1 February 2015


The ancient usage of the Western Church suggests you should be reading the book of Genesis in your Divine Office. And that you should have started reading Genesis today, Septuagesima.

During Lent, of which Septuagesima is the preamble, we repent of the Fall and the mark which it has left on each successive age of human history and on each one of us. Lent leads up to Easter Night, with the great, the outrageous impudence of the Deacon's shout: O felix Culpa: O blessed iniquity (Knox's translation ... for use, may we hope, in the Patrimony?); the marvel of Adam's Trangression which deserved such and so great a Redeemer. And then Eastertide invites us to live the Risen Life with and in our New Adam.

The S Pius V/Book of Common Prayer Eucharistic propers for Septuagesima and its season express this spirituality. The Introit is: "The groanings of Death have surrounded me". This recalls the Genesis theme that the pains, labours, and mortality of Man (and not least of Woman) result from the Fall. Yes, I know that the Gesimas were probably introduced by S Gregory the Great at a time of great distress, strife, and chaos in Italy - which does lie behind the sense of agony and helplessness in this and other texts. My point is that it was the Pontiff who discerned a connection between a world ravaged and disordered by the Fall ... and the realities of late sixth century Italy. How can anyone who reads the newspapers doubt that this connection is just as possible now?

I incline to believe that S Gregory has left us his own explanation of his liturgical creation, Septuagesima, in the passage from his writings of which the old Breviary gives us a portion in the Third Nocturn (Hom 19 in Evang.; the full text of which is handily available in PL 76 coll 1153sqq.). Speaking, according to the manuscripts, in the basilica of S Lawrence one Septuagesima morning, he explains the different times of the day referred to in the Sunday's Gospel (the parable of the Husbandman hiring labourers for his vineyard): "The morning of the world was from Adam to Noah; the third hour, Noah to Abraham; Sixth, Abraham to Moses; Ninth, Moses to the Lord's Advent; eleventh, from the Lord's Advent to the end of the world". The Epistle reading ends with the disobedience of many in Jewry in the time of Moses ("in many of them God was not well-pleased"); the Gospel concludes "Many were called but few were chosen".

While there is no doubt that the Tradition has seen this applying to those Jews who rejected the Messiah's call, Bible and Fathers leave no room whatsoever for complacency on the part of Gentile Christians. The whole point of I Corinthians 10, from which the Septuagesima Epistle is taken, is that the fall from grace which happened to some who were "baptized into Moses" is just as much a fall awaiting some of those who have been baptised into Christ. And the passage from S Gregory selected for Mattins ends sharply "At the Eleventh hour the Gentiles are called; to whom it is said 'Why are you standing here lazy all day?' " S Gregory goes on to ask "Look what a lot of people we are gathered here, we're packing the walls of the church, but, y'know (tamen), who can know how few there are who're numbered in the flock of God's chosen?" ... a decade ago, the Principal of an Evangelical PPH in this University got into trouble for asking a question rather like that.

Divine election; Human disobedience; its just punishment in the tribulations of the present age; followed by a call to Christians to recollect their own sinfulness before Lent begins: it looks like a very coherent Proper to my eye. Perhaps it is a trifle politically incorrect: the Journalist In The Street tends indignantly to demand of fashionable bishops whether Disasters are a Divine Punishment and why it is that a good God .... Well, y'know ... but Stay: my assumption is that this blog has a superior class of theologically literate readers who can do the theodicy stuff for themselves.

I urge those who can, to read S Gregory's entire homily; it ends with a lurid and lengthy account of an unrepentent sinner at the point of death; it is a real mission-sermon rant such as Fr Faber might have preached to his recalcitrant Irishmen before he moved on to (what Newman called) the 'second rate gentry' of Brompton. S Gregory wasn't half the Latin stylist that S Leo was; but, to be regretfully honest, I sometimes doubt whether the plebs sancta Dei understood much of S Leo's lapidary periods and abstracted concretes. I bet you could have heard a pin drop when S Gregory launched into one of his purple passages and the pontifical spittle was really flying. (Good tongue twister there?)

