31 December 2018

Are they really bishops? (1)

From time to time I get enquiries (or, worse, rude letters claiming to be from individuals with impressive names like Catholic Mission or Catholic State) about the validity of the Orders of the post-Conciliar Church. I've tended to ignore such questions, because "the post-Vatican II Church" is the One, Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of God, just as much as "the Post-Tridentine Church" was, in full continuity with the Church of all ages. I have no intention of even seeming to accept the possibility of a 'sedevacantist' analysis being worth taking seriously. All such arguments are pure 25-carat nonsense. But, well, if there are real people who are worried by this question and who really want help ... rather than merely to spout some angry certainties which somebody has bamboozled them into believing ... you did ask ...

The preliminary logical question to be put to those who find themselves tempted by Sedevacantism is: "You claim to hold the basic Catholic dogmas that the Church is indefectible; and that the Bishop of Rome holds a unique and God-given place within the life of that Church. How many more decades does the Roman See have to be vacant before these combined doctrines become impossible for sedevacantists to hold?"

And if the post-Vatican II Church is the Catholic Church, and is indefectible, you can't argue that the overwhelming majority of its bishops and priests are not bishops and priests in the sight of God. Or, if you can argue it, you'll have to write a very long and very very clever book to do so.

However, prescinding from those rather obvious ... and, indeed, totally conclusive ... points ... I come now to the substance of the arguments that Ordinations according to the post-Conciliar Pontifical are not valid.

It is suggested that the 'form' used in the post-Vatican II rites for the consecration of a Bishop (which is what I am going to concentrate upon) is insufficiently precise. But any language, and any specialised subform of any language, has its own internal logic. If the Church, in the new rites, in effect says "We decree that the words spiritus principalis or pneuma hegemonikon hereafter and herein are to have the meaning of episkope", then that is the meaning those words do have, even if they didn't have it beforehand. Just as legislatures enacting legislation, or solicitors composing legal agreements, commonly begin by defining terms ("within this Act/Agreement, the term The Society shall be deemed to mean the United Society of Water Diviners and Weak Beer Drinkers of the Parish of Little Snottingham in the Parliamentary Constituency of West Barsetshire").

Such assignment of precision to a potentially vague term is effective for the described purpose.

To be continued for two more sections. I sha'n't enable comments till I've finished.

Prognostications for 2019

I am sure that my admirable friend and brother priest Fr Zed will have some intelligent forecasts to make. I offer only the following humble and baseless guess:

That the abuse crisis will move even closer to PF himself.

30 December 2018

The Priority of Dogma

Ever since I became old enough to understand such things, I have been impressed by the annual Gospel of the main Mass of Christmass Day: the Prologue of S John's Gospel.

The world has largely eliminated the Dogma of the Birth of God as a human being ... I gather that, for some commercial interests, the Octave of Christmass is now renamed 'Boxing Week'.

But even where the Christ has not been entirely removed from the Christmass, the celebration is often reduced to the schmalzy. Mary and Joseph; shepherds and (undoubtedly hygenic) animals ... Don't get me wrong: I'm all for the iconography of the Infancy Narratives. But I like it best when it is expressed on a traditional Byzantine icon, with two words bracketing the head of the Mother: METER and THEOU. My only suggestion would be the wild idea that, in Anglophone countries, icons should be vernacular: MOTHER OF GOD.

And let's flog for all it's worth the beautiful Byzantine theme of the Mother PLATYTERA TOU KOSMOU: Mary's womb is broader, wider than the entire created order (a concept nicely taken up in C S Lewis's The Last Battle and applied to the Stable). The Johannine Prologue expresses the Dogma of the Incarnation, the Fleshing of God. Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb. I am left cold by the assurance that 'Mother and Baby' imagery expresses a more universal, a more than narrowly Christian, object of appeal.

And I rather like the ancient Roman Mass for this Sunday within the Octave of Christmass. Unlike the appeal made today in the Novus Ordo to the Holy Family, with the risks of sentimentality, we have for our Introit that superb passage from the Book of Wisdom While all things were in quiet silence, and night was in the midst of her swift course, thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.

Indeed, I commend the Book of Wisdom to readers. Like modern New York, ancient Alexandria was the largest Jewish city in the world, and the Jewish community there was powerful, wealthy, and powerfully intellectual. This is the city of Philo as well as of Callimachus; it is where the Book of Wisdom was almost certainly written, and in sophisticated Greek. It prepared the way for understanding the Incarnation by exploring complexities hidden within the plainer monotheism of other Judaisms. The rabbinic 'Massoretic Canon', of course, does not contain Wisdom, but we are privileged to be part of a broader expression of our Jewish identity.

On a related subject: enjoy those first three verses of chapter 4 of S Paul's Letter to the Galatians in today's Mass, because they are neatly expurgated from the Novus Ordo. Indeed, the NO efficiently protects its victims from the entire brilliant sweep of S Paul's teaching in Chapter 3 of Galatians, as well as from its continuation in 4:21 ff., which is the Epistle of Laetare Sunday.

So traddy Catholics will be happily returning to the glorious concept of the Heavenly Jerusalem in the middle of Lent. But Bergoglian Catholics, poor nervous and gloomy poppets, will be protected from it, preserved in their safe fluffy twilight of threatened innocence. What a dangerous fellow S Paul was/is!

29 December 2018

E Breviario Sarisburiensi lectoribus doctioribus antiphona proponitur

Salve, Thoma, virga iustitiae, mundi iubar, robur Ecclesiae, plebis amor, cleri deliciae. Salve, gregis tutor egregie, salva tuae gaudentes gloriae.

I thought docti lectores would appreciate the very elegant jingles of alliteration and assonance ... not heavy and plodding like Ennius, but quite Neoteric or Virgilian. The word-play 'gregis ... egregie' seems to me to span the chronological and cultural divides between Ovid and the author of the Akathist Hymn.

