31 March 2021

Nuclear Deterrence

 I would remind some of those who have left comments, that Traditional Catholicism excludes doing something intrinsece malum so that good may come of it. However good an end is, it can never justify an intrinsically evil means. 

This is why PF was wrong in saying, or implying, that the End of enabling people "in second marriages" to live happily ever after, justifies their living in Adultery.

The Catholic Faith applies just as much to the morality of killing people as it does to the morality of having sexual intercourse with people.

Catholic moral teaching cannot be excluded from any human action.

To say that 'theologians interfering in the questions of Nuclear Warfare' is analogous to 'soldiers interfering in Theology' subverts the whole Catholic notion of morality and law. Catholic Morality is not simply about telling people off for genital misdemeanors. There are Ten Commandments.

To condemn theologians for 'interfering in questions of Nuclear Warfare' is as illogical and misguided as condemning theologians for 'interfering with medics in the question of Abortion'.

If you do not believe that Warfare is as subect to the Catholic Ethical Tradition as every other thing a human being does or may do, you are in, shall we say, an anomalous relationship with Catholicism. Just like the Pelosis and the Bidens and the Kennedy clan.

The Cup of Salvation

Having received the Most Sacred Body, and meditated for a few moments, the Priest genuflects and rises, saying:
What reward shall I give unto YHWH for all the benefits that he hath done unto me? I will receive the Cup of Salvation and call upon the Name of YHWH. At a very early point in Christian history, these words were appropriated to the Cup of the Lord's Blood; in the 'Anamnesis' of the Roman Canon the priest offers Calicem salutis perpetuae ("the Chalice of Everlasting Salvation" ... I am by no means convinced of the correctness of the assumption that the form given by S Ambrose - Calicem vitae aeternae - is earlier). Perhaps the author of the psalm had in mind the (fourth) Cup "of Blessing" in the Passover Meal; a rabbinic commentary on the psalm says: "I will elevate the chalice of salvation; that is, when I keep festival and rejoicings, I will lift up a cup of wine, I will give thanks to Him over it in the presence of many, and will make mention of the salvation wherewith He has saved me." And the probability is that this psalm (116:10ff/115) was part of the Hallel said by the Lord and His disciples on Maundy Thursday Night; in the Old Breviary it is part of Vespers on Maundy Thursdsay and Good Friday.

I will offer unto thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call upon the Name of YHWH; I will pay my vows unto YHWH in the sight of all His people; in the courts of the House of YHWH, even in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.
Protestants seem always cheerfully to have assumed that this means "Sacrifice consisting of no more than verbal praise and vocalised thanksgiving". The phrase in the Hebrew Bible, of course, means a sacrifice, consisting, like all sacrifice, of material offerings (animal or vegetable), which are offered for a thanksgiving. Canon Arthur Couratin used drily to remark that, in the Old Testament, Sacrifices of Thanksgiving walked around on four legs and said Baaaa hhh. And on this Maundy Thursday it is important to remember the links in ancient sacrificial procedure ... Greek, Roman, Hebrew ... between the offering and the Sacrificial Banquet which follows the immolation and consists of eating portions of the sacrificed animal; the feast was a part of the offering. That is why it comes so easily to S Paul (I Corinthians 10:18-21) to see the Lord's Supper as sacrificial; the word he uses for supper (I Corinthians 11:29, deipnon) was used pretty well as a technical term in the invitations pagans used to send to take part in the Sacrifice and the Meal which was a integral part of the Sacrifice (many papyrus letters containing such invitations have come to light in the sands of Egypt). Some modern Christians, outside our tradition, even use the word Supper under the assumption that it points to something simple or informal or unceremonious or 'uncultic'; the contemporaries of our Lord and of S Paul would not have understood this assumption.

One also thinks here of the Levitical thank-offering of fine flour; which means that this psalm, having mentioned the Chalice, has now alluded to the two Eucharistic Elements.

This same psalm was running through the mind of whoever composed the prayer Memento, probably originally said by the Deacon and referring to the elements which the offerentes had brought up to the Altar: "who offer unto thee this sacrifice of Praise ... who render their vows ...".

These phrases have been sanctified by Eucharistic application from the Night before the Lord's Death until now. We should never forget how soaked the earliest Christians were in the Greek Old Testament; we should never forget that we Gentile Christians are, in God's Election, Jews, grafted into God's Olive Tree so as to replace that portion of God's people which had rejected their Messiah (Romans 11:17-24).

30 March 2021

Episcopal leadership

It is, I feel, distinctly courageous of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, at their recent meeting, to question the "Trident" nuclear deterrent. They deserve praise (as do those English bishops who, back in 2015, appended their signatures to a petition with a similar purpose. Honoris causa, I think these English prelates should be named: The bishops of Nottingham, Salford, Northampton, Brentwood emeritus, Leeds, Portsmouth, and Bishop Kenney auxiliary of Birmingham.)

I have long felt that some development is due in the matter of the Church's Magisterium on the two moral questions (linked but not identical) of the (1) Use; (2) Possession; of Nuclear Weapons. I fear that its development may have suffered from the ethos of the Cold War and the close collaboration between Pius XII and Cardinal Spellman. That America and the Vatican should be seen to be in a holy alliance against the powers of Evil was the order of the day, and any suggestion that America ought not to possess a Nuclear Deterrent might not have been in the Spirit of that alliance. But I may very well be wrong. I so often am. Notwithstanding this factor, some very remarkable individuals realised that a positive answer to neither of these two moral questions could be reconciled with Catholic teaching about the Just War. I have in mind the mighty figure of Cardinal Ottaviani, the Lion of the Council, mocked and harried by the Modernists, Defender of the Faith against the Liberals of Northern Europe, wise critic of the Novus Ordo. Elizabeth Anscombe of this University, distinguished Catholic philosopher, a penetrating intelligence who tried to prevent the award of an honorary degree to Harry Truman on the correct grounds that he was a War Criminal. And the speeches of Enoch Powell against the policy of Deterrence were such masterpieces of elegant rhetoric and incisive logic that I used to set them for rendering into Latin by my more able Latin Prose Composition students.

Under S John Paul II, the Church, happily, moved closer and closer to a position in which war itself was seen as an increasingly difficult option to justify in the conditions of the modern world. The Holy Pontiff's tendency to distance himself from military adventures in the Middle East became increasingly insistent, and increasingly a problem to his sad neocon admirers such as George Weigel. But he seemed unwilling to adopt a definitive position on the Possession of Nuclear Weapons. Yet the Church's Just War teaching, with its principle that, for a war to be just, it must (among other conditions) be prudently foreseen that it would do more good than harm, seems quite irreconcilable with what is known about the effects of nuclear explosions on dozens of future generations; and there is very little doubt that Western leaders did intend to use a nuclear option to counter any irruption of Russian tanks and infantry across the plains of North Germany.

And ... praise where praise is due ... so I was distinctly glad to read the the words of PF (9 December 2014). "The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are predictable and planetary. While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons' potential for mass-killing, more attention must be given to the 'unnecessary suffering' brought on by their use. Military codes and international law, among others [is this a delicate way of including the teaching of the Church?] have long banned peoples from inflicting unnecessary suffering. If such suffering is banned in the waging of conventional war, it should all the more be banned in nuclear conflict ... Nuclear Deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence ..."

I would hope that this may be a theme to which the Roman Pontiff will return, and, so to speak, firm up. I think the time of all prelates, from top to bottom, would be much better spent on this and similar moral questions, including global questions of wealth and poverty, than on attempting to adapt Christian sexual moral principles to the libertine cultures of Northern Europe and North America. As if the Church and her bishops have nothing more worthy to devote their energies to than the delicate feelings of wealthy adulterers.

More than three decades ago, Germaine Grisez, John Finnis of this University, and Joseph Boyle wrote their (in my opinion) definitive treatment of the ethics of nuclear deterrence (Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism, 1988). In the days of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, it was easy to write off those who marched against the Bomb as long-haired subversives and crypto-Russkies. And there were all those rather iffy women at Greenham Common (but, in God's great mercies, iffy women are sometimes right). So the important thing to remember about this trio is that they are the ethical thinkers who, in our time, most consistently, coherently, and vigorously have defended the traditional Catholic teaching on sexual matters, 'Life' matters, and every aspect of traditional teaching which has been attacked by the modern secular establishment. These writers not only subscribe to the whole gamut of Catholic teaching, but delve deep into philosophy, law, and every kind of moral discourse, to sustain it in the fora of modern discussion. They are not just yet another trio of wet modern lefty liberals masquerading as Catholics. They are firmly on the side of traditional Christian morality in all its aspects and irrespective of whether or not it is found attractive by 'modern' thought.

They concluded that the concept of Nuclear Deterrence is indissolubly linked with a real intention, in certain contingencies, actually to use nuclear weapons. And they demonstrated, in my view conclusively, that such a contingent intention stands condemned by the traditional doctrine of the Catholic tradition on the Just War.

I do not suggest that these three writers, or Cardinal Ottaviani, are infallible; or that the magisterium of the Church has formally uttered such a judgement. I wish it had. But I do not understand on what grounds their arguments may be refuted (and I do not propose to entertain Comments from readers who wish to contradict them without having actually read the book).

29 March 2021

in tot adversis

Da quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in tot adversis ex nostra infirmitate deficimus; intercedente unigeniti Filii tui passione respiremus.

Thus today's ancient Collect (Grant, we beg, almighty God: that we, who among so many adversities faint on account of our weakness, may through the mediation of thy Son's passion, get our breath back).

