20 May 2018

Pentecost Time

How splendid it is that the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinariate Missal preserve for us this Pentecost Octave which stretches, like the Easter Octave, to Saturday arternoon next. But there is, I fear, something missing in what we have; an omission which undermines the liturgical integrity of Pentecost.

Your Roman Missal, if it preserves the Roman Rite as it was at the beginning of the Pontificate of Pius XII, will show you a Pentecost which begins with a Baptismal Vigil: just as does Easter. The rites are scaled down for Pentecost; there are only six lections: but it is clear that Pentecost is a secondary Baptismal Season. Practically, it was a useful back-up to Easter for those who, for whatever reason, had not received Christian Initation at Easter. But in any case, the association is theologically appropriate, since the Pentecostal Anointing of the Spirit is central to the full rite of Initiation. Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix was, I am convinced, absolutely right to insist that Consignation/Confirmation is not a secondary adjunct to "Water Baptism", but one of the primary elements in Christian Initiation.

(I devoutly trust, by the way, that the Latin Church will not follow the boring old Anglican mistake of regarding Confirmation as an adolescent Rite of Passage, a sort of Christian Bar-Mitzvah; a misunderstanding as pastorally disastrous as it is theologically flawed. It most certainly is nothing whatsoever of the sort.)

The point of the Pentecost Octave is quite simply that it follows on logically from the Baptismal Vigil Liturgy. It is a week in which (as after Easter) the Illuminati wear their Whites (a meaning still, probably, alluded to in the English name Whitsunday). The Eucharistic Celebrant continues through the week to use the form of the Hanc igitur which is said for the newly initiated. On Saturday, the Neonati returned their Whites to the Pontiff; the statio was ad S Petrum in Vaticano.

It is rumoured that Ecclesia Dei has been allowing pre-Pius XII Holy Week Rites. I can see no reason why they would object to a restoration of the Pentecost Vigil. After all, it has been restored ... sort of ... in the Novus Ordo.

(1) The Vigil disappeared under Pius XII; we should never forget that the disintegration of the Classical Roman Rite has Pius XII [if not S Pius X!] for its godfather. The 'Council' and its aftermath merely formed a logical progression of what Pius XII and Mgr Bugnini and others had already enthusiastically set rolling in the 1950s.
(2) The practical problem of administering Confirmation to adolescents, familiar to all Anglican parish clergy, is summed up in the old Anglican joke about one Churchwarden advising another about how to get rid of the bats in his belfry despite the fact that they are a protected species. "We just got the Bishop to climb up the ladder to the bell-chamber and clamber round the bells and confirm every bat he could find. We've never had a single one of them inside the Church since".

19 May 2018


I have deleted a submitted comment in which the writer assured me that, if X were to happen, "That is the day I walk out of the Church never to return".

I had better be frank about this.

Such a contingent threat of Apostasy, if seriously meant, suggests to me that the writer is in a most dangerous spiritual state.

It is true that PF treats the Church Militant (happily, there is no way he can get his hands on the Church Expectant and it is not within his mercifully limited power to "make a mess" in the Church Triumphant) as if it were some sort of private playground in which he can get up to whatever games he finds personally satisfying and heap up any number of his boasted "messes". But the Church is the Body of Christ. Not PF's playground; not mine; not yours.

There have been appallingly bad popes in the past and, depending on how long it is until the Eschaton, there very probably will be more of them in the future. None of that makes a nanogram of difference to the fact that the Catholic Church is the Ark of Salvation; the only and the essential Ark of Salvation.

And it is not a human and worldly 'membership organisation' which one can walk out of in a huff. You and I were incorporated into it by our Baptism. It is rooted in eternity; splendid as an army with banners; a terror to the fallen spirits; a wonder to the Angels.

If anything I have ever written has, however unintentionally, given any encouragement to the sort of unCatholic attitude which horrified me in that comment as I sat down to deal with it this morning, then, here and now, I repent of it.

If PF, or I, by our misconduct, drive one soul to "walk out of the Church", then he (or I) will have to answer for that in the day of Judgement. But the person who has "walked out never to return" will have the gravest charge of all to answer.


18 May 2018

A very personal problem

The Vatican has just put out a teaching document on economic matters. For me, personally, and I can speak for nobody else, this moment precisely epitomises the problem created by PF's misuse of the munus given him by God.

At any time before 2013, I would have simply received such a document with docility. In a case like this present one, because it deals with matters in which I am not personally academically competent, I would have done my best to understand it, quite simply because (although not ex cathedra) it came to me with authority. I would have done my best to put myself into the position of being able to explain and commend it on this blog and to members of Christ's faithful people to whom I might find myself speaking or who, out of a misguided esteem for myself, asked me about it.

But that is not how things can be now. For five years, PF has, arguably, played irresponsible games with the authority placed in his hands. He has - daily - pursued policies which are difficult to reconcile with a faithful following of our Most Holy Redeemer. In particular, he appears to have set himself to undermine the careful teaching of his predecessors, notably the last two, on the evils of moral relativism, and has publicly ignored appeals to bring clarity to these appearances. Unbelievably, the Successor of S Peter is seen by both admirers and critics as one who encourages souls for whom Christ died to be comfortable in a life of habitual adultery. He has impudently justified his conduct by talking about a God of Surprises. Hagan lios: he has had the temerity to go so far as to create 'a mess' in the Lord's Vineyard; and then to invite others to follow him.

It was necessary, 1300 years ago, to say in sad condemnation of an earlier pope, that 'he has permitted the purity of the Church to be polluted'; that 'he has fostered heresy'. Because this has happened, we know that it can happen.

If ... may God grant it ... from this very moment onwards PF's pontificate were to be a model of humble repentance and of chastened discipleship ... then, indeed, laus Deo; but it would inevitably still take a time for it to become apparent Urbi et Orbi that this sea-change had taken place.

Whether under this pontiff or another, it may be years before one can again receive teaching emerging from the Vatican in the old simple, childlike, obedient trust; with open and willing ears. There will long be the nagging, destabilising, anxiety that, in such very extraordinary times, the chill bonds of conscience and of duty might require one dokimazein ta pneumata.

This is the measure of the catastrophic damage which Jorge Bergoglio has done to his great Office of maintaining the Depositum Fidei by being a remora against the assaults of Novelty. In Blessed John Henry Newman's language, we feel less securely under our feet the rock of the soliditas cathedrae Petri. It may take decades, at the least, for the good God to heal this insecurity.

17 May 2018

The Irish Referendum

I originally posted this piece on 1 June 2015. It seems depressingly relevant as the Irish electorate faces another Referendum, again, in effect, inviting them to vote for or against Christ.

When I was young, there was a lot of talk to the effect that Vatican I had defined the Papacy; but had left its teachings unbalanced by saying so little about the Episcopate. Vatican II was said to have done splendidly by correcting this balance.

So, at Vatican II, we had the status of bishops being given a puff ... by the bishops! And the bishops, additionally, claiming enormous moral credit for ... themselves giving themselves this puff!

I wonder what narrative History will give of the First World Episcopate in the decades since the Council.

I could go on about the collapse within the Church of the religious orders, of vocations to the priesthood. I could get rhetorical about the Liturgy. But I might simply be expressing my own prejudices. I have as many, if not more, human failings than most. And perhaps what has happened since the Council constituted in some cases (as it certainly did in the case of Liturgy) simply an extrapolation of what was already happening.

But ... the Paedophile Priest scandal! Here, considered objectively, we do have a massive dereliction of duty on the part of Bishops and of Episcopacy. In many cases, it seems, they disregarded juridical procedures and maintained 'the filth' in pastoral ministry.

And then there have been some high-profile episcopal adulterers; firstly in Ireland and then in Scotland and most recently in England (I wonder, incidentally, if there has been any enquiry into who knew what about Kieran Conry before his episcopal nomination; and why not).

I think it does the Irish laity enormous credit, in all the circumstances, that [in the Gay Marriage Referendum] so many of them did vote in accordance with the teachings of the Church. (One constituency voted against SSM; two constituencies, knife-edge.)

It would be reassuring if some representative body of bishops ... perhaps, let's say, a Synod ... were to express some corporate regret about what their Order has done to the Church in the last disastrous half century. It has, in some parts of the world and in more than a few individuals, shown disturbing indications of a radical dysfunctionality.

Instead, we have suggestions of enhancing still further the powers of this Order by entrenching canonically and structurally and even dogmatically their Episcopal Conferences.

Holy Mother Church needs that like she needs a hole in the head.

16 May 2018

sermon concludes

Throughout history, Mary comes to us as the Immaculate Conception; the one whom God preserved from Original Sin so that she could be the perfect and flawless Mother of God the Divine Son; so that she could give God back his own gift to her by giving him a perfect and flawless humanity to unite inseparably with his Divinity. And Mary comes to us as our Mother too, as well as the Mother of Jesus. Because if we are one with Christ, one in Christ, as S Paul teaches, then Christ's Mother is our Mother too. When we kneel at the Altar to receive the Lord's Body and Blood, what the priest puts  upon our lips is the Body that Jesus took from Mary and the Blood which flowed in her veins before it flowed in his. Mary is our Mother; and what is it that mothers give their children, soon after birth, except food? Our Mother Mary brings food for her children "in this our exile", food neatly packaged for the journey we are making through this Vale of Tears; food to give us strength until we reach our True Native Land. beth lehem is Hebrew for House of Bread; and when we come to Communion the Mother of this House, the Great Mother of God Mary Most Holy, brings from her cupboard and sets within us the Blessed Fruit of her womb Jesus. Because Mary is not locked away in Bethlehem or Nazareth; she's not even a fixture who only made it as far as Lourdes. Mary walks down the centuries and across the seas and countries and hurries to make her way to this country of England in this our Mary Month of May; she comes this afternoon to this place and to this moment of time; comes to be your Mother and your merciful guide and advocate, here, in your own land.
The sermon is concluded.

