28 February 2014

February 28, eight o'clock

A year since the end of the most significant pontificate since that of S Pius X. God bless the Pope Emeritus for what he did to build up the broken places and to gather the scattered into Unity. God bless him for his quiet humility; for his courage; for his remarkable learning. I do not think we shall see his like again.

And God bless his successor for his recent words about the duty of bishops to live among their people according to the abiding authority of Trent. Please God, he will go on to encourage bishops to pare down their curiae to the bone; to be each the Man of his own Church and not a delegate of an episcopal conference and its bureaucracy. Please God he will look back to the equally abiding authority of earlier councils and ban translations from see to see. And will reverse the dreadful, corrupt, decision of B John XXIII that non-episcopal Curial Cardinals should as a matter of course be raised to unreal episcopacy. Despite all the tedious woffle about Vatican II as the Council which "balanced" the Papacy by putting the Episcopate into its proper place, that Council seems, in reality, to have increased the corruption of an already quite sufficiently corrupt institution.

Incidentally, splendid news about the re-emergence of members of that fine team from Maryvale, where it appears they were unappreciated, to found their new Institute at Buckfast, for the New Evangelisation. Floreant.

Cranmer and the Five Wounds

When Western England erupted in rebellion in 1549, outraged at the alien religion being imposed upon them, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was very short with them. His answer to their pleas was less than honest; as Gregory Dix observed, "This is a beautiful clean and sinewy piece of English Prose, but there are some things in it which are grotesquely ... misstated. Cranmer in scholarly controversy ... was prepared to reveal a juster knowledge ... with which he apparently did not think it necessary to confuse simple men who might not know of these things for themselves". Yet those Western Rebels carried before them the Banner of the Five Wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the Sarum Mass of the Five Wounds was something which most late medieval English clergy probably knew off by heart. It was a very popular Votive often ordered to be said for the departed in late Medieval wills; it was associated in the minds of many with the corporate duty of prayer for the Church Expectant. Cranmer, dear old Zwinglian that he was, clearly still had the cadences of that Mass resonating in his mind. And conceivably he thought he could offer it as an element of familiarity to those whom he hoped gently to wean from popery.

How do I know? When Cranmer came to compose his 1549 Prayer Book, he included in his 'Eucharistic Prayer' extensive echoes of the Collect of that Mass (mostly in the prayer for the departed at the end of the intercessory section).

I offer below, mainly to demonstrate how inferior an English stylist I am to Cranmer, a translation of that Collect: The parts in ordinary type are by me; those in heavy type are collected from Cranmer's 'Eucharistic Prayer'.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who descendedst from heaven to earth from the bosom of the Father, and on the wood of the cross didst endure five wounds; and didst pour out thy precious bloud for the remission of our sinneswe beseche theethat, at the day of the judgement*, we may altogether be set at his right hand, and merit to heare that his most sweet* voyce: Come o ye that be blessed into the kingdom of my father.

The rest of the Mass is not very different from the Friday Votive in the Vetus Ordo Missal, Humiliavit (with the psalmus of the Introit Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo), which I said this morning for the admirable and beloved community on Papa Stronsay (see yesterday's post).

If you spent a few weeks doing a church crawl in the West Country you would find all this iconographically represented; in one church Misericordias domini in aeternum cantabo carved onto a choir stall; in another Venite benedicti in regnum Patris mei painted as part of a Doom on the tympanum behind the Rood; carved bench ends in church after church, and fragments of medieval glass, with the Five Wounds represented upon them.

Or, if you want to be more adventurous, go North and look at a fragment surviving, beautifully carved on the very eve of the Reformation, from the Norman Cathedral at Kirkwall in the Orkneys, showing the wounded hands and feet with the Crown of Thorns circling the pierced Heart of the Redeemer in the centre. The Arma Christi, indeed. The very essence, in its insistence upon Redemption through the Sacrifice of Christ, of that late Medieval Catholicism which Eamon Duffy demonstrated was so healthy and so virile until poor Cranmer and his friends put an end to it.
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*For 'judgement' Cranmer substituted generall resurreccion; for 'sweet' he wrote ioyfull.

27 February 2014

You read it here first ... now it's headlines elsewhere ...

Quite often, different people turn out to have been thinking about the same things, and in similar ways. An example of this in the liturgical field concerns the Reform of the Reform; and I commend The New Liturgical Movement and other blogs for giving this blog the credit for pieces I have written over recent weeks, as they now address the same subjects.

But I feel more miffed that nobody much seemed to take much account of two pieces I wrote a month ago about the reconciliation of the SSPX ... arguing that it should be seen as an ecumenical matter and followed with the same charity, urgency, and flexibility as the Holy See employs when dealing with other 'partners in dialogue'. Uncannily, this is now a headline issue because of the ecumenical outreach of the Holy Father to a Protestant group ... followed by an article (Archbold) in an American journal (NCR) arguing precisely the case I argued ... followed by the odd removal of that article by the proprietors of the journal concerned.

One rather wonders about that removal. Who leaned on whom? Or who thought that they might be leaned on by whom if they didn't delete the article first? Of course, there is a real difference between cosying up to evangelical Protestants and considering unity with fellow Catholics, as Anglican Catholics discovered when Benedict XVI had the courage to brave the storms of malevolence and erect the Ordinariates. I suppose there is even more toxicity surrounding the matter of the SSPX. In media and PR terms, suggesting unity with evangelical Protestants is like cuddling a bunny rabbit with soft, silky fur, while advocating overtures towards the SSPX more closely resembles fondling broken glass. This is at least partly because ecumenism is really the pursuit of  internal Church politics by other means. Another thing that I explained quite recently.

I reprint below my two pieces on the SSPX, unchanged, and the second half of my piece on the Politics of Ecumenism.

SSPX: IS IT ECUMENISM OR IS IT NOT? (1)

In the relationship between the Holy See and the SSPX, there is one enormous fundamental problem, which is so obvious that few people mention it. As a member of an Ordinariate, Benedict XVI's other and successful ecumenical endeavour, I have a natural interest in this question and pray for its resolution. That is the locus standi from which I ask the following question.

SSPX and the Vatican ... is this a matter of Ecumenism or of Church Discipline? Is the SSPX a group of beloved Separated Brethren with whom we Catholics should, in accordance with the mandate of Vatican II, strain every sinew to secure unity ... because, with their immensely rich spirituality, they have so much to offer the Catholic Church; or is it merely a portion of the Latin Church in an irregular canonical situation which needs to be thoroughly bashed around the head, like the Franciscans of the Immaculate, until it abjectly grovels?

Both the Holy See and the SSPX in effect conspire to ensure that the second model applies; Rome, because of her natural inclination to exercise control over the Latin Church; the SSPX, because it believes itself to be, not only part of the Latin Church, but even its only truly healthy and doctrinally sound part.

But what if Rome, at least, were to try the first model? Suppose they were to treat the 'problems' which the SSPX has with Vatican II in the same way that Rome treats the 'problems' of the 'Nestorians' or 'Monophysites'? With them, Rome is happy to the point of euphoria about securing Christological agreements, without demanding explicit acceptance of Ephesus or Chalcedon. Or take the Anglicans, who, without accepting the actual words of Trent, were told by dicasteries including the CDF that the last document ('Clarifications') in the Eucharistic section of the ARCIC process meant that 'no further work' was necessary on that matter? Or, to put it differently: If the only obstacle between Rome and the Russian and Greek Churches were Dignitatis humanae, would Rome really insist that no further progress would be possible without explicit submission by the Orthodox both to that Conciliar document and to 'the entire post-Conciliar Magisterium'?

(Come to think of it, given the affection  Greek and Russian hierarchs have for the concept of the Orthodox State, Byzantium redivivum, that last little fantasy of mine is a not-so-totally-inconceivable scenario. Have you read about the latest proposed change to the Russian constitution? Might it be amusing to get the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity to ask the venerable communities of the Holy Mountain to produce a doctrinal commentary on Dignitatis humanae which could then be the basis for dialogue between the Vatican and the SSPX?)

The Curial bureaucrats, then, are trying both to have their cake and to eat it. When it suits them, they will treat SSPX as disobedient subjects rather than as Separated Brethren. But when the exigencies of the polemics require it, as they did towards the end of last year, they talk about the SSPX as being in schism, or even being in some imprecise sense excommunicate. But they would do well to think carefully about the implications of such assessments for the status of the dialogue. Because if members of SSPX are excommunicate schismatics, then they qualify for the treatment which Unitatis redintegratio prescribed for Separated Brethren*.

Or, to put the same point (again) differently: Is it really Vatican policy to wait a millennium or half a millennium for Time to solidify and make ever more bitter the break between Rome and the SSPX, and, once the breach is sufficiently long-term, acrimonious, and definitive, then finally, but only then, to move on to all the sentimental and cuddly rituals of the Open-Arms Dear-Sister-Churches part of the ecumenical process? I know there is an old saw about Rome thinking in terms of centuries ... but can that really be the plan?

Is there a plan?

To be concluded.
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*There is also a pastoral and canonical aspect to this. Anti-SSPX writers commonly assert that SSPX marriages are invalid. But if SSPX is outside the Church, then they are as valid as Methodist or Lutheran marriages. And absolutions are as valid as Vatican praxis deems Orthodox absolutions to be. Wouldn't it, anyway, be an admirable pastoral gesture in Unity Week for Rome to concede jurisdiction in these matters to SSPX priests and issue a sanatio of all previous SSPX marriages?  It would have same bigness, the same generosity, as the remission of the excommunications by Benedict XVI.

