31 May 2019

Doggie News

No; it is not April 1.

There is a move to make it illegal to eat dog meat in these Three Kingdoms.

Does much of that go on? You naturally wish to know.

Apparently, it is unknown here.

So why ... er ...

So that we can the more plausibly prosecute our principled campaign to get the practice banned in other, distant, countries. China and Korea are mentioned. Probably also Mars, Juppiter, and Saturn.

Ah; and there is something else you had better get straight.

Have you modified your pronouns yet so as to conform to the urgent Diktats of the 'Trans lobby'?

Well, betta getta move on. Yet more Newspeak is at this very moment being honed and crafted for your pleasure.

It is, apparently, now off-message to talk about Dogs, Cats, or Pets.

They are now "Companion Animals".

John Sparrow, quondam Warden of All Souls College in this University ... that's the college which is so wealthy and civilised that it doesn't take any undergraduates ... once referred to Canis lupus familiaris  as "That indefatigable and unsavoury engine of pollution".

That's why I would not wish to eat Companion Animals anyway ...  Man's oldest and filthiest friends ...


29 May 2019

Shared Sacramental Communion with the Byzantine Churches

I REPRINT A PIECE FROM 15 OCTOBER 2015, in view of its relevance to the questions of the relationship, at the deepest theological levels, between the Catholic Church and the Particular 'Orthodox' (or 'Separated Byzantine') Churches. This repetition is occasioned by a friend who drew my attention to an article by Timothy ('Kallistos') Ware on Orthodoxwestblogs, March 1 2018.

 Parts of an article in the December 1959 number of the old Anglo-Papalist journal Reunion:
" ... the conclusions of a Greek book of 697 pages entitled Relations between Catholics and Orthodox by a Greek Catholic priest P. Grigoriou, editor of the Athenian weekly Katholiki. The author takes us back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

"Archbishop Anthony C. Vuccino, A.A., former Latin Bishop of Corfu, reviewed this book in La Croix. Its pages show the good relations existing in those centuries, under the Venetian and Turkish rulers, between Catholics and Orthodox in the Near and Middle East, and particularly in Greece. With the approval of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the permissuion of their own hierarchies, Catholic missionaries preached and administered frequently in Orthodox Churches. The Archbishop draws attention to such incidents as the authorisation by the Patriarch Neophyte (1611) of the absolution of his faithful by Jesuits or Capuchins and that Orthodox deacons assisted at Mass sung by P. Goar, O.P., and received communion from him. Often the Latin bishop and his clergy preached or said Mass in the Orthodox churches of Chios.

" These events are established by contemporary documents culled by the author from all the islands and mainland. Missions were preached to mixed comgregations; there were 'mixed churches' serving both rites with Latin and Oriental altars ...

"P. Grigoriou further narrates that as the procession of Corpus Christi passed by, one Orthodox bishop would offer incense from the window of his house; in Zante the platform bearing the Blessed Sacrament on Good Friday was carried by a Latin and an Orthodox bishop ... in the seventeenth century, schools were built by local Orthodox congregations where Latin priests could teach the children of the Orthodox.

"Concelebrations are also reported by the author. In 1653 Joannice, the Patriarch of Constantinople, wrote to his Metropolitans of Trebizond and New Caesarea, authorising Fr Robert, O.C., to offer Mass in their churches. Whenever Orthodox priests concelebrated with Latin clergy, the former made the Memento of the Pope. Again, concelebration by the Orthodox Archpriest and Latin priests at the same altar in the Catholic Cathedral occurred in Corfu on the 19th January, the patronal feast of St Spyridion. ... Fr Gill, S.J., comments on this indiscriminate intermingling: 'The story is almost monotonous because it was the same everywehere; nevertheless, it is astonishing'. This intercommunion was practised on a large scale, even to the inclusion of the reception of Sacred Orders.
"We might ask why this cooperation ended. Assuredly, P.Grigoriou tells us that Pius IX made efforts to re-establish these contacts  ... Archbishop Vuccino affirms: 'The centre of Catholicism exercised general tolerance in regard to such practices, doubtless with the aim of making up for the deficiencies of the Orthodox clergy, and of creating a more brotherly atmosphere among Christians who breathed the same air and who were already united by so much.'"

Sometimes, some 'Traditionalists' speak as if all 'Ecumenism' is an aberration to be blamed on Vatican II and roundly condemned. I think is is right to keep reminding ourselves that the sort of approach embodied in the Church's current legislation is broadly in line with immemorial praxis in the Catholic Church.  