28 December 2018

Holocausts and the Holy Innocents

Among the things I noticed when I holidayed annually in Ireland was the sight of people with Down's Syndrome. It is no more remarkable there to see such jumans in the streets than to see, say, a West Indian or someone in a wheel-chair, in Britain. When you get back to Blighty, the streets seem suddenly strange because there aren't any.

Then it dawns on you why there aren't any. Rather as, just after the cattle trucks had rumbled off to the East, it must have been strange ... and then disconcerting and very frightening ... to wander round a German town and miss the Jewish faces. Ugly, isn't it, that the role performed in Nazi Germany by Gestapo or SS is performed in Britain by members of Caring Professions whom we each of us have to visit, especially as we get older, for our aches and infirmities. If anything, ours is a spookier ... well, let's be frank ... an even more evil society ... than Hitler's; one in which the Evil has dug its roots even deeper than it had in his Germany, because it is internalised among more people and more groups and more classes and more structures; and has been so manipulated that, far from being concealed, it is publicly appauded by our Media; and because the killing is, by a Diabolical masterstroke, disguised as Caring and performed by men and women whom we take for granted to be gentle. And yet, throughout my ministry, I've felt that I ought to discipline myself not to mention abortion too often in sermons lest people decide I am fixated on only one thing; or lest, in my own comfortable male and clerical self-righteousness, I traumatise women who've had abortions.

How evil does infect us all.

Even back in the 1970s, not long after the legislation allowing Abortion in Britain, it was, to my certain knowledge, common even for intelligent and articulate middle-class women to be pressurised by their GPs to 'terminate' a fourth or fifth pregnancy.

And now, in a few days, this whole, sick, evil process is about to begin in Ireland. I wonder where in Hell Dante's imagination would situate the Varadkars of our own time.

Spare a prayer for brave young women, in Britain or Ireland or anywhere, who embark upon a willed pregnancy and have to face some 'medical' bully. Spare more prayers for those put under enormous pressure to have 'tests' to see whether their 'foetus' is 'abnormal'. Find some more prayers for those who are assured, by kind and sympathetic people who only want to help them, that it would be wholly irresponsible to encumber the world with a Down's Syndrome human being.

And don't forget, in your prayers, those other victims; the women who have already been deceived and seduced into complicity in the killing of their own children.

27 December 2018

Friday Abstinence

On 16 October 2014, a Spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced that the Friday within the Octave of Christmas is never [in England and Wales] a day of Abstinence. (Different rules, of course, exist in different countries.)

That applies to tomorrow.

25 December 2018


I have been moved by the number of people who have sent me cards or prezzies and indications of appreciation. It is nice to be told that quite a lot of people find something of use in some of the things I write.

I wish you all every grace and joy in the coming year.

22 December 2018

Bibliophiles' delight

I doubt whether the Omnia opera  of PF will be a sell-out for generations to come, but his Christmas addresses to the Curia do deserve immortality. They don't all come up quite to the classical perfection of the address in which he explained to the Curia the 19 sins of which they were collectively guilty ... but this year's masterpiece in which his critics are likened to the late Judas Iscariot comes pretty close.

Deserves to be savoured in full. Don't miss it. A collector's item.

"Faithful in all generations"

"A History of Saint Clement Parish, Ottawa, 1968-2018"

This is the (sumptuous) history ... not of a parish church, but of the living group of Catholic human beings which formed in Ottawa after the liturgical deformations of the 1960s, and, despite having moved buildings more than once, is still flourishing more than ever.

SAs you read it, you masy get some surprises. Often, the baddies in accounts of the troubled 1960s and 1970s are gentlemen heavy with the Apostolic Ministry of episkope. I remember, back in the 1990s, talking to some elderly ladies outside the puginesque Catholic Cathedral in Killarney. I received from them graphic descriptions of the days when skip after skip of smashed marble awaited removal outside the Cathedral. Knowing the answer to my question before I asked it, I enquired "Which bishop ...?" Lips were pursed as only elderly Irish women know how to purse them. "Eamon Casey?" I enquired. Heads nodded. I mused on the close (and logical) relationships between sexual incontinence and liturgical vandalism.

So I relished the story in this History of how the members of S Clement Parish rescued, one Easter Monday, the altars of the Convent Chapel where they had previously worshipped, by getting there only hours before Conciliar pickaxes were due to arrive on the Tuesday of the Paschal Octave to "reorder the Chapel".  

But in Ottawa, the Archbishops, far from being baddies, were generally supportive of those of their people who desired to retain the older and better ways.

Eventually, however, that enlightened policy was made impossible for the Archbishop by a letter countersigned by none other than the great Bugnini himself. (Has anybody ever written a Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque chorus about that mighty worshipper of the Great Architect of the Universe? I think ... apron and all ... he would rather lend himself to that genre.)

So, for ten years from 1974 to 1984, priests and people at Clement had to manage with the Conciliar Rite, in Latin. "Father Guy Martin did all he could to tailor the Mass as close in appearance to the traditional order as he deemed possible. The high altar was retained, with priest and congregation facing the tabernacle, ad orientem. Father Martin kept the traditional prayers at the foot of the altar to serve as the priestly greeting of the congregation that was required in the Novus Ordo. He also retained the traditional offertory prayers, followed by the Roman Canon. On the other hand, he followed the recent directives calling for three scriptural readings and the dropping of the Last Gospel."

Some interesting discussion-points there. If such an agenda had been followed more widely, is it just possible that the Latin Church might have survuived the 1970s in a less broken state?

Some of the S Clement congregation left, but the greater part of the congregation did stay.

A return to the Mass of Ages was able to happen in 1984 after Quattuor abhinc annos, although with a local directive that the congregation should of course abstain from evangelisation (yes; that was a Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque era!!). In 1994, the parish was fortunate enough to secure the ministry of the FSSP. I was glad to read accounts of the activities of my friend Fr Matthew Goddard, FSSP. His father, Fr David, I knew well when we were neighbours in the Diocese of Chichester. I have recently heard that Fr David has died: cuius animae propitietur Deus.

