30 May 2018

Michael Curry again

The Primus of the American Episcopal Church gave an interview on the BBC Sunday programme. Since I have been described in a recent book (Douthat) as 'waspish', I will buzz some more. I warn the temperamentally sensitive that my views on this cleric have not ... er ... mellowed. Per contra ...

Curry's principal tool as an interviewee was what, in this country, is thought of as a soppy, softly quiet, parsonical voice, together with passages of sentimentality. (He is also what I categorise as a "Y'knower".) Three times he was asked about 'reparations'; I presume this is a live issue in some American circles, because, each time, he declined to answer the question, and talked instead about 'reconciliation'.

Invited to explain the communion-breaking actions of the ecclesial phenomenon he leads, he spoke about 'differences' which, he said, should be 'navigated' by 'love'. The two examples he gave were 'homosexuality' and 'various medical issues'. My suspicion (I may accept correction from those with refined antennae more in tune with American culture) is that 'Various Medical Issues' means, or at least includes, Abortion. (Surely, since the context here is the break-up of the world-wide Anglican Communion, he is not just discussing Obamacare!) He quoted the famous aphorism which S Augustine did not invent about in dubiis libertas.

Vespae iterum bombum sonans, I wonder whether this voluble gentleman applies his sweetly tolerant principles to the issue of Civil Rights. In view of the fact that Holy Scripture in no way condemns (indeed, explicitly tolerates) the practice of Slavery, I assume that this is another of Curry's dubia about which Christians can with a smile and a wink agree to differ. Against the background of a system in a number of American states where those (often negroes and in legally worrying circumstances) convicted of murder are painfully killed by lethal injection, I wonder if he includes this as among the 'various medical issues' on which Christians can amicably differ with cheerful goodwill. There are countries in the world where coercive interrogation crosses the line into torture, medically supervised. (Then there is the not-so-little matter of the imaginative use of Zyklon B for another sickening 'medical issue'.) And, taking up his reference to 'homosexuality', it would be amusing to know whether he also regards consensual paedophilia as a dubium upon which Christians are to be expected to hold varying opinions. And if not, why not.

When Adolf Hitler heard that Blessed Clement von Galen had outed and denounced his policy of exterminating the unfit, he is reported to have snarled "When I have won this war, I shall settle my account with von Galen". Michael Curry, on the other hand, speaks with gentle fragrance about "Love and Reconciliation".  Yet in each case it looks to me as if the subject is, or at least plausibly includes, the elimination of lives deemed too inconvenient to be allowed to survive. How can such very different styles of language refer to such similar objects? I am very clever and I think I know how to explain this apparent contradiction. You see ...

But there is no need for me to take up your time or my own with this. George Orwell has done the job already.

29 May 2018


I am uneasy about the reports circulating about one of the cardinals elect. The text I have seen contains passages which I find it hard to understand.

More generally, it is important not to wish for ill reports to be true. We must pray that they be not true.

This has particular force when it so immediately concerns the Roman Pontiff.

He deserves our trust until, unless, it is clear beyond all doubt that something is amiss.

And we have a duty to pray for him, both when he is in the right and when he is in the wrong.

Among causes for gladness, the promotion of Archbishop Ladaria is prominent. Partly because he continues to show himself to be orthodox; also because, had he been omitted from the list of new cardinals, this would have indicated a sidelining of his dicastery the CDF, "La Suprema", within the Vatican structures. And that would be bad for orthodoxy.

Blogger Gibberish

"Blogger no longer supports OpenID. Existing OpenID comments and your OpenID settings may have changed".

Does anybody happen to know what this twaddle means?

The English Martyrs and a local EF Calendar (2)

It seems to me that the later, 1987, Ordinary Form Arundel and Brighton Calendar is a great deal more welcoming to our  English Reformation Martyrs than the earlier, rather stingy, Extraordinary Form Calendar.

In using the Extraordinary Form in our present context, what is one to do? Need one simply stick to the stingy 1949 Calendar authorised for Souhwark? I think not. The principles of law embodied in Canon 19 seem to me to suggest the question: "If the SCR had still be supervising EF diocesan Calendars in 1987, what would it have done?"

It is surely reasonable ad interim to utilise cautiously the 1987 Novus Ordo diocesan supplement, not as being an authoritative intervention in the Old Calendar, which it is not, but as being a strong indication of what the SCR would have authorised had it addressed the question of dealing with (a) a brand new diocese, and (b) a new batch of beati. Of course, dates might need to be adjusted if they are already occupied on the older Calendar: again, this is simply in accordance with long-standing precedent.

The Group commemoration of "The Blessed Martyrs of Sussex" is a completely reasonable disposition, based upon the much older "The Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales". The point is that Beati are, historically, supposed to enjoy a much more limited cultus than that of Sancti. So it is reasonable to group them together rather than assigning to each of them a separate feast day throughout an entire diocese.

