31 December 2022

Different Popes

Little things can mean big things,

Papa Ratzinger used vestments and other gear from the Vatican storehouses to emphasise that he was successor of popes from both before and after 'the Council'; and the fact that the Church, both before and after 'the Council', was the same Church. 

Papa Bergoglio found it hard to resist the temptation to emphasise himself and to bang the drum for rupture. "Look at me ... I'm not dressed in the usual way ... I'm not sharing a name with any previous pope ... I'm persecuting people who respect the Old Things ... I'm different."

Benedict may have got some things wrong, and Francis may have got some things right.

But Benedict looked to Tradition ... while Francis pointed to himself ... Me and Me and Me and Me.

And Tradition is the living Word of th Living Lord among his people.

Holy Father, Pray for us. The wolves are at large. Protect us. 

Be our strong advocate.

30 December 2022

Belles Epoques?

Someone asked: "What do you mean, Dom Gregory, when you keep saying  our Bishops are Edwardian?"

Dix: "Strictly Edward VI in theology; strictly Edward VII in mental equipment and strictly Edward VIII in their views on marriage." 


[Dix once wrote a satirical poem in English about an 'ecumenical' bishop ... basically in iambs until the final couplet:

His funeral was Protestant and shabby

With a memorial service in Bath Abbey. 

What is it about trochees that ineluctably suggests bathos?]

29 December 2022


Here is a reprint of a piece I have shown several times.
It was Pius XII who levelled out the Octaves by making all the days Doubles of the First Class, or, as some of you might nowadays say, Solemnities. Such days, canonically, do not admit Abstinence. So one is not bound to Abstinence on the Friday after Easter.

What about Abstinence on Pentecost Friday? I repeat below a ruling by the CBCEW to the effect that Abstinence is "contrary to the mentality of an octave". But the Friday in the Pentecost Octave survives in the EF but not in the OF! Here, surely, we have a juridical gap.

My view is that, in communities or families in which the dominant "Form" is the EF, the Friday is, according to the legislation in the 1962 books, and the statement of the English and Welsh bishops, a day which excludes Abstinence. (There is, of course, a bit of an oddity in this, in as far as this Friday is an Ember Day on which historically Catholics fasted. But that was a long time ago.)
ABSTINENCE IN THE CHRISTMAS OCTAVE                              
On 16 October 2014, the Catholic Herald announced that a spokesperson of the CBCEW had stated that Boxing Day, which in 2014 was a Friday, is not a day of Abstinence. "To consider St Stephen's Day or Boxing Day as a day of abstinence would not be compatible with the festive and celebratory nature of the Christmas Octave ... An octave is an ongoing celebration of the two highest ranking solemnities of the Liturgical Year ... it is contrary to the mentality of what an octave is to consider one of its days as penitential ... Octaves are weeks of joy, not abstinence, even though the Easter Octave ranks unambiguously higher than that of Christmas."

There is no doubt that local hierarchies do have the canonical right to make rules about Abstinence (Canon 1253 Episcoporum conferentia potest pressius determinare observantiam ... ieiunii et abstinentiae ...).

Interestingly, the statement makes clear that the ruling applies not just to a Boxing Day which falls on a Friday, but, every yearto whichever day in the Octave of Christmas is a Friday*.

When I first published a version of this, some people got worried about whether the CBCEW spokesman was misleading them. Two basic rules of Traditional Catholic Moral Theology: (1) Doubtful laws do not bind. In other words, if there is some doubt whether a law applies to me ... it doesn't. If the Bishops say it doesn't apply to me, then their statement creates at least an objective doubt as to whether it applies to me
(2) We are NOT obliged to be Rigorists, Tutiorists, or Probabiliorists. The Church condemned the Jansenists. If there is a genuine doubt between two possibilities, one is entitled to exercise one's free choice.

That is what the pre-Conciliar books on Moral Theology say.

*  Where a National or Diocesan or Ordinariate or Parochial Patron is observed as a Solemnity and falls on a Friday, that Friday is not a day of Abstinence.

28 December 2022

The King's Champion

At coronations up to that of George III, the rites were followed by agreat banquet ... at the end of which, a memorable ceremony occurred.

Into the Banquet Hall rode a knight in full armour. He uttered a challenge to any who might dispute the right to the throne of the prince who had just been crowned; then he threw down his gauntlet (gage, armoured glove) onto the ground. 

Any man who took up that gauntlet, leaving behind him on the ground his own gauntlet, would be deemed to have accepted the challenge. Monomachy .. or disgrace ... must follow.

After the coronation of George III, rumours spread that a mysterious Person had, indeed, accepted that challenge. The novelist Sir Walter Scott incoporated a fictionalised account of this into his novel Redgauntlet. The 'Narrator' in what follows is a young lady called Lilias, whose Jacobite uncle Redgauntlet has smuggled her into the Banquet.

"It is indeed", said I, "all that my mind could have fancied of regal power and splendour."

"Girl, " he whispered, ..."all that is noble and worthy in this fair land are there assembled -- but it is to bend like slaves and sycophants before the throne of a new usurper."

"For God's sake, "I whispered, "consider where we are." 

"Fear nothing", he said, "we are surrounded by friends. " As he proceeded, his strong and muscular frame shook with suppressed agitation. "See," he said, "yonder bends Norfolk, renegade to his Catholic faith;" there stoops the Bishop of --, traitor to the Church of England; and, --the shame of shames! yonder the gigantic form of Errol bows his head before the grandson of his father's murderer!..."

I was not long held in suspense. A loud flourish of trumpets and the voice of heralds were mixed with the clatter of horses' hoofs, while a champion, armed at all points like those I had read of in romances, attended by esquires, pages, and the whole retinue of chivalry, pranced forward, mounted upon a barbed steed. His challenge, in defiance of all who dared impeach the title of the new sovereign, was recited aloud-- once, and again.

