22 March 2018

Mgr Vigano

Dario Vigano deserves our respect for his principled resignation. Continued criticism of him or his actions would be quite improper.

Have you read the exchange of letters between him and PF? As I did, our English word 'cronyism' fluttered though my mind.

I wonder what 'cronyism' would be in other modern European languages.


"You have to understand the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him. He's more than your boss. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold ... He controls every aspect of your life."

So the Times obituary of Cardinal O'Brian quotes an anonymous priest as saying.

I don't quite understand this, since Canon Law seems to me adequately to provide for excardination. But, of course, systems don't always work the way they are described on paper. So perhaps, in the context of sexual scandals such as that of Cardinal O'Brian, the question does need to be asked: Does the Incardination system give bishops excessive power? The Church of England does very well without anything remotely like it. And, indeed, the infantilising culture of Incardination is wholly inimical to every instinct of our Anglican Patrimony. The great Catholic Revival in the Church of England could never have happened without the freedom of the 'inferior clergy' from overbearing (and often heterodox) episcopal authority; a freedom happily buttressed by "Parsons' freehold". The only real sanction a bishop had was a rather petulant threat to put your parish "under a ban", which simply meant that you had to get "colonial prelates from far-off mission stations" to do your Confirmations.

Every other structure in the modern Latin Church is scrutinised and comes under suspicion of being the root of today's problems  ... Celibacy, for example, is repeatedly under fire ... but the dangers apparently inherent in Incardination seem rarely to be flagged up.

The implication in the obituary is that Incardination enabled O'Brian, a sexual predator, to get away with abusing his clergy. Furthermore, we have previously heard it said that the bishops used to be unwilling to 'shop' their own sexually dodgy clergy to the plods because of this close relationship ... it would feel like sending a 'son' to prison. Looking at Incardination from each of these two opposing angles, I, as an outsider to this particular piece of Catholic clerical culture (I am retired, my wife and I live in our own house, off our own pensions), do find myself, well, puzzled.

Sometimes, it seems to be suggested that every malady in the life of the Latin Church would be healed by shovelling more power into the laps of those who have been grabbing more and more of it since the 1960s and who, arguably, already have far too much of it. I do rather worry that, after the death of the Pope emeritus, presbyters might start to find that increasing episcopal interventions become a massive problem in the field of Liturgy, depending on the personal whimsies of their bishop or the ability of a strong personality to sway an episcopal conference. Cardinal Nichols' document apparently in reaction to the plea by Cardinal Sarah for worship ad Orientem struck me as potentially very worrying, not least because I heard a rumour that it had circulated outside his own diocese and, indeed, yet more remarkably, even outside his own metropolitan province!!! We need Cardinal Mueller's wise reminders that the Chairpersons of Episcopal Conferences are "not vice-popes". "Nothing more than technical moderators" and "Coordinators, nothing more", as his Eminence has said a number of times.

Subsidiarity seems nowadays to be a much-honoured principle which falters or fails or runs away and hides in a mouse-hole before it gets down quite as low as the level of the presbyter or the parish.

Nothing in this piece should be glossed as anything but a question!

21 March 2018

Openness. (1)

It is a natural human instinct to wish to keep tabs on those who exercise authority. Ultimately, we want them to be accountable for what they decide and order. And when authority is exercised in and through a committee, we naturally want to know who said what; how many persons voted for a particular outcome; how a consensus was reached.

Perhaps Minutes should reveal such mysteries?

Minutes, however, are a problem. Because they put a great deal of power into the hands of those who write the minutes ... or, more likely, of the Person in whom it lies to say "Perhaps you might let me have a quick look at your draft of the minutes before you finalise them and send them round ...".

So, perhaps, a meeting should be open to the Media and the Public, like the American Episcopal Conference, whose activities can be recorded by journalists and published, in the same sort of way as the British Parliamentary Hansard.

But, human nature being what it is, if a meeting is all open and above board, before you can down a G and T, there will be another, unofficial, private, ad hoc group which, unaccountably, fixes what will happen at the open meeting. If that group is then formalised, the next stage is for it to be added to 'so as make it more representative'; and you reach the stage at which authority decides that another much smaller, unofficial, private, ad hoc group would be useful in order to ...

You get the point. Administrators crave the existence of informal groups behind closed doors which will do the real fixing before the 'formal' fora do their public and minuted business.

There is no answer to this problem. Anybody who thinks there is, is living in a fool's paradise, and has certainly never worked in anything like an English Public School.

But there are ways of attenuating the disadvantages of such inevitable recessions of decision-making.

Episcopal Conferences should follow the praxis of the Americans, and be open.

I became convinced of this two or three years ago, when the CBCEW called upon the Ecclesia Dei Commission to 'reconsider' the text of the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews in the Extraordinary Form, as it had been personally rewritten by Benedict XVI only a decade previously. Since this announcement seemed to me, and still seems, thoroughly outrageous, disgraceful, and improper, for a large number of reasons which I need not now repeat, it convinced me that data should be available about who moved the motion, who said what, how many favoured it, how many opposed, and how many abstained because they had not the faintest idea of what it was really all about.

It is possible that an even more important topic may, over the next months, come before some Episcopal Conferences. The still-simmering Amoris laetitia problem ... call it Adulterygate, or what you will.

I believe the Holy People of God deserve to be allowed to know who and how many bishops favoured what; and, moreover, to read any papers, memoranda, letters, which circulated in a Conference before its meeting. And if a repeatedly amended resolution eventually emerges as a consensus, the process of such evolution should not be opaque.

OK, there will still be secret cabals in (as the English used to say) smoke-filled rooms. We shall not see everything. Would-be fixers will still feverishly perform their private would-be fixing. But there will be data indicating where, even if at only one particular point in the process, each participant was prepared to take personal responsibility, before God and before God's people.

In his great explanation of where a Christian should look to find the Truth, S Irenaeus made great play of the public teaching of each bishop. Publicity offered an objective check that a bishop was not ... horror of horrors ... innovating upon what his predecessors in his See had taught since the Apostolic depositum fidei.

20 March 2018

82, and counting ...

I think PF will soon be 82 years old. Since more and more voices world-wide seem to be talking about the possibility of this pontificate coming to a conclusion, I have been looking through the age-at-death of recent Roman Pontiffs. According to the rough notes I have made on the back of an old envelope next to my computer, the following ages, since Pius XI inclusively, seem at least roughly right [I excluded Pope John Paul I, the one-month pontiff]:
Pius XI, 82; Pius XII, 82; John XXIII, 82; Paul VI, 82; John Paul II, 85. [Benedict XVI was elected at the age of 78 and five years later is still 'making his pilgrimage home'.]

It would be interesting to know how long popes from before this period lived. A priori, it might be expected to be less long, because they had less advantage from modern medical advances. But I don't have enough backs-of-envelopes ...

I do not intend to suggest that an actuary would consider PF's death to be imminent ... although his own words after election, that he expected his pontificate to be only four or five years long, might suggest that he had himself used the backs of his own envelopes! No; my object is totally different.

(1) Conclaves seem very willing to elect quite old prelates to be pope. Curious, when the retirement age for bishops is 75; and, curiouser, one might have thought that bishops had less work and less strain than popes ... but, well, there you go.
(2) We seem to be in the middle of increases in the numbers of the elderly suffering from senile dementia. A quick foray into the Internet suggested to the back of my very humble envelope that perhaps one in six of those beyond the age of 80 has dementia. That really is quite a lot.

So it looks as if we have been distinctly fortunate in the excellent mental health of those elected pope from 1922 right down to the present. Long may our good luck hold!

But can we afford to be complacent? Given statistics like these, and if Conclaves keep electing old men, sooner or later we are going to have a pope with dementia.

If a bishop starts to have worrying symptoms, the Nuncio ... his Metropolitan ... the Congregation for Bishops ... the Pope himself ... all have the opportunity to intervene. But what if the Pope himself ...

Is there canonical provision for such a situation? If not, I think there should be. And, as Fr Aidan Nichols has hinted, there might also be provisions for the situation where the man who was the previous pope promoted heresy; so why not for a pope who, prima facie, is spreading heresy?.

In fact, it seems to me that there should be a whole new section in the CIC called de Romano Pontifice semovendo. The Times recently quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr as remarking that a constitution should be framed with "the bad man" in mind, because a state or an institution needs structures enabling it not merely to potter comfortably along in normal times, but also to survive a despot, or a sociopath, or a dunce ...

The Church Militant needs to take such advice on board. Her survival is indeed divinely guaranteed, but the whole economy of Faith rests on the assumption of a God who works with and through human synergy.

19 March 2018

The Five Kilo Chasuble

"We'll put out the five kilo chasuble" said Reverend Mother through the grille. "It dates from when our House was opened in Antwerp in 1619. But we'll also put out a lighter chasuble in case it's too much for you."

Of course, I wore the five kilo chasuble, its embroidery a heavy riot of baroque cornucopiae. How could one resist such a challenge? After Mass, as I left the Chapel, and looked at the gravestones surrounding the first millenium crucifix outside the door, this inscription caught my eye: Beneath is interred the Rev Louis Dourlen Chaplain of Lanherne formerly priest of the Diocese of St Omers and Canon of Arras Cathedral 1839. Aged 85.