How extraordinarily up-to-the-moment those ancient prayers are. The Church is at this very minute under a great Satanic onslaught: she is still reeling from the wounds inflicted  by the monstrous evil of pedophilia: men privileged to take the Lord into their own hands morning by morning so as to offer the immaculate oblation with the purest of hearts became ... sporcizia, filth. Demonic cunning is putting the Church's doctrine of Marriage under attack in some of the highest quarters of the Church as (what Fr Aidan Nichols called)  'Licensed concubinage' is encouraged. Sexual perversion is Proudly paraded before us, and woe-betide any who dissent. And, outside the gates, Christians are hounded to Martyrdom. And, together with all that, we have a pandemic. 'Among so many adversities' puts it mildly.

The new Rite retains this Collect. But it misses out the words in tot adversis [among so many adversities]. In the breezy and optimistic confidence of the post-conciliar years, we felt that as the Church made herself up-to-date, threw open her windows to the world, and blew her cobwebs away, old liturgical phraseology about her being besieged by afflictions was not particularly ben trovato.

Oh dear. How the chickens so carefully nurtured by the fashionable liturgists of the 1960s really are coming home to roost. One recalls the Lord's words about the yet greater demonic infestation which can occupy the swept and garnished house.

28 March 2021

Palm ... or Olive ... Sunday?

Those who have read the pre-Pacelli texts for Palm Sunday will have noticed that olive branches feature just as much as palm branches. This is hardly surprising. The Lord rode in from 'Mount Olivet'; in the Greek to oros ton elaion (S Augustine cheekily proposed translating this as 'the Mount of Chrism'). So when we are told that the crowd cut (ekopton) branches from the trees, we might well conclude that olive branches are largely meant.

These texts allude to the Olive sprig which Noe (Noah) received from his enterprising dove; and explain to us that "surculi olivarum spiritualem unctionem advenisse quodammodo clamant" -- the twigs cry out that a spritual anointing has arrived.

Indeed it has arrived.

Because: this symbolism of the Olive makes a link with the Consecration of the Chrism, traditionally associated with Maundy Thursday. That is when the three oils are blessed or consecrated by the Bishop, who used to concelebrate this Consecration with twelve chasubled presbyters. In the good old truly collegial days before the Council, all twelve of these priests breathed the Spirit, which they collegially share with their Pontiff, upon the Oil. (I suppose the innovators excluded such edifying traditions because they had to find room in the Rite for their own new idea of having all the prebyterium renewing its 'ordination vows'.)

This Chrism will be used in the rites of Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil, to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation (or Consignation). This use is probably to be deemed Apostolic, since, in the Greco-Roman world, the use of oils regularly accompanied Washings. 

In the Latin Church, Oil is also used in Ordinations ... and in some other solemn consecrations. In the Church of England, the Monarch is still anointed, although whether the oil is regarded as Chrism, I am unsure (I believe it is the prerogative of the Dean of Westminster to 'bless' it). Now that Chrism is consecrated in (I think) every Church of England diocese, I wonder what the highly secret File marked "Next Coronation" prescribes.

Our last Monarch both de iure and de facto, King James VII and II, was, I think, Crowned by the Nuncio according to the Roman Pontifical; and then crowned again by the Archbishop of Canterbury!

In the Church of England, once they stop prohibiting things, they do tend to go to the other extreme and  become daftly fanatical about them, poor perplexing poppets. So when I was to be licensed as pp of S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford, my last pre-Ordinariate ministry, the Archdeacon asked me if I would like to be anointed!! "Good Heavens, No!!" I cried. "Let's keep it all as simple as possible".

Traditionally, the Oil of Chrism has been seen as so sacred that S Cyril of Jerusalem (whom Gregory Dix once described as a 'very extreme' churchman) regarded its consecration as being analogous to the transsubstantiation of the Eucharistic Elements, with the result, in his view, that it 'became' (ginomenon) the charisma of Christ and 'effective of His Godhead' (tes autou theotetos energetikon). (When this Catechesis was incorporated into the post-Conciliar Liturgia Horarum, that exotic paragraph was eliminated!!)

Among some Byzantines, the confection of the Chrism is restricted to Patriarch. One can see why.


27 March 2021

Money and Concelebration.

Benedict XIV (1740-1758) concludes his argument that concelebrants are, each of them, true celebrants (pariter concelebrant) by dealing with the question of concelebrants accepting Mass-stipends. This is the acid test. You are stealing from the laity if you accept a Mass-stipend but do not say the Mass for the intention of the donor. So the question is: if a hundred priests concelebrate, can a hundred priests accept, each of them, a Mass-stipend for that same Eucharistic celebration? Now ... traddies among you had better hold on tightly to something fixed to the ground, because you are not likely to enjoy what follows ... the answer given by the Sovereign Pontiff is an unambiguous Yes. In other words, each concelebrant has precisely the same sacramental standing as a priest saying his own private Mass. Watch his lips: Each : one : is : saying : Mass.

It is not surprising that, for the next two centuries, manualists concurred with this weighty papal judgement. Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini, had an immense reputation, based equally upon his own erudition and his papal status. In the last expiring months of the Old Rite (which had at that point received only two or three trifling modifications), on March 7 1965, a Rite of Concelebration was promulgated for use with the old rite. In accordance with the actual words of the Council, the document was less than whole-hearted in its endorsement of daily Concelebration when all the concelebrants are presbyters, but the rite was intended to be used universally at Ordinations, Consecrations, Abbatial Blessings, in Councils, Synods, and Episcopal meetings, and at both Masses on Maundy Thursday.

As far as Maundy Thursday Concelebration is concerned, this is something which had not lost its last foothold in the Latin Church until our own time. The Rite of Lyons, which survived until the Council, provided that on that one day six presbyters had the right to sit with the Archbishop and concelebrate (honor sedendi et offerendi). This was but the last survival of a widespread practice of such concelebration in French cathedrals during the Counter-Reformation period.

So those 1965 provisions seem to me a thoroughly 'organic' liturgical development. They seem to me to draw, not as revolutionary liturgical subversives so often and so cheerfully do, upon dubious, improbable, and unedifying reconstructions of "what the Early Church did", but upon a broad consideration of the Latin Church's whole liturgical tradition; upon the Magisterium, and especially (when the meaning of the Roman Rite is concerned) that of Roman Pontiffs; and upon the consensus of reliable manualists.They seem to me to rest on the consistent and reiterated teaching of Popes and Doctors over the last millennium. They are not some load of rubbish dreamed up by archbishop Bugnini's generation.

And (paragraph 10) they concur with the judgement on Mass-stipends of Benedict XIV and those who followed him: Singuli concelebrantes stipendium legitime percipere possunt ad normam iuris.

The mature and settled inheritance, the auctoritas, of the Latin Church prescribes that, normally, each presbyter should celebrate ('presidentially') daily, and do so privately if he is not obliged to serve a pastoral need. This needs to be upheld and, where necessary, restored.

But the notion which one sometimes meets among traditionalists who have not informed themselves of the facts, that any form of concelebration is a treacherous sell-out to the 'Spirit of Vatican II', contradicts the traditions of the Latin Churches and the Magisterium of Popes Innocent III  and Benedict XIV and the considered judgement of S Thomas Aquinas ... and a lot of Counter-Reformation manualists.

Cheerful Catholic Girls in the 1930s

Lady Julia Flyte of Brideshead Castle found her Catholicism to be a barrier against what she wanted from life. The Church's laws on Marriage stood in her way. Perhaps most of us have shed a tear for her ... although, goodness me, she did get some fun out of Sin before the avalanche thundered down the mountainside.

The honble Daphne Lufton, however, had a less complicated life (Barchester Pilgrimage capitulum v). Her Catholic parents "had settled down very comfortably at Framley, where they brought up a large family in a harum-scarum sort of fashion; boys and girls who rode on horseback almost as soon as they could walk, mimicked the solemn voice of their parish priest, and played the gramophone interminably. 

"Of hese children, Daphne Lufton was the eldest ... she ... took rank, from the moment of her coming out, as one of the reigning beauties ... She had been bred, of course, at a convent; what she learned there I cannot determine, but certainly it was not unworldliness, or prudery, or reticence. She accepted the position of a reigning beauty quite unabashed. ...

"Daphne Lufton and 'Goof' Dumbello (for by that unflattering name his friends called him)  ... met in London, at the house of a common acquaintance, where some fifty or sixty persons were standing round (for there were hardly any chairs), apparently paying no attention to a deafening noise in one corner of te room, expressive of the emotions felt by West Indian natives. They were also drinking cocktails, for this was before Sir Rowe Sigmer had warned us about the effect of cocktails upon the coats of the stomach, to the great advantage of all those concerned in the importing of indifferent brown sherry.

"Lord Dumbello, at this time in the evening, was decidedly tipsy; and when he ran into Daphne Lufton, who was a complete stranger to him, he upset a glassful of heavily sweetened gin over her frock. The young lady accepted this Grecian present in a more accommodating spirit than her grandmother would have, possibly because the frock was so much shorter; and she appeared to regard it as sufficient explanation when Lord Dumbello said he had not caught her name properly. After that they danced together ... shouting freely to one another. She said she adored the Sitwells, and he said so did he; he said he liked Mary Pickford, and she said she did too; he wondered whether there was any future for the talking film, and she said she had often wondered the same thing; she said she supposed Labour would get in next time, and he said he supposed it was time the poor devils got a chance." 

Engagement followed; but Dumbello's Protestant mother, together with a Catholic priest who loathed mixed marriages, and a vomiting dog, prevented its consummation. Without any of the anguish which afflicted the Flytes, Dumbello "returned to the consolations of the variety stage ... while Miss Lufton has grown older and made a very suitable marriage ..."

Mgr Knox's propaganda piece explaining the rationale of the Church's teaching on mixed marriages seems to me to have quite a few pieces of finesse.

