30 April 2018

A Catholic cathedral ...

... is a sort of world, every one going about his own business, but that business a religious one; groups of worshippers, and solitary ones - kneeling, standing - some at shrines, some at altars - hearing Mass and communicating - currents of worshippers intercepting and passing by each other - altar after altar lit up for worship, like stars in the firmament - or the bell giving notice of what is going on in parts you do not see - and all the while the canons in the choir going through matins and lauds, and at the end of it the incense rolling up from the high altar ...

Newman wrote this after experiencing the Duomo in Milan. I know it will remind readers, as it does me, of the great purple passage .... what a stylist the man is ... near the end of Loss and Gain ... where he describes the experience of Charles Reding in the unfinished Passionist church in London.

Please God, by Newman's prayers, such a Christian culture may be given back to us.

29 April 2018

Euripides and the Canons of Glasney

One of the fascinating things about the plays of the great Athenian dramatists is found in the question of what the audience at the first production expected; and what would have surprised them. The Greek myths often had a (distinctly vague) given framework but were unfixed and fluid in detail; for example, Homer, whom some might think the author of a 'canonical' telling of the Greek myths, tells us that when Agamemnon returned from Troy he was killed by Clytemnestra's lover Aigisthos at a banquet; but Aeschylus cheerfully makes Clytemnestra herself entangle Agamenon in his bath with a net, and then slaughter him with her own hands. And the first audience of Euripides' Medea would have known that her and Jason's children were going to end up dead; but who killed them - Jason's relatives? - would have been unclear until it was revealed to them, in the play, that their own mother slaughtered them to spite her unfaithful husband. Euripides actually got away with a play that portrayed Helen as not even eloping to Troy; it was but a wraith of her which fled with Paris. Meanwhile, she visited Egypt, and ... ... ...

In the Middle Cornish dramas, probably composed by the Canons of Glasney College, the outline is often Biblical and known. However ...

The Resurrexio Domini follows the main outline of the Gospel narratives. But at the end of it (curiously like the way in which the Athenian dramatists, after a dramatic trilogy, added a fourth play in a lighter and racier genre ... perhaps to relax the atmosphere) is added a much briefer Mors Pilati.
We begin with Tiberius sick of leprosy; he is cured by Veronica who deploys her vernicle. Now a fervent Christian, he desires to execute the Pontius Pilatus who killed the Lord. Some knock-about comedians called the Tortores (Anglice Special Branch) secure Pilate; but when he is brought before Tiberius, the emperor is unable to harm him. This turns out to be because Pilate is wearing the Seamless Robe of Christ, which he declines to remove on the dual grounds that it is rather dirty by now; and that it would be disrepectful to appear naked before his sovereign ...

And so and so it goes on. An erudite reader, Mrs Sue Sims, once much enlightened this ignorant classicist by explaining that the story comes from the Golden Legend. I wonder if that popular work was as well known to the peasantry as it clearly was to the Glasney clerics. I bet Dr Cotton, another erudite reader, knows whether this work features in church iconography, thus giving a pointer to  whether the Cornish peasants were on the edges of their seats to know what would happen next ... or whether they a;ready had a pretty shrewd idea.

27 April 2018

"The Dictator Pope"

To refresh your memories, I reprint a piece I wrote when an earlier electronic edition of the Dictator Pope was published under a pseudonym: Marcantonio Colonna.

I do think that this is a very important book. At the present moment, the papacy is more dominant that it ever has been before, its iron grip on the Church strengthened by the mechanisms of the instant world-wide Media. Inevitably and properly, the person and personality of the pontiff himself are subjected to detailed scrutiny, especially when it appears that we are going to have yet more 'surprises of the Spirit' sprung upon us.

This book brings together pretty well everything which can currently be known about PF. I suspect that Marcantonio Colonna is a trained historian, so you will find in his book not only a wealth of information about the rise of PF, but a subtle analysis of the cultural background which has formed him. Have you ever wondered what people have in mind when they say "PF's Peronism accounts for it all"? Dr Colonna will explain to you what that means. Would you like a careful explanation of PF's skills in playing people off against each other, in making use of a person and then discarding him, in ruthlessly humiliating or disposing of people whose aptitude for sycophancy he finds insufficiently crafted? It's all here.

Every book has its particular take on things, and Colonna's take on PF will not in itself surprise anyone. It has, I think, become so clear as now to be uncontroversial that what you get in PF is not what it says on the tin. He is not a kindly humble avuncular figure with a winning smile and a passion for cripples and babies, who spends his days and nights thinking about the poor. He is a hard and determined politician with a vindictive temper and an appetite for power and a disinclination to let anybody or anything stand in his way. Colonna shows how this was already apparent to PF's own fellow-countrymen well before he burst on to the international scene with his Buona Sera. Under Colonna's tutelage, you will not only understand PF's past, but you will be able to hazard an informed guess about what he might do in his future!

The unscrupulous manipulation of the 'Synods'; the dismembering of the Franciscans of the Immaculate; the 'Reform' of the Vatican finances; the assault upon the Knights of Malta; the 'Reform' of the Roman Curia; PF's poor record in dealing with the scandal of paedophile or ephebophile priests; the St Gallen Group and the parts played by Martini and Daneels and Murphy-O'Connor and the rest of them in plotting for the last two Conclaves; the antics of the Vatican's Gay Mafia; Marcantonio's historian's scalpel will expose to your view all the subcutaneous realities of this pontificate.

The whole game is not yet played out; but we already have a lot of data. Let Dr Colonna offer you a guided tour through them!

Could there be an armistice with the "Lost Shepherd" or the "Dictator Pope"?

I am a lucky chap; Leila and Philip Lawler have very kindly sent me a copy of Philip's fine book Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is misleading his flock.  You may be thinking that this is rather like London buses; you wait for half an hour and then a couple come along together ... because last Monday was the publication day of Henry Sire's magnificent The Dictator Pope (about which I have just written a rave review for a monthly periodical). I hope you have already procured and devoured your copies of that volume! Later today, I will reprint my earlier comments on this book. Although, of course, there are some overlaps between these two books, it is remarkable how comfortably they sit together on the bookshelf. Obviously, there is such a glut of material, that two authors can write books which are complementary rather than identical! Philip's book is, I think, perhaps a tadge gentler than Henry's in as far as it is clear that Philip hoped against hope that things would come right with this pontificate ... that, as we say, it wouldn't come to this ....

I think it "came to this" the very moment PF trudged out to greet the People of God (and the tourists) with an unhappy face, refusing to share the simple joy of the Lord's Flock committed to his charge; when he indicated his determination to mark out the discontinuities of his pontificate by not dressing like a pope and by taking a strange name.

Philip begins his book by observing that every day the pope issues another reminder that he does not approve of Catholics like us ..."day after weary day ... the pope upbraids me..." That's exactly how I feel. So many of us started by doing our best to put the best possible gloss on this pontificate, and have been mercilessly driven to the realisation that this is not possible. As I wrote recently, every day there seems to be a new provocation, either from PF or from one of his sycophantic cronies. In self-examination, I have asked myself again and again whether I have fallen into self-absorbed obsession in so often defending Truth against what flows from the man who, after all, does sit on the cathedra Petri. But, when I was priested on June 9 1968, Bishop Harry Carpenter asked me "Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word...?" and I replied "I will, the Lord being my helper." If I had instead had the joy of being ordained according to the old Tridentine Pontificale, the Pontiff would have said to us, rather mixing his metaphors, "Sit doctrina vestra spiritualis medicina populo Dei ... ut praedicatione ... aedificetis domum, id est, familiam Dei ..." So what choice do I have?

Is there an alternative to all this open warfare? Could there be an armistice? Could PF stop stinging us into continuous reaction? Is he a big enough man to do that? Could we stop this endless series of criticisms of the pope? I, for one, would be overjoyed to be able to do so. I think the first essential proviso would have to be the appointment of someone to the Congregation for Bishops who would be given the power to ensure that the episcopate were rebalanced, and who would confer with PF about redressing the balance in the Sacred College. For orthodox Catholics, perhaps the biggest worry of all concerns a future which PF is clearly trying to fashion in his own likeness by the unfortunate appointments he makes. Cupich a Cardinal, indeed!! Additionally, it would be necessary for PF to refrain from uttering into a public forum or a scalfari anything to which the CDF had not given its  previous OK. PF has so grossly enlarged the amount of material which comes to us with Papa dicit attached, that the the entire genre needs to be radically pruned and carefully controlled.

Meanwhile, get The Lost Shepherd to sit beside The Dictator Pope!

Fr George Rutler ...

... gives in Crisis Magazine a very jolly account of Pope Benedict XIV. (Thank-you to friends who drew this to my attention, and to Father for writing it.)

The only blemish in the Pope's character appears to have been that he disliked Jesuits and would never deign to admit that type of person into the Sacred College.

Father wittily includes a Latin epigram about Lambertini, including a couple of Teacher's Intentional Errors just to give his readers a bit of intelligent fun in the art of textual emendation.

And, happily, Father does not mention my own favourite Benedict XIV story ... his reaction to the Marchesa who wore, on her imperfectly veiled chest, a very large emerald cross. Given Internet resources, there must be ways that prurient readers can research such things proprio Marte.

He's upstairs in the Ashmolean, as you know, and along at the end. I haven't narrated any of my recent visits to see him because publicising the violence of his judgement on his current successor would simply have got me into trouble. There are sceptical people out there, y'know, who think that when I report our conversations, I am really just giving my own views. And anyway, I wouldn't want to risk stirring up a gang of inflamed Bergoglianistae, led by the Master of Benets, to take their enraged pickaxes to his patient bust.

Diu illaesus permaneat.

