28 February 2011

Westminster Abbey

The Abbey is, essentially, the Sacring Place of English Kings and - since the invention of the 'United Kingdom' - of the monarchs of that constantly fluctuating institution, the 'United Kingdom'. It is rendered suitable for the former purpose by the presence of the shrine of S Edward the Confessor.

There was, at the beginning of the modern era, an attempt to make the Abbey something more. In 1485, Henry Tudor had, with very scant title, seized the throne of England. Marrying a Yorkist heiress did nothing to suppress agitation by those who wanted a Sovereign of the Blood Royal (indeed, his new mother-in-law joined those who were plotting against him); and, since Nature abhors a vacuum, whenever he executed Plantagenets, low-born Pretenders emerged from the woodwork. Foreign monarchs were cautious about betrothing daughters to the family of such a parvenu and unstable 'monarch'.

So he attempted to embellish his tenuous claim in two ways. By calling his son Arthur, he attempted to cast over his dodgy dynasty the mantle of the Once and Future King. And another name with incantatory potential was that of 'Henry'. Accordingly, the old Lady Chapel of the Abbey was demolished so as to be replaced by a new spectacular perpendicular chapel, where Tudor and his family were to be buried, but which, technically, was to be the shrine of a great royal saint who would match the S Edward who was enshrined nearby. Pope Julius issued bulls authorising the introduction of the cause for the canonisation of Henry VI (just as 'the divorce' was to be Henry VIII's Great Matter, so the canonisation was the Great Matter of Henry VII), and for the translation of his body from Windsor to this new chapel. Henry VII was seeking to cloak himself in the aura of the saintly Lancastrian, 'our Uncle of blessed memory', whose name, and whose descent from Catherine de Valois, he shared; and the very steps up to the chapel were to be endowed with indulgences. The building was adorned with all that was most sumptuous in the decorative arts of medieval England and of renaissance Italy.

Hindsight informs us that there never was to be either a Tudor King Arthur I or a canonised Saint Henry VI to swell the pilgrim numbers in the Abbey; that the England of popes, pardons and chantries had less than forty years to run. But things seemed quite different at the start of the sixteenth century.

27 February 2011

The Parish Church of the Nation, Benedictine Abbey, or the Central Ordinariate Church?

A while ago, in the context of talking about the 'Royal Wedding', some idiot calling himself the 'Dean of Westminster' referred to his church as the Parish Church of the Nation. I find it difficult to attach much meaning to that daft and pompous phrase. My suspicion is that the custom of having 'National Services' in the Abbey is - with the exception of Coronations - fairly (comparatively) modern. Royal weddings there are probably the most recent of such innovations. I suspect that the status of the Abbey may have received quite a lift when the Unknown Warrior, whoever he may be, was buried there.

In any case, it ought to be pointed out to the silly chap that in fact a great many National Services happen at S Paul's Cathedral, and always have. This happened even in the Old S Paul's; I believe, for example, that Henry VII's son Arthur was married there to Catharine of Aragon. Since Wren's rebuilding, the practical reasons for choosing S Paul's (ex.gr. for the burial of my Lord Nelson and of the Duke of Wellington and for 'Thanksgiving Services' after our periodic national military adventures) have greatly increased and are usually fairly obvious. And perhaps things go deeper than the merely practical: I have often thought that a good examination question would be:

Why are grandiose National Services so much more conveniently held in a Baroque architectural space that in a Gothic church?

In marking answers, I would mark highly those candidates who carefully analysed the differences between Baroque and Gothic concepts of worship.

By the way - going back to the Abbey - it is well to recall that the College of Heralds has long since, quite rightly and entirely legally, accepted the legitimacy of Ampleforth as the linear successor institution of the medieval Abbey of Westminster by allowing the community to bear and use the medieval arms of the Abbey. I think it is high time for the present irrational set-up at Westminster, Dean and all, daft or not, to be sent packing. In my view, the Abbot of Ampleforth and his familia should do a S-Nicolas-de-Chardonnet take-over at Westminster Abbey, and return it to its original purpose.

If they won't do it, well, it would make a good central London church for the Ordinariate.

Send in the heavies. A Fr Ed Tomlinson could lead the way.

A friend recently explained to me that some of my readers don't realise that there is fantasy and irony in some of the things I write. I find it hard to believe that people can be so dippy, but here is a formal disclaimer:
In a little while, I hope to say a little more about the status of Westminster Abbey.

25 February 2011


I have deleted a few comments on a recent post because I do not like their tone (some sensible comments also went because they were comments on the ones I didn't like). I shall be doing more of this sort of thing in future.

24 February 2011


If any brother priests are down to be on a train going through Oxford to the Athens of the North next Monday, and think it would be good to share a taxi from the station there, they could get in touch with me ...


Quite often I get an email and send a reply via the "reply" button, only to get a pompous message to the effect that I have tried to send an "unrouteable" message. I do reply to personal emails - even if only briefly - so if you were the person who emailed me earlier today ...


Perusing pictures of the happy crowds at Bishop David Silk's joyful event in Buckfast Abbey confirmed in my mind a suspicion which has been growing there for weeks as rumours seep around about who's "going" and who's "staying"*.

