29 September 2020

A la billabong (1)

It is reported that the Queensland parliament has joined other Australian legislatures in providing for the imprisonment of Catholic Priests for performing priestly functions.

I do not want to get into the question of whether or not it would in fact help to stamp out the sexual abuse of children for priests to break the seal of the confessional. That is a prudential matter; and, in purely prudential matters, what Oz does in none of my business. I simply wish to point out, as the Holy See has done, that this touches on Divine Law ... which, for Catholics everywhere, is not negotiable. When the Law of God and the Catholic Faith are attacked in any place on this planet, all Catholics are attacked.

The idea of a priest being imprisoned for three years for doing what God commissioned him to do is chilling. Not since the Catholic Relief Act of 1791, I think, have priests in my country been at risk of imprisonment for performing their sacramental duties. One hears of harsh forms of religious oppression in countries such as China; I wonder if some members of these Australian parliaments might even have hypocritically joined in protests. But the full extent of the current world-wide campaigns against Christianity is to me so much more vividly real when the persecution happens, not in Peking, but in English-speaking countries with a rule of law based on the Common Law and derived ultimately from our own legal system. It could even happen here! To me!

One can understand violent reactions occurring among angry people; after all, abused children can be, sometimes are, damaged, harmed, for life. Indeed, during the Irish troubles, when bombs were being exploded in Ulster and London and Birmingham, people were left dead ... and, indeed, living survivors were left harmed and damaged, in both mind and body. But I don't remember serious legislative proposals being taken forward in our legislatures based on the supposition that the answer to the problem lay in locking up Catholic Priests. I concede that we may be daft; but we are not quite as daft as the legislators of Queensland.

Mind you, the Queensland legislation could have hilarious results if the clergy were foolish enough to take it seriously, especially in a large cathedral before one of the major festivals. Imagine the scene ... raised voices in the confessional ... man (or woman) comes out and swiftly merges into the people kneeling in prayer, followed a moment later by the priest with his surplice fluttering and his stole awry, shouting "Where are you? Come back! The last person in my confessional! Come back! I need your name, address, email, twitter, and facebook details to give to the police!" Uncertain which of the kneeling people is the culprit, Father goes up to them one by one ... " Speak to me! If I hear your voice, I may be able to recognise it! Is it you? Or is it you? Or you? Do you want to make me spend Christmas in a police cell eating curried Kangaroo?".

The jolly swagmen, and the often even jollier swagwomen, in those potty little parliaments should be dragged away to the nearest billabong and humanely drowned.

No; I didn't mean that ... just jest ... no harm in the world ...

28 September 2020

Woodpiles and ointment

I don't suppose, dear transpontine readers, that you keep up-to-date with our pettier news stories ... so let me explain that a member of our Current Governing House, Andrew, styled (as our Eminent King Henry IX once was) Duke of York, has been having a spot of bother. Sex comes into it. He was a chum of some wealthy American, but we can keep him out of this. We Brits can only take a limited number of wealthy Americans, sex or no sex. (But we do do a good line in wealthy Russkies.)

As a subsidiary issue: an accusation has been made that this same prince once vocalised the actual phrase "Nigger in the Woodpile", instead of resorting to politically correct Woke English displacement evasions such as "N****r in the Woodpile". I hasten to add that this accusation has been definitively denied by the Royal Household. That is why we definitively need to have a Royal Household. I bet you definitively wish you'd got one. It's millions of times more fun than having a Pelosi (is she a Trollope fan? Pelosi is an anagram of "I Slope", or "Slope the First".)

In our media, the 'f-word' and the 'c-word' are increasingly uttered ... aloud ... in full ... on TV. But apparently, the same liberal approach is not allowed to the 'n-word'. Quite right too. Any limitations placed upon Virtue Signalling would inflict an intolerable Conceptual Famine upon our Chattering Classes.

Some procedural and contingent questions:

(1) Would our cuddly liberal Gauleiters permit us vocally to utter this: "The n-word in the Woodpile"?

(2) There is an English phrase with a similar meaning: "The fly in the ointment". Would it be  reprehensible to use imitatio cum variatione and to allude to the Forbidden Formula by saying "The Fly in the Woodpile"?

(3) If one did so, would this in itself be 'speciesist', and thus in breach of the irreformable and rigidly irreversible dogmas of PF (Laudato si) and of papissa Greta?

27 September 2020

More Vatican II limericks from Dom Hugh's book (Arouca Press)

 In 1965, a pathetically pompous English periodical informed its readers that "No Old Etonians or Harrovians figure in the [English Hierarchy which] is of uncompromisingly middle-class origins, and not by any means always from the upper middle-class. For example, the late Cardinal Hinsley was the son of a village carpenter ... Catholic priests were once described by an Anglican as 'a rather rough and tricky lot, notoriously deficient in taste and manners ... '"

(You'd have thought that the phrase 'son of a carpenter' might have suggested a train of thought to even the drippiest journalist.)

This libel upon the English Catholic Clergy is an exquisitely venerable Anglican trope. When Ronald Knox was weighing up the pros and cons of entering into full communion, his list included "Your fellow priests won't be married: but they'll be much more vulgar." (The list concludes Vade retro Satana.)

But in S John Henry Newman's semi-autobiographical 1848 novel Loss and Gain, an Anglican friend who is trying to dissuade the hero from poping, observes "An English clergyman is a gentleman; you may have more to bear than you reckon for, when you find yourself with men of rude minds and vulgar manners."

Well, tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. Not that I believe it was ever true. Were Dr Oliver and Canon Tierney and Dr Lingard really rudes? Mgr Gilby? But, be that as it may, the idea that an Anglican clergyman is likely to be a 'gentleman' is now the wildest, scifi, fantasy. Partly due to the financial collapse of the Church of England, the bulk of its clergy is now educated on a much tighter budget ... and it shows. The alumnae of the East Wessex Ministerial Training Course rarely demonstrate much evidence of that Fifth Essence which permeates those who have spent the few and fugitive years of their youth couching in the dewy mists which lie between the Isis and the Cherwell.

In the Arouca Press collection of Vatican II limericks, you will find Dr Wall, Bishop of Brentwood, commenting on these classist comments: Amid Fleet Street's bottles and jugs/ we Bishops are less than the bugs/ that climb up the seat on/ the scholar at Eton/ we're just lower middle-class thugs. Which he himself Latinised as Ubi potant ephemeridum scriptores,/ nos Episcopi aestimamur minores/ cimicibus obrepentibus/ Etoniensi et mordentibus:/ plebeii et infimi grassatores.

I like to imagine a paper dart on which these verses were scribbled sailing across the Conciliar aula and reaching Bishop Gordon Wheeler, later of Leeds, who, incidentally, in his Anglican days, was a predecessor of mine at Lancing. He buzzed back to Bishop Wall Hierarchical stratification/ is a hazard of human creation;/ But we middle-class thugs/ (e'en though less than the bugs)/ are the heart of the new dispensation. Unabashed, Wall put that into Latin and sent it back to Wheeler as Hierarchica saepe ordinatio/ in humanis fit aleae ratio;/ at nos plebeios grassatores/ etsi cimicibus minores,/ novi foederis cor signat dispensatio.

Happy days.  I wonder if limericks ... or anything else ... get passed around under the table while Vin is chairing the CBCEW.




26 September 2020

Naming the Germans and the Jews

Today is the anniversary of the day, in 1348, when Pope Clement particularly named the Jews in one of his decrees.

During the Black Death, in many parts of Europe there were massacres of Jewish populations because of popular beliefs that they had poisoned the wells. Clement VI declared the Jews to be under his particular protection and pronounced excommunications against anybody who should molest them. He wellcomed them into the Papal States. Possibly ... I refer to a recent query of mine ... this is why there was to be a happy and clearly prosperous Hebrew congregation in Avignon (h/t to Dr Cotton). 

(Perhaps, off at a bit of a tangent, one might recall here the establishment by Benedict XIV of a  Commission which investigated the 'Blood Libel' and found the narratives to be foundationless.)

The question rumbles on about Pius XII and the Jews. Although he undoubtedly took vigorous practical steps to protect the Jewish population of Rome itself ... although through his diplomatic network he did his best to defend them elsewhere ... although he uttered loud condemnations of those who persecuted "others on no other ground than their racial identity" ... he never precisely named-and-shamed by saying "I condemn the German state apparatus for exterminating the Jews". 

I read the other day that PF is the only major "World Leader" who has not spoken out with specificity and  clarity about the persecution of China's Moslem populations.

Could this be because he knows that brave and heroic words on his part might have unfortunate impacts upon Catholics in China?

