31 January 2021

SEPTUAGESIMA and the Pandemic

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.

29 January 2021

Mainly for Loyalist Latinists

On May 13, 1629, Queen Henrietta Maria had a child. But it ... or rather, he ... was premature and died soon after birth.

If at first you don't succeed ... and the Queen and King Charles I were very much in love; soon there was another pregnancy and on May 29 1630, a full-term lusty boy was successfully delivered. Did I say lusty? We are speaking of the Merry Monarch, the future King Charles II (king de jure 1649-1685; not to be confused with King Charles III, king de jure 1766-1788).

Naturally, the University of Oxford rushed out a volume of verse to celebrate so happy an event: BRITANNIAE NATALIS.   OXONIAE, Excudebat I o h a n n e s L i c h f i e l d Almae Academiae Typographus, Ann. Dom. 1630. Lichfield included an engraving with the University Arms (Sapi[entia] et fe[licitate] on the book); the Tetragrammaton in a Glory; and four allegorical ladies with nipples.

Somebody from Christ Church, who curiously only gives his identity as T. T., contributed these elegiacs:

                           Ad Reginam

Non contenta uno virtus tua mascula gestit
     Intra annum binos parturiise mares:
Francorum Salicam sic, O sic, semper amemus,
     Femineasque vetes sceptra tenere manus.

What do I find compelling about this? It appears to me an amazing example of something which seemed a neat and thoroughly appropriate compliment in the culture of 1630, but would nowadays be considered to be in the very worst possible taste!

And the memory of Gloriana seems to have faded a bit, doesn't it  ... or might we have a 'Church Papist' writer here?

28 January 2021

Babel Revisited

According to a Times columnist, some (American) woman called Pelosi has "announced that 'mother', 'father', 'daughter', 'brother', and other gendered words to describe familial relationships would be removed from House rules. Henceforth in official documents they would be replaced by the gender-neutral terms 'parent', 'child', or 'sibling'. The purpose of this was to 'honour all gender identities'. ... Pelosi declared that gender-neutral language is 'future focused'."

Of course, there's nothing new or original about the determination of tyrants to remake Man by remaking language. Herr Goebels understood this, and 'George Orwell' wrote a rather good book about it.

Gradualism, naturally, will be the order of the day. But, unless Clio deftly and radically redirects matters, first it will become merely socially maladroit to use such terms. Then we shall move on to the familiar ritual formalities of 'offended students' complaining about being 'hurt' and 'made to feel unsafe' by the use of banned words in academic fora. Then the no-platformings, the sackings and the houndings will get under way. What a gift to the stupid, the mediocre, and the self-righteous. Another triumph for the Philological Department of Our Father Below.

This Pelosi, I think I read somewhere, claims to be a "Catholic". One wonders if she ever uses the Our Father, the Hail Mary, or the Creed. And here I am not just making an obvious point against one silly old woman. The whole of the Liturgy and the Scriptures would need to be radically remade in order to give effect to her new dogma. Perhaps, quod avertat Clio, this will be the next major cultural battle-ground in society at large; with, of course, a fifth column ... people like Pelosi ... within the Church herself, urging upon us "retranslated" liturgies and bibles. The numbers of invalid baptisms will soar as trendy clergy mangle the forma.

A job here, perhaps, for poor dim little Cupich in 'rolling out' Our Parent Who Art in Heaven and Holy Mary Parent of God through the Anglosphere ... just in case the erudite and convivial Mgr Wadsworth were to feel that the task was not entirely ICEL's Cup of Tea ...

As Merlinus Ambrosius departed from the chaos at Belbury, he was heard to shout Qui Verbum Dei contempserunt, iis auferetur etiam verbum hominis.

27 January 2021

"Products of Conception"

I do not entirely agree with Mr Biden's reiterated enthusiasm for killing unborn Jewish babies.

It is also true that I also do not entirely agree with Mr Biden's equal enthusiasm for killing Gentile, Black, White, Male, Female, Disabled, Abled, Large or Small unborn babies of any racial or social provenance.

But today is Holocaust Memorial Day, when our cultural Masters request and require that we shall (at least principally) think, speak, and write about the killing of Jewish humans.

That's what I'm doing.

So that is why I am, at this moment, only blogging about the killing of unborn Jewish babies. I have often written about the iniquity of killing any preborn humans at all, without any distinction. Deo volente, I shall so write again. Possibly, I might select Bastille Day to think particularly about the killing of unborn French humans; and Thanksgiving Day to meditate upon the holocaust of American babies.

Is there an 'official' "Black Lives Matter Day"? There would be scope there, too.

But on this one particular day, Holocaust Memorial Day, at this precise moment, in order to show my obsequium civicum towards the commands of the Zeitgeist, I am writing only about and against the killing of Jewish babies. And, as you will by now have grasped, I am very strongly against it. 

One other preliminary: I would never suggest that Biden and his associates are keener on killing Jewish babies than they are on killing Gentile babies. I am simply willing to assume that, among the large numbers of abortions which are performed annually in the US of A, Jewish foetuses are not absent. (If they were absent, accusations would be made that Jewish women were being "excluded from Heath Care and from Reproductive Rights".)

Right. I hope everybody has got all that straight.

Another clarification: terminology. 

I gather that in the modern Death Industry, because it is medically important to extract every fragment of a Jewish girl who has been pulled into pieces in the womb, together with her placenta etc. (in order to avoid sepsis), the cognoscenti nowadays like to refer to "the Product of Conception". So they piece the dismembered child  together on the slab, like a three-dimensional jigsaw, to make sure they've got every tiny bit of "the POC" out of the adhuc mother. If anybody dislikes my use of the word 'Baby' in what has preceded or in what now follows, it is absolutely completely fine by me if you substitute "POC" for the B-word. For these purposes, I am a philological libertarian! Let's not squabble about mere words!

Quite a lot of people are uneasy about the killing of Jewish babies, but they are unwilling to be quite as absolutist as I am. I sympathise with this approach, but I am unable to agree with it. This is because I am a Catholic priest, constrained and required by the Church to take an absolutist view against the killing of Jews, any Jews, all Jews, big Jews, little Jews, born Jews and unborn Jews. I know this is Rigid and Intolerant, but that is who I am, what I am, and where I am. I apologise for my awkwardness, but ....

There are two common ethical dogmas which ... I confess ... I regard as so monstrously horrible that I am unwilling to give them further consideration:

(1) Killing Jews is acceptable as long as proportionate numbers of similarly circumstanced Gentiles are also being killed; and

(2) Killing Jews out of anti-Jewish prejudice is tremendously wrong, but to kill them for other reasons (ex. gr. Population Control; Sexual Emancipation ...) is morally acceptable, or even to be applauded.

And there are, of course, thoughtful people who might claim essentially to agree with me, but argue as follows: "In the modern secular state, one sometimes needs to do a careful audit of conflicting ethical considerations. If politician X advocates the killing of Jewish babies or adults, but simultaneously also advocates some other very highly desirable outcomes, such as preserving rain-forests or encouraging sodomy, one may be justified in casting one's vote for the Jew-killer so as to secure the sodomy and the rain-forests.".

I have been familiar with something like this type of argument since my childhood. Back in the 1940s, it was  very common to hear Englishmen ... even those who had fought against Nazism in the War ... comfortably praising Herr Hitler because "at least he built some fine roads". (Mussolini, I seem to recall, "made the trains run on time".)

I suppose, in less technical terms, this is what decent ordinary people might call "voting for X as the lesser of the two evils". 

But the Church's teachings on the sacredness of all human life as one of her chief ethical principles, and on the intrinsic evil of abortion, have been reiterated, through two millennia and especially in and since Vatican II, with such Magisterial force and decision that I am completely unable to countenance the idea that Jew-killing might ever, in any conceivable circumstances, be envisaged, or encouraged via the ballot-box, by anybody who stands in or near the Catholic Tradition. Additionally, such an approach shades dangerously and unacceptably into the condemned ethical proposition that an end (however good) can justify an inherently evil means.

