31 July 2019

Liberation Theology (1)

May Day ... and, in the pre-Pius XII rite, the churches were decked out in red to celebrate the Holy Apostles Ss Philip and James. In the old Breviary, (si tunc temporis non legitur de Epistula B Iacobi) the first sixteen verses of the Letter of James are today read in the First Nocturn of Mattins*; a passage which Archbishop Cranmer transferred to be be the Epistle of the Mass; " ... so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways". The Breviary has this entire Epistle, with its lucid (Amos-like) teaching about the Righteous Poor and the Righteousness-despising Rich, read during the week after Easter IV.

Now ... just suppose that S Joseph the opifex had always been commemorated on May 1; imagine that Paul VI had then replaced him with the Blood of the Martyred Apostles and the anti-plutocratic theology of S James; Catholics of a certain tendency would have grabbed at this as evidence that the poor Pontiff was a secret Marxist! Go on! Admit it!

The Church's attitude to Liberation Theology is still fossilised in the 1980s. I believe it should be unfossilised. I once hoped that our present Holy Father would do it ... but, most sadly, the Kaspers and the Marxes persuaded him by 'poor' the Scriptures meant well-heeled unrepentant German adulterers.

It is commonly held that the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned Liberation Theology in the 1980s; and that this is all that needs to be said. That is a travesty of the truth. There were in fact two documents, with only a couple of years between them, and, a couple of years after that, a significant Encyclical by S John Paul II ('1984', '1986', '1988')

'1984' was, indeed, negative. We must remember that the period beteeen 1960 and 1984 came during the polarised situation of the Cold War; of blacks and whites. It was also a time when there were vivid memories of clergymen such as Fr Camillo Torres, the clerical Che Guevara, who left Altar, Breviary, and Rosary behind him and died fighting as a guerilla. There were indeed clergy who drew their inspiration from Marx rather than from the Magisterium or the Bible, and who saw themselves as commissioned to lead their congregations in cathartic wars of political liberation. During this period, "The  Historical Jesus", that protean individual, was, as represented by Professor Sammy Brandon, a Freedom Fighter. And there was a simplistic (and profoundly erroneous) assumption that Scriptural references to "the Poor" related solely to the economically disadvantaged per se. In such a situation, it would have been a dereliction of duty if the Congregation had not laid down clear markers. And, in 1984, it did so. But that was not the end of its interest.
To be continued.

*FOOTNOTE  In the very nice 1946 Burns Oates Breviary which I use, in lectio ii, the print-setter suffered parablepsis so that his eye slipped from (exaltatione) sua to (humilitate) sua, missing out the intervening words, thus making it the poor man rather than the rich who sicut flos foeni transibit!

30 July 2019

Only for classicists

Here is the poem Erasmus composed to go with a picture of the Child Jesus which his fellow Humanist Dean Colet had put up in the school he founded and headed at S Paul's Cathedral in London.

Sedes haec puero sacra est Iesu
Formandis pueris dicata; quare
Edico, procul hinc facessat, aut qui
Spurcis moribus, aut inerudita
Ludum hunc inquinet eruditione.

It is written, as you perceive, in Phalaecian hendecasyllables (I think I-e-su is three syllables). Quaerendum: Did Erasmus derive the use of this metre from Catullus, or from Martial? The former survived antiquity only in the Veronensian codex discovered in the middle of the fourteenth century, while Martial was much more widely known at least from the Carolingian Renaissance onwards. I think I can prove it was Martial: there is a lovely little book in the British Library containing verses by the Italian Humanist Giovanni Gigli (1434-1498), later bishop of Worcester, but, when he wrote the book in 1486/7, a writer of pure and elegant classicising verse and a seller of indulgences (a revealing combination!). It includes a very long Genethliacon dedicated to the recently-named Arthur, later Prince of Wales ... in Phalaecian hendecasyllables. And I have spotted a quotation from Martial in something else Gigli wrote: which seems to me very probably to settle the question of where this fascinating generation of circa 1500 Humanists got that metre from.

Incidentally, Gigli's genethliacon begins with a recusatio explaining that disertiores will be able to do his high subject justice in heroic measures. As people scrambled for favour and jobs in the new Tudor court, it was clearly important for him to do a quick job. Indeed, many of us, I suspect, found when we were schoolboys that hendecasyllables are just about the easiest metre in which to write Latin verse fast. I wonder if that is why Erasmus produced Phalaecians to be hung up where Colet's schoolboys would see them, so that the little chaps might be tempted to have a go at doing it themselves.

29 July 2019

Orthodixy; it's Patrimonial

In the glorious days when that very considerable Pontiff, Kenneth Escott Kirk, saintly and learned, ruled the Anglican Diocese of Oxford ... he was a close friend of Dom Gregory Dix; it was a very 'Catholic' diocese in those days ... the following ditty just emerged ex nihilo ... acheiropoieton, as you Byzantines might say.

How blessed are those Oxford flocks
How free from heretics
Their clergy all so orthodox
Their Bishop orthoDix.      (Tune: O God our help in ages past ...)

Half a century later, none of those propositions is still valid. How swiftly the waters have come flooding in.

Dix is often best remembered for his quip that the heraldic symbol of a Bishop was a Crook, and, of an Archbishop, a Double Cross. I do not know that he ever offered an exegesis of Papal Heraldry.

And recently there have been stories in the Meejah about Catholic bishops in Yankie Doodle Land who have been persecuting clergy ... no ... not for using the Old Mass, but just for facing East or using incense. Just as Proddo Anglican bishops and Mr Kensit's lads used to do!!! Patrimonials will remember how Bishop King denied the authority of the Privy Council to forbid him from celebrating ad Orientem, and that the then Archbishop of Canterbury backed him up. Those were happier days ...

Dix, at a time when some bishops in the Church of England were doing their best to prevent their clergy from reserving the Blessed Sacrament in a Tabernacle on the High Altar, observed
" ... the historian grows accustomed to the idea that even the best and most energetic of bishops will one day have rest from his labours and that the lance of his successor often delivers the diocese from the menace of some quite different windmill."

The Anglican Patrimony does have a modest contrbution, still, to make.

You see, we've seen it all before. We were here several decades ago.

We know these people, whether they call themselves Anglicans or Catholics.

28 July 2019

off again ...

... to teach the LMS Latin Summer School. I'll look through submitted comments when I get back. But I hope to post something each day.


"Let is be patient, let us have faith, and a new pope, and a reassembled Council, may trim the boat".

27 July 2019

Seeking the cool on a hot day

Aestu languidus illud quaesivi frigus quod nonnisi a Curatoribus Ashmoleanis praebetur. Menandrum poetam Graecorum principem praeterivi -- ardor libidinis hodie nequaquam allicit -- et petii Summum Pontificem Benedictum XIV. Nodulum quendam expediri cupiebam.

Quem allocutus sum "Cur ..."

"Salve pusille" ait pontifex. "Et tu me salutare nequis? Ubi illa urbanitas, illa consueta Oxonietas?"

Erubui. "Da veniam" dixi. "Salve Pater Sanctissime".

Caput humiliter inclinavi.

Mora interposita ille "Et quid rogas?"ait.

"Pater Sanctissime, cur successor vester tot et talia totiesque profert mendacia?"

Uno tantum verbo papa "Qualia?" respondit.

