30 June 2023

ATTRIBUTION (2): did Dorothy Sayers have a soft spot for Frenchmen?

I think Sayers' admiration for peripatetic Lusitanians might have been limited: "As for da Soto, he looked harmless enough ... One never knew, of course, with these slinky people of confused nationality ..." (Have His Carcase Chapter xv.). Gracious!

Da Soto's figure is little better than a clowning caricature. So, perhaps, is the English Leila Garland ("It's a good thing there's a law in this country to protect girls like I".). But I think Antoine may have been different. Sayers is unable to resist placing upon his lips part of the sextet within a sonnet by the Middle French poet Pierre Ronsard. Ronsard tells us that he proposes to keep his door barred against everybody ... absolutely everybody ...  for three days, while he reads the Iliad. But 

"... si quelqu'un venoit de la part de Cassandre, 

Ouvre-luy tost la porte, et ne le fais attendre,

Soudain entre dans ma chambre, et me vien accoustrer."

Dorothy Sayers is aware that she is pushing things a bit by implying that a depressive French gigolo in a 1932 English watering place might have Ronsard so readily available in his memory: "Antoine smiled, and murmured unexpectedly ...".

But she simply cannot resist the temptation to bring into her narrative a poet and a genre which clearly had appealed to her: "Harriet smiled back at him". 

This is the author who, in Busman's Honeymoon, was to regale us with the choicest exotic and erotic Renaissance verbal imagery. 

Ultimately, she is the helpless, driven victim of her own reading and of her own inner world of fantasy. 

29 June 2023

Tracey Rowlands

 Readers of this blog will have seen herein the following passage from S John Henry Newman on a number of occasions: 

"There was a temporary suspense of the functions of the 'Ecclesia docens'. The body of Bishops failed in the confession of the Faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years. There were untrustworthy Councils, unfaithful Bishops; there was weakness, fear of consequences, misguidance, delusion, hallucinations ... extending itself into nearly every corner of the Catholic Church. The comparatively few who remained faithful were discredited and driven into exile; the rest were either deceivers or were deceived.".

I am grateful to Professor Tighe for sharing with me a paper by Professor Tracey Rowlands which takes off from this point (The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review, Volume 87, Number 2, April 2023, pp. 233-254 (Article)). It contains a great deal of plain very good sense about this Synod business. I propose to offer you some snippets. But every word of her paper is eminently worth reading.

... one of the common criteria for selection as a synod delegate has been employment by the Catholic Church. Synods are very time-consuming events and those chosen to attend are not paid to do so. Most working Catholics or Catholic mothers rearing children do not have the ability, either in terms of time or financial capacity ... those already on the Church's payroll have no such problems.Yet being on the payroll of the Church is scarcely synonymous with an education in the Church's theological tradition, or even with regular Mass attendance or familiarity with Sacred Scripture ...

... this is especially so in countries where the Church is comparatively wealthy and manages numerous institutions, such as Germany and Australia ...

More bureaucracy--not more sanctity--is the proposal of many advocates of synodality.

Some lay Catholics argue that the two classes in the Church today are not the clerics and the laity, but the bureaucrats (lay and clerical) and the nonbureaucrats.

[Nobody] becomes a sportsman as a result of being deeply involved in the structure of the Olympic Committee [Ratzinger].

The worst thing about Nazism was not that it was lacking in democratic elements, but that it elevated itself beyond the Ten Commandments

... the general attitude is that more bureaucracy, not more sanctity, is the solution to this problem.

Newman quoted St Jerome as saying that by A.D.361 'nearly all the churches in the whole world, under the pretence of peace and the emperor, are polluted with the communion of the Arians'.

... [a] dominant group is comprised of people who wish to base ecclesial governance upon the latest fashionable practices in business management schools.  

28 June 2023

Screwtape at work?

June 28 is crowded.

It has, of course, a status as the day before, the Vigil, of the great Solemnity of the Apostles of Rome.

But it then acquired Pope S Leo II. 

Then ... when the polemical value of S Irenaeus became apparent, he occupied the day, and S Leo went to July 3.

Until the fashion reverted to the observance of Vigils, when S Irenaeus was relegated to July 3.

And what happened to S Leo?

Who cares, anyway, about Pope S Leo II?

The reason why I care is that S Leo is a quite unique Pope. He is, I believe, the only pope who formally ratified the decrees of an Ecumenical Council, and in doing so condemned with an Anathema a former pope, listing him with heretics. By his negligence, S Leo thought, Honorius had allowed the purity of the Catholic Faith of the Roman Church to be polluted.

I'm not really keen on enabling comments which try to convince me that S Leo II didn't really do any of this.

I will not labour the point of the relevance of all this to our present ecclesial situation, in which, in my view, PF has allowed the Catholic Faith of the Roman Church, and of many other Churches, to be polluted. The precedent of Honorius and S Leo II is highly important. Catholics are not under any obligation to try to convince themseles that PF cannot do wrong; has not done wrong; is incapable of doing anything which is not superduper.

I believe that orders arrived from very deep in the Lowerarchy that S Leo II should be crowbarred out of the record ... and, certainly, out of the Calendar.

It is not thought safe to allow him to show his face in this age in which the Ueberpapalist fanatics are riding so high and with such arrogance.

But stay: there is the CDF liturgical legislation of 2000. Does that allow S Leo to get his red slipper in today's door?

27 June 2023

Walsingham: episcopal problems and the work of the Devil.

 Charlotte Pearson Boyd was born on 21 March 1837, of an old and aristocratic Scottish family; she died a Catholic in 1906. I am indebted to Ethel M Hostler for the information in her elegant "notes on her life", published in 1996 by the Catholic League.

Boyd inherited a great deal of money; she was inclined to spend it on Religious Communities, firstly Anglo-Catholic and then Catholic. And she was an enthusiatic client of our Blessed Lady sub titulo Our Lady of Walsingham.

So it was that she was able, in 1896, to buy the ruinous remains of what had been the Slipper Chapel a mile outside Walsingham ... by tradition, the spot where pilgrims removed their shoes, and made their confessions, before entering the Holy Land of England's Nazareth. She employed the architect Thomas Garner to restore the building; he was a pupil of Sir Gilbert Scott and a long-time partner of Bodley (founder of Watts and Co). Then she gave it to Downside Abbey. In 1903, she wrote " ... we had hoped ere this Holy Mass would have been said daily for the conversion of England, and souls would have been gathered in."

Bishop Arthur Riddell of Northampton, the Catholic Diocesan, seems to have been the problem. Miss Boyd wrote frankly: "The Bishop, I feel, will be our great obstacle in the matter of Walsingham. His known dislike to the regulars--especially Benedictines--has prevented a mission at Walsingham for years." She referred to herself as "unsavoury in the Bishop's nostrils"; we are told that "Miss Boyd says the Abbot has asked for permission to open the Slipper Chapel and have Mass said there and been refused. He does not wish to write again, as the Bishop did not answer his last letter."

A later writer tells us that "Miss Boyd always maintained that every set-back as regards the Slipper Chapel was the work of the Devil to prevent the pre-Reformation devotion to our Lady of Walsingham being restored, but her faith in its restoration to its old-time splendour remained unshaken."

26 June 2023

"Feminine to the point of Imbecility": ATTRIBUTION part (1)

Yes ... a distinguished writer did once commit such dreadful words to print. Needless to say, he was, at that time, a bachelorly pipe-smoking ... et cetera. And it was written in 1945 ... water ... bridges ... under ...

He was describing a body of females who were "small and slight and fluffy and full of giggles". All the same, I rather suspect that in many households, such wording might, even in 1945, have elicited the crudele supplicium of a raised eyebrow. Nowadays, a fortiori ...

But C S Lewis was something of an alchemist. He knew, and used, the magical process I will call 'attribution'; that is, he would put an unacceptable phrase into the mouth of a fictional (and disapproved) character in his narrative: "(as Feverstone once said)". The Authorial Voice is not involved ... keeps it hands clean!

Feverstone is, in That Hideous Strength, a Baddie.

