7 February 2016


What a bore clergy find the 'Hymn to Love' in I Corinthians 13 (the EF/BCP Epistle in Sunday's Mass), as yet another engaged couple want Uncle Bob to read it at their wedding. Read, however, in the context of the blistering attack S Paul is making on the failings of the Corinthian Christians, its cutting irony, verging on sarcasm, is rather fun. Whenever S Paul says "Love is not X", he is mightily suggesting that the Corinthians are X. But it isn't irony Kevin and Sharon think they're getting ... I blame the late Thos Cranmer for the start of this vulgarisation. He abolished the fitting pre-Lent Collect for Quinquagesima and replaced it by a composition of his own, highlighting Charity. Since then, it has all been downhill.

If you look carefully at Quinquagesima's BCP/EF Epistle and Gospel (Luke 18:31-43), you may notice that the link between them is the idea of being made able to See. Then, if you turn to the Homily by S Gregory which provides an extract for the third nocturn in the Old Breviary, you will discover that this is exactly what the saint leads us to expect. (Migne, 76, columns 1081 and following; incidentally, as on the preceding two Sundays, the manuscripts tell us that this was preached to the people in the Stational Church - S Peter in Vaticano - on the Sunday we are examining. I will endeavour to amuse you by translating some of S Gregory's little Latin 'fillers' by means of our popular modern 'fillers'.)

"Now look (Ecce enim): who the Blind Man was according to History, we just don't know. But, y'know (tamen) what he signifies through a mystery, we do know. Y'see, (quippe) the Human Race is Blind, and it was chucked out in its First Parent from the joys of Paradise and it is ignorant of the brightness of heavenly light and it suffers the darkness of its own damnation. But, y'know (tamen) it's given a great dose of light through the presence of its Redeemer ...". S Gregory goes on to argue that, as the Blind Man asked for mercy, we have to keep doing that because memories of our sins keep returning and their phantasmata are hardly (vix) overcome by the laments of penitence. He insists that we recall our sins and consider what a terrible Judge is coming to punish; and, the Sunday before the start of Lent, he advises us that our life should have a temporary patch of being made nasty and bitter through penitence so that it doesn't have to endure everlasting bitterness in punishment (vita nostra ad tempus amarescat in paenitentia ne aeternam amaritudinem sentiat in vindicta). "Per fletus, y'see, ad aeterna gaudia ducimur", he adds.

On Quinquagesima Sunday we reach, as we read Genesis in the Breviary, what S Gregory called a couple of Sundays ago the 'Sixth Hour'; the period from Abra(ha)m onwards. Abram has arrived in Egypt; it turns out that his wife Sarai (the Old Testament has a liking for such stories about the  weakness Gentile males have for Hebrew lovelies) is exactly the sort of product that the Egyptian consumer warmly appreciates - and Pharaoh discovers that he can just about find room for her in his house. So, of course, YHWH flagellavit Pharaoh plagis maximis together with - it goes without saying - his entire household. As the Old Testament, and the natural disasters of our own age, endlessly remind us, suffering is to a large degree a corporate matter.

Hence, in this Age of the Individual, so much bewilderment about the way the world works; leading to the sort of questions about God's Way with Man by which so many fewer people in previous eras seem to have been worried (but see Luke 13 and read Jonah). But I hope by now I have made clear my own approach to those tedious questions about Theodicy which so worry Modern Man and so tax the ingenuity of those Modern Clergy who feel obliged to answer Modern Man's questions without querying Modern Man's assumptions.

6 February 2016

MAGISTERIUM: a crisis?

(1) It is claimed, on the Internet, that the 'addresses' given to ad limina groups of bishops visiting our Holy Father are not actually read aloud by him, but are distributed in written form.

(2) It is claimed that this is also true of the very critical address given ... or not given ... to the German bishops last year.

(3) It is claimed that "Cardinal Marx ... says ...

(4) ... that he asked Francis about that speech and ...

(5) ... was assured that he knew nothing about the text, and had not even read it."