A recurring and chilling motif in this History is the endless closure of more and more Catholic Churches in Ottawa. I imagine this phenomenon was not confined to Ottawa ... indeed, it is still alive and well today. Remarkably, few people noticed or notice the oddity that the great aggiornamento of the Council was so directly followed by so much utter desolation. Of course, readers will - rightly - remind me that post hoc does not imply propter hoc, but, well, it seems to me that ... er ...

Many readers, both those who were then Roman Catholics and those of us who were still gorging ourselves on the richer grass that seemed to grow the other side of the Tiber, will find old memories awakened by this book. It was a time when so many Churches and Religious Houses were being closed down ... and so many of those that survived were dumping their possessions (often literally) on bonfires ... that the discriminating person with the right antennae could pick up bargains (I acquired for the College Chapel a superb gothic monstrance from a faintly shady character who had half a dozen such vessels up his sleeve). That was true at S Clement, and the History records this in some detail, illustrating it with photographs.

It was, too, an era when clergy whose souls were profoundly marked with the Catholic and Priestly spirit gradually realised that they could not go along with the policy (later revealed by Benedict XVI to have been illegal) of suppressing the Old Mass. But many of them were elderly, and problems arose for laypeople with the awareness that this generation of fine and principled priests would not live for ever; and new clergy were not yet emerging from Econe and elsewhere. I suppose it must have been rather like the period in between the de facto suppression of the Sarum Rite in 1559 by Elizabeth Tudor, 'Bloody Bess', and the time a couple of decades later when the Seminary Priests began to arrive in England.

I commend this account: an elegant and insightful snapshot of the corruptions and discontinuities of the post-Conciliar Period, as they appeared (and were gallantly resisted) in just one place.


The list price converts into sterling as £25.

21 December 2018

The Oxford Olive Harvest

According to Dr G G Willis, of the Anglican Patrimony, the December Ember Days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week) replace the old pagan Roman agricultural festival upon which the olives were harvested.

The oldest texts for these days, in the Verona Sacramentary, probably dating from before Christmass fully established its liturgical dominance, still retain agricultural references; but these were gradually eliminated to make way for Advent themes.

Last spring, I bought a tiny but perfectly formed Olive tree in order further to mediterraneanise my garden. It is flourishing (as indeed is my myrtle, which started life as a seedling in the myrtle groves of Parcnasilla in the Kingdom of the West, aka County Kerry).

So, on Wednesday, Pam and I harvested our two olives. It's the sort of thing Traditionalists do.

I expect someone will tell me from personal experience (I don't trust Wikipedia) how I should process them for consumption. Will they fit in with the venison we've ordered for Christmass?

20 December 2018

China and the SSPX

In view of the apparent agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese government, the way would seem wide open for an arrangement whereby the SSPX would choose its own bishops, Rome retaining only a nominal veto which, out of tact and sensitivity, it would never use ...

... or, alternatively, for the SSPX to choose and consecrate its bishops sine mandato Apostolico, with the Vatican automatically 'reconciling' them immediately afterwards.

Naturally, given the Chinese precedents, Rome would make no objection if some of this new generation of SSPX bishops had wives and children.

I almost feel like offering myself for this ministry, but, at 78, am I too old?

19 December 2018

Disobedience UPDATED

Gerhard Cardinal Mueller has rightly raised the question of the duties of disobedience in a Church in which orthodoxy is subverted from above.*

The longer the Church is run by PF and/or by Bergoglians, the more acute this problem will become.

In the Church of England, the oath of Canonical Obedience sworn by clergy at their ordination included the limiting phrase " ... in all things lawful and honest ... ".

I presume that such limitation must be implicit in all such oaths.

Perhaps traddy-sympathetic scholars competent in Canon Law should be excavating from canonical sources, and from the judgements of the authentic and classical writers on Moral Theology, a broadly and deeply based praxis concerning this question.

Who knows how long we may be needing it!

*A statement printed on Lifesitenews on Thursday December 11, concluding
"[a priest] is not bound by Divine Law to administer Holy Communion to a non-Catholic, and, in any case, he certainly cannot be bound by any episcopal order - purely according to Church Law - to commit an act which violates the sacramentality of the Church. A bishop who imposes penalties against priests who rightly disobey him in this case thereby abuses his apostolic authority in a grave manner ..."

18 December 2018

How and how speedily does the Teaching of the Church "develop"?

PF is reported to have declared a day or so ago that his abandonment of the Church's previous teaching on the death penalty "doesn't imply any contradiction with the teaching of the past." He combines this with an insouciant statement that previous popes "ignored the primacy of Mercy over Justice". Dear dear dear. Pretty nasty, that. What silly fellows they must all have been to make such an elementary error. But Don't Worry. All, apparently, can be explained by 'development'.

We've had this cheap trick before. I don't know if you can still find it on the Vatican TV player ... the News Conference at which the Graf von Schoenborn 'introduced' Amoris laetitia. Right at the end, Diane Montagna, with an air of puzzlement, asked whether the new papal teaching contradicted that of Familiaris consortio.

With a sweet smile which has undoubtedly served him well in the Graf's rise within the hierarchy, he answered that No it did not; but it developed it. And he advised his questioner to go away ...

... and read Newman.


(1) Familiaris consortio was published in 1981; it repeated the Biblical precepts which for centuries had underpinned the Church's conviction that the Holy Euchatist ought not to be administered to "remarried" divorcees.
(2) Sacramentum caritatis, 2005, repeated this teaching.
(3) Amoris laetitia is dated 19 March 2016, and was released 8 April 2016.
(4) On 5 September 2016 'Guidelines' published by a group of Argentine bishops reached PF. These guidelines are commonly interpreted as allowing some 'remarried' divorcees to approach the Sacraments.
(5) On the same day, PF replied to this group of bishops praising their 'Guidelines' and saying "There is no other interpretation".
(6) On 5 June 2017, PF formally instructed Cardinal Parolin in audientia to have these texts published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis as being "Authentic Magisterium".
(7) They duly appeared in AAS together with the Rescriptum ex audientia Sanctissimi.
(8) Cardinal Kasper, a Great Theologian, subsequently explained that the question was now authoritatively closed. Roma locuta est ...

