25 May 2017

Please! HELP!

I have a recollection that, at one point, Paul VI wished to add to a Vatican II document a statement that the Pope was not subject to any superior authority, but he was (successfully) resisted by the Business Managers of the Council on the grounds that he was subject to Scripture, Tradition, previous Councils, previous popes.

Can anybody point to a reference?

The Ascension and the blessing of the beans

Through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create, sanctify, quicken, bless and bestow all these good things upon us.This paragraph near the end of the Canon can confuse people. They can take it as refering to the consecrated Elements upon the altar. But the language is highly inappropriate if the Sacrament is meant. The Blessed Sacrament is not Blessed Bread, like the Antidoron of the Orientals or the Blest Bread of Medieval England. It is the transsubstantiated Body of Christ our God. It is God Almighty, on earth.

This paragraph originally concluded the blessing of substances seasonally brought to the Altar: such as ... beans on Ascension Day! Not that beans have any liturgical association with the dogma of the Ascension that I can think of: it just happened that the bean harvest in Rome coincided with the Ascension (no, don't ask me how the bean-harvest fluctuated according to the varying date of Easter). And the first grapes were available to be blessed on the feast of S Xystus! On both these occasions, this form was used:
Bless, O Lord, also these new fruits of the Bean [or whatever] which thou O Lord by the dew of heaven and the showers of rain and the serenity and quietness of the seasons hast deigned to bring to ripeness, and hast given them to our uses to receive them with thanksgiving in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever ... etc..

The Latinity is workmanlike, I almost wrote banausic, even gauche and gawky, with little in the way of Renaissance elegance or theological sparkle. Old Roman, in fact, in its sobriety and earthiness and utter, utter matter-of-factness.

The Maundy Thursday practice of blessing oils at this point in the Canon survives, of course, even in the modern rites. (And the admirable, erudite Dom Benedict Andersen of Silverstream Priory in the County Meath ... a truly magical place! ... has told me of a French Benedictine Missal of 1781, Congregation of SS Vane and Hydulph, in which grapes are still blessed on the Feast of the Transfiguration.) So this old custom has still, by the the very tips of its fingers, kept a purchase upon Usage.

I sometimes feel sad at the opportunities the post-Conciliar reformers missed. In their keenness to spend long hours devising innovations ... such as new Eucharistic Prayers and lectionary systems yanked ex nihilo ... they rarely bothered to go for the organic development which the Council had actually mandated. They could have allowed local hierarchies to incorporate appropriate blessings at this point in the Canon, and thus also have promoted a genuine inculturation which yet was totally within the spirit of the traditional Roman Rite. No, don't panic: I'm not advocating this now. The moment has passed ... the moment for gentle, unflashy conservative enrichment was stifled by the culture of brutalism and rupture. So be it. They did it, the ..... Still ...

 ... I wonder if it would be nice, on some feast in August, to bless fragrant flowers at this point in the Canon of the Mass? The feast, perhaps, of Someone whose empty tomb when opened was found to be filled with fragrant flowers? (Until Pius XII set his pruning hook to the propers of August 15, we used to share all those delightful 'apocryphal' legends with the Orientals; as far as I am aware, they are now almost totally forgotten in the West. Very narrowing.)

That is the first Innovation I shall mandate when our Holy Father Pope Francis makes me Cardinal Sarah's successor. Perhaps I will aso restore the Beans to Ascension Thursday. Perhaps I will even restore the Ascension to Ascension Day.

24 May 2017

100,000 years (2): Are we Geocentrics after all?

Is there 'intelligent' or 'advanced' life elsewhere in the universe?

But hey ... are we an 'advanced' species? If you could be snatched up and then deposited into the environment of an earthworm, or a squid, or a gannet, how would you get on? You would be dead within minutes. Because you are not adapted to their environments. From the standpoint of those species, which are superbly adapted to their own environments, you are the very opposite of 'intelligent' or 'advanced'. These terms are, in fact, simply patronising and speciesist ways of saying how similar or dissimilar other species are to our own. They have no objective connotations.

Could we communicate with 'intelligent' and 'advanced' alien species? Heavens above, we cannot even communicate (except in one or two cases at a crude Pavlovian Dog level) with other species on our own planet. Living species on other and different planets are likely to be even more 'other' than the millions of species on our own planet with whom we cannot even begin to communicate.

But if we invoke the logic of a vast (but, we are told, not infinite) Cosmos having an inconceivably vast number of possibilities, and if we also grant argumenti gratia  the existence of species whom we would categorise as 'intelligent' and 'advanced', how could we possibly relate to them? The distances concerned would be the least of our problems. Remember that in the history of our species the capacity for electronic communication is very recent. We would need there to be an 'alien' species which had reached just such an identical window of capacity at just such a moment that, given the light-years involved in inter-stellar intercourse, their attempts to communicate with us reached us during our own little window of capacity. And, given the distances involved even for dialogue conducted at the speed of light, it would be next to impossible to have a dialogue with such beings.

It all seems to this poor befuddled Classicist a bit like playing darts blindfolded and without the tiniest assurance that we are even facing in the general direction of the darts board or even that there is a darts board.

Oh ... and I should have made this obvious point: it might not follow that because a species possessed such a capacity, it would have the same inquisitive desire to be in touch with us that we (or some of us ... at this particular instant in our intellectual history) have to be in touch with them. And if there are species out there longing to be in touch with us, they are almost certain, having evolved differently in a different planet, to be using forms of technology which are inconceivable to us.

The idea that the Earth is the physical centre of the Universe, 'Geocentrism', is regarded with derision. It may even be cheerfully termed 'Medieval'. But it seems to me that the preoccupations I have been touching upon imply de facto an assumption of a universe which is measured and judged by our planet and, even more narrowly, by our own species and, yet more narrowly even than that, by our own species at one particular tiny moment (this one!) within its development. Tellus is once again at the centre of everything! ... and we (!!) are (Doxa hemin!!!) the apex of Tellus!!!!

In other words, we have the 'old' Geocentrism, but even more narrowly focused. It has a smart new up-to-the-minute coat of paint, but remains happily intact in all its essential conceptual features.

Neo-Medieval but without the Neo.

Delightfully Dark Age. 

23 May 2017

Is the Pope a heretic? (4)

So, if the present Pope appears to imply that God's final Word was not already spoken in Jesus Christ, and that the Divine Priority now is to create and consolidate a New Age, the New Bergoglian Age of Mercy, does that make him a heretic?

Most certainly not. In structural terms, the polarity of orthodox versus heterodox is very often not useful because it is on a different page from the actual language which is being put under the microscope. If one were to take the pope's words seriously in a nakedly propositional way, one might have no alternative but to condemn them as most gravely erroneous. One might even have to condemn them as analogous to other claims made to the possession of a New Understanding which supersedes or completes the Old. Obvious examples are Islam, Montanism, and Mormonism. But the necessity to be rather more linguistically nuanced than this did not cease to have validity when Wittgenstein died. The analysis of 'language games' is every bit as necessary now as ever it was. Having a sensitive nose for differences of literary genre is as important for those who examine papal documents as it is for analysts of Horace and Ovid.

Intelligent readers ... which is to say, all readers who have diligently worked their way through these pieces ... I apologise for taking so long to reach my conclusion ...  will be longing to make an angry point to me: "You began by saying that Pope Francis should not be judged by the canons of precise and logical discourse. But that is precisely what you ... with your close and lengthy syntactical analysis of one rather silly passage in his 2017 Easter Vigil Homily ... have just wasted a lot of your time and our time doing."

You are quite right. Bergoglian discourse is agglutinative and impressionistic rather than linear. It is much more interested in deploying rhetoric incoherently to achieve a conviction in the hearers which will drive them to action, than it is in laying out an argument in such a rational way as to satisfy even a moderately fastidious logician. This Roman Pontiff finds it much easier to dash off a painterly spectacular in the style of Edvard Munch's The Scream than to design an architectural edifice which will actually - given the laws of Physics as they apply on planet Earth - stand upright.

In order to understand the rhetorical methods of the current bishop of Rome, illumination may be gained from the speeches in Euripidean tragedy. These have sometimes been analysed in terms of "the rhetoric of the situation". Vide the most interesting account of this in pp xxiv-xxix of her 1954 edition of the Alcestis by the late Amy Dale, of Somerville College in this University, the wife of Professor T B L Webster. It is the sort of point that women can sometimes grasp more readily than men.

And, dear readers, that is precisely why Papa Bergoglio cannot be deemed a heretic. To be definable as a heretic he would need to have advanced formally, with full understanding and responsibility, propositional errors. It is perfectly clear to me that he has, quite simply, not done so. Nor has he ever come close to doing so. Nor is he ever likely to. Not in a month of Sundays. He avoids precise propositional assertion like the very plague. It would get in the way of what he really wishes to achieve.

What he does is this: he has in mind a practical result, and so he gathers together assertions which appear to him to back it up. Those assertions do not need to be be mutually coherent (or, indeed, to sit easily with established dogma). Shocking? Frankly, folks, S Paul appears to me sometimes to do something very similar. When it suits the argument, the Apostle will tell us that no man can fufill the Torah; when it suits him, his line is that Gentiles do it rather better than Jews. This is one reason why 'Pauline scholars' have some of their problems. I have some (only some) sympathy with a Finnish academic called Heikki Raisanen, who regards S Paul's teaching as so incoherent as to be pretty well beyond reconstruction or comprehension. To judge Pope Bergoglio by the canons of formal logic is quite simply to make a genre-error. It is not illuminating; it is not helpful; it is not, in the profoundest sense, accurate.