I do not have much of a problem with (1) and (2).

I have a big problem with (3), (4), and (5). If they were to be, together and cumulatively, true, well, my immediate (and intemperate?) reaction would be to wonder why anybody should bother to take seriously anything apparently emerging quasi a manu vel ex ore Pontificis during this pontificate.

If (3) and/or (4) are true, but (5) is not true, this would help one to build up a more detailed general picture of Cardinal Marx's moral character.

I hope, for the credit of all concerned, that this report is untrue. If that is so, then I shall regard the Internet source on which these false claims are made as a creator of a skandalon.

This report itself rather reminds me, structurally, of the reported episode, earlier in this pontificate, when the Roman Pontiff was reported to have told some Latin American Religious superiors that they should not be "worried" by letters from the CDF (Rorate 11 June 2013).

5 February 2016

S Agatha, ora, ora pro nobis

Cardinal Burke's Titular Church in Rome is S Agatha's of the Goths: the only Catholic church in Rome built originally for non-Catholics (Arians). (As Sir Michael Caine says, "Not many people know that.") Those whose diaries won't accommodate a trip to Rome for its Patronal Festival will be looking forward to flocking instead to the great 'Venetian' Anglo-Catholic Basilica, now an Ordinariate church, of S Agatha in Landport, Portsmouth. S Agatha's Day is February 5; the External Solemnity at the weekend is the annual occasion for a Solemn High Mass (Ordinariate Rite) which could make you think you were back in the triumphalist Anglo-Papalism of the 1930s ... when "Faith was taught, and fanned to a golden blaze".

SATURDAY 6 February: High Mass 11.00 a.m., Mozart's Little Credo Mass; Preacher Fr A Lucie-Smith. Followed by a Reception.

The pp, the splendid Fr Maunder, continues the work of restoring the church. His latest plan is for an altar which will have for its reredos a picture (yet to be painted) in the baroque style (as of Murillo? Tiepolo?). Here is Father's ambitious description:
"The Blessed Virgin holding forth a scroll [Anglicanorum coetibus] whilst S Agatha beckons towards Benedict XVI, who, kneeling, is vested in a cloth-of-gold cope with the triple crown placed to one side. Below, separated by putti and appropriate clouds, the first four priests of S Agatha's: Fr Linklater, Fr Dolling, Fr Tremenheere, and Fr Coles; kneel, eyes heavenward, offering prayer for unity with the Holy See."

I hope that the design will have flexibility enabling a future generation to add a halo to the head of the Pontiff. And perhaps to put the Triregnum onto his head as well!

We're getting there!!

Patrimony!!! You know it makes sense!!!!

Bishop Schneider and Cowardly Rabbits

With great diffidence and respect, I venture upon the gentlest, most scholarly, most dreadfully pedantic, heraldic disagreement with Bishop Schneider concerning his suggestion that the "semi-heretical bishops and Cardinals" who swarm around everywhere today are to be likened to "cowardly rabbits". You see, our admirable English Cardinal Allen, the chap who was all primed to be Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England if only the Armada had succeeded, had as his Arms Argent three conies passant sable. Yet His Eminence was thoroughly red-blooded: his contingency plans for post-Liberation England appeared to be based on the assumption that the Protestant elite would ... er ... no longer be a noticeable factor in the general over-all situation as such. He is the only Cardinal whose statue stands proudly looking down on the High Street in Oxford, securely perched on the still inviolate Rhodes Front of Oriel College. Viva il Cardinale.

But perhaps they don't have conies in Kazhakhstan.

Nevertheless, if Bishop Athanasius is just the merest tadge unreliable on rabbits, he is absolutely dead right about the evils of "Pope-centrism", "Papolatry". Let us examine that disagreeable subject with all the vigour of General Woundwort ("Come back, you cowards, dogs aren't dangerous") himself. (Google Watership Down if you're a bit lost here.)