But one can, I suggest, sometimes squeeze out of attribution tiny, flickering hints of the reading habits or reading history of an author.

For example: not much later in That Hideous Strength, when the Inner Ring are joking about the riot they have criminally engineered, Lord Feverstone ... he again ... alludes to the ideas expressed by Publius Ovidius Naso about the importance of mutual and simultaneous orgasm. 

Frankly, I profoundly doubt whether, at the time Lewis read Mods, book II of the Ars Amatoria was part of the Mods syllabus (it certainly wasn't in 1960). The OUP didn't get this volume of Ovid out until 1961 (indeed, despite the centrality of the Metamorphoses to European culture at least from the Carolingian Renaissance onwards, it is remarkable that even that volume of the OCT failed to appear until 2004). Naso was not a respectable author! I wonder if Lewis perused the Ars in the dear old Variorum edition of ... 1825!! In Bodley?

No; Lewis had chosen to read it ... and had read it. (I bet Feverstone was a Wykehamist, by the way.)

Mind you, the notion that Major Hardcastle might (while chewing her gungy cheroot) have read Naso's bedside advice ("She hasn't read her Ovid. Ad metam properate simul") is, er, not a little amusing. Not that Filostrato laughs ...

I wonder what the WAIPs were getting up to!

In the second half of this, I plan to chase after Attribution in D L Sayers.


25 June 2023

"An admirable Daughter was lunching us both ..."

 Thus began yesterday's blogpost. 

A reader appears to accuse me of writing ungrammatically.

Can he, she, it, or they explain to me what is ungrammatical about this?


An admirable Daughter was lunching us both in a French  restaurant along the South side of George Street a couple of months ago. Quite unnecessarily, she apologised for the view.

I peered across; the cinema wall opposite was horizontally striped with red brick and white concrete. 

But ... hey ... this was the style of the Thirties. Hither flocked the shop-girls and their admirers; within, they wallowed in their fantasies of Love. Here, a girl agonised in her weekly fear that He would be so unimaginative as to keep his hands to himself, just because she told him to.

Earlier, there was a Mission Church on this spot called S George's. It fell derelict; was sold off; was demolished. In 1936, the cinema was built. Yes; 1936 ... Year of Mrs Simpson ... Coronations ... .

"Darling", I retorted, "it's not boring: it's Art Deco".

When that cinema began its flickering life, it was called the Ritz. Quite rightly. The customers were hankering after the glamour of the 'film stars' and of the tall dark men into whose eyes they looked up; and 'Ritz' evoked the High Life of the International Fast Set.

I suspect there may be a humble monograph lurking in the changing names of (surviving) English cinemas, as they have sought to reflect the delightfully transient aspirations of each era. Waugh reveals to us a similar situation far away in the Neutralian city of Bellacita, "The Hotel 22nd March was the name, derived from some forgotten event in the Marshal's rise to power, by which the chief hotel of the place was momentarily graced. It had had as many official names in its time as the square in which it stood -- the Royal, the Reform, the October Revolution, the Empire, the President Coolidge, the Duchess of Windsor -- according to the humours of local history, but Neutralians invariably spoke of it quite simply as the 'Ritz'".

24 June 2023

Was S Silverius, Pope and Martyr, starved to death?

 I hope readers enjoyed, two or three days ago, Dom Gueranger's dramatic accounts, which I reproduced on this blog, of the papal uncertainties in the times of Pope S Silverius and (if he was genuinely pope!!!) Vigilius. Just think ... we may have to live through times of such uncertainties again! The adage papa dubius papa nullus may again be tugged around in the lecture rooms of Catholic academic institutions!!

Before I leave Pope S Silverius behind ... one more weeny point.

In 1943, a new commune emerged from Rome ... Bishop Myers as the Westminster Vicar Capitular gave it his imprimatur, and all over the world, Clergy, including Army Chaplains in the thick of conflict, had to get out that essential liturgical tool of a Catholic Priest, their glue, and gum the new Mass Si diligis into their Altar Missals. Henceforth, the old Common Masses for Roman Pontiffs, sanctified by so many centuries of use, had to give way to this new commune whenever a Sainted Pontiff chose to pop up on the Calendar. 

As, for example, happened in the case of S Silverius.

Was anything lost? Well, the old Mass for S Silverius employed mainly the commune for a Martyr Pontiff, Statuit, but did have its own (unique?) Epistle: Jude verses 17-21. Why not have a look at that? It went missing, of course, when Bishop Myers signed his imprimatur. The vandal.

The Epistle of S Jude has never been one of the most popular source of lections for, er, those whose job it has been to select lections. I wonder how far its use on the festival of S Silverius goes back in the papal rite. Who was it who thought that the references to 'illusores' (empaiktai) was topical in those deadly days of rival popes and of 'popes' who were willing to terminate their predecessors? psykhikoi, pneuma me ekhontes/ animales, spiritum non habentes ...

Fascinating stuff ... surely, something fierce is going on here. What exactly are we into??

Think about the Allied and Axis Armies round Caen in June 1944 as they struggled for the essential breakthrough ... what did they think about the elimination, that year for the first time, of S Jude?

Were they Silverius-men or Vigilius-men?

I wonder if such questions were factors in the decision of pastors to say the Te igitur silently?


23 June 2023

A new piece in an old jigsaw?

 In the Times of 20/6/2023 is a news item I find most intriguing.

A grave excavated in 2012 is one of a number of 'bed burials' found in Britain ... all of women; two of them from the Cambridge area. This particular Cambridge inhumation has now yielded 'isotopic' information showing that the lady concerned had lived, until she was seven, close to the Alps. These results match those of 18 other women, who, similarly, were buried on beds. A Newnham don who has researched the question  says that the evidence really does seem to suggest the movement of a small group of young elite women from a mountainous area in continental Europe to the Cambridge region in the third quarter of the seventh century.

When I read about noble Saxon Ladies, daughters of Saxon kings, acting as abbesses in Saxon England (naturally, my mind turns to our S Frideswide of Oxford, and S Osyth of Chich in my own corner of Essex), I wonder ... who were the other women who lived with them in their religious community? Of course, local women from elite families probably participated or were 'offered' for this role. But it is surely likely that, to provide a suitable group or pool of 'civilised' and Christian ladies, the early Anglo-Saxon Church may have shipped across surplus girls from upper-class Christian families on the mainland, to assist and to accompany the christianisation of the Saxon ruling class. (This young lady was wearing, incidentally, 'a rare gold and garnet cross as a brooch'. There are at least two comparable crosses in Ashmole, one from Yorkshire and another from Ixworth in Suffolk.)

Since the Cambridge girl came to England aged seven, she will remind us of S Bede the Venerable, who tells us that he began his monastic life at about that age. There is, of course, later Saxon evidence about pueri oblati (or nutritii) and, suggestively, about the adaptation of similar conventions to females. This appears to have included production of copies of the Regula with the grammatical genders adapted to females.

If your resources ran to dowries for fewer daughters than God had granted you, giving some of your girls to the Lord Christ was perhaps a respectable, even a meritorious, way of providing for them. And if you could send a girl off with a gold-and-garnets brooch or the means to acquire one, perhaps that enabled her, throughout her future life, to demonstrate that--although she had not secured by dowry the position of a great man's spouse--she nevertheless had retained social status.

And the beds? Surely, they imply the existence of women of lower status who would not be sleeping in beds! In many socially stratified societies, there might be divisions within monastic contexts like those which, very much later, distinguished 'choir nuns' from 'lay sisters'.

This is great fun, isn't it?

22 June 2023


A tiring day, yesterday; off to Encaenia.

Time was, when one Philip Howard (alumnus of a large school near Southampton) used to give snippets in The Times from Mr Orator's Orations. Perhaps I, too, may offer snippets. 

I'm sure we all sympathised with him at the start of his Creweian Oration: he appeared to forget that, some years ago now, it was decided to have the Creweian in English. But after a false start in Latin, he recovered himself and asked my lord Chancellor in Latin for the now-customary permission Anglice loqui, The reply Licet!! was very decisive. But, y'see, the Creweian (among other things) includes comments on the common wealth; and the recent goings-on in Westminster had given Mr Orator no choice but to rewrite his Creweian the evening beforehand.