It is becoming apparent that very many 'extreme' clerics with yards of lace on their albs who, everybody assumed, would be certain to be "going", have, apparently, discovered fantastically good reasons for "staying". The clergy who are "going" seem largely to be very 'Church of England men' ... the sort who, a decade ago, would never in a month of Sundays have 'poped'; priests soaked in the ethos of the life and spirituality of the real Church of England; priests, very often, who were known to have theological problems about the Ordination of Women but whose own personal and professional relationships with women priests were so warm and friendly that their friends sometimes wondered whether Fr X or Archdeacon Y really was totally 'sound'. It is what you might call the Grantleys rather than the Arabins who now who sidle up to you and shyly, proudly, tell you that their dossiers have come back from the CDF marked with a great big tick.

Something similar seems to be true with regard to the laity. The sort of lay persons who are always dashing around the country to ritualistic extravaganzas, who never miss an opportunity of telling you how much they loathe women priests ... brother priests will know what an embarrassment these people are ... and who go on and on about what an important Stand they love to make by walking out of services which have women clergy in them ... seem to be remaining in the C of E; it is solid, sensible, sober, men and women, apparently, who will be making up the Ordinariate congregations.

Bad news, I fear, for those Anglicans who secretly welcomed Professor Ratzinger's little initiative because they hoped it would "clean out the Church of England"!

Ho Ho Ho. All rather jolly, really.


*Since I drafted this piece last Monday, I have received in this morning's post a letter from a brother priest, quite senior among the 'leadership in the catholic movement', who writes about the departure of "Brethren whom I clearly remember only a couple of years ago declaring that they could never deny their Anglican heritage and orders; similarly, among the 'stayers' are those who would I thought would have been off at the start." Exactly.

23 February 2011

Rape, Ordination, Bugnini (4)

It is not surprising that one sedevacantist attack upon the adequacy of the Botte-Bugnini Pontifical validly to confer the Episcopate is headed with words from Leo XIII's bull condemning Anglican Orders: "Absolutely Null and Utterly Void". Nor that it draws the methodology of that bull into its argument. There is material for understandable Anglican amusement in this. But the entire approach to 'validity' which is employed by such sedevacantist writers is excessively, grossly, legalistic and fails to take account of the older, broader, more humane approach of earlier Catholic theologians. In order to summarise this tradition, I will quote from the well-judged words of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, the great and massively erudite Father of modern Canon Law. Perhaps I should explain that he was writing at a time when the universal opinion was that the Form of Episcopal Consecration was the formula Accipe Spiritum Sanctum, said by the consecrator as he imposed hands; but a time also when scholars had become aware that, in the ancient Roman Sacramentaries, the Form had been the ancient prayer structured as a Preface.

"Among all these rites which the Roman Pontifical prescribes in Episcopal Consecration, the common opinion is that the Matter is the imposition of the hands of the consecrating bishop (rather, of the consecrating bishops) and the Form is the related words Receive the Holy Spirit.

"We think ... that, in the hypothesis of the imposition of the bishop's hands with the Preface alone, without those words Receive the Holy Spirit, the Consecration is valid, just as it was valid in the ancient liturgy; for how could you prove that the Church had taken its consecratory power away from this Prayer?

"Equally, in the hypothesis of the imposition of the bishop's hands with those words alone Receive the Holy Spirit, without the Preface, we admit, with the common opinion, that the ordination is valid, since, although those words alone, considered in themselves, are indeterminate and do not sufficiently express the conferring of the episcopal order
, nevertheless they are made sufficiently determinate not only by the Preface but by the caeremonia itself without the Preface."*

That generously sensible approach is, I think, more than sufficient to put paid to scaremongering nonsense about the orders of the post-conciliar Church. But it is not enough for us simply to be able to dismiss a sedevacantist argument. There is a great deal more to be said.

It ought never to have been made so easy for a small group of disaffected schismatics to mount such a plausible attack. It ought never to have been made possible for the ancient and venerable sacramental formulae of the Roman Church to be dumped like so much rubbish by a committee of opinionated and self-important academics. It ought never to have happened that the transient scholarly opinion of a single academic generation became the basis of a liturgical revolution. It ought never to have happened that one man, Bugnini, was able to manipulate and deceive a Roman Pontiff and thereby debauch the euchology of the Roman Church. Credence should never have been given to the notion that a Roman Pontiff, even if working on the basis of a conciliar mandate, could do anything.

Now ... where have I read that view before? And from whose pen?


*This common sense approach is not, I think, a million miles from the attitude of Fr Eric Mascall; that a rite is a means of doing something, not a theological statement of the nature of what is being done [for example, the word baptizo says nothing about regeneration or the deletion of Original Sin]; that a valid ordination rite can be recognised by its declared purpose of conferring a specified one of the three orders of the historic ministry. Perhaps I might also add that the argument which Cardinal Gasparri here deploys is also, of course, the reason why this same Mgr Gasparri had so much trouble understanding why the Order for Consecrating Bishops in the Anglican Ordinal should be thought incapable of validly conveying the Order of Episcopate (he was less positive about the Anglican forms for the Presbyterate and Diaconate.) Come to think of it, the sedevacantist attack on the validity of post-conciliar Roman Orders, historically, has similarities with Cardinal Vaughan's campaign against the validity of Anglican Orders. In each case, if the allegation of invalidity can be substantiated, this in itself renders the ecclesial body concerned a mere pseudo-Church, and renders superfluous the much more complex ecclesiological considerations which would otherwise be necessary. Both approaches are convenient polemical short cuts.