26 April 2018


I'm going to take a week or two off from reading emails, which includes Comments offered to this Blog. I shall still provide a daily Post, but I will be unresponsive to all comments. Nor shall I watch any Television or open any letters or ... etc. etc..

I have done this fairly regularly in the past, and I can recommend it to anybody else out there who is a seeker for sanity.


Having just read a statement from the JAHLF, signed by members for whose competence I have great respect, I have deleted part of my recent Post on the CBCEW, together with the associated thread.

"Be what I say"

At the start of the Synodical processes concerning the Family, PF repeatedly begged the Synodal Fathers to demonstrate parrhesia. I took this to mean that he believed they were all bursting with new and liberal ideas with regard to certain theological/pastoral questions; and that all he needed to do was to give them the courage to speak out ... to untie their tongues for them.

Recently, with the 'Youth Synod' on the horizon, PF has spoken about the "daring" of the young, and has asked them to "fight the logic of 'it's always been done this way' ... a poison, a sweet poison, that tranquillises the heart and leaves you anaesthetised so that you can't walk".

[UPDATE: I drafted this about six weeks ago: since then, PF, on Palm Sunday 25 March, returned to this theme by exhorting the Young to SHOUT ... and suggesting that perhaps, if their elders failed to shout, they should do it!! He also cheerfully suggested to them that Old People who try to silence them are corrupt ... You'd think that the Protector of the Lettergate Scoundrels would be more careful not to put ideas into other minds.]

Is this, again, an attempt to persuade a certain group to conform to the stereotypical view of that group which PF has formed in his own mind?

"Be what I think you are"?

"Be what I want you to be"?

"Be what my plan of Hagan lio prescribes you to be"?

A couple of years ago, PF complained bitterly about all those dreadful Young People who want the Extraordinary Form. He seems now to have forgotten about that disorderly yet rigid group.

25 April 2018


The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, meeting (as we have all been taught by this pontificate to assume) 'with the guidance of the Spirit', has happily not come to a common mind on the question of  the controverted sections of Amoris laetitia. This will be a source of great relief to many biblically-oriented Christians.

It is important to point out that each time a Conference or even a single bishop declines to make use of a formal opportunity to promote the Bergoglian interpretation of AL, this very act of so declining is itself a Magisterial action. Because: it is a formal if tacit clarification that the pro-Bergoglian bishops' interpretation is not  part of the Church's Ordinary Universal (hence infallible) Magisterium. And ... important this ... the more panicky pressure that power-hubs in Rome put on the world-wide episcopate to fall into line, the more significant will be any and every failure to submit.

AL, is, of course, far inferior in status to an infallible conciliar or papal decree, and PF's own ambiguous glosses as to what his own original ambiguities really mean are at an even lower (thoroughly sub-Magisterial!) level. These considerations make it yet more important to apply to AL the methodological test which Blessed John Henry Newman insisted had to be applied to Pastor aeternus after it was promulgated in 1870: Does this come to me as the free and unforced teaching of a moral unanimity within the episcopate?

Things are looking up! They're not getting away with it! Two years after AL was published, it is no nearer to passing the Newman Test. Still less near is that particular interpretation of its ambiguities upon which the Bergoglians need to rely.

I get a comforting feeling that some younger bishops may sense that, when the natural time comes for the next stage of their episcopal careers, PF is unlikely still to be Bishop of Rome.

Establishing that the Bishops of the oikoumene have not taught what PF desired them to teach (indeed, he grotesquely manipulated two synods to achieve his end), will also be an important factor when eventually a future pontificate sets about restoring the explicit witness of orthodoxy.

But our bishops have powerfully enforced one particular paragraph in AL. This is the section which deals with, and roundly condemns, Gender Theory and all that. By employing a section of AL to underpin this condemnation, their Lordships have given us a deft and elegant example of an argumentum ad hominem. Nice one!

24 April 2018


Dear Ansgar

For reasons I cannot fathom, my computer will not allow me to reply to your personal, and courteous, email.

Can we amicably agree to differ?

Dear John

Thank you for your repetitively offered comment. Frankly, it would have been even more convincing if you had found the energy to offer it a fourth time, or even a fifth.

Is the 'Chittister' whom you so thricely commend to me and my readers of Irish origin? I am no philologist, but her name sounds to me rather like that of the old Ulster Protestant gentry Chichester family as it might be reproduced by someone who had got tied up in a titillating tongue-twister. I hesitate, on a Family Blog, to offer a reconstruction of what that twongue-tister might be.

Dear Sadie

It's news to me that PF "inherited" Amoris laetitia and all the other rubbish from poor Professor Ratzinger. It all goes to show what a cunning old ***************** he was.

Are you sure you've got this right?

23 April 2018

Urban VI ...

... was the Pope whose personal failings, including an irascible inclination to torture and execute his Cardinals, led to the Great Western Schism.

There were very serious grounds for suspecting that his election, in 1378, was invalid on account of duress; the Cardinal Electors were under the menace of being torn to pieces by the Roman mob. Indeed, the dear little 1958 CTS pamphlet listing the popes, which never leaves my desk, says simply that his election "has been generally deemed valid" ... not a very wholehearted or ringing endorsement.

A few months later, most of the Cardinals repudiated their allegiance and declared the election invalid.

Yet he is always included nowadays in the list of 'genuine' popes, and the prelate, 'Clement VII', whom the Cardinals then elected in his place, is relegated to the list of 'antipopes'.

It was not until 1429, when 'Clement VIII' abdicated, that Christendom at last had only one claimant to the See of Peter.

Half a century of Schism.

Why am I reminding you of this?

Because, in our present crisis, glib people talk easily about getting rid of flawed popes. Urban VI was, surely, in the half-dozen most flawed popes ever, but securing the consent and collaboration to get rid of him was found to be difficult ... nay rather, in view of the fact that he never was successfully disposed of, one might say 'impossible'.

And, during that half-century, there never was an undisputed pope. Indeed, from 1409 until 1415, there were as many as three claimants simultaneously disputing the cathedra Petri.

I feel that this demonstrates the immense dangers of approaching ecclesial crises with simplistic 'remedies'.

Devising fictional solutions to real problems is no answer. Prayer and the bearing of witness are the Catholic remedy.

22 April 2018

Episcopal Jurisdiction

A month or so ago, someone asked an acute question. I had made some remarks about Incardination. The 'someone' had remembered my constant teaching in the past about how a Particular Church consists of Bishop, Presbyterate, Diaconate, Laos, bound together structurally and sacramentally. So How Come that I appeared now to be advocating a situation in which a presbyter might not be bound by incardination to his Bishop ... or, putting it differently, to his Particular Church?

There are large problems about the roles and relationships of the Three Orders in the modern Latin Church. For example; Deacons were supposed to be the outreach of the Bishop for property, and for notifying him about the needs of the poor, and that sort of thing [forget the silly twentieth century myth that they represent Ministry to the Poor and Disadvantaged ... that's nonsense, and if you want to, you can look at my articles on the Diaconate via the Search Engine on this Blog]. By the twentieth century, deacons had become apprentice priests, young clerics moving through the Diaconate to the Presbyterate in just six months or so. The changes following Vatican II introduced a permanent Diaconate of often part-time parochial assistants. (I had better add that Bishop Egan of Portsmouth does have a real ante-Nicene Deacon, who runs his diocesan finances and quite a lot besides this. But Dr Egan is not an ordinary bishop). If married diaconal viri probati are allowed to be ordained to the presbyterate, Permanent Deacons will have disappeared in a generation. Betcha.

Episcopacy is in a right old mess, too. As we all know, earlier Christian centuries regarded it as adultery for a bishop to move from See to See. Now ... er ...

And, even worse, the Episcopal Character is devalued by being sprayed like cheap and vulgar confetti all over bureaucrats and diplomats. Nuncios need to be 'Archbishops', it seems, to give them status vis-a-vis local hierarchs. Dicasterial Secretaries also have a status that ineluctably demands that they be adorned with a mitre. There may be few things that Walter Kasper and I agree upon, but one of them concerns this particular corruption: the idea that Episcopacy is essentially all about status in a bureaucratic pecking order. Curiously, PF is normally vastly impressed by Cardinal Kasper, but not in this particular matter. I wonder why.

And Presbyters? In earlier centuries, the presbyterate was the executive committee of the Particular Church. The evidence suggests that a Bishop could not even ordain a subdeacon without the permission of the Presbyterate; could not, while the system of public Penance continued, absolve a grave sinner without the consent of his presbyters. Dom Gregory Dix gathered materials (Jurisdiction in the Early Church: Episcopal and Papal) suggesting that, in the first centuries, the Bishop was the High Priest and Apostolic Teacher of his Church; jurisdiction in anything remotely like our sense resided in the Presbyterate.

It would, of course, be childish to advocate turning all these clocks back to A.D. 300. Nor am I foolishly advocating a rebellious or cantankerous attitude towards those who occupy the structures prescribed by the present Code of Canon Law. On the contrary. How could that serve the Kingship of Christ?

However, nothing stays the same; and, as we face moving on, it is a good idea to have clear and accurate notion of where North, South, East, and West all lie. It may indeed be some time before the Latin Church radically recalibrates its current Ministerial Structures. But I think it is worth turning a bit of a spotlight on the most dysfunctional area of Ministry: the Episcopate. Bishops are a thoroughly problematic feature in the post-conciliar Church; some of them are currently trying to claw in power from the Church Universal or to set themselves above Tradition; and simultaneously they crave more power over their own presbyters and deacons. Some of them have a curious idea that 'Subsidiarity' means 'All power to the Bishop' or 'All power to the Conference' or 'All power to the Conference's Bureaucracy'. As I argued recently, this culture may lead to problems in spheres including the liturgical, if overblown bishops or conferences or bureaucracies regard themselves as liberated from regulation, above Tradition, and wilfully attempt to force their own whimsical liturgical preferences on presbyters and people.