Is this a dangerous pontificate? Not nearly as much as panicky people fearfully imagine. Come off it! And cheer up! The ease with which Pope Francis and his associated ideologues, while studiously "not changing doctrine", in fact over-ride and ignore the Magisterium of his predecessors, will make it pitifully easy for his successors to dump his 'teaching' with only the most perfunctory of formalities, and then to restore the simple lucidities of the Tradition handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith. He has already pretty well sawn off the branch he is sitting on. Or imagine him as a Humpty Dumpty sitting on an increasingly wobbly wall.

To the frightened and the fearful I add: Just hold tight whenever the roller-coaster seems to be going dangerously fast, and remember that her Immaculate Heart will prevail. This is Fatima Year!

I am now willing to consider any comments offered. I will not enable any that insult our Holy Father, or which simply rant while refusing to read what I have actually written.

22 May 2017

The Luna Caprese

The Luna Caprese was in North Parade which, Oxford being Oxford, is of course a couple of miles South of South Parade. It was an Italian restaurant, near Pam's college, where we ate for years; not least, on the occasions of celebrations, as on that 21 May when we went there after my deaconing.

The Luna never changed. Most of the Italian community, after a brief, bright flirtation with white tiles and the Terazza, lapsed into Pizzeriarity; but at the Luna the menu offered the same dishes in the same copperplate hand as it did when it opened in 1962 (two years after we both went up to Oxford and had met on the stairs outside the studies of Margaret Hubbard and Iris Murdoch doctissimae mulieres). You got old style classical Italian dishes, which naturally meant several ways with vitello. You sat there over your starter listening to them bashing the meat in the kitchen. Neither did the decor change; until the day it closed in January 2014, it was still the same faintly improbable set-up as it had been in the decade when ARCIC with its high hopes was setting sail and Rome and Canterbury had agreed to solve the old problems and, meanwhile, had covenanted not to put in place any new differences.

Old hopes; unforgivable deceptions. Never trust a liberal is the main lesson I learned in the C of E, and I pass it on to readers now that some in the Catholic Church are unwisely exploring the same treacherous swamps as Anglicanism did a couple of generations ago.

Drain the swamps!

After the Luna closed, I kept one of the old menus. They were very satisfying. After all, if a neodiaconos wants to, why shouldn't he settle down to Saltimbocca alla Romana and follow it with zabaglione and strawberries?

21 May 2017


Last Thursday, after dealing with my blog and emails, I turned the computer off  and went ... I am retired! ... for a walk along the river, stopping when I felt like it, to read a few hundred lines of Ovid's Metamorphoses (I hope readers are aware that, according to S Jerome, Publius Ovidius Naso died in the year 17 A.D.).

When I got back home, I turned the computer on ... but the screen was dead. I think the various pieces of jiggery pokery I attempted in order to get it going again made things worse ...

 ... at least, that is what a friend who was able to drop in this afternoon (Sunday) thought. He kindly gave me a new screen and, after much labour, was able to get the whole caboodle working again.

But it is even more hideously slow than it was before.

Happily, I had prescheduled some pieces to pop up automatically, which they obediently did. But I apologise to readers and friends for the results of its erratic and tardy operation. If things have been lost, either emails or comments, I am sorry. Please don't take it personally.

Another moral dilemma

You may be getting tired of being told that such a day is the Golden Jubilee of my something-or-other, but, who cares, here we go again. Today is the Golden Jubilee of my Deaconing, Trinity Sunday 1967.

In the first millennium, ordinations happened at those wonderful Ember Saturday Masses with the five Prophecies, the respective Orders being conferred one by one between the readings. Where suitable, one of each category of the newly-ordained then discharged his new ministry, for the first time, in that very same Mass. A beautifully edifying practice which, with predictably dogged determination, the post-Conciliar Coetus tasked with revising the Rites of Ordination decided to abolish (slavishly followed, of course, by the Church of England). But  my own Ordination to the Diaconate took place in 1967, before these new fads (which, incidentally, Vatican II had never mandated) had done their worst. Accordingly, in that blissful far-off age, the act of Ordination of Deacons still took place before the Gospel of the Mass, so that one of the neodiakonoi could then sing it.

The custom of the Church of England at that time was that the new Deacon given the honour of chanting the Ordination Gospel was the one whom the Bishop's Examining Chaplain deemed to have written the best 'Deacon's Papers'. Herein lies a moral dilemma I wish to put before you. You see, I thought it would be rather nice for Mummy if I myself had that honour. She liked to see her boy doing well. And I happened to know (I think we were given his address so that we could send our Papers  directly to him) that the Examining Chaplain that year was a priest who was a keen adherent of an organisation called MRA (Moral Rearmament); which tended to plant certain code-words in its propaganda literature.

You know what I'm going, tot post annos, to confess. Yes ... I planted a number of these expressions (entirely obiter, I hasten to add) in my essays. And, hey presto ...

Which of the commandments did I transgress? I knew you would be able to explain that to me.

I did get a sort of comeuppance. I am hopeless at liturgical chant, so all through the pre-Ordination Retreat ... and during the Ordination Mass itself ... I was consumed with nervousness. To this day, I can remember that wretched Gospel (from S Luke Chapter 12) with its ending " ... and find them so-o, blessed are those ser-ervants". But I did get through it, much to the surprise of Fr Michael Watts (Staggers), the Precentor (his ashes now in that little plot behind the Cathedral's Lucy Chapel, together with the remains of so many of the Patrimony ... quorum animabus propitietur Deus).

Then, off to the Luna Caprese for lunch with Pam, with Senior Daughter (the dear little mite was still in utero but I'm sure she enjoyed the food), and with the third female then in my life; Mummy, you will be glad to be reassured, was pleased.

Long time ago; long time passing. So very much water under Folly Bridge ...

20 May 2017

Is the Pope a heretic? (3)

So Bergoglio is presenting to our imagination a scenario in which, in 33 A.D., the Old Dispensation came to an end. No longer was it right for an Establishment to consider that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it. So God suddenly broke in etc. etc. etc..  

AND  the same situation, argues Pope Francis, faces us now. Now, in 2017, there are again those for whom the final word has been spoken and it is up to them to apply it. The Pontiff clearly desires such people to repent and to accept that God is suddenly breaking in, upsetting all the rules, and offering new possibilities.

Just as AD 33 was the moment when true obedience required men to realise that the old rules given through Moses no longer applied, so 2017 is the moment when true obedience requires men to realise that the old rules given by Jesus through His Apostles no longer apply.

God did it once ... the Old Testament was replaced by the New; an Old Age was replaced by a New. Why should God not be capable of doing the very same thing again? And so, indeed, the Roman Pontiff goes on to proclaim just such a radically new dispensation: God once more comes to meet us, to create and cosolidate a new age, the age of mercy ... this is God's surprise for his faithful people.

The problem here is that we are being presented with a narrative that is difficult to reconcile with the narrative and with the narrative structures which have hitherto been deemed to be part of the fundamental grammar of Christian self-understanding. Vatican II (Dei Verbum para 4) interestingly and intelligently described this as the Oeconomia Christiana. It went on to explain, fairly briefly because it was then accepted as a common-place which hardly needed in polite theological company to be lengthily argued, that foedus novum et definitivum numquam praeteribit, et nulla nova revelatio publica expectanda est ante gloriosam manifestationem Domini nostri Iesu Christi [the new and definitive covenant will never pass away, and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ].

[It may occur to you to suspect that it is because Bergoglio has no intention of himself being restricted by the teaching of Vatican II that he has no anxieties about the luke-warm attitude towards that Council among the SSPX.]

True, Bergoglio has not explicitly proclaimed the replacement of the New Covenant with an Even Newer Covenant, what might be called the Bergoglian Third Covenant. But I cannot convince myself that this is not what his words actually and clearly mean. The tip-over from the Old to the New in the first Christian century is paralleled by the tip-over into a new age, the age of mercy in the pontificate of Bergoglio. In each case, the New sets aside the Old and the test of true obedience is acceptance of this displacement; acceptance of the 'New' and of the 'Divine Surprise'. If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, Bergoglio assures us, then we are not Christians.

I shall return to finish this series after a couple of days in which I indulgently invite you to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of my Deaconing. Meanwhile, I will enable no comments.

19 May 2017

Is the Pope a heretic? (2)

So let us analyse how this pope does function, rather than trying to define him in terms which he repeatedly disowns. I will use and examine an example from his Homily at the Easter Vigil, this year (2017). He said:

When the High Priest and the religious leaders, in collusion with the Romans, believed that they could calculate everything, that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it*, God suddenly breaks in, upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities. #God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy. This is the promise present from the beginning. This is God's surprise for his faithful people. ... if we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, then we are not Christians. Let us go, then. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give.