22 February 2011


Terrible news about catastrophic damage to the Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand; and that there are people trapped in the rubble. I know readers will pray for them and for all the people of Christchurch.

That Cathedral was built by Henry Jacobs, who had been, in August 1848, the first head master of Lancing College. He only lasted a month at Lancing*; the Founder, Nathanael Woodard, was forced to sack him - rumour had it that he was caught with a matron behind a door, but the archives simply reveal a disagreement about auricular Confession. Woodard believed that all his masters and boys should 'go' regularly, but Jacobs had problems with this and tried to make trouble about it with the authorities. He then went out to Kiwi and founded their first English-style Public School before becoming the founding Dean of the Cathedral.

The other 'Lancing' Cathedral is the one at Seoul in Corea. It shows its kinship with Lancing by its dedication - Our Lady and S Nicolas - which is the same as that of Lancing and of the Southern Division of the Woodard Corporation.


*Well, at Shoreham, to be precise. The Folly on the Hill, which you can see in the atmospheric picture at the top of Pastor in Valle Adurni, had not yet been built.

Rape, Ordination, Bugnini (3)

Continues.If one believes that the the Catholic Church subsists in those ecclesial communities which are in full communion with the See of Peter, one can have no doubt whatsoever that episcopal consecrations according to the Botte-Bugnini Pontifical are valid. If they were not, Christ would have allowed his Church to fail. And we have his guarantee that it cannot fail. Ergo. But what would our conclusion be if we set aside this overarching consideration? If we forgot about the Wood and concentrated exclusively upon the Trees?

What eventually convinced Archbishop Lefebvre (contrary to his original gut instinct) that the post-conciliar rite for episcopal consecration is adequate validly to confer the episcopal order, is the fact that the sentence which the Pontifical describes as the essential form is found in use in Eastern bodies which are in Communion with Rome or which are dissident bodies whose orders immemorial Roman praxis accepts. And this is compelling. However, a problem can be introduced here by recalling the Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis of Pius XII, which laid down that the Form must "univoce" signify the sacramental effects; that is, the power of the Order and the grace of the Holy Spirit. And the post-conciliar Form for episcopal consecration has at its heart these words: " ... effunde ... eam virtutem, quae a te est, Spiritum principalem ...". These words are found in Aptrad and a number of Oriental forms of episcopal consecration. And critics can show that Spiritus principalis, pneuma hegemonikon, when used liturgically, has in its history not always univocally refered to the episcopate. Indeed, Dom Gregory Dix held the view that in the Apostolic Tradition this formula was said over presbyters as well as over bishops. So: is the Order, sc Episcopate, univocally indicated in the words which the current Roman Pontifical declares to be the essential Form?

Frankly, I do not consider that such a narrow reading of these words of Pius XII is viable. Those who do wish to read them so narrowly will find that they are hoist with their own petard if they look at the Mozarabic Form for the Ordination of a presbyter; they will find that it appears to be taken from the ancient Roman Form in the pre-Botte-Bugnini Roman Pontifical of Pius XII for ... the Consecration of a bishop! Whoever did that little bit of Mozarabic borrowing evidently did not consider that this form of words 'univoce' signified episcopate. Liturgical texts, in the real Tradition, were not composed by lawyers and are not constructed with a minute desire to exclude any remotely conceivable confusions, ambiguities, and misunderstandings. I do not believe that we are intended to have our spiritual lives constantly disturbed by the use of intricate pedantries to introduce 'doubts about validity'. And, as I will explain, the giant figure of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri thought the same as I do. Or, rather, I think the same as he did.

21 February 2011

Rape, Ordination, Bugnini (2)

Continues.It is not surprising that the elimination of the Roman Prayer of Episcopal Consecration caused, and causes, some disquiet. It has, of course, been a godsend to sedevacantist controversialists. I imagine they thank God for it daily. But scholars of today, far beyond that narrow constituency, have good reason to feel some discomfort when they contemplate the replacement Consecratory Prayer which was inserted by Coetus XX of Hannibal's post-Consiliar Consilium.

Coetus XX was headed by Dom Bernard Botte, a liturgist of considerable distinction. Unfortunately, however, Botte was the man who had edited - and thus had some personal stake in - the Traditio Apostolica. This is an early third century work which Was written by Hippolytus, a claimant to the See of Rome, and which Does give us a pretty fair picture of the early liturgical tradition of the Roman Church. Except that it Wasn't and it Doesn't. We need not blame Botte for what he believed about 'Aptrad'. Our own beloved Dom Gregory Dix thought the same, and had himself edited this 'venerable' text. Frankly, everybody then thought that it was the bee's knees. But few scholarly revolutions can match the complete reversal in academic consensus, between the 1960s and now, about what Aptrad actually is. My sermon to you today: it is profoundly unwise to gather every egg one can lay one's hands on and cram them all into one single risky basket ... which is what the self-confident liturgical committee-men of the 1960s did. Mesmerised by 'Hippolytus', under the leadership of a scholar who personally and academically had invested a great deal in 'Aptrad', they allowed 'Hippolytus' to provide them with Eucharistic Prayer 2 which, because of its brevity, became overnight the Prayer almost universally employed by celebrants of the 'Roman Rite'. And, from this same dodgy source, they foisted upon the Roman Church Aptrad's Prayer of Episcopal Consecration. Annibale and his turba punica committed the cardinal error of assuming that the scholarly assumptions of their own age were a definitive certainty which would never be overturned. And, in this preposterous over-confidence, they 'Hippolytised' the Roman Rite.

