31 August 2021

John Haycroft.

John Haycroft lived and worshipped within my former Anglican parish of S Thomas the Martyr. He was a college servant - what in Oxford we call a scout. He was the scout of Sanctus Ioannes Henricus Newman. You see, my poor working-class parish was the behind-the-green-baize-door part of gentlemanly, academic Oxford. 

Haycroft never followed his master into full communion with the Holy See. But he also never forgot the lessons he had learned from ... whom? from Newman or from Canon Thomas Chamberlain (my distinguished predecessor who brought Catholicism out of the Common-rooms of Victorian Oxford into the ordinary parish church of a slum district)? Or from both? 

As an old man, when Communion had to be brought to him in his own home (a Victorian terrace house which, mercifully, survived the slum clearances of the last two decades), he insisted on observing the Eucharistic Fast, and on having his little table arranged so the the priest who brought him God's Body was ... facing East! 

I shan't forget the little manservant who felt so privileged to be able to listen to the discussions of Newman and his august friends.

30 August 2021


I am now resuming normal service with regard to the reading and enabling of proffered comments; and personal emails. I have been through all the comments which had arrived before last night; and enabled most of them. I just began going through the hundred or so personal emails; for some reason, my computer won't operate normally. I may have to abandon all those the emails.

Autumn, and Mortality (NOT FOR ANTIPODEANS)

Oh dear! The ORDO says "INCIPIT PARS AUTUMNALIS BREVIARII". (I recall that back in the fifties, when as a schoolboy I took up the use of a diurnale Romanum, some ORDOs were a bit more chatty about it: "Seposita parte aestiva Breviarii Romani, sumitur pars Autumnalis")***. Will this last summer prove indeed to have been the last summer of my life? Four times a year, one is reminded of one's mortality in the dry, deadpan, matter-of-fact, sort of way that rubricians do have. I find it far more chilling than revivalist sermons or even warnings about imminent asteroids.

Mind you, things could have been worse. Summer could have been even shorter. The great John Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter in the fourteenth century, notes on August 21 **Estas finitur. Autumpnus oritur. Incidentally, he also reminds us on September 5 that Dies caniculares finiuntur. How interesting. This is just the sort of information last-year seminarians should be given when they are being prepared to hear confessions. For you will remember the sage warning of Hesiod, that during the Dog Days women are at their most lustful (makhlotatai) while men are at their most feak and weeble (aphaurotatoi) because Sirius parches the head and knees.

Thinking along very much the same lines, the Use of Sarum has an interesting piece of doggerel advice for August. Quisque sub augusto vivat medicamine iusto. Raro dormitet **estum coitum quoque* vitet. Balnea non curet nec multa comestio duret. Nemo laxari debet vel phlebotomari. Quite uncanny, isn't it, in its proleptic description, and condemnation, of the modern popular package holiday: going somewhere hot; sunbathing; hopping in and out of the pool; overeating and overdrinking; pursuing venerem et scortilla. Hesiod, likewise, goes on for several lines about hezomenos en skiei and eating boos hulophagoio kreas.
* I assume this should be punctuated estum, coitum quoque, vitet.
** In medieval Latin, ae is pronounced and written e.
*** Reminders to clerics to put aside the Summer Volume of the Breviary and to get out the Autumn Volume.

29 August 2021


I reprint this piece from 2014 because of its relevance to the Feast today of my Patron S John Baptist. The 2020 CDF Decree on Prefaces renders this slightly out of date.

I am moved by the great fear that many traddies have of the slightest change to the Missal of 1962. 

Truly, people have been wounded.

(1) S John Baptist, whom we celebrate today, is at least as great a Saint as S Joseph. One could even argue that, in popular devotion, recent centuries have seen S John Baptist overshadowed in the Western Church by S Joseph. Now ... if it was OK to give S Joseph a preface in 1919, why would it be completely beyond the pale for S John Baptist to be given a Preface in 2019?
(2) In fact, this has been done already. There already is a "Gallican" preface for S John Baptist, authorised before 1962. In the SSPX French language ORDO, it is marked as ad libitum. Are those who oppose any change to '1962' arguing that somebody should go round and tear this preface out of all the SSPX missals in France?
(3) Why, in any case, is '1962' so sacrosanct? It is at least arguable that the 'Conciliar period' began with the election of Pius XII, who commissioned Annibale Bugnini and others to effect the extremely radical 'reforms' which came on stream in the 1950s. And feasts galore of our Lady were added in that Pontificate on impulse, rather as if a child were randomly playing with a rubix cube. Before Pius XII, for example, May 31 was in very many places the Feast of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces; a fine and edifying Mass which would benefit us all by being brought back and made universal. This feast was displaced by our Lady, Queen ... which would be very suitably observed on the Octave of the Assumption ... etc etc..
(4) After S Pius V promulgated his recension of the Roman Missal, in every generation the feasts of 'new' Saints were added to the Calendar and the Sanctorale. Every pontiff did it. Just have a look at any pre-1962 Altar Missal preserved in any Sacristy throughout the world: you'll discover the 'new' masses glued in by the parish priest as they arrived hot off the press from Rome. Glue was an essential liturgical accessory in the pre-Conciliar period. The fact that no addition has been made since 1962 is thus, in itself, paradoxically, very profoundly untraditional. This does not mean, by the way, that every saint canonised was promptly added to the Universal Calendar. Quite the contrary. Accretions were gradual and cautious.

I feel that informed traddies do have a duty gently and sensitively to educate the more fearful. Complete, rigid, preservation of the very unsatisfactory Missal of 1962 is far from ideal. It would be best for a representative commission to take the status quo of 1939 as its starting point and then, very very gently, discern the sort of extremely light and gradual and organic developments which could have occurred if Pius XII had not ushered in an era of violent 'reform'.

28 August 2021

Waddesdon and Publius Ovidius Naso

Readers who are still wondering how to celebrate the re-opening of the country's old stately homes could do worse than to visit Waddesdon; a 'French chateau' built by Ferdinand de Rothschild to house his immense collection of Bourbon French goodies. Surely, Publius Ovidius Naso, with his love of the intricate joke, his frivolity, his sensuality, was the presiding numen of the arts and crafts of Bourbon France.

So what fun Waddesdon is; as good as the Wallace Collection or the Burrell (my favourite venue in my favourite Scottish city). Better than those, if you include the fountains, reconstructed after being bought from the duke of Parma [was it a Duke of Parma who congratulated Archbishop Lefebvre after the Econe Consecrations?]. What superb taste Baron Ferdinand had. The Spirit of Ovid lives; long live the Spirit of Ovid.

I feel so much more at home there than among the heavy splendours of nearby Blenheim, a monument to the career Johnny Churchill secured by his treachery to James II, and now cluttered up with memorabilia of some Brit politician who allied himself with Uncle Joe Stalin during some war we fought in the last century. If I have to choose between Jewish bankers and the traitorous clique that kept the Head of the House of Stuart off the throne, then give me the Jewish bankers any day of the week.

The only feature of a genuine French chateau of the seventeenth century which is missing at Waddesdon may be ... er ... a chapel ... Curiously, Baron Ferdinand did collect quite a bit of 'Christian' stuff, but he never provided it with a proper setting; so most of it is propped up on window sills in the Bachelors' Wing. Were Edwardian bachelors invariably Christians?

There is a 'chapel' at Blenheim, but it is never clear to me who or what is supposed to be worshipped there. Most of it is cluttered up with some great thing Rysbrack cobbled together in honour of ... Johnny Churchill. Sometimes they have exhibitions there which show scant respect for its nominal status as a Christian place of worship.

Typical of the Spirit of Blenheim.