The Holy Father begins this passage by telling us Gospel truth. He is right to assert that the Priestly Jewish establishment did believe the final word had been spoken  and that it was up to them to apply it. Because they knew only the Old Law and the Old Word. They were wrong, because the Man on trial was himself the Law and the Divine Word, who had come to fulfill what was old. As the Church has incessantly taught, Newness put the Old to flight. The Old Testament ended and the New was begun when That Blood was shed.

But notice what happens at the point where I have inserted a *. The following words do accurately describe what happened in the Passion of the Messiah. God did suddenly break in, did upset all the rules, did offer new possibilities [although I think the anodyne flabbiness of that modern 'management' phrase about 'offering new possibilities' radically and infinitely fails to do justice to the cosmos-shattering wonder of both the Incarnation and the Atonement].

What we need to notice is how Bergoglio deftly changes tenses. He has begun in the past: The High Priest ... believed .... Past tense ... we were being told about the first century, circa 33 Anni Salutis. But after *, the tenses become present (breaks ...upsets ... offers). We hardly notice the transition ... it slips past our guard ... because there is an accepted convention that one can use a 'Historic Present' to render  more vivid a narative of past events. But as the next sentence gets under way at the spot marked#, the careful listener will notice that we are no longer in a first century A D. We are now in the present tense; we are being told about the year 2017.

In other words, Bergoglio, if we take his syntax seriously, argues that the situation of 33 A.D. is the same as the situation of 2017 A.D.. Those whom the Pope deems Baddies believe now, he says, as their predecessor Baddies did nearly two millennia ago, that the final word has been spoken and that it is up to them to apply it. 

Whom do you think Papa Bergoglio means by these present-day Baddies?

This series will continue. No comments will be enabled until it is finished.

18 May 2017

Is the Pope a heretic? (1)

To this question there can only be one answer: NO. And NO means, as Mrs Brexiteer May might put it, NO. Pope Bergoglio has NEVER, to my knowledge, formally enunciated doctrines which are unambiguously heretical. The claim one sometimes hears, to the effect that he has formally, as if from his chair, made doctrinal assertions which the Church has formally defined as heretical, is NONSENSE. When such assertions tip over further, into the idea that he has ceased to be pope because of his alleged errors, the mistake is even more grievously EVIL because it runs the risk of detaching souls for whom Christ died from the Ark of Salvation, from the One Fold of the Redeemer.

One easy reason for being confident that the Sovereign Pontiff has not formally taught heresy is the simple fact, confirmed pretty well every time he opens his mouth, that he despises theology and holds doctrine in not-even-barely-concealed contempt. To be a heretic, or, more precisely, to be a formal heretic, it is in practical terms necessary to operate within the respectable constraints of propositional discourse. The fact that Bergoglio does not do this is proved by the fact, written large over this whole pontificate, that nobody ever quite seems to be sure what he means. The DUBIA which the four Cardinals put forward provide a good example of this. Four men of erudition (not to mention seniority) thought they needed to ask the Bishop of Rome what he meant. His tardiness, so far, in exercising the Petrine Ministry of Confirming his Brethren demonstrates his resolute determination not to be tied down by propositions. I do not believe that it is possible to convict such a man, operating such a policy, of being a formal heretic. Those who wish to do this are walking up quite the wrong garden path. And I will argue that they are guilty of a genre-error.

Further parts will follow. No comments will be enabled until they are all finished.

17 May 2017


Someone called Elton John said not long ago how much he admires Pope Francis. Very commendable! What I found intriguing was that he couldn't leave it there; he couldn't resist the temptation to go on to attack the last Roman Pontiff ... curiously concentrating on his clothes: about which the speaker observed that even he himself would not wear such things in Las Vegas. (I wonder why the interviewer didn't ask him exactly where he, the aforementioned Elton, would wear a mitre and a pallium. Why does a certain sort of interviewer decline to ask a certain sort of interviewee certain sorts of questions?) And indeed, according to an undergraduate newspaper here, the Crooner referred to Benedict XVI as an a*s*h*l*. The national press were, I think, too coy to include this sweet little detail. 'Sir Elton' is a national treasure, and such evidence of deranged spite might damage the image! (Is there a para prosdokian in this individual's apparent preference to compound procto- with -phobia rather than with -philia ?)

Why do people still carry on about Pope Benedict, and why with such visceral hatred?

I print below something that I wrote in 2015, with its original thread. But I cannot refrain from  first inserting here a paragraph from a book I've only just looked at, which John Allen published in 2000 as Cardinal Ratzinger: the Vatican's enforcer of the Faith, and reissued in 2005 as Pope Benedict XVI:
"This polarisation is reflected in ... the frequent plays on the cardinal's name in progressive Catholic circles (Rat-zinger' being the most obvious). The scorn sometimes shades off into rage. One of the more lurid stories that broke in the Catholic world in late 1999, for example, concerned a Web site for gay priests and religious that had been hacked into by a right-wing group. The hackers collected emails and pictures from the site and made them available to the wider world. The images were graphic indeed, but the emails were remarkable less for their sexual content, which ranged from tender to sophomoric, than for the vitriol that sluiced through them about Ratzinger. The clergy and, in one case, a South African auxiliary bishop, called Ratzinger a 'Nazi in Rome' and 'Der Furher's [sic] Oberst Ratzinger'. There were joking references to his need for sex, even to the possibility of killing him. It was obvious that Ratzinger had become the focus for the anger these men felt about the church."

So I'm not the only person to have noticed this unwholesome phenomenon. (Allen, I remind you, wrote his book to criticise Ratzinger.) Readers will recall that the 'Mickensgate' emails of 2013 dwelt somewhat on the joyful possibility of Pope emeritus Benedict's death.

But satis superque. So here follow my original 2015 words.                   

Why do they still hate Ratzinger?

I may have got this wrong, because in such matters one can only be anecdotal. But I think a particular constituency, just one among a number of others, is that of ideological homosexual extremists. Why do they detest him? Apparently he is the symbol of 'homophobia'. Ratzinger's views on homosexuality were, surely, no more 'definite' than those of S John Paul II. But it was Ratzinger who seemed to attract their venom. They loathed him because they apparently saw him as the enemy of their campaigns; and at the same time they tried to convince themselves that he was himself one of themselves, so that, by a paradox of weird inversion, they could hate him all the more.

Why? Here's my hypothesis. A noisy minority of homosexuals seem to need comfort and reassurance and can only get it by convincing themselves and anybody who will listen to them that pretty well everybody else is also homosexual. Particularly anyone who doesn't go along with their own narrative and world view. So: either you are openly homosexual; or, if you aren't, that simply proves how hypocritical you are to conceal your condition! Either way, GOTCHA!!

During the last pontificate, a lot of fool journalists fell for the daft claim that Pope Benedict's choice of garments proved him to be 'gay'. Anybody who was not historically illiterate could see through that. Both his liturgical and his non-liturgical choices (Roman chasubles; red slippers) were clearly archaisms designed to make the point that he was the successor not only of the post-Conciliar popes but also of those who had occupied the Chair of S Peter before Vatican II. But the Elton Johns of this world may not have primed themselves carefully on the Hermeneutic of Continuity. Nor do such people have an instinctive reticence when it comes to shouting their mouths off with regard to things about which they know nothing.

And, time and time again, we had to listen (how sophisticated and witty some of these people like to think they are!) to loud pronunciations of his secretary's name as "GAY ...... org", and to other pieces of laboured and immature innuendo so similar to the ways in which playground bullies have always harried their victims.

There was indeed something immensely nasty going on there.

Perhaps the exaggerated enthusiam some people now have for Papa Bergoglio, and the violence with which some of them react to any criticism of Bergoglio, are not unconnected with this surviving Ratzingerphobia.

16 May 2017

Communion in both kinds

Mgr Edwin also raises the question of those who avoid the Chalice. Again, he has a point. Reception of the Chalice is part of the Patrimony ... when proposals circulated in the 1630s for the reconciliation of the Provinces of Canterbury and York with the See of S Peter, my recollection is that 'the Chalice' was one of the 'concessions' offered.

But there is a problem here. Some people are rather fastidious nowadays. It is a shame ... but mores do change. Between 2001 and 2007, in one of my Devon churches, a growing number of women retained 'their' Host until the Minister with the Chalice came along to them, and then 'dunked' 'their' Host before receiving It. This had a number of practical disadvantages which I do not want to describe in detail.

I have little sympathy with such fastidious apprehensions. I suspect that such precautions do in fact make only a very tiny contribution ... if they make any at all ... to the risk of picking up infections from the Chalice. But the existence of the apprehensions is a fact.

I'm not sure that there are matters of rigid principle involved here. Little more than a decade ago, there was a national panic about a certain infection ... I recall that the Bishop of Oxford issued detailed and hilarious instructions about the running of the diocese ... when I die, Bishop X takes over; when he dies, Bishop Y ... with copious information about how to conduct mass funerals! At this time, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, having taken legal advice, ordered (not advised) that Communion only be in one kind.

And there are practical circumstances where a general reception of the Chalice is to be discouraged. I remember a big Do at Lancing at which a lot of people were stumbling around with loaded chalices, upstairs and downstairs and in and out of marquees ... happily, there was no disaster, but it was a practical nightmare. I think I remember a big Forward in Faith event in that Methodist place in central London (having heard what the policies of F in F were, the managers decided to charge us their rate for non-Christians rather than their 'Christian' rate!) at which there were similar problems. I think it would be very sensible for Communion to be in only one kind at large, messy eucharistic celebrations.