26 March 2021

Benedict XIV on Concelebration

Innocent III (Pope 1198-1216) made his views on concelebration clear enough; so did S Thomas (see earlier posts). But the former, it could be argued (Durandus did), was writing as a private theologian; and as for the latter, despite his eminence, Cajetan disagreed with him.

Benedict XIV (Pope 1740-1758), undoubtedly one of the half-dozen most erudite men ever to grace the Cathedra Petri, left nothing to chance. As well as in his monumental work de Sacrosancto Missae Sacrificio (Liber III caput xvi), he made his teaching about Concelebration very clear in two magisterial documents, the encyclicals Demandatam (12 December 1743; paragraphs 9-10) and Allatae (26 July 1755; paragraph 38).

The basis of the Sovereign Pontiff's teaching is his conviction that the Eastern and Western churches are at one in this matter so that the practice of the Byzantine East can throw definitive light on the significance of our Latin practice: "It was once a rite common to the Western and Eastern Church equally, that presbyters should offer the Sacrifice of the Mass together with the bishop [copious references follow] ... at the present moment the Rite of Concelebration has grown obsolete in the Western Church, except in the Ordination of Priests which the bishop performs, and in the Consecration of Bishops, which is carried out by a bishop with two other bishops assisting".

He points out that the obsolescence of Concelebration in other circumstances in the West is comparatively recent (temporibus haud ita ab aetate nostra remotis), and that previously the 'disciplina Ecclesiae Occidentalis' demanded (postulabat) that on major solemnities, when a bishop was celebrating, presbyters should celebrate together with (una cum) the bishop - and the words of Innocent III are one of a number of exempla that he draws in to support the assertion. Not that he believes Concelebration is necessarily confined to Concelebration cum episcopo. He had to deal with a request from Byzantines who desired to celebrate the Eucharist daily but who lacked enough altars to do so (Byzantine custom insists that every Eucharist be celebrated on a 'fasting' altar). He categorically refuses them permission to celebrate twice on the same altar and advises them instead to concelebrate "with a bishop or with another priest".

He insists that concelebrants should vest as celebrants and utter the words of Consecration "just as if they were saying Mass on their own [perinde ac si sacrosanctum sacrificium singulatim conficerent]". Benedict explicitly condemns the wriggle-argument that such priests are merely saying the Words of Consecration "materialiter et recitative", insisting that they utter them "significative". They are true celebrants, albeit secondary ones [etsi secundarii, tamen vere celebrantes].

It is a laudable desire to shape ones liturgical praxis by the authentic customs of the Roman Liturgy. But this does not require that a priest should decline to concelebrate the Maundy Thursday Masses with his Bishop and Presbyterium.

More later.

25 March 2021


 (1) SOD'S LAW:  I know there are unbelievers ... sodslawdeniers ... out there. I don't know how much evidence you people need. This morning, I got all set-up to watch and listen to the Chrism Mass.

At three minutes to eleven, a fuse blew.

By 11.15, I had rectified matters and was back on track. An hour or so later, the audio link from the Bavarian Chapel Royal failed.

So I missed what looked like a Second Homily at the end of Mass, when Archbishop Claudio gesticulated eloquently at an non-operating mike. 

Or should I simply assume that Providence does not want me to know what he said?

(2) SUPPLICES TE ROGAMUS ...   During this Prayer in the Canon, His Excellency said, not "by the hands of thy holy Angel", but "by the hands of thy Holy Spirit". 

I am hoping ... nay rather, I am praying ...  that this was just a little slip, like a weeny parablepsis, revealing nothing more than that Archbishop Claudio has not often used, or heard used, or had a look at the text of, the Roman Canon/Eucharistic Prayer. This is true of many clergy in today's Church. God bless them all.

What I am afraid of is that this might be the sign of some new daft fad whereby the text of this august and venerable Prayer is corrupted in order to smuggle a byzantinising reference to the Spirit into a euchological context in which it most definitely has no place whatsoever. Not in a million years.

This sort of thing can happen nowadays. Example: those invalid forms of Baptism which the CDF tracked down last year. Father A has some absolutely spiffingly brilliant idea which he shares with Father B and, before you know where you are, Father C has spread it all through his seminary year group. It's more infectious than Covid.

I hope somebody can assure me that I'm paranoid.

(3) ENCAENIARE: A few days ago, at Mattins, S Augustine informed his congregation that this verb is 'still' used when one puts on a new tunic. 

A doctis tantum hoc rogo: does he mean that in his own North African Latin, the verb encaeniare existed with that meaning; or is he saying that the Greeks 'still' use egkainizesthai in this way? 

Thirty Years; Ten Years ... Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! UPDATED

UPDATE Yup!! I was right ... having a Nuncio with a Language-and-literature background does make a difference!! We had an elegant homily using 2 Corinthians 2:15 "Christou euodia" to link up the Chrism and our mission as Christ's sweet fragrance to attract the world to Him. This is a man worth listening to because he thinks, and he speaks memorably, and he does not condescend.

He was not a disgrace to the memory of Caius Valerius Catullus! I bet he sails his phaselus on Benacus and cooks his supper in oil pressed from the olives on Sirmio!

Lady Day, 1991, thirty years ago, was marked by the death of  Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. My warmest greetings and most sincere good wishes go to my friends, brother priests of his admirable Society.

And, ten years ago this year, Pope Benedict XVI (ad multos annos, plurimosque annos) erected the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. 

And, today, the Apostolic Nuncio is visiting our Principal Church in London to consecrate the Oils.

We are told that he has asked to preach. That's exactly what I would have done. On such a day as this, the sermon more-or-less writes itself! What would you, dear reader, given such an opportunity, have said in your homily?  Moi, I would have congratulated the Ordinariate on the years ... decades, rather, if not centuries ... in which its future members fought against Liberalism and Indifferentism and Syncretism and all the other Modernist heresies in the Church of England; I  would have spoken warmly about the good sense of Pope Benedict in so graciously and enthusiastically inviting such sound Catholics into the Full Communion of the See of Peter; and I would have urged my hearers to make their distinctive contribution to the life of English Catholicism by continuing to fight the same 'battle glorious' against ... essentially ... the same enemies.

Vatican Diplomats, IMHO, are very good things. At our last Chrism Mass before the Pestilence, the then Nuncio, in the Te igitur, tactfully named our Ordinary as "Keith our Bishop" ... a very acceptable captatio benevolentiae. Before him, there was Tony Mennini, whose colourful earlier life in the Diplomatic Service had been that of a sort of Mgr James Bond (but without the sex or the beretta). Mennini nominated two sound bishops to the English Bench of Bishops; rather splendidly, a rumour then buzzed round that some of the creakier English bishops had complained to Rome that an 'unbalanced' episcopate  was being created! Goodness, what a wicked thing that would have been!!

Even if that story was untrue, it was ben trovato. Mind you, Archbishop Tony's liturgical instincts were not very Staggers. One felt that the Oils had really been consecrated by Fr Lloyd ... and were none the worse for that. Vivat Spiritus Couratinianus.

The 'new' Nuncio is called Claudio Gugerotti. I suspect him of being third cousin twice (at least) removed of dear Cardinal G'rotti who, as older readers will remember, featured weekly in the cartoons which John ('Pugwash') Ryan drew for the old Catholic Herald. Gugerotti has an intriguing background ... a man with liturgical and patristic and ecumenical and literary skills ... he once taught Armenian Language and Literature. So he might be interesting. He comes from Verona, but I don't recall ever having noticed him at the opera or tucking into vitello tonnato in the Casino beside Lake Garda. Perhaps he goes around incognito.

Next year, who knows if God might send us another North Italian papal diplomat, Archbishop Vigano, to 'do' our Chrism Mass. Rumour has it that His Excellency has spent Lockdown in Lombardy teaching himself how to celebrate the Authentic Form of the Roman (or Ambrosian?) Rite, so he would have no trouble adapting himself to our Ordinariate Rite. It could provide him with a new Retirement Interest. A chap needs to keep spry after he retires from full-time Ministry.

Happy Days! Broad, sun-lit, uplands!

24 March 2021

Stephen Wang

Heartiest congratulations to Fr Stephen on his appointment as Rector of the Venerabile. We all got to know and like him when he organised the 'Formation' which the English Catholic bishops wanted us to undergo.

Sadly, this news presumably means that Dr Wang will not now be per saltum the next Archbishop of Westminster.

But, if he puts the Extraordinary Form on the College syllabus, this trifling delay will have been worth it.

The Venerabile, I think, is the oldest English academic institution outside the University of Oxford. 

Vandalism in S Peter's, and S Thomas on Concelebration

Some readers may feel that the Church's worship is particularly under threat ... so why am I "defending" concelebration at this particular moment?

I can see the point. "Reliable sources" are convinced that the brutalisation of the Large Church near the Santa Marta is likely to come from PF himself, the Opicus Maximus. That would bring the ban into line with the habitual praxis of this man: failing to take overt responsibility for his own actions. 

As an Englishman and a member of an Anglophone Ordinariate, I also strongly object to to the Italo-imperialism of this action. With the ongoing onslaught upon the liturgical and doctrinal amd Magisterial use of Latin, our proper common language, we are effectively being told by PF and his crowd of gruesome bullies that, if you aren't an Italophone, you're a second-class Catholic. "Better a Second Class Catholic than a Bergoglian Syncretiist" might be an appropriate reaction. Should we have "CATTOLICO DI SECUNDA CLASSE" added to our Celebrets?

I recently suggested a S Nicolas-de-Chardonnet response to the Ban ... and now Cardinal Mueller has wisely and helpfully pointed out that the Ban is, quite simply, unlawful; and so nobody is obliged to obey it. I am alive to the dangers of weaponising Liturgy ... but, in times of crisis ... why doesn't somebody just do this? What has happenned to the "Pachamama Out" Action Squad?

