31 March 2018

vivit traditio

in hodiernis temporibus vincentius s r e cardinalis nonulla bona pulchra orthodoxa e traditione et sumit et adornat.


Why, instead of calling Mass on (many) Saturdays 'Our Lady on Saturday', why do we not say Our Lady on Sabbath? The Latin for Saturday is still Sabbatum; and that word still does mean Sabbath. Why can we not call today the Great and Holy Sabbath? We should steer clear of the Protestant notion that Sunday is the Sabbath: it is not; it the Dies Dominica, the Lord's Day, the great celebration of the Creation and Resurrection. Saturday is still the Sabbath; while S Paul's warnings against identifying ourselves with the Old People who define their group by 'sabbatizing' (instead of being with the New Easter People) do remain valid, it is also true that, as Pius XI said, we are all spiritually Semites, and the Sabbath remains worthy of great respect even if not of being a sign of our exclusive group-definition. And how better to respect it than by the Western tradition, going back at least to the Carolingian reforms and the time of Alcuin the Englishman, of using the Sabbath to mark the Great Daughter of Sion, the highest of creatures, our blessed Lady. The statutes of all our medieval cathedrals provided most amply for this, and it even survives the post-Conciliar reforms as an option.

Typologically, The Sabbath Rest reminds us that today, on the Greatest and Holiest Sabbath, God the Word rested from his labours before his new deed of creation on the Eighth Day; and Mary's own eschatological rest prefigures the Sabbath Rest to which God's pilgrim people is journeying (Hebrews 4:1-11).

30 March 2018

Good Friday

I made a resolution to steer clear of 'Church Politics', that is to say, controversial matters, during Holy Week. It is not easy under this pontificate, because there are such daily provocations. My resolution slipped yesterday afternoon. I think that was a misjudgement.

Now, I wake up on Good Friday morning to the secular media breaking a 'story' that PF has said that Hell does not exist.

I am not interested in explanations and denials and all about Scalfari. The fact is that the Media are spreading this. This is what people will remember.

That is the incontrovertible fact.

Today is Good Friday.

Is there no more worthy 'story' that PF, with his status, his charisma, his media advisers, his conviction that he is the voice of the Holy Spirit, could have thrust into the public domain  ... on Good Friday morning?

The Evil One immediately put into my mind the phrase "This is a maniac out of control". I know it was the Evil One because I cannot see into PF's heart. And, if I could, it would not be for me to judge him. Get thee behind me, Satan. I mean this with all my heart.

But there is an objective term referring, not to silly fevered over-reactions on my part or yours, but to reality in a real world.


I shall not enable any comments. I suggest that you and I go away and pray and, during the Liturgy, make a special intention for PF; that he may be the pope whom the Sacred Heart of Jesus means him to be.

Cranmer and the Five Wounds (2)

My teaching of Augustan verse, Vergil, Horace, Ovid, was transformed two or three decades ago by a book about Augustus and his imagery, written by a German with the improbable name of Zanker (I leave it to you to imagine what the students changed that into). We all suddenly realised that the ideology of the literature was exactly that of the visible monuments. And not only that of Actian Apollo; the theme and iconography of Augustus's temple of Mars the Avenger relates directly to the ideology of Octavian as the Avenger of Caesar; the Antitype of Aeneas's Type, who avenged Pallas. (When the New Testament writers and the Fathers adopted 'Typology' as the grammatical basis of their thinking, they were using a tool which was part of the fabric of intellectual life, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman.)

Some time ago, I found myself wondering if we liturgists sometimes need to learn a similar lesson about the relationship between artifact and text. Pam and I had walked to South Leigh church near Witney, where a superb painting of the Doom is preserved. On one side, kings, bishops, and laypeople rise from their tombs at the Resurrection of the Dead, to be dragged into the mouth of Hell by ferocious demons. On the other side, the blessed rise from their graves to their eternal bliss. And above the blessed is written Venite Benedicti ... : "Come ye blessed into the kingdom of the Father". And all this was painted on the walls round the place where the Rood would have stood: Christ on the Cross; Christ, the blood streaming from his Five Wounds - those Five Wounds which were so central to English Catholic devotion in the later Middle Ages.

Poor Cranmer must, in his Catholic days, have celebrated Masses galore of the Five Wounds. My reason for asserting this is found in his 1549 First Book of Common Prayer. That is nothing like as Protestant as his next one; or rather, it is; but in 1549 Cranmer was trying to take people along with him, so his heresies are carefully concealed beneath a spurious facade of a Hermeneutic of Continuity. It looks more Catholic. And in his version of the Canon of the Mass, after the end of the Memento etiam, he interpolates the passage I referred to a couple of days ago: " ... that, at the day of the general resurrection, we and all they which be of the mystical body of thy Son, may altogether be set at thy right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: Come unto me, ye that be blessed of my Father and possess the kingdom ...". This echoes, very closely, the end of the Collect of the Sarum Votive Mass of the Five Wounds: " ... ut in die judicii ad dexteram tuam statuti, a te audire mereamur illam vocem dulcissimam, Venite benedicti in regnum Patris mei ...". My readers will not need to be reminded that it was to be the banner of the Five wounds which would be carried at the head of the Catholic rebellions against Tudor religious policy.

The priests who said their countless votives of the Five Wounds, and the numberless laity who, if they could afford it, left the legacies for those Masses to be celebrated pro requie, had been accustomed to gazing at such pictures all their lives. It was part of the image-fed furniture of their minds.

Two or three years after 1549, in his second Prayer Book, Cranmer eliminated this section from his Communion Office. By then, in very many churches, the Roods had been taken down and the paintings of the Doom had been whitewashed over. It all, sadly, fits. A religious culture in which people were expected to appropriate their Tradition by mainly visual means had been replaced by a novel system in which their aural receptivity was privileged.

In my view, the transition from the Medieval to the Modern can be thought to have begun at the point of the invention of printing and to have been consummated at that of the destruction of Catholic iconography.

29 March 2018

Holes; digging

According to a plausible and circumstantial account in Onepeterfive, Lettergate continues to throw up further ramifications.

One no longer expects these people to tell the truth. As Amoris has made clear, the only duty with regard to any of the Commandments (these do still include Thou shalt not bear false witness), is to treat it as a beautiful ideal pleasantly hedged with qualifications.

But someone ought to explain to them that the following two principles can have quite a sting in their  tails, however much any "Apostolic Exhortation" may attempt to qualify them:

(1) Oh what a tangled web we weave: when once we practise to deceive.

(2) It is generally best, when in a hole, to stop digging. 


According to the Media, PF plans, this evening, to perform his annual ritual gesture of disdain for Law by washing the feet of Moslems and a Buddhist.  

Eucharistic Hebrews

I have never studied Hebrews deeply; by which I mean that I never had the opportunity of teaching it as a text for A-level ... that's the best way I know of really getting into a text; examining it daily with ones students for an entire year. But I was aware that sharp critical eyes have wondered why a Letter about the Sacrifice of Christ nowhere mentions the Eucharist. But, some time ago the text of Hebrews 13:10 hit me in the eye. "We have a place of Sacrifice [thusiasterion*] from which those who serve [latreuousin] the Tabernacle have no right to eat". Which clearly implies that 'we' do eat of a Thusiasterion which we do 'have'. [S Ignatius used thusiasterion in a Eucharistic sense.]

There is an always-thought-provoking Methodist scholar called Margaret Barker who sees Hebrews as an exposition of the Eucharist as the New Temple; she points to 12:22-24 as a summary of its theology as the synaxis of the Christians with the whole Company of Heaven.

CUT to the sands of Egypt. Where great mounds of ancient rubbish have yielded scraps of papyrus which have been preserved by the dryness of the desert. Thousands of these, excavated more than a century ago, are in the cellars of the Ashmolean Museum here among the Dreaming Spires. And they give us a fresh insight into everyday life in the Greco-Roman world. They include a large number of invitations to the deipnon of a God at his Temple, making it clear that the feast following the sacrifice was, in ancient religion, an integral part of the sacrifice itself. This is why Temples very commonly had, as part of their complex, kitchens and dining rooms. And it is also the reason why S Paul is so concerned (see I Corinthians ... which I have taught) about his converts' dining and eating habits. The religious and the social mingled so closely that it could be very easy to find oneself inadvertently committing idolatry by what one ate, and where.

It is clear to me that Hebrews 13:10 refers in passing to just this connection. The Lord's Table is one with the Altar on High where the Lord eternally pleads his Sacrifice. We eat from this Altar of Sacrifice at the Eucharist. But the non-believing Jews still (as the Author of Hebrews writes his Letter) frequent the sacrifices which the Lord abolished in the combined events of the Cleansing of the Temple, the Last Supper, and Calvary. And they, he points out, logically have no right to eat of his Thusiasterion, which is to say, of "our" Eucharist.