                                      JOHN HENRY NEWMAN ...

... gave a rather different, and more painstaking, historical perspective. I expect he was a Silly Fellow, too.

" ... the Church of Rome has originated nothing ... 

" ... all through Church history from the first, how slow is authority in intervening! Perhaps a local teacher, or a doctor in some local school, hazards a proposition, and a controversy ensues. It smoulders or burns in one place, no one interposing; Rome simply lets it alone. Then it comes before a bishop; or some priest, or some professor in some other seat of learning takes it up; and there is a second stage of it. Then it comes before a university, and it may be condemned by the theological faculty. So the controversy proceeds year after year, and Rome is still silent. An appeal perhaps is next made to a seat of authority inferior to Rome; and then at last after a long while it comes before the supreme power. Meanwhile, the question has been ventilated and turned over and over again, and viewed on every side of it, and authority is called upon to pronounce a decision, which has already been arrived at by reason. But even then, perhaps the supreme authotrity hesitates to do so, and nothing is determined on the point for years; or so generally and vaguely, that the whole controversy has to be gone through again, before it is ultimately determined."

17 December 2018


"[After the Reformation,] the Papal Communion was reknit, much more closely and self-consciously than the late medieval Church, by the Protestant challenges; but the very vastness and richness of the organic life still possible in it, admitted of the existence of strong theological tensions within a single ecclesiastical body, with the spontaneity and vitality which such contained tensions always bring to theological and ecclesiastical thinking. The much smaller and more theologically homogeneous Protestant bodies on the Continent, each modelled largely upon the thought of a single master-mind, had no such inner possibilities, as is shown by the increasing stagnation of orthodox Protestant thought abroad after about 1570. In the rare cases where such strictly theological tensions arose among Protestants, they usually issued in further schisms ... 

"It is historically obvious that [the Counter-Reformation Church] owed this basic advantage to its retention of the Papacy ..."*

Exactly. Another way of putting this ... a rather English way ... would be to say that the Latin Church was a very Broad Church, containing a rich variety of 'churchmanships'.

Fundamentally, this remained true until the present pontificate. You only have to recall the criticisms made by Traddies of S John Paul II and Benedict XVI for some of the appointments they made. Tagle a Cardinal?!?!

There are many tragedies in the present pontificate, but it seems to me that the most distressing of them all is the narrowing of Church life so that only one 'Churchmanship' (I hope to be forgiven for my Anglican terminology) is encouraged; what, on this blog, I have tended to call 'Bergoglianity'. This is demonstrated both by appointments made (e.g., of Cardinals Cupich and Tobin in America), and of the alacrity with which resignations are accepted from bishops felt to be unsympathetic, in contrast to the delays in replacing 'Bergoglians' (e.g., Wuerl, still running his diocese as I write) however gravely compromised they are.

Presumably, PF is aware of his own mortality and is anxious to do what he can, in the time available to him, to prescribe and to delimit the future. "Old men in a hurry to realise their dearest dreams can be very short-sighted."*. One of his own close collaborators, at the beginning of this pontificate, admitted as much.

But to understand PF is not to excuse him for the very great calamity which he is bringing upon the Latin Church by his facile brutality and his unconcealed and narrow partisanship.

The Roman Pontiff is meant to be the Father, papa, of all God's people, not just of his own cronies.

*The first quotation comes from the Report Catholicity offered to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1947 by fourteen Anglo-Catholics including (the future) Bishops Carpenter, Mortimer, and Ramsey. And T S Eliot! The Report was drafted by Dom Gregory Dix. The second quotation is from Dix.  

16 December 2018

Down With Cosin

Not that I mean that. The principal reviser of the Anglican Prayer Book in 1662 was much nearer being an orthodox Catholic than was poor Dr Cranmer. But I know whose liturgical craftsmanship I prefer.

In the old Latin Missals, the Third Sunday in Advent had an exquisite Collect:
Aurem tuam, quaesumus, Domine, precibus nostris accomoda: et mentis nostrae tenebras gratia tuae visitationis illustra.
translated thus in the 1549 Prayer Book:
Lord, we beseche thee, geue eare to our prayers, and by thy gracious visitacion lighten the darknes of our hearte.

Simple, elegant, economical, terse, instinctively Roman of the best period; I don't know whether S Leo might have written it (I believe it first appears in the Gregorianum), but it's worthy of him. The Feast of Christmas is regarded as making liturgically real for us the Visitation of God among us; we are euchologically situated in the darkness of a Sin which precedes the coming of God's grace; and we are pointed to the Gospel of the Christmas Missa in Die, the Johannine Prologue about the Incarnate Divine Light which shines in the darkness that comprehends it not. (What a shame that neither Clergy nor people know this great passage anything like as well as folk did in the dreadful unreformed days that preceded the Bugnini liturgical revolution; one of the graces of saying the Extraordinary Form is starting the day with an Ordo Missa including the Last Gospel.)

Needless to say, that collect proved too plain and good to survive. The 1662 Prayer Book, neatly anticipating the wordy over-cleverness of the Bugnini era, replaces it with a dense and verbose composition which links S John Baptist, the pastoral and homiletic duties of the clergy, and the verdict to be passed at the Second Coming. Bugnini brought in something from the Rotulus, but bowdlerised even that, so as to eliminate a suggestion that Christmas is the Incarnatio dominica.

15 December 2018

The Age of the Commissars

So ... one of the Roman auxiliary bishops, a Jesuit, has been appointed  Commissar of the Priestly Brotherhood of the Family of Christ (FSFC) in Ferrara. Is he, one can't help wondering, a Bergoglian? The mere fact that he himself comes from Ferrara is hardly a guarantree of austere impartiality. One wonders whose idea it was ... assuming that the FSFC really did need to be handed over to a Commissar ... to treat them like this. Is there no sympathetic bishop who could have advised this small but growing Traditionalist Family?