27 August 2021

If it's beautiful, kill it

My generous friend, Professor William Tighe, once sent me a fascinating little book (Roman and uncondemned) published in 1959 (remember the date!) by one Canon Dudley Symon. Symon was, in fact, a predecessor of mine at Lancing College, a papalist writer but not an unreflecting admirer of the Roman Catholicism of his day. A snippet: "A Pontifical High Mass, as it is celebrated today, with all the adjuncts of light, colour, scent, movement and music, is one of greatest artistic achievements of the human mind, worthy to be set beside a Symphony by Beethoven, or the Parthenon in Athens, or the frescoes of Michael Angelo. The Liturgical Reformers, like all other Reformers, will need watching lest their zeal leads them 'to root up the wheat also'."

How right he was. And these words seem almost uncanny in their prescience: "... since the Church [of England] makes a special appeal to primitive antiquity, since its reference is to the ancient Fathers and the age of the Great Councils, since its own ethos is in many ways so akin to the Roman, it needs also the Mass which is the purest expression of the faith and worship of that whole period ... the Mass restored to us would not only be the deepening of our knowledge and appreciation of the Divine Mysteries but a proclamation of our unity with the true source of our being, the rock whence we were hewed."

My motive for presenting Dudley's thinking is, of course, PF's new initiative with regard to Catholic Worship. I can see no harm in  reminding one and all of the conviction reached by so many thoughtful and informed Anglicans about the Roman Rite as it was before the wreckers got to it. There is instruction for all of us in this. Ab Anglicanis fas est doceri.

I never fail to be moved as I say those words Te igitur ... by which in the classical Roman Rite one seems to enter silently as through a secret gate into the very heart of the divine mystery of the self-oblation of the Eternal Son.

26 August 2021

Cardinal Hume

People criticise Cardinal Basil Hume. They tell me that he was responsible for a collapse in English Catholicism. To which I would reply that post hoc ergo propter hoc is a flawed logical assumption. As well as a massively simplistic way of doing history.

I rather admired him and certainly found him easy to respect, as well as downright lovable. But I do think it can be argued that, faced with bullies, he lacked gumption. Two examples of which I had knowledge.

One Thursday, in Archbishop's House in the 1990s (how many readers remember those Irish Country Dancing Classes?), vested in his elderly black cardigan, he revealed to the assembled Anglican clergy that the Anglican episcopate had requested that, when Anglican clergy had entered the priesthood of the English Catholic Church, they should renounce their Church of England pension entitlements. A noisy rumble of anger echoed round the room. Basil looked awkward. "You would not be prepared to do this?", he nervously enquired. There was an even louder, even angrier, rumble. "Very well", he said. He did not look to me like a man who relished carrying this negative answer back to his Ecumenical Partners in Dialogue.

Not only his Anglican episcopal 'friends', but also his fellow Catholic bishops, were prepared to bully him. His first reaction to the attempt in the mid-1990s to find a corporate solution for Anglican Catholics was to say "Perhaps this is the Conversion of England for which we have always prayed". First thoughts are so very often the best thoughts! But it wasn't long before this grace-filled openness to a movement of the Spirit was knocked out of him by some of his colleagues, and replaced by their cautious and hostile negativity. This, of course, is why Benedict XVI, when the same question arrived on his desk fifteen years later, decided to play his cards rather close to his chest. Cuius laus in aeternum manebit!

Basil Hume was kind and gentle and holy, a true Father Abbot. There must be thousands whom he helped to find their way to the Lord Jesus. May he rest in peace.

25 August 2021

Bad Taste.

So was it bad taste for me to write the other day with insouciance about the burning of Archbishop Cranmer? Very probably. I have never had much good taste. But I recall Dix's imagination of Cranmer's last musings ... 

" ... for this [the Royal Supremacy] he had shed blood, or consented to its shedding, in case after case where, rightly or wrongly, he believed the victims innocent  ... Zwinglian and papist, he had burned them both at different times, along with miscellaneous Arians and Eutychians and Anabaptists, for their creeds -- reluctantly (for he was by nature gentle) but persistently enough -- right down to Van Morey, not long before King Edward died. And now he was coming to join them himself. One wonders if the thought of them all passed through the old man's mind as he hurried of his own accord out of S Mary's along the Turl to where the stake stood in the Broad outside Balliol -- Lambert the Zwinglian and Friar Forrest -- and the gentle Fisher, and More the witty chancellor, and old abbot Whiting -- but they were in King Henry's time, and for a matter of treason, like the Carthusians -- whether the Boleyn girl were a lawful queen or a whore -- Both! -- That would have ruined him if he had not condemned her, though he had almost thought her innocent -- and Seymour the Admiral, and his brother and murderer Seymour the Protector -- he had abandoned them both in turn, though he had thought them innocent too -- but their cases were desperate, and his own mission could not be compromised in fighting lost battles -- and those hundreds of yokels strung up in 1549 -- and little Jane Grey and that ruffianly Northumberland -- the cur professed himself a papist on the the scaffold, that had been the ravingest protestant in England!-- A safer religion for a bad man to die in? -- ..."

24 August 2021

Jobs (Officia)

In the Treasury of Canterbury Cathedral are a Chalice and Paten which were buried with Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury 1193-1205. The paten bears an inscription which perfectly exemplifies the attitude Latin Christians had towards the Blessed Sacramnent before the Eucharistic Enlightenment for which Pope John XXII was responsible: they believed that the Sacrament is the Body and Blood of Christ ... the dead Body and blood of Christ.

Ara crucis, tumulique calix, lapidisque patena,

     Sindonis officium candida byssus habet.

As your knowledge of Latin grows, you will find it helpful to try to translate Latin which you may come across. People who think they can get a 'sort of general sense', perhaps by looking up a word or two in a dictionary, are ... let me be brutally frank ... complete fools. Latin word-order and grammar mean that the words will be in a word-order totally different from English. If you don't know grammar, you will be unable to work out  whether the cat bit the dog, or the dog bit the cat. 

And word order is even more (to the Anglophone eye) problematic in verse than it is in prose.

What I have printed above is an elegiac couplet, which is a verse form. One way of suspecting this is: if the even-numbered lines are shorter and end in the rhythm tumtitty tumtitty tum. 

First you need to spot the verb. Here it is habet. Next, what is the subject? When you have got your declensions learned off by heart, you will probably cotton on to the fact that Ara, calix, patena, byssus, are all subjects, in what is called the Nominative Case. Crucis, tumuli, lapidis, sindonis, are genitives (meaning "of").

Next ... if the verb has an object, what is it?


So, with English-style word-order, we can rearrange the two lines into 

Ara habet officium crucis, calix habet officium tumuli, patena habet officium lapidis, candida byssus habet officium sindonis. 

Which is, in English

The Altar has the job of the Cross, and the Chalice has the job of the Tomb, and the Paten has the job of the Stone, and white linen has the job of the Shroud.

Alluding, all of it, to the dead and buried Jesus. And to the Altar, Chalice, Paten, and Purificator at Mass.

Hey, er, presto ...

23 August 2021

Bishop Grandisson and his heretic

Ralph de Tremur, a Cornish-speaking heretic with a distinguished academic record and a fluent tongue, was unimpressed by the newly burnished devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, encouraged by Pope John XXII and brought to Exeter by Bishop Grandisson. Tremur was so off-message as to argue that bread and wine did not turn substantialiter by virtue of the words of consecration into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. And he spread his heresies among common, simple folk. Rather vividly, he observed "You are worshipping the work of your own hands! How absurd! What else does a priest do apart from gaping and breathing over a bit of bread!" He was reported to have dramatised his views by secretly carrying off from a church the pyx containing Christ's Body, taking out the Sacrament, and throwing it into the fire. .

Perhaps Tremur should be considered less a precursor of bibliolatrous Reformation Protestantism than of modern Liberalism: he took the view that S Peter was a bad hollow rustic ...

... or did he? I feel tempted, in my wild Enlightenment way, to emend the word (in Grandisson's Register) cavus to calvus ... in which case he was calling the Prince of the Apostles "a nasty old bald peasant"....