SSPX: IS IT ECUMENISM OR IS IT NOT? (2)

Unitatis Redintegratio of Vatican II wisely concentrated on what was positive; what the Catholic Church and other bodies could confidently be said to hold in common. (The same attitude was adopted towards non-Christian religions.)

This was rather like looking at the Orthodox wine glass and saying "Goody! It's three quarters (or more) full". But in the dialogue between the Vatican and the SSPX, all the time has been spent haggling about whether the SSPX glass might be a milligram or two less than full.

The modern Catholic Ecumenical Industry does not shout at Orthodoxy "You must accept every word in the Decrees of Florence, and the entire post-Florentine papal Magisterium". Or, if it does, it does so too quietly for me to have heard it. One curial official has recently said, of the SSPX, that "they must change their approach and accept the conditions of the Catholic Church and the Supreme Pontiff". Is this the way that the Vatican talks about the Orthodox ... or the Methodists ... ?

I think that the situation with regard to the SSPX is urgent. Although Archbishop Lefebvre wisely chose young men to be consecrated bishops, those young men are now 25 years older. The time must come when the problems surrounding the consecration of their successors will have to faced. Must we really, when that time comes, revisit all those bad-tempered  and endless arguments about States of Necessity and Excommunications latae sententiae? Is there any other single ecclesial group for whom the Holy See would prescribe that lugubrious prospect as the Way Forward to a Joyful Reconciliation? Is it to be for nothing that Benedict XVI cut that particular Gordian Knot? And, by doing so, incurred the ranting calumnies of the ignorant and the ill-disposed?

Pope Francis has critics who believe that his openness, his humility, his desire to cut through red tape, his preference for a Church that does something even if mistakes are made, is all PR, all posturing. I do not think that they are right. I think he is prayer-filled and sincere.

But the crisis he faces is greater than is often assumed. If Rome simply cannot achieve an accommodation even with the SSPX, with whom it holds in common all the dogmatic definitions of all the Ecumenical Councils and both the ex cathedra definitions of Roman Pontiffs, what realistic possibility is there that it will ever make progress with more doctrinally distant churches and ecclesial bodies? The very possibility of ecclesial reconciliation, of unitatis redintegratio, is at stake. If Rome can pull it off with the SSPX, then anything is on the cards. But if not ... Clio waits with baited breath ...

I can think of one, massive, reason why Francis is the man to conclude this episode. If Benedict had done so, all the predictable ninnies in the Catholic and non-Catholic Media would have said that this was just further evidence that he was an arch-reactionary. Francis, if he solves it, will create massive puzzlement among the predictable ninnies, but his current Media reputation will enable him, so to speak, to get away with it. This time, early in this pontificate, is the moment, the divine kairos, for such an action, which may very probably not recur. (There is evidence that the more perceptive commentators in the liberal Media are already beginning to see through his persona.)

It is open to the Holy Father to solve the SSPX 'problem' within days. The Roman Pontiff regularly grants an audience, I think on Friday evenings, to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Next Friday, he could give Archbishop Mueller his orders. During the next audience, he could sign the documents*. The following Wednesday, at his General Audience, in between kissing the babies and hugging the cripples, he could embrace in public His Excellency Mgr Fellay and the other Reverend and Right Reverend leaders of the SSPX, in front of all the world's cameras and all its head-scratching journalists. And, just as he electrified the world by his choice of the feet to be washed and kissed on his first Maundy Thursday, Francis could use a dozen young clerics of the Society in his second Maundy Thursday pedilavium. (After all, Paul VI, when they had the junketings in Rome to celebrate the remission of the 1054 excommunications, disconcerted poor Metropolitan Meliton by diving to the ground and kissing his feet ... humility ... you know it makes sense ... )

Then he could deliver an address on Reconciliation. It might go down in History as his Beard of Aaron Address.

Or if the Holy Father is not adventurous enough, or not sufficiently his own master, to be able to do this, the remission of Archbishop Lefebvre's excommunication would be a first and a gracious gesture.

And the more inane or childish you think my remarks and my opinions are, the more I think you ought to stop sniggering and face up to the questions I posed in my previous post: is there a Plan in place, other than the plan of waiting for the decades to change into centuries and the breach to become set in stone? And: is that the Vatican II model of Ecumenism?

Concluded.
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* As Vatican observers have often pointed out, the obvious solution is to 'grant' to the SSPX precisely what, de facto, they already have. This would preserve the Holy See from the indignity of negotiating, and very considerably reduce the risk of a split within the SSPX. There need only be included two extra provisions, both lifted from Anglicanorum coetibus: (1) requiring the SSPX to consult with local hierarchies/ordinaries about developments in their mission without giving the hierarchies/ordinaries any right of actual veto; and (2) providing for the Council of SSPX to send a terna to Rome when an episcopal vacancy happens. A substitute could then at once be nominated  for Bishop Williamson.


The Politics of "Ecumenism"

A thought is growing upon me. I throw it out simply as a balon d'essai for you to shoot down. It is: that Ecumenism is in practice often more to do with changing the body one currently belongs to than (to dust down some of the old cliches) about Learning from Others, Sharing our Respective Insights. (I say 'often' because, of course there are genuine ecumenists such as Fr Aidan Nichols, who has devoted so much time and energy to working in our interests.) Take the question of the SSPX. I have little sense that among professional Catholic ecumenists there is burning desire to Learn from the Priestly Society, to garner its specific Insights. It might be thought Progressive and Ecumenical to organise an 'exchange' and send some Catholic seminarians for a term or two to an Orthodox  ... or even an Anglican ... seminary; but when did you last hear of a Catholic bishop planning to send some of his seminarians to Econe?

And when Good Pope Benedict set up the Ordinariates, how did some of those Catholics who had always been noisiest about Unity react? With all the horror that their mentor the Evil One also felt. Because the Mammoth in the Room was that they had long been doing anything they could to Anglicanise the Catholic Church ... Clerical Marriage ... ordained women ... sabotaged sexual ethics ... diluted doctrine ... you name it. Unity was to be damned as soon as they realised that what God was in fact giving them was an influx of highly orthodox and orthopractic Anglican Catholics. Their own very specific and unmistakable choice of which part of the Anglican inheritance they had wished to be united with ... and which part of it they had strongly preferred to remain disunited from ... was a function of their own intra-ecclesial political agenda. Their bluff was called. Anglican Catholics and SSPXers are those to whom the Catholic Church is in fact closest, but who, because of that very propinquity, are ignored (and worse) by those who use the banner of Ecumenism as a banner of dissent from the Magisterium.

In the style of old-fashioned General Papers, I offer the following Essay Question, replete with spoof quotation. "An enthusiasm for Unity is sometimes motivated by a prior enthusiasm to change ones own Church." Discuss.

26 February 2014

PAPA STRONSAY!

One occasionally hears it said among clergy that, while it is understandable that the elderly should have an affection for the tradition in which they grew up, a preference for the Ancient Roman Rite when found among the young, can only be a fashion or a fad. This reminds me of a lecturer at Oxford in the mid-1960s, Austin Baker, who quoted the view of the psalmist that never had he seen the poor and righteous man begging his bread, and commented: "It makes one want to say: 'You should try to get out a bit more'". That memory came vividly back to me when I had the privilege to stay with a vibrant young community, the Transalpine Redemptorists on Papa Stronsay. Not only is the Community young in the sense we use that word with regard to many other communities (that they're mostly under 65), but it is really young.

And what a 'fashion'! They get up in the morning at the faddish time of 4.55. They not only pray hard all day, but work hard all day. There is a atmosphere of 24/7/365 commitment. To those who call such commitment to the religious life and the Church's ancient Liturgy (Mass and Office,  Vetus Ordo) a 'fashion', I would suggest "You should try to get out a bit more ... broaden your narrow horizons ... meet more real people ... find out what their 'fashion' commits them to ... how their 'fashion', aka Divine Grace, truly does 'fashion' them". I can only say how deeply impressed I was by the experience of a religious community drawing living water from the deep wells of the religious life as it was lived before the collapses of the 1960s and 1970s.

Members of the Community had come all the way to Oxford for the occasion of my 'Catholic Ordination'. And to London the next morning when I said my First Mass in full communion with the See of S Peter at that lovely pietra dura Lady Altar in the Brompton Oratory. Their warm and loving sympathy had helped to sustain me in the difficult months which had gone before. And that such wonderful people should actually invite me to go and give them some Conferences! It was a six stage journey: 'bus into Oxford; coach to Birmingham; plane to Aberdeen; plane to Kirkwall; ferry to Stronsay; small boat to Papa Stronsay ... all meticulously planned by the Community. I was shown Kirkwall Cathedral, very much in the spirit of Durham but in a lovely pink sandstone; less 'empty' than most Anglican Cathedrals because, at the Reformation, the relics from its two great shrines, of S Magnus and S Rognvald, were preserved by being carefully placed in cavities behind stones in two of the pillars. But the 'real' place of prayer was the lovely little chapel on Papa Stronsay itself; holy, as Newman explained, as no other place can be holy, because of the Great Presence upon the Altar, the crucified Redeemer, the Man of Golgotha, by whose wounds we are healed. And Papa Stronsay is under the guardianship of our Lady of Perpetual Succour ... you leave her in the Chapel and she welcomes you in the Refectory. As we sang Salve Regina at the end of each Conference, I looked into her eyes and realised how powerful those misericordes oculi are.