31 January 2015

RORATE does it again.

I think it was the Tablet which cheerfully and with apparent relish informed us last autumn that the Battle Lines were being drawn up. This was not terribly good news for members of the Ordinariates who had thought that they could now just get on with living the Christian life and a spot of the New Evangelisation, rather than manning barricades as they had to in their former residence. We had no desire to have all this argy-bargy thrust upon us ... but perhaps, as someone suggests on one of the threads, it is all part of a Great Realignment, redistributing both those who follow Christ and those who obey the Zeitgeist. The Ordinariates as one of the spearheads of Providence! The future will tell. Anyway, Duty Calls. Let's update the Quartermaster's Inventories.

Two very important pieces on Rorate a day or two ago. Firstly, an admirable Statement by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy making clear that nobody ... not even any "religious leader" or "Synod" ... can change the Church's teaching on those matters which are currently in contention. Please do read it. Is your pastor a member of the Confraternity? If a cleric, are you?

Secondly, a piece of quite extraordinary importance by the great Italian intellectual and historian Professor Roberto de Mattei about a Pope teaching Error, and how to navigate in such a situation. You should never miss reading a piece by de Mattei. You never know when, in some future pontificate, you might need the back-up he provides. [I have a curious premonition that the next Conclave may be quite long and, as some people say, 'fraught'.]

It could profitably be read alongside Cardinal Pell's fine sermon to Juventutem last year, in which he drew some most valuable lessons from the darkest days in the history of the papacy.(Rorate November 1 2014.) I think that, in particular, the need for a 'broad consensus' before the next Synod needs to be emphasised.

I have a piece of news for everybody. The Holy Spirit was not given to the Roman Pontiffs so that they might disclose (patefacerent) new doctrine, but so that they might guard and set forth (exponerent) the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles. 

This cannot be said often enough.

Anybody who denies the truth of that proposition has lapsed into heresy.

If you don't want to keep reading it, you will need to find another blog to read.

30 January 2015

blessed Charles Stuart

Read on The Josias an interesting document from the hand of Pope Pius VI.

Et Carolus Stuart propter odium fidei beatus martyrium subiit qui aviae suae vestigiis a corona ad coronam immarcescibilem insecutus est. Nonne ille, putas,  ...

Dixit Dix: "Was ever such a command [Do This] so obeyed? ... Pope Leo doing this in the morning before he went out to daunt Attila, on the day that saw the continuity of Europe saved; and another Leo doing this three and a half centuries later when he crowned Charlemagne Roman Emperor, on the day that saw that continuity fulfilled. Or again, Alfred wandering defeated by the Danes staying his soul on this, while medieval England struggled to be born; and Charles I also, on that morning of hs execution when medieval England came to its final end".

Cuius precibus omnes adiuvemur protegamur salvemur.

Patrimony and the Pallium

Vatican Radio reports that our beloved Holy Father will no longer himself impose the pallium upon Metropolitan Archbishops (They will each be surreptitiously given one to pack in their suitcases and to take home so that the nuncios can do the business in the home dioceses, at the same time, I presume, as the Cappa Magna is bestowed).

This is a return to earlier practice. I do not think there is anything sinister about it.

I presume that the usual oath will be sworn on that occasion. Oaths of obedience to the Roman Pontiff are, incidentally, very much part of the Anglican Patrimony; you will recall how ready that principled man Thomas Cranmer was to swear such an oath. I wonder if his Patrimonial wife used to darn his pallium for him.

But could it be that this new change of practice has something to do with an ecumenical problem? Some Orthodox prelates have ... well, let's be frank, a bit of a paranoia ... about the public conferring of the Pallium on "uniate" metropolitans in Rome on the feast of SS Peter and Paul. You see, that day is the major occasion for an official delegation to visit Rome from the Phanar. During the last pontificate, there was one occasion when rather embarrassed special arrangements had to be made. I would thoroughly approve if this awkwardness has now been eliminated. It will remove just one possibility of "uniate" prelates being embarrassed or snubbed in public.