Plus ca change ...

25 September 2020

Sn****ring in the Back Row

There they were, a couple of Japanese students, sitting together at the back, sn****ring as they passed notes back and forth. Without interrupting the unvaried tedium of my didactic monologue, I nonchalantly strolled past them and looked down as I did so. Their communications were in ideograms, but I knew instinctively that it was in moi that the outrageous pair ... the very nerve of it ...  saw a funny side.

Of course, I adjusted the seating arrangements. 

That is how the English bishops, naughty little fellows, behaved at Vatican II. Did I say English? Well, include Bishop O'Loughlin of Darwin, down under. Except that what they passed to and from each other was not ideograms but ... limericks. 

A fair number of these was collected and done into Latin by my fellow Essex Man, Bernard Wall, bishop of Brentwood. Archbishop Dwyer had the English and the Latin Versions typed up, and gave a copy to the Right Reverend Dame Felicitas Corrigan, OSB, Abbess of Stanbrook Abbey (why, O why, do modern misogynists not allow Benedictine women religious, especially superiors, to be given the style 'Dame', equivalent of the masculine 'Dom', and why are Lady Abbesses no longer accorded the same titular courtesies as bishops?) And Dom Hugh Knapman of Douai Abbey has done a service to us all by publishing these limericks: A Limerickal Commentary on the Second Vatican Council, Arouca Press ... a press, incidentally, which everybody ought to support enthusiastically.

So how do the 1960s 'English' bishops come out of this? One limerick dates itself: Of Rahner and Congar and Kueng/ the praises are everywhere sung;/ but one bello domani/ Lord Ottaviani/ will see all three of them hung. Clearly, this must date from the before the celebrated moment when, with a prescient prolepsis of Bergoglian praxis of Parrhesia, the Conciliar presidency switched off the mike while the almost-blind Cardinal Ottaviani was still speaking. But the limerick shows, surely, a sound underlying attitude. My own impression is that the English bishops were not among the heroes who stood with the Coetus Internationalis Patrum against the engineers of error; but neither were they among the plotters who kidnapped the Council and diverted the Rhine into the head-waters of the Tiber. 

They were decent and honourable pastors whose hearts were in the right place during a period when having a properly placed heart was, sadly, not quite enough.

Anyway, you get the book and make up your own mind. If you want a guide through the Conciliar years, I commend The Second Vatican Council by Roberto de Mattei.


hunc praeclarum calicem

Somebody has raised an old query about this phrase. I dealt with the question in August last year and reprinted the post on 7 Feb this year.

24 September 2020

Westminster and Walsingham and Oxford

Ten years since Pope Benedict's Apostolic Visit!

The other day I watched the full video of his Mass in Westminster Cathedral. It really is fun unexpectedly spotting Good Eggs on screen. Among the concelebrants, the great Mgr Andrew Wadsworth (Yes!! I hear everyone's cries of Vescovo subito!!!); and a former Oxford friend, now much missed, Yakoub Banglash, nonchalantly poised in front of one of the cameras. And there is fun too in watching for the Bad Eggs ... not that I ever did spot the manly, photogenic features of Kieran Conry. But of more Bad Eggs, more in the next paragraph ...

The Mass was probably very close to being what most of the more moderately modernising Fathers of Vatican II imagined they were signing up to when they voted for Sacrosanctum concilium; Latin dominated, including the Roman Canon; but there were some Propers and Intercessions in English. In the Canon, it is always interesting to listen carefully to those senior concelebrants who have parts of the Great Prayer assigned to them to deliver individually. Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who had the good fortune of being ordained well before the Rupture and thus for more than a decade had experience of saying the Canon daily, was smooth and accurate. So, interestingly, was Cardinal Keith O'Brien (he had a couple of years of the old culture).

Archbishop Vincent Nichols (priested in December 1969), on the other hand, gave the impression of not being quite within his comfort zone.

There was just one slight whiff of overt dissatisfaction; the then Archbishop of Cardiff did not conceal that Welsh Catholics were rather disappointed that the Sovereign Pontiff's itinerary had not included the Principality. Hardly surprising. I didn't blame His Grace for giving everyone, in completely justified retaliation, an extensive experience of the Welsh Language! Served them right! I would have done exactly the same. 

And I had felt that Pope Benedict should have been allowed to go to Walsingham; I recall that his Predecessor had also wished to go there, and was irritated to be prohibited (you may remember that, as a consolation prize, S John Paul II was told that our Lady of Walsingham would be at his main Mass; he couldn't see her statue when he arrived to celebrate Mass, and gave peremptory instructions that she should at once be moved onto the Altar itself).

I expect the English Bishops felt a bit ashamed to show Roman Pontiffs the distinctly shabby 1960s Catholic shrine at Walsingham, especially as they would probably have had to allow them to peep inside the gloriously 1930s and Tridentine Anglican shrine. Happily, they subsequently took matters in hand by giving the Catholic Shrine to the admirable Mgr Armstrong as Administrator; now Philip Moger has the job. He is a Protonotary Apostolic, which guarantees that he must be a good thing. I trust that by the next time I get to the Vale of the Stiffkey, that great horrible barn will have been transformed by the addition of fifteen 'Rosary' altars for all the Vetus Ordo Masses that the younger generation of clergy will be queuing up to celebrate. Bagsie me, Fathers, the Annunciation. I will hope for a grand reredos with pillars of (at least) scagliola and a magnificent painting by (at least Studio of) Tiepolo.

And Oxford. I wonder why Pope Benedict didn't come here? Could it have anything to do with the aggressive secularism of so many in the modern University? Or were the English bishops opposed? When preaching the University Sermon in Latin in the University Church (the sort of thing that still happens once a year in Oxford) in the January after the papal visit to England, I lamented at some length on the sadness that so very erudite a Pontiff should not be able to visit this great shrine of all the scientiae, and to see Newman's Altar and Newman's Pulpit (which I was at that moment preaching from). I still think the same. And Benedict XVI would have been the first to understand that Saint John Henry belongs to  Anglicans as well as to Catholics, and that Oxford is the symbol of that.

Cardinal Manning might have agreed as well ... you remember his criticism of Newman ... "the old Oxford literary Patristic tone" ... 

Such crimes! ... such blessings ...

22 September 2020

Plagiarism and Popery

Well, stone the crows. I published this post on August 15; and a book has just come out with collected limericks by Anglophone members of the bishops at Vatican II. It contains the first of the limericks below (bowdlerised), and the claim is made that it was written by an anonymous Council Father. It wasn't. It was in a volume published in 1959 by Dr Mascall. and, incidentally, copyrighted by him. The book was entitled Pi in the High because Mascall began his academic life as a Cambridge Mathematician, later becoming an Oxford Anglican Theologian.

This brings out the latent Anglican still within me ... bl**dy papists ... plagiarists ... can't even write their own limericks ... can't even give credit where credit is due  ... 

The new volume is from the admirable Arouca Press, in conjunction with Douai Abbey. A Limerickal Commentary on the Second Vatican Council. I cordially recommend it, but add a warning that it is not very tightly proof-read.  Despite the claim that it has been reproduced carefully from a typescript, there are typos which I suspect are not due to the original: e.g. page 35 suet and rues. Although three people are named as having helped with the Latin, there are peculiarities such as printing the Latin diphthong oe as a u with an acute accent over it (but not consistently): pp 15 and 37. And all the footnotes from 21 onwards are misnumbered. 

Now follows my original post of August 15.


There was an old priest of Dun Laoghaire
Who stood on his head for the Kaoghaire.
       When his people asked why
       He explained it all by
The latest liturgical thaoghaire.

What's that you say? That you're a Platonist rather than a liturgist? Excellent! You'll get into heaven far sooner. And perhaps you'll like this one better:

To Plato I said, "Tell me, P,
What are those pink rats that I see?"
       With a soupcon of pride
       He politely replied,
"Ta metaxu tou ontos kai me."

 Two limericks by the Reverend Canon Professor Dr E L Mascall, 1905-1993. In the first of them,  readers whose minds delight in impropriety will be easily able to devise varias lectiones, variant manuscript readings for the first five words of line 2.

I am not anti-Irish. Many of my best ... er ...  Of course, if one preferred to read 'Kingstown' the textual disturbance would be greater.

Mascall was ahead of his time in suggesting that liturgical improprieties may be more characteristic of elderly than of younger clergy.

21 September 2020

Extra Ecclesiam ...

... nulla Salus. I am a little nervous about the emphasis laid upon this in some traddy circles, and about some of the stricter interpretations given to the phrase. It seems to me that some people may be a little over-anxious to exclude from heaven anybody who is not in full canonical communion with the See of S Peter.

