30 September 2023

Our Lady of Victory and the Blavatnik School of Government

What a telling title: our Lady of Victory. So very Western Catholic; so Counter-Reformation ; so baroque; so redolent of the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the 1920s and 1930s. When I was an undergraduate, the Church of S Paul up Walton Street was still a Church and did not yet have the gleaming rotundity of the Blavatnik School of Government looming over it. Inside, was a splendiferous statue of our Lady of Victory.

Our Lady of Victory ... You couldn't possibly imagine, could you, Byzantine Christians giving the Theotokos a title like that ...

Well, of course, they did. One of those Greeks did write a hymn to Mary as the hypermachos strategos with an aprosmakheton kratos (the Protecting General with an irresistible power). If the Orthodox had Hymns Ancient and Modern, you would probably find in it a paraphrase of the Hymnos Akathistos beginning: Stand up, stand up, for Mary. Or, taking my fantasy even further, imagine some Orthodox Sabine Baring Gould writing Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war; with the Robe of Mary, going on before.

I think it was a great shame that Oxford's benefactor Mr Blavatnik, a gentleman of Russian heritage, was not encouraged to convert the remains of S Paul's, lately reduced to the status of a sort of night-club, into a Church attached to his school of Government, crowning it with a traditionally Russian dome, and dedicating it to the Hypermachos Strategos. I don't blame him personally; this University is now so horribly secularised.

East and West may wear different clothes, but their realities are often so uncannily similar. Because, of course, the title our Lady of Victory, just like the Akathist hymn, does have its military associations. That great Pontiff, S Pius V, established the Feast of our Lady of Victory to celebrate the triumph of Christian arms at the battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, a victory won by the countless rosaries which clanked through the hands of the Rosary Confraternities of Western Europe.

29 September 2023


 One of the horrors of our society ... I don't know if this is peculiar to Blighty ... is the murder, apparently for sexual motives, of small children, especially of small girls. (I have a horrible suspicion that, half a millennium ago, blame might so unjustly have fallen on the Jewish community.)

A common social phenomenon which follows these atrocities, is the creation in our public spaces of great banks of 'teddy bears' and other items apparently associated mentally, in the minds of the sympathetic, with small children. I have never seen a rationale of this custom. Is it an instinctive memory of the logic of sacrifice? Perhaps there are analogies in other equally primitive societies which might throw light upon the mental processes involved? Plausibly, it is a variant of the events surrounding the death, and subsequent cult, of Diana Spencer?

These mounds of infantilia are often accompanied by inscriptions implying that the victims are now Little Angels In Heaven.

'Angels' are not, in the Christian Tradition, anything like the apotheosed souls of murdered toddlers. As we all know, Angels are mighty messengers of the Almighty. In as far as many modern toddlers have been left unbaptised, these are still marked by Original Sin ... unlike the unfallen Angels. 

So how are to think of 'Christian' angels? I don't know; and C S Lewis did not know either. But the advantage of his hypothetical pictures is their otherness ... their unlikeness to inherited iconographical assumptions. No wings; no feathers!

"Already the whole house would have seemed to him to be tilting and plunging like a ship in a Bay of Biscay gale.  He would have been horribly compelled to feel this Earth not as the bottom of the universe but as a ball spinning, and rolling onwards, both at delirious speed, and not through emptiness but through some densely inhabited and intricately structured medium.  He would have known sensuously, until his outraged senses forsook him, that the visitants in that room were in it, not because they were at rest but because they glanced and wheeled through the packed reality of Heaven (which men call empty space), to keep their beams upon this spot of the moving Earth's hide."

And their power? The Angel, Oyarsa, of Language can unmake Language, thus reducing 'Language' to gibberish (is there an overlap here with 1984?): "The madrigore of verjuice must be talthibianised ... The surrogates esemplanted in a continual of porous variations ... We shall not till we can secure the erebation of all prostundiary initems ..."

And is it 'Medieval' or 'superstitious' to imagine vast numbers of different Angels or differently ranked angels? How so? The physical world is described to us in a a wildly rich variety and pluriformity; if it is not 'medieval' to think of England as having 365 different species of bumble bee, what are the problems about Angels?


28 September 2023

The Evils of Latinisation: chaos in Kerala

Those of my generation may remember how, when we were a great deal younger, we were very indignant about the 'latinisation' of Eastern Rites. Apparently, there were were evil Latins who went around persuading 'uniates' to evict their iconostases!! You could go into a 'uniate' church and discover that a free-standing statue ... probably S Joseph or possibly even S Patrick ... had been intruded into its pure Byzantine ambience!

How truly, trruly terrrible!

We were reassured to be informed that successive popes had strictly forbidden such liturgical pollutions!

Conceivably, recent events in South India may have given us a better understanding of what 'latinisation' really means.

I suggest it be defined as the excessive influence on one ritual community of a larger, stronger, more world-wide, more culturally self-confident ritual community.

It is not now evidenced by the importation of poor-quality plaster statues of saints whose cultus was prominent in the nineteenth century; its sign now is: Liturgy Facing the People!

So, in Kerala, there is apparently violent resistence to a compromise rule that the Liturgy of the Word is to be facing the People, but that the Eucharistic parts of the Liturgy are to be facing the Altar. This is the result, not of latinising aggression ab extra, but of local clergy and laity appropriating and internalising what, for two generations, they have been (mendaciously) told "the Council" or "the Catholic Church" now required or prefers. By now, it's all most of them have ever known. For them, it is 'Catholic Worship'.

I wonder how many Western Liberals realise that the Chaos in Kerala is the result of Pope Francis insisting that Eucharistic celebrants should ... turn their backs on the People!!

I suspect that the main resistance to 'latinisation' happened in the past when American Latin-Rite bishops behaved with immense moral violence to prevent Oriental clergy from having wives ... Ruthenians ...?!?! but things are different now.

In none of this do I imply any disrespect to South Indian Christians who were heroically keeping the Faith during centuries when we brittunculi were persecuting it. After all, the Church of England went down the same misguided path as the Keralans in the very same period as they did. My recollection is that it was called "Doing Liturgy Ecumenically", or some such la-dee-dah phrase.

How we were all taken in!

27 September 2023

More on Indulgences

Perhaps I am not the only person with a soft spot for those Indulgences, plenary and partial, provided in the [old] Missal for the Thanksgiving of the priest after offering Mass. I wonder if I am the only person to have spotted how many of these became more generous as the decades went by.

For example: O Maria Virgo was granted by Leo XIII (1884) for 100 days, but regranted (1936) by Pius XI for three years ... a pretty decent rate of inflation. The same thing happened to the Prayer to S Joseph and the Prayer to the Saint in whose honour the Prayer has been said.

The 'new' Enchiridion Indulgentiarum offers partial indulgences generically for, apparently, all prayers of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion. Couldn't go more generous than that! But it can be pedantically careful in what it gives as examples. 

