31 October 2019

Women Scientists

I expect you know that in the eighteenth century women were not only allowed to study the Natural Sciences in Italian universities (particularly at Bologna), but could and did take degrees and become university teachers? And that this happened with Church - and even papal - sponsorship and encouragement; long before English universities had any public teaching of Sciences or allowed women anywhere near the doors of lecture rooms? Not surprisingly, that erudite pontiff, Papa Lambertini aka Bendict XIV, was the pope involved. His true enlightenment compares favourably with the spurious Enlightenment of  Rousseau, who believed that the education of women should only be directed to the end of training them to massage the male ego.

This looks to me like a detail of history which does not very often get publicity. It subverts the barmy views of Bishop Williamson, who seems to side with Rousseau against Benedict XIV, as well as the predictable assumptions of Catholicophobe journalists and pundits.

30 October 2019

Dr William J Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, wrote ...

If all the prayers of loving hearts from the beginning of the world, and all the seraphic worship of the thrones and principalities of heaven, and the burning devotion and love of the Virgin Mother of God, and the million voices of the universe of all creatures of heaven and earth and sea were offered up in one universal and harmonious act of praise and adoration, they would not equal or even approach in value and efficacy the infinite worth of a SINGLE MASS.

Spot on, yes? A humbling thought for us presbyters, as, morning by morning, we stumble up the steps murmuring Aufer a nobis quaesumus Domine iniquitates nostras ut ad Sancta Sanctorum ...

29 October 2019

Naive Europeans

Of course we Europeans are naive. I, however, like to think that I am different. This is because I have had explained to me by very erudite American friends that their Constitution is gravely and radically flawed; and that their 'Founding Fathers' were a shocking and vastly unpleasant gang of men.

(Was the Confederacy any better?)

So I was highly intrigued to receive my 2019 copy of The Coat of Arms, the academic journal of the Heraldry Society. It includes a paper by Paul A Fox, FSA, AIH (what does the latter abbreviation denote?) entitulated George Washington and the Origin of the Arms and Flag of the United States. In this context, the latter phrase clearly means the United States of North America.

Fox, a revisonist, attempts (plausibly, in my judgement) to re-establish the old story that the design of the Stars and Stripes was influenced by Washington's own inherited armorial achievement. OK. But what particularly interested me was that in his discussion it comes out how strongly the iconography of the Revolution was influenced by 'Free Masonry'; and how many of those who set up the US of A were rabid 'Masons' . There is an interesting discussion of the Summons Plate of the new Philadelphia Lodge in 1759.

(Incidentally, Fox does not discuss the significance of the Triangle with the Tetragrammaton inside it ...  which was not, I believe, confined to 'Masonry' but occurs also in Catholic Baroque religious iconography.)

Apparently, Washington was accompanied on his military rampages by a 'Command Flag' looking exactly like our European flag, except that, instead of the Twelve Stars of our blessed Lady's Crown, it has thirteen stars. Fox explains that 'Masonic' lodges have lots of stars painted on their ceilings.

I commend this article to mah fellow Europeans. It will help them better to understand that mysterious superpower which lurks just over the horizon from County Kerry.

28 October 2019


Anglican clergy have never been totally indifferent to millinery. The magical Fr Sandys Wason, lawful incumbent of Cury and Gunwalloe, maestro of Cope and Fenwick, wore his biretta even when playing tennis.

I know of one Canterbury Cap which still makes its appearance within the Ordinariate and even consorts with a morning coat at Ascott; and the sort of clergyman who wore bands over his tippet and hood might also, to celebrate the major festivals, carry his academic square up and down the church at the Divine Office (Yes ... I admit it ... I have done that). We Catholics of the Anglican patrimony, of course, have always been preoccupied with birettas. I once lent S Thomas's to the/an Order of S Lazarus and was fascinated by the crop of green pompoms. Old photographs from Walsingham in the days of Fr Hope Patten reveal that clerical members of the College of Guardians wore birettas twice the height of ordinary ones. Some clergy, doubtless in pious memory of our late Sovereign Lord King Philip, wore Spanish models. Clergy who claimed dubious doctorates from obscure institutions far across the heaving Ocean added an additional wing to their headwear. And there was the pleasure of covering and uncovering: I once heard a sermon by an Anglican bishop in which, for some reason which now eludes me, he repeatedly named the then Sovereign Pontiff. The numerous clerical brethren in choir duly uncovered at each such mention ... ever more enthusiastically as time went on (not that they all subsequently accepted the invitation to corporate unity issued by that same Pope ... there is perhaps a sermon in this ...).

My own biretta, in constant use since I was deaconed in 1967, has lost the pristine gloss it possessed when I first bought it in Vanpoules. Having sustained showers of rain more often than I care to remember when I was stumbling across country churchyards in front of an undertaker, or panting up the irregular hillside of the cemetery at High Wycombe, or going round the village on sick calls during winter blizzards, it is somewhat faded and warped. More strangely, the pompom, over the decades, gradually turned a shade of reddy black. (I look to those with chemical know-how to explain this.) I got tired of parrying the quips of those who enquired whether, like a dragon-fly larva, I might be gradually metamorphosing into a Canon, and so when the thread attaching the pompom weakened and broke, I did not sow it back on. (My friend the mighty Fr Ray Blake once told me that his own biretta had changed, like the disintegrating MA gowns of superannuated schoolmasters, into an episcopal green.)

But it is born upon me that the biretta-without-a-pompom should really be deemed the proper historical headwear for the clerus Romanus. It is still worn as such by Redemptorists and Oratorians and Cardinals (pompoms being a piece of effeminate frenchification, oo la la, give it another twirl, yes??). A recent hint from Fr Zed leads the way. And, since the Ordinariate is directly subject to the Roman Pontiff, I am sure that the biretta-without-a-pompom is exactly what our beloved Holy Father wishes us to wear.

We owe it to him to get our headwear right, whatever the cost, come what may.

26 October 2019


I recently expressed my own individual feeling that we all need expert and informed information about the Vatican Gardens Event. It is clear that, whether or not this was a formal act of idolatry, it constituted a very great skandalon. But was it an act of idolatry?

Our Holy Father has himself now usefully progressed and clarified the question.