But there is every reason why each of them should have an individual observance in places with which they are closely connected, if the EF rubrics can admit them on that day.

To be continued after a few days.

28 May 2018

The English Martyrs and a local EF Calendar (1)

I decided to see what treatment the English Martys have received from English local, diocesan, Calendars. I selected Sussex for no better reason than that I had the data by me.

(1) Leo XIII beatified two groups of Martys equipollently [on the grounds that their pictures in the Venerable English College indicated a de facto cultus] in 1886 and 1895.
(2) Pius XI beatified another group, after formal process, in 1929.
(3) Pius XI canonised two of those previously beatified, SS John and Thomas, in 1935.
(4) Paul VI canonised another 40 in 1970.
(5) John Paul II  beatified another 85 in 1987.

In 1949, Sussex was part of the diocese of Southwark. Its Calendar included only
May 4: the Blessed English Martyrs (1 and 2); and
July 9: SS John and Thomas (1 and 3).

By 1987, Sussex had become, with Surrey, an independant diocese, Arundel and Brighton. That year, a (Novus ordo) diocesan Calendar was authorised which included
Feb 21 S Robert Southwell (2 and 4)
May 12: The [blessed] Carthusian [probably included because of the Parkminster Charterhouse in Sussex.] (1)
May 28: Blessed Margaret Pole. (1)
June 23: S Thomas Garnet. (2 and 4)
October 3: The Blessed Martyrs of Sussex. (See below)
October 19: S Philip Howard. (2 and 4)

Of the 10 'Blessed Martyrs of Sussex' ...
two were (1);
five were (2);
three were (5). 

Tomorrow I hope to draw liturgical conclusions from these data.

26 May 2018

Missing Faces: the Final Solution

For some fifteen years we took our summer holidays in Ireland; and, every year I wondered what it was that seemed missing on the streets of England after we got back home.

Then the penny dropped in my mind. In Knightstown, on Valentia Island in County Kerry, there was a new and happy residence for people with Down's Syndrome. We knew some of them; we greeted them and as cheerfully were greeted by them each year when we arrived there. They were an accepted part of the community.

Those faces were and are missing on the streets of England. They have been missing here for decades. Because, you know, such faces have no place in a modern state.

Just as, after Hitler's murderous deportations of millions of Jews to the death camps, there were faces missing from the streets of German cities, towns, and villages.

Leo Varadkar is receiving exstatic plaudits. Will anybody deny that he deserves them, as he sets in motion the Final Solution of the Down's Problem?

23 May 2018

Referendum UPDATE

UPDATE I beg readers who are surfing through sites they commonly look at every morning, to break off and, instead, spend that time invoking the the Holy Ghost on behalf of the Irish electorate.

I think, Thursday morning and Friday morning, I will say Mass for the people of Ireland.

I know that many people are hoping that all clergy will do something like this.

And that laity will say the Holy Rosary and/or receive Holy Communion, for the same intention.

The skill with which the Evil One has set about destroying Ireland is ... awesome.

22 May 2018

The Royal Wedding ...

... just carries on and on in the Meeja.

I can only say that I find aspects of it puzzling and alienating.

Some things I just don't even begin to understand: such as why Ms M keeps describing herself daily as a Feminist while apparently happy to be called a Duchess simply because she has married a Duke.

Alienating? The host of  'celebrities' invited to the party alienates me. I suppose in a different age the 'invitees' might have been from other Royal Families, from the Bitish Aristocracy, and from people in our public or political life. Like most ordinary Englishmen, I could discover members of aristocratic families among relations by marriage, or Oxford acquaintances, or former pupils. Foreign Royalty? I met on comfortable terms the late King of Romania; and a Duke of the House of Bourbon. I have mingled socially and bibulously with Members of Parliament. Being quite a small nation, we are comfortably integrated and surprisingly egalitarian.

But all these International Celebrities ... I think they are known technically as "A-list" ... Sir Elton John ... Clooneys ... Serena Williams ... Ophra Winfrey ... Batman, probably ... etc. etc. ... there is not a snowball's chance in Infernis that I have or ever could run into any of them, such is their inaccessible greatness. They are of a mighty altitudo far, far above my humiliated reach. I imagine they are the sort of people whose doings are related in the glossy Celebrity magazines one sees adolescent girls devouring in omnibuses. Looking at the TV clips of those confident lordlings striding into Windsor Castle, I knew how the French must have felt when Herr Hitler visited Paris in 1940 and was photographed in front of the Eiffel Tower.

                     *               *               *               *               *               *

Incidentally, according to the Times, the music played included Greensleeves ... and the wedding took place on the anniversary of the day Anne Boleyn lost her head. And there was a Henry with Welsh connections involved in all that, too ... perhaps I should take more interest in the blacker implications of last Saturday's events ...

