31 January 2020


What on earth are we to call it when we lisp to our great grandchildren about this Day of Days?
Taking the long view, I look back to the Anglexits of the sixteenth century; under Henry Tudor in 1533 and Bloody Bess in 1559, which, precursors of today's Brexit, freed England from tyrannical foreigners (not to mention their Detestable Enormities) and led us into Broad Sunlit Uplands.

We Took Back Control!!!! Today, under our great Leader Boris, we are simply completing what the Tudors so magnificently began.

Both Anglexits involved Anne Boleyn alias Bullen ... the first, in 1533, because Tudor rather fancied getting inside her farthingale; the latter, in 1559, because Boleyn's daughter, proclaimed a bastard by her father, had taken possession of the English and Irish thrones.

So let's call it BULLENDAY

You know it makes sense!!

30 January 2020

Private Masses and Side Altars

I have just seen this sentence quoted in New Liturgical Movement: "I'm not sure if there's something online that defends not only private Masses for priests but also the  archetectural [sic] phenomenon of side altars and why it is okay for different Masses to be happening simultaneously in one church".

The writer of this has a big problem. It is that he clearly does not read my blog.

Below is a piece*** by Eric Mascall which I have several times printed on my blog explaining exactly all that. The most recent showing I gave it was last March 10. Here it is again: --

Chiron's biography of Bugnini, which I reviewd recently and is necessary reading for those who desire to be on-the-ball with regard to scholarly discussion of the post-Concilar 'reforms', reminds us that S Paul VI, as disorder spread like wild fire in the Latin Church, wrote in 1965 an encyclical Mysterium Fidei. Among the Pontiff's "concerns and anxieties", he condemns the idea that a "Community Mass" has greater value than mere private Masses, with these words:

"Every Mass, even though a priest may offer it in private, is not a private matter; it is an act of Christ and of the Church".

This truth was unpacked very neatly by the great Anglican Thomist and dogmatic theologian, the Reverend Professor Canon Doctor Eric Mascall, OGS MA: (Very Germanic of me to pile up all the titles, yes?)

***"What makes the mass one and corporate is not the fact that a lot of people are together at the same service, but the fact that it is the act of the one Christ in his Body (corpus) the Church. And I can think of no better way of making anyone understand wherein the unity and corporateness of the mass really consists than to take him into a church in which a number of priests are simultaneously celebrating private masses and to say: "Look at those men at their various altars all round the church, each of them apparently muttering away on his own and having nothing to do with the others. In fact they are all of them doing the same thing - the same essentially, the same numerically - not just a lot of things of the same kind, but the very same identical thing; each of them is taking part as a priest in the one redemptive act which Christ, who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, perpetuates in the Church which is his Body through the sacrament of his body and blood."

Mascall used to say his own mass before breakfast every morning, usually privately in the Oxford church where I went for daily mass as an undergraduate, at the altar under the picture of blessed Charles* the Martyr. How wonderful it would be if the scene he describes came back to the life of our churches ... just imagine the Rosary Basilica at Lourdes every morning with a constant coming and going of priest pilgrims to the altars of the Fifteen Mysteries, altars so sadly unused and neglected when I was there with Archbishop Rowan.

Given a return of the culture of Private Masses, even the marbled refrigeration of Westminster Cathedral ... so much like a really classy but slightly chilly seraglio ... might wake up to warm and vibrant new life!

29 January 2020

blessed Charles Stuart* and Blessed Maria Christina

A decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Dicipline of the Sacraments, 21 May 1999, provides as follows.

"As far as Blesseds who are neither written in the Roman Martyrology nor enjoy a public cult decreed by the Apostolic See or confirmed by it, the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 28 April 1914 is in force; according to which, if in particular places from immemorial custom certain Blesseds are honoured with a public and religious cult, it is permitted to keep them in a particular Calendar, with an asterisk or some other sign placed by his name. By this notation, therefore, it is signified that an explicit decree is lacking by which they are declared formally to be blessed."

Ah, the blessedness of an asterisk. Asterisk me, Father, for I have sinned.

I add a paragraph from a recent paper (Studies in Religion and the Enlightenment 1, no 2) by the Revd Dr Andrew Starkie of the Ordinariate.

"The House of Stuart spent several decades of the eighteenth century and considerable resources pursuing the beatification of James II without success. In more recent years one offspring of that dynasty has, however, been beatified. On 25 January 2014 the pope recognized Blessed Maria Cristina of Savoy (1812-36) among the Blessed. She was a direct descendaent of James II's sister, Henrietta. Her feast day, 31 January, falls the day after the Anglican commemoration of Charles I."

Have I got this right ... she was a daughter of Victor Emmanuel I, de jure King of England, Scotland, France, Ireland, and Sardinia. She was mother of the last de facto King of the Two Sicilies (No; don't you mention Garibaldi to me). As we face 'exiting' the European Union in sixty hours' time, I find these legitimist and pan-European musings quite comforting. Perhaps Blessed Maria Christina will be adopted as Patroness of a New Catholic Europe Movement? Axia, axia!!

I will print her Collect on the 31st, Brexit Day, her feast day. 

I will publish that post at 6 in the morning for all those clergy who may wish to transcribe and use that Collect.

28 January 2020

Mr Pompeo and his nasty finger

" ... the past week ... ended with the Trump administration delivering an outrageous one-fingered salute to Britain."

Whinge ... Whinge ...

The Times newspaper's First Leader was commenting on the refusal of the North American regime to extradite one of its citizens who killed a Briton on a British country road, allegedly by dangerous driving.

Whinge! Whinge!

After listing examples of American habitual double standards in such matters, the Leader Writer, who is usually not a million miles from British Establishment thinking, went on to complain about the vast sums owed by American 'diplomats' who refuse to pay their fines for their illegal parking on our streets.

Anti-Americanism is the one factor which currently unites much of the Right, the Left, and the Centre of our politics. But I call it whinging.

Of course it isn't very nice to be humiliated so publicly and shown up to be a despised and impotent colonial appendage of the Yankie Imperium. But if we don't like it we should do something about it.

I suggest that we create a new part of our Security Service, perhaps to be called MI7. Its methods would be inspired by those of our very effective friends in Mossad. Its remit would be to hunt down homicidal American fugitives from British justice; to kidnap and sedate them; then to package them up and ship them back to Blighty in crates labelled "Chlorinated Chicken".

27 January 2020

Getting Soaked on Bible

I remarked yesterday that we all need to become better Jews ... and as I wrote that, I thought of a common worry among clergy and devout laity seeking direction ... "I fall asleep while I'm saying the Office ... I get to the end of a psalm and I can't remember a word in it ..."

Perhaps I ought to waggle an admonitory finger and emphasise the importance of every word in every psalm. But perhaps, on the other hand, I ought not.

I think what really matters is letting those often-repeated words sink in; making them part of my being; giving them a vivid life in my subconscious as well as in my conscious.

S Augustine made the point that in the psalms we may address the Lord; he may pray in us and with us and for us. But as well as such profound things, there is the quintessential Jewish mind-set. I mean, the sometimes slightly querulous insistence on my own adherence to the Law combined with a nervous admission that I sometimes have not been terribly adherent. The essence of Covenant is God's faithfulness even when I am unfaithful, and the appropriation of this truth both by the community and by the individual. Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo (Ps 88/89) was a favourite phrase among late medieval clerics, coming as the psalmus in the Introit of the Mass of the Five Wounds. Perhaps alone among the clergy, I love all those 'long' psalms in which we make our way through Israelite History, enumerating the 'Mercies' of the LORD.

I do, however, think it unfortunate that English translations from Coverdale onwards begin with 'I' or 'My', pushing forward human agency, while the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin begin with the Mercies. "The Mercies of the LORD for ever shall be my song" ... would that really be so incomprehensible? Incidentally, the Bea psalter, that great symbol of all that is wrong in the concept of' 'reform' which started up under Pius XII, renders the Chesedim as 'Gratias'. Plura non dicam.