There had been doubts whether 'Pachamama' was the correct term for a pagan Amazonian deity. But PF has been reported as himself referring to the statue or statues as Pachamama.

I wonder what difference, canonically, this makes. What I mean is this.

If the statue venerated in the VGE was not of Pachamama, but PF erroneously believed that it was, would his act of veneration of this statue (if he did make such an act) still be a formal act of Apostasy, on the grounds that the Roman Pontiff intended to commit an act of idolatry?

I would prefer not to have angry and intemperate comments offered by people with strong opinions but without competence in Canon Law.

I applaud the sensible and measured comments of Cardinal Mueller; as well as the highly appropriate act of Intiberisation. But there are rumours that the Roman plods have recovered the idols. In future, might it not be safer to burn idols which have inappropriately been set up in Catholic places of worship? Or to smash them effectively up?

25 October 2019


On the internet it is claimed that there is a history of Christian missionaries re-identifying representations of pagan divinities as objects of licit Christian cultus.

Well, I'm old enough to be wise enough not to assert universal negatives. So I won't claim that this could never have happened anywhere. But I would like to be shown some evidence.

Because the ancient world provides interesting examples of quite the opposite. It would be very easy for a statue of Isis with Horus upon her lap to be recycled as Our Lady. Perhaps the easiest place for this to have happened would have been in the home teritory of Isis, Egypt ... where, indeed, the cultus of the Theotokos was to find enthusiastic adherents earlier than it did in some other places.

But the evidence is that when Christians converted an Isiac temple to the true faith, they did not dedicate the church to the Mother of God.

On the contrary: the christianisation was performed by placing the relics of martyrs within the buildings, and offering them cultus. The building was regarded as dedicated to those martyrs.

This is completely in line with what S Bede records S Gregory as Magisterially commending at HE I: 30.

24 October 2019

The Cherwell

We love to play confusing tricks upon foreigners with regard to surnames and placenames. One example of the former: there are people whose name is Fanshaw, but who sign themselves Featherstonehaugh. I sometimes wonder how they get on when entering America and facing those grim and defensive immigration officials.

With some regularity, a controversy arises every eighteen months about how the name of the River Cherwell, which joins the Thames at Oxford, should be pronounced.

Oxonians make the first syllable rhyme with bar (compare also the County of Berkshire ... I'm not sure about the Berkley, er, Hunt ...). But rustic folks living up the Cherwell valley make that first syllable rhyme with sir. Old maps, old documents, which vary the orthography between Charwell and Cherwell, make clear that the former is, historically, correct.

I have little doubt that explanation is to be found in Mgr Knox's words about the Barsetshire town of Greshamsbury. " ... the inhabitants no longer called it Greemsbury, but pronounced it as it was spelt; for with the coming of education they had learned how to write and forgotten how to talk ...".

In Devon, to give another example, Crediton is now called, as spelt, Crediton; but it used to be pronounced Kirton.

You see, in Oxford we have two rivers, and so it is often necessary to specify which is intended. But where there is only one river, it would be excessive to name it: one would just call it "the River" or, if tidal, "the Water". Similarly, if there is only one church, it is "the Church". Only if there is the possibility of confusion would one say "S Mark's Church" or "S Peter's" or "the Presbyterian Church".

This is why so many of our River "names" are simply 'Celtic' or even 'pre-Celtic' words meaning River (Avon ...).

Some river names on modern maps seem even to arise from mistakes by those busy and pompous people, Antiquarians (the Adur ...)!

23 October 2019

What on earth is Dr Kwasniewski up to?

Not for the first time, Peter Kwasniewski has placed us all in his debt. I am refering to his recent John Henry Newman on Worship, Reverence and Ritual (Os Justi Press, 513 pages, ISBN 9 781692 121020). In it, he gathers together a very large number of splendid texts by S John Henry which relate to continuity in liturgical praxis. But I would like to suggest that the erudite compiler has raised a deeper question.

The pieces Peter collects are arranged in chronological order of composition. This encouraged me, on drawing this substantial volume out of its packing, instantly to detect that some three quarters of its pages  are taken from S JHN's 'Anglican period'. Turning then to the 'Editor's Note', I found this acknowledgement: "While the majority of writings contained herein are from Newman's Anglican period (particularly from the eight volumes of the incomparable Parochial and Plain Sermons), there is very little in their content that would even need to be rewritten, let alone retracted, by a Roman Catholic." I was instantly reminded of the Saint's own protestation of the continuities in his life and thought, expressed in his Biglietto speech: " ... to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion."

The deeper question which arises from the recent canonisation is this. Saint John Henry Newman is a very unusual, very atypical, Teacher to be given by God to the Universal Church. I am sure there are saints a-many whose views changed when they left haeresis for the light of the Gospel. And it is true that the overall corpus of S John Henry's teaching does need to be focussed, perhaps aligned, perhaps corrected, by the fulness of his views after his entry into full communion (as a a young man ... for example ... he had opined that the Roman Pontiff was Antichrist).

But has there ever been a Saint a significant part of whose authentic teaching was delivered outside the visible unity of the One Fold of the Redeemer?

You see, this Saint offers the Universal Church a body of teaching which, taken as a whole, is conspicuous, from his earliest Anglican teaching onwards, for its power to edify. And, not least, to edify the Catholic Church in the crisis in which she finds herself during this particular  kairos. Newman is God's messenger for this, the seventh year of the pontificate of Pope Francis. Whether PF himself realises that or not.

We have the authority of Joseph Ratzinger for drawing upon the teaching of the Anglican Newman. In defence of his view that what has been sacred cannot simply be discarded, the doctrinal essence of Summorum Pontificum, the future Pope Benedict cited Parochial and Plain Sermons volume 2 (1835), Sermon 7, included in Dr Kwasniewski's selection from Newman.

The continuous direction and consistency in S JHN's teaching is a remarkable testimony to the working of grace within the separated Anglican community in which he grew up. And it is surely no surprise that he was beatified by the same Roman Pontiff who invited 'Anglican groups' to bring into full communion with the See of Peter the wise and gracious things which they had enjoyed in the centuries of separation, those days in terra aliena.

We, particularly (but by no means only) members of the Ordinariates, have an awesome duty.