It suddenly dawned upon me that M le Chanoine would very probably have worn that five kilo chasuble; that he must have been a gentleman clergyman who had left France during its Revolutionary troubles. I later discovered (George Oliver, Collections, page 287) that Dourlen joined, for a while, the considerable community (unmentioned by Jane Austen) of French emigres in Bath. There, "he was much respected and esteemed for his integrity and polished manners"; he was gout-ridden but never wore spectacles! I suppose he was in his thirties when Arras Cathedral was declared the Temple of Reason and, presumably, he lost the stipends of his canonry; he had lived through the days when the ambiguities of the Oath, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and of the Concordat tried the consciences of the Clerus Gallicanus; the despoiling of the Church in the Hiberian and Italian peninsulars; the period in 1799 when "the last pope" died, a prisoner of the triumphant and invincible French revolutionary regime ... the pope at whose death the long history of the Catholic Church came, manifestly, unmistakably, definitively, to its end: and the gates of Hell prevailed.

Dourlen became chaplain to the Carmelites of Lanherne, an exiled English women's community which in the summer of 1794, nineteen days before the Blessed Carmelite Sisters of Compiegne were to be butchered on the guillotine, had set sail from the Continent to England to escape the murderous armies of the Enlightenment.

After a very short hiatus, the Carmelite charism, and its ancient Liturgy, again flourish at Lanherne. Come to think of it, next year, 2019, will be the 400th Anniversary of the Foundation at Antwerp and of the Five Kilo Chasuble.

As people say, the rumours of the Catholic Church's demise were much exaggerated. So Pius VI did, after all, have a successor, and Bonaparte was, happily, vincible. There are no historical inevitables except her indefectibility.

Ambiguities; ruptures; continuities. The Church Militant always has, in her institutions, even in the Papacy, a tension between continuita interiore and appearances of discontinuity.

Does her life really change much?

18 March 2018

Like getting blood out of a stone

Who would have thought that there would be yet another complete paragraph in that letter of Pope emeritus Benedict which Mgr Vigano tried to conceal. A paragraph revealing that Ratzinger, happily, has not become mentally soft and helpless in old age; that he doesn't quite see why he should be kicked around by sniggering enemies, even though he is no longer pope. [Settimo Cielo blog]

He is astonished that he was expected to provide a polite puff for (among others) a theologian who was a noisy and persistent anti-papal nuisance during the last two pontificates.

As well he might be.

I know little about other countries and their political and cultural standards and how they operate. I do know that my own country is far from perfect and that its public life is frequently degraded by people who will get away with whatever they can until they are found out. Sexually, financially ... you name it. But ...

But in my country, an episode like this would, beyond any possibility of doubt, have ended up with a resignation or sacking in a context of public disgrace. Will any of my fellow-countrymen contradict me in my assertion?

Perhaps that will indeed be how this episode will end up. We shall see.

If this man Vigano were to be kept in office, it would be the final detail in the unfolding public demonstration of the moral corruption right at the heart of this failed pontificate. In politics, it is often not the big issues that bring a crisis to its head, but something that starts off by being insignificant to the point of pettiness. During this Bergoglian era, the two major disasters have been the shiftiness, accompanied by unbecoming bluster, in the area of paedophilia and coverups and cronyism; and attempts to get away with perverting the Church's moral teaching by stealth. Those things matter infinitely more than the current silly and minor episode.

But 'Lettergate' provides such a vivid snapshot of dirty little men involved in dirty little plots for thoroughly dirty purposes. Even anti-Ratzinger veterans among the Commentariat like Robert Mickens are saying that Vigano should resign or be sacked.

If PF cannot be made to understand the need to clean out his own Augean Stables, surely he should be made to go. Not next week, but this week.

17 March 2018

Heureka! Heureka!

The other day I saw (I think it might have been on the Blog of my friend Fr Ray) a picture of someone called Vigano, who now runs all the Vatican 'Meejah'. He has recently been involved in the diverting business of the Fuzzified and Obscured letter signed by the Pope Emeritus.

He is shown wearing a pale blue or light grey clerical shirt.

All is explained!

That was the uniform, a generation or so ago, of liberal Anglican Evangelicals, or Methodist ministers, but ... especially ... of members of the "Modern Churchman's Union". This aging and slightly foxed Anglican organisation still exists under the newer title of "Modern Church". (Presumably they thought that the cretic sounded more crisp and virile and thrusting than a soporific succession of trochees.)

Think Dean Inge, 'the gloomy Dean'! Think Bishop Barnes of Birmingham! Think the entire great grim pantheon of 'modern' theologians of the first decades of the last century ... so beautifully satirised by the wicked Anglo-Catholic pen of Ronald Arbuthnott Knox ... "what matter, whether two and two be four,/ So long as none account them to be more/ What difference, whether black be black or white,/ If no officious Hand turn on the light ... ". And by Waugh in his ill-fated clergyman Mr Prendergast, who "has been reading a series of articles by a popular bishop and has discovered that there is a species of person* called a 'Modern Churchman' who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief".

You see what must clearly have happened! 'Modern Church' has opened up a Vatican branch and infiltrated the Monsignoriat! You want proof? Look them up in Wikipaedia. The first and fontal dogma there attributed to 'Modern Church' is ... lo and behold ... the prime distinctive dogma of Bergoglianism: 

                                   "DIVINE REVELATION HAS NOT COME TO AN END"!!! 

*I wonder if one should emend this to 'parson'? Etymologically, of course, the two words  ...

16 March 2018

What happens to S Patrick tomorrow, Saturday?

How ... if at all ... should those who follow the Old Rite liturgically celebrate S Patrick?

The LMS ORDO, the obvious guide for those who use the 1962 Missal or Breviary, envisages S Patrick having only a Commemoration at Lauds and Low Masses today (I am talking about England, Wales, and Scotland).

I think it is clear that this is wrong ... at least, for those who in celebrating the Old Rite accept the evolutions in local calendars which occurred under Roman direction up to the imposition of the Pauline Rite and the de facto disappearance of the old calendars.

In the 1940s, the English, Welsh, and Scottish dioceses had differed greatly, some hardly noticing S Patrick, while a dozen or so classed him as a Greater Double just like S Gregory on the 12th. In the changes which came in with the 1960s, one would expect the 'Grd' to convert into a '2 Class'. And I have a 1969 ORDO, from the very eve of the disappearance of the old Calendars, in which S Patrick is a '2 cl' in the whole of Great Britain (1cl in Ireland, Commemoration "outside the British Isles").

I floated this question three years ago, and the erudite Rubricarius ... how could he fail to ... provided the answer. You will find it in his comment attached to this post. I remain grateful to him for this elucidation; and for a very great deal of liturgical information over the years.

The conclusion, which is I think beyond doubt, is that S Patrick should be observed as a Class II feast in England, Wales, and Scotland. Vespers, according to the 1962 conventions, will this year 2018 be of the Sunday following without any commemoration.
(In the older 1940s Calendars, there seems no rhyme or reason about which British dioceses noticed S Patrick: Liverpool, for example, despite its Irish diaspora, failed to do so! Incidentally, "All dioceses in Scotland" used a rather attractive Mass Egredere [cf Genesis 12:1-2]. And, before the 1950s, the Gospel of the Lenten Feria did duty as the Last Gospel. What a very edifying custom that was.)

15 March 2018


During the period when Fr Hope Paten was restoring the Shrine, Pilgrimage, and Devotion to our Lady of Walsingham, the necessary Pontifical services, from the Consecration of Churches to the Baptism of Bells, were carried out by Bishop O'Rorke, Bishop of Accra from 1913 to 1923 and subsequently Incumbent of the nearby parish of Blakeney in the Norfolk marshes. He died in 1953.

15 March is his Year's Mind.

Deus, qui inter apostolicos Sacerdotes famulum tuum Moubreium Stephanum pontificali fecisti dignitate vigere: praesta quaesumus; ut eorum quoque perpetuo aggregetur consortio. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Don't miss ...

... the story all over the internet about how PF's spin-doctors gave the waiting world a deliberately mutilated and falsified letter of Benedict XVI. Just don't miss it!

This episode provides a hilarious, immensely funny insight into the minds of the dodgy operators who surround PF, and how far they are prepared to go to manufacture their Fake News. You couldn't .... as we say .... make it up! It epitomises the superbly corrupt and deliciously sleazy atmosphere of the Renaissance Court which sprawls at the luxurious top of the Santa Marta.

Happily, the full text did emerge. GOTCHA! And it provides agreeable evidence that Ratzinger's old, deft, feline wit has not deserted the dear old man. Briefly summarised by me, his Letter says (and I've put into square brackets the section the spin-doctors didn't want you to see):

"Thank you for inviting me to write a page about the little books you sent me. I think they are splendid little books about my splendid successor. [Sadly, however, I haven't read them and I don't intend to do so. And I never comment on books I haven't read, so I won't be sending you a page.]"

This pontificate simply gets better and better! Keep engaged and make sure you never miss a laugh!

14 March 2018

Ringwood and the Enlightenment

Yesterday, it being my Birthday, we went for a spring stroll in the most fantastic eighteenth century garden in England ... promisingly distinguished at its entrance by a blessed Notice forbidding Dogs (and push-chairs and children).

I have occasionally infuriated dog-lovers by referring to the species canis lupus familiaris as
     Man's oldest and filthiest friend.
Canine coprolites have been found, have indeed been lovingly and scientifically excavated, at Bronze Age sites such as Amesbury.

Perhaps Dr Linnaeus should have named these animals canis lupus cacatorius.

Warden Sparrow, late of All Souls' College in this University, famously and O-so-accurately spoke of the Dog as
     That indefatigable and unsavoury engine of pollution.

