25 February 2017

Regnans in Excelsis

Today is the Anniversary of the promulgation, in 1569 (1570 New Style), of the Bull Regnans in Excelsis.

Those with easy access to the Brompton Oratory will probably not need me to remind them that there is a very nice baroque statue of S Pius V on the right hand side of the pietra dura Lady Altar which originated in the Dominican Church at Brescia. (It is where I said my First Mass in Full Communion with the See of S Peter.) There is a 'Latimer-and-Ridley'-style pricket stand conveniently nearby.

Perhaps the people who organise National Celebrations should start ... now! ... preparing for the big junketings due in 2020 (450 years).

Here is what Evelyn Waugh wrote in 1935 about S Pius V and his Bull: His contemporaries and the vast majoriy of subsequent historians regarded the pope's action as ill-judged. It has been represented as a gesture of medievalism, futile in an age of new, vigorous nationalism, and its author as an ineffectual and deluded champion, stumbling through the mists, in the ill-fitting, antiquated armour of Gregory and Innocent; a disastrous figure, provoking instead of a few bullets for Sancho Panza the bloody ruin of English Catholicism. That is the verdict of sober criticism, both Catholic and Protestant, and yet, as on studies that odd and compelling face which peers obliquely from Zucchero's portait at Stonyhurst, emaciated, with its lofty and narrow forehead, the great, beaked nose, the eyes prominent in their deep sockets, and, above all else, the serene and secret curve of the lips, a doubt rises, and a hope; had he, perhaps, in those withdrawn, exalted hours before his crucifix, learned something that was hidden from the statesmen of his time and the succeeding generations of historians; seen through and beyond the present and the immediate future; understood that there was to be no easy way of reconciliation, but that it was only through blood and hatred and derision that the faith was one day to return to England?

Fascist Flags

Last Sunday I watched the first episode of the BBC dramatisation of Len Deighton's intelligent SS-GB. How droll to see the Nazi banners dangling and flapping from London's public buildings.

The next day I went into the city centre and saw the 'Diversity' flags dangling and flapping from Oxford's public buildings.

Should one be grateful for the distinctions and differences between the bad old brutal Hard Fascism and the nice new shrill Soft Fascism?

Warm cosy non-judgemental Abortuaries are so much more civilised than grim old-style Extermination Camps.

24 February 2017

Before Lent, muscadines all round?

Festum Ovorum, the Feast Of Eggs, is how they describe tomorrow, the Saturday before Lent, year by year in the Oxford University Diary, despite the fact that for some centuries nobody in Oxford has even thought of celebrating this entertainingly named day.

The origin and purpose of Festum Ovorum is pretty certainly exactly what each one of you will have guessed from first principles: as on Mardi Gras, to have a binge before Lent. It has stayed on the University Calendar since the Middle Ages ... just as, in this University, All Soul's Day and Corpus Christi and the Assumption survived the 'Reformation' (I bet they didn't in the Fens.) We know that this was not just a custom in alma academia, but flourished throughout the neighbouring country areas, where, in their endearingly unlatinate way, the rude but worthy yokels just called it Egge Satterday. (There must be some corny witticism about Yolks and Yokels.) However, purely by coincidence, it became, in this University, linked with an academic deadline: the last day on which bachelors were allowed to 'determine'; that is, to complete the exercises for the degree of M.A.. And academics had a 'Determination Feast' to celebrate this, which goes back at least to the time of Lord Richard Holland (nephew of Richard II) who had his Determination Feast on the 21st and 22nd of February, 1395 (yes, I have checked that in Cheney). As late as 1603, "all the bachelors that were presented to determine did after their presentation go to every college where they were determining and there make a feast for the senior bachelors, videlicet, of muscadine and eggs; figs; raisons; almonds; sack; and such like".

I suppose all this was quite an exotic spread in those days. Now we could buy most of it in Waitrose. Except for the muscadines, which (look it up in the OED if you don't believe me) are sweetmeats (North Americans might say 'candies') made from a pod near the fundament (check that as well, if you like, in the OED) of an asiatic deer (its secretion may have been a sexual attractant) and regarded as an aphrodisiac since the days when the trade routes brought both it, and its Sanskrit name, from India to Byzantium. It is now vastly expensive since the poor things have been hunted nearly into what our Holy Father would call bio-undiversity - ah, the compulsions of homo insipiens, the so-called animal rationale. But I gather that chemists now produce a synthetic version. 