A note of pessimism: "Absit tamen ut fortunae semper prosperae fidamus". Can there really be a coup d'etat in the offing? Boris and Sir Rees Mogg on the barricades?

I noticed last year that Mr Orator slipped in an interesting reference to Dorothy Sayers. I was reminded of this yesterday when, in presenting a Val McDermid, a novelist from St Hilda's College, he said qui centum annis posthac quaerent quomodo hodie vixerimus eos [McDermid] putat ante omnia ad tales fabulas spectaturos esse. Detective Fiction is a genre which is not often given its due. 

 "Crown of Eggheads" as inter ova aurea cerebri ... ovans regnat was, I thought, ben trovato.

The presence in the agmen of Simon Schama offered, of course, the opportunity for Mr Orator to translate four lines from Puck of Pook's Hill which went nicely into three Latin hexameters. And I wondered if yesterday was the first time that Hillel the Elder had (1) been declaimed in Hebrew at Encaenia; and (2) been linked with a Latin translation of Kipling. 

It sounded well!


21 June 2023

Getting rid of Popes (2)

 Dryden remarked that Ovid's hexameters went always at the hand-gallop; in the spirit of Ovid let us resume our seats behind Dom Gueranger as he charges through the certainties of the sixth century.

"Saint Agapitus I died [536] at Constantinople, whither Theodorat, the Goth, had persuaded him to go, in order to appease the anger of Justinian excited against this king by reason of his treasons. 

"Scarcely had the news of this death [of Pope Agapitus I] reached the Arian prince [Theodorat] than he ... imperatively designated as successor to the deceased Pope, the deacon Silverius. Two months later, the Justice of God struck the tyrant [Theodorat], and the Church was set free. Doubtless, Rome would have but exercised her proper right had she rejected the Head [Pope Silverius] thus imposed upon her by main force ... 

"But Silverius, who had been an utter stranger to the violence used on his personal account, was in reality a man in every way fitted to the supreme pontificate. Therefore, when the Roman clergy became free to act, they had no wish to withdraw from him their adhesion, until then certainly disputable. From that moment undoubtedly, Silverius could not but be Head of the Church, the true successor of Agapitus ... 

" ... he [Silverius]  proved how well he understood the exigencies of duty in his exalted office, and preferred an exile which would eventually cost him his life, to the abandoning of a post wherein the Holy Ghost had truly placed him ... 

"Even before death had done its work in thee [Silverius], there was to be found a son of thine [Vigilius] coveting thy dominion ... the usurper could but be an intruder; until such time as the all-powerful merits of thy glorious death had obtained the transformation of the hireling into the legitimate Pastor, and had made this Vigilius become the heir of thine own courage ... "

Again ... a succession of situations in which it is rarely absolutely clear who the true pope was ... and who was the usurper trying to depose him.  

De jure and de facto keep each other at arm's length, and possession is nine tenths of the pontificate.

20 June 2023

I wonder how she killed him (1)

 It is the wisdom of our age that we observe the approaching end of a pontificate by reading accounts of a pontiff's declining health, by speculating on the configurations and combinations of interests among potential candidates for the succession; and upon the motives of those who are or are perceived to be kingmakers.

How very modern, all of it, how neatly choreographed; how civilised; how overwhelmingly gruesome. Matters, at certain periods in the first millennium, had a rather more ... er ... Hollywood? ... quality. The plebs sancta Dei in Rome was more likely to wake up to the reality of a new pontificate and to gossip about how 'she' had had yesterday's pontiff killed off. "Our parlourmaid's second cousin said he hollered for more than an hour. But the pontifical physician's wife's drinking partner flickered her eyebrow when I mentioned poison ..."

Dom Gueranger's many volumes in their many translations are not magisterial. But they did the rounds for an incredibly long time and have never, to my knowledge, been accused of blatant and obvious heterodoxy. For your delectation, I reproduce parts of his entry for S Silverius, Pope and Martyr, for June 20.

"The inevitable play of human passions, interfering in the election of the Vicar of Christ, may perchance for a while render uncertain the transmission of spiritual power. But when it is proved that the Church, still holding, or once more put in possession of, her liberty, acknowledges in the person of a certain Pope, until then doubtful, the true Sovereign Pontiff, this her very recognition is a proof that, from that moment at least, the occupant of the Apostolic See is as such invested by God himself."

I just lerve the orotund nineteenth century prose, don't you?

NOTA the uncertainties, which I have reddened, about who ... really ... was pope. Provided a papal transition happened sufficiently long ago, it does not ... apparently ... matter a lot who was the real Pope.

There is an old Anglican joke about a preacher who prayed that a then-current Archbishop of Canterbury might be granted the greatest gift a fortunate human can receive, God's glorious crown of Martyrdom (can anybody give chapter and verse?). There is more than a dash of the same instinct in Gueranger's next bit: "... the occupant of the Apostolic See is as such invested by God himself. This doctrine the Holy Ghost confirms, by giving thereto, in the pontiff [Silverius] we are celebrating today, the consecration of martyrdom."

But not all murdered popes were declared martyrs. I'd better return to this later.

19 June 2023

White Smoke

 The (admirable) Magazine of the 'Brompton' Oratory has an obituary of the Reverend Sir Charles Dilke, Bart., sometime Provost, which includes an account of his reactions during one of the Papal Conclaves.

" ... a junior father was dispatched to [Dilke's] room to inform him that the white smoke had just appeared from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and the bells of St Peter's had begun to ring. Would he like to come downstairs and join the other fathers in front of the television to see who the new pontiff was? He responded: 'Popes are elected, then they die, then they elect another one', and resumed playing Greensleeves on his recorder. The next morning as he was vesting for Mass, he had to ask the sacristan the name of the newly elected pope so that he could pray for him during the Canon" (as every priest does in his every Mass to reassert his very necessary and blessed communio with the Soliditas Sedis Petri).

I can think of few things more indicative of a most truly Catholic mens than this.

18 June 2023


 Recently, I reread the three sermons which, in 1960, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, preached respectively in Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Rome.

In the Roman homily, I noticed the following bit of episcospeak: "All kinds of obstacles and inherited antagonisms lie ahead--rules of behaviour or procedure in one Church which inflict real spiritual or even civil hardships on members of another Church ... "

Whatever is he really on about? Why are 'bishops' so, er, impenetrable?

I think I know. In his Barchester Pilgrimage, Knox recounts the Dumbello/Lifton engagement and, in so doing, explains carefully and at length to his readers what the teaching of the Catholic Church was, at that time, with regard to Mixed Marriages. 

And ... gracious me ... what is really going on in Brideshead in all those pages about Julia and Rex Mottram?

I think it is remarkable how the fierce preoccupations of one age so quickly become the Snooze of the next. 

And Fisher gives me the same feeling I get from the documents of the Second Vatican Council. No ... don't let anybody persuade you that they contain heresy. They don't. The problem is rather that (1) what animates them are matters about which hardly anybody any longer cares at all; and (2) the matters about which the next fifty years were to be terribly concerned, hardly show a whisker in the Conciliar pages.

Nobody guessed, among the cobwebs of Lambeth Palace or in the echoing halls of the Vatican, what were to be the problems of the actual imminent Future which was even then creeping up behind all those wise individuals, its cosh at the ready.

17 June 2023


 I think it was last Monday ... I heard clips on two News Channels, one from North America, the other from here in Blighty ... in each of which a different, but equally yellow-haired, politician was complaining angrily about "Witch Hunts".

Is this apparent telepathy the sort of thing that Common Ordinary Folk have in mind, the dear poppets, when they talk about "the Special Relationship"?

16 June 2023

Liturgical Excitements

Here is another piece about PECUSA, reproduced from 2009.