Let me be clear. I do not blame Botte and his collaborators for being wrong. They were bigger men than I am, and I am probably wrong about more things now than they were then. I blame the structures of authority and the assumptions of 'conciliar' omnipotence which allowed the wholesale imposition of the flawed academic fashions of one brief period. As Cardinal Ratzinger did, I blame a post-conciliar pope ... a man who was more than un' poco Amletico.

So are episcopal consecrations according to the 'Hippolytised' Pontifical valid? Continues.

20 February 2011


I have received some appreciative comments about the 'Curwen' series. I should have acknowledged, as a poor classicist disgracefully ignorant about Tudor history, a debt of gratitude to a long-standing friend, Professor William Tighe, whose kindness in helping those who dip into this field is only matched by his encyclopaedic knowledge. I sometimes feel, when talking with him, that I am conversing with a person who was picking up the prosopography and gossip of the Tudor Court only yesterday.

Rape, Ordination, Bugnini (1)

Sacrosanctum Concilium [the Vatican II Decree dealing with the Liturgy], para 76, the only section which refers specifically to the rites of Ordination, mentions just two innovations which 'may' be allowed:
(1) The address by the Bishop at the beginning of each rite may be in the vernacular. My goodness! I am knocked for six, breathless and speechless! How one is swept back to the now-inconceivable realities of 1963 - quite another age! - when even such a tiny detail, such a minor permissive use of the vernacular ... just in a preliminary allocution ... was clearly considered to require a special and explicit mandate of an ecumenical council! Little did the Council Fathers, it is apparent, realise what was in store for them once the Interferers had really got their bottoms into the saddle.
(2) At episcopal consecration, the imposition of hands may be done by all the bishops present. Again, one wonders whether the Council Fathers - remember that even Archbishop Lefebvre had no trouble signing this Decree - who were prepared for this careful and admirable reform of a rubrical detail to be permitted, realised that within a decade the entire ancient Roman Prayer for the Consecration of Bishops would have been consigned to the rubbish dump. (Bad Marini's book reveals nothing about the process of mangling the Pontifical except that a Bishop Guano had something to do with it. This has to be a joke. Just imagine saying the Eucharistic Prayer: " ... together with Paul our Pope and B*rdsh*t our Bishop ..." . Dom Bernard Botte left some information.)

If the Council Fathers had entertained the least inkling of the deluge which would in fact follow their deliberations ... Bugnini and his associates, like the Vikings of old, rampaging through the entire euchology of the Latin Church burning, raping, and murdering ... it is, surely, unlikely that so many of the bishops at Vatican II would have been prepared to vote into the hands of these self-confident innovators the following carte blanche: "Both the ceremonies and texts of the ordination rites are to be revised". Oh dear! When ever did so few pull so much wool over the eyes of so many?

Cardinal Ratzinger famously and magnificently criticised "the impression ... that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council". The tragedy is that in so many matters the 'reformers' went far, far beyond even an arguably implicit conciliar mandate. The totally unmandated provision of a shoal of alternative and committee-generated Eucharistic Prayers is, in my view, matched by the violence done to the Ordination Prayers of the Roman Church where - in the case of episcopal consecration - "to be revised" was, by a grotesque piece of lexicographical transubstantiation, treated as meaning "to be abolished and replaced"; so that the Prayer which was good enough to consecrate Gregory the Great and Hildebrand, Innocent III and Benedict XIV, Becket, Fisher, Pole, and Manning - and even Cranmer! - is deemed unfit for the purposes of the lordly 1970s.

18 February 2011

Summorum pontificum

Well, there's no reason why anyone should be interested in Anglican opinions. But, for what it's worth, I have enthusiastically signed that petition. I am not an integralist but a gradualist; little moves in the right direction are, to my simple mind, a good thing; little moves in the wrong direction are a bad thing.

But I have to say - sorry if this is a breaking of ranks - I would find it hard to condemn (exempli gratia) a clarification which gave the Archbishop of Milan control over the Ambrosian Rite. The Ambrosian Rite is not the Roman Rite. The Bishop of Rome has the right to say what the rite of his Church is; so does the Successor of S Ambrose. Even if the b****r gets it wrong.

I would be a trifle less categorical about (exempli gratia) the Dominican Rite. It is, after all, but a dialect of the Roman Rite. On the other hand, S Pius V gave those older dialects of his rite exemption from papal legislation; perhaps they are morally entitled to keep that autonomy. Dunno.