THE FOLLOWING SECTION relates to the Russian Church: Readers of this blog will not need to be reminded of the toleration accorded by S Pius X with his own hand to the request of Metropolitan Andrew Szeptycki that "he be granted a faculty, communicable also to confessors, for dispensing the secular faithful from the law by which communicatio in sacris with Orthodox is prohibited, as often as they shall judge it in conscience to be opportune" (Rome, 17:2:1908).

It is also well to remember the neat point made by Benedict XIV, that all sacramental communicatio cannot be totally excluded on principle because every 'mixed marriage' is a Sacrament of which one Catholic and one non-Catholic are the ministers.

Reunion offers these references: Catholic Herald, 13 February 1959; Unitas, Summer 1959; Eastern Churches Quarterly, Winter 1958-59; Irenikon, XXXII, 3, 1959.

Temps perdus

A little while ago I took a spring stroll through Addison's Walk and the Fellows' Garden at Magdalen ... to see the fritillaries  ... and to have a look at the lovely Mosque built in their back garden. (Unfortunately, I was not in time to catch the the Cry of the Muezzin echoing over the water meadows of the Cherwell.) Then along Mesopotamia to the forelorn, desecrated, site of Parsons' Pleasure ... memories, here, of Warden Bowra and those far-off days when undergraduates made endless jokes about Wadhamy (nowadays, of course, the Statuta have been amended so that women undergraduates can commit Wadhamy too).

The site of the Pleasure offers not even an echo of the way it was in the golden heyday of S Stephen's House, then situated in Norham Gardens. Canon Couratin, so the megale paradosis wistfully claims, used to interview prospective seminarians there (not that I have ever met a man who actually was so interviewed). But now the fences and the divesting cubicles have been bulldozed and the Curators of the University Parks, a degenerate body of men, have added insult to injury by putting up notices saying NO SWIMMING AND NO DIVING.

So, round the Duck Pond (where we used in the summer to make our morning meditations between Mattins and Mass) and out on to Bevington Road, past the house once occupied by Pam's two tutors, the terrifyingly erudite Daughter of Oz Margaret Eileen Hubbard and the somewhat ambiguous Iris Murdoch (Pam and I first met on the stairs there while waiting for a Homer Seminar). St Anne's, once the repository of Oxford's most brilliant and beautiful women undergraduates, is now polluted by vile hordes of adolescent youths who, in their horrible male way, testosterone oozing from their pimples, have renamed it Stans.

Ubi illa vetusta Oxonia? Non sumus quales eramus. Who has purloined the neiges d'antan?

28 May 2019

Calendars, calendars ...

You might have thought that today (old rite) was the festival of S Augustine of Canterbury ... and so it is throughout the whole round world except in England ...

... where he occurred on the 26th. But that was a Sunday; so this year, all he got was a commemoratio in the Sunday (low) Mass. Another complication, of course, is that the mighty S Philip Neri has a claim to the same day; there is a real problem here in view of the fact that, to the enormous benefit of the English Church, Oratories of the sons of S Philip are sprouting like mushrooms all over the country. Deo gratias for this difficulty!

Clergy whose liturgical instincts stretch daringly back into the period before the Novus Ordo have a problem when it comes to 'local' feasts; not so much as regards the Mass, since one can find hand-missals with the propers of the dioceses of England and Wales as they were before the ... er ... but where is one to find proper lections for Breviary Mattins??

In the old Calendars for Westminster, Birmingham, Brentwood, Clifton, and Portsmouth, today is the festival of Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. She was executed by 'Act of Attainder' under Henry VIII; her main offence was that she had rather more royal blood in her veins than Henry himself did, although her case was made more perilous by the fact that her exiled son, Reginald Pole, later Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury, had written a treatise on the Unity of the Church. Henry regarded this as, er, off-message. (Bodley has a ms biography by John Grandisson of S Thomas Becket, with the signature Reginald Pole, in a beautiful renaissance hand, at the front ... I digress ...  ). In an age in which it was customary for the aristocracy to accept decapitation with a ritual courtesy, the gallant old lady declared roundly that she was guilty of nothing, and made quite a fight of it.

So where on earth to find proper readings for Blessed Margaret?

Then I remembered!

In April, I was fortunate enough to receive a most agreeable and acceptable gift, from Fr Alexander Redman, of Our Lady of Lourdes in Weston sopra mare. Over the years, he had reconstructed, from various sources, the old Supplementum Cliftoniense. And he had published it in a most elegant form. So I was provided with the lawful text for Blessed Margaret! Together, of course, with much other material relevant to dioceses in addition to that of Clifton.