Misericordias Domini ... remember that DOMINUS in the psalms nearly always stands for the unutterable Tetragrammaton; the Name revealed to Moses; the Name which was accessed in the Temple. "Our help is in the Name of the LORD ..." ... this is no meaningless catchphrase. It lifts us up into that People as they travelled and repented and fled through the Sea and entered the Land flowing with milk and honey. It takes us back to Moses as he stood by a burning bush ... which was a typos of our Lady. And to the People as they made Hag to the Temple, a typos of our Redeemer Himself.

I sometimes think that we should have a custom of bowing the head at the Name LORD. I am glad that, at least when offering Sacrifice, I am directed to bow my head at Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro; "Let us make berakoth to YHWH our God"

25 January 2020


Wonderful news! After all these years, the ambition of S John Henry Newman that there be an Oratory in Dublin will be realised.

Visitors to Dublin will not need to be told about S Kevin's Harrington Street, the home of fine liturgy and superb preaching and Dublin's Latin Mass community. The Administrator, Fr Gerard Deighan, a Classicist, will be the Superior of the Oratory-in-formation, together with Fr Nevin and two (fairly advanced) seminarians. The Oratorian leitmotif of Sung Sunday Vespers will mark the change. And Candlemass day will be when it all becomes official.

I am told that the Latin Mass community at  S Kevin's continues to grow. I was there a few years ago on my way to read a paper to the Irish Confraternity of Catholic Clergy at Knock; despite the worst onslaughts of the Celtic Tiger, I think Dublin is my favourite European Capital City ... unless it ties with Copenhagen ...

Sometimes people do me the honour of sharing with me their despondency at the state of the whole Catholic Church. And of the Irish Church. But there are the same signs of growth and vigorous renewal as in so many other places. And the fact that most of these are generated from below, by faithful laity and devout presbyters, is all to the good.

Mighty are the prayers of the great Abbot of Glendalough! And of S John Henry! And of S Philip!!

Is it true yet?

Readers will remember the scandalous occasion a few years ago when the CBCEW endorsed a resolution of the German bishops, attacking the Prayer for the Jews which Pope Benedict had himself very recently composed sua manu for the Good Friday Solemn Prayers in the Extraordinary Form. Today, the festival of the Conversion of S Paul, I find myself wondering if their Lordships and their Graces have yet agreed to something like the following. If not, I humbly offer my draft for their use.

Paragraph 5. The Conference supports the demand of the German Bishops that reconsideration be given to the existence on the calendar of a commemoration called The Conversion of S Paul.

We understand that this commemoration is gravely offensive to our Jewish bretheren, and we share their hurt and their pain. So soon after the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it is particularly inappropriate that our liturgical life should retain within it any suggestion of the propriety of 'converting' any member of the Jewish People, whether by a 'voice' purporting to be from 'heaven' or by any other means. We remember the teaching of Pope Francis that our Jewish brethren already possess a Covenant which is both sufficient and irreplaceable. And we associate ourselves wholeheartedly with the Holy Father's frequent and decisive repudiations of proselytism.

Accordingly, this Conference calls upon the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to reconsider the appropriateness of this liturgical anomaly.

We believe that such reconsideration should take into account the Spirit of the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aestate) as well as the current Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Chuch; together with the sensitivities of our beloved Elder Brethren, the People of Israel.

A big problem about the current life of the Church is that reality so often outstrips any attempts at satire. I am probably already behind the news! If so, I apologise for being such a bore.

If not, remember: you read it first here!

Charles John Klyberg ...

... emeritus Bishop of Fulham, and, after his entry into Full Communion, Mgr Klyberg, has recently died. Cuius animae propitietur Deus.

23 January 2020

Waugh, Pope Francis, and the Pachamama

In Brideshead, Waugh describes his disillusionment with the Army in terms of a husband's disillusionment with a wife:
"I caught the false notes in her voice and learned to listen for them apprehensively ... I learned ... her jealousy and self-seeking, and her nervous trick with the fingers when she was lying ...".

I wonder if I am the only one to have followed this process with PF: "The nervous trick with the fingers when she was lying".

I had precisely this experience again with regard to PF's Declaration of about a year ago which advocated syncretistic relativism. We might sensibly regard it as his Praeparatio Evangelii for his Amazonian Synod, his Pachamama Moment, and the events which occurred when PF, like every traditional seducer, Led his victims Up The (Vatican's) Garden Path.

That Declaration now seems so long ago; things move so thick and fast in this pontificate (I wonder if PF's GP has given him bad news). But you may recall his statement that the Declaration did not "go an inch beyond" the teaching of Vatican II.

Instantly ... I knew ... I had certainty ... that it was going to go, in fact, distinctly more than an inch.

"The nervous trick with the fingers when he is lying".

Perhaps some of you, during these dark days, have recalled Chesterton's words Naught for your comfort, Yea, naught for your desire, save that the sky grows darker yet and the sea rises higher. But at least PF's propensity to resort to mendacity like a duck to water makes him that bit easier to read and, to such a degree, perhaps a trifle less dangerous.

Just imagine the trouble we shall be in if his successor is in the same mould, but cleverer.

22 January 2020

Derek Allen, priest

Today, I think, is the Year's Mind (or "Anniversary", if you are a cradle Catholic) of Fr Derek Allen, Principal of St Stephen's House, the once great Anglican Catholic Seminary in Oxford.

Derek took over as princial in 1962, upon the retirement after three decades of the legendary Canon Arthur Couratin, who had himself spanned the peiod between the exuberant, triumphalist Anglican Catholicism of the 1930s, and the reduced but still cheerful Catholicism of the post-War period. Derek maintained the ultramontane traditions of "SSH".

A product of "the House" was guaranteed to prospective incumbents as having been taught strictly according to the liturgical books of O'Connell; a "Staggers Man", so people were wont to say, would know exactly how to extract a fly from a consecrated chalice. I think, incidentally, I was one of the last group to have been so trained before the dismal days which followed 1968. I remember being asked, at a Mass Practice, to say aloud the Offertory Prayers, which we had been required to learn by heart. Most seminarians learned them in English; I launched into Suscipe sancte Pater  ... "Oh, all right" said Derek. My Staggers training then has stood me in very good stead since Pope Benedict unloaded Summorum Pontificum ... and me ... upon the Universal Church.

Stalinist Commissars ("Inspectors") used to visit the House in order to catch it inculcating Extreme Illegalities. On one occasion, clutching their notebooks, they dropped eagerly in upon "Mass Practices". They found one young man being trained to offer the Holy Sacrifice according to the Usages of the UMCA dioceses in Africa ... in Swahili. Another student (I think he was a Hiberno-Catholic Chavasse) was learning the Eucharistic Order of the Church of Ireland, with the liturgical manners so precisely codified by O'Connell, but strictly within the Irish canons and rubrics.

The poor simple proddies had, of course, been set up. It's the only sort of language they understand ...

I recall hearing a story about Derek's own First Mass ... that he elevated the Chalice with such joyous enthusiasm that some of the Precious Blood spilled over the lip. I wonder if any reader is able to corroborate that.

Fr Allen resigned in 1974 and served as pp of S Saviour's Eastbourne until his sudden death in 1991.

May he rest in peace.

21 January 2020


Holy Scripture correctly records that there is nothing new under the sun. It currently seems to be a matter of considerable moment at the Court of St James's that a Harry and a Megan should no longer be styled 'Royal Highnesses'.

A very similar question caused great acrimony when 'Edward VIII' discovered that his American divorcee would be denied the title of Her Royal Highness. He never stopped nagging about this restriction. Happily, an admirable woman, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, saw to it that there was no weakening. Wallis Simpson died with all the shame of being a mere duchess.

But there is something odd here. In the Middle Ages, the upper crust of the political class ... Kings, Dukes, Archbishops ... all were addressed as "Your Grace". The sharp distinction between a Monarch ruling in Majesty, and the slightly inferior Mighty, was not so acutely felt; just as the word 'Prince' was employed differently.

And Ms Markle is still the Duchess of Sussex. If she and her husband, as we have been informed, will "not be using" the style HRH, well, that leaves them as "Their Graces". I am not sure how easy it is to suppress a dukedom ... Acts of Attainder have not been much heard of since Mr Churchill floated the jolly idea of hanging German War Criminals simply by virtue of a British Act of Attainder.

