31 October 2014


A few days this week and next week to revisit that nice section at the end of the Missal, Votives (and the equally nice Spanish-shape purple vestments kindly given by some very dear friends across the water).

For example, Contra paganos, which a different friend across several different bits of water tells me used to be contra Turcos et paganos ... I rather like that title; it's so very Patrimony, reminding one of the Good Friday prayer in the Church of England's normative book of worship ... "have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites ... " (no nonsense, we infer from this, in official Anglican doctrine about the Jewish Covenant still being salvific!!! ... I wonder why the Church of England doesn't receive the same Good Friday battering from 'dialogue' bigots over this as the Catholic Church does when she prays for the removal of the veil ...).

But, of course, I said the Mass with a basically IS reference. Its texts remind me of the spirit of the Gesima Sundays, with their vivid picture of the Christian people grievously afflicted, calling upon a God who might seem to have deserted them.

Then there is the Mass labelled in the Missal I use as Ad tollendum Schisma; said with particular reference to Anglicans. A lovely, theological Mass, with those superb readings from Ephhesians and our blessed Lord's High Priestly Prayer. It takes me back to the 1960s, when Christian really wanted Unity and didn't just spout the rhetoric. What a popular Votive it was then. I wonder how often any of us say it nowadays.


Extracts from a three-part review which I published in August; all three parts now together. It seems to me that our present 'Between the Synods' era makes it very topical.

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 ....
See below.


But, in a Council whose convoking Pontiff expected it to end by Christmas, Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces soon disappeared from the agenda. Even stranger is the question of the dog which barked in the night (But, Holmes, the dog did not bark in the night! Exactly, Watson). Vatican II was supposed to be a Council about the world of Today and the problems of its own day. And there is no doubt that, at the heart of the Cold War, in the decade when the Cuban crisis nearly precipitated a holocaust, Communism, a militant ideology claiming to be the end of all religion, was the great Question of the Day. Previous Councils had condemned the errors of their own day; Vatican II failed even to mention Communism, either in practical terms or by addressing its errors. This was not for want of attempts by Council Fathers to raise the question in the aula; Fathers who had themselves physically suffered at the hands of the oppressors (pre-Constantinian Christians termed them confessores) addressed their Venerable Brethren movingly ... good quotations are given in Mattei. But any and every such initiative mysteriously disappeared.

The reason seems to be twofold. S John XXIII wished the Council to be positive rather than negative; to discern what is good in the World rather than to condemn its errors. And, under B Paul VI, the Ostpolitik made it impossible to mention the enemies of the Church behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, there seems to have been an agreement with Moskow that, in return for the Vatican's silence on Communism, observers would be allowed to travel from Russia to the Council.

The final part of this review should follow below.


I wish, finally, to have a look at the Council's oddest feature: the contrast, contradiction, between the expectations the Fathers had in their suitcases as they set out for the Council, and the documents for which they eventually voted and which they (even Lefebvre) signed.

In historical terms, a reason for this is to be found in the brilliant organisation of a Conciliar minority of 'progressive' bishops from Northern Europe, who succeeded in gaining control of the levers of power ... a full account passim in Mattei. Here is his summary: "The Council did not heed the requests that emerged from the vota of the council fathers, but rather favoured the claims of a minority which, from the outset, managed to put itself in charge of the assembly and to orientate its decisions. This is what emerges indisputably from the historical data". 

But I think I can also discern here a theological factor. A Bishop is supposed to be the Man of his Church. The prohibitions in earlier centuries directed against the Adultery of Translations express this instinct. From the second century, a bishop was seen as possessing the charisma certum veritatis because, as the Man of his Church, he could bear witness to the teaching received from his predecessors and witnessed also by his presbyterate, diaconate, and laity. (An enquirer could be invited to visit the Apostolic Churches, and the churches founded by the Apostolic Churches, to verify that their doctrine was indeed identical. Such an enquirer could be confident of the inevitable identity of the teaching of all those Churches with that of the Church in Rome.)