Tertullian, poor fellow, slithered from Catholicism into haeresis. Yet he is sometimes cited Magisterially. A fortiori, how important it will be to cite both the Anglican and the Catholic S JHN and to do so with deferential respect and admiration.

Let me be clear about this: it is our duty to know and to quote and to promote those teachings which Newman gave when he was still an Anglican as well as the things he did and wrote after that rainy evening at Littlemore just outside Oxford on October 9 in the Year of Salvation 1845.

Peter: Thank You very much for this superb compilation of S John Henry's Magisterial writings upon Tradition and Worship. In your pages, the reader will find not only sound doctrine, and sensitive teaching, but the exquisite cadences of the greatest stylist of modern Catholic England.

In every sense of the word, you have given us a Treasure!! 

22 October 2019


Even Adrian Molesworth no about the Defenestration of Prague. Would "The Depontification of Pachamama" do as a description of the watery relocation of those iffy statues in Rome? Or "The Intiberisation"? Does it merit an annual liturgical celebration? I expect Joshua has Propers (Extraordinary Form) at the ready.



There is an intriguing news story going around.

Here in Oxford, in what we used to call the Library of the Ashmolean but now call the Sackler since its magnificent rebuild, they store thousands of papayri, some published, many unpublished. These were dug up in a 2000-year-old rubbish dump at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt back in the 1890s by a couple called Grenfell anf Hunt. (Dry sand preserves papyrus.) They are the property of 'The Egypt Exploration Society'. These papyri range from literary texts lost since the fall of Constantinople to laundry lists.

Among them are some OT and NT fragments. And some of these, missing from the Sackler, appear now to be held by an American Evangelical 'Museum of the Bible' financed by a family called Green. (They have very promptly said that they will return anything to which they do not have title.)

The name of an Oxford American papyrologist called Dirk Obbink has cropped up.

What our media do not seem to be aware of is that Obbink has been in the news in a variety of contexts. One of these concerns the Aeolian poetess Sappho of Lesbos.

Most of her oeuvre is lost, the last copies having very probably been destroyed during the spread of Islamic enlightenment. A few pieces survived because they were quoted by other writers. But in the last century quite a few papyrus fragments have been identified and published. One such substantial and quite 'recent' fragment was unofficially named "the New Sappho". Obbink has been in the Sappho Industry from an early stage. And when an "Even Newer Sappho" was published by him, much interest was aroused.

There were some nasty-minded people who even wondered if this might be a forgery ... a suspicion definitively disproved. Interest then turned to 'provenance'. Then there were those who felt that Obbink had given an unsatisfactorily laconic account of where he got it from. It transpired that the Green Museum somehow came somewhere into the story. Nobody has suggested that the Greens have behaved with anything other than complete propriety from beginning to end.

In publishing this text, Obbink, in his understated American way [might he be a relative of Max Beerbohm's Oover?], secured blessed immortality by giving it the title "Papyrus Obbink".

The University is "investigating". Inspector Morse has not been called in. Who needs plods when you have dons?

Why might readers of this humble blog have any interest in such a subject? Because Sappho either invented, or somehow found her name attached to, a metre called the Sapphic. Users of a Breviary will know this metre extremely well because of the hymn Iste Confessor, which crops up with great regularity whenever ... as we so often do in the Western Rites ... we celebrate yet another 'Confessor'. Dragged from Greek into Latin poetry by Catullus and Horace, the 'Sapphic Metre' has for centuries been popular among those composing Latin verse, including hymns. I used it in my recent Latin hymn to S John Henry, Salve Fundator.

In English translations, it springs up at you from the pages of your hymn book because it has three longish lines and then a very short one with the rhythm tumtitty tumtum. [Exempli gratia: Wherefore O Father, we thy humble servants; Lord of our life and God of our salvation ...]

21 October 2019

Silly person

Some person called Mary Beard, who enjoys the title of 'professor' at some 'university', has said to the meejah: " ... do I like the Romans? I really hate them ... I am not going to love a culture that gave the likes of me no political rights, however interesting I find them. The same would go for the Victorians."

"The same would go" for Germany before 1919; the Beard will have to "hate" pre-Weimar Germany. Comparatively, at least, she will accord an easier toleration to the more liberal German electoral system which left the Nazis in charge. I expect she adores Stalin and can't wait to live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What a thoroughly fatuous individual. She "really hates" [schoolgirl talk?] every culture before around 1920. Dumping any attempt at nuance, she misreads earlier cultures by implying that 'political rights' had the same significance in all of them that the phrase possesses in modern Western societies.

I wonder what Livia would have made of being condescended to by the pity of a Beard, on the grounds that she "lacked political rights". Have fig, dear. Have several.

In earlier societies, male and female spheres were different and distinguished. Typically, the male sphere included the the relationship between the family and external society. The female related to the household. This is carefully explained in the last chapter of Proverbs.

We may be better off or worse off now that we have discarded such distinctions. In my fairer moments I can see plausible arguments both ways.

But for 'professor' Beard simply not to understand such elementary matters makes me wonder if it was ever wise to allow Cambridge the title of university. Is it too late for us to have second thoughts about this?

20 October 2019

Vatican Gardens Event

There's a lot of hot air on the internet, following the Vatican Gardens Event. I noticed one in particular by a person saying that he could not say AMEN to a prayer for the pope. I would like to make a technical point: the Te igitur of the Roman Canon does not pray for the pope, still less does it in some way glorify him; it expresses our sacramental communio with him. I do that each morning with determination.

I propose to start deleting proffered comments which angrily attack PF for the VGE.

What I would like to see is a careful exegesis by some academically qualified person who is expert in the 'indigenous' religions of Amazonia, of what PF did at the VGE I shall not accept comments which woffle angrily. It would need to rely on a precise and evidenced account of what actually happened.

Our great Anglican mystagogue Dom Gregory Dix used to assert (e.g. Shape pp 24-26) that during the early persecutions Apostasy by a cleric meant that he had irremediably lost his Orders. I would like to see accounts by academically qualified writers of how this matter stands, historically and theologically.

Please do not waste your time or mine writing in with your own strong views unless you are academically competent.