Beyond that, I am minded to leave matters to the judgement of individual communicants.

I refer throughout, of course, to Ordinariate Rite and Novus Ordo Masses, where such options are allowed. In the Extraordinary Form, the burden of deciding between options is not imposed on the laity. 

15 May 2017

Communion in the hand

The admirable bishop emeritus of Richbourough, Mgr Edwin Barnes, in his admirable blog Antique Richborough, has raised the question of how 'traditional' receiving in the mouth is.

The short answer is in Jungmann Volume 2 pp374 ff; summarised thus: "the method dates substantially from the ninth century".

More than a millennium is quite a long time ... and I might add a point made by Dom Gregory Dix, when he was dealing with Reservation in a Tabernacle on or behind an Altar: that a common custom which has grown up separately in both the East and the West has a lot to be said for it. This also applies to the feeling that it is safer to put the Sacred Species into the mouth of the recipient. I say 'safer' because I get the impression from Jungmann that fear of the Host being taken away, rather than 'reverence', has a lot to do with the evolution of both the Western and Eastern customs.

[That is explicitly why Cranmer, in his 1549 Prayer Book, ordered the retention of Communion directly into the mouth (I suspect that, in 1552, the Communion Service was so desacralised that such apprehensions lost their force).]

This is still a reasonable apprehension. Perhaps not so very much in an ordinary stable congregation of decent devout people, but in some other circumstances. At Lancing, at Confirmations, one had to be constantly on the look-out for people from the extended families of the confirmati trying to take the Host away as a memento of the occasion. I remember once having to follow a recalcitrant woman down the church, insisting that she either consume or return the Host. I have heard of  'albums' from Weddings and Confirmations with Hosts neatly preserved behind sellophane! And the scrimmage that happens at big out-door papal Masses ... I watched the Fatima ceremonies on Vatican TV Player ... well, the less said about all that the better.

As we of the Patrimony might put it, "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance to be included in collections of souvenirs, but to be received with Faith".

So what about 'reverence'? I agree with Mgr Edwin about the complete decency of the traditional Anglican practice ...

... did I say 'traditional'? That's not really quite right. Pre-Tractarian prints make clear that earlier Anglican practice was to take the cube of leavened Bread from the Minister with the fingers. The more modern way represents an originally Anglo-Catholic appropriation of the practice described by S Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catecheses Mysticae (but shorn of the fancy bits about touching your eyes with the Host before consuming It). The custom spread, like so many things, from Tractarian practice to being the normal C of E custom.

Accordingly, Anglicans have commonly come up to the Communion Rails, knelt down, and received the Host onto the right hand which is supported by the left hand as by a throne, and received by lifting the palm of the hand to their mouths, and then checked, as S Cyril insists, that no crumb remained ("be careful that no particles fall, for what you lose would be to you as if you had lost some of your members. Tell me, if anybody had given you gold dust, would you not hold fast to it with all care, and watch lest some of it fall and be lost to you? Must you not then be even more careful with what is more precious than gold and diamonds, so that no particles are lost?").

That culture just has to be judged reverent, seemly, and decent. There, I agree with Bishop Edwin 100%.

However, to be completely frank and entirely personal: I find the 'mainstream' English Catholic practice quite upsetting. I am well aware that it is not for me to judge others, to whose devout interior dispositions I have no direct access. But the practice of approaching Holy Communion, making no act of reverence, receiving It onto the hand and then strolling away, meanwhile nonchalantly transferring the Host to the mouth, seems to my subjective Anglican eyes totally, and grossly, irreverent.

14 May 2017


Did anybody recognise who comprised the bevy of Anglican bishops processing among the Portuguese Catholic bishops at the Canonisations?

Most "Anglo-Catholic" bishops use "Catholic" choir dress when officiating in the Church of England, and Anglican choir dress in Romish contexts.

Bewildering others is so essentially a part of the Patrimony.

Interesting, that Guido Marini still prints the genuflections at the Consecrations in his libelli; and puts out a prie Dieu which is never used. (I have some sympathy for the Holy Father's incapacities in this respect.) Is all this so as to maintain, with a view to future pontiffs, the position as to what should happen, pontifical health permitting?

I thought it did Pope Bergoglio some credit that, after the blessing of the sick, when he went with the Monstrance and was giving Eucharistic Benediction to some other layfolk, and a proportion of them started clapping, waving, and shouting Viva il papa, he did look disconcerted. Perhaps little telling details like this may help him to understand the questionable nature of the 'papal international celebrity' cult which he did not invent but has done so little to counter.

Dai Thomas

I knew Bishop David Thomas, who has died suddenly at his home, as a fellow seminarian at Staggers; and, before that, as a contemporary in the Honour School of Litterae Humaniores in this University. He was Welsh and affable; anxious that we should be aware of his ability to speak Welsh; immensely proud that his father was a bishop and distinctly ambitious to follow him in that ministry. When he eventually became the Welsh 'Flying Bishop' he delighted in explaining to the unWelsh that PAB, the acronym for Provincial Assistant Bishop, was Welsh for Pope.

Dai was enormously interested in Liturgy and, I think, played a major role in that area in the counsels of the Church in Wales; but ... Oh dear, this shows me in a poor light ... I have always enjoyed recalling that as a student he failed, by quite a margin, to win the Shaftoe Prize (for Liturgy; the previous winner had been David Hope, now Bishop emeritus of London).

He and I and Michael Reynolds went off in our different directions to get married on the Saturday in the Octave of Easter in 1967, because that day fell between the tempus clausum of Lent, and imminent Ordination to the Diaconate on Trinity Sunday. So Dai and Ros will have celebrated recently their Golden Wedding. Please God, this will be a comfort to her; and may God bless and mercifully console her and their family.

May he rest in peace.

13 May 2017

The Third Secret of Fatima

"Beneath the arms of the cross angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God. Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the cross. The martyrs die in communion with the Passion of Christ, and their death becomes one with his. For the sake of the body of Christ, they complete what is still lacking in his afflictions (cf. Colossians 1:24). Their life has itself become a Eucharist, part of the mystery of the grain of wheat which in dying yields abundant fruit. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians, said Tertullian. As from Christ's death, from his wounded side, the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for the future life of the Church. Therefore, the vision of the third part of the "secret", so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God. The loving arms of God welcome not only those who suffer like Lazarus, who found great solace there and mysteriously represents Christ, who wished to become for us the poor Lazarus. There is something more: from the suffering of the witnesses there comes a purifying and renewing power, because their suffering is the actualisation of the suffering of Christ himself and a communication in the here and now of its saving effect."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 2000.

12 May 2017

Diaconia, briefly, again

Dr David Lopez has kindly sent me a copy of an article on Diaconia which he published in 2014 (Antiphon 19.1, pp 51-78. He is very much on target, and I commend his piece to those who want to take the matter further.

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (5)

 The Diaconate did not feature particularly largely in the Decrees of Vatican II. A quick trawl has revealed to me only Lumen Gentium 29 etc.; 41; Ad Gentes 16; Sacrosanctum Concilium 35. SC says that deacons can preside at Services of the Word, to which I can think of no objection. AG advises that those unordained laymen who are de facto fulfilling diaconal roles shoud be ordained deacons so that they can be "altari arctius coniungi", which I think implies rather nicely the essentially cultic nature of the diaconate. LG 41 gives no suggestion that deacons are to be philanthropically inclined; there is just the tiniest hint of this in LG 29, where a sensible list of cultic activities is concluded by 'ministries of charity' (likewise, in AG the de facto deacons might have been charitably occupied). I am not concerned to argue that deacons should never have anything to do with any charitable exercises, so I don't strongly object; if it is true that here the idea of 'diaconate as service to the needy' is getting a bit of an objectionable foot in this door, well, I think this is satisfactorily outweighed by the essentially cultic job-description given for the diaconate, and by the repeated references to the performance of diaconal functions "in conjunction with the Bishop and Presbyterate". So Vatican II need cause no problems to those of us whose thought has been formed by the Tradition.

Neither does the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 1569 very laudably draws upon the Tradition to remind us that the Deacon "speciatim annecti" to the Bishop, which is why only the Bishop (and not also the Presbyterium) lay hands on him. Even more satisfactorily, 1541 alludes to the Aaronic priesthood and the services of the Levites as prefiguring the ordained ministry of the New Testament, and the next two paragraphs appropriately quote the Prayers of Ordination in support of this; including a section (ancient and authentic) from the Prayer for the Diaconate.

I have discovered in these two major documents of the Magisterium of the last six decades no suggestion that the essence of Diaconate is found in service to the needy, or any determination to import S Stephen and the Seven into consideration of the Diaconate. Nothing in them contradicts the teaching of the old Roman Prayers of Ordination.

So, despite having no mandate from the Council to change the Church's teaching on Holy Order as expressed in her lex orandi, the activities of the post-Conciliar liturgical 'reformers' offered us, as they so often did, an unedifying example of illiterate mischief. As so often, they gave us a sound lesson on how to eliminate babies without losing a single drop of bathwater. They corrupted the Roman Ordination Rites, and did so contrary to both the oldest Roman Tradition and the consensus of 'modern non-Catholic New Testament Scholarship'. That is quite some achievement! To be wrong in the court of each of those two very different judges!