15 May 2018

sermon continues

I don't think Jesus changes; our Saviour God, Scripture tells us, is the same yesterday, today, and always. And I know Mary must be the same, yesterday, today, and always. I was privileged - together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and several hundred other Church of England people - to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes in the year of the 150th anniversary of the Appearances of the Mother of God to S Bernardette Soubirous. We prayed at a little cleft in a rocky cliffside, called the Grotto, which is where S Bernardette had her vision. The Archbishop bent forward full-length on the cold, damp rock of the little cave and prayed there for some minutes. A few feet above his head was the fissure, the slit where our Lady appeared. At the time, S Bernardette was 14 years old - just the same age as Mary was when she became God's Mother - and Bernardette described the Lady of her vision as"no bigger than me". It is as though, through all eternity, Mary is to be seen of men as she was at that moment when she did the Great Thing which all the millennia had been looking forward to and brought God into his own world as her own Baby. She is for ever the One-giving-birth-to-God, Theotokos. And she was, so S Bernardette said, very beautiful. Beautiful, we might say, like her Son who is the fairest among the Sons of Adam.

Let me tell you another thing about Mary that doesn't seem to change. It's the way she talks. Just as she murmured to her Baby, not in Greek, the international language of Big People in government and politics, but in Aramaic, the language of ephphatha and Abba, so, when she appeared at Lourdes, she didn't speak to Bernardette in some grand language of the great affairs of men. There in Lourdes, in the Grotto, two or three feet above where Archbishop Rowan got his cassock damp from lying on the rock underneath the statue of our Lady, they've written the words Mary said when Bernardette asked her who she was: Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion. And that's not French. It's the local dialect, a branch of an ancient and almost extinct language they spoke in the South of France centuries before they spoke French there. It's called Gascon, and it's the language little girls like Bernardette still used among themselves. Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion: I am the Immaculate Conception. 

Continues later

14 May 2018

The (new) Bishop's fine new mitre ...

Firstly: apologies to those to whom I have, in the last fortnight, failed to reply. As I did explain a fortnight ago, I have been in retreat from Modernity ... id est, from all in-coming information about the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. I have now enabled many of the Comments some of you sent me during those two weeks.

A nice worldly, fleshly, and devilish tit-bit I missed in that period was about the daft new Austrian Bishop who wears a see-through Chasuble. My first thought, reading this, was to wonder whether his Mitre is also see-through. (My second: to wonder if the gentleman knows the story of the Emperor's New Suit.)

Indeed, episcopal rings, pectoral crosses, and pallia could all be made see-through too.

Why not?

After all, such trinkets only concern mere status. They are terribly out of the spirit of Bergoglian humility.The Mozetta PF wore when he first stepped out as Pope onto the balcony of S Peter's was, you will remember, entirely see-through.

13 May 2018

May Sermon

As I made a bonfire of old homilies, including some from 2011, I decided to give this one a last outing on the blog.
In lots of places, in the old days, there was a custom of fixing a card to the Paschal Candle giving some dates and times. This year the 'Charta' would have told you that it was the 1978th year since the Lord's Death and Resurrection; the 2011th since his Birth; and also the 2025th since the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tot it up: you'll see that, according to tradition, our Blessed Lady was 14 when she became God's Mother. There's a picture I find very moving - of a little girl, not much more than a child herself, leaning over the cradle of her baby Son, and murmuring the first endearments that a mother utters to the little thing that was part of her own body only minutes ago ... bonding, as they call it. And, as Divine Baby grew into Divine Toddler, I think we can actually put our finger on some of the things Mary said to her Son. The official language of that time was Greek, but I think that mothers and babies and people in bedrooms and kitchens used, in Palestine, a different languge: Aramaic. I don't think I have much doubt about one word Mary used to our blessed Lord. Imagine him - sitting in whatever sort of high chair they used to feed toddlers in. I think what Mary said was what most parents say: "Open wide". The little mouth opens, and one deftly manoeuvres the spoonful in before it shuts again. And the Aramaic for "Open wide" is Ephphatha. And so, when years later the Redeemer was healing a mute, S Mark tells us that he slipped from talking Greek into Aramaic and said "Ephphatha".

And I think I know another Aramaic word that Mary said to her Saviour. It was while she was teaching him his prayers and telling him about God the Father. She taught him to call God "Abba"; which some philologists translarte as "Daddy". In other words, she taught him to keep the Daddy-word, not for S Joseph, but for God the Father of Heaven. And we know Jesus called him "Abba"; he used that word in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest: " Abba, not my will but thine be done".

And there's another thing about that Mother and that Baby that people often don't spot. Our God and Lord Jesus Christ didn't have an earthly, human father; his Father was the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. Now: you know how it is with an ordinary baby: "Cor - he's got his mother's nose". "Look: she's got her father's ears". But this Baby ... there's only one person he could look like: Mary. If you could have seen them side by side, I'm sure you would have spotted the uncanny similarities; the distance between the eyes, perhaps; the curl of the lips; the shape of the fingernails; some indefinable likeness in the way each of them walked. Just as identical twins are so very like each other, I suspect that Mother and that Son must have been very strikingly similar. And, as our Lord took his humanity solely and uniquely from Mary's, I wonder if his human mind ran along the same tracks as hers; so that each often felt they knew what the other was thinking before anybody actually said anything ... as happens with some identical twins.
Continues later.

12 May 2018

Getting to Know Newman

I venture to make a constructive suggestion. In 1848 Newman published Loss and Gain; a partly autobiographical novel about the life, the currents of thought, the characteristic personages of the Oxford that he left in 1845. Of course we can (and should) go to Littlemore; how evocative it is, how welcoming the Sisters. You can venerate in nearby cases the red silk MA hood that Newman wore when celebrating the Eucharist as an Anglican, and the alb he wore at his first Eucharist in full Communion with the See of S Peter. But if it is Newman's mind you are after, this novel will be your key.

It is full of the most wonderful satire (as a satirist, Newman left Dean Swift many parasangs behind): of sweet young 'Catholic' things who think that they are discussing becoming monks and nuns when really they are falling in love with each other; of dons who use the XXXIX Articles to bully undergraduates but turn out not to know the actual text terribly well; of silly young ritualists who think that Catholicism is a matter of piscinas which will never drain an actual chalice and tabernacles which will never contain an actual Host; of the bizarre figures in the religious underworld of the day. And it contains some of Newman's most moving purple passages - not least Willis's famous eulogy of the Mass; and the description of worship in the unfinished Passionist Church.

Newman also describes the emotional hold of the Anglican Prayer Book upon those who know and love it, and its capacity to be a comfort in bad times as well as good. And the picture of the hero's father describes him as a decent, pious, generous, devout, popular, gentlemanly High Tory parson of the old school. This was Newman's tribute to all that was good and lovely in the Anglicanism which he had left; but my understanding of it is that Newman is praising, in Anglicanism, those good and wholesome things which were natural goods but which preceded the special graces which come with Catholic Faith. Newman's own father had been a banker, but he gave Charles Reding a gentlemanly clerical father who was generous to the poor and whose manners made him welcome in the greatest houses ... but whose sermons were undoctrinal.

Little known because of anti-Catholic prejudice, this book is, I am convinced, one of the greatest, most cleverly and most sharply yet beautifully written pieces of fiction produced by the nineteenth century.

11 May 2018

Caught you out there

I refer to all those pedants who thought they had caught me out in error when I described this Diocese as "The old Catholic Diocese of Oxford" ... since it was founded by "King" Henry "VIII", surely better referred to as Tudor Minor.

Yah boo ... the diocese of Oxford was erected by Reginald Cardinal Pole on December 24, 1554, by virtue of his Legatine powers, in his Legatine Constitution Cum supremum. So there.

Another bit of Revenge Pedantry: Roman Catholic writers love to remind us that, apart from a Welshman called Kitchen, no 'Marian' bishop conformed to the 'Settlement' of Elizabeth Tudor the once Virgin 'Queen'. Not so. Hugh Curwen, who had been consecrated Archbishop of Dublin by Edmund 'Patrimony' Bonner, Bishop of London, in 1555, was later translated to Oxford. I often wonder how this poor old bishop-of-bray got on with the grim gang of Calvinists who were his confratres. Not to mention the Calvinist dons who by this time had been intruded into Oxford professorial chairs. "Serve him right", I hear you say. You are a heartless lot.

I append some very interesting comments attached to a much older post on this subject.

10 May 2018

We share His Divinity

From time to time I talk about Divinisation in the teaching of S Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast tradition; of course, the basis of the tradition is much older and indeed Biblical. The locus classicus is II Peter 1:4: we become theias koinonoi phuseos (shareholders in the Divine Nature). S Leo (or conceivably an admirer soaked in his thought and latinity) wrote the prayer we still use secreto at the filling of the chalice at Mass: eius divinitatis esse consortes (to be sharers of his Divinity). And the ancient Western Preface for the Ascension seems to come from the same mind: ut divinitatis suae tribueret esse participes (that he might grant us to be partakers of his Godhead).

Cranmer, in one of his less fortunate expansions of his Latin originals, made this into 'to prepare a place for us; that where he is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with him in glory'.(I suspect one reason for this mutilation is the Protestant Reformation belief that even the justified sinner is still totally a sinner, simul justus et peccator: against the Catholic view that sanctifying grace truly transforms.) Bad Old ICEL rendered this 'to claim for us a share in his divine life': where 'claim' is not the same as 'grant us to be partakers' , and 'divine life ' is a watering down of 'Divinity'.

