19 October 2014

A Man to Watch?

One of the Holy Father's first nominations to episcopacy in 2013 was Victor Manuel Fernandez, Rector of the Pontifical Argentinian Catholic University; a post to which he had been appointed by Cardinal Bergoglio. He is only 52; his consecration was not followed by assignment to any pastoral episcopal ministry ... he remains merely Archbishop titularis of Tiburnia. (In other words, his elevation was one of those old-style 'Renaissance Court' uses of episcopal status as a personal 'have a zucchetto' enhancement of the dignity of an individual.) He is thought to have collaborated with Bergoglio in the drafting of the Apparecida document from CELAM.

Fernandez was one of those specifically added to the recent Synod by act of the Sovereign Pontiff.

Before the Synod, the Holy Father very laudably urged the Synod Fathers to speak with parrhesia, a useful Greek term meaning completely unfearful boldness of speech. Immediately afterwards, Archbishop Fernandez was reported to have been heard saying "The pope told us to speak frankly. That means that we don't have to worry about Cardinal Mueller coming after us".

I think such words ... from such a person ... really are quite interesting, from quite a lot of different points of view. But I won't pompously spell it all out myself.

S Frideswide, Virginity, and the Synod (concludes yesterday's post)

... so Saint Frideswide prayed to S Margaret and S Catherine, who made a spring arise from the ground (the Holy Well can still be seen at Binsey, restored by a Tractarian Vicar) with the water of which S Frideswide cured her erstwhile suitor of his blindness (I bet he was more careful thereafter to practise Custody of the Eyes).

So were S Margaret and S Catherine the other two ladies in the arms of the See of Oxford (see yesterday's post)? Probably, but I'm not sure that my great predecessor at S Thomas's, Canon Thomas Chamberlain, thought so, since in his famous Eucharistic Window he portrayed S Frideswide, S Margaret, and S Etheldreda - another Saxon royal virgin who preserved her chastity against onslaught (this time, the importunities of no fewer than two husbands).

I don't know what you think about those female saints - some of them a tadge mythical - who sprawl all over the Analecta Bollandiana and whose sanctity appears to lie at least partly in their heroic and determined protection of their virginity. It's easy to call this dualist or paranoid; to complain about an unnecessary denigration of the holy estate of Matrimony; even to speculate along Freudian lines. Just possibly some of these points could have been validly made in earlier generations. But in our culture, surely, a quite different point has to be made. Our Zeitgeist has its own novel superstition: that everybody is inevitably going to express genitally the sexuality in which they say 'God has created them' ... whatever their circumstances, whatever their orientation (... er ... unless, of course, 'God has created them' as paedophiles, in which case, at least in this sceptred isle, our current instinct is to lynch them ... Oh, and of course, those 'orientated' towards violent rape). The point which these Armoured Virgins - even the mythical as well as the historical ones - make is that it is neither compulsory nor inevitable to be sexually active. Our Christian cult of Virginity teaches that if you want, or, rather, are called, to be a male or a female who is not committed irrevocably to pursue fruitfulness with another individual 'in bed and at board', the consequence is simple. You offer up to God a sexually abstinent life. The assumption all around us is that since mechanical means exist whereby sexuality may now be divorced from both fertility and commitment, we are all at liberty to be uncommitted, sterile, and promiscuous. This preposterous nonsense is now solemnly enshrined in the 'laws' of this land! It is one of the most superbly crafted of the deceits of the Evil One. Day by day, it becomes increasingly clear that it is only in a culture which values Virginity and Celibacy that Matrimony itself can flourish ... paradoxical as that may seem to us.

During the recent Synod, the suggestion was made that the modern debates within the Church about Gender and Sexuality may be our equivalent of the debates in the first six Christian centuries about Christology. I think this is quite an acute observation. If it is true, this means that we have several centuries of the present mayhem in front of us.

Those who observe the pre-Pacelli rules and celebrate today's solemnity of S Frideswide with a Privileged Octave, will have seven more days to meditate on these matters!

18 October 2014

Cardinal Burke

Today's news is an interesting example of how to control a narrative. It is quite a time since rumours about Cardinal Burke's sideways move began to circulate; and they have still not officially been confirmed. But, once you decide to move someone, and tell him, your control begins to slip away ...