What might the distant future hold in terms of a restored episcopate? Perhaps some of us did experience just a merest, tiniest hint of that when, in an apostate Church of England, 'Flying Bishops' provided us with a pastoral and priestly model of Episcopacy. I remember Mgr Barnes, now the emeritus Bishop of Richborough, saying "Fathers, remember that we have no jurisdiction but what you give us". Yet it was those men who "had no jurisdiction" who gathered a People for God in the days that led up to the erection of the Ordinariates.

21 April 2018

S Paul VI? A Jigsaw.

I hope readers will have seen the article in the Settimo Cielo Blog, concerning new information about what Blessed Paul VI really thought concerning the liturgical 'reforms' which Hannibal Bugnini deceived him into approving. Paolo VI. Una storia minima, by Mgr Leonardo Sapienza, clearly contains reliable archival information about Papa Montini and the years in which he uneasily used the Liturgy he had himself authorised. Sapienza publishes diaries in which Virgilio Noe, then the Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, noted the daily remarks of the Pontiff. This looks to me like another piece of a jigsaw which has been forming in my mind for some time.

This source sits very comfortably beside the account given by Montini's friend Louis Bouyer.

It renders more believable the well-known story about Pope Paul's surprise that he had abolished the Pentecost Octave.

It also fits neatly into the account given by Dom Cassian Folsom a few years ago in Adoremus; in which he meticulously demonstrated that the disastrous events (such as the authorisation of alternative 'Eucharistic Prayers') by which the Roman Rite was so horribly corrupted, were the result of the Pontiff being persuaded that the liturgical chaos throughout the liberal West (at that time, more than 200 rogue EPs were circulating unauthorised, for example) could only be brought under any sort of control by a very limited number of alternative Eucharistic Prayers, under the careful direction of Rome, being permitted.

Another important piece of the jigsaw is contained in the fine biography of Archbishop Lefebvre by His Excellency Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. This demonstrates that Pope Paul's mind could only be poisoned against the Archbishop by the gross and palpable lies which his enemies put into the pope's ears. They assured Paul that, in the SSPX, the Old Mass was promoted simply as a banner of anti-papal rebellion; that Lefebvre made his seminarians swear an oath against the pope. In other words, those evil and mendacious men realised that affection for the Mass of Ages would, of itself, be insufficient to corrupt Montini's view of the Great Archbishop. God forgive them for what they did.

Indeed, Papa Montini was, in the words of his predecessor, un po' amletico. He is not one of my heroes. All the same ... and I know some readers will disagree with me ... my personal judgement is that he was not an evil man, and I am willing to accept the Church's judgement about his current location. So, as we draw closer to his canonisation, I feel it is good and timely to begin to come to a more balanced picture on the man whose weak capitulations to devious men did undoubtedly lead to the greatest calamity in Latin Christianity since the Reformation. As he himself perceived (another piece of jigsaw here), the smoke was indeed of Satan; and Montini's failures arose mainly from his poor judgements upon those competing for his ear.

When Pope Paul learned the truth, he lost little time in heaving Bugnini, mitre, zucchetto, (?)apron and all, out of Rome, and over the hills and far away. That I regard as the final piece of the jigsaw.

It is clear that in some circles, this canonisation is being promoted as a political move to fasten down upon the Church a particular understanding of Vatican II, indeed, a hermeneutic Magisterially condemned by Benedict XVI. In God's providence, it may be that a fuller understanding of the real Paul VI will frustrate that knavish trick. 

Does anybody seriously think that the author of Humanae vitae would have favoured a regime bent upon promoting the acceptability of habitual Adultery?

I shall not enable comments on B Paul VI which seem to me to be merely abusive.

20 April 2018

Habemus Papam!

Looking back to those happy days when Pope Benedict was elected, I recall two video clips which I would like to see again. This is how I remember them. Any links?

(1) Margaret Hebblethwaite, small red-haired widow of  an ex-Jesuit whose 'papal biographies' were far from reliable, was caught on camera at the moment the white smoke went up, in shrill panic. She knew that, for an election to have been made so soon, "It must be Ratzinger".

(2) The same lady, later on, trying to button-hole Cormack Murphy O'Connor and being shouldered aside. Poor Cormack looked as though he had his own grief-management problems ...


"UNHELPFUL". That was the word used by Boris Johnson's Foreign and Commonwealth Office to describe a mission last Saturday. Members of the House of Lords, and some Anglican Clergy, went to Damascus.

They included Michael Langrish, emeritus Bishop of Exeter. I spent some years in his Diocese; I can assure you that he is not an eccentric; not some wild firebrand; not a barmy Trot.

They met Syrian hierarchs and politicians. They went to the Liturgy on Sunday.

I was not previously aware through the British Media of the united statement by three Patriarchs of Syrian Churches, both Catholic and dissident, condemning the recent Western military intervention in Syria. Such things just don't seem to grab the headlines, do they? Western politicians and journalists never have shown the slightest interest in the beleaguered Christian communities which have lived in the Middle East since centuries before Islam was even invented. Considering the determination of the cultural elites here in the West to destroy the last remnants of Christendom in our own sick and depopulating countries, this is hardly surprising.

What we are seeing in Syria is simply the current stage of  'the Arab Spring' so enthusiastically encouraged by Western politicians. While they were cheering it on, they never thought it would lead to anything like the Syrian catastrophe. Of course not. They anticipated a comfortable domino effect of regime-change which would lead to "Parliamentary Democracy" throughout the Middle East ... you know, Black Rod, the Mace, State Opening of Parliament, and all that.

President Assad of Syria, despite his British background, unaccountably refused to act out the script they had written for him. He probably felt nervous reservations about being hauled out of a sewer, sodomised with a knife, and then shot, like Gaddhafi in Libya. It's all a matter of these little details of perspective, isn't it? Middle-Easterners often haven't been to Eton and so they don't see things in the same balanced sort of way that Boris does. Western politicians have never forgiven Assad for this appalling lack of good manners in refusing to walk down the path they had mapped out for him. For a decade, their foolish mantra has been "Assad must go; ruat caelum".

There have been atrocities galore in Syria. I don't applaud anybody who has had any part in any of them. And, among those who seem to me to have a big share of guilty responsibility, are all the Western politicians who encouraged "the Syrian moderate opposition" to believe that, were they to take up arms against Assad, they would get our support. Nod Nod, Wink Wink. Until: "Oops-a-daisy there's a Russky round the corner. Sorry; you're on your own after all".

I do wish that the political class in my country could grasp that political situations are rarely as univocally straightforward as they like to believe. Stuff ... the unexpected ... happens, and it's not the FCO cat but other people who do the dying. This simple historical reality is, curiously, beyond the comprehension of outwardly sane people many of whom read PPE at Oxford (to be pedantic: that is one crime Boris has not committed). Perhaps the sum of human happiness would be increased if that particular faculty could have a (precisely targetted) cluster-bomb dropped on it.

'UNHELPFUL'. I know all about that word. It is part of the vocabulary Establishment People use in my country when they want to effect a disdainful put-down. It avoids explanation, because an explanation can always be analysed ... an explanation might prove to be a hostage to Fortune. And UNHELPFUL doesn't sound too shrill. UNHELPFUL just means "You're not playing my game my way and you weren't elected to the Buller and you're an oik".

I wonder what sort of fees David Cameron is currently charging on the Lecture Circuit.

19 April 2018


Reports suggest that PF is to receive Cardinal Marx in Rome (they will discuss one of the latest heterodox dodges of the German Episcopal Conference).

Absolutely right and much to be commended.

It is a long-standing tradition that Cardinals enjoy an automatic right of entree to the Roman Pontiff.


Mgr Scicluna is to be complimented on having produced so lengthy a report (on sexual abuse in Chile) in such a comparatively short period of time, and, apparently, with so little secretarial assistance. And after himself needing surgery early in his mission.

In the Anglo-Saxon world of corporate accountability, at least a redacted summary of his Report would be available to the Public. As I write, I am unaware that anything has been made public other than PF's Letter to the Chilean Episcopal Conference. (Unfortunately, the 'story' by chance 'broke' just when our own Media were a trifle preoccupied with the possibility of a World War.)

A 'Survivor' who, until she resigned, was a member of PF's Papal Commission on Abuse, commented:
"Now the focus has to be on the survivors who have been badly hurt by his words; then there has to be accountability."

Regretfully, I have to say that her brutal words express an uncomfortable but simply unavoidable truth. We have not been told what Mgr Scicluna discovered about the transmission of the five-page Letter which one survivor gave to Cardinal O'Malley and which his Eminence is said to have guaranteed that he handed personally to PF. But as the uncorrected public record currently stands, it looks as though PF either never bothered to open and read the Letter; or that he read it and then forgot about its contents so comprehensively that he subsequently lost his temper and started shouting at questioners (he said he required, and had not yet been offered, 'proof'' ... a word subsequently emended to 'evidence').

This is where the demand for accountability becomes irresistible.

We have a Roman Pontiff who has made himself a figure of mockery by his endless logorrhoea. It seems that he is unable to live without constant utterance; utterance which (unlike the words of his intellectually abler predecessors) is commonly riddled with vivid but obscure attacks, apparently often on those fellow-clergy who do not accept his own self-estimation. His 'magisterial' documents substitute inscrutable interminability for clarity. But in some contexts, a more than Trappist taciturnity magically and suddenly takes over from the compulsive loquacity. Cardinals formally offer him dubia or intellectuals send him a Filial Correction; he does not trouble even to acknowledge that he has received their communications. He refuses ... lovely Renaissance Court usage coming up here ... to "grant them an Audience". Abuse survivors transmit to him, via hand of Cardinal, long and detailed accounts of their abuse; the silence is total as they wait ... and wait ... and wait ... and the years pass by, with no comfort for their anguish.