Last night, at the Oxford Liturgical Group, a characteristically splendid and learned paper by Dr Colin Podmore upon the transformation of Baptismal theology in PECUSA. In the 1970s it took less than a decade to establish and give liturgical expression to a theology of Baptismal Covenant which eliminates the sacramentality of Confirmation as a constituent of Christian Initiation, and so locates the concept of Ministry within that context as to facilitate notions of the Ordination of Women. Also and incidentally it makes the rhetoric of Baptismal Covenant so dominant that the Eucharist becomes effectively redundant. Colin showed how the praxis of the Church of England had declined to 'receive' this theology, and that ARCIC had not made it the centrepoint of its own treatment of Ministry. (Apologies to Colin if I've got any of that wrong.)

Colin also brought with him some pictures of Ms Jefferts Schori's Pontifical Inauguration; it illustrated his theme because Baptismal symbolism was made dramatically central. Floosies in long white 'grecian' tunics and clutching fancy 'grecian' urns struck thespian poses around a font. It reminded me of those pictures of Emma Hamilton doing her static 'attitudes' for the delectation of Georgian gentlemen.

What we miss is the First Duke of Wellington. At an Apsley House reception in which the bimbos, in their flimsy white muslin, had made their physical charms even more visually accessible by moistening the muslin, His Grace declared that the house was too hot and had the windows flung wide open. The following day, most of the beau monde went down with sniffles.

Now there's a liturgist and a half.

15 June 2023

"Baptismal Ecclesiology"

This reproduces a post which I publishedin June 2010.

 An interesting article by one of our brightest theologians, Dr Colin Podmore, in Ecclesiology 6 (2010) 8-38. It traces the development in an organisation called The Episcopal Church (I think this is something to do with what most of us call PECUSA) of a 'theology' which is based upon taking Baptism to be the whole of Christian Initiation.

We all know what Gregory Dix would have thought of this abolition of the Seal of the Spirit (which we call Confirmation or Consignation) In his delightfully provocative way, realising what a cat it would put among the ecumaniac pigeons, he once opined that Confirmation as the gift of the Spirit was more important than the water-bit of Initiation; which inspired a liberal evangelical called Lampe to devote a whole book to trying, unsuccessfully, to demolish Dix.

This new Yankee heresy goes on see all Christian Ministry as simply a diversified set of applications of the Spirit bestowed on all alike at Baptism. Thus Lay, Diaconal, Presbyteral, and Episcoal ministries all sit together as outworkings of that one charisma. This, of course, has implications for the question of the presbyteral ordination of women; indeed, given their premises, it is easy to understand how Pecusans feel that 'denying' priesthood to women is a pretty radical error.

The whole question is very interesting and Colin deals with it in his usual lucid, and painstaking, way. I will mention only one aspect of the matter. As Colin points out, this new foundational dogma runs up against the agreement of ARCIC in 1973 that the ministry of the ordained "is not an extension of the common Christian priesthood but belongs to another realm of the gifts of the Spirit". I think I am right in saying that this ARCIC agreement received the approval of Lambeth Conference and of most Anglican provinces, including PECUSA. In other words, the new American heresy has been introduced and made structural within the canons, liturgy, and life of PECUSA in despite of an ecumenical agreement.

There is nothing particularly unnatural about such a thing happening. It is a plan fact that ecclesial bodies, and their thinking, move ever onward. As a community progresses to embrace what it sees an an exciting clarification of the Christian Faith, it doesn't very often stop to say "Oops! That would contradict such-and-such a dusty old Ecumenical Agreement! We can't go down that path! What a shame!"

But, in our present 'ecumenical winter' some people, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and (CMOC) Westminster, have argued that the ARCIC agrrements have not been rendered useless; they are there, in the bank, as it were, waiting for the time when they will be able to bear fruit.

I find it hard to believe that Archbishop Rowan is stupid enough actually to believe this. He knows perfectly well that Theology moves on, and very often does so quite radically (the ARCIC document on Justification, for example, had already been rendered obsolete when it was published by the 'New Look in Pauline Studies' associated with the name of E P Sanders). Even a very good book (or ecumenical document) is extremely lucky if it doesn't look quaintly dated thirty years after its composition. The idea that, when the 'winter' thaws, the ARCIC accords will look like anything other than old-fashioned period pieces, is so silly that Archbishop Rowan's attitude can only be a mark of the extent to which his hopes (and those of many good men like him) have been bankrupted by the divergent course taken by worldwide Anglicanism as it steers definitively away from the Great Tradition. How great his despair clearly is, that he can only think of something as dotty as that to say.

14 June 2023

Looting Churches

I have in mind a particular, public building, built in an elegant classicising style; with steps up to the entrance under a columned portico. If you were to accompany me, I would lead you inside to where (apparently) there are innumerable altars, mostly of the size and shape for a Missa privata. Above and behind each altar, from various periods of 'art-history', is a masterpiece of religious art.

Please, now join me in peopling that space; peopling it, please, with sounds. Sounds such as the low voices of the priests offering the August Sacrifice; from time to time the tinkle of a little bell; the quiet sound of priests and servers passing by on their way to their altars or returning from them; imagine priests quietly slipping into benches and saying their Thanksgivings.

But no; here there are no such sounds. I have brought you into the National Gallery in London; what look like altars are indeed there in great profusion, but no signs of Sacrifice. The 'altars' have no relics set into them. Priests are as firmly prohibited from using these 'altars' as any Bergoglio or his Roche could wish. Here, no priest ever offers up the Immaculate Lamb of God ... or holds in his hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which he has ordained ... or drains the chalice of the Great Victim. No voice murmurs in conspectu divinae maiestatis tuae pro nostra et totius mundi salute cum odore suavitatis ascendat. The vox clamantis Ecclesiae is gagged.

Instead, all is quiet, safe, sterility. Any sacred activity is excluded. Here the Eternal God is never evoked to become present in His flesh and blood, before Whom angels bow and devils tremble. There is no risk that the Action for which all this 'Art History' was created by Catholic generation after Catholic generation, might ever happen. Uniformed custodians ensure that well-behaved gawping is the only licit activity.

When we hear that ... for example ... after the Atheistic Russian Revolution, many works of art were removed from their churches and gathered into antiseptic galleries where, liberated from their contexts and their meanings, they are 'conserved' as "Art Works", perhaps we may resent the actions of that atheist state in thus brutally neutering the artifacts of a true but forbidden religion. Certainly, I do.

But do matters stand in any way differently when it is a matter of Aesthetic Capitalism by economic means gathering together the Christian heritage of two millennia and ripping away from every item its cultural context ... let alone its religious meaning ... and, above all, depriving each and every one of them of its salvific function?

13 June 2023

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (5)

If you browse through the Pontificale Romanum as it so admirably was before the post-Conciliar depravations, you will discover that the most solemn liturgical blessings and consecrations both of persons and of things had one constant feature. They began like the Preface of the Mass, with Dominus vobiscum; Sursum corda; Gratias agamus; Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare .... This is how Major Orders were conferred; how Palms/Olives for Palm Sunday, the Chrism and the Paschal Candle, were blessed; how Abbots, Abbesses, Virgins and Queens, Churches and Altars, were solemnly blessed. The custom was, admittedly, not 'primitive'; but it did express very beautifully the 'primitive' understanding that it is by Thanksgiving, Eucharistia, that things are blessed and made over to God.

But since the post-Conciliar disorders, nearly all of that has disappeared from the despoiled rites of the Latin Churches.  Nowadays, apart from the Mass itself, the blessing of the Paschal Candle appears to be the only survival in the Novus Ordo of this noble custom (apparently, in modern liturgical theology, candles are more sacral objects than Bishops or even Virgins!). 

Couratin had provided the Prayer for the Ordination of Priests remodelled with Vere dignum ... restored as its opening. Here we have something more than just an elegant literary embellishment; it is in itself a theological statement. Priests are something more than the merely functional. They are consecrated, changed, just as the Eucharistic Elements themselves are consecrated and changed.