In the Church of England, the Pallium is not, I suspect, currently much in use. But in the 1530s, legislation was passed under Henry 'Empire' Tudor to the effect that when one of the English Metropolitans died, the survivor was to consecrate and send the pallium to his successor. So it is definitely part of the Anglican Patrimony. I wonder if the Irish Parliament passed similar legislation?

I think it would be very nice indeed, thoroughly jolly, if the senior of the Ordinaries of the three Ordinariates were to be sent a pallium. In fact, he could be called the Archordinary and given the jus to have a Primatial Cross carried before him. That is yet another part of the Patrimony. Patrimony is endless ...

Only for philologists

In the Eponymous Flower blog, where one often finds examples of the creative use of the English Language, I have just spotted a ... to me ... novel, transitive, verb: "to emeritus". It appears to mean "to eliminate someone from Christian ministry". Good, yes? How splendid to see our ancient but flexible tongue responding so aptly to cultural needs.

29 January 2015


(1) "The decrees of the Vatican Council give not even the shadow of a foundation to the assertion that the pope has been made by them an absolute ruler (principem absolutum), and, indeed, by virtue of the Infallibility, "a monarch more absolute than any in the world". ...  even as far as concerns ecclesiastical matters, the pope cannot be called an absolute monarch (monarchus absolutus), since indeed he is subject to Divine Law and is bound to those things which Christ set in order (disposuit) for His Church. He cannot change the constitution (constitutionem) of the Church which was given to it by its Divine Founder, after the manner of a civil legislator who can change the constitution of the state. The constitution of the Church in all essential matters is founded in the divine arrangement (ordinatione) and is therefore immune from every arbitrary human disposition." (Denzinger 3114)

(2) "Venerable Brethren, you have continued the glory of the Church, since you have undertaken to restore the genuine sense of the definitions of the Vatican Council which had been twisted by the deceptive interpretation publicised by a certain circular letter, lest it deceive the faithful and, converted into an object of ill-will, appear to provide a handle to machinations being placed in the way of the freedom of election of a new pontiff. Indeed, such is the perspicuity and solidity of your declaration, that, since it leaves nothing to be desired, it ought to provide the occasion for our most fulsome congratulations; unless the crafty (versuta) voice of some journals were to demand from us an even weightier testimony - a voice which, in order to restore the force of the letter which has been refuted by you, has tried to deprive your hard work of credibility by arguing that the teaching of the conciliar definitions approved by you has been softened and on that account does not truly correspond with the mind of this Apostolic See. We therefore reject this sly (vafram) and dodgy (calumniosam) insinuation and suggestion; since your declaration expresses the inherent (nativam) catholic judgement, which is accordingly that of the sacred Council and of this Holy See, skilfully fortified and cleverly (nitide) explained with such brilliant (luculentis) and inescapable arguments (rationum momentis) that it can demonstrate to any honest person that there is nothing in the attacked definitions which is new or makes any change ..." (Denzinger 3117)

Let me explain. (1) is part of the response of the German Hierarchy to Chancellor Bismarck, who, after the definition of Papal Infallibility in 1870, had attacked it as being subversive both of State and of Church. The German Bishops thus vigorously refuted the notion that the Pope is an absolute monarch who can do anything.

Their admirable declaration was then attacked on the grounds that they were toning down what Papal Primacy and Infallibility really meant; that their motive in doing so was simply to calm things down in Germany; that Rome itself was angry with them.

(2) is part of the message of Blessed Pius IX to the German Bishops, confirming their interpretation of the Council. And there is nothing niggardly about his approbation of their words! Even Pio Nono, despite his undeserved reputation, had no notion of the arbitrary, absolutist, and despotic view of the Papacy which is held ... but only when it suits them! ... by modern liberals enthusiastic about promoting innovatory agendas.