I suppose that in an age suffused with Relativism and Indifferentism, it is inevitable that sensible and thoughtful people will want to resist anything that smells of these dangerous, pernicious, heresies. But, well, y'know, sometimes a pendulum does ... er ... swing ... er ... a bit far.

Well before the post-Conciliar catastrophes struck, 'Invincible Ignorance', and all that, was part of the Church's common teaching. In 1945, Evelyn Waugh, no Relativist, explains that if Lady Julia Flyte "apostatised now, having been brought up in the Church, she would go to hell, while the Protestant girls of her acquaintance, schooled in happy ignorance, could marry eldest sons, live at peace with their world, and get to heaven before her." And remember that one of Waugh's motives in writing Brideshead was to explain the Catholic Faith to his generation by novelistic means.

S John Henry Newman avowed, towards the end of his life, that he had spent it fighting against Liberalism. He, too, used novelistic means to explain the Faith.

Priest: Do you think [Anglicans] believe and practise all that is brought home to them as being in Scripture?
Reding: Certainly they do, as far as man can judge.
Priest: Then perhaps they may be practising the virtue of faith; if there are passages in it to which they are insensible, as about the sacraments, penance, and extreme unction, or about the See of Peter, I should in charity think that these passages had never been brought home or applied to their minds and consciences - just as a Pope's Bull may be for a time unknown in a distant part of the Church. They may be in involuntary ignorance.* Yet I fear that, taking the whole nation, they are few among many.

*At this point, Newman footnotes a sentence from de Lugo which I  translate thus:
Those who err invincibly about some articles, and believe others, are not formally heretics, but have supernatural faith, by which they believe the true articles; and acts of perfect contrition can proceed from that faith so that they be justified and saved. 

20 September 2020

A couple more Avignon memories ...

 ... have just come back to me.

(1) We were there during a French presidential election, and much enjoyed seeing what was happening, and watching a few things on the TV in our hotel room.

We were particularly diverted by a speech made by one of the candidates, a Mme Segolene Royale. I think she was giving an explanation of the fact that the bloke with whom she was shacked up and who was the father of her children was not her husband. Neatly, she averred that this made her une femme libre pour une France libre.

Even greater diversion was afforded us, back in England, a few weeks later when the man concerned, the midget but perfectly formed Francois Hollande, dumped her.

As, giggling, we remarked to each other, this made her even more libre.

(2) The restaurants.

19 September 2020

Avignon and Mme Pepinster

The former editor of The Tablet, a Mrs Pepinster, was on the Home Service a few weeks ago and spoke about the unfortunate way the Catholic Church had treated the Jews. I was not in a position to have a view about this, since I have never studied the subject. (I do, however, recall that when a recent Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, the son of a Rabbi, visited Israel, he was treated with some discourtesy.)

But ... hang on ... here is something with which perhaps readers can assist me.

When Pam and I had our 40th Wedding Anniversary (April 1 2007), the Family very generously sent us off to Avignon for a week. I have haunting memories ... The big square, where each evening a ?counter-tenor anxious to sell his compact disks sang in tones like nothing I have ever heard ... I reflected that must have been rather how castrati sounded. The exquisite rococo Chapel of the Black Penitents, used by the SSPX (who gave me as an Anglican priest a most hospitable welcome). The Art Gallery, blissfully empty and full of good stuff. The tomb of Pope John XXII, made by English craftsmen. The Cathedral Sacristy, with vestments used at the Coronation of Charles X.

And, yes, a fine eighteenth century Synagogue. At that time, such Hebrew ostentation was not permitted (so we were told) within France. But across the Rhone, in the Papal States, there were ... apparently ... no problems.

What the doctiores among you can explain to me is why this should have been so.

18 September 2020


As the Solemnity of our Lady of Walsingham ... and S John Henry Newman ... start to appear over the horizon, here are some points which apply only to members of the three Ordinariates.


Worthy folk may easily be confused about who a Patron is. The Table of Liturgical Days in the Divine Worship Missal is almost the same as that of the Novus Ordo Calendar (plus the Octave of Pentecost, Ember Days, and Rogation Days) with the following exceptions. In Section 4, this is added: (a) The Solemnity of the Title of the Ordinariate; and in 8 (a) Diocese is changed to Ordinariate.

So there is a distinction between the "Title" of the Ordinariate; and the "Patron". In the decrees of the Erections of the Ordinariates, section 14 indicates in each case who is the patron of each. In England: S John Henry Newman. In America: Our Lady of Walsingham. In Australia: S Augustine of Canterbury.

The Title is a Solemnity; the Patron is a Festum. So, in England, OLW is a Solemnity because she is the Title; in America, she is only a Festum because she is the Patron. And, in Englsnd, S JHN is only a Festum because he is the Patron


But in the Missale Romanum of 1962, things are different. The Patron is to be "First Class", which is the MR1962 equivalent of the DWM "Solemnity" (MR1962 91/12/6 and 8).

So, in practical terms, S JHN is First Class and therefore has a First Vespers according to MR1962, but not according to DWM. And in the EF he gets the Creed at Mass, and the Horae minores of the Divine Office.

17 September 2020

Palladianism, late Stuart Anglicanism, and Jacobitism???

Dudley Symon wrote that when
"the Church of England had 'found herself', [and] developed a liturgical sense and interpretation of the popular appeal of her own Liturgy, she instinctively turned to the Classical, the Palladian and the Renaissance model as a more fitting vesture and shrine for her rites. For its meaning and particular beauty to become apparent it needed (as Canon Addleshaw says) such a building as the chapel of Trinity College, Oxford, beloved by Newman, or the churches of Wren".

Indeed, even Pevsner considered Trinity Chapel as "one of the most perfect ensembles of the late C17 in the whole country"..

I'm not sure that all Architecture buffs would agree in cheerfully lumping togetherr the 'impure classicism' of poor Wren with the purities of Andrea Palladio and Inigo Jones. But the sponsors of Palladianism in the Oxford of Queen Anne's time, Aldrich and Clarke, have inspired a suspicion of being linked together by that very high Toryism which merged almost imperceptibly into a careful, fall-back, Jacobitism.

Something to think about as one takes the short cut through Peck Quad ...

And rumours about Lord Burlington's more private politics have never quite died away, have they? Earlier this year, the National Trust revealed evidence that Sir Henry Bedingfield, 3rd Baronet of Oxburgh Hall, was slipping money to James VIII's banker in 1726, when he was in Paris with Burlington (whose sister he married). He also made payments to Andrew Crotty, Burlington's agent, who was known to the Hannoverian Intelligence Service as "the great Jacobite" (The Times, Feb 15 2020).

I wish I knew more about Architecture! Can anybody put me straight?

There is an interesting chapter in Sir Howard Colvin's Unbuilt Oxford.

16 September 2020


This piece assumes that the reader already knew, or has by now taken on board, the original sense of ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM which my earlier post explained. The following example of this argumentum is taken from the great Anglican Catholic theologian Dr Eric Mascall.

Fr Eric is dealing with the claim that Anglo-Catholics are subversive Quislings because they try to reverse, within the Church of England, the changes made at the Reformation. He points out that it ill becomes those who support the Reformation Settlement to argue that a status quo should never be changed.

Let's unpack that or, to use Fr Zed's neat term, 'drill into it'.

Someone who believes "Changing a status quo is always bad" cannot be a supporter of what was done at the Reformation. Because, in that period, a status quo was changed.

Someone who supports what was done at the Reformation cannot also, simultaneously, believe that "Changing a status quo is always bad", because that is exactly what the 'Reformers' did.

Of course, it is open to anyone to say "Ah, but the status quo which the 'Reformers' changed was a wicked and corrupt status quo and so they were right to change it; but the present status quo is a good one, so you are wicked to try to change that". That is fair enough, because you and he can then dialogue or argue about whether the two claims in his statement are in fact true.

If he modifies his assertion of principle to "Bad status quos should always be changed and good ones should always be preserved", then he has shifted his ground to a rational (if a somewhat blindingly obvious) stand. You may well agree with him, while insisting that it is necessary to apply the two halves of his proposition with dispassionate care.

What he is not entitled to do ... not today, not ever, not even on the Day of Judgement ... is to have his cake and eat it: to rant about how "change is always per se wrong" when it suits him, and then to change horses to "Change is sometimes necessary" when that suits him. If he persists in trying to have things both ways, there is no point in wasting your time on arguing with him.