I am perplexed, as one who takes the long view, about the suggestion that bishops might not have an inherent right to confer orders according to the old pontifical. There would be a quaint irony if those 'liberal' bishops all over the world who have been concerting with each other the expression to Rome of their 'concerns' about SP turned out to have achieved ... a restriction upon episcopal independence of action! Additionally, the Pontifical was the last book of the Latin Rite to be rendered uniform. Until well after the invention of printing, bishops were using manuscript ponrtificals inherited from their predecessors which differed quite considerably from each other. Where is the necessity for uniformity?

By coincidence, I had already prepared, and timed to begin on Monday, a series on the post-conciliar Rite for the Consecration of Bishops. I had a go at the Rite of Deaconing a little while ago.

It's all Go, isn't it?

17 February 2011

Sex Goddesses and Saxon Mercia

As one does, we went to have a look at Birmingham, which we have not visited since the mid 1960s, when Pam, after Oxford, was in management at Bournville. Most of it has been rebuilt; but not the old classicising Victorian civic buildings in the centre ... they're up a little hill, and so it's almost like climbing up to an acropolis.

We homed in on the Staffordshire Hoard in the Museum and Art Gallery - the vast assemblage of seventh century scraps of gold and silver discovered a year or two ago. I remember, just after the discovery, Sarah Foot, Professor of Church History in this University, remarking that they seemed set to bring utter confusion to the work of several of her DPhil students. I gather that we still are not decided whether they are loot from a battle or a jeweller's hoard or an ex voto offering.

To get to them, unfortunately, you have to run the gauntlet of masses of Pre-Raphaelite pictures and artefacts, repeatedly dodging the obsessed and hungry eyes and nightmare lips of Jane Morris. Oh dear, I really don't think it does a girl any good at all being a Sex Goddess ... if Ms Morris were the last woman left on earth, I don't think I would ... er ...... But I did find a deliciously frightening watercolour by Turner of a pass in the Alps (I have faint memories of seeing something rather like it twenty years ago in the Abbey Gallery at Kendall in Westmoreland). If one has to follow Mr Burke in his quest for the Sublime, I'd rather do it in Turner's company than through the 500-page tedium of that demented Mr Wordsworth. Then we had a snack in the restaurant ... rather Midlands food ... which we were just finishing as Mr Mayor came in, chain and all, for fish and chips. Do the mayors of provincial cities live, eat and sleep in their full insignia of office?

Before getting the train back to Oxford, we nipped along for a look at the papist cathedral; vandalised during the Great Disruption, but still unmistakeably Pugin. There - small world - we ran into Bernard Longley, now Archbishop of Birmingham, an extremely amiable bloke whom I think I last met over lunch in the National Liberal Club when he was Doing Time as one of Cormac's London auxiliaries and I was on a FIF theological working party. He rather proudly pointed out that he has S Chad's relics enshrined over his High Altar, and made a quip about recovering the Pugin screen which found refuge in Holy Trinity Reading after its eviction from the Cathedral during the Disruption.

Somehow, I don't think many RC bishops would have expressed pride in possessing the relics of a seventh century Saxon saint, or spoken (even light-heartedly) about reversing the Disruption, two or three decades ago. Things are looking up.

14 February 2011

Catholicae Veritatis Magister

Today is the Obit of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Eric Lionel Mascall. I included his name, with immense gratitude to him and to the Lord who gave him to us, in the Memento etiam of the Mass of S Valentine this morning; thinking as I did so of the that familiar figure, back in the Sixties, murmuring this same 'Western Rite'* Mass privately, day by day, at one of the altars in 'Mags'. He possessed the same clarity of thought and the same willingness to think outside the dominant fashions of his day, as another shy and distinguished Teacher of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger. A Man of the Great Tradition. Tomorrow, I will say a requiem for him.


*Thus we used then to describe what our new friends so fittingly call 'the Mass of Ages'.

13 February 2011

More on ARCIC

This was back in an age when the Tablet still published my letters; and I was engaged with George Carey, then Bishop of Bath and Wells, in a controversy from which the poor old nincompoop had to retire when Henry Chadwick weighed in and explained to him the point at issue in language a toddler could understand. I also wrote for an admirable journal, The Catholic League Messenger, and one or two other periodicals. I ranted about the fact that the old Reformation differences were being 'solved' by clever people who could agree verbal formulations, while newer problems, which could not be verbally fudged, were ignored. I was, of course, a voice crying in a wilderness.

Not now. Instead of addressing ancient questions which have lost their original biting power, at long last ARCIC III is being required to do what I always said it should have been doing. It will have to solve questions, the real questions, the newly divisive questions, which cannot be verbally fudged. A deft formula cannot paper over divisions concerning homosexual 'marriage' and the 'ordination of women'. Nor, of course, those of Contraception. Or rather, ARCIC is not being made to deal with those questions in themselves, but with the means by which particular churches come to a discernment on such matters. Bingo.

Friends sometimes wonder why I am such an enthusiast for Professor Ratzinger. The reason is that when most of one's adult life has been spent being sneered at for holding unmodish opinions, as mine has been, to have a Roman Pontiff who, as far as I can see, shares pretty well all one's own preposterous mistakes, is ... not so much comforting as exhilarating.