There have been reports recently that the SSPX might resume negotiations with the Holy See. I do not mean disrespectfully to imply that I know better than the new management of that organisation how, or whither, it should be led. But I find it hard to believe that, in the current climate, it would be wise to subject it to the current Roman regime. And I do understand why Rome might be anxious to get its hands on the Society ... one of the few places in the Latin Church where the writ of the bullies does not yet run. Lente lente currite noctis equi.

Readers will remember the regulations according to which diocesan bishops were peremptorily deprived of the right to set up religious communities of diocesan right within their jurisdictions without interference from the Congregation for Religious. I imagine that wise bishops will refrain from canonically erecting any new and orthodox groups, but will instead protect and foster them in an informal uncanonical state until the days of joy and freedom return. Is it a sign of health in an ecclesial body that pastoral and prudent hierarchs will feel the necessity to operate beneath the canonical radar?

It is hardly surprising that, when an orthodox Shepherd dies or retires, there should be such anxieties about what might happen to his diocese. There must be quite a few seedy would-be misthotoi slouching impatiently  behind Roman pillars puffing away at their fags while eagerly awaiting the rewards of sycophancy and networking.

This present pontificate is not only cruel.

It is also coarse and vulgar.

12 December 2018


Since there are still some ferias left this week, on which last Sunday's Mass will be repeated, it is not, perhaps, too late to add a few words about that Mass.

Back in the days when the main purpose of a Roman Pontiff was the solemn celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, on the Second Sunday in Advent he processed to his 'Stational Church', the Church of the Holy Cross, in order to offer the Holy Sacrifice. This is the Church which was in the residence of Constantine's mother, S Helen of Colchester. Soil had been brought from Jerusalem and the Church had risen above it; in it the Empress had deposited the relics of the Cross and other relics of the Crucifixion which she had brought from Jerusalem. In Willis' words, "it was intended to represent in Rome the sacred sites of the Holy City", and, as the Liber Pontificalis puts it, "cognominatur usque in hodiernum diem Hierusalem".

That identification left profound marks on this week's Mass texts. The Introit, which has miraculously survived even into the Novus Ordo, is loosely based on Isaias 30: O people of Sion, behold, the Lord will come to save the Gentiles, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart. Jewry is told that YHWH is coming to his people, and will save the Gentiles.

This is a fine Biblical theme and one not commonly heard in modern preaching! Jewry is the people of YHWH, and his promises still abide with that Faithful Remnant of his people which recognised the Day of its Visitation, and also with the Gentiles who through the grace and election of the God of Israel have received him by Faith and share his Promises. As Dom Gueranger sums it up, "Christ brings Jews and Gentiles into the one same family. Glory to this Sovereign King, the powerful offspring of the root of Jesse!"

The Epistle from Romans 15 reminds us that the Jewish Scriptures were given for our edification. Christ Jesus, this passage goes on, was God's diakonos to the Jews so as to confirm the Promises made to the Patriarchs, and so that the Gentiles will glorify God. I commend this entire passage to prayerful study.

The ancient Gradual/Alleluia is based upon Psalms 49/50 and 121/122: His beauty comes from Sion; our God will manifestly come; I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the House of the Lord. Baruch supplies the CommunioJerusalem, arise and stand on high; and behold the joy which will come to you from your God.

There is nothing here of the accusations that a whole race was to be for ever guilty of Deicide, accusations which so polluted some Medieval Christian minds. And there is nothing of the foolish but fashionable babble of some modern so-called Catholic 'thinkers' for whom their first obligation is to fawn obsequiously upon representatives of the rabbinic Judaism of the Synagogue, showering them with lavish and guilt-ridden assurances that they are in no danger of our wicked 'proselytism'.

They went their way; may God most abundantly bless them and, at the End, bring them home. We, in the same Faith which our Patriarch Abraham had before he was circumcised, still go up to God's House to approach YHWH with a Sacrifice. I offered him a Lamb this morning about three hours ago.

11 December 2018

Blessed Water? Holy Water?

The water in the cruet, which I blessed at Mass before I put a drop of it into the wine in the Chalice at the Offertory ... is it Holy Water?

10 December 2018

Mulier Fortis

I don't always enjoy reading the same lection day after day. I hope it doesn't make me a Novus Ordo freak if I admit that (a truncated version of ) the Parable of the Talents, as Confessor Bishop follows Confessor Bishop in our ... dare I use this word ... rather clericalist Calendar, sometimes seems a bit of a trial.

However, the Mulier fortis from Proverbs 31 is always a joy to me. I just wonder how I am to situate some of the phrases in it. But I positively love it when another vidua pops cheerfully up and I have to read this exquisite passage .

Today, I banished indolence and fished my (rather old edition of) Brown-Driver-Briggs, and my (even older) Septuagint, off their shelves because I have long wondered what the opening words actually mean. Is she a 'good' woman (RSV) or a 'strong' woman (Vulgate)? The Septuagint gave me rather a shock: on the surface, it seems that she is a 'manly' woman. Perhaps this explains the opening of the Office Hymn by Cardinal Silvio Antoniano: Fortem virili pectore ...

But BDB gave me the lowdown: the Hebrew term has a root sense of effectiveness. It is often a physical word, not infrequently a military term. But sub voce 2, "ability, efficiency, often involving moral worth". The lexicon offers Genesis 47:6, Exodus 18:21et25, Ruth 3:11, I Kings 1:42et52, and Proverbs 12:4.

How about the husband? It it protosatire to describe him sitting in the shade of the City Gate watching all the world go by and gossipping with his peers, while she does all the work? Or is he simply one of her fashion accessories? I think, neither. Rather, her brilliance and successes are a massive feather in his cap. (The LXX gives a vivid detail when it describes him as peribleptos.) Could it be that we have in this passage a clever example of the world, so often seen through male eyes, pictured wifeishly? As when a Euripidean Medea points out that giving birth can be more dangerous and painful than gadding around dressed as a hoplite.