"Illo tempore quo de pueris stupratis agebatur, episcopum quendam 'innocentem' papa raucus clamavit negavitque se unquam testimonia accepisse e quibus illum 'reum' iudicaret. Sed postea pater quidam purpuratus O'Malley patefecit magnum librum (Callimachus recte 'mega kakon') eidem papae datum in manus esse. Memini quoque patres quattuor Dubia quaedam ad eum scripta misisse; quae tamen ille accepisse negavit. Mendacia talia."

Subridens Pontifex "Verba Pilati mutemus et rogemus Quid sit Mendacium. Variis in regionibus leges variae inveniuntur. Quod in Anglia vestra ut mendacium  haberetur, alibi non tam graviter acciperetur. Inter viros Argentineos ea dici et audiri possunt quae inter Anglos Francos Italos non essent pro vero dicenda. Ecce: in illa terra miserrima Argentina, a tyrannis tam diu oppressa, mores loquendi dissimiles habentur, et cotidie peronizare solent. Ethica sua Principia 'e situationibus' depromunt. Veritas ipsa inversa et ut ita dicam capite suffulta stare cogitur. Non minus quam inter Cretenses illos veteres et notos, Est fit Non et Non fit Est. Color albus et color niger facillime inter se commutantur. Hoc fortasse et in Amazonia invenietur. Exspectanda est vobis Exhortatio post Synodum Apostolica Mendaciunculi Laetitia."

Aliquantulum post tempus ego haec "Negavit se papa Dubia accepisse; negavit se librum de pueris stupratis conscriptum legisse; sed in terra Argentina haec et talia pro Veritate stare possunt? Hoc Sanctissime dicis?"

Nictans annuit Pontifex. Qui addidit "Homerus eos andras polytropous dixisset, et Hesiodus absque dubio hoc monuisset 'Noli ab Argentineo currum emere qui diutius in usu fuerit'. Hoc est Magisterium! Placetne?"

Ego "Domne valde placet".

Deinde onere expeditus et ridebundus secessi. Menandrum quoque exiturus (iam non dyscolus) salutavi, haec subiungens "Faxit Thalia ut fabulae tuae deperditae Argentinea et Amazonia inter huius domus papyracea mox inveniantur!"

Annuere benevolens visus est.

26 July 2019

S Anne

Near Oxford there is a village called Marsh Baldon (yes, I can assure cynical American readers that English villages really do, even outside novels, have names like that). Like most village churches, it stimulates thought.

The Buildings of England series (popularly known as 'Pevsner' even when, as in the Oxfordshire case, a particular volume was written by someone other than old Bauhaus himself) informed me that the East window dates from 1902, Heaton, Butler, and Bayne. I would have said that, beyond any doubt, this window represented a quite common English phenomenon: the gathering together (with restorations) into one window of fragments of medieval glass from throughout a church (in fact, there is another chancel window, unmentioned by 'Pevsner', including jumbled late medieval fragments from the time of one of the Henry Tudors). (Alternatively: around Oxford a late Georgian antiquary called Fletcher collected unwanted medieval glass; parts of his collection can be found in quite a number of places. But I go for my first suggestion.) I get intrigued by so often seeing tiny glass fragments too insignificant in themselves to attract attention but which cumulatively point to a massive movement in different parts of England to provide new glass, often with Renaissance motifs, on the eve of the Reformation.

The central light at Marsh Baldon has a nice representation of S Anne engaged in her customary occupation of teaching her Daughter.

And ... what a coincidence! ... the next church, Sunningwell, also has a vitreous S Anne. Here, the date is about 1877, and the designer "J P Seddon, a friend of Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites" (Pevsner), who restored the church. In this case the reason for S Anne's presence is that among those whom the window commemorates there is a woman with that Christian name.

[Unmentioned by Pevsner: there are fine and unusual encaustic tiles in the Chancel at Sunningwell, by Seddon, showing the Elders casting down their crowns before the throne; "The Lamb slain"; and related themes reminding me of Canon Chamberlain's famous Eucharistic Window in S Thomas's Oxford, representing the worship of the Lamb at the heavenly altar and, below, the Sacrifice of the Mass. The unity of the earthly and heavenly sacrifice(s), so exquisitely taught in the paragraph Supplices te rogamus of the Roman Canon, was a favourite theme among the Tractarians. Part of our Patrimony!]

For me, S Anne has Sacred Memories. She is the Patron of Pam's College ... undergraduate memories of so many Sunday lunches in Hall there before we set off on walks through the Oxfordshire countryside ... gracious, all that was nearly six decades ago ... water under bridges ...

25 July 2019

S Anne (and S Joachim?)

I feel it was dreadfully sexist and patriarchal that the Novus Ordo should make the obscure S Joachim play first fiddle to his illustrious Spouse on today's Festival. After all, S Anne is the Patron of Lesser Britain; Titular of my wife's College here in Oxford; so popular a Saint in Medieval England and iconographically associated with the cause of female literacy. Even if the Novus Ordo did borrow the idea from the Benedictines, that is no excuse!

In the Library of the Dean and Chapter at Exeter is an unpublished fragment of a medieval liturgical book. It survived by being reused as scrap paper after that amusing episode which we call the 'Reformation'; it is closely associated with the great bishop John Grandisson, who dominated fourteenth century Exeter. Grandisson was a micromanaging control-freak with an immense and intense devotion to our Blessed Lady Matri Misericordiae. He codified and reformed the worship of his Cathedral; in doing this he provided carefully for the cultus of our Lady in her own chapel at the East end of the Cathedral. Every day there was to be Full Service there of the Mother of God; except that on a small number of days this was replaced by the Service of someone very closely associated with her. For example, S Gabriel ... and S Anne.

The fragment which survives at Exeter is clearly from a Mary Missal created for use in either that chapel or in the corresponding chapel in his collegiate foundation at Ottery. It gives us the Mass of S Anne. And what is interesting is that Grandisson was not content to provide it for his clergy to use; he checked and carefully corrected the text in his own handwriting. The Secret prayer shows this happening; it is a variant of a prayer we find in other medieval sources such as Sarum. This is how the scribe left it:

Sanctifica, Redemptor mundi, munera praesentis sacrificii, et beatae precibus Annae nobis eadem effice salutaria de cuius utero mater tua virgineae puritatis est egressa.

The genitive 'virgineae puritatis' appears to have nothing upon which to depend. Sarum suggests that after 'tua' there was the word 'aula' - our Lady was the 'Dwelling' of Virginal purity; 'aula' would easily slip out because of parablepsis resulting from homoeoteleuton. Grandisson spotted the omission but, I suspect, lacked an archetype from which to correct it*. So he supplied, ad sensum, the word 'flos' - flower.

This sort of thing somehow brings one very close to the dear, devout old tyrant. Incidentally, he ordered the Octave of the Assumption, which he selected for the date of his enthronement, to be kept for ever as a day of high rank. Three cheers for John 'Patrimony' Grandisson [pronounced Grahns'n].

Here is a rendering of the Collect in that Mass:

God, who didst make blessed Anna, barren so long, fruitful with a glorious and saving offspring: grant we beseech thee; that all who, for love of the Daughter venerate the Mother, may deserve, in the hour of death, to rejoice in the presence of each.


*Logically, of course, it may be that he possessed a master copy which gave a different reading from what eventually got into Sarum.