One final confession of my own weaknesses. A picture which sticks in my mind is of Ukrainian Jews, naked, patient, queuing up to enter a pit; a waiting SS guard with a submachine gun, smoking a cigarette. It is true that I do have a personal and visceral detestation of the killing of Jews, and I apologise if this has coloured my modes of expression. But I am convinced that what I have written above has a prescriptive and ineluctable force on those whose minds are still open to reason, and who have not lost every last snatch of humanity.

Killing ... any ... Jews ... is ... always ... wrong.

26 January 2021

NOISY PURSUITS (Did Joe and Jill go up the hill and, if so, how far?)

I offer this as a humble Scholion upon the Romance-moment of this millennium: after her first and, we are told, immensely blind date with the Once and Future President, "Dr Jill" went home and said to her mother: "Gee, Mom, at last I met a gentleman."

I suppose the locus classicus of the Gentlemanly Suitor in Western Literature is Ovid's account of Apollo's pursuit of Daphne. The god begins by suggesting that she run more carefully lest the thistles and thorns spoil the perfection of her legs. He then adds an inducement: if she will flee more slowly, he will moderate the speed of his pursuit.

This is the sort of thing that keeps us all rereading the Metamorphoses. D'you think Joe and Jill read Ovid together?

But why do the pursued so often make so much noise? In Kai Lung's Golden Hours, Kai Lung wakes in a wood to find two girls watching him. "Kai Lung ... having bowed several times to indicate his pacific nature, stood in an attitude of deferential admiration. At this display, the elder and less attractive of the maidens fled, uttering loud and continuous cries of apprehension in order to conceal the direction of her flight ..."

No wonder Hilaire Belloc so enjoyed Ernest Bramah's rococo ironies.

But there may also be a mystery about the noisiness of the pursuit. Confer this snatch of don-talk at a Common-room dinner in the middle of the Long Vacation: "Did it ever strike you ... what a very singular thing it is that dogs should bark when they are in pursuit of their prey? Very much as if Nature intended that [rabbits] should be given warning of their enemy's approach. Doesn't work, you know, from the evolutionary point of view; in a Darwinian world the dog which barks lowest ought to catch the most rabbits, and so the bark ought to disappear, don't you see? There was a man reading a very interesting paper about that at one of these congresses the other day; and he said, you know, he thought the bark of the dog was intended to drown the squealing of the rabbit, so that the other rabbits shouldn't know anything disastrous was happening ..."

Notanda (1) Even in 1928, Knox is parodying the 'Y'know' bores and bullies.

(2) I bet there isn't a college left that does C-r dinners in the middle of the Long Vacation.


25 January 2021

What were the Minor Orders?

As so often, I need help from readers who possess the capacity to help me. As so often, my train of the thought has been stimulated by a fine recent piece from the ever-admirable Peter Kwasniewski. And, as so often, PF is at the bottom of it all.

In that first Christian millennium, what and who were the occupants of that great wealth of Minor Orders? And I think I mean, primarily, what and who were they sociologically?

Back in the days of Christendom, were all those Doorkeepers and Acolytes, Readers and Exorcists ... as we might say ... full-time employees of the Church, maintained by the Church? Or, like the servers and readers and Eucharistic Ministers and Permanent Deacons of today, were they essentially keen and worthy part-timers, not paid by the Diocese, who put on an alb on Sundays and, with the intention of enriching the Liturgy, lend a hand?

I think this matters, because it bears upon the question of what are the laity; what is their calling. There are massive practical consequences, such as "Are we clericalising the Laity?" (See PK's article in NLM). My strong instinct is to say "Yes we are and we shouldn't be". But I haven't thought all this through properly.

I do find some very suggestive help in the old Pontificale Romanum. It is in what the Bishop says to the candidates before Ordination to the Subdiaconate: "Up till now, you are free, and it is licit for you at your will to move over to worldly callings. Because if you receive this order [the subdiaconate], it will no longer be possible for you to jump back from what you have set before you ... [Hactenus enim liberi estis, licetque vobis pro arbitrio ad saecularia vota transire; quod si hunc Ordinem susceperitis, amplius non licebit a proposito resilire ...]."

And he goes on to specify celibacy, and the subdiaconal obligation to be in Ecclesiae ministerio semper mancipati.

So ... all those in minor orders could walk away, grow their hair, and get a different, secular, job, and (this seems to be implicit) find a wife. I am afraid that I cannot follow Bishop Schneider's opinions, expressed in a recent article, that "to carry out any, even a more humble, service in public worship, it is necessary that the minister receive a stable or sacred designation" [My emphasis]. The pre-Conciliar Pontificale makes it perfectly clear that those in minor Orders are at liberty, if they feel like it (pro arbitrio), just to walk away from (transire) that ministry and grab a votum saeculare. When the Pontiff made clear that subdeacons were semper mancipati (like pieces of merchandise permanently purchased), he implied that this had not previously been their status.

But, as long as they remained functioning as doorkeepers, etc., were they an integral part of the clerus Romanus; fed a mensa pontificali, recognisable by their tonsure? Or were they like the modern laity lending a hand? 

This method of enquiry ... getting into the ancient Roman texts ... offers us the the most robust and simple way into the problem of what were the occupants of the 'Minor Orders'; and what are the men and women admitted to the two 'ministries' invented by S Paul VI?. And what is a layperson?

24 January 2021

Bobby Mickens

 I love to read the bits of Mickens which are free, before he shows us a clean pair of heels and disappears behind his paywall ...

"One day, in maybe 50 or 100 years from now, these words, or others similar to them, but probably even lengthier, will be the preamble to the papal encyclical or conciliar document that will finally open the ordained priesthood to women. Then there will be paragraphs about Mary of Magdala, who was the first to proclaim the real presence of the Risen Christ to the 'other' disciples. Seriously.".

(1) During the years when we were resisting the sacerdotal ordination of women in the Church of England by saying "it would create a new barrier between ourselves, Rome, and Orthodoxy", we were continually given the reply: "The next pope but one will authorise it in the RC Church." It is interesting that this timespan has now been authoritatively lengthened. Poor Cardinal Martini of Milan, you will remember, spent longer as The Next Pope than any other man in history.

(3) I have lived long enough to know that it is the unexpected that happens. Bobby still has upon him the engaging gloss of youthful naivete; he really does believe that in the distant future, papal encyclicals and conciliar decrees will be whizzing around; that Mary of Magdala will still be plying her fish-trade on the Sea of Tiberias. The happy ingenu! Moi, I don't think the Apostle Junia will still be gliding across the dance floor on her zimmer frame in a century's time. Still less, that the critical issues of that moment will still be those of the 1980s. Things move on. Stuff happens. As the late Euripides so wisely and so often reminded the Athenian Demos, "polla d'aelptos krainousi theoi; kai ta dokethent' ouk etelesthe, ton d'adoketon poron heure theos ... "

(4) Mickens still clings to the old 1960s ultrahypersuperueberpapalist superstition that a papal encyclical can change everything.

God bless his cotton socks! Long may he cling!

23 January 2021

A Welshman speaks about Betjeman

This is from the Interview with Archbishop emeritus Rowan Williams, in the new magazine MONK which I mentioned on Sunday January 17.

" ... I have a very soft spot for John Betjeman. I don't think he's one of the great 20-th century English poets, but he is a very considerable poet, and there is one of his poems in a teashop in Slough or somewhere like that. It's a very unlikely place, and the loving couple who are having tea are rather shady characters, but Betjeman says they're just touched with glory at this moment simply because they love each other ... very incarnational ... embrace of the ordinary ..."