"Rush in at the third sounding," said my uncle to me; "bring me the parader's gage, and leave mine in lieu of it."

... at the third sounding of the trumpets, a line opened as if by word of command, betwixt me and the champion, and my uncle's voice said, "Now, Lilias, NOW!"

With a swift and yet steady step, and with a presence of mind for which I have never since been able to account, I discharged the perilous commission. I was hardly seen, I believe, as I exchanged the pledges of battle, and in an instant retired. "Nobly done, my girl!" said my uncle, at whose side I found myself, shrouded as I was before, by the interposition of the bystanders. "Cover our retreat, gentlemen," he whispered to those around him ...

27 December 2022

Magnus aeterni logotheta Verbi

Vatican II very sensibly suggested that the old Breviary collection could be enriched by rescuing other hymns from the treasury of the Western Church. Happily, a gorgeous composition by S Peter Damian (d1072) was found for the Festum of S John the Evangelist: Virginis virgo venerande custos, in the Sapphic metre (I wonder what the dear old girl would have made of it if she could have known how much Christian Latins would make enthusiastic use of her metrical innovation). The bad news: Dom Anselmo Lentini and his merry men decided to Correct it.

Starting even before the Carolingian Renaissance, Latin writers and especially hymnographers, often when they wanted an effect of majesty and grandeur, reached for the Greek language. So, after the first line with its alliterative wordplay (O venerable virgin guardian of the Virgin) S Peter went one better in his second line: magnus aeterni logotheta Verbi. Given a pedestrian translation, this would be 'Great wordplacer of the eternal Word', where the Greek neologism logotheta hits you, in all its quadrisyllabic sonority, immediately after the caesura. It plays with the Johannine description of our Lord as the Word, the Logos, Verbum, and a suggestion of assonance in aeterni ... logotheta. But whereas in the first line, with its "Virginis ... virgo", the Saint uses the same Latin word but changes the case ('anaphora with polyptoton'; an elegance particularly associated with the 'hellenistic' poets), in the second line he achieves an elegant variatio by creating a Greek compound containing logos to match his Latin Verbi.

The post-Conciliar Revisers detested any sort of fun with words; in their austere schoolmasterly comments there are few stricter see-me-afterwardses than nimius lusus verborum. Here they call in aid the principle of 'graecismum nunc insuetum'. And Dom Anselmo claims to find the nominative 'magnus' (instead of the vocative 'magne') unacceptable: naughty Anselmo; he must have known perfectly well that this little problem, if problem it is*, could have been corrected by "magne et".

So what did the revisers write? 'praeco qui Verbi coleris fidelis'.

Oh dear. (But to be fair, Lentini was himself a Latin poet of no mean ability, and did his best with the assonance 'praeco ... coleris'.)


*Nominatives in place of vocatives seem to be no problem in the Gloria in excelsis Deo, Sanctus, Agnus ... the more you look for them, the more of them you find both in Classical Latin and in Ecclesiatical.

25 December 2022

God sheathed.

"The Blessed Sacrament is God. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is simply divine worship. Turn it which way we will, throw the light of love and knowledge now on one side of it now on another, still the result is the same, the one inexhaustible sweet fact, the Real Presence. In the hands of the priest, behind the crystal of the monstrance, on the tongue of the communicant, now, and for a thousand times, and almost at our will and pleasure, there are the Hands and Feet, the Eyes and Mouth, the swift Blood and living Heart of Him whom Thomas touched and Magdalen was fain to touch, the Soul that delighted Limbus with its amazing beauty and set the prisoners free, nay the Eternal, Incomprehensible, Almighty Word  who is everywhere and yet fixed there, the flashing fires of whose dear glory we could not bear to see, and so for love of us He stills them and He sheathes them in the quiet modesty of the Blessed Sacrament."

Fr Faber.

24 December 2022

Identities, identities ...

 A diverting piece by Ben Macintyre in The Times last week informed us that Superman is Jewish. His Creators were a couple of Hebrew immigrants into North America (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), members of the Huddled Masses. Superman's own name, Clark Kent, is indeed exactly the sort of name often chosen by Jewish immigrants when they wished to elide their former identities.

The suggestion has been made that Superman's iconographical identity should be semitised. I heartily concur. There are far too many WASPs around. A prequel portraying his Bar Mitzvah would also be in order. Is it true that his uncle was a rabbi? Ashkenazi or Sephardim?

How wonderfully varied American society is. I heard the other day that somebody visited Washington DC and returned with an account of how, in that great city, there are loads of sad old gents stumbling around mumbling "I'm Irish, y'know".

Can anybody supply verification of this?

A very happy Christmass to all my readers. And a prosperous New Year.

And a Thank You to all who have sent me cards.

23 December 2022

A Favour??

Before the Ordinariates, an earlier attempt to secure a corporate solution for Anglicans seeking unity with the Holy See was scuppered by the English Catholic bishops. The Revd Dr William Oddie wrote an account of those shenanigans.

I think it was called THE ROMAN OPTION.

I have never read it. If anybody has a copy they are prepared to part with, I culd be a grateful recipient. 


 Is it true that Good Queen Mary asked the Pope to send her a specially blessed chair for her Coronation; made of wood, covered with purple velvet and fastened by gilt nails, which is still kept in Winchester Cathedral?

According to the records, Her Majesty was proclaimed as "the most high, most puissant, and most excellent Princess, Mary the First, by the grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and Ireland supreme head."

"the first" is interesting; on the large tower at Westminster, if my eyes do not deceive me, Victoria is described as 'Victoria Prima'.

22 December 2022

SUPERTUNICA ... Dirtie Bertie amongst the Lotophagoi ...

 Have I got this right? That the Supertunica worn by an English monarch at the Coronation has a historical connection  with the uniform of a Consularis of the Byzantine Emnpire?

