2 March 2021
After a few years of this, a particular and most objectionable mistranslation became standard. The convention by which the Sovereign Pontiff referred to himself as "We" was abandoned; instead, he became "I". I must make clear that this did not represent a change in the Latin originals. In them, the Pontiff remained "Nos".
Does this matter? After all, a chap or chappess nowadays does not commonly call himself or herself "We" unless they happen to be Lady Thatcher. "We" sounds old fashioned. A translation should be in modern English. Yes?
It matters a very great deal. "We" implies that the speaker or writer is not an individual expressing personal views. "We" means that the speaker is, if not a corporate being, then at least a formal being within a formal corporate structure. "We" means that the pope is acting as Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, as the Church's foremost Teacher; the text concerned has, in down-to-earth terms, been across the desks of the relevant Roman Dicasteries and been checked for error; put more formally, it expresses the settled and authentic Magisterium of the Church throughout the ages and of the world-wide Episcopate of the present. It does not come to us as the bright ideas of a clever chap; as S John Henry reminded us, originality and brilliance are not historically the charism of the venerable Roman Church.
In the Bull defining the Dogma of the Bodily Assumption of our Lady, we have, at the end, the signature of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. But there follow the signatures of a majority of the Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Presbyters, and Cardinal Deacons ... the clerus Romanus. This appropriately expresses the fact that the Pope did not make that teaching as an individual; he made it out of his unique position upon his cathedra within the corporate structure of the Church of Rome.
I suspect that "We" goes back very far indeed. It is certainly a convention found in the homilies of S Leo and S Gregory. But more: the Bishop of Rome is not the Church's only Teacher; every bishop has a Magisterial charism. And if you look back into the old Pontificals ... for example, at the Rites of Ordination ... you will find that the Pontiff is "We". The Anglican rites of Ordination continued this convention (except, strangely, in the Interrogatio of a consecrandus).
If a polyglot Roman document fails to make clear which version of it is authentic, it thereby gravely impairs its authority. I also believe that a Papal document in which the Pope is "I" rather than "We" has a considerable Magisterial deficit.
1 March 2021
... for your Christmas cards!! As it is now a fortnight since (what I assume to be) the last (American) card arrived, delayed, doubtless, by Covid, my conjecture is that Christmas is over! Thank you all very much indeed. May God bless you and keep you.
Together with the cards, came the best calendar you will find anywhere: the Calendar frrom the Redemptorist community on Papa Stronsay. It hangs in my study and does duty as a Quick Ordo ... one sweep of the eye tells you all about the current month. And the Community also produces a quarterly "Newspaper" called Catholic. Did you know ... I didn't ... that the Forma Authentica of the Roman Rite had returned to Jamaica ... that the Syro-Malabars now have one of Rome's oldest basilicas for their use ... or that one of the Spanish Civil War martyrs had the surname Diggle ....
The goodies are almost endless.
One story relates to a wooden church, 'the Little Ark', made by Irish Catholics in 1852. There was low-level local persecution in that area still going on; so the 'Ark' was constructed so that, at low tide, it could be rolled out on the sea shore (which, being terra nullius, could not be forbidden as a place for Holy Mass).
This stimulated two wild hypotheses in my mind: (1) I bet this is the sort of thing the previous generations had done for Mass: I don't really believe that the priest during the penal period saying Mass at a Mass Stone on top of a hillock really had to do so with no cover against the Irish wearther.
(2) Those Holy Houses at Walsingham and Glastonbury and other places: I wonder if they were originally tiny wooden Oratories like the wooden or 'turf' oratories uncovered by archaeologists at early Irish monastic sites. A little wooden chapel built dating from 500ish or earlier would already have been massively venerable when Norman founders and builders started constructing their great and grandiose Abbeys five hundred years later ... what would be more natural than that the little Oratory, encrusted with years, love and legends, should be housed in an annex ... as the Kilbaha atoratory now is.
You can get the Calendar and the Newspaer from
Golgotha Monastery Island
Post Scriptum: the Artwork on the front of Catholic deftly conceals the armorial device of the current Roman Pontiff ... see if you can find it!!
28 February 2021
The church of S Nicolas of Tolentino in the Diocese of Clifton hit the news with its LBGT mass a few weeks ago (see blog October 15). Watching the video, I had a resurgence of a feeling I have expressed before. Who actually wants the "Ordinary Form" of the Roman Rite?
In things big and small, the Tolentino Liturgy exemplified the disturbing fact that ... nobody wants it. The celebrant wore no chasuble, but a curiously drab stole with a tassle at the back. He didn't ever genuflect. OK; perhaps he is too old and weak to genuflect. Perhaps his church is too impoverished to afford a chasuble. But he also inserted a Creed on a weekday; a Creed, moreover, bearing no resemblance to any Creed the Church has ever authorised. The celebrant apparently performed the Fraction during the Institution Narrative, as if that Narrative were some sort of enactment of the Last Supper.
And I didn't actually watch the entire rite; I just flicked quickly through. But I saw enough to make clear that ... endless 'creativity' was the order of the day.
Earlier in the story of our Ordinariate, a distinguished lecturer told us that 'disobedience' was a part of the 'Anglican Patrimony' we needn't bring with us. The point (with its implied rebuke) was a fair one. But it fitted ill with the experiences which many formerly Anglican clergy were having at just that point.
As the newly 'resprayed' Anglican clergy spread out into Catholic parish life in the 'mainstream' Catholic Church, there was genuine amazement at the degree of liturgical disorder and rank disobedience which so widely prevailed among 'mainstream' clergy. Particularly, the incessant rewording of 'authorised' texts. So one continually got (even on Sundays) the pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer ... bad enough in itself ... in a form 'made more relevant' by Father. Clericalism galore! And there was the dreadful and heterodox music ... about which the bishops of the US have recently written a very telling and intelligent Letter.
There are indeed some churches where these condemnations of the Novus Ordo would be unfair; but they are largely churches where the clergy would prefer to be saying the Old Mass but for 'pastoral' reasons are unable to do so; they therefore say the new rite with greater or lesser amounts of the spirit and spirituality of the old.
As far as the Calendar is concerned, I wrote recently about a Scottish bishop for whom what is really exciting seems to be a succession of secular celebrations which, if they are not syncretistic, at least gesture more towards a didactic syncretism than towards the Truth that is in Christ alone.
Any re-appraisal of the liturgical situation in the Latin Church should begin with an honest acceptance that nobody ... almost absolutely nobody ... whether Traddy or Trendy ... actually wants the Novus Ordo ... either its Order or its Calendar..
On both sides, it is disliked, or regarded as of little relevance, and, very widely, largely set aside.
Much the same seems to be true of the current Roman Pontiff.
Bobby Mickens recently wrote: " ... it's not clear what Francis actually does want. And not just on his birthday, but on many things. ... Oh, he's written and said a lot. An awful lot. But that doesn't mean he always reveals what he's really thinking. And, at times, he says things that are hard to square with things he has said and done at oher times. In a word, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is somewhat of an enigma. He rails against clericalism, yet he can also be as clerical as anyone."
27 February 2021
Not long ago, the Internet contained some (hilarious) accounts of reactions in the American Catholic Church to liturgical reforms introduced by wise young incoming clergy in their new parish churches. Perhaps some of us aged ex-Anglicans can lend a helping hand here.
When we were "Catholic Anglicans", we had something like a century's experience of introducing what we used then to call "the Western Rite", i.e. the 'Tridentine' liturgy associated with the name of S Pius V, into parishes which had not previously known it. Quite often this was done overnight; as an interregnum came to its end, the newly instituted incumbent sprang (what Pope Benedict was later to name) the Extraordinary Form on the parish on his very first Sunday morning. I have previously shared with you Fr Bernard Walke's moving account of how he did this at S Hilary's in Cornwall.
His friend Fr Sandys Wason did likewise at nearby Cury and Gunwalloe (where he was incumbent 1905-1919). Fr Wason's bishop heard that some of the congregation were restive. (Wason had also sacked a 'gentry' Churchwarden and appointed in his place a villager; and had expressed from the pulpit his view of the Ordo Recentior by holding aloft a Book of Common Prayer, and affecting to look inside it before throwing it down to the ground with the words "Made in Germany!") So the bishop let it be known that he was coming over on the next Sunday to officiate in the church and to Sort Things Out. Probably conjecturing that his Lordship might not be intending to use a rite that included the Third Confiteor, Father saw to it that he was already well into his own Tridentine Missa Cantata by the time the right reverend prelate's conveyance rolled up at the church. The latter announced to the large crowds of gaping sightseers (who had come to watch the 'fun'), that he would await the end of the Vicar's Service, and then celebrate the Holy Communion.