The English sweetmeats made from musk were rather curiously called 'kissing cakes' or 'rising cakes'. Now ... no offence ... many of my best friends are chemists ... but I bet muscadines made with synthetic musk would have less potent characteristics than the Real Thing. 

A controlled experiment, perhaps?

Society of Pope Clement XIV (SPCXIV)

TRAGEDY! I wrote the following yesterday morning and scheduled it to pop up now ... only to discover last evening that Fr Zed has got in first with his marvellous, splendiferous Clement XIV mug! (I would very much welcome a gift of one of those mugs.) But I'm not going to waste my own humbler effort, so here it is:-

Dear Readers

                                                    Society of Pope Clement XIV (SPCXIV)

I have been strangely moved to found a new Society with the above name. You know how these inexplicable inspirations do suddenly come upon one, tumbling out of the heavens without any warning. (If I were a Bergoglian, I would of course attribute such agency to "the Holy Spirit", but I am anxious to avoid blasphemy.) Can any reader explain to me why that particular Pontiff (1769-1774) might be deemed to have an exemplary role in today's ecclesial situation? What was there about that particular pontificate which will make "Clement XV" such an obvious and suitable name for the next (and restorationist) pope?

Vivat Ganganelli! Vivat!! Vivat!!!

When our family was young, they sometimes stood at the gates of fields containing newly-born spring lambs and chanted in their sweet tiny voices "Mint Sauce! Mint Sauce! Mint Sauce!"

Next time I pop into the Santa Marta for the daily homily, I shall set up a great chant of

Ganganelli! Ganganelli!! Ganganelli!!! 

I wonder why. 

Yours truly

John Hunwicke SPCXIV

PS All who read this are automatically Members unless, within five minutes of reading it, they make a deliberate Act of Witholding their Intentions. 
PPS The Society is a Sovereign Entity and I am the Grand Master. 

23 February 2017


It is the custom in Anglican Catholic churches, when the priest or ministers are sitting at the sedilia during readings or singing, for the priest to turn back the foot of the chasuble on his lap so that he then rests the palms of his hands on the lining, and not on the fabric, of the chasuble. Deacon and Subdeacon do the same with dalmatic and tunicle. Thus sweat (or, at the blessing of incense before the Gospel, incense or charcoal) cannot not mark the embroidery of the vestment. My recollection is that this goes back to preconciliar custom; evidence is available in the ancient marks of two sweaty hands on the linings of the vestments in High Mass sets in sacristies all over England.

I have never seen this done in RC Masses, whether OF or EF. Is it an Anglican idiosyncrasy?

22 February 2017

G G Willis and the Ordinariate

... was a distinguished Anglican Liturgist and Parish Priest. At the heart of the post-Conciliar ferment, in 1969, he advocated the adoption within the Church of England of the 'Gregorian Canon' ... just at the time when Roman Catholics were charging like great hordes of daft and mesmerised lemmings over the cliff and down onto the pseudo-hippolytan breakers beneath. He wrote: "It is superfluous to emphasise the liturgical advantages of this proposal. Very many priests supplement the exiguous rite of 1662 by the recitation, silent or open, of the Roman Canon, so that it would be very familiar, unlike an Hippolytean rite. In liturgical quality, both of language and structure, it excells all other eucharistic rites in the eyes of millions of Christians, and it was the only rite known to Englishmen for nearly a thousand years. It says what many people want to say at the Altar, and its use would draw the Church of England closer to to countless other Western Christians, and would therefore have great value in knitting together the splintered unity of Christ's Church ... the Roman Canon is the best one available, setting forth with great clarity the fourfold action of the Eucharist, and falling into three clearly defined stages, the offering of the gifts of bread and wine, their consecration by the recital of the dominical institution, and their offering to God as the Body and Blood of Christ. It is time for the Church Of England to forsake inveterate prejudices derived from Reformation Protestantism, and to accomplish something in liturgical revision which would give unity and peace on the basis of an ancient and well-tried form of prayer."

Who can doubt that Willis would have welcomed with enthusiasm our Ordinariate Missal?