Good New ICEL offers "sharers in his divinity". As so often, accuracy in Latin translation, as well as being desireable in itself, has the bonus of manifesting the essential unity of the Latin and Byzantine traditions.

9 May 2018

More on Steventon

The Directors of the Railway Company used to have their meeting in Steventon; it is roughly half-way between London and Bristol, and a train from each place brought the two groups of Directors for Board Meetings, held in a solid building (which still survives) beside the Railway Station (which does not; a "Kingdom Hall" is built on its site). If you go up Steventon High Street and then turn left down the ancient Causeway, half-timbered medieval houses beside you for all its length, you come to the Church. Its notice board caught my eye.

On it (I approve of the use of Heraldry) are the arms of the old Catholic Diocese of Oxford. These show a fess; above it, three female demi-Saints who were clearly princesses, since they are crowned. Tradition identifies them as S Frideswide, Advocata specialis almae Universitatis, and two other ladies who appear in her legends: S Margaret and S Etheldreda (the three appear again in the famous Eucharistic Window in S Thomas's, cause of the celebrated anti-Ritualist law-suit). In the base is an Ox walking across a ford. The old undergraduate joke was that the composition represents three lady dons viva-ing a cow.

However, the artist of the Steventon notice board had introduced a variation of his own. Each of the three ladies has her upper garment drawn open, revealing her breasts. They look for all the world like those rather noticeable 'priestesses' or 'mother goddesses' dug up by Sir Arthur Evans (whose home was not many miles away in Boars Hill) in Minoan Crete.

I wondered how one would blazon such a detail. The words "lactating, proper" passed through my mind, but that's not quite right.

8 May 2018


Not long ago, we went down to Steventon, a large village South of Oxford.

Steventon was the place where one got off the train back in the days of Mr Newman, when the branch line up to Oxford had not yet been built and the Alma Universitas was resisting tooth and nail the distractions which such a piece of modern technology would bring to the undergraduate body. You will remember how, in Loss and Gain, Newman's semi-autobiographical novel, Charles Reding, after deciding to go for a pre-Ordinariate option, decides (for no very obvious reason demanded by the plot; Newman is clearly indulging his sentiment) to visit Oxford for the last time before his reception in London. "On his arrival at Steventon ... the afternoon being fine, he left his portmanteau to follow him by omnibus, and put himself on the road ... he had passed through Bagley Wood, and the spires and towers of the University came on his view, hallowed by how many tender associations, lost to him for two whole years, suddenly recovered - recovered to be lost for ever! There lay old Oxford before him, with its hills as gentle and its meadows as green as ever. At the first view of that beloved place, he stood still with folded arms, unable to proceed. Each college, each church, he counted them by their pinnacles and turrets. The silver Isis, the grey willows, the far-stretching plains, the dark groves, the distant range of Shotover ... wood, water, stone, all so calm, so bright, they might have been his, but his they were not ..."

 I will continue this a little later.

7 May 2018

Newman and "The Anglican Patrimony"

People still sometimes ask what is this Anglican Patrimony of which Professor Ratzinger wrote in Anglicanorum coetibus. I believe dear old Archdeacon ... oops, Cardinal ... Manning summed it up thus:

I see much danger of an English Catholicism of which Newman is the highest type. It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church.

I have often wondered whether our own Henry 'Patrimony' Chadwick had Manning's words consciously in mind when he wrote

The fact that [Newman] had been converted to Catholicism by Oxford and the study of the Church Fathers, not by any personal friendship with Roman Catholics, meant that everything he wrote and said sounded almost Anglican.

That's the Patrimony: Anglican tone. Including, of course, Newman's old Anglican gifts of Irony, Satire, and especially, above all, and pretty well daily, the Argumentum ad hominem. And an adherence to Blessed John Henry's belief in the iniquities of Liberalism and of Ultrahyperueberpapalism. And his emphasis on getting one's guidance from the Fathers. And doing one's humble best to write decent English. That's what I would have concentrated upon if I had ben asked to read a paper at last week's Staggers Conference on The Patrimony. (I hope it went well without me.)

I am very much tempted to think that Ordinariate members should see themselves, not as "former Anglicans", but as "Anglicans", yet more proudly qualifying that already proud term by the phrase "in full communion with the Holy See".

I gather Melkites rather like calling themselves "Orthodox in communion with Rome".

United but not absorbed ... coat of many colours ... multiple lungs ...

6 May 2018

Consensus at the Wannsee Conference

In that chilling and disgusting meeting at which the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem was organised, it is clear that many of the participants were uneasy about certain categories ... half-Jews .... those married to Jews ... Jews who had won the Iron Cross (first Class) in the Great War. But what nobody round that table said was: this whole policy is radically evil.

The presuppositions were never debated. There was a basic consensus.

And many of the elderly among us have experienced how committees much less murderous than Wannsee deliver their results if determined people with a clear agenda have imposed or inherited parameters which nobody else questions.

I am always uneasy about debates which turn upon the question of what should be the criteria for the "termination of a pregnancy".

And, moving from these life-and-death questions ... going from the Infernal to the Ridiculous ... to accounts of the discussions leading to the liturgical 'reforms' of the 1960s, what fascinates me is, again, that no-one, as far as I know, queried the assumptions. What nobody said was: we were not given a free hand; we were given, by an Ecumenical Council, a list of specific mandates to which we are required to give effect. And, however attractive the arguments for such and such a particular innovation, we have no mandate for it.

"Consensus" is, especially for the managerial elites of our culture, a warm and cuddly word. But both the word and its reality seem to me profoundly potentially dangerous. I recall a passage from C S Lewis's Hideous Strength:  
"This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world's history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter among fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men."

Ab omni malo consensu: libera nos Domine. 

5 May 2018

S John at the Latin Gate ... should it be a Double of the First Class?

S John at the Latin Gate, a Prayer Book festival (also still to be found in the delightfully unreformed Calendar of the University of Oxford) long since abolished on the modern Roman Calendar, reappears on May 6 on the Calendar of the Ordinariate (disguised as "S John in Eastertide")! Since you have probably been wondering why, and because I know you are discreet, I will let you into the secret. Just within these four walls. Are you sitting comfortably?

Before the Ordinariates were canonically erected by the great, the erudite, the fabulous Benedict XVI, the Pope of Christian Unity, a group of us had a series of highly confidential meetings in catacumbis, or, to be more prosaic, in the Catholick Apostolick cellars of Gordon Square, guided by our Flying Bishops. Episcopopteryx Andrew Burnham decided to term these the 'Latin Gate' meetings, because the first of them took place on May 6 in 2010! So tomorrow is the glorious celebration of the first synodos of that bold group, some of whom risked being bullied into premature resignation if their Anglican bishops had found out what they were up to (that is why the meetings had to be so secret).

What a lot seems to have happened in a mere eight years!

It celebrates the start of the process which led to those priests becoming the core of the founding presbyterate of the English Ordinariate. Imagine us as being rather like the courageous First Wave that stormed up the Normandy beaches on June 6 in 1944! I think that we battle-scarred heroes, we noble Band of Brothers, the Class of 2010, ought to be given special medals to pin proudly onto the Black Scarves of our Anglican choir dress. But, Fathers, the least we can do is to celebrate S John the Apostle at the Altar, provided he falls on a weekday ... as he will next year.

Those subterranean meetings eventually morphed into the 'Formation' [not a word I much like] meetings at Allen Hall, where we were made to feel wonderfully welcome by staff and students alike. It was an exhilarating experience for us, whose Catholic Faith was mediated to us within the Church of England, to feel, at last, our longed-for unity with the other great strand of English Catholicism, the Martyres. 

You will know that Allen Hall was founded at Douay following the accession of Elizabeth Tudor, Bloody Bess, after ex-vice-chancellors, Heads of Houses, Regius Professors, Fellows, students galore, had had to flee in a great Exodus from Oxford; and it was founded moreover by the indefatigable Cardinal Allen, sometime Proctor of this University and Principal of S Mary's Hall, who would have been Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England if only the winds had been a tadge more accommodating in 1588.

So Allen Hall is in a real continuity with Marian, Catholic, Oxford (so well evoked by Duffy's Fires). And it was a novel luxury for us to have access to its bibliotheca superbissima where the Bullaria of the Roman Pontiffs ... including the great Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini ... were just sitting there on the open shelves, immediately inside the door, generously available to anybody and everybody to browse in passing. Not even the library at Staggers was as well equipped! No wonder Allen Hall men are such excellent priests!

The food, too, was better than at Staggers.

4 May 2018

Chesterton and the Anglican liturgical tradition (3)

A last quotation from GKC:

"Modern prayers, and theirs [the Anglicans'] perhaps more than any, seem to be perfectly incapable of avoiding journalese. And the Prayer-Book prose seems to follow them like a derisive echo. Lambeth or Convocation will publish a prayer saying something like "Guide us, O Lord, to the solution of our social problems"; and the great organ of old will groan in the background .... "All who are desolate and oppressed." The first Anglicans asked for peace and happiness, truth and Justice; but nothing can stop the latest Anglicans, and many others, from the horrid habit of asking for improvement in international relations."

3 May 2018

Chesterton on the Anglican liturgical tradition (2)

"Let anyone recall for himself the very finest passages in the Book of Common Prayer and he will soon see that they are concerned specially with spiritual thoughts and themes that now seem strange and terrible; but anyhow, the reverse of common; ".. in the hour of death and in the day of Judgment". Who talks about the hour of death? Who talks about the Day of Judgement? Only a litter of shabby little priests from the Italian Mission. Not certainly the popular and eloquent Dean of Bumblebury, who is so Broad and yet so High. Certainly not the charming and fashionable Vicar of St Ethelbald's, who is so High and yet so Broad. Still less the clergyman helping in the same parish, who is frankly Low. It is the same on every page, where the spirit inspires that style. "Suffer us not, for any pains of death, to fall from Thee." ... "Ah, that's what gets you" (or words to that effect), as Lord Peter Wimsey truly said of this phrase, in the detective tale of Miss Dorothy Sayers; who, like Lord Peter, knows a good deal about other things besides poisons; and understands her hero's historical traditions very well. But did you ever hear the curate fresh from the cricket-field, or the vicar smiling undr the Union Jacks of the Conservatuive Rally, dwell upon that penultimate peril; or the danger of falling from God amid the pains of death? Very morbid. Just like those Dago devotional books. So very Roman."