That it is embroidered with flower symbols for each of the monarch's realms?

That because of a long tradition which few readers will need to have explained to them, Queen Victoria (or, if you prefer, Princess Alexandrina of Saxe Coburg etc..) wore a Supertunica enriched with fleurs de lys?

But that her eldest son 'Edward VII', instead, sported the lotus which was held to symbolise India?

I wonder what ... er ...

21 December 2022

Professor Peter Geach

Today is the obitus, or Year's Mind, of Peter Geach, whom readers will recall as a philosopher of distinction. He converted to Catholicism in the early 1940s while reading Greats at Oxford ... and married a no less distinguished philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe, who also converted while reading Greats. The Geaches formed a last link with one of the principal philosophers of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and helped to ensure that in extremis he had a priest at his bedside, and received a Catholic burial. Quorum omnium animabus propitietur Deus.

The young Geach proclaimed King Robert I & IV, in 1937, standing on the steps of the Martyrs' Memorial, wearing his scholar's gown and doffing his academic cap. He was not arrested. Not even by a stray passing bulldog. Newspapers in the distant and dusty climes of Texas and the Malay Straits as well as in England covered the event. It would be very jolly to know whom the fifty-odd gathering of undergraduates included. 

The writer Luke Gormally, son-in-law of Geach, informed this blog that it was in 1938, his last year at Balliol, that Geach was received into the Church; the same year, Elizabeth Anscombe was received towards the end of her first year at St Hugh's.

Each of them had received instruction from Fr Richards Kehoe OP. They did not meet until after their respective receptions; their meeting occurred at the Corpus Christ procession at Begbroke, to the North of Oxford, where there was at that time a Servite Priory.

Not now, of course. Needless to say.But if you are driving to Woodstock, you will pass the site ...

20 December 2022


 "One of the most extraordinary scenes imaginable". That is how Dale Hoak describes a moment in the Coronation of Elizabeth Tudor, alias Gloriana, alias Bloody Bess, alias Elizabeth I. 

Before the moment in the service when the new monarch swore the oath, Mr Secretary Cecil emerged from the side of the coronation stage and 'delivered' to the bishop of Carlisle, who was standing before the seated queen, a book containg the questions to be put to her.

The bishop of Carlisle was officiating at the coronation because the rest of the bishops refused, having little confidence in Bess's catholic orthodoxy. 

Part of this mystery arises from the fact that we do not have the text of the oaths sworn byTudor Monarchs. These texts are securely kept in Clio's bosom. 

Hoak argues that the oath sworn by Elizabeth was 'substantially' the oath sworn by the heterodox infant Edward Tudor in 1547, with an addition to the effect that in respect of the law, the sovereign was to act 'according to the laws of God, [and] the true profession of the gospel established in this kingdom.' Cranmer and Cecil are likely to have had a hand in designing this oath. Cranmer is on record as having argued that "the solemnites of coronation have their Ends and Utility", but that kings "be anointed, not in respect of the oil which the bishop useth, but in consideration of their Power, which is Ordained ... Your Majesty is God's Vicegerent and Christ's Vicar within your own Dominions".

One might, indeed, wonder why Zwinglians such as Cranmer needed a coronation service at all. My suspicion is that the Coronation was so securely integrated into the consciousness of [at least] the elite, that leaving a monarch uncrowned was deemed to be dangerous: it offered malcontents a ready-made argument for denying a monarch's legitimacy.

As far as concerns the oath, it transformed the transaction from being merely a declaratory statement or definition of the law as it was thought to exist; instead, its laws existed in their own right. 

" The effect", Hoak concludes, "was to remove all limitation on the scope  and authority of statute."

As so often, I a grateful to Professor Tighe for showing me this piece.

19 December 2022

quid est commune inter eltonum ioannem et huius temporis papam?

in litteris hodiernis publicis nonnulla inveniri possunt de equite dicto aurato eltono nomine ioanne cantore.

qui vero quondam nonullis abhinc annis oxoniam cum venisset in litteris a iuvenibus publicatis ipse fertur summum pontificem benedictum xvi anum vocasse. 

his nostris temporibus, romanus pontifex eos quos criminari cupit coprophagos seu coprophilos luculentus vocare solet.

utrumque virum cacologum osque foedum nominandum suspicor.

nonne tu?

18 December 2022

Lighten our darkness ...

Lighten our darkness we beseech thee O Lord: and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.

This prayer comes from Anglican Use Evensong, and had originally been the concluding prayer of the Sarum Compline. Here is the Sarum original:

Illumina, quaesumus, Domine, tenebras nostras: et totius huius noctis insidias tu a nobis repelle propitius.

In other words, Cranmer, as his custom was, expanded propitius to by thy great mercy and insidias  ['ambushes'] to perils and dangers. the ambushes of this whole night thus became all perils and dangers of this night. 

Just as Cranmer padded and expanded, lest his vernacular version of the prayer be finished before the worshippers had quite realised it had started, so, through the Middle Ages, this prayer had already grown in the Latin. Here is the version in the 'Gregorian Sacramentary', with those words crossed out which were subsequently added.

Illumina, quaesumus, Domine, tenebras nostras: et totius huius noctis insidias tu a nobis repelle propitius.

But what will really surprise you is the Heading a little way above it the 'Gregorian Sacramentary'.


Gracious! It was apparently a collect for the Dawn!! It did not ask for God to protect us through the darkness of this night; it asked God to push away (repelle) the dangerous darkness of night. Look back at the Latin text!

[It may be that I am wrong. Another prayer in this section does look like a late evening prayer, so perhaps the Heading is erroneous. Illumina is certainly an evening prayer in the 'Gelasian Sacramentary'. But this exercise may serve to remind us how things are not always what they seem!]