Bathonians might not be impressed that Williams mistakes Bath (where the poem is in fact situated) for Somewhere Like Slough. Oh dear! Should interviews be reproduced without any editing at all? Indeed, in the paragraph above, and in the paragraph I reproduced earlier, it has seemed to me necessary slightly to arrange the syntax. Readers with an academic interest in the sometimes loose vernacular sentence structures even of a donnish retired Archbishop will find the interview, as printed in MONK, valuable material! But here is Betjeman's poem.

"Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another --

       Let us hold hands and look."

She, such a very ordinary little woman;

       He, such a thumping crook;

But both, for a moment, a little lower than the angels

       In the teashop's ingle-nook." 

21 January 2021

Self Reinvention (4).

But you are wondering what became of the Feudal Property which Athelstan Riley bought in Jersey, so as to secure a quasi-noble status. It was at a place called La Trinite. And, here again, Riley rewrote History. The House had previously been distinctly ordinary ... Riley substantially rebuilt it to look like a ... you guessed ... a traditional Norman Manor House. Indeed, it is probably the finest such 'typical' property within the ancient Duchy! So fine that, during the Occupation, the German CO occupied it and the Rileys had to remove themselves to an estate cottage. But it was important to the entire 'Project Riley'. So, in 1918, in his new Coat of Arms, Riley got the Heralds to include (on a canton) the arms used by previous families which had held the property and the seigneury (a red canton with nine golden billets).

Did I mention that Riley was not short of money? I am going to conclude by plagiarising the The Liturgical Arts Journal (March 6, 2018) to add a few words about his London Residence, Number 2 Kensington Court (by 2018, the Milestone Hotel). It was built for him (did I mention that he employed the best, most expensive people to do such work for him?) in 1895 by the Sir Thomas Jackson who also built a great deal of Oxford in the last part of the nineteenth century. It included a little Oratory by Kempe (Did I ...er ...) the altar piece of which was subsequently removed so that the little room could become part of the hotel's dining complex. Riley's daughter Morwenna Brocklebank gave it in 1950 to Cavendish Church in Suffolk, where it still languishes although no longer used as a Altar piece. (Such pre-modern fripperies can play no role in modern feminised Anglican liturgical extravaganzas such as Messy Church!)

It is a medieval Flemish carving restored by Ninian Comper, and defiantly bearing Riley's first Coat of Arms, impaled with Molesworth for his wife).



The reason why Riley equipped his Church with so many vestments and altars? Behind the church, he built what he hoped would be a home for retired (Anglo-Catholic) priests. I am sure he envisaged them all strolling down each morning to say their private Masses. Sadly, the scheme never took off. It has been suggested that retired clergy prefered little townships with cinemas and shops to Cornish hamlets beside beautiful inlets of the sea. Incidentally, Riley was not a papalist (indeed, he was involved in controversy with the Arch-Anglo-Papalist Fr Fynes Clinton). The Mass those clergy would have celebrated would probably have been the Order in the Prayer Book of 1549, which Riley, like Lord Halifax, favoured because it was 'Anglican' without being as marred by Cranmer's Zwinglian theology as subsequent Prayer Books were. (Possibly, this liturgical disposition may have deterred Ultramontane clerics.)

Little Petherick Church also has a very 'Comper' Rood Screen, which includes renderings of the Riley Arms.

There are, of course, no such things as 'the Coat of Arms belonging to your name'. Firms which offer to sell such things to tourists are being a little reticent in the information they offer. In English Armoury, you have Arms if you have inherited them in direct line, or if they are granted by the College of Heralds. Riley's father John had petitioned for, and been granted, Arms in 1857. But they alluded to a commerial past. A ship looking rather like a tea clipper. Three bees suggesting Hard Work. But Athelstan did not work. Athelstan did not go merchandising round the World ... (there was also a chevron and a couple of crosses).  

So, in 1918, Riley petitioned for and received revised Arms. The rather modern mercantile ship was replaced by a nice 'ancient ship'. The industrious bees disappeared. The whole thing now looks much more decently 'medieval'!

The Little Petheick Rood Screen shows these 'revised' Arms ... but dates from well before 1918. So ... a PROBLEM!

But a careful examination of the painted Arms reveals that a modern ship has been painted out, and the Ancient Ship painted over it. And the bees have been painted over ... but, in raking light, you can see the shadow of them.

Riley is up-dating his self-reinvention!

To be continued.

20 January 2021

Aztecs galore

Much talk in the public presses here about Mr Biden's ancestry! God bless him on this auspicious day!

Apparently, he has a narrative that he is descended from a Captain George Biden of the Honble East India Company who went to India (surprise surprise) and married (how very politically correct) an Indian woman. The problem is that the achives of the Company know nothing of any such person, There was a Captain Christopher Biden, but he had an English wife. Of course, he may have been into bigamy, but would that not turn him into a colonial predator and imperialist exploiter of defenceless indigenous womanhood? Wrong message.

The passion of North American presidents for genealogy reminds me of our own Tudor period ... once described by Dom Gregory Dix as the closest England ever came to the rule of the Gestapo. Tudor England was awash with New Men; and many of them were not averse to coming to an arrangement with members of the College of Heralds to ... er ... demonstrate their descent from great but by then extinct medieval families. Take the Spencers ... most famous modern member: the widely-loved Diana. As they gradually ascended the social and financial ladder, the Tudor Spencers were granted a first Coat of Arms ... which made no explicit or implicit assertion of nobility. But when they had ascended even further, they persuaded Clarenceux King of Arms to 'demonstrate' their descent from the mighty medieval Despencer family ... and to grant them a a new Coat implying their 'rediscovered' identity as a cadet branch of that familiy.

Genealogists and antiquaries, I fear, were in Tudor (and Stuart) days no less corruptible than ordinary, common men. Next time you find yourself at a party where a member of the College of Heralds is also present, try creeping up behind him and gently murmuring "Garter Dethick". You will find it makes him go all limp and twitchy. And one Tudor antiquary (Leland) went round Cornwall hoovering up nice books from suppressed monastic houses, and gathering local historical information. Medieval Catholic Cornish legend had had a fair bit to say about an immensely tyrannous and odious King Tudor. Happily, Leland's more profound and balanced researches showed Tudor to have been a pious and benevolent monarch. Even in murderous Tudor England, Leland, unlike others, lived long enough to go mad.

The genealogical ambitions of American presidents lack, in my view, any real imagination. Why doesn't this nice old gentleman employ someone to establish his descent from the Emperor Montezuma? This would give him an enviable First Nation family history ... and it would enable him to explain that his attitude towards the killing of babies is a cultural reflection of the simple, uncontaminated, indigenous  North America which existed before the colonising Spaniards and their pro-life clergy spoiled all the fun.

I believe Montezuma once sacrificed some 80,000 human beings in one single day. I know this falls short of today's Abortion statistics (in Britain as well as in America), but it indicates a striking combination of logistical skills and ideological determination which even the purposive Kamala might envy.

Biden will not wish to fail the tests set before him by History.

What would be the Aztec for "Long Live the President"?

19 January 2021

Self Invention (2)

Perhaps the best place to see Riley at work is in the little Church of Little Petherick in Cornwall. This was within the sphere of influence of Riley's aristocratic in-laws.  You would't think the Reformation had happened! The workmanship is of the best (did I mention that Riley had endless money?). Sir (John) Ninian Comper, finest of English Church Decorators, did the glass. He also did a fine banner, to the honour of S Petroc, the local Saint. On this banner is a Latin stanza. Given style and metre, is quite clearly the opening of a Sequence in honour of S Petroc. Except that ... it isn't. Since negatives are hard to prove, I will cautiously change that to "I haven't managed to find it". I place the challenge before readers! Meanwhile, my theory is that Riley (did I say he was a fine antiquary and poet and Latinist?) composed it. 

Ave, gemma monachorum,

gloria Dumnoniorum,

     nos, Petroce, respice.

(I once finished it off with adapted stanzas in the same metre largely borrowed from a Common of Abbots in, I think, a Parisian 'neo-Gallican' Missal, but I won't bother you with that.)