How very ironic and jolly ... that in the century when the Anglo-Catholic Upper Clergy of Oxford were conscientiously leafing through their copies of Pontificale Romanum to discover ways of traditionalising the Prayer Book rites of Ordination, in a different corner of Europe Dom Botte and his associates were beginning to elaborate crafty methods of detraditionalising the Pontificale!


The Rite of Ordination which I have described was only used in one Anglican diocese (as far as I know) and possibly only during two episcopates, those of Kirk and Carpenter. But that Diocese was a rather special star in our Anglican firmament (fuit Troia, fuimus Troiani ...), and Kirk was a profoundly significant figure in that sparkling but now long-vanished Anglo-Catholic world of Dix and Mascall and Farrer and their associates. Surely, it cannot fail to be a matter of interest precisely how just such a bishop solemnly administered the Sacrament of Holy Order in his Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford?

But I hope no-one will imagine that my narrative has anything to do with the old "question" of "the validity of Anglican Orders". On that front, the battle lines are even more strongly fortified than they were 130 years ago. There has been 'South India' ... then the British provinces of the Anglican Communion definitively repudiated the necessity of episcopal Ordination in the 'Porvoo' accord (1992) ... then came the complications of 'admitting' women to sacerdotal ministries ... in the last couple of decades we have had the 'baptismal' explanation of Ordination, which now, apparently, is 'official' in PECUSA (well dissected and analysed by Dr Colin Podmore; I plan to reprint some of my earlier thoughts on this over the next day or so).

No; despite all the silly froth of "Ecumenism", the gap between Tradition and Anglicanism, in the question of Ordination, gapes far wider than ever it did before 'the ARCIC Accords'. 

Suggestions sometimes emerge in Rome regarding ways of nuancing its ruling that Anglican Orders are invalid. Some five years ago, one Cardinal Coccopalmerio published an article ... 

At a time when Anglicans worldwide, in their theology and in their praxis, are moving more and more strongly and definitively away from Catholic teaching on priesthood, this seems a strangely perverse time to drop such hints.

It is not the Catholic Church which has been turning its back on Anglican 'partners in dialogue', and slamming all the doors shut. 

Remember: Anglicanism is the Boris Johnson of the Ecumenical landscape.

If you ever believe a word it says, more fool you.


No; what happened in Bishop Kirk's Oxford was a last brilliant efflorescence of Tradition within Anglicanism. It illustrates how fast the waters can come flooding in, once the military men have blown up the dam.

But there may be an exemplary function in my story. This is what can happen when you lack a Petrine Ministry, and Tradition is up for everyone to lunge at.  Here is the tragedy of Bergoglianity: its senile, bloated and pompous hyperpapalism has robbed us of the Papacy we are entitled to have; a doctrinal Rock; a reliable remora. There are lessons Catholics can learn from the long, still on-going, Anglican tragedy.

So how did matters conclude among these dreaming spires?

Nobody now can sing the old song about 

How happy are those Oxford flocks
How free from heretics;
Their clergy all so orthodox
Their Bishop orthoDix. 

Bishop Harry Carpenter was succeeded by Kenneth Woolcombe, an enthusiast for the the ordination of women who was put in despite scant experience of the parochial ministry, because he was regarded as a high-flyer who would almost certainly go on to Canterbury.

In today's Oxford's immensely troubled Anglican church life, OrthoDixy is not even a fragrant memory.



12 June 2023

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (4)

Continues ...
Couratin made further additions from the Pontifical; before the Ordination Prayer he included a translation of the formula Oremus fratres carissimi ...; and, during the administration of Holy Communion, the Choir were to sing the Jam non dicam vos servos .... He introduced the Offering by the Newly-ordained to the Bishop, and provided a formula: the Pontiff said "I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness: I will sing and speak praises unto the Lord"; and the choir sang "Ye have not chosen me ...". Then, during "The offering of the Bread and Wine" the choir sang "Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech". It is not difficult to detect here a determination to restore that sense of Sacrifice and Priesthood which Apostolicae curae had complained that Cranmer had eliminated.

Apostolicae curae did, however, have a point. By eliminating the part of the Roman Canon which followed the Consecration, the Prayer Book Rite presented Anglo-Catholics with a problem. Having successfully taught their laity that the bread and wine truly became the Lord's Body and Blood, they found they had a rite in which the Consecration now appeared merely to be a way of securing the Presence so that it could be adored and/or received. This was accentuated by the growing practice of singing the Agnus Dei after the Consecration. My learned predecessor at S Thomas's, Trevor Jalland, observed "Thus the whole attention of the worshippers is concentrated on the Presence at the very time when there should be thought of sacrificial offering" (This our Sacrifice, 1933, 146sqq.). He went on to suggest that "a partial remedy lies ready to hand". He recommended the use of hymns "expressive of the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist", mentioning in particular one of a number of hymns composed by W W H Jervois designed to paraphrase parts of the Unde et memores and to teach the doctrine of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice for the departed as well as for the living. This hymn was duly introduced into the Oxford rite of Ordination between the Consecration and the Agnus Dei.

It appears with the title "Hymn at the Consecration", and reads: Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants/ Here set before thee Christ thy well-beloved,/ All-perfect Offering, Sacrifice immortal,/ Spotless Oblation.// See now thy children, making intercession/ Through him our Saviour, Son of God incarnate,/ For all thy people, living and departed,/ Pleading before thee. It was often sung in Anglo-Catholic churches (as late as the 1960s in Pusey Chapel in Oxford) after the Consecration, while the Celebrant said various things secreto. (I would be interested if anyone had evidence bearing on how widespread this usage was.)

The Bull Apostolicae curae had accurately complained that ""not only is there in the whole [Anglican] Ordinal no clear mention of sacrifice, of consecration, of priesthood, of the power to consecrate and offer sacrifice". The 'Oxford' form of priestly Ordination, however, can hardly be said to lack mention of Sacrifice! The whole congregation sang about it!

This little booklet produced for the guidance of the congregation does not mention the Latin Church's ancient custom of Concelebration by the newly ordained. But at the rehearsal, the Precentor, Fr Michael Watts, a product of St Stephen's House in the era of Canon Couratin, explained (1968) about Concelebration to the ordinands, and instructed them what to do. I remember this clearly!

Perhaps the most striking changes made by Couratin concerned the central Ordination Prayer of the Rite. As left by Cranmer, this failed to ask the Almighty to do anything whatsoever to the Ordinands. Couratin made three changes. He printed the heading "The Prayer for the Holy Spirit". Following the draft Prayer Book of 1928, which Parliament had rejected, he inserted into the Prayer a request that God would "endue them with all grace needful for their calling". And (again following 1928) he significantly changed the opening of the Prayer ...  as I plan to explain next time.

11 June 2023

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (3)

Continues ...
The Prayer Book forms of Ordination, unlike those in the Pontifical, provide Proper Collects and Epistles and Gospels. For the highly  'Romanising' form of the Anglican Rite which we are examining, it was necessary to supply what the Prayer Book lacked: such as an Introit, a Gradual, and an Alleluia (in English and in plainchant). Couratin [if my identification of the hand at work here is correct] secured them from a very interesting source. The Introit Hic accipiet benedictionem is from Psalm 23/24; Hic ... Jacob; Domini est terra; Gloria; Hic. It comes from a form disused in the Catholic Church herself since the Conciliar ruptures, the Rite De Clerico faciendo or Tonsure. It is what the Choir sings immediately after the Pontiff has cut the hair of the candidates. In other words, Couratin begins the service by supplying what would have been experienced by the ordinands if they had been taken through the Tonsure and Minor Orders as prescribed in the Pontifical.