28 March 2018

Cranmer and the Five Wounds (1)

When Western England erupted in rebellion in 1549, outraged at the alien religion being imposed upon them, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was very short with them. His answer to their pleas was less than honest; as Gregory Dix observed, "This is a beautiful clean and sinewy piece of English Prose, but there are some things in it which are grotesquely ... misstated. Cranmer in scholarly controversy ... was prepared to reveal a juster knowledge ... with which he apparently did not think it necessary to confuse simple men who might not know of these things for themselves". Yet those Western Rebels carried before them the Banner of the Five Wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the Sarum Mass of the Five Wounds was something which most late medieval English clergy probably knew off by heart. It was a very popular Votive often ordered to be said for the departed in late Medieval wills; it was associated in the minds of many with the corporate duty of prayer for the Church Expectant. Cranmer, dear old Zwinglian that he was, clearly still had the cadences of that Mass resonating in his mind. And conceivably he thought he could offer it as an element of familiarity to those whom he hoped gently to wean from popery.

How do I know? When Cranmer came to compose his 1549 Prayer Book, he included in his 'Eucharistic Prayer' extensive echoes of the Collect of that Mass (mostly in the prayer for the departed at the end of the intercessory section).

I offer below, mainly to demonstrate how inferior an English stylist I am to Cranmer, a translation of that Collect: The parts in ordinary type are by me; those in heavy type are collected from Cranmer's 'Eucharistic Prayer'.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who descendedst from heaven to earth from the bosom of the Father, and on the wood of the cross didst endure five wounds; and didst pour out thy precious bloud for the remission of our sinneswe beseche theethat, at the day of the judgement*, we may altogether be set at his right hand, and merit to heare that his most sweet* voyce: Come o ye that be blessed into the kingdom of my father.

The rest of the Mass is not very different from the Friday Votive in the Vetus Ordo Missal, Humiliavit (with the psalmus of the Introit Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo).

If you spent a few weeks doing a church crawl in the West Country you would find all this iconographically represented; in one church Misericordias domini in aeternum cantabo carved onto a choir stall; in another Venite benedicti in regnum Patris mei painted as part of a Doom on the tympanum behind the Rood; carved bench ends in church after church, and fragments of medieval glass, with the Five Wounds represented upon them.

Or, if you want to be more adventurous, go North and look at a fragment surviving, beautifully carved on the very eve of the Reformation, from the Norman Cathedral at Kirkwall in the Orkneys, showing the wounded hands and feet with the Crown of Thorns circling the pierced Heart of the Redeemer in the centre. The Arma Christi, indeed. Here we have the very essence (in its insistence upon Redemption through the Sacrifice of Christ) of that late Medieval Catholicism which Eamon Duffy demonstrated was so healthy and so virile until poor Cranmer and his friends put an end to it.
*For 'judgement' Cranmer substituted generall resurreccion; for 'sweet' he wrote ioyfull.

27 March 2018

Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo

During my very happy six years in Devon, I discovered gradually quite a lot about an earlier, late fifteenth century, Rector, Patrick Haliburton. It was surprising how details slotted into place. He turned out to be a Scot. Why a Scot in Devon? Well, because he was presented to the living by a Scottish noble, the Earl of Douglas. How did Douglas come to do that? Because the Black Douglases, having tested their strength against King James II of Scots, lost out; and the Earl fled south to England. The English government, anxious to foment trouble north of the Border, made much of him and gave him an heiress for wife, the daughter of the Duke of Exeter. By right of whom Haliburton was presented to the living of Lifton.

And - gracious - Haliburton was a hitherto unknown Archdeacon of Totnes. How did I discover that? By looking, in the library of All Souls' College in this University, at a book he had owned, which had, inked onto the cover, his style and dignity. And towards the end of his life, he went to Jerusalem on pigrimage. How do we know that? Because an inventory of the ornaments of Exeter Cathedral lists a sudary [humeral veil] which he had brought back with him; and the Chapter records reveal a significant gap in his residence a couple of years before he died. And his family were minor nobility from Southern Scotland; he had their coat of arms put into the church windows. Not they it is there now; but a cavalier called Richard Symonds, who was with King Charles in 1644 when King and army stayed at Lifton, recorded it. Not that Haliburton was a senior member of his family. Because he had his own version of the arms carved onto a choir stall (not that it is there now; it languishes in a dark corner of Launceston museum - no, Joshua, not the Launceston in Tasmania). And, to the family arms, the Rector added, for difference, a number of additional charges taken from the arms of Douglas - indicating either a feudal alliance or a family relationship.

And, also carved onto the choir stall, I read a highly abbreviated verse from the psalms: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo.
Why those words? I will reveal all ...

26 March 2018


What a good idea it was - I think it started in the Authorised Version of the Bible - to print LORD in capitals; at least, in the Old Testament and at least when LORD stands for the four Hebrew letters YHWH. Most readers will know that what the Hebrew manuscripts actually have here is the Hebrew Name for God. But for millennia our Jewish brethren have refrained out of reverence from uttering it aloud: when the Reader gets to YHWH in the text what he actually utters is (the Hebrew word for) 'Lord'. To tip him the wink to do this, the texts put the vowel points of that word underneath the consonants YHWH, giving YeHoWaH (which is the origin of the version 'Jehovah'). So when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, and then Latin, the translators wrote, not YHWH, but (the Latin and Greek words for) 'the Lord'.

It is disrespectful towards the Hebrew origins of our Faith for Christians to utter this great and unutterable Name. Even if the philologists are right to say that it was pronounced Yahweh, there is nothing more wince-making than to hear callow students of the Old Testament droning comfortably on about yarwey as if it were the name of their pet cat. Nor should we use in church translations of Scripture which encourage ignorant readers to read the Name aloud. Happily, the latest edition of the neovulgate Latin Bible eliminates 'Yahveh', and the Roman liturgical authorities have banned the public utterance of this word in Bible readings. It is a monstrosity to hear this Name uttered aloud.

We don't always realise the significance of 'LORD' in our worship. The priest starts the Eucharistic Prayer by calling God 'Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Everlasting God' (at least, he does if he is using an accurate translation of the ancient Western 'Preface'). We thus begin by identifying the God we address as the ancient God of the Hebrews before we go on to identify him with the 'Holy Father' to whom our Saviour prayed at the Last Supper (John 17). As Pius XI pointed out, we are all spiritually Semites; the God to whom we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom we ask to receive it as he accepted the gifts of his righteous servant Abel and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham and what was offered by his high priest Melchisedech. Dom Gregory Dix wrote of 'the majestic tradition of the worshipping church, the rich tradition of the liturgy unbroken since the Apostles, and beyond - beyond even Calvary and Sion and the synagogues of Capernaum and Nazareth, back to the heights of Moriah and Sinai and the shadowy altar on Ararat - and beyond that again', in what he called 'the Church's quiet insistent proclamation in the Canon'.

One last point. The priest introduces the Eucharistic Prayer by saying 'Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God' (Cranmer's biggest mistake was to render this 'our lord God' as if 'Lord' is an honorific functioning as in 'my lord bishop'). The celebrant thus calls upon us to join him in making the one all-availing thank-offering to YHWH of his Son's Body and Blood. In the Tridentine Rite the priest, at these words, joins his hands together, the liturgical sign of total self-humbling (as a captive or slave might offer his wrists to be bound). And he raises his eyes to heaven and then bows his head. What a shame it is that modern rites discard this wonderful reverencing of YHWH our creator God, the God of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God to whom once we offered a twice-daily Tamid sacrifice of a lamb in His Temple and to whom now we offer the Immaculate Lamb.

25 March 2018

Jesus is Temple

On the Palm Sunday when the Lord came to His Temple and 'cleansed' it, it seems to me, as I argued yesterday, that our essential Jewishness is something which we must constantly bear in mind. And this was emphasised most brilliantly in the first published volume of Jesus of Nazareth by our Holy Father Benedict XVI. If, after your initial enthusiastic perusal of its pages, it has during the wearisome preoccupations of this lesser pontificate been rather gathering dust on your shelves, I beseech you to get it up and running again. I would urge you to turn to the very fine section where Joseph Ratzinger deals with the Sermon on the Mount; and does so by engaging with one of the most distinguished historians of Jewish thought in recent decades, Rabbi Professor Dr Jacob Neusner, whom I featured yesterday.

In Northern Ireland they are convinced, not only that the dogs in the streets are either Catholic or Protestant dogs, but that the very atheists are either Catholic of Protestant atheists. People sometimes laugh about this, but our Ulster friends mean, of course, very intelligently, that a man may claim to be an atheist, but that his mindset, the matrix especially of of his antipathies, may have been formed by a cultural background which is differently doctrinaire from his current position of dogmatic atheism. English atheists, for example, often have minds befuddled by a world view which is little other than the old, ranting, Fox's-Martyrs-in-a-sauce-of-Charles-Kingsley-with-a-dash-of-Kensit Protestantism, all in the reassuring clothing of a friendly atheistical sheep.