When I am Cardinal Prefect of the CDW, I shall permit all who have Anglican Previous to use this prayer instead of Visita nos; which seems to be just a trifle odd when not used in a Religious House.

17 December 2022

O Sapientia, here we go again ... can it really be seventy years?

 When I was very very small, so I remember, my Physics Master explained to us about the new Nuclear Power Station (Fission) currently being built not far away at Bradwell on Sea in my natal Essex. He explained how this marvel would provide (for ever) limitless electricity, pretty well free after the cost of construction had been met ... clean, limitless ...

'Poor gullible nitwit', I thought. 'If he believes that, he'd believe anything'. I gave up Physics as soon as I possibly could. 'Never knowingly be taught by a fool' was one of my infant maxims. (Of course, I am not aplying this language to all or indeed to any scientists; I love to hear anybody who is really set on fire by his own, reputable, academic discipline.)

Seventy or so years later than that ancient episode, just a day or two ago, there burst upon my computer screen a voluble and excited woman. She ... I hope I'm getting this right ... claimed to to have performed the miracle of Nuclear Fusion. This would mean, once the cost of construction had been met, clean, er, limitless, er, cheap electricity for ever.

The improbable twaddle continued to gush as if from the lips of a generously-executed baroque Tritoness. I grabbed an adjacent pencil ...



Limitless ...

My attention wandered ... back to long-dead Mr Wozzname at my ancient school ... to the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station, now defunct, contaminated, useless, ugly, expensive, a decaying monument to hubris looming nastily over the remains of the Roman Naval base of Othona and the early Saxon chapel and monastic site in those curlew-haunted Essex marshes ...

Something woke me from this autochthonous reverie. The poor dim woman was still warbling on. I resumed my pencil.






Clean ...

16 December 2022

Homer's Iliad Book VI and S Ambrose: Episode 3

In the series of which this is the third and last part, I have ... in fact ... been meditating upon the passages in S Ambrose's commentary upon S Luke; passages which the Church gives us clerics of the Latin Rite to read at Mattins on the Wednesday and Friday during this Ember Week of Advent.

So now I invite you to apply the cultural analyses I have been drawing from Homer, to S  Ambrose's Book 2 in Lucam. Here are a few extracts.

"The Angel went in to [Mary]. Learn that she was a virgin by her way of life; learn it by her modesty; learn it by the Angel's word; learn it by the Mystery. It is the characteristic of virgins to tremble, and to be afraid whenever a man enters; to fear every utterance of a man. Women should learn to imitate the resolve of her chastity. Alone in the innermost parts of the house, so that no man might see her, that only the Angel should find her; alone, without comrade, without a witness, lest she be corrupted by any ignoble address, she receives the greeting of the Angel ... 

"... When Mary heard this, not as if unbelieving concerning his words, nor uncertain about his news nor doubtful about his example, but joyful for prayer, religious for duty, hasty for joy, she went to the hill-country. For, indeed, being now full of God, where should she go with haste except to the higher places? ... Mary, who previously lived alone in the most private recesses, was not delayed by the modesty of virginity from going out into the public realm, nor did the harshness of the mountains keep her from keenness, nor the difficulty of the journey from her duty ... Virgins: learn not to run around (circumcursare) other peoples' houses, not to hang around in the streets, not to gossip together in public. Mary was late leaving her home, but speedy once she was in public, and stayed with her cousin for three months."

Presumably, the habits S Ambrose castigates did exist, or he would not have wasted his time criticising them. It is the assumptions he can share with his hearers about what constitutes modest and decent behaviour that I wish to highlight.

Our society has lost, it seems to me, the entire concept of female modesty. This has been replaced by the bizarre notion that women can dress themselves and conduct themselves as shamelessly as they please and as publicly as they desire, but that a man who is misled into drawing inept conclusions from this is self-condemned.

I do not think our Christian forebears or the Greeks for whom Homer wrote or the Italian congregations to whom S Ambrose preached would have had any doubt that our society has been driven completely and incomprehensibly insane ... barking mad. To our shame, our Islamic neighbours are more likely to understand Christian and pagan antiquity, Homer and S Ambrose, than we are.

We are the strangers, the crazy misfits, the arrogant out-of-place tourists who plant our inappropriate and unwelcome feet in every other country, in every other culture, on every other age of history.

And we are so  pleased with ourselves.

15 December 2022


No; Hector does not accept Helen's transgressive invitation to join her in the thalamos. You knew he wouldn't. Before returning to the battle, he goes back to his own house. But Andromache is not there. Standing ep'oudon, on the threshold, he demands an answer from the housewomen: "C'mon! Tell me the truth". He wonders if she has gone to visit her sisters-in-law, or to the Temple of Athene, with all the other well-haired women, to propitiate the goddess (in fact, she had gone, with chaperon and child, to a vantage point to watch the battle).

Observe that Hector, apparently, does not go beyond the threshold of even his own home. And notice that he is surprised that his wife is not where a wife might normatively be expected to be: at home. And don't let it elude you how few are the alternative possibilities which Hector, rather hectoringly, offers. To an extent which it is difficult for us to appropriate, pre-modern societies had very definite assumptions about this sort of thing. 

But think: even in the earlier twentieth century, women would not visit the billiards room in a gentleman's house. There was no rule; no notice on the door; it was simply assumed that women didn't go there. And I don't think it was expected that men would galumph at all hours around the Morning Room. In Rebecca the belle anonyme gets it wrong by trying to enter her own bedroom at the time when the maids expect to have it to themselves to get it straight. And the butler makes clear that it is very unexpected that she might wish to be in the library.

Ethnosociologists have written fascinating articles about the customs of instinctive, customary, gender segregation that still exist in traditional Middle Eastern societies. There are particular times when no man would dream of going near the village fountain because that is when the women go there to collect water ... and to do womanbusiness with each other ...  