The Bishop underestimated both the stamina of the Anglo-Catholic clergy and laity ... and their appetite for Marian devotion. Immediately after Mass, with no greater interruption than the (essential) removal of his maniple, Fr Wason began Solemn Rosary ... not one of those rapid Irish Rosaries with the laity racing into the Holy Mary before the priest has even got to the fruit of thy womb, but a slow, meditative, Anglican Rosary in which, at the end of each Mystery, Father preached about it generously and extensively, allowing no typological crumb to fall unexamined to the Patrimonial ground. Eventually the Pontiff, almost fainting because he had not had a bite of lunch, gave up and was driven back to his Palace at Lys Escop. When Fr Wason - after delivering what may have been the most exhaustive treatise on the Coronation of our Lady in the history of Christian homiletics - finally emerged into the setting sun, he dismissed the waiting mob of journalists with a vigorous wave of his hand and the information that, since he was of course still fasting, he was off to have his breakfast. (I fear I have no detailed information about his bladder, but analogy suggests ... er ... .)
Wason's Cornish critics did score some points against him, most notably when they dumped the putrescent corpse of a donkey on the Vicarage doorstep. There were times when West Country humour may, like dead donkeys, have had its slightly heavy side.
Happy days, that blessed era of the Walkes and the Wasons, the glittering Age of Confessors when 'Faith was taught and fanned to a golden blaze'.
So that's how it can be done! Go for it, Fathers!!
26 February 2021
Mr Cheesemeadow the Architect paid his first visit to Barchester during the episcopate of Bishop Deadletter. The West front of the Cathedral had long been crumbling; and the chapter, instead of being content to reface it, had the whole front rebuilt by Mr Cheesemeadow, whose name then stood high in public estimation. As Mgr Knox goes on, "I am glad to say that Mr Cheesemeadow built in stone; but he chose for his purpose a dull, yellowish stone which took a great deal of polish when dressed, and the result was a a very shiny and monotonous surface. Nor have subsequent generations been able to discover the meaning or the usefulness of the two large peppercorns (as they are generally called) with which he decorated the corner towers. Meanwhile, he failed to discover the beginnings of that settlement in the foundations of the building, which called for such expensive underpinning when Dean Plumbline had to deal with it at the beginning of the [twentieth] century."
Cheesemeadow appears again in Knox's Barchester Pilgrimage as the architect of a house built for Ludovic Lufton at Lufton. The great architect built in the manner of the time; "that is to say, it was large, draughty, and uncomfortable within, and as ugly outside as red, blue, and yellow bricks could make it. A stranger, confronted for the first time with its appearance, is led to suppose that a Norman baron must have employed a fifteenth century Venetian architect to build it."
I fully understand the sentiment. How often, dear reader ... please Own Up ... as you have strolled, uxorious, across the Parks to fetch her tea for your wife during a break in the cricket, have you raised your eyes to Keble Chapel ... and then as hurriedly looked away again? Yes, you are aware that Butterfield himself described all that riotous polychromy as "gay", but you also recall that Sir John Summerson, no mean architectural critic, acidly remarked upon Butterfield's "sadistic hatred of beauty".
Since Butterfield did very little Country House work, I wonder where on earth Knox was able to experience the draughty discomfort to which he alludes with ... apparently ... such feeling.
Inigo Jones, incidentally, no fool, did not scruple to bung a deft and chaste Palladian West Front onto Gothic S Paul's in London. "Unity by Inclusion", as Sir Ninian Comper might have said.
I think perhaps he did.
25 February 2021
Well, we all know what happened in the twentieth century. Divorce got its toe in the door ... and within decades the door was wide open. Unnatural and disordered sexual practices corrupted Marriage. Fornication gradually ceased to be furtive and, after being 'Free love' in the 1930s, had by the end of the century become the natural assumption of Western societies. Homosexuals ... no; some homosexuals ... ceased to enjoy inhabiting an amusing subculture and became aggressive public ideologues. The mortal sin of missing Mass without good cause ceased to be a matter of guilt. You know all this, and much more.
My analysis, and suggestion, is this. Society has in effect regressed to the superficially christianised state it was in during the 'Dark Ages'. We are, in other words, in a new Dark Age of widespread unrepented mortal sin. In fact, ours is an even darker age, because people do not even accept that they are in a state of sin, and do not repent, not even once a year. Nor, probably, even when they die.
Unhappily, however, we have inherited the ecclesial sacramental culture, to which the reforms of S Pius X have led, in which it appears that a General Communion is the normal custom at every Mass. It is not commonly preceded by Confession; that sacrament has become so uncommon that, at the beginning of the Year of Faith, I heard (yes, I heard this with my own ears) one priest in a mainstream church, say this to his congregation: "I have decided to use the Year of Faith to revive confession. As you all know, in this church we have for long used the Confessional for storing what gets left unsold after a Parish bring and buy sale. It's pretty full, and we need to get rid of all the stuff so as to use the Confessional for confessions again. There are a lot of books ... I invite everyone to come and help themselves to any thing at all they can take away and use; and then we'll have a Work Party to clean it out."
So people who have not been to their duties for years receive Communion when, at family events, they have the rare experience of being at a celebration of Mass. People who have committed sexual sins for which they feel no repentance, which they have no intention to strive to avoid in future, naturally troop up to the Altar and receive Communion. As a product myself of Anglican culture, I am still horrified by the widespread Catholic custom of receiving communion into the hand and then walking nonchalantly away putting the Host into ones mouth as one walks.
The way ahead? Getting rid of the assumption that everybody always receves Communion. And a good start here would be the rooting out of an organised, military, Communion Procession in which a person actually has to make herself obvious if she declines to troop up to the altar.
Yes; only a first step; but some step has to be the first.
24 February 2021
This appeared exactly ten years ago, as people sorted out whether they were going to join Pope Ratzinger's Ordinariate, or to stay in the House of Bondage ... I reprint it for those who enjoy period pieces!
It is becoming apparent that very many 'extreme' clerics with yards of lace on their albs who, everybody assumed, would be certain to be "going", have, apparently, discovered fantastically good reasons for "staying". The clergy who are "going" seem largely to be very 'Church of England men' ... the sort who, a decade ago, would never in a month of Sundays have 'poped'; priests soaked in the ethos of the life and spirituality of the real Church of England; priests, very often, who were known to have theological problems about the Ordination of Women but whose own personal and professional relationships with women priests were so warm and friendly that their friends sometimes wondered whether Fr X or Archdeacon Y really was totally 'sound'. It is what you might call the Grantleys rather than the Arabins who now who sidle up to you and shyly, proudly, tell you that their dossiers have come back from the CDF marked with a great big tick*.
Something similar seems to be true with regard to the laity. The sort of precious lay persons who are always dashing around the country to ritualistic extravaganzas; who never miss an opportunity of telling you how much they loath women priests ... brother priests will know what an embarrassment these people are ... and who go on and on about what an important Principled Stand they love to make by walking out of services which have women clergy in them ... these types seem to be remaining in the C of E; it is solid, sensible, sober, men and women, apparently, who will be making up the Ordinariate congregations.
Bad news, I fear, for those Anglicans who secretly welcomed Professor Ratzinger's initiative because they hoped it would "clean out the Church of England"!
Ho Ho Ho. All rather jolly, really.
*Since I drafted this piece, I have received in this morning's post a letter from a brother priest, quite senior among the 'leadership in the catholic movement', who writes about the departure of "Brethren whom I clearly remember only a couple of years ago declaring that they could never deny their Anglican heritage and orders; similarly, among the 'stayers' are those who would I thought have been off at the start."
23 February 2021
But the counter-Reformation implied a clericate different from the medieval priesthood in which a man who could read but had no training could turn up at the Embertide and be ordained (the old system which, like so many of the medieval abuses, survived in the Church of England long after the Catholic Church had moved on). The introduction of seminaries meant a much more professionalised priesthood with an expectation that they would have a more professional attitude to the formation of their laity.
By the time of S Pius X, things were ripe for a new Catholicism in which frequent Confession and frequent Communion could be encouraged. The Dark Ages had finally come to an end. Their ritual marks remained; Communion from the tabernacle rather than within Mass was still common in Oxford Anglo-Catholicism when I was an undergraduate in the 1960s; in both East and West the Body of Christ was not delivered into the hands of the laity; neither was the Chalice delivered into the hands of the laity. Both of these were practices which developed in the 'Dark Ages' out of fear of profanation or sacrilege. But, with a more trained and 'sacramentalised' laity, the situation had become ripe for change.
Dv, to be continued.
22 February 2021
Somebody has told me that the First Vatican Council taught that "If the pope, as a private person, encourages heresy, the Apostolic See would be vacant, and then we must not innovate anything, but stick to what has been handed down."
I do not know where, in the Conciliar Acta, this occurs. Can anybody help me?
In the CTS Daily Missal, where one might expect a heading "COMMUNION", there is instead the heading "COMMUNION PROCESSION"; "Communion" has, functionally, become adjectival. Syntactically, this rather teutonic agglutinisation of nouns is a phenomenon which has become very common, and is often found in newspaper headings. "Football Manager" "Rape Victim" "Crash Survivor". Is there any justification in the Ordo Missae itself for this particular insertion? It seems to me strange that emphasis should thus be taken off the centrality of the act of Holy Communion and the weight made to rest upon the act of processing.