Jewish scholars who venture into 'Christian Origins' tend very often, I fear, to be Liberal Protestants in sheep's clothing. That is what made Neusner so exhilarating to read. He did not have that sort of crypto-Protestant bagage.

The old Liberal Protestant superstition, such a comfort to the anti-Catholic mind, was that the Eucharist started as a simple fellowship meal which, probably under the influence of Hellenistic Mystery cults, was perverted into the Catholic Mass. Neusner, on the other hand, was free to follow the obvious track which leads from the 'Cleansing of the Temple' (in which Christ emptied the Temple of those who, by changing money or supplying certified animals, enabled the Temple cult to be fulfilled) to the conclusion, documented from his profound knowledge of first century Judaism, that Jesus of Nazareth saw himself as abolishing that sacrificial cult on the Temple Mount because of His intention, on Maundy Thursday, to erect in its place the new sacrificial system of His Eucharistic self-oblation in His Body and Blood.

And, during this Holy Week, let us continually bring back to our memories the self-identification the Lord made of himself with the Temple. "Destroy this Temple, and in three days ...". But he had made this identification during his Galilaean ministry. He forgave sins! Who indeed, as the watchers absolutely correctly asked themselves, can forgive sins but God alone? And where does God do so, if not in the Place of Sacrifice, the Temple?

So ... who ... what ... is this Man?

24 March 2018


Apparently someone called Paglia is going around shouting at people that the time has come to stop discussing Amoris and just to receive it. Let us hope that he and his chums stay well clear of these Three Kingdoms.

It doesn't seem very long ago that Parrhesia was so insistently commended on such high authority.

What short memories some people have.

Moi, I'll stick with Parrhesia.

Until PF ex cathedra officially demotes it from being a virtue to being a vice.

Loquere nobis, Petre!

Don't rob the Rabbis

Tomorrow, Palm Sunday, with the narrative of the cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple, raises in an acute form the question which the Professionals call Christian-Jewish relations. Well meaning as these people are, it seems to me that they fail to make any real attempt at historical contextualisation. They are so obsessed with rapprochement between third millennium Catholicism and Pharisaic Rabbinic Synagogue Judaism that they almost seem unaware that, in terms of the 'New Testament Period', Judaism was a Temple-centred, Sacrifice-based, Religion. Modern discussions are so concerned with questions like "Does Christianity supersede Judaism?" and "Will Christians pervert Jews from Jewry?" that it pays little attention to the more down-to-earth question 'Exactly what is supposed to be superseding, or not superseding, exactly what?' I think this is a fairly massive lacuna.

Rabbis, very naturally, are preoccupied with anxieties that we might steal their congregations from them (if only they knew how useless we are at Mission!). But when did you last herar the complaint "Will these Catholic Priests stop Jews from going up to make the appointed animal sacrifices in the Temple at Jerusalem"? Since there hasn't been a Temple in Jerusalem for nearly two thousand years, it is very natural that this anxiety need never keep theRabbis awake at night ... you wouldn't expect it to! But Catholicism in fact claims to be the fulfilment and hence (in terms of day-by-day, year-by-year, cultic actions) the replacement, of the Temple's Sacrificial system.

Some thirty years ago, the great Ed Sanders, a self-described "liberal modern secularised Protestant", pointed out that the meaning of the Lord's Palm Sunday 'Cleansing of the Temple' is most obviously seen as the replacement of the Temple. And after all, Jesus does refer to himself as the Temple. And in 1989, Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a prolific and brilliant American writer upon First Century Judaism, offered his own, brilliant, refinement of Sanders' argument. The moneychangers, he explains, were there to facilitate the payment of the Temple tax which "serve[d] through the coming year to provide the public daily whole offerings, in the name of the community". So:

" ... the overturning of the moneychangers' tables represents an act of the rejection of the most important rite of the Israelite cult, the daily whole-offering, and, therefore, a statement that there is a means of atonement other than the daily whole-offering, which now is null. Then what was to take the place of the daily whole-offering? It was to be the rite of the Eucharist: table for table, whole-offering for whole-offering. It therefore seems to me that the correct context in which to read the overturning of the money-changers' tables is not the destruction of the Temple in general, but the institution of the sacrifice of the eucharist, in particular. It further follows that the counterpart of Jesus' negative action in overturning one table must be his affirmative action in establishing or setting up another table, that is to say, I turn to the passion narratives centred upon the Last Supper. That, at any rate, is how, as an outsider to scholarship in this field, I should suggest we read the statement. The negative is that the atonement for sin achieved by the daily whole offering is null, and the positive, that atonement for sin is achieved by the Eucharist: one table overturned, another table set up in place, and both for the same purpose of atonement and expiation of sin."

I have highlighted in blue the words in which Neusner the Jew expresses his discernment of how the Eucharistic Sacrifice ordained by Jesus of Nazareth was intended to supersede the Temple Sacrificial system.

I don't think we Catholics should be grabbing or claiming to supersede the synagogue-based Rabbinic Judaism of the last nineteen centuries. That would be sheer theft. The rabbis invented it; how could we possibly have any right to it? But the Temple with its system was the construct 'in possession' at the moment at which they and we, two competing heirs of Second Temple Judaism, began to go our two separate ways. What they took with them on their journey is for them to say and I would not be so discourteous as to lecture them upon it; what we took on ours was the Daily Sacrifice of the Lamb. Deus qui legalium differentiam hostiarum unius sacrificii perfectione sanxisti ...

The Temple hosted the private sacrifices of individuals and families between the Morning and Evening Sacrifices of the People of God. I can think of nothing more like this in spirit as well as in sacramental reality than a great Catholic church in the Medieval or Baroque period. At the High Altar you might see the formal prescribed ritual of the Act of Immolation in the public, communal Capitular Mass. And at the side altars, you hear the murmur of the private Masses laying before YHWH the private intentions of individuals and families.

Yes; the rabbis are more than entitled to undisturbed possession of their own lawful property. All we claim is the propitiatory Oblation which sums up and fulfills and enfolds and transcends all the Temple Sacrifices ... as well as the thusia typike of Our Patriarch Abraham ... and the munera, 'dutiful offerings', of God's Righteous Servant Abel at the dawn of time. If they have no wish to take all that from us, what is there for us both to squabble about?

23 March 2018

Colonna ... or Sire?

The paper version of the online book about this pontificate is, I gather, to be be published on April 23. It will contain new material, not least about scandals that have come to light since December; some of which are just the beginning of stories which are going to grow and grow over the coming months.

The author, Mr Henry Sire of Exeter College in this University, has been 'suspended' by the Order of Malta. He has pointed out that the means of his suspension contradict the laws of the Order.

It all reminds me of the treatment of the Franciscans of the Immaculate ... the same operational assumption that Law doesn't really matter much once some bully decides that someone else needs a good kicking.

No wonder Raymond Burke had to be sacked. He might have given 'wrong' decisions.

Openness (2)

In the recent Times obituary on Cardinal O'Brian, the following passages occur: "Pope Francis dispatched the Vatican's leading sex abuse investigator, Bishop Charles Scicluna, to meet the victims and start an official enquiry.  ... [The victims] were angry that the findings of the Vatican enquiry, said to be 'hot enough to burn the varnish off the pope's desk', had not been divulged."

I think such reports of such enquiries, probably redacted, or certainly at least their conclusions, should be published. Not to do so, frankly, indicates an ecclesial culture which infantilises the laity, not to mention the clergy.

I am not aware that even a redacted version of the conclusions of the enquiry commissioned into Kieran Conry's womanising was ever made public.

It is not sufficient to say (as Conry did) that his misconduct had not involved minors. When a very well-connected Anglican Bishop was belatedly charged after a long career of sexual abuse of young men, the Crown Prosecution Service, doubtlessly for sound legal reasons, did not proceed with the allegations concerning minors. The man was deservedly sent to prison for abusing his public office to secure sexual favours from vulnerable or impressionable individuals above the age of consent. I think they called it "Abuse of Public Office" and, rather amusingly, defence counsel (unsuccessfully) argued that being an Anglican bishop did not count as holding a public office!

In Conry's case, there is also the question of who knew about his lifestyle before he was consecrated bishop. Reports about it, after all, appeared in print very soon afterwards. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor is dead, but there may still be others (or documentation) who could throw light on this question.

22 March 2018

Mgr Vigano

Dario Vigano deserves our respect for his principled resignation. Continued criticism of him or his actions would be quite improper.

Have you read the exchange of letters between him and PF? As I did, our English word 'cronyism' fluttered though my mind.

I wonder what 'cronyism' would be in other modern European languages.