When out walking in unfamiliar countryside, one always knows when one has got within an easy radius of a carpark because of the care one is obliged to exercise. Dogs, obedient ubiquitously to the Bergoglian injunction hagan lio, have been active. However, is it fair to condemn dogs? Certainly not. Dog-owners, yes. I know a slipway in Cornwall where fish is brought in; the National Trust, who own it, were driven a few years ago to ban dogs from the slipway and to provide for the dogs and their walkers a simple pleasant alternative footpath away from the fishy area. And I know beaches galore with clear notices banning dogs between March and September. Quite possibly, dogs can't read. Can the Dogwalking Tendency read? What would be your guess? Exactly. But they and their animals are, of course, individually, each and every one, lofty and aetherial exceptions to any terrestrial regulations which bind merely common humanity and its all-too-terrestrial common caninity.

But stay: all my speciesist prejudices were in abeyance yesterday. You see, we must not forget Ringwood, the last echoes of whose deep full voice can still by the very sensitive ear be heard, baying Et in Arcadia ego in the Kentissimi horti at Rousham in Oxfordshire. His "Master and Friend", Sir Clement Cottrell-Dormer, had this "otterhound of extraordinary sagacity" buried in the Vale of Venus (a possibly dubious expression) right in front of the very statue of the Goddess herself reflected in the waters of her pool, nuda sed pudica* even if dangerously overlooked by Faunus and Pan, only feet from the river Cherwell where Ringwood worked such righteous havoc upon the otter population. There, since those last enchanted years of the reign of His Most Eminent Majesty King Henry IX, this doggy wraith has surely mingled at dusk in the dances of the  dryads and naiads. Is Ringwood Canine Nature's Solitary Boast?

Today, as we walked along his banks, we inferred that the great God Cherwell (sometimes mispronounced by common folk so that his first syllable rhymes with the chur of church) must be enraged, since intumuit ... pariterque animis immanis et undis** ... etc..

Ever an Enlightenment Rationalist, I blamed Monday's rain.

*naked but modest ** he is swollen mightily both in rage and in waters ...

13 March 2018


The rites of Canonisation have tended  ... this will not surprise you ... to vary in the last seventy years. The most recent changes before this (PF) pontificate, which took place under Benedict XVI, seemed designed to impose on the rites a theological meaning which they previously had not so explicitly expressed. As Pope Benedict left the rite, before the singing of Veni Creator Spiritus the Pontiff asked for prayer that Christ the Lord would not permit His Church to err in so great a matter. And, in the Third Petition the Cardinal Prefect for the Causes of Saints informed the Pontiff that the Holy Spirit "in every time renders the supreme Magisterium immune from error (omni tempore supremum Magisterium erroris expertem reddit)".

These phrases, added by Pope Benedict, were in formulae cut out by PF when he canonised a number of beati in 2014; and subsequently.

It looks to me as though Pope Benedict's additions were intended to confirm the view that acts of canonisation are infallible and require acceptance de fide. I wish now to point out that, if the formulae introduced by Benedict XVI did affect this debated theological question, then, surely, so does the action of this Pontificate in removing them. In the gradual accumulation of evidences and precedents which gradually build up an established judgement of the Magisterium, surely phrases which were introduced into rites by one Pontiff and, very soon afterwards, removed by the next, have less auctoritas than established and immemorial formulae which have been used by successive pontiffs for centuries.

Canonisation raises questions which, for centuries, interested specialist students of Canon Law. They interested Pope Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini. However, they have in the past not been things which concerned non-specialists. Ordinary Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, and laity naturally and very properly just accepted the judgements made by the Sovereign Pontiff in this as in so many other matters. But the situation is not the same now. There has been, in some quarters, an uneasy suspicion for some time that canonisations have turned into a way of setting a seal upon the 'policies' of some popes. If these 'policies' are themselves a matter of divisive discussion and debate, then the promotion of the idea that canonisations are infallible becomes itself an additional element in the conflict. Canonisation, you will remind me, does not, theologically, imply approval of everything a Saint has done or said. Not formally, indeed. But the suspicion among some is that, de facto and humanly, such can seem to be its aim. This is confirmed by a prevailing assumption on all sides that the canonisations of the 'Conciliar Popes' does bear some sort of meaning or message.

Personally, I feel more confident in my earlier conclusion, that to dispute the judgement made in and by an act of canonisation would not actually be a sin against fides. In other words, I feel happier with the theological implications of PF's' actions than I did with the implications of what Pope Benedict did. In practical terms, I feel that PF's excisions from the rite ought to make the canonisation of B Paul VI just that little bit less of a problem for particularly tender consciences, because the act of canonisation does not now come before us weighed down with quite that same degree of Authority with which Pope Benedict had wished it to be endowed. And I would regard the observations I made in the previous part of this series, about schismatic canonisations subsequently adopted within the Catholic Church, as also pointing in the direction of canonisations (at least pro eo) not necessarily being de fide.

12 March 2018

What a Sunday!! UPDATE

Yesterday, Pam and I went into London to share in the Baptism of the second son of dear friends from our S Thomas's days. The first time I have done the Ordinariate Baptism Rite.

The Assumption and S Gregory, Warwick Street, must be one of our most interesting and beautiful Catholic Churches in England; the Ordinariate was very lucky to be given the use of it, in accordance with the directions of Benedict XVI's Anglicanorum coetibus, by the gracious decision of the Diocese of Westminster. Many readers will know that it was at first the Portuguese Embassy Chapel, then the Bavarian. (During the years of persecution, the only Catholic churches open for worship were the Embassy Chapels of the Catholic powers.) Directly above the font where I baptised a very suave and properly-conducted young man, hung the flag of the Head of the House of Wittelsbach. Not long ago I was there to preach to the Knights of Malta. 'Warwick Street' is undoubtedly a connoisseurs' Church!

The Church was decently full. But there was room for more. I can't understand why it isn't absolutely packed out to the rafters ... chokka ... a historic Church (it has the immense distinction of having been sacked during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots) with Alpha Traditional Liturgy. Pontifical Sung Mass on many Sundays; a reputation for good-quality preaching; a fine professional choir; highly competent servers; the Ordinariate Rite, which readers will know as an elegant combination of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Tudor English versus Orientem with orthodox features from the Prayer Book tradition of the Church of England. And in the historic heart of London's vibrant West End, just a step from Piccadilly Circus and Theatreland and Chinatown.

Like other Catholic churches built in the days of persecution, it has some of the features of a Georgian Methodist Chapel: an unobtrusive facade and internal galleries. Above the door to the Sacristy is a fine marble bas-relief of the Assumption by J E Carew (a very popular Irish neo-classical sculptor ... his main patron was the Earl of Egremont, who employed him and Turner and 'Capability' Brown at Petworth). This Assumption was originally above the High Altar until Bentley removed it to make way for a bigger sanctuary in the style of Westminster Cathedral (which he had just built).

In other words, the best of pretty well everything!

Especially yesterday's civilised and amiable baptismal neophyte, his brother and his parents and grandparents and families and godparents (and their young families!).

What's not to like?

I was made very welcome by Mgr Newton and Gill, and by the invariably cheerful pp Fr Mark Elliott Smith. Real warmth! And I remet Fr Anthony Edwards after a lapse of decades: a dear Staggers friend and a fine Oz wit, who lent us his Dolphin Square flat for part of our honeymoon, all of 51 years ago. Not many of the English Catholic clergy can boast of being incardinated into the diocese of Lugano!

A warning: UNTIL EASTER, not all the weekday Masses are in the Ordinariate Rite. AFTER EASTER, nearly all of them will be Ordinariate, except for a Vigil Mass which will be in the Novus Ordo, and a couple of Masses in the Extraordinary Form: Wednesday 7 p.m.; Saturday 12..

11 March 2018


As if he has not yet created enough divisions within the Church Militant, PF intends this year to perform the highly divisive act of canonising Blessed Paul VI. Even he, judging from what he said in giving this information to the Clergy of the City, can see that this canonisation business has become a silly giggle: "And Benedict and I are on the waiting list", he quipped. Delightfully humorous. A very witty joke.

I share the views of many, however, that the joke is a bad one, in as far as this projected canonisation is fundamentally a political action to be linked with the apparent conviction of PF that he himself is the champion and beneficiary of B Paul's work at Vatican II and afterwards. I do not accept that he is. But, today, I do not intend to enable comments which discuss these questions of the prudential order (or comments which simply rant).

Instead, I have some queries which are genuinely questions with regard to important theological matters antecedent to any imminent canonisations.

My mind really is not made up regarding the Infallibility of an act whereby the Roman Pontiff 'canonises'; and the probably but certainly related question of whether a de fide assent is required.  I assume that everybody with an interest in this subject knows exactly what the Vatican I text of Pastor aeternus said and did not say about Papal infallibility. I have also found it useful to have read parts of Benedict XIV's De Beatificatione et Canonizatione, and Liber 1 Caput LXV really is required reading; it can be found by googling Benedicti papae XIV Doctrina de Servorum Dei beatificatione et ..., and then scrolling down to pages 55-56 (42-43 in the printed book which Google copied). It was written before the election of the erudite and admirable Prospero Lambertini to the See of Rome.

Theologians of distinction can be listed who have taught that Canonisation is an infallible act of the Papal Magisterium. But, with regard to those who wrote before 1870, is there not a prior question that has to be asked? The Church had then not defined (i.e. put limits, 'fines', to) the dogma of Papal Infallibility. The terms of Pastor aeternus were (to the chagrin of Manning and the palpable relief of Newman) extremely limited. Therefore, can we be sure that those pre-1870 theologians really were categorising canonisation as infallible in the sense of the word infallible as defined with all the limitations of the 1870 decrees? Or, because of the limits imposed by that definition, might they have used a different term had they needed to develop their arguments within the confines of what Pastor aeternus lays down? Is this why Benedict XIV accepts the possibility of arguing that what a Roman Pontiff decrees may be infallible, but still not be de fide? It is in logic obvious that a proposition may be true, and may be demonstrably true, without it being incumbent upon anybody to accept that truth. But after 1870, I assume, this is changed as far as ex cathedra papal pronouncements are concerned, because the scope and function of the term infallibilis have been changed to imply and include the notion that a proposition is not merely true but is also of faith.