He also called S John a lying perjurer. Why? I suspect he had the Eucharistic teaching of John chapter  6 in mind. Grandisson certainly referred to this passage in his own explanation of why Tremur's heresy "undoubtedly and obviously subverts the whole Catholic Faith, empties each of the sacraments individually, and completely destroys the truth of the gospels". 

Did everything end happily for the Bishop, with Grandisson burning Tremur. Sadly, we have no evidence of this. But it is worth noting that in 1549 the Western peasantry were prepared to risk their own deaths for the practice of worshipping the Blessed Sacrament, and demanded that those who opposed this worship should "dye like heretykes against the holy Catholyque fayth". And it is likely that their laudable rebellion was sparked off by Protestant interference during an illegal Corpus Christi celebration at Clyst St Mary in Devon. 

In the two centuries between Grandisson and Cranmer, it was Grandisson's orthodoxy and piety that had entered the devout souls of the people of the English West, God bless and rest them.

And, if Tremur didn't burn, Cranmer did.

22 August 2021

Taking leave

As we conclude the old Octave of the Assumption - I like the old Byzantine habit of "taking leave" of great festivals - I invite readers to engage with the question of what we are celebrating today ... and to begin by tracing the history of one particular hymn.

The post-conciliar revisers, in their first draft of the Hymnarium, proposed to offer a ninth century hymn, O quam glorifica, on Assumption day. It did not make it to the final cut, but it does appear in the new Office Book on August 22, the old Octave day, to which the 'reformers' transferred the Feast of Mary, Queen (at the same time ejecting the Immaculate Heart from that day onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart). Interestingly, that hymn was, in the first millennium, a Proper hymn for the Assumption.

I can see that combining the Queenship of Mary with her Octave day does have a lot to be said for it. Long before gentlemen in liturgy offices in Rome started shifting Marian feasts around like counters on a Ludo board, Dom Gueranger saw the Octave day of the Assumption in terms of our Lady's Queenship. I hope I am not too puritanical about the Marian frenzy of the pontificate of Pius XII - that sort of thing is rather fun from time to time - but his liturgists never had an over-all, holistic look at the arrangement of the new feasts he showered upon the calendar. Even if Vatican II had never happened, a bit of sorting and sifting would have been in order in the next pontificate. 

They might have decided to make the old feast pro [multis] aliquibus locis of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces, on May 31, a Feast of the Universal Church. And to have left the Visitation where they found it. And to have adopted a neat eighteenth century idea of putting the Most Pure [aka Immaculate] Heart of Mary onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart. 

And, come to think of it, they might have encouraged Octave Days to survive.

That would have been an organic and gradual evolution of the data emerging from the 'baroque' period of the history of the Calendar.

21 August 2021

A Model Diocesan Bishop

It would be interesting to know exactly what the Dean and Chapter of Exeter had heard about their new bishop in August 1327. They certainly knew that he had been 'supplied' by the Holy See in place of the man they had themselves elected and whom the King had already confirmed. Presumably they knew he was a favourite of Pope John XXII. I suspect they had also heard that he was a micromanager, because they immediately put in hand the creation of a new Cathedral inventory.

John de Grandisson (pronounced Grahns'n), member of a top-flight international family, certainly turned out to be a man who devoted scrupulous attention, and considerable funds, to worship. A decade or two ago, more than six centuries and one 'reformation' after his death, he still merited an entire section on himself in a major London exhibition of Gothic art ... and some vestments with his arms embroidered on them still repose in a sacristy in ... the Azores! After his enthronement (which as a devotee of the Mater Misericordiae he fixed for the Octave Day of the Assumption in 1328; he decreed that the day should be a top-ranking feast for ever) his first decree endeavoured to raise the level of devotion among the unreformed rabble of Cathedral clergy by granting ample indulgences to those who devoutly attended choir and bowed their heads at the Names of Jesus and Mary. (It didn't work; hearing a few weeks later that the junior clergy were still behaving like naughty third-formers, he sent the Dean a stinker: 'Someone has failed to take measures ...').

As the first of his many benefactions, he gave a sumptuous monstrance to the Cathedral so that Corpus Christi, recently (yes; don't believe all that Transiturus stuff) instituted by John XXII, could be properly observed with a procession. He began his great masterpiece, the Ordinale Exoniense, codifying and modernising the usages of his Cathedral (not, as some Art Historian nutter has written, of the Diocese; in a time of manuscript altar-books the concept of Diocesan Regulations is anachronistic). It was probably he who suppressed some dreadful old lyrics which had previously been sung in the Exeter Procession of Relics: Grandisson preferred the new cult of the Blessed Sacrament (and devotion to our Lady) to tall tales about dubious miracles performed by obscure relics. He dealt expeditiously with a false claim of a miracle, and suppressed a phony shrine of our Lady which enabled fortune-tellers to exploit the gullible. 

We have a couple of pages from a Mary Missal, for daily use in the Lady Chapel either at Exeter or at his collegiate foundation at Ottery, in which the bishop in his own handwriting has painstakingly corrected scribal errors. He completed the building of his Cathedral in great splendour. He went after a Cornish heretic who, as heretics sometimes do, had stolen a Host specifically in order to commit sacrilege ... more on him in a day or two. Grandisson sent his own private army to prevent the Primate of All England, his own metropolitan Archbishop and Legatus natus Apostolicae Sedis, from entering Exeter on Visitation. He complained to his Patron in Avignon about the Cornish weather. But he did his duty even in the wind-swept extremities of the Dumnonian peninsula, consecrating altars and composing conflicts and seeing to it that in Cornubiphone parishes the clergy could preach in Cornish.

Even though he did not die at this time of the year, he ordered that his obit be kept on the day after the Octave of the Assumption; that is, today. I can't think of a more suitable day.

He was a devout old bully and a most magnificently cosmopolitan pontiff and a gigantic credit to the much-maligned, unjustly maligned, Avignon papacy. What a mercy that a wise Providence in its eternal decrees did not call upon him to exercise his episcopal ministry in the Age of Bishops' Conferences; I can't imagine him ... er ... sitting quietly at a table ... and ... er ... just ... er ...

I said Mass for him this morning. They don't make them like him nowadays. Or do they?

Cuius animae intercedente Matre Misericordiae propitietur Deus.

20 August 2021

Totius Sacrae Liturgiae Instaurator

In 1956, Hannibal Bugnini made the prediction that Pius XII would be given by History the title I have used as the heading above. Notice the totius !! We woz warned!!

My point today is going to be that the Second Vatican Council was not the cause of the liturgical disasters which followed it. (In fact, I strongly suspect that the Conciliar Decree on Liturgy represented, not an encouragement to irresponsible 'reforms', so much as a modest attempt to rein things back.) I will illustrate my point by quoting what the Reverend Professor Canon Doctor Eric Mascall wrote in 1958. By then things were already pretty clearly well out of hand!

"[T]he [Roman] authorities have set on foot nothing less than a liturgical revolution. No longer can it be said that 'Rome never changes'. Partly the changes have consisted in the introduction of totally new practices in order to meet the alleged special needs of the present day; such are, for example, the progressively extended permission for the celebration of Mass in the evening and the drastic modification of the rules governing the eucharistic fast. Partly they have consisted in the restoration of features of the rite that had been abandoned, or in the removal of medieval and modern accretions which were considered  to have obscured the true meaning of the liturgy; such are the complete revision of the rite of Holy Week ... Furthermore, it is well known that a much more radical reform is in preparation, which, if the statements made at the International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy held at Assisi in Septemberr 1956 can be taken as pointers, is likely among other things to include a vastly extended use of the vernacular. Some of these changes may be of doubtful advantage ..."

19 August 2021

FILIOQUE; and incense

There are Roman Catholics for whom the central dogma of their Faith is that Anglican Orders, invariably and in any conceivable circumstances, must be invalid.