Thank God that erudition, scholarly instincts, and perseverance are still alive and well in the Clerus Anglicus. Every English diocese needs a Redman! How fortunate the Bishop of Clifton is to have such a jewel in his mitre! I anticipate that Father will soon be rewarded with a canonry or a prebend.

And thank you, Father, again!

27 May 2019


Time was, when I found myself quite often explaining that in the Provinces of Canterbury and York (and probabably, for all I know, in other parts of the Anglican Communion), the Dismissal at the end of Mass had a double Alleluia during Eastertide; but that in the Traditional Roman Rite this usage was confined to the Octave of Easter. To be frank, I must confess that I regarded this as typically Anglican overdoing things. I may even have criticised it for failing to mark the important distinctions between the different parts of Tempus Paschale.

But ... stone the crows!! I recently had occasion to be saying Mass at a Carmelite altar (Holy Sepulchre observance) when my attention was drawn to the provision in the Carmelite Missal that ... the double Alleluias at the Dismissal continue throughout Eastertide!

A perfunctory flip through the two volumes of Jungmann failed to give me any more information on this. Did this usage survive in any of the other monastic breviaries as they stood on the eve of the Council?

26 May 2019

How to move on within the Novus Ordo

An admirable priest called Fr Harrison has recently asked orthodox Catholics to revisit the Novus Ordo.

I offer some thoughts about what those who share Father's instincts might do so as to go just a little way to meet Traddy worshippers.

Some 'stages'.

(1) Use only the First Eucharistic Prayer. Always. Even with the kiddies. Do this as your first matter of first principle. Even if you're trinating. The provision of alternatives was the main error of ... NOT Vatican II, where no such move was even hinted at, but of the corrupt use of their influence by those who subsequently got their grubby hands on the levers of power. Without this gross mistake, other changes might, just possibly, have been just about tolerable. (After all, the Dominicans ... and others ... used a shorter Confiteor ... had shorter and different Offertory prayers ... )

(2) Sort out your Sacristy. If it goes back to before the 1970s, it has what used to be a 'vesting' surface, where vestments used to be laid out before Mass, layer upon layer, Chasuble at the bottom, amice on top, in a customary pattern. This surface is now covered with things which innumerable people have dumped there over the decades because they couldn't think of anywhere else to dump them. Often things like ten-year-old gas bills. Shift the clobber all away, and restore this surface to its proper use. And put up the traditional Latin Vesting Prayers where you will be able to see them and say them while vesting. There are important matters of culture in this stage; and in my next one:

(3) Institute a custom of quiet recollection in the Sacristy before Mass.

(4) Adopt EF customs such as holding thumb and forefinger together to avoid scattering crumbs of the Most Holy; arrange things on the corporal as they are in the Old Rite; follow the Old Rite in details like where to put the Missal ... use of pall, burse, and veil, etc... the Maniple is not exactly forbidden ... then there is the matter of incense ...

(5) Desist from saying the dreary little Novus Ordo Offertory Prayers aloud. In fact, the rubrics themselves give no justification for always saying them so as to be heard. At best, this is optional and indeed sometimes not permitted. (Look at the GIRM if you don't believe me.) Say them silently ... and vide (7) infra ...

(6) Put a Crucifix on the middle of the Altar, even if it comes between you and the people. Pope Benedict commended this, and Pope Francis has, actually, continued it. You could start off with a little crucifix and gradually work up to a nice big one. Christ died for us.

Everything so far is boringly legal. At this point, we enter the exciting area 'Not Quite So Strictly Legal'.

(7) Instead of the Novus Ordo Offertory Prayers, use the old ones. Say them (secreto) in Latin. You will probably need to use a central Altar Card, propped up against the crucifix. Or perhaps you will glue a new page, photocopied from an old Missal, into your Novus Altar Missal. If the People notice that your lips are inaudibly moving, it will be a valuable lesson to them that the main Person a Eucharistic celebrant is addressing is God, not them.

(8) Use the Trinity Sunday Preface on all Green Sundays.

(9) Genuflect more. You know when!

(10) Have a think about how to get away with eliminating the 'Acclamation' after the Consecration of the Chalice ... a nasty unRoman orientalising interpolation ... a deplorable distraction (in the Western Rite) from the Great Presence and the August Oblation ... . Not easy ... but it would be a valuable coup if you could manage it.

You will notice that I have not mentioned the direction which the Celebrant faces. This is because I think it is far more important to do the ten things I have listed. Especially considering the problems that particular change could cause you with parochial malcontents. As I am sure you are aware, even the Missal of S Pius V gives full instructions for celebrating facing the people, as if there is no particular significance in which direction is used. If S Pius V didn't care, why should you make your life a misery for it?