It is an established pattern.

Of course, a Roman Pontiff cannot read everything that anybody presses into his hand. But in previous pontificates, the Pontiff retained a certain formal distance and there were mechanisms, one imagines, by which his correspondence was handled appropriately at appropriate levels. And if there were mistakes, as in any human enterprise there undoubtedly will have been, presumably those responsible were held accountable. But PF seems to have eschewed such workaday mechanisms. He, apparently, prefers above all things to receive plaudits for his faux populism. So, by his own choice, it is he who is accountable for the mistakes. If the buck stops somewhere else, then he should have explained that earlier.

Our Most Holy Redeemer spoke sometimes with an almost Bergoglian frankness (Matthew 23?). But there is not much evidence that He habitually handled critics or questioners by "doing a Bergoglio": i.e. by saying not a syllable to them; turning his back on them; and walking away from them, wordless amid the clamour.

In the Anglo-Saxon corporate world, a CEO who behaved like this would be tactfully removed. Or perhaps just removed without time wasted on tact. A Bergoglio would not survive as head master of an English Public School. You're laughing at me? Think about it.

Indeed. That lady was right. First the focus does have to be upon those who have suffered.

Then, accountability.

Is there nobody left in the Vatican with the nous and the parrhesia  to explain to PF in simple Spanish what, in the real and practical world, accountability means?

Footnote: I commend to you the soon-to-be-published The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire. I find it convincing and compelling. If the facts about this pontificate were more widely known ...

17 April 2018

SILENCE and NOISE: PF, Sarah, and Screwtape

"It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others." (PF, Gaudete et Exsultate, 26.)

The Scholiasts seem to be deeply divided about the interpretation of this. There are those who explain it as a rare piece of self-criticism on the part of PF. They think that, at long last, he is repenting for having vouchsafed the Dubia Cardinals, and the Correcting Filii, not a single word of reply. On the other hand, some scholars take it as a snide and cheap sneer at Cardinal Sarah, who enjoys writing about Silence. Moi, I haven't the faintest idea. One of the greatest strengths of PF is that his writings always leave me totally baffled. The day I try to persuade you that I am a sensitive interpreter of PF's most nuanced subtleties is probably the day you should stop looking at this blog.

I can, however, offer you some light from the Anglican Patrimony. Not quite from the Ordinariate itself, because Benedict XVI carelessly forgot to provide it with a category which would have enabled a certain famous belle-lettriste to seek full membership. I refer, of course, to His Abysmal Sublimity Mr Under Secretary Screwtape.

"Music and silence - how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell ... no square inch of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise - Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression  of all that is exultant, ruthless and virile - Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress ..."

16 April 2018

S Magnus the Martyr and Catholic Ecumenism

Here's a curiosity for the cognoscenti. On the Ordinariate Calendar, today is the feast of S Magnus the Martyr, of Orkney. Is he there
(1) to show that the British Ordinariate includes even the Northern Islands of the Kingdom of Scotland; or
(2) because of the fact that Fr Henry Joy Fynes Clinton, for decades the undisputed leader of the Papalist Party in the Church of England, was Rector of S Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge?

In either case, both the fact and the reason are excellent!

When the Ordinariates were erected, I did think how lovely an ecumenical gesture it would be if the Diocese of London had lent S Magnus's to us. But the C of E is not really ecumenical except in the formal sense of asserting that it is; and playing the daft games epitomised by the expensive white elephant called ARCIC. It is rumoured that one official in that diocese said that he would rather see a Church bulldozed than getting into the hands of the Ordinariate! Nice lot! Happily, in an act of real generosity and genuine Catholic Ecumenism, the Diocese of Westminster assigned us the wonderful historic Church of the Assumption and S Gregory in central London, which, among its battle honours, proudly claims to have been sacked during the Gordon Riots. I have no difficulty discerning there the approving spirit of that superbly combative old ecumenist, Fr FC. Additionally, as all sound chaps and chappesses know, it was once the Bavarian Embassy Chapel and contains the beautiful Flag of the House of Wittelsbach. Vivat Rex!

BUT ... for me, if I may become personal, the Feast of S Magnus sings most joyously in my heart because of my memory of an amazing visit to my dear friends, the Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay. They showed me round the Cathedral of S Magnus in Kirkwall, exquisite Romanesque in beautiful pink stone, and still housing the relics of S Magnus. And this enables me to complete the circle by returning to Pope Benedict XVI, in whose happy pontificate, of course, the Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay were able to regularise their canonical relationship with the Holy See. Another splendid act of true, Catholic, Ecumenism!! May they continue to flourish and to give such a wonderful witness of prayer, work, and common life to the Catholic World!

As for Benedict XVI, the Pope of Ecumenism ... Eis polla ete, Despota!

I think this Post exceeds my usual daily allowance of sincere hyperbole ...  Megamarvellous!!

Ad multos annos plurimosque annos ...

Today is the birthday of Joseph Ratzinger, sometime Bishop of Rome, and the anniversary of his rebirth in Baptism on the day when the Church was celebrating her Passover.

His pontificate was short, but what enrichment it brought us. The vetusta Novitas of the Bible, the Fathers, and the Liturgy; Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus; the beatification of Newman; how much grace we received in those years through his gentle and generous hands. It turned out to be a necessary stocking-up of the larder with good and nourishing food; food destined  to be our rations during the winter and the ice and the time of tears and cruelty. As we warm ourselves at our hearths today, and hear the wolves still howling outside as they run licensed and unconfined, hungry and increasingly desperate, memories of the good times reassure us that, in the power of the Spirit, and if we keep faith, good times can return. Veni Sancte Spiritus ... flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium. And there are at last sounds of the glaciers cracking, and of the trickle of tiny streams running out from beneath the compacted ice ... and the sight of little buds beginning to open beside the streams.

In a manner of speaking, we might say that Pope Benedict's glorious pontificate is still alive among us, since it is to the sinewy strength of his biblical and patristic teaching, and to the structures he left in place, that we continue to turn as we look to the return of the Maytime, when "The happy birds Te Deum sing, 'tis Mary's month of May."

In a justly famous sermon, Blessed John Henry Newman addressed to our Lady some words derived from the Song of Solomon:

"Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For the winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land. ... The fig tree hath put forth her green figs; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come. It is time for thy Visitation. Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength ..."

May the prayers of our Mother gain for us the grace of perseverance in this last dark hour of the apostasy. Was there ever a tyranny which lasted for ever, or an eternal winter?  

She will go forth in her strength.

Her Immaculate Heart will prevail.

15 April 2018

...audemus dicere PATER NOSTER ...

The words introducing the Lord's prayer were translated by Cranmer, felicitously, as ' ...we are bold to say'. New ICEL with equal accuracy renders '...we dare to say'. But surely we should be 'happy' to say or 'cosy' to say or at least 'confident' to say? Old ICEL, indeed, prayed 'with confidence', and the equally corrupt Common Worship translation totally skives the question of how to render 'audemus'. Yet there is quite an ecumenical convergence here (if one ignore the Modernists and considers just the healthy consensus of the classical Roman and Byzantine Rites): the Byzantines ask God to make us worthy, with parrhesia and without condemnation, to dare (tolmain) to call upon the God of Heaven as Father.

Lying behind the modern squeamishness is a feeling that Christianity should be a religion of intimate warmth. Indeed, there is in the world at large a belief that all men are brothers and that accordingly God, if there is a God, is the indulgent unjudgmental Father of all men. So why should there be anything bold or daring about calling him Father? Rather than being dangerous, it should be next door to a platitude.

But this is not the religion of the New Testament. The Lord's habit of regarding God as his father, Abba, seems to have been distinctive and unusual. The fact that the word is Aramaic suggests that it goes back to the Incarnate Lord's infant linguistic habits. And permission is given to humankind to share this habit in as far and only as far as humans are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and thus en Christo, members of his Body, Sons only in the sense that they are in the One Son. Wayne Meekes (The First Urban Christians) attractively suggested that the Pauline converts actually cried Abba (Gal 4:6) as they emerged dripping from the regenerating, resurrecting, waters of baptism.

Only because we thus share by the theosis of filiation in Christ's Divine Sonship dare we, as the Byzantines happily put it, with parrhesia (standing on our two feet and looking him in the eye) call God Pater.

14 April 2018

Episcopal CVs

I just browsed through the CV of the new Bishop of Lancaster.

I don't know anything at all about him, or his views on "the issues of the day". (By the way: I sha'n't enable comments which criticise him.) But ...

He grew up in that diocese, as his father had; he went to Lancaster Royal Grammar School, a medieval foundation; then to the Provincial Seminary at Ushaw (R.I.P.); spent his lifetime in the diocesan priesthood (except for a spell "in the Missions"); is a Canon of the Cathedral rather than "Monsignor".

I find it quite simply and unambiguously lovely that a diocesan bishop should be a real Man of his Diocese, a son of the place and of people whom he serves, rather than being what the Irish would call a 'Blow In' from some fancy Roman University or an auxiliary Metropolitan bishopric. He is rooted in the soil! In premodern days, both clergy and laity had a much deeper sense than I think most moderns do, of where they came from, who they were. And they took pride in it. (I would not want to be anything other than an Essex Man, a Colchester Boy! All the Essex Man jokes find their Incarnation in me!)

Autochthony must be a good start for his Lordship! God bless him, and the priests, deacons, and laics of his great diocese!!

13 April 2018

To muddy the Waters ... or to uphold the Anglican Patrimony?