Despite the rhetoric that some prelates employ in the rather trying euphoria which follows every Papal Conclave, we have no divine assurance whatsoever that any Pope after S Peter ever has been or is "God's choice". Even as a corporate collegium, the Cardinal Electors are not protected in their prudential decisions. That would be an absurd dogma. I will not insult my readers by inserting here a history lesson about 'bad popes' (google 'Marozia' or 'Pornocracy') except to say that we can find more whole-hearted moral evil in quite a number of First Millennium popes than in the titillating iniquities of an occasional Renaissance libertine. Popes, needless to say, are protected from defining heretical propositions ex cathedra; but they are not vi ipsius muneris necessarily good or wise or nice men. (In 1559, Papa Caraffa was mad, bad, and nasty, had done a great deal to sabotage the Catholic cause in England, and Archbishop Hethe of York said more or less that in the House of Lords. But Hethe and all the other English diocesans, by God's grace, refused, at great personal cost, the orders of Bloody Bess to break communion with Rome.) Moreover, vi ipsius muneris, popes are not even protected against being heretics or expressing heresy (google Liberius, Honorius, and John XXII); only against  defining a piece of heretical doctrine ex cathedra. As Cardinal Pell made clear more than a year ago, a small number of popes has been very, very good; a small number very, very bad; and the overwhelming majority somewhere or other in between.

Nor is a world-wide personality cult of the Roman Pontiff required or even encouraged by Catholic Dogma. Such a cult is, surely, a very modern corruption of the Petrine Office, and indicates too much influence within the Church of the modern, Media-driven cult of the 'celebrity', so characteristic of our global village. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the first glimmerings we had of this cult were during the 1930s, the decade of the Nuremburg rallies, the decade also when Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII, but then Secretary of State) enjoyed displaying his charisma by going on foreign, even world-wide, tours and became known as il vice-Papa, il Cardinale volante. I wonder if these circuses have disadvantages as well as advantages. Poor shy Papa Ratzinger obviously loathed doing them, but went through it all out of a sense of duty: I wonder how much the strain sapped his declining strength. (Even Madonna seems to do them less, dear old thing ... barus de m'o thumos pepoetai, gona d'ou pheroisi/ ta de pota laipser' eon orkhesth' isa nebrioisi ... as another ancient lady, called Sappho, once put it). It was, moreover, Papa Pacelli who appears to have started the silly game of having babies handed up to him while swaying along in his Gestatorial Chair.

We need to clear out of the way the fawning superstition that faithful, obedient Catholics, episcopal, clerical, or lay, are supposed to regard whoever happens currently to be the bishop of Rome as some sort of god-like superman who never makes mistakes and is above all criticism (until he dies or abdicates ... when, of course, the vermin all emerge squealing loudly from the bilge of the Barque of S Peter). When a newly appointed bishop promised that he would strive to be a "worthy representative of Pope Francis [or Pope Anybody]", the silly fellow should have had someone to tell him that bishops (according to the teaching of Leo XIII, not to mention Vatican II) are not Romani Pontificis vicarii, but Apostolorum successoresWe need to do what we can to educate our obtuse and ignorant Media to abandon their assumption that the Catholic Church is some sort of Stalinist or North Korean dictatorship in which a throw-away, off-the-cuff remark made by one man in an airliner might constitute the discarding of the teachings of two or four millennia. Indeed, I wish the last two pontiffs had never started these wretched airliner interviews. Even Pius XII, for all his faults, would have known better.

So .... three (cubed?) cheers for Bishop Schneider, and to Rorate for carrying, two or three days ago, that exclusive and important interview. Papolatria delenda est.

If the cry goes up to drink a toast to our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis I the Roman Pontiff and Vicar of S Peter, nobody will spring to their feet faster, or hold their head higher while enthusiastically doing exactly that, than I will. And without any water on the table at all.

But I will drink a toast to Holy Tradition first.

4 February 2016

Reading the Daily Papers (Part 2)

"He seated himself on his throne, on the right side of the great altar, and began to sing the office appointed by the church for the dead, assisted by his choir, which is numerous, and some of the best voices from Rome.