"You have to understand the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him. He's more than your boss. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold ... He controls every aspect of your life."

So the Times obituary of Cardinal O'Brian quotes an anonymous priest as saying.

I don't quite understand this, since Canon Law seems to me adequately to provide for excardination. But, of course, systems don't always work the way they are described on paper. So perhaps, in the context of sexual scandals such as that of Cardinal O'Brian, the question does need to be asked: Does the Incardination system give bishops excessive power? The Church of England does very well without anything remotely like it. And, indeed, the infantilising culture of Incardination is wholly inimical to every instinct of our Anglican Patrimony. The great Catholic Revival in the Church of England could never have happened without the freedom of the 'inferior clergy' from overbearing (and often heterodox) episcopal authority; a freedom happily buttressed by "Parsons' freehold". The only real sanction a bishop had was a rather petulant threat to put your parish "under a ban", which simply meant that you had to get "colonial prelates from far-off mission stations" to do your Confirmations.

Every other structure in the modern Latin Church is scrutinised and comes under suspicion of being the root of today's problems  ... Celibacy, for example, is repeatedly under fire ... but the dangers apparently inherent in Incardination seem rarely to be flagged up.

The implication in the obituary is that Incardination enabled O'Brian, a sexual predator, to get away with abusing his clergy. Furthermore, we have previously heard it said that the bishops used to be unwilling to 'shop' their own sexually dodgy clergy to the plods because of this close relationship ... it would feel like sending a 'son' to prison. Looking at Incardination from each of these two opposing angles, I, as an outsider to this particular piece of Catholic clerical culture (I am retired, my wife and I live in our own house, off our own pensions), do find myself, well, puzzled.

Sometimes, it seems to be suggested that every malady in the life of the Latin Church would be healed by shovelling more power into the laps of those who have been grabbing more and more of it since the 1960s and who, arguably, already have far too much of it. I do rather worry that, after the death of the Pope emeritus, presbyters might start to find that increasing episcopal interventions become a massive problem in the field of Liturgy, depending on the personal whimsies of their bishop or the ability of a strong personality to sway an episcopal conference. Cardinal Nichols' document apparently in reaction to the plea by Cardinal Sarah for worship ad Orientem struck me as potentially very worrying, not least because I heard a rumour that it had circulated outside his own diocese and, indeed, yet more remarkably, even outside his own metropolitan province!!! We need Cardinal Mueller's wise reminders that the Chairpersons of Episcopal Conferences are "not vice-popes". "Nothing more than technical moderators" and "Coordinators, nothing more", as his Eminence has said a number of times.

Subsidiarity seems nowadays to be a much-honoured principle which falters or fails or runs away and hides in a mouse-hole before it gets down quite as low as the level of the presbyter or the parish.

Nothing in this piece should be glossed as anything but a question!

21 March 2018

Openness. (1)

It is a natural human instinct to wish to keep tabs on those who exercise authority. Ultimately, we want them to be accountable for what they decide and order. And when authority is exercised in and through a committee, we naturally want to know who said what; how many persons voted for a particular outcome; how a consensus was reached.

Perhaps Minutes should reveal such mysteries?

Minutes, however, are a problem. Because they put a great deal of power into the hands of those who write the minutes ... or, more likely, of the Person in whom it lies to say "Perhaps you might let me have a quick look at your draft of the minutes before you finalise them and send them round ...".

So, perhaps, a meeting should be open to the Media and the Public, like the American Episcopal Conference, whose activities can be recorded by journalists and published, in the same sort of way as the British Parliamentary Hansard.

But, human nature being what it is, if a meeting is all open and above board, before you can down a G and T, there will be another, unofficial, private, ad hoc group which, unaccountably, fixes what will happen at the open meeting. If that group is then formalised, the next stage is for it to be added to 'so as make it more representative'; and you reach the stage at which authority decides that another much smaller, unofficial, private, ad hoc group would be useful in order to ...

You get the point. Administrators crave the existence of informal groups behind closed doors which will do the real fixing before the 'formal' fora do their public and minuted business.

There is no answer to this problem. Anybody who thinks there is, is living in a fool's paradise, and has certainly never worked in anything like an English Public School.

But there are ways of attenuating the disadvantages of such inevitable recessions of decision-making.

Episcopal Conferences should follow the praxis of the Americans, and be open.

I became convinced of this two or three years ago, when the CBCEW called upon the Ecclesia Dei Commission to 'reconsider' the text of the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews in the Extraordinary Form, as it had been personally rewritten by Benedict XVI only a decade previously. Since this announcement seemed to me, and still seems, thoroughly outrageous, disgraceful, and improper, for a large number of reasons which I need not now repeat, it convinced me that data should be available about who moved the motion, who said what, how many favoured it, how many opposed, and how many abstained because they had not the faintest idea of what it was really all about.

It is possible that an even more important topic may, over the next months, come before some Episcopal Conferences. The still-simmering Amoris laetitia problem ... call it Adulterygate, or what you will.

I believe the Holy People of God deserve to be allowed to know who and how many bishops favoured what; and, moreover, to read any papers, memoranda, letters, which circulated in a Conference before its meeting. And if a repeatedly amended resolution eventually emerges as a consensus, the process of such evolution should not be opaque.

OK, there will still be secret cabals in (as the English used to say) smoke-filled rooms. We shall not see everything. Would-be fixers will still feverishly perform their private would-be fixing. But there will be data indicating where, even if at only one particular point in the process, each participant was prepared to take personal responsibility, before God and before God's people.

In his great explanation of where a Christian should look to find the Truth, S Irenaeus made great play of the public teaching of each bishop. Publicity offered an objective check that a bishop was not ... horror of horrors ... innovating upon what his predecessors in his See had taught since the Apostolic depositum fidei.

18 March 2018

Like getting blood out of a stone

Who would have thought that there would be yet another complete paragraph in that letter of Pope emeritus Benedict which Mgr Vigano tried to conceal. A paragraph revealing that Ratzinger, happily, has not become mentally soft and helpless in old age; that he doesn't quite see why he should be kicked around by sniggering enemies, even though he is no longer pope. [Settimo Cielo blog]

He is astonished that he was expected to provide a polite puff for (among others) a theologian who was a noisy and persistent anti-papal nuisance during the last two pontificates.

As well he might be.

I know little about other countries and their political and cultural standards and how they operate. I do know that my own country is far from perfect and that its public life is frequently degraded by people who will get away with whatever they can until they are found out. Sexually, financially ... you name it. But ...

But in my country, an episode like this would, beyond any possibility of doubt, have ended up with a resignation or sacking in a context of public disgrace. Will any of my fellow-countrymen contradict me in my assertion?

Perhaps that will indeed be how this episode will end up. We shall see.

If this man Vigano were to be kept in office, it would be the final detail in the unfolding public demonstration of the moral corruption right at the heart of this failed pontificate. In politics, it is often not the big issues that bring a crisis to its head, but something that starts off by being insignificant to the point of pettiness. During this Bergoglian era, the two major disasters have been the shiftiness, accompanied by unbecoming bluster, in the area of paedophilia and coverups and cronyism; and attempts to get away with perverting the Church's moral teaching by stealth. Those things matter infinitely more than the current silly and minor episode.

But 'Lettergate' provides such a vivid snapshot of dirty little men involved in dirty little plots for thoroughly dirty purposes. Even anti-Ratzinger veterans among the Commentariat like Robert Mickens are saying that Vigano should resign or be sacked.

If PF cannot be made to understand the need to clean out his own Augean Stables, surely he should be made to go. Not next week, but this week.

17 March 2018

Heureka! Heureka!

The other day I saw (I think it might have been on the Blog of my friend Fr Ray) a picture of someone called Vigano, who now runs all the Vatican 'Meejah'. He has recently been involved in the diverting business of the Fuzzified and Obscured letter signed by the Pope Emeritus.

He is shown wearing a pale blue or light grey clerical shirt.

All is explained!

That was the uniform, a generation or so ago, of liberal Anglican Evangelicals, or Methodist ministers, but ... especially ... of members of the "Modern Churchman's Union". This aging and slightly foxed Anglican organisation still exists under the newer title of "Modern Church". (Presumably they thought that the cretic sounded more crisp and virile and thrusting than a soporific succession of trochees.)

Think Dean Inge, 'the gloomy Dean'! Think Bishop Barnes of Birmingham! Think the entire great grim pantheon of 'modern' theologians of the first decades of the last century ... so beautifully satirised by the wicked Anglo-Catholic pen of Ronald Arbuthnott Knox ... "what matter, whether two and two be four,/ So long as none account them to be more/ What difference, whether black be black or white,/ If no officious Hand turn on the light ... ". And by Waugh in his ill-fated clergyman Mr Prendergast, who "has been reading a series of articles by a popular bishop and has discovered that there is a species of person* called a 'Modern Churchman' who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief".