Take this. The old Missal offered, for Adoro te devote, 100 days Leo (XIII 1884) or 5 years (Pius XI 1936). But in the 'new' Enchiridion, it does not appear at all as an example for use in Thanksgiving after Mass or Communion. I suspect this may be for a reason: the wording of the Prayer suggests that a person will be saying the Prayer during a visit to the Blessed Sacrament ... i.e to the Most Holy extra se. So it is included in that section of the Enchiridion. Of course, if you were to say it before leaving the Presence in the Tabernacle ...

Two of the old prayers do survive explicitly in the 'new' Enchiridion. The old Missal offered as partial indulgences in Thanksgiving after Mass Anima Christi (it was 7 years; now, of course, like all of them, simply 'partial'); and En ego (which from 1858 used only to be offered as plenary, and was then granted in 1934 as partial, for 10 years, and is now simply 'partial').

I remind readers that the same authority which granted all those old indulgences appears, except in some vague generic sense, now to have withdrawn them. Whether we like it or not.

26 September 2023

Inigo Jones

 I am not an admirer of Sir Christopher Wren. I would recommend anybody who is tempted to such admiration to read Howard Colvin's exposition (Unbuilt Oxford) of the total architectural illogic of his first design, the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.

How happier a city London would be if the excuse of the 'Fire' had not been used to dynamite away its better bits of architecture. How much more beautiful a city, if the famous 'Elevation' which Inigo Jones designed for the West Front of S Paul's Cathedral had been completed and had survived. London would have had a Cathedral which sat comfortably in that great international family of majestic Baroque churches which includes or included the Gesu in Rome and San Ambrogio in Genoa. It was not until the Oratory Church was built at Brompton that our poor mean capital city acquired the dignity of such a worthy building.

One detail of Jones's design intrigues me. High up on his design, he includes the Sacred Name surrounded by a sunburst which, in my understanding, is a specifically Jesuit symbol.

Was Jones unaware of this?

25 September 2023


Evelyn Waugh, who had some experience of the chaotic end of World War II, gives an account of a cargo of escaping refugees.

"There was a detachment of Slovene royalists, a few Algerian nationals, the remnants of Syrian anarchist association, ten patient Turkish prostitutes, four French Petainist millionaires, a few Bulgarian terrorists, a half-dozen former Gestapo men, an Italian air-marshal and his suite, a Hungarian ballet, some Portuguese Trotskyites. The English-speaking group consisted chiefly of armed deserters from the American and British Armies of Liberation. They had huge sums of money distributed about the linings of their clothes, the reward of many months' traffic round the docks of the central sea."

One large ingredient of these refugees was, of course, Jewish groups on their way East. Waugh's hero, a dim English Public School Classics Master, escapes with one such group to "No. 64 Jewish Illicit Immigrants' Camp, Palestine." 

24 September 2023

The Glory of Chastity (2)

 A few decades ago, Blair Worsden wondered how far the ideology of the Stuart Court extended in the Society of the 1630s. Indeed. Readers will probably think first of John Milton's Comus (athough the focus there is more on Virginity than on Conjugal Love). 

In 1993 I published a paper (Transactions of the Dumfriesshire ... LXVIII) explaining and contextualising the sculptural masony at Caerlaverock Castle; I think I successfully showed that the ethos of King Charles' court was taking easy root among the intermarried recusant nobility of South-West Scotland. Lord Nithsdale's attachment to the Court's baroque, Catholic, international culture is clear enough. The iconography he displayed, indeed, can be traced back to Jesuit pattern books.

When he built, the weather had already let his family and his Church down in 1588. But he could not know how completely the Personal Rule would collapse in 1640, or how Protestant the weather would be in 1688 and 1744-5. 

It is not hindsight that wiull help us to understand what was in his mind as he set his masons to work at Caerlaverock in 1634 ... nor what Inigo Jones intended to inculcate in the sumptuous Masques with which he regaled Whitehall in the same decade.

23 September 2023

The Glory of Chastity (1)

 In the first half of the seventeenth century, a dramatic art form became important among the English elite and its intelligentsia. It was known as the 'Court Masque'; these performances were staged in a specially designed and highly sophisticated theatre in Whitehall. In the prime seats, on the lines of vision which offered the perfect perspectives, were the King and Queen. Much of the acting was done by the nobility. Sets; clothing; music, everything was of the best. The texts were embodiments of verbal sensuality. 

For much of this period, the mastermind was the arch-intellectual of the decades, Inigo Jones.

But the ideology offered was of chaste, marital, love. Immorality was reprobated. The Royal Couple, examples to the entire the entire community of conjugal fidelity and mutual , exclusive passion, were in every way and every sense, central.

Perhaps the climactic Masque was to be Caelum Britannicum in 1634. The text was by Thomas Carew ... except that I rather share the view that it was a bit above him. The section round about line 300 is an advanced example of what the Romans had liked to admire as doctrina. It looks to me as though the real author might have been the mighty Jones himself. However that may be, the theme is that Heaven must be purified of the the sexual immorality which it expresses through all those constellations which derive from Ovidian tales of divine sexual liaisons. 

"Not, as of old, to whisper amorous talesof wanton love into the glowing ear of some choice beauty" ... Jupiter's 'loose strumpets'. "The Lawgiver in his own person observes his decrees so punctually; who, besides, to eternize the memory of that great example of matrimonial union which he derives from hence, hath on his bedroom door and ceiling , fretted with stars, in capital letters engraven the inscription of CARLOMARIA."

But there has to be a cultural counterpoint to st off all this virtue: the figure Momus. And Momus, even in this context of strongly asserted virtue, has no problems about bawdy humour of the most explicitly 'smutty' kind. Queen Henrietta Maria, apparently, had no inhibitions about enjoying such humour as this elaboration of the Greek mythology involving, Hebe, goddess of Youth: "Hebe through the lubricity of the pavement tumbling over the halfpace, presented the emblem of the forked tree [mandrake], and discovered to the tanned Ethiops the snowy cliffs of Calabria with the grotto of Puteolum" [a reference, I presume, to the crypta Neapolitana].

To be concluded.

22 September 2023

Mass of our Lady of Walsingham

In the old Roman Missal, in the Appendix pro Aliquibus Locis, there is (December 10) the Mass Pro Translatione Almae Domus Lauretanae i.e. the Holy House at Loretto). It is a beautiful and sophisticated combination of Marian texts with those for the Dedication of a Church. Innocent XII (1691-1700) ordered to be kept in the Province of Picenum.

When (the unlatinate) Fr Hope Patten rebuilt the Holy House, his Latinist collaborator Fr Fynes Clinton, adapted this Mass; all he needed to do was to remove the phrase from the Collect about the miraculous nature of the House's Translation (eamque in sinu ecclesiae tuae mirabiliter collocasti). The Mass, thus adapted, was printed in the next edition of the Anglican Pilgrims' Manual and we used it over the decades. It appears now in the Ordinariate Missal (although, sadly, some alternative texts have been added for optional use).

So for use on next Sunday, we have this fine liturgical set of texts ... of impeccably Papal and Counter-Reformation origin!