One last point. Rowan Williamson, and others, have attempted to salvage something from the bright ecumenical past which they themselves have sabotaged, by saying that the ARCIC accords are "in the bank" for when they are needed. Rowan is no fool and must know that this is rubbish. In every academic field related to every science and to every humanity, research work, fashions, opinions, external pressures, controversies, assumptions, move on. Theology is not a bit different. In two, three, or however many generations Rowan and the rest of them have in mind, the solemn self-consciously self-pleased accords of the last fifty years will just look quaintly old-fashioned. Not only in minor details; our grandchildren will cry "However could those people in the 1990s have been so blind as to think that this was the real question, when it is so obvious that they should have been thinking about ...".

12 February 2011


... is in the news again; because Grandson of ARIC, alias ARCIC III, is getting under way.

Dr William Oddie is a man for whom Anglican Catholics of my generation have a great deal of respect. He chronicled, accurately and mercilessly, the unfortunate events of the early 1990s, when an English hierarchy - who, of course, are by now mostly retired or dead - was able to prevent a corporate solution to our problems. The kindness and generosity of the present hierarchy and the warmth of their support for Anglicanorum coetibus make this seem like quite another age from the bleak era when a helpless, saddened, Joseph Ratzinger asked "What are the English bishops so afraid of?"

But Dr Oddie is not quite right in saying that Rome - in his view, rightly - never gave a real OK to the ARCIC accords. As far as Eucharist and Ministry are concerned, the process ended in 1994 with Clarifications, agreed by the relevant dikasteries including CDF, to which Rome agreed "No further study would seem to be required at this stage". It is important to correct Oddie on this, because one of the tattered defences employed by shame-faced Anglican Ecumenics to explain the action of the Anglican Communion in walking away from the process is that 'Rome dragged its feet ... people assumed they weren't really interested ... if it hadn't, we would have been able to prevent the Anglican Communion from embarking on new divisive courses of action'. Rome did nothing of the sort. It did keep on returning to particular issues where it thought there was a fudge; but that was quite simply because the process was being taken so seriously. It had to be got right. And methodologically, Rome was (rightly) concerned that, for Anglicans, all that was being agreed was that the accords were within the spectrum of beliefs allowed by Anglicans. Rome wanted to know that what was agreed represented the Faith of the Anglican Communion and was a Faith which, although the language and terminology might differ, really was, substantially, that of the Catholic Church.

Throughout the ARCIC process, I was sceptical. When, in 1987, the accord on Justification was published, I was particularly outraged. This was a time when, in academic Pauline studies, the New Look on Paul, associated with the name of Ed Sanders, was the talking-point in academe. This New Look actually demonstrated that the whole Reformation construct of Justification By Faith Alone was nonsense. Non-Catholic academic scholarship had finally shown up the implausibility of classical Protestant dogma. But not a word of this got into the Report.

11 February 2011

Thank you

... to a kind, anonymous friend who recently sent a most generous benefaction.

I wonder if (s)he would mind it being applied to a current need a little different from what (s)he specified? If not, of course, I will do exactly what (s)he specified.

BMV de Lapurdo

A greeting to all fellow have-been-pilgrims-to-Lourdes who read this; especially to those who were at the last great Anglican pilgrimage there; with Archbishop Rowan preaching at Cardinal Kasper's Mass; the Gospel proclaimed by an Anglican deacon ... perhaps that event, in 2008, was the last occasion when it was possible to indulge oneself illusions ... fantasies? ... about the then ecumenical scene ... as the archiepiscopal arms, pallium and all, flew over the concourse and international pilgrims flocked to communion at the Anglican Masses and the Successor of S Augustine prostrated himself on the rock below the image.

Happy days, thirty long months ago. But somehow I know that, through the intercessions of the great Mother of God Mary most holy, even more glorious days now lie ahead.

Ordinariate, Anglican Patrimony and your Office

(1) The Office Hymn is an integral part of the Western Divine Office. The Office loses something of its integrity without it.
(2) Just singing any old hymn in the Office doesn't make it an Office Hymn. There is a place in Christian devotion for 'affectionate' hymns - I rather like Fr Faber's, for example. But the old Office Hymns are sober, elegant, dignified, biblical, patristic, corporate rather than personal, in the old tradition of the Roman Rite.
(3) If you can't say/sing them in Latin, the best English translations are those by the Anglican Catholic Fr J M Neale (a lot of which you will find in the English Hymnal: not the New English Hymnal which may have excellences but makes no attempt to provide a full set of Office Hymns). I say this, not simply out of loyalty to one of the great, heroic, persecuted figures of Catholic Anglican history, but for a precise and historical reason.
(4) What Neale translated was the text of the hymns in the old English Sarum Office Book. And that text was pretty well the same as the original text. It was also identical to the text in the Breviary of that magnificent pontiff, Pius V. BUT in the 1630s, Urban VIII, who loved the pagan Roman poets, had these ancient Christian texts mutilated so that they would look like something by Horace in metre, grammar, and vocabulary. They stayed like this until Vatican II, in one of its wise decisions, ordered that the ancient original texts, only lightly revised, should be restored to use. This was accordingly done in the post-conciliar Liturgia Horarum. So Neale's translations are closer both to the originals and to what the Western Church now orders than are the translations made in the nineteenth century by RC translators.