2 May 2018

Chesterton on the Anglican liturgical tradition (1)

(ht to Professor Tighe)

" ... why has the old Prayer-Book a power like that of great poetry upon the spirit and heart? The reason is much deeper than the mere avoidance of journalese. It might be put in a sentence; it has style, it has tradition; it has religion; it was written by apostate Catholics. It is strong, not in so far as it is the first Protestant book, but in so far as it was the last Catholic book. 

As it happens, this can be proved in the most practical manner from the actual details of the prose. The most moving passages in the old Anglican Prayer Book are exactly those that are least like the atmosphere of the Anglicans. They are moving, or indeed thrilling, precisely because they say the things which Protestants have long left off saying; and which Catholics still say. Anybody who knows anything of literature knows when a style lifts itself to its loftiest efforts; and in these cases it is always to say strongly what we [Catholics] still endeavour to say, however weakly; but which nobody else ever endeavours to say at all. Let anyone recall for himself the very finest passages in the Book of Common Prayer, and he will soon see that they are concerned specially with spiritual thoughts and themes that now seem strange and terrible; but anyhow, the reverse of common."

More of this tomorrow; it comes from a collection of his pieces published in 1935, the year before he died (he had converted in 1922). When you read my next instalment, you will grow, I suspect, more and embarrassed about .... modern Catholic culture.

1 May 2018

Easter Festivals Pius XII and S John XXIII robbed us of

On May 3, we lose the Feast Inventionis Sanctae Crucis, double of the Second Class. It was a beautiful opportunity to contemplate the Cross suffused with rays of Easter, Resurrection, rejoicing. (The Easter Commemoratio de Cruce, added often at the end of Lauds and Vespers, served the same admirable purpose.) Of course, May 3 is the Novus Ordo date for SS Philip and James, the Dedication Festival of their Church; its ejection from May 1 by Pius XII to May 11 seems to me particularly deplorable. I was a bit depressed by the failure of the Ordinariate Calendar to rectify this disaster; but there is a legal way round this in the Ordinariate: say a votive of Pip and Jim on May 1!

Both of these feasts were Days of Devotion (Holy Days which had been demoted from "Obligation to go to Mass" to "You are most strongly urged to go to Mass"), and were still days on which Parish Priests were obliged applicare Missam pro populo. The ease with which, from the middle of the twentieth century, quite highly ranking festivals were dumped or shifted around from day to day at the ephemeral whimsy of transient Pontiffs, or rather, their liturgical 'experts', seems to me an early indication of that arbitrary approach of papal liturgists to Tradition to which we rightly apply terms like Rupture and against which Benedict XVI complained.

Pip and Jim, of course, went on their travels in 1956, after Pius XII, or one of his advisers, had the bright idea of snitching May 1 from the Marxists by making it the Solemnity of S Joseph the Workman ('Opifex' ... 'Craftsman'?). The Cunning Ploy never worked, not least because the US of A kept Labour Day on quite a different date. In any case, I rather liked  putting on blood-red vestments on the Workers' Day and commemorating the Apostle who, in his Prayer Book Epistle, did make some remarks about the Unrighteous Rich which surpass in fruitiness anything Marx and Engels said. So, for most of the Latin Church, the Workman on May 1 as a major celebration lasted little more than a decade.

And when S Joseph was frogmarched to May 1, his solemnity on the Wednesday after Easter II was abolished ... a Double of the First Class with an Octave reduced to zilch, just like that. It had been extended (from the Carmelites) to the entire Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1847 ... the eve of the Year of Revolutions (you recall that we also owe to him the Feast of the Precious Blood) ... and was moved from a Sunday after Easter to a Wednesday by Pius X. Frankly, I rather like the propers for that feast, with their emphasis on S Joseph's ancestry and the suggestion that his antitypical sexual continence is typified by his typical namesake's rejection of Mrs Potiphar's bed. That the 'Workman' was pure, temporary, faddery ... what PF would call a modo ... is demonstrated by his demotion to an Optional Memorial in the post-Conciliar rite.

Incidentally, younger readers should make a note that - as Wise Virgins who keep Cheney by their computers will already have spotted - in 2047, 2058, and 2069, the Wednesday after Easter II will fall ... on May 1! Annos valde Iosephinos! Episcopal Conferences, as they feverishly read this blog, might like to remember that they have the competence to move, for the Novus Ordo, S Joseph from March 19 to a date permanently outside Lent ... they could select the Wednesday after Easter II!

S John before the Latin Gate, and S Michael, May 8, will follow in a day or two.

30 April 2018

A Catholic cathedral ...

... is a sort of world, every one going about his own business, but that business a religious one; groups of worshippers, and solitary ones - kneeling, standing - some at shrines, some at altars - hearing Mass and communicating - currents of worshippers intercepting and passing by each other - altar after altar lit up for worship, like stars in the firmament - or the bell giving notice of what is going on in parts you do not see - and all the while the canons in the choir going through matins and lauds, and at the end of it the incense rolling up from the high altar ...

Newman wrote this after experiencing the Duomo in Milan. I know it will remind readers, as it does me, of the great purple passage .... what a stylist the man is ... near the end of Loss and Gain ... where he describes the experience of Charles Reding in the unfinished Passionist church in London.

Please God, by Newman's prayers, such a Christian culture may be given back to us.

29 April 2018

Euripides and the Canons of Glasney

One of the fascinating things about the plays of the great Athenian dramatists is found in the question of what the audience at the first production expected; and what would have surprised them. The Greek myths often had a (distinctly vague) given framework but were unfixed and fluid in detail; for example, Homer, whom some might think the author of a 'canonical' telling of the Greek myths, tells us that when Agamemnon returned from Troy he was killed by Clytemnestra's lover Aigisthos at a banquet; but Aeschylus cheerfully makes Clytemnestra herself entangle Agamenon in his bath with a net, and then slaughter him with her own hands. And the first audience of Euripides' Medea would have known that her and Jason's children were going to end up dead; but who killed them - Jason's relatives? - would have been unclear until it was revealed to them, in the play, that their own mother slaughtered them to spite her unfaithful husband. Euripides actually got away with a play that portrayed Helen as not even eloping to Troy; it was but a wraith of her which fled with Paris. Meanwhile, she visited Egypt, and ... ... ...

In the Middle Cornish dramas, probably composed by the Canons of Glasney College, the outline is often Biblical and known. However ...

The Resurrexio Domini follows the main outline of the Gospel narratives. But at the end of it (curiously like the way in which the Athenian dramatists, after a dramatic trilogy, added a fourth play in a lighter and racier genre ... perhaps to relax the atmosphere) is added a much briefer Mors Pilati.
We begin with Tiberius sick of leprosy; he is cured by Veronica who deploys her vernicle. Now a fervent Christian, he desires to execute the Pontius Pilatus who killed the Lord. Some knock-about comedians called the Tortores (Anglice Special Branch) secure Pilate; but when he is brought before Tiberius, the emperor is unable to harm him. This turns out to be because Pilate is wearing the Seamless Robe of Christ, which he declines to remove on the dual grounds that it is rather dirty by now; and that it would be disrepectful to appear naked before his sovereign ...

And so and so it goes on. An erudite reader, Mrs Sue Sims, once much enlightened this ignorant classicist by explaining that the story comes from the Golden Legend. I wonder if that popular work was as well known to the peasantry as it clearly was to the Glasney clerics. I bet Dr Cotton, another erudite reader, knows whether this work features in church iconography, thus giving a pointer to  whether the Cornish peasants were on the edges of their seats to know what would happen next ... or whether they a;ready had a pretty shrewd idea.

28 April 2018

Catholic Cornwall

Down to Cornwall for a day or two in the holiday cottage of the Posbury Sisters (the Anglican Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary) at Porthcurno near Land's End. As we drive to look at 'our' ravens' nest, we pass the First and Last Anglican church in the land, at St Just. Happy memories: it was on the notice board of that ('Ebbsfleet') church that I first saw the news of the election of papa Ratzinger. Less happy memories as we pass churches which were once great Catholic shrines, back in the days when the Truro diocese had the reputation of being the most Catholic in the Church of England. Bishop Graham Leonard, the great praecursor of the Ordinariate, whose portrait hangs proudly in our Ordinary's study, epitomised that tradition. Ecce sacerdos valde magnus. But the last two or three bishops of Truro, obedient servants of the Zeitgeist, put paid to it all. So many Altars now with women; so many Tabernacles with cobwebs.

Sometimes impertinent people hijack our Patrimonial fathers and apply some condescending argument to the effect that the 'papalism' of those great figures was so conditioned by the circumstances of the time that it doesn't really 'count'. So the heroic Fr Bernard Walke of St Hilary, who had to watch his church being wrecked by a protestant mob, had the heroism of his witness neutered decades later by the disdain of the smoothly unpleasant Donald Allchin. But Walke's words are just as powerful and as relevant now as when he wrote them in 1935: '[I] was convinced that the Catholic movement in the Church of England, which began in the discovery of the Church as a divine institution, could have no other end but a corporate union with the Apostolic See of Rome. Outside that unity there could be no assurance of the preservation of the faith and morals of the Christian revelation'. This is indeed the conviction which has brought us into the Ordinariate.