It is this profound embeddedness of a Bishop in his own Church that should guarantee the authenticity of his judgements when, exceptionally and untypically, he is absent from his ekklesia and sitting with his fellow-bishops in Council. One thinks of those memorable phrases of Pope Francis, that a pastor should smell of his sheep; that he should not be an airport bishop. Both of them bear directly upon this point. Lamentably, the unexpected length of Vatican II meant that its bishops became very much airport bishops. They got to know each other extremely well and acquired a distinct odour of the seminar-room and of the Roman trattorie; they became politicians; they became, some of them, more preoccupied with the views expressed a moment ago by some glamorous peritus than with the opinions of tedious old Fr Black back in Great Snoring, and his even more boring parishioners. Some may have asked themselves only very infrequently whether the exciting novelties in the air of S Peter's were congruous with the teaching that our dear old predecessor Bishop Brown (never an emeritus because he died in office) had hammered away at, in season and out of season, for the fifty five years of his episcopate, not to mention his predecessor Bishop Green, who was born before the Restoration of the Hierarchy. Heaven forgive them, some of the Fathers of Vatican II may even have congratulated themselves on being so much more Modern and Enlightened than Black, Brown, or Green!

After all, had they not sat, entranced, only yesterday evening, listening to the views of professor Hans Kueng?

30 October 2014

Cardinals Meissner, Pell, and Newman on popes and synods

(1) I suggested that the Holy Father's claim that "the presence of the Pope is, for everybody, a guarantee of orthodoxy", implies, for completeness, assumed presuppositions. Now I see that Cardinal Meissner has also taken up this point: "The Continuity in the teaching and preaching was always the guarantee of the soundness of our faith". I think this phrase is just what is needed. Its addition brings the Holy Father's claim fully into line with the teaching of the Fathers going back to S Irenaeus, and with Pastor aeternus, the decree of Vatican I by which canonically his Petrine ministry is supported.

We also need such a gloss because, without it, we would have a claim which Orthodox, aka Separated Byzantines, even the best disposed among them, would never be prepared to touch with a barge-pole. I do think we have to try to keep in mind the ecumenical perspectives and not give unnecessary offence to separated brethren. I'm sure that was Walter Kasper's wise principle when he ran the Unity Council.

(2) In the Homily which he wrote for the 10th Anniversary of Juventutem, Cardinal Pell made two immensely wise points.
(a) That the Papacy, despite being of immense importance and being completely essential to the Church Catholic as Christ founded her, is not guaranteed against malfunctions due to human weakness. His Eminence pointed out that "For the last 150 years ... the Church has been led by Popes, who were better, wiser, holier, and more learned, than the historical papal average for the two millennia." In other words, having wise and good popes is not something which the Holy Spirit guarantees; not part of the divinely-protected essence of the office. Regular readers will remember my own emphasis on the absurdity of claiming, after every Conclave, that each elected pope is "God's Choice". Cardinal Pell himself goes on to remind us of the 'Pornocracy' (google Marozia), the Avignon papacy, and the Renaissance. I would add, in particular, the papal madman who, out of anti-Spanish paranoia, fatally and malevolently weakened the Church in this country during its Marian Renaissance and, arguably, is the answer to the question "Why did Elizabeth Tudor find it so easy to destroy Catholicism in England?". It is neither true that every pope is a good pope, nor that bad popes are not really popes. Later in his homily, Cardinal Pell returns to this theme: "the contribution of the many good Popes far outweighs the sins and mistakes of the minority".

I also deplore the hollywoodish personality cult of popes. I think that perhaps the most striking sentence in Cardinal Pell's homily is the following, which simply praises Francis factually for what the homilist knows he is to be honestly applauded for, without sycophantic overstatement or fawning hyperbole: "Today we have one of the more unusual popes in history, enjoying almost unprecedented popularity. He is doing a marvelous job backing the financial reforms."

(b) "The college [of bishops] and all synods work by consensus, and teachings and pastoral practice can only be changed by consensus ... We all have an important task during the next twelve months i.e. to explain and build a consensus out of the present divisions ... this is a unique opportunity which we must seize in God's name". Cardinal Pell is right. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of synodal consensus, both in Ecumenical Councils and in lesser bodies such as synods.