Riley added to the church a superb Chantry Chapel, with a cenotaph to his wife. He included his own Coat of Arms with the helmet affrontee. In English Heraldry, this usage is confined to Knights. Riley was never given a knighthood. But he had clearly researched the Heraldry of Jersey well enough to know that the seigneurs there placed this knightly mark of status on their Arms. 

And he took advantage of the presence, during the first World War, of a Belgian refugee carver. Here I had better do some explaining.

West Country churches ... Devon and Cornwall ... were fitted up in the late Middle Ages with benches, because this appears to be the point at which the congregation began to be seated. At the end of each bench was a Bench End. These could be carved with any manner of medievally relevant things (ofyen the Emblems of the Passion). 

If you look at the set in Little Petherick Church, you will find one which has on it Riley's Arms. It is exactly the same as all the rest in colour and texture and style ... you wouldn't notice it unless you happened to know that Riley's family had been nowhere near there in  the Middle Ages and that, in any case, those Arms were not granted until several hundred years after the other bench ends were carved.

Again, you will observe Riley deftly inserting himself into a narrative which had erred only in not having included him 400 years earlier!

But I need to make some revelations about Riley's Coat of Arms. Next time.

I conclude this section by remarking upon a superb collection of old vestments collected abroad by Riley and given to the church. I hope they are still there ... there was a time when an incumbent unsympathetic to Catholicism explained to the parishioners that, as Rector, he had the right to burn them ... and was so minded ...

Yes; naked vile bullying Clericalism was as common in the C of E as it was in the post-Conciliart Catholic Church!!

But why did the church need so many vestments and aktars?

To be continued.

18 January 2021

Self Invention (1)

Imagine yourself a Victorian Englishman with a fair bit of money ... but of ambiguous social status. You have no title, not even that humblest of handles, a sweet little baronetcy. Your father was in trade. You have no ancestral pile in the countryside. Additionally, you are an Anglo-Catholic with an illusory view of the Church of England as being in unbroken succession fro the medieval provinces of Canterbury and York. How you would love to have a Church which expressed that continuity, and, in doing so, expressed your own continuity with English History, both nationally and locally. 

This was the position of Athelstan Laurie Riley (1858-1945). How might he set about solving his problems of identity?

Riley was learned ... a natural 'antiquary'. He knew that, in England, things like titles were rigidly controlled by the Crown. You might declare yourself Baron of such-a-place on your own authority, but this would simply make you a laughing-stock. The English Establishment was a close-knit body with a sense of inner coherence.

Riley first tried Cyprus. Could he purchase a feudal estate there ... perhaps, restore some crumbling castle, and adopt the dignities formerly associated with previous owners of the Crusading period? But Cyprus was a long way away ...

Normandy would be a better bet. And, by a happy chance, there are little island fragments of the Duchy of Normandy which remained under the English Crown when it lost mainland Normandy. And, by custom, when a feudal property fell vacant or a family became extinct, a new purchaser of the property  acquired the old dignities and titles.

So he bought a feudal property in Jersey.

To be continued.

17 January 2021

Rowan Williams

 A former pupil of mine has started a journal "MONK: art and the soul; an imaginarium" £15, $25, E20 for a large and lush product not supported by advertising.  If you looked at it, you would not, I think,  feel you had wasted your money.

Here is a paragraph from a long interview with Archbishop emeritus Rowan Williams; his words seem to me to apply to the Ordination rites of the post-Conciliar Roman Rite quite as much as it does to the modern rites of the Church of England:

" ... it's no kind of strategy for mission if we say we have to make [things?] less mysterious or less strange. I'm not a Latin Mass Fundamentalist , or a Prayer Book Fundamentalist, but I do think we get it seriously wrong if we think it's all got to be streamlined somehow, and simplified and made accessible. When I used to take ordinations according to the new Anglican Rite I used to feel really impatient because we were always explaining. There was always another paragraph telling people what's going on. I just thought, why can't we get on with it?"

Of course, Williams will have read Catherine Pickstock's After Writing, which uses various tools to elucidate the 'stammering' and 'oral' quality of the Tridentine Roman Rite. If certain things had fallen out differently, Archbishop Williams could have been one of us. 

After a couple of pages, he explains " ... I did, for a long time, think about [joining the Catholic Church], but ...

He explains his "but", and then goes on "It always seems to me that the great strength of the Roman Catholic Church, here and elsewhere, is the sheer taken-for-grantedness of prayer, and the on-going sacramental presence."

Once, when visiting Pope Benedict, Rowan was told that there was a slight delay while the Holy Father prayed before the Blessed Sacrament; he replied "Why can't I pray before the Blessed Sacrament too?" As a young priest, he had introduced Benediction in his parish.

I have heard that when, at his retirement, Williams paid his last visit to Benedict and knelt down to ask his blessing, the two of them were in tears.

15 January 2021

Ten glorious years ...

... since the erection of the Ordinariates. It seems so much longer, because it feels as if this is where we have always been. As, in a sense, we have.

Praise be to God for all the graces which, from 1559 onwards, ultimately led to the Ordinariates. And for the graces which have followed. And God Bless good Pope Benedict. May God reward him for the courageous pontificate which did so much to redirect the Latin Church. How unfortunate it is that some 'traditionalist' voices are now finding it convenient to try to rubbish him. They should have a greater sense of decency.

I did not go to Westminster Cathedral to witness the events of January 15, 2011, because it somehow seemed more real to go that day to the Oxford Oratory and to witness the Reception into Full Communion of a distinguished and entertaining former Head Server of Pusey House. Those were the days when Pusey Chapel was the antechamber to the Catholic Church for so very many of Oxford's brightest and best. (Incidentally, I have derived great pleasure from the recent news of the Reception of another member of my old congregation at the ecclesia Sancti Thomae Martyris iuxta ferriviam, in one of England's Oratories. What a gift the Oratorian communities are to God's Church. Nod nod ... wink wink ... if you approach an Oratorian priest about reception into full communion, he may not put you into a queue labelled RCIA with the date 'Next Easter', but instead may tutor you individually and receive you when you both consider it's the right time. I think a lot of Ordinariate clergy do the same.)

But I did go into London a few days before 15 January 2011 for a surreal event: the ordination of our three bishops to the diaconate! Men who, for years, had worn dalmatics under their chasubles when celebrating a solemn pontifical High Mass .... for example, at their half-dozen annual Chrism Masses ... were now being solemnly clothed in the vestment! Surreal indeed ... it seemed like a joke. (The ceremony happened in the chapel of Allen Hall, formerly part of a Perpetual Adoration Convent. It was in that Chapel that the future Dom Gregory Dix went to pray before being received; and it was there and then that he believed himself called, instead, to remain unreceived and in the C of E, and to work for Reunion from that end of the broken bridge. No such ideas, presumably, disturbed the thoughts of our three Right Reverend candidates for the diaconate! Water .... Bridges ....)

Surreal, too, in that a homily was preached by a venerable cleric who repeated all the erroneous ideas about the nature of the diaconate which I had hoped had disappeared with the 1970s. I sat there bemused.

I hope it is not irreverent to surmise that my amused reactions may have been at least understood by Providence. Because ... I presume incense was not normally used in that chapel ... the, er, fire alarm kept going off. And ... you will have guessed ... not least during the Consecrations. It must have been a nightmare for Bishop Alan Hopes, who was celebrating the Mass. And who also deserves our gratitude for the ever-kindly help he so generously gave us.

14 January 2021


I sympathise with those who wanted us out of the EU because I myself know what it is like to want out of gruesome amalgamations. I've never liked the Yewk Aye, which, after all, dates only from the early 1920s, despite all the pseudo-History we unload on to gullible tourists..

My hopes for 2021? If Ms Sturgeon gets Scotland out of the Yewk Aye, that will leave it looking rather stupid, won't it? Then, as the Good Friday Agreement envisages, we could be heading into the zone where a referendum will draw nearer on the departure of the Six Counties into the Republic of Ireland. Splendid, as far as I'm concerned. 