But there is reference to the Communion Procession in the IGMR. In its original 1969 version it read (56 (i) "... cantus ad Communionem, cuius est ... processionem ad Corpus Christi suscipiendum magis fraternam reddere." In 2001, this became " ... cantus ad Communionem, cuius est ... indolem 'communitariam' processionis ad Eucharistiam suscipiendam magis in lucem ponere." This is undoubtedly a strengthening of the idea. As for the idea itself, I can't see much in Jungmann's Volume II to support it.
The propriety of this development seems to me to arise from the process of frequent communion encouraged by S Pius X, and so accentuated since the middle years of the last century that it became what we Anglicans used to call a "A General Communion". I want to suggest that the impetus given to this by the Holy Pontiff needs to be seen in a particular historical context.
It was in the nineteenth century that Catholicism in many countries was reformed very radically in its social manifestations. Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, presided over a revolution which eliminated the centuries-old peasant Catholicism of Irish culture (elements of which I strongly suspect go back to the sixth century) and finally imposed the discipline ... I nearly wrote 'military discipline' ... of the Counter-Reformation. In particular, out went the 'patterns', the old Patronal Festivals, which although cultic were occasions of every known kind of debauchery. The old Catholicism, in which one went to confession before Easter so as to be in a state of Grace and 'fit' to receive at Easter the Holy Communion which most people did not receive during the rest of the year, was laudably replaced by a new Catholicism in which the clergy were encouraged to strive to ensure that their people were normally, and not just for a few days each spring, in a state of Grace.
I suspect that a connection could be found between this and the general increase in disapproval of adultery, and other sexual sins, in both Protestant and Catholic contexts. As late as the seventeenth century royal courts, nobody failed to believe that adultery was a mortal sin. But equally, it was a cultural assumption that Kings did commit that mortal sin of adultery and even had mistresses en titre, right down - in France - to the accession of the saintly Louis XVI; and acknowledged and ennobled their bastards. I read somewhere of an uxorious German prince who maintained mistresses he didn't sleep with because princely status required it! In England, that culture lasted until William IV in the 1830s; the eldest of his bastards by Dorothy Bland, of Parknasilla in Co Kerry (where Pam and her sons and sons-in-law used to play golf in just about the most scenic 12 hole hotel course there must be anywhere) was made Earl of Munster ... but nota bene ... only the eldest son and only an earl. By the end of the same century it had become unthinkable that Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, certainly one of the hundred most unedifying lechers known to history, should acknowledge and ennoble bastards.
Things had changed.
Dv, to continue.
21 February 2021
(1) "There are girls so cold-looking, pretty girls, too, ladylike, discreet, and armed with all accomplishments, whom to attack seems to require the same sort of preparation as a journey in quest of the north-west passage. One thinks of a pedestal near the Athenaeum as the most appropriate and most honourable reward of such courage. But, again, there are other girls to abstain from attacking whom is, to a man of any warmth of temperament, quite impossible. They are like water when one is athirst, like plovers' eggs in March, like cigars when one is out in autumn. No one ever dreams of denying himself when such temptation comes in the way. ... Phineas was not allowed to thirst in vain for a drop from the cool spring." (1869)
(2) "Sebastian lived in Christ Church, high in Meadow Buildings. He was alone when I came, peeling a plover's egg taken from the large nest of moss in the centre of his table.
"'I've just counted them,' he said. 'There were five each and two over, so I'm having the two. ...
"The party assembled. There were three Etonian [a large school near Slough] freshmen ... Each as he came in made first for the plovers' eggs ...'The first this year, they said. 'Where do you get them?'
"'Mummy sends them from Brideshead. They always lay early for her.'" (1945; the narrative is describing a February day.)
Having consulted Cocker and Mabey Birds Britannica s.v. Lapwing, I am confident that the 'plovers' were lapwings. See there for the evidence.
Sadly, this simple commodity is (like foie gras) no longer on the Waitrose list (memo try Fortnum's). A shame, because such watery fowl ... and their eggs ... might have counted as Fish. There is an Irish witticism to the effect that gannets used to be allowed in Ireland as Lenten fare, since their diet was exclusively piscine (I have always suspected that this is a joke kept up their sleeves by the Irish wherewith to gull gullible [geddit?] Englishmen like me).
BTW: I remember, I think in Maria Edgeworth, reading of a fowl called the 'Irish Ortolan'. Does anybody know what that was?
20 February 2021
(1) A nice up-to-the-moment bit from S Bede in today's Office: " ... the boat was in the middle of the sea ... because quite often the Church ... is not only afflicted but also befouled (foedata), so that, if it were possible, her Redeemer would seem completely to have deserted her for a time ... but He does not ... turn away His face, but rather helps those who are fighting with enemies so that they conquer, and crowns them for ever as Victors". [This sort of boat-typology goes back beyond Horace (Odes I 14) to Alcaeus of Lesbos.]
(2) I was very glad to read the news that Mother Miriam, and her sisters of the Daughters of Mary the Mother of Israel's Hope, have at last found a kind and pastoral Bishop (vide Lifesitenews).
I met Mother when she came, a few years ago, to the LMS Latin Summer School which I run. Readers will understand how important it is that Jewish people are enabled to hear the Good News, and what wonderful tidings it is (and a magnificent Eschatological Sign) when they are gathered into the One Fold of the Redeemer.
There are, of course, well-meaning but profoundly misguided folk who regard it as an "offence to Judaism" to welcome Jews into the Universal Gathering (ekklesia; synagoge) of Jesus the Jew.
I can only say that I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of such builders of barricades when or if they meet S Paul! I wonder if that exquisitely fierce Jewish wordsmith is occasionally allowed to stroll around Purgatory, in righteous anger tearing strips off antisemites who have tried to erect barriers againt the entry of Jewish people into the Land of Milk and Honey. I do hope so!!
(3) I know I need not nag readers to continue to pray for the great Fr Zed. It is probably also our duty to pray for those who are giving him grief, that they may receive God's gift of metanoia. These people, also, raise exactly the same pressing problem of over-population in Purgatory.
(4) What fun to read the new legal arragements for the Catholic church in China, as published by the Chinese Government. Bishops are to be elected by their diocese and confirmed by the "Conference". Nil de Romano Pontifice. Of course, the elegant legal enactments of dictatorships usually have little bearing upon the actual bully-boy behaviour of powerful or petty tyrants on the ground ... but it is interesting that the Vatican appears to have gone along with this. (I don't feel that the Ostpolitik chappies in Rome will be able, indefinitely, to keep their agreement with Peking under wraps.) Given this relaxed and chummy approach, could anyone consistently forbid the SSPX to consecrate new bishops sine mandato apostolico? Sauce, ganders, goose!!
That a Bishop should be elected locally does have a certain attractiveness to it. It would stymie the dreary phenomenon of an 'episcopal class' of Rising Career Clerics who start as Westminster Auxiliaries and then take a diocese and then take a Metropolitan See and then keep their fingers crossed for Westminster. Translation, according to Tradition, is Adultery! Of course, there would be disadvantages at the moment in letting diocesan presbyterates, still full of nice old gentlemen who were 'formed' in some very suspect decades, anywhere near the selection of Bishops. But, in principle, I find the old idea of the Bishop being the 'Man of his Church', rather than a blow-in, rather attractive.
The current Archbishop of Southwark has written recently about the symbolism of the fact that his cathedra is directly above the crypt where his predecessors are buried. A bishop, as the Man of his own Particular Church, should be aware, every time he sits on his cathedra, of his obligation to hand on, complete, intact, and unadulterated, the Taught Faith of the Universal Church which he received from the local series episcoporum of which he is but the most recent member.
19 February 2021
A little while ago, I referred to the revision of the rules of a North American Parliament. I made mention of a Ms Pelosi, for which mention one reader rebuked me strongly. So I will not refer to silliness in this present piece.
The theft of our birthright, aka the deformation of the English lanuage, has now spread to this Kingdom ... if Brighton and Hove is truly part of the Kingdom of England. If there is a Kingdom of England.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust Maternity Services Department is leading the way.
Oops ... "Perinatal Services". We speak of a wokeish Department where they have "human milk" "Breast/chestmilk" "milk from the feeding mother or parent". And where "woman" becomes "woman or person"; "Father" becomes "parent, co-parent or second biological parent".
I feel that bit diminished by the fact that that my own life came just that weeny bit too early for me to hear five little voices at family bed-time squealing "Second biological parent, can you read us another chapter of Narnia?"
The story in The Times rather archly commented "An estimated 1 per cent of the adult population in Britain identifies as transgender or non-binary but the trans population in Brighton and Hove is understood to be larger".
"Understood to be." I really do like that. Nice one. It deserves to be added permanently to our armoury of twee and evasive circumlocutions.
I also recently mentioned that I had firmly refused to enable a thoroughly deplorable comment describing Ms Pelosi as a monstrous old hag. I am, indeed, prepared to go to any lengths necessary to train readers to avoid dittography. It would, I presume, have been within the current rules of engagement if the disgraceful person who offered me those out-of-order words had instead written ... Pelosi, who is understood to be a ... et cetera.
18 February 2021
Nice spring weather, so ... utilising the Period of Daily Exercise currently still allowed to us by the Bojarch ... I strolled down after Mass to the Isis. I can assure worried presbyters of the diocese of Westminster that the trim little craft called Vinny Boy is still safely tethered to the bank just North of Sandford Lock, only a few feet from Nirvana.