(3) The subject of consensus brings me on to the thinking of B Cardinal John Henry Newman, after Vatican I: if the bishops who opposed the decision of the Council "allege in detail acts of violence and deceit used against the Fathers, if they declare they have been kept in the dark and been practised on, then there will be the gravest reasons for determining that the definition is not valid". Manipulation and bullying can render a conciliar decision void because of the lack of true, moral, consensus.

29 October 2014

Different Gifts of the Spirit (and VARIA)

A very nice video over on EPONYMOUS FLOWER of the SSPX Pontifical High Mass in the Concrete Submarine at Lourdes. When they were there in 2008, they were only allowed a presbyteral High Mass, which naturally irritated them because (this was before Benedict's Ordinariate had swept us Anglicans into full communion) our Anglican pilgrimage a few days previously had generously been given all possible facilities. As an Anglican, I felt rather ashamed of the nastiness of this treatment of the SSPX, even though, of course, it was in no way our fault. But now there is a new Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes. We were told that it was the old bishop who made the 2008 decisions, to humiliate SSPX and to direct that, contra legem, during the International Mass Archbishop Rowan preached after the Gospel had been solemnly sung by an Anglican deacon (Cardinal Kasper presided at that Mass). So this year's decision in favour of the SSPX must be by authority of the new bishop. How civilised.

But the news is not all good. An Italian bishop has informed his diocese that people should not approach SSPX clergy for Sacraments. If they do so, says his excellency, "si porra di fatto nella condizione di non essere in communione con la Chiesa Cattolica". What, canonically, does this mean? Does Canon Law say that, by receiving the Sacraments from a priest who lacks faculties, one incurs Excommunication latae sententiae? If so, why does the bishop not explicitly say this and cite the canon concerned (I can't find it in my little book). Or does he mean that he is himself excommunicating such lay people? But wouldn't he have to say "I, Bishop of X, by virtue of such-and-such, hereby excommunicate etc.."vel simile? I'm mystified.

He says that such people will "not be in communion with the Catholic Church" (and goes on to tell them how they can get back into communion). But I rather thought that nowadays one spoke about non-Catholics as being not in full communion? The bishop speaks in the way hard-line Catholics did before Vatican II (Unitatis Redintegratio). Or are SSPXers somehow more out-of-communion with the Catholic Church than are (ex.gr.Lutherans and Methodists? Again, I am mystified.

It all seems to me very strange. But who am I to judge? I find Canon Law so mystifying.

One final point about SSPX. One of the basic principles of Ecumenism in the twentieth century was that the various and variously divided communities of Christians each had their own particular strengths, charisms, to bring into Unity for the good of all. The essential charism of the SSPX, as it seems to me, is its resolute and manly witness to the Kingship, to the Social Rule of Christ. 

Rarely has the Church Universal stood in more need of this particular charism.

(1) Does anybody know where to find the full text of Cardinal Pell's recent homily in Rome, read for him by his secretary? UPDATE Thanks to all of you who replied to this. I didn't think of Zenit.

(2) In answer to an enquiry sent to me without an email address for me to reply to: I know no reason why a Catholic should not attend the Divine Office in an Anglican Church. I would myself warmly encourage it (although, of course hearing the Office in an Ordinariate church would be even better). But if you're in Italy, you'd better check with the local bishop.

28 October 2014


There's never any harm in reviewing a book that came out some time ago: so, today, you will have my views on Piero Marini's book A Challenging Reform (2007), in which the former papal Master of Ceremonies justifies the 'reforms' introduced after Vatican II (largely by the drive and enthusiasm of his hero, Annibale Bugnini, whom B Paul VI inherited from his predecessor).

Marini's theme, from which he never diverges by a millimetre (there are no shades of grey to spoil the grandeur of his blacks and whites), is how goodies pushed through 'reforms' in the face of resistance from baddies who did their best to prevent the implementation of 'what the Council wanted'. Quite where all these baddies came from, he never makes clear. The Council's document on the Liturgy was finally approved by 2,147 votes in favour and 4 against. (Yes: only four votes against. Among the multitudes who were happy to vote in favour were Archbishop Lefebvre and other 'reactionaries' who clearly never dreamed that they were voting for radical innovations).