You see what must clearly have happened! 'Modern Church' has opened up a Vatican branch and infiltrated the Monsignoriat! You want proof? Look them up in Wikipaedia. The first and fontal dogma there attributed to 'Modern Church' is ... lo and behold ... the prime distinctive dogma of Bergoglianism: 

                                   "DIVINE REVELATION HAS NOT COME TO AN END"!!! 

*I wonder if one should emend this to 'parson'? Etymologically, of course, the two words  ...

16 March 2018

What happens to S Patrick tomorrow, Saturday?

How ... if at all ... should those who follow the Old Rite liturgically celebrate S Patrick?

The LMS ORDO, the obvious guide for those who use the 1962 Missal or Breviary, envisages S Patrick having only a Commemoration at Lauds and Low Masses today (I am talking about England, Wales, and Scotland).

I think it is clear that this is wrong ... at least, for those who in celebrating the Old Rite accept the evolutions in local calendars which occurred under Roman direction up to the imposition of the Pauline Rite and the de facto disappearance of the old calendars.

In the 1940s, the English, Welsh, and Scottish dioceses had differed greatly, some hardly noticing S Patrick, while a dozen or so classed him as a Greater Double just like S Gregory on the 12th. In the changes which came in with the 1960s, one would expect the 'Grd' to convert into a '2 Class'. And I have a 1969 ORDO, from the very eve of the disappearance of the old Calendars, in which S Patrick is a '2 cl' in the whole of Great Britain (1cl in Ireland, Commemoration "outside the British Isles").

I floated this question three years ago, and the erudite Rubricarius ... how could he fail to ... provided the answer. You will find it in his comment attached to this post. I remain grateful to him for this elucidation; and for a very great deal of liturgical information over the years.

The conclusion, which is I think beyond doubt, is that S Patrick should be observed as a Class II feast in England, Wales, and Scotland. Vespers, according to the 1962 conventions, will this year 2018 be of the Sunday following without any commemoration.
(In the older 1940s Calendars, there seems no rhyme or reason about which British dioceses noticed S Patrick: Liverpool, for example, despite its Irish diaspora, failed to do so! Incidentally, "All dioceses in Scotland" used a rather attractive Mass Egredere [cf Genesis 12:1-2]. And, before the 1950s, the Gospel of the Lenten Feria did duty as the Last Gospel. What a very edifying custom that was.)

15 March 2018


During the period when Fr Hope Paten was restoring the Shrine, Pilgrimage, and Devotion to our Lady of Walsingham, the necessary Pontifical services, from the Consecration of Churches to the Baptism of Bells, were carried out by Bishop O'Rorke, Bishop of Accra from 1913 to 1923 and subsequently Incumbent of the nearby parish of Blakeney in the Norfolk marshes. He died in 1953.

15 March is his Year's Mind.

Deus, qui inter apostolicos Sacerdotes famulum tuum Moubreium Stephanum pontificali fecisti dignitate vigere: praesta quaesumus; ut eorum quoque perpetuo aggregetur consortio. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Don't miss ...

... the story all over the internet about how PF's spin-doctors gave the waiting world a deliberately mutilated and falsified letter of Benedict XVI. Just don't miss it!

This episode provides a hilarious, immensely funny insight into the minds of the dodgy operators who surround PF, and how far they are prepared to go to manufacture their Fake News. You couldn't .... as we say .... make it up! It epitomises the superbly corrupt and deliciously sleazy atmosphere of the Renaissance Court which sprawls at the luxurious top of the Santa Marta.

Happily, the full text did emerge. GOTCHA! And it provides agreeable evidence that Ratzinger's old, deft, feline wit has not deserted the dear old man. Briefly summarised by me, his Letter says (and I've put into square brackets the section the spin-doctors didn't want you to see):

"Thank you for inviting me to write a page about the little books you sent me. I think they are splendid little books about my splendid successor. [Sadly, however, I haven't read them and I don't intend to do so. And I never comment on books I haven't read, so I won't be sending you a page.]"

This pontificate simply gets better and better! Keep engaged and make sure you never miss a laugh!

12 March 2018

What a Sunday!! UPDATE

Yesterday, Pam and I went into London to share in the Baptism of the second son of dear friends from our S Thomas's days. The first time I have done the Ordinariate Baptism Rite.

The Assumption and S Gregory, Warwick Street, must be one of our most interesting and beautiful Catholic Churches in England; the Ordinariate was very lucky to be given the use of it, in accordance with the directions of Benedict XVI's Anglicanorum coetibus, by the gracious decision of the Diocese of Westminster. Many readers will know that it was at first the Portuguese Embassy Chapel, then the Bavarian. (During the years of persecution, the only Catholic churches open for worship were the Embassy Chapels of the Catholic powers.) Directly above the font where I baptised a very suave and properly-conducted young man, hung the flag of the Head of the House of Wittelsbach. Not long ago I was there to preach to the Knights of Malta. 'Warwick Street' is undoubtedly a connoisseurs' Church!

The Church was decently full. But there was room for more. I can't understand why it isn't absolutely packed out to the rafters ... chokka ... a historic Church (it has the immense distinction of having been sacked during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots) with Alpha Traditional Liturgy. Pontifical Sung Mass on many Sundays; a reputation for good-quality preaching; a fine professional choir; highly competent servers; the Ordinariate Rite, which readers will know as an elegant combination of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Tudor English versus Orientem with orthodox features from the Prayer Book tradition of the Church of England. And in the historic heart of London's vibrant West End, just a step from Piccadilly Circus and Theatreland and Chinatown.

Like other Catholic churches built in the days of persecution, it has some of the features of a Georgian Methodist Chapel: an unobtrusive facade and internal galleries. Above the door to the Sacristy is a fine marble bas-relief of the Assumption by J E Carew (a very popular Irish neo-classical sculptor ... his main patron was the Earl of Egremont, who employed him and Turner and 'Capability' Brown at Petworth). This Assumption was originally above the High Altar until Bentley removed it to make way for a bigger sanctuary in the style of Westminster Cathedral (which he had just built).

In other words, the best of pretty well everything!

Especially yesterday's civilised and amiable baptismal neophyte, his brother and his parents and grandparents and families and godparents (and their young families!).

What's not to like?

I was made very welcome by Mgr Newton and Gill, and by the invariably cheerful pp Fr Mark Elliott Smith. Real warmth! And I remet Fr Anthony Edwards after a lapse of decades: a dear Staggers friend and a fine Oz wit, who lent us his Dolphin Square flat for part of our honeymoon, all of 51 years ago. Not many of the English Catholic clergy can boast of being incardinated into the diocese of Lugano!

A warning: UNTIL EASTER, not all the weekday Masses are in the Ordinariate Rite. AFTER EASTER, nearly all of them will be Ordinariate, except for a Vigil Mass which will be in the Novus Ordo, and a couple of Masses in the Extraordinary Form: Wednesday 7 p.m.; Saturday 12..

10 March 2018

Mary Mother of the Church (3): Magnum principium and the Office Hymns

A final aspect of the promulgation of this new memoria, now to be universal in the Novus Ordo, is the provision, as part of the newly authorised liturgical texts, of 'proper' Latin Office Hymns for this particular celebration*. These will be needed for clergy using the Liturgia Horarum.

Readers will remember the widespread popular joy, which led to dancing in the streets and a great bonfire in the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral, when, by a motu proprio called Magnum principium, PF gave to episcopal Conferences the happy duty of preparing vernacular translations of liturgical texts. (That jubilation was scarcely less exuberant than when, last August, PF assured us "with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible".)

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Latin Rite clergy do not need a vernacular Office Book because they say their Office in Latin. They do this out of a very proper obedience, rigorously enforced by the bishops, to the irreversible Decree of the much-respected Second Vatican Super-duper-Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium Para 101: 1 "Iuxta saecularem traditionem ritus latini, in Officio divino lingua latina clericis servanda est, facta tamen Ordinario potestate usum versionis vernaculae ... concedendi, singulis pro casibus, iis clericis quibus usus linguae latinae grave impedimentum est quominus Officium debite persolvant").

But that irreversible Decree, you are about to remind me, did allow bishops, as a special concession in individual cases considered one by one, to permit linguistically challenged priests to say their Office in a vernacular. Quite so. I am indeed both glad and relieved, whenever I go into the bookshop next to Westminster Cathedral (now almost rebuilt after the damage caused by the fire), to see that the needs of this (albeit very tiny) minority of Catholic clergy are still fully provided for by the copious abundance of English-language Office Books on sale. It is good to be sensitive and generous towards that particular cultural periphery, however small and eccentric it may be. My fear had been that the irreversible Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia (1962; in which that good and great pope S John XXIII with certainty and Magisterial authority ordered the wholesale dismissal of all seminary teachers incapable of teaching in Latin) might have impacted the numbers of clerical aspirants with irreversibly weak Latin.