"The first verse was scarcely finished, when it was observed that his voice faultered, the tears trickled down his cheeks, so that it was feared he would not have been able to proceed - however, he soon recollected himself, and went through the functions in a very affecting manner - in which manly firmness, fraternal affection, and religious solemnity, were happily blended.

"The Magistrates of Frascati, and a numerous concourse of the neighbouring people, attended on this occasion; who were attracted, not so much by their curiosity, or the purpose of assisting at the masses which were celebrated at every altar of the church, as a desire of testifying their great respect for their Bishop; who constantly resides amongst them, and daily bestows upon them temporal as well as spiritual blessings, with a very liberal hand." 

3 February 2016

Reading the Daily Papers (Part 1)

I know we should all do this regularly; but one can get a bit behindhand. I fear this has happened to me. Here is an extract from the Daily Universal Register. April 23 1788 ... my first reaction is to notice that the paper seems more recently to have changed its title to something deplorably modern and snappy ... no matter ...

"The funeral obsequies of the late COUNT OF ALBANY were celebrated on the third of February, in the Cathedral Church at Frascati, of which See Cardinal Duke of York, his brother, is Bishop.

"The church was hung with black cloth (the seems covered with gold lace) drawn up between the pillars in the form of festoons, intermixed with gold and silver tissues, which had a very magnificent and solemn effect; especially as a profusion of wax tapers were [sic] continually burning during the whole of the ceremony in every part of the church.

"Over the great door, and the four principal side altars, there were written in the festoons (in large characters) the following texts of Scripture, which were chosen by the Cardinal, as allusive to the situation and fortunes of the deceased: Ecclesiasticus 47:17; Job 29:5; Tobit 2:18; Proverbs 5:17; II Maccabees 6:31.

"A large Catafalque was erected on a platform, raised three steps from the floor, in the Nave of the Church, on which the Coffin containing the Body was placed, covered with a superb pall, on which was embroidered, in several places, the royal arms of England; on each side stood three gentlemen servants of the deceased, in mourning cloaks, and holding a Royal Banner - and about it were placed a very considerable number of very large wax tapers, in the form of a square, guarded by the Militia of Frascati.

"About ten o'clock in the forenoon, the Cardinal was brought into the Church in a Sedan Chair, convered with black cloth, attended by a large suit of his officers and servants, in deep mourning ...

My index finger, the only thing I can type with, is getting tired. I will finish this in a Part 2. Must have been a unique liturgical occasion, don't you think, a reigning monarch being buried by his own brother, a Suburbicarian Cardinal Bishop, who had already succeeded de jure to his Three Crowns?

2 February 2016

Jews and Christians

This originally appeared 17 February 2010. I have added a footnote in green. I feel the importance of the points I make is enhanced by the fact that, appropriately, S Luke's Gospel, the Gospel of Mercy, will, in the Novus Ordo, be the Gospel which dominates our beloved Holy Father's Jubilee Year of Mercy. And today is the Feast of Candlemass; for the texts and spirituality of this magnificent festival we owe so much to the artistry of S Luke's pen.

 S Luke's Gospel, which in the Novus Ordo is the Gospel for this year, sometimes puzzles people. On the one hand, not least in the Infancy Narratives, it repeatedly emphasises the the Torah-rootedness of everything our Lady and S Joseph do; on the other, it (together with the book of Acts) seems to have the Mission to the Gentiles as one of its main themes. I will not attempt a long lesson on this point, upon which commentators advance different opinions, but simply share what seems to me very obviously S Luke's thrust: the Jewish people were and continue to be God's People; but some of them do reject the Messiah. To the Faithful Remnant - those Jews who do receive their Messiah - God adds Gentile converts. And that is what the Christian Church is; God's ancient Hebrew people (minus the unbelieving) with associated Gentiles added. One Chosen People (see S Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians.)