The secret of Marini's sleight of hand is to confuse two fundamentally distinct things: what the Council Fathers did mandate; and what Marini's associates subsequently forced through without sanction from the Council. We must indeed acknowledge examples of changes made by the 'reform' which can claim a basis in the Council's instructions. The Council did mandate that a wider diet of Scripture should be put before the faithful in the Mass. So the Three Year Lectionary can at least claim Conciliar sanction. Or take the Breviary hymns. The Council did say that other hymns from the Church's lyric treasury should be added. So the hymns in the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours can claim Conciliar mandate. And these reforms, whether you or I like them or not, were done in the consciousness that they were the Council's wish ... otherwise, one wonders if even the Readings and Hymns would have been tampered with.

But, at the heart of the Roman Rite, there is something which is far more ancient and infinitely more central than the Readings and Hymns. The unchangeable Canon of the Mass. The Eucharistic Prayer.

Yet, in the period after the Council, alternative Eucharistic Prayers (originally three; later something like a dozen) were added to the Roman Canon. And this addition is completely absent from the Conciliar shopping list. Only a few years before the Council, an Anglo-Catholic writer, Dudley Symon, had written of the Canon Romanus, the immemorially ancient Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Church, "This was the Prayer that S Augustine brought with him to England in AD 597 and which for a thousand years was familiar to and loved by the English people. It is almost incredible that by a stroke of the pen it was made illegal [in 1549] by State action, though not so strange that revolts were widespread against this piece of tyranny, revolts that could only be stamped out by German mercenaries ... it is most unlikely that [the Roman Rite's] chief glory, the Canon, will be touched or cease to be said in Latin even if elsewhere much more of the vernacular is permitted."

So this move was intensely revolutionary. I am aware that some Fathers from non-European cultures had not felt that the Roman Canon was universally suitable (although my recollection is that they called for the resurrection of other ancient liturgies, not for the composition of new Eucharistic Prayers by committee). And I certainly know that 'Progressive' liturgists took a very dim view of the Canon. But the suggestion of offering a broader provision, which was accepted (with very little dissent) by the Fathers with regard to the Readings and the Hymns, was not extended by their Decree to cover the Canon. The suspicion has to be that those most enthusiastic about devaluing the Canon had the prudence not to be too noisy about their wishes, out of a fear that such a campaign would have alerted many of the Fathers to their real game. You disagree? Come, come! Do you really expect us to believe that Ottaviani and Lefebvre, and their Conciliar associates, would have voted for Sacrosanctum concilium like lemmings charging for their favourite cliff-top if they had been told that the down-grading of the Canon was what they were giving a mandate for? 

Now look at how Marini slithers round these facts: "The fact that four Eucharistic Prayers were approved was consistent with the early Roman liturgy, which actually had used several anaphoras". One sentence; and a sentence culpably crafted grossly to deceive. Is there any truth in it? It is indeed likely that in Rome, as elsewhere, in the very earliest days of the Church, the Eucharistic Prayer was extemporised (just as there was perhaps a period before the Lord's deeds and words were written down and regarded as 'Scripture'). There is evidence that the text of the Canon evolved through various stages (just as the texts of what became the Gospels may have done). After all, classical liturgy did not flutter down from heaven ready made and with every i dotted (and neither did the text or canon of Scripture).

But to give the impression that the Roman Rite, as soon as we have Latin texts to bear witness to it, was a rite in which alternative anaphoras were on offer each morning to every celebrant, so that introducing after Vatican II alternative Eucharistic Prayers is 'consistent with the early Roman liturgy', is either very ignorant or very dishonest.

In neither case can Piero Marini be regarded as a liturgist whom it is safe to trust. He is a determined ideologue with a narrow agenda.
Footnotes: the Prayer which used to be called 'Hippolytus' has long been known to be neither as ancient as was thought, nor to have any connection withe Roman Church.
Piero Marini should not be confused with Guido Marini.

27 October 2014

"The written Word"

The Holy Father has criticised  the fault of "wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises; within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve". (He went on to make balancing criticisms of other and contrary attitudes.)