Being Patron of the Knights will not be a full-time job. So it will leave Cardinal Burke free to follow a world-wide role in the 'Traditionalist' movement. He will be able to go anywhere in the world by virtue of privileges he enjoys as a Cardinal; local Ordinaries will not be able to sneer at or exclude a pater purpuratus. He will be available, to an even greater extent than at present, to lend grandeur to liturgical events, and erudition to conferences. As he did after the publication of Evangelii gaudium, he will be able to give the Universal Church nuanced judgements upon the magisterial status of papal utterances ... a much needed ministry in this Pontificate, and one for which Raymond Burke is well qualified. With his curial knowledge, he will be on hand to offer guidance and protection to groups, communities, and orders which were experiencing difficulties. Given his expertise in Canon Law, and being no longer silenced by judicial office, he will be there to give legal assistance to groups and individuals being unlawfully persecuted. Might he even become Cardinal Protector of the Ordinariates? Having the court status of a Prince of the Blood Royal, he can never be excluded from being admitted to the presence of the Sovereign Pontiff, either this one or the next one or two or three. To borrow two phrases popularly used of the globe-trotting Cardinal Pacelli in the 1930s, Cardinal Burke will be, for traditional, Wojtilan, Ratzingerian, hermeneutic-of-continuity Catholics, the vice-papa, the Cardinale volante.

It must be that the Holy Father has in mind for the Cardinal just such a role, for which he is so eminently well suited. We should welcome with much enthusiasm this guarantee that the World of Tradition is an important, growing, permanent and influential part of the ecclesial life of the entire Latin Church.

Viva il Papa! Viva il Cardinale!

The Demivirgins of Oxford

The Arms of the See of Oxford have a band across the middle (a "fess" ... francophone readers, be quiet) and above it three crowned demivirgins (yes, the term does afford scope for endless witticisms, but, believe me, most of them were made several hundred years ago), and in the base an Ox walking sedately across a Ford. The three demivirgins and their fess gave rise to the undergraduate joke that the shield represents three lady dons sitting at a table and giving a viva to a cow. Who the ladies actually are is not entirely clear.

Pretty certainly, one of them is S Frideswide. She was a princess who declined marriage, fled, and hid among pigs in a forest until her suitor was struck blind and gave up the quest, whereupon she became an abbess. Her shrine was in the chapel of S Frideswide's Priory, which later became the Chapel of Cardinal College (I believe trendy people now call it Christ Church, but it's still got Wolsey's hat and his coat of arms - which it uses as its arms and its flag - all over it). This chapel subsequently served as the cathedral church of the diocese which Henry VIII erected (and which was formally given Catholic legitimacy, by virtue of his legatine powers, by Cardinal Pole). Under the Tudor Spoliation, the shrine was demolished and, under Bloody Bess, S Frideswide's bones were mixed with those of a Protestant woman; subsequently an inscription informed the public that Religion and Superstition lay mingled there ...

( ... a bit of an ambiguity there, don't you think? Rather in the spirit of the naughty old Jacobite doggerel "God save the King! God save our Faith's Defender:/ God bless - no harm in blessing - the Pretender./ But who Pretender is, and who is King:/ God bless my soul! That's quite another thing!").

Anyway, S Frideswide now does cheerful duty as Patron of the City, University, and Diocese. (Under the old conventions, that would have made her Festival tomorrow a Double of the First Class with a privileged octave.) Back in the dear old days of the Church of England, the Lord Bishop celebrated Pontifical High Mass on her festival against a background of apprehension that somebody might be offended because of the niceties of Precedence. You see, there was the traditional Anglican frisson of uneasiness between the Bishop (and Diocese) and the Dean and Chapter, combined with the amour propre of the University and the capacity of the City Corporation, representing Town, to feel slighted by Gown. This was solved by having different processions simultaneously snaking into the Cathedral from different directions.

The Saint, when she heard that her admirer had been blinded, prayed to S Margaret and ... oh dear, tempus fugit. I'll try to finish this tomorrow.

17 October 2014

So what do we learn from all this?

