Christ the King.

If one types in Christ King Wright one instantly gets given a 2014 post of mine listing the book concerned, and offering some quotations.

Now comes my strict bit. Mummy and Daddy and Nanny can't always be at hand to spoon every little last morsel of porridge into your dear expectant litte mouth. Why not try the Search Engine before you impetuously raise a great hungry wail from the cavernous depths of your perambulator?


I did tell you that I was going to be away from technology for a fortnight ...

... but I have now been through all 300 emails and enabled a lot of Comments which arrived during that period.


I apologise to Dom Benedict Andersen for inviting him to write on this subject on the thread when I was not in a position to enable his cogent and important comments. I now therefore repeat this piece  to ENABLE YOU TO READ HIS COMMENTS.
I am afraid that there is an immensely silly article in the CWR by a Fr Peter Stravinskas. He asks how the Ordinary Form could enrich the Extraordinary Form.

The problem with his piece is that he goes on and on ... and on ... and on ... having yet more bright ideas. One thing leads to another. You start off considering his ideas ... but by the time he has finished with you he is proposing a completely new rite.

More to the point, and most disturbingly, he is apparently unaware of a large amount of work, academically, which has been done in the last twenty or so years. The 1960s changes were based on shabby and shallow scholarship. The last thing we want to do to the EF now is to make precisely the same blunder!

A tiny handful of examples:

"The riches of prayers in the OF should be brought into the EF." BUT it has been demonstrated that even where OF prayers have a pedigree in the old Sacramentaries, their selection and their conceptual bowdlerisation in the OF has made them very suspect.
"The OF Lectionaries should be brought into the EF." BUT it has been demonstrated that, although the OF gives more Bible, it goes easy on certain Biblical themes, and so in fact it is something of an impoverishment; a censorship of Holy Scripture.
"The OF Calendar should be brought into the EF ... for example, by shifting Christ the King to November." BUT the (Evangelical Anglican) Bishop NT Wright has demonstrated what a very flawed move that was.

There are two changes that should be made: the EF Calendar needs to be thinned out. Historically, Calendars continually silt up with new saints and new devotions, and periodically Roman Pontiffs revise them. I believe that some saints should be made optional, and (very judiciously!!!) some more recently canonised saints should be considered for admission to an 'optional' category. This is a sensitive area and the revision should be done in careful collaboration with the SSPX and other interested parties. Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Christ the King should not  be messed around with! Not now, not ever!

And some Prefaces should be added. Particularly, for Advent. But, long before the OF was even a glint in the eye of Mgr Bugnini, France had faculties to use a select handful of (originally neo-Gallican) prefaces, including that for Advent. The SSPX in France has continued to use those faculties, as their French-language ORDO makes clear. These Prefaces are, I believe, already printed in the 1962 Missal. The provision of a few hundred new prefaces would be a bad idea because it would unbalance the rite.

Lastly: a personal fad of mine. I think the authorisation of rubrics for a form of Mass using a Deacon but not a Subdeacon ... when, for example, there is no appropriate and trained person available even to be a 'straw' subdeacon ... would enrich the possibilities for doing the EF magis sollemniter.

Fr Stravinskas's proposed massive revision of the EF would provide a sort of intermediate use between the EF and the OF. His desires would much more easily be achieved by authorising certain optional changes in the OF ... for example, the silent Canon, disuse of the Acclamations after the Consecration, the restoration of the historical Roman Words of Consecration, and the authorisation of the old Offertory Prayers of the celebrant. These would all be a good thing, and could be done very simply by a decree which need hardly occupy more than one sheet of paper.

My thanks to the learned Dom Benedict of Silverstream for alerting me to this matter. I have invited Father to expand in the Thread my rather brief  treatment of Fr Stravinskas' journey up the Garden Path. Hear Him!!

18 February 2017

S Wilfrid the Fisherman

Apparently during the first millennium we caught only fresh water fish. The middens that archaeologists spend their lives delving into demonstrate that towards the end of that millennium, such fish became smaller and fewer; so that we had to diversify into sea fish.