And yet ... I am convinced that we must think within the Great Tradition. So I do intend to continue with my series on Concelebration within the Authentic Tradition of the Latin Church. Because, while it has no place in anonymous notices tacked onto Sacristy doors by furtive figures in the middle of the night, concelebration does have an honoured place in the Traditions of the Latin Church.


S Thomas Aquinas, as his custom was, covers pretty well most of the problems of late C20 Christianity, and does so in a neat formulaic way. First, he crisply formulates an erroneous opinion; then disposes of it with Respondeo.

So first he states a propositio sometimes advanced in neo-traditionalist circles: That many priests cannot consecrate one and the same Host. He disposes of this - he was a good Catholic - by pointing to what the Church does. "According to the custom of a number of Churches the newly ordained concelebrate". The problem of rogue concelebrants Jumping The Gun he disposes of in exactly the same way as Pope Innocent III (see previous post) had done: "And it is not true that by this the consecration over the same Host is doubled; since, as Innocent III says, the intention of all must be referred (ferri) to the same instant of Consecration".

Having disposed of that little technical difficulty, he justifies the practice in itself: "Since a priest does not consecrate except in the persona of Christ, and the many are one in Christ, therefore it does not matter whether this Sacrament is consecrated through one or through many".

There is no doubt that the practice of Concelebration has become unseemly since the Council. Those of us who are hermeneutic-of-continuity traditionalists will do well to rethink the way we use Concelebration. But the fashion in some circles of ridiculing all use of Concelebration, and of even denying that what the newly ordained do with their Bishop really is true Concelebration, is ill-informed and gives 'traditionalism' a bad name. We must avoid the temptation (as we defend our Holy Faith against the latest aggressions of Bergoglianism) to propose our own narrow circumscriptions of 'Tradition'.

The the lady has many things new and old in her treasury!

Innocent III was a Pope, and a learned one, and as Bishop of Rome was entitled authoritatively to interpret the practice of his own Church. And S Thomas Aquinas was no mean Doctor. Not that the story ends with them.

Next in this series: Benedict XIV ... probably the most learned pope ever.

23 March 2021

Pope Innocent III on Concelebration

When we aren't Covid-depressed, we presbyters are faced at this time in the year with the question of whether to concelebrate the Chrism Mass; perhaps, also, the Easter Vigil. 

I intend, over the next few days, to investigate what the Catholic Church, and particularly the Latin Church, has historically taught about Concelebration. One of my reasons for doing this is a feeling I get ... that there are some, keen Traditionalists, whose concept of Tradition is "What people did in 1950". 

I violently resent the prohibitions now in place in one of PF's basilicas in Rome. I deplore the disappearance of the normative discipline of the daily Mass for each and every priest in the Latin Church. I think a lot of concelebrations are just plain silly, as well as highly indecorous.

But Concelebration does exist in the Great Tradition within the Latin Church ... and I think it is worth disentangling this Tradition from the malpractices of Bergoglianity.


For a number of years, before I came to believe that Concelebration should only be done rarely and under the presidency of one's bishop, I concelebrated each morning with my brother priests (except on those mornings when I said a Latin Mass in a different Chapel with those students and colleagues who liked that sort of thing). I was disconcerted by a concelebrating colleague who had a habit of edging his voice ahead of mine even when I was Principal Celebrant. Why should he, I fretted, snatch the Mass from me by consecrating ahead of me and leaving me without the substances of bread and wine to consecrate myself? So I developed a habit of getting a good head of breath earlier in the Institution Narrative so that I could keep in sync with him. 

I needn't have bothered. A Pope sorted this problem out for me 800 years ago. I wish I'd known!

Innocent III (1198-1216) takes it for granted that "from time to time many priests concelebrate" and adds "the Cardinal Presbyters of Rome have been accustomed to stand around the the Pontiff and to consecrate together with him" - a pretty blunt and authoritative indication from the Bishop of Rome as to the meaning of the Rites of his own Church. What concerns him is this very question of what happens if they don't keep their voices together at the words of Consecration. "Is the one who first pronounces the words the only one who confects the Sacrament?" His answer to this is that "Whether the priests utter them before or after, their intention must be referred to the instant at which the Bishop says them, with whom principally they are concelebrating, and then all consecrate and confect at the same time".

Some modern 'traditionalists' believe that all Concelebration is wrong.  Innocent III thought and taught differently. Look him up if you don't believe he really "counts" as a "reliable" pope.

I wonder if S Thomas Aquinas agrees with him? I'll answer that question next.

22 March 2021

"Is there still a Pope in Rome?"

My learned and generous friend, Professor Bill Tighe, points me to an aricle in The Remnant headed "Is there still a Pope in Rome?"

I commend it to you. My hesitancy regards its title.

There certainly is still a Pope in Rome.

There is only one pope in Rome.

His (assumed) name is Francis.

He is still possessed of the fulness of pontifical power, even though he has freely chosen, for the time being, to place that power IN SUSPENSE.

It is the duty of each and every Christian in the world to be in full communion with him.

There is just one snag. Instead of performing the role placed in his hands by his Master, he has retired to his 'snug' in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he spends all his time looking at old episodes of Sex in the City.

We Brits know that it would be much better for him (and for us and for the world) if, instead, he devoted all those long hours to a careful study of Fawlty Towers, followed by Father Ted.

Does it matter how we retired clergy spend our time ... and what we say when, interminable bores that we are, we begin yet another rambling observation with the phrase "When I was pope ..."?

I fear that it might do. Do I need to tell you that there are some rather unpleasant people around, not least in the Congregation for Bishops?

It is vitally important that we give these crooks ... and the trainee crooks whom they advance ... no opportunity to claim that we are Sedevacantists. 

I am not joking. As they get more and more frustrated ...


Just heard Boris condemning the riots in Bristol last night. I'd assumed it was just the Buller getting going.

The German Vice (3)

This is not the first time I have noticed that some of the things which are happening in the Catholic Church curiously resemble what many of us experienced for decades in Anglicanism. 

Although the American provinces of the Anglican Communion were numerically quite small (and are now even more exquisitely tiny), they did not seem to be in the least challenged dosh-wise. They used financial muscle to disseminate corruption and perversion wherever in the world they could.

Money! And philarguria!

Bishop Philip Egan, whom I have mentioned recently, has observed: "The pope might also be minded to discuss with the German bishops whether it is still appropriate to receive the Kirchensteuer, which last year netted $7.5 billion."

This is the system whereby those registered as Catholic divert 8-9% of their income tax to the Church.

No; I am not suggesting (and I'm sure Bishop Egan isn't) that, at a time when the Vatican finances are going through such a dodgy patch, there is any risk that any German pelf is finding its way to Rome, and, thereby, influencing Roman 'policy'.

But the German bishops are only human, and have their own souls to save, poor pert poppets. It is uncharitable to put temptation too conspicuously in their way.

21 March 2021

Mile after mile ...

Statio ad Sanctum Petrum

Thus, today, the Authentic Roman Missal, as it does all through Lent, reminds us of the old custom whereby the Pope, each day, met his clergy and people for Mass. Perhaps we might allow the Roman tradition of stational liturgy - in which the people met in one church and accompanied the Pope to another one for Mass - to feed our Lenten devotion. By far the best treatment of the subject is that by the great Anglican specialist GG Willis, in his 1968 classic Further Essays on Early Roman Liturgy. He is particularly good on how the selection of 'stational' churches affected the texts of the Lenten Stational Masses. 

I can only add a couple of mundane, indeed, bathetic, details. The first comes from a RC liturgist and bishop Edward Myers, who in 1948 published a now long-forgotten book Lent and the Liturgy. I will quote. "The streets of classical and early medieval Rome were not pleasant for walking: they were narrow and overcrowded ... How then did it come about that the idea of processions was entertained? There is feature of Roman Archaeology which, strangely overlooked by most students, may supply the answer. It is quite likely that the majority of the Stational processions took place under the shelter of the vast system of Porticoes which, covering the Campus Marius in every direction, had spread throughout the city. The Porticoes consisted of covered colonnades in which it was possible for the citizens to take exercise, under favourable conditions, protected from wind, rain, cold, and heat. The fashion set by the Emperor Augustus continued to be followed to the very end of the Empire. The portico of Constantine led the way to the great porticoes of Gracian, Valerian and Theodosius. Lastly came those which led from the Aelian Bridge to St. Peter's, from the Porta Ostiensis to St. Paul's, and from the Porta Tiburtina to St. Lawrence. The twelve larger colonnades of the Campus Martius alone were 5,0000 yards in length ..." 

My second contribution comes from first millennium accounts of formal papal processions. And formal, of course, is exactly what they were. But in the midst of the formality there is detail which to us may sound deeply unfamiliar. The Pontiff was accompanied by a subdeacon carrying a covered dish ... for the Holy Father, when he needed to, to spit into. 

I think the Hermeneutic of Continuity demands that the subdiaconate and the Rite of Pontifical Expectoration should both be restored. 

Don't you just long to trudge along those endless porticoes, the air rich with flecks of papal spittle?

20 March 2021

The German Vice (2)

 CNA reports the views of Bishop Philip Egan, ordinary of the geographical diocese in which I am domiciled. He he is an energetic, orthodox bishop, very popular among both clergy and laity.

Writing on his Twitter account, he says: "Rome should intervene in the German Synodal Way before it is too late. It's right to work through hot-button issues but at the same time Rome should reassert the doctrinal parameters ... The ultimate weapon of course would be for Rome to ask the German bishops to close it down. I am not sure they would heed this. Instead, it would be better for Rome to reassert clearly the doctrinal parameters, as in [the] CDF statement about same-sex unions. The pope himself needs to intervene by giving authoritative teaching: this is the role of the Petrine ministry. He should also summon the German bishops to Rome and lay down more clearly for them the appropriate methodology.".