11 May 2017


I beg to remind you that, in as couple of days, the Fatima centenary will be under way. I wrote the following last October.

The Fatima visionaries, poor little peasant mites, are unlikely to have known this; but, in the first millennium, May 13 was sometimes a festival of our Lady within the Roman Rite. To me, who incline to share S John Paul's view that in the workings of Providence there are no coincidences, this seems interesting.

This is how it happened. In 609, Pope S Boniface IV dedicated the old Roman Pantheon, built originally by Marcus 'Actium' Agrippa but subsequently rebuilt after a fire, as the Church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres. He did this in collaboration with the emperor Phocas ... not an altogether nice chap, but possibly the last emperor, I think, not to use the style Basileus; it had thus taken more than six centuries to dissipate the old Roman gut sentiment which animated Brutus and his associates, to the effect that no-one in Rome ought to deem himself Rex ... but I'm rambling again ...

Phocas donated an Ikon of our Lady which is still enthroned above the Altar of that Church; and the relics of many of the martyrs were disinterred and brought into the church; hence its name. This was the period when Marian Ikons, and relics of Saints, used to be processed round the wall of Constantinople when barbarian enemies appeared on the scene; I rather suspect that  Pope S Boniface had in mind to construct a defensive powerhouse in Old Rome rather than merely to stimulate pious devotion. Pre-modern, and particularly First Millennium, Christianity has a very practical and down-to-earth side to it. Possibly Pope and Emperor may even have had in mind the idea that, just as Actium had (according to the Augustan PR machine) saved Rome, so the Theotokos and the Martyrs might do the same in their own day.

In the early centuries of the English Church, this festival on May 13 seems to have been important. The Leofric Missal, the Altar Book of the early Archbishops of Canterbury, based on texts brought to England by S Augustine, includes it and, interestingly, demonstrates the continuing relevance of this festival by including in the text later scribal additions and adaptations. Perhaps the Church of S Mary in Canterbury emulated the mother church in Rome. Something similar appears to have happened in Exeter (to which the Leofric Missal was later taken), where a Saxon church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres lay, I think, West of the present Cathedral and on the same axis.

I am sure that the significance of the Martyrs will have struck readers. The Third Secret of Fatima is full of the theme of Martyrs and Martyrdom; indeed, we are still living in an Age of Martyrs which rivals any earlier such age. I would draw the attention of those who do not know it to the official CDF documentary collection of 2000, The Message of Fatima, and especially to the fine and elegant exposition by Cardinal Ratzinger. To which I return on Saturday.

Sancta Maria ad Martyres, ora pro nobis.

10 May 2017

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (4)

We have seen how the pre-conciliar Pontifical preserves the idea, found in the first-century Roman text known as I Clement, that the Diaconate is a primarily cultic institution, the purpose of which is to serve the High Priest, the Bishop, in the Eucharistic celebration, distributing the Sacrament and proclaiming the Gospel; that it is not seen in terms of lowly service to the needy. In the earliest formulae, elements taken from Acts 6 (such as 'serving at tables' and S Stephen) are not even mentioned. In the Middle Ages, occasional references to S Stephen gradually make their way into the rites, but without any great suggestion that deacons should follow his alleged example* of philanthropic endeavour towards the needy.

Recent Protestant responses to the conclusions established by Collins tend towards a disgruntled acceptance of his philological conclusions accompanied by a faintly ashamed assertion of a grim determination to ignore it in practice, on the grounds that 'we' have invested too much in the old mistake to be able to drop it now! So much for all that Reformation woffle about the supremacy of Sola Scriptura as the judge of merely human traditions in the Church!

Naturally, the post-Vatican II reformers, deeply infected by liberal Protestant notions of Diaconia-as-Service and of the Servant Church, found the rites they inherited profoundly unsatisfactory. When they had got their hands on the Rite for the Consecration of a Bishop, they had robbed it entirely of its ancient Roman Consecratory Prayer with its Clementine, first century, doctrine of the Bishop. Happily, the Rite of Diaconal Ordination fared a little better and was fortunate enough not to be deprived of its ancient Consecratory Prayer. But the text of this venerable formula was badly corrupted by the interpolation of phraseology expressing the novel Protestant dogma.

After the Diaconal Prayer has referred to the Levitical ministry at the Tabernacle, an entire paragaph was added in the post-Conciliar period, based on Acts 6 and ending - tediously, inevitably - with a reference to serving at tables. After the words which, according to Pius XII, are the 'form' of the sacrament, phrases are added about "love that is sincere ... concern for the sick and the poor". And, with equal inevitability, the Prayer is made to end "May they in this life imitate your Son, who came, not to be served but to serve"**. I will leave you to guess where the New Testament Reading is taken from. (Yes, you're right.) The Collect as rendered by ICEL refers to "serving their brothers and sisters" and "concern [what a very late-twentieth-century word that is!] for others". The super oblata reminds us of the Lord's foot-washing. I'm quite sure that's what S Stephen did to the widows after he'd given them their breakfast, only S Luke has forgotten to mention it.

Is this altered post-conciliar Western rite for diaconal ordination adequate validly to confer the Sacramental order of the Diaconate? Since it is authorised and used by Holy Mother Church, we are, of course, completely protected by our over-arching conviction of the indefectibility of the Church. So I would firmly discourage any scruples and would maintain that the question does not even need to be discussed. (If this were not so, strict application of the methodology in Apostolicae curae, which was specifically crafted to make it easy to bring in a 'Guilty' verdict against rites which had been tampered with, might very well raise awkward questions. Sedevacantists have not been blind to the polemical possibilities in this area. But I prefer the older and healthier Western notion that a rite which has been tampered with, denuded, or even corrupted with misguided insertions, provided that it still contains the barest minimum of what is essential in terms of 'form' and 'matter' and is accompanied by a minimal 'intention', is good enough, and cannot even be nullified by the erroneous views of a minister. S Robert Bellarmine rules, OK.)
One more post will conclude this series.

*S Stephen, after being ordained deacon, is martyred for his witness to the Gospel, and another of the seven deacons, S Philip, actually goes off to preach the Gospel, not to run welfare schemes. Austin 'Anglican Patrimony' Farrer pointed out that "The supposition that the Seven are regarded by St Luke as 'deacons' is a very old error", and remarked that, in Acts 19:22, Timothy and Erastus were among those who were diakonounton ... not to the needy but to Paul.
**The old prayer ended instead with petition that the neo-ordinati "having always the testimony of a good conscience, and continuing ever stable and strong in thy Son Jesus Christ, may so well behave themselves in this inferior office, that they may be found worthy to be called unto the higher ministries in thy Church". I give Cranmer's ... free but basically honest ... translation of Sarum; I find it rather diverting that the realism of the last two clauses seemed unexceptionable to a Reformation Zwinglian but impossibly politically incorrect to trendy liturgical tamperers in the 1960s.

Incidentally, those last clauses also raise difficult problems about deacons who are permanent in the sense that they are forbidden to be ordained beyond the diaconate. I think I regard that prohibition a a disorder.

9 May 2017

Clement XIV

28 May will be the Anniversary of the election ad summum pontificatum of Pope Clement XIV. Still plenty of time to secure your Clement XIV mug from Fr Zed, so that you can drink to this discerning pontiff. Do it now before you forget.

28 May 2019 will be the 250th anniversary of this great event. I trust that even now the event is being prepared for by interdicasterial committees! Might there be, by then, a Pope Clement XV?

8 May 2017

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (3)

The model of ministry which, aided by Collins, I have drawn from the Gregorian Sacramentary and which survived unspoiled until Vatican II, is uncannily similar to what we find in one of the earliest writings associated with the Magisterium of the Roman Church: the First Epistle of Clement. Read Chapters 40-44. "To the High Priest his proper liturgiai are given, and to the priests (hiereusin) their own place is given in due order, and on the Levites their own diakoniai have been imposed." As Collins points out, the language in this passage "continues to refer exclusively to cult... so that 'the office of bishop' (episkope) which is under dispute is referring to the central function within Christian cult".

I Clement, and the Gregorian Sacramentary, see the Christian ministry in terms of the Old Testament Hebrew priesthood. The Bishop is the High Priest; the Deacons are the Levites. I know no trace in these early writings of the notion that Diakonia is to be read in terms of ideas drawn from Acts 6 about service to poor widows; no references, even, to S Stephen. Such allusions, such illustrations of the meaning of diaconate drawn from the text of Acts, are historically secondary or even tertiary. I here recall two observations of Dom Gregory Dix. The first is his insight that it was only in the third century that one starts to find Scripture, recently 'canonised', being used to support theological assertions; that previously the Tradition could be - and was - asserted without scriptural proof-texts (thus Trinitarian teaching did not draw support from Matthew 28:19, nor did Roman bishops trumpet Matthew 16:18-19 whenever they exercised authority). He writes: "Unless we recognise the important change produced in Christian theological method by the definite canonisation of the NT Scriptures, which only begins to have its full effect after c.A.D. 180, we shall not understand the second-century Church ... hitherto the authoritative basis of Christian teaching had been simply 'Tradition', the living expression of the Christian revelation by the magisterium of the bishops, whose norm and standard of reference was the Tradition of Rome."