I have no doubt I shall be dead when ... if ever ... the archives of the 1930s are made fully public. I am pruriently curious to know how close we may have been in the 1940s to having 'King Edward VIII' and 'Queen Wallis' crowned in Westminster Abbey under the affectionate eye of Herr von (seventeen carnations) Ribbentrop, or whoever else might have been the Fuehrer's High Representative in a ruined Britain reduced to de facto vassal status by a dominant Nazi Germany. (I suppose another candidate for that role might have been His Royal Highness SS Gruppenfuehrer Prince Charles Edward of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha, but for the Titles Deprivation Act of 1917 Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence, and Baron Arklow.)

It really doesn't bear thinking about what might have happened if Pearl Harbour had never saved our bacon by bringing the US of A into the European War. But quite possibly it might have included 'Edward VIII's' constitutional experts taking a leaf out of Henry VI's book, and proclaiming his "readeption" of the Crown.

Now that we have an Etonian First Lord of the Treasury, when will Henry VI be canonised?

20 January 2020

Homo Vagans (corrected)

"'Unlike the Jews, the Irish, and the Germans, the English are pleased to be thought even more mongrel and exotic than they are. It appeals to the streak of romantic sensibility in the English temperament. Tell an Englishman that he is pure-bred Anglo-Saxon or a hundred per cent Aryan, and he will laugh in your face; tell him that his remote ancestry contains a blend of French, Russian, Chinese or even Arab or Hindu, and he will listen with polite gratification. The remoter, of course, the better; it is more picturesque, and less socially ambiguous.'

"'Socially ambiguous? Ah! you admit, then, that the Englishman in fact despises all other races but his own.'

"' Until he has had time to assimilate them. What he despises is not other races but other civilisations. He does not wish to be called a dago; but if he is born with dark eyes and an olive complexion, he is pleased to trace those features back to a Spanish hidalgo, cast away upon the English coast in the wreck of the Great Armada. Everything with us is a matter of sentiment and association'".
D L Sayers, circa 1936

In recent weeks, there have been allegations of racism in some comments about the Ms Markle who married, a couple of years ago, into the House of Battenberg. You have to be careful, nowadays, how you express racism; you might get away with more by using crafty periphrasis ... and rumour has it that somebody referred to Ms M as bringing some 'exotic DNA' into the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Some years ago, a paparazzo came up with a neat retort. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had just advised this camera-wielding foreigner to "Go back home". Backing deftly away, the man, tugging his hellenic forelock, cried Efaristo! Efaristo!

Surely, racial miscegenation is the main activity of 'Royalty' and of the international upper classes. It always has been. Alliances have had to be cemented; heiresses have had to be hoovered up. For such people, racial intermarriage has always been an everyday reality. 'Prince Henry of Wales, Duke of Sussex', chose his bride in strict conformity with these ancient traditions of aristocratic life. The genealogists inevitably discovered that Ms M is in fact descended from the ancient family of the Earls of Northumberland, the Percies. No surprise to me! (On the other hand, I've not heard that anybody has made interesting discoveries about the antecedents of poor ordinary Ms Middleton. Black mark there.)

The hypothesis has been plausibly advanced that Queen Elizabeth is herself descended ... via the South of Spain ... from a grandchild of the Prophet Mohammed.

More than likely. Perhaps the Security Services should watch out for signs that she has been 'radicalised'.

19 January 2020

The Chair of Unity Octave

As we soldier on with the Ecumenical aspirations of the last millennium, wonderful news.

An American Wesleyan sect called the United Methodist Church is planning to ... divide!!

They are so riven between Progressives and Conservatives, on the gender and sexuality subjects, that they are arranging a divorce.

Or, as one of their 'bishops' said on our Meejah, they are going to be Differently Together!!

During the last century, we were constantly lectured on the theme that Unity matters more than doctrinal and liturgical differences. So Anglican Catholics were told that things like the necessity of Episcopacy were less important than Christian Unity!!

Now the Progressives have suddenly discovered that the necessity of gender equality is ... more important than Christian Unity!!

The one thing you can be sure of is that the 'liberals' will always be found chained to the wheels of the Zeitgeist.

Does anybody seriously doubt that, back in the 1930s, these 'United Methodist' jokers would, if Germanic, have been dutiful little German Christians, forever hectoring us on how Blood and Race and Land and Leader are more important than Christian Unity?

Heil Wesley!! Sequentia Evangelii secundum Marcionem ... In diebus illis, dixit Satanas discipulis suis ... No wonder these mindless and docile sheep are so enamoured of the Final Solution of the Foetus Problem.

The Enemy's 'liberal  evangelium is constantly updated so that the half-witted will always fall for it. And they do.

Hook, line, and sinker.

18 January 2020

Francis plans to convert Moslems

I plagiarise this piece from the most splendid and useful Wall Calendar of the Papa Stronsay Redemptorists, who draw attention to the fact that January 16 is the festival of these Holy Martyrs, whose Triumph was accomplished on January 18 800 years ago.

"The glorious martyrdom of STS BERARDUS, PETER, OTTO, ACCURSIUS AND ADJUTUS. Sent by St Francis to evangelise the Muslims of the West, these friars travelled from Italy to Aragon then to Coimbra in Portugal, to Seville and finally to Morocco, where they were beheaded. Berardus, Peter and Otto were priests, Adjutus and Accursius lay-brothers."

What a privilege it would have been to be invited to preach coram Romano Pontifice on this wonderful 800th anniversary!

It could also provide ideas for those giving addresses during this Octave of Prayer.

17 January 2020

Mascall and Vergil: only for Classicists

That most exquisitely Latin of Anglican theologians, E L Mascall, was haunted by a passage in Vergil's First Eclogue; the shepherd Tityrus says that Rome tantum alias inter caput extulit urbes/ quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi. His fellow Meliboeus asks Et quae tanta fuit Romam tibi causa videndi? to which he replies: Libertas ...

Libertas ... it evokes memories of how many of us felt, nine years ago, when we sought and found Liberty in the Rome of Benedict XVI; liberty from the attempts of the Church of England to impose heteropraxy upon us. That Pope himself seemed to me a cypressus towering above the viburna.

But now, apparently, viburna rule, OK. As we take up our breviaries for the Feast of the Cathedra Petri; can there ever have been a Chair of Unity Octave like this year's, overshadowed by Pachamama? In the second nocturn of Mattins, another great Latinist, S Leo, apostrophises another shepherd, S Peter, entering the City a couple of generations after Tityrus: Ad hanc ergo urbem tu, beatissime Petre Apostole, venire non metuis, et ... turbulentissimae profunditatis oceanum, constantior quam cum supra mare gradereris, ingrederis. That Ocean, now, is surely more than just turbulentissimus.

Here is a stanza probably by S Paulinus II Patriarch of Aquileia, which used once to be sung on the Feast of S Peter ad Vincula:

Petrus beatus catenarum laqueos
Christo iubente rupit mirabiliter:
custos ovilis et doctor Ecclesiae,
pastorque gregis, conservator ovium
arcet luporum truculentam rabiem.

It cannot be wrong to pray for a Shepherd today who will see his duty arcere rather than augere! Most certainly, the lupi whom Pope Benedict mentioned at his inauguration have not (as Gerry Adams once remarked about the IRA) 'gone away'.

And how, during these last few days, they have been howling ... just because of one little book! Urban Wolves, indeed! Menin aeide thea ...

Was it Barth who oberved that Santa Maria sopra Minerva accurately expressed the relationship between Catholicism and Paganism? I wonder if he would have wished, could he have but seen our own age, to call it Pachamama superposita Petro.

15 January 2020

The Authentic Apostolic Patrimony. "Ego nenikeka ton kosmon".

January 15 is the (9th) anniversary of the Erection of our Ordinariate.