24 July 2019

Delightfully politically incorrect

Tomorrow, S James the Great! Let us listen to the first harbinger of liturgical renewal, Dom Prosper Gueranger [I slightly abbreviate]:

"The land of S James's inheritance, Spain, had been overrun first by Roman idolaters, then by Arian barbarians, and when the day of hope seemed about to dawn, a deeper night was ushered in by the Crescent. But who is this unknown chief rallying against an immense army the little worn-out troop whose heroic valour could not yesterday save it from defeat? Swift as lightning, and bearing in one hand a white standard with a red cross, he rushes with drawn sword upon the panic-stricken foe, and dyes the feet of his charger in the blood of 70,000 slain. Hail to the chief of the holy war! Saint James! Saint James! Saint James! Forward Spain! It is the reappearance of the Galilaean fisherman, of the elder son of thunder, now free to hurl the thunderbolt upon these new Samaritans, who make Christ no more than a prophet. And when, after six centuries and a half of struggle, his standard bearers, the Catholic kings, had succeeded in driving the infidel hordes beyond the seas, the valiant leader of the Spanish armies laid aside his bright armour, and the slayer of Moors became once more a messenger of the faith ...".

I wonder what Elizabeth Tudor, Bloody Bess, would have made of the fact that the old Spanish embassy chapel, S James Spanish Place, now has former Anglicans on its staff, not to mention in its congregation. I well remember the very happy day when my friends of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group invited me there to offer the Holy Sacrifice for them.

The Church preserves a Spanish Royal Flag, so that if his Most Catholic Majesty turns up unexpectedly, the pp can quickly run up the flag. The advantage of visiting this Church also includes the fact that it is directly behind one of London's best kept secrets: the Wallace Collection. You can glut yourself there on the finest artefacts of Bourbon France and then pray in the former embassy chapel of the Bourbon Monarchy of Spain..

23 July 2019

What did Cardinal Pole think of Lake Garda?

Landscape is so elusive. As we all know, most of what takes away the breath from the tourists nowadays and appears upon the millions of postcards was unappreciated until the age of Edmund Burke, with some help from Salvator Rosa, invented the Sublime; and the lecherous Wordsworth began to get excited by the hills as well as by the girls of Cumberland. So we mustn't be anachronistic.

Lake Garda was known to the last Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Pole (we pronounce him Pool in order to confuse other people). By 1553 he had taken up residence in the Benedictine Abbey at Maguzzano, from which he conducted quite a bit of diplomatic activity and polished his Pro Ecclesiasticae Unitatis Defensione. And that Abbey (suppressed in the 1790s by the Buonapartists) is near the Lake now called Garda (originally known by its Latin name as Benacus) just where the main Roman road, the Via Gallica, linking the fifty or so miles between Verona and Brixia/Brescia, cuts close along its Southern shore. Here Catullus's Sirmio peninsular and the modern Desenzano are to be found. (Catullus must have known the road well.)

As a Renaissance humanist, Pole would most surely have been aware that the homeplace of Catullus was at nearby Sirmio, about which Catullus wrote his poem 31. If this poem is anything to go by, Catullus' own reactions to his surroundings were not exactly Burkean or Wordsworthian; nor did he share Turner's fascinatiion with Alpine scenery. Sirmio and its subalpine surroundings and the snows on Mount Baldo fire him with nothing so much as a desire to rest on his desiderato lecto. Probably this is all he meant by calling Sirmio and Garda ocelle and venusta. And what exactly was the pleasure in tacking back and forth across the lake in his (poem 4) phaselus? He talks about the laughter of the waves as Aeschylus long before had spoken of their gelasma; but I have noticed nothing suggesting the awed reverence which Romanticism was to show to dramatic landscape.

The exciting printing houses of Venice had rushed out texts of Catullus (1472; and the edition published by Aldus Pius Manutius in 1502 ... I did a post on him 5 February 2015). It is improbable that Pole did not know them. By the time he went to Garda himself, his urbane friend and fellow humanist Pietro Cardinal Bembo was dead and his carmina, which include a long poem about the Lake, were only just being published (edition in the Harvard di Tasso series). I like to think that Pole's pietas inclined him to purchase and read them hot from the press.

But the Lake Garda, and its rivers, which he met in those pages, was a countryside of gods and goddesses, of fauns and nymphs and mythology, the countryside of Ovid's Metamorphoses even more than of Vergil.

I think I do understand why mad, bad papa Caraffa so hated Pole and his gentle Renaissance literary culture. Philistine and hot-tempered popes are rarely a happy thing for the Church. It is probably just as well that Pole died peacefully in his bed in England and never lived to be investigated by the papal interrogators who awaited him in Rome.

And, as pope Paul IV, Caraffa was a very bad thing for English Catholicism. You might well call him the Godfather of Bloody Bess Tudor's Proddy Church of England. But that's another story, well told by Eamon Duffy.

22 July 2019

S Mary of Magdala

A post slightly updated from 2010.
What a rich and varied life S Mary Magdalen had, according to writers recent and ancient. An associate of the Apostle Junia in the kipper trade, she met our Lord while he was working as a healer, during his Year Out, in the spa at Tiberias. These things are certainties. And let us not question her well-documented presence leaning upon the Lord's breast at his Last Supper. Nor be doubting spoilsports if some latter-day equivalent of Chaucer's Pardoner announces that she possesses, enclosed in a rich reliquary, the genuine Wedding Certificate of Mary of Magdala, spinster of this parish, and Jesus of Nazareth. Rarely can a figure have attracted so rich a mythopoeia: the needs of medieval Provence for a Patron; of modern feminists for a female hyperapostolos; of conspiracy theorists for a Mrs Christ; all these are fulfilled in the Magdalen. Whoever was it who said that imaginative and fertile hagiography came to an end with the demise of the Middle Ages! It continues to fulfil our every need, however bizarre.

The Magdalen provides new certainties in Biblical Sudies, too. Back in the boring old days of Modern Scientific Biblical Criticism, when S John's Gospel was Late and Unhistorical, nobody would have bet a bent farthing on the historical veracity of the story about her meeting with Christ in Garden on Easter Morning. But now .... it would be more than anyone's life was worth to question the truth ... nay more, the centrality to the whole resurrection story ... to the entire Christian Gospel ... of that pericope*.

Personally, I feel we've lost a lot since the Western Church, guided by (what Louis Bouyer in his memoires called) Three Maniacs, followed Byzantium in distinguishing between Mary of Magdala - who is now as pure as the driven snow of August 5 - and the Sinful Woman. We now no longer have access to the attractive typology of Gueranger, who sees in the Sinner of Magdala a type of fallen humanity and of adulterous Israel, destined to become glorious in her repentance.

Hair and feet feature large in Dom Gueranger's entry for today; naturally he makes much of S Mary Magdalen's attachment to the feet of Jesus (he quotes S Paulinus of Nola "I would rather be bound up in her hair at the feet of Christ ..."). And he seems to suggest that S Cyril of Alexandria admired the beauty of the Magdalen's own apostolic feet. There is no doubt that the image of the reformed but still entrancing courtesan stirred up sensuous images in the minds of many ... and, of course, so many Western artists. And is there very much harm in that? Er ... except ...oh dear ... come think of it ... the stories are disturbingly heterosexualist ... in a generation's time, they will have to be banned as constructively homophobic ... ah, well, win some, lose some ... unless, of course, three New Maniacs can adapt them into a 'trans' narrative ... .


*Similarly, the one-time conviction of so many Experts, based upon negligible evidence, that the last two chapters of Romans are inauthentic, is rarely aired nowadays. You see, these chapters contain the Apostle Junia ... dump them, and she disappears too. And that would be intolerable.