We can disentangle this from those boring old intra-Anglican squabbles and apply it to today's Catholic Church by considering the attitudes of the 1970s Liturgical Fetichists who
(a) dislike Cardinal Sarah's admirable and admirably repeated call for worship Ad Orientem and
(b) who also claim that it is totally beyond the pale even to imagine reversing the gigantic changes made in the 1970s; forgetful as they are of how vicious and radical were those changes of the 1970s.

A traddy Socrates would (despite his own very profound dislike of the 1970s 'reforms') probably start by cunningly representing himself as being where his interlocutor actually is (as a supporter of the 1970s 'reforms') by saying ...

Socrates Do you agree that the 1970s liturgical reforms were a good thing?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist I jolly well do (panu ge).
Socrates And did those reforms constitute a profound change in the inaccessible, guilt-ridden, incomprehensible, clericalist and hide-bound Liturgy of the pre-Conciliar Church?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Dead right, Socrates, that's just what they did. You never said a truer word (panu men oun, kai alethe legeis).
Socrates So when the 1970s reformers made their root-and-branch changes, they did well?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist B****y well, if you'll forgive the French, Socrates, me old chum (kai mala, o sokratidion, houto phainetai).
Socrates It seems, then, that we are agreed that change can sometimes be necessary?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Yeah, well, fair do's, I s'pose we are, if you put it like that (alla moi dokeis ge, o sokrates, metrios legein, kai houto tithemai).
Socrates So if it were to appear upon further study that what Cardinal Sarah and the Traddies are currently trying to do to the worship of the Catholic Church is a necessary change, then we would need to applaud them and to follow them?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Crikey! I don't at all like the sound of that! (ou ma ton Dia).
Socrates But you cannot both agree that change may be necessary, and say that we must refuse to consider the changes proposed by Sarah and the Traddies. *ei gar tauta amphotera ereis, oukh hoios t'esei sumphonein soi.

There is the essence of the Argumentum ad hominem, in that last sentence of Socrates: *"For if you are going to say both these things, you will not be able to be in agreement with yourself". 

This, the Argumentum ad hominem, is how S John Henry Newman admitted that he amused himself in the Oriel Common Room by tying slower thinkers up in knots; this is the device that Dom Gregory Dix so relished. Not to mention Mgr Ronald Knox, Protonotary Apostolic, and Fr Eric Mascall. Even Socrates and ... your humble servant.

I repeat: as Locke pithily described it, the Argumentum ad hominem consists of pressing a man with consequences drawn from his own principles and concessions.

Aesthetically, at its best it affords you the pleasure of watching, perhaps with a vivid glass of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc in handas your adversary squirms and wriggles on the painful horns of a dilemma which ... am I mixing my metaphors again? ... he has walked right into, hook, line, and sinker.

There are, surely, in God's wonderland of earthly pleasures, few sweeter, more exquisite, delights than contemplating that? You agree? Panu ge!!
* Plato, the Cratylus, 433B.

15 September 2020


We continually see examples of people using the phrase Argumentum ad hominem with the following meaning: "Arguing against somebody by simply hurling personal abuse at him".

In all linguistic matters, I cannot deny that usage can change the meanings of words and phrases. But I think it is a tremendous shame that this immensely useful phrase is in danger of losing the totally different meaning it originally had. I want to make clear that, on this blog, I use the phrase in the original sense in which it was used by Locke: "to press a man with Consequences drawn from his own Principles and Concessions". 

As you might expect, an example, nearly contemporary with Locke himself, is found in the 1738 chapter of Let Dons Delight.

So ... to be boringly clear about ths ... I have not used, do not and will not use, argumentum ad hominem in the sense of 'personal abuse'. Permit me to be even more explicit, and even nastier: I think this new meaning now very widely attached to the phrase originated in a common human failing. And that failing is: trying to sound erudite by using a piece of Latin ... often, as in this case, misunderstood Latin. 

Allow me to explain what Locke and I mean by Argumentum ad hominem.

If a man says "Matilda never lies", and two paragraphs later he says "Matilda lied when she said X", then you are entitled to 'press' him with this. Logically, he must withdraw one of these two statements, or he is involved in a contradiction and cannot expect us to follow him. (He can, of course, also withdraw both.) Whether or not Matilda is truthful is, at least for the time being, irrelevant. It is the speaker's inconsistency which requires analysis.

If a man says "I believe A" and later says "I do not believe B because it is not explicitly in Scripture", he has handed you a hostage to fortune: if you can successfully demonstrate that A also is 'not explicitly in Scripture', then either he must preserve the 'principle' in his second statement "I do not believe B" by also discarding his belief in A; or, continuing to believe in A, he must cease to deny B on the grounds that it is not explicitly in Scripture (he might, of course, if he is quick on his feet, be able to think up a different reason for denying B and argue that; what he cannot maintain is his original and stated reason for denying it.)

This is called an argumentum ad hominem because, strictly speaking it does not prove anything at all; it only demonstrates that this particular man cannot maintain two contradictory or inconsistent statements. So it is "an Argument against [that particular] Man".

For example, if you are strolling into the Parks with a friend to watch the University playing Barsetshire, and he says "I don't believe Mary is the Mother of God", you can ask him if he believes that Jesus Christ is 'fully' God. If he replies "Yes I do", you can then say "So Mary, who is the Mother of Jesus Christ, is the Mother of God".

Let us suppose that your friend says "Ah yes! I do see! She is Mother of God in the the sense that she is the Mother of the one hypostasis of the Incarnate Second person of the Glorious Trinity. Fair enough". You and he can then warmly embrace; an ecumenical advance has been made. But Stay!!!: behind that substantial Rhododendron Bush was lurking Dr Dawkins of this University, beautifully coiffured as ever, eavesdropping upon your dialogue. He now leaps through the leaves and blossoms screaming maniacally "But there is no God at all and so Jesus Christ is not God and his Mother is not the Mother of God because there isn't a God for her to be Mother of because there isn't a God". Premises which were common ground between your interlocutor and yourself are not, you gather, intuitively shared by Dr D, poor silly old thing. So, to him, to Dr Dawkins, you have proved absolutely and totally nothing.

Indeed, your argument was not intended to convince someone of Dr Dawkins' limited understanding; you were only endeavouring to convince your friend, by appealing to his beliefs, to his 'Principles', to what he already deems true and has asserted. Your argument was designed to persuade him by presenting him with the dilemma: "Either withdraw your belief that Jesus Christ is God; or withdraw your statement that Mary is not the Mother of God".

It is in this old Lockean sense of the phrase that I commend Dr Newman's and Dr Dix's attachment ... and my own ... to the Argumentum ad hominem.  

To be concluded.

14 September 2020

Eat the Fat and Drink the Sweet

The Ember Days of the old (Tridentine and Divine Worship Missal) liturgies began life as pagan Roman Harvest Festivals, celebrating the gathering-in of the corn, the wine, and the oil. The Church of Rome christianised them; pointed out in her lections that the Torah refers to analogous agricultural festivals; and turned them into fasts so as to eliminate the excesses of pagan celebration.

The September Ember season is, in my view, the most fun, because the down-to-earth agricultural liturgical texts have not been overladen with themes of Advent, Lent, or Pentecost, as those of the other three Embertides have been. So let's wallow in the Harvest Festival joy of this week's liturgies, and let's enjoy it all the more by doing it with the Tudor English texts in the Divine Worship (Ordinariate) Missal ..."Sing we merrily unto God our Strength, make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob ... "

And the ancient readings carried the same message: "behold, the days come when the plowman shall overcome the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed: and the mountains shall drop sweet wine ... and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof ... eat the fat and drink the sweet ...

But these Ember Days were fast days! Look at the Collects: "Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants, that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings ...". And the ancient Ember Gospels were concerned with healings, because healing and exorcism were linked with fasting. The Church became supremely potent to heal and to cast out demons, through her sacred ministers, because she had humbled and purified herself before the Lord with fasting. And so, at these times, the Church also besought God to send down the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God by the imposition of the Bishop's hands, having prepared herself by communal fasting (cf Acts 13:1-3). S John Paul II used to prepare himself to administer Holy Orders with fasting and discipline.

I wonder if the disappearance of Fasting is one of the reasons why the Devil has so much power over members and ministers of the modern Church. And ... by the way ... the disappearance of fasting in the Western Church is not an area in which we can heap all the blame on S Paul VI. As so often, it was Pius XII who got there first.