Notice there the words and morals. Fr Walke did indeed begin his incumbency by immediately replacing Prayer Book Mattins with the Tridentine Rite; but he was not some silly 'smells and bells' but unprincipled high churchman. Not long before he wrote, the Lambeth Conference had begun, albeit tentatively, the long but unambiguous process of uncoupling Anglicanism from the common ancient tradition of historic Christendom with regard to sexual morality, by admitting the possibility of artificial contraception. Only, of course, in the rarest and most exceptional cases. Where would the liberal agenda be if wedges did not have such very thin ends?

I am sure Walke had this in mind, and how right his prognosis has proved to be. It is instructive to compare his words with those of Bishop Gore, in a pamphlet which can be found on PROJECT CANTERBURY. Gore, a 'non-papal catholic', was a good enough scholar to know that what had happened at Lambeth was a disaster, both ethical and ecclesiological, of major proportions. But, blind to the significance in the divine dispensation of the Roman Primacy, his paper, for all its erudition, quite simply flounders.

We must pray that the divinely instituted Roman Primacy may soon be again as great and unambiguous a bulwark against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil as it was in the days of Pope Pius XI ... and of Fr Bernard Walke and Bishop Gore. What are five or six years of hiatus sub specie aeternitatis?

27 April 2018

"The Dictator Pope"

To refresh your memories, I reprint a piece I wrote when an earlier electronic edition of the Dictator Pope was published under a pseudonym: Marcantonio Colonna.

I do think that this is a very important book. At the present moment, the papacy is more dominant that it ever has been before, its iron grip on the Church strengthened by the mechanisms of the instant world-wide Media. Inevitably and properly, the person and personality of the pontiff himself are subjected to detailed scrutiny, especially when it appears that we are going to have yet more 'surprises of the Spirit' sprung upon us.

This book brings together pretty well everything which can currently be known about PF. I suspect that Marcantonio Colonna is a trained historian, so you will find in his book not only a wealth of information about the rise of PF, but a subtle analysis of the cultural background which has formed him. Have you ever wondered what people have in mind when they say "PF's Peronism accounts for it all"? Dr Colonna will explain to you what that means. Would you like a careful explanation of PF's skills in playing people off against each other, in making use of a person and then discarding him, in ruthlessly humiliating or disposing of people whose aptitude for sycophancy he finds insufficiently crafted? It's all here.

Every book has its particular take on things, and Colonna's take on PF will not in itself surprise anyone. It has, I think, become so clear as now to be uncontroversial that what you get in PF is not what it says on the tin. He is not a kindly humble avuncular figure with a winning smile and a passion for cripples and babies, who spends his days and nights thinking about the poor. He is a hard and determined politician with a vindictive temper and an appetite for power and a disinclination to let anybody or anything stand in his way. Colonna shows how this was already apparent to PF's own fellow-countrymen well before he burst on to the international scene with his Buona Sera. Under Colonna's tutelage, you will not only understand PF's past, but you will be able to hazard an informed guess about what he might do in his future!

The unscrupulous manipulation of the 'Synods'; the dismembering of the Franciscans of the Immaculate; the 'Reform' of the Vatican finances; the assault upon the Knights of Malta; the 'Reform' of the Roman Curia; PF's poor record in dealing with the scandal of paedophile or ephebophile priests; the St Gallen Group and the parts played by Martini and Daneels and Murphy-O'Connor and the rest of them in plotting for the last two Conclaves; the antics of the Vatican's Gay Mafia; Marcantonio's historian's scalpel will expose to your view all the subcutaneous realities of this pontificate.

The whole game is not yet played out; but we already have a lot of data. Let Dr Colonna offer you a guided tour through them!

Could there be an armistice with the "Lost Shepherd" or the "Dictator Pope"?

I am a lucky chap; Leila and Philip Lawler have very kindly sent me a copy of Philip's fine book Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is misleading his flock.  You may be thinking that this is rather like London buses; you wait for half an hour and then a couple come along together ... because last Monday was the publication day of Henry Sire's magnificent The Dictator Pope (about which I have just written a rave review for a monthly periodical). I hope you have already procured and devoured your copies of that volume! Later today, I will reprint my earlier comments on this book. Although, of course, there are some overlaps between these two books, it is remarkable how comfortably they sit together on the bookshelf. Obviously, there is such a glut of material, that two authors can write books which are complementary rather than identical! Philip's book is, I think, perhaps a tadge gentler than Henry's in as far as it is clear that Philip hoped against hope that things would come right with this pontificate ... that, as we say, it wouldn't come to this ....

I think it "came to this" the very moment PF trudged out to greet the People of God (and the tourists) with an unhappy face, refusing to share the simple joy of the Lord's Flock committed to his charge; when he indicated his determination to mark out the discontinuities of his pontificate by not dressing like a pope and by taking a strange name.

Philip begins his book by observing that every day the pope issues another reminder that he does not approve of Catholics like us ..."day after weary day ... the pope upbraids me..." That's exactly how I feel. So many of us started by doing our best to put the best possible gloss on this pontificate, and have been mercilessly driven to the realisation that this is not possible. As I wrote recently, every day there seems to be a new provocation, either from PF or from one of his sycophantic cronies. In self-examination, I have asked myself again and again whether I have fallen into self-absorbed obsession in so often defending Truth against what flows from the man who, after all, does sit on the cathedra Petri. But, when I was priested on June 9 1968, Bishop Harry Carpenter asked me "Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word...?" and I replied "I will, the Lord being my helper." If I had instead had the joy of being ordained according to the old Tridentine Pontificale, the Pontiff would have said to us, rather mixing his metaphors, "Sit doctrina vestra spiritualis medicina populo Dei ... ut praedicatione ... aedificetis domum, id est, familiam Dei ..." So what choice do I have?

Is there an alternative to all this open warfare? Could there be an armistice? Could PF stop stinging us into continuous reaction? Is he a big enough man to do that? Could we stop this endless series of criticisms of the pope? I, for one, would be overjoyed to be able to do so. I think the first essential proviso would have to be the appointment of someone to the Congregation for Bishops who would be given the power to ensure that the episcopate were rebalanced, and who would confer with PF about redressing the balance in the Sacred College. For orthodox Catholics, perhaps the biggest worry of all concerns a future which PF is clearly trying to fashion in his own likeness by the unfortunate appointments he makes. Cupich a Cardinal, indeed!! Additionally, it would be necessary for PF to refrain from uttering into a public forum or a scalfari anything to which the CDF had not given its  previous OK. PF has so grossly enlarged the amount of material which comes to us with Papa dicit attached, that the the entire genre needs to be radically pruned and carefully controlled.

Meanwhile, get The Lost Shepherd to sit beside The Dictator Pope!

Fr George Rutler ...

... gives in Crisis Magazine a very jolly account of Pope Benedict XIV. (Thank-you to friends who drew this to my attention, and to Father for writing it.)

The only blemish in the Pope's character appears to have been that he disliked Jesuits and would never deign to admit that type of person into the Sacred College.

Father wittily includes a Latin epigram about Lambertini, including a couple of Teacher's Intentional Errors just to give his readers a bit of intelligent fun in the art of textual emendation.

And, happily, Father does not mention my own favourite Benedict XIV story ... his reaction to the Marchesa who wore, on her imperfectly veiled chest, a very large emerald cross. Given Internet resources, there must be ways that prurient readers can research such things proprio Marte.

He's upstairs in the Ashmolean, as you know, and along at the end. I haven't narrated any of my recent visits to see him because publicising the violence of his judgement on his current successor would simply have got me into trouble. There are sceptical people out there, y'know, who think that when I report our conversations, I am really just giving my own views. And anyway, I wouldn't want to risk stirring up a gang of inflamed Bergoglianistae, led by the Master of Benets, to take their enraged pickaxes to his patient bust.

Diu illaesus permaneat.

26 April 2018


I'm going to take a week or two off from reading emails, which includes Comments offered to this Blog. I shall still provide a daily Post, but I will be unresponsive to all comments. Nor shall I watch any Television or open any letters or ... etc. etc..

I have done this fairly regularly in the past, and I can recommend it to anybody else out there who is a seeker for sanity.


Having just read a statement from the JAHLF, signed by members for whose competence I have great respect, I have deleted part of my recent Post on the CBCEW, together with the associated thread.

"Be what I say"

At the start of the Synodical processes concerning the Family, PF repeatedly begged the Synodal Fathers to demonstrate parrhesia. I took this to mean that he believed they were all bursting with new and liberal ideas with regard to certain theological/pastoral questions; and that all he needed to do was to give them the courage to speak out ... to untie their tongues for them.

Recently, with the 'Youth Synod' on the horizon, PF has spoken about the "daring" of the young, and has asked them to "fight the logic of 'it's always been done this way' ... a poison, a sweet poison, that tranquillises the heart and leaves you anaesthetised so that you can't walk".

[UPDATE: I drafted this about six weeks ago: since then, PF, on Palm Sunday 25 March, returned to this theme by exhorting the Young to SHOUT ... and suggesting that perhaps, if their elders failed to shout, they should do it!! He also cheerfully suggested to them that Old People who try to silence them are corrupt ... You'd think that the Protector of the Lettergate Scoundrels would be more careful not to put ideas into other minds.]

Is this, again, an attempt to persuade a certain group to conform to the stereotypical view of that group which PF has formed in his own mind?

"Be what I think you are"?

"Be what I want you to be"?

"Be what my plan of Hagan lio prescribes you to be"?

A couple of years ago, PF complained bitterly about all those dreadful Young People who want the Extraordinary Form. He seems now to have forgotten about that disorderly yet rigid group.