18 October 2019

18 October: S Eadnoth of Dorchester

The Heavenly Birthday, Natale, of S Eadnoth Bishop of Dorchester. He was killed while saying Mass during the Battle of Assandun.

The victorious Danes killed him; I expect I will be criticised for suggesting that it shows more respect ... indeed, fear ... towards the power of the Sacrifice of the Mass, to kill a priest for offering it than it does just to dismiss the Eucharist as some irrelevance by which nobody need feel threatened. Might the Danes who killed S Eadnoth and the man who killed Fr Hamel at the altar be a millimetre closer to Truth than the Obama who so slyly campaigned to replace 'Freedom of Religion' with a 'Freedom of Worship' about which he couldn't care less?

S Eadnoth ended up being buried at Ely. His own Cathedral Church at Dorchester, just South of Oxford, was to lose that status half a century later under the Normans, when the sedes episcopalis was transferred to Winchester. S Eadnoth's church, or rather, the gothic Abbey Church built over its site, was once, but is no longer, a dynamic Anglo-Catholic centre with a Missionary College attached.

At the beginning of this millennium, the shrine of Dorchester's founding bishop S Birinus was reconstructed. That reconstruction is superbly emblematic of all that is pathetic about a faded and gutless middle-of-the-road Anglicanism devoid of real content. On top of the now meaningless masonry there is no feretory containing relics; attached to its west end there is no Altar for the August Sacrifice. (The same is true of S Frideswide's Shrine in Oxford.) The C of E is terribly good at 'heritage' and demonstrating a polite enthusiasm for the past, but has no real awareness of any interaction between the Now and the Supernatural. (The church is in the hands of a woman 'priest'.) In Kenneth Kirk's pontificate, the Anglican Bishop Suffragan of Dorchester was permitted, once a year on S Birinus' feast in December, to sing Pontifical High Mass in Dorchester with all the dignities of a Diocesan Bishop, including the presence of the famed and feared Staggers Serving Team commanded by Canon Couratin.  A past era; a departed culture.

Sic transit gloria ....

But you can find the supernatural a little way away, down by Dorchester's river, in the lovely little Victorian Catholic Church of S Birinus, beautifully restored by the admirable Fr Osman, who celebrates the Old Mass in it, and is one of the assertores Veritatis who is prepared to lift his head above current parapets.

Luci cedant tenebrae, et cedunt.

17 October 2019

Sancta Patrona, ora pro nobis UPDATED

A rare liturgical treat this year. Saint Frideswide, Patron of this City and Univerity, has her feast on Saturday (October 19). And, thanks to the Latin Mass Society, there is a High Mass in the traditional Dominican Rite at Blackfriars. 11 a.m..

A treat, because the Dominican Rite is very similar to the old Sarum Rite (the main visual difference is that modern Dominicans do all the 'tridentine' genuflections, which 'Sarum' didn't have). So this is the closest you are likely to get to what happened in honour of the Saint in Oxford Cathedral, originally the church of the priory of S Frideswide until the suppression of the monasteries under Cardinal Wolsey. Unless, of course, it were to happen that ... er ...

Despite the 'Reformation', the University never quite got round to deleting S Frideswide from its Calendar. Check this in your Oxford Diary if you don't believe me.

As Patron, S Frideswide grabs the (second) Vespers of S Luke, who, according to the 1962 rules, doesn't even get a commemoration. She steals her own Second Vespers from the Sunday, which does get a commemoration. Before P*us XII and B*gnini got tinkering, S Luke did get a commemoration of his (Second) Vespers. And there would have been a Common Octave of S Frideswide ...  If I've got some of that wrong, I'm sure there is One Above who will correct me!

Moi, I shall use the 'Gallican' Preface of Patrons.

Back in the days of the dear old Church of England, now no more than a sanctified memory, on this Feast the Lord Bishop sang Pontifical High Mass in his Cathedral, assisted by the Staggers Travelling Circus. Happy times! But all good things come to an end ... up to a point ...

Not very far from the bones of S Frideswide is the grave of Robert King, last abbot of Thame and Oseney and Bishop of Rheon in partibus infidelium, first and only de facto Bishop of Oseney, first Bishop of Oxford (the See was canonically erected by Cardinal Pole on 24 December 1554). His de facto successor was Hugh Curwen, who had been consecrated by Dr Bonner temp' Philippi et Mariae to Dublin (it is not quite true, as people carelessly claim, that only one Marian bishop conformed under Elisabeth). I've no idea where he's buried, poor old gentleman.
[UPDATE: Mark West kindly points out that, according to the DNB, Curwen was buried at Burford; 'Pevsner' does not record a surviving monument.]

Our exalted Patron is still there in her Church, buried under a stone inscribed Frideswide, her bones amusingly mixed with those of some Protestant woman. Nearby, the fairly complete fragments of the medieval shrine have been reassembled.

A statio, perhaps, to be made on the way up to Blackfriars.

16 October 2019

Was Vincenzo Carducci a crypto-Anglican?

There is a delightful picture by a Baroque painter of the seventeenth century, Vincenzo Carducci, who worked for the Spanish Crown. It shows the Ordination of S John Matha (and his first Mass in which he received a mercedarian vocation).

Carducci or his patron, interestingly, clearly did not accept the then current assumption, based upon the teaching of Pope Eugene IV, that the Porrectio Instrumentorum was the Matter of Ordination. He shows the Holy Spirit descending like a flame of fire upon the head of the Saint as the bishop imposes his hands and says the words Receive the Holy Ghost ...whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven ... etc..

I wonder if the artist and his Most Catholic Royal Patron would have been surprised if they could have known that, four centuries later, Ordination by means of that Matter accompanied by that Form would survive among Anglicans who use the Prayer Book Ordinal (Bishop Harry Carpenter, who had Bossuet on the Dutch side of his episcopal pedigree, dealt thus with me on Trinity Sunday in 1968), but that the imposition of hands with that formula would be abolished in the post-Vatican II Roman version of presbyteral Ordination.

Ah, the whimsies of liturgical history!