When the first wave of Ordinariate clergy were being 'formed' at Allen Hall, our teaching was solidly, insistently, based upon the Conciliar and post-Conciliar Magisterium. This meant the written words of Vatican II and, mainly, the Magisterial documents of our recently canonised S John Paul II. Written documents like Veritatis splendor and Familiaris consortio. Is the Holy Father now telling us that we ought not to be 'closed within' such written words? Heaven help us; it's only a couple of years since we learned all that stuff from expensive written texts provided for our education by funds which, I think I understood, the English Bishops generously made available! Making a bonfire of them seems a bit premature!

Of course, those written words did not represent the end of the Magisterium. There must be development! But, surely, any developments cannot just ignore or rubbish the teaching of those documents? S Vincent of Lerins and B John Henry Newman analysed the difference between change and development. A human foetus cannot develop into an octopus, nor an acorn into a lemon tree.

I have heard it suggested that rhetoric like the Holy Father's is a danger to his own authority, rather like cutting off the branch that one is sitting on. If the magisterial documents, the written words of a predecessor are now of negligible consequence, how, people wonder, is his own authority any greater? When Pope Francis issues some written words which he desires to be seen as having Magisterial authority, what would be his answer to the naughty little boy who said "Ah, Holy Father, I'm not going to close myself within your written word. Give me the God of Surprises any day"?

I'm not sure what the answer is to all these troubling fears. But I do sometimes feel a little uneasy lest there be a tendency among loyal and well-meaning people to regard the lightest words obiter dicta of whoever may be the current Bishop of Rome as having enormously, fabulously, greater authority than those of boring earlier pontiffs which are now merely part of a dead old world we call History. If such assumptions are around, I can only say that I do not agree with them. On the contrary, I share the Patrimonial, 'Inklings' views expressed by CS Lewis and DL Sayers about the importance of being open to the wisdom of earlier ages which may not be flawed by resting upon the same implicit assumptions as is our own age. Indeed, I'm sure it cannot really be the hope of the Holy Father that, as soon as he is dead, everybody will heave an enormous sigh of relief and dump his written Magisterial legacy into the bin, and start going into ecstasies about Pope Leo XIV and the daily wonders of his every word and gesture.

The speech of Pope Francis which I began by quoting, with its initial cautions about closing oneself within the written word and the law, ended with quotations from Canon Law about the Pope's own supreme authority. But canons 749, 331, 332, 333, and 334, all of which he referenced, are, surely, the written word? And, moreover, are they not all written in ... um ... a law book?

I have expressed myself rhetorically ... because the Holy Father spoke rhetorically. I share his evident view that rhetoric is enormous fun. That much we both certainly have in common! Another habit I share with the Sovereign Pontiff is that of sometimes letting my rhetoric carry me away into saying something at the start of a piece which I then inadvertently contradict at the end of it, without even noticing that I have done so!!

26 October 2014

The Social Reign of Christ the King: a priority for the Synod of 2015?

I wonder how many people realise that the original Collect for the Feast of Christ the King put in place under Pius XI in 1925 was radically changed and given a new meaning in the post-Conciliar 'reforms'? And I suspect that even fewer are aware that, by an amusing paradox, the Church of England still employs, for the Third Sunday Before Advent, that original papal collect, unmodified. Vatican II had mandated that liturgical changes should only be made when 'essential'; can it have been all that 'essential' to change this Collect if the original version remains uncontroversially acceptable even in the Church of England? It makes you wonder if B Paul VI might not have been a trifle over-carried-away by his Ostpolitik.

You see, the Pian Collect expressed clearly the Sovereignty of Christ over all the nations. But the modern version eschatologises the celebration and introduces instead the notion of the redemption of the whole of creation. In one sense, we can hardly complain about that. S Paul clearly teaches, in Romans 8, just such a glorious understanding of the End. But we can complain about the concomitant loss of the old concept of Christ's Lordship over all sorts and conditions of men, and over all questions of morality including sexual morality, here and now. For a quite a time in this country, the only doctrine deemed more or less peculiar to the Church of England was that of the union of Crown and Altar, the old Tory 'Squire Western' toast of 'Church and State', an understanding in which a Monarchy by Divine Right enforces the Christian State, its rules, its worship, its moral code. This old Stuart, Jacobite, Ancien Regime notion, dear to the country squirearchy and the Inferior Clergy, was despised by the Whiggish Court Party, the Upper Clergy, and the 'Hannover Rats'. You could argue that this is a piece of Patrimony which the Ordinariate should be bringing back into the Catholic Church! And it is very close to the polity to which Mgr Lefebvre and French adherents of Tradition and Integrisme bore and bear witness. Are we really totally sure that Classical Anglicanism and French Traditionalism are both so totally misguided?