The second is Dix's awed confession of the antiquity of the Roman Rite: " The evidence of the scientific study of liturgy inclines more and more to show that the old Roman Sacramentaries have preserved into modern use an incomparably larger body of genuinely primitive - and by this I mean not merely pre-Nicene but second and even first century - Christian liturgical material (if only we know how to look for it) than any other extant liturgical documents."

It is one of the ironies of history that it was an Anglican scholar who perceived these things a single generation before the sacramental formulae of the Roman Rite fell into the hands of disrespectful innovators. (Those classical Anglican liturgists who, unlike Dix, did survive to witness the conciliar period ... Willis, Ratcliff ... left on record opinions about what was done in that decade in which uncomprehending disgust is the most noticeable feature.)

What I am saying is this. The understanding of Christian ministry, including the Diaconate, as fundamentally and essentially cultic - embodied in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice - which we find in the ancient Ordination prayers of the Roman Church, goes back to before the NT Scriptures were universally known and appropriated as normative. It is as early as that. The Reformation has left most Westerners - Catholic as well as Protestant - with a sub-conscious assumption that "going back to the New Testament" somehow implies going back to the earliest sources. Au contraire. There was a time when the incorporation into worship, teaching, and doctrine of elements or ideas borrowed from the NT was novel, revolutionary, and innovatory. (We might usefully remember that the authority of the book of Acts was - judging from the surviving evidence - not successful in generating the invention of the feast of the Ascension forty days after Easter until the second half of the fourth century.) The old Roman Ordination prayers are so archaic (if not in their actual texts, then in their conceptual matrix) as to go back to that period in the first and second centuries. Later writers (Irenaeus; Cyprian; Eusebius) do speculate upon a link between the Seven and the Diaconate; the Roman texts obviously antecede this Scripture-generated speculation.

The pre-Conciliar Roman Pontifical preserved the 'Levitical' and cultic understanding of the Diaconate and knew nothing of the 'Service-to-the-poor' Diakonia which the twentieth century was to find so appealing. It showed no interest in the 'philanthropic' concept of Diakonia. There are mentions of S Stephen in the historically secondary parts of the rite; but it should not be thought that even the entrance of S Stephen into the Tradition, when it eventually occurs, automatically brought 'philanthropy' with it. The long medieval address Provehendi has, towards its end, a brief mention of S Stephen; but it is for for his chastity, not his philanthropy, that his example is commended to the ordinands. While the ancient Gregorian Consecratory Prayer mentions him not at all, the final prayer Domine sancte, an addition of Gallican origin, does allude to S Stephen and the Seven in passing: but is still principally concerned with the deacon as a man who serves at the sacred altars. This is hardly surprising. The text of Acts itself, after the debatable material in chapter 6, gives no evidence whatsoever for a reading of S Stephen and S Philip as having a 'concern' for the needy.

{It may be a satisfaction to Anglican readers to recall that the Prayer Book Ordinal, despite the strictures of Apostolicae curae, here, as in many areas, is in the pre-conciliar and ancient tradition of the Roman Rite before the Improvers got at it: it expands the old Sarum Oportet formula as follows: "It appertaineth to the office of a deacon, in the church where he shall be appointed to serve, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and specially when he ministereth the Holy Communion ...".}


7 May 2017

Metropolitan Hilarion on Episcopal Conferences

Metropolitan Hilarion, the 'Foreign Minister' of the Russian Patriarchate delivered (8 November 2014) an important paper on Primacy and Synodality to the great American, Orthodox, seminary of S Vladimir.

Of course, a Catholic ecclesiologist might have, at many points, very different things to say. He might wish to suggest that too much is made in this paper of a normativeness discerned in a 'Conciliar' period supervised by the imperial power in New Rome; and too little of the function of the Petrine Primacy in the centuries before Caesaropapism was even invented. Journalists might dismiss Hilarion's masterly exegesis as being merely the establishment of political 'position' as between Moskow and Constantinople. And the Metropolitan has been, to put it mildly, tactless in what he says about the Ukrainian Catholic Church ... a martyred community by which all Catholics will loyally stand. But in each case, to use these judgements as an easy excuse to dismiss his detailed, lucid, and scholarly exposition would be unfortunate.

I will simply pick out two of his points which bear upon matters which are relevant to Catholic Church life at this particular moment.

(1) We sometimes read about 'intermediate primacies' and about the importance of local gatherings of bishops in particular regions. Metropolitan Hilarion makes absolutely clear that the local particular church, in communion with its bishop, is theologically fundamental; while regional primacies are merely a matter of convenience, without being rooted in an essential doctrine of the Church. "The primacy of the diocesan bishop is clearly based on fundamental theological principles, such as the one famously emphasised by S Cyprian: 'The bishop is in the church and the church is in the bishop and ... if somebody is not with the bishop, he is not in the church.' Primacy at the regional level, a matter of canonical convenience, is based on church canons ...".

Absolutely. This is why the Holy See, during the ascendancy of S John Paul II and Benedict XVI, was concerned that Episcopal Conferences should not usurp the primacy of the Bishop in his Particular Church, either theologically or practically.

(2) Synodality implies consensus, not majority voting. Indeed, Hilarion goes further: Conciliar decisions are to be agreed "by consensus, not by vote; they will be approved by the entire assembly of bishops".

This is important; it is one reason for deploring the proceedings of the Synods in Rome, after which paragraphs which had failed even to reach a two-thirds majority were, nevertheless, circulated with an indication of the number of votes cast for and against. In this, the Holy Father showed appallingly bad judgement. This action had an unfortunate appearance of the arbitrary. Catholics have always expected that Ecumenical Councils should 'morally unanimous'. It is well known that, after Vatican I, B John Henry Newman was concerned that "an aggressive insolent faction" might have "so practised on" the Fathers that "there will be the gravest reasons for determining that the Definition is not valid".

If, at some future time, there were to be Synodical or even Conciliar proceedings dominated by a particular will or faction determined to impose heterodoxy or heteropraxy, and if that faction secured a majority vote for their aims without securing the consensus of moral unanimity, and if they were to attempt forcefully to impose their 'majority decisions' upon the Church; such 'imposition' would be vis sine iure.

6 May 2017

The protohistory of the Ordinariates

Bishop Steven Lopes, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter, delivered, on 28 March, a most interesting lecture in Vienna, entitled "Unity of Faith in a Diversity of Expression: The Work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith". I commend it to you ... it is fascinating!

Bishop Steven explains that "from 1960 to 2005 there were no fewer than 7 serious attempts to effect a corporate reunion of an Anglican Ecclesial Community with the Catholic Church". As far as details are concerned, the 'Pontifical Secret' forbids him to be specific. But he does then go on "if the Holy See worked with a group of Anglicans to elaborate a proposal, and if that proposal was then entrusted to an Episcopal Conference for implementation, and if that Episcopal Conference then simply killed the proposal in committee, then a new approach might involve consultation with local Episcopal Conferences but reserve the actual oversight and direction of the implementation to the Holy See itself".

If you are really interested, I suggest that you read Bishop Steven's narrative alongside a piece by Dr William Oddie, in the Catholic Herald of November 22 2010 ... around the time when Pope Benedict's intention to erect Ordinariates had just been made public.

Dr Oddie, in 1997, had published a meticulously researched book, The Roman Option, in which, making use of minutes of meetings which had been leaked to him, he told the story of the events of the mid-1990s, when the CBCEW had sabotaged a previous plan to effect a corporate reunion in England. (This was the celebrated occasion on which Cardinal Ratzinger asked "What are the English bishops afraid of?" and S John Paul II had asked why the English bishops were so unapostolic.)

Cardinal Hume had begun by welcoming our attempted move in the mid-1990s as being the Conversion of England for which English Catholics had so long prayed. But, sadly for his reputation, he lost his nerve under pressure from some of his colleagues and issued a categorical denial of Oddie's account and a condemation of his book; which condemnation was actually issued as being a statement by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales. After correspondence with the actual writer of the statement, who was one of the Westminster auxiliaries, Oddie secured its retraction, but only after having to threaten that he would publish his documentary evidence, to show that he had been speaking the truth. "Since I was very unwilling to imply that Cardinal Hume had himself been lying ... I was profoundly relieved when this was agreed".

Read Oddie's very jolly account yourselves to find out about the secret dealings which spanned these events and the initiative of Pope Benedict (I think one of those anonymously involved will have been Archbishop diNoia). We won! And today is marked on our Ordinariate Calendar as the Feast of S John the Apostle in Eastertide (antiquius 'ante Portam Latinam') because it marks the day when a group of Anglican parish priests started a secret series of meetings among ourselves which led to our leaving the Church of England and availing ourselves of Pope Benedict's offer.

Very happily, the CBCEW is, of course, a radically different body now from what it was twenty sad years ago. There are now some very fine bishops whose attitude to the Ordinariate is everything ... and more ... that could be hoped for. But, ad perpetuam rei memoriam, I hope that Dr Oddie's collection of documents ends up in the Archives of the Ordinariate. And ... just to be on the safe side ... with copies in the Archives at Pusey House and the Palace of the Holy Office.

One detail which somebody could suss out ... someone who knows how to burrow around in the files of the Catholic Herald and the Tablet ... who was that Westminster auxiliary whom Oddie forced into a retraction?