The Gradual and Alleluia are from Psalm 14/15 and 15/16 and represent the following: Domine, quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo, aut quis requiescit in monte sancto tuo? V Qui ingreditur sine macula et operatur justitiam; qui loquitur veritatem in corde suo. Alleluia. Alleluia. V Dominus pars haereditatis meae et calicis mei: tu es qui restitues haereditatem meam mihi. Alleluia. This Alleluia incorporates the words which the ordinand was required to say while the Bishop was actually cutting his hair. Pope Benedict XVI took it to heart and remembered it all his life, quoting it in his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia in 2007. "This is marvellously expressed in a verse of a  priestly Psalm that we - the older generation - spoke during our admittance to the clerical state: 'The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot'. The priest praying in this psalm interprets his life on the basis of the distribution of territory as established in Deuteronomy. After taking possession of the land, every tribe obtained by drawing of lots its portion of the Holy Land and, with this, took part in the gift promised to the people of God. The tribe of Levi alone received no land: its land was God himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical significamce. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating the earth, but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The true foundation of the priestly life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself. The Church in this Old Testament interpretation of the priestly life has rightly seen ... the following of the Apostles in communion with Jesus  himself, as the explanation of what the priestly mission means. The priest can and must say today with the Levite Dominus pars haereditatis meae et calicis mei. God himself is my portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence. ..."
To be continued.

10 June 2023

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (2)

I suspect Couratin of having the large hand in producing this booklet, because when I was a seminarian at Staggers under Fr Derek Allen, the liturgical dispositions put in place by Canon Couratin were still in place. There was a particular style about them; that of accommodating Anglican formulae to a Tridentine Roman mindset. I can't express it better than thus, and with the following examples, which those of you with a certain sort of background will understand: at the Divine Office, we used to say the Collect of the Day with the standard longer conclusion, then the last two of the three final collects sub una conclusione with the longer ending after the last one (instead of Cranmer's varied conclusions after each one). 

At the start of Lent, a notice went up signed by the Bishop of the Diocese formally dispensing members of the House from the strict observance of the Lenten Fast. Mass Practice sessions inculcated the Tridentine ceremonial even in the case of seminarians who would, in their title parishes, be marrying up that ceremonial to Cranmer's libretto. So Couratin's my hunch; but, out of honesty, I'd better give you evidence for different conclusions.

When Kirk became Bishop of Oxford, certain changes were made which are described in the biography of Kirk written by his son-in-law, Eric Kemp, long-time Bishop of Chichester. These were masterminded by his friend Canon Dr N P Williams [who also used to help out at S Thomas's]. Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost were henceforth marked by a Pontifical High Mass. Kirk was given a full set of pontifical vestments, which he used on these and other occasions (they may the ones which he bequeathed to his episcopal son-in-law). "The ceremonial of the ordination was carefully worked out by Williams and E C Ratcliff, and later on was under the direction of A H Couratin ...". Ratcliff was a most distinguished liturgist with a passion for the Roman Canon; he did a great deal in collaboration with Couratin, who had an instinctive understanding of his mind. If the little booklet I am examining was the product of Ratcliff and Couratin working together, this would fit the data. It's just that I am a trifle doubtful about evidence for Williams' hand in it. (He was dead by the time of the publication of the booklet; but, of course, there could have been an earlier version of the booklet.)

So, when in the next instalments, I refer to "Couratin", what I really mean is ... whichever of these three, severally or in which combinations, did it.


9 June 2023

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (1)

The Choir.
Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, qui ...

is how the little book begins; it was among my late Mother's effects. On the cover it reads: "This book is the property of the Diocese of Oxford and must not be taken away." But my Mother, God rest her soul, was rather inclined to keep little mementos of memorable occasions; and this was "The Form and Manner of Making and Ordaining of Deacons and Priests"; and she preserved it as a memento of my Deaconing in 1967 and my Priesting on 9 June 1968 in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford. It has some interesting features.

... fifty five short years ago ...

It bears no date; but bibliographical considerations narrow its printing down to the period 1945-1947; and thus to the episcopate (1937-1955) of Kenneth Escott Kirk, predecessor of the Bishop Harry Carpenter who ordained me. 

I look upon both of these as sacerdotes valde magni; incidentally, for those Catholics (sometimes they write to me) to whom the papal condemnation of Anglican Orders in Apostolicae curae is a very important part of their Faith, I will in passing point out that each of those two bishops received the episcopate from coconsecrators including Bishop Bertram Fitzgerald Simpson, who was himself raised to the 'Old Catholic', i.e. Dutch Schismatic but indubitably valid, episcopate in 1932 by Henry Theodore John Vlijmen, Bishop of Haarlem (utpote per consecratorem aequiprincipalem). Rome has never condemned 'Old Catholic' Orders, and, indeed, accepts them as valid. Simpson left it on record that when he took part in subsequent consecrations, he carefully intended always to pass on the Dutch, as well as the Anglican, episcopal succession.

I defy any reader  to deny that there are ironies in the following: during the generation when, in sunny Oxford, Canon Couratin and his associates were engaged in heavily tridentinising the Anglican rites of Ordination, in some dark and dank Roman cellar, Dom Botte and his coetus were busily at work mangling horribly the ordination rites in the Pontificale Romanum

(Incidentally, I believe I am right in saying that Bishop Kirk used to consecrate the oils according to the Roman Pontifical (preConciliar, of course) in the Benedictine Abbey at Nashdom, within his diocese, where Mass and all the Offices were done in Latin. I wonder if he was the first Church of England diocesan bishop since Tudor times to consecrate the Holy Oils?)

Ecce sacerdos magnus is a significant starter to a service; it is what is sung in Catholic churches when a Bishop enters solemnly for a great liturgical, pontifical, occasion. Bishops Kirk and Carpenter certainly regarded themselves as Catholic Bishops in the fullest Catholic sense; both were distinguished Anglo-Catholic scholars and Oxford academics and it was Kirk who masterminded the collection The Apostolic Ministry (1946) which defended Catholic doctrines of priesthood and episcopacy. 

Among his close friends (and an Honorary Chaplain from 1946) was Canon Arthur Hubert Couratin, Principal of St Stephen's House (from 1936 until 1962; died 1988) and a considerable liturgist both theoretical and practical. He used to bring his 'circus', a gang of seminarian servers, to the Cathedral in order to 'do' Kirk's ordinations. I believe, from internal evidence, that the little book I am considering is a collaboration between Kirk and Couratin; and it exhibits ... as I have said ... some very interesting features, of which Ecce sacerdos magnus is but the first.
To be continued. This is in five parts, and I shall not enable any comments until all five have appeared.

8 June 2023

Corpus Christi and the Black Rabbit

  ... ... and, to my previous post, I could have added the Aegean islands with their mixed congregations, where, in those happy days of amity in the eighteenth century, on Corpus Christi Day the Greek bishops and clergy used to emerge from their churches and offer incense to their Redeemer as He passed on His way.

In my youff, I used to read our then newspaper, the Dome, which usually had an appropriate picture in the number after Corpus Christi. I seem to remember that, on one Corpus Christi, two Anglican Catholic parish processions in North London accidentally met on the same stretch of road. I wonder how O'Connell would have sorted that out.

At Lancing, we had a very fine neo-Gothic monstrance ... of tabernacling design rather than sunburst ... bronze and massive. The woman from the V & A said it was of Belgian origin. I had purchased it for the Chapel from one of those jolly chaps who used to move around in the 1970s, picking up odds and ends from papist churches and monasteries which no longer had any use for them, and then selling them on to us Anglicans; you could get some superb stuff dirt cheap. One Corpus Christi, we had Bishop Colin Docker (Wycliffe Hall!!!) coming and had organised the procession to be inside our (Cathedral-dimensioned) chapel. I drew the bishop's attention to the considerable weight of the monstrance; with lordly episcopal dismissiveness, he indicated that such mundane considerations were no problem to him.

But, when we got to the back of the chapel, he murmurred "Would you mind suporting my elbows ..."

I think we, family and students, may have enjoyed, most of all, Arundel on Corpus Christi Thursday ... Procession from the (RC) Cathedral to the Castle ... Benediction at a temporary altar in the Castle quadrangle ... then, perhaps, off for drinks on the river banks at the Black Rabbit ... hurling missiles at passing perches and roaches ...

I wonder if the CBCEW has abolished the Black Rabbit in the spirit of the Traditionis custodes agenda of outlawing rigid fun.

"They" will not find it so easy to row back to that culture ... to those times when, in my (garbled, you say?) recollections, the sun always seemed to be shining ...