15 October 2019

Walsingham and the CCC

I heard a rumour ... just a rumour ... that the Catholic Shrine at Walsingham, long known to dyspeptic Anglicans as The Barn, may be reordered or even demolished and replaced (plaudite! plaudite!) by something a tadge more like a Catholic Shrine ... indeed, something more like the Anglican Shrine, with its 16 Rosary Altars and its superb collection of relics (not to mention its Holy House and its Holy Well).

The dynamic 'new' Administrator, Canon Armitage, might give away some hints about his plans when he speaks at the Colloquium being held at Walsingham from November 19-21 by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (not too late, Fathers, to book).

The main speaker is to be Dom Mark Kirby (Vivat! Vivat!), the charismatic and eloquent Prior of the (traditional) Benedictine House at Silverstream in the County Meath ... a fantastic man; a fantastic place.

I don't understand why some people are so negative and pessimistic about the state of the Church Militant ...

14 October 2019


As diligent readers will know, I've been sequestered from from the input of the World ... so I'm ill-placed to comment upon Mysterious Happenings in the Vatican Gardens (there must be a joke somewhere here about leading people Up The Garden Path).

But a kind American friend draws my attention to the comments on the American fsspx.news.

Eccelente. What a superb witness the Society has given to plain sanity over so many years ... decades ...


One or two random notes and queries arising from Sunday's liturgy.

Again, the rite used was that put in place by PF. It omits the formulae which had been added by Pope Benedict and which had enhanced the Magisterial status of the rite. Common sense suggests that canonisations in this reduced rite assert less certainty about the process.

The Greek Deacon omitted, I think, the Customary Kisses of the Hierarch's hand. Previous Greek Deacons have done them. Was this by instruction? Another example of the perennial tendency to latinise Byzantines?

PF is Bishop of Rome. It is strange that he did not use the Roman Eucharistic Prayer. Doesn't he like the job? Is he getting into retirement mode?

Some clergy, at communion time, gave the Host into the mouth of a recipient, even if s/he held out his/her hands; some went along with the wishes of the recipient. At one point there seemed to be an MC gesturing to the effect that reception should be in the mouth.

At the end, Lead Kindly Light was sung in Italian. If we are to have vernacular liturgy, it would seem common sense to have a text written by one of the canonizati sung in the language in which he/she wrote it. And after all, English is not exactly one of the world's rarest languages. I deplore the rabid and relentless Italianisation of the Catholic Church. My Father used to express the view that the Catholic Church might be OK for Eye Ties, but not for Englishmen. It is a shame that current Vatican policy appears to concur.

Who were the Anglican bishops near the pope? Was one of them a scarlet woman? Why do modern Anglican bishops shun the dear sober old patrimonial Penguin which was good enough for blessed William Laud? The C of E should put a stop to all this vulgar highchurchery.

What a wonderful showing all those Keralan Catholics, and the crowds of Syro-Malabar clergy, made!

PS The cameraman generously showed us quite a lot of shots of a particular chap sitting among the Great and the Good. He very extravagantly leaned sideways and forward while reaching behind him so as to give his bottom a good scratch; then engaged with his texting machine; then started picking at his fingernails. The poor fellow was very restless.  Does Novus Ordo liturgy have this effect on everyone? Is there a medical name for the physical consequences of Modern Liturgy? Are there known remedies?

Who was/is he?

13 October 2019


I made it clear before leaving my computer for ten days that I would not be reading emails or moderating proferred comments. Again, I return to a load of abuse from someone who presumably did not read that notification, and is cross that I didn't publish his 'comments'. You might have thought he would have noticed that I didn't enable any other comments either.

Now I've been through them and enabled most.

S Columba and Canonisation

The 'Stowe Missal', once in the library at Stowe of the Dukes of Buckingham and now kept by the Royal Irish Academy, gives us evidence of the worship of at least one Irish worshipping community in the 790s; it is the earliest surviving Altar Book from this archipelago and also preserves, fossilised, valuable information about the history of the Roman Rite before S Gregory the Great threw the Hermeneutic of Continuity to the winds with his Byzantinising alterations. Stowe reveals that Mass used to begin with a litany; and an anecdote about S Columba suggests that this had been true in his time (he died in 597).

One morning, as his brethren were putting on their shoes to go to work, S Columba stopped them and ordered that they should instead prepare for Mass and for a festal meal. "And I who am so unworthy must today celebrate the sacred mystery of the Eucharist out of reverence for the soul that last night was carried away among the choirs of angels ...". So they did; but the Saint interrupted the litany to tell the singers to add the name of S Colman the bishop [S Colman moccu Loigse of Leinster] who - so it had been revealed to him - had died that night.

It is well known that legal preliminaries and formal papal pronouncements were not the means by which a man or woman was 'raised to the Altars of the Church' in the early centuries. But I take issue with the assumption sometimes made that canonisation was by acclamation; as if the Church were an ochlocracy in which decisions were made by mobs shouting. The Church has always been a structured, hierarchical body, and the placing of a name on the 'list' or 'canon' of saints must always have been an action formally done by the celebrant of the Eucharist (who in early centuries would of course normatively have been episcopal).

So here S Columba does not charge around saying "I've had a vision that Colman is dead"; his monastic brethren do not then start jumping up and down yelling "Goodness how holy he was! Santo subito!" No; S Columba 'canonises' Colman formally by prescribing a Eucharistic celebration on a day on which this would not normally have happened; summoning his monks to church wearing the white garments they normally wore on major feasts, and then instructing the cantores to name Colman.

So that Naming and the Invocation (Ora pro nobis) constituted, to speak anachronistically, his canonisation.

12 October 2019

Newmanology and S Philip Neri

In his distractingly moving peroration to his Second Spring sermon - arguably the most superb piece of rhetoric to emerge from the nineteenth century - Blessed John Henry Newman talks about the habit of the English seminarians in Rome of going to S Philip Neri before returning to the perils of the English Mission, for his blessing. "They went for a Saint's blessing; they went to a calm old man who had never seen blood, except in penance; ... and therefore came those bright-haired strangers to him, ere they set out for the scene of their passion, that the full zeal and love pent up in that burning breast might find a vent, and flow over, from him who was kept at home, upon those who were to to face the foe. Therefore one by one, each in his turn, those youthful soldiers came to an old man; and one by one they they persevered and gained the crown and palm - all but one, who had not gone, and would not go, for the salutary blessing.