This provides the background of something in Bede that has always puzzled me. He says that when S Wilfrid (who was responsible for giving the English Church its admirable Romanita) decided to evangelise the South Saxons, he found them so afflicted by famine that they were lining up to jump off Beachy Head. There was fish galore, but the only fishing they were familiar with was catching eels. So he showd them how to use their eel nets to supplement their diet.

It used to mystify me that people could have been starving who had the English Channel in which to fish and no restrictive European quotas to hamper them. Now I understand.

17 February 2017

Fr Forrest: Stanza 4: Spirit of Vatican II

Oh, just the usual thing, you know, we trust that you'll be able
To mingle with the reredos and stand behind the Table;
(For clergymen who celebrate and face the congregation,
Must pass a stringent glamour-test before their Ordination!)
Patristic ceremonial; economy of gesture,
Though balanced by a certain superfluity of vesture;
With lots of flanking presbyters all gathered in a ring,
But, apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.

16 February 2017


Whatever is a chap to do if he gets onto a train in Kent and finds a typescript left on an empty  seat by a previous traveller ... or "customer", as the train companies now call us ...

This is an appeal for information: does anybody know the status of a document by a Jesuit called James Hanvey and dated 20 October 2016?

15 February 2017

Fr Forrest: Stanza 3; 1928 and Percy Dearmer

Oh, just the ordinary thing you know; but very up to date,
Our basis is the liturgy of 1928,
With lots of local colouring and topical appeal,
And much high-hearted happiness, to make the service real;
Our thoughts on high to sun and sky, to trees and birds and brooks,
Our altar nearly hidden in a library of books;
The Nunc Dimittis, finally "God Save The Queen" we sing;
But apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.

13 February 2017

Fr Forrest: Stanza 2: Prayer Book Catholic

Oh, just the usual thing you know; we're C of E of course,
But beautify the service from a medieval source,
With various processions, and in case you shouldn't know,
There are tunicled assistants who will tell you where to go;
And should you in bewilderment liturgically falter,
Just make a little circumambulation of the altar.
The blessing, like bishop, you majestically sing,
But apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.

12 February 2017


It seems to me that the (old) question of Purgatory raises some interesting questions of dogmatic authority. I seek the help (this is not irony!) of readers in clarifying some problems.

(1) The Councils of Florence and Trent defined nothing beyond the fact that a Purgatory exists and that the souls detained there are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, and especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; and that the souls of the truly penitent are cleansed after death by purgatorial punishments.

(2) The Catechism of the Catholic Church apparently adds to this minimalism. It says that the purification after death of those who have died in the grace and friendship of God but imperfectly purified, is what the Church calls Purgatory: "the final purification of the of the Elect, which is totally different from the punishment of the damned". The inhabitants of Purgatory are "aeternae salutis certi".

Is this now proposed as de fide to all Catholics? Or, in view of Anglicanorum coetibus, is it only obligatory for members of Ordinariates to accept it?

The minimalist definition (1) would not exclude the possibility that some of those in Purgatory misuse free will and fall from grace, so that not every inhabitant of Purgatory is "sure of eternal salvation". But CCC does appear to exclude that. And (1) would not, I think, exclude the thesis advanced (I believe) by S Mark of Ephesus, that the souls of whom we write might be cleansed by a temporary sojourn in Hell. But (2) would.

I doubt if I am the only person to have wondered how some sections of the EF Missal are to be reconciled with the tighter definition in (2). " ...mereantur evadere judicium ultionis ... ne tradas eam in manus inimici ... " But especially the words of the Offertorium: " ... deliver their souls from the punishments of Hell (inferni) and from the deep lake, lest they sink into obscurity: deliver them from the mouth of the lion, lest Hell (Tartarus) absorb them ...".

Needless to say, such phrases disappeared from the Novus Ordo; it is not difficult to see why. But they are part of the Tradition, aren't they? The Church is not a "1984" style body in which these ancient Western texts have been expunged, as if they had never existed, by some Mgr Winston Smith?