The Redemptorists were not the first monks to occupy the island ... the name 'Papa' indicates that. Before the Vikings, way back in the first millennium, monks built their dwellings and chapels there; a decade or so ago, excavations revealed something of the history. Its fertility was such that the Viking went there for malt before their drinking bouts; and the brethren still skilfully exploit that fertility to challenge the Guinness Book of Records with the dimensions of the fruit they grow. We dodged the fulmars to walk round the island; I felt a little humbled when a gate was opened for me which an athletic visiting bishop, cassock and all, had leaped over with but one hand on the gatepost! Perhaps in centuries to come the Guestmaster will tell pilgrims the legend of Bishop ******'s Leap! I gathered that I was staying in 'Father Aidan's Room', which I could not but regard as a great honour.

How rare it is when one has a completely flawless and totally exhilarating six days ... ah, but I was forgetting! Something did go wrong! My case failed to make the transit at Aberdeen Airport! But ... not to worry ... kind hands recovered it and other kindly hands put it on the plane for Kirkwall and yet more transferred it to the ferry and finally, in a howling Orkney Gale, a small boat brought it across and willing hands heaved it over the Surging Brine and on to the jetty. And the gale soon blew itself out and gave way to the Aurora Borealis lighting us from the North. And those stars ... they were so gigantic ... so near!


May I explain ...

 ... that I have been away for a few days visiting dear friends in the Orkneys; which I will say more about soon. My apologies to those who were puzzled  not to see their comments appearing on threads. I have now raced through and enabled most of them. I am also sorry if my finger slipped and some worthy contributions were accidentally consigned to oblivion. Those who enjoy reading threads will have a lot to read.

One quick point about sources, which I am moved to offer because some of those who seem quite sure that the Roman Canon once had an epiclesis quote Fortescue and the Catholic Encyclopedia at me. These are manuals which go back to the beginning of the twentieth century and do no represent the scholarship of the latter part of that century. For the mid-century, try Jungmann The Mass of the Roman Rite, still indispensible as a source of information and references, and Dix Shape of the Liturgy through their indexes. More recently, Paul Bradshaw has made a thing of declining to accept universal common patterns in early liturgies at all.

25 February 2014

The Death of Sarum

One of the many big lacunae in my knowledge is Recusant Literature. And I wonder if, in Recusant Literature, there is any evidence of how the Catholic Squirearchy reacted to the replacement of the 'Sarum rite' by the Missal of S Pius V.

Of course, we all know that the difference between those two 'rites' is very slight. But that is the judgement of bookish people like us, considering principally text. As Adrian Fortescue put it, Sarum and the rest "are merely the Roman rite with quite unimportant local variations. They can indeed hardly be called derived rites; if one may take a parallel from philology one may describe them best as dialects of the Roman rite ... To distinguish the Roman, Sarum, and Mozarabic liturgies on the same plane is like classifying English, Yorkshire dialect, and French as three languages." Thoroughly true. But they do look rather different.

One has to admit that we cannot be absolutely sure what the Sarum use did look like in, say, 1570 or 1580. Sometimes usage may leave rubric somewhat behind. But, taking the texts as printed, I give one example:

When the priest had consecrated the Host, he did not genuflect. He 'inclined himself' ... one edition says that he adored It by bowing his head ... then elevated It by lifting It for the people to see. He did not 'adore' or 'incline' again, but went on to consecrate the Chalice. After that, he did not make any act of reverence, but lifted the Chalice 'as far as his chest OR over his head'. He then stretched out his arms 'in modum crucis' for the first part of the Unde et memores.

I would have thought that the Tridentine ceremonial, familiar to us, would have seemed rather strange to those brought up on Sarum. And one could make the same point from the beginning of Mass to the end.

Fortescue (pp 202-3 fn 4) tells how Dr Lawrence Webb arrived from Rome at Douay in December 1576 and taught the young men how to do the new rite. He cites Records of the English Catholics under the Penal Laws, London, 1878, p118. Does anybody have that to hand? Are then any suggestive details?

Anybody have any actual evidence about how the laity reacted? Is there any bibliographical evidence about the survival of Sarum or the introduction of S Pius V? And Fortescue had been told, but had been unable to verify the claim, that some priests brought Sarum back into use in the happy reign of our late Sovereign Lord King James II. Anybody know anything?

24 February 2014

Yet more Definitive tenendum?

The 1998 CDF Commentary on Ad tuendam fidem (paragraph 11) gives examples of "truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively". One was the Canonisation of Saints, upon which I commented in my recent piece about the Infallibility - or otherwise - of Canonisation. Another was the Bull Apostolicae curae, upon which I wrote in my final piece on Reordination. I now move on to "the legitimacy of the election of the Sovereign Pontiff".

I have near my desk a useful little CTS pamphlet (1958) (it cost me 6d when I was a smart little chap of seventeen ... money well spent): The Popes from St Peter to Pius XII. Jolly good for dates and simple summaries. Based upon the Annuario Pontificio of 1904 and 1905. Each pope has his own number. Numbers 112, 114, 116: Pope Formosus was posthumously deposed by his successor Stephen VII but rehabilitated by his successor Theodore II. 119 Leo V:  "Regarded as probably an anti-pope". Leo VIII (993): "His election is of doubtful validity". 133 Benedict V: "His election is of doubtful validity". 146A Sylvester III: "His election is of doubtful validity". 147 Gregory VI: "His election therefore is of doubtful validity". 200 Urban VI: "The election ... has however been generally deemed valid".

Quite a bag of popes here about whose legitimacy (or illegitimacy) greater or lesser doubts are openly expressed. If the list-makers are themselves in such states of doubt, how can the ordinary Catholic know how to submit to the requirements ("to be held definitively") implied by the Commentary? Urban VI, number 200, is fairly important. Upon his status depends the question whether, from 1378 onwards, the 'Roman' popes or the 'Avignon' popes were the true line. The schism lasted until 1417 and there has never been, as far as I am aware, a definitive resolution of the uncertainties before that date. To say that his "election has been generally deemed valid" seems to my untutored eye much weaker than "the legitimacy of his election is to be held definitively". And, to add to the confusions, respectable authors have imported an axiom Papa dubius Papa nullus (I can't discover who first deployed it) to argue that, during the Great Schism, there was for four decades no Pope at all. You can see why this has some appeal: after the Council of Pisa (1409) the 'Roman' pope, Gregory XII, commonly regarded as the 'real' pope, did not have jurisdiction beyond Italy; the 'Avignon' 'antipope' Benedict XIII was accepted by nobody outside a little Spanish town called Peniscola; and the Pisan 'antipope' Alexander V held sway over the rest of the world.

But ... Oh dear ... I've just discovered that my schoolboy list is out of date. It is rather different from that in the current Annuario Pontificio. Apparently, the list in my leaflet dated back to 1904/5, but there was a revision in the 1940s. Indeed? Then the scholars who did that revision, the person responsible for that revision, did not, apparently, regard the previous list as definitive tenendum. And ... Ah!! God bless Wikipedia! There was more revision in 2001! Gracious! So those responsible for doing that did not regard the list which they picked up to revise as being definitive tenendum. So, why on earth ...

Yeah ... I know ... I am trying your patience. The Commentary is simply clobbering modern sedevacantists ... and so it jolly well should ... all power to its elbow ... not spraying irrelevant anathemas all over historical pedants who hold divergent views about the status of long dead popes and antipopes, or excommunicating the chappies who keep revising the list in the Annuario every generation or soHave some common sense, Fr H. Fair enough. But ... and this is my real point ... I think the methodology of the Commentary is lacking in logical rigour. It cannot really mean what it says. And it risks dragging into disrepute the entire concept of "to be held definitively". In strictly logical terms, why should it be what-the-Hell-who-cares to dispute the validity of the election of Gregory VI but totally terrible to question that of Benedict XVI?  Over the years, apparently, definitive tenendum gradually evaporates. As the magicians say, Now you see it, now you don't.

My tentative conclusion (I really am open to well-argued elucidations but not to irritable rants) is that this paragraph in the Commentary is intended to point pastorally and reliably to where authentic Church Life is, here and now, to be found and lived. It is to be found in communion with Francis, who really is Pope (not in sedevacantist groups); in community with the public invocation of those whom he has declared Saints; and it is not to be found in the sacramental life of Anglican ecclesial bodies. Sure pointers to sure realities; reliable notice-boards about real minefields where Death truly lurks. That is why, here and now, observing it as definitive tenendum keeps you safe, and is important. But, despite its rather fierce appearance, this language is not intended, cannot be intended, as an implacable iron rule to resolve every doubt in past history - it just doesn't work - nor can it, will it, be an eternal mill-stone round the Church's neck.

As a not insignificant final detail, I point out that the Commentary was not approved by the Roman Pontiff in forma specifica; indeed, it was not approved by him at all. This is some sort of pointer to its level of Magisterial status, yes?

23 February 2014

Liturgical Indicators in Holy Week

In Holy Week this year, I will find it interesting to see what happens on ...

(1) Maundy Thursday. What will our Holy Father do? Will he, like last year, disregarded the law confining those whose feet he washes to the half of humanity called viri (don't write in trying to convince me that this does not mean males)? A year ago he was recently elected; he had made decisions in a hurry; and some of the rhetorical reaction to what he did was probably excessive. This year, he will have had time to think and to take advice and to decide.
(a) He can change the Law. I am not keen on this because the current use with regard to the pedilavium is of great antiquity and has meaning. But I am not the Church's Summus Legifer. If he changes it, then the Law has changed. I am neither antinomian nor sedevacantist.
(b) He can follow the current law. One would assume that this is, in the very least, the fall-back position of any Catholic cleric.
(c) As I pointed out much earlier, he could do the pedilavium, formally and liturgically, in accordance with the law. Then, extraliturgically, he could go out into the streets and perform this vivid acted ikon  of Humility in any way that takes his fancy.
(d) Since the pedilavium is not compulsory, and, indeed, only entered the Missa in Coena Domini comparatively recently, he could omit it during the Liturgy, and, separately, do it extraliturgically.
(e) He could do the same as he did last year. In this case, he will be teaching either
     (i) that the Roman Pontiff is above the Law; in other words, that he is not a member of the Church like every other Christian, subject to its Magisterium and its discipline, but Some Other Type of Arbitrary Being set above the Church; or
     (ii) that it is lawful for anybody to disregard liturgical Law when they consider that they have a compelling reason.