Then back home to read my emails ... where there was a piece from the admirable Lifesitenews about important Roman Conferences between Catholics and Moslems regarding "Mary".
Personally, the Mary I have most interest in is the one called Theotokos. Will she feature?
Next ... an item there which I don't really understand about the Australian Ordinariate and money and the future. Money is a mystery to me (I leave such matters to Pam), but one possibly helpful suggestion occurs to me. Has the Southern Cross considered a coabitazione with the Oz province of the SSPX?
My own acquaintance with that Society has been universally favourable. Its clergy seem friendly and sensible, the sort of devout yet down-to-earth brother priests with whom it would be a pleasure to do business. And, of course, the faith-history of the SSPX ... and that of ex-Anglicans in the Ordinariates ... are in many ways rather similar. Heresy, after all, when everything is said and done, is Heresy. (Is there, somewhere on the Internet, a video of a full solemn Divine Worship Mass ... Judica me Deus down to the Last Gospel ... which SSPXers could peep at to assure themselves of our respectability?)
Given the dislike of Tradition demonstrated recently in a questionnaire by the French Bishops, it seems rather providential that the SSPX has sturdily kept its independance. Who knows what need the Universal Church may have of the Society in the sunlit years to come. From the constraints of canonical structures, Good Lord, deliver them!
And (I can't remember what my train of thought was here) has anybody heard recently anything about the Franciscans of the Immaculate? Have those masterful chappies in the Congregation for Despoiling Religious sorted them out yet? What a long time it's taking to rectify what was wrong ... those FIs must have been most terribly wicked!!
Or is it that their Trustees are still refusing to hand over the money and the property? Even wickeder!!! Definitely not in the Spirit of the Council!!!!
17 February 2021
Just a couple of footnotes. (1) My Byzantine Synekdemos reminds me that, on the Sunday of Cheesefast - the Sunday before Lent begins - Orthodoxy reads, at Evensong (i.e. on the preceding Saturday evening) about the creation of Adam; his Fall when he ate of the forbidden Fruit; and his expulsion from Paradise. In the tradition from which I come, however Papalist we were, we always had a deep-rooted affection for Orthodoxy (example: Fr Henry Fynes Clinton), a profound desire for unity with our Orthodox brethren, and a bit of a feeling that when something is common to both Eastern and Western traditions, its status in some funny sort of way is even more enhanced. So it is, to folks like me, very significant that Byzantium prepares for Lent, as everybody in the West did until the 1960s, with a solemn liturgical recollection of the Fall. And even sadder that in those same 1960s those wretched liturgical tinkerers robbed the main-stream Latin Church of this Ancient Common Tradition.
(2) Almost next to my Synekdemos on my bookshelf is my 1845 (Hanicq) Pontificale Romanum. Idly wasting the lazy moment, I just happen to notice that, on Ash Wednesday, the Pontiff expels the Penitents from Church and warns them not to darken its doors again until Maundy Thursday. The (barefoot) penitents were to be garbed in sackcloth and ashes; the penitential psalms and the Litany were to be sung and then the Pontiff was to say: "Look! You are chucked out today from the thresholds of Holy Mother Church on account of your sins, just as [YES! HERE IT COMES!] ADAM THE FIRST MAN WAS EJECTED FROM PARADISE ON ACCOUNT OF HIS TRANSGRESSION." Then the choir were to sing a couple of very moving anthems: "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread ... etc. etc.."
16 February 2021
Really devoted readers may recall that, some months ago, I tentatively floated my theory that, since PF seemed to have gone a bit easier on his abuse and obscenity, perhaps somebody he respected had suggested to him that these things did his cause more harm than good. It seemed to me, in turn, appropriate to go easier on PF. Perhaps you have noticed ...
Sadly, I seem to have been wrong. PF has again attacked traditionalist Catholics, apparently considering them a phenomenon parallel to extremist Islam (when did traddies last blow up a concert audience?).
And he has reverted to calling journalists whom he dislikes "Shit-lovers" and "Shit-eaters".
Frankly, I do not believe that this is how a Roman Pontiff should address the world. Or even a junior curate his parish.
Surely, there must be senior lay Catholics ... and I am not referring only to traddies ... who find this sort of thing as distasteful or even possibly deranged as I do. Do they ever drop a tactful private word to Cardinals they know? Do concerned Cardinals ever confidentially pick the brains of trustworthy psychiatrists? Behind the scenes, is anybody trying to put together a seemly and becoming way of bringing this pontificate to a tidy conclusion?
(I drafted this piece some time ago, and have left it for my reconsideration before publishing it. I shall not enable any comments.)
15 February 2021
Some time ago, a "senior Church of England official " commented on the the likelihood that the C of E might split as a result of the renewed 'dialogue' about sexual matters such as pseudogamy. He/She said:
"If the Church of England does split, it will be 'Winner Takes All', because it is an Established Church, and everything belongs to the controlling party, which is at present solidly revisionist. There is no basis for going to law to try to obtain a division of the assets, either the church buildings or the financial assets. The 'losing' part, like the Wesley's, will have to leave without any of the patrimony which morally belongs to them."
The official may have been senior, but (s)he failed to remember that there is a much more recent example of 'losers' having to leave without anything. A decade ago, when the Ordinariate was set up, the bishops of the C of E had a meeting which decided, not only that no property would be given to us, but that no amicable arrangements would be allowed whereby exiting Anglicans could continue to share buildings with remaining Anglicans. I believe a similar policy was made to apply to the Wantage Sisters; and that members of another women's community were told, on departing for the Ordinariate, to return the religious habits they were standing up in ... without delay.
As Canon Garry Bennett's Crockford's Preface a generation ago made clear, there is now no cement binding the C of E together: neither liturgical nor doctrinal nor even cultural. He might have added that the one thing which does really animate Anglican bishops is their pathetic fear that they might lose some milligram of their 'jurisdiction'. The ghetto now occupied by the High Church Society of Ss Wilfrid and Hilda would probabably not have been conceded if, at that time, the bishops had not just been given a salutary shock by the erection of the Ordinariate.
One bishop was quoted as declaring that he would rather have a church of his bull-dozed down than let it go to the Ordinariate.
The culture was such that they had refused to sell a church to the SSPX ... better, by far, to sell it to the Moslems ...
Back in the 1990s, they had tried to persuade Basil Hume to force converting Anglican clergy to renounce their pensions. Yes ... I was at the meeting where he revealed this.
They were, collectively, a nasty as well as a pretty shoddy lot.
14 February 2021
If you look carefully at Quinquagesima's BCP/EF Epistle and Gospel (Luke 18:31-43), you may notice that the link between them is the idea of being made able to See. Then, if you turn to the Homily by S Gregory which provides an extract for the third nocturn in the Old Breviary, you will discover that this is exactly what the saint leads us to expect. (Migne, 76, columns 1081 and following; incidentally, as on the preceding two Sundays, the manuscripts tell us that this was preached to the people in the Stational Church - S Peter in Vaticano - on the Sunday we are examining. I will endeavour to amuse you by translating some of S Gregory's little Latin 'fillers' by means of our popular modern 'fillers'.)
"Now look (Ecce enim): who the Blind Man was according to History, we just don't know. But, y'know (tamen) what he signifies through a mystery, we do know. Y'see, (quippe) the Human Race is Blind, and it was chucked out in its First Parent from the joys of Paradise and it is ignorant of the brightness of heavenly light and it suffers the darkness of its own damnation. But, y'know (tamen) it's given a great dose of light through the presence of its Redeemer ...". S Gregory goes on to argue that, as the Blind Man asked for mercy, we have to keep doing that because memories of our sins keep returning and their phantasmata are hardly (vix) overcome by the laments of penitence. He insists that we recall our sins and consider what a terrible Judge is coming to punish; and, the Sunday before the start of Lent, he advises us that our life should have a temporary patch of being made nasty and bitter through penitence so that it doesn't have to endure everlasting bitterness in punishment (vita nostra ad tempus amarescat in paenitentia ne aeternam amaritudinem sentiat in vindicta). "Per fletus, y'see, ad aeterna gaudia ducimur", he adds.
On Quinquagesima Sunday we reach, as we read Genesis in the Breviary, what S Gregory called a couple of Sundays ago the 'Sixth Hour'; the period from Abra(ha)m onwards. Abram has arrived in Egypt; it turns out that his wife Sarai (the Old Testament has a liking for such stories about the weakness Gentile males have for Hebrew beauties) is exactly the sort of product that the Egyptian consumer warmly appreciates - and Pharaoh discovers that he can just about find room for her in his menage. So, of course, YHWH flagellavit Pharaoh plagis maximis together with - it goes without saying - his entire household. As the Old Testament, and the natural disasters of our own age, endlessly remind us, suffering is to a large degree a corporate matter.
Hence, in this Age of the Individual, so much bewilderment about the way the world works; leading to the sort of questions about God's Way with Man by which so many fewer people in previous eras seem to have been worried (but see Luke 13 and read Jonah). But I hope by now I have made clear my own approach to those tedious questions about Theodicy which so worry Modern Man and so tax the ingenuity of those Modern Clergy who feel obliged to answer Modern Man's questions without querying Modern Man's assumptions.