One of the things I like about the Hebrew Scriptures is the picture it gives of women. There are those beauties adept at using their charms to save the People ... who naturally end up as types of the Mother of God in her role as Potent Intercessor. Indeed, the cultus of our Lady would be rather impoverished if it could not draw upon the Hebrew Scriptures. Tota pulchra es Maria ...

The most important lesson of Proverbs 31 is the truth that the Woman runs the Family and the Household, while the Man is the Family's outward face, turned to the World and to the other Families. But I am also rather taken by the respect that Hebrew culture implies towards the Wife. Perhaps our current sexual culture would be healthier if it understood this.

After we were married and got away from the Reception to a hotel, and took an early supper in the restaurant, I remember looking up from the menu at the waiter and saying "My wife will have ..."; and thinking what a beautiful word "Wife" was.

I have not changed my mind since then.

9 December 2018

Methodist Chapels ... and 'Bible Sunday'

I find Methodist chapels disappointing. This is because so many of them have endured 'Reordering'.

The traditional English pattern for Methodist ... and other Protestant Non-Conforming ... chapels was that they were dominated, at the"ritual East end" by a broad pulpit, stretching most of the width of the chapel except for a stair up to it at left and right. A reading Desk marked the middle. Beneath the Reading Desk, there was a small table for communion services.

In chapel after chapel, all this has been removed. They now have an adaptable space, probably with some posters, children's toys, guitars  ...

So what? Why should I bother?

Well, I don't, a lot. But it seems to me that the ritually-expressed purpose of Worship, in the Methodist tradition, has been profoundly altered.

Because, surely, the meaning of the old set-up was: the proclamation of the Word of God is important; the Minister is to be regarded as an authoritative exponent of the Scripture and as one commissioned to summon the community to repentance and faith. His physical position even assimilated him to the Tabernacle in a Catholic Church or the Torah Shrine in a Synagogue.

Yes; it's dodgy expounding the religion of other people ... if you are knowledgeable, do feel free to engage critically with my assumptions.

The removal of the pulpit seems to me, until I am better advised, to suggest the unhorsing of that old tradition, and its replacement by something deemed to be less rigid and more flexible, with less authority to be discerned in the words of the preacher. Something more affective. If this is so, then I would regard the change as a divergence from the Catholic Tradition in as far as we do still consider Scripture as authoritative. And if I were to get rhetorical, as I so often do, I might make sarcastic remarks about a religion which began by claiming to be Bible-centred in a way that other Christians were alleged not to be [many West Country Methodist chapels still claim in stone above their porticoes to be "Bible Christian", one of the sects into which Wesleyanism split up] had ended up by dethroning the Word of God (as their penultimate stage before being sold for redevelopment into bijou residences named "Ye Olde Chapel").

As a mere observer and outsider (but still a fellow Christian), my complaint is that these once evocative and impressive buildings are now just dead boring little (or big) spaces.

They have no message. Rather like the empty red Art Deco telephone boxes just across the road.

8 December 2018

What is the CDF for?

Fr Thomas Rosica is a part of the Vatican Machine. He used to sit at the table during Vatican Press Conferences, defending the interests of the English Language and of his fellow Anglophones (he is a subject of The Queen's Majesty of Canada). He gave an impression of intelligence, competence, and imperturbability. He appeared to have a sense of language and of words.

On July 31, 2018, he published a piece on a platform called "Salt + Light Media". Towards the end of it, he wrote as follows:

"Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants because he is 'free from disordered attachments.' Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture."

Philological questions: Why is the phrase 'free from disordered attachments' placed within the indications of reported speech? Is there significance in the initial t- of 'tradition' being lower case? Am I right to assume that 'its own' means 'the Church's own'?

The initial assertion that PF breaks 'traditions' is vague. In modern Anglophone culture, 'traditions' can easily mean minor picturesque and antiquarian oddities, such as keeping ravens in the Tower of London as guarantees that it will never be captured by the enemies of the realm, and objects for Japanese tourists to photograph. But when, later in this passage, the word is put in the singular, a different implication is evident: that the writer is entering those areas of theological discourse in which we discuss Tradition and Scripture together (or separately) as sources (or a source) of authoritative teaching.

A claim that a pope does or can set aside Scripture and Tradition can hardly be coherent with the teachings of the Council of Trent or Vatican I.

Prima facie, it appears to be formally heretical.

The assertion that the Church is 'openly ruled by an individual' suggests a personal monarchicalism which is difficult to reconcile with sound doctrine and, indeed, is hardly likely to appeal very much to the modern mind either.

The progressive logic of the second sentence appears to suggest that, while previously the Church was governed by a hierarchy which gave respect to Scripture and Tradition, she has now 'indeed entered a new phase' in which this has ceased to be true. This is a form of 'rupturalism' which seems to go far beyond even the controversial assumptions of the 'Bologna School' in their hermeneutic of Vatican II.

Does the assertion that PF is free from disordered attachments mean that, being, like our Lady, untouched by Original Sin and its consequences, he has a prelapsarian immunity from erring in his choices?

I find it hard to believe that members of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity can have been happy with the claim that PF's pontificate is free from Scripture or Tradition. Orthodox and Evangelicals alike, if they have read those words, are likely to have resolved that there is a far greater chasm now between themselves and the papal communion than they could ever possibly have dreamed there was before. (Orthodox, in particular, have their own internal reasons currently for being very shy of 'the heresy of papism'.) Anglicans and Lutherans may have heaved great sighs of relief that they never took dialogue with Rome very seriously and that, most mercifully, nothing much ever came of it anyway. You need to keep the peddlers of this sort of religious absurdity at several arms' lengths.