Not to overreact. That Relatio was in no sense magisterial but simply an unsubtle attempt by a tiny faction to promote an extreme agenda; unsubtle because they attempted to land their paratroops at least one bridge too far ... far further than they could have realistically hoped to get away with. It is very good that they made such a bad mistake.

It is clear that the panic which followed the publication of the Relatio was right over the top. The publication of the comments of the circuli minores revealed that the Fathers themselves were determined not to let their Synod be kidnapped in the way that the First Session of the Council was.

One reason why I reproduced in red that passage recently from Newman ... itself reproducing a passage from S Gregory the Theologian ... was to make the point that the Church has been through ropy moments often before, and that Black Monday was by no means the ropiest of them. In fact, it was really quite low in the Richter Scale of Ropiness. Ask S Athanasius, when you get a chance.

As Newman found, it helps to keep ones nerve, having a bit of knowledge of the messiness of Church History. Joseph Ratzinger, also, showed that an examination of the messiness of earlier Councils enabled one to see Vatican II in a balanced way, and to avoid hysteria.

Unlike Fr Zed, I have no experience of Vatican politics. I merely spent three decades mastering the politics of an English Public School (and great fun it was too). But it seems to me that (exempli gratia) manoeuvring the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith into the position of being a rebel against the system just has to be one very serious piece of bad politics. The wise general selects a modest and attainable objective and then organises a broad coalition in support before he advances, keeping a prudent eye all the time on his lines of supply to make sure that the enemy doesn't snip them off with a pincer movement (as happened when poor Bruno Forte was hung out to dry by the Hungarian cardinal with the umlaut).

If I have a fear, it is that their next attempt (because, as somebody once said about a different gang of terrorists, "They haven't gone away") will show that they have learned elementary tactics from this particular dismal failure.

16 October 2014

Two Williams, one cardinal's hat, one primatial cross

1594 was the year which saw a small but perfectly formed junior member of the University of Oxford swearing the necessary oaths of allegiance to the aging Elizabeth Tudor and of subscription to the formularies of the Church of England, and being admitted ad incipiendum as a Bachelor of Arts. He was the future Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud ... who was to be offered but never receive a Cardinal's hat. The same year, William Allen lay far from England on his death bed; he was a Cardinal Presbyter of the Holy Roman Church ... and, if the weather had been a little different in 1588, would almost certainly have been Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England. Allen, who had spent his life opposing Bloody Bess, was deemed by most of his fellow-countrymen a traitor and yet ... died in his bed. Laud, a figure of the Stuart Establishment ... died the death of a Martyr (cuius nomen/ Laudem sonat (felix omen/ ...). Today, 16 October, is the date of Allen's death; if you walk down the High and look at the preposterous Jacobethan facade of Oriel College ... er ... well, it's behind scaffolding and polythene at the moment, so you'll have to wait a bit  ... you will see a statue of Allen the 'traitor' looking cheerfully across at the baroque porch of the University Church with its statue of the Mother of God, set up in the 1630s at the instigation of the ... yes ... Laudian Church of England; a gracious, dare I suggest, prefiguring of the union between two traditions which was to be accomplished by the founding of our Ordinariate by Benedict XVI. Yet you will not find it easy to discover a statue of Laud, in Oxford or anywhere else, despite the fact that his diminutive stature would have made it quite easy to tuck him in more or less anywhere. (Incidentally, if you pop round to the other side of the Rhodes Building in Oriel, you will see a statue of Blessed John Henry Newman.)

That North quadrangle of Oriel was the originally separate S Mary's Hall, associated with the incumbency of the University Church of S Mary on the opposite side of the High. William Allen, Proctor of the University, was Principal of that Hall. The accession of Anne Bullen's bastard daughter precipitated a major crisis at Oxford: pretty well every Head of House, and fifteen fellows of New College, were ejected and Protestant witnesses in 1559 and 1561 recorded that practically nobody could be found there who was sympathetic to the new regime. Allen went across to the Low Countries, part of the dominions of our late Sovereign Lord King Philip, who was at that very moment founding a Catholic University at Douay; there he eventually became Principal of the English College ("the first full-blown Tridentine seminary anywhere in Europe"*) and Regius Professor of Divinity. He was to spend most of his life plotting, politicking, and dodging Elizabeth Tudor's assassins; and, rather like Marcel Lefebvre, training clergy for a Catholic Restoration which he was never himself to see.