25 April 2018


The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, meeting (as we have all been taught by this pontificate to assume) 'with the guidance of the Spirit', has happily not come to a common mind on the question of  the controverted sections of Amoris laetitia. This will be a source of great relief to many biblically-oriented Christians.

It is important to point out that each time a Conference or even a single bishop declines to make use of a formal opportunity to promote the Bergoglian interpretation of AL, this very act of so declining is itself a Magisterial action. Because: it is a formal if tacit clarification that the pro-Bergoglian bishops' interpretation is not  part of the Church's Ordinary Universal (hence infallible) Magisterium. And ... important this ... the more panicky pressure that power-hubs in Rome put on the world-wide episcopate to fall into line, the more significant will be any and every failure to submit.

AL, is, of course, far inferior in status to an infallible conciliar or papal decree, and PF's own ambiguous glosses as to what his own original ambiguities really mean are at an even lower (thoroughly sub-Magisterial!) level. These considerations make it yet more important to apply to AL the methodological test which Blessed John Henry Newman insisted had to be applied to Pastor aeternus after it was promulgated in 1870: Does this come to me as the free and unforced teaching of a moral unanimity within the episcopate?

Things are looking up! They're not getting away with it! Two years after AL was published, it is no nearer to passing the Newman Test. Still less near is that particular interpretation of its ambiguities upon which the Bergoglians need to rely.

I get a comforting feeling that some younger bishops may sense that, when the natural time comes for the next stage of their episcopal careers, PF is unlikely still to be Bishop of Rome.

Establishing that the Bishops of the oikoumene have not taught what PF desired them to teach (indeed, he grotesquely manipulated two synods to achieve his end), will also be an important factor when eventually a future pontificate sets about restoring the explicit witness of orthodoxy.

But our bishops have powerfully enforced one particular paragraph in AL. This is the section which deals with, and roundly condemns, Gender Theory and all that. By employing a section of AL to underpin this condemnation, their Lordships have given us a deft and elegant example of an argumentum ad hominem. Nice one!

24 April 2018


Dear Ansgar

For reasons I cannot fathom, my computer will not allow me to reply to your personal, and courteous, email.

Can we amicably agree to differ?

Dear John

Thank you for your repetitively offered comment. Frankly, it would have been even more convincing if you had found the energy to offer it a fourth time, or even a fifth.

Is the 'Chittister' whom you so thricely commend to me and my readers of Irish origin? I am no philologist, but her name sounds to me rather like that of the old Ulster Protestant gentry Chichester family as it might be reproduced by someone who had got tied up in a titillating tongue-twister. I hesitate, on a Family Blog, to offer a reconstruction of what that twongue-tister might be.

Dear Sadie

It's news to me that PF "inherited" Amoris laetitia and all the other rubbish from poor Professor Ratzinger. It all goes to show what a cunning old ***************** he was.

Are you sure you've got this right?

23 April 2018

Urban VI ...

... was the Pope whose personal failings, including an irascible inclination to torture and execute his Cardinals, led to the Great Western Schism.

There were very serious grounds for suspecting that his election, in 1378, was invalid on account of duress; the Cardinal Electors were under the menace of being torn to pieces by the Roman mob. Indeed, the dear little 1958 CTS pamphlet listing the popes, which never leaves my desk, says simply that his election "has been generally deemed valid" ... not a very wholehearted or ringing endorsement.

A few months later, most of the Cardinals repudiated their allegiance and declared the election invalid.

Yet he is always included nowadays in the list of 'genuine' popes, and the prelate, 'Clement VII', whom the Cardinals then elected in his place, is relegated to the list of 'antipopes'.

It was not until 1429, when 'Clement VIII' abdicated, that Christendom at last had only one claimant to the See of Peter.

Half a century of Schism.

Why am I reminding you of this?

Because, in our present crisis, glib people talk easily about getting rid of flawed popes. Urban VI was, surely, in the half-dozen most flawed popes ever, but securing the consent and collaboration to get rid of him was found to be difficult ... nay rather, in view of the fact that he never was successfully disposed of, one might say 'impossible'.

And, during that half-century, there never was an undisputed pope. Indeed, from 1409 until 1415, there were as many as three claimants simultaneously disputing the cathedra Petri.

I feel that this demonstrates the immense dangers of approaching ecclesial crises with simplistic 'remedies'.

Devising fictional solutions to real problems is no answer. Prayer and the bearing of witness are the Catholic remedy.

22 April 2018

Episcopal Jurisdiction

A month or so ago, someone asked an acute question. I had made some remarks about Incardination. The 'someone' had remembered my constant teaching in the past about how a Particular Church consists of Bishop, Presbyterate, Diaconate, Laos, bound together structurally and sacramentally. So How Come that I appeared now to be advocating a situation in which a presbyter might not be bound by incardination to his Bishop ... or, putting it differently, to his Particular Church?

There are large problems about the roles and relationships of the Three Orders in the modern Latin Church. For example; Deacons were supposed to be the outreach of the Bishop for property, and for notifying him about the needs of the poor, and that sort of thing [forget the silly twentieth century myth that they represent Ministry to the Poor and Disadvantaged ... that's nonsense, and if you want to, you can look at my articles on the Diaconate via the Search Engine on this Blog]. By the twentieth century, deacons had become apprentice priests, young clerics moving through the Diaconate to the Presbyterate in just six months or so. The changes following Vatican II introduced a permanent Diaconate of often part-time parochial assistants. (I had better add that Bishop Egan of Portsmouth does have a real ante-Nicene Deacon, who runs his diocesan finances and quite a lot besides this. But Dr Egan is not an ordinary bishop). If married diaconal viri probati are allowed to be ordained to the presbyterate, Permanent Deacons will have disappeared in a generation. Betcha.

Episcopacy is in a right old mess, too. As we all know, earlier Christian centuries regarded it as adultery for a bishop to move from See to See. Now ... er ...

And, even worse, the Episcopal Character is devalued by being sprayed like cheap and vulgar confetti all over bureaucrats and diplomats. Nuncios need to be 'Archbishops', it seems, to give them status vis-a-vis local hierarchs. Dicasterial Secretaries also have a status that ineluctably demands that they be adorned with a mitre. There may be few things that Walter Kasper and I agree upon, but one of them concerns this particular corruption: the idea that Episcopacy is essentially all about status in a bureaucratic pecking order. Curiously, PF is normally vastly impressed by Cardinal Kasper, but not in this particular matter. I wonder why.

And Presbyters? In earlier centuries, the presbyterate was the executive committee of the Particular Church. The evidence suggests that a Bishop could not even ordain a subdeacon without the permission of the Presbyterate; could not, while the system of public Penance continued, absolve a grave sinner without the consent of his presbyters. Dom Gregory Dix gathered materials (Jurisdiction in the Early Church: Episcopal and Papal) suggesting that, in the first centuries, the Bishop was the High Priest and Apostolic Teacher of his Church; jurisdiction in anything remotely like our sense resided in the Presbyterate.

It would, of course, be childish to advocate turning all these clocks back to A.D. 300. Nor am I foolishly advocating a rebellious or cantankerous attitude towards those who occupy the structures prescribed by the present Code of Canon Law. On the contrary. How could that serve the Kingship of Christ?

However, nothing stays the same; and, as we face moving on, it is a good idea to have clear and accurate notion of where North, South, East, and West all lie. It may indeed be some time before the Latin Church radically recalibrates its current Ministerial Structures. But I think it is worth turning a bit of a spotlight on the most dysfunctional area of Ministry: the Episcopate. Bishops are a thoroughly problematic feature in the post-conciliar Church; some of them are currently trying to claw in power from the Church Universal or to set themselves above Tradition; and simultaneously they crave more power over their own presbyters and deacons. Some of them have a curious idea that 'Subsidiarity' means 'All power to the Bishop' or 'All power to the Conference' or 'All power to the Conference's Bureaucracy'. As I argued recently, this culture may lead to problems in spheres including the liturgical, if overblown bishops or conferences or bureaucracies regard themselves as liberated from regulation, above Tradition, and wilfully attempt to force their own whimsical liturgical preferences on presbyters and people.

What might the distant future hold in terms of a restored episcopate? Perhaps some of us did experience just a merest, tiniest hint of that when, in an apostate Church of England, 'Flying Bishops' provided us with a pastoral and priestly model of Episcopacy. I remember Mgr Barnes, now the emeritus Bishop of Richborough, saying "Fathers, remember that we have no jurisdiction but what you give us". Yet it was those men who "had no jurisdiction" who gathered a People for God in the days that led up to the erection of the Ordinariates.

21 April 2018

S Paul VI? A Jigsaw.

I hope readers will have seen the article in the Settimo Cielo Blog, concerning new information about what Blessed Paul VI really thought concerning the liturgical 'reforms' which Hannibal Bugnini deceived him into approving. Paolo VI. Una storia minima, by Mgr Leonardo Sapienza, clearly contains reliable archival information about Papa Montini and the years in which he uneasily used the Liturgy he had himself authorised. Sapienza publishes diaries in which Virgilio Noe, then the Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, noted the daily remarks of the Pontiff. This looks to me like another piece of a jigsaw which has been forming in my mind for some time.

This source sits very comfortably beside the account given by Montini's friend Louis Bouyer.

It renders more believable the well-known story about Pope Paul's surprise that he had abolished the Pentecost Octave.

It also fits neatly into the account given by Dom Cassian Folsom a few years ago in Adoremus; in which he meticulously demonstrated that the disastrous events (such as the authorisation of alternative 'Eucharistic Prayers') by which the Roman Rite was so horribly corrupted, were the result of the Pontiff being persuaded that the liturgical chaos throughout the liberal West (at that time, more than 200 rogue EPs were circulating unauthorised, for example) could only be brought under any sort of control by a very limited number of alternative Eucharistic Prayers, under the careful direction of Rome, being permitted.

