1 February 2023

Mathematics and mathematicians

Some wykehamist has argued that all young people should be forced to study Mathematics until they are 18 years old. 

What nonsense.

I've nothing against Mathematics or mathematicians. On the contrary: the subject seemed to attract the same analytical minds as Latin and Greek. So very often, sensible young people chose Greek-and-Latin-and-Maths for their troika of subjects. They revisited the College years later, their faces distended by the exertions of London's clubs, with their tales of dangerous life in the distant and arid wastelands of the Treasury or the Foreign Office.

But if 'too few' of the young opt for Mathematics, the guilty women and men are ... not the poor young people themselves, but teachers who fail to make their subjects compelling or even tolerable.

In our current debate, bouncy people keep getting interviewed on TV (for a fee?) and rabbit on about how totally fascinating Mathematics is. Perhaps it is is for them; but why, then, are their former students queuing up in such vast droves to opt out of the subject?

Last time we had this same national discussion, we were told that those prepared to teach Mathematics should be paid more. (Why, if it's such fun?)

I can think of nothing more subversive of good Common Room relationships (both personal and professional) than this. How are the rest of us expected to feel, seeing crass and ineffective fools whose students attain lamentable grades in public examinations, being paid more than us just for "being Mathematicians"?

In principle, teachers who consistently show poorly in the public examinations of their students should be invited to move on and to take the fascinations of their subject elsewhere.

31 January 2023

Blessed Queen Maria Christina

Here, purged of a couple of misprints, is the Collect authorised for this Stuart Beata, who is placed in the Roman Martyrology for January 31, in Naples.

Deus, qui in figura huius mundi beatam Mariam Christinam prudenti ardentique caritate decorasti et artificem in augmento regni tui effecisti: praesta nobis eius exemplo et intercessione; ut de vero amoris tui thesauro benefacientes accipere valeamus. Per.

I feel that the lack of an explicit accusative object with accipere valeamus sounds a little odd.

Here is an English rendering:
God, who in the passing fashion of this present world hast adorned blessed Maria Christina with a prudent and ardent love and hast made her a worker in the advancement of thy kingdom: grant by her example and intercession; that we, active in good works, may receive from the true treasury of thy love. Through.

I was unsure how to render in figura huius mundi. In the end, I have over-translated it in the light of its Pauline original. I Corinthians 7:31 finds S Paul arguing that those who use the World (kosmos) should do so as if they are not using it; because the skhema of this World is passing (or will pass) away. The Vulgate and the neo-Vulgate render skhema as figura; and English translations in descent from the AV have 'fashion'.

I presume the phrase in the context of this Collect relates to how the Beata left behind the adequacy and pomp of the Royal Court of the Two Sicilies in order to perform works of charity among the lowliest.

May she pray for us and for our Ordinariate.

Publishers of the abortive Book of Common Prayer of 1928 used to print in the front this sentence: "The publication of this Book does not directly or indirectly imply that it can be regarded as authorized for use in churches". In the same generous spirit, I point out that there is no authority whatsoever for celebrating Blessed Maria Christina with the Mass Cognovi in the Extraordinary Form and using this Collect. Indeed, she is not entitled to any liturgical commemoration whatsoever outside the limited areas named in the Decree of Beatification, let alone throughout the entire territories of the European Community as constituted at this precise moment.

30 January 2023

Datum sed non concessum (2)

 So here are the words of King Charles after he was 'condemned':

"And, admitting, but not granting, that the people of England's Commission could grant you [this pretended power to judge and condemn a monarch] I see nothing to show that; for certainly you have never asked the question of the tenth man of this Kingdom ..."

Shipwrecked on the rocks of Bergoglianity?

 Normally, when commenting on a day's liturgy, the Prudent Blogger will have got his line sussed well beforehand. But it was only as I actually read yesterday's propers, for Epiphany IV, that I started wondering. Let me share with you my work-in-progress.

In the Gospel, we had the Disciples, poor poppets, panicking about the storm as they baled out the boat. Earlier, we had those words in the Collect " ... nos in in tantis periculis constitutos ...".

You see, those dangers facing the Boat ... they reminded me of Boats in Danger in Classical Greek literature ... Homer ... OK ... but, more in particular, Alcaeus, a symposiast/political poet on the island of Lesbos. For him, the endangered ship may symbolise the imperilled political community (see Page on Z 2). Commentators here sometimes reach for the cliche 'Ship of State'. (There is an imitatio of this motif in Horace; Odes I xiv and see NH.) 