Because I want to concentrate on the other ten matters, I will not publish comments on that last paragraph!

25 May 2019


"In all councils there has been intrigue, violence, management, because the truth is held in human vessels. But God over rules."

24 May 2019


Uncle Ted McCarrick has got me thinking.

He is now reduced to the lay state.

But doesn't this imply that clerics are much 'higher' than laics?

Isn't that rather clericalist?

Doesn't it imply that the lay state is an indignity which any self-respecting Christian would do his/her best to avoid at all costs?

What price the phrase plebs sancta Dei?

Or have I missed something?


Perhaps there could be a status PPP ... Paenitens Presbyteralis Perpetuus. 

23 May 2019

The Tome of S Leo

Once upon a time, S John Paul II, in the course of his admirable catecheses, spoke about the Perpetual Virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God. Virginity in any shape or form being an unusual concept to journalists, the Press wanted a Story out of this, and so they turned to the Press Office of what our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman so beautifully called the House of Bondage. Duly, next day, it was reported in the public papers that a Spokesman of the Church of England had disclaimed the doctrine and said that Modern Scholarship did not accept it. Since I was working as a priest of the Church of England, I rather objected to this anonymous individual claiming to speak on my behalf. I objected all the more, because 'Ever Virgin', aeiparthenos, is in the Conciliar documents of the Council of Chalcedon, a Council to which the Church of England has historically been regarded as doctrinally committed (under the legislation of Elizabeth I, you could be burned as a heretic for denying its teaching). Semper Virgo is, to be specific, present in the Tome of S Leo, who was one of the dozen greatest latinists of all time. I am very attached to (as we say nowadays) the Spirit of Chalcedon ... but also to its words. And equally attached to the Spirit and words of S Leo.

So I made enquiries about this Press Statement. To be brief: my enquiry was passed from hand to hand, office to office, with nobody taking responsibility, everyone disowning it. But I persisted, eventually discovered the identity of the 'Spokesman', and the processes he had gone through.

His media contacts had demanded a response before their press deadline that very same day. So he had 'phoned up the only bishop of the Church of England who had an academic reputation ... a liberal Evangelical who was 'chair' of the Doctrine Commission ... who had told him what to say.

Thus did a 'Spokesman' for the Church of England disclaim, and dissociate his ecclesial body from, the common teaching of the ancient Churches, Latin, Byzantine, Oriental, and their ancient liturgies; and of the ancient Ecumenical Councils. And disrespectfully dismiss the words of the World Leader of one of our 'partners in ecumenical dialogue'. It's as easily done as that! It's what bureaucrats are for!

The waywardness of these proceedings was emphasised by the subsequent ARCIC document on Mary, which spoke about the doctrine with much more respect, and reminded readers that Cranmer, Latimer, and Jewell had subscribed to it. 

Incidentally, I met a similar implicit disrespect for the Tome of S Leo during the period of 'priestly formation' which we had to go through at the beginning of the Ordinariate. (I have mentioned this instance before.) One of the lecturers described a formula found in the Tome (De nostro enim illi est minor Patre humanitas; de Patre illi est aequalis cum Patre divinitas, the same doctrine as that of the Quicumque vult ) as "heretical" (ipso ipsius verbo). I was not impressed by what this revealed about the reliability of the doctrinal teaching still perhaps being given even today to Catholic seminarians, or the competence of all their teachers.

I pursued that chap, too. You just can't let these people, wherever you may find them, get away with things, can you?

22 May 2019

Normal business ...

I have emerged from my month of isolation from incoming traffic, emails, comments ... how much seems to have changed.

I have enabled most of the comments submitted during this period.

18 May 2019


"Inspiration is positive, and infallibility is negative. Perrone 'Numquam Catholici docuerunt donum infallibilitatis a Deo ecclesiae tribui ad modum inspirationis.'

['Catholics have never taught that the gift of infallibility is given by God to the Church by way of inspiration']

17 May 2019

The Marian Revolution

I recall an interesting paper arguing that at the Renaissance it became fashionable in certain elite intellectual circles to look down a faintly snooty nose at the old inherited conventions of Heraldry, in favour of symbolic pictures (imprese; or emblems) which could better express a man's "personal values, virtues, and ambitions".

The writer thus quoted Camden (1605): Queen Mary when she was a princesse, used both a red and white Rose, and a Pomegranate knit together to show her descent from Lancaster, Yorke, and Spaine. When she came to the kingdom, by perswasion of the Clergie, shee bare winged Time drawing Truth out of a Pit, with VERITAS TEMPORIS FILIA.