21 September 2023

Vigilavi ad postes ... the secrets of her House

" ... Loretto; no wonder our Lady chose this spot for the resting-place of the Holy House, a town in which peace and joy and poverty reign undisturbed. The women there keep up the old national dress instead of imitating Paris fashions as they do in other towns. Altogether, Loretto appealed to me, and as for the House, I can't tell you how deeply I was moved to share the same roof, as it were, with the Holy Family. On these walls our Divine Redeeemer had gazed; on this ground the sweat had fallen from Joseph's brow; here Mary had carried, in and out, the Child of her virginal womb. To have seen the little room in which the Angel greeted her, to have put down my rosary beads for a moment in the bowl from which the Child Jesus had eaten-- those are things you can't remember without a thrill.

"Best of all, we received our Blessed Lord there in his own house; became living temples of him on the very spot which had once been consecrated by his earthly presence. The Italian custom is to have the Blessed Sacrament reserved on one single altar, which is the only one where you can make your Communion. Here at Loretto, where the basilica is only a marble casket in which the Holy House reposes like precious diamond, the Blessed Sacrament is outside the sacred enclosure. This wouldn't do for Celine and me; we wanted to go to Communion inside. So we left Papa to do as the rest of the world did, like the gentle soul he was, and went off to find a priest belonging to our party who had got special leave to say Mass in the Holy House itself; it was just a matter of getting him to put two small hosts on the paten, and there we were, fortunate enough to make our Communion on this hallowed ground. This was a blessing straight from heaven; no words can do justice to our feelings. It was a foretaste of that moment when we shall be made one with our Lord in that other, eternal dwelling-place of his; when our joy will be unending, when there will be no more sadness of saying good-bye, no need to scrape a fragment or two from walls sanctified by a divine presence, because his home will be our home for all eternity. He just lets us have a look at his earthly home, to make us love poverty and the hidden life; what he keeps in store for us is his heavenly palace, where we we shall no more see him hidden under the form of a little child, or of a consecrated Host, but as he really is, in all the splendour of his majesty."

20 September 2023

Mysterious Middlesbrough

 In his Advent Volume, Dom Gueranger tells us in which provinces the Feast of the Translation of the Holy House of Loretto had an official place on their liturgical Calendars. The list reads like a roll-call of mysterious Southern Europe; those holiday lands where, in the exciting decades just before I was born, Englishmen dived in deep seas and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern Merchants or Wallis Simpson;

 ... the Papal States; Tuscany; the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; Spain  ...

To these haunting lands, my researches can add the mysterious fastnesses of, um, the English R C diocese of Middlesbrough. I wonder how this festival made its way onto that Victorian Calendar.

Does the Mayor of Middlesbrough still sail out each year to renew his Espousal to the River Tees?

And why does my computer reveal that the Loretto liturgical commemoration is now, no longer, apparently, observed in South Yorkshire? Why did they drop it?

Odd, isn't it? Especially now that PF and Uncle Arffur's merry men have reintroduced (optionally) the memoria into the Novus Ordo.

Ee ... ye'd've thought the burghers of all the ridings of Yorkshire would be fighting to get their hands on this commemoration.

19 September 2023

San Gennaro

Englishmen, surely, are entititled to a certain modest pride by the part taken by His Grace Admiral the Duke of Bronte in the Suppression of the Parthenopaean Republic.

I wonder what sort of odds the bookies are offering on S Januarius performing the miracle today?

Is San Gennaro good for people with a dodgy pancreas? Does anybody know a Saint to is?

18 September 2023

The Statue of our Lady of Walsingham


A few years ago, strongg evidence was put forward that a particular statue of our Blessed Lady, preserved in the V & A, is really the surviving statue of the (never burned!) statue of OLW. But I've lost the reference. Can any reader provide it??

17 September 2023

Our Lady of Walsingham

 As we approach the Solemn and majestic Festival of our Lady of Walsingham, which this year happily anf edifyingly falls on a Sunday (September 24), there may be readers who might like to see a brief summary of the historical status quaestionis concerning this superb devotion. Most of what I am about to write comes from Pilgrimage in East Anglia, bt Michael Schmoelz, of the University of East Anglia (2 June 2017). (I am, as so often, grateful to Professor Tighe for helping me on my way). In fact, the historical outlines were established by J C Dickinson, The Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham (Cambridge, 1956).

Of course we can continue to sing the old songs, and hear the old stories, about Richeldis and her vision. Bu, strictly historically, those accounts cannot be made to fit the known prosopography and chronology of the period. The probability is that the foundation of the Holy House is to be sought in the period 1110-1131. A context is provided by the fact that "the twelfth century is characterised by an almost unregulated passion for monasticism ... there was hardly a single lord in the twelfth century who did not have some share in the endowment of a monastery". 

But, interestingly, Walsingham is in fact much older. From the pre-historic period onwards, it was a cultic centre. Roman finds, in their thousands, confirm this ... six thousand Roman coins !!!, presumably retually deposited. There is some evidence that the Roman Temple may have been a shrine of Mercury. "The balance of probabilities ... strongly points towards a continued ritual usage from the Iron Age until the foundation of the Norman Marian Shrine." 

I am reminded here of the excavations just South of Frilford near Oxford a few years ago, where a building with the plan and orientation of a Roman Basilica was found closely associated with a pagan site packed with ritual deposits. Schmoelz mentions the finds at the Roman military complex at Newstead in the Scottish Borders.

Rich Saxon finds have been made; there seems to have been Mint at Walsingham. Perhaps there was a Saxon Minster.

Schmoelz raises an interesting theory, Perhaps the Holy Wells have priority over the Holy House. and inspired it (rather than things being the other way round). He cites an early apocryphal text which describes the Annunciation as occurring while the Mother of God was "taking a pitcher to draw water". One recalls the association of Living Water with Marian shrines; not least at Blachernae in Constantinople ... Lourdes ... and don't forget the Orthodox Chapel of the zoodochos Pege in the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham.

So it's older than you thought!

16 September 2023

Not for the New World

 These few and scrappy remarks will have little relevance outside the historical heartlands of the former Christendom ... lands where the sanctorale consists of holy palimpsest upon holy palimpsest.

On my desk lies a breviary printed in 1874. The Appendix at the back for the Saints of England makes clear that, in those days, there was just one such Appendix for the entire Kingdom of England. 

That Appendix records whence come the Collects; most of the them are from either the Sarum or the York Missals. I wonder if this may have changed after the multitudes of canonised and beatified English Martyrs started to come on stream after 29 December 1886. If anyone has more precise information, I would be grateful to be allowed to share it.

Anyway, in the Old Rite, as fossilised in the 1960s, there was no unified 'English Calendar'. I regard this as a bit of a shame. I would rather like to believe that the piece of scholarly body of work in this Appendix dates from the time of the Vicars Apostolic ... gentle, civilised, and very English days ... the days of Lingard, Oliver, Oliver, Rock ...  instead of from the unhappy times of Abbot 'Slapdash' Gasquet and Cardinal 'Careless' Vaughan.

I challenge readers to prove me wrong1

But, hey, the CDF legislation of 2020 comes to our help here. If you look through the Latin Mass Society ORDO, you will see listed all the Saints authorised for each of the English dioceses. Since these will have been in the old Roman Martyrology, or are in the new one, surely they come within the new CDF permissions ... unless, of course, there is a 'privileged' festival on the same day. 