Another important piece of the jigsaw is contained in the fine biography of Archbishop Lefebvre by His Excellency Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. This demonstrates that Pope Paul's mind could only be poisoned against the Archbishop by the gross and palpable lies which his enemies put into the pope's ears. They assured Paul that, in the SSPX, the Old Mass was promoted simply as a banner of anti-papal rebellion; that Lefebvre made his seminarians swear an oath against the pope. In other words, those evil and mendacious men realised that affection for the Mass of Ages would, of itself, be insufficient to corrupt Montini's view of the Great Archbishop. God forgive them for what they did.

Indeed, Papa Montini was, in the words of his predecessor, un po' amletico. He is not one of my heroes. All the same ... and I know some readers will disagree with me ... my personal judgement is that he was not an evil man, and I am willing to accept the Church's judgement about his current location. So, as we draw closer to his canonisation, I feel it is good and timely to begin to come to a more balanced picture on the man whose weak capitulations to devious men did undoubtedly lead to the greatest calamity in Latin Christianity since the Reformation. As he himself perceived (another piece of jigsaw here), the smoke was indeed of Satan; and Montini's failures arose mainly from his poor judgements upon those competing for his ear.

When Pope Paul learned the truth, he lost little time in heaving Bugnini, mitre, zucchetto, (?)apron and all, out of Rome, and over the hills and far away. That I regard as the final piece of the jigsaw.

It is clear that in some circles, this canonisation is being promoted as a political move to fasten down upon the Church a particular understanding of Vatican II, indeed, a hermeneutic Magisterially condemned by Benedict XVI. In God's providence, it may be that a fuller understanding of the real Paul VI will frustrate that knavish trick. 

Does anybody seriously think that the author of Humanae vitae would have favoured a regime bent upon promoting the acceptability of habitual Adultery?

I shall not enable comments on B Paul VI which seem to me to be merely abusive.

20 April 2018

Habemus Papam!

Looking back to those happy days when Pope Benedict was elected, I recall two video clips which I would like to see again. This is how I remember them. Any links?

(1) Margaret Hebblethwaite, small red-haired widow of  an ex-Jesuit whose 'papal biographies' were far from reliable, was caught on camera at the moment the white smoke went up, in shrill panic. She knew that, for an election to have been made so soon, "It must be Ratzinger".

(2) The same lady, later on, trying to button-hole Cormack Murphy O'Connor and being shouldered aside. Poor Cormack looked as though he had his own grief-management problems ...


"UNHELPFUL". That was the word used by Boris Johnson's Foreign and Commonwealth Office to describe a mission last Saturday. Members of the House of Lords, and some Anglican Clergy, went to Damascus.

They included Michael Langrish, emeritus Bishop of Exeter. I spent some years in his Diocese; I can assure you that he is not an eccentric; not some wild firebrand; not a barmy Trot.

They met Syrian hierarchs and politicians. They went to the Liturgy on Sunday.

I was not previously aware through the British Media of the united statement by three Patriarchs of Syrian Churches, both Catholic and dissident, condemning the recent Western military intervention in Syria. Such things just don't seem to grab the headlines, do they? Western politicians and journalists never have shown the slightest interest in the beleaguered Christian communities which have lived in the Middle East since centuries before Islam was even invented. Considering the determination of the cultural elites here in the West to destroy the last remnants of Christendom in our own sick and depopulating countries, this is hardly surprising.

What we are seeing in Syria is simply the current stage of  'the Arab Spring' so enthusiastically encouraged by Western politicians. While they were cheering it on, they never thought it would lead to anything like the Syrian catastrophe. Of course not. They anticipated a comfortable domino effect of regime-change which would lead to "Parliamentary Democracy" throughout the Middle East ... you know, Black Rod, the Mace, State Opening of Parliament, and all that.

President Assad of Syria, despite his British background, unaccountably refused to act out the script they had written for him. He probably felt nervous reservations about being hauled out of a sewer, sodomised with a knife, and then shot, like Gaddhafi in Libya. It's all a matter of these little details of perspective, isn't it? Middle-Easterners often haven't been to Eton and so they don't see things in the same balanced sort of way that Boris does. Western politicians have never forgiven Assad for this appalling lack of good manners in refusing to walk down the path they had mapped out for him. For a decade, their foolish mantra has been "Assad must go; ruat caelum".

There have been atrocities galore in Syria. I don't applaud anybody who has had any part in any of them. And, among those who seem to me to have a big share of guilty responsibility, are all the Western politicians who encouraged "the Syrian moderate opposition" to believe that, were they to take up arms against Assad, they would get our support. Nod Nod, Wink Wink. Until: "Oops-a-daisy there's a Russky round the corner. Sorry; you're on your own after all".

I do wish that the political class in my country could grasp that political situations are rarely as univocally straightforward as they like to believe. Stuff ... the unexpected ... happens, and it's not the FCO cat but other people who do the dying. This simple historical reality is, curiously, beyond the comprehension of outwardly sane people many of whom read PPE at Oxford (to be pedantic: that is one crime Boris has not committed). Perhaps the sum of human happiness would be increased if that particular faculty could have a (precisely targetted) cluster-bomb dropped on it.

'UNHELPFUL'. I know all about that word. It is part of the vocabulary Establishment People use in my country when they want to effect a disdainful put-down. It avoids explanation, because an explanation can always be analysed ... an explanation might prove to be a hostage to Fortune. And UNHELPFUL doesn't sound too shrill. UNHELPFUL just means "You're not playing my game my way and you weren't elected to the Buller and you're an oik".

I wonder what sort of fees David Cameron is currently charging on the Lecture Circuit.

19 April 2018


Reports suggest that PF is to receive Cardinal Marx in Rome (they will discuss one of the latest heterodox dodges of the German Episcopal Conference).

Absolutely right and much to be commended.

It is a long-standing tradition that Cardinals enjoy an automatic right of entree to the Roman Pontiff.


Mgr Scicluna is to be complimented on having produced so lengthy a report (on sexual abuse in Chile) in such a comparatively short period of time, and, apparently, with so little secretarial assistance. And after himself needing surgery early in his mission.

In the Anglo-Saxon world of corporate accountability, at least a redacted summary of his Report would be available to the Public. As I write, I am unaware that anything has been made public other than PF's Letter to the Chilean Episcopal Conference. (Unfortunately, the 'story' by chance 'broke' just when our own Media were a trifle preoccupied with the possibility of a World War.)

A 'Survivor' who, until she resigned, was a member of PF's Papal Commission on Abuse, commented:
"Now the focus has to be on the survivors who have been badly hurt by his words; then there has to be accountability."

Regretfully, I have to say that her brutal words express an uncomfortable but simply unavoidable truth. We have not been told what Mgr Scicluna discovered about the transmission of the five-page Letter which one survivor gave to Cardinal O'Malley and which his Eminence is said to have guaranteed that he handed personally to PF. But as the uncorrected public record currently stands, it looks as though PF either never bothered to open and read the Letter; or that he read it and then forgot about its contents so comprehensively that he subsequently lost his temper and started shouting at questioners (he said he required, and had not yet been offered, 'proof'' ... a word subsequently emended to 'evidence').

This is where the demand for accountability becomes irresistible.

We have a Roman Pontiff who has made himself a figure of mockery by his endless logorrhoea. It seems that he is unable to live without constant utterance; utterance which (unlike the words of his intellectually abler predecessors) is commonly riddled with vivid but obscure attacks, apparently often on those fellow-clergy who do not accept his own self-estimation. His 'magisterial' documents substitute inscrutable interminability for clarity. But in some contexts, a more than Trappist taciturnity magically and suddenly takes over from the compulsive loquacity. Cardinals formally offer him dubia or intellectuals send him a Filial Correction; he does not trouble even to acknowledge that he has received their communications. He refuses ... lovely Renaissance Court usage coming up here ... to "grant them an Audience". Abuse survivors transmit to him, via hand of Cardinal, long and detailed accounts of their abuse; the silence is total as they wait ... and wait ... and wait ... and the years pass by, with no comfort for their anguish.

It is an established pattern.

Of course, a Roman Pontiff cannot read everything that anybody presses into his hand. But in previous pontificates, the Pontiff retained a certain formal distance and there were mechanisms, one imagines, by which his correspondence was handled appropriately at appropriate levels. And if there were mistakes, as in any human enterprise there undoubtedly will have been, presumably those responsible were held accountable. But PF seems to have eschewed such workaday mechanisms. He, apparently, prefers above all things to receive plaudits for his faux populism. So, by his own choice, it is he who is accountable for the mistakes. If the buck stops somewhere else, then he should have explained that earlier.

Our Most Holy Redeemer spoke sometimes with an almost Bergoglian frankness (Matthew 23?). But there is not much evidence that He habitually handled critics or questioners by "doing a Bergoglio": i.e. by saying not a syllable to them; turning his back on them; and walking away from them, wordless amid the clamour.

In the Anglo-Saxon corporate world, a CEO who behaved like this would be tactfully removed. Or perhaps just removed without time wasted on tact. A Bergoglio would not survive as head master of an English Public School. You're laughing at me? Think about it.

Indeed. That lady was right. First the focus does have to be upon those who have suffered.

Then, accountability.

Is there nobody left in the Vatican with the nous and the parrhesia  to explain to PF in simple Spanish what, in the real and practical world, accountability means?

Footnote: I commend to you the soon-to-be-published The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire. I find it convincing and compelling. If the facts about this pontificate were more widely known ...