In assessing the arguments of such pre-1870 writers, should we pay attention to the general extent which they assert when talking about the authority of the Roman Pontiff? That is: if a writer is very generous in his estimate of the fields to which papal infallibility extends, he is unlikely to be writing in terms of something like the highly limited 1870 definition. But if an author is very much more sparing and circumspect in associating infallibility with papal interventions, he is more likely to have in mind a concept of infallibility resembling that of Vatican I.

As a consequence of this, when we turn to theologians who wrote later than 1870, and who argued that papal canonisations are infallible, should we not subtract from the arguments with which they sustain their conclusions the mere citation, qua authorities, and without further discussion, of those earlier, pre-1870, theologians? In other words, should not the event of 1870 have the effect of pruning back some previous theologically luxuriant growths?

And there is another question raised by the Definition and Practice of Papal infallibility which the pontificate of B Pius IX bequeathed us. It implies an assumption that the Roman Pontiff is acting with the morally unanimous, collegial, assent of the whole ecclesia docens. I know that, for some traditionalists, Collegiality is a dirty word; but B Pius IX and Pius XII wrote to the bishops of the entire world seeking their counsel before defining the two Marian Dogmas ('Is it definable? Is it opportune to define it?') and ... well ... I'm just an ordinary Catholic ... the praxis of those two pontiffs is good enough for me! But do Popes seek the counsel of all their Venerable Brethren before canonising?

Papal infallibilty is nothing but one modality within the infallibility of the Church. So is it rational to assign infallibility to some canonisations - those personally enacted by the Pope - and not to those enacted by a different authority (the oft-quoted Quodlibet IX:16 of S Thomas is not necessarily limited to papal canonisations.)? We know that popes cannot delegate their infallibility. There are the saints on the calendars of sui iuris churches: such as that of the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch (after all, it is arguable that, as a successor of S Peter, this Patriarch is, after the Bishop of Rome himself, the senior prelate of the Catholic Church) which include some who lived outside visible unity with the See of Rome in recent centuries and were canonised by Byzantine synods ... and whose names are certainly not on any Roman 'list'. Incidentally, my recent mention of S Gregory Palamas in this context was intended to establish some preliminary data to the present discussion.

I believe the Ukrainian Church includes Saints canonised up to the time of the Synod of Brest. And the 'two lungs' rhetoric of JP2 implies that, although the Latin Church is de facto very much larger than the Oriental Churches in Full Communion with Rome, theologically these latter are not just almost-irrelevant, tolerated, anomalies. What would a rounded and complete understanding of Canonisation within the Catholic Church have to say about Melkite and Ukrainian praxis? And what would be the bearing of that upon the question of the Infallibility of Canonisation?

Papal infallibilty resides in the papal munus docendi, the ministry of doctrinally binding the whole Church, not part of it: so is there a distinction between those Saints who are by papal authority to have a compulsory cultus in every local Church, and those whose commemoration is confined to some localties; or is optional in the Universal Church? If the sui iuris Churches not of Latin Rite do not promptly include a Latin Saint, when he/she is canonised, on their Calendars, and the Roman Pontiff tolerates this, does this mean that he is not imposing that cult on the Universal Church and thus is not using his Universal munus docendi?

The actual formula of canonisation is in fact merely an order that X be placed on the List* of Saints of the 'ecclesia universalis'. What exactly ... physically ... is this 'list'? And furthermore, Benedict XIV explicitly says that "writing a name down in the Martyrology does not yet bring about formal or equipollent canonisation" (descriptio in martyrologio nondum importat canonizationem formalem, aut aequipollentem). But even if it did, would this mean that the Martyrologium Romanum, theologically and juridically, applies to sui iuris Churches not of the Roman Rite? If it doesn't, does this mean that 'ecclesia universalis', in the context of papal canonisation, really means 'ecclesia Latina universalis' (because, after all, the Latin Church is pretty world-wide)? And if this be true, what then becomes of the observation of Benedict XIV that an act of 'canonisation' which lacks complete preceptive universality is not in the strict sense canonisation? [Are there other loose ends arising from the fact that Roman documents seem quite often to sound as though they are majestically addressing the whole Church, but, when you get down to it, are really pretty obviously addressing the Latin Church (Sacrosanctum Concilium is an example of that)?]

Finally: S Thomas held that canonisation was medium inter res fidei, et particulares; and Benedict XIV concludes his discussion of this matter by saying that plures magni nominis auctores deny that an act of canonisation is de fide; he gives a fair wind to their arguments; then summarises the arguments of those, inferioris notae doctores, who affirm that it is de fide; concludes by saying Utraque opinio in sua probabilitate relinquenda videtur, donec Sedes Apostolica de hac re judicium proferat. Benedict XIV went on to give his own private opinion as favouring the positive thesis (canonisations are of faith), but added "But before a judgement of the Apostolic See, it does not seem that the mark of heresy should be branded onto the contrary opinion."

In 1998, the motu proprio Ad tuendam fidem of B John Paul II was accompanied by a Commentary written by the CDF and signed by its august Cardinal Prefect. Paragraph 6 of this, combined with paragraphs 8 and 11, appears to lead to the conclusion that canonisations are to be given the same "full and irrevocable assent" as that required by the Creeds and the doctrinal definitions of Ecumenical Councils and of Roman Pontiffs speaking ex cathedra. Have I understood this correctly? But can such a dicasterial 'Commentary' be deemed to be that "judgement of the Apostolic See" which was required by Benedict XIV in order to settle this question?

To be frank with you, I am more impressed by writers who merely call the public rejection of a papal act of canonisation 'temerarious', than I am by those who invoke the I-word. The I-word surely means, from 1870 onwards, that, as a matter of divine Faith, one must accept something in ones heart. Use of temerarious (Suarez; Benedict XIV) means (I take it) that a public rejection is rash and unsafe and that, accordingly, one should refrain from disturbing the peace of the believing community by publicly attacking an authoritative inclusion of a person on the List* of Saints; and, furthermore, that one should preserve an interior awareness of ones own fallibility (after all, someone has to decide whether X goes into ... or does not go into ... the canon, and the decision is certainly way above my pay grade).

Finally: I have a prejudice against potentially causing people problems of conscience by telling them that something is of divine Faith when (even if "just possibly") it might not be. After all, a lex dubia does not bind. And it potentially damages the authority of the Roman Pontiff to be rash in spraying the I-word too liberally around ... a point which poor Manning never grasped.

There is further Magisterial evidence to be considered, which comes from this present pontificate, before I will enable comments. 
*List: canon in Greek; catalogus in Latin (if you see what I mean!)

10 March 2018

Mary Mother of the Church (3): Magnum principium and the Office Hymns

A final aspect of the promulgation of this new memoria, now to be universal in the Novus Ordo, is the provision, as part of the newly authorised liturgical texts, of 'proper' Latin Office Hymns for this particular celebration*. These will be needed for clergy using the Liturgia Horarum.

Readers will remember the widespread popular joy, which led to dancing in the streets and a great bonfire in the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral, when, by a motu proprio called Magnum principium, PF gave to episcopal Conferences the happy duty of preparing vernacular translations of liturgical texts. (That jubilation was scarcely less exuberant than when, last August, PF assured us "with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible".)

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Latin Rite clergy do not need a vernacular Office Book because they say their Office in Latin. They do this out of a very proper obedience, rigorously enforced by the bishops, to the irreversible Decree of the much-respected Second Vatican Super-duper-Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium Para 101: 1 "Iuxta saecularem traditionem ritus latini, in Officio divino lingua latina clericis servanda est, facta tamen Ordinario potestate usum versionis vernaculae ... concedendi, singulis pro casibus, iis clericis quibus usus linguae latinae grave impedimentum est quominus Officium debite persolvant").

But that irreversible Decree, you are about to remind me, did allow bishops, as a special concession in individual cases considered one by one, to permit linguistically challenged priests to say their Office in a vernacular. Quite so. I am indeed both glad and relieved, whenever I go into the bookshop next to Westminster Cathedral (now almost rebuilt after the damage caused by the fire), to see that the needs of this (albeit very tiny) minority of Catholic clergy are still fully provided for by the copious abundance of English-language Office Books on sale. It is good to be sensitive and generous towards that particular cultural periphery, however small and eccentric it may be. My fear had been that the irreversible Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia (1962; in which that good and great pope S John XXIII with certainty and Magisterial authority ordered the wholesale dismissal of all seminary teachers incapable of teaching in Latin) might have impacted the numbers of clerical aspirants with irreversibly weak Latin.

All the world's Episcopal Conferences, therefore, with the fresh new wind of Magnum principium billowing in their joyful sails, will be enthusiastically translating Latin hymnody into their respective crude, modern vernaculars. (Imagine how the mighty Christine must be rotating in her grave.) Just think of them vying with each other as they seek the most euphonious vernacular renderings for the tiniest nuances in the Latin! How the poor things find the time to spend on such civilised literary pursuits when they have been charged by a Higher Authority to be busy in coming to a common mind on Amoris laetitia, I cannot possibly imagine. They are far bigger men (and much more irreversible) than I could ever be.

A warning, however.

Their lordships would not be well advised to try to get away with some cheeky schoolboy trick like offering Marian hymns already composed in vernacular languages instead of real translations of the newly authorised Latin hymns, because the CDW, who still have to approve vernacular translations sent in by the Conferences, would of course instantly spot the dodge and send such drafts back to the Conferences irreversibly marked in angry schoolmaster's red ink "Not good enough. This simply WILL NOT DO". I am sure Cardinal Sarah will be an absolute martinet in enforcing Magnum principium down to the very last Yod, and the newly emancipated episcopates, bursting with and uplifted by grateful loyalty to PF, would themselves wish for nothing less.