What a cheap fool that American 'bishop' is ... it would be fun to see him taking part in a 'historical  reenactment' in the road outside the front door of the Master of Balliol.

Conveniently, the spot is already marked.

21 May 2018

Drunk on MUST?

There are elites within elites within elites within elites. If you say the Divine Office ... in Latin ... according to the Old Rite ... but using the text of the hymns as they were before Urban VIII debauched those texts in the 1630s ... then:

You will know that the Office Hymn at Mattins last week was Iam Christus astra ascenderat. In the post-conciliar reforms, Dom Anselmo Lentini kept it as the hymn for Terce; but, as well as adding a new stanza (Descende ...), he eliminated several of those in the original. Not surprisingly, one of these was an unpleasant stanza about the Jews (Iudaea ... vesana ...). But that stanza had already been neutered by Barberini. The original contained the line "ructare musti crapulam" - belching the drunkenness/drunken hang-over of the Must. But belching, although Horace uses ructare in the Ars, is not the sort of vocab you expect in the Odes - and it was the Odes which Urban VIII's merry men took as their stylistic bench-mark. So they changed it to "... madere ...". (I know what you're thinking: Quod barbari non coinquinaverunt, stupraverunt Barberini.)

You may have wondered at Mass yesterday how the disciples could have been drunk on Must: unfermented grapejuice. Sometimes, mustum seems to mean partially fermented wine, and S Jerome certainly thought that it was a fair translation for the gleukous of the original.

20 May 2018

Pentecost Time

How splendid it is that the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinariate Missal preserve for us this Pentecost Octave which stretches, like the Easter Octave, to Saturday arternoon next. But there is, I fear, something missing in what we have; an omission which undermines the liturgical integrity of Pentecost.

Your Roman Missal, if it preserves the Roman Rite as it was at the beginning of the Pontificate of Pius XII, will show you a Pentecost which begins with a Baptismal Vigil: just as does Easter. The rites are scaled down for Pentecost; there are only six lections: but it is clear that Pentecost is a secondary Baptismal Season. Practically, it was a useful back-up to Easter for those who, for whatever reason, had not received Christian Initation at Easter. But in any case, the association is theologically appropriate, since the Pentecostal Anointing of the Spirit is central to the full rite of Initiation. Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix was, I am convinced, absolutely right to insist that Consignation/Confirmation is not a secondary adjunct to "Water Baptism", but one of the primary elements in Christian Initiation.

(I devoutly trust, by the way, that the Latin Church will not follow the boring old Anglican mistake of regarding Confirmation as an adolescent Rite of Passage, a sort of Christian Bar-Mitzvah; a misunderstanding as pastorally disastrous as it is theologically flawed. It most certainly is nothing whatsoever of the sort.)

The point of the Pentecost Octave is quite simply that it follows on logically from the Baptismal Vigil Liturgy. It is a week in which (as after Easter) the Illuminati wear their Whites (a meaning still, probably, alluded to in the English name Whitsunday). The Eucharistic Celebrant continues through the week to use the form of the Hanc igitur which is said for the newly initiated. On Saturday, the Neonati returned their Whites to the Pontiff; the statio was ad S Petrum in Vaticano.

It is rumoured that Ecclesia Dei has been allowing pre-Pius XII Holy Week Rites. I can see no reason why they would object to a restoration of the Pentecost Vigil. After all, it has been restored ... sort of ... in the Novus Ordo.

(1) The Vigil disappeared under Pius XII; we should never forget that the disintegration of the Classical Roman Rite has Pius XII [if not S Pius X!] for its godfather. The 'Council' and its aftermath merely formed a logical progression of what Pius XII and Mgr Bugnini and others had already enthusiastically set rolling in the 1950s.
(2) The practical problem of administering Confirmation to adolescents, familiar to all Anglican parish clergy, is summed up in the old Anglican joke about one Churchwarden advising another about how to get rid of the bats in his belfry despite the fact that they are a protected species. "We just got the Bishop to climb up the ladder to the bell-chamber and clamber round the bells and confirm every bat he could find. We've never had a single one of them inside the Church since".

19 May 2018


I have deleted a submitted comment in which the writer assured me that, if X were to happen, "That is the day I walk out of the Church never to return".

I had better be frank about this.

Such a contingent threat of Apostasy, if seriously meant, suggests to me that the writer is in a most dangerous spiritual state.

It is true that PF treats the Church Militant (happily, there is no way he can get his hands on the Church Expectant and it is not within his mercifully limited power to "make a mess" in the Church Triumphant) as if it were some sort of private playground in which he can get up to whatever games he finds personally satisfying and heap up any number of his boasted "messes". But the Church is the Body of Christ. Not PF's playground; not mine; not yours.