13 September 2020

Apostolicae curae: text

September 13 1896 is the date of the Bull which condemned Anglican Orders. I published the following on August 1, 2010. The only changes I am making today are the insertions of the passages in red.
What does Apostolicae curae say about its own status within the Magisterium? Here there is a curious textual anomaly. Different printed versions say different things. One has the Bull referring to the subject with which it deals as "idem caput disciplinae". Another omits "disciplinae" ("This same matter [of discipline]"). The question is of considerable significance. Nobody doubts that there are doctrinal matters involved in this business; but a disciplinary decision, while it has its own area in which it does bind, is not binding in the same sort of way as a doctrinal decision.

I once made an attempt to get to the bottom of this question. I received this reply: "The word is actually included in the version published in Acta Sanctae Sedis 29 (1896-7), which is the official version of the text. There is therefore no need to view the original document signed by the two cardinals. However, in the collected edition of the Acta Leonis XIII the word is omitted; this edition seems to be unofficial, being published by the Societas Sancti Augustini, Desclee de Brouwer, Bruges, vol. 6, 1900". My informant, a Roman Catholic theologian of some distinction and international reknown, commented "I can only guess that someone was afraid the word might lead people to think the decision might be changed". Indeed. In the 1956 Catholic Truth Society translation, a footnote by Dr E C Messenger frankly admits "The omission would seem to have been deliberate". 

It is amusing to imagine the look on Cardinal Vaughan's face, in the midst of the triumphant rejoicings in Archbishop's House Westminster after he had secured the issue of Apostolicae curae, as the corks popped merrily in the Throne Room, when he suddenly realised the subversive potential of the one word "disciplinae". In a funny sort of way, the fact that "someone" took whatever trouble had to be taken to get the text changed in a subsequent unofficial publication of the Bull is a witness to the importance "someone" attached to the matter. If it makes no difference, why bother?

So what's new? I just looked at the text of this Bull on the official Vatican website ... and ... Lo!! ... it reads "caput disciplinae"!

As for expressions like "forever in the future valid and in force", an article in the Heythrop Journal (27, 1986, 178-180), on the genuineness of the tomb of S James at Compostella, raises some interesting questions.

Nitpicking? I profoundly disagree. Whenever anyone says to me "You're splitting hairs", I know that he knows that I know that he has lost the argument!

12 September 2020


I plan to take a few days away from reading emails and moderating comments. But I plan, Deo volente, still to publish a piece each day.

The Longevity of Herr Goebbels ... and the power of flags

UPDATE: No fascist flags being waved tonight!

Flags, I thnk, have the power to enforce culturally what they symbolise. Goebbels understood this.

I simply adore those old video clips of the sweet flaxen-haired little girls clustering around the Fuehrer ... such images of Aryan purity as imagined by hitlerite bigots; redolent of everything that was, in their perverted mindset, good and noble and wholesome.

And how fitting it is that the symbol of the Swastika should have been incorporated into so many of those scenes ... reminding everybody, young and old, that the ubiquitous symbol itself encapsulated all that was best in the life of the Volk.

It must be a matter of immense joy that the Rainbow, our modern equivalent of the Swastika, is nowadays so widely displayed and promoted. Children ... even those who are not little and not girls and not flaxen-haired ... are encouraged to draw and paint rainbows in order to celebrate, for example, the efforts of our health-care professionals. By associating this symbol of Niceness with nice and self-sacrificing people, we ensure that the young are properly formed so as to glorify, in step with their growing understandings, Equal Marriage and Trans Rights and Abortion and Pride Marches and all the other things on our current must-like list, symbolised, summarised, and joyously brought together as they all are by our Rainbow flag.

Tonight, in Britain, we have "The Last Night of the Proms", a musical bonanza. It has been surrounded by controversy: is it right, in a BLM culture, to sing songs like Rule Britannia, and even to mention the S-word ("Britons never never never shall be Slaves") without the correct ritual obeissances. But I remember the corresponding performance last year: the lead female singer was waving the ... Rainbow Flag! Nice one, Herr G! So I am waiting to see if this elegantly situated piece of fascism will recur this year.

Perhaps we have lost a certain je ne sais quoi as we have moved from the Swastika to the Rainbow. Our faddish chatter about British Values and Inclusivity and White Lives Matter and all the rest, does indeed rather lack the forceful vigour of Ein Volk ein Reich ein Fuehrer. But before you criticise Satan and Goebbels too harshly, be fair: the Swastika did get a very critical press; it's only sensible that it should have been replaced by something more PR friendly. It's results that really count; and currently something like a quarter of babies are intentionally killed before birth. Credit where credit is due. Heil Whatever!

It is indeed a mighty reassurance to know that, despite reports to the contrary, Herr Goebbels survived the War and is still alive and well; and still, with his immense wit and wisdom, directing the propaganda department of the Lowerarchy. It is particularly gratifying to have so much evidence of his complete control over (nearly) all the Media; the coercive mechanisms of the State; and the moral pressure brought to bear by Public Opinion. (Only one of his old tricks is still untried: the apotheosis of a violent dead street brawler by the composition of something like the Horst Wessel song.)

His firm hand upon the tiller is just what we need as we march into our Golden Future.

(On this blog, mixed metaphors and irony are parts of the genre.)

11 September 2020

But when are the Ember Days?

According to the pre-modern versions of the Roman Rite, and the Book of Common Prayer, nd the Divine Worship Missal, the September Ember Days come after the festival of the Holy Cross. What a nice easy rule. A child can apply it. So that is where you will find them in the admirable Saint Lawrence Press ORDO (and in Prayer Book based ORDOs).

In other words, next week is Ember Week.

So why, in ORDOs printed according to the 1962 Roman books (LMS; SSPX), does the September Ember Week, this year, come a week later?

Technically, the reason why the Ember Weeks come where they do is that, in the Breviary, their readings are tied into those of the week after the Third Sunday of September. Before 1962, the "First" Sunday of September might actually be at the end of August. So, this year, August 30 was the official First Sunday of September. But the 1962 revisers changed this so as to be clear-cut and logical ... First Sunday of September for them has to mean literally First Sunday of September. Hence (if you're still interested) the Third Week of September starts September 13 according to the old reckoning, but not until September 20 according to 1962.

As so often happens when people try to tidy things up and to be neat and logical and clever, this decision of 1962 led to the potential dislocation of the Ember Week from its ancient mooring to Holy Cross Day.

Since the 1962 rite lasted in widespread use less than a decade, I find it hard to take it seriously in those matters where it conflicts with what the Latin Church had kept easy and natural for centuries ... particularly when the Divine Worship Missal, the Ordinariate Altar Book, remains in line with the Missal of S Pius V.

Summorum pontificum, I presume, took the 1962 books as normative for ecumenical and practical reasons: because this is what the SSPX had done since Archbishop Lefebvre changed his liturgical policy around 1974.

1962 should be regarded as an interim stop-gap.

10 September 2020

Departed Worlds??? (3) Honest to God!!!

We turn to one of the prayers in this book, taking a (truly!) random example. For the First Sunday after Easter, Wallis composed the following:
Almighty and everlasting God, who for our salvation didst raise thy Son, Jesus Christ from death to life on the third day: grant that by faith in his resurrection we may believe beyond a doubt that the source of all life is in thee alone, and that the eternal meaning of our existence can be found only by the light of thy tender love for us; through the same
and here is Geary's translation:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui propter nostram salutem die tertio Filium tuum Jesum Christum a morte ad vitam suscitavisti*: praesta, quaesumus, ut nos, resurrectionis ejus fidem habentes, vitam omnem ex te solo gigni, et per affectum tuum solum posse intelligi pro certo habeamus; per eundem

Well, over to you. Here are one or two reactions on my part.

This was published in 1963 (although composed before Wallis's death in 1957). Also in 1963, John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, published his Honest to God; a slight and rather silly book in which he explained that God was not an old man in the sky with a beard; and coined such phrases as The Ground of Our Being; and The Man for Others. I cannot help thinking that the phrase "the eternal meaning of our existence" has about it just the slightest passing whiff (shades of Canon Wallis, forgive me for suggesting this!) of the same sort of "circa 1960" culture. You'd hardly notice it as part of a  prayer in a totally modern idiom; but, somehow, given the pastiche Tudor English (Almighty and Everlasting God ...), it stands out, for me, rather like an elegantly sore thumb.

Wallis has followed Cranmer's idiom in not being too terse. When providing translations of the old Roman Latin collects, Cranmer tended to expand their sparing economy. He will fill out (Collect for Trinity III) supplicandi affectum to an hearty desire to pray; defensionis auxilium to by thy mighty aid be defended (the 1662 BCP filled that out even more with and comforted in all dangers and adversities). The syllable-count is much the same; but more words seem to be called for in English. Otherwise (I suspect this is the sub-conscious assumption) the prayer would be over before most of the congregation were aware that it had started. 