13 February 2021
Careful readers will notice that this piece contains an Elephant Trap; in previous years, it has generally caught at least one unsuspecting victim, despite being accompanied by a very obvious Trigger Warning. Who'll be first this year?
Festum Ovorum, the Feast Of Eggs, is how they describe today, the Saturday before Lent, year by year in the Oxford University Diary, despite the fact that for some centuries only the occasional Oxford eccentric has even thought of celebrating this entertainingly named day.
The origin and purpose of Festum Ovorum is pretty certainly exactly what each one of you will have guessed from first principles: as on Mardi Gras, to have a binge before Lent. It has stayed on the University Calendar since the Middle Ages ... just as, in this University, All Soul's Day and Corpus Christi and the Assumption survived the 'Reformation' (I bet they didn't in the Fens). We know that this was not just a custom in alma academia, but flourished throughout the neighbouring country areas, where, in their endearingly unlatinate way, the rude but worthy yokels just called it Egge Satterday. (There must be some poignantly laboured witticism about Yolks and Yokels. Or tongue-twisters? "The yokels liked yolks for lunch"?)
However, purely by coincidence, it became, in this University, linked with an academic deadline: the last day on which bachelors were allowed to 'determine'; that is, to complete the exercises for the degree of M.A.. And academics had a 'Determination Feast' to celebrate this, which goes back at least to the time of Lord Richard Holland (nephew of Richard II the monarch who dedicated this realm of England as the Dowry of our blessed Lady) who had his Determination Feast on the 21st and 22nd of February, 1395 (yes, I have checked that date in Cheney). As late as 1603, "all the bachelors that were presented to determine did after their presentation go to every college where they were determining
I suppose all this was quite an exotic spread in those days. Now we could buy most of it in Waitrose where, before Covid, we could pop in for our free Coffee and our free copy of The Times. Except for the muscadines, which are sweetmeats made from a pod near the fundament of an asiatic deer (its secretion may have been a sexual attractant) and regarded as an aphrodisiac since the days when the trade routes brought both it, and its Sanskrit name, from India to Byzantium. It is now vastly expensive since the poor things have been hunted almost into bio-undiversity ... ah, the compulsions of homo insipiens, the so-called animal rationale ... fortasse potius animal dicendum venereale. But I gather that chemists now produce a synthetic version of musk. (I wonder what their motives are.)
12 February 2021
I once heard an immensely Tasteful and very Cultured programme on the Beeb about Durham Cathedral. It pulled out all the stops. There was music; history; poetry; a truly wonderful Cultural celebration of that amazing building. And, when I say amazing, I am not exaggerating. I can still remember the first time that, walking along the Thames embankment, I saw the Baroque accumulation of buildings at Greenwich. Similarly, I will never forget when first I saw Durham, its Cathedral, its Castle. There can be few places in the world where architecture so combines with landscape to make such a statement.
In this Tasteful and Cultural radio programme, I heard so much marvellous and evocative stuff. About the monument to England's worst ever mining disaster and the miners' galas; about the monks carrying there the body of S Cuthbert; about the Chapel of the Durham Light Infantry; about the Scots captives locked in and starved to death after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650; about the great embracing forest of deeply chiseled Romanesque columns; about the emaciated faces of the Green Men in bosses; about the pre-Christian as well as the Christian; about the 'simplicity' of the lives of its early Saints. I heard snatches of plainchant to remind me of the monks. We were invited to have an intelligent opinion about whether the marked line beyond which women were not allowed to go should be discerned as Exclusive or Inclusive. And the narrator's reverential, deferential, tones never violated the respect due to such a building. Awe was made audible.
Amongst all the history and literature, only once was there a very slight allusion ... so fugitively allusive that you'd miss it it if you weren't looking for it ... to the reason why that building was built at all. I mean: the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The voracious anthologist who put the programme together, apparently, did not notice, or certainly failed to understand, the heart of the building, the High Altar. As she walked behind the Shrine of S Cuthbert, she did not see, or did not understand, the great expanse of the Chapel of the Nine Altars with its ... well ... nine altars. The Cathedral, you could be forgiven for concluding, is an incredible building in which there happens to be an unaccountably large number of pieces of table-like furniture which, even in combination, even in their strange, repetitive profusion, do not even begin to add up to Something which a Cultivated person of Taste might deign to notice, still less to mention.
Sometimes, a truth is so obvious that People of Taste fail to see it.
The title of the programme was Something understood.
11 February 2021
A former Mistress [nice old-fashioned word!] of a former King of Spain has a lot of names, including "Wittgenstein". Is she ... er ...
I wonder if Mme de Stael and the Corsican Tyrant ... er ...
As for Mrs Thrale and Dr Johnson, well ... er ...
Tot feminae, tot philosophi, tot quaestiones.
Post scriptum: Ms Wittgenstein, who is now in litigation with his Most Catholic Majesty emerito, has claimed in the public papers that he used to be dosed up with female hormones, rendering him incapable of, er, lots of things.
I think it was Ms Mitford's book which recorded that Louis XIV, even in old age, was known to entreat marital encounters as many as seven times a night.
How mightily is the once prolifica House of Bourbon fallen!!
10 February 2021
It seems only a few years ago that I heard Patrick Moore, a pompous British populariser in the field of Astronomy, explaining with commendable clarity that, by the inexorable ... Median ... almost Persian ... laws of Science, there could never be any water on the Moon. Dead satellite; dead certainty. Even more recently, I remember the discovery that there was a small amount of water there ... probably in a polar crater where the Sun could never rouse it from frozen slumber. Probably, it was a part of the debris of a comet ...
Lo! and Behold!! a few weeks ago, we were told that, atcherlee, there is quite a lot of water all over the Moon.
Today, the news is about how the lunar colonists, the lunatics, might technologically unlock all these millions of gallons for their lunatic use (I somehow feel that the accent should fall upon the middle syllable of that word ... don't ask me why).
Good old Moon, good old Water!!
And each time, such fantasticabulous new 'News' is vouchsafed to us mere mortals by the Physics wonderbrains with much razzmatazz: Wonderful, absolutely unbelievable discovery ... who could ever have thought it ... bow down before the geniuses who made this discovery ...
Poor old Venus ... poor preposterous prostituted Paphian poppet ... she could never have sustained life. Her glistening surfaces are far too hot; her sulphurous excesses too gross. Forget about Colonel Dare and the Mekon and even Batman Digby from Lancashire ... Wigan very probably has never existed ...
... and then, very recently, a substance was spotted in her atmosphere which can only (they tell us) be an indication of, er, life .... All of a sudden ... here we go again ... bow down ... who could possibly have thought ...
I became a formal ex animo unbeliever in any such thaumata when I was aged about twelve, and They built a nuclear power station near my family's part of Essex. Our 'Physics Master' proudly explained to us that, when the installation costs had been met, we would have (very nearly) free electricity ... for, um, ever. If this fool, I thought, really believes that, he could believe anything. I gave the subject up the following term. I'd rather, I thought, believe in the infinitely more probable metamorphic potential of Circe and speculate on whether the wife of the Green Knight did good breakfasts.
The 'Physics' b*ggers won't ever catch me out again. They tell us now that the Sun is unbelievably hot, and the source of warmth and light throughout the Solar System. But you know, and I know, that some time soon ... very soon ... they will discover, and pass proudly on to us, the ex cathedra information that the Sun is now known to be quite an icy body, and that its apparent brightness is caused by tiny beings on a nearby dark purple asteroid who have three sexes and live in recycled Clanger holes and who, because of their highly-developed mirror technology, are able to enhance the primal light of the Moon and refocuss it upon the reflective glaciers of the (much younger) Sun.
I won't be bowing down to anybody when the Physics geniuses make these revelations because I already have access to all that information.
'Peer Reviews' be d*mned.
9 February 2021
The Times, February 6, 2121?
A former secretary at an abortion facility has been charged with complicity in the termination of 10,000 unborn babies. The woman, 95, who was 19 at the time, worked at the ***** clinic. The BBC identified her as ****** *, who now lives in a care home in *****. She "is accused of having assisted those responsible at the clinic in the systematic killing of foetuses, in her function as a stenographer and secretary to the Medical Director" between 2043 and 2045, prosecutors said. (AFP)
I didn't have to make many modifications to a short piece in The Times of February 6, 2021.
Do you think the slaughtered of our own time will ever receive any justice?
8 February 2021
So rumours are circulating that PF will appoint Blaise Cupich to head the Congregation for Bishops. And the suggestion is that this will produce the sort of cloned episcopate PF wants.
(And there have been recent papal jokes about solving the problem of traddies in the Vatican.)
But perhaps this is only a rumour. Let us hope and pray ...
Nevertheless, I think there are already quite enough grave questions about the quality of some of those whom PF appoints to bishoprics.
But who cares what I think?
So let's forget me.
And let's instead turn to two of the most significant Catholic theologians of the modern Anglophone world.
