1 August 2014


This is a Review Article of a book the English translation of which was published in 2012; kindly sent to me for Review by the Angelus Press.

There will be more and more to say about Vatican II as more and more archival material becomes available. How worthwhile the saying of it will be will become more and more debatable. Do we really want to keep raking over the debris of the 1960s, or should we get a life, move on? Faithful readers of this blog will recall my own oft-repeated view that those Councils which did not define or impose dogmas but addressed the affairs of their own day (I usually cite Vienne; are we now very interested in how the next Crusade should be financed or whether the Templars should be burned?) gradually fade into the Church's background noise and are best left to do just that. Requiescant in pace.

But for those of us who do get a buzz out of history, The Second Vatican Council An Unwritten Story by Roberto de Mattei (Loreto Publications)  provides a read which is as gripping as it is erudite. Professor de Mattei has mastered a vast body of material and he weaves the results of his immense learning into a narrative which, more than any novel, keeps one turning the pages to discover what happens next. The only problem I can discern is that as bedside reading it is likely to make your wrist ache, even if you have acquired the paperback version. 598 pages; but, unlike many books, this one does not have large elegant empty spaces in order to set off its text (the bottom margin is only about eight millimetres); the whole thing is workmanlike and useful. Its usefulness is enhanced by the the fact that Professor Mattei makes no assertion for which he does not point you to the published evidence. For this reason alone ktema es aiei xugkeitai. The introductory matter includes good summaries of the State of the Question, just before the Council began, in matters ranging from Biblical to Liturgical studies. Footnotes give concise descriptions of the actors as they appear on the stage.

Mattei writes, he reminds us, as a historian rather than as a theologian. But, inevitably, history throws up its theological questions. A survey of the vota submitted by the Fathers when, before the Council, their views were sought, reveals preoccupations which failed to influence the Conciliar documents. One is the assumption that the Council would continue the very popular and triumphalist Mariology which, in the grim aftermath of the Second World War, kept up the spirits of bishops and flocks alike. The Definition of the dogma of the Universal Mediation of the Mother of God was confidently expected. Why did it not ....
To be continued

30 July 2014

The Trinity Preface

I first become aware of phrases from this preface in the pages of the Stowe Missal. This is a liturgical book scribed in the 790s, but copied undoubtedly from a much earlier source (for example, it lacks evidence of the Gregorian changes, such as the moving of the Pater Noster to a place immediately after the Roman Canon and before the Fraction). It may have been the book of an itinerant priest in South-West Ireland, or one who could not afford a large Mass-book (it only has one Epistle and Gospel, but is clearly meant for all-the-year use since it has the seasonal paragraphs of the Communicantes). And the Preface in this rite goes as follows:
" ... through Christ our Lord: who with thine only begotten Son and the Holy Ghost art one God and immortal God and incorruptible and immovable God and invisible and faithful God [much more like this up to:] good and holy God, not singulariter of one person but of the one substance of the Trinity; Thee we believe, Thee we bless; Thee we adore [etc.]."

This faintly reminds me of the same place in the Anaphora of S John Chrysostom:
" ...For thou art God ineffable, incomprehensible,invisible, inconceivable, ever being as Thou art, Thou and thine only-begotten Son and thy Holy Spirit [etc.]."
Is this simply a generic similarity, of Christians toto orbe divisi thinking the same way in the same context, or is there a textual link? I strongly incline to the former possibility.

The preface of the Trinity, in more or less its present form, is in the Gelasian Sacramentary, for use on the Sunday after Pentecost. Is it from a source like this that Alcuin got it for the Sunday Mass of the little book which I am sure (pace Willis) he put together for priests minimally equipped during the Carolingian period?

A brief look at the manuscript evidence suggests to me that the rubric directing this Preface to be used on the Sundays after Trinity (aka after the Octave of Pentecost) first appears in Sarum Missals early in the 14th century ... as one might expect. It is also in the Westminster and Hereford Missals; was it universal in the later English Middle Ages?

I then have a gap until Pope Clement XIII made it the Green Sunday (and Advent etc.) Preface in the Missale Romanum in 1759. Had there been continuity anywhere in this custom between the Tridentine curtailing of local rites, and the 18th century ... or did it just occur to the pope quite spontaneously that it was a good idea to make the Trinity Preface the all-purpose Sunday Preface?