11 February 2017

Created Wisdom

I remember once sharing a mutual concern with that erudite liturgist and beloved bishop (now, of course, Mgr) David Silk (oh dear, that's not a common combination nowadays). We both, at some time or other, had felt awkward about the custom of the Latin Church of using the 'Sapiential' literature of the Old Testament to apply to Our Lady. It provides some lovely liturgical passages; better men that I am have felt totally easy about it: such as nearly-­blessed John Henry Newman, who employs it in the purple passage at the end of his sermon on the Assumption. But, for me at least, there is the nagging memory at the back of my mind of S Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 1). He there regards Christ as the Wisdom of God Incarnate; just as S John sees him as the Word Incarnate. Since, for a Jew, Wisdom is Torah, S Paul is also saying that our Lord is the Incarnate Torah. How can it therefore be right to say that our Lady, a mere creature, is God's Wisdom? Is that not the title of the Incarnate First Person of the Holy and Coequal Trinity - and therefore a title which not even his Mother may steal from him?

But then I recalled that in the Arian controversy, Orthodoxy had a bit of a problem with these 'Wisdom' passages. If they apply to the Divine Son, does this not mean that passages like He created me from the beginning before the world point to the createdness of the Word; to the Arian formula en pote ote ouk en [there was a time when He was not]? And then I remembered Newman's superb passage:

"Arius did all but confess that Christ was the Almighty; he said much more than S Bernard or S Alfonso have since said of the Blessed Mary; yet he left him a creature and was found wanting. Thus there was a 'wonder in heaven'; a throne was seen, far above all created powers, mediatorial, intercessory; a title archetypal; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the eternal throne; robes pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all; and who was the predestined heir of that Majesty? Since it was not high enough for the Highest, who was that wisdom, and what was her name, 'the Mother of Fair Love, and fear, and holy hope', 'exalted like a palm tree in Engaddi, and a rose plant in Jericho', 'created from the beginning before the world' in God's counsels ... the Church of Rome is not idolatrous unless Arianism is orthodoxy."

The Arians discerned the idea of an exalted mediatorial - yet created - being; the Church discerned that this was not adequate to the full uncreated Divinity of the Divine Son; the Church discerned that what Arius erroneously predicated of Christ is truly said of his Mother, She is the human wisdom, the created wisdom who is eternal in the sense that she was always in the creative mind and will of the Father, the wisdom appropriated by faithful Virgin Israel when her bridegroom God bestowed his covenantal Law from far above Mount Sinai, the responsive wisdom which in the Daughter of Sion was found worthy to give birth to the Divine Wisdom, the human graced endeavour which accepts and contemplates that Wisdom which is God himself, Second Person of the Trinity, our only Redeemer.

10 February 2017

Fr Forrest: Stanza 1: the English Missal

Alan Robinson, whom I thank, shares a poem by Fr S J Forrest about the liturgical options within the Church of England before about 1980.

I'll give them one at a time; today's stanza, the first, is what an English Missal Vicar would say to you when explaining what you, as a visiting celebrant, needed to know in order to offer the Holy Sacrifice in his Church. In each case, in every succeeding stanza, the incumbent is supremely confident that what (whatever) he is himself accustomed comfortably to do is "just the ordinary thing". Aren't we all?

Just pure and unadulterated 1662;
A minimum of wise interpolations from the Missal,
The Kyrie in Greek, the proper collect and epistle,
The Secret and the Canon and the Dominus vobiscum,
(Three aves and a salve at the end would not amiss come);
To the "militant" and the "trudle" there is little need to cling,
But apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.

9 February 2017

Pitt Rivers Museum

Have you recently had a look round the Pitt Rivers Museum?  Frankly, apart from the splendid stuffed reproduction of Dr Dawkins at the entrance, it looked much the same as it did when it was unmade over; dark, pokey, and Victorian, with the exhibits (which the old soldier collared from colonials and fuzzy wuzzies and donated to the University) all crammed into cases in great profusion. They are housed thematically rather than regionally or chronologically, which means one can't rely on striding immediately up to something that exactly matches one's current research interest. The good news: it does mean that an idle stroll can reveal an unexpected goody and provocations to thought.