Accordingly, it was, surely, canonical for you to observe S Aidan of Lindisfarne: even if you were domiciled outside the Province of York ... oops, I meant to write Liverpool. Or S Germanus of Auxerre, him of the Alleluia Victory, even if you belonged to the Northernmost reaches of the Diocese of Hexham.

I have the utmost respect for the compiler of the LMS ORDO; but there is one methodological detail which I would, myself, query. 

Where a former diocese has, since the 1960s, been divided, its disiecta membra in this ORDO, are both assigned the entire Calendar of the former, undivided, diocese.

For example: the original Diocese of Southwark, which included Kent, had on its Calendar all the sainted Archbishops of Canterbury because they were among its local saints. And that original Diocese also extended all the way across Sussex and Middlesex. So those Archbishops were on the Calendar for those counties as well as for Kent. 

It is my view that, since Sussex was made into the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, those saints should not have been included in its Calendar, being no longer local. 

This would be in the spirit of Canon 19: "If on a particular matter there is no express provision of either universal or particular law, nor a custom, then, provided it is not a penal matter, the question is to be decided by taking account of laws enacted on similar matters, the general principles of law observed with canonical equity, the jurisprudence and practice of the Roman Curia, and the common  and constant opinion of learned authors."

15 September 2023

CATASTROPHE: The Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 I know it's childish to have Special Feasts, but I do have a weakness for the Office Hymn which led us into today's superb Feast of the Seven Dolours of our Lady; Iam toto subitus. In our nice old [Anglican Catholic] English Catholic Hymn Book, our English version began Now over all the heavens

(These propers have a Counter-Reformation Servite origin--1667--and were promulgated for the third Sunday in September in the Roman Calendar by Pius VII after his release by Buonaparte and his return to Rome.)

What appeals to me is the bold, vigorous oxymoron of the words Divinamque catastrophen. (ECHB "the wondrous tragedy of God"). It's not simply that I gullibly warm to those those hymnographers who fling the odd Graecism around; I also happen to feel that this is a virile assertion of the Truth that God Almighty and Incarnate, God Crucified, in a real sense subjected himself to a real reverse. It reminds me of the bold Eastern intuition that One of the Trinity Died On The Cross. God was not pretending. God was not 'just' fulfilling a role; just as in the next stanza, the groans uttered by the Hypostasis of the Incarnate Word were both deep and real expressions of agony.

And there is a fine poetic vividness in the notion that 'Day' was pretty astonished to be shoved unceremoniously out of the way so early.

And I like the way the self-same poet piles up the heavy, inexorable syllables of that other Graecism; the truth that our Lady's Heart should be adamantinum. Cor Adamantinum ora pro nobis!

Gueranger wrote: "On the mountain of Sacrifice, as Mother she gave her Son; as Bride she offered herself together with him; by her sufferings both as Bride and as as Mother, she was Co-redemptrix of the human race". Fr Faber, perhaps with an eye to the Miraculous Medal, observed that "The two things were one simultaneous oblation, interwoven each moment through the thickly crowded mysteries of that dread time, unto the Eternal Father, out of two sinless Hearts, that were the Hearts of Son and Mother ...".

(Three Asclepiads followed by a Glyconic. If the hymn is not in your Breviary, that is because of the sad mid-century campaign against First Vespers.)

BTW: today's lectio vi finds S Bernard describing Maria as compatiens; which reminds me of the fact that, at Bishop John de Grandisson's Exeter Cathedral in the 1320s, the Friday Votive in the Lady Chapel was called the Compatientia Mariae.

14 September 2023

The Judge is even now in Session.

"O admirable Power of the Cross! O unspeakable Glory of the Passion, in which is the Judgement Seat of the Lord, and His Sentence passed against the World, and the Authority of the Crucified!"

If, with these magisterial words of S Leo, we thought and spoke of the Lord's Cross as as His Judgement Seat in the face of the World, how powerful that would be!


13 September 2023

Development (7)

Pope Benedict XVI gave us an admirable piece of advice in his celebrated 2005 Discorso ai Membri della Curia. He referred us to and quoted from the Discorso d'apertura del Concilio of S John XXIII, delivered on the Feast of the Maternity of our Lady, October 11 1962. But ... what did S John actually say? Here there is a most lamentable confusion which is still extant and which is even perpetuated and accentuated by - it appears - current Vatican employees. Let me explain ... even if this does take me into some intricacies.

I presume that the authentic text of the Holy Father's Address to his Curia, since I cannot find a Latin version, was delivered in Italian. In this version, he cites the words of Papa Roncalli about expressing the Faith in ways adapted to our own time, concluding, as Pope John did, with the phrase conservando ad esse tuttavia lo stesso senso e la stessa portata. In the original Latin of Pope John, this is eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia.  But the English version of Pope Benedict's quotation from Pope John concludes "The substance of the ancient doctrine of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another ..." In other words, the quotation is cut short in such a way (after "another ...") as to imply that Pope John did not say eodem sensu eademque sententia. Then, after those quotation marks, the English quotation continues retaining the same meaning and message. This is indeed, in my view, a fairish, if not particularly good, rendering of eodem sensu eademque sententia. But the point is that the English translator implies .... and presumably thought ... that those words were not part of Pope John's original text but had been added by Pope Benedict.

It then becomes clear why and how the English translator has made this rather significant and profoundly deplorable mistake.  In brackets, he gives his source: "(The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p 715)". Abbott's English translation of the Conciliar documents was what my generation put upon its bookshelves. But here, Abbott is not giving an accurate rendering of the Latin. In fact, Abbott omitted the words eodem sensu eademque sententia from his rendering of what the Pope had actually said. I think, I hope, that I should blame the English translator of Pope Benedict's words for simple error rather than for conspiracy. Here is what must have happened.

He had, on his bookshelf as I do on mine, Abbott's yellowing little paperback, and he looked at that rather than bothering himself with silly old Acta Apostolicae Sedis. But, in doing so, he did, as far as Anglophone readers were concerned, considerably muddy the waters for anybody who tries to trace the lineaments and history of a phrase which is of very considerable Magisterial significance, and he has badly blunted the intended impact of the Holy Father's teaching with regard to the Second Vatican Council and the hermeneutic by which it should be understood.

12 September 2023


 I have recently had some episodes of 'hospitalisation' ... perhaps readers might spare a prayer or two, and some Masses, for me ... and have been thinking a bit about the use of Names. 

In English hospitals, the young women who do duty as nurses or auxiliaries have a habit of continually shouting JOHN!! at me. If it is clear that they must be talking to me, because there is nobody else in the cubicle, they still shout JOHN!! at me before saying the simplest things. "JOHN!! would you move a few inches up the bed!" "JOHN!! we need to put a cannula in your arm!" If there are several of them around, this means an incessant barrage of young female voices all yelling "JOHN!!" at me. To crown it all, 'John' is a vocative which, in the course of my life, has been aimed at me rarely and by rather few people. It is not one of those words to which I instinctively react, like 'Father' or 'Sir' or 'Papa' or 'Grandpapa'. 