(2) Good Friday. What will the SSPX do; indeed, what have the SSPX done on recent Good Fridays?
(a) Have they used the the 1962 rites but with the form of prayer Pro Iudaeis composed and imposed by Pope Benedict XVI? If so, they have, in my view, behaved rationally and lawfully.
(b) Have they continued to use the 1962 rites without making the change mandated by Benedict XVI? If so, this conduct would seem to me irrational and unlawful. Because
    (i) the 1962 Holy Week Rite is not some set of liturgies which came down fully-formed from Heaven, nor one which was handed down intact from early times. It was devised by Archbishop Bugnini and imposed by Pope Pius XII, then revised and inserted into the Missale Romanum and imposed by B John XXIII. It represents a very considerable modification of what the Roman Rite did previously. Thus the forms found in 1962 have precisely the same legal and customary force (and no more) as the Prayer Pro Iudaeis imposed by Benedict XVI. Unless one is a sedevacantist, it is purely arbitrary to accept the massive alterations decreed by Pius XII and to refuse the change made to just one prayer by Benedict XVI.
    (ii) There is a more historical approach to liturgical authority which sees it as essentially resting upon what Ancient Tradition has handed down to us. Benedict XVI, laudably, gestured towards this attitude when, in issuing Summorum Pontificum, he commented that what has been sacred cannot become forbidden. If the SSPX regard this as the essence of liturgical authority, I would have to express much sympathy for them. And, in this case, they will have reverted to the Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae which preceded Pius XII. And, of course, in using that ancient set of usages, they will not have changed the Prayer Pro Iudaeis. Because Benedict XVI did not impose his own new composition upon the pre-Bugnini, pre-Pius XII, rite; he imposed it on the 1962 rite.

I would be interested if readers were able to refine the logic I have tried to follow in all this. I will be less interested in comments which are merely forcefully phrased expressions of personal preference or prejudice or dislike.

21 February 2014

Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (1)

A valued and learned friend has copied to me a paper in the January 2011 number of Worship, by a North American canonist called Chad Glendinning. Because I believe that (a) it summarises lucidly and usefully the current state of opinion among experts about the subject with which it deals; and that (b) its conclusions completely misunderstand that same subject, I plan ... most unwisely, because I know nothing about Canon Law ... to deal with it in some detail. Needless to say, you are welcome to comment immediately, but this series of pieces is intended to stand as a whole and you might find yourself either making a comment which anticipates my future argument, or writing exactly what I shall rebut in the next piece. No harm, of course ...

The subject concerned is the statement in Summorum Pontificum that the traditional Roman Mass had never been lawfully abrogated. The problem about this is that the praxis of the Roman Curia since the promulgation of the Pauline Missal* appeared to have been based on an assumption of abrogation of the preceding rite. And Cardinal Ratzinger himself had once spoken with regret about that 'abrogation' ... and you can't regret something which has not been done.

Mind you, I have always felt, and have written in this blog about the fact that, there was an oddity about the failure of the Pauline Decree explicitly to abrogate the earlier Missal in view of the very clear abrogation in the corresponding document about the Breviary (and Summorum Pontificum did not claim that the old Breviary "had never been abrogated"). But I propose to accept, for the sake of argument, Gendinning's demonstration that supersession implies abrogation. Nor do I intend to write about the Commission of canonist Cardinals which is said to have delivered, some years ago, an opinion that the Old Missal had never been abrogated - although I would welcome information at this moment on the thread about this matter.

My intention is to examine the earlier teaching of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on the post-Conciliar events and to suggest that his judgement as Pope upon the non-abrogation of the Old Missal is a theological statement as important as, and indeed very closely related to, his teaching in his justly celebrated Address to the Roman Curia about a Hermeneutic of Continuity. Unlike Glendinning and the canonists he quotes, I see Papa Ratzinger's pronouncement in this matter as another sign of his very considerable greatness. And as an ecumenical step of very profound significance.
Continues.

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*Glendinning points out the oddity of Paul VI (followed by John Paul II) promulgating a rite which had, at the point of promulgation, not quite been written.

Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (2)

Continues.
I believe that Cardinal Ratzinger, the first Anglo-Catholic Cardinal, pioneered a new approach to the concept of what is, liturgically, licit. It is an attitude which has strong links with the views of Anglican liturgists such as Dom Gregory Dix and Prebendary Michael Moreton, with the attitude to liturgical liceity which was held by the grat Anglo-Papalist priests such as Fynes-Clinton, Baverstock, Hole; and is ecclesiologically significant. It appears also to have links with Orthodox ecclesiology. Here are two passages which the cardinal wrote in 1998.

"Pius V ... decided to introduce the Missale Romanum, the Mass book of the Church of the City of Rome, as indubitably Catholic, in all places where it could not be demonstrated that the liturgy was of at least 200 years'a antiquity. In other cases the liturgy in use could be retained, since its Catholic character could be considered certain. There was therefore no question of forbidding the use of a traditional Missal which had been juridically valid until that time ... " " ... It is good here to recall what Cardinal Newman observed*, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow. The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of the dialect of love between the Church and her Lord. They are expressions of the life of the Church, in which are distilled the faith, the prayer, and the very life of past generations, and which make incarnate in specific forms both the action of God and the response of man. Such rites can die, if those who have used them in a particular era should disappear, or if the life-situation of those same people should change. The authority of the church had the power to define and limit the use of such rites in different historical situations, but she never just purely and simply forbids them!"

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*Can anyone provide a reference to this?

All italics are mine.

Continues later with my comments on these texts.

Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (3)

Continues
Sometimes a parallel is suggested between S Pius V, revising the Roman Rite after and by mandate of the Council of Trent, and Paul VI, revising it after and by mandate of Vatican II. This is, I believe, a gross misunderstanding (i) of what S Pius was about, as he describes his own actions in Quo primum; and (ii) of the considerable differences between those two events.

S Pius has been seen as suppressing variant dialects of the Roman Rite - such as the English Sarum Rite - in the interests of a centralising uniformity. This analysis does not fit the facts. In the later sixteenth century, there was a fair amount of liturgical experimentation - and S Pius intends to suppress such innovations in the Eucharist. He does not intend to suppress established rites with a couple of centuries' history. Let us look at his words enforcing his new edition "... nisi ab ipsa prima institutione a Sede Apostolica adprobata, vel consuetudine, quae, vel ipsa institutio super ducentos annos missarum celebrandarum in eisdem ecclesiis assidue observata sit: a quibus, ut praefatam celebrandi constitutionem, vel consuetudinem nequaquam auferimus; so there ... just my point ... but he goes on sic, si Missale hoc ... magis placeret ..." and ah!, you cry, so - with a nudge and a wink - S Pius is encouraging churches with a 200 year prescription to change over to his new edition! But No! ... he goes on "de episcopi, vel praelati, Capitulique universi consensu ...". "Capituli universi consensu!" So, apparently, even just one bolshie traddie Canon on a Chapter could veto the desire of some episcopal johnnie-come-lately to introduce the Pian edition of the Missal into the diocese! What we have here is not a policy of universal standardisation by an autocrat, but the mandated preservation of the old and sanctified dialects of the Roman Rite combined with a firm suppression of recent faddery.

There is some interest in comparing the legislation of S Pius with what could happen elsewhere in the West. In one province, a metropolitan Archbishop, who had secured the support of the secular state and control of the technology of printing, decreed that "whereas heretofore there hath been great diversity in saying and singing in the Churches within this realm: some following Salisbury Use, some Hereford Use, and some the Use of Bangor, some of York, some of Lincoln; now from henceforth all the whole Realm shall have but one Use". Thomas Cranmer had little thought of subjecting his abolition of ancient uses - which certainly had a prescription of more than two hundred years - to a veto even by a majority of a Cathedral Chapter. When the Chapter at S Paul's, London, adopted his new rite but attempted merely to graft onto it certain features of their previous customs, a peremptory order by the Privy Council put an end to the attempt. One wonders whether the legislation of Paul VI, resembles much more closely the actions of the Tudor regime than it does the precedents set by S Pius.

Add to this, the process which S Pius employed to produce his new edition: the examination of old versions in the Vatican Library; the collection of other exemplars; a reading of old liturgical authors. His missal was "recognitum iam et castigatum". It was not, like the Missal of Paul VI, a rite marked on every single page with revolutionary innovations. Nobody denies that the 'Tridentine' Missal differs very little from earlier editions. Nobody claims that alterations were made in the Canon which had no basis in its textual history; that a dozen or so alternative 'Eucharistic Prayers' were added; or that the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels of every single Sunday were changed. Nobody can deny that all this is true of the Pauline Missal*.

One pope publishes a very light standardisation with a 98% unchanged text; another pope publishes a vastly different rite. I now address an ad hominem argument to those who believe that the two events match each other: if that earlier pope deemed it wrong that variant dialects of the Roman Rite (not so very different from the Rite he had edited) should lightly be set aside when they had a couple of centuries behind them, then, a fortiori, it would be incongruous for the later pope to think it right, or inevitable, that all the earlier dialects of the Roman Rite (representing, in their developed forms, something like a thousand years of history) should be set aside ... without even a mention that he was mandating such an unheard-of revolution.