"My Fathers, my brothers, that old man was my own S Philip. Bear with me for his sake ...".

Who was the 'one who would not go'? Professor Tighe once suggested to me the name Anthony Tyrell ...

11 October 2019

Mary's YES to God: Annuntiata et CoRedemptrix

Today's lovely Feast of the Motherhood of the Theotokos has reminded me of the 2010 Ecumenical Walsingham Pilgrimage. A Methodist friend of mine, Prebendary Norman Wallwork, preached a most memorable sermon on our Lady as CoRedemptrix. Here is part of what Father Norman said:
"Mary is the recipient of the sword of sacrifice which pierces her being as she participates in the redemptive offering of Christ at Calvary. The Lukan prophecy of the sword - made by Simeon to Mary in the Temple - and the Johannine picture of the Mother of Jesus - at the foot of the Cross - are really two moments within a single event. Mary's YES to God that she would be the God-bearer was a YES that began in the joy of carrying the Christ child within her but ended as she gazed on her Son on the Cross. For the sacrifice that Mary began to offer in her fiat was a sacrifice she only completed at Calvary. Mary does not make a sacrifice independently of the work of her Son - her sacrifice is united to his. Within Christ's grand oblation of himself in his life and in his death for us all there is comjoined the sacrifice of his Mother. Neither could have been made without the other.

"At the heart of the Eucharist we particpate in the same sacrifice which Christ offers once and for ever. The Eucharistic sacrifice of our praise and thanksgiving and the Eucharistic oblation of ourselves to the Father through the Son, in the Spirit, is a sacrifice we can only offer because it is conjoined to the one, true, pure and immortal and ever-prevailing sacrifice of Christ. At every Eucharist there is one sacrifice - Christ's and ours - and within that conjoined sacrifice is mingled the sacrifice of the one who knew - at Calvary - that her sacrifice was finished and accomplished as far as in her lay - as it is finished and accomplished by Christ as far as in him lay - and as it is finished and accomplished by us in this place on this day at this hour."

I feel the Wesleys would have applauded ... and so would S Gregory Palamas and S Bernard.

10 October 2019


I imagine many people, like myself, are preparing for the canonisation by rereading Fr Ker's biography of Blessed John Henry Newman, which deserves all the praise which Henry 'Patrimony' Chadwick heaped upon it in his review.

But many might find it a trifle long and daunting to read ab initio usque ad finem. The answer is: to dip and delve. I have recently reread the section on Newman, Infallibility, and Vatican I. As so often with Newman, it is striking how frequently his instincts coincide with those of Pope Benedict XVI. It has become a bit of a yawn-making commonplace to say that Newman's comments on Vatican I (how it needed to be 'balanced') prepare the way for Vatican II. Rather more interesting is the way in which his experience of living through the conciliar years of Vatican I increasingly reminded him of the embarassing historical fact that Councils - although a merciful God may protect them from the formal teaching of error - are commonly nasty, messy, and unpleasant phenomena. Joseph Ratzinger came to a very similar conclusion as a result of living through the conciliar years of Vatican II.

So I particularly commend Ker's account of Newman's attitude to this question (and perhaps also Dom Gregory Dix's masterly vindication of the decrees of Vatican I). Newman's quiet faith that the Holy Spirit would prevent the rabid ultramontanes from writing their absurdities into a conciliar decree; his satisfaction when he read the final text ("nothing has been passed of consequence") and realised that the ultras had been as comprehensively beaten as the Gallicans; his profound historical perspective: should reassure any open-minded enquirer. I was interested to be reminded of an often forgotten anxiety of Newman; that the Gallicans would succeed in extending the concept of the infallibility of the Church to matters far beyond Faith and Morals; and that the Ultramontanes would then attempt to secure a decree attributing such an inflated infallibility to the pope. Part of Newman's greatness was this: his unease at the activities of the Wards and the Mannings did not blind him to the even greater dangers looming on the Gallican side. (An unease about inflated versions of papal power is another feature common to Newman and Ratzinger.)

Off at a bit of a tangent here ... Not much is known this side of the water about a close Irish friend of Newman's: David Moriarty, Bishop of Kerry. A fascinating man; the British Government's favourite Irish bishop because of his fiece opposition to republican violence. He was, I believe, the only bishop who never actually formally subscribed the conciliar decrees on infallibility and primacy. He was responsible for Killarney Cathedral, one of Ireland's loveliest until an adulterous liberal bishop gutted it in the 1960s.

9 October 2019

Cor ad Cor loquitur

As Blessed John Henry related years later to Dr Pusey, on August 22 1845 [Pusey's birthday, Octave Day of the Assumption], Newman first "saw his way clear" to put a Miraculous Medal round his neck.

The phrase reminded me rather of how Archdeacon Manning, six years later, did not say his first Hail Mary until he had formally resigned his archdeaconry and walked across the bridge to say his prayers in Southwark Cathedral. Marian devotion seemed a dividing line in the sense that, however one's theological views might have developed, it somehow didn't seem right to do certain things while one was still 'eating the bread' of the Established Church.

August 22 was some weeks before that rainy evening when Newman threw himself at the feet of the dripping and steaming Fr Dominic Barberi and began his two-day long General Confession. Clearly, on that August day, Newman saw himself as having turned a corner. I wonder if it could be anything to do with the fact that (he was already familiar with the use of the Roman Breviary) he had just celebrated the Octave of the Assumption with its Marian readings at Mattins (rather more of them in the 1840s than in the circa1962 Breviary).

I have heard the fascinating suggestion that the Cor ad Cor loquitur of Newman's motto referred to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary as they appear together on the back of the Miraculous Medal.

Bonair and Buxom

Some friends and I were once chatting about the relationship between Dr Cranmer's Wedding Service and its antecedents. They had, in fact, arranged that their own wedding tok place according to the Prayer Book of 1549! I said that there was more continuity in this area than in most of his compositions; I here append the Sarum form of the wife's Plighting of the Troth, which of course is technically part of the Espousals which took place at the church door and were followed by the Nuptiae as everyone moved to the choir.

I N take thee N to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to be bonair and buxum in bed and at the board; till death us depart, if Holy Church it will ordain, and thereto I plight thee my troth.