                                DODGY DOCTRINE, versus ...

 Monday's great and glorious feast of the Annunciation ... when, as our exquisite Anglican Patrimony puts it, Immensity was cloistered in Mary's dear womb ... had its lustre marred for me some fivish years ago, when we were being cleansed from our supposed Anglican errors by a series of lectures at Allen Hall (a bit like, I suppose, the Denazification processes in Germany after 1945 or the Cultural Revolution under Mao tse Tung.). One of the speakers informed us that we should tear up all the sermons we had ever written and delivered as Anglicans about how the entire Divine work of Incarnation and Atonement had, at one moment in History, hung upon a Jewish Girl giving her free assent to the call of the Angel.

Mary, he carefully explained to us, was not Free.

I think he was the same gentleman whom I have several times mentioned to you before, who told us that the teaching of the Latin Fathers, the Tridentine Breviary, and the Anglican Patrimony that the Lord is equal to the Father as touching his Godhead and less than the Father as touching his manhood, was a heresy, and that we should write to (the now late) Mother Angelica, whose website, so he told us, promoted this heresy, and explain to her that she was a heretic. (I'm pretty sure none of us did that, thank God.)

This sort of nastiness can be difficult to clear out of one's mind. I felt it again as the (English) text of PF's latest 'Exhortation' flickered down (up?) my computer screen. Is it easy to take seriously the teaching of someone who has in a brief pontificate given so much irrefragable evidence of his unreliability? I am pretty sure that a lot of what he has just published about Sanctity was perfectly splendid and would have been for my own much-needed edification. But it is so uncomfortable to read when one feels that one is obliged to check each statement carefully to be sure that there is not some error wrapped up or implied in what one is reading. And indeed, the preoccupations of this pontificate, encapsulated in such characteristic abuse as the Rigidity stuff, do duly make their appearances. No, I shall not print it off and take it with me on retreat. I suggest that you, too, might have better things to spend your time reading ...

                             ... AUTHENTIC DOCTRINE

 ... such as a limpid lecture delivered last Saturday in Rome by Cardinal Brandmueller. Although his Eminence is not, I think, a member of the Ordinariate (indeed, the poor chap may not even have had any 'Anglican Previous' at all, so he would not qualify for admission), he gave a fine exposition of the teaching of Mr Patrimony Himself, aka Blessed John Henry Newman, about 'consulting the Faithful in matters of doctrine'. Newman is, indeed, the antidote to most of the ills of this pontificate.

You can find Brandmueller's paper, in an elegant translation by Diane Montagna, at Lifesitenews.

                                  NEWMAN AND OUR TIMES?

And, while I am talking about Newman and still reeling from the idea floated by the Graf von Schoenborn, about the need, in his view, for an Ecumenical Council to agree the Ordination of Women, I commend to you Dr Ker's fine biography of Newman (I have before me the 1990 paperback reprint), especially the Chapter on Papal Infallibility; and, if your time is terribly short, at least pages 653-659. It contains phrases which any wild firebrands there may be among my readers might deem uncannily up-to-the-moment: the ultrahyperpapalists are "an aggressive insolent faction" ... " the present Pope cannot live long - he has lived too long [Pio Nono was then 78]" ... "we have come to a climax of tyranny ...". He deplores the fact that the Archbishop of Westminster, aka Mr Archdeacon emeritus Manning, has made statements vastly and improperly exaggerating papal authority. At a time when converts were reverting to the Church of England and foreign intellectuals were toying with the "Old Catholic" option, he explains carefully and most lucidly why Catholics should on no account allow themselves to be driven out of the Church. At a time when many bishops were afraid to get their heads above the parapet, he assures his close friend and ally, Bishop David Moriarty of Kerry, that he is one of a "special band of confessors". (Moriarty was one of the Four Bishops who put a stop to hyperultrapapalist excesses by threatening to walk out of the Council and blow the gaffe on the intimidation being perpetrated.)


But most importantly and most gravely, Newman discusses (page 655 in Ker) how one should discern whether a particular Conciliar Decree is in fact valid ... ... ... ... ... or alternatively (yes, you've guessed) not valid. Quantus et qualis Doctor; quam huic nostro tempori aptus! Intercede Beate pro nobis.

Let us pray we never come to having to make such judgements, with all that this could mean for the Unity of the Church Militant. 'Avignon' is already one Great Western Schism too many. And that did not even have a doctrinal basis.

12 April 2018

Ephphatha! Engiken ho Kairos!

Oh dear! Some of you must be getting tired of this; irritated that you're no longer getting your moneysworth from the blog in terms of perpetually fresh stuff. But here, again, is a piece from a couple of months ago. I just happen to feel that The Time Is At Hand.

Soon after Amoris laetitia, Cardinal Farrell hinted heavily that Episcopal Conferences should consider that document and ... even more heavily and helpfully ... hinted exactly what the Holy Spirit (needless to say) required them to come up with. But quite a number of Conferences have still not broken the bonds of taciturnity. The Cardinal's aperient spittle and his potent ephphatha  have not yet been effective. There are now signs that pressures ... if I may mix my metaphors ... are afoot. Has the Secretariate of State been dropping hints?

It is no secret that the English and Welsh bishops have not been able to come to a common mind and, on present showing, appear unlikely to do so. I believe Cardinal Nichols' phrase was "We're not there yet". One of the Diocesans, clearly having in mind the teaching of Benedict XVI about the magisterium of diocesan bishops, had the proactive good sense to issue his own ambiguity-free diocesan guidelines very soon after the emergence of AL. Strangely, he has been given very little credit for being so quick off the mark in responding to a Bergoglian initiative.

It is my personal and completely unevidenced hypothesis that his Eminence's rather flowery letter to PF last year, informing the latter that his election was the work of the Spirit and that the Spirit guides him daily (very Cupichiste!), was an attempt to buy time and to assure PF that, despite the apparent delays of the English bishops, they are all to a man enthusiastic and hyperpapalist supporters of this pontificate.

What next?

What is new is the (albeit risible) suggestion of Cardinal Cupich and others that the dubia which abound in this area have now been all authoritatively resolved by a rather strange and far from clear paragraph or two in Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Punto, or whatever it is that Italians say.

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself the Chairman of your Episcopal Conference in these circumstances?

Pushy as ever, I will reveal to you what I, as a strong Bergoglian, would do in order to breath new wind into the faltering sails of Amoris laetitia.

I would circulate my Venerable Brethren in my Conference with documents, to be discussed at the Eastertide Meeting of the Conference, explaining what in my view the current situation demands of them. Or I would agree with another like-minded and 'senior' member of the Conference for him to do it instead, so that it didn't seem that everything was my doing.

[A chance lecture by a visiting Bergoglian Cardinal to one of my country's newer universities would be a bonus, a real godsend!!!]

At the meeting, if one or two bishops still remained recalcitrant, I would express my regret that my colleagues had not been able to come together around a formula which could secure the unanimous majority encouraged by Apostolos suos. I would then remind them that a document with a non-unanimous but large majority could still be sent to Rome and, if approved there, would have thus acquired full authority. To help them negotiate the hoop, I would introduce a minute suggestion of a hint of an ambiguity into one sentence in the draft (or get one of my friends to propose it), like throwing a bone to a dog, so that they could use that to salve their consciences and save their faces.

If this still failed to inspire the troublesome minority to see sense, I would go for the nuclear option of sending such a resolution to Rome, at the same time making clear to 'Rome' which of my brethren constituted the non-juring minority. Possibly I might also drop some quiet words into the Nuncio's ear about "how difficult it is to work with" X, Y, and/or Z.

But ... dreadful thought ... suppose there were to be a change of pontificate right in the middle of all this pro-Amoris activity ... After all, to adapt a witticism of Dom Gregory Dix, even the most single-minded pontiff eventually has rest from his labours, and it is surprising how often the lance of his successor delivers the Church from the dangers posed by some quite different windmill.

What's that phrase about creeks and paddles ...

11 April 2018

Women Bishops: boredom part (2)

(1) Over the years, as this toxic and tedious subject bores the wotsits off sensible Christians, what you, if you join the battle, are going to need is Logic. Because its proponents incessantly contradict themselves. They will cheerfully tell you that there were no women priests in the early church because of 'societal norms'. Pretty well in the same breath, they will shower you with "new evidence" that there were women priests in the early days of the Church.
(2) What is actually being discussed? It is often two quite separate things. The proponents of Women's Ordination are keen to shower you with evidence that women had strong leadership roles in early Christianity. They most certainly did. It is not news to me. But the point at issue for Catholics turns upon the Catholic Priesthood, in which, according to Catholic doctrine, the priest has power to transsubstantiate bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and to offer them to the Father as a propitiatory Sacrifice. People who will quite candidly admit that they do not believe in any such priesthood at all, for men or women, will persist in rubbing your nose in Prisca and Chloe ... as if those cases prove anything as far as Catholic Priesthood is concerned. 
(3) When the C of E was capitulating to the 'Modern World' in this matter, it started with the Diaconate, moved on to the Presbyterate, and ended up with the Episcopate. During this period, an Orthodox theologian acutely observed that, were the Orthodox Church to consider the question, it would start off with the Episcopate. Exactly; because that order is the fundamental order upon which the other two depend. But if you with strategic good sense start off instead with deacons, you can get the laity used to seeing vested females buzzing around the Sanctuary and having "The Reverend" attached to their names. And such ladies will not be as divisive as women priests because the validity of no Sacrament depends upon the diaconate. Then you can move on to women priests, starting off by placing them carefully in churches where they will be 'pastorally acceptable'. Only when you have successfully completed that phase will you move in for the final kill. You see how the trick is worked. Rather Bergoglian, really, in its 'gradualism'. But it is a fundamentally dishonest trick. Crooks, the lot of them!
(4) It will be suggested that those opposing WO are people who "'have problems" with female sexuality or just with women anyway. I remember actually once being told that I must have a phobia of menstrual blood. Quite a conversation-stopper ... The problem with such accusations is, of course, that it is not terribly easy to disprove them ... I will pause for a moment while you think about that one ...
...  OK? Back to the subject. When Vincent Nichols transferred his "Gay Masses" from Warwick Street to Farm Street and lent the former Church to the Ordinariate, one of our nastier public homosexuals made a crack to the effect that the presence of all those homosexual Ordinariate clergy on the edge of Soho would mean that the "gay" bars and clubs of Soho would still have lots and lots of custom. But the fact is that, quite early, "gay" Anglican clergy cottoned on to the idea that if 'Development' could be used to justify ordaining women, it could also be neatly deployed to permit homosexual couplings. (Hence, to the surprise of many, but not of me, such clergy, despite being ritually over-the-top, tended to avoid the Ordinariate like the plague.)