"Contemporary orthodox-minded Roman Catholics look with admiration at those Anglican divines who, in various historical periods, sought to restore the authentic portrait of the Church and the faith of the Church. One thinks, for example, of Thomas Ken and John Keble, as well as, closer to our own day, Gregory Dix and Eric Mascall. These are separated doctors in whom the Church of Rome can recognise the overwhelming preponderance of the apostolic patrimony she has received. Your task now is not only the negative one of defending their work but the positive one of completing it."
Father Aidan Nichols, O.P., 2002.

How do those immensely wise and characteristically generous words of a wise and generous man look to us now, in a pontificate so radically different from those joyful days when we were privileged to enter into Full Communion?

How do we now 'complete' our mission of bringing into Full Communion with the See of S Peter the authentic teaching of our orthodox Fathers, our 'separated Doctors'?

Are we being called to test and judge some of the propositions and ideologies which now emanate from the banks of the Tiber or of the Rhine, measuring them against truths rediscovered and taught in separation by Saint John Henry Newman and by Edward Bouverie Pusey? Perhaps we do have a God of Surprises!

Is this now the reason why Divine Providence, during those centuries of separation, taught us by the Holy Spirit, and led us into Catholic Truth through the Kens, Kebles, Dixes, Mascalls, so that we should be at hand, weak and tiny band that we are (I Corinthians 1: 17-29), in this current crisis, ready and willing to join with other witnesses to Catholic Truth whom God has raised up throughout the Church ... is raising up ... and will raise up?

We know that the Evil One strives with many temporary successes to bring Evil out of Good. But God is far more mighty to bring Good out of Evil.

Mary's Immaculate Heart will prevail.

"Be of good cheer: I have conquered the World".

Is this a kairos, a Divine Moment of choice and decision?

14 January 2020

Diaconia, briefly, again. And Married Priests. And Clerical Sex Abuse.

Dr David Lopez has kindly sent me a copy of an article on Diaconia which he published in 2014 (Antiphon 19.1, pp 51-78. He is very much on target, and I commend his piece to those who want to take the matter further.


The new book by Cardinal Sarah and Benedict XVI, on married priests, is inevitably stimulating comments on what it is the liberals are going for. As I said the other day, securing women deacons is just a step to the Real Prize. We ex-Anglicans have witnessed the whole shoddy corrupt process by which these people seek their ends.

Tonight there was the first part of a BBCTV programme ... second part tomorrow, Tuesday ... on the Anglican Bishop Peter Ball, whose career of abuse was of industrial proportions. I mention this because, yet again, one currently hears the silly claim that having married priests would solve the abuser-priest (and abuser-Cardinal) problem. It most emphatically would not. The English Independent Inquiry into clerical sex abuse demonstrated this in its case-study of the Anglican  Diocese of Chichester.

Ball preached a sermon in Lancing College Chapel telling the students that, if their bishop told them to take their clothes off, they needed to obey. He had become so relaxed and confident in his abuse that he brazenly thought he could get away with anything.

Rather McCarrick!!

And the C of E hasn't encouraged celibacy since 1559.

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (5)

 The Diaconate did not feature particularly largely in the Decrees of Vatican II. A quick trawl has revealed to me only Lumen Gentium 29 etc.; 41; Ad Gentes 16; Sacrosanctum Concilium 35. SC says that deacons can preside at Services of the Word, to which I can think of no objection. AG advises that those unordained laymen who are de facto fulfilling diaconal roles shoud be ordained deacons so that they can be "altari arctius coniungi", which I think implies rather nicely the essentially cultic nature of the diaconate. LG 41 gives no suggestion that deacons are to be philanthropically inclined; there is just the tiniest hint of this in LG 29, where a sensible list of cultic activities is concluded by 'ministries of charity' (likewise, in AG the de facto deacons might have been charitably occupied). I am not concerned to argue that deacons should never have anything to do with any charitable exercises, so I don't strongly object; if it is true that here the idea of 'diaconate as service to the needy' is getting a bit of an objectionable foot in this door, well, I think this is satisfactorily outweighed by the essentially cultic job-description given for the diaconate, and by the repeated references to the performance of diaconal functions "in conjunction with the Bishop and Presbyterate". So, in this particular matter, Vatican II need cause no problems to those of us whose thought has been formed by the Tradition.

Neither does the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 1569 very laudably draws upon the Tradition to remind us that the Deacon "speciatim annecti" to the Bishop, which is why only the Bishop (and not also the Presbyterium) lay hands on him. Even more satisfactorily, 1541 alludes to the Aaronic priesthood and the services of the Levites as prefiguring the ordained ministry of the New Testament, and the next two paragraphs appropriately quote the Prayers of Ordination in support of this; including a section (ancient and authentic) from the Prayer for the Diaconate.

I have discovered in these two major documents of the Magisterium of the last six decades no suggestion that the essence of Diaconate is found in service to the needy, or any determination to import S Stephen and the Seven into consideration of the Diaconate. Nothing in them contradicts the teaching of the old Roman Prayers of Ordination.

So, despite having no mandate from the Council to change the Church's teaching on Holy Order as expressed in her lex orandi, the activities of the post-Conciliar liturgical 'reformers' offered us, as they so often did, an unedifying example of illiterate mischief. As so often, they gave us a sound lesson on how to eliminate babies without losing a single drop of bathwater. They corrupted the Roman Ordination Rites, and did so contrary to both the oldest Roman Tradition and the consensus of 'modern non-Catholic New Testament Scholarship'. That is quite some achievement! To be wrong in the court of each of those two very different judges!

13 January 2020

Priere de la Vierge

A prayer said to have been dictated by our Lady 13 January 1863, and indulgenced by S Pius X in 1908.

August Queen of the Heavens and Mistress of the Angels; thou that hast received from God the power and mission to crush the head of Satan, we humbly beseech thee to send the heavenly legions that, under thy commands, they may pursue the demons, engaging them on every side, resisting their boldness, and driving them into the Abyss.

'Who is like God'?

O good and tender Mother, thou shalt ever be our Love and our Hope. 

O divine Mother, send the holy Angels to defend me and to send far from me the cruel Enemy. 

Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and guard us.

12 January 2020

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (4)

We have seen how the pre-conciliar Pontifical preserves the idea, found in the first-century Roman text known as I Clement, that the Diaconate is a primarily cultic institution, the purpose of which is to serve the High Priest, the Bishop, in the Eucharistic celebration, distributing the Sacrament and proclaiming the Gospel; that it is not seen in terms of lowly service to the needy. In the earliest formulae, elements taken from Acts 6 (such as 'serving at tables' and S Stephen) are not even mentioned. In the Middle Ages, occasional references to S Stephen gradually make their way into the rites, but without any great suggestion that deacons should follow his alleged example* of philanthropic endeavour towards the needy.

Recent Protestant responses to the conclusions established by Collins tend towards a disgruntled acceptance of his philological conclusions accompanied by a faintly ashamed assertion of a grim determination to ignore it in practice, on the grounds that 'we' have invested too much in the old mistake to be able to drop it now! So much for all that Reformation woffle about the supremacy of Sola Scriptura as the judge of merely human traditions in the Church!

Naturally, the post-Vatican II reformers, deeply infected by liberal Protestant notions of Diaconia-as-Service and of the Servant Church, found the rites they inherited profoundly unsatisfactory. When they had got their hands on the Rite for the Consecration of a Bishop, they had robbed it entirely of its ancient Roman Consecratory Prayer with its Clementine, first century, doctrine of the Bishop. Happily, the Rite of Diaconal Ordination fared a little better and was fortunate enough not to be deprived of its ancient Consecratory Prayer. But the text of this venerable formula was badly corrupted by the interpolation of phraseology expressing the novel Protestant dogma.

After the Diaconal Prayer has referred to the Levitical ministry at the Tabernacle, an entire paragaph was added in the post-Conciliar period, based on Acts 6 and ending - tediously, inevitably - with a reference to serving at tables. After the words which, according to Pius XII, are the 'form' of the sacrament, phrases are added about "love that is sincere ... concern for the sick and the poor". And, with equal inevitability, the Prayer is made to end "May they in this life imitate your Son, who came, not to be served but to serve"**. I will leave you to guess where the New Testament Reading is taken from. (Yes, you're right.) The Collect as rendered by ICEL refers to "serving their brothers and sisters" and "concern [what a very late-twentieth-century word that is!] for others". The super oblata reminds us of the Lord's foot-washing. I'm quite sure that's what S Stephen did to the widows after he'd given them their breakfast, only S Luke has forgotten to mention it.