Isn't is lovely, the phrase I've highlighted, in its alliterative power?!?

According to the OED, bonair derives from the French debonnair, id est, de bonne aire, 'of good disposition, gentle, kind, complaisant, mild, gracious'. Buxum means 'bowsome, flexible, obedient, pliant, compliant', and has a parallel form in German (biegsam). The meaning moved on to 'blithe, jolly'; but only in the sixteenth century did the sense 'plump' become clear.

In Middle English, I gather, 'depart' was a transitive verb meaning 'part, separate'. I think it was in 1662 that it was deftly changed to 'do part' to keep up with the changes in the language.

I seem to remember that Recusant usage continued to use the Manuale Sarisburiense for Marriage.

8 October 2019

Why October 9?

A friend once expressed a strong view about the tactlessness of selecting, for the liturgical commemoration of Blessed John Henry, the day of his conversion. I did see what he meant ...

... but here is an alternative reading. October 9 was the only day in Newman's life upon which he was in communion both with the See of Canterbury and with the See of Rome. Neat, yes? I feel quite proud of that. Of course, other days associated with Newman, including his obitus, were already occupied by other Saints.

Incidentally, the new (in 2010) Newman altar at Brompton is a very decent job. The centre of the reredos is a copy of Millais' famous fully frontal portrait of Blessed John Henry. Not bad, but not the original. A shame that a previous duke disposed of it to the Nation (it is back at Arundel with the status of a loan). The original would have been a distinguished addition to the other goodies which make the Oratory so superior to the little museum next door.

6 October 2019

Newman in New York! Don't miss him!

My last visit stateside before I concluded that transatlantic travel was too much for my aging frame, was to Fr Cipolla's church in Connecticutt ... during a magical Connecticutt autumn ... the trees such wonderful colours as we drove along that gracious highway with the Art Deco bridges; all superb; all different. I was so lucky to make Fr Cipolla's acquaintance while he was still running that marvellous set-up! And to meet, in the flesh, the great Mgr Barreiros not long before he died. The music was as superb as it always is whenever David Hughes is in charge of it. Thank you, Stuart and Jill Chessman, for enabling my visit, and for your hospitality!

That same team (with the Monsignore participating in Heaven) is collaborating in a Solemn Mass at Corpus Christi Church, 529 W 121st Street, New York, on Wednesday October 9 at 7pm.. Jill has suggested that I give it this little puff, kindly reminding me that a Latin hymn I was commissioned to write for Newman's own church, the Birmingham Oratory, will be performed to a setting by David. First performance in the New World! How could anybody miss it!

That day, of course, is the last Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman before, Deo volente, he is canonised on the following Sunday. Great Days for true Catholics!! Forget the Sin-odd and join Blessed John Henry!

I notice that the final hymn is to be Praise to the Holiest. I am sure it will be the Cardinal's authentic text, and not the anti-Catholic corruption so impertinently intruded in some Protestant quarters. (The heretics replace Newman's own words "a higher gift than grace" with their own "God's highest gift of grace". Modern Protestants don't really believe that the Man from Nazareth is ... God!! Burn the lot of them!!!!)

Those last five words are merely jocular hilarity.

5 October 2019


Thinking as I so often do about Typology, particularly in this Rosary Month, and especially about the biblical typological basis of devotion to our Lady, I am wondering if anyone can help me out with information about that lovely invocation in the Litany of Our Lady, Turris eburnea, ora pro nobis.

The litany of our Lady (of Loretto), we learn from standard reference books, is first found in the sixteenth century and bears a close family resemblance to a number of late fifteenth century litanies to her. We know, too, that Tower of Ivory appears to be derived from the Song of Songs, where the beloved bride is said to have a neck like a tower of ivory.

In 1957, writing about Eucharistic Reservation, two theologians (SJP van Dijk and J Hazelden Walker) discuss the practice, common in the first millennium, of keeping the Blessed Sacrament in a tower made of ivory; the tower being designed to resemble what was taken to be the appearance of the Sepulchre in which the Lord's body rested. They write: 'the purity and whiteness of ivory was much favoured. Up to the present day, this preference is preserved in the litany of the blessed Virgin, who is invoked as the Tower of Ivory'. They make this statement obiter and without references.

My problem is that as far as I am aware, this method of Reservation did not survive until the middle of the second millennium. So was the idea of vD and HW just an attractive guess? Or is there evidence for this title being used of our Lady in the centuries before the sixteenth? I would very much like to believe these writers. The symbolism of relating our Lady, as 'container' of his natural body, to the vessel within which his sacramental Body is kept, is, surely, devotionally very attractive.

4 October 2019

Advice from the Anglican Patrimony

Nathanael Woodard, Founder of the Woodard Corporation of Anglican Catholic Schools in one of which I taught for twenty eight years, used to say that Education without Religion is pure evil. How right he was.

I am reminded of his words whenever I hear on the radio about the promotion of 'non-sectarian education'; throughout these islands and often, particularly, in Northern Ireland. This is, apparently, deemed an admirable thing, because 'sectarian' education is divisive. The card which the sharper has neatly concealed up his sleeve is the fact that 'non-sectarian education' is simply the ruthless imposition upon every child of the relativistic assumption that religious truth is a minor individual choice at the margin of community, rather than something central both to individuals and communities. Of course 'non-sectarian education' suits the secularists because they have their own thoroughly ruthless agenda with its own non-negotiable dogmas.

Suggest to these people that children should not be given Personal and Social Education (i.e. indoctrination on the rightness of sexual immorality and of perversion) because it is Divisive, and watch the steam come out of their ears. I've done it. It's not a pretty sight.


3 October 2019

'Limited' Communion and Coronations

In the English Coronation Service, which happens, of course, in the context of an Anglican Solemn Pontifical Mass, only the Celebrant, Sacred Ministers, the Sovereign, and the Sovereign's Spouse receive Holy Communion. I wonder if this piece of Anglican Patrimony could be a useful contribution to the solution of a problem in the Latin Church.