I don't know whether the main street at Douay had the sort of elegant curve of the High at Oxford, but walking down it in the 1560s must have been uncannily like walking down the High in the 1550s. You had a good chance of meeting more or less everybody you knew. Douay was the refuge of dozens of Catholic academics from Marian Oxford ... the Chancellor was Richard Smyth, who had been Vice Chancellor, a Head of House and Regius Professor at Oxford. At Douay resided the intellectual elite which Reginald Pole had gathered together for that English Counter-Reformation which so influenced reformers such as S Charles Borromeo, but which was never to be in England itself. "Moving into the wider world of Tridentine reform, they also brought it with them from Marian Oxford"*.

I trust that Reverend Fathers included William Allen in their Memento etiam this morning. But ... stay ... who am I to hector you ... I am arrogantly forgetting that many of you are yourselves alumni of Allen Hall in Chelsea, successor institution of the English College, Douay, and thus inheritor par excellence of the elite traditions of Marian Oxford and of Allen's life work. So of course you remembered him. It was, incidentally, a great privilege for us in the first 'wave' of Ordinariate clergy to be permitted to share that heritage with you. Thank you. I hope you will have no reason to regret that we have made our unworthy, ham-fisted way into your inheritance, and sit now at leisure under your mulberry tree. Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.
*Duffy, Fires of Faith

15 October 2014

More Glyptotek

A very interesting and important new comment on the thread of Glyptotek (1). As well as the point it is quoted to make, it also exemplifies the fact that the 'Church Fathers' were part of the period we loosely call Antiquity, and can be found to illustrate it. Some years ago, somebody spotted that there were allusions to lost poems of Sappho in one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

During the entire period until 1453, I bet literate people could have found mss of the Hecale, the Menandrian Corpus and the Lesbian poets, in libraries in Constantinople and throughout the East. (What a tragedy the Fall of the Great City to Islamic barbarians was ... and I don't suppose certain earlier Frankish episodes helped much, either. Nor, indeed, that little Roman accident in Alexandria.)

Sadly, Classicists tend to steer clear of the Fathers (indeed, the Ninth Edition of LSJ omitted the 'Byzantine' material which had survived until LS Editio Octava, which is why still I keep my Eighth Edition on my own shelves). "Ecclesiastical writers" tend to be a closed book ... and world ... to them. Part of the unfortunate narrowing and compartmentalising  of scholarship.


Cardinal Mueller's latest comment on that infamous Relatio post disceptationem.

You don't know Italian?

I suggest this for a Latin version:


Perhaps readers could offer translations in as many modern languages as possible?

That Synod: light from the Ordinariate

A.D. 382: S Gregory [Nazianzenus] writes: "If I must speak the truth, I feel disposed to shun every conference of Bishops; for never saw I synod brought to a happy issue, and remedying, and not rather aggravating, existing evils. For rivalry and ambition are stronger than reason - do not think me extravagant for saying so - and a mediator is more likely to incur some imputation himself than to clear up the imputations which others lie under"(Epistola 129). It must ever be kept in mind that a passage like this only relates, and is here quoted only as relating, to that miserable time of which it is spoken. Nothing more can be argued from it than that the Ecclesia docens is not at every time the active instrument of the Church's infallibility.

On Consulting the Faithful in matters of Doctrine by Blessed John Henry Newman.

I would add a word of my own, to another anxious correspondent: A Catholic is obliged to be in communion with the See of S Peter (both when, as now, it is occupied, and also when, as during interregna, it is unoccupied). One is under no strict obligation to like the currently reigning Pontiff, nor to agree with him, nor to think that he is a man of prudence (although I think it is a mark of the mens Catholica to give him the benefit of any doubt). Many bishops, and even cardinals, did not like Benedict XVI, did not agree with him, did not admire his prudence. Indeed, not a few of those hierarchs, as soon as Benedict abdicated, came crawling out of their corners and said so. Presumably, as soon as Francis is either buried or abdicated, the same thing will happen.