Similarly, there are Orthodox for whom the fearful iniquity of Filioque is the central dogma of all Orthodoxy.

Both of these questions rather bore me. I'm unwilling to spend time on them.

But, as far as Filioque is concerned, I follow the lines of the Roman document The Greek and Latin traditions about the procession of the Holy Spirit, 1995. I see the heart of the 'problem' as the imperfect match between Greek terminology (proienai ... ekporeuesthai) and Latin (procedere). If I were to press things further, I would suggest that putting Filioque into the Greek Creed would be heretical or nearly heretical, as implying two pegai, two arkhai, of the theotes. I would be uneasy about leaving Filioque out of the Latin Creed, lest this conveyed a hint of Arianism.

Our Byzantine brethren need to remember that, in our heterodox West, Arianism is still alive and mightily flourishing. Orthodox worshippers are given no opportunity to forget that Christ is indeed our true God. In the West, however, we have Bergoglianite heretics, not all of them Jesuits, asserting that we do not know what the Man from Nazareth really taught ... there was nobody present with a tape-recorder ... an attitude which betrays a powerful underlying Arian mindset. 

Readers will be aware that the simple and obvious Hunwicke solution to this phenomenon would be to have the 'Athanasian Creed' chanted at least once a month in every parish church before the Most Holy Sacrament solemnly exposed, with incense offered at those points in the text which most forcefully assert the Godhead of the Son. Plenary Indulgences toties quoties. This ceremony, so latreutic, so didactic, could also profitably take the place of those preposterous 'papal public audiences'. His all-holiness the Patriarch of Moskow and All the Russias prostrates himself for quite some time before the Blessed Sacrament after the Epiclesis; it would be very decently Ecumenical for the Bishop of Rome to be seen doing something analogous.

I have said that I would be uneasy about leaving the Filioque out of the Latin Creed. But I sha'n't express this sentiment too intemperately, because in the admirable papal/CDF document Dominus Iesus of 2000, the text begins with the Creed in Latin but ... ... ... without the Filioque!!

I am not happy, in future, to entertain on my blog arguments or rhetoric about Filioque which do not engage soberly and politely with the 1995 paper; or fail to show decent respect for our Latin traditions.

18 August 2021


From Eric Mascall:

"It has often been pointed out  ... that the idea of a liturgy as something composed by a committee and then imposed by authority is a very novel one. Its first appearance seems to be in England in 1549, though it was followed soon after in the Roman Church with the issuing of the Pian Missal in 1570. In all the great periods of liturgical development the governing factor was the liturgical consciousness of the worshipping Church, though synods and even secular rulers might exert a more or less wholesome influence upon it, as, for example, Charlemagne and the Byzantine emperors."

I would add a couple of qualifications to this:

(1) The Pian Missal of 1570 had very few differences from what went before ... you could have continued to use your old books ... while Cranmer's 1549 Prayer Book was an overnight radical change ... you could not have used your Sarum Missal from yesterday without breaking  the Act of Parliament enjoining the Prayer Book. 

(2) The technological advance of Printing was/is necessary to put a new committee-liturgy into immediate, enforced, country-wide effect. 

17 August 2021

Mascall on the Canon of the Mass

An age, every age, should be humble enough to perceive that its own preoccupations may not be ... almost certainly, will not be ... those of other, later ages. 

And, given this truth, it is best that liturgical formulae should not be constantly worked-over in the interests of what are (perceived as) the needs and certainties of today. It is better that imperfectly understood liturgical monuments should be left in place, so as to give another age the opportunity to tease out important truths the importance of which is not, at this moment, apparent to us.

As Eric Mascall wrote, in the course of discussing Counter-Reformation eucharistic theology, 

"at the heart of the Latin Mass there remained the great eucharistic prayer, unnoticed as its true significance might be, and with the liturgical revival of the [twentieth] century it is gradually recovering its rightful recognition."

 Mascall wrote in 1958. It is one of the saddest ironies of liturgical history that, only a decade later, the Roman Canon, despised by the Experts, was sinking, unused, beneath the water.

Whatever mistakes the New Traditionalism has made in these last two or three deades ... even if PF is right ...  it has not made the catastrophic, arrogant, error made by the Experts of the 1960s.

16 August 2021

Muggers at large

 "Some younger priests, who had never experienced that liturgy, knew no Latin, nor had anyone to teach them the rubrics, ran and grabbed a biretta and maniple and presented themselves as ready to celebrate the Eucharist with a liturgy they knew little about. They liked the garments, the smells and bells, the mystery they felt surrounded that form of worship. It made them feel strong and powerful and ... well ... elite.

"In order to allow them to celebrate the Mass, the bishop had only one requirement. They had to be able to know what they were saying. Every one of them failed that simple test. He didn't even require them to translate the liturgy; he simply asked them to summarize the content. They could not."

I saw this piece in the Internet ... might have been in the Catholic Herald ... the writer is a Mgr Eric Barr, of Rockford, Illinois, ordained circa 1984, pastor, principal, teacher, university professor, Vicar for Clergy, Vicar General,  ... who speaks on "Celtic Theology" and "Current Catholic Issues".

Firstly: something that strikes me powerfully; but it is not my main point, so I'll get it out of the way first: Monsignore: I find your piece unpleasant and Ageist. We old dodderers don't like being mocked for our age; I don't see why the young should be mocked and treated with condescension for their age, either. "No good, Granddad, you sitting there waggling your angry zimmer-frame at us!" No ... not very good manners, is it ... and, surprisingly, the "Younger" also resent being type-cast and then ridiculed. Even if every sneer and insult you hurl at them is literally true (they "ran" ... they "grabbed" ...), they won't love you any the better for it.

But what most irritated me when I first read your words was ... Why is it, Monsignore, that you never explore the question of why these "younger" priests knew no Latin ("no Latin" is your phrase). S John XXIII issued Veterum Sapientia in 1962; since then, S Paul VI, S John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI, and Canon 249 of the current Code, have each powerfully re-emphasised the importance of Latin in priestly formation. So you can hardly argue that Law had lost its binding force through 'desuetude' on the grounds that the Legislator (down to 2013) ceased to propose it. So the Seminaries these young men (at least three of them ... you write "Every one of them", not "both of them", so it must be at least three) attended did not teach Latin, or failed utterly to do a competent job of it, and, thus, were negligently conducted and supervised.

I repeat: you say that they "knew no Latin". You say that "every one of them" knew no Latin.

SO ...

... what steps did you, or your Bishop, or your Metropolitan, or the Congregation for Clergy, or the Bishops' Conference, or the Nunciature, or the boards that supervised the seminaries, or your university contacts, take ... over more than five decades ... to remedy this blatant and unconcealed illegality? 

You make me think of a mugger who robs someone in the street and then stands over them shouting abuse: "Lying there in the gutter without any money in your wallet! You ought to be thoroughly ashamed of yourself!"

In the last decade, I've taught Latin to quite a few seminarians who knew they needed it and were not being given it, or enough of it. I have done Summer Schools in which I have taught older priests who say that they were not taught it at seminary and resent this as a species of robbery. (A couple of them once said "Father; that was like a Retreat combined with a Latin Course" ... which rather moved me.) Some older priests have gruesome anecdotes about what happened to fellow seminarians known to be taking a secret interest in Latin texts.

As for these terrible "younger priests" who had nobody to teach them the rubrics ... exactly whose fault is that? In fact, at least in Britain, there are well-subscribed courses put on for such people. 

And ... if you knew "younger" people just a little bit better, you would not need me to reveal to you that quite a lot of them possess computers.

15 August 2021

Neo-Arians, Palaeo-Arians, Newman, and Mary

 I recall a moderately recent news item about a questionnaire which was put to an Evangelical grouping. One of the questions asked whether the respondent agreed with this statement:

"Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God."