(1) It seemed to me very jejune to leave this great feast with the Common Preface, as the not-entirely-satisfactory Missal of 1962 did. Many people were happier with the older usage of employing the Nativity Preface. Communities enjoying an indult used the 'Gallican' Preface from the 1738 Paris Missal. This, happily, was authorised by the 2020 CDF legislation.

(2) What a shame we don't have a Patristic Preface for the Blessed Sacrament ... but stay: we could have had! The Verona ('Leonine') Sacramentary provided, at Christmas, a superb little Preface (VD tuae laudis hostiam), mentioning ... as you would expect ... the 'typical' figures of Abel, Passover Lamb, Abraham, and Melchisedek. Beautifully Roman; elegantly phrased and terse enough to have come from a very august papal pen.

(3) The EF and OF texts in Missal and Breviary for Corpus Christi are robustly supersessionist. Take the Lauda Sion (novum Pascha novae Legis Phase vetus terminat; Vetustatem novitas, umbram fugat veritas, noctem lux eliminat) and the Pange lingua (et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui). Comments on this blog in 2016 established that German "translations" of the Liturgia Horarum, as early as the early 1970s, eliminated prayers for the Conversion of the Jews. 

Do German translations of S Thomas's hymns eliminate his supersessionism? Are the German and English hierarchies known to be agitating for the Angelic Doctor to be mutilated ('abelardised'?) so to make him Politically Correct?

Father Faber and the Feast of Corpus Christi

A most blessed feast of Corpus Christi to all readers.

"We think ... of all the thousands of masses which are being said or sung the whole world over, and all rising with one note of blissful acclamation, from grateful creatures, to the Majesty of our merciful Creator. 

How many glorious processions, with the sun upon their banners, are now winding their way round the squares of mighty cities, through the flower-strewn streets of Christian villages, through the antique cloisters of the glorious cathedral, or through the grounds of the seminary, where the various colours of the faces, and the different languages of the people are only so many fresh tokens of the unity of that faith which they are all exultingly professing in the single voice of the magnificent ritual of Rome! 

Upon how many altars of various architecture, amid sweet flowers and starry lights, amid clouds of humble incense, and the tumult of thrilling song, before thousands of prostrate worshippers, is the Blessed Sacrament raised for exposition, or taken down for benediction! And how many blessed acts of faith and love, of triumph and of reparation, do not each of these things surely represent! 

The world over, the summer air is filled with the voice of song. The gardens are shorn of their fairest blossoms, to be flung beneath the feet of the Sacramental God. The steeples are reeling with the clang of bells; the cannon are booming in the gorges of the Andes and the Appenines; the ships of the harbours are painting the bays of the sea with their show of gaudy flags; the pomp of royal or republican armies salutes the King of kings. 

The Pope on his throne, and the school-girl in her village, cloistered nuns, and sequestered hermits, bishops and dignitaries and preachers, emperors and kings and princes, all are engrossed to-day with the Blessed Sacrament ... "

Viva il Fabbro!!! May Christendom return!

7 June 2023


As we look prayerfully foreward to the next pontificate, I find the Gamaliel of Acts 5:33-42 more and more in my mind.

I pray that we may not fall into the temptation of vindictiveness. I pray indeed that Tradition may recover from the dark stranglehold that this weird pontificate has striven to impose upon it. But the last thing the Church needs, I believe, is a reverse version of the Bergoglian hatreds ... directed against other movements in the Church.

The Spirit moves where He wills. We do not need another pontificate in which some angry and narrow-minded man attempts to impose his own conviction that anybody who sees things differently from himself, is rigid and hateful and needs to be smashed.

Nor do we need a continuation of PF''s obsessive micromanagement ... strange documents demanding tthat they come into force at the same moment as tomorrow morning's breakfast croissants ... prescriptions about what rites young newly ordained priests may not be permitted to celebrate ... stringent rules about which churches in a diocese a reprobated rite can be used in, and what information is not allowed to be given in parish news-sheets. When the malevolent gloom of PF no longer casts its shadow over the Latin churches, we don't want another species of gloom, another list of obsessions, a new canon of papal personal hatreds.

The Anglican Catholic Manifesto Catholicity of 1947 spoke appreciatively and wisely about the preservation in the post-Tridentine Catholic Church of the many-sidedness of medieval Church-life; about the vastness and richness of its organic life and the existence of strong theological tensions within a single ecclesiastical body, with the spontaneity and vitality which such contained tensions always bring to theological and ecclesiastical thinking. 

Heresy, of course, does need to be repressed; but not every new and strange idea is necessarily a heresy.

Didn't somebody once talk about a thousand blossoms flourishing?

We might be ... should be ... surprised about what the Spirit might bring to pass.

6 June 2023


A big Thank You to Pope John XXII for this great feast!

'Really?' you cry, 'surely everybody knows it was ordered to be observed by Urban IV in 1264, through the bull Transiturus'. Well, yes, up to a point, Lord Copper. But the strange thing is that this bull had no ... or very little ... actual effect. It even appears (a strange crowd, those medievals) that the observance was not even kept in the papal court itself!!!

It was not until John XXII sent to the entire Western hierarchy, in 1317, a collection of decretals called the Clementines that it began to be universally observed. And Transiturus had not mentioned such things as Exposition and Processions of the Sacrament. Although there may be a very few references to such activities between 1264 and 1317, it was after that date that a great wave of enthusiasm for the cultus of the Blessed Sacrament swept the Church.

Corpus Christi as you know it and love it results from John XXII seizing the moment when the devotional mood of the faithful was exactly ready for it.

Through most of the first 1200 years of the Church's history, there was no 'devotion to the Blessed Sacrament' as we know it. The Sacrament was indeed known to be truly the Body if the Lord and was reserved so that it could be administered to the sick. But there was no sense that it also afforded a focus for adoration and for a direct relationship with our Lord verily present. That was a precious gift of which the faithful became aware in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. And it was the example of what John XXII did when he had the Host carried in glorious rite through the streets of the papal city, Avignon, that was emulated throughout the Catholic world and which provided the pattern for what you, I trust, are doing this Corpus-Christi-tide.

Three cheers for the Avignon papacy and for the greatest of the Avignon popes, John XXII!

5 June 2023

Can a Catholic criticise a Pope??

 The last Primate of England to be in Full Communion with the See of S Peter, Archbishop Heath, said in the House of Lords: "[Paul IV had been] a very austere stern father unto us, ever since his first entraunce into Peter's chayre ... by our leaping out of Peter's shippe, we must nedes be overwhelmed by the waters of schism, sects and divisions."

Papa Caraffa, in terms of international politics, had a great dislike  of the Spanish Interest. I believe Cardinal Pole, when he died, had been stripped of his legatine powers and summoned to Rome to be tried for heresy; and that Caraffa, indeed, used to refer to Pole's associates as his "Lutheran Household". 

How much was English Catholicism weakened by Caraffa's delays in filling empty bishoprics and his hostility to this Kingdom?

I wonder how much guilt that pope bears for Elizabeth Tudor and the long Protestant centuries; for the rope and the rack.

4 June 2023


 The late Fr Jerome Bertram recounts, concerning the now defunct seminary at Wonersh, that "The buildings had been greatly expanded in 1962, for the then bishop of Southark [Cyril Cowderoy] was sure that the forthconing General Council would trigger such a vast increase in priestly vocations that double the capacity would be needed. All those extra priests would then fan out over the diocese to serve the enormously increased congregations of eager converts that would come flooding into the church as soon as the longed-for reforms had begun to take effect.".

Six decades later, 3 July 2021, Wonersh was closed down. The latest intake of seminarians had numbered, er, nil.

PF and his cronies still talk about the need to implement Vatican II. But, as generation has followed generation, the English bishops have closed seminaries. They are neither fools nor fantasists. They do not repetitively explain that it's all just a matter of time: "we must keep the empty seminaries ticking over until the inevitable Vatican II tsunami of new seminarians come along ... we know we shall soon need these buildings ..."