Notice here the words Rome should ... Rome should ... better for Rome to ... the pope himself needs to ... authoritative teaching ... the role of the Petrine ministry ... he should ... .

Bishop Philip is manifestly calling for PF to do the things which it is his job to do and which, at least to appearances, he is not currently doing.

I have recently used S John Henry Newman's teaching about the Suspense of the Magisterium ... the period during the Arian Crisis when the pope and most of the bishops (without in any way losing their powers or status) failed to exercise their ministry of affirming Catholic Truth and refuting error. Bishop Philip does not use this terminology, and I am not trying to put into his mouth words which he has not used. But ... let me put it like this. 

What Bishop Egan is saying about the role of the the Petrine ministry, with the implication that PF should use it to do something which at the moment he is not doing, is precisely what I have been using my own different words (or, rather, S John Henry's words) to say.

19 March 2021

The Blessing of Same-sex Unions. The German Vice (1)


The cosiddetto President of the Conference of German bishops has responded to the CDF document answering a dubium about the Blessing of Same-sex Unions. This gentleman ... if he didn't exist, he would need to be invented ... dismissed the words of the CDF as merely an account of "the state of Church teaching as expressed in several Roman documents", and, with deliciously Teutonic condescension, promised that "the points of view [sic] put forward today by the CDF must and will naturally find their way into these discussions [which will be held during the German Synodical Way]."

Beautiful!! Imagine this: a German cosiddetto bishop has rebuked an errant presbyter within his jurisdiction about something or other. In return, he gets this cheerful reply from Father:

"Dear Bishop 

"Thank you so much for telling me about diocesan teaching as expressed in several of your terribly interesting diocesan documents. The points of view you put forward must and will definitely find their natural way into some discussions I plan to have with some chums of mine next time we get together in a beer cellar.

"Yours until our beautiful German Cows come home to roost ..." 


Often, CDF documents conclude with a statement that the Pope has ratified and confirmed the document in such-and-such an audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect. Almost (?) always, they end with a statement that he has ordered the text to be published (e ne ha ordinato la pubblicazione). But not this CDF document, about the Blessing of same-sex unions. It merely says that PF has been informed and has assented to its publication (e stato informato e ha dato il suo assenso alla pubblicazione).

That seems to my (ill-informed and uncanonical) mind to represent not only a change but a highly significant change. Rather than being an endorsement, the words look more like a careful distancing by PF from the CDF Responsum ad dubium

My impression is that PF is habitually careful to avoid words which might conclusively prove him to us or to Posterity to have been a heretic, but has a powerful instinct not to commit himself unambiguously to Truth, a commodity he regards as unnecessary and, indeed, profoundly dangerous.

In other words, the Petrine Magisterium is currently in Suspense ... a phrase used by Saint John Henry Newman to describe the situation, during the Arian crisis, when the Pope and most of the Bishops no longer exercised their duty to teach the Truth and to oppose heresy. Pope and bishops had in no way lost their Magisterium, but, by their own volition, were declining actually to exercise it.

Which is pretty well ... yes? ... where we are now. E stato informato e ha dato il suo assenso alla pubblicazione ...!

18 March 2021

Further thoughts about private Masses in S Peter's in Rome

I recently made another attempt to give further mileage to S John Henry Newman's thesis about the current Suspense in the function of the Petrine Magisterium.

Since the Stato, the bailiwick of Cardinal Parolin, has now constructively declared that the mandates of Vatican II are inoperative, perhaps a similar analysis can be thought to apply to the whole conciliar construct. This must be at least an opinio probabilis.

And there must be a practical ... are we not all practical men? ... solution to the problems at S Peter's. I quote from Bishop Tissier's fine Biography of Marcel Lefebvre:

" ... on February 27, 1977, a crowd of Catholics summoned to the Maubert Mutualite Lecture Hall by Fr Coache and Mgr Ducaud-Bourget, processed into the nearby church of S Nicolas du Chardonnet, sang a traditional Solemn High Mass ... and stayed there." 

For all I know ... I very rarely get to France ... they may even still be holding out there!!!

Is there not something fine, manly and sinewy about this resolute action? Is this not the truly orthodox way to cut through the Gordian Knot on the Vatican Hill?

Vincula Sancti Petri iterum rumpenda! 


17 March 2021

Megh' an' Arry (2) ... with seven digressions ...

In conclusion.... one might wonder whether, in the middle of this rich pot-pourri of hanky panky, a valid Marriage did manage to take place at all. The Oilby Event 'three days before' cannot have been canonically valid, although it does not appear that Oilby made this 'pastorally' clear to the couple. And if, three days after it, in S George's Chapel Windsor, the couple witheld their intention to contract Matrimony ...

One of the advantages of being Long in the Tooth is that ones capacity for remembering Ancient History seems to be enhanced. So my pererrant mind has, just this moment, wandered back to the first Wedding I solemnised well over fifty years ago. I recollect that, after the Service, the Reception was most enjoyable. In particular ... the Bride's Grandmother seemed a lady of precise and accurate discernment. At one point, her dissatisfied voice ... refreshed, perhaps, by a glass or two ... rose querulous above the circumambient hubbub. "Bl**dy Vicar's the only good-looking man here." she cried.

In ones seedy senility, one remembers such things.

Not that I was a 'Vicar'. I was not even a 'Curate' in the precise sense of that term.

Poor simple folk sometimes think that 'Vicar' is the correct term for any Clerk in Holy Orders ... or, indeed, for any Minister of Religion. Definitely not. In the Middle Ages, the instituted Incumbent of a parish was, usually, the 'Rector'. But if the 'Rector' was a Religious Community, that community appointed a cleric to perform its duties in the parish. That cleric was known as 'the Vicar' because his job was vicariously to discharge the functions of the absent corporate Rector. (Lots of Anglican Parish priests nowadays are neither Rectors nor Vicars but simply priests-in-charge, acting by virtue of a Licence. This arrangement was cunningly designed to make them sackable without full canonical process.)

Dom Gregory Dix loved to point out that the Church of England retained far more unreformed medievalisms than the post-Tridentine Latin Church.

'Parson', from the Latin Persona, covered both Vicars and Rectors. I once read a bilingual monument to a former pp in a Breton Church, on which the French language version referred to him as 'Cure'; the Breton language side as 'Parson'. And there is an elderly English joke:

Question Why are Hell and the Smoking Room at the Athenaeum so similar?

Answer In each of them, you can't see the fire because all those parsons get in the way.

I am not, and never for one moment of my life have I been, a Vicar. 

Accordingly, I was most terribly wounded when some schismatic American clergyman called Ceckada (not to be confused with Cupich) referred to me on the Internet as 'Vicar Hunwicke'.

I was on the verge of suing him for Libel when, sadly, he fled the jurisdiction of all earthly courts by dying.

Legal loopholes ...

16 March 2021

Megh' an' Arry: that Interview (1)

There has been some puzzlement about the poor young man's claim that these two were "married" three days before their "Wedding".

The key here is the growth ... is it an Americanism?? ... of a desire on the part of couple to compose their own vows. These will be more authentic because they will express the real intentions and immense eternal love of the passionate couple ... a totally peerless love unknown to all previous human history and far transcending mere dusty old legal formulae. They will arise from the living, beating, loving hearts of the couple.

Some years ago now, a priest (Anglican) told me about a wedding he had recently solemnised. When they got to the vows (which they had of course rehearsed at the rehearsal) the blokegroom took out a bit of paper and said "OK, Vicar, we composed our own vows instead". The Officiant eventually had to tell them that he was going to go back to the vestry while they decided whether they were prepared  to continue with the forms prescribed by Law ... "And if you don't come and give me a positive answer within five minutes, I'm off back to the Vicarage. And I shall keep the fees."

Clearly, Megh'an'Arry had written their own 'authentic' and very beautiful vows. Archbishop Oilby couldn't agree to substitute them for the forms laid down in Law, but to keep the Couple happy and authentic, he agreed to let them exchange their home-made and unique vows privately  before the "Wedding" ... in the "back yard" of Kensington Palace. This he described to the Meejah as being "pastoral".

No way was that a Marriage: it was not covered by the canonical dispensations issued by the authority of the Archbishop himself (!) ... and, in any case, there were no witnesses ("Just the three of us"!).

My hypothesis is confirmed by the reported detail that these 'Vows' were framed and now "hang on the wall". 

It is not reported whether these vows are the same as those composed by Her Grace the Duchess the last time she got married. We liturgical historians would very much like to be able to analyse these evolving formulae.


I gather that, nowadays, in some places rites are devised to "'accompany" the "end" of a "failed" "Marriage". 

The Authentic DIY Vows could have a central role in this meaningful ritual encounter. The couple, accompanied by their unique adopted hens, could ceremonially tear the vows in half; then they could have a Last Authentic Squabble about who was to keep the frame; then the Minister could say to the ex-bride "You may now kick the ex-bridegroom in the groin"; and they could all live happily ever after in uniquely distanced parts of California.

To be continued.


15 March 2021

Grilloid aggression ... a new hero for Miss Jean Brodie?

When the CDF issued decrees strengthening the Forma Authentica of the Roman Rite about a year ago, a cosiddetto "Liturgist" called Andrea Grillo issued an angry open letter, to which he invited the addition of further signatures.

In this document, he argued that "it is inevitable that a dual, conflictual ritual form will lead to a significant division in the faith", and remarked upon "the disruptive effect this 'exception' will have on the ecclesial level, by immunising a part of the community from the 'school of prayer' that the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform have providentially given to the common ecclesial journey".