Are we supposed to make a connection between Epiphany IV's "so great dangers" and this literary tradition? And what about those paintings of ships in the catacombs?

Two points.

(1) It is rarely obvious that the mind which selected a Gospel was the same mind that provided the same day's Collect. But it is one of the characteritics of the Gesima Sundays ... what we now rather poshly seem to have been renamed the Pre-Lent Season ... that the two are related ... just as they are here on Epiphany IV. (2) And the theme of this Collect is strikingly similar to that of Gesima propers: that all these calamities are punishment for our sin; and we throw ourselves upon Divine Mercy. Compare, particularly, Epiphany IV Collect with that for Septuagesima.

I have found Sr Dr Haessly's pages suggestive here, especially 38-40 and 130sqq.

So, as far as Collect and Gospel are concerned, Epiphany IV has for me the curious appearance of a Gesima-outlier. As the 1970s blunderers and blusterers got to work, naturally it had to disappear so as to make the liturgy 'enriched' enough for Arthur Roche.

Anybody got a line on any of this, preferably rooted in the liturgical tradition? 

Anyway, a most appropriate proper for the Church in temporibus his Bergoglianissimis.

29 January 2023


Recently, I explained ... not for the first time ... the phrase Argumentum ad hominem. I was concerned to refute the idea that it means using personal abuse to attack an idea that someone has put forward.

It doesn't ... or, it it does, it does so only by being a mistake which has now confusingly deceived so many poor souls that we are expected to accept it on the ground that usage is prescriptive. (If enough people are firmly convinced that the word water means "coloured orange", we shall eventually, regretfully, have to accept the judgement of Usage.)

I think it might also be useful to deal with the phrase datum sed non concessum

Literally, this means "Given but not conceded".

As commonly used in discourse among the educated classes, it was employed very usefully to mean something like this:

"Proposition X has been advanced to support idea Y which you trying to persuade me to accept. I don't think that proposition X is true; but, in order to enable our argument to continue, I am prepared to treat X as if it were true. This is, frankly, because even if X were true, Y would still be complete nonsense."


 Lawks a-mussy! In May, so it is being ordered by the current Head of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Battenberg, his Coronation will be 'celebrated' by People going round Doing Good, not least to the elderly.

I am elderly. I dislike People. I can't stand Good.

What on earth is one to do? Buy a dog? But I don't like dogs either. Go on retreat to somewhere with a decent cellar? Put up a notice reading DO-GOODERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT? 


I turn to readers in my hour of need for some ingenious advice.

28 January 2023

Those Blessed Kings

Today, January 28, in many places the Emperor Charles the Great is commemorated liturgically. His canonisation was performed by an antipope (Paschal III, a creature of Barbarossa), and he is not in the Roman Martyrology, so he is nowadays tactfully celebrated as a Beatus. (I hope those with a devotion to him will forgive my cynicism when I remark that the article on him in Gueranger is rather amusing to read, as it attempts with angry indignation to rebut accusations that Charlemagne's matrimonial life was less than, er, canonical.)

And, in two days time, there will be those who commemorate blessed (note my cunningly lower-case b) Charles Stuart, who has had the word blessed attached to him liturgically by Anglicans since 1662 (the authorised texts, to the best of my knowledge, have never called him Saint).

That was during an age when Kings had mistresses as a natural adjunct of Royal Majesty. (I believe there was even one German king, a laudably uxorious chappy, who maintained a number of titular 'Mistresses', although he never laid a finger, or anything else, on any of them.)

But blessed (note my cunningly lower-case b) Charles was notorious for marital chastity. The Court Masques of his reign exalted the theme of chaste marital love. There are worse themes than this to incorporate into royal ...or any ... ideologies.

I think this blessed (note my cunningly lower-case b) is quite a good candidate for imitation in this age of ritual and government-encouraged promiscuity.

May blessed Charles the Royal Martyr pray for us all.

And, of course, may the unmartyred and matrimonially debated Blessed Charlemagne do the same.

27 January 2023

The Liturgical Revolution that wasn't (2)

 Time was, when, out of reverence, it was forbidden to print, in books of devotion intended for lay Catholics, a translation into profane, vernacular, languages, of the Canon of the Mass. Those days had manifestly passed when on 10 September 1948, the Vicar General of Westminster, E Morrogh Bernard, issued an Imprimatur to Messrs Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd, Publishers to the Holy See, for The Missal in Latin and English Being the text of the Missale Romanum with English rubrics and a new translation. (Further editions were to follow in 1957; 1958; 1960; and 1962.)