Sometimes people ask what the Anglican Patrimony is. And there is sometimes an assumption that it is something largely irrelevant to many people ... Choral Evensong, for example. I believe it is something that can contribute to the mending and the wholeness of the entire Latin Church. A few weeks ago I had occasion to be with 60/70 priests who were saying/singing the Office together. They, each of them, had the English version of the Liturgia Horarum before them; I have never wasted good drinking money procuring this publication. As I followed the Office in my Latin LH I was surprised to find that the the hymn they were using was quite simply not the one in the Latin Editio Typica (neither were the preces). One simple ingredient I, personally, would insert into any preliminary set of liturgical regulations for an Ordinariate would be the facultas to use the Office Hymns provided in the English Hymnal in connection with the vernacular LH.

Actually, come to think about it: the LH Preces are that part of the revised Office which has worn least well. Some of them positively reek of the Sixties. Would there be a problem about an Ordinariate allowing the Prayer Book Preces to be used optionally? The Instructio Generalis Paragraph 184 already permits local hierarchies to allow alternative forms of the Preces; one would just have to add to Dr Cranmer's Suffrages a petition for the Departed at Vespers.

10 February 2011

Finigan's free bonanza

The Hermeneutic blog, happily, enables you to read, free of charge, an article by Fr Tim which has appeared in Usus Antiquior. It provides a good example of the phenomenon of 'ideas in the air'; when different people turn out to have been thinking along the same lines without any one of them being directly indebted to the others. Fr Zed has been delving into what he has called "Mutual Enrichment and Common Sense"; Bishop Andrew Burnham has staked a claim to a place in this discussion; and even I have nibbled at the edges of it. What is all this about? To what extent can the OF be improved by the importation of EF customs at the whimsy of the celebrant? Fr Tim, however, unlike most of us, approaches the matter with scholarly precision. My ensuing comments make absolutely no sense whatsoever unless you have first read his important article and done so carefully.

I love it all. My only adverse comment would be that the article is sometimes a trifle light-fingered when it comes to distinguishing between usages which are praeter legem and those which are contra legem (to use the categories in which O'Connell discussed the question of liturgical law two or three generations ago). Examples of the first: the priest says silently Aufer a nobis and Oramus as he approaches and kisses the altar. Or, as he censes the Altar at the Offertory, he says the old prayers. Or, he says Placeat tibi as he walks back from the Altar. While these formulae are certainly not prescribed in the OF, as far as I know there is no rubrical prohibition against the celebrant saying silent private prayers (or even reciting sotto voce the opening twenty lines of the Iliad or the Three little maids song from the Mikado) as he celebrates. But, on the other hand, double genuflections after each consecration (Ranjith) do, as Fr Tim makes clear, contradict an explicit instruction in the IGMR. They are contra legem. So is the usage I noticed at the Holy Father's Inauguration: joining the hands at Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.

Fr Tim also gives us a section headed "Elements that could be fairly easily allowed". But the first usage he describes under this heading - that of saying the modern Offertory prayers silently - is not only allowed rubrically but (as Fr Tim says) even has pride of place among the allowed options (I explain that roughly every three months on this blog). It is not something that 'could fairly easily be allowed'. It is something that is allowed. However much it might surprise some congregations, it is already the officially preferred usage in the OF. It is neither praeter legem nor contra legem, but completely secundum legem. But the next possibility mentioned - saying silently the EF prayers instead - is (although the congregation would not even notice it being done) definitely contra legem. Or is Fr Tim craftily suggesting that the former secundum legem usage is a good way of preparing the ground for the latter contra legem? The following item Fr Tim lists is the silent recitation of the Canon (which Bishop Andrew Burnham celebrated his entry into Full Communion by doing ... what bravura we Anglicans do display). Here, sadly, Fr Tim does not have a suggestion, crafty or otherwise, as to how secundum legem we could prepare the way for behaving contra legem.

Possibly Fr Tim is reserving for a future article the really juicy, truly fundamental, question: to what extent is it acceptable to follow usages which are contra legem? This would involve a rereading of the old discussions among the manualists whom O'Connell summarises. Perhaps I will take a look into this, even though it is well known that Anglicans are completely ignorant in Canon Law.

9 February 2011

Nasty. Should we blame the Ordinariate?

A story in the Times by Ruthie (how we all enjoyed reading her blog, until her employer made her far too expensive a woman for most of us to afford regularly) confirms a rumour I had heard; that some ecclesiatical lawyers are attempting to bully Romeward-bound clergy to resign their orders (this, of course, is quite a different thing from resigning one's job; it has the legal though not sacramental effect of laicisation).

What I have not so far seen explained is why this pressure, which as far as I am aware, has never been brought to bear on previous generations of clergy who have succumbed to the charms of the Scarlet Woman, is now being applied. Is it something to do with the new Clergy Discipline regulations, or is it, as most people suspect, just a crude piece of anti-Ordinariate malevolence?

My own view is that it is part of a crafty and jesuitical Ordinariate plot. It is designed to tip over into the Ordinariate dithering clergy who think there may still be a future in the C of E. By suggesting the manic nastiness of the Establishment, the Ordinariate chappies clearly hope to get a big second tranche on the move as soon as possible.

As lawyers say, cui bono? Or do they?