OK; Grillo is concerned with the internal affairs of 'the Roman Rite'. But the logic of his imperious  ecclesial-fascist demands for ritual uniformity inexorably applies well beyond the boundaries of the Roman Rite. The Ambrosian Rite survives in quite a number of areas in North Italy. Let us hope that, when the pandemic abates, Grillo stays well clear of Lombardy.

And I am surprised that even a cosiddetto liturgist should never have heard of the Dominican Rite. I used to attend it as a callow nineteen-year-old undergraduate back in the early Sixties. I never heard it then described as 'conflictual' or as likely to lead to 'significant division in the faith', although in the Thirties Mgr Ronald Knox had lightheartedly written "The bother is that the Dominicans insist on saying an odd kind of Mass, which needs a server accustomed to the rite". How disgraceful of Knox to allow Godz Dogz to galumph all over the Oxford Catholic Chaplaincy with their conflictual and divisive liturgy! And to allow a part of his congregation to be "immunised from the school of prayer that the Council of Trent and the liturgical reforms of S Pius V gave to the Common Ecclesial Journey"! Grillo would have kept them all on a tighter lead!

And there are, of course, the rites (and rights) of the sui iuris Catholic Churches. If 'dual, conflictual' ritual forms lead to significant division in the faith, should such diversity, such pluriformity, be allowed? (The papal liturgy at Baghdad recently must have raised this problem in an acute form for the Grilloids.) And the instruments of Union which brought these "Eastern" bodies back into regular communion with the Petrine See elaborately guaranteed the preservation of diversity. Thank God Grillo was not around to Put A Stop To All That Sort Of Thing.

Benedict XVI increased the diversity within the Church by granting a new 'form' of the Roman Rite to three Ordinariates. Praise be to God, it shows no signs whatsoever of Grilloid influences.

In the earlier years of the "Liturgical Movement", liturgists were rather interested in the 'Eastern Rites'. It was thought necessary to defend them against 'Latinisation'. It was believed that Holy Mother Church was adorned with variety, and that this variety gave her not only beauty but also strength. Unity, we used never to tire of saying, is not the same as Uniformity. The Grillo notion, that the entire Church Militant should be secured within the straightjacket of one single 'Common Ecclesial Journey', was anathema in informed circles.

Even within the narrower coinfines of the Latin Church, so an Anglican Report of 1947 enviously wrote, "the very vastness and richness of the organic life still possible in it, admitted of the existence of strong theological tensions within a single ecclesiastical body, with the spontaneity and vitality which such contained tensions always bring to theological and ecclesiastical thinking." (Grillo, happily, was not yet even a glint in his mother's eye.)

And, within the Catholic Church herself, there was recognition that different liturgical cultures did indeed accompany different forms of the Great Tradition. The Encyclical Orientale Lumen of 1995 made positive attempts to explain to Latin Christians some of the rich diversity preserved for us all by Eastern Christendom. Thank God, Grillo appears to have had no part in the drafting of it.

For the Grilloids ... poor wee timorous beasties, frightened little men cowering amid the vermin in their cobwebby bunkers ... rich liturgical diversity with its promise of equally rich theological diversity is clearly a danger which they are too terrified to risk.

Perhaps Grillo and his associates need themselves to make a Common Ecclesial Journey, preferably in company with the Owl and the Pussy Cat, to a blessed  realm without conflictual ritual forms, governed by the Dong with the Luminous Nose..

14 March 2021

Dear "Maureen Lash"

I don't think I have ever met such an extraordinary Comment on my Blog. You seem to be accusing me of being a mendacious fantasist. 

I was matriculated in the Michaelmas Term of 1960. Being a Scholar, "on the Foundation of my College", I was entitled to two years living in College. During those two years, I went, every weekday morning before breakfast, along Broad Street to Mags. (From Michaelmas 1962 I was in digs up Divinity Road, and each morning went to the rather nearer S Alban the Martyr.)

"I understand" (to use your own terminology) that you are a rather ... er ... sui generis sort of person.  I don't want to seem cruel, but I can't help wondering whether you really are a happy jolly laughing fun-loving member of this 'Blog Community'. Would your Internet time not be better spent elsewhere ... somewhere ... anywhere ... on the Internet? I'm sure Eccles would love to have you.

I am thinking only of your happiness.

In the deathless words of the mighty Cardinal Tobin:

"Nighty night, Baby. I love you."

Did Vatican II ban Mothering Sunday?

Whatever Vatican II did or did not initiate, daily sackloads of suggestio falsi and suppressio veri, deftly interwoven, must certainly be on the list of its legacy. "The Council mandated the exclusive use of the vernacular" .... "The Council prescribed Mass facing the People" ... you know what I mean. Let's not go into all that yet again ...   I would simply like to point out some additions, with the same semantic, historical, and logical substructures, which we could, very fairly, ask to be added to this already long list of mendacities.

"Vatican II forbade Mothering Sunday".

"Vatican II forbade S Valentine's Day".

'Mothering Sunday' is intimately bound up with the Vetus Ordo liturgical propers for Lent IV, when the Roman Pontiff went to the Basilica of S Crucis in Jerusalem, built upon cartloads of soil from Jerusalem, designed to be 'Jerusalem-in-Rome'; and the texts were about Jerusalem, the True Jerusalem, the Jerusalem quae sursum est, quae est mater nostra. Wonderful texts; wonderful Biblical exegesis bound up in them. S Paul at his grandest. Upon this basis grew the easy, pleasant social customs of Mothering Sunday. This is a superb example of the combination, within our Christian culture, of high theology, high liturgy, graciously incarnated into popular customs so attractive that they even have the power to survive the demise of the culture which gave birth to them. 'Inculturation', and with a vengeance! 

But none of this had any weight with those who, after the Council, ruthlessly, unreflectively, demolished the liturgical foundations upon which this entire superstructure rested.

Similar points could be made about the Festival of S Valentine (although here we should blame Pius XII ... vide infra). And here I have PF on my side. A few years ago, he had a ginormous gathering of engaged couples organised on that day, and he preached to them about ... er ... Wojjer think? Ss Cyril and Methodius? ... the importance of the Cyrillic Alphabet? The necessity of using papal authority to discipline (as S Methodius did) the German bishops ... pretty topical, that, yes? No he didn't. Instead of boring the pants off all those ardent lovers, he entirely forgot about the post-Vatican II calendar ... and dished out to them S Valentine! (Don't, by the way, blame the Council for the squidging of S Valentine; the regime of Pius XII led the way in this matter, as in so many of the things which people blame "the Council" for).

I think it would be very useful to help the Catholic laity to understand that, when they hanker after Mothering Sunday and S Valentine's Day, they are in fact manifesting their instinctive, praiseworthy, preference for that liturgical culture which constitutes the 'bad', 'regressive', Traditional Latin Mass which Bergoglianita so loves to rubbish. It is noteworthy that, in the six decades since the Council, the post-Conciliar liturgical texts have not themselves had any apparent power ... whatsoever!! ... to inculturate themselves into our society; to put down roots and to generate anything similar to what the classical texts had produced. 

Those who most vigorously promote Novus Ordo texts seem, in practice, much more determined to ignore the texts they sponsor and to create a parallel calendar of  'Missions Sunday', Thingummy-gig Sunday ... World Something-or-other Day ... and all the rest. There so often seems to be something  which it is very much more important to preach about than the Novus Ordo lections. 

Yet the 1960s were so proud when they bestowed upon us their grand three-year cycle of readings, "a richer Table of Holy Scripture", at the moment when (with the other hand) they stole Mothering Sunday away from us. In reality, the Trendies seem to be just as unenthusiastic about the post-Concilar Calendar as the Traddies are, when it actually comes to deciding what to do in church next Sunday. How often does the Parish Liturgy Group study prayerfully next Sunday's Readings and evolve something exciting based upon them?

As far as eliciting the collective response of a worshipping community is concerned, the 1970 Book of Readings is as dead as a Dodo, and a lot more moth-eaten than the reconstructed Dodo in the University Museum. 

But, year after year, Mothering Sunday (and S Valentine) survive every attempt to drown them in the bucket.

As I've asked before, is there anybody out there who really likes the Novus Ordo? If so, s/he should be stuffed and mounted and given a central place in the University Museum for the amusement of posterity.

13 March 2021

Concelebration in S Peter's: Gaudeamus igitur ...

It appears that, unlawfully, 'private Masses' are to be forbidden in S Peter's Church in Rome.

This, if the alarming reports are true, will be the very hallmark of Tyranny. Vis sine lege ...

The great Catholic Anglican theologian, Dr Eric Mascall, writing at the time when Concelebration was the new sexy -ation among trendy Western liturgists, put in a spirited defence of the practice of the Private Mass. I particularly commend to you its Catholic understanding of "Corporate". Mascall, in truth, is simply unfolding the teaching of Pius XII in Mediator Dei " ... this Sacrifice , always and everywhere, necessarily and of its very nature, has a public and social character. For he who offers it acts in the name both of Christ and of the faithful, of whom the divine Redeemer is the Head ...".

If, Mascall wrote, you want to make "anybody understand wherein the corporateness of the mass really consists" the best thing you can do is to take him into a church with lots of simultaneous private masses going on, and tell him that "the different priests saying their different masses at their different altars are doing not different things but the same thing, that they are all taking part in the one eternal Liturgy whose celebrant is Christ and that their priesthood is only a participation in his ... the multiplication of masses emphasises the real unity of the mass and the true nature of the Church's corporate character as nothing else can ... what makes the mass one and corporate is not the fact that a lot of people are together at the same service, but the fact that it is the act of Christ in his body (corpus) the Church ... 'Look at those men at their various altars all around the church, each of them apparently muttering away on his own and having nothing to do with the others. In fact, they are all of them doing the same thing - the same essentially, the same numerically - not just a lot of different things of the same kind, but the very same identical thing; each of them is taking his part as a priest in the one redemptive act which Christ, who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, perpetuates in the Church which is his Body through the sacrament of his body and blood'".