I do not like some propaganda of the SSPX which appears to suggest that Quo primum made the Pian edition immutable. Certainly no future Pontiff deemed it immutable; they presided over its organic evolution. But the Pauline missal was not just one more light, slight, evolutionary revision of the Pian Missal. Those who most strongly argue that the Pian events and the Pauline events were parallel and congruous can hardly avoid the conclusion that Paul did not desire ... any more than Pius intended ... to consign the traditional forms of the Roman Rite to the rubbish dump.

I offer these thoughts as my meditation upon the words I quoted in my last post from Cardinal Ratzinger: that it is contrary to the Spirit of the Church to abolish the rites which have served the piety and lives of generations of Christians.
Continues, and gets more ecclesiological.

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*Well, I suppose that in the Pauline Missal two or three Sundays after Epiphany somehow managed to keep their collects. And Palm Sunday.

Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (4)

Continues.
In 1999 Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: "Rites ... are forms of the Apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition." ... He had in the same book previously observed that these places, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, all are "connected with Petrine traditions" ... it is not only in Rome that Peter speaks in the Paradosis. He goes on: "The liturgy cannot be compared to a piece of technical equipment, something manufactured, but to a plant, something organic that grows and whose laws of growth determine the possibilities of further development". Notice that he uses the term 'laws' in a way which has nothing whatsoever to do with enacted legislation. He is discerning principles of ecclesial life which go deeper than Canon Law. As Ratzinger continues, it seems to me that he shows a markedly limited enthusiasm for the intrusion into Liturgy, in the West, of the juridical authority of the papacy."The more vigorously the papacy was displayed, the more the question came up of about the extent and limits of this authority, which, of course, as such had never been considered. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the consciousness of the West [observe his emphasis that he is speaking of Western phenomena]. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not 'manufactured' by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity."

Ratzinger pauses briefly to say that "Here again, as in the questions of ikons and sacred music, we come up against the special path trod by the West." The significance of this is that, when he was dealing with those topics in his previous chapter, the cardinal was far from viewing East and West through equally benign spectacles. On the contrary, he gently chided the West for never having achieved a 'real reception' of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea II. Here, as there, the balance of his sympathies appears to rest with what he understands to be the Eastern tradition. ("We come up against ..." is a significant phrase.) He admits a place for the more innovatory instincts of the West, but concludes: "it would lead to the breaking up of the foundations of Christian identity if the fundamental intuitions of the East, which are the fundamental intuitions of the early Church, were abandoned. The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."[My italics.]

It seems to me that Cardinal Ratzinger's concerns are less with Canon Law than with an unwritten law inscribed in the very nature of the Church (the embodiment of authentic tradition), which trumps the law embodied in transient canonical codes and enactments. He is not concerned to join in the scrimmage of canonists as they examine their manuals and gather their precedents in order to discover exactly how a particular decree of Paul VI might or might not be glossed. What he is writing is Theology. His subject is the Spirit-filled life of the Catholic Church.
The final part of this series is the piece I reprinted yesterday.

20 February 2014

Prebendary Michael Moreton and Professor Joseph Ratzinger

On a recent thread, Professor William Tighe wrote about the great Anglican liturgists Dix, Ratcliff, and Willis. To his list I would add one more name: that of Prebendary Michael Moreton. Moreton is often best known as one of the first to prick the bubble of the versus populum superstition. Indeed, he was that. But of great interest is his attitude to what, essentially, liturgical authority really is. I reprint below, unchanged (but with a short passage irrelevant to my main argument omitted), a piece of mine from 2011 (with its thread). It was the last of a series (tomorrow I will reprint, all together, the first four sections of that series) examining and rejecting the views of a canonist called Chad Gendinning, who had written critically about the assertion, in Summorum pontificum, that the Vetus Ordo had never been lawfully abolished.

RATZINGER AND LITURGICAL LAW (2011)

Chad Glendinning quotes A S Sanchez-Gil as feeling that the Roman Missal, along with other liturgical books, cannot be reduced to a collection of liturgical laws. This is along the right lines, but does not, I feel, go nearly far enough. The great Anglican liturgist, Prebendary Michael Moreton, now striding eruditely through his nineties, sees the Canon Romanus - if I understood him aright in the six years during which we conversed - in a position not unlike that of the Canon of Scripture; a given in the Tradition which it is not for us to treat as disposable. He speaks of the Canon as having auctoritas given to it by tradition, which far surpasses the merely canonical, legalistic, authorisation, which fly-by-night 'Eucharistic Prayers' composed by the Top Experts of one single decade might have. I think it may be a coincidence - because Fr Michael, unlike me, is not a pedantic papalist who tries to keep up to date with the documents which flood out from Roman dikasteries - that his term auctoritas occurs also in John Paul II's instruction Ecclesia Dei. It is a profound term with roots deep in the sense of the Orthodox as well as of Traditionalist Catholics that there are weightier imperatives than Canon Law. I remind you of the startling fact that the Patriarch of Moskow welcomed Summorum pontificum as an ecumenically positive action.

Glendinning informs us that Summorum pontificum, if it is not an "imprecise use of canonical terminology" (really, Chad, who is the Supreme Legislator?), is "a rather overt denunciation of the pope's predecessors and of the praxis curiae". In a funny sort of way, I think this last bit is right. Benedict XVI is superseding the assumptions underlying the enactments of his predecessor Paul VI, and, unobserved by Glendinning, he is doing so on grounds which he had previously, before his election to the See of Peter, explained thoroughly lucidly in the two passages which I copied from his works in the second post of this series. Our Holy Father even restates the views of Cardinal Ratzinger, in the Letter to Bishops which accompanied Summorum pontificum: "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden forbidden". Note Cannot! We are talking about non potests rather than non licets. As for curial enactments, well, I think it has to be pointed out that the pope is not only, as Glendinning concedes, the Supreme Legislator, but, as Vatican I defined, also the Supreme Judge of the Church. If his statements in Summorum pontificum go contrary to what Roman dikasteries have prescribed or implied, this is surely analogous to a court of appeal overriding an earlier judgement by a legislator of inferior jurisdiction. (Or, if it isn't, why not?) J Baldovini, quoted by Glendinning, wrote that "even someone with supreme legislative authority cannot undo historic facts". But Benedict XVI is not misdescribing (or even describing) historical facts, I suggest, but defining what the deepest law of the church is. He bases himself upon a view of history, Theology, and law which is broader than the juridical bases of those previous enactments. That is in fact what makes his declaration so significant; so much more in line with a Catholic - and Orthodox - and Anglo-Catholic - concept of Liturgy.

Of course, in human terms the odds are that few here in the Latin West will really understand his project; that the liturgical and moral anarchists, the homosexual ideologues* and the feminists, will continue their frenzied denigrations of the old Bavarian gentleman; that in a few years he will be dead and his vision forgotten as the vaticanologists feverishly speculate on the 'policies' of his successor. But, in my eyes, for as long as it lasts it is exhilarating; Benedict's Age is a good age in which to be alive, an age of the very truest instauratio catholica. And, just possibly ... who knows ... after all, there is a God ...

A FINAL (2014) COMMENT

Benedict XVI identified (not created) a Principle deeper than mere legislation; a Law even deeper than the law; to the effect that "what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too". This is what, in recent posts, I have called auctoritas. He concluded that "it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful". It is worth remembering this in a post-Benedictine era. Subsequent legislators cannot legislate to abolish this datum because, established as it is in immutable historical facts, it is not accessible to the pen of a legislator. Summorum Pontificum, qua legislation, is itself no more immutable than other legislation. But the Principle underlying it is one of those principles which are integral to the life of the Church; unchangeably part of it for ever.
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*2014 note: I did not in 2011 write homosexuals, and I did not mean homosexuals. I meant people (of whatever orientation) who promote an ideology of homosexuality. Many are heterosexuals busily demonstrating their withitness. Many people of a homosexual orientation want none of it. Similarly, I did not write 'women'. By writing 'feminists' I pointed to neither gender nor orientation but to ideology. (I shall not enable new comments on this point.) 

16 February 2014

Blessed Clemens Augustus, Count von Galen

I wonder if any readers know how the process is advancing for the Canonisation of Blessed Clement. And, indeed, how widespread his cultus is.

Liberal elites throw up their hands in horror at the old-style, 'hard', in-your-face, Nazism, while themselves (as demonstrated recently in Belgium) being fervent apostles for the new, caring, 'soft', let-me-give-you-a-cuddle, Nazism. Ich klage an.

The ROMAN CANON: Fr Hugh Ross Williamson; Dom Gregory Dix

In 1955, an Anglican Catholic priest, Hugh Ross Williamson, wrote a book (The Great Prayer) on the Canon of the Mass, the First Eucharistic Prayer. Here is an extract from the Introduction.