Not that many Catholic parishes have a weekly coronation. What I have in mind is the difficulty often raised by Nuptial Masses at which there is a general, or open, Communion. We all know that this is problem. It's not just a question that crops up with regard to mixed marriages or in post-Christian England. Even where Catholicism is still the cultural 'fall-back' religion of a society, as in Ireland, there must be an increasing problem of people who are lapsed making an act of Communion when not in a state of grace. Of course, it is not for us to judge the state of another man's soul; but clergy do have a pastoral duty not wantonly to create situations in which it may prudently be foreseen that people might eat and drink "not discerning the Lord's Body".

Frankly, I see very little problem about confining Holy Communion at a Nuptial Mass to the Happy Couple. There is already a social convention that they are, on this day, a very special couple, Monarchs, as it were, for a day (even if we Latins do not, as the Byzantines so happily do, crown them). It could very easily become accepted as part of their special and privileged status that only they received Holy Communion. It would obviate all the unease we naturally feel about the apparent social discourtesy of 'excluding' from a general Communion those who are not of the household of Faith; indeed, may not be even nominal believers.

I shall delete all cracks about confining Communion at Funeral Masses to the Deceased. But I do wonder about the modern conventional wisdom that Masses without a general Communion are ipso facto and always improper. In a curious sort of way, our age which prides itself sometimes on flexibility is often fairly rigidly uniform and doctrinaire. When I was an undergraduate in the early 1960s, the Pusey House Sunday High Mass was non-communicating; College Chaplains were sensitive about PH filching communicants from the 'primary worshipping community' of the College Chapel. PH claimed simply to 'supplement' and not to replace College chapels. And at nearby S Mary Mags, the High Mass was non-communicating and Communion was given from the Tabernacle ten minutes before Mass began.

Indeed, I have Magisterial authority for the suggestion I am making. Benedict XIV, in the Letter Certiores effecti, after defending the right of the laity to receive Communion within the Mass, went on to lay down that unseasonable demands for this right of receiving Communion within Mass should not be allowed to cause perturbatio, giving rise to confusio et scandalum. (Learned pontiff that he was, he went on to point out that the opportunities for reception of Communion during Mass were much greater 'now' than in the times when when only one Mass had been celebrated in each church, and when the laity had been obliged only to receive the Eucharist from their own proper pastors!)

I think that 'limited Communion' should be regarded as a valid option when a particular pastoral good suggests it. I am not advocating it as a norm!

2 October 2019

Do Moslems and Christians worship the same God? The Council says ...

The Conciliar decree Lumen gentium does not say that Moslems have the faith of Abraham; it calls them fidem Abrahae se tenere profitentes ['they claim to ...']. Which is certainly true; Ibrahim is a very common Islamic name. The Conciliar text (signed, incidentally, by Archbishop Lefebvre) then does indeed go on to say that nobiscum Deum adorant unicum, misericordem, homines die novissimo iudicaturum. I take this to be an indication of an overlap between the attributes of the Gods of Islam and Christianity. Nostra aetate (3) I take to be engaging in a similar process of analysis. If the Council had wished to make and impose a formal doctrinal statement of the identity of the God whom Christians worship, and the object of the Islamic cult, I presume that it would have needed to do so clearly, unequivocally, and unambiguously. The Ecclesia docens has never left her dogmata definitive tenenda lurking in a clause within a statement uttered obiterDeum cui Musulmani* cultum exhibent haec Sacrosancta Oecumenica Synodus sollemniter profitetur eundem esse quem Ecclesia Catholica adorat. Haec si quis negaverit anathema sit. Something similar to this would have needed to be said. The Conciliar Fathers could not, of course, say anything remotely like that, because we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, which Moslems fiercely deny as blasphemous. By identifying common features of predication the Council implicitly assumes recognition of features of non-identity.

The Council, addressing the circumstances of its time, looked optimistically at what Islam and the true Faith might be said to hold in common. A different context could be said to require a different emphasis: of what radically divides two such different religions. This does not imply that the Council was wrong to say what it said, when it said it. At one moment we say "He who is not with me is against me"; in a different context, "He who is not against me is for me".

It does, however, in my opinion, provide strong evidence that the Council was optimistic to the point of monumentally foolish naivety; and this has a considerable effect upon the sense in which we 'receive' the Council today.
*Musulmani in Lumen gentium; they have metamorphosed into Muslimi in Nostra aetate.

1 October 2019


Again, I plan to take ten days or so away from the Comments Box of my computer (also from my emails and from all incoming news).

So, until further notice, comments you make will not be moderated.

But, Deo volente, a post will still pop up every day!

Pope Leo's Stole

When he visited England, Pope Benedict wore a stole of Pope Leo XIII; at the time, some Clever People saw this as a Cunning Sign of the Pope's devotion to that all-important document, for some people the very heart and centre of their Catholic Faith, Apostolicae curae.

I found (and find) it very hard to believe that Dr Ratzinger would have shared the sort of sniggering adolescent nastiness exemplified in such a hermeneutic. I consider it much more likely that the nice old Bavarian gentleman had in mind the fact that it was Papa Pecci who had raised Blessed John Henry to the dignity of Cardinal, thus giving him dignity and status after the previous less-than-happy decade.

He, too, may be aware of Newman's fond sense that Leo's gesture was that of one Christian who had been out of favour during the previous pontificate towards another such. He may even have heard that Leo XIII, at his first consistory, honoured with the Cardinal's Hat two others who had been on the losing side at Vatican I: Haynald and Fuerstenberg (and later Meignan and Foulon). Indeed, at the Council Cardinal Pecci had himself at times taken a rather independent line. It is not surprising that as pope he should have rebalanced the ship.

Most striking was Pope Leo's strong and vigorously expressed admiration for Kenrick, Archbishop of S Louis, who at the Council had been not just an inopportunist but had positively believed that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was not part of the depositum fidei.

I would be delighted to hear that PF had followed his predecessor by taking that stole out of retirement, and using it at the imminent canonisation.

I would be even more over-the-moon if PF then followed the example of Papa Pecci, and elevated to the Purple a cohort of admirable men who have appeared to be out of favour during the  ultrahyperueberpapalism of the last few years. That would be a practical way ... not just words and hot air ... of indicating real admiration for Newman (and for Leo XIII). Go to the Peripheries!

Chaput and Vigano would be a good start to such a list. Ad multos annos!!