So Jewish Christians, far from being an oddity or an anomaly, are symbols of the age-old identity of the Church. The Church did not begin in the first century AD, but when God first Called a People in the dimmest antiquity of Semitic history: a point emphasised by the Roman Canon when it calls Abraham our Patriarch. S Gregory the Great calls it, "The Universal Church, which from righteous Abel right down to the the last to be chosen who shall be born in the end of the world". This means that Christianity is not a religion which grew out of Judaism (and therefore ought to respect its 'parent'), but - in historical terms - one of the two bodies each claiming to be the True Judaism; at a time when, in any case, the literal fulfilment of the religion of the the Hebrew Scripures became de facto obsolete with the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Temple cult. We, and Rabbinic Judaism, both claim to be the Real McKoy; even though we both, to an outsider looking in, inevitably appear different not only from each other but also from the Temple-centred religion which ended in AD 70.

My understanding is that when Rabbinic Judaism remoulded itself as a religion without the Temple sacrificial system, discerning its heart in Torah and Family and Synagogue, it became radically different (there are scholars who have queried whether, despite the evidence in S Luke's Gospel and his Acts, synagogue buildings actually existed before AD 70; I think this is an overstatement, but there can be no doubt that the significance of the synagogue was transformed after AD 70). Christianity retained the inherent sacrificial structure and grammar of Hebrew religion, fulfilled in the Eucharistic Sacrifice instituted on the first Maundy Thursday.

As the distinguished American rabbinic scholar Jacob Neusner has pointed out, what Jesus ejected from the Temple was those selling animals to enable the Temple's sacrificial worship to be carried out, and the moneychangers who enabled pilgrims to bring the shekel-tax which paid for the great daily morning and evening Tamid sacrifice of a lamb, offered for the whole People. Our Lord thereby enacted the replacement of the Temple cult by the Sacrifice which He Himself was to institute the following Thursday; Lamb superseding lamb, Altar superseding altar, Table superseding table; when Antitype (as we Christians put it) superseded type.

Sunday by Sunday, perhaps day by day, you and I go up to Jerusalem and enter into the courts and tabernacles of YHWH in great joy to offer there the Thanksgiving Oblation of the Lamb, and to share YHWH's Communion Sacrifice, our feet firmly upon the hill-top where Abraham stood with Isaac and where the Seed of Abraham was immolated.

I add: (1) S Luke's doctrine is, of course, the same precisely as that of S Paul in Romans 11, in the allegory of the Olive Tree. Have you read it recently?
(2) It occurs to me to wonder if there is any connection between the modern errors among badly instructed Catholics about Judaism, and the disuse of the Roman Canon, with its in-your-face emphasis on the pivotal Old Testament sacrifices.

1 February 2016

The Anathemas Game (for those with a little Latin) UPDATE

UPDATE: It is pure coincidence that I have posted this today ... in fact, I drafted it some weeks ago ... on the same day that Bishop Schneider (Rorate) made the same point that I am in fact drawing attention to here, and a number of other very important points, in an interview.

If there is ever another Ecumenical Council, I suggest the following anathemas;
"Si quis dixerit Spiritum Sanctum Petri successoribus promissum esse, ut eo revelante novam doctrinam patefacerent, ANATHEMA SIT."
"Si quis negaverit Spiritum Sanctum Petri successoribus tantummodo promissum esse ut, eo assistente, traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodirent et fideliter exponerent, ANATHEMA SIT."

These seem to be the main and most basic errors circulating in the Holy Father's intimate entourage.

Those of you who would describe yourselves as 'having a little Latin' would benefit from working out a translation of these texts. Careful readers of this blog will spot whence I have cobbled them together. 

If you've finished those two, here's another couple to try:
"Si quis dixerit Romanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra non loquatur, nihilominus definitiones proferre quae ex sese, non autem ex consensu ecclesiae, irreformabiles sint, ANATHEMA SIT."
"Si quis negaverit Romanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra loquatur, ea tantum infallibilitate pollere, qua divinus Redemptor Ecclesiam suam instructam esse voluerit, ANATHEMA SIT."