All the world's Episcopal Conferences, therefore, with the fresh new wind of Magnum principium billowing in their joyful sails, will be enthusiastically translating Latin hymnody into their respective crude, modern vernaculars. (Imagine how the mighty Christine must be rotating in her grave.) Just think of them vying with each other as they seek the most euphonious vernacular renderings for the tiniest nuances in the Latin! How the poor things find the time to spend on such civilised literary pursuits when they have been charged by a Higher Authority to be busy in coming to a common mind on Amoris laetitia, I cannot possibly imagine. They are far bigger men (and much more irreversible) than I could ever be.

A warning, however.

Their lordships would not be well advised to try to get away with some cheeky schoolboy trick like offering Marian hymns already composed in vernacular languages instead of real translations of the newly authorised Latin hymns, because the CDW, who still have to approve vernacular translations sent in by the Conferences, would of course instantly spot the dodge and send such drafts back to the Conferences irreversibly marked in angry schoolmaster's red ink "Not good enough. This simply WILL NOT DO". I am sure Cardinal Sarah will be an absolute martinet in enforcing Magnum principium down to the very last Yod, and the newly emancipated episcopates, bursting with and uplifted by grateful loyalty to PF, would themselves wish for nothing less.

(No, I would not be prepared to give them a helping hand. I am quite hopeless at writing English or Cornish verse. At my incredibly advanced age, I am far too old a dog to learn new tricks. Besides, I am confident that I would never be given a nulla osta to do such sensitive work. As my blog demonstrates, I am an irreversibly unsuitable and very loose canon cannon.)

I am now willing to consider Comments on these three posts. They should be composed in a suitably sombre and sober and responsible register.

*Footnote: Two of the three hymns are in fact from the Liturgia Horarum, where Dom Anselmo Lentini's Coetus offered  them as alternatives to the ancient Marian hymns for our Lady on Saturday. They are (very) free translations into Latin of a passage in Dante's Paradiso. B Paul VI liked them: it would be nice to think that this is the reason for their inclusion in the new memoria. The third hymn is medieval, and indexed in the Thesaurus.  I'm not sure how good it is ... but you are allowed to use the Ave Maris Stella instead.

I know what you're thinking: the glorious days have sadly passed when Leo XIII himself (died 1903) spared the time to compose new Office Hymns; also the days when Pius XII could turn to Fr Genovesi (died 1967); indeed, Dom Anselmo himself, no mean liturgical poet, has irreversibly passed from us (in 1989). I wonder when last the Vatican maintained officials styled "Sacrae Rituum Congregationis Hymnographi". I wonder if there was ever a post denominated "Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Archihymnographus". Wow!

9 March 2018

Cardinal Sarah rebuked in last week's Tablet by a Trained Liturgist

Well, I am most certainly not a Trained Liturgist, although my priesthood was formed at the most 'liturgical' of the Church of England's seminaries, Staggers, and after the General Ordination Examination I was given the Liturgy Prize for that year. But I know my limitations; I am only too keenly aware that I have never kept up with the interrelated mutually-validating groups of 'experts' and contributed to their self-referencing and interlocking Journals, Conferences, and what-nots. My mental picture, however, of Trained Liturgists had always been of nice sweet-tempered rosy-faced white-haired old gentlemen dozily clinging to their two-generation-outdated shibboleths and exploded myths and frequently raising in a slightly tremulous hand a glass of whiskey to the memory of Saint Pseudo-Hippolytus; breaking off from the bottle only rarely when called upon for a Tablet article or to give "advice" to a Cardinal Archbishop.

Until, that is, three or four years ago. Then I realised how completely wrong I was and always had been. In an Oxford seminar I found myself listening to a man who, from his long list of degrees and academic appointments and publications, just had to be a Trained Liturgist. And he was not nice at all!! (Nor rosy-faced nor white-haired nor tremulous of hand.) He tried to keep his hearers entertained by a rambling and, it seemed to me, spiteful account of the culture of Private Masses, described as if its practical details rendered it inherently and self-evidently contemptible and risible ("the junior curate had to get up early to say the first Mass ... ho ho ho ... the Rector only got up just before breakfast ... ho ..."). You may well imagine that this rather tried my own very undeveloped sense of humour; but I did derive some amusement from the false quantities in his Latinity. One, in particular ... as small things do ... still sticks in my mind, because it took me some seconds to work out what the poor stumbling fellow was trying to say. The late Latin word nullatenus has its emphasis on the a, because the e is short so that the accent recedes to the antepenultimate (nullAHtenus). But the Trained Chappie pronounced it, with great decision, as if the e were long (NULLaTEYnus). Ha Ha. Pathetic of me? Undoubtedly. Thoroughly petty? Well, give me a break. I needed something to laugh at. You would have needed it too. Alcohol was not immediately on, er, tap.

I think that speaker may have been the very same [?Reverend Father?] Tom O'Loughlin who has given Cardinal Sarah such a very stern telling-off in ... YES!!! The Tablet!!! ... for what his Eminence had the temerity to say about how to receive Holy Communion. Naughty, naughty, Sarah! We know so much better, because we are the Trained Liturgists! Bow, bow, to his Daughter-in-law elect!!

Mired still in the enthusiasms of the post-Conciliar decade, these people have invested a lifetime of effort in the pitiful assumptions of their youthful years. Their own status depends on all that old stuff still being taken seriously by new generations of the gullible. So they just cannot bear to let it all go.

You might have thought that those who most applaud the ruptures accomplished with so much violence in the 1970s would realise that they are the people least well-placed to defend the inviolability of a status quo.

8 March 2018

Mary Mother of the church (2)

Apparently Pope Francis asked for this addition to the Calendar of the Ordinary Form because this Memoria was familiar to him, having been granted by indult to Argentina. In Magisterial terms, it goes back to the Allocution to the Council Fathers which Blessed Pope Paul VI made at the conclusion of the Third Session of Vatican II, when he formally proclaimed Mother of the Church as a title of our Blessed Lady (he did this after Conciliar liberals had shown recalcitrance towards this title*). The new propers now promulgated for this Memoria have, in the Office of Readings, part of Blessed Pope Paul's Allocution. Legem credendi lex statuat orandi. It's now Big Magisterium!

PF apparently likes this particular title of our Lady because he has used it several times since his election. But on 2 June 2013, when this pontificate had hardly started, a clerical columnist in one of our English Catholic Newspapers got in pre-emptively with his criticism and wrote "Pope Paul VI cheated and referred to Mary as Mother of the Church during one of his private documents during the Council" ... an engagingly cheerful and dashing dismissal of an act of Papal Primacy in the midst of an Ecumenical Council! But perhaps we should indeed follow this relaxed lead in our treatment of papal utterances. Is there anything wrong with light-heartedly calling a Pope a cheat? Surely not. This is just the sort of happy, friendly banter we need in a Church which has learned to avoid Rigidity. Lighten up, folks! And why on earth should we not dismiss a papal Allocution to an Ecumenical Council as a "private document"? I'm sure the time will soon come when "private documents" such as Laudato si and Amoris laetitia will have disappeared completely from Catholic consciousness.

Probably Vatican II itself will then be as highly regarded as, say, the Council of Vienne is now. Sub specie aeternitatis ...

Happily, Pope Benedict XVI (unknowingly) provided ways ahead for clergy who, like that columnist, intransigently dislike this title of our Lady or the important place PF has now given it in the Novus Ordo Calendar. On the Monday after Pentecost, blow the dust off your old pre-conciliar Altar Book and just celebrate the Extraordinary Form! Or ... if you have Ordinariate chums who, in the absence of an Ordinariate priest, ask you for an Ordinariate Mass on that day ... Bob's your Uncle!

I will publish the final part of this in a couple of days' time, and only then consider Comments.

*Over at NLM, the admirable Matthew Hazell has given illuminating extracts from the reactions of contemporary conciliar observers. Goodness me, HOW the poor sweet things did fume!

7 March 2018

Mary Mother of the Church (1) (SLIGHTLY AUGMENTED)

This new compulsory memoria is to be observed on the Monday after Whit Sunday. The fact that the Decree establishing it has emerged from the CDW and not from Ecclesia Dei makes clear that it applies to the Ordinary and not at all to the Extraordinary Form. This is confirmed beyond any doubt by the phraseology of the Decree and the details of the Propers issued. Incidentally, the Decree should have provided (as the law does with regard to the - also movable - memoria of the Immaculate Heart) what happens in years when this movable memoria coincides with an immovable  compulsory memoria.