So what is one to do if faced with this task the other way round; the task of rendering into Latin a formula constructed within this English instinct for prolixity? Geary has reduced the source of all life to vitam omnem; and the light of thy tender love to affectum tuum; and eternal meaning of our existence to intelligi. In other words, he has asked himself something like the question "If this prolix English prayer were a translation of a terser Latin original, what might that terse original have been?" I think he is dead right in choosing this method. My own instinct would be to go further than he did. I might have ended the prayer with: et ex sola pietate tua intelligere valeamus; which would bring in a word very much at home in Christian euchology (pietas) and an auxiliary verb characteristic of liturgical Latin (valeamus). I would then have to work back and do some reconstruction on the earlier part of the sentence. Wouldn't I?

Come to think of it, the Collects for the Saints of England which are contained in the vernacular version of the Liturgy of the Hours designed for use in England, were composed in English for the Calendars of England and its dioceses; and still appear to exist only in English. They are supposed to have an official Latin form (the Welsh very admirably did their Latin versions for S David and Co some years ago). Were this vacuum ever to be filled, something along the lines Wallis worked out would have to be attempted. But is anything like that ever likely to happen? Why should the English Bishops have any interest in getting this done when, increasingly, those not keen on the English Novus Ordo just row across to the busy harbour of the Latin books of S John XXIII rather than to the unvisited backwaters of S Paul VI's Latin books?

Or is that world also ... the world in which Catholic priests murmured their Breviaries in Latin ... the world of 1962, just months before Euchologium Anglicanum was published ... the year when more than 2,000 Catholic bishops gathered together to decree solemnly (in Sacrosanctum Concilium 101:1) that the clergy should continue to pray their Divine Office in Latin ... is that world yet another, a third, Departed World???


*We would write 'suscitasti' wouldn't we? 

9 September 2020

Departed Worlds??? (2)

In the matter of composing Latin, Frederic Charles Geary, 1886-1974, Fellow of Corpus Christi College in this University 1928-1952 (see my post of July 6), definitely had Form and Previous. He was one of an active group of Oxford dons who gathered fortnightly to share and discuss their versions and compositions in Latin and Greek. In 1940 he had published Pelican [remember: he was a Corpus Christi don] Pie: Verses and Versions. The group was to publish in 1949 Some Oxford Compositions, and in 1964 More Oxford Compositions. In writing prose and verse in the Classical languages, these men were  using skills they had acquired at their English public schools and continued to use all their lives. (A generation before, Mgr Ronald Knox had printed Signa Severa in 1906 while still at Eton; he composed Latin, and Greek, and English prose and verse for five more deades, most notably in publishing the Fifth Book of Horace's Odes in 1920. [By contrast ... a modern Old Etonian recently said: "People would appreciate he and I coming together."])

Pelican Pie and Euchologium Anglicanum were, I think, the only volumes (both slender!) which Geary published. The German/American PhD and two-papers-a-year culture had not yet forced an ugly bridgehead upon the muddy banks of the Isis. In those days, dons had better things to do ... such as gastronomy and oenology (see Sunday's post), and honing their hendecasyllables. (One of Geary's Corpus colleagues, William Phelps, when asked by a German visitor why as a man of vast erudition he had 'produced' nothing, replied that he wished to keep his amateur status ... this was still the cricketing age of Gentlemen and Players!). Pelican Pie contained poems in some of the less easy metres of Horace; the politics of the previous decade led Geary to incorporate the names of the Foreign Secretary (Halifax, you will be relieved to hear, is an anapaest) and of foreign tyrants (Mussolini? You're right: a double trochee). I like to think that, if Hitler's invasion had ever happened, there would have been enough friendly former Rhodes Scholars in the German Administration to ensure the protection of Geary and his associates, whatever snide remarks they had concealed in lyric metres ... such is the international respublica litterarum. (You know the Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte story? But ... to drop the frivolity for a moment ... Eduard Fraenkel would have thought otherwise.)

But what ... what on earth ... is the point of composing prose and verse in dead languages? Surely, such wasted time and effort can be no more than the irrelevant playground of a decadent governing elite? One member of Geary's group, T F Higham (Trinity), mounted a spirited and revealingly Utilitarian defence against this suspicion. He explained that verse composition does indeed "make possible the reading of classical texts with ease and correct understanding". As an example, he took the play Dyscolus of Menander, long lost, but a single tattered copy of which had recently been recovered from the sands of Egypt. This papyrus codex was rather the worse for wear; some parts were difficult to read; there were some worm holes; there were scribal errors. Out of the hundreds of emendations or supplements needed, the great majority was supplied by British academics, who,  Higham reminds us, "had practised verse-composition"!!

Such skills are not entirely dead in this city of Dreams and Lost Causes. But ... well, consider this: one day when Geary had missed a seminar on Aeschylus as the result of having a tummy bug, he promptly sent an apology written in Aeschylean iambics which were described by a more recent Oxford academic as "such as few if any of us could compose now" (I most certainly couldn't). Like the world of Wallis's Lichfield Close, the Oxford of More Oxford Compositions and of Pelican Pie is, must we not concede, very nearly a Departed World???

New Encyclical

I could hardly believe my eyes! An encyclical which, for English speakers of English, will undoubtedly be known as Fruity Tottie.

Has PF been taking lessons in sexually suggestive English slang?

Some young English footballers are currently having to sit on the Naughty Chair because, while in Reykyavik, they broke out of their 'coronabubble' to discuss Uganda with local beauty queens. "Icy Tottie"?

A completely new genre ex nihilo! What a delightfully demotic touch!

Olet oves!

8 September 2020

Killing time for old men?

As our plague statistics continue to rise, and the curve on the graph becomes steeper, one of the ministers in our current regime has urged young people "not to kill your Gran".

He means that young people, whose own experience of the plague may be neither life-threatening nor painful, should remember that the malady might spread from the young to the elderly ... whose vulnerability may be greater.

The slogan "Don't kill Grannie" was in fact tried out a few weeks ago, but was then dropped because, I suspect, it seemed a little OTT. Its crudity and vividness is not quite in our national 'laid-back' style. That the slogan has been dusted off and is now on display once more suggests a degree of panic among our masters.

Of course, you will expect me to declare an interest. I am of grand-parental ... is there a less inelegant term? ... age.

But I am male, not female, so, apparently, my preservation is a less engaging cause. Actually, my sex makes my statistical vulnerability greater. Males excite the plague to even greater paroxysms of malevolence than females do. And, even pre-plague, men died younger than women, so that Grandfathers were more of an endangered species than Grandmothers.

So why "Do not kill grannie"?

Women are more cuddly than men. They arouse more of our protective instincts. And don't fail to notice here the subtle use of hypocoristic forms, 'Gran' or 'Grannie', rather than 'Your Grandmother'. Even cuddlier!

Sweet little old ladies indeed arouse more protective instincts than we nasty old men do. This particular variety of prejudice manifested itself in a British sitcom which portrayed an uncuddly old man called Victor Meldrew. And, a generation before, there was Alf Garnet. I wonder if the censorship department of the PC clerisy would permit such raw portrayals of old women. I leave to your imagination how the sisterhood would respond, if it did.

Regular readers will probably guess my next bit ... this is all horribly reminiscent of the religion of biodiversity, in which sweet cuddly indigenous British red squirrels need all the help we can give them, but we hear comparatively little from NSPPGUMR, the National Society for the Protection and Propagation of Gigantic Ugly Mutant Rats. Or from the MMPL (the Malarial Mosquito Preservation League). Or CLM (Covidvirus Lives Matter).

And we kill about 600 unborn and unseen and uncuddled humans daily, without batting an eyelid.

Silly sentimentality does have its lethal side. Never trust somebody who uses soppiness to buttress their stupidity.

7 September 2020


Originally posted on April 24 2015
That charismatic writer and teacher of the 1950s and 1960s, the distinguished liturgist Fr Louis Bouyer, in his Memoires [published 2014; a kind friend sent me these extracts in French before the English translation was published], tells of his own involvement with the composition of Eucharistic Prayer II.

He was summoned to join the sub-commission charged with inventing the new 'Missal'; after seeing the drafting work aleady done, his instinct was to leave the group instantly ... but Dom Bernard Botte persuaded him to stay, even if only to obtain a less dreadful result. He agreed. I give you my own probably inaccurate translation [corrections welcomed with a sigh of relief] of Bouyer's vivid account of the gumming together of what has, so very sadly, become by far the most commonly used Eucharistic Prayer during this past half-century in the Western Church: Eucharistic Prayer II; the older parts of which, in the 1960s, were thought to be connected with an early Roman writer called Hippolytus.