Women students whom 25 years ago I had occasion to rebuke for being late with their essays did not respond to my criticisms of them by yelling JOHN!! JOHN!! at me.

What would be so unspeakably terrible about simply saying, in polite English, "Please could you move a few inches up the bed"?

I hope readers perused the blogpost I recently wrote which took as its starting point Book 6 of the Odyssey; and that they may still have its points in mind. Meeting Nausicaa on her beach, Odysseus did not reveal to her his Name. He revealed it nowhere in the rest of Book 6. For that matter: when he arrives at the Palace of Nausicaa's Father, he does not say who he is ... nor does anybody expect him to do so. 

Not in Book 7 ... 

... or in Book 8 ...

In Book 9, in the course of a formal xenia, the xenizontes do respectfully wonder what his name is. Finally, climactically, he reveals: "I am Odysseus son of Laertes and I am Famous!"

When the Archangel brings the tidings of Redemption to our Blessed Lady, he does not stand at the entrance and yell "MARY!!" "MARY!!".

He says Khaire kekharitomene. "Hail one that is established in God's grace and favour".

In the worlds of Homer and of S Luke, Names were not cheap things to be flung arrogantly and carelessly around. They were significant words, precious facts, which to a degree embodied an individual's identity and personality. 

Only somebody who was a hopeless vulgarian would fail to understand this, or fail to behave respectfully towards Names. 

We should all keep in mind that, most significantly, we are forbidden actually to utter the Name of our own God ( HWHY).

Today is the Festival of the Most Holy Name of Mary. 

The first stage of being catechised in the mystagogic School of the Name of Mary, is to realise the preciousness of this Name.  

And, I remind you, the rule of our Latin Church is to bow the head when uttering or hearing this Name.

The second stage is, in ones practical use, to employ the Name respectfully.

And the next stage is is to murmur the Name lovingly in all-but-latreutic devotion.

Scripture and the Liturgy, on the Birthday of our Lady, reminded us Oleum effusum Nomen tuum ... Thy name is Oil Poured Out.

"And the Virgin's Name was Mary."

11 September 2023

Lost Landscapes

 In A Man for All Seasons, More's character commments that England is planted thick with laws. I do not know whether the real Sir Thomas made such an observation, but, before the post-Conciliar disorders, the Western Church was certainly thickly planted with indulgences (remissions of the canonical penalties still due to sins which have already been absolved in the Confessional). Except for those still published in the Encheiridion, these have all been abolished ... 'partial indulgences' do survive but without an indication of how long a period of canonical remission is being granted.

Indulgences made the Christian life varied and interesting. For example: in 1747, that enlightened pontiff Benedict XIV created the Duke of York (from 1788 de jure Henry IX King of England Scotland France and Ireland) Cardinal Deacon of S Mary in Portico. His Royal and Eminent Highness endowed his titular Church with regular prayers for the Conversion of England.

Subsequent popes favoured this devotion: from December 9-11 1868, Leo XIII pesided over a Solemn Triduum, to which the Faithful ... including three cardnals ... were enticed with indulgences.

The Forty Hours Devotion involved a Plenary Indulgence once a day; partial indulgences of fifteen years were granted for each Visit. Benedict XV granted indulgences to those frequenting the Chair of Unity Octave. Cardinal Griffin granted Three Hundred Days to those  reciting the Aniphon, Vand R and Collects, for the Canonisation of Forty of th Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales.

Particular orders could entice their members with indulgences: Dominican tertiaries gained 500 days for the Prayer O Spem miram.

And medieval diocesan bishops could and did grant indulgences ... in England, even after the Tudor Schism. These often related to financial contributions to public works such as roads and bridges. I wonder if the grants are still valid!

As Church-Crawlers will probably have noticed, sometimes, in older and unvandalised Catholic Churches, you will see an Altar with the words above it ALTARE PRIVILEGIATUM. This was an altar at which a Plenary Indulgence could be secured for a soul in purgatory by the application of a Mass celebrated upon it. Perhaps the pastoral rationale was that the faithful felt they were doing their very best for their departed member.

And who dares say that they were wrong?

S Paul VI, of course, typical Lombard, put the stoppers upon such merciful generosity!

[Here's a merry research project for readers. Vide Waugh; Officers and Gentlemen; Book 1; section 5 ... what exactly is Mr Goodall up to toties quoties on All Souls' Day?]

I had better make clear that all the previously available indulgences were ruthlessly snuffed out after the Council, and, accordingly are no longer available!

10 September 2023

Development (6)

Again, that phrase which was used by Pope S John XXIII in his address opening address to Vatican II, but which was mistranslated in the English translation put out at the time (the error survived into the Abbott translation of Conciliar texts). Those same words were also used by Benedict XVI in his highly important Address to the Roman Curia in which he laid out his Hermeneutic of Continuity (the English translator made a mess of it by treating Abbott's translation of the Conciliar texts as accurate). Here is the phrase:
                                  EODEM SENSU EADEMQUE SENTENTIA.
It means:

In whatever ways the Faith is expressed; however new its presentation; whatever theological refinements and developments may be the gifts of the centuries ... it must always be a formulation with the same sense and the same meaning.

To be blunt, these words irritated - and irritate - those who see Vatican II as constituting a rupture with the past. This phrase makes clear that Catholic teaching is essentially unchangeable, even though the Church's understanding of her inheritance grows ever more mature. Eodem sensu eademque sententia is a red rag to any and every errant and heterodox bull. Where does it come from? What degree of Magisterial weight has it acquired over the centuries? What does it mean for us in the present crisis?

S Vincent of Lerins (c434) is often given the credit for this elegant and lapidary affirmation of continuity and identity within Catholic Tradition. Less often do people point out that he seems to have got it from S Paul. We had better look at S Paul's words and their context. And don't forget that, in terms of Magisterium and Authority, Scripture has gallons and gallons of it.

Given the sense of urgency with which the Man from Tarsus felt he had to teach the Gospel to the whole oikoumene, it is hardly surprising that he repeatedly received information that a crisis had arisen in an imperfectly formed ekklesia from which he had just moved on. So it was undoubtedly with a sense of deja vu that he sat down to dictate a letter to his Corinthian converts hoping thereby to repair the damage just reported to him by Chloe's People. He beseeches them dia tou onomatos tou Kuriou hemon Iesou Christou (notice this explicit insistence on his Apostolic Magisterium: "through the authority of the Lord's Name"), to "say [legete] the same thing, all of you"; to eschew schismata; and to be "fitted together [katertismenoi]" in (RSV) "the same mind and in the same judgement". S Vincent read this in his Latin Bible as eodem sensu eademque sententia; S Paul had written en toi autoi noi kai en tei autei gnomei.