21 July 2019

Brescia; Sancte Paule Sexte, ora pro nobis

While at Gardone, we took a trip to the local Cathedral City, the ancient Brixia. Good to look round; but, despite (local boy) Catullus's elusive poem 67, very little survives from the late Republic. Fairly good floors and walls from the Empire. I found an obscene graffito which amused me rather since it was in the form of a perfectly formed elegiac couplet. They clearly had literate graffiti-composers under the Divine Tiberius. How educational standards do deteriorate.

The newer of the two Cathedrals intrigues. Within it, a 'shrine' to S Paul VI 'Brixiensis'. It contains, apparently, neither relics of the Saint nor an altar. Speculation arose in our group about whether this latter fact was a piece of subtle symbolism indicating his desire to abolish the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I strongly disagreed, arguing that his condemnation of 'Transsignification' showed that at least his heart, or part of it, was in the right place. And the evidence (Bouyer inter alios) indicates that the the worst excesses of 'his' rite can be blamed on Hannibal's deceptions.

My own theory is that the Bishop of Brescia at the time of the beatification or canonisation was a secret sedevacantist who simply, and honourably, wished to prevent the offering of Mass at a 'shrtine' of one whom he considered to be a non-Saint. (I shall not enable comments which suggest that I am a conspiracy-theorist whose fantasies exceed even those of Bishop Richard Williamson.)

I had been told that the metal sewerage fittings in Brescia all bore the name Montini, but I carelessly forgot to check this out. Could they be classified at tertiary relics? Ought they to be formally venerated?

20 July 2019

Gardone Riviera

Home again, tired but happy after the Roman Forum Conference high up overlooking Lake Garda. (Incidentally, I have just been through comments offered while I was not reading in-coming mail, and I have enabled most of them).

Once again, the food was as splendid as the wine and the fellowship, and papers read, even more splendid than both.

These Conferences truly are focussed coalitions of the joyously broad spectrum within orthodox Catholicism. Clergy were present from the Society, the Ordinariates, and the Fraternity; and there were laity present attached to all these bodies and also to the Institute. As well, of course, as clergy and laity, young and old, from a wide variety of parishes. An Akathistos was celebrared by a priest biritual in the the Byzantine and classical Roman traditions. Professor de Mattei delivered a finely pointed lecture; Dr Eva with her splendid Gloria TV team was there; and Diane Montagna.

Trendy young people talk about "safe spaces". The Gardone Conferences provide safe spaces where orthodox Catholics can be safe together and can renew their fellowship without being jumped on by heterodox elephants.

We need more of this sort of thing. Long may these superb events continue!!

More later.

19 July 2019

Learn it by heart?

Recently, my mind went back to S Stephen's House ... Norham Road ... Fr Derek Allen ... and Mass Practices before my Deaconing in 1967; you will remember that I was in the very last fortunate generation to be taught the Tridentine ceremonial culture before the Iron Curtain of Rupture came thudding down and the lights went out all over Europe.

I recalled how we were required to learn certain things off by heart. These fell into two categories: silent Tridentine formulae which accompanied actions ... principally, the prayers during the Offertory (those Tridentine Offertory Prayers which have now so happily been restored in the Anglican Use). And Anglican formulae which were to be said turning from the Altar to face the People. Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins ... Hear what comfortable words ...

But I have no recollection of being asked to learn the Praeparatio at the foot of the altar ... Ah! Of course not! Judica me Deus/Give sentence with me O God was abolished in 1965. Even Archbishop Lefebvre didn't revert to its use until 1974.

I wonder what others, as long in the Sacred Priesthood as I am or longer, can remember about their own pre-Bugnini Mass Practices, on whichever side of the Tiber they received their training. This is Oral History, Fathers, which will be lost as soon as you ... er ... that is to say, share it now!

18 July 2019


"Remedies spring up naturally in the Church, as in nature, if we wait for them."

14 July 2019

Aurea Aetas Clericorum

Walking some time ago in the Sussex countryside, we came across a memorial tablet in Bignor Church to a former Rector, Thomas Sefton. It revealed that he lived his life omnibus Iacobi optimis et Caroli annis, pace nondum laesa, and went on to describe those best years of James VI and I, and of blessed Charles Stuart, as the Golden Age of the Clergy. Not a trillion miles from the truth: King James made clear that the only problem he had with a Papacy was if it claimed power to depose monarchs; and, in the 1630s, the Bishop of Chichester, Richard Montagu (a patristic scholar and formerly Vicar of Petworth), assured the Nuncio that he was a papalist.

The old description came back to me of the Diocese of Chichester as the golden Indian Summer of the Church of England. However, I was brought back to earth the following day by looking at the service list in Chichester Cathedral and realising that most of the communion services there are presided over by a woman minister. "The vivifying principle of truth, the shadow of Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, left it", to quote S John Henry. We got out only just in time, didn't we? Right at the very last possible moment, when the gubernator Petrinus had guided his barque non sine periculo so close to our sinking ship that we were able to step from one deck to the other, our suitcases in our hands, without even getting our feet wet. What a gentle, generous, holy and humble old man Benedict XVI is. God bless him, always.

The memorial in Bignor Church went on with its curriculum vitae: Parson Sefton was a Lancastrian, mammas dein suxit Aeneanasenses. Words of comment, worthy of this spectacular and untranslatable literary trope, entirely fail me!

Two of Sefton's sons went abroad during the Great Rebellion; the third lari litans, O felix fatum, tranquillus moritur senex agricola. That last sentence could almost have been written by Q Horatius Flaccus, couldn't it? Clearly there were porci de grege Epicuri alive and well in the 1630s in the wooded dells of the Sussex Weald.

13 July 2019

The Curia Romana (3)

It is against the background I have tried to sketch out that I find myself wondering about the attitude of the present pope towards the Curia. Of course, like every institution insecurely placed in Time, it needs to be reformed from time to time. The question that worries me is whether the present pope is drawing the Curia closer in fidelity to its true ecclesial calling; or pushing it further away.

Commentators have not been slow to remark that, to the outside observer, it looks as if the current pope is attempting to prevent or eliminate the existence of strong foci within the Curia. He seems to be incapable of working with any Head of Dicastery who is not a yes-man. It is a sign, not of the Holy Father's strength, but of his weakness, that he cannot collaborate with as gentle yet principled a man as Robert Sarah, without deeming it necessary to humiliate him before the world. And Sarah was one of his own appointments.

And he aso appointed Raymond Burke to be Patron of the Order of Malta. But as soon as a problem arose in the Order, he humiliated and sidelined him. When you appoint people, you should either back them up when the going gets rough, or confess that you yourself erred in making the appointment.

Gerhard Mueller was inherited, not appointed, by Papa Bergoglio. But he confirmed him in office, and the position is a highly significant one. The current pope is neither learned nor intelligent. To run the CDF he needed someone who was each of these things. Mueller was and is. First he humiliated him by sending Schoenborn to front the Amoris laetitia news conference; then by sacking three of his collaborators without even telling him; lastly, he has humiliated him yet again by dumping him with a minute's notice and invoking a principle he had not mentioned either to Mueller or the World before: that Heads of Dicasteries will not be continued in post beyond their first quinquennium.

(Incidentally, it will be interesting to see whether this principle really does get applied as all the Cardinals come to the ends of their terms. The Franciscans of the Immaculate must be puzzled to find that their tormenter Bras de Aviz is still around. Cardinal Parolin must be starting to get demob-happy. There are going to be quite a lot of underemployed 'young' cardinals swilling around, with the Vatican Press Corps hovering hungrily above them like seagulls round a trawler.)