In other words, if you choose to fight this battle within the Catholic Church, you will need to be ready to have some immensely vile personal attacks made upon you. Our opponents, generally speaking, possess neither decency nor shame. Feminists of either sex are rarely Gentlemen! You will need a very thick skin.

There. No more on that. I just thought you might like some practical information from our Anglican experience. And I won't enable comments, so there will be no risk of getting drawn into any discussions on the actual subject itself.

10 April 2018

The Next Conclave and the Papal Oath

Four months ago, I printed the following piece. Last Saturday, at the Rome Conference, Bishop Schneider read a paper urging the restoration of the Papal Oath

 Nothing would better express the Traditional, Biblical, Patristic, notion of the Petrine Office, as happily defined at Vatican I, than the following reform in what is done at the inauguration of a pontificate.

The prelate who emerges elected from the next Conclave should instantly sweep away all the unnecessary and obsessive ritual flummeries dreamed up, I think, by Pietro Marini and first used at the Inauguration of Benedict XVI.

They should be replaced by the taking of a solemn Oath of Fidelity done in public. Analogies and formulae existed for this in previous ages, which might be used to supply textual materials.
     For people who like ritual stuff, the Oath could be taken on the oldest Bible in the Vatican Libraries.
     For people who like even more ritual stuff, or are fixated on the use of vernaculars, each paragraph, before the pope recites it in Latin, could be chanted by, say, a Jewish Cantor in Hebrew and a Byzantine Subdeacon in Greek and read by laypeople in any number of vernaculars.
     For strange people who want even more ritual than that, the document could then be solemnly attested by Cardinal Notaries and sealed with lead.
     For those whose affection for ritual amounts to a lunatic obsession, the document could, finally, be solemnly processed through the congregation, held aloft by the Cardinal Protodeacon in the popemobile, while the crowd hysterically shouted VIVAT IUSIURANDUM! Meanwhile, the pontiff would remain kneeling in quiet and humble prayer before the Altar. The popemobile could then be taken away, either for immediate ignominious destruction, or for sale at Sotheby's in New Bond Street, the money (including, of course, the auctioneer's commission) being given to the Poor and the Ordinariates.

Essentially, the new Pontiff should swear, in words drawn from Pastor aeternus of Vatican I, to hand down uncorrupted the Tradition which is from the Lord through His Apostles, the Deposit of Faith. He should swear to resist and to put down all novitates, tam in Fide quam in moribus.

He should acknowledge that, while he will indeed be the Supreme Legislator with full power to change the (human) Law of the Church, he will himself obey the Law and refrain from interfering with legal processes, particularly those relating to the trial, conviction, and punishment of clerical sexual predators who enjoy powerful curial protectors.

And a rather useful practical undertaking might be: "As We uncover evil practices and corrupt deeds and false teachings among Our Cardinals and their clientelae, We shall not allow Ourself to be deterred from dealing with them strictly and according to Justice, by any consideration of who supported or who resisted Our Own election."

To preserve the poor silly Media from their inveterate temptation to assume that a pope has or ought to have a "programme", the Oath should not be followed by a homily.

If the Tourist Industry desired the service to be padded out to a yet greater length and dignified with rather more 'heritage', this could be done by a reaffirmation and confirmation (with great solemnity) of the anathemas pronounced by the Sixth Ecumenical Council against Pope Honorius I.

Women Bishops. Here we go again. (1)

The Graf is reported as having said, on Easter Sunday:

"The question of ordination [of women] is a question which clearly can only be clarified by a council. That cannot be decided upon by a pope alone. That is a question too big [than] that it could be decided from the desk of a pope."

Ordinatio sacerdotalis of Pope S John Paul II made clear that the ordination of women to priestly ministries was not something which the Church is able (habet facultatem) to do. He did not discuss whether the Church ought to do it. He made clear that ... like, say, making the Sun revolve around the Moon ... the Church can't do it. However Nice that would be. He made clear also that this is not a matter of Church discipline but of doctrinal principle.

The Graf realises that there is only one way of getting round this. It is by resurrecting an error which Benedict XVI spent decades refuting: "After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything ... especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council".

In fact, as pope Benedict also pointed out, there is another way in which the matter of women's ordination could be even more definitively resolved: by means of an ex cathedra pronouncement of a Roman Pontiff; it rather sounded as if he was looking forward to such a further clarification. Benedict, of course, foresaw an infallible papal statement on the impossibility of such ordination. It sounds as if the Graf, flashing that familiar sickly smile across his face, envisaged a more positive response from the council which he said must inevitably take place.

It is as well to be clear about one thing: according to Vatican I, the infallibility, in limited circumstances, of the Roman Pontiff is just one mode of the exercise of the infallibility of the Church. Any idea that an infallible papal definition could then be reversed or modified by an infallible definition of pope and council combined (or, indeed, vice versa), is contrary to defined dogma.

Long time readers will know that I never discuss the ordination of women. That is because pretty well my entire priestly ministry in the Church of England was overshadowed by the question, and it bores me to tears and a good million miles beyond that. But I am going to offer one more piece, not on the subject itself theologically considered, but on practical things to be aware of if, as seems likely, the Catholic Church is determined to waste long decades tearing itself apart just as the Church of England did with regard to this question. Then I shall go quiet upon this matter again for, say, another half a century.


9 April 2018

Archbishop Scicluna and Meghan Markle

It seems quite a time now since Mgr Scicluna was commissioned to look into the Barros business. I read somewhere that he handed his report in a month or more ago.

There wasn't, surely, a great deal for him to do. He simply had to interrogate Barros, the complainants, those involved in the transmission of 'the Letter', and, of course, PF. That would have enabled him to survey at least the first three questions: Was the 'Five Page Letter' indeed conveyed to Cardinal O'Malley? Did he indeed convey it to PF? Is it indeed in the archives?

So why has no report been made public? Could it be that experts have been called in to do tests on PF's memory? That, I concede, could cause delays. You know what expensive doctors are like when it comes to amassing items on their bills. There are always yet more tests they can conduct ... and still some more ... the Manchester psychometrics team may be involved ...

Did the Man from Malta minutely examine PF's emails, Twitters, phone-calls, etc.? Shall we eventually have Watergate-style tapes played to us with the fouler of the expletives deleted? Ah ... the Millhouse years ... he was by far my favourite  favorite American president ...

In our delightfully corrupt British politics, 'spin-doctors', as they used to be called, are skilled at 'placing' bad news. They rely on lengthy delays ('kicking it into the long grass') so that people half-forget what the whole thing was all about anyway; publishing reports on the eve of a parliamentary dissolution or the day of the birth of a Royal Baby ...

Heureka! That's it! The Scicluna Report will be published on the morning the whole Universe is rejoicing at the birth of Meghan Markle's first Baby and Osservatore Romano has a special five-page Supplement!

Or when Mr Putin pays his State Visit!!

Or when we win back the Ashes!!!

Or when Justin Welby resigns because of his mishandling of the Bishop Bell affair!!!!

Or when dear Mr Scalfari publishes his next 'interview' [probably on Christmas Eve] in which he will claim that PF told him he no longer  believes in God; and the Press Office is feverishly explaining that these may not have been precisely the exact words PF used!!!!! 

I can't find 'frabjous' in Dr Johnson's Dictionary. But you can certainly start stacking up the Beamish!

8 April 2018

God's Daughters

When ever does the learned and admirable Dr Peter Kwasniewski not write good theology, good liturgy, and good sense? I commend his recent characteristically brilliant piece at Onepeterfive to those who might otherwise  ... 'leave it for later' ... because it looks a bit technical. It is in fact extremely important and perfectly accessible even to those who think of themselves as non-academic. I would add just one point.

Dr K cites paragraph 9 of the CDF document Placuit Deo and criticises it for talking about "Sons and Daughters of God" when the Biblical logic, basically Pauline, of the passage requires the phrase "Sons of God". We are, indeed, Sons of God only because we share in the One Sonship of the One Son. Strictly speaking, the Father has only the one Son, whom the Johannine writings and the 'Nicene' Creed very pointedly call Monogenes, Unigenitus. So, strictly speaking, none of us is simpliciter God's Son; but all the Baptised, through the filiation, huiothesia ('Son-ification') of Baptism, are made members of Him and thus sharers of his unique Sonship. (Hence the common shorthand phrase 'sons of God'.)

So Archbishop Ladaria's CDF has got things wrong. Big black mark.

Or has it?

A trawl through the various languages in which the Vatican has so far published Placuit Deo reveals that, in the Romance languages, the phrase is given as "Sons of God". Only in the English and the German does "Sons and Daughters of God", a corruption of Biblical teaching and logic, make its appearance. (I still cannot find a Latin 'official version': if there is one, perhaps somebody could point me to it. Similarly, if anyone has evidence for which language this document was drafted in ... I suspect, Italian ...)