Today's goody: a small pewter chalice with a very small cuppa at the top, clearly for recusant use, "found in a cave near Killarney". I don't know whether most of my readers will be familiar with the Macgillicuddy Reeks, the highest mountains in Ireland, but the idea of such a chalice being used in penal days by a fugitive or travelling priest among the mists and torrents of that mysterious landscape is quite haunting.

A few years ago there was in Dublin an exhibition of Catholic art and artefacts of the Recusant period, revealing that some very posh stuff of continental standard was produced or bought by wealthy Catholics and Religious Communities. The little chalice that General Pitt Rivers bought back from the Liberator's own county is at quite the other end of the scale. And, I presume, from very much earlier than the Liberator.

I wonder if it dates from the around the period when our parners in ecumenical dialogue caught the Irish Provincial of the Franciscans on the Great Scariff and hacked him to pieces.

7 February 2017

Prezzy! ... and a NEW IDEA ... ADOPT A POPE!!!!!

May I use this post to thank Dr Riccardo Turrini Vita, sometime President of Una Voce Italia, for the most wonderful present of a volume containing a full set of reproductions of the beautiful maps of Rome (La Nova Topografia di Roma) published in 1748 by Giambattista Nolli. The volume was dedicated alla Santita di Nostro Signore Papa Benedetto XIV. Prospero Lambertini, no less!

It has put into my mind something which, in these depressing days, I rather think might be an entirely new idea among all the endless repetitions of what has been said twenty times before. Really new!!! Let me explain.

Many people, including not a few who do me the honour of writing to me, are profoundly depressed, even disorientated, by this sad and dysfunctional pontificate. Many are angry; many feel themselves driven almost to the point of losing their Faith. And the signs are that things may get even worse.

One gigantic casualty has been the great respect which decent orthodox Catholics instinctively have for the person (not just the position) of the Roman Pontiff. This is a disastrous loss to the Church. And the tragedy is made all the worse by the probability that, however orthodox and ortholalic and orthopractic the next pope is, recovery of that almost automatic respect and love will be a lengthy business.

My NEW IDEA? ADOPT A POPE!! Choose a pope of some past time, and really get to know him. Wikipedia is not always either accurate or balanced, but, in its rough and ready way, it does provide masses of material to millions who cannot access an academic library. And links can be found to the fine old Catholic Encyclopaedia. Read about your chosen, adopted pope! Follow up the blue links! Find out what his birthplace, the places he lived in, and Rome itself, were like in his time. Read about the doctrinal, political, cultural controversies he was involved in.

I hope you get the idea. The process will remind you of a happier, saner, Rome in times when the Roman Pontiff was a sound and reliable breakwater, remora, against error. And, perhaps, put up the odd fine building or two! What was Christian iconography (sculpture, paintings ...) like in his time? And, I pray, you will discover afresh the reasons why Christian people, ever since the Martyrdom of S Peter, have loved to go to Rome and cry Viva il Papa! God bless our Pope, the Great, the Good! Essentially, it is the immense joy of knowing that 'Peter is speaking through Leo', as the Fathers put it. It is a sense of the Soliditas Petri, a Leonine phrase of which non-Latinists will have no trouble guessing the meaning.

Yes; I know many of you are busy people. But, if you are unbusy, otiosi, enough to devote time to grumbling and to worrying and to disliking, you have time you can reallocate to ADOPTING A POPE!

[Er ... it has just occurred to me ... perhaps better not choose Liberius and Vigilius and Honorius, or not for starters! Nor Alexander VI and the Marosia popes of the first millennium! But ... for example ... John XXII was a very fine pope, even if he did espouse an opinion subsequently found to be heretical.]