"To know the prayer which accompanies the action is to know the Faith. And the Faith is the faith of the whole, undivided Church, before schisms had sundered it. The ... 'Canon of the Mass' ... has not varied since the end of the sixth century. Its final form was given to it by Gregory the Great, the Pope who sent Augustine to England. The Prayer as Augustine prayed it in that first Communion he celebrated in the ruined church of St Martin in Canterbury in 597 is, word for word, the same prayer as has been said this particular morning at every Catholic altar all over the world.
    "Thus the Canon today is not only the prayer of unity within the Church itself. It is the potential point of unity for all those separated from the Church. The sects which have sprung up since the Reformation could all unite in saying the Canon ... There is in the Canon only the teaching of the the primitive Church (for, of course, Gregory the Great only put the final touches to prayers which had slowly developed or hardened into particular forms from apostolic times) and nothing whatever of 'late medieval accretions' against which the Reformers inveighed. The Canon had already been in use, in its present form, for six hundred years before Transubstantiation ' was defined in 1215.
     "In praying the Canon we unite ourselves with all fellow-christians 'throughout all ages, world without end'. In knowing the Canon, we become grounded in the teaching of the primitive Church ...."

I wouldn't have expressed everything in precisely this way myself; I would have acknowledged, for example, the existence of Byzantine Christianity! I print it simply to enable you to lie back and enjoy it!

Williamson had as his spiritual director Dom Gregory Dix, and the first paragraph above is undoubtedly influenced by Dix's words:
"[There is] a certain timelessness about the eucharistic action ... This very morning I 'did this' with a set of texts which had not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he had landed. Yet 'this' can still take hold of a man's life and work with it."
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REVEREND; RIGHT REVEREND; MOST REVEREND; EMINENT FATHERS: CAN YOU REALLY IN GOOD CONSCIENCE USE 'ALTERNATIVE EUCHARISTIC PRAYERS'?

15 February 2014

Call for help

I've just come across (still going through old papers) a piece by Fr Eric Mascall taking a little further some of the remarks he made about the Papacy in The Recovery of Unity. He lists the possibility that the papal see might have been vacant for forty years during the Great Schism, citing a phrase Papa dubius Papa nullus. I wonder if anybody has ever come across either that proposition or that phrase. (I'm rather less interested in a discussion about these things than I am in being pointed in the direction of exact references to authorities.)

THE END IS ARCHDEACON

I dealt in three recent posts with the desire of liturgical 'progressives' to cut modern congregations off from the Liturgy of the Church by imposing an English translation which obscures, to the point of total opacity, what Pope Paul VI's Missal (issued after Vatican II) actually sought to put before the worshipper. Denis Archdeacon (see those earlier posts) goes explicitly further. He writes "the Latin original should be set aside. Then the Bishops' Conferences of the English-speaking world, with the help of the best liturgists, writers and poets, could commission a completely new English text of the Mass".

Let us be quite clear what is being suggested. From the day in 597 when S Augustine arrived in Kent, it was the Roman Rite which he and his collaborators brought to this country. Pope Gregory himself had actually advised them to be more eclectic; and, at that time, the Roman Rite did not extend far beyond Rome itself (it was not until the reign of Charlemagne that a major effort was made to enforce it throughout Gaul). But this little, nascent, English Church was a tiny island of superb Romanita in a great sea of non-Roman Latin Christianity. Our earliest scholar of international standing, S Bede the Venerable, wrote his Historia to demonstrate this fact. The great Anglican liturgist G G Willis demonstrated how Roman was the genius and practice of Anglo-Saxon Christianity. Indeed, the same seems to have become true throughout these islands: the early Irish 'Stowe Missal' has no resemblance to spurious modern invented 'Celtic Christianities' which spawn the so-called 'Celtic' whatevers all over the daft 'Celtic Christianity' sections of religious bookshops: Stowe is the Roman Rite, its Eucharistic Prayer is the Roman Canon, and the book even exhibits features going back to before S Gregory I reformed that rite by making the Lord's Prayer follow immediately after the Canon.

The Roman Rite ... divided after the Norman Conquest into slightly variant 'dialects' ... the Sarum or York or Hereford uses ... remained the religion of Englishmen until 1559. It survived the Reformation in the persecuted communities of Elizabethan England. Diversity of dialect began to disappear after December 1576, when the students at Douay started to study the version of the Roman Rite newly published by S Pius V. After 1850, thousands of Anglican clergy endured persecution to reintroduce that Roman Rite into their churches: their spiritual descendants now form the Ordinariate. The years after Vatican II saw the reappearance of 'dialects' of the same Roman Rite: not now Sarum or Hereford or York, but EF and OF and Anglican Use; and also the introduction of the vernacular into that Roman Rite. The Church's Liturgy has indeed not been changeless; but through all its changes the essential identity of English Catholicism has been linked indissolubly with the Roman Rite, the most ancient, the most venerable, the most widely used rite in Christendom, and with the Roman Canon, its only authentic Eucharistic Prayer.

So there you go. 1,417 years of continuity in English Catholicism. Until the Era of Archdeacon and his Grand Project. Truly, an alter Cranmerus. Perhaps a friend with his interests at heart should show him that cross in the paving of Broad Street a few feet from the door of the Master's Lodgings of Balliol College, lest a feeling arise that he needs his whiskers singed, and the cry be heard Archidiaconum ad ignes.

14 February 2014

Reply to Joshua


I had better make it clear that I am far to busy and important a man to chase up euchological formulae for other people, but occasionally a cry for help from the colonies touches a chord in my heart, or whatever the cliche is. So, in circumstances in which I would normally refer an enquirer to The Christian Year: Calendar, Lectionary, and  Collects (Church House Publishing, 1997, ISBN 0 7151 3799 9) I will ... just on this one occasion ... assist a Tasmanian. Here is the Collect authorised in Old Mother Damnable for use on the festival of Blessed Priscilla Proudie, Educationalist and Worker for Women's Rights.

Almighty and Everlasting God, who raised up Priscilla Proudie from the low estate of the niece of a Scottish Earl, and made her equally adverse to impropriety of every description: grant us so to benefit from the example of her meekness and humility; that we may ever practise perfect abstinence from any cheering employment upon the Sabbath.

This collect is a perfect composition. Those learned in such matters will recognise the natural grace of the rhythmic cursus with which it is composed: one trispondaicus, and two velox. None but a liturgical genius could have been so served by his own fine instincts as to produce such a masterpiece. And I will reveal that it comes from the pen of 'Bubbles' Stancliffe himself, quondam Bishop of Salisbury, whose deft and skilful hand guided the Church of England through the minefields of Liturgical Revision. He began life as One of Us; indeed, I remember to this day the moment when an episcopal friend said to me "Have you heard? Stancliffe has ratted". The postman brought Bubbles his mitre the very next morning. He is not yet a member of the Ordinariate. But who can tell what Grace may achieve? What a catch he would be!

Sic ...

A friend tells me that S Mary's Church Huttoft in Lincolnshire, the basis of the poem by Sir John Betjeman which I quoted yesterday, is, indeed, in his experience, very locked; and served by a woman minister. Fulsere vere  ... 

G G Willis and the Roman Canon

Apologies to those of you who get tired of reading me thrusting down your throats the inherited wisdom of the Anglican Catholic tradition; but I can't help being what I am. Today, something written in 1969 by one of our greatest liturgical Anglican scholars, Dr G G Willis. He praises a translation of the Canon which is more or less what the Ordinariate Rite contains ('superb translation ...superlative style ... outstanding ...'*) and advises its adoption rather than that of a Hyppolytean* Canon. "In liturgical quality, both of language and structure, it excels all other eucharistic rites ...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 countless other Western Christians, and would therefore have great value in knitting together the splintered unity of Christ's Church. Such a suggestion is worthy of serious consideration. ... the Roman Canon is the best one available, .. falling into three clearly defined stages, the offering of the gifts of bread and wine to God, 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".

The poignancy of these words, written at just the moment when disaster was about to strike the Roman Rite, surely increases their force. In a paper written two years later in 1971, Willis wrote: "nothing is clearer to the student of liturgical history in the whole of Christendom than that the best and most enduring liturgy arises out of the past experiences of worshippers. This suggests that revision should arise, and should be seen to arise, out of what went before". This is almost a paraphrase of that paragraph in Sacrosanctum Concilium (23) which was so strikingly contradicted when Rome authorised alternative Eucharistic Prayers.

Learn from the Anglican Patrimony; follow the Ordinariates. The Roman Canon is the only Eucharistic Prayer for right-thinking Latin Clergy to use.
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** We now know that it was not by Miles Coverdale, but by an anonymous Anglo-Catholic. And, of course, since 1971, Hippolytus has metamorphosed into Pseudo-Hippolytus.

13 February 2014

Eric Mascall

Professor William Tighe, for very many years a friend of the Anglican Patrimony, as of all things wholesome, reminds us that tomorrow, February 14, is the twenty-first anniversary of the death of Eric Mascall, Priest and Scholar. CAPD.

Fr Aidan Nichols wrote that the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, in the twentieth century, inspired "a select band of first rate patristic scholars and systematic theologians. In such figures ... the orthodox Roman Catholic can recognise with but little effort 'separated doctors' of the Catholic Church'". In this select band he names Eric Mascall. Mascall's was indeed one of the most acute minds to detect and analyse the deceptions of the last part of the twentieth century.

Now that the tradition represented by Mascall has formally and corporately entered into Full Communion with the See of Peter in the Ordinariates, is it too ... pushy ... to hope that our fellow Catholics will regard these figures as having become their property too? Just as I trust that they will not resent us feeling that their own Saints and great men have now become ours as well ... the Elizabethan Martyrs; Bishop Challoner and his fellow Confessors?

Is this what the phrase "Church Unity" means?

Last night I dreamed that I was again at ...