The English bishops are not fools or fantasists. They can detect a busted flush when it comes clearly enough into view. There was never a 'Vatican II effect' and sixty years after the Council, however much Popes keep on about it, the bishops have no illusions: their dwindling congregations can no longer support the empty echoing corridors of unused seminaries. Keeping their fingers crossed that, any day now, the miracle will happen, is no longerr treated as an option.

Every time the bishops have closed a seminary, that action has in fact been a massive, public admission, before God and before the World, that the Vatican II miracle did not happen and it is not now expected that it will happen.

So what has become, in the Church life of our time, of "Vatican II"?

It has metamorphosed into a mantra. Implement Vatican II means Smash Tradition.

In our time, the question has become sharper and nastier because, unlike his predecessors, PF has a shrill and violent hatred of Tradition.

We have seen this in his attitude to the Holy Spirit. His professed conviction has been that the Holy Spirit will manifest himself suddenly, unexpectedly, and in unexpected forms. We must be open to this. 

But when something unexpected does show itself, PF just doesn't want to know. The interest of younger generations in Tradition, not least in liturgical Tradition, drives him into uncontrollable fury. 

Does anybody know if the Trustees of the Franciscans of the Immaculate have yet been bullied into surrendering their property and assets?

What's the latest news on that property in Sloane Square?

But PF is still a happy man, sending out cartloads of Roches with instructions to boldly smash where nobody has smashed before.


3 June 2023

Catholic Cornwall

The First and Last Anglican church in the land is at St Just. Happy memories: it was on the notice board of that ('Ebbsfleet') church that I first saw the news of the election of papa Ratzinger. Less happy memories are presented by churches which were once great Catholic shrines, back in the days when the Truro diocese had the reputation of being the most Catholic in the Church of England. Bishop Graham Leonard, the great praecursor of the Ordinariate, whose portrait hangs proudly in our Ordinary's study, epitomised that tradition. Ecce sacerdos valde magnus. But the last two or three bishops of Truro, obedient servants of the Zeitgeist, put paid to it all. So many Altars now with women; so many Tabernacles with cobwebs.

Sometimes impertinent people hijack our Patrimonial fathers and apply some condescending argument to the effect that the 'papalism' of those great figures was so conditioned by the circumstances of the time that it doesn't really 'count'. So the heroic Fr Bernard Walke of St Hilary, who had to watch his church being wrecked by a protestant mob, had the heroism of his witness neutered decades later by the disdain of the smoothly unpleasant Donald Allchin. But Walke's words are just as powerful and as relevant now as when he wrote them in 1935: '[I] was convinced that the Catholic movement in the Church of England, which began in the discovery of the Church as a divine institution, could have no other end but a corporate union with the Apostolic See of Rome. Outside that unity there could be no assurance of the preservation of the faith and morals of the Christian revelation'. This is indeed the conviction which has brought us into the Ordinariate.

Notice there the words and morals. Fr Walke did indeed begin his incumbency by immediately replacing Prayer Book Mattins with the Tridentine Rite; but he was not some silly 'smells and bells' but unprincipled high churchman. Not long before he wrote, the Lambeth Conference had begun, albeit tentatively, the long but unambiguous process of uncoupling Anglicanism from the common ancient tradition of historic Christendom with regard to sexual morality, by admitting the possibility of artificial contraception. Only, of course, in the rarest and most exceptional cases. Where would the liberal agenda be if wedges did not have such very thin ends?

I am sure Walke had this in mind, and how right his prognosis has proved to be. It is instructive to compare his words with those of Bishop Gore, in a pamphlet which can be found on PROJECT CANTERBURY. Gore, a 'non-papal catholic', was a good enough scholar to know that what had happened at Lambeth was a disaster, both ethical and ecclesiological, of major proportions. But, blind to the significance in the divine dispensation of the Roman Primacy, his paper, for all its erudition, quite simply flounders.

We must pray that the divinely instituted Roman Primacy may soon be again as great and unambiguous a bulwark against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil as it was in the days of Pope Pius XI ... and of Fr Bernard Walke and Bishop Gore. What is a decade of hiatus sub specie aeternitatis?

2 June 2023

Poor Poppet Pollock

 There seems to be some sort of silly rumour that the Catholic bishop of East Anglia might have banned the celebration of the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite in the Catholic Shrine at Walsingham. I can't find what seems to me a reliable account of what, if anything, has happened. Probably absolutely nothing has! That is my hope! So, in what follows, I unreservedly withdraw a radice anything which seems critical of his Lordship and which does not accurately describe the current situation. Vivat Episcopus!

Frankly, I have never liked the 'Chapel of Reconciliation' outside Walsingham; and the attached Slipper Chapel was, after all, never intended to be a 'shrine'. If we who are devoted to the Authentic Use of the Roman Rite were to be (constructively) banned from using that complex, this would cause me, personally, vastly little distress.

We have ... in a community sense ... been here before. Nothing is ever exactly like anything else in History, but I can't help recalling that the Bishop of Norwich once required the Vicar, Fr Hope Patten, to remove the statue and shrine which Father had set up in his (Anglican) parish Church. Father did so ... although the style and manner of the 'removal' may not have been exactly what the bishop, poor poppet Pollock, had had in mind.

" ... a procession with over a thousand people walking, each bearing his or her lighted taper; many women in blue veils, little children in white casting their flowers; dark-habited religious, nuns and monks; over a hundred priests in cassock and cotta; the mitred Abbot of Pershore and Bishop O'Rorke. Behind streamed the many hundreds of other people, all singing the glories of Mary, and in the midst of this throng, high and lifted up upon the shoulders of four clergy in dalmatics, and under a blue and gold canopy fixed to the feretory, sat the venerated figure of our Lady, crowned with the silver Oxford Crown, and robed in a mantle of cloth of gold."

Hope Patten had constructed a replica of the Medieval Holy House in the village; and here the 'removed' statue "was enthroned in the niche prepared above the altar ... ". 

If any attempt were ever to be made to discourage the use of the Authentic Form in the Catholic Shrine, which God forbid, what would be the obvious remedy? The old Anglican Catholic solution which would have been urged by the Fynes Clinton generation would probably have been the provision of a Modest Private Facility in the village, containing perhaps a couple of altars, safe from the prohibitions of the bishop; clergy could book to celebrate the Authentic Form in the Modest Facility but use the Anglican Shrine, or the Priory ruins, or both, for ancillary devotions. 

But perhaps this is just that tadge too red-bloodedly Nineteen Thirties??

Deipara numquam exstirpanda, ritus Romanus non exstirpandus. 

1 June 2023

Octaves, High Priests ...

In the palmy days before Venerable Pius XII, Mondays and Tuesdays within the Octaves of Easter and Pentecost, rather as in the Book of Common Prayer, were incredibly Doubles of the First Class. But for the rest of the week, the days were semidoubles and not nearly as pompous (when did you last wake up and cry "It's a semidouble! I'd better put a bottle of Cava to chill to have with my breakfast!"?).  

So Wednesday, yesterday, you would have commemorated S Angela Merici!! Even if you were not on the exquisite shores of Lake Garda!

And, in those verily antique times, you could, Father, say (or at least commemorate) a Votive of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Priest, on the first Thursday of most months ... like today. 

Gracious! PF and his minions have put OLJC Priest back onto the Thursday within the Octave of Pentecost as a Festum! Like today!

How can anybody deny that the Supreme Calendarist and Capital Ordo Compiler in the Heavenly Places has and demonstrates a sense of humour?

Proper Last Gospel, of course. I wonder if PF is aware of that refinement.

When I was a callow curate in the 1960s, and the then 'experimental' rite of the C of E contained the phrase "Seeing we have a Great High Priest ...", I was once approached by a rather troubled lady who said "I don't like to think of Him as a High Priest  ... I prefer to think of Him as just an ordinary person ..."

I was completely non-plussed. I just mumbled some completely useless piece of information like  "Well., it's in the Bible ...". 

After all, it was hardly entirely my fault that a lifetime in the C of E had left her uninstructed in the Letter to the Hebrews.