Cunning. By highlighting what look like positive words about the Lord, it lures the unwary and the uncatechised into affirming heresy. I was not surprised that ... I think ... 78% ticked the AGREE box.

Guiltily, I recall a Parish experience of my own. I let the staff at the Church of England Primary School write the text of a Nativity Play to be put on by the tinies in my Church. One of their prayers thanked God "for creating Jesus".

Bad, that. My fault. I should have been burned, together with the head teacher and the heretical tiny.

S John Henry Newman developed a rather tasty hypothesis to the effect that it was Arius who accurately analysed the position Mary truly occupies within the Church (Development Part 1 Cap IV Section II para 8). This is how it goes.

The Arians, wrote Newman, said a lot of fine-sounding stuff about Christ. For them, He was "the God of the Evangelical Covenant, and the actual Creator of the Universe"; He had "an ineffable origin before all worlds"; He was "High above all creatures as the type of all the works of God's Hands"; "the King of all Saints, the Intercessor for man with God, the Object of worship, the Image of the Father".

But this was not enough "because it was not all". 

The Arians failed to acknowledge Him as God; as "the One, Everlasting, Infinite, Supreme Being".

Our Blessed Lord does not fit into the slot devised by Arius. But that slot does exist. So who, Newman asks, was "the predestined heir of that Majesty?"

You can guess his answer. "A throne was seen, far above all created poweers, meditorial, intercessory; a title archetypal; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the eternal throne; robes pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all; and who was the predestined heir of that Majesty? Since it was not high enough for the Highest, who was that Wisdom, and what was her name, 'the Mother of fair love, and fear, and holy hope,' 'exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and a rose-plant in Jericho,' 'created from the beginning before the world' in God's counsels, and 'in Jerusalem was her power'? The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."

Our great Saint, Patron, and Doctor has again played the simple and satisfying trick with which I began this blogpost: followers of Popular Protestantism, when they complain that Catholics and Orthodox put Mary into the place belonging to Jesus, do but betray the simple fact that they themselves are thoughtless Arians who do not put Jesus high enough. Newman has lured them into his trap ... and ... snap! ... he has sprung its door. The Argumentum ad hominem ... in Locke's sense of the phrase ... has once again delivered the goods. And now S John Henry makes the Kill explicit: "The votaries of Mary do not exceed the true faith, unless the blasphemers of her Son came up to it. The Church of Rome is not idolatrous, unless Arianism is orthodoxy."

Surely, it was this sort of turning of the tables that drove Archdeacon Hare to inveigh against "Dr Newman's Circaean Wand".

I don't know about you, but there are moments when I feel myself so easily transported back to the common-room in Oriel nearly two centuries ago, reckoned the cleverest in Oxford ... standing there is a neatly dressed young tutor, the light of the candles reflected from the glass of his spectacles but not quite concealing the mocking amusement in his eyes. 

"Patrimony"? Exactly. Look no further. Oret pro nobis.

Gaude. Maria Virgo: cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo.


14 August 2021

What does it mean to be European?

In 1948, an English novelist wrote thus about an American young woman: "She was the standard product. A man could leave such a girl in a delicatessen shop in New York, fly three thousand miles and find her again in the cigar stall at San Francisco, just as he would find his favourite comic strip in the local paper; and she would croon the same words to him in moments of endearment and express the same views and preferences in moments of social discourse. She was convenient; but Dennis came of an earlier civilisation with sharper needs. He sought the intangible, the veiled face in the fog, the silhouette at the lighted doorway, the secret graces of a body which hid itself under formal velvet. He did not covet the spoils of this rich continent, the sprawling limbs of the swimming-pool, the wide-open eyes and mouths under the arc-lamps ...".

A few pages later, this same writer tiptoes a little closer to impropriety: " ... he heard steps approach ... Feet, ankles, calves, came progressively into view. Like every pair in the country they were slim and neatly covered. Which came first in this strange civilisation, he wondered, the foot or the shoe, the leg or the nylon stocking? Or were these elegant limbs, from the stocking-top down, marketed in one cellophane envelope at the neighbourhood store? Did they clip by some labour-saving device to the sterilised rubber privacies above? Did they come from the same department as the light irrefragible head? Did the entire article come off the assembly-lines ready for immediate home-service?"

And, in or before 1956, Waugh ... for it is he ... wrote: "Consider the influence of the USA. There are few families without American connexions today and American polite vocabulary is very different from ours. We fight shy of abbreviations and euphemisms. They rejoice in them. The blind and maimed are called 'handicapped', the destitute, 'underprivileged' ... remember too that the American vocabulary is pulverised between two stones, refinement and overstatement ... "

My fantasy of an exquisite civilisation would include the return of the habit of women wearing hats ... preferably with a veil ... skirts at least mid-calf ... and no glottal stops ... and no fillers ...

I sympathise with the French view that their language is a barrier against transpontine influences. And I discern advantages in the fact that it is regulated by a committee of the Academie.

13 August 2021


I propose to take a week or two off from the Internet.

Deo volente, I will provide a post each day for those who wish to read one. And you are at liberty to offer comments. But I shall not look through the comments and decide which to enable, which to reject, until I return to Terra Firma.

Byzantine Private Masses?

 From Dr Eric Mascall:

"It is a mistake to suppose that there is nothing in the Eastern Orthodox Church like the private masses of the West. I have known an Orthodox priest celebrate the Liturgy for thirty successive days for the soul of another priest who had just died. On many of these occasions there was only one other person present who acted as both 'server' and 'choir', and on some of them the altar had been used immediately previously for another Orthodox Liturgy. The priest in question told me that this custom was quite common."

12 August 2021

Which of them will prove to be Bergoglian careerists?

Traditionis Custodes provides an opportunity to judge bishops ... or, rather, to let them judge themselves by how they react to this document. When episcopal life resumes in September, it will be amusing to see how they measure up to the observations of Cardinal Mueller in paragraph (3) below!

(1) Fr Aidan Nichols. "[The pope's] programme would not have got as far as it has were it not the case that theological liberals, generally of the closet variety, have in the fairly recent past, been appointed to high positions both in the world episcopate and in the ranks of the Roman Curia".

This led to Fr Aidan, who has taught with distinction in this University, being forbidden to circulate any further the paper which included those words.

(2)  Fr Tom Weinandy wrote to PF with these words: "faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them. What scandalises believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice. This weakens the zeal of the many women and men who have championed authentic Catholic teaching over long periods of time, often at the risk of their own reputations and well-being. As a result, many of the faithful, who embody the sensus fidelium, are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd."

(3) Gerhard Cardinal Mueller had written previously about the "shameless half-education" of some episcopal nominees; "theological illiterates in bishops' hats"; "ideologues with a ridiculous super-papalism." Now, in response to Traditionis custodes, he has spoken as follows: "[Bishops] are not merely representatives of a central office ... with opportunities for advancement. The good shepherd can be recognised by the fact that he worries more about the salvation of souls than recommending himself to a higher authority by subservient 'good behaviour'. If the law of non-contradiction still applies, one cannot logically castigate careerism in the Church and at the same time promote careerists."

Nice one, Eminence.

S Lawrence

We are still in his Octave!!

(1) There is a medieval picture reproduced on Fr Zed's blog showing S Lawrence being ordained ... and he is (apparently) being given (in the porrectio instrumentorum) the Chalice and Paten, not the Gospel Book. There must be something here which I'm failing to grasp. Sort me out!

(2) Of course, the Deacon did have a special responsibilty for the Chalice. As the Fourth Responsory on S Lawrence's Day has him saying, "[mihi] commisisti Dominici sanguinis dispensationem". This survived  in the C of E, where commonly a young man spent a year in the Parish as a deacon before his priesting, and during that period went along the Altar Rail at Mass with the Chalice behind the priest. At Anglican Catholic High Masses, the Deacon of the Mass went along the rail administering the Chalice; it was the Subdeacon of the Mass who wielded the Communion plate.