 S Paul is urging the Corinthians to a synchronic unity. It is not be a vague pluralist unity in which different, even contradictory, statements can be judged, "deep down", to mean the same. To auto legete pantes, he insists. He requires a unity manifested in verbal identity. And, for a subsequent Christian generation, diachronic unity - 'vertically' down through the history of the Church - is going to be just as important as the 'horizontal' unity within the universal Christian community at a particular time. So S Vincent of Lerins very properly expanded the reference of the phrase so that it described the development of Christian doctrine generation by generation. But it never ceases also to retain its original Pauline synchronic reference; in Origen's Homily 9 (which is included in the Liturgia Horarum as a reading for the Solemnity of the Dedication of a Church); and most recently when Paul VI aptly quoted I Corinthians 1:10 in Humanae vitae. 

 In its synchronic sense (all Christians now should say the same thing) it is a powerful antidote to any rubbish about Sophisticated Germans having a more Nuanced Faith than Uneducated and Superstitious Africans. In a diachronic sense (all Christians throughout the ages should say the same thing) it has had a long and important dogmatic history.

To be continued.

Pronunciation ... roughly ... ay-OH-dem  SEN-soo  ay-ah-DEM-kway  sen-TENT-si-ah 
(but say the 'ay' syllables quickly.)

9 September 2023

Development (5)

A phrase of S Paul, in one of the earliest documents of the Church's Magisterium, was, we have seen taken up by S Vincent of Lerins in his insistence that development in Doctrine must be eodem sensu eademque sententia. In the last couple of centuries it has been transformed, by repetition, into a central plank of the Magisterium. Two Ecumenical Councils and a succession of Roman Pontiffs have done this. You will find it in Ineffabilis Deus, by which in 1854 S Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It appears in the Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican I Dei filius (at the end, just before the anathemas). S Pius X's Pascendi Dominici gregis repeats (para 28) these words of Dei filius in its treatment of Modernism, and the phrase was incorporated into the Anti-Modernist Oath taken by all clergy until 1967. After S John XXIII used it in his highly significant and programmatic Address at the start of Vatican II, it was repeated in Gaudium et spes (para 62), and S John Paul II, interestingly, extended its use from Dogmatic to Moral Theology in Veritatis splendor (para 53). And, if the Rule of Believing really is established by the Rule of Praying, then eodem sensu eademque sententia is right at the heart, not only of Vatican II, but also of the 'Spirit of Vatican II' as enunciated by the post-Conciliar liturgical changes: the crucial passage from the Commonitorium of S Vincent of Lerins is ordered to be read each year in the Liturgia Horarum (Week 27 of the Year, Friday). It is not surprising that Pope Benedict cited these words in his programmatic Address to the Roman Curia in 2005.

Fifteen hundred years ago ... and, if the world endures, fifteen hundred year from now, when Pope Francis XVI during some crisis or other is busily writing a Post-Synodal Exhortation ... it was and will be as true as it is today that the Deposit of Faith, the Tradition handed on through the Apostles, can only ever exist, can only ever be expressed, so that it comes to Christ's People with the same sense and with the same meaning.

8 September 2023

Beach Games and our Lady's Nativity

 I would like you to imagine a beach.

Then to people it with a naked man.

And, then, with a gang of naked girls heaving a ball around.

Yes; Book 6 of the Odyssey begins with a fair dose of sexual frisson. But ... this what appeals to me ... never with vulgarity.

Washed up naked after shipwreck, Odysseus, in the undergrowth, has to decide what to do after the girls arrive on 'his' beach. Technically, he should dart forward and clasp the knees of the lead-female. This would give him the formal status of a suppliant and thus entitle him to protection. But he is savvy enough to realise that even quite a resolute girl might be disquieted by a naked man suddenly hurtling at her knees.

So, polutropos, he does it verbally. Gounoumai se anassa, he begins. "I approach as suppliant." But notice how he has addressed her; "anassa".

Georg Autenrieth assures us that this is the only time, in Homer, that anassa is used of a mortal woman. (It actually recurs on the next page, anassa eleaire, where the latter word, from the same root as eleison, also has cultic undertones.)

Odysseus' ploy now becomes obvious: he questions whether she is goddess or human, suggesting that she rather reminds him, er, of Artemis, Daughter of Mighty Zeus. This is flattery, captatio benevolentiae, in buckets-full.  

Anassa is an interesting word. It is the feminine of anax, Monarch, but neither term is 'modern'. This is not the more up-to-date Greek term Basileus. Anax and Anassa are far more ancient; they are archaic; I suspect that they are, in Homer, deliberate archaisms

Centuries even before Homer, the bureaucrats in the great labrynthine Bronze Age Palaces of Greece (Cnossos ... Mycenae ... Pylos ...) had kept records written on clay tablets. Their script ('Linear B'), so explained Arthur Evans and other experts, could not possibly be Greek. But an amateur enthusiast  called Michael Ventris deciphered them ... and they are Greek. They are syllabic. And in these records, wa-na-ka is the 'syllabic' way of indicating 'Monarch, wanax.

Notice the W. There is no W in Anax and Anassa. But Classicists have always known that originally there had been ... the now lost Greek letter Digamma. We know this because, as in the line we are discussing, a consonant has to come at the start of the word to prevent hiatus or elision when a previous word ended with an open vowel.

One of the Titles of our Most Blessed Lady in Byzantine Greek is Pantanassa. "August Mistress of All". It goes back to narratives of her Assumption. Tourists who have visited the 'World Heritage Site' at Mystras will recall the mone of Pantanassa, which is the only building there still occupied. It houses a young community of nuns. Its original foundation in 1428, last of Mystras' great buildings, was in the interesting decades after the Palamite Councils of the fourteenth century. 

So that word which Homer had preserved from the second millennium ante Christum had not been forgotten, but had acquired a new sense and a living force.

The feast of Mary's Nativity, today, should not be overlooked because of a glamorous neighbour on August 15. It is one of the Byzantine Twelve Great Feasts; it is the Titular of the Greek Cathedral in South London. In many places, the fact that, by September, the grain harvests have been gathered in, has sometimes made September 8 functionally and culturally attractive. For example: when Henry III granted Walsingham a Fair in 1251, it was for the Vigil, Feast, and week of the Nativity. The presence of Ss Anna and Joachim in a number of the Mystras frescoes reminds us that their festival, in the Byzantine Rite, is tomorrow.

It is a sure marker of the decadence and corruption of the Roman 'rites' of 1960 and 1970, that this Feast ... so far from having any sort of proheortia ...  is not even allowed a First Vespers.

The Great Lady of God's House and Household, Mistress of the Universe, of all that is, Mediatrix of All Graces, evokes our love and devout worship on this Feast of her Glorious Nativity. 

Most Holy Mother of God, Anassa panton kai prytanis tou ploutou tes Theotetos, Save Us.

7 September 2023

The 1928 Anglican Prayer Book

Happily, the House of Commons in 1928 showed a lamentable lack of interest in the great project to Byzantinise the Anglican Eucharistic Prayer by adding to it an Orientalising Epiclesis of the Spirit; they threw the proposed rite out. That left the C of E with the 1662 Consecration Prayer and, officially, none other; this Prayer has a lot wrong with it, but in notable respects remains soberly and austerely Roman: action is humbly sought of the Father without arrogantly insisting that he is obliged to employ the Spirit to do it; and the old Roman concept - which also suited the Tudor mind - of stating a 'legal basis' for what is done ("according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution") is retained. 