I didn't actually find it very easy, that February morning, even to get into the Cathedral. As so commonly nowadays, there were people guarding the way in; their expressions that elusive combination of Welcome and We Want Your Money. The usual large notice explained how much it cost, by the minute, to keep the Cathedral open. But I had twenty eight years experience of little boys inviting me to 'sponsor' them. The thing to do is to look apoplectic; the best way I know of doing this is surreptitiously to chafe ones face. This makes it go red. Wide-open eyes complete the effect. I swept in past the obstacles, unpestered and unrobbed. You can guess what I had come to revisit: in the North aisle ... just past the Chantry Chapel of Bishop ffoliott ... there it was. A simple monument designed and executed in good taste. The broken column; the stark words "My beloved wife!" And, round at the side, unobtrusive, the name Westmacott ... it must have been just about the last monument he carved. Pedants among you may calculate that it was a posthumous work.

But there had been one change since last I stood on that spot remembering the comedies and tragedies in which a great lady had played so large a part. Beside her monument, there was now a simple modern altar, with two lit candles upon it. Then I remembered: the Common Worship Calendar of the Church of England, 2000, had included her, with the simple description Priscilla Proudie, Educationalist and Worker for Women's Rights. And today was her 'feast' day. I moved out of the way just in time to avoid the sharp end of a verge: the Dean's Verger was clearing the way for Mrs Dean herself, the Very Reverend 'Danny' Danvers. I took up a retiring position beside the inconspicuous slab commemorating Mr Septimus Harding, and watched her liturgical style. Very decent; much more "Catholic" than that of most of the Roman Catholic clergy I had seen liturgising during that grim fifteen months when they were trying to keep me out of the Catholic Priesthood. Not quite Staggers, but very probably Cuddesdon. And nothing polyester about her chasuble. Of course, I knew a bit about Danny ... tipped, you know, to be one of the first Women Bishops. And she'll undoubtedly be far and away a better bishop than any of her Brethren (probably end up alterius orbis papissa in sede stercorata Cantuariensi). The quality of the Bench of Bishops is nowadays so abysmally low in the Church of England; not surprising, really, considering what the job has become. (It's the same with regard to headmasterships in Public Schools: nobody who's any good wants the job any more so it goes to failed Deputy Heads, a sad and saddening class of men.) The first women bishops will be outstanding, although the second batch will probably show signs of reversion to mediocritas haudquaquam aurea. (Within a decade, the women appointees will be every bit as ghastly as the men. No? A modest wager? Ten guineas?)

You've no idea how satisfactory it is to be now in Full Uncommunion with the remnants of the Anglican ecclesial experiment. It no longer matters to me if they have women in their ministry, any more that it matters that the Baptists should do so. What a wearisome old wrangle all that was! And, every year, new evidence is provided that "the vivifying principle of truth, the shadow of St Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, [has] left it". People ask if one misses the C of E. What? The "House of Bondage"? Not for a minute. But I'll tell you what I do miss: the Church I was formed by. Mascall hurrying down the Cornmarket and the baroque splendours of the ball-room at Nashdom and the Farrers amid the flashy horrors of Keble; Hope Patten presiding at Walsingham and my confessor and director John Hooper ensconced for hours in his confessional in Mags just behind Our Lady of Joy, dog across his feet. And, perhaps best of all, simply going into a country church at the end of a muddy lane
And there on the south aisle altar
Is the tabernacle of God.
There where the white light flickers
By the white and silver veil,
A wafer dipped in a wine-drop
Is the Presence the Angels hail,
Is God who created the Heavens
And the wide green marsh as well,
Who sings in the sky with the skylark
Who calls in the evening bell,
Is God who prepared His coming
With fruit of the earth for his food,
With stone for building his churches
And trees for making his rood.
There where the white light flickers
Our Creator is with us yet ...

But fulsere vere candidi nobis soles ... quod vidimus perisse perditum ducimus ... Fuit Lesbia.

I slipped out, unobserved, with no moist eye, after the reading (the last chapter of Proverbs; I had forgotten how truly biblical Mrs Proudie was) and made my way to lunch with a Staggers contemporary, Fr Colin Spikenard - now a brother priest in God's Own Ordinariate - and his wife Jill. There was news we had to share with each other. And I could do with a gin.

This is a very occasional series. But you will, DV, get to know some time what I learned over lunch.


Sacrosanctum Concilium

The Council said that more of Scripture should be put into the Liturgy. The Missal of Paul VI did so. You may not agree with how they did it: but that is a matter of judgement.

The Council said that the more hymns should be put into the Office. The Liturgy of the Hours did so. You may not agree with how it did it: but that is a matter of judgement.

The Council said that alternative Eucharistic Prayers should be put into the Ordo Missae. The Reformers did so. You may not agree with how they did it: but that is a matter of judgement.

Er ... have I just made some sort of foolish mistake?

I plan to keep on about the Roman Canon for a while, starting tomorrow. Later today, however, a piece about my recent revisit to a beloved Cathedral City.

11 February 2014

The Feast of our lady of Lourdes: for Latinists

At an early stage in the reforms which led from the Breviarium Romanum to the Liturgia Horarum, the genius presiding over Hymnology, Dom Anselmo Lentini, proposed to assign a Proper hymn, Omnis expertem, to this feast. Taken from the pre-Conciliar Propers, its ultimate origin was a local Office of our Lady of Lourdes granted to the Diocese of Tarbes (now 'Tarbes et Lourdes') in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII (extended to the Universal Roman Rite by Pope S Pius X in 1907). Its interest is increased by the fact that there are grounds for strongly suspecting that this hymn was composed by the Pontiff himself, Leo XIII, who was (like Pope S Leo the Great) a Latinist of distinction, as well as being an enthusiast promoter of the cultus of our Lady of Lourdes. (I wonder how Pope Francis spends his evenings!) Its text is at the bottom of the page.

Other hymns to our Lady which you might like to compare are these***; do you think a stylistic study supports, or otherwise, the attribution of Omnis expertem to Pope Leo?

*Te dicimus praeconio: Also perhaps by Leo XIII, and also composed for the Office of our Lady of Lourdes. Lentini transferred it in the Liturgia Horarum to the Immaculate Conception. Sadly, he changed the stately second line (Intacta Mater Numinis) to the somewhat prosaic Mater Dei purissima, on the grounds that Numinis "sapit mythologiam". (Vide Sacrosanctum Concilium 93; I can see the point when it applies to Olympus or Iuppiter tonans, but is there much wrong with numen?) 

*O lux beata and *Sacra iam splendent for the Feast of the Holy Family: certainly by Leo; Lentini knocked a couple of stanzas off the beginning of Sacra, thus turning it into Dulce fit. These two hymns survive from the Breviary into the Liturgia Horarum.

Here is the text of the hymn to our Lady of Lourdes, for those of you who lack a pre-Conciliar Breviary.

Omnis expertem maculae Mariam
edocet summus fidei magister;
Virginis gaudens celebrat fidelis
     terra triumphum.

Ipsa se praebens humili puellae
Virgo spectandam, recreat paventem,
seque conceptam sine labe sancto
     praedicat ore.

O specus felix, decorata divae
matris aspectu! veneranda rupes,
unde vitales scatuere pleno
     gurgite lymphae!

*Huc catervatim pia turba nostris,
huc ab externis peregrina terris
affuit supplex et opem potentis
     Virginis orat.

*Excipit mater lacrimas precantum,
donat optatam miseris salutem;
compos hinc voti patrias ad oras
     turba revertit.

Supplicum, Virgo, miserata casus,
semper o nostros refove labores,
impetrans maestis bona sempiternae
     gaudia vitae.

Sit decus Patri, genitaeque Proli,
et tibi, compar utriusque virtus,
Spiritus semper, Deus unus, omni
     temporis aevo.

* Lentini proposed to omit these two stanzas. Huc, hinc seemed to him to imply a Gallocentric world view!

9 February 2014

A MOST REMARKABLE AND EXTRAORDINARY SUNDAY

You know those heart-rending stories one hears after terrorist atrocities? The gunmen  with their submachine guns have slaughtered dozens, but two or three victims have survived by lying down among the corpses and pretending to be dead. Today's Sunday Collect is one of those. As Archbishop Bugnini stood back and with a Clint Eastwood gesture blew the smoke from the end of his gun, he thought he had fifty two corpses in front of him. In fact, two of the fifty two were alive, lying there, motionless, shamming.

The fifty two were the Sunday Collects of the ancient Roman Rite. The two that survived were the only two which were left, in the Pauline Missal, occupying the same Sunday that they had occupied in the rite that came down to us from the Patristic period (Epiphany II and Epiphany V). So today is the last Sunday in this Calendar Year upon which those following the Novus Ordo and those adhering to the Vetus Ordo will be saying the same collect. Perhaps it should be celebrated as a remarkable pignus unionis futurae of the time when the Roman Rite will again be a unity, as Benedict XVI hoped.

You are sitting there scratching your heads. "Impossible", you cry. "Have you not read Sacrosanctum Concilium?  'There must be no innovations unless the good of the church genuinely and certainly [vera et certa] requires them.' And are you not aware that the Council gave no instruction whatsoever about attacking the Sunday collects?"

Indeed. And what makes this act of vandalism worse is that, from the three great Seasons of the Year, not one single Sunday collect survived as a Sunday collect in that season. They were all, apparently, regarded as so truly and certainly [vera et certa] unfit for purpose that they departed, pitiful refugees, taking with them into exile their teaching about the meaning the Roman Rite had historically discerned in Advent, Lent, and Eastertide.