Professor Mascall's description fits the Church of S Mary Magdalene in Oxford, once a busy Anglican Catholic centre but now sadly lapsed. It was there that, except when he was on the rota to celebrate in Christ Church Cathedral, he said his daily Mass, old style, Introibo ad Altare Dei through to Et Verbum caro factum est. Not infrequently, every altar in that church was occupied by a priest offering that same eternal sacrifice. One thinks also of the Anglican Shrine Church at Walsingham, its twenty or so altars all abuzz with Sacrifice at the height of the pilgrimage season. Come to think of it, that's probably why the lower basilica at Lourdes has an altar to each of the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary. One can imagine palmy days when priests were queuing up on rotas to say their masses and (if there were a shortage of trained servers) making, each of them, the then customary arrangement with the priest just before him or the one just after, to serve his Mass in return for him serving yours. This was the time of my adolescence before the Council when churches which are now empty or even closed or demolished were full of busi-ness; alive and electric with sacramental and devotional life.

This is the culture which I grew up with. This is my culture. And when we entered Pope Benedict's Ordinariates, we were guaranteed the preservation of our culture and traditions. What right has some unnamed individual in Rome got to abrogate those undertakings? And not even to put an intelligible signature upon his document?

After the contempt into which the Private Mass fell in the decades after Vatican II, we have been able to welcome with unconfined joy its increasing return to the main-stream repertoire of every-day Western Catholicism. When there are laypeople needing a Mass, it is obviously the first duty of a priest to serve that need (and a desire to say an additional Mass solo would not be a sufficient reason for binating). But we should remember that Vatican II did explicitly preserve inviolate the right of every priest to celebrate a Private Mass, with a couple of caveats (not during a concelebration within the same church; not on Maundy Thursday).  

And subsequent magisterial documents, including the Code of Canon Law, have repeated this right. 

And successive editions even of the Novus Ordo Missal have provided (and, most recently, substantially revised) the rite for celebrating the 'New Mass' privately, thus demonstrating that it has not slipped into obsolescence.

S Peter's is not the Mother Church of the World ... that status belongs to the Lateran Basilica. But it is the daily resort of both pagan visitors and Christian pilgrims. Built over the relics of the Prince of the Apostles, by the Residence of the Successor of S Peter, focussed upon the Cathedra Petri, it is no ordinary place.

This new 'rule' represents a definitive repudiation of the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II (vide 57 para 2 para 2). I take it that, with the explicit provisions of the Second Vatican Council being now so rudely and violently abrogated, and in such a place, we shall ... at least ... henceforth be spared the phenomenon of dreary and aged hypocrites lecturing us about "following the Council".

If Vatican II is now dead for the Bergoglians, it is clearly just as dead for us all. Sauce/Goose/Gander.

So Bye bye, "Council". Don't forget to take your wretched 'Spirit of the Council' with you. And drop your Novus Ordo into the skip on your way out. When you arrive at the Eternal Resting Place of disgraced Councils, don't forget to say a cheery What-Ho to Pistoia and the Latrocinium.

12 March 2021


Possibly, quite a few newer readers are not aware that, as a long-time policy, I decline to enable would-be comments which contain Sedevacantist propaganda. 

I am sorry if such would-be contributors have been puzzled by the non-appearance of their comments. Please accept this apology. I will offer the August Sacrifice for you early next week.

I hope that you will in future comment. You are at liberty to criticise the actions and words of the current regime in Rome, as long as you do not suggest that Bergoglio is not really pope.

Very unfortunately, he is.

(Mind you, I was a sedevacantist myself between February 28, 2013, and March 13, 2013.)

I would tentatively suggest that you might helpfully criticise comments which woundingly attack me for being insuffciently obedient to the nice old gentleman from Argentina! Simply remember that I am resolutely opposed to attempts to foment schism within or from the One Fold of the Redeemer.

Yes, these are bad times. I hope you have obtained copies of the Lamont book! There is an essay in it from me revealing the full depth of the Bergoglianist errors and blasphemies!!! And fantastic stuff from all the most competent critics of the Vatican clique! Help to spread the news of this important volume. It is introduced by Archbishop Vigano, than whom nobody knows better where the Bodies are Buried on the Seven Hills!

These are such very bad times that we need to stick together to resist the Evil One. If we attack each other, we are simply doing Satan's work.

God bless you.

11 March 2021

"Defending the Faith ... " (2) Some more remarks upon the Book

It has always been the role of the Roman Church to resist Heresy and to establish what is, and what is not, orthodoxy. I venture to quote the great Anglican Papalist writer Dom Gregory Dix on this 'rule':

"It is above all as the norm of Christian belief that Rome is the capital of Christendom in [the second century]. It is at Rome and only at Rome, that all doctrinal issues are then finally settled. This is clearly recognised by the non-Roman writers of the second century, from Ignatius of Antioch at its beginning to Tertullian at its close. The former can write to the Roman Church: 'Ye were the instructors of others. And my desire is that those lessons shall hold good which as teachers ye enjoin'. For the latter the Roman Church is the ecclesia authenticae regulae. To Rome comes every second century Christian teacher, intent on securing the approval of that Church for his teachings. To Rome comes Marcion, already under censure in other Churches; but until Rome has condemned him he is still a catholic Christian. It is at Rome that the controversies with the great Gnostic heresiarchs, which fill the latter half of the second century, were primarily thrashed out. It is at Rome that the answer to their claim to a secret tradition and a succession of teachers from the Apostles is elaborated; it is at Rome that the additions to the baptismal symbol which exclude their interpretations of the Gospel are first made; it is at Rome that the incompatibility of their Hellenistic presuppositions with the concrete thought of authentic Christianity is made plain, in a way that it was not plain even to great Churches like that of Alexandria for half a century afterwards. Above all, in the controversy over Montanus, about which we know more than any other in this period, Rome is obviously the centre and focus of the final issue, even though Montanus never left Asia and the Apostolic Churches of Asia were his chief opponents. It is at Rome that the Montanists, excommunicated in Asia, repeatedly seek the communion of the Church; at Rome that Praxeas intercedes against them; at Rome that the Church of Lyons seeks to mediate between them and their opponents; Tertullian the Montanist reserves his wrath, not for the Asian bishops who had excommunicated and sought to exorcise the new Prophets of the Paraclete, but for the Roman bishop whose refusal of communion had finally cut them off from the Church."


When the Four Cardinals issued their Dubia, they begged their Holy Father to resolve the questions they were putting to him And they put their questions into the form of Dubia because that is the formal style in which to ask the Teacher, the Bishop of the Church of the authentic Rule, to give the formal teaching to which, for nearly two millennia, the Church of S Peter has born witness.  


When some of us put together the Correctio Filialis, we put the central doctrinal problems which were troubling us into Latin (English translation accompanies it). We did this to make clear that we were not simply uttering some grumpy journalistic and gossipy criticism of PF. We were, in the formal and precise official language of the Roman Church, putting formally to the Roman Bishop a request for formal teaching on controverted matters. 

We were begging the Successor of S Peter to teach us.

To do this is not to attack the Pope! On the contrary, it is to affirm the centrality to Catholicism of the Petrine Ministry of the Roman Pontiff. 

The people who attack the Pope are the people who imply ... of even state explicitly ... that a Pope can change Catholic Teaching at will. He cannot. As Vatican I infallibly taught, the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter so that, by His revelation, they might publish new doctrine, but so that, with His help, they might devoutly guard the revelation handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith, and faithfully expound it."(D3070).


10 March 2021

"Defending the Faith against Present Heresies: Letters and StatementsAddressed to Pope Francis ... ..." (1)

Readers will already have seen notices of this most important book. It is published by a small Canadian Cartholic publishing house, Arouca Press, edited by John Lamont, a learned lay theologian who has suffered both personally and professionally because of his principled adherence to the Faith ... and by Claudio Pierantoni. There is a Foreward by Archbishop Vigano. It is proper for me to admit that I had a hand in some of the documents printed in this volume. 

It contains the formal documents concerned, from the Dubia of the four Cardinals and the Filial Coreection onwards. And it also contains important contributions to the debate which these documents stimulated.

The significance of this collection cannot be overestimated. It must be the first time since the Counter-Reformation that bodies of competent theologians, orthodox Catholics, have felt compelled to band together and to oppose, resist, and directly criticise a Roman Pontiff. Both the erudite, and ordinary Catholics, will find this an essential resource for opposing the errors currently being propagated from the very highest places in Rome. Every seminarian ... or, at least, every seminary library, should possess this volume!

But I wish today to suggest that it has an even more important role to play than simply the formation and instruction of a laity and a clergy properly armed to resist the Evil One. 

Let me try to explain.

During the period of the Arian conflict, apostasy even reached as high as the man who at that time also occupied the Throne of S Peter. And the parallels with our own times are so significant that we do well to study that self-same period, and to do so through the prism of Saint John Henry Newman

I believe that it is important, especially for clerics and seminarians, to take this period and this subject very seriously, because we need some sound anchoring in reality and Tradition and in approved writers. It is not good enough to be angry or upset and to flail helplessly around without having any bearings. So I will now take up again the thought of Saint John Henry Newman which he encapsulated in his bold phrase: the "temporary Suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens", or, as we might say nowadays, "of the Magisterium".