My recollection of the time forty years after 1928 is that in all the propaganda of the 1960s, advocating liturgical reform in the C of E, much was made of the 'deplorable' lack of mention of the agency of the Spirit in the Cranmerian rite. Quietly superior people murmured 'Tut tut tut, we know so much better now'. In other words, identical mischief was afoot in both communions. It is not always to be taken for granted that ecumenical convergence is convergence on the truth. It may be convergence on an identical error.

A basis for this disastrous ecumenical convergence was the high prestige of an old liturgical book which, in the 1960s, everybody believed was the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, and thus an early liturgical rite from Rome itself. It contained an Epiclesis of the Spirit. Current consensus has now abandoned this identification of authorship and place of origin, but it was so compelling half a century ago that all the committee-generated products of that decade which still clutter up Catholic and Anglican rites have got pneumatic epicleses all over them, like all those prickles on a Texan cactus. A very prolific, a thoroughly ecumenical, cuckoo was indeed at work! 

Dom Gregory Dix's role here is interesting. He had opposed the Anglican shenanigans of 1928 and remained strongly opposed to the silly game of introducing Oriental epicleses into Western liturgies. But, like everybody else, he had fallen victim to the 'Hippolytus' identification. His canny and accurate instincts told him that there could not have been an epiclesis in a Roman rite of the date then attributed to 'Hippolytus'; so, in an edition of 'Hippolytus' which he produced, he omitted the Epiclesis (to be fair to him, there was some textual evidence that justified this omission).

This sad tale of intrusive epiclesiphilia has an important moral: It is a bad idea to put all ones eggs into one basket. Academic fashions can change fast; it is an act of supreme historical arrogance for one decade to gamble on its own fads being Permanent Truth. It ends up with Cuckoo worship.

Another and very sinister motive for this fad has been suggested: to sabotage the inherited Western Catholic practices around the Consecratory Words of the Lord and thus to attack belief in Transubstantiation.

6 September 2023

Motorem Bum

 I don't know whether you agree that one of the purposes of a blog is to recycle old jokes.

But whether you do or not, here is the opening stanza of a macaronic poem by A D Godley, 1856-1925, sometime Public Orator of this University. The full text takes one through the complete "Latin" grammatical declension of Motor Bus; beginning with the nominative and accusative singulars.

What is it that roareth thus?

Can it be a Motor Bus?

Yes, the smell and hideous hum

Indicat Motorem Bum. 

(Is it true that, in American English, Bum can function as a verb?)

Wikipaedia gives you the complete poem; tap in Motorem Bum.


5 September 2023

Cosi fan tutti

We've lived with "Vatican II" for sixtyish years now ... which makes the current papal attacks on "Backwardism" a tadge quaint. Surely, resurrecting the corpses of the nineteen sixties is what really counts as "Backwardist"? 

But, this morning, I suggest that what happened in that decade had already been done ... at least once before.

The stages of the 1960s revolutions began with academic ferment. Conferences and trendy 'calls' by trendy 'experts' prepared the way. Authority then cautiously permitted some 'progress'. Next, the committees set up to carry this permission into effect soon decided that the modest 'reforms' which Authority had in mind were nothing like enough ... the committee-men, after all, were massively expert and could do far, far, better. Within a very few years, their labours produced results which went very much further than Authority had intimated ... further than the Council Fathers had in mind when they signed Sacrosanctum Concilium.

So we have had the Pseudocracy ... the Rule of the Big Lie reinforced by the Big Stick ... of the last sixty years ... two generations of radical depravations of Tradition, with every novelty labelled as The Reform Of Vatican II. I suspect that most clergy and laity never looked at the Conciliar documents ... after all, if bishops and Cardinals were going around, mendaciously claimimg that "the Council" required wall-to wall vernacular and the radical architectural vandalisation of all sanctuaries, who are we little people to cry out that the Emperor is not only naked, but a vulgar nudist liar too?

On January 9, 1941, Pope Pius XII, Papa Pacelli, gave the Biblical Institute instructions to make "a new Latin version of the Psalms, which was to follow presse fideliterque the original texts and veteris venerandae Vulgatae aliarumque antiquarum interpretationum, quantum fieri posset, rationem haberet."

The academic demands for this had come most noisily from ... ... yeah, you guessed right, ten out of ten ... from Germany. 

The results of this papal initiative were quite shocking. Far from respecting the ancient Latin translations of the Psalms, the 'experts' ... led by a German Jesuit called Bea ... even went so far as to produce a Psalter which paid practically no attention to early Christian Latin but even went so far as to invent a whole new dialect of Latin which was totally divorced from Christian Latin, being based upon the usages of the pre-Christian lawyer and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero. As Christine Mohrmann indignantly complained, "there has been a complete break with tradition and ... a failure to carry out the programme set before the translators, viz., that they should as far as possible take account of the ancient versions ... is it right, or rather, is it justifiable to mutilate a liturgical book such as the Book of Psalms, a mass of poetry which since the earliest centuries has been part and parcel of Christian worship and has--so to say--grown up with the Christian idiom--to mutilate such  book by dressing it up in a pre-Christian language?"

Indeed, that is the basic question (there are others ... such as whether Bea's persistent programme of demanding the elimination of all 'Hebraisms' was, in the decade of the Nazi extermination camps, particularly tactful).

Readers will have noticed the parallels between my narrative and the realities of Vatican II. At this point, happily, the similarities break down. The campaign led by Christine Mohrmann, a brilliant scholar of quite exraordinary erudition and universally respected, led to the "New Psalter" being a complete and total flop.

In our own time, booksellers marketing old Breviaries have to be very careful to inform potential buyers which psalter they contain.

4 September 2023

Addai and Mari

Is the Anaphora of Addai and Mai ... which lacks an Institution Narrative and thus does not include the Words of the Lord ... a valid Consecration of the Most Holy Eucharist?

Rome has given the answer Yes; but not all people in the Traddisphere trust what modern Rome says. But very reliable writers from before the Council came to the same conclusion. Eric Mascall did ... and I have come across the following, in an unpublished and very interesting letter of Dom Gregory Dix shown to me by Mrs Jill Pinnock, where I'm sure the great mystagogue has A and M in mind: "What are the minimum requirements for [eucharistic] validity? I suppose (1) a priest (2) bread and wine (3) the words of institution (I personally would reduce this last to any plain indication that the rite now being performed with the bread and wine by the priest is intended as a deliberate fulfilment of the command at the Last Supper, touto poieite eis ten anamnesin mou. A repetition of the words of institution is the most compendious and unambiguous, and best authorised, way of doing this)."

There is an important theological point here,

It has become axiomatic that the Lex Orandi should prescribe the Lex Credendi. You want to know what the Catholic Church teaches? Look at the words with which the Catholic Church prays.

Pius XII tried to fudge this distinction. A pity. I disapprove of the notion that what we believe (which can vary quite a lot as theological fashions morph) can or should license us to us mess around with the words Tradition gives us in the Liturgy. This error lies at the basis of the mistakes made in the post-Conciliar period, when committees in Rome arrogantly presented to themselves the competence to change whatever they wished.