Incidentally, in a 1921 Breviary (Typis A. Mame et filiorum) which I have, the frontispiece shows a priest, apparently in S Agnes' in Rome, administering the Lord's Body to a male communicant (into his right hand, incidentally) while a deacon holds the chalice to the lips of a woman. Both communicants kneel, and the whole conception looks very old-fashioned-Anglican ... except for the tonsures ...

Readers will remember my lucid explanation of how Mysterium Fidei made its way into the Roman Verba Domini.

(3) On the Feast of S Lawrence, the first Reading in the Second Nocturn (by S Leo the Very Great, of course) seems to me to say ... or, at the very least, to imply ... that if S Lawrence had handed over the wealth of the Roman Church to the Government, he would have counted as a traditor and thereby would be deemed to have abandoned the Christian Faith. 

'Traditor', in the early centuries, meant Apostate.

Does this ring any bells with my learned readership? I have always assumed that we respect this great Saint, the Third of the mighty Patrons of Rome together with SS Peter and Paul, for his simple act of megacharity to the Christian poor. An uncomplicated example of charity for us all to emulate.

If my take on the words of S Leo were to be right, this might be another example of how easy it is in one age to misunderstand the cultural context of a different age and, consequently, to get one's assumptions (particularly of motives), quite simply, wrong.

I seek help; more with regard to (1) and (3) than to (2).

11 August 2021

A Joy-free Pontificate??

As soon as he was settled on the Sedes Petri and had drafted his Christmas allocution to the Curia on their Seventeen Vices, PF sent a letter to his new nominees to the College of Cardinals ... telling them to receive their new status in a way "far from any expression of worldliness or from any form of celebration contrary to the evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety, and poverty". 

The memory of this came back to me when I read Traditionis custodes ... especially the bit about new priests, ordained after July 16 2021, not being permitted to say their First Mass ... or any of their Masses ... in the Usus Authenticus

You see, hanging up here in my study I have this year's Papa Stronsay Calendar, which, for August, shows Father Martin Mary saying his First Mass (which, of course, happened last year).

It must be something like a decade or more since a group of the Transalpine Redemptorists, as we then called them, turned up at my house next to S Thomas's in Oxford. Sadly, I was out; Pam dispensed hospitality, and a few years later I had the inestimable privilege of spending some days on Papa Stronsay. And, when I said my First Mass "In Full Communion" at that joyous pietra dura  Lady Altar in the Brompton Oratory, there, to serve it, I had ... You've guessed!! ... but, sadly, the restaurant we rejoiced in afterwards is no more ...

Surely, it is a natural human instinct to celebrate New Beginnings ... so natural a human joy that it stretches far beyond the bounds of Christianity. We all know that, after the initial glee, days may come when the sun does not shine quite so brightly. But Rites of Passage ineluctably draw forth Celebration. Baptisms and the Bar Mitzvah; First Communions; Confirmations; Weddings; Professions; Ordinations; First Masses; Passing Out Parades; the winning of General Elections  ...

... perhaps they even draw forth "wine to gladden the heart of man", as the psalmist suggested. Horace wouldn't have contradicted him!

Human Beings, Christian or non-Christian, will not normally or naturally respond to such occasions in a "spirit of austerity, sobriety, and poverty". Unless they are rigid followers of the present Holy Father!

After the Conclave of 2005, even such a shy retiring academic as Benedict XVI hurried out onto the balcony, cheerfully dressed and with a beaming smile, receiving and sharing the joy of the crowds awaiting the appearance and Blessing of their new Pope.

But PF ... well, we soon learned that the Carnival was, indeed, over. 

Carni vale was Laetitiae vale.

10 August 2021


A jolly good thread on my earlier piece! Apparently it was the Worlock who flogged off the Library, so as to get the cash for the very expensive removal of the 'ornate'  baldacchino in his Cathedral. 

'Theodericus' Worlock was bishop of Portsmouth from 1965 until 1976.


Never for any reason whatsoever.

I find the following tale rather thought-provoking.

I have a Sarum Portiforium (ed. C Seager, 1843) which has this bookplate: 

Virtue and Cahill Library.

The Founders of this library earnestly request their successors in the See of Portsmouth to keep this library intact and never to sell or dispose of any book for any reason whatsoever.

No 8720 

John Virtue (or Vertue), 1826-1900, was the first Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth (consecrated 1882); John Cahill was the second Bishop, from 1900 until his death in 1910.

I presume that two episcopal coats of arms on the bookplate are those of the two bishops; and that the Library may have been founded for the edification of their Diocesan Clergy. The number suggests that the Library was not a small one.

Clearly, their Lordships, admirable pontiffs, knew full well the dangers, given episcopal frailty and infirmity of purpose, of the Library being got rid of, and formulated these words  ... in so far as could be possible ... so as to exclude that possibility.

Sed frustra!!

I wonder when the book (and the Library?) went wandering. Pencilled inside its front is "£10.50"; which must date from after the decimalisation of our currency in the early 1970s. (It came to me from the library of a great priest and mighty bibliophile, Fr Michael Melrose, [Anglican] pp of S Giles, Reading.)

The disorders which followed the Council must have led to the disregard of a large number of earlier injunctions which included such phrases as Never for any reason whatsoever.

I hesitate to thrust my own drearily predictable views into the defenceless mouths of departed others; but, surely, the original addition of this volume to the Portsmouth Library must in some way hint at a willingness to envisage users of that library being ... shall we say ... not entirely protected from the infections of an earlier liturgical culture. 

And, apparently, the person responsible for the eventual dumping of that Library or part of it (the bookseller who was happy to sell this breviary on for £10.50 cannot himself have paid a Cardinal's Ransom for it) did not share the same hermeneutic, or assumption, of continuity.

I wonder if any of the Virtue and Cahill Library did survive ... even its catalogue would be an interesting historical relic of the clerical culture which was so swiftly, ruthlessly, and comprehensively obliterated by the gauleiters of the 1970s.

9 August 2021

A past age

I happened, entirely by chance, to notice the following; it is part of a Publisher's blurb (CUP) dated 1965 commending a book (Golden Latin Artistry) published in 1963.

"[L P Wilkinson] addresses himself mainly to the ordinary devotee of Latin literature -- the undergraduate, the schoolmaster, the sixth-form boy, the civil servant on Sunday, the country parson on Monday, the critic of modern literature and, perhaps, the don in another department of classics."

Apart from the teensy-weensy dash of Tab pride at the end, isn't that totally, wonderfully, evocative?

When I sat the (C of E) General Ordination Examination in 1967, the Latin paper had already been made optional; I think it was in the 1960s that they removed the legal requirement for Anglican ordinands to be "learned in the Latin tongue."

The Set Book used to be a section of S Bede; it was possibly the only important and interesting examination prescription (remember what the Sixties were like?) that most seminarians were encouraged to study.

8 August 2021

FROM ARCHIVES: Weakening the Papacy

This piece is from June 4 2015.

If the head master of an English public school addressed Common Room and angrily listed the seventeen ways in which its members were corrupt, and did it just before Christmas [as the Pope did to the Curia in 2014], something would happen. The Governing Body would know about it within hours ... because there always seem to be members of Common Room who are on easy social terms with members of the Governing Body. So, sometime in January, two or three senior members of the Governing Body would be detailed to have a private, completely friendly, unofficial and entirely off-the-record chat with the head master ... sort of ... er ... about How He Saw His Future. But, of course, the Catholic Church is not like an English public school.