We need to grasp how totally exceptional is our Western assumption that men and women just wander anywhere and mix with anybody at any time.  After all, it is still as a general rule true, in some Orthodox churches, that men are on the right side and women are on the left. A similar custom survived into mid-twentieth century Ireland. 

We've moved a long way, and so very fast, to reach the situation in which, not long ago, in an English university, a major row erupted when, exceptionally, it was proposed to have segregated seating in a lecture-room to accommodate the unusual preferences of a visiting lecturer.

I find it frankly frightening how readily we assume that our own habits, different, I suspect, from those of every other known culture, are a norm to which others ought to conform or to be forced to conform. 

I'm not suggesting starting a great campaign to return to pre-modern habits; I haven't quite lost all touch with reality. I'm simply suggesting that, since we are the cosmic Odd Men Out, the eccentric outliers, we ought to let just the tiniest smidgeon of humility enter our domineering treatment of others. But I know even this suggestion is a lost cause: so arrogant have we become. We are the great big global cultural bullies who know exactly how everybody else should behave, from Saragossa all the way to Sarawak, 24/7.

And how nasty we turn if the untermenschen worldwide are a bit slow jumping into line, our line.

The third and final Episode will bring us up to S Ambrose.

13 December 2022

Oxford Cathedral

I popped into the Cathedral the other day to warm my hands at what Mgr R A Kox and his chums in the SSPP would have advertised as a "Latimer and Ridley Pricket Stand".  Frankly, I think the flickering candles (none of that electrical technology here; modern Anglicans find Mystic Flicker more attractive) would be better placed before the bust of blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey, whom I quite often visit. He would have some things to say about .... and .......

What a powerful part of the Ordinariate's Anglican Patrimony Pusey is. How splendid it would be if the Ordinariate were able to fund some promising young scholar to edit and publish his (unprinted) lectures on Typology, perhaps also to reprint the University Sermon on the Eucharist for which he was suspended a munere contionandi for two years. Typology is the Catholic way of understanding and using Scripture, needed more than ever in these times. And Pusey's Eucharistic teaching, based as it is on the utter realism of the Greek Fathers whom he so lavishly quoted, is just what we need for an age in which most Catholics stroll up to a 'Eucharistic Minister' or her husband, without any reverence; take a Host; and then stroll nonchalantly away, conveying It to their mouths and consuming It as they walk. 

Is such determined and ostentatious irreverence known to have existed in any other period of the Church's history?

And quite near Pusey is the tomb of Robert King, last Abbot of Thame and Oseney and the only recorded Bishop of Rheon in partibus infidelium. He was assigned that see in 1527, apparently, with the intention that he should provide episcopal ministry in the Southern (Oxfordshire) part of the gigantic diocese of Lincoln. Why Rheon? Because it was still in the news ... many books had been written since the siege of Nigripontis in Euboea in 1470? The end of that siege was marked by the Moslems with atrocities and massacres and by their elaboration of interesting ways of killing ... such as the sawing in half of the Christian leader. Plus ca change ...

In 1542, Henry Tudor formed a new Diocese of Oxford, with one of King's enormously grand Abbatial churches (Oseney, just the other side of the Thames) as its Cathedral; and with King as diocesan bishop. 

But money talks. The cathedra was soon moved to the Chapel of Cardinal College, and Oseney sold off. King, a veritable Tudor Ecclesiastic, sat at Cranmer's trial and survived all the changes introduced by successive Tudor monarchs until his death on December 4 1557. He was the first and the last Bishop of Oxford to be in full communion with the See of S Peter. 

The see remained vacant until 1567, when Oxford's next Bishop, Hugh Curwen, was appointed. Bishop Bonner had consecrated him with the Apostolic Mandate according to the rites of the Pontifical to be the Marian Archbishop of Dublin, but he had conformed to the 'Settlement' of Bloody Bess ... do you think he now regrets doing so? ... and he died in 1568. The see then remained vacant until 1589 ... I wonder why. Did an effective sede vacante of more than thirty years, 1557-1589, have anything to do with the very recusant character of Elizabethan Oxford? 

Or did it simply result from the poverty of the see?

Quorum Animabus Propitietur Deus.

12 December 2022

Our Lady; the Moslems; and a great Patriarch.

On December 8, the Feast of our Blessed Lady's Immaculate Conception, brother priests who use the older breviary, in the form bequeathed to us by B Pius IX, will admire the 7th, 8th, and 9th Readings that morning, taken from the writings of S Germanus of Constantinople. Those who desire a fuller account of this important Saint should summon up Pope Benedict XVI's Catechesis on him from 29 April 2009 (ah; those were the days). He was Patriarch 715-730; a defender of orthodoxy, and an enthusiastic expounder of the Immaculate and of her role as Mediatrix of All Graces. In 717/8, when the Moslems were besieging the Great City, he organised a procession of the Ikon of the Theotokos and of a Relic of the True and Life-giving Cross; the City was saved.

I rather wonder whether the following passage in Reading 9 refers to just such an Islamic onslaught. S Germanus, having reached the peroration of a long address, is addressing our blessed Lady on November 21, Feast of her Presentation in the Temple (a day which often finds Byzantine preachers visiting themes which the later West associates with the celebration of the Immaculate Conception).
The unbelieving nations [kakotekhna barbara ethne] who blaspheme against You and the God who is born of You: lay them low and prostrate them beneath the feet of [orthodox emperors]. Strengthen the subject people, that according to God's command they may persevere in the duty of sweet obedience. Crown this Your City, which has You as its Tower and Foundation, with the triumphs of victory. Guard the habitation of God, girding it with strength. Ever keep the beauty of the Temple. Rescue those who praise You from every crisis [peristasis] and distress. Grant ransom to the captives. Show Yourself a comfort to exiles who lack a roof and any protection. To the whole world stretch out Your hand of assistance [antileptiken kheira], that in joy and exultation we may keep Your festivals ... in Christ Jesus, King of all [ton hapanton basilei] and our true God ...*

Thirteen centuries: not much seems to change, does it? What a triumph the creation of Islam, as of all the heresies, is for the Evil One. The captives ... the vast throngs of refugees ... the desecrated churches ... I know, because our politicians have so often explained it, that Islam is a religion of peace; but quite a number of thoroughly atypical Moslems do seem to inhabit the pages of History as century follows century.