Fr Aidan Nichols, in 2011, expressed the view that the Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican II "occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics", and believed that the Council Fathers themselves cannot be "wholly exculpate[d]" for a "dereliction of duty". He concluded that "publicly recognising divine revelation is an entailment of the Kingship of Christ on which, despite its difficulties in a post-Enlightenment society, we must not renege". There is here a troubling question which our annual celebration of Christ's Kingship places starkly before us all; every year more starkly as every year the powers that be in this country repudiate ever more decisively our Saviour's Lordship ... and most especially in areas of sexual morals. This repudiation renders them - and us - subject to the rather striking threat in the final Antiphon attached to the psalmody of today's Lauds: The nation and kingdom which shall not have served Thee shall perish: and the nations shall be laid waste with a wilderness. Perhaps the Holy Father's Synod, next year, should take up this overdue question. After all, the Kingship of Christ has the most intimate connection with matters of sexuality and of family morality.

Viva Cristo Rey.

25 October 2014

New Sins

In Mgr Ronald Knox's brilliant collection of Essays in Satire, there is a piece about a 'Professor' who invents a new sin. Now, even Knox's brilliance has been quite superseded. Now, you see, we have completely new types, genres, of Sin. The Third Millennium has branched out into a whole novel taxonomy of Sin.

Earlier this month I approached this subject and asked three simple questions, as tests to apply to any newly fashionable theory about Sin. Here they are again:

(1) Can you square it with the Sermon on the Mount and the ethical teaching of S Paul?
(2) Can you square it with the Lord's parables about not knowing 'the Day or the Hour'?
(3) Does it apply to murderers and paedophiles?

Let me remind you what the New Casuistries teach about Sin.
(a) Graduality. "People cannot give up their Sin instantaneously. They should be given the time, and the grace of the sacraments, to wean themselves off it gradually."
(b) Acceptance without Approval. "Remarried divorcees may be in a position to which the Church cannot give formal approval; but she may welcome them as they are into her Sacramental life."
(c) Elements of truth. "Outside the relationship of heterosexual monogamy, other models of relationship exist in which important elements exist of the values proper to Marriage itself: and it is these elements which we should emphasise (permanence; self-sacrificing love ...)."

Now apply Fr Hunwicke's Question (3).  Would you accept that, since a paedophile has very strong inclinations, his aim should be to work hard to abuse children less and less frequently? How do you feel about the Church accepting that some paedophiles are gentle and affectionate to the children they abuse, and that we should concentrate our attention on those good elements of gentleness and affection? Take someone with a pathological impulse to murder: would you want the Church to continue to maintain the teaching of the Ten Commandments about Murder, but, without approving of the murders, to accept the unrepentant murderer as he is?

Probably you wouldn't. Probably most people, even very liberal Catholics wouldn't, unless they are themselves paedophiles or murderers or both. Why not?

What we have is, in fact, the adoption by liberals of two quite distinct categories of Sin.  There are sins which (most people would agree) are really sinful. Such as abusing and/or killing children. The clever little games (a), (b), (c), would never be acceptable here. If somebody suggested that it really is in accordance with a nuanced Christian morality for a paedophile to abuse children as long as he does it gradually less frequently, most of us would probably kick him. However they contrive to control their behaviour, paedophiles should just give up, or genuinely try to give up, their vice. They should receive Absolution and then "Go and Sin No More".

But there is now, for the Liberals, an additional, quite different category of Sin. It consists of things which, because they are condemned by Christ or by long centuries of Christian Tradition, liberals might agree are in some sense technically sinful. But liberals do not feel that they are really wrong. So they devise sophisticated ways of avoiding the requirement of the Gospel: repentance and a firm purpose never to offend again and to avoid the occasions of Sin. Like children who have cheated and found out the answer to a sum, they start with the conclusion and then try to find the right 'workings' to get to the answer. "I want to argue that a homosexual couple may continue to live in a genitally sexual relationship: where can I find clever arguments to support that conclusion?"