Is this altered post-conciliar Western rite for diaconal ordination adequate validly to confer the Sacramental order of the Diaconate? Since it is authorised and used by Holy Mother Church, we are, of course, completely protected by our over-arching conviction of the indefectibility of the Church. So I would firmly discourage any scruples and would maintain that the question does not even need to be discussed. (If this were not so, strict application of the methodology in Apostolicae curae, which was specifically crafted to make it easy to bring in a 'Guilty' verdict against rites which had been tampered with, might very well raise awkward questions. Sedevacantists have not been blind to the polemical possibilities in this area. But I prefer the older and healthier Western notion that a rite which has been tampered with, denuded, or even corrupted with misguided insertions, provided that it still contains the barest minimum of what is essential in terms of 'form' and 'matter' and is accompanied by a minimal 'intention', is good enough, and cannot even be nullified by the erroneous views of a minister. S Robert Bellarmine rules, OK.)
One more post will conclude this series.

*S Stephen, after being ordained deacon, is martyred for his witness to the Gospel, and another of the seven deacons, S Philip, actually goes off to preach the Gospel, not to run welfare schemes. Austin 'Anglican Patrimony' Farrer pointed out that "The supposition that the Seven are regarded by St Luke as 'deacons' is a very old error", and remarked that, in Acts 19:22, Timothy and Erastus were among those who were diakonounton ... not to the needy but to Paul.
**The old prayer ended instead with petition that the neo-ordinati "having always the testimony of a good conscience, and continuing ever stable and strong in thy Son Jesus Christ, may so well behave themselves in this inferior office, that they may be found worthy to be called unto the higher ministries in thy Church". I give Cranmer's ... free but basically honest ... translation of Sarum; I find it rather diverting that the realism of the last two clauses seemed unexceptionable to a Reformation Zwinglian but impossibly politically incorrect to trendy liturgical tamperers in the 1960s.

Incidentally, those last clauses also raise difficult problems about deacons who are permanent in the sense that they are forbidden to be ordained beyond the diaconate. I think I regard that prohibition a a disorder.

11 January 2020

A neat compromise?

So many problems ... I have an idea ...

Let the Earl of Dumbarton, who seems to enjoy being in Canada, be named Viceroy of all North America except those portions which His Most Catholic Majesty might claim; and let this new political entity be termed The Confederacy.

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (3)

The model of ministry which, aided by Collins, I have drawn from the Gregorian Sacramentary and which survived unspoiled until Vatican II, is uncannily similar to what we find in one of the earliest writings associated with the Magisterium of the Roman Church: the First Epistle of Clement. Read Chapters 40-44. "To the High Priest his proper liturgiai are given, and to the priests (hiereusin) their own place is given in due order, and on the Levites their own diakoniai have been imposed." As Collins points out, the language in this passage "continues to refer exclusively to cult... so that 'the office of bishop' (episkope) which is under dispute is referring to the central function within Christian cult".

I Clement, and the Gregorian Sacramentary, see the Christian ministry in terms of the Old Testament Hebrew priesthood. The Bishop is the High Priest; the Deacons are the Levites. I know no trace in these early writings of the notion that Diakonia is to be read in terms of ideas drawn from Acts 6 about service to poor widows; no references, even, to S Stephen. Such allusions, such illustrations of the meaning of diaconate drawn from the text of Acts, are historically secondary or even tertiary. I here recall two observations of Dom Gregory Dix. The first is his insight that it was only in the third century that one starts to find Scripture, recently 'canonised', being used to support theological assertions; that previously the Tradition could be - and was - asserted without scriptural proof-texts (thus Trinitarian teaching did not draw support from Matthew 28:19, nor did Roman bishops trumpet Matthew 16:18-19 whenever they exercised authority). He writes: "Unless we recognise the important change produced in Christian theological method by the definite canonisation of the NT Scriptures, which only begins to have its full effect after c.A.D. 180, we shall not understand the second-century Church ... hitherto the authoritative basis of Christian teaching had been simply 'Tradition', the living expression of the Christian revelation by the magisterium of the bishops, whose norm and standard of reference was the Tradition of Rome."

The second is Dix's awed confession of the antiquity of the Roman Rite: " The evidence of the scientific study of liturgy inclines more and more to show that the old Roman Sacramentaries have preserved into modern use an incomparably larger body of genuinely primitive - and by this I mean not merely pre-Nicene but second and even first century - Christian liturgical material (if only we know how to look for it) than any other extant liturgical documents."

It is one of the ironies of history that it was an Anglican scholar who perceived these things a single generation before the sacramental formulae of the Roman Rite fell into the hands of disrespectful innovators. (Those classical Anglican liturgists who, unlike Dix, did survive to witness the conciliar period ... Willis, Ratcliff ... left on record opinions about what was done in that decade in which uncomprehending disgust is the most noticeable feature.)

What I am saying is this. The understanding of Christian ministry, including the Diaconate, as fundamentally and essentially cultic - embodied in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice - which we find in the ancient Ordination prayers of the Roman Church, goes back to before the NT Scriptures were universally known and appropriated as normative. It is as early as that. The Reformation has left most Westerners - Catholic as well as Protestant - with a sub-conscious assumption that "going back to the New Testament" somehow implies going back to the earliest sources. Au contraire. There was a time when the incorporation into worship, teaching, and doctrine of elements or ideas borrowed from the NT was novel, revolutionary, and innovatory. (We might usefully remember that the authority of the book of Acts was - judging from the surviving evidence - not successful in generating the invention of the feast of the Ascension forty days after Easter until the second half of the fourth century.) The old Roman Ordination prayers are so archaic (if not in their actual texts, then in their conceptual matrix) as to go back to that period in the first and second centuries. Later writers (Irenaeus; Cyprian; Eusebius) do speculate upon a link between the Seven and the Diaconate; the Roman texts obviously antecede this Scripture-generated speculation.

The pre-Conciliar Roman Pontifical preserved the 'Levitical' and cultic understanding of the Diaconate and knew nothing of the 'Service-to-the-poor' Diakonia which the twentieth century was to find so appealing. It showed no interest in the 'philanthropic' concept of Diakonia. There are mentions of S Stephen in the historically secondary parts of the rite; but it should not be thought that even the entrance of S Stephen into the Tradition, when it eventually occurs, automatically brought 'philanthropy' with it. The long medieval address Provehendi has, towards its end, a brief mention of S Stephen; but it is for for his chastity, not his philanthropy, that his example is commended to the ordinands. While the ancient Gregorian Consecratory Prayer mentions him not at all, the final prayer Domine sancte, an addition of Gallican origin, does allude to S Stephen and the Seven in passing: but is still principally concerned with the deacon as a man who serves at the sacred altars. This is hardly surprising. The text of Acts itself, after the debatable material in chapter 6, gives no evidence whatsoever for a reading of S Stephen and S Philip as having a 'concern' for the needy.

{It may be a satisfaction to Anglican readers to recall that the Prayer Book Ordinal, despite the strictures of Apostolicae curae, here, as in many areas, is in the pre-conciliar and ancient tradition of the Roman Rite before the Improvers got at it: it expands the old Sarum Oportet formula as follows: "It appertaineth to the office of a deacon, in the church where he shall be appointed to serve, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and specially when he ministereth the Holy Communion ...".}


10 January 2020

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (2)

If you look at the ancient liturgical formulae of the Western Church, you will find that there is very little ... I think I really mean Nothing, as one so often does when one uses these I'd-better-cover-myself-academically formulae ... about Acts 6 and S Stephen and Ministering at Tables and making sure that poor widows had enough to eat. Instead, you find an emphasis on cult: on Christian worship. The Roman Prayer for the Ordination of Deacons (still in use but bowdlerised, as I shall explain, after the Council) says* "You established a threefold ministry of worship and service for the glory of your name. As ministers of your tabernacle you chose [from the first] the sons of Levi [to abide in faithful watch at the mystical workings of your house] and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance. Lord, look [also] with favour upon these servants of yours whom we now dedicate to the office of deacon to minister at your holy altar ... " The deacons, in effect, are the Christian Levites. They have a commissioned ministry to serve the High Priest, the Bishop, just as Jewish levitical ministers served the Temple's sacrificial priesthood.