There are two distinct methodologies in conflict here. 

One ... call it the a priori ... works out from scratch ... from theological basics ... what a liturgical formula should be or should include. 

The other ... the historical ... looks at what actual liturgical phenomena have actually said or done over two actual millennia; and makes that study its basis.

Much more Traddy, in my opinion.

Much safer for us, if we have to endure any more 'creative' pontificates.

3 September 2023

Historical crookery

Right-thinking people do not commonly recommend reading of the Tablet, but today I wish to commend to you a letter printed there on December 14 1991, and written by John Finnis, Professor of International Law in this University. Or, rather, this post will extensively plagiarise his letter, so you may feel you need not bother to search it out.

CONTEXTCardinal Hume had quoted the words of B John XIII at the opening of Vatican II:  "The substance of the ancient deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another". The cardinal went on to claim that this "was considered at the time to be quite controversial"; and the [2012] Bishop of Guildford had, quite separately, claimed that these words caused "nervousness" in Rome and that by the time the pope's words were published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis six weeks later, they had been substantially changed, to something reactionary, 'curial', and objectionable. The Tablet, as you might expect, had weighed in with an editorial.

PROFESSOR FINNIS' LETTERFinnis with waspish elegance suggested that "A form critic would ... opine that behind both of these statements stand" words published by Peter Hebblethwaite in his biography of the beatus, and went on "The facts discoverable by anyone with access to a library are quite inconsistent with the grave allegation".

Professor Finnis pointed out that Osservatore Romano had printed, the very day after the Pontiff had spoken, his (Latin) words in the form in which AAS subsequently printed them, and my - perhaps imperfect - recollection is that John Finnis later secured clinching evidence from a radio recording that B John XXIII did indeed utter these words.

Which words? eodem sensu eademque sententia. Finnis translated the Latin text of the passage concerned as "This certain and unchangeable teaching, to which faith assent [or: submission] should be given, needs to be explored and expounded in the way our times call for. For the deposit of Faith, i.e. the truths which are contained in our venerable teaching, is one thing; another thing is the manner in which those truths are enunciated, keeping the same meaning and the same judgement [or: opinion]".

HEBBLETHWAITE, I should explain to younger readers, was a former Jesuit who had cornered the narrative of that period and whose account continues even today to go the rounds, fuelling a hermeneutic of rupture with regard to Vatican II. You may have seen his widow being filmed by the TV cameras as the crowd outside S Peter's watched the white smoke rise from the chimney during the [2005] conclave. She yelped in anguish as she realised that such a speedy end to the papal election could only mean that "Ratzinger has been elected".

Win some, lose some.

2 September 2023

IS the Magisterium in crisis?

 Here is an old post; I have chopped off a section on Humanae Vitae
                                        CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to Capital Punishment, if that is the only possible effective way of defending human lives against an unjust aggressor.

Doctrine develops, evolves, is nuanced. But it must always be eodem sensu eademque sententia.

So, under S John Paul II, the Magisterium, after reiterating the traditional teaching, went on to teach us (CCC 2267 citing Evangelium vitae 56) that in our time, given the resources at the State's disposal, such occasions are rare, even very probably non-existent. 

How can anyone find fault with that prudential judgement? Most certainly not I. All power to that Great and Holy Pontiff's elbow.

Recently, however, we have been told that Capital punishment is "inadmissable, no matter how serious the crime committed", and "an offence against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person"; that "Thou shalt not kill has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty"; and that "even a criminal has the inviolable right to life". "Absolute", mark you. And "Inviolable".

I do not see how all this is eodem sensu as the Traditional teaching. I do not see how it is a development eadem sententia from CCC 2267. It is a novel theologoumenon which in fact contradicts the Tradition.

I view Capital Punishment with quite as much personal revulsion as the Holy Father does. When I read about the Death Rows and the botched executions in a handful of North American states; about the gentle delicacy with which the Chinese shoot their convicts so as not to damage organs which can be profitably 'harvested'; I feel both very angry and uncomfortably sick. But his and my revulsion is not the point.

Perhaps one should make allowances for the fact that Jorge Bergoglio spent his middle years in a barbarous land in which thousands were 'disappeared' and many more tortured under a murderous and corrupt military dictatorship (to the downfall of which my own country may have made some small contribution). 

But when every allowance is made, the Magisterium is not an arena in which the Sovereign Pontiff is entitled to attach the prestige of his office to some personal enthusiasm. 

Let me conclude by sharing with you my very own daring view about all this stuff.

I do not, I am afraid, believe that the Holy Spirit was given to Pope Francis, or to any other pope, so that by His revelation they can put out some new doctrine, but so that (with the Holy Spirit's help) they can guard and set forth the Tradition handed down through the Apostles ... what we call the Deposit of Faith.

Does this bold admission put me beyond the pale?

1 September 2023

S Giles

 Is it a coincidence that, just outside both Oxford and Walsingham, there is a parish and church of S Giles? Is this because travellers entering each place had S Giles for Patron? Is it because S Giles exercised his patronage in the places just outside conurbations ... in glades, caves, woodlands, habitats of gentle harts? Does it have anything to do with his patronage of of cripples; of beggars? Why was he at the Top Table of Church dedications in medieval England? 

There is something going on here, I feel, which I have not quite grasped. Mgr Goulder, in his intriguing little Guild of Ransom guide to Winchester, gives the following information about Winchester: "[On] The summit of St Giles' Hill ... was held the famous St Giles' fair, which Rufus granted to Bishop Walkelin [Bishop 1070-1098], to be held on the eve, feast, and morrow of St Giles. Henry I extended it for another five days, and Stephen gave it six more. Henry II made it sixteen days in all, but it was sometimes increased to twenty or twenty-four days on special occasions ... in 1162, the fair ground was extended right down to Eastgate. The top of the hill and the western slopes were covered with stalls and shops and there were some permanent streets, named after the trades which used them. A flourishing suburb grew up on the hill ... The chapel stood on the summit of the hill and was really the parish church of the fair ...".

I wonder if this throws any light on the function of the medieval cult of S Giles ...

Anyway: today is his liturgical festival, but the annual Fair he enjoys on the main route leading out of/into Oxford to its North is postponed until next Monday and Tuesday.

My own college has, for its modern shield of Arms, a Hart's head affrontee with a cross between the antlers. Recent representions by the college of this symbolism appear to have left out the cross. Could there possibly be an ideological explanation of this?

Hart Hall used to be quite a hotbed of recusancy ... Norton, the rack-master, claimed he had made an alumnus, S Alexander Bryant (martyred together with Saints Edmund Campion and Ralph Sherwin on 1 December 1581), a foot longer than God had made him. 

I think the Arms I describe above may date from a Victorian re-foundation. An eighteenth century engraving from an Annual University Calendar has the motto Sicut cervus ad fontes aquarum, and shows a hart seeking refreshment at a pool. Those arms are almost identical with those currently used by Bishop Philip Egan.