                                    SO WE NOW HAVE

(I) REALLY WRONG SINS; they really turn me upside down in my tummy.

(II) SINS WHICH ARE ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG; my tummy feels completely OK about them. We've just got to find a way for the Church to shift her line without completely losing face.

Those are the two radically distinct categories of Sin in which Liberals now believe.

Neither in the Bible nor in two Christian millennia is there evidence for (II).


Bibliography: the important discussion here in the Church's Magisterium is paragraphs 79-83 of the Encyclical of S John Paul II Veritatis splendor, together with its footnoted sources. The Holy Pontiff quotes (para 81) a passage of S Augustine in which that Doctor discusses the 'absurdity' of any notion that sins done for good motives (causis bonis) might be thought of as 'sins that are justified' (iusta peccata: I think this would have to be S Augustine's Latin term for what my account above calls (II) SINS WHICH ARE (in the view of Liberals) ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG).

The Holy Pontiff cleverly takes (para 80) the list of sins in para 27 of Gaudium et Spes and says that they are good examples of acts intrinsice mala, that is, always wrong, independent of circumstances. What is neat about this is that it includes sins which Liberals would consider (I) REALLY WRONG SINS (such as genocide, trafficking in women, slavery) and mixes them up with (II) SINS WHICH ARE (in the view of Liberals) ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG (such as abortion). He then goes on to the intrinsically evil contraceptive acts and, in para 81, includes S Paul's condemnation (I Cor 6:9-10) of categories including the sodomised and the sodomites (malakoi, arsenokoitai; molles, masculorum concubitores).

Slips of the tongue: a frivolous interlude

How easy it is to make a slip of the tongue ... last Sunday morning, introducing Cardinal Nichols on the Radio, Edward Stourton mispronounced his name before hastily correcting himself. Ah, these freudian slips ... I've never liked Stourton ... or was it his pathetic, distinctly Lower Third Form, idea of a joke? Not a good advertisement for Ampleforth.

Incidentally, our Cardinal gave a characteristically sure-footed performance: no slips-of-the-tongue on his side. He corrected Stourton while always sounding quiet, laid-back, and reasonable. Stourton, for example, had quoted the Pope's speech at the end of the Synod as having a paragraph criticising Conservatives. Which it did. But, just like all the other journalists I have heard, Stourton did not go on to quote the following, balancing, paragraph criticising Progressives: dearie me No; that's not in their agreed narrative! Cardinal Vincent didn't let him get away with this seedy little suppressio veri cum suggestione falsi. And when, later on, Stourton, to the accompaniment of sarcastic pull-the-other-one background laughter, contrived to suggest that the Cardinal was a liar, His Eminence kept his cool. These may seem minor details, but I think it's very good for the English Church to have a Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster who is thoroughly media-savvy and thinks fast on his feet.

During Sunday's Beatification, the Holy Father referred to the Bishop of Brescia in the genitive case as 'Episcopi Brixiensi' (a mistake, actually, already in the printed Bollettino), and then seemed to say 'fratrorum' rather than 'fratrum'.

What I found interesting ... I'd never looked into this matter before ... was how much less dogma-laden the rite of Beatification is than that of Canonisation. There are none of those rather heavy suggestions that the act is pretty well guaranteed certainty by the Magisterium. Beatifications are very much more take-it-or-leave-it than Canonisations. All that we are given is the facultas of calling the candidate beatus. Presumably one may decline to avail oneself of a facultas?

Not that I would wish so to decline when the beatus we are talking about is the Pope who issued Humanae vitae, and Mysterium Fidei, and who eventually had the discernment to see through Pius XII's liturgical protegee Hannibal Bugnini and to send him packing to Tehran.

Trebles all round, as they say in Private Eye, in honour of Blessed Paul VI.