28 July 2014

Is there a canonist out there?

It appears that the former Bishop David Moyer has been told that he cannot enter the presbyterate of the American Ordinariate because the local Roman Catholic territorial bishop will not give him a positive votum.

I wonder if anyone can explain how this fits in with the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus?

27 July 2014


How endearingly Traditionalist that ISIS should impose the old Ottoman tax on Christians in Mosul!

I think this could turn out to be very helpful to community relations in this country. As everybody knows, our own Islamic community is opposed to extremism and intolerance; indeed; those who know much more than I do about Islam inform us that the actions of ISIS are anti-Islamic.

So: all that the Islamic communities in our country need to do is to have collections and to use their financial resources to supply to the Christians of Mosul the money which the latter are having to pay to ISIS in order to avoid being martyred.

This will deal a powerful blow to Islamophobic bigots in this country, and convince ordinary people that our Moslem fellow-countrymen share fully our sense of decency and fair-play.


I doubt very much whether the present Hamas armed campaign against the Zionist state complies with our Christian doctrine of the Just War. I adhere to that doctrine and to that tradition.

But, given that Hamas is not run by Christian theologians, I find it unsurprising that they attack the Zionists as they do. Hamas represent a people whose land was stolen by immigrants who continue to oppress the remnants of the Palestinian people. Where a nation has for generations been displaced and denied justice, instability is inevitable.

This background, and the difference in the numbers of those killed on the Palestinian and Zionist sides respectively, demonstrate that there is no equivalence between the wrongs done by Hamas and those done by the Zionists.

The Zionists only get away with what they do because of the guilt which is felt in Western liberal circles on account of the Holocaust; which I regard as an undeniable fact of History. There is, moreover, their unprincipled trick of contriving to imply that anyone who makes these points is anti-Semitic, a term which they pervert so that it really means anti-Zionist. But they can count me out of their cynical manipulation of guilt.

I do not feel at all guilty about what Hitler did to European Jewry when I was just a toddler and my father was serving against Hitler in the armed forces of the British Crown. And if anybody gets kicks out of calling me anti-Semitic because of what I have written above, then, in my view, they get their kicks in very perverted ways.


Again, I shall be away from emails and blog comments, helping with the Latin Mass Society Latin course in North Wales.

26 July 2014

S Anne

Dreadfully sexist, I feel, that the Novus Ordo should make the obscure S Joachim play first fiddle to his illustrious Spouse, Patron of Lesser Britain; Titular of my wife's College here in Oxford; so popular a Saint in Medieval England and iconographically associated with the cause of female literacy.

In the Library of the Dean and Chapter at Exeter is an unpublished fragment of a medieval liturgical book. It survived by being reused as scrap paper after that amusing episode which we call the 'Reformation'; it is closely associated with the great bishop John Grandisson, who dominated fourteenth century Exeter. Grandisson was a micromanaging control-freak with an immense and intense devotion to our Blessed Lady Matri Misericordiae. He codified and reformed the worship of his Cathedral; in doing this he provided carefully for the cultus of our Lady in her own chapel in the Cathedral. Every day there was to be Full Service there of the Mother of God; except that on a small number of days this was replaced by the Service of someone very closely associated with her. For example, S Gabriel ... and S Anne.

The fragment which survives at Exeter is clearly from a Mary Missal created for use in either that chapel or in the corresponding chapel in his collegiate foundation at Ottery. It gives us the Mass of S Anne. And what is interesting is that Grandisson was not content to provide it for his clergy to use; he checked and carefully corrected the text in his own handwriting. The Secret prayer shows this happening; it is a variant of a prayer we find in other medieval sources such as Sarum. This is how the scribe left it:

Sanctifica, Redemptor mundi, munera praesentis sacrificii, et beatae precibus Annae nobis eadem effice salutaria de cuius utero mater tua virgineae puritatis est egressa.