At this point, sadly, I have to remind you that the ancient Roman Prayer for the Consecration of Bishops was completely abolished in the post-conciliar 'reforms'. Before it was written out of the Pontifical by well-meaning but dangerous men, it associated the bishop with the Aaronic high priest adorned with his sacerdotal vestments.

It is not difficult to see why the 'reformers' of the 1960s were uneasy with a concept of ministry which saw it in terms of cult, of hierarchy, of the Jewish Temple. These were not the fashions of the 1960s; such was not then the dominant mode of discourse about Christian Ministry. "Medieval claptrap!" Unfortunately, however, for such an attitude, the evidence strongly suggests that the language of the (unreformed) Pontifical, far from being formed by 'later' structures of ministerial 'status' and an 'unhealthy' preoccupation with an 'increasingly clericalised' cultus, represents the very earliest thinking of the Roman Church. I think some of you will have spotted which early writing I am about to quote.


* I use the curent ICEL translation, supplying in square brackets phrases eliminated from the modern rites.

9 January 2020

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (1)

Since, recently, the current occupant of the Roman See has, in the discharge of his chosen ministry of disinformation and the dissemination of historical fantasy, made some remarks about the Diaconate, I am reprinting, from 2016, a series of posts on the Diaconate. I venture to add here my view that this is now gaining in relevance, because, in the Catholic Church, the Modernists will probably attempt to promote the Female Diaconate as a way of getting a foot-in-the-door with regard to the ordination of women to sacerdotal ministries. 

Some of us know all about this at first hand, because their Anglican chums used precisely this tactic in the Anglican Communion. It has the immense advantage, from the Devil's point of view, of gradually making the People of God familiar with the sight of women playing at being clerics.

I have not cleaned away the threads. Here goes.

In 1990, Mr John N. Collins published his DIAKONIA Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources (OUP). You can probably fiddle around with Google and discover that its conclusions, more than two decades later, have not been disturbed. If you have queries about details in what I am about to write, a reading of Collins will probably answer them; I am not going to summarise him at any greater length than one paragraph.

Collins began by identifying a particular understanding of diakonia which became fashionable in Protestant circles in the middle of the twentieth century; and then infected the Latin Church too. It saw diakonia as meaning self-giving service to the poor and needy. Based on a misreading of Acts 6, it appealed to Christians at a time when ecclesial structures were losing power and prestige. "OK", it cheerfully claimed, "if you've lost your power and status you can still surreptitiously claw it back by asserting the moral high ground of humble service". Collins demonstrated, from examination of profane and sacred Greek usage, that the word diakonia, and its cognates, have a quite different root sense: that of one person's commissioned service to another person.

So the essence of the concept is not the following of Christ who came to 'serve rather than to be served'. The Deacon's basic purpose is not to be washing the feet of the lowest of the low (just as the nature of the Church is not, as we have so frequently been told, to be the Servant Church). Such things may be worthy in themselves ... may, indeed, be the charism of particular holy people. But they are not what diakonia is fundamentally all about.

What is it about? In its essence it is about serving, being commissioned to serve, the Bishop, the Eucharistic celebrant; about serving him in the administration of the Lord's Body and Blood; serving him in the proclamation of the Holy Gospel. Not a philanthropic service but a cultic, liturgical service. In as far as their duties may extend in the direction of philanthropy, it is instructive to observe the role they have in Pseudo-Hippolytus: the deacons are to attend the Bishop and report to him who are sick so that he, if it seem good to him, may visit them. Their ministry is to the Bishop, the Eucharistic celebrant, not to the needy. This role survives almost verbatim in the classical Anglican Ordinal: the deacons are "to search for the sick, poor, and impotent ... to intimate their estates, names ... unto the Curate".

There are five more posts in this series. If you feverishly write in with "But Father, you've forgotten X", you are almost certainly raising a matter which I am about to deal with!

8 January 2020


British ministers have put on the public record that they would have preferred  to have had warning  of the Assassination, in view of the dangers posed to our own service personel in the area.

Rumour has it that Trump did warn Israel and the Saudis of what was coming.

Pro-American politicians seem mostly to have adopted a policy of saying what a better place the world is without that Persian general, but to be delicately tiptoing round questions involving the legality of the killing.


A British politician has just declared herself "Pansexual". Gracious me!

My mind immediately, of course, went to a popular piece of garden furniture in Roman Italy (one copy is in Lord Egremont's gallery at Petworth), of Pan teaching Daphnis to play the Pipes ... and doing so not without a sexual interest. I think the Victorians may have called this sort of thing 'Greek Love'. I believe one head master of Harrow School had to resign because he got a weeny bit 'Greek' with the lads (paniskoi?), but I don't remember whether, for his props, he used the Pipes, or just Abbot and Mansfield.

But stay: perhaps we should instead consider a sculpture group in the Naples Museum, showing Pan (himself, of course, quite capriform) initiating sexual congress wth a goat. I cannot quite recall the gender of the goat. Do such details matter? I feel that in this febrile modern age I have quite lost my bearings.

Sex and politics! The Beeb is yet again serialising a dramatisation of the Profumo Scandal. But I don't think Pan ... or goats ... came into that. Last year Auntie did the Thorpe Scandal (but the late and much respected Ringo was a dog, not a goat). Well, she would, wouldn't she?

I can't wait to hear what she has on the stocks for next year. Perhaps a very 'explicit' and 'adult' dramatisation of a loving, faithful, rightly-ordered relationship between a male human husband and his female human wife?

Just think how that would scandalise the Grauniad! Imagine them clanking their zimmer frames together like rutting stags in helpless senile fury! Poor poppets!

7 January 2020


I am not enabling comments which seem to me to criticise Jews qua Jews, or only Jews, for the deplorable attitudes of those who uncritically support the Israeli state.

I am not enabling comments which seem to me to suggest that post-Conciliar popes are not true popes.

However wrong I am, it's my blog.

Don't waste your time ...

The Magisterium of the popes from Benedict XV to S John Paul II.

I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree when American friends explain to me that Trump is less toxic than Obama because he does not share Obama's strange passion for terminating unborn black babies. But there are, sadly, similarities between the two presidencies.

One of these is that each of the two presidents is happy about ordering the assassinations of Foreign Nuisances. Another similarity is their willingness to have these extra-judicial killings done outside the countries concerned and outside America. Thus, Obama sanctioned Bin Laden's killing in Pakistan; Trump has just had the killing of an Iranian done in Iraq. In any normal system of international relationships, such actions would be universally regarded as the grossest conceivable infringement of national sovereignty, and tantamount to a formal declaration of war. Yet, when Iraq protests, he threatens them with economic sanctions!

According to the unChristian, disgusting, and totally deplorable rules of Tit For Tat, the Iranians are of course now fully entitled to kill a senior American general.

I hope that, instead of doing this in some third country, such as my own, they will at least confine their blood-letting to the soil of America itself. After all, we already have to cope with some branch of the Russky government service dropping highly dangerous poisons around our Sceptred Isle. We can do without being promoted into a killing-field for an Iranian-American spat. I make this point because Trump has threatened to rachet up his response 52-fold if Iran lays a finger on anything or anybody American ... but I haven't heard that his threats extend also to Iranian attacks on America's 'allies', which we were once considered to be. If I were Johnson, I would haul all British service personel back home immediately. Trump's 'foreign policy' IMHO is not worth one single British life ... or limb.