That would leave just the historical kingdom of England, together with what Bankers term "the Crown Dependencies": i.e., Man, the Three-legged island; and some fragments of the Duchy of Normandy. People might even learn to refer once again to the Atlantic Archipelago as "the Three Kingdoms". Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

I'm a simple soul. I could live with that. Especially if it meant we were spared seeing the (post 1800)"Union Jack" on flagpoles. A flag with absurd complexities. Enthusiastically 'patriotic' flag-flyers often fly it upside down by mistake. Would-be tourists to this island would do well to learn the design carefully just for the simple pleasure of counting the number of occasions they see it inverted. Are we the only country in the world in which the 'National Flag' is so commonly hoisted the wrong way up? What is the symbolism of this?

The flags with the most appealingly simple designs are, surely, those of Greece and Brittany. Nobody ever flies them upside down. Texas, ditto.

Moi? I think of myself as a Citizen of the Colonia Claudia Victricensis, my ancestral town. I am very proud of that. Very very proud. Like the man from Tarsus, I value what follows, the affirmation "Rhomaios eimi".

But ... oops ... Saul of Tarsus, himself a man not indifferent to matters of citizenship and civic pride, seems to have posed awkward questions to people who, like me, are over-proud of the citizenship of our coloniae: " humon pou to politeuma huparkhei??"

13 January 2021

Women priests and the Papal Magisterium. Good news.

(1) PF's Post Synodal Exhortation early last year was completely explicit on the question of the 'Ordination' of women to the priesthood.

Para 101: "Jesus Christ appears as the Spouse of the community that celebrates the Eucharist through the figure of a man who presides as a sign of the one Priest.".

In the Italian, uomo. German eines Mannes. French homme. Spanish varon. Portuguese varao. All these terms refer unmistakably to maleness. Kind readers have assured me that the same id true of Arabic, Polish, Chinese terms used in the various versions of the Exhortation.

(2) Now the Pope has decided that women may be admitted to the Ministries of Lector and Acolyte. But in doing so, he has clearly distinguished between Holy Orders and those other 'Ministries' which may be open to all those who are baptised. About such Ministries, he writes: "essi sono essenzialmente distinti dal ministero ordinato che si riceve con il Sacramento dell'Ordine".

This document was issued motu proprio. It has a distinct magisterial status. I wouldn't have thought there was much doubt that Cardinal Ladaria had a hand in it, since PF refers to "having heard the opinion of the competent dicasteries". (This, in itself, is reassuring, since it upholds the dogmatic truth that the Petrine Office is not to be understood individualistically, in terms of one man playing his private games, but in terms of the collegiality of the Roman Church.)

So, in two distinct but complementary steps, PF has added to and strengthened the position established by his predecessors, particularly, of course, S John Paul in his Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

Moreover, while the Exhortation concentrated on the Priesthood, this Motu proprio clearly indicates an "essential" barrier between the 'Ministeries' concerned, and the Diaconate. Thus the Paradosis has been strengthened. It is not surprising that Liberal Elements are very unhappy about this. 

I can see why some traditionalists are troubled by thought of women robed and in sanctuaries. For a generation, heterodox Anglicans demanded priestesses in the Church of England, and started off with Women Readers, Deaconesses, and Women Deacons. Just so, our Catholic trouble-makers will be concentrating on the first 'stage' of their plot. Once you get women lectors/acolytes wearing clerical garb and posturing around altars, you are gradually habituating a congregation to a feminised ministry which makes 'the next and logical stage', women deacons, followed soon by women priests, more culturally acceptable. The heretics would, of course, very soon forget the force of PF''s Essenzialmente distinti.

This makes it all the more remarkable that PF is actually  jumping one step ahead of the heretics. Like those orthodox Catholics who point out that the Sacrament of Order is essentially indivisible, PF treats Holy Order as one. In his Post Synodal Exhortation, he took the claim that "women would be granted a greater status and participation in the Church only if they were admitted to Holy Orders", and then remarked "But that approach would in fact narrow our vision; it would lead us to clericalise women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective".

On the whole, I think Traddies should be rather pleased with both the Exhortation and the Motu proprio, and with the evolution of the Magisterium in this area..

12 January 2021

Questions in Father's Postbag

(1) A learned brother priest asks me ... cheeky, yes?! ... whether one may use the Votive Mass pro eligendo pontifice when the Roman See is not vacant. 

Having carefully looked through the texts and the rubrics, my view is that there is absolutely no reason why one should not. How can there be anything wrong in asking the Almighty to give the Roman Church a bishop whose loving care for us might earn God's constant favour and whose good government might glorify God's Name? A pontiff who will teach God's people virtue and fill the souls of the faithful with sweet spiritual fragrance? What can there be objectionable in a Mass proper which, in the Graduale, so neatly evokes the venerable ancient Roman Prayer for consecrating a bishop (not abolished until after Vatican II)?

The Offertorium could be the starting point for lengthy homilies: "Let them not partake of the Holy Things, until a pontiff shall arise for plain speaking and truth (in ostensionem et veritatem)".

(2) A poor layman suffers immensely when the name of Francis is uttered in the Mass. 

(a) Attend only Latin Extraordinary Form Masses. You will be spared hearing those dread three syllables.

(b) Here is a solution from within our Anglican Patrimony, which I mention only lepido cum ioco

In Edinburgh, there is a Pisky church (Old S Paul's) which dates back to the happy days when Piskies were Jacobite. So, in the Liturgy, the Sovereign was not named. (If you simply say the words "Our King", it will not be obvious whether you are praying for King George or King James.) 

But the time came when Farmer George (III) seemed much more like a Jacobite monarch than had his horrible Father or his infamous grandfather; and the Pisky clergy decided to name him liturgically. 

There were long-serving lay members of the congregation, stalwart and valiant loyalists, who, having been 'out' in the '45, naturally found this liturgical innovation distinctly trying.

So, every time, the hated name 'George' was uttered, it was drowned in fits of helpless coughing.

I have no idea how long this continued ...

I only mention it iocandi causa.  

But I suppose, if one were a Rex Mottram, one could do ones coughing silently and 'spiritually'.

An Age of Prigs?

 Not long ago, a Samantha Price, head mistress of Benenden School, caused a rumpus. 

Addressing her girls on the way languages change, she took as an example the word 'Negro'. "Senior Girls", silly little ... , were much Hurt. Price "unreservedly apologised". 

Silly little prigs. Silly weak woman. Were I  Chair of Governors, I would give her the choice: withdraw your "unreserved apology"; or resign.

When I was in the Teaching Industry, a 'crisis' arose concening a woman student. Her father, who ... as we say ... was not short of a quid or two, had given her an expensive coat made up of the furs of a considerable variety of highly interesting animals. The other girls raised such a hullaballoo that she was told not to wear the coat any more.

And, just before the Age of the Virulent Virus, we had the Age of Greta Thunberg, the Silly Swede, under whose influence it became morally praiseworthy to miss 20% of one's education in order to hang around in city centres being Holier than Thou. I was interested in her rabid self-referentiality when she screamed at a gathering of politicians "You have robbed me of my childhood  and stolen my dreams ... how dare you ...", her face contorted with ugly rage.

Oops ... my examples of priggery seem so far to be female. 

As ever, I have a theory.

Adolescent boys are a very nasty lot. Egged on by hormones, poor things, and the uncontrolled urge to be Alpha Males, they behave aggressively. They are pitiful to behold.

And how are adolescent girls any different? They have, indeed, quite a liking for doing very much the same sort of thing; a colleague of mine who had once taught younger girls informed us that "They're nastiest at 14". But girls generally consider it more stylish to be nasty from the lofty position of The Moral High Ground rather than to indulge themselves the unsophisticated male pleasures of sadistic physical violence. 