"You'll have an idea of the deplorable conditions in which this indecently speedy reform (reforme a la sauvette) was pushed forward, when I have told you how the Second Eucharistic Prayer was tied up (ficelee). Between the fanatics who were archaeologising wildly and at random, who would have wanted to ban the Sanctus and the Intercessions from the EP, adopting the Eucharist of Hippolytus just as it was, and the others who didn't give a damn about (qui se fichaient pas mal de) his pretended Apostolic Tradition but only wanted a botched (baclee) Mass, Dom Botte and I were charged with patching up the text so as to introduce these elements, which are certainly very ancient ... in time for the very next morning! By chance, I discovered, in a writing perhaps by Hippolytus himself but certainly in his style, a happy formula on the Holy Spirit which could make a transition, of the Vere Sanctus type, leading into the brief epiclesis. Botte, for his part, fabricated an intercession more worthy of Paul Reboux [a belle epoque humourist and producer of witty pastiches] and his In the Style of ... than of his own areas of academic competence. But I can never reread this weird (invraisemblable) composition without recalling the terrace of the bistro in the Trastevere where we had to work carefully at our allotted drudgery (pensum), so as to be in a position to present ourselves, with it in our hands, at the Bronze Gate at the time fixed by our bosses." [Botte recalls in his own memoires that the Pensionato in which he stayed was too full of red, purple, and cassocks; "my only break was to eat my meals in the little public restaurants on the nearby streets ..."]

I am very thankful, and I know you are as well, that the Trastevere was so much more respectable by the 1960s than it is said to been a generation before Bouyer's time; otherwise this somewhat racy narrator might have been tempted to describe Eucharistic Prayer II as "misbegotten among the filles de joie of the Trastevere". Yes, I knew that would make your mind bogle. It is a shame Bouyer gives no account of which bistro was graced by this historic moment of liturgical history; if he had done so, enthusiasts could even now be planning to gather there for a Solemn Pontifical Liturgical Commemoration of the genesis of this unworthy little Prayer; poor Guido Marini acting as MC with an expression like curdled milk. And Clio should have considered it her duty to preserve the name of the barman who so liberally supplied the crucial drinks ... little did he know how crucial a role he was playing in the corruption of the worship of the Latin Church for the next (quot?) generations. And if only Bouyer had transcribed the menu; that would have given you something agreeable with which to distract yourselves next time you have no choice but to attend an O-God-but-at-least-it's-certainly-valid-and-so-it-fulfills-my-Sunday-Obligation celebration of the Great Sacrifice. (Instead, devise the words in which you will politely remind the celebrant on your way out that Prayer II, according to the GIRM, is not intended for Sunday use ... as Michael Caine used to say, "Not many people know that".)

The next paragraph begins with Bouyer informing us that the Novus Ordo Calendar was the "oeuvre d'un trio de maniaques". He also describes Archbishop Bugnini as meprisable and aussi depourvu de culture que de simple honnetete, all of which really does totally defeat either my schoolboy French or my plain old-style Anglo-Saxon sense of decency de mortuis; I'm not sure which. It's such a terrible burden being an Englishman.

6 September 2020

Anybody for lunch at Gurin's?

Well, Father Zed, a wise and accomplished man, often sets before you mouth-watering magirology: so surely you won't complain if I offer an occasional gastronomic diversion? Even if it does involve whisking you back to the Thirties?

In his 1936 masterpiece Death at the President's Lodging, 'Michael Innes' [J I M Stewart] tempts our imaginative juices by describing what a college Kitchen could do in the magical Thirties (no pedantry here, please ... don't bother to explain to me that not everything was magical in the 1930s). A college Dean might offer in his rooms such a private luncheon as this: "Double fillet of sole, becasse Careme, and poires flambees -- and there was a remarkable [College] hock. College cooks can produce such luncheons and undergraduates -- and even dons -- give them ..."

Happy days, when places of learning could afford to inculcate more than just a skill in writing Sapphic stanzas or in Latin Prose Compo! "Honour Mods in Careme" would indeed be a much more civilised, and useful, area of learning than [fill this bit in yourselves, preferably including PPE]. One of 'Innes'' dons explains to an undergraduate "You are  enjoying a highly evolved system of individual education the stamp of which you will carry to the grave. To that grave you will also carry a nervous tone which is the product of careful physical nurture: of knowledge of the use and abuse of wine, of cookery to subsidize which miners toil in Wales and Kalgoorlie ..." (is there really a place called Kalgoorlie? In Co Donegal, perhaps? Corruption of a Celtic 'Kilgoorlie'?).

But where I most want to seek your help is with this description of:
" ... a most Chestertonian inn. Here one may lunch, here one may dine well: there is bortsch not inferior to that once known at Gurin's, and a simple schnitzel that would have won the commendations of the eminent Sacher himself. There is good straight claret; there is genuine Tokay; there is a curious Dalmatian liqueur [Maraschino, perhaps?]. The garden is erudite [sic], remarkable in summer and winter alike. If you are lucky, you will find no similarly knowing colleague there; only an alien and abstracted savant from the academic deserts of Birmingham or Hull, come to meditate in solitude the remoter implications of the quartic curve, or a London novelist of the quieter and more prosperous sort, giving a lazy week to the ruinous correction of page-proofs. Only one disturbing presence there may be: that of undergraduates -- for undergraduates too, with a sad inevitability, have discovered this earthly paradise. But even undergraduates become more urbane, less restless, in the milieu of the Three Doves."

I offer an instant apology to a good and civilised friend who is a learned and much published scientist at Birmingham ...

Things I ask ...
(1) Gurin's ... I presume, a ***** Moscow, or Eastern European, eatery ... did such things survive into the Stalinist Thirties?
(2) Are there any friends of  'the eminent Sacher' in today's readership? ... I presume we are here in interbellum Vienna?
(3) Is this description of "The Three Doves" based on a real restaurant near Oxford? Or is it an Ovidian adunaton, or perhaps a Platonic idea?
(4) Pam and I used to drink Hock in the 1960s; we used to drink it out of special high glasses. Does anybody drink Hock nowadays? Would a sommelier even recognise the word? ('Bar staff' in modern pubs have no idea what 'stout porter' is).
(5) Any other apposite explanations you care to give ... except for the Quartic Curve, which sounds kinky.

5 September 2020

Dog Days

According to the 1552 BCP, the Dog Days end today (having begun on July 7; medieval calendars offered different dates). I wonder why Cranmer put them, and Zodiacal information, back into his Calendar, having left them out in 1549. Was he making a syncretistic journey from Zwinglianism to Astrology? Perhaps his Third Prayer Book would have included Pachamama, probably in the Commination.

The late Hesiod claimed that, during the Dog Days, women were miarotatai but men were hors de combat. D'you think Cranmer kept his wife padlocked in her box during the Dog Days?

Safe now for me to go out for a walk again, then, without risk of being indecently assaulted by the sisterhood.

(Incidentally, at the moment the sisterhood is terribly, most terribly, exercised about a Mr Abbot, from Oz, who has volunteered to help us strike trade deals with Johnny Foreigner. Whatever can he have done?)

4 September 2020

Only for the Biodiverse

Except for those exiled in the remotest corners of our former Empire, I'm sure everybody knows the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins Societatis Iesu about Oxford ...

Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmed, lark charmed, rook racked, river-rounded ... etc..

Apparently, there are now parakeets in the Parks (but we haven't heard a cuckoo this year).

There must be someone out there who would know how to incorporate parakeets into Fr Hopkins' verses.

I said parakeets, not Paracletes.

3 September 2020

New Format

There should be paragraph breaks in the piece I have just published. Sadly, the b*****s have, overnight, changed the format.It is now unclear to me how to do a lot of commonplace things.

Humour in Heaven

Today, naturally, we remember and pray for the Society of S Pius X, and the laypeople who associate with it.

Without desiring to detract or distract from these happy duties, I can't help observing that the Mass for today is marked by an oddity.

S Pius X is regarded as the Hammer of the Modernists. But his Mass, authorised by Pius XII after the canonisation, is marked by ... Modernism! Its psalm texts, from the Introit onwards, are taken, not from any of the old Latin versions of the psalms, but from a completely novel translation confected under Pius XII by a chum of his called Cardinal Bea. And, yes, I am writing about the Mass in the EF, 1962, Missal! The publication of this psalter caused horror among those competent in Christian Latin, because it totally abandonned that form of the Latin language, replacing it by a new translation of the psalms as they might have been if Marcus Tullius Cicero had translated them. This translation, together with the vandaliation of Holy Week, was the beginning of the ruin of the Roman Rite begun under Pius XII and his appointee Bugnini, and carried to completion in the years after Vatican II. (Happily, the Council buried the Bea translation.)