6 February 2017


(1) I know next to nothing about the "Ripa Apparitions" (vide Rorate). But  ... a long shot ... I wonder if their condemnation during the pontificate of Papa Pacelli could have had anything to do with that Pontiff's antipathy towards the doctrine of our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces ... which the 'visionary' claimed that the 'Apparition' had called itself. [The Medjugorje condemnation seems no nearer being published.]

(2) I don't quite agree with Sandro Magister's article (cf Settimo Cielo blog) setting the teachings of Francis and of Benedict XVI in opposition to each other, with regard to the Eucharist being a source of forgiveness for the sinful. I agree that Ratzinger was right in not allowing the Eucharist to be reduced to the status of the Lord's "meals with sinners", but I am unsure that Bergoglio has actually argued this. Dr Pusey preached before this University a fine sermon full of Patristic quotations demonstrating that the Eucharist does minister forgiveness for peccata cotidiana et venalia. (Of course, in the 'Patristic' centuries "private auricular Confession" for venial sins was not, as far as we know, widely on offer. The Irish had a lot to do with that culture spreading.)

(3) Archbishop Scicluna of Malta has preached, it is said, in a way totally irreconcileable with Christian doctrine, suggesting that to hear Jesus one must listen solely to the present pope, not to Benedict XVI or to John Paul II. I shall comment on this in a month's time, so that I shall be able to take account of any retraction he may make, or any correction the authorities in Rome may by then have made. His reported words are such a grave matter that I consider an immediate response to be less appropriate than something carefully considered.

(4) Memories, memories! The reports of Rome being mysteriously festooned, last Friday night, with dozens of posters attacking the Pope reminded me of a period when Lancing College had a massively unpopular head master. The student body manufactured hostile stickers which they plastered all around the College buildings. I suppose the Curia Romana must in many respects be rather like a major English Public School! Boys will be boys!! Own up!!! "I have this morning written to your unhappy father telling him that ..."

I am terribly afraid that there may have been some complicity among the prefects, and even the masters. Shocking, I know, but, well, there you go.

5 February 2017


Because of other commitments, I shall not, for some days, be able to read and enable comments. Please, therefore, do not send any comments.

I will try to ensure that every day I post something. But they will all be threadless.

My anticipation is to be able to Resume Normal Service on or soon after Sunday 19 February.

Big Questions

Sometimes a question is so big that, for many well-meaning people, it is too big to see. Two examples.

(1) There is much compassionate concern for people who have got themselves trapped in structures of Adultery.

BIG QUESTION: Is this the first human age in which people have felt sexual temptation, and have sometimes fallen victim to it?

If not, why does this age demand novel ways of circumventing the objective sinfulness of adultery?

(2) There is much talk about Discernment, Accompaniment, Gradualism, and Conscience, as applied to those in objectively adulterous relationships.

BIG QUESTION: Does all this stuff apply only to adulterers, or does it also apply to all sinners, including embezzlers, paedophiles, murderers, wife-beaters, human traffickers, torturers, rapists, economic exploiters of the poor, blackmailers, racists, exploiters of prostitutes, perpetrators of genocide, drug-traffickers, etc. etc..

If not, why not?

There is a phrase "Not seeing the Wood for the Trees".

Some people at the moment examine in minute and immensely sophisticated detail the finer points of Discernment, Accompaniment, Gradualism, and Conscience. They seem always to have in mind the more comfortably 'vanilla' sexual sins: Adultery dressed up to look like Marriage; genitally expressed Homosexuality dressed up as Marriage.

In so doing, are they not making the mistake of examining every leaf of one particular tree under a microscope with such single-minded concentration that they fail to notice the Forest?

At least prima facie, such people look to me like folk who have a desperate compulsion to find, by hook or by crook, a by-pass which will enable them to drive right round "Thou shalt not commit Adultery".

Why can't we drive round the other nine Commandments too?

Why is it necessary to talk about Sin at all?

Why don't we just murmur, with the Zeitgeist, "Stuff happens"?

Why should anybody ever go to Confession ... or be baptised?

Why did Christ die?

3 February 2017


Rorate suggests there are speculations about the date of the regularisation of the Society of S Pius X. Well; we've been through these agonies before; these games of Grandmother's Steps. But I can't help thinking that March 25, Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation, would be eminently suitable.