21 February 2017


During the Stalinist era, the Moskow Patriarchate was complicit in the persecution, even martyrdom, of Catholic Ukrainians. It would be nice if, instead of resenting the resurrection of the heroic and ancient Church of Ukraine, Moskow could express some penitence for a period of its history when it appeared very willing to benefit from the oppression of the Ukrainian Church and even from the genocidal famine which Stalinism unleashed upon the Ukrainians.

Moreover, I have a lot of sympathy for the wish of Russian Orthodox that Latin Christianity should not proselytise in the Canonical Territitory of the Moskow Patriarchate. I know that some readers will disagree with this, but I would wish that Orthodoxy be supported in its desire to be the Church of the Russian people. But a real solution to this group of problems would need examination of the mirror-image problem: the existence of (several!) Orthodox jurisdictions within the Canonical Territory of the Roman "Patriarchate". Or is the "Patriarchate" of Rome a virgin area in partibus infidelium and available as sort of free-for-all for Orthodox to missionise? The recent Great and Holy Council and the fierce wrangling which has followed it suggest that the status of the Roman "Patriarchate" is a profound source of dissension within and between Orthodox.

During the Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, while the Holy Gospel was being sung in Greek, a considerable number of the Orthodox present turned away. I can only suspect that they were so anxious to show (before the world media) disrespect to the "uniate" deacon singing it that they were also willing to show disrespect to the Incarnate Word solemnly proclaimed. I suspect - I don't know how to check this - that the deacon concerned may have been associated with the Abbey of Grottaferatta near Rome in the Alban hills; founded by S Nilus in 1004 and for more than a millennium an oasis of Hellenic Christianity in the heart of the West and never out of communion with the See of Rome. A foundation which survived more successfully than the Latin religious communities which were in Constantinople and on Athos before 1054.

If this were so, it would make that action even more unpleasant.

20 February 2017


I don't intend here to go into the original significance of the Pax at its traditional place in the Roman Rite; in posts some time ago, accessible through the search engine, I showed conclusively that the idea was that a liturgical Kiss concluded and sealed what had just been done (here, in the case of the Eucharist, consecration and oblation). No; I want to put some question marks against the significance assigned to it in the Pauline rite. And in current de facto praxis within the mainstream Church

"The faithful implore peace and unity for the Church and the whole family of men and express mutual charity with each other, before they share one loaf". MR 1969 IGMR para 56 b.

I doubt whether it would be easy to find much patristic support for the thought that Christians ought to be concerned for the unity of the human family qua unredeemed - that is, for humanity before and without Christ. You don't have to be a Calvinist believer in the massa damnationis to have read your New Testament and to know that 'brethren' are brethren because it is Baptism that makes one a co-sharer in Christ's Sonship so that one can cry "Abba" in fellowship with all those others who have been so admitted into His Body.

But my real dubium is about the logical link apparently asserted here between the Kiss and the eucharistic sharing in the Panis sanctus Vitae aeternae, the One Loaf. I do not understand why/how those who are admitted to the Kiss can be excluded from the Loaf ... or why/how those to be excluded from the Loaf are admitted to the Kiss.

Modern custom is that on the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, the Orthodox metropolitan who is visiting Rome to represent the Phanar is the first to receive the Kiss from the Pontiff. And indeed, in ordinary parish churches, there can be no doubt that it very commonly occurs that non-Catholic and even unbaptised visitors at Mass will (whether they like it or not) be given a warm greeting at Pax time (even though the paragraph quoted above technically suggests that the Pax is confined to the fideles).

Old-fashioned worshippers are sometimes opposed to the Peace because this silly little piece of faux-friendly hypocrisy interrupts their private piety. I have some sympathy with this, but I feel there are more profound reasons for deploring what have become the accepted customs of the mainstream Church.

Or at the very least, questions which need answering.

19 February 2017


At the top left hand corner of this blog, there is a sweet little box with a very nice magnifying glass beside it. You can use it to find all sorts of interesting things ... I think of it as a Search Engine ... you'll be surprised ...

... for example: a recent comment enquired where the Anglican evangelical theologian and bishop N T Wright had made his critical remarks about the pre-Advent dating for Christ the King.

If one types in Christ King Wright one instantly gets given a 2014 post of mine listing the book concerned, and offering some quotations.