24 October 2014

Professor Roberto de Mattei and Papal authority

Writing in the aftermath of "the Synod", Professor Roberto de Mattei, perhaps the greatest Church historian of our time, wrote "Judgement, with its resulting definition of truths and condemnation of errors, is the jurisdiction par excellence of the Vicar of Christ, supreme guardian and judge of faith and morality".

These wise observations instantly put me in mind of some words of a man who had soaked himself in the history of the first Christian centuries, our own Blessed John Henry Newman:

"[I]t is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift. ".

I feel supremely comfortable with these words; and I note that Newman is making exactly the same point as that advanced by Professor de Mattei. I have no problem with the idea of a pope who keeps anathemas under his camauro. A pontiff who issues a Syllabus of Errors seems to me a pontiff who is earning his paycheck. When Pio Nono, with the assent of Vatican I, issued his admirable negative, "The Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter so that by his revelation they should reveal new teaching", I would have applauded. Three cheers for the author of Pascendi Dominici gregis. Cardinal Ratzinger's insistence that the Pope is but the humble servant of Tradition had me raising my glass to drink his toast. (Indeed, during his Pontificate I was rarely sober.)

Newman went on to write with approval about the the lack of creativity among the early popes: "The Church of Rome possessed no great mind in the whole period of persecution. Afterwards, for a long while, it has not a single doctor to show". The Roman Church and its bishop, long before the concept of Conciliarism was even a glint in the eye of the Emperor Constantine, were bulwarks against error, barriers against the brilliant and innovative theologians who dazzled the intellectual world, and whom we now call heretics; but those early popes were not mighty teachers. S Leo? Even he, Newman points out, was but "the teacher of one point of doctrine". S Gregory? He "has no place in dogma or philosophy". The great orthodox thinkers, writers and and preachers, the men who directed and influenced Councils, who ex consensu Ecclesiae are now its authoritative Fathers and Doctors, mostly lived far from Rome and, in many cases, were not even Bishops.

Let me put my cards on the table. The Papacy, as Dix loved to emphasise, existed before Councils, and it gave many of its greatest services to Christendom before the "Conciliar period". Its service as a remora against innovation has operated, in our own time, outside Councils and without didactic brilliance. Humanae vitae was not a great document; it was not full of the splendid and moving tropes of the inspirational teacher; it was more important than that. It simply held the line against developments which were destined to subvert the entire structure of sexuality hardwired into human nature. And its promulgation was done, against the advice of his very own Commission of Experts, by a pope whom his predecessor had described as not a little amletico.  (One might also mention his Mysterium Fidei, reaffirming Trent and putting down errors like 'Transsignification'.) Ordinatio sacerdotalis lacks any explanations whatsoever. It just makes clear, with a terseness and brevity which cannot often have been equaled in Papal documents, where error lies.

These two Papal interventions are more important than all the wordage of Vatican II. Because, unlike much of Vatican II, they do engage with, and judge, errors which were getting around and did need to be judged. "Judgement is the jurisdiction par excellence of the Vicar of Christ". (Vatican II, surely, cannot have the unbreakable for-ever authority of, say, Nicea or Trent, simply because it issued no anathemas, set in place no new doctrinal ROAD CLOSED signs, but simply addressed with openness and optimism what it called 'the World of today'.)

When B Paul VI condemned Contraception, and S John Paul II the attempted Ordination of women, this was the selfsame Papacy, acting in precisely the same way, which gave Marcion the brush-off when he turned up in Rome in the 140s with his proto-Nazi claptrap. The condemnation of Marcionism is not weakened by the fact that it rested on no "Conciliar Mandate", or by the complete absence of any brilliant teaching document issued by some wonderfully clever Roman Pontiff.

Very occasionally, a Pope is, in addition to being Pope, also an important Teacher. One thinks of Innocent III, Benedict XIV, Benedict XVI. Thank God for such rare and glorious exceptions, such uncovenanted coincidences. But they are not what the Papacy is about. At base, the Pope is the (life-saving) man who goes around sticking into the ground the notices which say BEWARE OF MINES.

That is what Pope Francis, like all his predecessors, is for. If he were ever to ask us, in his direct and unpompous way, "Hey folks! Who am I to judge?", our answer would be "THE POPE!!!")