Am I on to something here?

11 January 2021


(1) Donald Trump's manner may not be mine, but I am concerned that he is being banned from certain "Platforms". You remember that precisely and beautifully targetted sentence about "They came for the Jews, but I did nothing, because I am not a Jew. They came for the Communists, but  ... etc..

Well ... they shut down Trump, but I did nothing, because I am not a Trompista. What will I say when the NeoGestapo stop my mouth because I sometimes contradict what the Thought Police dictate?

(2)  I have said this before, I think ... Why do we now hear rather less about Biodiversity? Here we are with an immensely mutable virus with fantastic, inbuilt, capacity to change and renew itself though innumerable variant versions in order to follow the paths so lucidly laid out by Mr Darwin. Why is PF not shouting across the airwaves about the relevance of this glorious, paradigmatic covidvirus to the teaching of his Laudato si, in which he so praised "Biodiversitas"?

But, if PF is silent, this very morning it has been announced that Prince Charles is launching a new campaign for Biodiversity. As the rest of our country struggles to hunt down and destroy every mutant variation of the Coronavirus, I find it surrealistic to imagine this strange eccentric calling out "Camilla! Yippee! Wonderful news! Three more new variants this morning of Our Virus! And ... time for a Quick One ... they're getting more and more transmissible!!!"

(3) Why has the CDF not condemned the neo-Dualists who describe the virus as "evil"?

(4) Not long ago, much praise was heaped upon the Silly Swede for persuading children to follow her order to give up 20% of their education to a 'School Strike" which would Defend the Planet. Currently, in this country there is much debate about whether schools should be open or shut. Why not shut them all with the obvious formula that this is being done as a vibrant expression of Solidarity with the Environment? If the Virus eventually were to go away, we would be able to point out that X number of potential pupil days had been devoted to the School Strike, so that Education could then carry on uninterrupted.

(5) All the experts who appear on our screens to talk us through the Pandemic (do they get fees for their generosity with their time?) seem to have the style "Professor". 

When I was an undergraduate, 'Professors' were immensely rare and majestic phenomena ... all of them, from the august, godlike 'Regius' Professors downwards. Now, everybody except me appears to be a Professor. Is this another glorious example of the multiplicative power of Biodiversity? Does Professority spread like a virus? Is 'Professorial load' a factor in transmission? If I spend more than a few moments in an enclosed space with a number of Professors, will I later discover that I have fallen victim to the condition myself??

Are there vaccines against professority? Can you get it twice? Can you catch it off lavatory seats?

10 January 2021


When Mercurius descends in person to the great ballroom at Belbury and unmakes Language, his first victim is Jules/H G Wells. Some snatches of his speech ...

 ... as gross an anachronism as to trust to Calvary for salvation in modern war ... the future density of mankind depends on the implosion of the horses of Nature ... the madrigore of verjuice must be talthibianised ... accept the challenge of the past by throwing down the gauntlet of the future ... aholibate ... the surrogates esemplanted in a continual of porous variations ... we shall not till we can secure the erebation of all prostundiary initems ...

"Aholibate" seems singled out by Lewis for particular emphasis. I wonder why.

It evokes for me Ezekiel's Whore-Queen Aholibah whose 'magificent nonsense' flooded off Swinburne's pen (did he drug?) and which Peter Wimsey called upon his bride to recite ... "I am the Queen Aholibah/ My lips kissed dumb the word of Ah/ Sighed on strange lips grown sick thereby ... " while all the time Ms Twitterton lurked nearby ... and what was Wimsey doing to make his wife fear that he would break the chair?

 Is this the corruption of language that we see in the day-by-day disintegration of our own language? Does Mercurius call, loud and intolerably glad above our own riot of nonsense


9 January 2021

Quaeritur ...

Can anybody throw any light on this?

A few days ago I received a four-sided document headed Understanding why the Ordinariate is not Catholic, and 'signed' Fidei Defensor.

It is literately written and demonstrates quite a bit of knowledge. It could be American, but I think it more likely to be English. Its thesis is that the Ordinariate is a plot to protestantise the Catholic Church by introducing Liturgy which is Protestant and based on the 39 Articles.

The writer's thesis is undermined radically by the fact that she or he is unaware that the Ordinariate Rite of Mass was made more  'Catholic' than the Novus Ordo ...; partly by including a great deal of material from the 'Tridentine Rite' of S Pius V; partly by completely forbidding all the post-Vatican-II Eucharistic Prayers, at least on Sundays and Feast Days. (Only the ancient Canon Romanus  may then be used. No Anglican Eucharistic Prayers are ever allowed at all.)

After Ordinariate clergy started to become manifest in the Mainstream Church, complaints were indeed heard about the singing of the Angelus or of a Marian Anthem after Sunday Mass ... or about "the Latin (sic) stuff at the beginning" [the Kyries] ... et alia talia ...

But such things are not commonly thought of as coming from the 39 Articles ... at least, not directly ...

8 January 2021

Stone Altars

When the High Command of the Luftwaffe, men of cosmopolitan good taste, so wisely singled out the London Wren Church of S Stephen Walbrooke for Updating and Reordering, they probably did not know that their choice would lead to some very jolly legal proceedings. 

After the War, plans were submitted for a large, roundish central stone altar designed by Sir Henry Moore, an English sculptor then held in high regard. But there were Certain People around who, for some reason quite lost upon me, deemed stone altars to imply doctrines contrary to those of the Church of England (who she?). Poppets!

Moore's design "suggested that the centre of the Church reflected the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac as a prefiguring of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and the place for the offering of the Eucharist at the heart of Christian worship." 

The poppets went to the Ecclesiastical courts. Among the judges nominated to hear their case was one of the Church of England's most distinguished (and few) canonists, Bishop Eric Waldram Kemp. Happily, he and his colleagues decided against the poppets.

Goodness me, when, in later years, he told the tale of those merrily litigious days, how the dear old thing did snuffle!

As well as being Bishop of Chichester, Kemp was also Visitor of the Society of our Lady and S Nicolas, of Lancing; where, some seven or eight decades earlier, essentially the same question had arisen.

"I trust, Mr Woodard, that your Holy Table is movable". 

"Certainly, Archdeacon. Twelve horses moved it in here, and twelve horses could move it out." 

An attitude, surely, with which Our Patriarch Abraham would have agreed?

7 January 2021

An Exciting Year (2)

Going on pilgrimage to Abraham offers PF the most wonderful evangelistic possibilities. 

Abraham was the Man of Sacrifice.  When, like Mary, he accepted obediently the command of YHWH, he went from his own country and was first at Shechem, where "he built an altar to YHWH who had appeared to him". Between Bethel and Ai, "he built an altar to YHWH and called on the Name of YHWH". And, when he came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, he built an altar to YHWH. Then there was the mysterious Sacrifice of the Covenant, when the flaming torch passed between the sacrificial offerings. And his Offering made to the Divine Three. And the Sacrifice upon the Mount of Moriah, where, generations later, another Sacrifice was to be made, the Sacrifice which is at the centre of all places and of all times; the source of all Atonement; the Mercy Seat.

For a Bishop of Rome to stand in the land of Abraham and to summon all men and women to the one Sacrifice, to the one Faith, to the sacrificial outpoured Blood of the One Redeemer, would be a truly marvellous exercise of the Petrine Ministry.  "Come to Jesus" would echo round the world and down the years.

In recent years, we have sometimes heard of "the Three Great Abrahamic Faiths". That is all nonsense. Or, if you dislike short words and sentences, I put it to you that, as a taxonomical exercise, it is unacceptable because, at least by implication, it has a strong momentum towards levelling (a factor which might not have been a matter of indifference to some of those who devised it and sponsor it). Of the three 'religions' which such people have in mind, only the one they call "Christianity" offers sacrifice to YHWH; a pure Offering; from the rising of the sun unto its setting. Rabbinic synagogue Judaism has known no sacrifice since the Fall of the Temple. Abraham would search in vain for an Altar of Sacrifice in any synagogie. Although, I believe, some vestiges of sacrificial activity survive in some parts of the Islamic world, no-one could say that Islam itself is a fundamentally sacrificial religion, so that in every mosque Abraham would recognise the Altar of Sacrifice at the heart of that worshipping community.