 In the light of (1) and (2), let us now consider the centrally important paragraph by which S John Paul II, in his brief document Ordinatio sacerdotalis, condemned the idea of women priests.

"Ut igitur omne dubium auferatur circa rem magni momenti, quae ad ipsam Ecclesiae divinam constitutionem pertinet ... declaramus Ecclesiam facultatem nullatenus habere ordinationem sacerdotalem mulieribus conferendi, hancque sententiam ab omnibus Ecclesiae fidelibus esse definitive tenendam."

The Holy Pontiff thus unambiguously declares that the inability of the Church to ordain women is a matter which "pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself". The language he uses is a clear allusion to (1) above. Indeed, we know that Cardinal Ratzinger, who presumably drafted this passage, had (1) very much in his mind: you will recall his famous condemnation of the "Spirit of Vatican II" error that the Pope is an absolute monarch who, especially if acting upon the mandate of a ecumenical council, can do anything.

I hope this simple clarification may be of assistance to anybody who finds him/herself obliged to oppose the idea that 'WO' is a matter which is up for any discussion other than that of further demonstrating the coherence of the Holy Pontiff's teaching with the general body of Catholic doctrine. To argue for this aberration would be an assault, not merely upon the infallible Ordinary Magisterium of the Universal Church which S John Paul here declares, but upon the very wise limitations with which Vatican I surrounded its teaching on the Papacy ... "the Holy Spirit was not promised to the popes so that they could disclose new doctrine but so that they can guard the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles."
Ordinatio sacerdotalis declared that the Church nullatenus has the facultas to ordain women. The sense of these two Latin words is important. Facultas comes from the root of facere, to do; and has a general sense of the wherewithal, the means, to do, to effect something. To say that the Church lacks the facultas to ordain women is like saying that a man with an empty purse does not have the facultas to to give a sovereign to a beggar; a man without a membrum virile does not have the facultas to perform sexual intercourse. In other words, the Holy Pontiff is not saying that the Church ought not to ordain women; he is saying that she is unable to do so. If she attempted to, the action would be a nullity, just as to give someone a 'dud cheque' is to give them nothing. Nullatenus [accent on the a; I once heard a liberal so-called scholar mispronounce it with comically vigorous decision] is a post-classical word meaning literally "right as far as, absolutely all the way up to, nothing". The Holy Pontiff could have written nullam habere facultatem ... ("has no wherewithal to ... ") or facultatem non habere ... ("does not have the wherewithal to ... "), but instead chose, more  emphatically, to assert that the Church has "absolutely no wherewithal whatsoever ... none at all ...
                                                     nil, zilch ... 
                                                                                    you gotta believe it".

28 January 2015

Cardinal Rodriguez

I have tried to read carefully a paper by a Cardinal Rodriguez. There are entire paragraphs that I actually don't understand. Perhaps there are problems of translation; Fr Lombardi will know. But three points do strike me: (1) Christology. The Second Person of the Glorious and Undivided Trinity is referred to in phrases like "The God of Jesus" and "God through Jesus". I did not identify language clearly affirming that our Redeemer is God. (2) "Mercy" seems to be construed as being at the heart of theology. But any attempted reconstruction of Christianity which concentrates singlemindedly on one word or slogan ("Justification by Faith Alone", for example, or "Sola Scriptura") has tended, throughout history, to have disastrous effects. (3) The Roman Pontiff's role is to protect the Tradition and to define and exclude heresy. This paper seems exclusively concerned to prepare the way for an agenda of radical but unspecified change centred upon the non-Magisterial utterances of just one pope during a ministry of less than two years. This is accompanied by a bizarrely curious suggestion that the Holy Father's public style and personal  gestures are his Magisterial Encyclicals.

Even during the pontificate of Pius XII and his canary, did papolatry go quite as far as this?

27 January 2015

Tunc erat bibendum ...

Extract from an undergraduate newspaper: "The underage Corpus fresher reportedly shouted 'Vote Labour', ran around the College garden, and recited Latin after becoming intoxicated".