Two points: firstly, this reminds me rather of the talking-to she received early in her reign from Cardinal Pole, who pointed out to her that she ought not to use even merely conventional expressions of filial esteem when speaking of the King her Father, the adulterous schismatic Henry Tudor. By using this impresa she did indeed distance herself from the culture of her father.

Secondly: this Renaissance affectation marked her reign out as a fresh turning point with a new, reformed, stream-lined counter-Reformation Catholicism. This is the point Duffy made in Fires of Faith, his revisionist account of Marian England as an experimental laboratory for so many of the features of (what was to become) Tridentine Catholicism.

You don't need to remind me that neither badges nor coats of arms were in fact discarded in the reign of Good King Philip and Good Queen Mary. The impaled arms of Spain and England were prominent enough on their coinage. I am wondering if anybody can give evidence to substantiate the claim Camden makes. It would be interesting to know how true it is, and in what contexts Mary may have employed this new, fashionable device.


I have been interested in this area of study since I was able to demonstrate (Transactions of the Dumfriesshire ... , 1993) that the previously unidentified sculptures at the Scottish castle of the recusant Maxwell family, carved in the 1630s, were taken, some (via the Emblemes of Quarles, 1635) from a Jesuit book (Typus Mundi) printed in Antwerp in 1627, and some from Andrea Alciato's best seller of 1531. Caerlaverock, by the way, is a truly lovely spot.

16 May 2019

Hermeneutics of Magisterium (2)

Cardinal Mueller wrote, while he was still Prefect of the CDF: "In Europe, theologians immediately have to have the exact council text ready when words like 'faith' or 'mercy' are used. This kind of theology with which we are familiar doesn't exist in Latin America. They are more intuitive there ... they look at a text without considering it as a part of a whole. We must somehow respect and accept this style. But I nevertheless wish that as far as teaching documents are concerned clear theologicsal preparation must take place."

This perceptive analysis must sure be a valuable tool when we are analysing texts issued under this pontificate.

15 May 2019

Hermeneutics of Magisterium (1)

Some five years ago, PF wrote: "I have written an encyclical and an apostolic exhortation, and I continually make declarations and give homilies, and this is Magisterium".

On a more recent occasion, he said that the liturgical dispositions of the 1960s and 1970s were 'irreversible', and added: "This is Magisterium".

Such an understanding of what Magisterium is and how magisterial teaching operates seems to me to be at the level of toddler-talk. It must give rise to the suspicion that none of the teaching of someone who functions at this sort of level can be analysed as adult or as authentically magisterial.

14 May 2019


Earlier in this pontificate, I received a letter from a friend which included these words: "You will know that all of us who require the nihil obstat of the Holy See for our work have been threatened with its removal if we identify with any formal criticism. I received a renewal of this 'advice' only this morning".

Lovely lot, these Bergoglians, aren't they?

13 May 2019

A hypothetical question

When a Eucharistic Prayer is being used which contains an 'epiclesis' later than the Institution Narrative, should the Lord's Body and Blood still be shown for adoration after the Verba Domini?

Yes! Fortescue (The Mass, 1912) explains: "The whole consecration-prayer is one thing, of which the effect is the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. During this prayer we ask continually ask for that grace; although the prayer takes time to say and God grants what we ask at one onstant, not necessarily the last instant of the prayer. So in all rites constantly people still ask for what, presumably, they have already received. Our baptism and ordination services furnish obvious parallel examples. The Epiklesis is surely also to be explained in this way ... the Canon is one prayer. Consecration is the answer to that one prayer. It takes place no doubt at the words of institution, but it is the effect of the whole prayer. There is no sequence of time with God. He changes the bread and wine intuitu totius orationis [in consideration of the whole prayer]."

Readers of Catherine Pickstock's After Writing will remember her insistence, in her illuminating exposition of the traditional Roman Rite, on liturgical stammerings and repetitions and rebeginnings, as features of Orality.

In Cardinal Ximenes' edition of the Mozarabic Rite, in which some twenty or so of the 200 Eucharistic Prayers have an epiclesis after the Institution Narrative, the elevations nevertheless always happen at the 'Roman' place.

Ever since 1928, many Anglican liturgical tinkerers have rather liked putting epicleses after the the Institution Narratives. I suspect this is partly the old Anglican weakness for cosying up to what they think of as Orthodoxy, and partly a vandalistic desire to clobber "mechanical" understandings of Consecration. I have known Anglicans who have believed that it is superstitious to think that Consecration is effected by five words, but, for some unexplained reason, enlightened to attribute it to several hundred words.