I wonder if you dwelt on the logic of the last two or three lines in my extract. In every previous Christian age, and in both East and West, men and women when under affliction have prayed for divine assistance so that they could worship God in "joy and exultation"; or so that "Ecclesia tua tranquilla devotione laetetur". Few of our neighbours, now, pray at all; in as far as hopes are expressed, they seem to me generally to be hopes for a return to Business as Usual; hopes that a decadent Western society may be able to continue its corrupt and sinfully hedonistic way of life without any ill-mannered and murderous interruptions or any vulgar reminders of its own decadence. 

I am most certainly not saying that everybody who goes out for a Friday Night On the Town in a city like Paris or London or Oxford is manifestly in a state of mortal sin ... Of course all of them aren't. But ... well, if I were to design one of those great baroque pictures abounding in allegorical figures of Virtues and Vices, I think I might portray Decadence and Atrocity in covert alliance. Perhaps we will not be free from our present woes until, as a society, we can again pray and hope for ... peace indeed, but peace-with-the-intention-that, as a community, we will be able joyously to throng our churches; so that in every part of our lives, communally and individually, we may serve Christ our King. 

Her Immaculate Heart will prevail. If I could tell you when, I would.

*A crude translation of the rather erratic Latin translation in the breviary, itself lifted from Migne PG 98. I have given one or two interesting phrases from the original Greek. The breviary text omits a prayer for the Byzantine army!

11 December 2022

Conclave Problems

As the Conclave grows closer, the mutability, during the last century or so, of the rules governing conclaves acquires more and more interest.

Since Pius XII, it has become almost the custom for each incoming pope to alter the rules bequeathed to him by his predecessor. The reason why this has rarely appeared to matter very much has been that those rules that have most tempted so many pontiffs to make changes [see Wikipaedia], mostly concern the means to be taken to secure a result at the end of a contentious conclave in which normal procedures have failed to deliver, er, the Bacon of a necessary two-thirds majority

And the desire of Cardinal Electors to enable a decorous succession has apparently led them to decide fairly soon into a conclave that, since X is pretty clearly going to get his majority eventually, it looks better if it's given to him sooner rather than after a long agony.

But there was a problem when Benedict XVI followed S John Paul II. The way matters stood then was that, if a two-thirds majority were not secured after the normal rules had been followed right to their very end, a new procedure then took over which could result in the next pope being elected on a simple majority.

You see, suppose candidate X had got an overall majority, but which was a majority which fell short of being two-thirds. 

What comes next?

All that the majority cardinals supporting X then needed to do was to sit back and pick their noses and just wait until this conclave reached the stage when the move had formally to be made to a simple majority. Then their man would slide comfortably in to the sedes stercoraria.

This breached the established principle that a pope needed a two-thirds majority ... a principle ancient enough to have acquired auctoritas. Moreover, a pope incapable of securing office except as the result of this extreme procedure would hardly be embarking upon his pontificate with his own auctoritas entirely intact. People would say "He only got in by ... ... ".

So Benedict XVI restored the principle that a two-thirds majority would, after all, always be necessary.

That is where we are now.

10 December 2022

A Kairos?

People say ridiculous things in time of war. I have read of President Putin being accused of "Weaponising Winter". Really? War means War, and War is waged by weaponising whatever is at hand. Churchill, I believe, said something like "There is one Russian Commander that Herr Hitler has forgotten ... ... General Winter." 

Do we rebuke Admiral Nimitz for "Weaponising the Pacific?".

For millennia, those waging wars have let matters rest during Winter. When Spring returns, "the time when kings go to war", then men will blow the cobwebs off their swords.

Would it really be shameful if the next few months provided an opportunity for some fixing?

Territorial boders have never been sacrosanct. The ownership of the Crimea is ... well, go and research it yoursef.

I have links by marriage with a (formerly) landed Polish family whose estates are now well behind the Russky frontier. 

I believe that 'prioritising' men and women, flesh and blood, is more important than fetichising Historical Atlases.

9 December 2022

The First Lord of the Treasury ...

 ... recently gave voice to the phrase "between him and I".

Somebody should find out where this monster of illiterate grammatical ineptitude got his education, and then we should have a Royal Commission to help decide what should be done to destroy that place hook, line, and whatever. Nec lapis in loco relinquatur ...

In a memorable poetic epiclesis during an earlier time of sorest national crisis, Sir John Betjeman spoke for the Nation when he bravely called upon Herr Goering's "friendly bombs" to fall on Slough. 

Did the Luftwaffe use up all its supply of pyroboli benigni on Slough? Or might there be some teensy weensy bomblets left tucked away for the present dire emergency?

Can NATO help? Are President Truman's superb bombers available for hire?

8 December 2022

Tu Gloria Jerusalem

Throughout the opening chapters of S Luke's Gospel, like the insistent tolling of Great Tom after nine o'clock each evening, there rings the insistent phrase kata ton nomon Moyseos. Mary, the truest Daughter of Jerusalem, who is herself the antitype of Sion, obeyed punctiliously the Torah, as gradually, storing away like a miser in her Immaculate Heart the wonders of which she had been made a partaker, she came to full understanding that the Child upon her knee was himself the blessed Torah Incarnate. "Whatever he says unto you ..."