Abraham was and is our Patriarch. He sacrificed in the Faith he had been given, the Faith of the LORD who called him. His sacrifices pointed to (and are taken into) the One Sacrifice; the Oblation which the Lamb offers perpetually before His Father. To this immense and glorious Mystery all men and women are called.

I pray that God will preserve PF from the temptation to turn his Abrahamic Pilgrimage into some sort of syncretistic gesture towards our friends in 'other faiths'. I pray that he will turn from syncretism, because "Come to Jesus" would be a message heard by the simplest and by he most erudite. "Come to Jesus Now" would be a summons worth more than any number of carefully phrased ecumenical 'statements' for academics to study and argue over. Peter himself would be speaking. What better call could the vive-gerent of the Household of YHWH utter?

The Eternal Truth and the Spotless Sacrifice must not be cut down to being a mere Religion. 

Even giving it a name ... "Christianity" ... risks turning it into one religion among others.

It is nothing of the sort.

6 January 2021


EFF-i cass-y.


ef-FIC-ass-y? (Vide recentia.)

The other day, I heard an even more gorgeously exotic verbal flower:


Our unlettered classes are so adorably sweet.

An Exciting Year ... (1)

..., because the Roman Pontiff has consecrated it to S Joseph. And PF is going this year as a pilgrim to seek out the footprints of Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. 

Possibly, in a more joined-up potnificate, the Year might also have been dedicated to Abraham. (Arguably, since he is in the Roman Martyrology, I should refer to him as Saint Abraham.)

It is odd, when you think of it, that Abraham has so little cultus in the Latin Church. Every morning, her faithful priests commemorate him in the Canon of the Mass: Abraham our Patriarch. Even Novus Ordo clergy remember him twice daily, at Lauds and Vespers, in the Gospel canticles, every day of their lives. And how appropriately; after the Flood, and the incontinence of Noe, Abraham was the Just Man of Faith in whom YHWH founded a new humanity. The Authentic Roman Rite celebrates him on Quinquagesima Sunday. Our greatest theologian, S Paul of Tarsus, expounded his significance. Yet when did you last light a candle in front of his statue?

PF's visit to our Blessed Father's homeland in modern-day Iraq provides many wonderful opportunities. For example: 

PF has expressed some sympathy for an inculturated liturgical culture, particularly in the Amazon. I share the apprehensions of some that this will end in tears, but the idea itself is one with many glorious precedents. In Iraq, for example, there is the ancient Chaldaean Rite, an inculturated expression of nearly two millennia of witness, martyrion. It is just waiting for a Vicar of Christ to come and celebrate it, Addai and Mari and all! Surely, PF will celebrate this Liturgy, or perhaps, as we used to say, 'preside from the throne' while his Venerable Brother, Patriarch Louis Raphael offers the Sacrifice. Any other possibility is too totally tactless to imagine: that a visiting Pope should celebrate the Roman Rite in such a place would be a piece of old-style Latinising. It would suggest that the Roman Rite had a sort of primacy over the other rites in which the Bride of Christ is so wonderfully adorned. It would recall the bad old days when sneering Latin priests and prelates despised authentic Oriental expressions of the Faith as being merely temporary condescensions, absurdities permitted simply to ease the way as members of reunited Eastern communities were gradually induced to become 'proper Catholics'.

But there might be something even worse than such tactlessness: for a visiting Pope to celebrate the  the Roman Rite in its Novus Ordo form. This would mean privileging a bastardised form of that Liturgy, a form which emerged from the 1960s, over every other Rite, Western as well as Eastern, ancient as well as modern. And that is a liturgical form, moreover, which was created in the heart of Europe, overwhelmingly by white males of one particular and, please God, transient, culture. Arguably, this would be an act of diachronic and synchronic schism: a trampling over the ancient rites of the Middle East; a trampling over the Roman Rite itself in its authentic form. An act of overweening European cultural and spiritual imperialism; Western arrogance made manifest in the ugliest of ways; 'Colonialism', at its worst, expressed liturgically.

I have not always been uncritical of PF; but surely, even he would immedately perceive the unsuitability of such Latin and Westerrn Triumphalism. 

To be concluded.

5 January 2021

I will have to be fair ...

Some time ago, I criticised Boris Johnson because, during one of his lock-downs, he locked down the churches too.

He has once again locked England down ... but (in accordance with a tip and a wink he gave to Sir Edward Leigh M P) our churches, this time, are not closed down.

Perhaps 'Justice' is not one of my strong points ... but here is my opportunity to be fair to him.

He has behaved like an honest man.

Har Har

Historically-minded Brits will remember that Harrrrh Harrrrh was the native cry of that great English pirate, Cut Throat Jake. And Harwood has been, since the Doomsday Book, a village in Yorkshire. Because of the entertaining vagaries of English topographical nomenclature, it has long been spelt Harewood but pronounced Harwood.

Now the owner of a quite recently built house near the village has decided to change the pronunciation!! A member of the Lascelles family, possessor of one of those late, Georgite, 'peerages', has decided that this is the properly demotic thing to do. Lettered readers will recall that, for political reasons, some branches of the Claudii repackaged themselves as Clodii. (The Citizen King would have understood.) 

The Lascelles family acquired their cabbodle from a Trade which today it would be inelegant to specify. But, in the splendour of their plutocratic, oligarchic, Whiggish arrogance, they have lost none of their conviction that they are empowered even to change ancient placenames.

4 January 2021

Fanned to a golden blaze

A dear friend in Scotland sent me a Christmas Card with a picture of Fr Martin Mary, of the Papa Stronsay Redemptorists, celebrating his First Mass (a High Mass) on the Scottish Mainland. The picture at first seems fuzzy ... until one one realisess that a brilliant beam of sunlight is shining down through the incense-smoke onto the young celebrant. Beautiful!

It reminded me of this evocative poem by Sir John Betjeman, with its marvellous and moving final stanza. It seems so prophetic as an evocation of the resurrection of Catholic Worship witnessed by so many youthful movements in the Catholic Church, not least the Papa Stronsay Redemptorists and the Ordinariates. I deem it ripe for yet another showing (a philological question at the end). Fans out, everybody!

What a difference there is between Waking and Woke!

We, who remember the Faith, the grey-headed ones,
Of those Anglo-Catholic Congresses swinging along,
Who heard the South Coast salvo of incense-guns
And surged to the Albert Hall in our thousands strong
With 'extreme' colonial bishops leading in song;

We, who remember, look back to the blossoming May-time
On ghosts of servers and thurifers after Mass,
The slapping of backs, the flapping of cassocks, the play-time,
A game of Grandmother's Steps on the vicarage grass -
"Father, a little more sherry. I'll fill your glass".

We recall the triumph, that Sunday after Ascension,
When our Protestant suffragan suffered himself to be coped -
The SYA and the Scheme for Church Extension -
The new diocesan's not as 'sound' as we'd hoped,
And Kensit threatens and has Sam Gurney poped?

Yet, under the Travers Baroque, in a limewashed whiteness,
The fiddle-back vestments a-glitter with morning rays,
Our Lady's image, in multiple-candled brightness,
The bells and banners - those were the waking days
When Faith was taught and fanned to a golden blaze.

Interesting, the pronunciation (inferred from the rhymes) of 'Mass'. Mascall's verse also implied this pronunciation, which, of course, is not universal in English English. I invite philological comments.

3 January 2021


The Catholic Herald refers to someone they call "Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks". 

This is incorrect. "Lord John Smith" means that John Smith is a younger son of either a Duke or a Marquis. 