If the Curia really is in want of radical reform, what it needs is more strong and principled and able workers and fewer unprincipled yes-men. The Press reports suggest that this is not the way our Holy Father appears to see things. But his idiosyncrasies have been obvious since his election. For the first few years he made a daily exhibition of himself by that constant stream of obscure abuse ... butterflies, pelagians ... which seemed to be directed at clergy. He is the pope who considers that a most natural Christmas present to give his curial collaborators is a torrent of invective. He sneers at grandmothers for their infertility and describes off-message journalists as shit-eaters. Given a world so sadly unappreciative of eccentricity, in most other organisations this side of North Korea the Men in White Coats would have been sent in to hustle such a CEO out of public view.

The commentators seem to think that Archbishop Ladaria, in his new chair at the CDF, is unlikely to put up much resistance to Bergoglian tantrums. They may very well be very wrong. I pray they are; because the Archbishop has some very precious institutions under his protection: the Ordinariates and Ecclesia Dei. 

But we can be sure of one thing: if Ladaria does turn out to have both principles and guts, Pope Francis, if this pontificate continues along its established lines, will either humiliate him or sack him or both.

12 July 2019

The Curia Romana (2)

It is well-known that in the early centuries of the Church, the Bishop was the Sacramental centre of his Particular Church, and its Teacher who, assisted by the Holy Spirit, preserved and articulated the authentic teaching which that Church had received. But it seems that the presbyterium was the administrative body, the committee which took decisions, the body of men to whom the bishop turned for their consent before he even felt free to absolve a penitent or ordain a subdeacon. And this seems to have been very true in Rome. There are historians who believe that the Roman Church was, for centuries, governed by its presbyters and entirely lacked a 'monarchical Bishop'. I do not believe this theory, but the evidence upon which it is based does indicate the significance of the Roman presbyters. When a letter had to be sent to Corinth to sort out the disorders in the Church there, the earliest document we have of the exercise of a disciplinary Primacy by Rome, it was not sent in the name of the Bishop. Indeed, it has been argued that S Clement was not so much the Bishop/Pope, but just the presbyter in charge of correspondence! Again, I do not accept this, but, again, the fact that such an argument has been deployed does indicate the significance of the Presbyteratus Romanus. A little later, we have the account by Pope Cornelius of how a previous pope had begged for the favour of being allowed to ordain a particular presbyter who had been vetoed by the clergy and many of the laity; and Tertullian's (imaginative and scathing) account of Pope Callistus imploring the consent of the fraternitas to be allowed to absolve an adulterer. The Church of those centuries saw itself as corporate in a way that we find hard to imagine. Take the earliest letter to the Roman Church after S Paul's letter, the letter of S Ignatius: it does not actually mention a bishop; it is the Church which is said to preside (Kathemene). Nor does the passage in S Irenaeus which is our earliest evidence for the idea of the Roman Church as the locus par excellence of authentic doctrinal teaching contra haereses, locate that role specifically in the Pope, but in the Church. It all amounts, of course, to the precisely same thing; if Rome teaches authentic doctrine, and if its bishop is the ecclesiatical organ which enunciates that authentic teaching of the Roman Church ... well, Bob's your uncle. But these facts do bring me back to my initial point: Jorge Bergoglio is nothing; the Bishop of Rome is everything. Papa Bergoglio is Episcopus Romanus in et cum Ecclesia Romana. He is not a vagans.

My conclusion is the same as it was at the end of my first part. The Curia Romana is a body of theological significance. If I wished, in the time-honoured style of this University, to set a spoof quotation as an essay question, "Papa sine Curia Papa nullus: discuss" might occur to me ... and I would give deltas to those who argued in favour of or against the tag ... and better marks to those who subdivided their propositions and came out somewhere in the middle.
To be concluded.

11 July 2019

The Curia Romana (1)

Since rumours abound about a planned 'reform' of the Roman Cuioa, I am reprinting three old blogposts on this subect. My motive is this. If I wait until the document is signed and promulgated, suspicious individuals might feel that I am just reacting automatically by opposing every 'reform' that springs fully-formed from the Head of PF.

Jorge Bergoglio has no Magisterial authority whatsoever. The Bishop of Rome does. But, of course, Jorge Bergoglio is Bishop of Rome; and so, qua Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis possesses the very considerable authority defined dogmatically by the First Vatican Council and expressed legally in the two Codices Iuris Canonici. Being Bishop of Rome is what counts. And being Bishop of Rome, like being Bishop of Anywhere, means being Bishop of Somewhere. And being Bishop of Somewhere means being Bishop of certain people ... of certain living and breathing Christian humans.

What is "a Bishop"? There is a (largely Anglophone) ecclesiastical underworld populated by what are often called "Episcopi vagantes", "Wandering Bishops". These are persons who have privately secured for themselves technically 'valid' episcopal orders. Many people suspect that their motive for doing this has been personal vanity, because these are 'bishops' who are not surrounded by the serried and serious ranks of their presbyterium, nor ministered to ad altare by their cheerful bustling Deacons, and who lack the boisterous, sometimes disorderly, mob of 'their' Laity, laos. And they are not, these Episcopi vagantes, in peace and communion with the Apostolic, or indeed with any other, See. Far from it.

Per contra, in Catholic (and Orthodox) ecclesiology, a Bishop is a man who discharges the functions of the high Episcopal office in the context of the structured Church life of People, Deacons, and Presbyters. A gathering of Christians so structured is known as a "Particular Church". Like any other Diocesan Bishop, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is a Bishop with a Presbyterium, a Diakonia, a Laos. He is not a lonely isolated individual with technically valid orders and a technically valid Electio in Summum Pontificem tucked into his back pocket. He is not, that is to say, a Papa vagans. With his usual acuity, Blessed John Henry Newman argued, in the case of some early popes who showed signs of doctrinal wobble, that, since this happened after they had been beaten up in Byzantine prisons, it had no bearing on the Papal Office, since they were acting as individuals in physical and moral isolation from their Ecclesia.

In the Particular, local Church of Rome, the "Cardinal Presbyters" are the Pope's presbyterium, which is why they have "titular" churches assigned to them of which they are the titular parish priests. Mutatis mutandis, the Cardinal Deacons. You will see where this is leading. The 'Cardinalate', if that is the right word, is not without theological significance. It is part of the organic structure of the very important Particular (i.e.local) Church of which the Successor of S Peter is the Bishop. This is seen most easily and most visibly in the persons of the curial Cardinals who permanently work in Rome. But it applies also to the other Cardinals throughout the world, who qua Roman Presbyters have their titular churches and are distributed among the boards of the Roman dicasteries. The Cardinal Archbishop of Timbuctoo wears red and is addressed as 'Eminence' not because he is the important local 'Primate' of a big 'National Church', but because he is Cardinal Presbyter of the Titular Church of SS Promiscuus and Miscellaneus*, which, until the Risorgimento, the Pontiff used to visit for the Stational Mass on February 31.

There has sometimes been a tendency, which I very strongly condemn, to want to separate the notion of the Pope from that of the Curia. The Pope, it is sometimes said, is the Pope and has his highly significant dogmatically based prerogatives which we can't really avoid fessing up to because they were dogmatically defined at Vatican I. But the Curia ... that is nothing more than a civil service, and a rather unattractive one to boot ( ... er ... ). Not only is it without doctrinal significance, but its members get in the way; they behave in a bossy fashion in their dealings with the Churches throughout the world. Perhaps they should be cut down. Perhaps they should be put in their place. Might we not be happier without them? Liberal journalists are programmed to cheer any pope whose sycophants put it about that he intends to savage the Curia.