You have to be in communion with him and to accept anything he defines ex cathedra to be the teaching of Christ. When, in his Ordinary Magisterium, he affirms the Church's teaching (and Francis has done a lot of that) you are thankful for it. When you have a problem with some word or action, you lean over backwards to see it in the best possible light. But your duties of faithfulness to Christ do not mean that you have to be pathologically sycophantic towards whoever happens to be the current bishop of Rome.

And you avoid the temptation to panic every time some daft bishops, or even some daft cardinal, says something ... daft.

One thing that I very much like about this Pontiff is the encouragement he has given to people to speak with parrhesia. If we fail to accept this gracious invitation, we have no-one to blame but ourselves. 

14 October 2014

The Synod

I read the document which recently emerged from Rome with increasing disbelief. 'Is this some sort of joke?' I wondered. I checked in my diary that the date was not April 1.

What has reassured me is the uproar among the Synod Fathers which followed its publication. One friend has described the Synod as a latrocinium. I think this is quite the wrong end of the stick. I don't think it is 'disloyal' for a Catholic to say that the Holy Father was very poorly advised by those who suggested to him some of the names to be involved in spinning the Synod's deliberations to the world. And also by those ... probably the same lot ... who put into his head the idea of making the thing secret. But they have been unable to get away with it. Powerful heads are well above the parapet. The first sign of the impending storm was when Cardinal Mueller made robustly and publicly clear his disagreement with the policy of secrecy. Cardinal Mueller is an able and acute man. He has realised that the Holy Father's appeal to the Synod Fathers to speak with parrhesia is a factor that can apply in more than one direction. And he is, like Miss Jean Brodie, in his prime. I do not think it will be easy for the malign interests in Rome to sideline him as their fathers did the ailing Cardinal Ottaviani. I will be surprised if heterodox plotters succeed in their attempted coup in the way that those earlier plotters did during the Sessio prima of the Council.

I do not think that 'going to the SSPX' is a surefooted option ecclesiologically. What does the Society say about itself? That it is a canonically erected society within the Catholic Church with a certain very important charisma. It does not even claim to be some sort of separate, more 'pure' Church than the Church herself. By its own constitution, none of its bishops possesses or claims to possess episcopal jurisdiction. 'Going to the SSPX' doesn't put you into a comfortable refuge guaranteeing total security behind some sort of Starwars shield which will protect you from incoming missiles. It simply gives your enemies the opportunity of claiming that you always were schismatically inclined. In other words, it blunts your witness.

Catholics have a canonical right to make their concerns known to their pastors, especially to their bishops.

The Sovereign Pontiff himself would wish you to express yourself with parrhesia.

Glyptotek footnote

I forgot to mention: there is a bust (to a pattern which was mass-produced by the Romans and can, for example, be seen in the Ashmolean), with accompanying cast showing a reconstruction of the colour, of the Greatest of the Greek Comic Dramatists, the inventor of Situation Comedy, Menander.

S Paul would be pleased, wouldn't he?

What a satisfying trip to Copenhagen, and what splendid fellowship with the members of its Latin Mass Group (of all ages)! What food!

Rosary Processions

What a splendid time last Saturday! The Rosary Procession, of Reparation, from Westminster Cathedral down to the Oratory. At the beginning of October, Month of the Rosary, one naturally feels in a Lepanto mood, so I duly preached on that. It seemed so appropriate as we tottered past Harrods with the Knights of Malta and their flag leading the way just in case of any rough stuff ... after all, they did have four galleys at Lepanto. All the way down Knightsbridge we were walking directly into the sun, and it seemed as if we were heading for a mighty bonfire, so big and billowy were the clouds of incense which they were preparing for our Lady. The Altar of our Lady of Victories inside, pietra dura, is always dear to me because it is the altar upon which I offered my first Holy Mass after entering into full communion with the See of Peter. And, to the right of the hupermakhos strategos is a statue of S Pius V, who had ordered a Rosary procession for the very day of the Battle and who was granted a vision of the victory  that evening. What a Pontiff: Lepanto AND Regnans in excelsis!

I think Fr Faber, on some such occasion, said "Won't Mamma be pleased!".