So we have here a very jolly example of the importance of Latin in expressing accurately and decisively and unitively the Church's teaching (see S John XXIII Veterum sapientia especially paragraphs 5-7 & 11). Once this essential safeguard slips away, we are well down the slippery slope to a fissiparous ex-Catholic religion in which every culture gallops along its own dodgy path and we are not really 'Catholics', members of a Universal Church, any more. That, of course, is precisely what the schismatically-minded German bishops crave. (Admiration is due to some brave Bavarian bishops who have recently broken ranks with the heterodox majority in the German Conference.) Bearing in mind Archbishop Ladaria's own high reputation, we should probably assume that this office-glitch results from the CDF being undermanned. I wonder why that might be.

The fact that the English-language version of Placuit is defective is particularly worrying. English is a widely employed global language, so much so that translators providing for Catholics who use other than mainstream European  languages very often do their translations from the English. This dangerous error is, therefore, likely to be disseminated via the English version. When you get your Swahili or Urdu or Mandarin version, I bet you will find  ...

Dr K points out that the (anti-biblical, anti-Pauline, anti-Catholic) mistranslation of 'sons' as 'sons and daughters' is also found in at least three places in our current English translation of the Pauline Missale Romanum. I wonder ... perhaps Dr K knows ... or perhaps somebody else does who can inform us under a pseudonym ... whether this mistake does represent the translation as put together by ICEL, or whether it resulted from the unfortunate and rather ragged fiddling around to which the ICEL draft was subjected under the auspices of Vox clara.

Eyebrow-raising, doncha think, that the German and English translations should alone share this nasty and presumably intentional mistake. It reminds me that when the English bishops, a couple of years ago, so thoroughly disgracefully attacked Pope Benedict's new Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, they did so (they more or less admitted) at the urging of the almighty German bishops. Some pretty shifty business afoot somewhere here. Or do I mean shady? Shabby, perhaps?

Heil Marx, indeed. Jawohl, mein Fuehrer! It's enough to make a simple man (and his daughter) wonder who won the war.

7 April 2018

Yesterday, the great Feast of the Holy Apostles of Rome, I strolled down to Sandford lock. I took with me my battered "summer picnic" volume of the Pars Aestiva; and, since Blessed John Henry Newman, Patron of our Ordinariate, must often have walked there from nearby Littlemore, I took also his Apologia pro Vita sua.

I love the Mattins readings for the Second Nocturn, from S Leo I's First mighty Sermon In natali Apostolorum Petri et Pauli. It gets to the heart of the Romanita of the Western Church, and especially of the English Church; S Leo I, the finest Latin stylist since Cicero, explains to the plebs Romana (now the plebs sancta Dei) how all that is meant by being Roman has been transformed ... yet, in transformation, preserved and enhanced ... by the Gospel. "For although, glorified by many victories, you have advanced the jus of your imperium by land and by sea, yet, what the labour of war subdued to you, is less than what the Pax Christiana subjected to you". The culture of classical Roman antiquity was baptised by S Leo; my view is that he is the one who finally recast the Roman Eucharistic Prayer in a Latinity moulded by the the prayer-style of the old, pre-Christian, prayer-style of early Rome. Under S Leo, being a Christian finally ceased to be adherence to a foreign and dodgy sect largely followed by Greekling immigrants, and became the new majestic embodiment of all that it meant to be Roman in culture and law and liturgy. And, with S Augustine, that Romanita was parachuted into Kent and became the marker too of the Anglo-Saxon Church; the Church of Augustine and Justus and Mellitus; of Wilfrid and Bede and Alcuin. The Kentish king who had considered it beneath his dignity to adopt his wife's Merovingian Christianity rejoiced in the opportunity to receive Christianity from its august and Roman fount. Therein lies the exquisite beauty of "the Anglo-Saxon Church", a Roman island beyond the Alps.

And that same Mr Newman expressed the essence of the Petrine Ministry, of the munus of the Successor of Peter, in an epigrammatic passage: "It is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift". It is precisely along these lines that Cardinal Ratzinger in a passage of lapidary elegance criticised the bloated and corrupt hyperpapalism of the post-Vatican II period, with its disordered, disordering belief that a pope, especially if backed by a Council, could monkey around at will with Tradition. It is, Ratzinger asserted, the Pope's job to be the Guardian of the Tradition and the preserver of its integrity and authenticity. This is where the essence of our Holy Father's Ministry lies ... not (as some very foolish and dreadfully noisy people mistakenly think) in being a charismatic innovator, the herald of a God of Surprises.

Heaven forbid that any Pope should ever sink so low, should be so deaf to his true ecclesial vocation.

6 April 2018

The Pope's Necessary Obedience to the Church

In the spirit of this weekend's Conference in Rome in which two distinguished speakers are listed as due to speak on the limits of Papal authority, I here reprint, with its original thread, a piece from last year. I'll add two other relevant pieces tomorrow, including one which brings in the testimony of Blessed John Henry Newman.

Is the pope above the Church? Depends what you mean. There is, of course, no doubt that the Roman Pontiff is the supreme law-giver of the whole state of Christ's Church Militant here in earth. But he is a member of, therefore within, the Church. He is therefore also a subject of the Church. (This does indeed mean that he qua Jorge Bergoglio is subject to the Church and therefore to the Pope qua Supreme lawgiver.) He is not the one person upon earth who is solutus ab omni lege.

Regular readers will recall my repetitious quotation from the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: " ... the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ... The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."

Although not thus footnoted by its author, this phraseology is clearly based upon a statement by the German bishops after Bismarck had attacked the Definition of Papal Infallibility agreed at Vatican I. Bismarck had alleged that it made the pope "an absolute monarch". The German bishops replied that Papal Infallibility, being an instance of the Infallibility of the Church, is bound to the doctrine contained in Holy Scripture and in Tradition and definitions already promulgated by the Church's Magisterium. The pope, they explained, is bound (obstrictus) to those things which Christ set in place in His Church. He cannot change the constitution given by the Church's Divine Founder, and the constitution of the Church is founded in all essential things in the divine arrangement (ordinatione) and is free (immunis) from every arbitrary human arrangement.  

Blessed Pius IX praised, in fulsome language, this explanation of the German bishops.

The question of the limitations upon the papal office came up again at Vatican II. In Lumen Gentium paragraph 22 (at the end), Blessed Paul VI, laudably anxious that papal authority should not be given away on his watch, wished to add the words uni Domino devinctus. In the old Abbott translation, this would have made part of the last sentence read "provided that the pope himself, bound fast to the Lord alone [or bound fast to one Master], calls them to collegiate action." But the Council's Theological Commission refused the pope's request on the grounds that it represented an excessive simplification (nimis simplificata); "the Roman Pontiff is bound to observe Revelation itself, the fundamental structure of the Church, the Sacraments, the definitions of previous Councils, etc. [sic]. All of these cannot be counted".

Indeed he is. Indeed, they can't.

Every pope is as tightly bound in obedience to the Magisterium as you are. He is no more allowed to set aside a syllable of it than I am.

5 April 2018

Giving a lead?

Somewhere in the Meejah yesterday I heard it suggested that, despite the inspiring lead given by Martin Luther King, an American National Hero, America had still not cleansed itself entirely from the sin of Racism.

America, like my own country, has still not entirely cleansed itself from the sin of Adultery. But I am uncertain how clear a lead the Great Man gave in this area of Ethics.

Mueller on whether Laudato si is Magisterial

"... nobody is obliged to accept uncritically everything that [the pope is] saying, for example, about political or scientific questions. That's his personal opinion, but nothing to do with our Catholic Faith."

4 April 2018

The Threefold Interface between Rigidity, Hypocrisy, and Absurdity

"About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus - and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero and saw a young fellow - he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest - before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno, he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and wordly one. And that priest - he is wise that monsignor, very wise ... etc.."

The Speaker condemns someone he has never met, and does so on the say-so of a third party. One is reminded of the sacking of some workers in the CDF who were reportedly condemned instantly, without any consultation with the Prefect of that dicastery, on a report that those concerned had been heard speaking critically about the leniency accorded to clergy convicted of child abuse. The Speaker had no compunction about swallowing, hook, line and sinker, without any due process, those delated to him, as long as the delation fitted neatly into his own prejudices. This impatience with due process is the characteristic of the tyrant in every age. In his own great wisdom, the Mighty Man is competent to discern the guilt of those delated to him without the tedium of making enquiries about such vulgar details as evidence.

Indeed, recent events in the 'Barros' case reveal that the Speaker did not look at or cannot now remember looking at an eight-page letter containing details of sexual abuse and handed to him by a Cardinal.

The Speaker appears to have been blithely unaware, when talking to his curial chum, of the risk that, given his own position, there will be sycophants around, anxious to secure or enhance their own positions by telling him the sort of stories he likes hearing. And, if you do tell him the sort of tales he wants to hear, then, clearly, you are normal, good, wise ... er ... "very wise".

The Speaker apparently has ample leisure to listen to delatores who gossip about their shopping and pander to his prejudices, as well as to chatter incessantly to scalfaris, although his door is shut to curial cardinals.

The delator was buying shirts. Presumably, even if he never wears a cassock, he does wear trousers to the South of his shirts. Personally, I am the shabbiest priest in England, but, buying shirts and trousers, I either look them over in the mirror in the shop or as soon as I get home, so that if there is something amiss, I can take them back for a refund. Does the delator never do that? When the Speaker himself was being fitted up with white cassocks in the Room of Tears next to the Sixtine Chapel, is he absolutely sure that he resisted Mr Gammarelli's invitation to consider himself in the mirror?