(No, I would not be prepared to give them a helping hand. I am quite hopeless at writing English or Cornish verse. At my incredibly advanced age, I am far too old a dog to learn new tricks. Besides, I am confident that I would never be given a nulla osta to do such sensitive work. As my blog demonstrates, I am an irreversibly unsuitable and very loose canon cannon.)

I am now willing to consider Comments on these three posts. They should be composed in a suitably sombre and sober and responsible register.

*Footnote: Two of the three hymns are in fact from the Liturgia Horarum, where Dom Anselmo Lentini's Coetus offered  them as alternatives to the ancient Marian hymns for our Lady on Saturday. They are (very) free translations into Latin of a passage in Dante's Paradiso. B Paul VI liked them: it would be nice to think that this is the reason for their inclusion in the new memoria. The third hymn is medieval, and indexed in the Thesaurus.  I'm not sure how good it is ... but you are allowed to use the Ave Maris Stella instead.

I know what you're thinking: the glorious days have sadly passed when Leo XIII himself (died 1903) spared the time to compose new Office Hymns; also the days when Pius XII could turn to Fr Genovesi (died 1967); indeed, Dom Anselmo himself, no mean liturgical poet, has irreversibly passed from us (in 1989). I wonder when last the Vatican maintained officials styled "Sacrae Rituum Congregationis Hymnographi". I wonder if there was ever a post denominated "Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Archihymnographus". Wow!

9 March 2018

Cardinal Sarah rebuked in last week's Tablet by a Trained Liturgist

Well, I am most certainly not a Trained Liturgist, although my priesthood was formed at the most 'liturgical' of the Church of England's seminaries, Staggers, and after the General Ordination Examination I was given the Liturgy Prize for that year. But I know my limitations; I am only too keenly aware that I have never kept up with the interrelated mutually-validating groups of 'experts' and contributed to their self-referencing and interlocking Journals, Conferences, and what-nots. My mental picture, however, of Trained Liturgists had always been of nice sweet-tempered rosy-faced white-haired old gentlemen dozily clinging to their two-generation-outdated shibboleths and exploded myths and frequently raising in a slightly tremulous hand a glass of whiskey to the memory of Saint Pseudo-Hippolytus; breaking off from the bottle only rarely when called upon for a Tablet article or to give "advice" to a Cardinal Archbishop.

Until, that is, three or four years ago. Then I realised how completely wrong I was and always had been. In an Oxford seminar I found myself listening to a man who, from his long list of degrees and academic appointments and publications, just had to be a Trained Liturgist. And he was not nice at all!! (Nor rosy-faced nor white-haired nor tremulous of hand.) He tried to keep his hearers entertained by a rambling and, it seemed to me, spiteful account of the culture of Private Masses, described as if its practical details rendered it inherently and self-evidently contemptible and risible ("the junior curate had to get up early to say the first Mass ... ho ho ho ... the Rector only got up just before breakfast ... ho ..."). You may well imagine that this rather tried my own very undeveloped sense of humour; but I did derive some amusement from the false quantities in his Latinity. One, in particular ... as small things do ... still sticks in my mind, because it took me some seconds to work out what the poor stumbling fellow was trying to say. The late Latin word nullatenus has its emphasis on the a, because the e is short so that the accent recedes to the antepenultimate (nullAHtenus). But the Trained Chappie pronounced it, with great decision, as if the e were long (NULLaTEYnus). Ha Ha. Pathetic of me? Undoubtedly. Thoroughly petty? Well, give me a break. I needed something to laugh at. You would have needed it too. Alcohol was not immediately on, er, tap.

I think that speaker may have been the very same [?Reverend Father?] Tom O'Loughlin who has given Cardinal Sarah such a very stern telling-off in ... YES!!! The Tablet!!! ... for what his Eminence had the temerity to say about how to receive Holy Communion. Naughty, naughty, Sarah! We know so much better, because we are the Trained Liturgists! Bow, bow, to his Daughter-in-law elect!!

Mired still in the enthusiasms of the post-Conciliar decade, these people have invested a lifetime of effort in the pitiful assumptions of their youthful years. Their own status depends on all that old stuff still being taken seriously by new generations of the gullible. So they just cannot bear to let it all go.

You might have thought that those who most applaud the ruptures accomplished with so much violence in the 1970s would realise that they are the people least well-placed to defend the inviolability of a status quo.

8 March 2018

Mary Mother of the church (2)

Apparently Pope Francis asked for this addition to the Calendar of the Ordinary Form because this Memoria was familiar to him, having been granted by indult to Argentina. In Magisterial terms, it goes back to the Allocution to the Council Fathers which Blessed Pope Paul VI made at the conclusion of the Third Session of Vatican II, when he formally proclaimed Mother of the Church as a title of our Blessed Lady (he did this after Conciliar liberals had shown recalcitrance towards this title*). The new propers now promulgated for this Memoria have, in the Office of Readings, part of Blessed Pope Paul's Allocution. Legem credendi lex statuat orandi. It's now Big Magisterium!

PF apparently likes this particular title of our Lady because he has used it several times since his election. But on 2 June 2013, when this pontificate had hardly started, a clerical columnist in one of our English Catholic Newspapers got in pre-emptively with his criticism and wrote "Pope Paul VI cheated and referred to Mary as Mother of the Church during one of his private documents during the Council" ... an engagingly cheerful and dashing dismissal of an act of Papal Primacy in the midst of an Ecumenical Council! But perhaps we should indeed follow this relaxed lead in our treatment of papal utterances. Is there anything wrong with light-heartedly calling a Pope a cheat? Surely not. This is just the sort of happy, friendly banter we need in a Church which has learned to avoid Rigidity. Lighten up, folks! And why on earth should we not dismiss a papal Allocution to an Ecumenical Council as a "private document"? I'm sure the time will soon come when "private documents" such as Laudato si and Amoris laetitia will have disappeared completely from Catholic consciousness.

Probably Vatican II itself will then be as highly regarded as, say, the Council of Vienne is now. Sub specie aeternitatis ...

Happily, Pope Benedict XVI (unknowingly) provided ways ahead for clergy who, like that columnist, intransigently dislike this title of our Lady or the important place PF has now given it in the Novus Ordo Calendar. On the Monday after Pentecost, blow the dust off your old pre-conciliar Altar Book and just celebrate the Extraordinary Form! Or ... if you have Ordinariate chums who, in the absence of an Ordinariate priest, ask you for an Ordinariate Mass on that day ... Bob's your Uncle!

I will publish the final part of this in a couple of days' time, and only then consider Comments.

*Over at NLM, the admirable Matthew Hazell has given illuminating extracts from the reactions of contemporary conciliar observers. Goodness me, HOW the poor sweet things did fume!

7 March 2018

Mary Mother of the Church (1) (SLIGHTLY AUGMENTED)

This new compulsory memoria is to be observed on the Monday after Whit Sunday. The fact that the Decree establishing it has emerged from the CDW and not from Ecclesia Dei makes clear that it applies to the Ordinary and not at all to the Extraordinary Form. This is confirmed beyond any doubt by the phraseology of the Decree and the details of the Propers issued. Incidentally, the Decree should have provided (as the law does with regard to the - also movable - memoria of the Immaculate Heart) what happens in years when this movable memoria coincides with an immovable  compulsory memoria.

The intelligent thing about this innovation is, of course, that it associates our Lady's Motherhood of the Church with the Day of Pentecost, when she sat in the midst of the Apostles as they received the empowering Spirit. But I hope it will not be misused to draw our blessed Lady into the promotion of Bergoglian ecclesiological errors regarding the alleged role of the Holy Ghost in daily inspiring the Roman Pontiff to espouse or disseminate new doctrine.

More broadly  ...

Whit Monday, Monday in the Octave of Pentecost when we celebrate with Paschal joy the Gift of the Spirit, is one of the great days in the Traditional Christian Year. Indeed, it is only comparatively recently that it ceased to be a Public Holiday in my own Country. According to my diary, May 21 is still in this year 2018 a Public Holiday in Austria, Belgium, Canada ('Victoria Day'), Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, and Holland; and, in Byzantine Rite countries, Cyprus, Greece, and Romania.

Gradually, followers of the Roman Rite have been edging back to a proper observance of the Octave of Pentecost. I regret any initiative which contradicts this tendency. I regretted, a few years ago, the creation of a Feast of Christ the High Priest on the Thursday of Whit Week (happily, this Feast is not universally obligatory). I regret all initiatives which go directly against the hope of Pope Benedict XVI that the two forms of the Roman Rite would gradually (painlessly and organically) converge.

In the Ordinariates, the Days in the (restored) Pentecost Octave rank higher than Obligatory Memorials in the General Calendar, so, most fortunately, the new memoria will be permanently occluded. I very much hope there will be no tinkering with this laudable provision!!

Pentecost Monday is also treated with respect in the Byzantine Rite.

And in the Extraordinary Form we already have two feasts of our Lady's Maternity. I would set no diriment impediment to the festival on October 11 having 'and Mother of the Church' added to its title!

I sha'n't consider Comments until I've published the three parts of this. Tomorrow, I shall offer a little background about B Paul VI and Vatican II; and, on Saturday, some words about problems offered by the Hymns.

6 March 2018

The Precious Blood

I published this on Sunday March 6 2011, Quinquagesima Sunday, our last Sunday in the Church of England at S Thomas the Martyr. I repeat it here out of nostalgia.

Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains, Poured for us the life-blood From his sacred veins.
I really felt unusually affected at Mass this morning. Three hymns: Praise to the Holiest ..., which Pam and I had at our Wedding: suitable also because in 1828 Mr Newman contributed to raising the floor-level of S Thomas's above the flood-level of the Thames - and his scout John Hayworth was a life-long worshipper at S Thomas's. And Sweet Sacrament Divine. And, at the end, Glory be to Jesus (Viva! Viva! Gesu!), a hymn I particularly love. I had it at my Licensing to S Thomas's, unaware as I made the choice that it is painted on the roof-beams of the church ... probably during the incumbency of Fr Roger Wodehouse, who very much loved it (he was also the priest who put in place the baroque High Altar). Lift ye then your voices; Swell the mighty flood: Louder still and louder Praise the precious Blood.

After the Angelus, we polished off, as Canon Law required, a quick Vestry Meeting before the Churchwardens, staves of office in their hands, led us to the Shrine of S Thomas; for the last time we did the devotions traditional here on festivals of S Thomas, this time in thanks to our Patron for his gifts of grace in bringing us to where we now are. These devotions end with the Antiphon ad Magnificat in the Sarum Breviary: Salve, Thoma, virga justitiae, mundi jubar, robur Ecclesiae, plebis amor, cleri deliciae: Salve, gregis tutor egregie; salva tuae gaudentes gloriae. Then, in what I found a most moving gesture, the Churchwardens laid down their staves and left them at the feet of S Thomas. Vale, beate Thoma.

In my view, Churchwardens are a crucial element in the Anglican Patrimony, inherited from a medieval Church in which each of the innumerable guilds had its own Wardens, all under the ultimate control of the "High Wardens". As an indication of lay dignity and of the intricate corporate communal life of a medieval parish, they should be one of our most important contributions to the Wider Church.

Grace and life eternal In that Blood I find; Blest be His compassion, Infinitely kind. Deo gratias.

5 March 2018

Placuit Deo?

The CDF has, interestingly, clarified, what PF has been meaning over these last long five years when he has repeatedly condemned Neo-Pelagians and Gnostics. I am not a dogmatic theologian, but it seems to me that its recent document is full of good stuff. Not least in the opening section, teaching that Salvation is only through Christ in His Church, with its confirmatory reference to the document Dominus Iesus. That was the admirable piece of work which stimulated such over-wrought hysteria when Joseph Ratzinger's CDF issued it in the pontificate of S John Paul II. Do you think the Nasties will be consumed by the same hyperventilating paroxysms of rage today as they were when Cardinal Ratzinger issued Dominus Iesus? No? You don't? You naughty cynics! ... er ... somehow, neither do I ... tempora mutant ... ur ...

I am not sure that I have actually met any of the now-condemned heretics, but perhaps critical readers will respond to that admission by advising me that I should try to get out more and meet more people. When I do meet the neo-heretics, I promise that I will remonstrate angrily with them and report their names to Archbishop Ladaria so that he can reactivate the thumbscrews in his sound-proofed cellars. Apparently, at the News Conference, the Archbishop avoided like a hot whatsit an invitation to name names ... I bet he did ...

Also praiseworthy: Archbishop Ladaria's merry men do not include in their explanation of 'neo-Pelagian' the offensive and hurtful paranoid nonsense we have heard from some quarters, linking this term with 'rigid' faithfulness to Scripture and Tradition.

But ...

Just one weeny detail made me pause in my encomia of delight. "According to [the Neo-Pelagian] way of thinking, salvation depends on the strength of the individual or on purely human structures which are incapable of welcoming the newness of the Spirit of God." [My emphases.]

Fair enough. I'm not complaining. My fleeting nanno-second of anxiety simply arose from an apprehension that what I regard as the fundamental error of Bergoglian ecclesiology might be getting just the tiniest of toes in the door here: the idea, fittingly condemned at Vatican I, that the Holy Spirit so inspires the Roman Pontiff as to reveal to him new teaching.

The Holy Spirit does constantly renew us all by calling strongly to our minds what the Lord has said to us and what, in our Christian initiation, he has worked within us. Since the days of the Apostles, He does not guide either the whole Church or any member or members of it into new teaching, except in as far as the whole body of teaching and living already embodied in Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition is itself, and always has been, and always will be, God's Great New Thing, His Glorious Surprise, His powerful gift of mighty renewal to all at every level in the Church who will open their stubborn hearts to Him.

(I wonder if this new document arises from a desire of PF to ... as it were ... to ... put his doctrinal house in order before ... )

4 March 2018

Episcopal Conferences

The motu proprio Apostolos suos of S John Paul II regulates Episcopal Conferences and rightly restricts their dogmatic role.

This is on the doctrinal ground that the Universal Church, gathered round the Bishop pf Rome; and the local, diocesan Church gathered round the Bishop; are the only ecclesial realities which exist iure divino. As Cardinal Mueller has explained more than once, Conferences exist only at a human and utilitarian level.

Bound up with this matter is the theological controversy between Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper about whether the Universal Church, or the Particular Church, has ontological priority. The papal Magisterium of Benedict XVI made clear that it is the Universal Church that has the ontological priority.

Hitherto, PF has refrained from too overtly dismantling the legacy of his predecessor. He has shown a certain Christian tact, even delicacy. This policy is now manifestly being phased out. Is PF in a hurry? It certainly looks like it.

The recent bulletin from the Vatican Press office, summarising the deliberations of the Council of Cardinals, speaks about an intention to "reread" Apostolos suos.

"REREAD"! One thinks of the controlled abuse of language described in George Orwell's 1984, and exemplified in totalitarian societies. The fact that we can turn to an honest Trotskyite reacting against Stalinism for an analysis of how language is now manipulated within the Catholic Church just about, as the phrase has it, says it all. 

And the purpose of the current careful demolition of the edifice bequeathed by the last two popes, men of intelligence and distinction, looks to me very much like a desire to transform the Catholic Church into a skilfully crafted copy of the Anglican Communion.

Some of us have been there and seen that. We can tell you all about it. It is a very unwholesome place to be. In Blessed John Henry Newman's words, "The vivifying principle of Truth, the shadow of St Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, left it". No wonder Cardinal Burke, at Buckfast last year, spoke so powerfully about Apostasy.

References: I quoted Mueller at length in my piece of 7 December 2017. On 1 December 2017 I dealt with a very dangerous address by Cardinal Parolin. I suspect that the rationale he offered for Episcopal Conferences having a doctrinal status was a first draft of what will be inflicted upon us in the name of PF. Parolin is not, I feel, a man to be trusted with the Catholic Faith.

3 March 2018


Last Wednesday, I wished a joyous, even riotous, Purim to Hebrew readers. "Open another bottle!", I cried.

The Extraordinary Form Reading at Mass that morning was the Prayer of Mordecai from the Book of Esther ... who is the great theme of Purim; for Christians, of course, Lent is a penitential season, so Alcohol and festivity are not encouraged. (Similarly, the old Roman agricultural festivals became the penitential Christian Ember Days.)

For Synagogue Jews, Purim is a triumphalistic day. Whom better to burn in effigy than Haman! For us, the Lenten liturgical texts offer us the sobering thought that the afflictions to which we are subject are justly deserved; so we fast and we beg for mercy.

For Christian writers, Esther is the Type of which Mary the Mother of God, who stands before the  King as the Mediatrix begging for Mercy, is the the Antitype. On Wednesday, the old Papal statio was at Sancta Caecilia trans Tiberim; on Thursday, this year the second day of Purim, the statio for the Papal Mass would once have been in Sancta Maria trans Tiberim. And the Roman Ghetto was, of course, in the Trastevere ... only a couple of years ago, another Jewish cemetery was excavated there.

May the potent Daughter of Sion pray for the coming of the Day when all Israel shall be brought in. Joys, then, indeed!!

UPDATE: I can't get these liturgical coincidences out of my head! Perhaps they aren't coincidences. Looking back over the last few years, I think that
2017: Purim was on the Saturday and the Sunday which is Lent II.
2014: ditto
2013: ditto
2011: ditto
2010: ditto
2018: Purim was on the Wednesday and Thursday after Lent II.
2015: ditto
2012: ditto
2016: Purim was on the Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week.

Something is going on here! And in my ignorance ...
Do leap years come into the question?
Does the dissonance between the Gregorian and Julian Calendars get its oar in?
Surely, somebody has noticed all this and explained it ... before me? Does anybody have a reference?

As a working hypothesis, I assume that it was Gregory II (715-731), who introduced the Thursday Roman Stations, who arranged to go to the Trastevere on the Thursday; but the Trastevere visit on the Wednesday must have been fixed earlier. Those possessing a Breviarium Romanum could look at the comments made in his homily by S Gregory I the Great, on the Gospel of the Thursday after Lent II.

[Lent II, of course, was a dominica vacat when the Pontiff would have been ordaining in S Peter's at the Saturday/Sunday Vigil Mass.}


2 March 2018

The Liturgy of the Hours, friday week 2; eviscerated!

Liturgia Horarum, Friday in Week II: Ad Horam mediam. Psalm 58(vg) = 59(MT) is traditionally regarded as referring to David, when Saul had his house watched so that he could kill him.

This psalm is printed with (Neovulgate) verses 6-9 and 12-16 (= RSV 5-8 and 11-15) removed.

That deceived and mis-guided pontiff Paul VI, or whoever wrote the words he signed, explains why: "A few harsher verses are missed out, taking account especially of the difficulties which would be going to arise when the Office was done in the vernacular". The relevant coetus itself is rather shame-faced (and not a little naive) about this. "This omission is done because of a certain psychological difficulty, even though imprecatory psalms themselves occur in the piety of the New Testament, e.g. Revelation 6:10, and do not intend in any way to induce people to cursing." And "In general both the Fathers and the Liturgy fittingly hear, in the psalms, Christ crying to the Father, or the Father speaking with the Son, and even recognise the voice of the Church, the Apostles or Martyrs".