There have been appallingly bad popes in the past and, depending on how long it is until the Eschaton, there very probably will be more of them in the future. None of that makes a nanogram of difference to the fact that the Catholic Church is the Ark of Salvation; the only and the essential Ark of Salvation.

And it is not a human and worldly 'membership organisation' which one can walk out of in a huff. You and I were incorporated into it by our Baptism. It is rooted in eternity; splendid as an army with banners; a terror to the fallen spirits; a wonder to the Angels.

If anything I have ever written has, however unintentionally, given any encouragement to the sort of unCatholic attitude which horrified me in that comment as I sat down to deal with it this morning, then, here and now, I repent of it.

If PF, or I, by our misconduct, drive one soul to "walk out of the Church", then he (or I) will have to answer for that in the day of Judgement. But the person who has "walked out never to return" will have the gravest charge of all to answer.


18 May 2018

A very personal problem

The Vatican has just put out a teaching document on economic matters. For me, personally, and I can speak for nobody else, this moment precisely epitomises the problem created by PF's misuse of the munus given him by God.

At any time before 2013, I would have simply received such a document with docility. In a case like this present one, because it deals with matters in which I am not personally academically competent, I would have done my best to understand it, quite simply because (although not ex cathedra) it came to me with authority. I would have done my best to put myself into the position of being able to explain and commend it on this blog and to members of Christ's faithful people to whom I might find myself speaking or who, out of a misguided esteem for myself, asked me about it.

But that is not how things can be now. For five years, PF has, arguably, played irresponsible games with the authority placed in his hands. He has - daily - pursued policies which are difficult to reconcile with a faithful following of our Most Holy Redeemer. In particular, he appears to have set himself to undermine the careful teaching of his predecessors, notably the last two, on the evils of moral relativism, and has publicly ignored appeals to bring clarity to these appearances. Unbelievably, the Successor of S Peter is seen by both admirers and critics as one who encourages souls for whom Christ died to be comfortable in a life of habitual adultery. He has impudently justified his conduct by talking about a God of Surprises. Hagan lios: he has had the temerity to go so far as to create 'a mess' in the Lord's Vineyard; and then to invite others to follow him.

It was necessary, 1300 years ago, to say in sad condemnation of an earlier pope, that 'he has permitted the purity of the Church to be polluted'; that 'he has fostered heresy'. Because this has happened, we know that it can happen.

If ... may God grant it ... from this very moment onwards PF's pontificate were to be a model of humble repentance and of chastened discipleship ... then, indeed, laus Deo; but it would inevitably still take a time for it to become apparent Urbi et Orbi that this sea-change had taken place.

Whether under this pontiff or another, it may be years before one can again receive teaching emerging from the Vatican in the old simple, childlike, obedient trust; with open and willing ears. There will long be the nagging, destabilising, anxiety that, in such very extraordinary times, the chill bonds of conscience and of duty might require one dokimazein ta pneumata.

This is the measure of the catastrophic damage which Jorge Bergoglio has done to his great Office of maintaining the Depositum Fidei by being a remora against the assaults of Novelty. In Blessed John Henry Newman's language, we feel less securely under our feet the rock of the soliditas cathedrae Petri. It may take decades, at the least, for the good God to heal this insecurity.

17 May 2018

The Irish Referendum

I originally posted this piece on 1 June 2015. It seems depressingly relevant as the Irish electorate faces another Referendum, again, in effect, inviting them to vote for or against Christ.

When I was young, there was a lot of talk to the effect that Vatican I had defined the Papacy; but had left its teachings unbalanced by saying so little about the Episcopate. Vatican II was said to have done splendidly by correcting this balance.

So, at Vatican II, we had the status of bishops being given a puff ... by the bishops! And the bishops, additionally, claiming enormous moral credit for ... themselves giving themselves this puff!

I wonder what narrative History will give of the First World Episcopate in the decades since the Council.

I could go on about the collapse within the Church of the religious orders, of vocations to the priesthood. I could get rhetorical about the Liturgy. But I might simply be expressing my own prejudices. I have as many, if not more, human failings than most. And perhaps what has happened since the Council constituted in some cases (as it certainly did in the case of Liturgy) simply an extrapolation of what was already happening.

But ... the Paedophile Priest scandal! Here, considered objectively, we do have a massive dereliction of duty on the part of Bishops and of Episcopacy. In many cases, it seems, they disregarded juridical procedures and maintained 'the filth' in pastoral ministry.

And then there have been some high-profile episcopal adulterers; firstly in Ireland and then in Scotland and most recently in England (I wonder, incidentally, if there has been any enquiry into who knew what about Kieran Conry before his episcopal nomination; and why not).

I think it does the Irish laity enormous credit, in all the circumstances, that [in the Gay Marriage Referendum] so many of them did vote in accordance with the teachings of the Church. (One constituency voted against SSM; two constituencies, knife-edge.)