On one of the threads, a reader suggested that seasonal pastoral letters already showed some bishops softening up their flocks for "change", whatever that may mean. I have no evidence for that. In fact, I have just been reading a pastoral letter sent out by Philip Egan, Bishop of Prtsmouth. It is very fine indeed. Like all his Pastoral Letters, it is beautifully footnoted. Truly, he is a bishop who takes seriously his munus docendi not just his laity, but also his clergy. So am by nature rather inclined to dismiss apocalyptic conspiracy-theorist claims about heterodox bishops. However ... here are some words by a very senior Curial Cardinal very much better placed than I am to know what is going on in the Church at large; he says that there are bishops "who have allowed themselves to be somehow blinded by a secularised society in which they have been so influenced that it has drawn them away from the main topic or from the teachings of the Church based on revelation".

I suppose, prima facie, a crude and ignorant journalistic mentality, trained in the usual journalistic arts of gross over-simplification, might expect bishops to fall into roughly three groups:
(1) the orthodox, busily setting down clear markers about what the Church (to adapt S John Paul II's phrase) nullatenus habet facultatem faciendi;
(2) those betting bishops who have put all their money firmly on Bergoglio's nose; and
(3) those hedging their bets, anxious to say nothing which might either offend Current Management or be an embarrassment on their files if Pope Francis is followed by a hypothetical 'orthodox reaction'.

I'm not sure into which category we should put that Belgian bishop ... was his name Bonny? He seems quite 'way out' in his suggestion that the Church ought to provide blessings to parallel the many varieties of sexual relationships in the secular world. The mind boggles. But it all sounds like enormous fun, with masses of interesting work for liturgical wordsmiths ... 'jobs for the boys', as we say in England ... and, of course, for the girls ... and for the biboys ... transboys ... cisboys ...  cisbigirls ... bitransgirls ... et ceteris et ad infinitum ... just imagine trying to provide liturgically for every possible 'relationship' between any two (does it have to be just two?) of these!! Quelle richesse!!

I am totally sure that, under the wise guidance of our beloved Holy Father and of our very savvy English bishops, we are not moving into the world envisaged and consistently urged since 1992 by Walter Kasper, in which (since in his view the Local Church has ontological priority over the Universal Church) doctrinally significant 'differences' should be allowed to coexist, such as 'differences' of marital and sexual discipline, between or even within provinces. That would make the Catholic Church exactly like the dear old Anglican Communion which is now so amusingly splitting up! With the best will in the world, humankind does not really need three Anglican Communions. Two is more than enough!

It must be truly dreadful to be in the dioceses of heterodox Belgian and German bishops. I feel particularly disappointed with regard to the Belgian Church, since it was that admirable Cardinal Mercier of Malines who so vigorously advocated, during the 'Malines' Conversations, the basic idea of the Ordinariates, i.e. of an Anglicanism 'united not absorbed'; of diversity but within the structures of the Magisterium of the Ages.

We of the Anglican Patrimony could, perhaps, make a Euro or two doing lucrative Consultancy Work helping Belgian and German parishes which are suffering under unorthodox bishops!! We had 170 years of experience of doing that sort of thing!! But since the papist Euro is currently plummetting in value, perhaps we should demand payment in good sound Protestant Pounds. [This last paragraph is meant as a childish joke. Indeed, I doubt if there is a single Ordinariate priest who is sufficiently fluent in modern Belgian.]

26 January 2015

At long last, Fr Tim ...

 ... has shown us the fine picture of S Gregory which he has in his parochial school. The Saint is holding a scroll inscribed with the Angli/Angeli pun recounted in S Bede.

Interestingly, the sentence ends with a good example of cursus; the use of certain end-of-sentence rhythms employed by Cicero and then in the Papal Chancery from around 350ish until just after S Gregory's time (vide G G Willis Essays 1964): "esse consortes" is a neat planus. I must have a look and see whether S Bede himself was a cursus  man. If he wasn't, this bit might indeed go back to S Gregory himself.