Fortunately, the Bea version of the psalms is now forgotten ... except that it has left a few marks upon the Missal. As it has today!

Modernism to celebrate the anti-modernist pope!

And here is another evidence of heavenly humour, which I originally posted in 2015, together with the relevant parts of its thread. I had recently cited a post of mine about canonisation containing the words "... [Sanctus Spiritus] qui omni tempore supremum Magisterium erroris expertem reddit ... "

"expertem", indeed! What a charming piece of humour, that a phrase claiming the exemption of the Papacy from error should be expressed with ... an elementary grammatical error!! Notice the delicate skill with which it is the very word bearing the sense of "exempt [from error]" which actually constitutes the grammatical howler!!!

Something like the delicious logic in the joke about the Cretan who so truly said that Cretans invariably lie?

2 September 2020

Archimandrite Taft and the Roman Rite

One recent comment seemed to me to suggest that my series on the genius of the Roman Rite, especially its Canon Missae, was a waste of time.

An exploration of the cultural and theological meaning of the Byzantine, or Chaldaean, or Syro-Malabar, rites and traditions might not, I suspect, have elicited such contempt.

It used to be a commonplace that 'Latinisation' of the Catholic Church's Eastern Rites was a Bad Thing. It most definitely was. Rites have their own sacred integrity. Entire jurisdictions of Eastern Catholics were driven by Latinisation out of the Unity of S Peter, particularly in North America. These were the heady days of Occidental imperial arrogance. Only Roman Catholics were real Catholics.

But now the boot ... an apt term ... may be on the other foot.

Particularly as commonly presented, and especially as a result of the de facto desuetude of the 'First Eucharistic Prayer', the worship of 'Latin Christendom' is no longer authentically Roman.

The late Archimandrite Robert Taft, of the Byzantine Rite, was a learned expositor of all things Byzantine, even venturing so far into a separated-Byzantine mindset as to question the legitimacy of the second-millennium Ecumenical Councils. But he did know his history.

Witness a paper of his which had as one of its aims to sweep away myths, including the common superstition among illiterate and superficial Western dabblers in Liturgy, that everything Eastern is more ancient, venerable, and authoritative than anything Western. Taft wrote:

"Here too of course one must avoid cliches and know what one is talking about. The decidedly Christological stamp of the old Roman Canon is a sign of great antiquity. This eucharistic prayer, obviously formulated before the impact of the late fourth century pneumatological resolution at Constantinople I (381 AD) reflects a primitive euchological theology much older than almost any extant eastern anaphora except Addai and Mari ... pace the common myth that everything Eastern is automatically older." ( Eastern Presuppositions and Western Liturgical Reforms.)

In an earlier paper, he wrote: "The old Roman Canon of the Mass has a weak pneumatology not because it is defective but because it is old, so old that it was composed before the divine personhood of the Holy Spirit became a problem to be resolved." (h/t to Steve Perisho)

Indeed. The Roman Canon expresses a very primitive theology involving only the Father and the Son, whereby the Eucharistic Elements are consecrated simply by being accepted by the Father ... not a hint here of any need for the Holy Spirit to be sent down upon the Elements like a bolt of sacerdotally-invoked divine lightning to transform them. This venerable Prayer is our Western heritage; and a very great disservice was done to us in the 1960s when, without the slightest hint of a mandate from the Council, a great crowd of alternative Eucharistic Prayers was thrust upon the Western Church, all containing Epikleses (requests for the Spirit to be sent in order to change the bread and wine into the Lord's Body and Blood). One of these prayers, the pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer II, because of its seductive brevity, has de facto superseded the Roman Canon in almost universal use, despite the fact that the GIRM makes clear that it was provided solely for optional use on weekdays.

The preoccupation among some academics with the 'problem' that the Roman Canon "lacks a theology of the Spirit" has, it seems to me, closed off some interesting lines of theological enquiry. For example: why is it that the Holy Spirit is absent from the NT narratives of the Last Supper and of the Passion and Resurrection (except possibly at John 19:30)? He is central to all the accounts of the Lord's Baptism; and in the teaching of S Paul and S John about Christian Initiation (we receive the sphragis marking us with the chrisma of the Spirit as a guarantee that we are God's). In the classical Roman Rite, there is no shyness about involving the Holy Spirit in the formulae for Confirmation and for the Consecration of the Chrism. Might there be an interesting theological reason why, in the NT and in the immemorially ancient Roman Rite, each of the Persons of the Holy Trinity is involved in Baptism/Confirmation, while the Supper and Passion involve solely the sacrificial movement of the Son to His Father?

The Classical Roman Rite might have unfolded fruitful truths to us, had its mouth not been stoppered by 'scholars' who preferred to be distracted by a different agenda and, above all, by an arrogant disdain for the Catholic and Roman Tradition.

1 September 2020

The "binitarian" genius of the Roman Tradition (5)

Liturgical addresses to the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Holy, Blessed, and Undivided Trinity, ar rare. My instinct is that the most extreme example I know ... a Eucharistic Prayer authorised by the Church of Ireland in which the Prayer is divided into three parts, each in turn assigned to one of the Persons ... should be categorised a liturgical corruption. Perhaps the only addresses to the Holy Ghost which are fairly central to the worship of our Latin Church are the daily hymn at Terce; and the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, sung at priestly ordinaions to accompany anointing.

I regard this balance as very sensible.

I certainly regard Montanism as a heresy; I am more than suspicious of such Pentecostalist movements as seduce Catholics into leaving the Ark of Salvation and undergoing a sacrilegious second 'baptism'.

Latin Catholics, and, I think, Byzantines, have not often had shrines, pilgrimages, in honour of the Holy Ghost ... He (Latin) It (Greek) She (Semitic) has never attracted a great deal of popular devotional regard. Sometimes Catholics feel guilty about this; sometimes they even wonder if they should remedy this lack; perhaps, take a leaf or two out of a Pentecostalist book. I do not agree; I think that the everyday liturgical and devotional lives of Latins and Byzantines are perfectly sound and balanced and  wholesome and healthy.

I suspect that the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church is completely and totally central, just as breathing and the circulation of the blood are central and natural to a human body. But it is natural for us to talk about the things we are enabled to do or have done because of our breath or our circulating blood, rather than to be preoccupied about those processes in themselves. Sometimes something  is  so central that it is unnatural to keep talking self-consciously about it. Analogies may also be discerned in the states of being-a-priest, and being-married. This is why, I suggest, in our Roman Canon, and in the Gloria in excelsis, the Holy Ghost is simply and naturally taken for granted, being only mentioned in the summary doxologies at the end.

I repent of facile essays I wrote as a seminarian in the 1960s, explaining how the apparent near-absence of the Spirit by Catholic and Anglican Liturgies at that time left them 'defective'! Dear me, how much we were brain-washed in that decade! How much more acutely critical we ought to have been in discriminating between babies and bath-water!

I did appreciate that new eucharistic prayers with epicletic appeals for the Spirit before the Institution Narrative were neither authentically Western nor authentically Eastern, and I noticed that the innovation had received no encouragement whatsoever from Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II, but it took me quite a time to come to appreciate the full force and implications of the archaic and powerful "Binitarianism" of the Roman Canon.

In a very humbly personal way, I see myself as an example of how heterodoxy, as so often, has led to a better understanding of orthodoxy!

As far as concerns the life of the Church, I was suspicious, in my Anglican days, of those who explained to us that 'the Spirit' was calling for the ordination of women to sacerdotal ministries. This has made me, after entry into full communion, equally suspicious of 'Bergoglianism' ... by which I mean, not so much the words and actions of PF himself (although these are not always above criticism) as the expressed views of his associates; who assure us that he is daily guided by the Holy Spirit; that his words may safely be taken as the utterances of the Spirit. My Anglican experiences have left me convinced that references to the Holy Spirit by those who promote innovations can easily be cheap and dishonest short-cuts, very much like those taken by impatient children who move their counters illegally when playing Snakes and Ladders.

I venture to propound a Prudential Principle: If someone keeps talking about the Holy Spirit, keep a critically open mind about his practical agenda.

As well as by the classical Roman Liturgy, I am strengthened by the beautifully laconic words of Vatican I ... so sharply expressed, almost as if those admirable Fathers foreknew Bergoglianism and even PF himself!

"The Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter so that by his revelation they could make new doctrines known, but so that by His help, they should devoutly guard and faithfully expound the revelation handed down by the apostles: the Deposit of Faith."