If you have sussed the source whence I have adapted these succinct formulations, you might like to offer some candidates of your own ex iisdem fontibus.  

31 January 2016


I wonder if anyone knows exactly when the Byzantine preLent season was invented? It occurs to me that, if it was in place when S Gregory was apocrisiarius in Constantinople, he could have picked up the idea for the Gesimas there. You will remember that on his return to Rome and his election as Pope, he was much criticised because he made changes in the Liturgy which the admirably conservative plebs sancta Dei of Rome deemed to be Byzantinisations. But let us look at the Propers for tomorrow, Sexagesima.

That great liturgist G G Willis (funny, isn't it, how so much of the best work on the early history of the Roman Rite was done by Anglican Catholics) pointed out that the propers for Sexagesima in the Missal of S Pius V and the Book of Common Prayer manifestly relate to S Paul; his own account of his tribulations in the Epistle being matched by the Parable of the Sower, so appropriate to the work of the Apostle to the Gentiles. (You will remember that the Pope's Mass, on these three Sundays before Lent, took place in turn at the three basilicas of Rome's great saints, Ss Lawrence, Paul, and Peter, which stand like protecting spiritual fortresses outside the City walls; and today, Sexagesima, Pope and people were at S Paul's.)

I don't like to tangle with as great a scholar as Willis; but with diffidence and respect I point out that this is not quite what the Begetter of the Gesimas, S Gregory the Great, himself actually says. Again I recommend those with access and a little Latin (Gregory's Latin is very easy) to read not only the extract which the Old Breviary gave in the third nocturn for Sexagesima, but the whole text of Homilia 15 in Evangelia (Migne, 76, columns 1131 and following). The emphasis here again is on the need for a sense of sinfulness as Christians approach the penitential season of Lent. The Holy Father picks up the Lord's explanation of the parable (the second section of the pericope, which the crass 'scholarship' of the twentieth century confidently and ludicrously assured us could not possibly be from the Lord's lips): i.e. the work of the Devil in frustrating the Gospel Word sown in our hearts, and the dangers of riches. It is this that becomes the basis of his attempt to stir up within his congregation an awareness of its sinful need to do penance.

[My incurable propensity to ramble inclines me to recommend the whole of the homily, not just the extract in the Breviary, if only for the sake of the (very 'modern') way S Gregory engages the congregation with his vivid account of the recent holy death of a devout cripple whom we all knew, who used to beg outside the Church of S Clement. Again, this is a classical, hands-on, mission sermon by a preacher who fears that his flock has lost its sense of sin. Plus ca change ...]

And, in the Divine Office, S Gregory's message is reinforced by the story of Noah. I hope you recall, from my post on Septuagesima, how S Gregory interpreted the parable of the husbandman hiring labourers for his vineyard. 'Morning' meant the period of Sacred History from Adam onwards [Septuagesima]; the 'Third Hour' was the period from Noah. So in the first nocturn of Mattins for Sexagesima Sunday we get the account of God's decision to punish human iniquity by a flood. Undoubtedly, that Flood evoked, for S Gregory's generation, vivid memories of the Great Tiber Flood of 589, followed by the epidemic which ended the life of many Romans, including Pope Pelagius II, S Gregory's own immediate predecessor.

But ... had all those who suffered in the Flood (either Noah's or Rome's) truly deserved, each individually, such punishment? I wonder if seminary courses dealing with 'Theodicy' take their starting points from Biblical and Patristic material. S Gregory, with the sort of realism from which our generation can shy away, meets head on the fact that a lot of people do their best to do good, but find themselves clobbered by tribulations. They flee earthly desires, and all they seem to get in return is worse wallops (flagella duriora). The solution is humiliter purgationis flagella tolerare: humbly to submit to the blows which cleanse us.

When did you last hear a sermon on Submission to God's Will ... whatever it be?

30 January 2016

Jan: 30: Beati Caroli Regis et Martyris???

What case could one make for regarding King Charles Stuart as a Beatus? Just suppose one wanted to, and just suppose an enthusiastic advocate really tried to do his best? (If the very thought of this makes you go hot under the collar, please do not read any further.)