In my view, this is not merely humanly unfair but is also extremely flawed theologically. It is a direct assault upon that structure, the structure of the Particular local Church of Rome, within which the Supreme Pontiff necessarily discharges his unique and indispensible role. It is a solvent which, because it seeks to split off the Pope from the structures of his Particular local Church, has the potential to leave the Roman Pontiff as a lonely and decontextualised figure; in effect, a very powerful Episcopus vagans. And that sounds to me very much like saying 'a theologically dubious Absolute Monarch'.
To be continued.
*I owe this intriguing duo, and their Feast Day (a semidouble), to the fertile imagination of the late Rt Revd Mgr Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, Protonotary Apostolic and Master of Arts (Oxon.). 

10 July 2019

Definition and Dogma

When, in 1950, Papa Pacelli defined the dogma of the Corporeal Assumption of the Mother of God, the formula with which he did so very carefully avoided saying either that she died before her Assumption, or that she did not die (expletu terrestris vitae cursu). This definition had the practical effect of eliminating from the devotional life of Catholics much of the 'apocryphal' narrative which, in both the East and the West, had surrounded the Eschaton of the Theotokos. Prayers which are found in earlier Western liturgies (e.g. festivitas ...in qua dei genetrix mortem subiit temporalem ...) became unusable; many iconographic representations became problematic; tropes, such as that of S Gregory Palamas, explaining to prepon that she had to die to be like her Son, while by no means excluded as pious opinions, became beliefs which it was impossible to describe as the Teaching of the Church. In effect, far from being a novel imposition, the doctrine proclaimed in 1950 constituted the elimination of 95% of what had previously been taught or believed. What was left was but an austere and minimalist doctrinal skeleton of the rich narrative tapestries which nourished Christians from Ireland to India before the Definition.

The root within the verb/noun definire/definitio is -fin-, meaning a boundary. To define a proposition is thus to place boundaries round it, to limit it. While, therefore, a definition may make an additional claim upon the consciences of some, upon others it is likely to have the quite opposite effect. Foliage surrounding the defined doctrinal core has, in effect, been scythed away.

In 1870, the Decree Pastor aeternus did, I would have to concede, impose an additional claim upon 'Gallicans' and 'Conciliarists': they were obliged to believe that the Roman Pontiff ex cathedra was infallible. But he was only described as infallible in matters of Faith and Morals. That is limiting. The Council admirably discerned and even boasted that it was narrowing the notion of Infallibility which Catholics were free to accept before the Council. Neque enim Petri successoribus Sanctus Spiritus promissus est ut eo revelante novam doctrinam patefacerent, sed ut, eo assistente, traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodirent et fideliter exponerent.

As we prepare to have a Bean Feast ... or do I mean a Bun Fight ... to celebrate the canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman, we might revisit the vexing question of the exact binding force of a canonisation.

Theologians had for centuries discussed the possession by the Roman Bishop of an infallible magisterium. But they had not conducted that discussion within the tight boundaries of the 1870 Definition. If a theologian writing BEFORE 1870 asserted that X had been infallibly taught, you cannot fairly claim that he asserted X to have been infallibly taught in THAT sense of Infallibility which was only to be defined in 1870. He may be thinking in broader, or narrower, categories than those of Pastor aeternus.

Thus, when writers of the eighteenth or earlier centuries argue that Canonisations are infallible, they are not claiming that a canonisation concerns Faith or Morals and that it is part of the Revelation handed on by the Apostles ... for rather obvious reasons: if the Saint lived in the sixteenth century, their sanctity can clearly not be part of that immutable body of truth which was taught and believed also in the fifth and fifteenth centuries; and Saint So-and-so did not exist within the depositum which the Apostles tradiderunt.

I share the view of Benedict XIV, writing as a private doctor, that questioning a canonisation is temerarious. Nor do I deny the propriety of any use of the I-word with regard to canonisations. But it seems to me clear that a canonisation cannot claim that infallibility, that binding force, which the Decree Pastor aeternus of 1870 attributes to the Roman Pontiff when speaking ex cathedra.

I have returned to this question because the current, apparently politically motivated, frenzy for canonising recent Bishops of Rome may have tainted for many the very concept of canonisation ... may have rubbed off it some of the gloss. How can we enjoy the oncoming event with proper exuberance when the currency of canonisation has been so devalued, so reduced to a political formality?

I have no problems. Since Saint John Henry taught a great deal which is directly in opposition to the attitudes of the current pontificate, his canonisation cannot be seen as a political act intended to subvert the Great Tradition.

On the contrary.

I regard it as a triumph of divine Grace in the midst of the dark clouds of this pontificate; as a sudden bright burst of sunlit glory piercing the clouds and giving us a certain pledge of the ultimate triumph of orthodoxy!

Deo gratias!

9 July 2019

Read Ker

I read somewhere that a layman, said to be a buddy of some of the English Bishops, had claimed that for Blessed John Henry to be canonised by PF was highly suitable, because JHN was opposed to papal Infallibility, while PF often admits that he is wrong.

I can think of few suggestions more childishly perverse. JHN was most certainly not opposed to the dogma of papal infallibilty. Indeed, the claim itself demonstrates a woeful lack of appreciation of a brilliant, subtle, and nuanced mind.

Nor is PF famous for admitting his errors. Try asking the unfortunates whom he has viciously attacked and continues to lacerate.

I am afraid that we are going to get more of this: as we approach the canonisation, Begoglians, illiterates, and other life-forms will crawl out of the woodwork, claiming to instruct us on the teaching, and the significance, of this great Saint. How irritating. I suggest that readers who have not already done so should educate themselves by reading Dr Ker's biography of JHN in the 'Oxford Lives' series.

A thoughtful friend is uneasy about the canonisation because, she feels, for JHN to be canonised by such a pope runs the risk of bracketing JHN with some dodgy individuals canonised by this pope. I do see her point.

But apart from the clearly identifiable disorder of canonising 'the conciliar popes' as a crude piece of highly unedifying church politics, most canonisations have been of individuals who were already moving comfortably through the pipeline. Although the Bishop of Rome does the final formalities, I believe we should look upon canonisation as an act of the Church.

In order to give expression to this conviction, I shall in future refer to JHN as "S John Henry", even before October!

8 July 2019

Rosica lives

Readers will recall the splendid exposition of Bergoglianity given by Fr Thomas Rosica (some months before he felt that the disgrace of plagiarism merited early retirement).

"Our Church ... is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture".

PF himself recently reaffirmed the accuracy of Rosica's analysis. He gave away some relics of S Peter.

In doing so, he explained that he himself no longer said Mass in the chapel in which they were kept. He could easily, of course, have moved them to the chapel in Santa Marta, where he does often say Mass. So the message clearly is that PF sets little value on saying Mass before the relics of the Apostle whose Successor he is.

That is, he does not value the symbolism of demonstrating liturgically his daily adherence to Apostolic Tradition.

I am surprised that the Orthodox recipients of this gift see it as a move towards Unity. The policy of this pontificate, of setting aside Holy Tradition, would, you might have thought, put thoughtful Orthodox off the idea of Unity. Aren't they supposed to be quite keen on Tradition? And a bit less keen on having the Church ruled by an arbitrary individual?