The genitive 'virgineae puritatis' appears to have nothing upon which to depend. Sarum suggests that after 'tua' there was the word 'aula' - our Lady was the 'Dwelling' of Virginal purity; 'aula' would easily slip out because of parablepsis resulting from homoeoteleuton. Grandisson spotted the omission but, I suspect, lacked an archetype from which to correct it*. So he supplied, ad sensum, the word 'flos' - flower.

This sort of thing somehow brings one very close to the dear, devout old tyrant. Incidentally, he ordered the Octave of the Assumption, which he selected for the date of his enthronement, to be kept for ever as a day of high rank. Three cheers for John 'Patrimony' Grandisson [pronounced Grahns'n].

Here is a rendering of the Collect in that Mass:

God, who didst make blessed Anna, barren so long, fruitful with a glorious and saving offspring: grant we beseech thee; that all who, for love of the Daughter venerate the Mother, may deserve, in the hour of death, to rejoice in the presence of each.


*Logically, of course, it may be that he possessed a master copy which gave a different reading from what eventually got into Sarum.

25 July 2014

Delightfully politically incorrect

S James the Great! Let us listen to the first harbinger of liturgical renewal, Dom Prosper Gueranger [I slightly abbreviate]:

"The land of S James's inheritance, Spain, had been overrun first by Roman idolaters, then by Arian barbarians, and when the day of hope seemed about to dawn, a deeper night was ushered in by the Crescent. But who is this unknown chief rallying against an immense army the little worn-out troop whose heroic valour could not yesterday save it from defeat? Swift as lightning, and bearing in one hand a white standard with a red cross, he rushes with drawn sword upon the panic-stricken foe, and dyes the feet of his charger in the blood of 70,000 slain. Hail to the chief of the holy war! Saint James! Saint James! Saint James! Forward Spain! It is the reappearance of the Galilaean fisherman, of the elder son of thunder, now free to hurl the thunderbolt upon these new Samaritans, who make Christ no more than a prophet. And when, after six centuries and a half of struggle, his standard bearers, the Catholic kings, had succeeded in driving the infidel hordes beyond the seas, the valiant leader of the Spanish armies laid aside his bright armour, and the slayer of Moors became once more a messenger of the faith ...".

I wonder what Elizabeth Tudor would have made of the fact that the old Spanish embassy chapel, S James Spanish Place, now has an Anglican as Rector.

24 July 2014

Back again

I am at home until next Sunday, when I depart for the LMS Summer School. I have done my best to get up to date with emails and blog comments.

I did delete one of the latter which seemed to suggest that if a lay person touched a chalice veil, it rendered the Mass invalid. Deeming that no reader of this blog could be so ignorant of what the Church teaches with regard to what makes a Sacrament invalid, I decided it must be a hoax.

Ha Ha. I wasn't born yesterday. Er ...

23 July 2014

Swiss Clocks as well as Swiss Guards?

Back in the Good Old Days, tourists to Switzerland came back with rather naff little wall-clocks in which there were two figures ... a male and a female figure ... which alternately emerged and retreated. I don't remember quite why, and perhaps I'm a bit confused about the details; but doubtless you will be able to correct me. Or were cuckoos somehow involved? We old gentlemen do get a bit vague.

Under this Pontificate (in aeternum floreat) something very similar repeatedly occurs. Out pops the Sovereign Pontiff with an interview or whatever here or there or wherever in which he says (exempli gratia dico) that there is a 2% chance that any Catholic priest is a paedophile. The mechanism then whirs and clicks as that figure is withdrawn and, automatically, out comes the other figure (another Jesuit, as it happens) called Fr Lombardi, who explains that The Holy Father Wasn't Really Giving An Interview and that He Didn't Really Say That; or that Perhaps He Did Say It; or that He Said Something Like It But Certainly Not So As To Include Cardinals; or that No Exact Record Was Made Of What He Did Say; or et cetera et cetera ad nauseam vel ulterius.

Does Lombardi get paid overtime? Are Swiss clocks still manufactured?

22 July 2014

Long Live the Nice Old Gentleman

I'm a poor ex-Anglican with very inadequate theological formation; nor was I a peritus at Vatican II; and I am not trained as a historian. All these shortcomings leave me rather floundering when I read what a certain clergyman, a very Nice Old Gentleman (hereinafter 'NOG'), writes in a certain 'catholic' newspaper. (I omit specificities so as to avoid falling into argumentum ad hominem in the sense in which those who have not read Locke sometimes, unfortunately, understand that phrase.)