5 May 2017

Uncreated Light?

In the Matthaean account of the Lord's Baptism there is a delicious varia lectio in a couple of manuscripts of the Vetus Latina. After S John Baptist permits the Lord to be baptised, these mss add: and when he was baptised, a great light shone around from the water, so that all who had come there were fearful.

This reminds me of Pseudo-Hippolytus (PG 10, 862), "The one who with faith goes down into this washing of rebirth ... returns from Baptism brilliant as the Sun, shining rays of righteousness". (S Justin Martyr (Trypho 88:3) talks of the Fire entering the Jordan when the Lord was baptised.) After all, we all know that the baptised are Illuminati; and perhaps that word is not intended in the merely subjective sense of having his understanding enlightened. I draw your attention also to the passage of S Gregory Nazianzenus which the Liturgia Horarum offers for the Patristic Lection on the Feast of the Lord's Baptism.

As Old Testament students, we recall the Pillar of Fire passing through the waters of the Red Sea. And as liturgists, we remember standing by the font at the Easter Vigil and plunging the candle into the waters of Regeneration. Our typological mathematic is that 1+1+1=a whole lot more than 3.

I think we need often to remind ourselves of the importance of Typology in our theologising - a typology which embraces Old Testament, New Testament, and Liturgy.

And don't forget the question of what Scripture is. We all know the old arguments about "What is the Canon of Scripture?", at their fiercest when the 'Reformers', with their horrible legalism, wished to erect Scripture as a forensic engine for discerning true doctrine, and therefore needed to know what is Scripture*. But an awareness of the fluidity of the texts of the Scriptures has grown in the last century: the more early NT papyri we discover, the more we find a strange phenomenon. You might expect that, as we press earlier and earlier, backwards towards an 'authorial text', we might find that variants in the text get fewer. But we find the opposite is true (something similar could be said of the textual critcism of Homer). So scholars increasingly, and rightly, wonder if the concept of a stable monomorphic authorial text is in fact anything but a mirage in the desert. And when we turn to the Old Testament, mss from Qumran and elsewhere reveal to us the precarious status of the claim that the Masoretic text is in some sense normative for Christians.

So ... we know, for example, that the pericope de adultera is not part of the 'original text' of S John; manuscript evidence is here supported by stylometric and lexicographical evidence. "But that doesn't make it any less canonical" ... we say. But when we get down to details, things get murkier. If we are to select those readings in the Hebrew, Aranaic, and Greek texts which are supported by an authoritative Vulgate ... then Vulgate or neoVulgate? If Vulgate, then Sixtine or Clementine? There are differences. What about the Vetus Latina? What about the psalter reading "The Lord has reigned from the tree"? ... which left its mark, not least upon a hymn of Venantius Fortunatus.

Moi, I'm terribly liberal. I think that even that jolly little interpolation into Matthew with which I began this post is Part Of The Great Rich Wholeness Of Scripture. Like some Englit chappies, I believe that Reception is Part of the Text. I am set free to take this view by the fact that I am not, like the Prods and the Liberals, bogged down by some grim need to discern some sort of entrenched minimum which some magisterium (Calvin's or the CDF's) enforces and guarantees. I bob along in a warm, welcoming, and enriching sea called Tradition.

Which, of course, is the direct opposite of what the idiot who is now the Jesuit General does, with his curious, untraditional, and heterodox observations to the effect that we do not really know what Jesus said, and accordingly are at liberty to disregard his every word if this will suit the novel Bergoglianist agenda. ANATHEMA SIT!!

4 May 2017

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (2)

If you look at the ancient liturgical formulae of the Western Church, you will find that there is very little ... I think I really mean Nothing, as one so often does when one uses these I'd-better-cover-myself-academically formulae ... about Acts 6 and S Stephen and Ministering at Tables and making sure that poor widows had enough to eat. Instead, you find an emphasis on cult: on Christian worship. The Roman Prayer for the Ordination of Deacons (still in use but bowdlerised, as I shall explain, after the Council) says* "You established a threefold ministry of worship and service for the glory of your name. As ministers of your tabernacle you chose [from the first] the sons of Levi [to abide in faithful watch at the mystical workings of your house] and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance. Lord, look [also] with favour upon these servants of yours whom we now dedicate to the office of deacon to minister at your holy altar ... " The deacons, in effect, are the Christian Levites. They have a commissioned ministry to serve the High Priest, the Bishop, just as Jewish levitical ministers served the Temple's sacrificial priesthood.

At this point, sadly, I have to remind you that the ancient Roman Prayer for the Consecration of Bishops was completely abolished in the post-conciliar 'reforms'. Before it was written out of the Pontifical by well-meaning but dangerous men, it associated the bishop with the Aaronic high priest adorned with his sacerdotal vestments.

It is not difficult to see why the 'reformers' of the 1960s were uneasy with a concept of ministry which saw it in terms of cult, of hierarchy, of the Jewish Temple. These were not the fashions of the 1960s; such was not then the dominant mode of discourse about Christian Ministry. "Medieval claptrap!" Unfortunately, however, for such an attitude, the evidence strongly suggests that the language of the (unreformed) Pontifical, far from being formed by 'later' structures of ministerial 'status' and an 'unhealthy' preoccupation with an 'increasingly clericalised' cultus, represents the very earliest thinking of the Roman Church. I think some of you will have spotted which early writing I am about to quote.


* I use the curent ICEL translation, supplying in square brackets phrases eliminated from the modern rites.

3 May 2017

S Columba and Canonisation

The 'Stowe Missal', once in the library at Stowe of the Dukes of Buckingham and now kept by the Royal Irish Academy, gives us evidence of the worship of at least one Irish worshipping community in the 790s; it is the earliest surviving Altar Book from this archipelago and also preserves, fossilised, valuable information about the history of the Roman Rite before S Gregory the Great threw the Hermeneutic of Continuity to the winds with his Byzantinising alterations. Stowe reveals that Mass used to begin with a litany; and an anecdote about S Columba suggests that this had been true in his time.

One morning, as his brethren were putting on their shoes to go to work, S Columba stopped them and ordered that they should instead prepare for Mass and for a festal meal. "And I who am so unworthy must today celebrate the sacred mystery of the Eucharist out of reverence for the soul that last night was carried away among the choirs of angels ...". So they did; but the Saint interrupted the litany to tell the singers to add the name of S Colman the bishop [S Colman moccu Loigse] who - so it had been revealed to him - had died that night.

It is well known that legal preliminaries and formal papal pronouncements were not the means by which a man or woman was 'raised to the Altars of the Church' in the early centuries. But I take issue with the assumption sometimes made that canonisation was by acclamation; as if the Church were an ochlocracy in which decisions were made by mobs shouting. The Church has always been a structured, hierarchical body, and the placing of a name on the 'list' or 'canon' of saints must always have been an action formally done by the celebrant of the Eucharist (who in early centuries would of course normatively have been episcopal). So here S Columba does not charge around saying "I've had a vision that Colman is dead"; his monastic brethren do not then start jumping up and down yelling "Goodness how holy he was! Santo subito!" No; S Columba 'canonises' Colman formally by prescibing a Eucharistic celebration on a day on hich this would not normally have happened; summoning his monks to church wearing the white garments they normally wore on major feasts, and then instructing the cantores to name Colman; and that Naming constituted his canonisation.

2 May 2017

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (1)

In 1990, Mr John N. Collins published his DIAKONIA Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources (OUP). You can probably fiddle around with Google and discover that its conclusions, more than two decades later, have not been disturbed. If you have queries about details in what I am about to write, a reading of Collins will probably answer them; I am not going to summarise him at any greater length than one paragraph.

Collins began by identifying a particular understanding of diakonia which became fashionable in Protestant circles in the middle of the twentieth century; and then infected the Latin Church too. It saw diakonia as meaning self-giving service to the poor and needy. Based on a misreading of Acts 6, it appealed to Christians at a time when ecclesial structures were losing power and prestige. "OK", it cheerfully claimed, "if you've lost your power and status you can still surreptitiously claw it back by asserting the moral high ground of humble service". Collins demonstrated, from examination of profane and sacred Greek usage, that the word diakonia, and its cognates, have a quite different root sense: that of one person's commissioned service to another person.

So the essence of the concept is not the following of Christ who came to 'serve rather than to be served'. The Deacon's basic purpose is not to be washing the feet of the lowest of the low (just as the nature of the Church is not, as we have so frequently been told, to be the Servant Church). Such things may be worthy in themselves ... may, indeed, be the charism of particular holy people. But they are not what diakonia is fundamentally all about.

What is it about? In its essence it is about serving, being commissioned to serve, the Bishop, the Eucharistic celebrant; about serving him in the administration of the Lord's Body and Blood; serving him in the proclamation of the Holy Gospel. Not a philanthropic service but a cultic, liturgical service. In as far as their duties may extend in the direction of philanthropy, it is instructive to observe the role they have in Pseudo-Hippolytus: the deacons are to attend the Bishop and report to him who are sick so that he, if it seem good to him, may visit them. Their ministry is to the Bishop, not to the needy. This role survives almost verbatim in the classical Anglican Ordinal: the deacons are "to search for the sick, poor, and impotent ... to intimate their estates, names ... unto the Curate".