If a plain Mr John Smith is made a Life Peer or even a hereditary baron, he is Lord Smith. Nothing comes between the 'Lord' and the 'Smith'.

Years ago, a politician called George Brown, being ennobled, wanted to be called 'Lord George Brown'. The authorities explained why this was impossible. A solution was discovered: he changed his surname to George-Brown, thus becoming 'Mr George George-Brown'. So, as a Life Peer, he was entitled to be called 'Lord George-Brown'. I'm afraid everybody laughed.

Lord Peter Wimsey, on the other hand, is the younger son of a Duke. So, if you were to hear him being addressed as 'Lord Wimsey', you could be pretty sure that the speaker came from some unimaginably mystical and mythical land distant far even beyond the Indies.

Rabbi Lord Sacks is a Life Peer. His father was not a Duke or a Marquis.

Currently, our constitution works rather well because retired and respected magnates ... Service chiefs ... Union chiefs ... Industrial chiefs ... Archbishops ... retired senior Cabinet Ministers ... top judges etc. etc. go into the House of Lords as Life Peers where their experience can be of service. (Rumour has it that Cormac Murphy O'Connor was very miffed when he was offered a Life Peerage only to be told by the Vatican that he was prevented by Canon Law from accepting.)

Chief Rabbis, laudably, come into this category.

Sacks ... a man of considerable distinction of whom we are very proud  ... could be referred to as

Rabbi Lord Sacks

Lord Sacks

Rabbi Sacks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks

Jonathan Sacks


Jonathan Lord Sacks ... and probably quite a lot of other things.

What a lot of possibilities! So why is it that people so instinctively go for the one formula which is wrong ... wrong, simply because it conveys misinformation?


2 January 2021

C S Lewis and H G Wells (2)

I rather agree with the judgement of Dorothy Sayers, that Hideous Strength is crammed full of goodies but has its shortcomings as a novel. Do the Powers at Belbury want Mark and Jane because of her clairvoyance, or his PR skills, or because they are a "eugenically interesting couple" [a view apparently shared by Merlin]? I am never quite sure, and I rather suspect that Lewis was not quite sure either. Some links are, I suggest, weak: would operatives of as violent and lawless an organisation as N.I.C.E. refrain from following Mark on his visit to Dimble inside his College simply because, like the Oxford Proctors, they were forbidden to function within colleges? 

The point, I believe, is that there are things about which Lewis feels lazy. His first motive is not to write a flawlessly plotted novel, but to teach dogma ... which is a very important thing to do. 

So consider his description of Jules's mental landscape:

" ... since, in fact, any science he knew was that taught him at the University of London over fifty years ago, and any philosophy he knew had been acquired from writers like Haeckel and Joseph McCabe and Winwood Reade, it was not, in fact, possible to talk to him about most of the things the Institute was really doing. One was always engaged in inventing answers to questions which were actually meaningless and expressing enthusiasm for ideas which were out of date and had been crude even in their prime."

 It is not usual to 'footnote' novels in this sort of way; but Lewis does it again when Professor Frost is giving Mark a tutorial on the non-existence of Good and Evil. 

"On what ground henceforth [are] actions to be justified or condemned?

"'If one insists on putting the question in those terms,' said Frost, 'I think Waddington has given the best answer. Existence is its own justification ... The judgment you are trying to make turns out on inspection to be simply an expression of emotion. Huxley himself, could only express it by using emotive terms such as "gladiatorial" or "ruthless". I am referring to the famous Romanes lecture. When the so-called struggle for existence is seen simply as an actuarial theorem, we have, in Waddington's words, a "a concept as unemotional as a definite integral" and emotion disappears. With it disappears that preposterous idea of an external standard of value which the emotion produced.'"

Lewis was not writing an entertainment half as much as he was condemning what was, he was convinced, a profoundly dangerous error. He felt strongly because doctrine is something about which a serious Christian ought to feel strongly.

The authorial narrative voice, I am sure, approves of Mark's reaction that "his present instinctive desire to batter the Professor's face into a jelly would take a good deal of destroying."

Lewis felt strongly!

Readers of Lewis's Space Trilogy sometimes feel that he must have derived some sort of stimulus or inspiration from, or experienced sympathy with, Wells's Scifi writings. My own feeling is very different.

Wells, like many Scifi writers, depicted a God-free amd Theology-free  imaginary world. By so doing they witnessed their own rigid post-Christian dogma that such God-nonsense was generically inappropriate in the Scifi world. Lewis wrote his Space Trilogy to assert that whatever 'other worlds' might exist or could be plausibly imagined, would be God's worlds, and spheres in which Christian Dogma was a thoroughy natural, indeed, unavoidable, inhabitant.

1 January 2021


Sir John Betjeman thought Lewis was cruel. Having messed lazily around at Oxford, and having sniggered about Lewis, his tutor, behind his back, B yet expected him to intervene when he failed an elementary examination in Divinity and faced being sent down. Lewis declined to help. I think most readers who have taught would feel a certain sympathy for him.

But Lewis must have been a sharpish tutor. Jane Studdock, he tells us, who wanted to write a doctoral thesis emphasising Donne's triumphant vindication of the body, "was, perhaps not a very original thinker". And there was Dr Dimble's dullest pupil, who turned up "to read an essay beginning Swift was born'".

And how about H G Wells? Lewis, writing in 1943, not long before Wells's death, hung him up to merciless ridicule. In That Hideous Strenth, the figure Horace Jules is clearly Wells; Lewis could hardly have devised a name more like Wells's name without calling the character Wells.

I think I can detect class-prejudice in this picture; Oxbridge elitism; mockery of undignified physical characteristics. Let us, er, enjoy for a moment some of the riper insults.

"Jules was a cockney. He was a very little man, whose legs were so short that he had unkindly been compared with a duck. He had a turned up nose and a face in wich some original bonhommie had been much interfered with by years of good living and conceit. His novels had first raised him to fame and affluence; later, as editor of a weekly called We Want To Know, he had become such a power in the country that his name was really necessary to the N.I.C.E."

Lewis does not scruple to resort to authorial disdain. Jules is "a spouting popinjay". But perhaps more interesting is the attitude of Lord Feverstone. This character is one of the story's baddies. He subscibes to the advanced Eugenicism which was the intellectual fashon of the interbellum years. His main ambition is his own advancement. So he is uninterested in the demonic forces at work in the N.I.C.E. He despises the practicioners of College Politics ("Curry and his wangling Machine"), and is aghast at the idea that he might be elected Warden of his College. And so his contempt for Jules adds a validity independant, in structural terms, to the authorial voice itself.

Lewis gives to Jules an anecdote which is documented as true of the actual Wells:

"'And as I said to the Archbishop, you may not know, my lord,', said I 'that modern research shows the temple at Jerusalem to have been about the size of an English village church.'"

Noticing in passing that this peasant does not know how to address, either formally or informally, an Archbishop, we observe that he is a victim of the But-Modern-Research-shows mode of debunking the past; and, moreover, that he considers the architecturally small dimensions of the Jerusalem Temple somehow to undermine 'religion'. Brilliantly, Lewis subverts Jules/Wells ex ore Feverstone:

"'God!' said Feverstone to himself where he stood silent on the Fringes of the group."

A few minutes later, Jules observes: 

"The whole question of our sex-life. What I always say is, that once you get the whole thing out into the open, you don't have any more trouble. It's all this Victorian secrecy which does the harm. Making a mystery of it. I want every boy and girl in the country--"

 With elegant economy, Lewis ridicules this nonsense:

"'God' said Feverstone to himself."

In other words, we don't need Lewis or anybody else to explain what nonsense this is, when even a crook like Feverstone despises it.

Lewis degrades Jules/Wells into the status of not even being a worthy intellectual adversary. He privileges his readers with the assumption that they share his contempt for the shallow nonsense of 'Modern Thought'.

To be continued.