We must start with basics.

When was Beatification invented? In a funny sort of way, Beatification came before Canonisation. This is true philologically: any who indulge in Latin liturgy will be aware that by far the commonest word in liturgical Latin for a saint is beatus, whether in the Canon or the Collects. It is also true juridically; because the essence of Beatification is: the raising of a particular person to the Altars of a particular, local Church ... not of the Universal Church. And, except for certain 'Biblical' Saints, every 'saint' began with a local cultus. Only later did he or she, perhaps, become a popular saint throughout the whole Christian world; a process which might grow naturally out of pilgrimage or the distribution of relics. It is the notion of a Universal Saint which was secondary and which gradually developed. And the declaration that someone fell into that Universal category was a natural function of a Universal Primate. You would not expect the Bishop of Lesbos to have the right to dictate to the Bishop of Lincoln who was to be honoured on the calendar of his Church. So whenever a local Church wished to enhance supranationally the status of one of its own great sons or daughters, it obtained a Bull of Canonisation from the Holy See. The first known example seems to be from 993; and the system was in full flood a couple of centuries later when, for example, Ss Edward the Confessor, Richard, and Thomas Becket were so honoured by Roman Pontiffs. These instincts contributed to a process of Roman centralisation.

But local initiative did survive the Middle Ages. According to that great and erudite Pontiff, Benedict XIV, the last known local act of locally raising a man to the Altars of his local Church was a Beatification of Boniface of Lausanne by the Archbishop of Malines in 1603 (the privileges and prestige of the great local Western Primacies took a long time to fall into abeyance). And one of the first actions of Benedict XVI was to send beatifications back to the local Churches. The preliminary processes, of course, do continue to take place under the authority of the Vatican, but the significance of the act as inherently local has been reinstated. ('Benedict' seems a papal name linked with erudition and a broad understanding that 'Tradition' means something wider than 'What we've done for the last last ninety years'!)

And what actually happened at beatification was nothing like the razzamatazz (etymology??) of the modern event. What occurred was simply that Mass and Office were authorised for use, with a clear indication of limitations. Thus S Philip Neri was beatified in 1615 simply by the granting of permission for Mass and Office to be celebrated in the Oratorian Chiesa Nuova in Rome. Pope Paul V made it clear that the privilege exended to nowhere else at all, and reminded the Roman Oratorians to celebrate Philip in a comparatively low-key way.

Charles Stuart was executed in 1649. In 1662, in the Anglican Provinces of Canterbury and York, Mass and Office were promulgated by both Church and State, and were universally used within the jurisdiction of the King of England and Ireland. So ... ... could it be argued that a cultus of Blessed Charles Stuart King and Martyr is lawful, as being completely in accordance with precedent?

(Incidentally and in passing: nobody in England claimed any authority to insist that Charles Stuart be given a cultus in Poland, Peru, or the Peloponnese. And indeed, in the forms of service which were brought into use, Charles is not, as far as I have noticed, ever called 'Saint'; while the B-word is used quite generously. Referring to him as "St" seems therefore to me to lack justification. We can only be discussing the possibility of his equipollent Beatification.)

Of course, I know the objection which will be made: that Stuart was a schismatic or worse; that the ecclesial community in which his cultus flourished was schismatic or worse; hence it possessed no canonical authority or ecclesial authenticity; and so none of all this stuff 'counts'. Waste of my time.

Believe me, I can see the force of this. 

Still ... one problem which this objection will have to counter is that beatifications and canonisations done by antipopes have sometimes 'stuck'. "Paschal III" canonised someone called Charlemagne, and his cultus has still not disappeared. And those canonised have included holy people who, in the Great Schism of the West, adhered to a prelate now regarded as an antipope. Yes; I know they wanted to adhere to the true pope ... perhaps wanted to do so quite desperately ... but, de facto, canonically, historically, they just didn't.

But the biggest problem which such potential critics will have to face is this. 