Rosica's words seem to me to represent the most extreme form of the ultrapapalist error that I have yet encountered. Most Bergoglian ideologues at least tend, with boring consistency, to attribute the problematic utterances of this pontificate to the Holy Spirit; or to invoke, inaccurately, Newman's views about 'development'. Rosica dares to attribute to PF, with approval, a right simply to change things 'whenever he wants' ... in other words, at whimsy. My own cultural tradition condemns such attitudes with talk of 'arbitrary power'. I wonder how common such unashamed ultrabourbonism is in Canada.

I would not myself like to be judged too harshly on the basis of everything I have ever written. We can all of us misspeak, and even miswrite. Probably, I do so much more often than I should. But, given his high profile, you would have thought that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might have asked Fr Tom for explanations and clarifications in such a way that he would by now have formally recanted his very public prima facie heresies.

I wonder if they have?

Whether they have or not, whether or not he has recanted, the words he wrote stand in the evidential record as a most disturbing revelation of the extent to which grave formal doctrinal error is part and parcel of the everyday working assumptions of the 'sycophants and careerists' (well chosen words of Cardinal Mueller) who surround PF; the regular currency which passes from hand to hand in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

It is not surprising that matters in Christ's Church Militant are as dangerously bad as they are. The Gates of Hell must be feeling quite optimistic. S Paul VI spoke about the Smoke of Satan entering the Church through a fissure; in hoc aevo Bergogliano weapons-grade Poison Gas appears to have become the problem.

Apparently, our Enemy is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention.


6 December 2018

Father Aidan Nichols on Hyperultrapapalism

In his 2017 lecture to which I referred a little while ago, Dr Nichols, according to the Catholic Herald, said that the First Vatican Council had restricted the doctrine of papal Infalibility, so that it is not the position of the Roman Catholic Church that a pope is incapable of leading people astray by false teaching as a public doctor. He went on:

"He may be the supreme appeal judge of Christendom ... but that does not make him immune to perpetrating doctrinal howlers. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly given the piety which has surrounded the figures of popes since the pontificate of Pius IX, this fact appears to be unknown to many who ought to know better".

The Catholic Herald added that Fr Aidan went on to wonder whether "given the limits of papal infallibility, canon law might be able to accommodate a formal procedure for inquiring into whether a pope had taught error" and "a procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error". Such a procedure might be less "conflictual", Fr Nichols added, if it took place during a future pontificate, rather as Pope Honorius was only condemned for error after he had ceased to occupy the chair of Peter.

Such a process would "dissuade popes from any tendency to doctrinal waywardness or simple negligence."

5 December 2018


Some people have been wondering about the existence of Excommunication as a remedy available under Canon Law.

I can see why these anxieties have arisen. During a period of ecclesial tyranny like the present, such a penalty has the potential to be very dangerous. Perhaps it is less likely that PF would impose such a penalty ... after all, it might damage his carefully crafted PR image ... than that the theologically illiterate sycophants and careerists who are cheerfully riding along with this regime might do so in order to demonstrate the degree of their pathetic submission (I am employing, from "theologically" down to "submission", Cardinal Mueller's admirably frank and useful recent terminology).

But I do not agree with suggestions that excommunication should therefore be abolished. It is an essential (and biblical) concept. And, with regard to a particular priest who, according to media reports, has been excommunicated in the archdiocese of Palermo, I would rather not express opinions. That is because I know nothing about the case. I would remind traddies that it is dangerous to lionise anybody ... and that there are nutters in Traddidom just as there are (in such generous abundance!!) in Trendidom.

And, even in such unusual times as these when the evidence of Diabolic involvement grows daily more obvious, I think our fall-back position should be to trust the pastors in the Church until and unless we have good and clear evidence to justify doing otherwise.


But there is one reform which I do regard as highly and most urgently necessary, both in issuing a sentence of excommunication and in asserting that a particular person has incurred such a penalty latae sententiae.

A very precise explanation should be publicly issued, both in canonical and theological terms, of why such a penalty is being imposed or discerned. Such an explanation should be prepared to run the risk of being too lengthy and too detailed and, if necessary, too technical. It should be utterly clear and should avoid woffly managerial episcobabble and convenient ambivalence, as well as the condescendingly 'clericalist' manner which seems to come so often with the Grace of Episcopacy.

As far as I am aware, Palermo has not done this.

Both the person concerned, and the Holy People of God, have a right to such facts. And if penalties also have the purpose of deterrence, it is proper that other people should know clearly what they should avoid in order not to suffer the same penalty. And academic communities, theological and canonical, should have the materials upon which to base an informed judgement about the validity and prudence of the proceedings. (There is no space for the fuehrerprinzip in a Christian community.)

This is what we of the Anglo-Saxon cultural tradition sometimes call ACCOUNTABILITY.

I hope it is not 'cultural imperialism' to commend it to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies!

4 December 2018

It is bad manners ...

 ... to pontificate upon the internal affairs of other communions; so I will probably not be forgiven for expressing a view that, in the current spat between Constantinople and Moskow, Moskow has distinctly very much the better of it. The assertion that Bartholomew has "fallen into the heresy of Papism" is, from a certain viewpoint, understandable ... indeed, persuasive.

Dom Gregory Dix loved to make snarky remarks about how the insignificant little see near the Bosphorus had "forged" its link with the Protoklete.

S Gregory the Great, I believe, rather disliked pretensions to 'Ecumenical' primacies! And he was not exactly without personal experience in how Byzantine primacies could work.

If people want a Universal Primacy, well, there are Biblical texts which can at least plausibly be used to prop up Roman claims (yesyesyes I know there are differing Patristic interpretations of the Petrine texts ... please don't bother to explain that to me because I won't enable you), but what on earth can Constantinople base its claims upon except for the rather unattractive Caesaropapism of its foundation and of its first millennium?

In a divided Christendom, I feel there is a lot to be said for the Ecclesiology clarified in those two admirable CDF documents Communionis notio and Dominus Iesus. Id est:

Separated bishoprics with 'valid' orders and Sacraments are true, albeit wounded, Particular Churches. 

They can be termed Sister Churches.