This was a lavish edition, for lay hands, of the Roman Missal. I write 'lavish'; for example it printed in full the orders for Low and for High Mass; it contained all the proper masses for the dioceses of England, Wales, and Scotland. And the Appendix pro aliquibus locis. But more: "The translation of the ... scriptural passages throughout the volume is by the Right Reverend Mgr R. A. Knox."

Of course, those vernacular passages were not intended for public use in public worship. This massive show-case for 'the Knox Bible' was to foster private devotion among those literate in their mother tongue, but not up to the Latin of the Missal. It was to assist in enabling an educated public to appropriate and appreciate the riches of the (traditional) Roman Rite. A very 'forties' and very laudable project! But, in an age when 'the Liturgical Movement' had put the 'Vernacular question' onto the agenda, this was surely also a strong pointer in a certain direction.

Incidentally, the prayers were translated by the Reverend J. O'Connell, M.A., and H. P. R. Finberg, M.A., F.R.Hist.S. (1900-1974). The involvement of Fr O'Connell, Editor (of edition after edition) of The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, suggested the semi-establishment appearance of the venture. But neither man was to be a fundamentalist traditionalist; Finberg, a lay Catholic greatsman with wide academic interests, was to work for ICEL. His influence there was conservative: he felt that "if the liturgy uses expressions that run or seem to run counter to the spirit of the age, we should let it teach us to modify our sometimes callow notions, rather than remodel it, under the pretext of translation, to suit the fashion of the day ... the truth is that, consciously or unconsciously, the translators have bowed to the influence of critics who find much of the Roman Canon repugnant to the contemporary mind."

Anglia non est totus orbis. In 1952, a volume entitled The Little Breviary was published in Dutch. It consisted of an abbreviated form of the Breviary Office, in the vernacular. It came with fruity Vatican encouragement: "I hasten to inform you that the Sovereign Pontiff considers the book entitled 'The Little Breviary' which you have brought out in dutch deserving of the highest praise. A long-cherished hope has now been realised in a most excellent fashion ... outstanding ... His Holiness is delighted and congratulates you on having contributed by a work of this kind to the wider spread of devotion to the liturgy ... His Holiness is heartily in favour of the use of 'The Little Breviary' both by religious communities whose established way of life allows of it and by the laity ..."

This encomium is signed Jo Bapt. Montini Subst.  Who he? you all cry.

In 1957, this work appeared in English (Burns and Oates) with a Birmingham Imprimatur. Cardinal Griffin contributed a Foreward which frankly reveals the cultural back-ground: "The growing interest in the Sacred Liturgy ... warm approval of the Holy See .... high praise from the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII.  This Breviary meets a great need  ... knowledge of Latin will be scanty or lacking altogether ... "

A preface by a Redemptorist superior adds that the Office as abbreviated is "Yet no longer than the Little Office of our Lady." I gloss this as meaning that those lay communities which are not canonically bound to the full Breviary Office, and have hitherto used the Officium Parvum BMV, would do very well to adopt The Little Breviary instead.

The Foreword to the English Edition makes clear that this office-book follows the The Roman Missal in using Mgr Knox's translation of the Bible; and the translations of prayer-texts by O'Connell and Finberg.

Thus: the English Catholic Church was well equipped for a liturgical evolution in which Tradition would have been respected and treated gently; and home-grown scholarship from the pen and in the style of Mgr Knox would have been dominant.

I regard this as an opportunity most sadly missed. The policies which were, instead, folowed have left us in our current disastrous situation. The 1940s were a better decade than the 1960s! Was the eventual Vatican preference for doing business with world-wide language-groups really in accord with the principle of Subsidiarity?

26 January 2023

The Liturgical Revolution which wasn't (1)

In 1948, the Old Testament, in a translation created by Mgr R A Knox, Master of Arts and (later) Protonotary Apostolic, received a Westminster Imprimatur "for private use"; in 1945 the New Testament, from the same hand, had been published. These events might have proved the starting-gun for a considerable liturgical, and cultural, revolution.

Congregations at that time ... Anglican, (most) Protestant, and Catholic ... were in the grip of assumptions concerning the necessity for Tudor English within Church or Chapel walls. The King James Bible was still the Bible in the minds of Anglicans and Protestants; for Catholics, the Douay Rheims translation, purged of its most diverting incomprehensibilities by Bishop Challoner, served the devout. Any 'revision' even if only to bring King James (or Douay-Rheims) into line with the textcrit certainties of Westcott'nHort (textus brevior potior) needed powerful justification before it could break through the prejudices of three, cultural, centuries. King James ... aided by Thomas Cranmer ... still ruled. Even if not quite OK.