I think it was at the beginning of June that NOG wrote about our blessed Lady's titles, and claimed "Pope Paul VI cheated, and referred to Mary as 'Mother of the Church' during one of his private documents during the Council".

The Acta Synodalia of the Council (AS III/8 909-918 vide praesertim 916) give the texts of what was done in the Council. According to this source, Paul VI, in his final allocution to Sessio III of the Council, proclaimed that Mary is the Mother of the Church. Some questions:

(1) Is what a Pope says in a formal allocution to an Ecumenical Council 'a private document'?
(2) Does NOG have evidence that these Acta are lying?
(3) Is it consonant with the respect due to a Sovereign Pontiff when speaking formally, to call him a cheat?
(4) Was NOG present during the Pope's Allocution?
(5) Since 1964 was quite a long time ago, is it possible that NOG's memory is failing him quite a lot nowadays?
(6) Is there a list of those who were Conciliar periti?

At the end of June, NOG's column spoke as if Pope S Gregory VII ... Hildebrand ... came historically before Charlemagne. Some more questions:

(7) Is it possible that NOG's memory is failing him quite a lot nowadays?
(8) Is it a good idea for a 'catholic' newspaper to give free rein each week to a NOG whose memory seems to failing him quite a lot nowadays?
(9) Would such a 'catholic' newspaper give regular space to a lefebvreist NOG who called a Pope, when speaking with the utmost formality in an Ecumenical Council, a cheat?
(10) Authority sometimes very properly admonishes the writers of blogs to be careful what they say. Does Authority take the same sort of close and laudable interest in what clerical newspaper columnists writing for a popular readership are saying?
(11) What sort of respect towards the plebs sancta Dei does it show to treat them as if they are so far beneath contempt that any sort of inaccuracy or misrepresentation can cheerfully be unloaded upon them because they are, in the writer's view, too thick and ignorant to be aware that they are being taken for a ride?

20 July 2014

A Hunwicke Test

I think it is sometimes a good idea to submit the assertions of myself, my fellow Catholics, even the non-Magisterial utterances of Popes and of those other Successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, to a simple test.
Would you say that to your ecumenical partners in dialogue, particularly to Orthodox?

An example. The Holy Father is unofficially reported to have described himself as the guarantor of Orthodoxy. This has an engagingly ancien regime flavour to it. One thinks of the Sun King saying L'etat, c'est moi; of Pio Nono saying Io sono la Tradizione. I think Louis XIV was one of Europe's great monarchs; and earlier this year I did a few enthusiastic posts upon B Pius IX and the Syllabus of Errors. I have, personally, no trouble with this sort of talk. And there is a sense in which our Holy Father's aphorism is totally bang on. The Roman Pontiffs, speaking ex cathedra, do without the tiniest doubt have the assistance of the Holy Spirit ut traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodiant et fideliter exponant.

I just wonder whether what Pope Francis said, the way he said it to the seminarians of the FI, is something which he would say to an audience including Orthodox. And I wonder this because I do not think the Magisterial officers of the Church ought to impose upon humble subjects of the Catholic Church a doctrinal formula of which they would not also be prepared to say to the Orthodox "This is part of our core belief and if you are to be in unity with us, you must of course accept it". There is not a single formulation of Catholic Truth which is good-enough to be heavily dumped onto some lowly, vulnerable, and bullyable group, but which we would never be so silly and insensitive as to try to unload upon our partners in ecumenical dialogue.

And, as for the report that our beloved Holy Father also used the old Loyolan topos about the Magisterium being able to declare black to be white, I can only say that if he goes around saying that sort of thing to Anglicans such as his chum Archbishop Welby, it will have the result of reawakening in their minds a whole lot of dormant anti-Catholic prejudices. Victorian Protestant bigots believed in subtle and deceitful Jesuits who smiled their sinister smiles as victims of the Inquisition were racked until they blurted out what their torturers required them to say. Is it really the policy of this papacy to stir up all those prejudices again?