The operation of the Papacy, despite the support it can draw from Scripture and Tradition, can have problems, as PF is dramatically demonstrating at the moment. And it might not provide much immediate practical help in sorting out the essentially and murderously geopolitical problems experienced by Byzantine Rite Christians in post-Soviet Eastern Europe.

But, in my ignorant opinion, Catholic doctrine comes a million miles nearer to offering the beginning of solutions to such problems than the 'papism' of Patriarch Bartholomew.

If I were able to put my own questions, I might ask: on what grounds does either of those two patriarchates set up jurisdictions in the Canonical Territory (I hope I've got that phrase right) of the Roman 'Patriarchate', e.g. in Oxford or Paris? As a softie, I would concede the practical need for ad hoc arrangements. But if we turn to principles ... great nasty rigid things ...

And if Orthodoxy is the Catholic Church, why doesn't it restore a Roman 'Patriarchate'? With a genuine 'Orthodox' Patriarch of Rome?? Using, of course, the (uncorrupted) Roman Rite of the First Millennium [memories of Raymond Winch]? Perhaps ... because that would provide Embarrassments-All-Round?

It must be difficult, now that the two Patriarchates are at daggers drawn, for PF to work out which of the two he should cosy most enthusiastically up to. Perhaps he might as well finally give the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church its Patriarchate; with precedence immediately after the [Melkite] Patriarchate of Antioch (cum Alexandria cum Jerusalem) ...

 ... cats ... pigeons ...

 ... y'know, I think I rather agree with the apparent view of Benedict XVI that Patriarchates are a not unmixed blessing ...

3 December 2018

Coleridges and billabongs

An Australian prelate of this name (a relative?) is reported to have expressed the view, with regard to homosexuality, that "'Love the sinner, hate the sin' ... no longer communicates with ... the real world" in which sexuality is "part of [your] being".

I beg regular readers to forgive me for making yet again a point I have often made before when similar speakers have advanced similar ethical hermeneutics: Why does this gracious tolerance not also apply to paedophiles?

Or, perhaps, it does. Mgr Coleridge - I assume he has not been misreported - should tell us. It could help us all to be so much more relaxed and understanding about "pervert" priests. Who are we to condemn them? And to call them nasty names? After all, it is "part of their being", isn't it? God Made Them Like That, didn't He? We mustn't suggest that their sexuality is in any way "disordered", must we? Get cool, Man! Chill out! [Have I used those last idioms correctly?]

Psychopaths too ... I'm not an expert in these matters, but isn't their condition 'part of what they are'?

And perhaps the Most Reverend cobber could add an explanation of his words "no longer". When was the time when the aphorism did "communicate with the real world"? How long ago was that? What has happened so that, apparently, it now "no longer" does so? What has made it cease "communicating"? In what other areas of Moral Philosophy would he expect this principle to apply?

Or has such an important paradigm-shift so far only taken place in the gay billabongs of the Antipodes? When will this joyfully inverted and liberating morality reach us stodgy unsophisticates in the Podes, labouring as we still are under the cruel and deadening yoke of Heterosexuality? Is some Jolly and Most Reverend Swagman perhaps even now already making his topsy turvy way with it packed in his episcopal Tucker Bag? Verily verily I say unto him, "Advance Australia Fair!"

The ethical pronouncements of the proponents of Bergoglianity are so hard for us ordinary chaps and chapesses to construe, whichever way up you stand them.

(Is it true that 'a Matilda' is the idiomatic Oz term for 'a Bergoglianist bishop'? Does Mr Gammarelli supply their Tucker Bags? Does the ever-watchful eye of PF check to ensure that the Tucker Bags are neither Rigid nor Pharisaical?)

(Apologies to Joshua ... and my many other friends down under ... I will try to control my racism better ...)

2 December 2018

"Saint John Henry Newman, Doctor of the Church"

It looks as if our kindly and most erudite Patron may have a second miracle recognised enabling him to be canonised in October, during this present ecclesiastical year of 2019.

Great news!! It is reassuring to see the divine Hand powerfully at work in His Church.

But at the same time, we should remember the enormous skill with which the Enemy uses what is good and skilfully perverts it to his own ends.

The months leading up to the canonisation will be a time of enormous danger. The teaching of this great Doctor will be corrupted and misrepresented. The Eminent Graf von Schoenborn has already had a swipe at doing this (at the News Conference 'launching' Amoris laetitia). B John Henry, who spent his whole life opposing liberalism and indifferentism, and opposing cruel and corrupt ultrapapalist  'factions' in Rome, is likely to be repackaged as a forerunner of ultrapapalist and ethically dubious Bergoglianism; not to mention inevitable attempts to attribute to him the silly claim that X can "develop" not only into Non-X and but even into Contra-X.

Even PF's actual words at the ceremony of canonisation may quite possibly be painful to us, if he indulges his recurrent need to hurt people.

We should ensure that we know what Newman taught and how he lived so that we can detect and expose the sophistical falsehoods which will abound as we approach the canonisation.

It is likely that those in the Church who are promoting the acceptance of homosexual genital activity will revive the old claim that, in orientation if not in physical activities, Newman was homosexual. They will carefully ignore evidence such as entries in his Diary recording temptations he felt meeting girls at parties when, as a 15-year old schoolboy, he returned home for Christmas. Our age, which knows nothing of warm friendships between men because it is preoccupied so exclusively with genital fumblings, is not the best age to understand Victorian mores. My own subjective impression, for what it is worth, is that there is something extremely masculine about Dr Newman's calmly ruthless controversial methods.

The best biography I know of Blessed John Henry is the big fat one by Dr Ker, which quotes masses of Blessed John Henry's own words. I venture to suggest that, if anybody wants to know what they can buy you for Christmas, suggest this book ... then make the study of it one of your Lenten Exercises.

The next aim, surely, must be to secure him the title Doctor of the Church. S Edith Stein received that title pretty soon after her canonisation. Then, perhaps, "Patron of the Third Millennium".