(1) Fr Aidan Nichols. "[The pope's] programme would not have got as far as it has were it not the case that theological liberals, generally of the closet variety, have in the fairly recent past, been appointed to high positions both in the world episcopate and in the ranks of the Roman Curia".
This led to Fr Aidan, who has taught with distinction in this University, being forbidden to circulate any further the paper which included those words.
(2) Fr Tom Weinandy wrote to PF with these words: "faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them. What scandalises believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice. This weakens the zeal of the many women and men who have championed authentic Catholic teaching over long periods of time, often at the risk of their own reputations and well-being. As a result, many of the faithful, who embody the sensus fidelium, are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd."
This led to Fr Tom, who has served as a Head of House in this University, being sacked from a post he held from the US episcopal conference.
But who cares about this fusty old pair of pen-pushers ... however many books they may have published? It is probably very good for their souls for them to be treated like naughty little schoolboys.
(3) So let's go to somebody radically different; somebody who (while he also has written not a few books) is fully in touch with what goes on in Rome, in Curial Congregations, and throughout the Catholic world; a man who Knows Where The Bodies Are Buried: Gerhard Cardinal Mueller.
His Eminence has written about the "shameless half-education" of some episcopal nominees; "theological illiterates in bishops' hats"; "ideologues with a ridiculous super-papalism."
A year or two ago, Cupich delivered a 'lecture' at Cambridge, after which he was entertainingly demolished (and by a mere retired Classicist).
PF has dismissed Mueller as "a child". So that puts him in his place.
If the Bergoglios and the Cupiches are to count as Grown Ups and as competent theologians, may God protect His Church Militant and Patient from such adult sophisticates.
7 February 2021
The Christian Faith is a coherent and integrated whole. Every bit fits in with every other bit. Drop just one single bit out, and you throw the whole complex unity into disarray. I will illustrate this with a few words about Marriage.
Fallen human nature being what it is, when we say we're thinking about Marriage, it seems to turn out to mean that we're thinking about Divorce. That's the way that Screwtape and his associates have adjusted our philology. And the Lord said that Divorce is impossible; in fact, he said it so clearly that the way He actually put it was that if you get divorced and then "marry again", you'll really only be living in adultery. I've often wondered if there is any way, in any human language, in which the point could be made more plainly and more ... I dare to say ... 'offensively'.
Now ... side by side with the Lord's teaching ... let us set some remarkable words from S Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. He likens the nuptial covenant between husband and wife to that equally nuptial covenant, the 'mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His Church'.
You see, I'm sure, the bearing of all this. If a valid and consummated Christian marriage is as indissoluble as the union between Christ and His Church, it follows that the union between Christ and His Church is as indissoluble as that between husband and wife. Or, to put it the same thing the other way round, the union between Christ and His Church is as soluble and it is as breakable as marriage. Advocacy of remarriage after divorce is constructively tantamount to saying that the Lord may desert His Church and could renounce His nuptial covenant with her.
I think I had better come clean. The point I'm making is, in fact, disgracefully plagiarised. I have lifted this exposition from a magisterial book called Marriage and Divorce by a very great Anglican pontiff, Kenneth Escott Kirk, Lord Bishop of Oxford between 1937 and 1954 and sometime Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology in this University, which he wrote in the context of the English Divorce Act of 1937. Bishop Kirk makes with concise precision the point I have laboured; a point which Cardinal Hume once made by saying that our holy Faith is not a la carte. We accept it table d'hote, because it is a perfectly integrated and interlinked whole. Tear out one element, and the whole cardigan unravels.
I'm sure Bishop Kirk would have been an Ordinariate Man ... we would have had to learn to refer to him as Monsignor Kirk ... so I'll end with his own words. They are the best succinct refutation of Amoris laetitia that I know. Since PF is apparently going to try to make us spend a year "celebrating" Amoris laetitia, we may be needing a lot more of the Catholic Church's authentic Magisterium from the pen of Kenneth Escott Kirk.
"To plead for divorce with the right to second marriage is to ignore the whole of this constructive theology which relates the union of the sexes to that of Christ and His Church, and thereby to deny the unity of purpose which runs through the whole scheme of God's activity both in the natural and in the supernatural sphere. ...
"The Christian tradition of the indissolubility of marriage does no more than give effect to S Paul's great teaching, in which our Lord's precepts about marriage are set in the framework of the unity of God's purpose. To deny that tradition, therefore, is to cast doubt upon the very nature of God, and the modes of activity in which He has manifested Himself to man."
So where does this idea for a 'pre-Lent'' period come from? My friend Professor Tighe has pointed out to me that the Byzantine 'Tyrophagy' (Cheeseweek) was, according to the manuals, established during the reign of Heraclius (610-641). So the Gesimas of our Roman Rite can hardly be a 'Byzantinising' idea picked up by S Gregory the Great when he was Apocrisiarius (Nuncio) in Canatantinople (579-585) ... unless it was unofficially in use there before its formal establishment. It appears, therefore, that the now 'ecumenical' notion of Pre-Lent may be of Roman origin.
But let us look at the Propers for Sexagesima.
That great liturgist G G Willis (funny, isn't it, how so much of the best work on the early history of the Roman Rite was done by Anglican Catholics) pointed out that the propers for Sexagesima in the Missal of S Pius V and the Book of Common Prayer manifestly relate to S Paul; his own account of his tribulations in the Epistle being matched by the Parable of the Sower, so appropriate to the work of the Apostle to the Gentiles. (You will remember that the Pope's Mass, on these three Sundays before Lent, took place in turn at the three basilicas of Rome's great saints, Ss Lawrence, Paul, and Peter, which stand like protecting spiritual fortresses outside the City walls; and today, Sexagesima, Pope and people were at S Paul's.)
I don't like to tangle with as great a scholar as Willis; but with diffidence and respect I point out that this is not quite what the Begetter of the Gesimas, S Gregory the Great, himself actually says. Again I recommend those with access and a little Latin (Gregory's Latin is very easy) to read not only the extract which the Old Breviary gave in the third nocturn for Sexagesima, but the whole text of Homilia 15 in Evangelia (Migne, 76, columns 1131 and following). The emphasis here again is on the need for a sense of sinfulness as Christians approach the penitential season of Lent. The Holy Father picks up the Lord's explanation of the parable (the second section of the pericope, which the crass 'scholarship' of the twentieth century confidently and ludicrously assured us could not possibly be from the Lord's own lips): i.e. the work of the Devil in frustrating the Gospel Word sown in our hearts, and the dangers of riches. It is this that becomes the basis of his attempt to stir up within his congregation an awareness of its sinful need to do penance.
[My incurable propensity to ramble inclines me to recommend the whole of the homily, not just the extract in the Breviary, if only for the sake of the (very 'modern') way S Gregory engages the congregation with his vivid account of the recent holy death of a devout cripple whom we all knew, who used to beg outside the Church of S Clement. Again, this is a classical, hands-on, mission sermon by a preacher who fears that his flock has lost its sense of sin. Plus ca change ...]
And, in the Divine Office, S Gregory's message is reinforced by the story of Noah. I hope you recall, from my post on Septuagesima, how S Gregory interpreted the parable of the husbandman hiring labourers for his vineyard. 'Morning' meant the period of Sacred History from Adam onwards [Septuagesima]; the 'Third Hour' was the period from Noah. So in the first nocturn of Mattins for Sexagesima Sunday we get the account of God's decision to punish human iniquity by a flood. Undoubtedly, that Flood evoked, for S Gregory's generation, vivid memories of the Great Tiber Flood of 589, followed by the epidemic which ended the life of many Romans, including Pope Pelagius II, S Gregory's own immediate predecessor.
But ... had all those who suffered in the Flood (either Noah's or Rome's) truly deserved, each individually, such punishment? I wonder if seminary courses dealing with 'Theodicy' take their starting points from Biblical and Patristic material. S Gregory, with the sort of realism from which our generation can shy away, meets head on the fact that a lot of people do their best to do good, but find themselves clobbered by tribulations. They flee earthly desires, and all they seem to get in return is worse wallops (flagella duriora). The solution is humiliter purgationis flagella tolerare: humbly to submit to the blows which cleanse us.
When did you last hear a sermon on Submission to God's Will ... whatever it be?
6 February 2021
(1) Recently, I have declined to enable a comment asserting that the Authorised Version of the genesis of the Biden Romance is "BS"; and offering a different account much less creditable to each of the Bidens. I did not like the mode of expression, nor did I like the degree of certainty claimed for the Non-authorised Version. My wording, in any case, was intended deliberately to distance me from the Authorised Version, partly because it seemed to me to have a rather crafted quality to it. But, at the same time, one of the sources for the Non-authorised account might have been connected to a desire to publicise a book. It seemed to me not irresponsible to sit, rather gingerly, upon a fence.
I have also recently declined to enable a comment referring to Pelosi as a "monstrous old hag". Two reasons among many: (a) Surely, "old hag" is tautologous (rather as if someone were to describe me as a "monstrous old presbyter"); and (b) the suggestion that to be aged is to be self-condemned is a trope which, rather curiously, impresses me less nowadays than it did sixty years ago. Surely, a more 'traddy' tradition is that age brings wisdom? Not, of course, that my wife would would concede that proposition in my own case.