Why? It was when the Incarnation ... if we dare to use any human verb ... happened. When a minute speck in a Girl's womb was the Creator. The moment of repose which lies at the heart of all the times and of all the universes. Where all History suddenly miraculously focuses all Divine meaning. The instant when His Body the Church began to exist on Earth. The beginning of the last Age which will be concluded by the End.

And there is, of course, another, more particular, reason for the appropriateness of that Day.

Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Pro nobis omnibus deprecetur.

2 February 2017

Cardinal Mueller's Interview: the Cat is now Skinned even more thoroughly than before ....

Cardinal Mueller's 'interview' seems to me exactly what the current crisis in the Church required. Since, as he makes clear, his Dicastery is the organ which is charged with issuing doctrinal clarifications, he has adroitly set down a marker which automatically puts certain bishops in the wrong; I mean those prelates who have impertinently given their own "interpretations" which run contrary to his Eminence's clear explanations. He has wrong-footed those who had appealed to an alleged letter to some Argentinian bishops ... the existence of which I for one will not accept until I see it officially in print in AAS. And he has put a ring of defence round faithful bishops, such as Bishop Lopes, Bishop Egan, Archbishop Chaput. Nobody, however lofty, can take them on now without finding themselves also taking on the man who is specifically commissioned by the Sovereign Pontiff himself to be his doctrinal arm. Not a good day for Cardinal Farrell!! Probably not a good day, either, for 'Archbishop' 'Tucho' Fernandez. Or Mgr Rio Tinto. Et ubi nunc Scicluna?

And Mueller has deftly resurrected Veritatis Splendor. Unaccountably, the drafters of Amoris laetitia appeared to have mislaid their copies of that document, one of the most important doctrinal interventions of a Roman Pontiff in the twentieth century. (The Polish Bishops, I imagine, will be particularly gratified and chuffed by the Mueller Interview ... Gaude, Regina Poloniae!) Also resurrected is part of an important paragraph of Familiaris consortio which unaccountably slipped from the typeset when the first part of the same paragraph was reproduced in Amoris laetitia. And he has reprimanded those who construct revolutionary edifices upon the basis of a couple of possibly ambiguous footnotes [see my piece of January 16].

Happily, the Cardinal Prefect has implicitly and usefully contextualised the remarks which Cardinal the Graf von Schoenborn made when he was 'presenting' Amoris laetitia. Since doctrinal explanation of a document addressed (I presume) to the Universal Church is more the function of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith than it is of the Archiepiscopal See, however glorious, of Vienna, any elements of the Graf's 'presentation' which may be considered by some to be inconsistent with Cardinal Mueller's explanations must now clearly fall to the ground, where they may well get trampled under foot as all right-thinking men (and women) rush to open the prosecco.

His Eminence has reprobated a particular error which was raised in one of the Synods; and by the clearest implication he has put out of court the notion that different episcopal conferences might lawfully confect contrary and contradictory "interpretations" of Amoris laetitia.

And all this on the same day as that on which the splendid Statement of our four wonderful and faithful Confraternities of Catholic Clergy came out!!

Come along, all you grumpies! Rejoice! At least for today!

A good day for orthodoxy! 

Fugite, partes adversae!!!


No, I don't have any problem about renaming the "Purification of the BVM" the "Presentation of the Lord"; because that is what it is. But I do feel a little uneasy ... without having any cut-and-dried solutions to offer ... about some of the cultural trends behind the change in name.

To talk of "Purification", whether of our Lady or of Women after Childbed ("Churching"), would, undeniably, carry with it in our culture a sense that either the person or the process was Dirty. And most certainly neither is. So there is no doubt that the old language would impose upon us the burden of difficult explanations to a world instinctively disinclined to listen to explanations about anything from Christians. So perhaps we are best without such language. But ...