It would be reassuring if some representative body of bishops ... perhaps, let's say, a Synod ... were to express some corporate regret about what their Order has done to the Church in the last disastrous half century. It has, in some parts of the world and in more than a few individuals, shown disturbing indications of a radical dysfunctionality.

Instead, we have suggestions of enhancing still further the powers of this Order by entrenching canonically and structurally and even dogmatically their Episcopal Conferences.

Holy Mother Church needs that like she needs a hole in the head.

16 May 2018

sermon concludes

Throughout history, Mary comes to us as the Immaculate Conception; the one whom God preserved from Original Sin so that she could be the perfect and flawless Mother of God the Divine Son; so that she could give God back his own gift to her by giving him a perfect and flawless humanity to unite inseparably with his Divinity. And Mary comes to us as our Mother too, as well as the Mother of Jesus. Because if we are one with Christ, one in Christ, as S Paul teaches, then Christ's Mother is our Mother too. When we kneel at the Altar to receive the Lord's Body and Blood, what the priest puts  upon our lips is the Body that Jesus took from Mary and the Blood which flowed in her veins before it flowed in his. Mary is our Mother; and what is it that mothers give their children, soon after birth, except food? Our Mother Mary brings food for her children "in this our exile", food neatly packaged for the journey we are making through this Vale of Tears; food to give us strength until we reach our True Native Land. beth lehem is Hebrew for House of Bread; and when we come to Communion the Mother of this House, the Great Mother of God Mary Most Holy, brings from her cupboard and sets within us the Blessed Fruit of her womb Jesus. Because Mary is not locked away in Bethlehem or Nazareth; she's not even a fixture who only made it as far as Lourdes. Mary walks down the centuries and across the seas and countries and hurries to make her way to this country of England in this our Mary Month of May; she comes this afternoon to this place and to this moment of time; comes to be your Mother and your merciful guide and advocate, here, in your own land.
The sermon is concluded.

15 May 2018

sermon continues

I don't think Jesus changes; our Saviour God, Scripture tells us, is the same yesterday, today, and always. And I know Mary must be the same, yesterday, today, and always. I was privileged - together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and several hundred other Church of England people - to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes in the year of the 150th anniversary of the Appearances of the Mother of God to S Bernardette Soubirous. We prayed at a little cleft in a rocky cliffside, called the Grotto, which is where S Bernardette had her vision. The Archbishop bent forward full-length on the cold, damp rock of the little cave and prayed there for some minutes. A few feet above his head was the fissure, the slit where our Lady appeared. At the time, S Bernardette was 14 years old - just the same age as Mary was when she became God's Mother - and Bernardette described the Lady of her vision as"no bigger than me". It is as though, through all eternity, Mary is to be seen of men as she was at that moment when she did the Great Thing which all the millennia had been looking forward to and brought God into his own world as her own Baby. She is for ever the One-giving-birth-to-God, Theotokos. And she was, so S Bernardette said, very beautiful. Beautiful, we might say, like her Son who is the fairest among the Sons of Adam.

Let me tell you another thing about Mary that doesn't seem to change. It's the way she talks. Just as she murmured to her Baby, not in Greek, the international language of Big People in government and politics, but in Aramaic, the language of ephphatha and Abba, so, when she appeared at Lourdes, she didn't speak to Bernardette in some grand language of the great affairs of men. There in Lourdes, in the Grotto, two or three feet above where Archbishop Rowan got his cassock damp from lying on the rock underneath the statue of our Lady, they've written the words Mary said when Bernardette asked her who she was: Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion. And that's not French. It's the local dialect, a branch of an ancient and almost extinct language they spoke in the South of France centuries before they spoke French there. It's called Gascon, and it's the language little girls like Bernardette still used among themselves. Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion: I am the Immaculate Conception. 

Continues later

14 May 2018

The (new) Bishop's fine new mitre ...

Firstly: apologies to those to whom I have, in the last fortnight, failed to reply. As I did explain a fortnight ago, I have been in retreat from Modernity ... id est, from all in-coming information about the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. I have now enabled many of the Comments some of you sent me during those two weeks.

A nice worldly, fleshly, and devilish tit-bit I missed in that period was about the daft new Austrian Bishop who wears a see-through Chasuble. My first thought, reading this, was to wonder whether his Mitre is also see-through. (My second: to wonder if the gentleman knows the story of the Emperor's New Suit.)

Indeed, episcopal rings, pectoral crosses, and pallia could all be made see-through too.

Why not?

After all, such trinkets only concern mere status. They are terribly out of the spirit of Bergoglian humility.The Mozetta PF wore when he first stepped out as Pope onto the balcony of S Peter's was, you will remember, entirely see-through.