Is it like a British governing party? Mrs Thatcher was a powerful prime minister. But, in the end, too many people felt that they had just about had enough. In were sent the Men in Grey Suits. Perhaps the one blow that most deeply wounded the Iron Lady was delivered by the very greyest of all the grey men who have ever lived, Geoffrey Howe; of whom some wit (Dennis Healey, I think) had averred that being attacked by him was like being savaged by a dead sheep. Mercilessly, in a House of Commons where you could have heard a pin drop, he destroyed her with an elegant metaphor drawn from the game of cricket. Within weeks, she was History.

What, of course, has made the Papacy different from both of those institutions is that the pope does not retire. He carries on until death. So, apart from murdering him ... a solution with "First Millennium" precedents ...  there is no way of getting rid of him. He can't be manoeuvred into retiring. Strategies designed to isolate him, to put pressure on him, to plot against him, to ambush him, to stack up coalitions against him, simply don't make any practical sense. You just have to put up with him until Providence sends in the Grim Reaper. There are no men in grey suits, or greying cassocks, to put a friendly knife in.

Or rather, that is how things were until the abdication of Benedict XVI.

I do not think that the implications of his abdication have yet been fully recognised. Not since the Council of Constance had a living pope receded from the See of Rome. In 1415, the Council deposed the 'Pisan' pope John XXIII, and then accepted the resignation of the 'Roman' pope Gregory XII on 4 July. In 1417 it deposed the 'Avignon' pope Clement VIII, and elected Martin V. No subsequent pope has abdicated or been deposed. Since then, the assumption that the pope is a Given whom only God can loose from his pontificate, has, surely, been one of the most potent protections of each succeeding pontiff.

After Benedict's abdication, nothing can ever be the same again. No future pope can ever be as immovable as every pope was from Constance until Benedict.

Eventually, this will sink in. Eventually, popes will become as disposable as head masters and Mrs Thatcher.

And this implies a consequential loss of power; a vulnerability.

[I wonder if (I wouldn't put it past him) Pope Benedict XVI realised all this. I wonder if his abdication was his last and most masterly coup to undermine the post-Vatican II construct, against which he had so vigorously argued, of the Pope Who Can Do Anything, who is an Absolute Monarch; and to restore the Vatican I model of a strictly limited papacy with its limitations clearly and lucidly described.]

7 August 2021


Today is the Anniversary of the Election (1316) in Summum Pontificem of Jacques d'Euse of Cahors. The Roman See had been vacant for well over two years; indeed, in less than a century after 1316, the Universal Church was to find herself with no fewer than three claimants to the papal throne. Our own is not the first historical period in which the Roman See has provided as many ecclesiological problems as she solved!

John XXII has been seen as dodgy because of a particular view he held concerning the beatific vision. But it would be more positive to regard him as the Father of Counter-Reformation piety and devotion. He was a combination of reformer and innovator. His initiatives were rarely wholly new, but he consolidated and gave a new face to medieval dvotion. It was he who ordered the observance of Trinity Sunday; and the ringing of what came to be regarded as the evening Angelus. He prescribed the bowing of the head at the Names of both Jesus and Mary; the use of the prayer Anima Christi (of which he has been suspected of being the author). He promoted literati and encouraged the study of Greek and Hebrew.

He is also the immediate Begetter of the cult of the Blessed Sacrament which has been such a wonderful divine gift to the Latin Church. Forget stuff you may have read about the Bull Transiturus of Pope Urban IV (1264); this seems to have been ignored even in the papal capella itself! It may have been repromulgated at the Fifteenth Ecumenical Council, summoned to Vienne in 1311 by Clement V, after whose death in 1314 it was incorporated in the collection of decretals called the Clementines. John XXII was the next pope; in 1317 he promulgated the festival of Corpus Christi to the Universal Church, after which it spread rapidly. 

Observances which Transiturus had not envisaged inluded processions of the Most Holy in a monstrance; but in the years after 1317 sumptuous monstrances  appeared in great numbers throughout the West. They did not at first resemble the 'Rays of the Sun' baroque monstrances with which we are familiar; they tended to be immensely heavy iocalia which needed be carried, resting upon a feretrum, by several people.

Hitherto, the devotion of Latin Christendom had tended to regard the Blessed Sacrament as a Relic of the dead Body of the Lord; thanks to the revolution over which John XXII presided, we came better to understand It as the Living Body of the Living Christ; hence, as the locus for a direct, lived, relationship between believer and Lord. In such a context, the need was felt for vessels in which the Host could be placed and could be seen, worshipped, and prayed to, exposed within a cylinder of glass or crystal or behind a small window.

Thank God for John XXII! And for the Avignon Papacy!

6 August 2021


Today is the Festival of the Titular of the Cathedral, Christ Church, of the Catholic Diocese of Oxford ... erected as such by Cardinal Pole by virtue of the Legatine Decree Cum supremum of December 24 1554 ... except that there isn't such a diocese ... well, there can't be ... wasn't it implicitly extinguished by the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850? 

Or do those old dioceses still exist in some sort of canonical limbo presided over by Plato?

I do wonder what to make of those former dioceses and their cathedral churches; as S John Henry Newman put it, "It was sore to part with them. We clung to the vision of past greatness, and would not believe it could come to naught ..." His maturer judgement was more robust: " ... That old Church in its day became a corpse (a marvellous, an awful change!); and then it did but corrupt the air which once it refreshed, and cumber the ground which once it beautified." (Could anyone but JHN have got away with calling the C of E a rotting and stinking corpse, even in those pre-ecumenical days? But he says it so beautifully.)

Yet ... and yet ...

When all is said and done, I sometimes feel that there is in the air a shadow left by Catholic England; a footprint left in the ground by those ancient dioceses. I suppose the tourists won't think along those lines today, as they begin again to tramp unknowingly past the grave in Christ Church of the first and last Catholic Bishop of Oxford, Dr King. 

Yet, when all is said and done, it would be a comfortable sentimental acknowledgement of what once was, if in the Old Rite, or the Ordinariate, we kept those old Feasts of the Titulars of the pre-1559 Cathedrals, as Doubles of the First Class (Solemnities)! 

Then Oxford's old Catholic diocese, like Flaccus, could murmur Non omnis moriar.

5 August 2021


Around 700ish someone wrote a hymn about our Lady, Quem terra, pontus, aethera. It was subsequently divided into two and and thus provided a couple of Office Hymns for the Common of the BVM. The second half began "O gloriosa Femina". This was subsequently altered to "O gloriosa Domina", ["woman" changed to "Lady"] for reasons which are fairly obvious. Urban VIII's revisers changed it to "virginum" ["of virgins"]. They will have disliked "Domina" because the first syllable of that word is short, while this is a metrical hymn in which the first syllable of the word at that place in the line has to be long - as the first syllable of "femina" is (pronounced more like Fame than as in the English Feminine.)

Don't forget that the first hints of corruption of the Roman Rite began, not with Paul VI, not with Pius XII, not even with Pius X, but when, in the 1620s, Papa Barberini aka Urban VIII mucked up the ancient Office Hymns because he wanted them to sound more like Horace. This was the first, deplorable, example of the Roman Catholic Church adopting the deplorable "we've-now-got-printing-so-we-can-now-impose-our-latest-revolutionary-fad-almost-overnight-on-the-Universal-Church" syndrome which ultimately led to Bugnini and is the deplorable godfather of PF's deplorable conclusion to Traditionis custodes: the (impractical) demand that the deplorable little document should come into force immediately. Jawohl, mein Fuehrer!

Protestants like Cranmer, of course, had seen the possibilities of this technology for imposing liturgical devastation even earlier, in 1548 ... although the order in 1549 "that this realm shall have but one Use" did but echo the order of a Henrician Convocation in 1542 that the entire Province of Canterbury should use the Sarum Breviary. (The printers, naturally, loved this vastly, and embellished a new edition of the Sarum Breviary with heavy hints that you would need to buy it in order to comply with the Royal Supremacy.)