Now comes my strict bit. Mummy and Daddy and Nanny can't always be at hand to spoon every little last morsel of porridge into your dear expectant litte mouth. Why not try the Search Engine before you impetuously raise a great hungry wail from the cavernous depths of your perambulator?


I did tell you that I was going to be away from technology for a fortnight ...

... but I have now been through all 300 emails and enabled a lot of Comments which arrived during that period.


I apologise to Dom Benedict Andersen for inviting him to write on this subject on the thread when I was not in a position to enable his cogent and important comments. I now therefore repeat this piece  to ENABLE YOU TO READ HIS COMMENTS.
I am afraid that there is an immensely silly article in the CWR by a Fr Peter Stravinskas. He asks how the Ordinary Form could enrich the Extraordinary Form.

The problem with his piece is that he goes on and on ... and on ... and on ... having yet more bright ideas. One thing leads to another. You start off considering his ideas ... but by the time he has finished with you he is proposing a completely new rite.

More to the point, and most disturbingly, he is apparently unaware of a large amount of work, academically, which has been done in the last twenty or so years. The 1960s changes were based on shabby and shallow scholarship. The last thing we want to do to the EF now is to make precisely the same blunder!

A tiny handful of examples:

"The riches of prayers in the OF should be brought into the EF." BUT it has been demonstrated that even where OF prayers have a pedigree in the old Sacramentaries, their selection and their conceptual bowdlerisation in the OF has made them very suspect.
"The OF Lectionaries should be brought into the EF." BUT it has been demonstrated that, although the OF gives more Bible, it goes easy on certain Biblical themes, and so in fact it is something of an impoverishment; a censorship of Holy Scripture.
"The OF Calendar should be brought into the EF ... for example, by shifting Christ the King to November." BUT the (Evangelical Anglican) Bishop NT Wright has demonstrated what a very flawed move that was.

There are two changes that should be made: the EF Calendar needs to be thinned out. Historically, Calendars continually silt up with new saints and new devotions, and periodically Roman Pontiffs revise them. I believe that some saints should be made optional, and (very judiciously!!!) some more recently canonised saints should be considered for admission to an 'optional' category. This is a sensitive area and the revision should be done in careful collaboration with the SSPX and other interested parties. Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Christ the King should not  be messed around with! Not now, not ever!

And some Prefaces should be added. Particularly, for Advent. But, long before the OF was even a glint in the eye of Mgr Bugnini, France had faculties to use a select handful of (originally neo-Gallican) prefaces, including that for Advent. The SSPX in France has continued to use those faculties, as their French-language ORDO makes clear. These Prefaces are, I believe, already printed in the 1962 Missal. The provision of a few hundred new prefaces would be a bad idea because it would unbalance the rite.

Lastly: a personal fad of mine. I think the authorisation of rubrics for a form of Mass using a Deacon but not a Subdeacon ... when, for example, there is no appropriate and trained person available even to be a 'straw' subdeacon ... would enrich the possibilities for doing the EF magis sollemniter.

Fr Stravinskas's proposed massive revision of the EF would provide a sort of intermediate use between the EF and the OF. His desires would much more easily be achieved by authorising certain optional changes in the OF ... for example, the silent Canon, disuse of the Acclamations after the Consecration, the restoration of the historical Roman Words of Consecration, and the authorisation of the old Offertory Prayers of the celebrant. These would all be a good thing, and could be done very simply by a decree which need hardly occupy more than one sheet of paper.

My thanks to the learned Dom Benedict of Silverstream for alerting me to this matter. I have invited Father to expand in the Thread my rather brief  treatment of Fr Stravinskas' journey up the Garden Path. Hear Him!!

18 February 2017

S Wilfrid the Fisherman

Apparently during the first millennium we caught only fresh water fish. The middens that archaeologists spend their lives delving into demonstrate that towards the end of that millennium, such fish became smaller and fewer; so that we had to diversify into sea fish.

This provides the background of something in Bede that has always puzzled me. He says that when S Wilfrid (who was responsible for giving the English Church its admirable Romanita) decided to evangelise the South Saxons, he found them so afflicted by famine that they were lining up to jump off Beachy Head. There was fish galore, but the only fishing they were familiar with was catching eels. So he showd them how to use their eel nets to supplement their diet.

It used to mystify me that people could have been starving who had the English Channel in which to fish and no restrictive European quotas to hamper them. Now I understand.