So, as the LH tells us, quoting words of Eusebius of Caesarea referring to this psalm, "these words should teach everybody the devotion of the Saviour towards his Father". Exactly. The Lord was surrounded by the temptations of Satan himself; he was beseiged by the Powers of Evil. The Church, and the Christian, also find that their warfare is against the Powerrs of Evil in High Places. It is in this sense that we beg the Father that we may be delivered from those who come back each evening, howling like dogs, the half-wild dogs which infest most Eastern cities and which especially prowl round the town-ditch in search of carrion (I plagiarise John Mason 'Ordinariate Patrimony' Neale). Ss Augustine, Hilary, and Gregory of Nyssa regard the story of David, for whom his enemies lay in wait by night, as a Type of the story of what befel the Son of David, in that Night in which he was betrayed.

The reason why it is so questionabe to expurgate a psalm in the way that LH does is: expurgation still leaves words like "There is no crime or sin in me, O Lord", and leaves them decontextualised . If such things are said simplistically, they can only foster a very dangerous sense of of complacency and self-righteousness. We are only entitled to say such words in persona Christi, or en Christoi, or as speaking with the voice of the Church which in her essential nature is without spot or wrinkle. How can we say them as if they were true of the imperfect lives of each one of us?

I am not one who believes that every psalm needs to be read in the Divine Office. History gives imperfect support for such an integralist approach to the Book of Psalms and their use in Christian worship. I am concerned with dangerous imbalances which can result from the use of psalms over which someone has been allowed to roam with a care-free pair of scissors. (I also rather dislike the implication that the 'problems' of such psalms are only apparent when they are said in the vernacular. There is every reason to feel disquiet about the cheerful assumption that nobody notices what they are saying when they use Latin. Is Latin, or is it not, supposed to be still the clerical vernacular of Western clergy?)

Lastly, I draw your attention to the root of the problem: the loss in the Western Church of the Typological Method which was the heart of scriptural exegesis in both the Patristic and Medieval periods and in both East and West. When people discuss the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, dicussion often seems nowadays to be mired in reductionist considerations about "What is the bare minimum we are required to believe about Biblical inerrancy?" rather than about the hermeneutical, exegetical and eisegetical modalities by which we are all to embrace and be fed by the whole of Scripture ... every sentence, every word of it. Of course vast swathes of Scripture provide enormous difficulties ... are in fact not so much unusable as potentially positively poisonous ... IF we do not trace out the richly complex patterns of intertextuality which formed the basis of their apprehension by Christians before the dark shadow of the 'Enlightenment' fell upon the study of Scripture. The Bible is, indeed, highly dangerous if we do not use it in the Tradition. Reducing Scriptural semiotics to the naked Historicism of the 'Enlightenment' is to hand the Bible over to the Devil. I think I very probably mean that literally.

We members of the Anglican Patrimony entered into Full Communion with the works of John Mason Neale and Lionel Thornton and Austin Farrer under our arms; perhaps there is something we can do to help the ailing Western Church to understand the Patristic, Typological, way of appropriating Scripture.

1 March 2018


I have been unable to find any conciliar mandate for the post conciliar treatment of the body of Collects; treatment, in one significant respect (Sundays), decidedly more ruthless than what a Zwinglian Reformer, Thomas Cranmer, did at the height of the English Reformation.

Sunday collects. The collects for the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Eastertide were, almost to a man, replaced. What this means is that the whole body of such old prayers was deemed inadequately to express the indoles of the respective seasons ... a breath-taking condemnation!. I can think of at least three academic studies, beginning with that of Fr Cekada, which have revealed the hidden ideological basis of this revolution (often a sort of practical Pelagianism). There is a considerable danger in such radicalism. The true mystagogue - such as Gueranger - derives his mystagogy from his studies in the euchology which eighteen centuries have handed down. He does not form his views on a priori grounds, and then take a pair of scissors to the Tradition.

As far as concerns the collects for the 'green' Sundays, 17 of the 34 are new importations.

Festival collects. The new books reveal a massive campaign to rewrite the collects for festivals of the Lord and of his Saints. This has had a particularly vicious effect as far as the survival of the older collects in the previous books is concerned. Those older collects, many of them in continual use since the days of the early sacramentaries, were commonly terse formulae whose main purpose was a desire to secure a share in the intercessions and fellowship of the glorified servants of God, especially the martyrs. In the Middle Ages, a different style of collect became dominant; one can analyse it as providing God with a biographical summary of the saint concerned, followed by a request that the worshippers might receive congruent graces. (The collects written by Cranmer for those saints who retained propers were all to this medieval formula.) The post conciliar reformers were also wholly committed to the same procrustean methodology. I do not wish to be understood as arguing for the exclusion of such collects: my point is that we should not be limited to them.

You see, my own feeling is that the body of collects, on the eve of Vatican II, found its main and exhilarating strength in its variety. As the days moved on, one went from a Leonine or Gregorian form to a Carolingian and then to a Franciscan composition, and then to a product of the Baroque counter reformation. I see this pluriformity as healthy; it prevents the Church from being imprisoned in the culture of one euchological register. Which is what the post-conciliar books give us; so that, now, all our eggs are in the basket of one particular style. Even where a 'new' collect was in fact resurrected from an ancient source, the bar it had to reach was acceptability to the 1960s ... otherwise, its only hope of being chosen was if it could be bowdlerised into such acceptability. I feel certain that the style and preoccupations of the 1960s have already proved to have dated considerably. Perhaps there was a case for replacing a few of the more plodding of the nineteenth century collects which indeed did tend to say rather obvious and pedestrian things ... I am not a fundamentalist ...

... but Vatican II gave nobody any mandate even to do that much.

28 February 2018

Only for philologists

The Latin word meaning Bad ... how should it be pronounced?

A few weeks ago I gave advice on this, which was subjected to some criticism. I now make my point more precisely, that is, with more prolixity.

I too like to pronounce Latin like Italian. I have, for example, little patience for recent or less recent German fads about how to pronounce a soft C.

So ... how to pronounce the A in Malum?

The point I would like to reinforce is that it is not pronounced like the English A in Fat or Cat. Whether we are going to call it 'long' or 'short', it is pronounced much further back in the mouth or throat, so that, if 'short', it is much more like the English U in Shut or Luck. If 'long', it will be much the same but pronounced for a trifle longer, like the English A in Father. As far as I am aware ... and my bookshelves confirm this ... whether we are thinking of Latin or Italian, we avoid the sharp English 'short A' sound (Sat, Rat).

And additionally I would add that, despite what Sir Watkin wrote some time ago and with my accustomed respect for the august and alliterated baronet, the classical refinement whereby Evil and Apple are distinguishable seems to me to be useful. It hardly represents a gross or excruciating departure from the principle of pronouncing Latin like Italian. And, despite what any millions of Italians may say, you will not catch me saying 'Nobis quoque' with a long English O (as in Boat) after the qu! So there!


Another matter: how to pronounce the Greek letters Theta and Phi when they are reproduced in Latin? This crops up most commonly in the Creed (Catholicam) and when one is proclaiming the Epistle (Corinthios; Philippenses; Thessalonicenses).

Classicist Hellenists are likely to have been taught to pronounce these letters as an aspirated T or P; i.e. the TH or Theta is pronounced like an aspirated T in an English word like Pothole; the PH (Phi) like an aspirated P in an English compound like Crophead. Unclassically trained Anglophones are more likely instinctively to use the English TH sound as in Father and the English F sound as in Philip.

But as for Italians ... my impression is that, not having either an aspirated, Classical Greek Theta, or the English TH sound (as in Father), they simply pronounce TH like T (so, in 'Catholicam', they just say 'Catolicam'). But when it comes to PH, the dear sweet poppets do have a sound like the English F. So they cheerfully pronounce Phi like an English F ... 'Filippenses'. Is it  really necessary to go to all the trouble of following them through these convoluted inconsistencies?

I have noticed that in Rome-published Latin language ORDOs, Epiphania is sometimes, significantly, typographically misspelt Epifania!

Horrifying admission: despite the Italians, I pronounce Theta and Phi as respectively aspirated T and aspirated P. So there.

Bis dixi. 

27 February 2018

Does your kitchen have Newman on the spice rack?

(1) Bergoglians urge upon us Amoris laetitia under the pretext that, with a culinary dash of Newman's Development stirred into the pot and with a large dollop of subjective guilt reduced from Mortal to Venial ('Here's some I did earlier'), we can cook Communion for Adulterers?NO! until it is nicely tenderised into Communion for Adulterers?YES!. And, of course, this lays the way open for homosexuals, polygamists, paedophiles, polyamorists, therogamists, batrachophiles, and all the other categories that the Graf von Schoenborn and Fr Rosica may or may not have on their lists. ... I've got a little list ... OK, Ko-ko (is there a Cardinal Ko-ko? In today's Gilbert-and-Sullivan Vatican, there jolly well should be). Splendid. And all the basic work, all the heavy lifting, has already been done by Tucho in between 'supermystic' kisses (is there a Tucho in Gilbert and Sullivan?). What more could ...

But this particular sleight of hand will not avail (as far a I can see) when these same Magisterial Minds turn their attention to the next nut that needs to be cracked: the priestly Ordination of Women. Can anybody suggest how (again with appropriate assistance from Development and with their usual claims about the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit) they will chart their journey from Womenpriests?NO! to Womenpriests?YES!? In other words, what conjuring tricks, accompanied by the Graf's sad but winning smile and Rosica's air of patient condescension, will enable the Bergoglians to argue that the Ordination of Women is merely a natural and inevitable development springing fully-formed from the head of Ordinatio sacerdotalis?