13 May 2018

May Sermon

As I made a bonfire of old homilies, including some from 2011, I decided to give this one a last outing on the blog.
In lots of places, in the old days, there was a custom of fixing a card to the Paschal Candle giving some dates and times. This year the 'Charta' would have told you that it was the 1978th year since the Lord's Death and Resurrection; the 2011th since his Birth; and also the 2025th since the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tot it up: you'll see that, according to tradition, our Blessed Lady was 14 when she became God's Mother. There's a picture I find very moving - of a little girl, not much more than a child herself, leaning over the cradle of her baby Son, and murmuring the first endearments that a mother utters to the little thing that was part of her own body only minutes ago ... bonding, as they call it. And, as Divine Baby grew into Divine Toddler, I think we can actually put our finger on some of the things Mary said to her Son. The official language of that time was Greek, but I think that mothers and babies and people in bedrooms and kitchens used, in Palestine, a different languge: Aramaic. I don't think I have much doubt about one word Mary used to our blessed Lord. Imagine him - sitting in whatever sort of high chair they used to feed toddlers in. I think what Mary said was what most parents say: "Open wide". The little mouth opens, and one deftly manoeuvres the spoonful in before it shuts again. And the Aramaic for "Open wide" is Ephphatha. And so, when years later the Redeemer was healing a mute, S Mark tells us that he slipped from talking Greek into Aramaic and said "Ephphatha".

And I think I know another Aramaic word that Mary said to her Saviour. It was while she was teaching him his prayers and telling him about God the Father. She taught him to call God "Abba"; which some philologists translarte as "Daddy". In other words, she taught him to keep the Daddy-word, not for S Joseph, but for God the Father of Heaven. And we know Jesus called him "Abba"; he used that word in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest: " Abba, not my will but thine be done".

And there's another thing about that Mother and that Baby that people often don't spot. Our God and Lord Jesus Christ didn't have an earthly, human father; his Father was the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. Now: you know how it is with an ordinary baby: "Cor - he's got his mother's nose". "Look: she's got her father's ears". But this Baby ... there's only one person he could look like: Mary. If you could have seen them side by side, I'm sure you would have spotted the uncanny similarities; the distance between the eyes, perhaps; the curl of the lips; the shape of the fingernails; some indefinable likeness in the way each of them walked. Just as identical twins are so very like each other, I suspect that Mother and that Son must have been very strikingly similar. And, as our Lord took his humanity solely and uniquely from Mary's, I wonder if his human mind ran along the same tracks as hers; so that each often felt they knew what the other was thinking before anybody actually said anything ... as happens with some identical twins.
Continues later.

10 May 2018

We share His Divinity

From time to time I talk about Divinisation in the teaching of S Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast tradition; of course, the basis of the tradition is much older and indeed Biblical. The locus classicus is II Peter 1:4: we become theias koinonoi phuseos (shareholders in the Divine Nature). S Leo (or conceivably an admirer soaked in his thought and latinity) wrote the prayer we still use secreto at the filling of the chalice at Mass: eius divinitatis esse consortes (to be sharers of his Divinity). And the ancient Western Preface for the Ascension seems to come from the same mind: ut divinitatis suae tribueret esse participes (that he might grant us to be partakers of his Godhead).

Cranmer, in one of his less fortunate expansions of his Latin originals, made this into 'to prepare a place for us; that where he is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with him in glory'.(I suspect one reason for this mutilation is the Protestant Reformation belief that even the justified sinner is still totally a sinner, simul justus et peccator: against the Catholic view that sanctifying grace truly transforms.) Bad Old ICEL rendered this 'to claim for us a share in his divine life': where 'claim' is not the same as 'grant us to be partakers' , and 'divine life ' is a watering down of 'Divinity'.

Good New ICEL offers "sharers in his divinity". As so often, accuracy in Latin translation, as well as being desireable in itself, has the bonus of manifesting the essential unity of the Latin and Byzantine traditions.

9 May 2018

More on Steventon

The Directors of the Railway Company used to have their meeting in Steventon; it is roughly half-way between London and Bristol, and a train from each place brought the two groups of Directors for Board Meetings, held in a solid building (which still survives) beside the Railway Station (which does not; a "Kingdom Hall" is built on its site). If you go up Steventon High Street and then turn left down the ancient Causeway, half-timbered medieval houses beside you for all its length, you come to the Church. Its notice board caught my eye.

On it (I approve of the use of Heraldry) are the arms of the old Catholic Diocese of Oxford. These show a fess; above it, three female demi-Saints who were clearly princesses, since they are crowned. Tradition identifies them as S Frideswide, Advocata specialis almae Universitatis, and two other ladies who appear in her legends: S Margaret and S Etheldreda (the three appear again in the famous Eucharistic Window in S Thomas's, cause of the celebrated anti-Ritualist law-suit). In the base is an Ox walking across a ford. The old undergraduate joke was that the composition represents three lady dons viva-ing a cow.