Newman used this phrase as a historical describer ("as a matter of fact"). With the falling away of so many bishops from orthodoxy, it was, he meant, a matter of historical fact that their function of teaching the Truth was not being discharged. His words were misunderstood by critics ... he was rarely short of those. Attempts were made to create trouble for him in Rome; as if he were implying that popes and bishops had lost their capacity to function Magisterially: in other words, his statement was taken theologically. He carefully disavowed this dangerous notion, which, if you think about it, does possess some of the features of the modern Sedevacantist fallacy. In fact, Newman carefully distinguished between Suspense of the Magisterium, meaning that the Magisterial officers of the Church were not performing their function, and Suspension of the Magisterium, which in his view would mean that they had lost their function. The latter he would never assert, and neither should we even think of suggesting it.

There is only one pope ... and his name is Francis.

He has not lost any of his authority.

But he has formally declined to use it.

This is an extremely important distinction for us to make today. 

The documents in this book are highly valuable tools for our own edification. But there is something which is even more important than that.

This is the fact that PF declined to answer the Dubia and the questions which were put to him. The fact that four Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church put those questions to him gives his refusal to answer them a formal status. 

In terms of Saint John Henry's analysis, I suggest that Jorge Bergoglio's formal refusal to respond to the Five Dubia constituted his formal entry into a period of  Temporary Suspense of the function of his Petrine Magisterium. 

It is a suspense freely chosen by him which he can end at any moment he chooses by giving the clarifications called for, thus "strengthening his brethren" and "devoutly guarding and faithfully setting forth the Tradition received through the Apostles, the Deposit of the Faith" (Vatican I). 

What the practical consequences are for us of living in a period during which the Papal Magisterium is in Suspense is a question which should engage our prayer, thought, and study, individually and collectively.

During an earlier period of such Suspense, the Church heard the agonised cry of S Hilary, cited by Bishop Schneider, "Anathema tibi a me dictum praevaricator Liberi!"

To be continued.

9 March 2021


Sometimes, it seems so hard to make a simple point without opening oneself to crticisms which one does not deserve. However much I might protest now, there are going to be those who will accuse me of arguing that Racism ... and Racist Abuse ... do not really matter. I hold neither of these views. Indeed, I believe that each of those things does matter a great deal, and merits being suppressed with rigour and vigour.  

If it can be.

But I can't help approaching these matters, given my own life-experience, from a particular viewpoint as a worker in the field of Education.

Among those receiving Education, as in many groups and classes (but this is the one I know about), Bullying is a significant factor in Group Cohesion. And a powerful element in the Bullying Culture is that, when the Bullies discover they have scored a hit, they go for it; they exploit the discovery they have made. Having discovered a 'way in' they make more and more use of it. (I blame Darwin.)

This means that, if they secure a powerful response to ... exempli gratia ... making 'monkey noises' when a black footie player is doing rather well ... or throwing bananas onto the ground ... then they will devote maximum energy to utilising the methodology they have discovered. They may not be ... they are not ... very bright, but they are bright enough to see that an opening is an opening.

If they had not made such discoveries, they might not have wasted their Unemployment Benefit on buying bananas.

And this means that pious injunctions from Authority Figures may do very little to modify their behaviour. Such injunctions ought to work ... but I am never terribly surprised when they don't. Males ... and not least young males ... ought to benefit from Nanny's wisdom and Nanny's ethics ... but they seem curiously unable to internalise this important truth.

Sophisticated people may develop their own ways of dealing with such problems. I have been told that there is a footie club in North London, in an area with a large Jewish population, where the supporters (both Jewish and Gentile) react to a sporting success of their local team by chanting encouraging slogans which include the word Yids. Neat, if true. How even more jolly it would be if the slogans were themselves in the Yiddish language. We need more linguistic diversity.

I have no magical answer to the problems of bullying. I presume that they lie deep in human group dynamics, in the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, and in the hormonal problems of young male humans, poor sad poppets. (Girls have their different mechanisms, which can perhaps be even more cruel.)

I suppose all I am doing is to explain why, when the Righteous ascend their pulpits to admonish the racists, I agree with every single sentiment they utter ... and I feel exactly the same indignation and disgust.

But I do find that I sometimes need to stifle a yawn, and to remember the seductive temptations of Virtue Signalling, and to wonder what actual good the Righteous think they're doing. 

Are they not simply giving the Bullies some extremely useful customer feed-back about which vile and nasty tactics work best by hurting most?

8 March 2021

Whatever happened to "the Thanksgiving Series"?

When I was at Staggers, 1964-1967,  we heard a great deal about the liturgical "Thanksgiving Series". This related to the strongly held conviction that the 'primitive' pattern of the Eucharistic Prayer, after It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty ... began with a Thanksgiving to the Father for Creation and Redemption (which ended with the Sanctus). While I was in the House, a request was submitted to the Ordinary of the Place, Bishop Harry Carpenter of Oxford, that the House be permitted to use ad experimentum a Preface which did just that. It was composed mainly by taking the seasonal prefaces of the Book of Common Prayer and gumming them together (so there was nothing wild or popish about it).

Readers may remember previous posts in which I have recalled the constant scrutiny the House was under, from 'Inspectors' anxious to discover 'illegalities' and 'Popery'. That, I am sure, is why the Principal, Canon Derek Allen, sought episcopal consent; and why Bishop Carpenter said No.

In June 1965, the Church of England published a draft liturgy, for discussion but not yet for use. Members of the Liturgical Commission included Arthur Couratin, long-time former principal of the House, together with Craddock Ratcliff, Austin Farrer, and (as Secretary) G G Willis ... names of very great distinction. The preparatory notes explain that "we have attempted to produce a Thanksgiving for the Creation of the World, the Redemption of of Mankind, and the Sanctification of the People of God through Christ." But this feature did not survive into permanent use in the texts currently in use of the Church of England. 

I suspect that the reasons why the Thanksgiving Series, which was a matter of such Anglican enthusiasm in the 1960s, dropped out of view may be twofold. (1) Some of the liturgists in the Commission of 1965, notably Couratin, dropped out because the C of E's synodal proceedings resulted in an 'Evangelical' veto on the words we offer; and, (2), in the texts which emerged from the Vatican after the Council, the Thanksgiving Series played no part. Instead, the emerging Novus Ordo reverted to a Gallican, or Ambrosian, profusion of proper prefaces. And this process of 'revision' in Rome was (unnecessarily) influential in Anglican circles

7 March 2021

Gimme Dosh

OnePeterFive claims that Cardinal Wuerl is paid a couple of million dollars (US) annually for his Retirement Ministry.

Having given Much Prayerful Thought to the question, I have decided that my own Retirement Ministry is inadequately recompensed (currently £0,000,000 annually).

I shall be invoicing the Ordinary for an appropriate sum, probably as much as ten times that amount.

I had thought of adding "If you want me to keep shtumm about A and B and C, you'd betta pay up prompt". But, sadly, I can't think of an A, let alone a B or a C. I must be alphabetically challenged.

Dull little man. Me, I mean, not the Eminent Wuerl.

But it is Lovely to think that I am now in Full Communion with such vast sums of ready cash, and with such rich Retirement Ministries.

P.S. Why do so many cardinals keep e-mailing me with the message "Nighty night, Baby, I love you"?

6 March 2021

Ten Years Ago

Quinquagesima Sunday 2011, March 26, was our last Sunday in the Church of England. I preached on the Statio of that Sunday, when, in the first millennium, the Roman Pontiff celebrated in the Basilica of S Peter... In my homily I said ...

Today we join in spirit the Christian people of sixth century Rome on a corporate visit to the Basilica of S Peter in Vaticano; to the church where, in the 1960s, the bones of a big and strong old man were found buried beneath a simple second century aedicula covered with Christian graffiti - some invoking S Peter. It is a church built over the Kephas, over the Petra, over the Rock.

Only a generation or so after S Peter's own martyrdom, an Eastern bishop came journeying to Rome; his name was Ignatius. He came as a pilgrim, but as a pilgrim in chains. He was being sent under guard to Rome to be made a martyr. On his way to Rome, he sent letters to the ccongregations he was passing; letters in which, time after time, he emphasised Unity. He urged them, always, to be united around their bishop. He reminded them that, in their local church, the bishop was always and essentially the centre of unity. Frankly, he says this so often that his letters can even become a trifle repetitively boring.

But, as S Ignatius approached Rome, he writes, to the Roman Church, quite a different sort of letter. It was brilliantly analysed back in the 1940s by one of our greatest Anglican Catholic theologians, Dom Gregory Dix. Dix pointed out something odd about it. In his letter to the Roman Church, S Ignatius uses a lot of the same words that he had used in his other letters to the other churches. But now he applies those words differently. If, in the earlier letters, he had used a particular word to refer to the Bishop as the centre of Unity for the Local Church, in his letter to the Roman Christians Ignatius now uses that same word to refer to ... the Roman Church. So that, if he had, earlier, called a local bishop prokathemenos in relation to his Local Church, he now calls the Roman Church prokathemene in relation to the Universal Church. And so on. In other words, in the Local Church, the Bishop is the centre and focus of Unity; in the Universal Church, Rome is the centre and focus of Unity. Dix writes: "Rome stands for ecumenical Unity ... Rome fulfills by its leadership precisely that function towards the Universal Church which the Bishop fulfills towards the Local Church".

Today, carried in spirit by the readings and prayers of today's liturgy, we have journeyed out of the gates of Rome, up the Vatican hill, panting, perhaps, as we climbed it, to the bones of S Peter, to the Rock to whom the Lord said "Upon this Rock I will build my Church". For two millennia, Christians have followed S Ignatius to Rome ... to see the sights, to pray at the tombs of the Apostles and Martyrs; but above all, above everything else, they have gone there to listen; to listen to the voice of the Apostle Peter; to hear the Word of God.

I have left the original thread.