(2) When Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman was faced by the protoBergoglian campaign at Vatican I to formulate the Petrine Primacy in a superhyperueberpapalist way, he characterised his contemporary Ultras as "An aggressive and insolent Faction". Perhaps we should resurrect this beautifully expressive phrase to describe our own dear and much-loved Ultras. And, 'for short', we could refer to them simply as "the Faction".

One should never stray too far from Dr Newman.

26 February 2018

Ordinariate Missal

Divine Worship The Missal, in its Study Edition, will, I gather, be available in April. The CTS (Catholic Truth Society) has done a run of 1,000.

Newman on the Suspense of the Functions of the Magisterium

Speaking only on my own, individual, behalf, I have to say that I feel very let down by PF's apparent decision not to reply to the Correctio Filialis which I together with others sent to him at the Domus Santa Marta last August. I retain to the full my feeling of the proper respect due to the individual who currently occupies the Petrine See, but in human and affective terms, his apparent view that I and so many others are not worth bothering with introduces a sense of hurt and pain, if not alienation. I am sure that there is a providential purpose in all this, and I pray that I may be enabled ever more profoundly to embrace the humiliations permitted by the Divine Will.

The decision of PF not to fulfil the mandate to confirm (sterizein) his brethren, is a striking event not easily paralleled. And a refusal to respond to formal requests can hardly not itself constitute a formal act. So I turned, as surely we in the Ordinariate instinctively do, to our beloved Patron Blessed John Henry Newman, quo quis doctior, quis sapientior?

"... the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission  ... at one time the pope*, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils*, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth ... I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ..."

I am testing in my thoughts (doing what we colloquially call "sleeping on it" or "thinking aloud") the possibility that PF's decision to ignore the cries for help which are sent to him, whether by Eminent Fathers of the Sacred College or by nonentities like me, may be seen as formally constituting the beginning of a period in which the functions of the Papal Magisterium are in "temporary suspense"; in a vacatio which will be ended at the moment when the same Petrine Magisterial organ as formally returns from dogmatic silence to the audible exercise of the functions rightly attributed to it in Catholic Tradition and Magisterial Conciliar definition; that is, devoutly to guard and faithfully to set forth the Tradition received through the Apostles; i.e. the Deposit of Faith.

If readers want an expansion of my way of thinking, I refer them to the masterly address on Apostasy delivered last week at the Buckfast Fatima Conference by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. "The poisonous fruits of the failure of the Church's pastors in the matters of Worship, teaching, and moral discipline ... ". His dear Eminence always puts things so much better than I could! Incidentally, I suspect that the Conference ... and, not least, Cardinal Burke's powerful address ... may go down in history as one of the significant moments in the recovery, the 'fight-back', of orthodoxy.

As if to confirm my thoughts, in the last few days PF is reported to have contradicted another of the Church's teachings: the teaching with regard to Capital Punishment; and to have done so not obiter or in an airliner but formally, reading a written text to one of those "Pontifical Councils" which absorb so much money and effort. This suggests to me that PF has himself consciously stopped even bothering to remain within the parameters set by the Magisterium to which he is as much under an obligation to submit as is anybody else. The current careful formulation of the Church's teaching with regard to the Death Penalty, which PF said he wants changed, is precisely twenty years old. A "Magisterium" which contradicts itself every twenty years is not a Teaching Authority to which many people are likely seriously to consider themselves obliged to give assent. (I say this as a strong opponent of the use of Capital Punishment in modern states; as a barbarism.)

I can see no present grounds plausibly to speculate that PF's divagations from orthodoxy will in future tolerate any restraints. It is as if, having discovered himself at the bottom of a hole, he has decided that the only thing to do is to keep digging with redoubled energy. Or, like the Duke of Wellington in the Fifth Act of the Battle of Waterloo, perhaps he is saying to the world "In for a penny, in for a pound"! Or does he think that he might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb? Will his parting gift to the Church Militant be a ringing endorsement of the homoiousios? En pote hote ouk en?

By joining with Newman in this analysis, I do not, of course, in any way suggest that PF and the silent or heterodox bishops have lost the right or capacity to use the Magisterium of his and their office. Precisely as Newman did, I am simply observing that, as a matter of fact, he is not and they are not using it. I am certainly not suggesting (and I do not believe) that this Suspense makes any difference whatsoever to the status or powers of the current occupant of the Roman See or of other bishops. Those who argue that PF has forfeited his See, or that his Election was for any reason void or voidable, are, in my judgement, talking piffle. (Quae sit huius verbi etymologia quaero. Num verbi 'pontificale'  depravatio est?)

I shall not consider comments which ignore the paragraph immediately above this.

Note: Newman is referring to Pope* Liberius; and, in referring to general councils*, he does not mean Ecumenical Councils. He explained later that he follows S Robert Bellarmine in distinguishing between Ecumenical Councils and councils which, even if large, do not count as Ecumenical. So ... not applicable to Vatican II!

"The temporary suspense of the function of the Ecclesia Docens"


A world-wide group of laymen and laywomen have just issued a defence of Catholic doctrine concerning Family and Life matters. The crucial paragraph, in my view, is this:

We pledge our full obedience to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the legitimate exercise of is authority. However, nothing will ever persuade us, or compel us, to abandon or contradict any article of the Catholic faith or any truth definitively established. If there is any conflict between the words and acts of any member of the hierarchy, even the pope, and the doctrine that the Church has always taught, we will remain faithful to the perennial teaching of the Church. If we were to depart from the Catholic faith, we would depart from Jesus Christ, to whom we wish to be united for all eternity."

This seems to me exactly right and exactly proportionate to the present situation in the Catholic Church. By a happy disposition of Providence, this Statement hit the media at the same time as Walter Kasper's gleeful conviction that Amoris laetitia has now become irreformable and that the 'controversy' is now over. Gracious me, what ultrahyperueberpapalist views of the Petrine Ministry these Liberals do have when they get a foul wind in their sails.

And the Statement reminds me of the phrase which Blessed John Henry Newman used in the context of the Arian controversy, in which the great majority of the Bishops, the Ecclesia docens, and including the Successor of S Peter, were either heretics, or were cowed into silence or compromise by the heretics. It is the phrase I have put at the head of this post, which I take in the sense in which Newman subsequently clarified his use of it, and not otherwise.

I suppose we had a good example of this phenomenon of 'suspense' in the pontificate of Blessed Paul VI, in the period between his setting up of a Commission to consider the question of Contraception, and his very courageous subsequent reaffirmation of the Church's Magisterial Teaching with the publication of Humanae vitae.

Surely, we are in another such period of suspense now. The question of  the admission of adulterers to Holy Communion was magisterially dealt with as recently as 2007, only ten years ago, in Sacramentum Caritatis para 29; it had  received synodical and papal clarification in each of the last two pontificates; and is embedded in the Catechism. But a 'suspense' began when it was opened up to synodal debate; and that 'suspense' grew wider when PF issued a document which has been interpreted in diametrically opposed ways. The Suspense will end when this or a subsequent Roman Pontiff or an Ecumenical Council reasserts with unmistakeable clarity the teaching of the Magisterium (or possibly when the error, having run its course, happily dies a natural death).

The learned Patron of the Ordinariate, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, made clear that he in no way implied the cessation of the Magisterial teaching or office during a 'suspense'. The Dogma of Nicea remained de jure fully in force; but was simply not treated as such by many bishops and so did not 'function'. The bishops remained ex officio guardians and teachers of the Faith; not a microgram of their God-given authority to teach the Faith was lost to them; but de facto they failed to guard and to teach that Faith. The concept of suspense is not so much theological as historical; an observation that anybody can make if they just look around.

Things now are very similar. The teaching of the Magisterium is, obviously, formally still vigore pleno; but numbers of unfaithful or negligent bishops behave as though it were not. In many cases, they appear and/or claim to do so with the connivance of the Successor of S Peter.


During a 'suspense', does the episcopal ministry of those bishops who are heterodox on just one point still call for religiosum obsequium on other matters? Or is one obliged to consider their entire episcope vitiated by just one point of heterodoxy?

Looking back into the great Anglican Patrimony which Pope Benedict invited us to bring with us into Catholic Unity, I recall a phrase dear to a distinguished and erudite Bishop of Oxford, Charles Gore [1853-1932; a doughty asserter of the doctrine which was re-asserted by Casti Connubii]: "the wonderful coherence of Christian doctrine". A later, even more erudite occupant of the same See, Kenneth Kirk, [1886-1954] commented: "Gore saw Christian doctrine as a unified whole ... It was his conviction, shared of course with the great Scholastic tradition in theology, that if any single article in this totality was attacked, varied, or distorted, the attack, variation, or distortion would be seen on inspection to affect every other article to a greater or lesser degree. ... if two systems each of which can claim some real degree of logical principle are in conflict on any one point, investigation will ultimately prove that they differ on every point, though at first sight this may be anything but apparent. For each system is, by hypothesis, self-consistent, and therefore all its members are interlocked, and whatever affects one of them must affect them all."

This is still one of my own working hermeneutical tools. Accordingly, I feel a tentative hesitation, during this lamentable suspense, about taking seriously any teaching statement of an apparently less that orthodox member of the hierarchy.

I throw open the above position to discussion, totally aware of my own fallibility, and anxious to be in all things a docile subject of the authentic Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

And I applaud the statement of Fidelity to Catholic Teaching issued by these eminent and admirable laypeople.