Mary Immaculate is, surely, meant to be known as an icon of Redeemed Israel; Israel as she and all men were meant to be if Eve had not fallen; as in God's promises she will be, purged from the disobediences against which her prophets preached, washed in the waters of Baptism, joyful in the knowledge that her God is faithful and that his promises will be fulfilled.

Condemn me as a 'judaizer' if you like, but my heart lifts whenever I see a family of what our nasty secular Media disdainfully call "the Ultra-Orthodox"; the mother caring for her children, the father, as likely as not, with his nose in the Torah. Surely we should pray for those whose devotion to the Torah needs but the gentlest removal of the veil from their eyes so that, seeing, they may grasp Who that Torah is.
Living and departed, may they be all faithful, like Mary, to the End (telos), knowing finally Who the End, the Omega, is, and, like Mary at Golgotha, hearing the proclamation tetelestai.

6 December 2022

Meeting old friends

Today we keep S Nicolas; for a couple of decades of my life, at Lancing, a Double of the First Class and a half-holiday when we all sallied forth down to Brighton to do our Christmas shopping or, in the case of the students, to imbibe. I remember browsing happily, one S Nick's Day, in that shop for remaindered books down East Street. I had my back to the window; and I was showing a scholarly interest in a large glossy volume entitled Forbidden Pictures From Ancient Pompei (I didn't buy it). Some cheerful drumming on the window behind me suddenly awakened me to the fact that a fair portion of the V Form approved warmly of my reading matter and shared my views about its academic significance.

The cultus of S Nicolas is one of the most ecumenical and one of the most ancient; he was a saint with as large a portfolio of Patronages as a Renaissance cardinal. He was, at Lancing, co-principal Patron with the Glorious Assumption of our Blessed Lady; on his feast day we used to sing the hymn composed for him by dear Basil Handford: Sancte, Sancte, Nicolas// Tute Patronus noster es// Laus et Deo Gloria// Sancte, pro nobis exor-a. So many of the waterside churches in Sussex, and elsewhere (Byzantine East as well as Latin West), have his Dedication. Wherever one goes, he is the old friend one so often seems to meet up with again. 

When we go to Gardone for the Roman Forum colloquium, we offer our Masses each morning in the superb parish church ostentatiously dedicated Divo Nicolao (what a very 1750s turn of phrase!) high up the hillside overlooking Catullus's lake. Incidentally, one of the baroque ceiling paintings there shows S Nicolas Banishing the Moors. Sancte, pro nobis exora!

In the OF he is merely optional; however, in the Extraordinary Form, happily, he is included in the 2020 CDF list of Privileged observances which cannot be skipped.

Good on yer, mates.

An important point I would like to make concerns the historical-theological aspects of his cult.

What I mean is this. His observance is distinctly older, more widespread, and more significant than many feasts with a loftier 'intrinsic' status; even feasts, for example, of our Blessed Lord. 

S Nicolas on December 6 has Auctoritas, and oodles of it. S Martin is another saint about whom I would make a similar judgement. I would be outraged if either of them disappeared from the Calendar; but the disappearance of Christ the King from Excita Sunday, or of S Joseph Opifex from May 1, would simply encourage me to open another enthusiastic bottle of Waitrose Cava. 

Easy come, easy go, as Auntie used to say.

Or, in my own native Nerdspeak, Auctoritas matters a lot more than daft bits of paper from Rome.


5 December 2022

S Birinus, of Dorchester, is celebrated on December 5

There are places where one has a vivid sense of the Saxon 'mission' to reconvert England being set down upon the still palpable ruins of the Roman Empire. For example ... Othona, or Bradwell in Essex, a 'Saxon Shore' fort  occupied by S Cedd and his monks. What a terribly remote and inaccessible place, one muses, until one recalls that, before the days of ubiquitous tarmacadam, travelling meant sailing; and perhaps such places were more accessible.

That may be true also of Dorchester upon Thames; a once-Roman town where S Birinus set up his cathedra. S Birinus was sent by Pope Honorius I ... yes!! By him!!!! The last pope before our Holy Father Pope Francis to have been anathematised for doctrinal error!

S Birinus converted the local king, Cynigils, to the Christian faith. S Oswald was present as patrinus; Cynigils received one of S Oswald's daughters as wife. I think we have here a fascinating peep into a society in which Faith and Politics were not a million miles apart; in which a Saxon princeling might feel that, in accepting a marriage alliance together with the Christian Faith, he was allying himself with the broader, Christian, Mediterranean World ... with the ordered world of Popes and Archbishops and even Emperors.

There is a Roman Road going through Dorchester, and the point at which it crossed the Thames can be detected on the Ordnance Survey. But I wonder if it was along the River itself that these kings and this bishop had made their way to Dorchester; if its significance lay in the access which the Thames offered.

Just for kicks, I print a Preface of S Birinus, taken from a liturgical book which has connections with the nearby Abbey of Abendon.

VD: deprecantes, ut beatus confessor Birinus ante thronum gloriae tuae nobis obtineat, quatenus ipsius societate perfruamur in caelis cuius sanctae depositionis festa celebramus in terris.

A bit jejune, I hear you murmuring ... OK, perhaps ... but the Saxon period comes well before the foolish and Rigid modern rule that one may never make a petition in a Preface. And such first-millennium prayers often have an admirable sense that communio, societas with heavenly intercessors, might well be a more sensible liturgical motive than an interest in terrestrial biography.

Back in the days of Bishop Kirk, when the Anglican Diocese of Oxford was under 'Catholic' management, the Bishop of Dorchester (a suffragan see of Oxford) had the right to celebrate Pontifical High Mass in Dorchester Abbey with the full ceremonial of a Diocesan Bishop on just one day a year, the Feast (Double of the First Class) of S Birinus of Dorchester. At one such Dorchester fervorino the Pontiff gave the blessing at the end of Mass with such enthusiasm that his ring flew off his episcopal glove and could only with difficulty be found. 