(2) I have been criticised for refering to Ms Pelosi as "silly". My understanding is that she has been a willing supporter of legal permission for Abortion, both in her own country and in wider fields. If this is not true, then I certainly owe her an apology. If it is true, then perhaps I need to explain that, this side of the water, 'silly' is quite a moderate term of disapproval. We would not, for example, say that Stalin, or Hitler, or Pol Pot, was "silly". I think we tend to use the term for persons who adopt mistaken viewpoints, but about whose subjective sincerity we might not necessarily wish, at least on a particular occasion, to be too cruel. (No need to remind me what the word meant in Middle English.)
In Pelosi's case, her support for a radical philological revolution, eliminating such terms as 'Mother;' and 'Father', must surely qualify her for (the modern English sense of) the word 'silly'. Such an elimination of 'gender' language would create a profound chasm between ourselves, and all earlier Western literature from the Pentateuch and Homer onwards. (I commend a rereading of C S Lewis's On Reading Old Books.) This would affect people far beyond Traddiland.
For example: a male Homosexual couple who adopted children would face complications in describing their families: "Little Johnny has two parents" would be less functional (since having two parents is not yet so unusual as to be remarkable) than simply saying "Johnny has two Dads". Because the former expression would convey less information than the latter. Furthermore ... such toddlers ... when taking their first faltering linguistic steps ... would they be required to distinguish between "Parent Peter" and "Parent Paul", instead of tentatively mouthing "ma-ma" and "pa-pa"?
Does Pelosi have grandchildren? If so, are they required to address her as "Proto-parent-with-ovaries Pelosi"?
I have no qualms about describing an advocate of such philological re-engineering as "silly".
5 February 2021
... because it's S Agatha's Day! So congratulations to the people of S Agatha's Ordinariate Church in Portsmouth, with their admirable Parish Priest Fr John Maunder and Mgr Robert Mercer, the great missionary Bishop of Matabeleland, now in Ordinariate 'retirement'. And the warmest assurance of prayers and love.
S Agata dei Goti is a unique church in Rome: it was once an Arian church. Perhaps S Agatha should be the patroness of those who rescue churches from schism, for Catholic use! Most readers will not need me to tell them that this is the Titular Church of Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, who is very unlikely to give it back to the Goths, whether or not they are still Arian.
Some years ago, when I badly broke my shoulder, I was in Rome and prevented by my accident from the pleasure of preaching in Cardinal Burke's titular Church. After my return to Blighty, I did preach in S Agatha's in Portsmouth: it was my first engagement after rising from my hospital bed. And (let the reader understand) one of our grandsons, a keen campanologist, was in the team ringing the bells.
I have, more than once, had the privilege of spending time with Cardinal Burke; he is the gentlest, kindliest man you could imagine; civilised and highly intelligent. He has worked valiantly for the Faith during these difficult times; it is very fitting that we should pray for him, and especially on this particular Day. The Sovereign Pontiff's public humiliations of His Eminence are, I think, among the nastiest things I know about PF.
S Agatha's in Portsmouth, of which the Ordinariate has the use, was sold off by the C of E as redundant. It is as unique as its sister church in Rome; it is the only place in England ... I think ... where you can see a church built by the Anglo-Catholics in the days of their high glory, full of the most exquisite artwork and shrines, now in Full Communion with the See of S Peter and offering worship in the finest tradition of triumphalist Anglican Catholicism. For some reason ... I wonder why ... the Anglo-Catholics liked to dedicate their churches to the Virgin Martyrs who feature in the Canon of the Mass (the then Vicar of S Agatha's, Sparkbrook, tried to persuade me to go there as a curate in 1967; and I think the congregation of the Precious Blood in Southwak are the transplanted congregation of S Agnes near the Oval).
Fr Maunder has added to the glories of his church by putting in place a neobaroque over-altar showing our Lady and S Agatha, granting Anglicanorum coetibus to Pope Benedict. It depicts the early Anglican parish priests looking on ... good and holy men who had prayed daily for the unity of Christendom with the Successor of S Peter.
Sancta Agatha, ora pro nobis.
4 February 2021
Foreigners often treat 'British' and 'English' as synonyms; so it's jolly nice to find that Lifesitenews doesn't make this mistake.
But, if it wants to criticise a Scottish bishop, why doesn't it call him Scottish rather that British? That would give everybody more headline info ... and would not leave me feeling that I have been ever so slightly tarred with a Caledonian Brush.
His silly lordship, according to the account in LSN, has urged us to celebrate annually the paeneapostasis of the Abu Dhabi statement today, on February 4. He thinks that this would create an elegant bridge between Holocaust Memorial Day and some daft week in February the title of which I have already forgotten and fully intend to leave forgotten.
Interesting how, after Vatican II, the Pre-Lent Gesima Sundays were ruthlessly abolished in the interests of simplicity ... but now those with youthful impetuosity and a new agenda just can't wait to create new and complex seasons glorifying syncretism.
Hat ... rabbit ... aren't they clever! We could give them one of Boris's National Claps!
If some right reverend prelates are so keen on the Novus Ordo, why can't they content themselves with drawing out the inexhaustible riches of of the Novum Calendar?
No, I am going to share no personal anecdotes. That is mainly because I don't have any. I am going to recall a couple of hilarious incidents, this side of the water, which ultrapontine or younger readers may not have heard.
During the previous pontificate, there was an English Deacon who wrote an incisive and witty blog defending the then Holy Father. He may have been called Deacon Nick Donelly. His bishop ... stop speedreading and read this bit properly: it deserves it ... ordered him to close his blog voluntarily.
This was at a time when Benedict XVI had encouraged clerical blogging. Those happy, carefree days of "the Grand Inquisitor"; the "Panzer Cardinal"!
On another occasion, a blogging priest, a senior man in his diocese with a big important parish, returned home (this is how he himself described it on his blog) "to find Cardinal Nichols' tanks parked on my lawn". Demythologised, this means that his bishop was there to give him the message "The Cardinal is not pleased".
What makes this episode that bit more piquant is that the diocese concerned is not even a diocese within Cardinal Nichols' Metropolitan Province. He has no more canonical jurisdiction there than does H E Cardinal Sarah. Or, come to think of it, than I do.
I will not identify the bishop concerned. At that time, the poor fellow was very new to the role of diocesan bishop, and was having to take over after the disastrous episcopate of a serial adulterer. I am sure that, by now, he has settled into his job. We all make our early mistakes!
3 February 2021
Like, I am sure, many others, I am not surprised that it is now open news: "Fr Zed" is being hounded out of his current residence in the Diocese of Madison.
I have no information beyond what you can all read elsewhere on the Internet (Fr Tim; the Remnant) about who put what pressures upon whom. Nor is it my business to speculate pruriently about who may have been evil; who simply weak. The big and obvious fact is that the whole business has the fingerprints of the Enemy all over it.
At this time, it is essential ... you must all see this ... for Father to be given unqualified support. This it not the hour for "Of course I do support him but it might have been better if he hadn't ....". Our God sends us kairoi, moments of decision when it is important for each of us to be standing on the right side. Half-hearted reactions are not, as far as I can remember, much commended in Scripture. "Blessed are those who sit on fences" failed to make its way into the Beatitudes.
My brother priest John Zuhlsdorf has worked unremittingly for Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. In season, out of season, he has informed and instructed and strengthened. Onslaughts upon his unique ministry are attacks upon things much more important than Father John himself.
And personally, I am ... let me shock you ... enough of an unreconstructed 1960s liberal to dislike anything that has suggestions about it of censorship. And these events reek of it.
I know from my own postbag how many people are distressed and feel almost broken by the current disorders in the Catholic Church; disorders, most sadly, at all levels. Particularly when they are in isolation, in a hostile parish or an almost apostate diocese, good Catholics can come very near to despair. Father has supported ... probably millions ... by giving them a sense of fellowship ... the awareness that they are not alone; that many others are with them; that a well-instructed priest is supplying needs which a local bishop or pastor is leaving unaddressed.
I hope readers will forgive me for pointing out that the laity are much less vulnerable to prelatical bullying than are the clergy. I do beg intelligent laity who have benefitted from John Zuhlsdorf's ministry to take such steps as their splendid lay-woman's or lay-man's ingenuity may suggest to them, to support this priest in his time of threats, anxieties, and sufferings.
Do not sit back feeling that others, cleverer than you and more articulate, will do what is necessary. This is the moment when precisely your God-given degree of cleverness and of articulacy is exactly what is being called for.
Please do something!!
2 February 2021
VD ... Ad cuius immensam pertinet gloriam ut non solum mortalibus tua deitate* succurreris; sed et de ipsa etiam mortalitate nostra nobis remedium provideris, et perditos quosque unde perierant, inde salvaris; Per.
[Crudely and literally: It is very meet and right ... to whose great glory it pertaineth that not only didst thou come to the aid of mortals with thy Godhead, but also, from our own very mortality didst provide for us a remedy, and didst save the lost whomsoever from that place whence they perished.]