And if PF had any genuinely political sense, he might have wondered what the occupant of the other Petrine See, Antioch, would think of this prioritising of the 'Andrean' See. And he might have suspected, given the current schism between Constantinople and Moskow, that the Third Rome might see his action as a taking of sides with the patriarch whom Moskow accuses of the heresy of papism. Giving Bartholomew relics of S Peter is hardly going to diminish the temptation to 'papism' of the Church of Constantinople, is it? Or am I missing something?

I wonder how widely and prudently PF consulted before taking this decision.

7 July 2019


Deo volente, after today I shall be at the Lake Garda Roman Forum Conference for a fortnight. I hope to post every day, but I shall not be dealing with (or even reading) incoming Emails and Comments. Until I am back home.

Last time I put up a notice like this one, I came back to find a highly irascible comment from somebody who obvious does not read Notices. He was furious that I had "decided to ignore" a comment he had submitted.

I know that readers are under no canonical obligation to read everything I write, or to remember what I put in a Notice; but neither am I under any obligation to take any notice of their communications.


Tastes differ, but I greatly relish getting back to these delicious Sundays after Trinity, in green vestments, with their exquisitely simple yet compact Collects from the old Roman Sacramentaries, penned by pontiffs going back to S Leo. Today, we have Deprecationem nostram , quaesumus, Domine, benignus exaudi: et quibus supplicandi praestas affectum; tribue defensionis auilium. Or, as Archbishop Cranmer rendered it, Lorde, we beseche thee mercifully to heare us, and unto whom thou hast geven an heartie desyre to pray; graunt that by thy mightie ayde we may be defended. (Later meddlers filled it out by adding and comforted in all dangers and adversities.)

But you are puzzled. That is not the Collect you heard at your EF Mass this morning! No; because  there are dislocations in the Masses of these Sundays, between the Southern European propers found in the Missal of S Pius V and the Northern European propers found, for example, in the English Missals of the Sarum, Hereford, and York 'Uses' and still preserved, with only very minor changes, in the Book of Common Prayer.

Furthermore, the old Mass for the first Sunday after Pentecost is appointed in the Use of S Pius V to be used on weekdays after Trinity Sunday, while the English Uses transferred that Mass to the following Sunday. Hence dislocations: the EF and the BCP have the same Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, but distributed over different Sundays. And today's Collect, absent from the post Pentecosten Masses (but used elsewhere by S Pius) creates an additional factor of complication.

Because of the proximity of the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, in the Sarum and similar Uses, a reading from I Peter is paired on Trinity 5 with the Gospel about the Lord teaching from Simon's boat. This sort of connectivity between Temporale and Sanctorale used to be more common.

6 July 2019

More about County Kerry

You will recognise this poetic voice:
There in pinnacled protecton,/ One extinguished family waits/ A Church of Ireland resurrection/ By the broken, rusty gates./ Sheepswool, straw and droppings cover,/ Graves of spinster, rake and lover, / Whose fantastic mausoleum/ Sings its own seablown Te Deum, /In and out the slipping slates.

The old and ruined Church of Ireland Church at Knightstown in County Kerry is a little bit like that. When we used to spend our Summer Vacations there, I sometimes passed the time of day with Sir Adrian Fitzgerald, who would be vigorously cutting back the rampant vegetation threatening to cover the graves of his forebears. Because this church was just up the road from Glanleam, the one-time estate of the Fitzgerald Hereditary Knights of Kerry. Sir Adrian no longer owned the property, but had retained ownership of a cottage on the shore of the bay.

The newer Anglican Church down in Knightstown retained the Prayer Books previously used in the Family pew, with 'Glanleam' in gold on the covers. Not that Sir Adrian worshipped there; because he had become a Catholic.

Indeed, he is now Patron of the Latin Mass Society.

Some readers may be surprised by the phrase "Hereditary Knights". Certainly, such beings do not exist in England; but there survives one such family in the West of Ireland. In the reign of Victoria, an attempt was made to bring them to heel by giving them baronetcies, which assured to them the style 'Sir' without accepting that Knighthood really could be hereditary.

I do not, of course, spend my summers now sustaining the Church of Ireland. But I did meet Sir Adrian again a couple of years ago, when I was being splendidly entertained (by a member of the Irish bar who also belongs to Fr Gerald Deighan's congregation in Harrington Street) in a distinctly stylish club on St Stephen's Green.

Sir Adrian was one member of a group of gentlemen who arrived when we were getting ourselves round our main courses. They were members of the once-sovereign Military Order of Malta. One of them recognised me and cheerfully suggested that the Ordinariate was moving into Ireland.

I wish it were ... just as I wish that the Knights were still Sovereign ...

5 July 2019

Meadowsweet and the Irish Ritual Canons

We went strolling the other day in our adjacent meadow to enjoy the orchids, now at their best, and in the (successful) hope of finding Marbled White butterflies. But also, one of my favourite flowers is just coming on stream: Meadowsweet.

During the happy decades when I did annual summer duty in the Dromod Union of the Church of Ireland in County Kerry, the then Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh, and  Emly, with his wife Patricia (eight Sees but only one Wife), used to motor across for one of the Sundays I was there. On (I think) our second Kerry summer, I greeted Bishop Ned with the news that I was breaching the Ritual Canons of the Church of Ireland. I must explain to you that one of these forbids that incense or "any substitution therefor, or imitation thereof, shall at any time be used in any church or chapel, or other place in which the public services of the Church are celebrated". The Pontiff looked a trifle anxious, until we entered the Church and he realised that I had in mind the vases full of Meadowsweet on the windowsills. Who needs arcane and incendiary Oriental spices when there is Meadowsweet?

He had initially, I rather think, regarded me with possibly just a tadge of reserve. But not hereafter.

He taught me some pieces of priestcraft which, unaccountably, my Staggers training had omitted. For example: the way of compressing and cutting leavened bread so that it can be administered sacramentally without risk of crumbs. And how to give the Blessing in the Irish language. He shared with me the information, which had clearly struck him, that in the Devon Anglican parish where one of his children lived, the full Roman Rite was in use. He mentioned this as something interesting, perhaps even surprising, but not outrageous.

I hope he and Patricia are enjoying his retirement. I found him a kindly, highly intelligent, and quietly sociable Bishop, who knew his people and was liked by them. A Corkman by descent, perhaps he had picked up the gracious ethos of traditional Anglican ministry from his many clerical ancestors!

4 July 2019

Lavington Churchyard

A few days in Sussex gave us the opportunity of walking to Lavington Church to visit Caroline (nee) Sargent's grave. I hadn't been there since the mid-1950s, and we had trouble rediscovering it ... you know how hard inscriptions can be to read when lichen has superimposed its own arabesques upon the lettering. Eventually we found it, under a shady wall, right under the steep and sunless wooded North incline of the Downs. I had to kneel down to trace the inscription with my fingers, my knees crunching in the beechmast. Her husband is not buried beside her.

They were married in 1833 in the nearby church by her brother-in-law Soapy Sam, later bishop of Oxford and then of Winchester, who was to earn eternal detestation among prim and humourless people by getting a cheap laugh at Darwin's expense. Four years later, childless, she died of consumption. Had she lived, might she have been the wife of an Archbishop of Canterbury? I have lost count of the number of bishops, not to mention the mere parsons, in her family connections.