The problem for Catholics was less acute, because the kindly Latin (or happy inaudibility) of Tradition protected the laity from the irritating mutabilities and aggressions of clericalism (and The Garden of the Soul reinforced lay preference for archaic language). S John Henry Newman mocked  Protestant sneers about the linguistic attaments of the Recusant community: when Charles Reding is being dissuaded by his future brother-in-law from seceding to Rome, he has to face the argument that Catholic Clergy are "men of rude minds and vulgar manners"; "look at their books of devotion ... they can't write English." Reding smiled at Carlton, and slowly shook his head to and fro, while he said, "they write English, I suppose, as classically as St John writes Greek." Here, so the canonised author informs us, the conversation halted, and nothing was heard for a while but the simmering of the kettle. 

Do you think we are given here a snatch of the repartee of the Oriel Common Room? Would Whately have expectorated into the fire in explosive response to such a Jesuitical attack on Johannine parataxis?

I am unsurprised that not all the English Catholic bishops were equally enthusiastic about Knox's Bible. Given the radically revolutionary quality of its English style, it is surprising that it received from them such acceptance, or tolerance, as it did. It is not hard to understand how the bishops felt. How, indeed, should one respond to this clever convert?

To be continued.

25 January 2023

Fr Aidan Nichols, and the Ecumenical Future

 Fr Aidan Nichols, is without doubt the most considerable living theologian of the English-speaking Catholic World. For members of the Ordinariate, he is the great friend who, when we were still Anglicans and he was still a Dominican, helped and guided us during the years when we were planning, and then setting up, the Ordinariates. And he is as prolific a theological writer as Joseph Ratzinger (on whose theology he wrote a still normative guide, long before the election of Benedict XVI).

Fr Aidan once delivered a characteristic lecture on the crisis which had been precipitated by Amoris laetitia. The Catholic Herald gave a report on 18 August 2017, which is still there, only a google away.  I urge everybody to read it; and to take it very seriously.

I would like to make two comment on my own behalf.

(1) Fr Aidan delivered his lecture at a meeting of the English Fellowship of Ss Alban and Sergius - largely an Anglican/Orthodox Society. Was this a good idea? Washing our dirty Catholic laundry in front of non-Catholics??  

Detur Responsum.

It was a thoroughly brilliant idea. You see, there are people who think that Pope Bergoglio's style of papacy may be somehow more "ecumenical" than that of some other popes. Bergoglio goes around kissing Patriarchs and begging their blessings; he insults his fellow-Catholics with such easy and iterated fluency yet can speak only well of non-Catholics. He is reported to have reopened the "Question of Anglican Orders"; he spoke ambiguously about "intercommunion" with Lutherans; made a fool of himself at Lund.

But as we conclude this 2023 Octave of Prayer for the Unity of Christians, you will forgive me for reminding you that thoughtful Orthodox and Anglicans will not be attracted by a model of Papacy which can make any Roman bishop a self-obsessed tyrant propped up by an unhealthy personality cult; somebody whose least word or whimsy has to be accepted; who can, at will, change doctrine, morality, liturgy, and law. 

Such a papacy is not a papacy which the more open-minded Anglicans and Orthodox have ever been prepared to receive from earlier popes. There is no reason to think that they will be any more prepared to accept it when it comes with an Argentine accent and emphasis. 

BUT the best reason whey should not accept it, is because it is not what the Catholic Church teaches.

Fr Aidan reminded his hearers that Vatican I in fact limited the papacy; and surmised "it may be that the present crisis of the Roman magisterium is providentially intended to call attention to the limits of the papacy [in regard to teaching]"

(2) Very naturally, there have been people, during this Pontificate, who have kept their heads below parapets; who have been cowed into acquiescence by fear of the bully-boys, delatores, and sycophants who surround the current Roman bishop. 

The courage, and unambiguous words, of Fr Aidan Nichols might inspire them to demonstrate that parrhesia for which ... at an earlier stage in his pontificate ... pope Francis himself so often loudly called.


24 January 2023

Anglican Patrimony, S John Henry Newman, and the Argumentum ad hominem

Saint John Henry Newman, Patron of our English Ordinariate, made an observation which seems to me germane to the purpose of our Ordinariate. He was praising B Pius IX for the restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850; but I think it has an application particularly to ourselves: "... by giving us a church of our own, he has prepared the way for our own habits of mind, our own manner of reasoning, our own tastes, and our own virtues, finding a place and thereby a sanctification, in the Catholic Church".