1 May 2017

What is the Diaconate?

This month, the Diaconate is rather on my mind. It is a question of Jubilees! It involves the precious metal called gold!! And that essential of civilised life, Wood!!!

On May 21, 1967, I was ordained, so the accompanying documents assured me, to the Diaconate in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford. True, the rites of Ordination used had, sadly, been mangled during the events which followed Henry Tudor's split from Rome, but, well, there you go. Can't win them all!

On May 26, 2012, I was ordained, so the accompanying documents assured me, to the Diaconate in the the Cathedral Church of the Most Precious Blood in Westminster. True, the rites of Ordination used had, sadly, been mangled during the events which followed the Second Vatican Council, but, well, there you go. Can't win them all! But that was the day upon which I had the happiness to be incardinated into the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham.

Fifty Golden Diaconal Years ... or is it just Five Wooden Years!! What's a decimal point among friends?

Gaudete mecum!!!

To assist your Joy, I am going to reprint the result of my studies about what the Diaconate actually, really, is, in the august and ancient Roman liturgical tradition. Deo volente, they will occur on alternate days (so as not to over-irritate those who are rather bored by this sort of thing), with their original threads.

Please do not allow yourselves to get so cross that you submit dismissive two-line Comments containing typographical errors. This phenomenon rarely convinces me that the writer has something useful to say. Because later portions of this series may well answer points that occur to you, the less impetuous among you may prefer to wait until the end of the series (May 12), when I shall moderate any accumulated comments.

30 April 2017

The Mind of the Church

What did the Magisterium  of Pope Paul VI teach about the the use of the First Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon?

He made a legislative statement which he did not make with regard to the other three Prayers. It was that it semper adhiberi potest. This has a very valuable consequence. It means that a priest who resolves that he will use that Prayer invariably cannot be accused of lacking the true mind of the Church, on the grounds that he never uses three other authorised Prayers. It means that when the same text goes on to suggest that Payer II is most suitable on weekdays, this cannot be held to render the use of the Canon Romanus on weekdays to be inappropriate. To use EP I invariably cannot be contrary to the spirit of the new Ordo Missae, because this provision explicitly sanctions such a resolve. Since this Ordo Missae states on its first page that it is ex decreto of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, it cannot, unless the Pope was lying, be contrary to the spirit of that Council invariably to use the Canon Romanus.

The Instructio Generalis also remarks that the Canon Romanus is used opportunius on the Sundays and Solemnities of the year; on the festivals of Saints whose names occur in that Prayer; and on days when Proper formulae are provided for the Communicantes or the Hanc igitur.

There are 52 Sundays in the year; and, by my rough estimate, 53 days covered by the other occasions thus listed. So, on something like a third of the days of the year ... and certainly on Sundays and Days of Obligation ... a strong preference for the use of the Canon Romanus is eminently in accordance with the expressed mind of the Legislator.

Even where the Pastor feels that he cannot celebrate versus Orientem or in Latin, surely he could, as a first step, restore the Roman Canon as the normative Eucharistic Prayer? Another indication of the Mind of the Church: this is exactly what the Ordinariate Missal has done! And I know a very flourishing Church in Connecticut where this is the rule!

29 April 2017


I once read through the 1930s Parish Magazines of S Thomas the Martyr, by the Railway Station, in Oxford. The writer was my predecessor as Parish Priest there, Dr Trevor Jalland, a distinguished Patristics scholar whose published Bampton Lectures gave a vivid account of some of the events surrounding the First Vatican Council. The following 'Vicar's Notes' attracted my attention; not least for the sense of a vibrant Catholic parish life during that decade when the Catholic movement in the Church of England was riding so very high. Jalland is writing about the observance of the Patronal Festival, of the Translation of S Thomas of Canterbury, on Saturday July 7.

"On that day there will be Masses at 6.30, 7.30, and a High Mass at 9. It is likely that the first evensong of the feast will be sung at 7.30 p.m., on Friday evening, at which there will be a Sermon by the Reverend Canon A.G.G. Ross, Vicar of St Mark, Swindon. It is hoped that there will be many who will take advantage of this opportunity of adding corporate worship to their personal preparation for the Feast. Confessions will be heard on several days before the Festival ... On the Sunday in the Octave the Sermon at Mass will be preached by the Rev. C. Gill, of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, and after Evensong by the Rev.D Sargent, Vicar of St Cross, Holywell ..."

Mass, fasting, before breakfast; multiple morning Masses and a High Mass on a weekday morning; First Evensongs; high jinks continuing into the Sunday within the Octave; lots of confessions; and oodles of Visiting Preachers. This is the Anglo-Catholicism which Betjeman remembered and celebrated in his verses, when the Faith was taught and fanned to a holy blaze. I suspect that those inter-war years were the last sparkling times before the Luftwaffe destroyed so many of the old Anglo-Catholic slum churches and dispersed the remnants of their congregations into suburbs and high-rise flats.

A speculation of mine is that some of these Patronal celebrations may have owed a lot to what the Anglo-Catholic clergy saw on the Continent. I have in mind Canon Doble of the Diocese of Truro, who did so much research into the Cornish Saints by hunting down the cultus those same saints  enjoyed in Brittany (giving, as he did so, the French clergy the impression that the entire Church nof England was really totally Catholic!). Because it is my feeling that Patronal Festivals never were and never have been very prominent in the culture of Irish-English Roman Catholicism. And, in any case, we rather prided ourselves in not aping the English Catholic Church.

Is this a Catholicism which needed the 'liturgical reforms' which followed so soon after the War? Were the 'reforms' of Pius XII - abolition of Octaves and First Evensongs - abolition of Fasting Communion and non-communicating High Masses - really advances? Have they really bequeathed to us a more flourishing, cheerful, inculturated Catholicism?

Why did we lose our nerve? What contribution will the Ordinariate make to restoring that nerve?

28 April 2017

The Prisoner in the Tabernacle

In the OF, the priest genuflects to the Blessed Sacrament only on approaching the Altar at the beginning of Mass; and immediately after Mass as he returns to the Sacristy. To me, the symbolic body-language of the rite could be given this vernacular expression: "Good morning, Lord. Glad you're still here. Notice that I am giving you your due respect. But now - I'm sure you won't mind - I'm going to ignore you for a bit, and do some extremely important things with my back to you, centering myself upon pieces of furniture that bear no spatial relationship to the part of the church where we keep you. In fact, for a fair bit of time I shall actually be sitting with my back to you. But don't worry. Before I go back to the Sacristy I shall, very respectfully, notice you again."

I am unfamiliar with this ethos; I have never officiated regularly in a church where I had to have my back to the Tabernacle. Sometimes, as at S Thomas's and in my un-reordered very-moderate C of E churches in Devon, I have faced East. Sometimes, as at Lancing, I have regularly for decades celebrated versus populum but (Lancing Chapel is 'cathedral' in scale and in ordering) with the Tabernacle in a separate Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The usual modern set-up seems to me to teach - thoroughly effectively - the liturgical theology of the 1970s. For those of us who share Papa Ratzinger's critical evaluation of 1970s assumptions, this set-up cannot fail to be to some degree unhelpful. Of course one can worship in such a place ... indeed, one has little choice but to do so; but one is worshipping against the grain of the whole architectural arrangement - unhelped rather than helped by it.

This arrangement represents the apotheosis of that closed-circle liturgical culture, criticised by Benedict XVI, in which the Eucharist is as it were generated in the middle of a gathered community which ritually seems to exclude what is outside that circle. It is, in my fallible judgement, very much worse than versus- populum-without-the-Tabernacle because, in our modern arrangement, the Tabernacle of the Lord's sacramental presence is itself explicitly relegated by the geometry to outside the enclosed and exclusive ritual circle. I hesitate to appear to advocate the removal of the Tabernacle from the focal point of a church ... but, well, recall what happened at old-style Pontifical High Masses. Because the rigmarole of showing proper respect to a prelate was instinctively felt to be inconsistent with the sort of respect one should display to the Sacrament Reserved, the Tabernacle was left empty for the pontifical celebration. If the place of Reservation is at the focal point of the sanctuary, its treatment in the fashionable liturgy of the 1970s seems to me profoundly questionable.

There is a history of apprehension about too 'localised' an understanding of sacramental presence. I am not, of course, entering into that game. My point is that signs teach; the arrangement of churches is a complex of signs which are not meaningless - otherwise the liturgists of the 1970s would not have gone to the trouble to make all the changes they did make. And those changes increasingly seem to this one very fallible commentator to be difficult to reconcile with the decencies of orthodoxy.

The OF itself in no way exclusively mandates this culture; and still less did the Council. In my recollection, it is only a few years since an Irish bishop who was (still) trying to re-order his Cathedral (a famous landmark with a distinguished architectural history), claimed that he was obliged to do so by Vatican II. Happily, he was forced to take his arguments to a planning enquiry where his ... er ... inaccuracy ... was exposed. Places like Brompton demonstrate that it is not impossible to 'stage' decent OF worship, and to avoid vandalising a building which was lovingly - and expensively - constructed to enhance a particular liturgical culture. Places like Westminster Cathedral demonstrate ... under the influence of Cardinal Nichols ... how Decent things can be made if the arrangements of the 1970s are intelligently but radically reconsidered.