And there is the fact that Trump did not even condescend to inform his so-called allies before taking this action. Despite us having, I believe, a couple of thousand troops in the Middle East, thinly spread and hence extremely vulnerable. I suppose we should have taken more careful note of his handing-over his 'allied' Kurds to the untender mercies of Erdogan. Trump is a man for whom "America First" means stabbing anybody else he pleases in the back without more than a moment's thought or a day's warning. American 'guarantees' are now worth ... what?

I thought that one of the most important parts of the Magisterium of S John Paul II was his ethical teaching about the evil of "Cycles, spirals, of Violence" (titfortattery). I vaguely recall that some 'conservative' ['neo-con'?] writer called something like Weigel in an otherwise hagiographical biography expressed doubts about this element in the teaching of the Wojtila pontificate. It seems to me that it is an element which has gained increased force in the passing years, not least because of the willingness of North American regimes (often disgracefully followed by cretinously supine British administrations) to pump up the Cycle of Violence.

I had rather thought that Trump came to power laudably determined to roll back this inherited policy of murderous retaliatory adventurism. At last, I thought, an American president who has heard the prophetic messages of the popes since Benedict XV, especially that of Pope S John Paul II.

I am sorry ... genuinely saddened ... that he has changed his mind. And I am sorry that he has sabotaged the European efforts to persuade Iran not to develop nuclear weapons. In view of the substantial Israeli holding of nuclear warheads and missiles, one can hardly realistically expect other powers in that area to show restraint unless they are given convincing and attractive grounds for doing so.

Would it be cynical to suggest that, in an election year, Trump feels he needs to be sure of the pro-Israeli vote?

6 January 2020


According to the Antiphon to the Benedictus in both forms of the Roman Divine Office on the day of the Epiphany, Christ washes, on this great feast, His Spouse in the Jordan; the Magi bring the sensuous Wedding Gifts of gold and incense and myrrh; the Guests are made merry (laetantur) by the water made into wine (Prudentius was convinced it must have been Falernian, Vendemmia Miracolosa one presumes). Eric Gill had got a grasp on an essential truth when he wrote that "I wish I could get you to see the point about Christianity - e.g. when we 'marry' we don't say to a girl: Madam, you realise that we are the embodiment of an idea. We say: Darling, we two persons are now one flesh. It is a love affair first and last. Joining the Church is not like joining the Third International. It is like getting married". And Gill expressed this in his memorable woodcut of the Crucified One being nuptially embraced upon the cross by a female figure clad in her all-enveloping hair: "the Nuptials of God"; an engraving which has been described as both obscene and blasphemous.

We now know that Eric Gill was a distinctly flawed character; and it is not so long ago that there was a campaign for his Stations of the Cross to be removed from Westminster Cathedral. (But not, strangely, for the destruction of his carvings all round Broadcasting House; that was in the serene days pre-Savill when the lordly Beeb dripped down easy moral disdain upon the rest of us from its own carefree heaven.) But it is the Devil's trick to mar what is good, and the Christian instinct to affirm its goodness despite the perversions of the Evil One. "The Nuptials of God" received a striking sort of Imprimatur through its use in 1929 on the Ordination Card of the great Dominican writer on Spirituality, Fr Gerald Vann.

The imagery of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb picks up the imagery of Hosea (2:16), Isaiah (54:6) and Ezekiel (16:7 seq) to point to the intimate and indissoluble Union of God Incarnate with the 'Community Called Out' (ecclesia in Greek) from the Side of the New Adam; Flesh of his Flesh and Blood of his Blood; and it is found in the Pauline (Ephesians 5: 25 sqq) as well as in the Johannine and Synoptic (Matt 22; Mark 2) traditions of the New Testament.

As Gill pointed out, this union is physical and not simply conceptual. In a sermon of 1843 for which he was suspended for two years from preaching before this University, Dr Pusey of the Anglican Patrimony looted paragraph after paragraph from the Greek Fathers so as to speak of Christ as "penetrating" the Eucharistic Communicant; in a fleshly as well as in a spiritual sense. I have sometimes wondered whether, in those days before Freudian innuendo, Pusey sensed any frisson of sexuality in his mode of expression. But his point was one which speaks as sharply to the modern error of despiritualising flesh as it does to the Victorian propensity for decarnalising spirituality. Neither of the two is Christian Truth. Against each heresy the Church opposes her two, shattering, carnal dogmas which the nervous and neurotic World can never accept: Transsubstantiation and the Divine Maternity of Mary the Mother of God.

5 January 2020

Tribus miraculis ...

The Ancient tradition of the Latin Church discerns a triple miracle on Epiphany Day: the Coming of the Magi; the Lord's Baptism; and the Wedding at Cana. The ancient Roman Calendar separated this triad out onto January 6 (the Coming of the Magi); the Octave Day (the Lord's Baptism); and the Second Sunday after Epiphany (the Wedding at Cana). And you will still find this elegant arrangement in the Missal authorised by S Pius V and (partially) in the Book of Common Prayer. (Another happy feature of this time in the ecclesiastical year was the celebration, on the First Sunday after Epiphany, of the Finding in the Temple.)

Simple, classical, elegance is so often a temptation to those idle hands for whom, as Nanny used so often to remind us, the Devil always finds Work. The rot began in 1721, when the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus was extended to the Universal (Latin) Church and deposited on Epiphany 2, thus evicting the Wedding at Cana on to some lucky weekday. The Feast of the Name stayed there until Pius X removed it to the Second Sunday after Christmas. This is indeed a much more sensible day; but in my opinion treating festivals as moveable at whimsy is a dangerous habit. The spirit of cheerful frivolity with sacred things was riding even higher in the 1960s ... and so the Holy Name promptly disappeared altogether. Nowadays, the Second Sunday after Christmas is, in any case, in most countries of the Modern Roman Rite, Epiphany Day Transferred.

The temptation to keep the Name of Jesus somewhere near the Circumcision - when He received that Saving Name - was an inevitable one (so the Editio typica tertia of the New Missal provided an optional and very low-key commemoration on January 3 and Common Worship gave this title and theme to January 1). But there is a better solution.

Consider the cult of the Blessed Sacrament and of the Sacred Heart. The 'chronological' days to celebrate each of these are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. But this would interrupt the organic movement of the Triduum. So, happily, they acquired additional celebrations well outside Holy Week. That instinct was a good one, and should have been applied also to the Christmas cycle. Few places had a more intense cult of the Holy Name than early Tudor England - thanks to the Lady Mother of the first Tudor and to her ecclesiastical household*. And few features of the old English Calendar, reproduced in the Prayer Book, are more ben trovato than the placing of the Holy Name after the Transfiguration, in August.

Getting back to sanity is never easy. Leo XIII made Epiphany I the Feast of the Holy Family - influenced, perhaps, by the Gospel, traditional on that Sunday, of the Finding in the Temple. The 'reformers' of the 1960s, never short of a good idea for improving everything, shifted the feast backwards to the Sunday after Christmas, where some Anglican lectionaries now visit the same themes. And, needless to say, something else ... the Lord's Baptism (a theme homeless and hungry after the abolition of the Epiphany Octave Day upon which his Baptism was the subject of the Gospel) ... has now found a resting-place on that first Sunday after Epiphany.

And the Three Year Lectionary (in which the Wedding at Cana gets a look-in only once every three years: Year C) now complicates any attempt to return to the simple old Roman yearly structure of celebrating in quiet succession the tria miracula of the Epiphany.

*A few years ago I spent a happy couple of days in the Manuscript Room of the British Library going through a perfectly exquisite Holy Name Prayer Book from the Lady Margaret's Chapel.

4 January 2020

RIGIDO E SQUILIBRATO? Whom does the cap fit?

Vatican II mandated (SC 50) that liturgical "elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are to be restored (restituantur) to the vigour which they had in the days of the holy Fathers."

S Paul VI in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum changed restituantur to restituuntur ("are being restored"), thus claiming to be fulfilling that Conciliar mandate. He gave two or three examples, again taken from the Conciliar Decree, of such 'restorations'.

That pope did not, clearly, regard the changes which had occurred in the liturgy over the centuries as being irreversible. He himself confidently, even with pride, reversed some of them. And the Council, he claimed, had ordered this policy of reversal, of historical recovery.