18 April 2018

S Joseph

(1) His Feast on March 19 got under way in the 15th century and gradually spread. It celebrated S Joseph, Spouse of the Theotokos.
(2) Then his Feast as Guardian of the Universal Church was added (universal in the Latin Church from 1847), fixed on the Second Sunday (EF) after Easter (='Third Sunday of Eastertide' in the OF).
(3) Then, when S Pius X liberated Sundays from perpetually occurring Feasts, this feast moved to the subsequent Wednesday. But for some decades clergy were allowed to celebrate External Solemnities of S Joseph on the Sunday, where their people had become attached to the custom.
(4) During the Cold War, Pius XII had the rather clever idea (1955) of making the Workers' Day, May 1, the Feast of S Joseph the Worker.
(5) For a variety of reasons, it never caught on and is now, in the OF, merely an optional memoria. (In the EF it is still in situ)

(6) But S Joseph the Guardian had been abolished in order to make space for this new substantial Josephine celebration within Eastertide. His title of Guardian of the Universal Church had been amalgamated with his March 19 festival.
(7) But the old Mass texts of S Joseph the Guardian survived and survive still as the Votive of S Joseph in the Weekday Votives of the pre-Conciliar Missal.
(8) S Joseph's Guardianship of the Universal Church is a theme just waiting for revival.
(9) Episcopal Conferences have the faculty (in the OF) of moving S Joseph out of Lent.

Make what you will of all that. I will just say that this morning I (legitimately) said that Votive Mass, originally the Mass of S Joseph the Guardian of the Universal Church. I could not, however, see how it could be legitimate to say the Divine Office of the old Feast. A shame, because it is very beautiful and has a lot of suggestive  and relevant typology in it.

I think Ecclesia Dei should relegate S Joseph the Workman to Pro aliquibus locis (or among the Votives) and restore SS Pip and Jim to May 1. And resurrect the Guardianship of S Joseph.

Quite apart from anything else, it would be nice again to see the churches and the Sacred Ministers garbed in deepest red on Mayday.

17 April 2018

SILENCE and NOISE: PF, Sarah, and Screwtape

"It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others." (PF, Gaudete et Exsultate, 26.)

The Scholiasts seem to be deeply divided about the interpretation of this. There are those who explain it as a rare piece of self-criticism on the part of PF. They think that, at long last, he is repenting for having vouchsafed the Dubia Cardinals, and the Correcting Filii, not a single word of reply. On the other hand, some scholars take it as a snide and cheap sneer at Cardinal Sarah, who enjoys writing about Silence. Moi, I haven't the faintest idea. One of the greatest strengths of PF is that his writings always leave me totally baffled. The day I try to persuade you that I am a sensitive interpreter of PF's most nuanced subtleties is probably the day you should stop looking at this blog.

I can, however, offer you some light from the Anglican Patrimony. Not quite from the Ordinariate itself, because Benedict XVI carelessly forgot to provide it with a category which would have enabled a certain famous belle-lettriste to seek full membership. I refer, of course, to His Abysmal Sublimity Mr Under Secretary Screwtape.

"Music and silence - how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell ... no square inch of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise - Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression  of all that is exultant, ruthless and virile - Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress ..."

16 April 2018

S Magnus the Martyr and Catholic Ecumenism

Here's a curiosity for the cognoscenti. On the Ordinariate Calendar, today is the feast of S Magnus the Martyr, of Orkney. Is he there
(1) to show that the British Ordinariate includes even the Northern Islands of the Kingdom of Scotland; or
(2) because of the fact that Fr Henry Joy Fynes Clinton, for decades the undisputed leader of the Papalist Party in the Church of England, was Rector of S Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge?

In either case, both the fact and the reason are excellent!

When the Ordinariates were erected, I did think how lovely an ecumenical gesture it would be if the Diocese of London had lent S Magnus's to us. But the C of E is not really ecumenical except in the formal sense of asserting that it is; and playing the daft games epitomised by the expensive white elephant called ARCIC. It is rumoured that one official in that diocese said that he would rather see a Church bulldozed than getting into the hands of the Ordinariate! Nice lot! Happily, in an act of real generosity and genuine Catholic Ecumenism, the Diocese of Westminster assigned us the wonderful historic Church of the Assumption and S Gregory in central London, which, among its battle honours, proudly claims to have been sacked during the Gordon Riots. I have no difficulty discerning there the approving spirit of that superbly combative old ecumenist, Fr FC. Additionally, as all sound chaps and chappesses know, it was once the Bavarian Embassy Chapel and contains the beautiful Flag of the House of Wittelsbach. Vivat Rex!

BUT ... for me, if I may become personal, the Feast of S Magnus sings most joyously in my heart because of my memory of an amazing visit to my dear friends, the Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay. They showed me round the Cathedral of S Magnus in Kirkwall, exquisite Romanesque in beautiful pink stone, and still housing the relics of S Magnus. And this enables me to complete the circle by returning to Pope Benedict XVI, in whose happy pontificate, of course, the Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay were able to regularise their canonical relationship with the Holy See. Another splendid act of true, Catholic, Ecumenism!! May they continue to flourish and to give such a wonderful witness of prayer, work, and common life to the Catholic World!

As for Benedict XVI, the Pope of Ecumenism ... Eis polla ete, Despota!

I think this Post exceeds my usual daily allowance of sincere hyperbole ...  Megamarvellous!!

Ad multos annos plurimosque annos ...

Today is the birthday of Joseph Ratzinger, sometime Bishop of Rome, and the anniversary of his rebirth in Baptism on the day when the Church was celebrating her Passover.

His pontificate was short, but what enrichment it brought us. The vetusta Novitas of the Bible, the Fathers, and the Liturgy; Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus; the beatification of Newman; how much grace we received in those years through his gentle and generous hands. It turned out to be a necessary stocking-up of the larder with good and nourishing food; food destined  to be our rations during the winter and the ice and the time of tears and cruelty. As we warm ourselves at our hearths today, and hear the wolves still howling outside as they run licensed and unconfined, hungry and increasingly desperate, memories of the good times reassure us that, in the power of the Spirit, and if we keep faith, good times can return. Veni Sancte Spiritus ... flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium. And there are at last sounds of the glaciers cracking, and of the trickle of tiny streams running out from beneath the compacted ice ... and the sight of little buds beginning to open beside the streams.

In a manner of speaking, we might say that Pope Benedict's glorious pontificate is still alive among us, since it is to the sinewy strength of his biblical and patristic teaching, and to the structures he left in place, that we continue to turn as we look to the return of the Maytime, when "The happy birds Te Deum sing, 'tis Mary's month of May."

In a justly famous sermon, Blessed John Henry Newman addressed to our Lady some words derived from the Song of Solomon:

"Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For the winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land. ... The fig tree hath put forth her green figs; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come. It is time for thy Visitation. Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength ..."

May the prayers of our Mother gain for us the grace of perseverance in this last dark hour of the apostasy. Was there ever a tyranny which lasted for ever, or an eternal winter?  

She will go forth in her strength.

Her Immaculate Heart will prevail.

15 April 2018

...audemus dicere PATER NOSTER ...

The words introducing the Lord's prayer were translated by Cranmer, felicitously, as ' ...we are bold to say'. New ICEL with equal accuracy renders '...we dare to say'. But surely we should be 'happy' to say or 'cosy' to say or at least 'confident' to say? Old ICEL, indeed, prayed 'with confidence', and the equally corrupt Common Worship translation totally skives the question of how to render 'audemus'. Yet there is quite an ecumenical convergence here (if one ignore the Modernists and considers just the healthy consensus of the classical Roman and Byzantine Rites): the Byzantines ask God to make us worthy, with parrhesia and without condemnation, to dare (tolmain) to call upon the God of Heaven as Father.

Lying behind the modern squeamishness is a feeling that Christianity should be a religion of intimate warmth. Indeed, there is in the world at large a belief that all men are brothers and that accordingly God, if there is a God, is the indulgent unjudgmental Father of all men. So why should there be anything bold or daring about calling him Father? Rather than being dangerous, it should be next door to a platitude.

But this is not the religion of the New Testament. The Lord's habit of regarding God as his father, Abba, seems to have been distinctive and unusual. The fact that the word is Aramaic suggests that it goes back to the Incarnate Lord's infant linguistic habits. And permission is given to humankind to share this habit in as far and only as far as humans are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and thus en Christo, members of his Body, Sons only in the sense that they are in the One Son. Wayne Meekes (The First Urban Christians) attractively suggested that the Pauline converts actually cried Abba (Gal 4:6) as they emerged dripping from the regenerating, resurrecting, waters of baptism.

Only because we thus share by the theosis of filiation in Christ's Divine Sonship dare we, as the Byzantines happily put it, with parrhesia (standing on our two feet and looking him in the eye) call God Pater.

14 April 2018

Episcopal CVs

I just browsed through the CV of the new Bishop of Lancaster.

I don't know anything at all about him, or his views on "the issues of the day". (By the way: I sha'n't enable comments which criticise him.) But ...

He grew up in that diocese, as his father had; he went to Lancaster Royal Grammar School, a medieval foundation; then to the Provincial Seminary at Ushaw (R.I.P.); spent his lifetime in the diocesan priesthood (except for a spell "in the Missions"); is a Canon of the Cathedral rather than "Monsignor".

I find it quite simply and unambiguously lovely that a diocesan bishop should be a real Man of his Diocese, a son of the place and of people whom he serves, rather than being what the Irish would call a 'Blow In' from some fancy Roman University or an auxiliary Metropolitan bishopric. He is rooted in the soil! In premodern days, both clergy and laity had a much deeper sense than I think most moderns do, of where they came from, who they were. And they took pride in it. (I would not want to be anything other than an Essex Man, a Colchester Boy! All the Essex Man jokes find their Incarnation in me!)

Autochthony must be a good start for his Lordship! God bless him, and the priests, deacons, and laics of his great diocese!!