I seem to recall that in his famous letter, sent formally from the offices of the Brentwood Liturgical Commission to The Tablet and the diocesan clergy, Fr Butler (as far as I am aware, he is still in post) made much of the fact that when Sacrosanctum Concilium came up for its final vote, only four Fathers voted against it. The poor silly Bu**er does not realise the actual significance of this truth. I am surprised that as many as four voted against it. The four did not include Archbishop Lefebvre, who had no problem voting for it and adopting the first two, light, revisions of the Ordo Missae that followed the Council (1965 and 1967). The Fathers thought that they were voting for a light and consensual updating of the Roman Rite, not for terrorists walking through the streets shooting anything that moved.
________________________________________________________________________________
Pedantic postscript: some sixteen of the old After Pentecost Sunday collects did survive, strangely shuffled up and sometimes mutilated, among the Sunday collects per annum. A couple of the Eastertide Sunday collects survived, unhappily reassigned to Sundays per annum. Some of the Advent, Lent, and Eastertide Sunday collects were allowed to survive as long as they submitted to the indignity of serving just one single weekday each and, in some cases, mutilation.

8 February 2014

witch hunts and name-calling

The great Fr Zed has published on his Blog information about a new appeal which has been launched, calling for justice for the Franciscans of the Immaculate. I have decided to publish a piece I drafted quite a time ago, but left unpublished in the hope that the New Year would being us news which rendered it superfluous.

Indeed, there is some good news. It was hard to suppress a nagging suspicion that the measures taken against the FI might have had, in some minds, the intention of driving part of the FI into uncanonical action, which could then have been represented as proving that they did have a schismatic mentality and were rightly subjected to extraordinary discipline. This elegant strategy, if it did exist, has failed. The Friars have conducted themselves with exemplary submission and humility. They are an example to the dissident movements which are running riot, unchecked, in some European countries. (In Britain, there is still in post a diocesan Director of Liturgy who, exactly like writers belonging to the SSPX, has publicly and formally called the lawfully imposed liturgical forms in this country "illegitimate". Sauce, geese, ganders?)

Here is my earlier draft.
Witch hunts are commonly associated with what happened in Stalinist Russia and in Maoist China and in Germany after the 1944 coup attempt; and, we are told, Senator McCarthy ran a pretty competent witch hunt in the U S of A. I do hope that we are not moving into a period in which the Catholic Church revives the ignoble art of the Witch Hunt. I am moved to say this because of the tone in which the Commissioner of the Franciscans of the Immaculate expresses himself. His correspondence contrives to insinuate a suggestion that his dealings with the Institute became necessary because of 'Cryptolefebvrianism' in the management of the Order by its Founder ... which reminds me of the habits of the Marxist tyrannies and has a certain flavour of George Orwell's 1984 about it. And he refers to the Superior of the SSPX purely by his surname ... another rather nasty totalitarian habit, in which one attempts to strip a disapproved person of all dignity. This is contrary to the practice of the Holy See, which has invariably addressed H E Mgr Fellay with proper respect for his episcopal office.

The antidote to witch hunts can, I suspect, be found in the pontificate of S Pius X, the Pontiff who put in place the anti-Modernist oath. Surely, as in every other age of the Church's history, heresy was thus and therein defined, caught in words. Si quis dixerit ... ... Anathema sit. Her dogma, too, was caught in words, in definitions, which expressed the minimum, the broadest formulation compatible with orthodoxy. So ... if you avoided an anathema, if you subscribed a definition, you were in the clear. You were thus protected from the malevolence of the tale-teller and of the Little Bully Up The Road who had it in for you. The precise definition of Orthodoxy and Heresy is a right that every Catholic has; a right that protects him, or ought to protect him, from random abuse of power. By a bewildering, Diabolical, paradox, Vatican II, a Council which desired to threaten nobody and so defined no dogmas, issued no anathemas, has been twisted into a pretext for the issuing of unjusticiable arbitrary condemnations.

The heart, I might even say the essence, of Arbitrary Power, of totalitarian tyranny, is the name-calling; the opprobrious epithet which is never properly defined; which, conveniently, is always left vague; vague enough to provide an effort-free charge on which to get somebody. It cannot have been easy, under Mao-tse-tung, to prove that one was not a lackey or a running-dog of reactionary Capitalism. Ergo ... off to the Re-education centre. More recently, it was reported that the Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, referring to the execution of his uncle, has said that his country is much stronger following the elimination of "factionalist filfth". No wonder the legal proceedings had been so satisfactorily brief. What possible defence can there be against such a crushing indictment? And I do not see that to deploy an innuendo about 'Cryptolefebvrianism' (particularly at a time when one Roman dicastery appears to be manoeuvring the terms 'schism' and 'excommunication' closer to the SSPX) is so much better. What does it mean?

If the Church were to define what such a term meant in a formal, precise, anathema, one could prove ones innocence (or be compelled to adjust ones position vis-a-vis the Magisterium). Undefined, it is unrebuttable. Those in the FI who have leadership roles or a munus docendi have already (or else can reasonably be asked to do this) subscribed the oath prescribed in Ad Fidem tuendam and embodied in Canon Law. More than this is a McCarthyite outrage.

The safeguard against witch hunts and abusive innuendo is Law and Dogma. This is what the FI, like every other Catholic in the world, have a right to.

7 February 2014

LITURGISTS (3) Nice Old Gentlemen

Make no mistake about it: we would have preferred not to have had this forced upon us, but it has been. It is sad and indecorous to talk about 'War' between Christians, indeed, between fellow Catholics: but it is not by our choice that War is coming. On the EF front, we have seen the Franciscans of the Immaculate deprived of their rights assured to them by the Law of the Universal Church. On the OF front, there is the campaign currently being waged within the pages of the Tablet and elsewhere. Our opponents obviously think they are riding high: with regard to the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the persecutors claim, however improbably, that they have the Holy Father himself on their side. As far as the Tablet is concerned, a director of a diocesan Liturgical Commission felt so confident about the way the wind was blowing that, from his Commission's address, he wrote to the Tablet and to all his diocesan clergy a letter which formally encouraged lawlessness and attacked the status of the New English Translation. As I write this, he is, as far as I am aware, rebuked but still in post.

We must stick together. It would be disastrous for those who favour Latin Liturgy, or who favour the Vetus Ordo as strongly as I do myself, to feel that a concerted attack upon the New English Translation of the Missal is just a distant war in a foreign country of which they know and care little. It is not good enough for those who favour the Reform of the Ordinary Form to think "Well, the FI sound an extreme bunch; why can't they just do the OF in the same decent way that I do and be happy with that". Can you really doubt that the Enemy is, in each case, the same? In each case, it is the same desire to ensure that ordinary Catholics are cut off from their birth-right, severed from the historic sources which might otherwise feed their Faith. As a rather Anglican devil - but one very deep in the Lowerarchy - Screwtape - once put it, "It is most important to cut every generation off from all others."

We must stick together and stand by each other. Now is not the moment to enjoy the luxury of itsy-bitsy little disagreements among ourselves. Another thing we should stick with and stand by is the New Translation. OK: clergy being clergy, there never could be a liturgical form that every priest felt was totally perfect in every detail. But now is not the moment to talk about some few details which you or I might wish had been done slightly differently. 

You may have experienced the processes surrounding a proposed scheme of Urban Redevelopment. A neighbourhood is invited to respond to a questionnaire, the first question on which is "Do you think improvements could be made in the area of X?" Well, of course, there could hardly be a human being who couldn't think of something which in his own opinion would improve his own area. So this approach potentially enables a developer to publish the results of the survey as "Consensus! 93% of residents were in favour of improvements". That, in turn, moves smoothly and effortlessly on to the next stage: "Let us consult together about the improvements to be made". And that means they they almost have their hands already on the ££££s and $$$$.

My belief is that under no circumstances should we ever say to anybody anything which enables any claim to be made that there is a consensus for change in the current situation (except, of course, to remove the few restrictions Benedict XVI left on the Vetus Ordo). Not to journalists, not to bishops, not to Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, not to brother priests, not to members of congregations, not to your Aunty Mildred or the next Bulgarian gypsy you meet in the street. As that delightful Dr Ian Paisley used to say, "No Surrender! Not an inch!!" The present position with regard to the New Translation is perfect. It is exactly what your parish wants. It is exactly what you want. It is precisely what every other priest you talk to wants. Ahh ... no ... there is just one thing. There should be a process of re-education for clergy who have Problems. Weekly. Starting at 8.30 a.m. on their day off.

Clergy ... perhaps one might say simply Male Humans ... above the age of 70 fall into two main groups. There are EUOBs (Extremely Unpleasant Old Blokes; everybody who knows me will be aware that I went into training in my Twenties to join this group). And there are the NOGs, Nice Old Gentlemen. NOGs are the big risk. They read for Holy Orders (sorry; I can't help having a soft spot for these old Anglican expressions) in the Seventies or before, and Kueng and Schillebeeckx still preside over their bookshelves, dusty but unbowed. Dear smiley old things that they are, with the most enchanting wrinkles round their eyes, NOGs have become accustomed to a liturgical patois which skilfully piles anacolouthon on top of parataxis, like Ossa on top of Pelion. And they prefer it. It helps to keep their minds comfortably inert. It means they never have to take a deep breath. It means there is never a risk that one idea might make a fruitful connection with another. It ensures that their congregations will be protected from the dangers of shoots of new growth. NOGs will back up Fr Butler and his cronies, to the ... um ... death, so to speak.

I mentioned the other day the old American dissident group "What if we just said Wait [i.e.until Ratzinger is dead]?" This is a good formula and we need to hijack it. "What if we just said Wait [i.e. until Butler and his NOGs are in their retirement homes]?"

The future will be safe in the hands of the splendid young priests and seminarians who are coming through the system. That, I suspect, is what the Butlers are most afraid of. They have every reason to be.