PF, on the other hand, rigidly observed in 2017 (NCR August 24) "We can affirm with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reforms are irreversible".

Yet, despite this assertion of rigidity, in his Address to the Curia, he has recently asserted " ... there is a need to be wary of rigidity. A rigidity born of fear of change, which ends up erecting fences and obstacles on the terrain of the common good, turning it into a minefield of incomprehension and hatred. Let us always remember that behind every form of rigidity lies some form of imbalance [squilibrio*]. Rigidity and imbalance [squilibro*] feed one another in a vicious circle. And today this temptation to rigidity has become very real".

So who is to be believed? The Ecumenical Council and the Pontiff who said that the Church can and should reach back into the past and recover things which have been lost ...
...  or the pope who, because of his fear of change, builds a Berlin Wall, makes a 'minefield' (campo minato), to prevent any brave souls from venturing out to recover what has been lost?

And which of these two Bergoglios is to be taken seriously: the 'unbalanced, deranged' (vide squilibrio) Bergoglio who with formidable rigidita ("affirm; certainty; magisterial; authority; irreversible") upholds the post-conciliar liturgical distortions ...
... or the Bergoglio who incessantly warns the rest of us against Rigidity?

* I have only the merest smattering of Italian; can somebody explain to me what the difference is between squilibrio and squilibro in the Italian text of this address? And ... I presume the -libr- comes from the Latin root, but where etymologically does the squi- come from? 

3 January 2020

John Dancy

Last week, Professor John Dancy died. He was head master of Lancing 1953-1961, being succeeded by Sir William Gladstone; he was head also of Marlborough and of the education department at Exeter University.

He was not an altogether satisfactory head at Lancing; but he was an example of an almost (do I mean totally?) extinct breed: the Scholar head master. He wrote an elegant commentary on the Maccabees; George Kilpatrick, in the preface to his own edition of the Greek New Testament, included him in the dozen or so names of those who had been particularly helpful.

Dancy was a classicist, Mods and Greats, and an open-minded teacher; how he would have survived teaching in our present age, in which paedagogy is regarded as essentially the ruthless and relentless indoctrination of the young in the dogmas of the Zeitgeist, I cannot think.

Cuius animae ...

Dermot McCulloch ...

... in the pursuit of his campaign to claim S John Henry as a homosexual (why do so many advocates of the liceity of homosexual genital relationships have this passionate desire to claim everybody for their cause?) alluded once to what he called the 'homosocial' culture of Oxford in the days when the teaching community here was unmarried.

The idea that Oxford, before 1877, was largely homosexual (whether physically or emotionally) needs to be demonstrated rather than carelessly and casually asserted. In those days, College tutors were, indeed, generally young, and were, indeed, always men. But their youthfulness resulted precisely from the tendency of members of their community continually to leave to get married (to women). Colleges possessed 'College livings'; id est the charges of parishes to which colleges were entitled to 'present' a candidate, whom the bishop was legally bound to institute. (Christ Church, for example, had getting on for a hundred such 'livings'.) This system existed largely in order to provide comfortably for Fellows who, despite the ecstasies of 'homosociality', desired to get married (to women).

Dacre Baldon (himself not a married man), in his delightful 1957 book Oxford Life, wrote:
"When the 1877 Statutes allowed dons to marry, there was an end to those quaint missives which, in the interval between marriage service and wedding reception, were penned and dispatched by Fellows to the Head of their College: 'Dear Master, I write sadly to announce my death as a Fellow. Yet happily I am born to new life, being but now returned from the Church where I have plighted my troth to Miss Margaret Banfield.'"

A man's departure from Oxford might be delayed for a few years ... as a young cleric waited for a plum College 'living' to fall vacant; or for a wealthy patron to give him well-endowed preferment; or for the death of an aged relative in occupation of a very rich family 'living' (there was no 'retirement age' even for those advanced in senility).

But I think there is little evidence that young fellows hung around in Oxford because they found it so terribly hard to tear themselves away from homosexual (or 'homosocial') relationships.

This, after all, was that primitive age when homosexuality had not yet been invented.

2 January 2020

englit day

One of the many reasons why we classicists are so widely disliked and loathed is our patronising disdain for common ordinary people. So let me demonstrate how broadminded we really are by printing the text of an 'elegy' which was set to music composed by William Byrd. It seems, in fact, to be a sonnet with faintly protoshaxperian symptoms, but some slightly ragged metrics and rhymes.

Crowned with flow'rs and lilies I saw the Muses
A shrine adorn above the sphere of crystal,
Therein to place a Queen whom Fate refuses
A sacred tomb to give of fame immortal:

Mary she hight, of Henry great the daughter,
For whom these ladies came richly adorned,
And offer'd all with tears on golden altar
A sacred hymn, and singing thus, they mourned:

O worthy Queen! Though Fortune thee denieth
A pyramid of gold to heav'n aspiring,
Yet Virtue shining bright, which never dieth,
Of thy good life on earth leaves such admiring,

That through the world the fame hath sounded
Of Mary, noble Queen of Britain crowned.

A Revd Dr W Wizeman explained: 'This same elegy was also set to a madrigal by Phillipe de Monte (1521-1603), whom Byrd met when De Monte accompanied Philip of Spain to wed Mary in 1554. Their mutual appreciaton continued long after: in 1583 De Monte, now Kapellmeister of the Imperial Court in Vienna, wrote Super flumina Babylonis for Byrd, who responded with Quomodo cantabimus.'

1 January 2020

Ah ... girls ... don't we just love them ...

There seems to be a rather diverting video clip going round showing our Holy Father giving some girl an experience she will never forget.

(His face looks almost as ferociously angry as Greta Thunberg's when the poor child was allowed to rant at the UN.)

Oh dear ... I just tried to have another peep, and I got a lot of "Access Denied" notifications. How is this interesting result secured?

In my view, if popes (and I'm definitely not just talking about PF) will enourage mawkish and unhealthy personality cults, they do rather deserve what they get.

I have writren about this before, arguing that the malady in its acute form goes back to the Pacelli years.

But things are even worse now, as popes have become too proud to sit in the Sedia Gestatoria.

What do they expect?

Greetings; and ...

I am very grateful to those who have sent me greetings ... and cards. I will say Mass for all of you and I thank you for your kindness; I reciprocate your good wishes. All of you!!

At the same time, can I beg you to pray for the suffering people of South East Australia; for the repose of the departed; health for the injured; comfort for those who have been bereaved or have had to stand and watch their homes, their livelihoods, burning. And remember the firefighters, bravely risking their lives and sometimes losing them.

There are parts of the world where fires are fairly routine and one gets accustomed to the news. But it is quite clear that what is now happening in Australia is of a quite exceptional order of sheer horror. It is not some ordinary seasonal event. We owe these poor people the fellowship of our prayer. Masses and Rosaries, in particular.

Our Lady Help of Christians is the Patron of Australia (Mass in appropriate missals on May 24).

More on Modern Mathematics

The Times on Monday continued to pile on its misinformation. Poor dim Libby Purvis: "The decade ends ... with ...". Even the usually intelligent Clare Foges: "What is the essence of the decade that ends tomorrow ...".

Are things as bad in Europe and North America?

A thought occurs to me.

If our modern intelligentsia really is incapable of thinking numerically above 9, this may explain a common factor in our national life.

Whenever there is some expensive national project ... such as a big new railway line ... an airport ... we are told that it will cost £Xbillion pounds. Ordinary people like me instinctively and immediately know that the cost will rapidly rise to £Xx2billion, or probably £Xx3billion. Why is it that I (no qualifications in Maths above an O-level) know this; you know this; but the Experts and Government Ministers don't?

I think we have the answer: clever people operate on the principle that in the complex numerical reaches beyond 9, really anything goes and who b****y cares.  If it is convenient, let's say that 9=10 ... or whatever equals whatever you or your girl-friend's poodle feels like.

Or perhaps the poor poppets are so permanently stoked up with hallucinogenic drugs that they are never really quite sure how many fingers they have.

As I said before, Snowflakes!