In his review of Ian Ker's Biography of Newman, the maestro assoluto of modern Anglican writers, Henry Chadwick, called Newman "as supreme a master of irony and satire as any in our literature". It is the great gift of Irony and satire, which Newman developed first as an Anglican and then brought to its full flowering in the Catholic Church, which I wish to think about today. The capacity for Doing Divinity within the forms of Irony and Satire was not an invention of Newman's ... one only has to think of the admirable Dean Swift ... but I believe that Newman both formalised it and cast it in a form which has done good service since. It is pre-eminent among the habits of mind, manner of reasoning, tastes which, following him, we in the Ordinariate have brought into Full Communion with S Peter. It is part of us; we are not (just?) an eccentric group to whom, of its goodness, the Holy See has granted an unusual form of the Roman Rite. We have a culture, which no-one shall take from us. Reducing us to a community which simply has a distinctive Liturgy without its associated culture, is that "Uniatism" which is rightly so disliked by Orientals and is disowned by Catholic ecumenists who know what they are talking about. 

S John Henry wrote about his own controversial habits as a young don: "I was not unwilling to draw an opponent on step by step to the brink of some intellectual absurdity, and to leave him to get back as he could. ... Also I used irony in conversation, when matter-of-fact men would not see what I meant". He is here describing the argumentum ad hominem mode of controversy, defined by Locke as "pressing a man with consequences of his own assumptions or concessions". It was a method used by Origen (according to S Gregory Thaumaturgus).

It was brought to perfection by another great Anglican Ironist and Satirist, the Anglo-Papalist Benedictine Dom Gregory Dix, in the 1930s. Have you just proved ... Hooray! ... that the early popes did not exercise jurisdiction, in its modern sense? Dix will not contradict you ... nothing as crude as that. He will agree with you; and then spring his trap: neither, in those times did bishops have, in the modern sense, any jurisdiction. If you wish to assert episcopal jurisdiction, you won't be able to avoid the papal. If you deny the latter, you have cut the episcopal branch from underneath you. Do you assert, with tuttuttery and disapproval, that Vatican I defined papal primacy in terms of a modern Canon Law which did not exist in the New Testament period? Dom Gregory will pat you on the head ... warmly agree with you ... and then enquire how you cope with the fact that Nicea defined the Nature of Christ in terms of Greek metaphysics ... which also had no place in the minds of the New Testament writers.

Then, of course, there was Ronald Knox ... who explored the argument that in the Divine Plan Satire is the reason why humour was given to us: so that the pompous can be deflated.

Has there ever been a time when Satire was more needed in Christ's Church Militant?

23 January 2023


 At first, I thought of regaling you with some heavy humour about how the English Language is subject to a curious transition whereby, after a few centuries, it will consist simply of a very tiny number of words, all of them endowed with an enormous plurality of varied and unrelated meanings. This thought was sparked by seeing a TV clip of an American Police Chief saying that his officers "entered the location and located the victims", meaning, I presume, that they entered the place and  found the victims. [He also had a word heinious which was new to me.]

But some words from Ephesians in the Mass ad tollendum Schisma brought me to my senses. 

"One Baptism".

It's just not true that, nowadays, there is "only one Baptism". 

Immensely clever people ... immensely cleverer than the Man from Tarsus or even me ... prefer formulae like " ... in the name of the creator, the redeemer, and the sanctifier." Such phrases have even had to be dealt with in the Catholic Church. My suspicion is that in the broad sunlit uplands of the Reformation Inheritance, they are very common.

As Catholic Clergy check the Baptisms of their Paschal Neophytes, I wonder how aware they are that when somebody has written on a certificate that s/he "baptised N according to the Rites of the Church of England", this is quite possibly ... and often certainly is ... a shameless lie.

It is my belief that people entering into full communion from such religious environments should be conditionally baptised. As they once were.

And what about Holy Orders? If an ordinand was not validly baptised, then his Confirmation and Ordination are not valid.

There was a time when some Catholic Bishops, after ordaining presbyteri, reordained them all sub condicione in the Sacristy ... just to be on the safe side ... 

Perhaps this wholesome instinct should be restored and extended: so that, in the Sacristy after the Ordination, the chaps would all be conditionally baptised, confirmed, and ordained.

If this would be "unecumenical", then the blame for such a sin lies with those who, despite the ecumenical agreements and assumptions of the 1960s, arrogantly took to themselves the right to render Baptism an area of sacramental uncertainty.