The intelligent thing about this innovation is, of course, that it associates our Lady's Motherhood of the Church with the Day of Pentecost, when she sat in the midst of the Apostles as they received the empowering Spirit. But I hope it will not be misused to draw our blessed Lady into the promotion of Bergoglian ecclesiological errors regarding the alleged role of the Holy Ghost in daily inspiring the Roman Pontiff to espouse or disseminate new doctrine.

More broadly  ...

Whit Monday, Monday in the Octave of Pentecost when we celebrate with Paschal joy the Gift of the Spirit, is one of the great days in the Traditional Christian Year. Indeed, it is only comparatively recently that it ceased to be a Public Holiday in my own Country. According to my diary, May 21 is still in this year 2018 a Public Holiday in Austria, Belgium, Canada ('Victoria Day'), Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, and Holland; and, in Byzantine Rite countries, Cyprus, Greece, and Romania.

Gradually, followers of the Roman Rite have been edging back to a proper observance of the Octave of Pentecost. I regret any initiative which contradicts this tendency. I regretted, a few years ago, the creation of a Feast of Christ the High Priest on the Thursday of Whit Week (happily, this Feast is not universally obligatory). I regret all initiatives which go directly against the hope of Pope Benedict XVI that the two forms of the Roman Rite would gradually (painlessly and organically) converge.

In the Ordinariates, the Days in the (restored) Pentecost Octave rank higher than Obligatory Memorials in the General Calendar, so, most fortunately, the new memoria will be permanently occluded. I very much hope there will be no tinkering with this laudable provision!!

Pentecost Monday is also treated with respect in the Byzantine Rite.

And in the Extraordinary Form we already have two feasts of our Lady's Maternity. I would set no diriment impediment to the festival on October 11 having 'and Mother of the Church' added to its title!

I sha'n't consider Comments until I've published the three parts of this. Tomorrow, I shall offer a little background about B Paul VI and Vatican II; and, on Saturday, some words about problems offered by the Hymns.

6 March 2018

The Precious Blood

I published this on Sunday March 6 2011, Quinquagesima Sunday, our last Sunday in the Church of England at S Thomas the Martyr. I repeat it here out of nostalgia.

Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains, Poured for us the life-blood From his sacred veins.
I really felt unusually affected at Mass this morning. Three hymns: Praise to the Holiest ..., which Pam and I had at our Wedding: suitable also because in 1828 Mr Newman contributed to raising the floor-level of S Thomas's above the flood-level of the Thames - and his scout John Hayworth was a life-long worshipper at S Thomas's. And Sweet Sacrament Divine. And, at the end, Glory be to Jesus (Viva! Viva! Gesu!), a hymn I particularly love. I had it at my Licensing to S Thomas's, unaware as I made the choice that it is painted on the roof-beams of the church ... probably during the incumbency of Fr Roger Wodehouse, who very much loved it (he was also the priest who put in place the baroque High Altar). Lift ye then your voices; Swell the mighty flood: Louder still and louder Praise the precious Blood.

After the Angelus, we polished off, as Canon Law required, a quick Vestry Meeting before the Churchwardens, staves of office in their hands, led us to the Shrine of S Thomas; for the last time we did the devotions traditional here on festivals of S Thomas, this time in thanks to our Patron for his gifts of grace in bringing us to where we now are. These devotions end with the Antiphon ad Magnificat in the Sarum Breviary: Salve, Thoma, virga justitiae, mundi jubar, robur Ecclesiae, plebis amor, cleri deliciae: Salve, gregis tutor egregie; salva tuae gaudentes gloriae. Then, in what I found a most moving gesture, the Churchwardens laid down their staves and left them at the feet of S Thomas. Vale, beate Thoma.

In my view, Churchwardens are a crucial element in the Anglican Patrimony, inherited from a medieval Church in which each of the innumerable guilds had its own Wardens, all under the ultimate control of the "High Wardens". As an indication of lay dignity and of the intricate corporate communal life of a medieval parish, they should be one of our most important contributions to the Wider Church.

Grace and life eternal In that Blood I find; Blest be His compassion, Infinitely kind. Deo gratias.

5 March 2018

Placuit Deo?

The CDF has, interestingly, clarified, what PF has been meaning over these last long five years when he has repeatedly condemned Neo-Pelagians and Gnostics. I am not a dogmatic theologian, but it seems to me that its recent document is full of good stuff. Not least in the opening section, teaching that Salvation is only through Christ in His Church, with its confirmatory reference to the document Dominus Iesus. That was the admirable piece of work which stimulated such over-wrought hysteria when Joseph Ratzinger's CDF issued it in the pontificate of S John Paul II. Do you think the Nasties will be consumed by the same hyperventilating paroxysms of rage today as they were when Cardinal Ratzinger issued Dominus Iesus? No? You don't? You naughty cynics! ... er ... somehow, neither do I ... tempora mutant ... ur ...

I am not sure that I have actually met any of the now-condemned heretics, but perhaps critical readers will respond to that admission by advising me that I should try to get out more and meet more people. When I do meet the neo-heretics, I promise that I will remonstrate angrily with them and report their names to Archbishop Ladaria so that he can reactivate the thumbscrews in his sound-proofed cellars. Apparently, at the News Conference, the Archbishop avoided like a hot whatsit an invitation to name names ... I bet he did ...

Also praiseworthy: Archbishop Ladaria's merry men do not include in their explanation of 'neo-Pelagian' the offensive and hurtful paranoid nonsense we have heard from some quarters, linking this term with 'rigid' faithfulness to Scripture and Tradition.

But ...

Just one weeny detail made me pause in my encomia of delight. "According to [the Neo-Pelagian] way of thinking, salvation depends on the strength of the individual or on purely human structures which are incapable of welcoming the newness of the Spirit of God." [My emphases.]

Fair enough. I'm not complaining. My fleeting nanno-second of anxiety simply arose from an apprehension that what I regard as the fundamental error of Bergoglian ecclesiology might be getting just the tiniest of toes in the door here: the idea, fittingly condemned at Vatican I, that the Holy Spirit so inspires the Roman Pontiff as to reveal to him new teaching.

The Holy Spirit does constantly renew us all by calling strongly to our minds what the Lord has said to us and what, in our Christian initiation, he has worked within us. Since the days of the Apostles, He does not guide either the whole Church or any member or members of it into new teaching, except in as far as the whole body of teaching and living already embodied in Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition is itself, and always has been, and always will be, God's Great New Thing, His Glorious Surprise, His powerful gift of mighty renewal to all at every level in the Church who will open their stubborn hearts to Him.

(I wonder if this new document arises from a desire of PF to ... as it were ... to ... put his doctrinal house in order before ... )

4 March 2018

Episcopal Conferences

The motu proprio Apostolos suos of S John Paul II regulates Episcopal Conferences and rightly restricts their dogmatic role.

This is on the doctrinal ground that the Universal Church, gathered round the Bishop pf Rome; and the local, diocesan Church gathered round the Bishop; are the only ecclesial realities which exist iure divino. As Cardinal Mueller has explained more than once, Conferences exist only at a human and utilitarian level.

Bound up with this matter is the theological controversy between Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper about whether the Universal Church, or the Particular Church, has ontological priority. The papal Magisterium of Benedict XVI made clear that it is the Universal Church that has the ontological priority.

Hitherto, PF has refrained from too overtly dismantling the legacy of his predecessor. He has shown a certain Christian tact, even delicacy. This policy is now manifestly being phased out. Is PF in a hurry? It certainly looks like it.

The recent bulletin from the Vatican Press office, summarising the deliberations of the Council of Cardinals, speaks about an intention to "reread" Apostolos suos.

"REREAD"! One thinks of the controlled abuse of language described in George Orwell's 1984, and exemplified in totalitarian societies. The fact that we can turn to an honest Trotskyite reacting against Stalinism for an analysis of how language is now manipulated within the Catholic Church just about, as the phrase has it, says it all. 

And the purpose of the current careful demolition of the edifice bequeathed by the last two popes, men of intelligence and distinction, looks to me very much like a desire to transform the Catholic Church into a skilfully crafted copy of the Anglican Communion.

Some of us have been there and seen that. We can tell you all about it. It is a very unwholesome place to be. In Blessed John Henry Newman's words, "The vivifying principle of Truth, the shadow of St Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, left it". No wonder Cardinal Burke, at Buckfast last year, spoke so powerfully about Apostasy.

References: I quoted Mueller at length in my piece of 7 December 2017. On 1 December 2017 I dealt with a very dangerous address by Cardinal Parolin. I suspect that the rationale he offered for Episcopal Conferences having a doctrinal status was a first draft of what will be inflicted upon us in the name of PF. Parolin is not, I feel, a man to be trusted with the Catholic Faith.

3 March 2018


Last Wednesday, I wished a joyous, even riotous, Purim to Hebrew readers. "Open another bottle!", I cried.