It has all the terse elegance, all the avoidance of ostentatious verbosity, which we associate with the best formulae in the old Roman Sacramentaries; perhaps it ... even ... who knows ... has a whiff of S Leo about it. (Edmund Bishop neatly compared the concision of the Roman Pentecost Preface with a 'Gothic' Pentecost preface which rambled on for eighty lines.)
The erudite Marist Fr Anthony Ward (so badly treated under this pontificate) adduced S Ambrose De Sac 2:17; S Leo Sermo 22; 1; and Chromatius of Aquila Sermo 19:7, from the last of whom I offer a brief passage in translation.
Christ "sustained evil things, but gave good things in return; he received death, but gave life. Not without cause he was crucuified in this place where the body of Adam is said to be buried. So, therefore, Christ is crucified where Adam had been buried, that thence life might work where first death had worked, so that from death life might rise again. Death through Adam, life through Christ."
You see how typologically suitable such material is to the Genesis themes which we revisit in the Divine Office at this time. You will remember the significance of the iconography, Eastern and Western, of the skull at the foot of the Cross of Calvary, and the figure of Christ rescuing Adam and Eve from Hell in the 'Anastasis' Ikon.
*Footnote: there is an intriguing textual variant which could be 'original': pietate for deitate. Majuscule P and D can easily be confused.
1 February 2021
Around this time last year, the CDF took action. Interested readers will know that this dicastery has the role of the nice old Sacred Congregation of Rites with regard to the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite. And there is a bonus: their intervention caused fury to some "liturgist" called Grillo. His view is that it is wrong to make any alterations to the Authentic Form because that is already crystalised into immutable obsolescence. How do we know that it is so crystalised? Because it has not been changed ... a fine example, yes, of a circular argument?
The CDF changes (which were all optional) related to Prefaces (and, in a separate Decree, to the Calendar). Introduction of more prefaces had been encouraged by Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum. And, indeed, by indult certain additional prefaces of eighteenth century French origin ('Gallican') had already long been used within the SSPX and elsewhere. So what did the CDF do?
In one of its consultation documents, it had included a 'Gallican' preface for Advent. And also a preface for the Gesima Sundays. But in its final Decree, it omitted these two prefaces (but dropped a hint that this did not preclude the possible granting of other prefaces). The change, it explaind, was because the spirit of the Authentic Form in the twentieth century had become inimical to additional seasonal prefaces (All the new twentieth century prefaces had been for feasts, or requiems, not for seasons).
The rest of this post concerns the Gesima preface which the CDF had tentatively proposed but then abandoned.
This is an old preface tinkered with in the 1970s when it was included in the Novus Ordo. It is provided, in several old Sacramentaries, either for the last Sunday after Epiphany or for Septuagesima itself. So I suppose it is ... sort of ... seasonal. My problem with it is that the Novus Ordo took liberties with the ancient texts. Same old story ...
Novus Ordo Praefatio III de Dominicis per Annum.
VD ... omnipotens aeterne Deus: Ad cuius immensam gloriam pertinere cognoscimus ut mortalibus tua Deitate succurreres; sed et nobis provideres de ipsa mortalitate nostra remedium, et perditos quosque unde perierant, inde salvares, per Xtm Dnm nostrum.
I first started thinking about this ... you know how it is ... because I couldn't think of the answer to a rather obvious question which a III Former could probably spot: why are the subjunctive verbs put into Historic Sequence (i.e. Imperfect Subjunctives)? I still haven't shifted this log-jam in my mind ...
In despair, I ended up, as one does, looking at the Verona Sacramentary, also called the Leonine Sacramentary, which I suspect has the earliest known version of this preface (at the beginning of October). Basic differences are these: for the "pertinere cognoscimus" VS simply had "pertinet"; and the subjunctive verbs were in the Perfect Subjunctive: "succurreris ... provideris ... salvaris".
Well, that solves my problems about Sequence of Tenses, doesn't it. These nice healthy perfect subjunctives seem already to have mutated into imperfects in the Sacramentarium Bergomense and the 'Gregorian' Missal. [Salvaris is by a common syncope for salvaveris. One source, incidentally, has its knickers in a real twist: it reads succurras.]
Are we to interpet the Verona Sacramentary version as "It pertains to your ginormous glory that you have succoured ... have provided ... have saved ...?" This seems to me to make better sense and grammar than the (I suspect) subsequent alterations. It is, indeed, roughly how current ICEL actually translates the formula.
I floated this question a couple of years ago, and was blessed with two very good comments, which I retain. Tomorrow I will offer a little exegesis ... or, you may feel, eisegesis.
31 January 2021
The ancient usage of the Western Church suggests you should ... now ... be reading the book of Genesis in your Divine Office, today, Septuagesima. Thus, the Roman Breviary; thus, the Anglican 1961 Lectionary for the Divine Office, now authorised in the Ordinariates.
During Lent, of which Septuagesima is the preamble, we repent of the Fall and the mark which it has left on each successive age of human history and on each one of us. Lent leads up to Easter Night, with the great, the outrageous impudence of the Deacon's shout: O felix Culpa: O blessed iniquity (that's Knox's Patrimonial translation ... now, gloriously, restored for use in the Ordinariates); the marvel of Adam's Trangression which deserved such and so great a Redeemer. And then Eastertide invites us to live the Risen Life with and in our New Adam.
The tone for this 'Pre-Lent' season is set by today's ancient collect, with its words qui iuste pro peccatis nostris affligimur, translated in our Patrimonial books as we who are justly punished for our offences. I wonder how many popes, archbishops, or bishops will relate this ancient and wholesome theme to the afflictions of our present moment. I would be grateful if readers could let me know of any pope, archbishop or bishop who does. I am a positive twitcher when it comes to 'collecting' the occasional episcopal rara avis whose teaching is biblical, patristic, and liturgical
The S Pius V/Ordinariate [EF in what follows] Eucharistic psalmody for Septuagesima and its season expresses this spirituality. The Introit is about "The sorrows of Death", recalling the Genesis theme that the pains, labours, and mortality of Man (and not least of Woman) result from the Fall. Yes, I know that the Gesimas were probably introduced by S Gregory the Great at a time of great distress, strife, pandemic and chaos in Italy - which does lie behind the sense of agony and helplessness in this and other texts. My point is that it was the Pontiff who discerned a connection between a world ravaged and disordered by the Fall ... and the realities of late sixth century Italy. How can anyone doubt that a similar connection is just as imperative in our pandemic world?
I incline to believe that S Gregory has left us his own explanation of his liturgical creation, Septuagesima, in the passage from his writings of which the old Breviary gives us a portion in the Third Nocturn (Hom 19 in Evang.; the full text of which is handily available in PL 76 coll 1153sqq.). Speaking, according to the manuscripts, in the basilica of S Lawrence one Septuagesima morning, he explains the different times of the day referred to in the Sunday's EF Gospel (the parable of the Husbandman hiring labourers for his vineyard): "The morning of the world was from Adam to Noah; the third hour, Noah to Abraham; Sixth, Abraham to Moses; Ninth, Moses to the Lord's Advent; eleventh, from the Lord's Advent to the end of the world". The EF Epistle reading ends with the disobedience of many in Jewry in the time of Moses ("in many of them God was not well-pleased"); the Gospel concludes "Many were called but few were chosen".
While there is no doubt that the Tradition has seen this as applying to those Jews who rejected the Messiah's call, Bible and Fathers leave no room whatsoever for complacency on the part of Gentile Christians. The whole point of I Corinthians 10, from which the Septuagesima EF Epistle is taken, is that the fall from grace which happened to some who were "baptized into Moses" is just as much a fall awaiting some of those who have been baptised into Christ. And the passage from S Gregory selected for Breviary Mattins ends sharply "At the Eleventh hour the Gentiles are called; to whom it is said 'Why are you standing here lazy all day?' " S Gregory goes on to ask "Look what a lot of people we are gathered here, we're packing the walls of the church, but, y'know (tamen), who can know how few there are who're numbered in the flock of God's chosen?" ... a decade or two ago, the Principal of an Evangelical PPH in this University got into terrible trouble for asking a question rather like that.
Divine election ... Human disobedience ... its just punishment in the tribulations of the present age... followed by a call to Christians to recollect their own sinfulness before Lent begins: today's liturgy looks to my eye like a very coherent Proper. Perhaps it is a trifle politically incorrect: the Journalist In The Street tends indignantly to demand of fashionable bishops whether Disasters are a Divine Punishment and why it is that a good God ... all that ... but Stay: my assumption is that this blog has a superior class of theologically literate readers who can do the theodicy stuff for themselves.
I urge those who can, to read S Gregory's entire homily; it ends with a lurid and lengthy account of an unrepentent sinner at the point of death; it is a real mission-sermon rant such as Fr Faber might have preached to his recalcitrant Irishmen before he moved on to what Newman called the 'second rate gentry' of Brompton. S Gregory wasn't half the Latin stylist that S Leo was; but, to be regretfully honest, I sometimes doubt whether the plebs sancta Dei understood much of S Leo's lapidary periods.
However, I bet you could have heard a pin drop when S Gregory launched into one of his purple passages and the pontifical spittle was really flying.