What other treasures has Fr Tim unearthed in Marvellous Margate which he will gradually reveal to us?
Might it once have been above an altar? Is there any evidence of the identity of the artist?

Judas College

The Internet suggests that Judas College is based on Merton. It may well be, but the topographical indications in the novel suggest to me that its buildings are more likely to be somewhere up Parks Road. Any ideas?

Women priests .... again? ... groan groan ... er ....

A while ago, Fr Zed, at the end of the Rome meeting the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy, seemed to hint that a big debate was on the way about women priests. Oh dear! Are we really going to have relive those dreary decades in the Church of England when that dreary subject just wouldn't go away? And it is a useless subject to discuss, because those who demand women priests are simply not prepared to listen to arguments. Do you hear me? They never listen. You are wasting your time. Believe me, the male supporters of this demand, who are so over-anxious to prove and flaunt their feminist credentials, are far worse and far more shrill than the women. Just you wait.

Being in Full Communion since 2011 has given me a wonderful respite from all that. And I have no intention of ever returning to the subject. When invited to go anywhere in the world to give talks or take part in conferences or give retreats, or just to sing the glories of the Ordinariate or simply to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, I willingly (diary and health permitting and as long as my expenses can be met) accept the invitation. But, very definitively, not on this subject. Never, never, never. Not now; not ever; not anywhere; not for anyone. And this is not a joke. Since 2011 I have, as they say, got a life. And I like it.

I will, instead, simply commend some reading. I expect you know of Manfred Hauke's book (Women in the Priesthood? Ignatius Press 1988). I commend also the Rochester Report (Women Bishops in the Church of England?, CHP, 2004), put together in the Church of England when the question of women bishops became pressing. It is an official document, written by a committee comprehending different viewpoints, which summarises, basically fairly, the arguments on each side. It is probably a better read than something which only gives one point of view, because you need to know what the Other Side really thinks. Archbishop Rowan Williams anticipated that it would initiate a Great Theological Debate on the subject in the Church of England. But it failed in this, because the ideologues were not prepared to discuss anything. They demanded Action Now. Instead of jaw jaw, they ruthlessly and efficiently organised their Anschluss. Few people even opened the volume. The clamour went on and on and drowned all dialogue.

I would also suggest a volume which, at the same time, I was myself involved in producing, Consecrated Women? (Edited by Jonathan Baker, Canterbury Press, 2004.) Fr Aidan Nichols also had a hand in it (his suggested title for it was The Voice of the Bridegroom, which I rather liked). It is, I like to believe, a scholarly production. It, also, was totally ignored.

In addition, you will find a Bibliography on the January 25 post at the blog Just Genesis. It is compiled by a former Anglican woman priest, who came to a fuller understanding of the question, and enables you to access on the Internet both her writings, and essays by C S Lewis; the great Anglo-Catholic dogmatic theologian Professor Eric Mascall; and a well-know American Orthodox writer Fr Patrick Reardon.

There is only one limited area on which I have anything new to say, and I will say it very briefly on this blog in a post soon. It is not about the Ordination of Women in itself; it is about the Magisterial and historical significance of the significant paragraph in Ordinatio sacerdotalis.

Oh dear. It is truly terrible to think that the Catholic Church may be condemned to the same decades of misery as the Church of England. This tedious subject displaces other much more exciting or useful theological endeavours. It leads endlessly to dissension and bad feeling and accusations of bad faith*. It turns friend against friend.

You have been warned. Ohne mich.
*In the Church of England, the laboriously stitched-together recent terms of peace between those who favour, and those who oppose, the ordination of women bishops, Archbishop Welby's great triumph, are already under violent attack from the feminists, who are consumed with paroxysms of wrath that the first 'orthodox' bishop to be consecrated since peace broke out will only be consecrated by bishops who have not also consecrated a woman. The miserable lot can't even content themselves with massive rejoicings for the consecration, today, of their first woman bishop. (Explore consecration philip north on Google.)