12 May 2019

Virgo Potens, ora pro nobis

I once photocopied a fine baroque engraving of Virgo Potens. The Mother of God is portrayed in an oval, holding what I presume must be a Marshal's baton. By her head is written Omnia possum in eo. Round the oval is a fearsome array of arms, from bows and arrows to cannons. There is a bust of Minerva at the top. Around this is written Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, and underneath In manu tua virtus et potentia I Paral 29. [Paralipomena is what Protestants call Chronicles]. Beneath our Lady is a field crammed with (I presume) military pavilions; on the left, the elegant figure of Jael (nice shapely arm) wielding a hammer over the prostrate figure of Sisera [Judges 4] balancing, on the other side, Judith brandishing (delightfully graceful wrist) Holophernes' head [Judith 13].

Beneath it all, the letters C.P.S.C.M. [??] and "Klauber Cath sc[ulpsit] et exe[ravit] A.V. [?].

Very much in the spirit of the Akathist Hymn, and its portrayal of the Theotokos as a successful Field Martial. And of the Lady of Victories who wasted no time at Lepanto!

Sadly, in our age none of this would be comprehensible to one person in a thouand.

Could anybody provide a link to it, information about the admirable Klauber, and explanation of the mysterious capital letters?

Her Immaculate Heart will prevail!

11 May 2019

I will go unto the Altar of God

The Preparation at the Foot of the Altar, now returned to us by our splendid Ordinariate Missal, is a very dear part of our Patrimony, offered in the English Missal  and so many of the other twentieth century Anglo-Catholic Mass Books (and even in 1928!). As we all ... I hope ... become more and more familiar with it, I offer you two comments on this verse, both from erudite Anglicans but, my goodness, how differently erudite.

Firstly from Catherine ("radical Orthodoxy") Pickstock. "Unlike ordinary geographical destinations, the altar of God is an infinitely receding place, always vertically beyond, in the sense of altaria, a raised place where offerings were upwardly burnt, possibly linked in Latin to adolere ("to burn in sacrifice"), adolescere ("to burn") and the concomitant sensual diffusion of olere ("odour"). This raised place of sacrificial burning is the site where offerings are altered and transubstantiated."

And next, from John Mason ("Ritualist and Patristical") Neale. "Never, surely, more glorious and comforting a verse than this. To see the Man of Sorrows, - now His warfare almost accomlished, - now the sin He bare for us almost pardoned, - approaching to the Great Altar of the Evening Sacrifice of the world".

Introibo ad Altare Dei. What greater privilege than this; to stand at the foot of the altar and to say in and with and through the Eternal Son these words "I will go unto the Altar of God" - to say or hear them three times because they are not an observation to be uttered and cast aside but an entering into the heart of meaning. And then to go up the steps, ascending with Him ad montem sanctum Dei as so many of God's pilgrim people went up to Sion, since those ancient, shadowy, days when there first was a place of sacrifice upon that Mount. To be granted to kiss the stone of sacrifice and to stand there as Abraham did with Isaac on Moriah. And, thus, "day by day to offer up the Immaculate Lamb of God, to hold in one's hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which He has ordained, again and again to drain the chalice of the Great Victim" (Newman).

10 May 2019


"Pray Brethren that my sacrifice and yours ..."

We find the roots of this formula, which precedes the Prayer Over The Offerings, in Carolingian Gaul, in a rubric which goes: "Then indeed the Priest to [or with?] right hand and left asks of the other priests that they pray for him".

I am suggesting that originally the Orate Fratres was a formula addressed to concelebrants; although, of course, through being used by celebrants who had no concelebrants around them, it soon came to be thought of as addressed to the assistant clergy in the sanctuary and to the congregation.

The strength of my suggestion is that it makes sense of the concept of "my sacrifice and yours". I have long been puzzled by the assumption we have all made that a formula which entered the Mass as late as the Carolingian period should seem to want so explicitly to refer to the People as offerers of the Sacrifice. Yes, I know that in a sense they most certainly are, but that was a period in which emphasis was laid more and more strongly on the idea that the Priest sacrifices for the people (so that the phrase "for whom we offer unto thee" entered the Memento).

9 May 2019

Knife marks and Co Kerry

Today, after visiting the tomb of the last (indeed, the only) Catholic Bishop of Oxford in the Cathedral here, I dropped into the shop in the Chapter House to buy some hosts. Having a minute or two to idle around, I wandered around some of the Church silver kept there ... mostly stuff never used in the parish churches and kept in Oxford partly for safety and partly so that it can be on view. It must have been the way the light was slanting ... I was looking at a typically Anglican 1694 standing paten when I noticed knife marks criss-crossing on the surface of the silver. Then I realised several other patens on display were similarly marked.