I take it that what lies behind such traditional language, and also behind the provisions of the Torah about menstrual women, is, deep down, a wholesome human instinct for rhythm, for one time not being identical with another time, which has existed in most human cultures. The woman "purifying" herself from her period, or from childbirth, is not submitting to cultic rituals implying that she is sinful or dirty or unfit for decent society. She is ritually emerging from a period of seclusion. I have heard Orthodox Jewish women referring to menstrual seclusion as safeguarding and enhancing the respect in which they are held as women.

In our society you are likely to switch on your television and see an advert for a product which, if you are a woman, will enable you to go into the circus and do acrobatics on the high trapeze any and every day of the month. Well ... I know that we have all made fun of feminist dafties who are said to devise quaint and messy rituals to honour menstrual blood. But is it really wrong to institutionalise in a society any respect for the mysteries of life and for the role which Woman, the Sacerdos Vitae, enacts within those mysteries? There is an enormous logical disjunction when our culture strips woman, as far as it can, of the the physical distinctions resulting from her procreative role ... and men still want to sleep with her.

Only Religions retain a sense of rhythm; of Fast and Feast; of recurrent cycles. And even Latin and Protestant Christianity have more or less dumped all that by giving up the notion of fasting. I think many clergy (who do to some degree live the liturgical calendar by saying the Office) would be fairly staggered if they found out how little their laypeople - even the more regular members of their congregations - were aware of the passing of the Church's seasons. If we imagine they really say to themselves "Aha! White vestments! Goodie!! I wonder what festival we are so joyfully keeping today?", we are living in a fools' paradise. And, Fathers, what are your memories of negotiating with a couple who want to book their wedding for Holy Saturday?

In the world, you can eat out-of-season food any day of the year ... I know because, I shamefully admit, the other day I had some rather good Moroccan raspberries. That culture has invaded the Church. So, of course, there can be no such thing as an out-of-season woman. Raspberries ... sex ... modern Western Man (and Woman) cries: "I want it now!".

A little later, my opinions on Cardinal Mueller's Interview.

1 February 2017

Feminine Priesthood

At Lauds tomorrow, if you use the Bugnini Rite and use it, as the Council mandated, in Latin, you will be saying a hymn confected out of three of those which the henpecked and painfully attenuated Abelard composed for the Monastery of the Paraclete. I find interesting the sacrificial language Abelard uses of our Lady. "The parents of Christ ... offer the Temple in the temple ... Offer, Blessed Mary, the weeny one (parvulum) ... offer the one by whom we are offered ... bring forward your Son with a Victim ...".

There has been intermittently a tendency to find priestly significance in our Lady; and I would be sorry if this had to be airbrushed completely out of existence just because the heretics have decided that women should be ordained to public priestly ministries. In fact, it seems to me that this is a subject which can help to bring out the inherent differences between men and women and throw light on why the latter are as incapaces of Ministerial Priesthood as the former are of Motherhood.

Mary brought Jesus in offering out of the the closed circle of the family; out of her womb; offered him from the inner recesses of her body where his Incarnate Being had been crafted and nurtured. Woman is the matrix and shrine of Life; whose whole structure is devised for that purpose. In more than one sense, sexual generation is as external to the male as it is profoundly internalised within the female. It is from within herself and from the family of which she is the heart and hearth that Mary brings her Son as her sacrifice to the threshold of the Temple. But it is after this point that, in the public forum of the people and of their cultus, the priesthood makes offering to YHWH.

Mary is the Priest of the conception, birth, and nurture of her Son, which is itself an act of offering to God; she is the one who brings Him out of the hidden places to the gates of public life and there offers Him as the ripe fruit of her womb. Israel's priesthood, standing before the Altar of YHWH, is a male priesthood because male Man stands apart from the intimacies of family so as to act for the People before their God, just as Woman is the private and interior Mystery of Life and of its continuance.

I know how risible and contemptible - even how outrageous - the implications of such distinctions are for the Zeitgeist. I am comforted by the recollection that every human society before our own has been structured in accordance with this or some similar anthropology. It is not some narrow religious archaism that we are defending, but Humanity and the nature written upon us by its Designer.