Do they sell real silver chains on their cloaks at Euroclero? Perhaps some reader resident in Rome could check that. Before I was ordained to the Diaconate in 1967, I purchased a cloak from the clerical tailor who came from Wolverhampton to Staggers; the clasp was, I concede, of pleasantly silvery appearance but is of undoubtedly base metal. I may, conceivably, have contemplated myself in a mirror: I can't now remember. In the last 50 years I have worn that cloak when stumbling in front of coffins across uneven hillside cemeteries in the pouring rain; when taking the Blessed Sacrament to elderly villagers through winter weather; when commemorating the departed of two World Wars at village War Memorials on cold Sundays in November. Why the h**l should I feel guilty? I do not know that I have ever noticed photographs of the Speaker himself standing unprotected in pouring rain, humble though he is. And, had he ever done so, there would undoubtedly have been photographers there to record and to give worldwide publicity to his humility.

Indeed, why does the Speaker go around all the time in a white cassock? His face is well known; he does not, like an ordinary priest or even bishop, need a 'uniform' to identify himself to people. Indeed, a white cassock must, because white shows the dirt, need dry-cleaning a lot more often that cassocks in most other colours ... to the detriment of vital Environmental resources. Bishops, less showy men, nowadays often wear black, much the same as their clergy. The cassocks, incidentally, visible in photographs of the Speaker show no obvious signs of wear and of mending. I am in only the second cassock of my clerical career (I was deaconed in 1967): I wonder if the Speaker could say as much.

But ... why does he need to wear a cassock at all? What is wrong with doing what the Speaker has recommended to other clergy: wearing shorts and a tea-shirt so that the Youff can admire his tatoos?

Could it just possibly, just conceivably, be something to do with status and with other rigid wordly considerations?

3 April 2018

Headlam and the Wendy House (2) UPDATE

Obliged to keep an appointment with 'Nazi' Headlam, Dix turned up punctually. He was not surprised that the Bishop was not yet at leisure to receive him. Anglican bishops (I'm sure Catholic bishops are quite different) generally keep you waiting. This is a very old and effective Management trick to make the point that your time is of no value whatsoever, while the Bishop is extremely grand and important.  Into the room in which Dom Gregory had been parked there wandered a small and very sad girl, sobbing inconsolably. After a while, Dix asked her who she was. She broke off to tell him that she was the bishop's granddaughter, and then returned to her grief. After another interval, Dix enquired why she was crying. "It's my Wendy House", he was informed. (Wendy Houses are toy houses for children to play in, scaled down to less than adult proportions.) With bachelor reticence, Dix hesitated to invade with gross masculine insensitivity these maidenly mysteries ... until the renewed sobs drove him in exasperation to seek more precise information. "Well", said the tiny, "We were playing together in the nursery and I persuaded grandpapa to crawl into my Wendy House. It wasn't really big enough for him, but in the end I got him wedged inside. Then I shut ... ". Here the distraught female resorted again to heart-rending sobs. Dix pressed upon her the cleaner of his two monastic handkerchiefs, and tactfully asked her to develop her narrative. "Well, I shut the door and then I locked it and then I went for a ride on my pony and there was nobody else in the nursery wing of the Palace so nobody heard him shouting for three hours and then when they got him out he was stiff and hoarse and all he could say was Now I've got to go and see that bloody monk ... "

Recounting this story afterwards to an admiring circle of friends, Dix - who, one is compelled to confess, did rather like to 'play' his audiences - paused to stuff some more tobacco into his pipe. Right on cue, one of his hearers pressed him: "So what, Father, did you do?".

"I patted her on the head and told her what a good girl she was and gave her half a crown."

UPDATE An eagle-eyed correspondent tells me that Headlam had no offspring, and suggests that the young woman was a great-niece.

Simon Bailey's 1995 biography of Dix perpetuates the same mistake that I did.

2 April 2018

Headlam and the Wendy House (1)

I wasn't around during the Thirties, but the anecdotally-driven impression I get is that European culture was divided. There were those who believed in stark, virile, Nordic culture, combined with 'race' and 'blood' imperatives. This involved Improving the Race by Eugenic methods which included sterilisation, abortion, and 'euthanasia', and the supersession or even elimination of lesser races. And there were those who strongly opposed these deadly superstitions. Nazism, of course, grabbed these ideas and ran with them, but they had been around in Northern Europe and North America long before the advent of Nazism. With varying levels of extremism, such ideas found within the churches a degree of support. German Protestantism split; those who would not run with the Zeitgeist formed a 'Confessing' Church which repudiated the mainstream and more conformist parts of German Protestantism.

Englishmen who were inclined to Satire, had enormous scope. I have forgotten who it was who observed that Aryans were as tall as Goebels, as slim as Goering, as blond as Hitler. Mgr R A Knox saw the ridiculous side of the Nordic, Teutonic, fashion; so did G K Chesterton ... and Dom Gregory Dix lost the friendship of 'Nipper' Williams by mocking it throughout the 1930s in the Anglican Benedictine journal Laudate.

One of Dix's least favourite bishops was Headlam of Gloucester. Headlam was a disdainful upper-class Wykehamist; he saw things from an 'Establishment', 'Management' standpoint. So he profoundly disliked the 'Confessing' Church for their anti-government approach. He had made himself interested in 'Church Unity'; so he disapproved of the split in German Protestantism caused (as he saw it) by the opponents of Hitlerism. As late as 1938, he was criticising those who insisted upon an incompatibility between Christianity and National Socialism. Dix, with his contempt for Nordophilia, his suspicion of 'ecumenical' initiatives which amounted to pan-Protestantism, and his radical, magnificent antipathy to grand people who took themselves seriously, couldn't have been more different from Headlam.

No, not at all hilarious so far. I'll get on to the Wendy House soon. I thought you would like to have some background.

1 April 2018

Calendars ... Days of the Duty to have a Double Laugh REFRAMED

(1) April Fools' Day and the Gregorian Pascha don't often coincide so as to demand of us the duty of a duplex risus. Last time: 1956. The next time is rather sooner: 2029.

About the Risus Paschalis, see Ratzinger, Images of Hope.

Qui crucifixus erat Deus, ecce per omnia regnat! Salve festa Dies!! (S Venantius Fortunatus, echoing Publius Ovidius Naso.)

(2) Why did I like Vincent Nichols' Times piece on Holy Saturday? Because we are in an age when people pussyfoot around with "Some Christians believe" and "According to legend" and so on, thus allowing the 'Enlightenment' to put a great gulf between us and a simple assertion of the Tradition. But, happily, Nichols just told it straight and, I thought, put things rather well.

As for his piece on the BBC on Friday, about Scalfarigate, I felt distinctly sorry for him. All over Christendom, priests and bishops and not least cardinals have long been preparing for their great duty of sanctifying God's people through the Triduum ... and then you get dragged into Broadcasting House on Good Friday morning to be interrogated by that condescending bore John Humphrys because PF, in his enormous but enormously inscrutable wisdom, has yet again given some crook called scalfari the opportunity to attribute to PF some words which immediately throw the Media into a ferment and are considered to require official denial.


Last Friday, it chanced that I was lunching with a couple of friends in the Gay Hussar, at the top end of Greek Street, when I felt that strange sensation of recognising a member of the party at the next table. As I was finishing the Hot Cherry Soup, the penny dropped. It was Jacob Rees Mogg, MP. He was tucking heartily into the Smoked Swan's Breast on Scholet, which is always a safe bet. Accidentally, our glances met; and in a couple of moments, our two groups were chatting amicably. You know how such things happen. Jacob explained that one reason for his presence was to give the restaurant, as custom prescribes, a copy of a book he had just published. I should explain to transpontine readers that in the Gay Hussar, traditionally the eatery of choice for those of a particular political tendency, one contributes a copy of one's own publications to the already large collection of the literary endeavours of other members of The Party over the decades.

Conversation settled into Jacob's memories of his old School. Seeing that we were all clerics deservedly enjoying a leisurely day off, he mentioned Fr Alexander Sherbrooke, Rector of the Catholic Parish Church round the corner. "Just within these four walls" he said, "let me tell you something I've heard about when Fr Alexander and Archbishop Nichols were at School together ... ".

"Hang on" said an Ordinariate priest sitting to my left, "I didn't know Nichols was at Eton". Jacob glanced quickly round to check that no stranger was eavesdropping. "No," he said. "They managed to keep it out of his Wikipedia entry. Wrong image. But he was, and he was in the same House as Fr Alexander. More than that, he was Fr Alexander's fag. Rather a cheeky fag, in fact."

I mused silently on how elegantly, just as an Etonian would, the Archbishop had handled the Scalfarigate question on the Beeb that morning, and the waiter refilled our glasses (I suspect he hoped we might soon be gone, because it was past 3 o'clock). When he had left our tables, Jacob continued "I don't think he's ever really forgiven him." "Forgiven him? What on earth for?" we all cried. "Well", said Jacob, "I think the reason is ... well ... to be blunt ... I think Fr Alexander caned Vincent quite a lot, especially whenever he got lippy ... that's why the Cardinal's so cautious nowadays in everything he says ..."

Ah, School days, happy days, the happiest of our lives! Yes? Quanta et qualia fuerunt illa Sabbata ...

Did you know that the good old Anglo-Catholic Hymn I'll sing a song to Mary, the Mother of my God ... goes beautifully to the tune of the Eton Boating Song? I got that idea from the late Fr Melrose of S Giles, Reading. I bet it rejoices the heart of Eton's devout and Royal Founder St Henry VIII.

Num risistis? Eheu!

A very holy and happy Easter to all readers except Mr Scalfari. Hi there, Tucho!