However, the artist of the Steventon notice board had introduced a variation of his own. Each of the three ladies has her upper garment drawn open, revealing her breasts. They look for all the world like those rather noticeable 'priestesses' or 'mother goddesses' dug up by Sir Arthur Evans (whose home was not many miles away in Boars Hill) in Minoan Crete.

I wondered how one would blazon such a detail. The words "lactating, proper" passed through my mind, but that's not quite right.

8 May 2018


Not long ago, we went down to Steventon, a large village South of Oxford.

Steventon was the place where one got off the train back in the days of Mr Newman, when the branch line up to Oxford had not yet been built and the Alma Universitas was resisting tooth and nail the distractions which such a piece of modern technology would bring to the undergraduate body. You will remember how, in Loss and Gain, Newman's semi-autobiographical novel, Charles Reding, after deciding to go for a pre-Ordinariate option, decides (for no very obvious reason demanded by the plot; Newman is clearly indulging his sentiment) to visit Oxford for the last time before his reception in London. "On his arrival at Steventon ... the afternoon being fine, he left his portmanteau to follow him by omnibus, and put himself on the road ... he had passed through Bagley Wood, and the spires and towers of the University came on his view, hallowed by how many tender associations, lost to him for two whole years, suddenly recovered - recovered to be lost for ever! There lay old Oxford before him, with its hills as gentle and its meadows as green as ever. At the first view of that beloved place, he stood still with folded arms, unable to proceed. Each college, each church, he counted them by their pinnacles and turrets. The silver Isis, the grey willows, the far-stretching plains, the dark groves, the distant range of Shotover ... wood, water, stone, all so calm, so bright, they might have been his, but his they were not ..."

 I will continue this a little later.

6 May 2018

Consensus at the Wannsee Conference

In that chilling and disgusting meeting at which the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem was organised, it is clear that many of the participants were uneasy about certain categories ... half-Jews .... those married to Jews ... Jews who had won the Iron Cross (first Class) in the Great War. But what nobody round that table said was: this whole policy is radically evil.

The presuppositions were never debated. There was a basic consensus.

And many of the elderly among us have experienced how committees much less murderous than Wannsee deliver their results if determined people with a clear agenda have imposed or inherited parameters which nobody else questions.

I am always uneasy about debates which turn upon the question of what should be the criteria for the "termination of a pregnancy".

And, moving from these life-and-death questions ... going from the Infernal to the Ridiculous ... to accounts of the discussions leading to the liturgical 'reforms' of the 1960s, what fascinates me is, again, that no-one, as far as I know, queried the assumptions. What nobody said was: we were not given a free hand; we were given, by an Ecumenical Council, a list of specific mandates to which we are required to give effect. And, however attractive the arguments for such and such a particular innovation, we have no mandate for it.

"Consensus" is, especially for the managerial elites of our culture, a warm and cuddly word. But both the word and its reality seem to me profoundly potentially dangerous. I recall a passage from C S Lewis's Hideous Strength:  
"This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world's history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter among fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men."

Ab omni malo consensu: libera nos Domine. 

4 May 2018

Chesterton and the Anglican liturgical tradition (3)

A last quotation from GKC:

"Modern prayers, and theirs [the Anglicans'] perhaps more than any, seem to be perfectly incapable of avoiding journalese. And the Prayer-Book prose seems to follow them like a derisive echo. Lambeth or Convocation will publish a prayer saying something like "Guide us, O Lord, to the solution of our social problems"; and the great organ of old will groan in the background .... "All who are desolate and oppressed." The first Anglicans asked for peace and happiness, truth and Justice; but nothing can stop the latest Anglicans, and many others, from the horrid habit of asking for improvement in international relations."

3 May 2018

Chesterton on the Anglican liturgical tradition (2)

"Let anyone recall for himself the very finest passages in the Book of Common Prayer and he will soon see that they are concerned specially with spiritual thoughts and themes that now seem strange and terrible; but anyhow, the reverse of common; ".. in the hour of death and in the day of Judgment". Who talks about the hour of death? Who talks about the Day of Judgement? Only a litter of shabby little priests from the Italian Mission. Not certainly the popular and eloquent Dean of Bumblebury, who is so Broad and yet so High. Certainly not the charming and fashionable Vicar of St Ethelbald's, who is so High and yet so Broad. Still less the clergyman helping in the same parish, who is frankly Low. It is the same on every page, where the spirit inspires that style. "Suffer us not, for any pains of death, to fall from Thee." ... "Ah, that's what gets you" (or words to that effect), as Lord Peter Wimsey truly said of this phrase, in the detective tale of Miss Dorothy Sayers; who, like Lord Peter, knows a good deal about other things besides poisons; and understands her hero's historical traditions very well. But did you ever hear the curate fresh from the cricket-field, or the vicar smiling undr the Union Jacks of the Conservatuive Rally, dwell upon that penultimate peril; or the danger of falling from God amid the pains of death? Very morbid. Just like those Dago devotional books. So very Roman."