FACT: Some of the Byzantine Churches ('Uniates') now in full peace and communion with the See of S Peter use Calendars containing Byzantine worthies who died while Rome and Byzantium were disunited; and, moreover, whose canonisations were enacted by "schismatic Greek Orthodox" synods. I have in mind the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch (His Beatitude is a Successor of S Peter! Surely, the most senior prelate in the Catholic Church after the Pope?). (The same, I have been told, is true of the Ukrainian Church: accurate information?). 

So: people who died in schism and who were then canonised by people in schism can have the cultus of a Saint within the Catholic Church.

To help to focus the minds of readers, I say now that I will decline to enable comments which criticise the thesis I have deployed WITHOUT taking seriously the sections above in red.

I add that I can myself think of a detail in Benedict XIV's historical exposition of Beatification which might undercut one part of this thesis; and of elements in the ecclesiology of Benedict XVI which could be used to subvert another. Readers may well be able to detect other flies in my ointment. Fair enough. I am privileged to have some extremely able and acute readers. But I am not going to give space to mere angry rants.

29 January 2016

From the Lone Star State ... UPDATE UPDATE

 ... a dear Texan friend informs me that EWTN will be showing, live, the Consecration of Stephen Lopes as Ordinary of the Chair of S Peter. In Britain, apparently, this is a matter of 2 a.m. on February 3. UPDATE or is it an hour earlier? ... SEE THREAD

Sounds worth the effort to me!!


I thank a reader who has appended a comment on my recent post ... the "Have a good summer" post ... quoting an American canonist. The gentleman is cited as opining that the dodgy "Vatican Document" on Christianity and Judaism must be, even if only in some small degree, magisterial.

This is actually ... I think ... extremely funny.

You see, the document itself is careful to say, in its own first paragraph, "The text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church".

So, if the document is magisterial, then it teaches, magisterially ... that it is not magisterial! We are back with something very much like the dear old whiskery joke: "X is a Cretan and X says that all Cretans are liars ... is X telling the truth?".

To put it differently: the extent to which this document is magisterial is precisely the same as the extent to which (by its own assertion) it is not magisterial!

Or, mathematically, +1-1=0.

One of the problems about such a very 'maximalising' papacy as the present one is that its promoters and defenders ... the people who hope to piggy-back their own agenda onto the back of it ... actually reduce the whole idea of a Papacy, and of a Magisterium, to a laughing stock. In their passion to inflate the Teaching Authority of Holy Mother Church, and of the Sovereign Pontiff himself, for their own private political ends, they end up having defaced that Authority so that it looks like a derisory piece of rubbish which nobody could possibly take seriously. (I do not find it easy to believe that this is what the Holy Father himself desires.)

These people are in fact depriving us of the Magisterium we have a right to possess by emptying it of all plausibility; by blunting its edges. They are trying to steal from us the Papacy which Vatican I so succinctly and so accurately defined for us. I can only think of one Power in whose interest it is to do this.

And there is another dangerous aspect to their unfortunate and sinister game. Magisterial teachings in the Catholic Church gradually acquire, and grow in, substance and precision on the basis of precedent and of claimed support in the acta of previous authorities. Is there a risk that some pope in the future might issue, with claimed authority, an edict in which his argument is propped up by a footnote .... a footnote which gives chapter-and-verse drawing upon an earlier document which had unobtrusively started its own life as a discussion paper explicitly disclaiming magisterial authority? Or drawing upon some phrase Bergoglio had used (without giving it any particularly deep thought) in one of his Santa Marta homilies?

The present Roman Pontiff is the fount of endless words, all day and every day. No human being could possibly talk as much on the record as this one does without accidentally saying a certain amount of nonsense as well as, one tremulously hopes, a large amount of very good sense. Attempts among those who plot to be his controllers to dress up in garments of awesome authority his lightest obiter dictum, or to do the same to the questionable meanderings of some committee set up by some dicastery, come very close to sacrilege and strike me as being most probably a device of the Enemy.