"Back to Pius V" should be our Traditionalist instinct. That is why, if you want to use English translations of the original texts of the Office Hymns as given in Sarum and Pius V (and the Liturgy of the Hours), you need to use Anglican translations - done from Sarum by people like J M Neale and to be found, in large part, in the admirable English Hymnal - rather than RC translations by scholars like E Caswall.

Vatican II very rightly ordered that the text of the Hymns should generally revert to the original texts still for the most part found in S Pius V's original Breviary (not to mention in Sarum and the other medieval local dialects of the Roman Rite). Dom Anselmo Lentini's Coetus proposed, when dealing with the hymn we are considering today, restoring the original reading Femina [woman] on the grounds that " it seems to us very beautiful, since thus the glory of the humble creature raised to so great a dignity shines more brightly; moreover, Domina [Lady] spoils the metre ...". I think Dom Anselmo is hinting that Gloriosa Femina  is an oxymoron! But at some point somebody decided that Domina ... even if unmetrical ... even if unoriginal ... had better go back into the text. I wonder who ... and do you agree with them?

Incidentally, in the first part of the original hymn - what we know as Quem terra, pontus, aethera - Urban VIII changed aethera to sidera because he didn't share the Carolingian fashion that found a delicious exoticism in words borrowed from Greek.

And that hymn originally had a third stanza long since omitted, which Lentini wanted to reintroduce, but ... apparently ... here again he was vetoed by somebody. It went (I translate unmetrically):
"Therefore the ages wonder,/That an Angel brings the Seed [Lentini wanted to emend this line to "That the Spirit overshadows her"]/ That the Virgin conceives by ear/ And, believing in her heart, gives birth." This, of course, gives a picture which relates to much medieval iconography of the Annunciation, where a piercing ray goes from the Father or the Spirit to our Lady's ear.

There is material for speculation in that stanza!

4 August 2021

A Bad Day ...

... for me as blogger. Two disasters.

(1) I had contrived a modest adaptation of Traditionis custodes which I planned to publish in the next day or two. But Mr Milburn, on the thread of the post for 3 August, got there before me. 

Do read it! 

(2) I had planned a piece on Joseph Ratzinger's use of (the still Anglican) S John Henry Newman's words about liturgical stability. Now the admirable Professor Peter Kwasniewski has dealt with it in a scintillating essay he has published on Rorate.

Of course, great minds think alike, and there were bound to be convergent views ...

3 August 2021

Could get worse

There are problems in the text of Traditionis Custodes: even Vincent Nichols pointed out a place in the accompanying Letter where the English and the Italian texts do not seem to be saying the same thing.

I don't know whether other people have noticed the following: while TC forbids a bishop who already has a TLM group in his diocese from authorising any more such groups, a bishop whose diocese lacks such a group is subject to no such prohibition. I am not certain that this is intentional. 

One inference could be that the document was put together in a tearing hurry. Perhaps the surgeon was knocking at the door?

Normally, I whinge ... and how right I am to do so!! ... about Vatican documents issued without an official Latin text. This practice is, indeed, a deplorable exercise in Italophone cultural imperialism. Those of us who do not speak Italian are now (nobody bothers to conceal it) second class Catholics.

But ...

There are examples of extremely important documents being changed after their official publication. Many examples could, I suspect, be adduced: here is just a couple: 

(1) The bull Apostolicae curae of Pope Leo XIII, condemning Anglican Orders, somehow was changed between the first printing in ASS and its subsequent republication in Acta Leonis XIII, and ... get this! ... the Vatican website, when I checked in June last year, carried the original, displaced, ASS text! (The motive for the first alteration appeared to be the elimination of a "loophole" which lowered the status of the condemnation ... my suspicion is that Cardinal Vaughan ... er ...)

(2) In 2000, the Vatican Press published ("ex editione typica") the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, with an assurance that the Pope had approved it on 11 January 2000. But when the text of the entire Missal was subsequently published, the text of the Institutio had been very substantially modified.

The appearance of an official Latin version of Traditionis custodes in AAS could easily be an opportunity for the document to be 'tidied up' in a way that made it even more leak-proof and poisonous than it is in its current modern language texts.

It is important to remember that we are not at the mercy of honourable or decent people, and that PF's hatred of us is, er, visceral.

On the other hand, conceivably, if PF gets enough grief from irritated bishops, a changed text might be less nasty!

But I wouldn't put money on it. 

Not if I woz you, Squire.

2 August 2021

An Anglican Speaks ...

  ... videlicet Dom Gregory Dix in Shape, who wrote of

"... a certain timelessness about the eucharistic action and an independence of its setting, in keeping with the stability in an ever-changing world of the forms of the liturgy themselves. ... In this twentieth century [Blessed, soon now to be Saint] Charles de Foucauld in his hermitage in the Sahara 'did this' with the same rite as [Saint] Cuthbert twelve centuries before in his hermitage on Lindisfarne in the Northern seas. This very morning I 'did this' with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since [Saint] Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he landed."

Can such a rite with such auctoritas really be stolen from any presbyter of the Latin Church? From any Roman Catholic priest, in England or anywhere?

By any legislative fiat or any act of naked violence of any innovator?

One very learned English priest has recently described "the provision of this liturgy" ... when it is permitted merely as "a remedial concession for those who are yet to find their way to the true Roman Rite" ... as "both crass and cruel".

Someone in Rome seems to have borrowed some ideas from Someone in China about the forcible cultural assimilation of Uighurs. Papa Xi! I have instructed my household to be careful about to whom they open the door. No Hawkers, No Pedlers, No Brainwashers.

For me, PF has created a new problem with regard to the Usus Deterior of the Roman Rite. He has ideologised it ... turned it into symbol of something other than itself ... made it a signum efficax of his own personal detestation of the Great Tradition and hatred of certain people. I'm going to have to think about the implications for me of this disturbing imposition of new meaning.

[NOTE: new usage ... I'm experimenting with 

UA = Usus Authenticus

UD = Usus Deterior] 

1 August 2021

Fr Karl Rahner, S. J., and Traditionis Custodes

I owe this quotation (taken from a book which Rahner, one of the great Conciliar liberals, wrote in 1965) to the magnificent Phoenix from the Ashes by Mr Henry Sire (Angelico Press). 

"Imagine that the pope, as supreme pastor of the Church, issued a decree today requiring all the uniate churches of the Near East to give up their Oriental liturgy and adopt the Latin rite ... the pope would not exceed the competence of his jurisdictional primacy by such a decree, and the decree would be legally valid. But we can also pose an entirely different question. Would it be morally licit for the pope to issue such a decree? Any reasonable man and any true Christian would have to answer 'no'. Any confessor of the pope would have to tell him that in the concrete situation of the Church today such a decree, despite its legal validity, would be subjectively and objectively an extremely grave moral offence against charity, against the unity of the Church rightly understood (which does not demand uniformity), ... a mortal sin from which the pope could be absolved only if he revoked the decree."

Rahner was right. An action can be "legally valid" and, at the same time, be totally wrong. There is a Something which can trump mere "legal validity", and that Something is Holy Tradition

I would not, myself, play around as Rahner does with speculations about what papal confessors might or might not say in the confessional. I would certainly not join Rahner in his exalted view of the "competence of [the pope's] jurisdictional primacy" ... a view which seems to me to be a big part of our current problem. 

I would simply say that such a pope, and such a decree, would lack all AUCTORITAS, because they flout Holy Tradition.  

Such an action would be, as Sire observes, "not merely a sin, ... but an act of schism against the tradition of the Church, and one for which [a pope] has neither moral nor legal competence."

Rahner's observations, of course, hold true also of the Roman Rite, which has just as much auctoritas as the Oriental Rites. It is, in fact, older than they are.

PF's evident policy of destroying the Authentic Roman Rite, and his recent purported legislative action, lack auctoritas and place no burden upon anybody's conscience. I am confident that, one day, it will be declared that they were null.