Ah, happy days. But happiness can still be discovered nearby, where, thanks to Fr John Osman, S Birinus' Faith can yet be found in his little, jewel-like, Victorian Catholic Church.

4 December 2022

Anathema to the heretics!

 The idea is currently being pushed around that the true meaning of what an earlier pope may have taught or enjoined is to be discerned from what a present pope says.

If you don't accept this, you will be called a Dietrist by PF, and you will be attacked and sneered at. Attacks and sneers are two things he is really good at.

The Catholic Church does not teach thus. She teaches the prescriptivity of Tradition; a prescriptivity enjoined not only upon Clergy and People, but also upon the Roman Pontiff himself.

     [1] "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received".

I Corinthians 15: the words I have rubricised are respectivly paredoka and parelabon.

     [2] Vatican I: "The Holy Spirit was not promised  to the successors of Peter in order that, by his revelation, they might publish a new teaching, but in order that, with his assistance, they might devoutly guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith handed down through the apostles".

     [3] When Pope Leo II confirmed the Third Council of Constantinople, he repeated the condemnation of his predecessor Pope Honorius I: "We anathematise ... Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this apostolic Church with the teaching of apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted."

     The condemnation issued by the Council was succinct:

                               "TO THE HERETIC HONORIUS, ANATHEMA!"

All together now ... ... 

3 December 2022


 There is a Catholic site on the Internet which, in the last day or two, has published a piece on a 'verse' which, they argue, has been deliberately left out of modern translations of the Bible.

People who read this might easily get the impression that we have here yet another example of a trendy, Modernist, Bergoglian plot to subvert the text of Scripture.

In fact, that site has got the whole business wrong. I explained the 'problem' in a piece here on my Blog on 10/10/2022.

As a general rule, I think it is a good idea not to go on about subjects about which one knows nothing. It just makes one look silly.

2 December 2022

Right Reverend Abbess

The traditional Rite of our Latin Church, contained in the Tridentine Pontificale, for Blessing a Lady Abbess is, not surprisingly, very closely similar to the Consecration of a Bishop or the Ordination of a Presbyter or Deacon.. The Abbess prostrates herself as the Litanies are sung over her; a consecratory 'Preface' is chanted over her; the Bishop lays his hands upon her head and then for the rest of the Prayer holds them extended before his chest; for a porrectio instrumentorum she receives the Rule; if she has not previously been formally veiled, she now receives the veil. Such a rite speaks for itself.

But the words of the prayers are, if anything, even more expressive in what they tell us about the Order of Abbess. The precedent for the Blessing is seen as the appointment by Moses of Leaders set over the People of God (ad gubernandas Ecclesias praepositos), just as the Consecration of a Bishop is described in terms of the Aaronic high priesthood. The Gospel given in the Common of a Confessor Bishop is cited ("Well done, good and faithful servant ..." ). The Abbess, according to the Bishop's  prayer, "talis in hoc ministerio perseveret, qualis levita electus ab Apostolis sanctus Stephanus meruit perdurare". She is blessed "ad gubernandam regendamque Ecclesiam tuam fideliter ut speculatrix ...", recalling the traditional image of the Bishop as the Watchman of his Church.

The Episcopate, of course, is part of the divinely instituted Sacrament of Holy Order. The state of Abbess does not possess that quality.  But the Blessing of an Abbess is, surely, the very highest form of a Sacramental that the Church knows.

Perhaps readers have already reached out their hands to take up their copies of Bede. In the elegant pages of that great English latinist and historian it is made abundantly clear that S Hilda's religious foundations were 'double monasteries'; that is to say, Mother Foundress created and governed communities both of women and of men. S Bede proudly lists the number of monks trained under S Hilda who were chosen to the Episcopate: S Bosa (York), S Hedda (Dorchester), Oftfor (Worcester), S John (Hexham), and S Wilfrid (York). I suspect S Bede had S Hilda in mind when he observed that in the femineus sexus there are "persons who not only by their lives but also by their preaching (praedicando) inflame the hearts of those around them to the praise of their Creator". 

Perhaps all that is something the Church badly needs now: strongly orthodox and liturgically literate women taking a hand in the raising of clergy. Readers who know my background are hardly likely to suspect me of going  'soft' ... The contrary is true. I think calls for the 'ordination of women' are symptoms of disorders arising from a failure to understand the place naturally occupied by women in a sound and traditional and relaxed Catholic society.

My long experience in the Anglican Wars about 'ordaining' women led to my conviction that many of the men supporting such 'advances' were, deep down and in some cases not nearly so deep, misogynists or inadequates with a poorly integrated sexuality resulting in gynaecophobia. I sensed a whiff of the same sort of unhealthy and clericalist attitudes a few years ago when the 'Commissioner' put in to 'reform' the Franciscans of the Immaculate published a list of things that had gone wrong and needed 'reform' ...

... one of which was this: a certain Reverend Mother in the Order had too much influence among the friars!!

You couldn't make that up, could you? Scratch a feminist/liberal/modernist and ... ten to one ... you'll find ... a woman-hater.

What do we want?
When do we want them?

1 December 2022


When issuing Traditionis custodes, PF mumbled again his aged and spiteful mantras about Fulfilling the Mandates of Vatican II.

Having counted it on my fingers three times, I think I am right in saying that it is now 53 years since that tragic Advent Sunday when millions of Latin Catholics were robbed of their Rite.

PF now accuses traddies of being Indietrists ["Advance Backwards, chaps"].

Liturgical studies, and Liturgical enactments, have not been exactly non-existent during these 53 years. In particular, the formal revelation of a Roman Pontiff that the Old Rite has never been canonically abrogated is, surely, very significant.

Even if Arthur Roche, an enormously clever man, disagrees with poor old Ratzinger on this.


In calling on us (with menaces) to advance back to Vatican II, who exactly is the Indietrist?