Before the Catholic Revival, leavened bread was commonly used in the Church of England for the Eucharist. It was cut into cubes. In the cloister of Chichester Cathedral there is a monument, I think to an early nineteenth century canon, showing a Georgian chalice and paten with the cubes neatly arranged piled up on the paten. Clearly, some sextons cut the bread up on the paten itself, using a rather sharp knife.

Also in the Oxford Treasury I came upon a fourteenth century paten with knife marks. That, I presume, must have been in continual use before and after the Reformation.

As the Catholic Revival spread, unleavened bread became usual in the Church of England, even in rather 'low' churches. But, back in the sixties, there was a trendy fad for using 'real' bread. Happily, it was transient: its manifest inconvenience was a deterrent. But I do remember doing summer duty one summer at Cowes on the Isle of Wight four or five decades ago, and having to use buns. The crumb problem was an absolute nightmare. Not to mention the consumption of the Remains.

When I began my long and most pleasurable period of spending the summer vacations serving a couple of Anglican churches in County Kerry, I had to conform to the Irish Anglican canonical requirement of leavened bread. We soon became friends of Bishop Ned Darling and his wife Patricia, who visited annually on one of our Sundays there. "This is what we do", he explained. A slice of bread is squidged  by being rolled flat and thin, and is then neatly cut into rectangles. The crumb situation thus becomes no greater than with unleavened bread. But it means, of course, getting up a few minutes earlier every Sunday morning before setting out to say ones Masses.

Entre nous, I did use an ordinary priest's host as well for myself and my family. And I uneasily left to the Almighty the question of whether commercial sliced bread is or is not so adulterated as to be dubious matter.

Bishop Ned, by the way, was a pluralist in the finest, grandest, medieval manner; Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh, and Emly ... well, to be honest, also of Inniscattery, united with Limerick around 1450. He signed himself differently wherever he went. I wonder what Pope Hildebrand says to these Anglican Irish bishops when they get to the Pearly Gates. [When he came to us, he put +Edward Ardfert: in the Register.]

8 May 2019

Common Sense

Here is an old post from 2014, together with its old thread.

 I think it would be for the best if the Holy Father henceforth confined his public utterances to formal texts which had been passed by the appropriate and responsible Roman Dicasteries. If he wishes to publish some views qua private theologian, he should, as Professor Ratzinger did, indicate this formally and explicitly.

The present situation simply cannot be allowed to continue.

I now add ... in 2019 ... the following response to the thread.

The august and necessary Teaching Authority of the Roman Pontiff does not adhere to him as an individual. It applies to him as the Bishop of S Peter's See, Rome. That is why Blessed John Henry Newman argues that what some popes said or signed after being beaten up in Byzantine prisons does not create a problem for the doctrine of Papal Infalibility. Such a pope was not speaking as Bishop of Rome surrounded by  the Council of his Presbyters or his Synod of Suburbicarian and visiting Bishops.

I argued, and still argue, that a Pope, if he wishes to act as pope, cannot act as a whimsical individual. He lost that privilege the moment he accepted election.

I think I was right in the apprehensions I felt early in this pontificate. 

6 May 2019


"As to the Pope being a heretic as a private person, while he is infallible ex cathedra, this is an idea quite intelligible."

5 May 2019

"Conventional Morality"

Recently, a novelist died ... Diana Athill ... who had been sexually promiscuous. In a newspaper column, I read

"Diana Athill, who died this week, was never a slave to conventional morality."

It immediately (yes, I know I'm weird) set me thinking ... in the early days of May 1945, suppose a member of the Commentariat had written

"Adolf Hitler, who died this week, was never a slave to conventional morality."

Aren't Language Games fascinating?

4 May 2019

"Lore Enforcement"

The other day, I heard a long discussion on the wireless about "Lore Enforcement". It is a subject that has puzzled me for years. Politicians on-the-make wax eloquent about it. They're jolly keen on "Lore and Order, too. But they never specify what sort of "lore" is to be "enforced". Morris Dancing? American Footie with girls waggling pom-poms? Cabers tossed in the Scottish Highlands? Ravens preserved in the Tower of London or Monkeys on the Rock of Gibralter? And why should Lore be "enforced"?

Perhaps the attraction of Lore has disappeared in our culture. Three or four dacades ago, Bridesheasd Revisited was beautifully filmed for a Beeb TV series (don't confuse this with a much more recent cretinous and disastrous cinema version). But there were one or two textual slips. Ryder as narrator is talking about his first Oxford Trinity term in the company of Sebastian Flyte. Toward the end of this term, he had needed to cram the texts prescribed in the Statuta, texts of which "I remember no syllable now; but the other, more ancient lore which I acquired that term will be with me in one shape or another to my last hour".