Her husband succeeded her father, whose curate he had been, as Rector of Lavington and Graffham. He left behind him diverting accounts of his peasant parishioners, in which the summaries, if critical, ex. gr. 'addictus inebrietati', 'familia malo et ignaviae addicta', are in Latin or Greek. "The morning and evening prayers and the music of the English Bible for 17 years became part of my soul. If there were no eternal world, I could have made it my home".

A friend described his deathbed, nearly sixty years after the marriage: "I was by his bedside; he looked around to see that we were alone: he fumbled under his pillow for something; he drew out a battered little pocket-book full of a woman's fine handwriting. He said 'For years you have been a son to me, Henry; I know not to whom else to leave this - I leave it to you. In this little book my dearest wife wrote her prayers and meditations. Not a day has passed since her death, on which I have not prayed and meditated from this book. All the good I may have done, all the good I may have been, I owe to her. Take precious care of it'. He ceased speaking and soon afterwards unconsciousness came on".

You will remember the edifying accounts of how, when the body of S Thomas More was prepared for burial, under his outer finery was discovered a hair shirt. But on this occasion what they found on this corpse was a small locket, containing the portrait of his 'dearest wife' Caroline.

I hope they had the decency to leave that locket where they found it, round his neck, beneath the pallium. I like to feel, as I approach the Byzantine edifice to which they moved his body, that, under all the haughty marble assertion, beneath the dangling red hat, there lies a tiny picture of the very devout and pretty girl who was the daughter of a squarson and the wife of his curate and who lies in spe beatae resurrectionis under the beechmast in Lavington churchyard.

3 July 2019


Since PF is reported to have enjoyed Mgr Benson's apocalyptic novel Lord of the World, I thought I had better read it ... truth to tell, His Holiness's ideology and strategy still leave me in a state of some incomprehension; if anything is going to help me, I thought, to acquire the key to his mind, perhaps this volume might; and so I ought to give it a try.

I don't know that it has helped. PF does quite often mention the Devil, and this novel certainly takes seriously the personal power of Evil. And, I think in future, I will keep my eyes open in case his utterances indicate a belief that the End is very imminent. But the novel's profound conviction is that, in the Final Apostasy, Mankind is to be divided very radically between those who fall for Satan and the Antichrist, and those who reject them and adhere to the Catholic Church; and I don't think this idea comes out in PF's utterances. Still, perhaps I have been careless and obtuse in failing to detect this subtext. I will examine what he says more carefully in future for signs of what, back in the 1960s, our lecturers used to call Unrealised and Imminent Eschatology.

Entertainingly, one can find a hint in Mgr Benson's oeuvre of the Ordinariates! In his world, Protestantism has evaporated, squeezed out, and all that is left facing the Antichrist is the Church. So, realignment has occurred: the 'Ritualists' went over from the Church of England when the Nicene Creed was abolished (no; Benson does not foresee the gender errors and dysfunctions symbolised by the Ordination of women) and, during the course of the narrative ... while clergy of the diocese of Westminster, and surviving old Recusant families, fall into apostasy and have to be excommunicated ... the Bishop of Carlisle and half-a-dozen of his clergy enter the Church. (It will be remembered that the Monsignore, God bless him, was an ex-Anglican ... one of us ...)

Benson did not foresee the rise of the Great Dictators and their passionate love-affairs with Death. His dystopia was written in 1907, and, true, his fantasy world is richly endowed with Euthanasia (which my OED indicates was first used in its modern sense of murder in 1869). But he could not know that Hitler was to give all that sort of thing a terribly bad name, and that it would be half a century or more after 1945 before the Death Movement fully got all its courage back.

I don't think this book is great literature, but it is a decided cut above most of what is offered for us to read nowadays. I'm extremely glad that PF enjoyed it. If he wants to enjoy more of our very fine English-language fiction, and thus acquire a taste for our rather specialised Anglo-Saxon sense of humour, I would recommend a Lenten retreat spent in the Close at Barchester and a tour around the Ireland of Miss Nugent and Castle Rackrent, followed by a sabbatical year or two in Shrewsbury College Oxford [co-educational since the death of Miss Hillyard in 1982] with long, lazy, bibulous vacations spent at Brideshead playing croquet, riding (side-saddle?) to hounds, and daily celebrating the Extraordinary Form in the Art Nouveau Chapel which Lord Melstead* has recently restored.

What would be your recommendations? (Comments nominating Blandings Castle will not be enabled; the current Lord Emsworth keeps delaying his entry into the Ordinariate.)
* Transpontine readers may welcome an explanation of who this gentleman is. Upon the extinction of the Hanoverian Marquisate of Marchmain and the Earldom of Brideshead, the 1415 Barony by writ of summons survived by having passed through a woman in a cadet (and Recusant) branch of the Flyte family. His Lordship is the 23rd Baron, and he inherited Brideshead (there being no entail) under the will of his fourth cousin twice removed, the Lady Julia Flyte. His grandfather had recouped the family's finances by marrying a Transpontine heiress and his own daughter has married a Russian oligarch. Consequently, there are no financial constraints to force the House to open to the Public, and its Lodges are manned by heavily armed Slavic security personnel, rendering it a safe and agreeable residence for any Sovereign Pontiff with a mind to avoid being troubled by common ordinary folk or Cardinals carrying Dubia or, especially, Archbishop Vigano.

2 July 2019

Petrine Primacy

An interesting piece on Erick Ybarra's blog about Byzantine perspectives on the Petrine Primacy. He concludes it by wondering what S Maximus the Confessor (perhaps the most explicitly papalist Eastern Father) could have said about PF.

When the Fathers of Chalcedon shouted "Peter has spoken through Leo", I do not for one moment believe that they meant "What an exciting novel doctrine! How clever of Leo to think it up!" I think they meant something very much more like "Leo has discharged the Petrine duty of defending us against heretical innnovation".

In both the East and in the West, the Papacy has at least wished to function as an obstacle against doctrinal innovation. Blessed John Henry Newman, whose imminent canonisation was happily made official yesterday, called this function that of being a remora, a barrier. Vatican I most felicitously asserted that the Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter so that, by His inspiration, they could teach new doctrine. Dr Trevor Jalland, a predecessor of mine in my last Anglican job, devoted his monumental Bampton Lectures to making just this point.

The ultrapapalism of Bergoglianism is not something more than Catholicism; it is something very greatly less.

The clique around PF has, in fact, deprived us of the Papacy we are entitled to have, a Papacy bestowed by God and devoted to guarding and expounding carefully what has been handed down. Instead of this, an "aggressive, insolent faction" (Newman puts things so succinctly!) has endeavoured and is still endeavouring to foist upon us a fake Papacy which Vatican I explicitly repudiated, operating as a pseudoPapacy which is an indefatigable engine of doctrinal innovation, ambiguity, and disorder, disguised as inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I have myself collaborated in documents attempting to specify and enumerate the heretical positions that PF has favoured. I do not repent of having done this. They were valuable contributions to the Universal Church. But I do feel that the essence of PF's doctrinal delinquency lies in his de facto repudiation of what Vatican I taught about the limitations and purpose of the papal ministry.

Doellinger, poor fellow, was (to Newman's sorrow) excommunicated for feeling unable to subscribe to the teaching of Vatican I. (Little did he realise that, in God's most merciful providence, Vatican I would be a monument against papal misbehaviour.)

PF is undoubtedly the one and only genuine pope, as Professor Ratzinger again recently made clear. Let there be no doubt about that. Sedevacantism is a disorder equal to Bergoglianism.

But geese; ganders; sauces; Doellinger; Bergoglio.