The Extraordinary Form Reading at Mass that morning was the Prayer of Mordecai from the Book of Esther ... who is the great theme of Purim; for Christians, of course, Lent is a penitential season, so Alcohol and festivity are not encouraged. (Similarly, the old Roman agricultural festivals became the penitential Christian Ember Days.)

For Synagogue Jews, Purim is a triumphalistic day. Whom better to burn in effigy than Haman! For us, the Lenten liturgical texts offer us the sobering thought that the afflictions to which we are subject are justly deserved; so we fast and we beg for mercy.

For Christian writers, Esther is the Type of which Mary the Mother of God, who stands before the  King as the Mediatrix begging for Mercy, is the the Antitype. On Wednesday, the old Papal statio was at Sancta Caecilia trans Tiberim; on Thursday, this year the second day of Purim, the statio for the Papal Mass would once have been in Sancta Maria trans Tiberim. And the Roman Ghetto was, of course, in the Trastevere ... only a couple of years ago, another Jewish cemetery was excavated there.

May the potent Daughter of Sion pray for the coming of the Day when all Israel shall be brought in. Joys, then, indeed!!

UPDATE: I can't get these liturgical coincidences out of my head! Perhaps they aren't coincidences. Looking back over the last few years, I think that
2017: Purim was on the Saturday and the Sunday which is Lent II.
2014: ditto
2013: ditto
2011: ditto
2010: ditto
2018: Purim was on the Wednesday and Thursday after Lent II.
2015: ditto
2012: ditto
2016: Purim was on the Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week.

Something is going on here! And in my ignorance ...
Do leap years come into the question?
Does the dissonance between the Gregorian and Julian Calendars get its oar in?
Surely, somebody has noticed all this and explained it ... before me? Does anybody have a reference?

As a working hypothesis, I assume that it was Gregory II (715-731), who introduced the Thursday Roman Stations, who arranged to go to the Trastevere on the Thursday; but the Trastevere visit on the Wednesday must have been fixed earlier. Those possessing a Breviarium Romanum could look at the comments made in his homily by S Gregory I the Great, on the Gospel of the Thursday after Lent II.

[Lent II, of course, was a dominica vacat when the Pontiff would have been ordaining in S Peter's at the Saturday/Sunday Vigil Mass.}


2 March 2018

The Liturgy of the Hours, friday week 2; eviscerated!

Liturgia Horarum, Friday in Week II: Ad Horam mediam. Psalm 58(vg) = 59(MT) is traditionally regarded as referring to David, when Saul had his house watched so that he could kill him.

This psalm is printed with (Neovulgate) verses 6-9 and 12-16 (= RSV 5-8 and 11-15) removed.

That deceived and mis-guided pontiff Paul VI, or whoever wrote the words he signed, explains why: "A few harsher verses are missed out, taking account especially of the difficulties which would be going to arise when the Office was done in the vernacular". The relevant coetus itself is rather shame-faced (and not a little naive) about this. "This omission is done because of a certain psychological difficulty, even though imprecatory psalms themselves occur in the piety of the New Testament, e.g. Revelation 6:10, and do not intend in any way to induce people to cursing." And "In general both the Fathers and the Liturgy fittingly hear, in the psalms, Christ crying to the Father, or the Father speaking with the Son, and even recognise the voice of the Church, the Apostles or Martyrs".

So, as the LH tells us, quoting words of Eusebius of Caesarea referring to this psalm, "these words should teach everybody the devotion of the Saviour towards his Father". Exactly. The Lord was surrounded by the temptations of Satan himself; he was beseiged by the Powers of Evil. The Church, and the Christian, also find that their warfare is against the Powerrs of Evil in High Places. It is in this sense that we beg the Father that we may be delivered from those who come back each evening, howling like dogs, the half-wild dogs which infest most Eastern cities and which especially prowl round the town-ditch in search of carrion (I plagiarise John Mason 'Ordinariate Patrimony' Neale). Ss Augustine, Hilary, and Gregory of Nyssa regard the story of David, for whom his enemies lay in wait by night, as a Type of the story of what befel the Son of David, in that Night in which he was betrayed.

The reason why it is so questionabe to expurgate a psalm in the way that LH does is: expurgation still leaves words like "There is no crime or sin in me, O Lord", and leaves them decontextualised . If such things are said simplistically, they can only foster a very dangerous sense of of complacency and self-righteousness. We are only entitled to say such words in persona Christi, or en Christoi, or as speaking with the voice of the Church which in her essential nature is without spot or wrinkle. How can we say them as if they were true of the imperfect lives of each one of us?

I am not one who believes that every psalm needs to be read in the Divine Office. History gives imperfect support for such an integralist approach to the Book of Psalms and their use in Christian worship. I am concerned with dangerous imbalances which can result from the use of psalms over which someone has been allowed to roam with a care-free pair of scissors. (I also rather dislike the implication that the 'problems' of such psalms are only apparent when they are said in the vernacular. There is every reason to feel disquiet about the cheerful assumption that nobody notices what they are saying when they use Latin. Is Latin, or is it not, supposed to be still the clerical vernacular of Western clergy?)

Lastly, I draw your attention to the root of the problem: the loss in the Western Church of the Typological Method which was the heart of scriptural exegesis in both the Patristic and Medieval periods and in both East and West. When people discuss the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, dicussion often seems nowadays to be mired in reductionist considerations about "What is the bare minimum we are required to believe about Biblical inerrancy?" rather than about the hermeneutical, exegetical and eisegetical modalities by which we are all to embrace and be fed by the whole of Scripture ... every sentence, every word of it. Of course vast swathes of Scripture provide enormous difficulties ... are in fact not so much unusable as potentially positively poisonous ... IF we do not trace out the richly complex patterns of intertextuality which formed the basis of their apprehension by Christians before the dark shadow of the 'Enlightenment' fell upon the study of Scripture. The Bible is, indeed, highly dangerous if we do not use it in the Tradition. Reducing Scriptural semiotics to the naked Historicism of the 'Enlightenment' is to hand the Bible over to the Devil. I think I very probably mean that literally.

We members of the Anglican Patrimony entered into Full Communion with the works of John Mason Neale and Lionel Thornton and Austin Farrer under our arms; perhaps there is something we can do to help the ailing Western Church to understand the Patristic, Typological, way of appropriating Scripture.

1 March 2018


I have been unable to find any conciliar mandate for the post conciliar treatment of the body of Collects; treatment, in one significant respect (Sundays), decidedly more ruthless than what a Zwinglian Reformer, Thomas Cranmer, did at the height of the English Reformation.

Sunday collects. The collects for the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Eastertide were, almost to a man, replaced. What this means is that the whole body of such old prayers was deemed inadequately to express the indoles of the respective seasons ... a breath-taking condemnation!. I can think of at least three academic studies, beginning with that of Fr Cekada, which have revealed the hidden ideological basis of this revolution (often a sort of practical Pelagianism). There is a considerable danger in such radicalism. The true mystagogue - such as Gueranger - derives his mystagogy from his studies in the euchology which eighteen centuries have handed down. He does not form his views on a priori grounds, and then take a pair of scissors to the Tradition.

As far as concerns the collects for the 'green' Sundays, 17 of the 34 are new importations.

Festival collects. The new books reveal a massive campaign to rewrite the collects for festivals of the Lord and of his Saints. This has had a particularly vicious effect as far as the survival of the older collects in the previous books is concerned. Those older collects, many of them in continual use since the days of the early sacramentaries, were commonly terse formulae whose main purpose was a desire to secure a share in the intercessions and fellowship of the glorified servants of God, especially the martyrs. In the Middle Ages, a different style of collect became dominant; one can analyse it as providing God with a biographical summary of the saint concerned, followed by a request that the worshippers might receive congruent graces. (The collects written by Cranmer for those saints who retained propers were all to this medieval formula.) The post conciliar reformers were also wholly committed to the same procrustean methodology. I do not wish to be understood as arguing for the exclusion of such collects: my point is that we should not be limited to them.

You see, my own feeling is that the body of collects, on the eve of Vatican II, found its main and exhilarating strength in its variety. As the days moved on, one went from a Leonine or Gregorian form to a Carolingian and then to a Franciscan composition, and then to a product of the Baroque counter reformation. I see this pluriformity as healthy; it prevents the Church from being imprisoned in the culture of one euchological register. Which is what the post-conciliar books give us; so that, now, all our eggs are in the basket of one particular style. Even where a 'new' collect was in fact resurrected from an ancient source, the bar it had to reach was acceptability to the 1960s ... otherwise, its only hope of being chosen was if it could be bowdlerised into such acceptability. I feel certain that the style and preoccupations of the 1960s have already proved to have dated considerably. Perhaps there was a case for replacing a few of the more plodding of the nineteenth century collects which indeed did tend to say rather obvious and pedestrian things ... I am not a fundamentalist ...

... but Vatican II gave nobody any mandate even to do that much.