Ryder's words, converted by the script-writers into a voice-over, inadvertently changed this to "the other, more ancient love," thus narrowing and limiting "lore" into the Love which dared not speak its name.

Homosexuality was, of course, still then unlawful.

Or do I mean unloreful ...

3 May 2019

Merton Priory

A few years ago, I amused myself in Bodley by perusing six books recorded as having come from the library at Merton.

Amusement, indeed! The books were fascinating to look at, and gave an interesting picture of intellectual life in the century before Suppression. Of course, I had no way of knowing whether these six books were typical of the contents of the canons' library. But if they were, they would certainly support a 'Duffy' view: that there was nothing torpid about the late Medieval Church. Three of them were crammed full of mathematics, astronomy, trigonometry, and what we fuddy duddies call Natural Philosophy; books which had been used and bore marginal comments. A text of S Isidore's Summum Bonum recorded how it had been bought in Italy in 1463. The solitary printed book was a collection of works of Desiderius Erasmus, printed in Basle in a lovely Renaissance fount in 1519 ... less than two decades before the Priory's Suppression. It included Erasmus' classicising poems in Latin and in Greek.

The after-History of these books was also not without interest. One of them bore embossed on its covers the arms of Sir Kenelm Digby; another, those of blessed William Laud, Bishop and Martyr. Digby, a colourful Roman Catholic and occasional Anglican with persistent Court connexions, studied in Oxford at Gloucester Hall (now Worcester College in this parish), which was a Recusant annexe to the more ambiguously 'Church Papist' S John's College; Laud of course was an Anglican and a St John's man. Current historiography emphasises the dark discontinuities of the 'Elizabethan' Church and its radical Protestantism. But no one denies that the Stuart period brought with it a softening of antitheses, a Hermeneutic of Continuity, and a building up of broken bridges with the past and with the currents of intellectual life in Counter-Reformation Europe.

It was good to handle and to think about these books, which escaped destruction in the massive book-burnings of Protestantism (Duke Humphrey's Library - not yet refounded as Bodley - was stripped of all its books, which went into an enormous bonfire); happy survivors which made it through the bottle-neck and helped to pass on the wisdom, science, culture of two millennia and of the Humanist springtime embodied in S John Fisher and Reginald Cardinal Pole.

2 May 2019


My friend Dr Simon Cotton, no less an erudite ecclesiologist than a distinguished research chemist, has kindly sent me a piece he wrote for New Directions about the Church of S Peter ad vincula at Coveney in Cambridgeshire.

For 55 years, the Patron of the Benefice was Athelstan Riley, an Anglo-Catholic squire and benefactor of churches. He is perhaps best known for his little gem at Little Petherick in Cornwall, adorned so as to look just like that medieval church would have looked if the Reformation had never occurred. It includes a superb chantry chapel; possesses (or did when I was still in the C of E)  a great collection of continental vestments; and was accompanied by a Home for retired clergy. I think Riley imagined these reverend gentlemen queuing up to say their masses each morning at his altars wearing his vestments!

At Coveney he made the sort of benefactions that delighted him; including a replica of the vincula Sancti Petri! And a baroque Netherlandish pulpit. And a German Reredos ... with this inscription:

eCClesiae sCi petri De coveney eX voto athelstanus rIley arM benefiCII patrn's

(Abbreviations: arm for armiger; patrn's for patronus.)

You will notice that some letters are larger than others!

A CHRONOGRAM is an inscription in which those letters which in Roman usage can stand for a number are counted up ... and usually give a date.

So here you take the (larger) letters CCCDXIMCII. This you will tot up to 1913 ... presumably, the date of this benefaction.

There are two sorts of Chronogram.
(1) The Pure Chronogram; in which if you use an M, D, C, L, X, V, or an I, they must, every single instance, all be included in the computation. This sort of Chronogram is very difficult to compose! I know; I've done it! You only have to insert inadvertently a SVM and you've got a possibly unwanted 1,005!
(2) The Easy Chronogram; where you aren't compelled to compute mathematically every occurrence of those mathematically significant letters. You simply write the letters you desire to be totted up in a larger or different or coloured script distinguishing them from all the rest of the inscription.

The Coveney Chronogram is the easier type! Were it a Pure Chronogram, there would be an extra and unwanted LIIICVVLVLI (269) to be included in the count!

More fun, surely, than a sudoku!