2 May 2018

Chesterton on the Anglican liturgical tradition (1)

(ht to Professor Tighe)

" ... why has the old Prayer-Book a power like that of great poetry upon the spirit and heart? The reason is much deeper than the mere avoidance of journalese. It might be put in a sentence; it has style, it has tradition; it has religion; it was written by apostate Catholics. It is strong, not in so far as it is the first Protestant book, but in so far as it was the last Catholic book. 

As it happens, this can be proved in the most practical manner from the actual details of the prose. The most moving passages in the old Anglican Prayer Book are exactly those that are least like the atmosphere of the Anglicans. They are moving, or indeed thrilling, precisely because they say the things which Protestants have long left off saying; and which Catholics still say. Anybody who knows anything of literature knows when a style lifts itself to its loftiest efforts; and in these cases it is always to say strongly what we [Catholics] still endeavour to say, however weakly; but which nobody else ever endeavours to say at all. Let anyone recall for himself the very finest passages in the Book of Common Prayer, and he will soon see that they are concerned specially with spiritual thoughts and themes that now seem strange and terrible; but anyhow, the reverse of common."

More of this tomorrow; it comes from a collection of his pieces published in 1935, the year before he died (he had converted in 1922). When you read my next instalment, you will grow, I suspect, more and embarrassed about .... modern Catholic culture.

1 May 2018

Easter Festivals Pius XII and S John XXIII robbed us of

On May 3, we lose the Feast Inventionis Sanctae Crucis, double of the Second Class. It was a beautiful opportunity to contemplate the Cross suffused with rays of Easter, Resurrection, rejoicing. (The Easter Commemoratio de Cruce, added often at the end of Lauds and Vespers, served the same admirable purpose.) Of course, May 3 is the Novus Ordo date for SS Philip and James, the Dedication Festival of their Church; its ejection from May 1 by Pius XII to May 11 seems to me particularly deplorable. I was a bit depressed by the failure of the Ordinariate Calendar to rectify this disaster; but there is a legal way round this in the Ordinariate: say a votive of Pip and Jim on May 1!

Both of these feasts were Days of Devotion (Holy Days which had been demoted from "Obligation to go to Mass" to "You are most strongly urged to go to Mass"), and were still days on which Parish Priests were obliged applicare Missam pro populo. The ease with which, from the middle of the twentieth century, quite highly ranking festivals were dumped or shifted around from day to day at the ephemeral whimsy of transient Pontiffs, or rather, their liturgical 'experts', seems to me an early indication of that arbitrary approach of papal liturgists to Tradition to which we rightly apply terms like Rupture and against which Benedict XVI complained.

Pip and Jim, of course, went on their travels in 1956, after Pius XII, or one of his advisers, had the bright idea of snitching May 1 from the Marxists by making it the Solemnity of S Joseph the Workman ('Opifex' ... 'Craftsman'?). The Cunning Ploy never worked, not least because the US of A kept Labour Day on quite a different date. In any case, I rather liked  putting on blood-red vestments on the Workers' Day and commemorating the Apostle who, in his Prayer Book Epistle, did make some remarks about the Unrighteous Rich which surpass in fruitiness anything Marx and Engels said. So, for most of the Latin Church, the Workman on May 1 as a major celebration lasted little more than a decade.

And when S Joseph was frogmarched to May 1, his solemnity on the Wednesday after Easter II was abolished ... a Double of the First Class with an Octave reduced to zilch, just like that. It had been extended (from the Carmelites) to the entire Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1847 ... the eve of the Year of Revolutions (you recall that we also owe to him the Feast of the Precious Blood) ... and was moved from a Sunday after Easter to a Wednesday by Pius X. Frankly, I rather like the propers for that feast, with their emphasis on S Joseph's ancestry and the suggestion that his antitypical sexual continence is typified by his typical namesake's rejection of Mrs Potiphar's bed. That the 'Workman' was pure, temporary, faddery ... what PF would call a modo ... is demonstrated by his demotion to an Optional Memorial in the post-Conciliar rite.

Incidentally, younger readers should make a note that - as Wise Virgins who keep Cheney by their computers will already have spotted - in 2047, 2058, and 2069, the Wednesday after Easter II will fall ... on May 1! Annos valde Iosephinos! Episcopal Conferences, as they feverishly read this blog, might like to remember that they have the competence to move, for the Novus Ordo, S Joseph from March 19 to a date permanently outside Lent ... they could select the Wednesday after Easter II!

S John before the Latin Gate, and S Michael, May 8, will follow in a day or two.