8 February 2011

Why the Ordinariate? (2) ... and Pope Philogynes the First

This follows on from the Bloody Question post.
"Right. Fair enough. Let's consider your question about what I shall have to do when the next pope but two admits women to Holy Orders. Let's call him Pope Philogynes I.

"Let me first set the scene a trifle more generously for you ... and fill in just one or two tiny gaps in your very interesting scenario. At the moment, it has been authoritatively settled by the Magisterium of the Church that women cannot receive Holy Order. This has been asserted infallibly. When John Paul II issued Ordinatio sacerdotalis it was made clear that this, while not an ex cathedra pronouncement, was infallible by virtue of being an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church ... which is infallible. Now ... yes yes, OK ... I take your point that Philogynes could simply declare that OS was not part of the Ordinary Magisterium; and then proceed to relativise it, explaining that, while it was thoroughly right and good when it was issued, a new context now offered a broader background against which to reassess its binding force. Yup. Nice one.

"But remember what happened after Vatican II, which was self-described as not being a doctrinal Council. Non-dogmatic ecumenical councils are so structurally insignificant in the Church's history that the transactions of some of them have sunk without trace. Yet the liturgical consequences of this (sub specie aeternitatis) extremely minor ecumenical council, Vatican II, caused a schism. This occurred even though those remodeling the Church's worship went far beyond the actual conciliar mandate. And its teaching on Religious Freedom reinforced this schism, even though the conciliar teaching on this point, prima facie in contradiction to that of the earlier Magisterium, was not imposed de fide - because Vatican II was not in the business of de fide anathemas.

"A persistent schism - albeit comparatively small - which could, and did, arise from such - comparatively - slight causes makes clear what a complete melt-down would incontrovertibly ensue if Philogynes attempted to change a ruling which had once had the I-word, the dread incantation of Infallibility, pronounced over it. The schisms which even happen in the friendly fudge-it-if-you-can fields of Anglicanism, where the I-word can't be invoked, would be but a summer shower in an August drought compared with what would happen in the RC Church.

"Remember also the consensus of theologians that a pope who formally falls into heresy automatically ceases to be pope. There can be no doubt that this question would come to the forefront if Philogynes cancelled an enactment which some of his predecessors had declared - however questionably - to have infallible force. We can be sure that dissident Cardinals would gather and elect a 'successor' ... John Paul III, perhaps. Remember also what happened when Urban VI's cardinals, cheesed off at having been bullied into electing him in the first place and even more unimpressed by his habit of torturing cardinals to death - matters which, in dogmatic and Magisterial terms, are pretty small beer - held a new conclave and made a new election*. We ended up with two ... and eventually three ... or was it four? ... rival claimants to the Throne of Peter; and the Great Schism of the West.

"That schism had comparatively little effect upon the local individual Catholic because the question of which pope he was in communion with was largely decided above his head on grounds of national politics. In the modern context, every individual Catholic would have to decide which claimant was the real pope. What's that? A Council? Vatican III? OK, but remember that there have been 'ecumenical councils' which have subsequently been redefined as Robber Synods. Each 'pope' might hold his own Council, with anathemas galore flying around.

"In these circumstances, I would be in the same distressing position as every other individual Catholic.

"It would be a very nasty situation, but I suppose I would have no option but to make some decision. I suspect it might be for John Paul III and thus for Continuity.

"Frankly, I very much doubt the likelihood of such a scenario, which is why I wasn't very keen to answer your question in the first place. Even the most 'liberal' RC bishops would tend, I'm pretty sure, to discover in their DNA an instinct for keeping the Institution together, which would compel them to draw back from the brink. But it would certainly be a wonderful time for journalists, and I can understand why you are so anxiously hoping for it."


*E L Mascall once observed that it had never been authoritatively decided by a fully magisterial pronouncement which 'line' was the genuine one (although there was a broad de facto consensus that Urban, though murderous, was pope). Indeed, I would add that in 1492 Papa Borgia called himself Alexander VI, which implied that he included in his computation the Pisan 'Antipope' Alexander V, Papa Philargus. And Mascall added that holy people on each side of the schism were subsequently accepted as Saints of the Universal Church. In a sense, the Great Schism of the West has even now still not quite been laid to rest.

7 February 2011


Well, I've looked at Fr Zed's piece on the Collect for this week ... one of, I think, only three collects which survive on the same Sunday from the ancient Roman liturgy into the modern rite. I wonder how they managed it. Did they hide behind the aspidistra as Bugnini sprayed the room with machine-gun fire?

Frankly, I think Cranmer's translation of in sola spe gratiae caelestis innititur as lean only on the hope of thy heavenly grace beats all the papist translations.

Sadly, the old Secret for Epiphany V does not survive. It contains the fascinating request that the Lord should direct nutantia corda. O'Connell translates this as our ['our' is not necessarily implied by the Latin] wavering hearts; the 1933 English Missal as the hearts of those that go astray. The sense of nutare is really to nod; the thing one's head does as one settles into a comfortable chair to listen to a not-terribly-well-constructed lecture after a satisfying lunch ... or as one downs a glass of wine in front of a very warm fire after a busy day.

I find nodding hearts a rather diverting mixed metaphor. I've always had a soft spot for mixed metaphors since we had a head master at Lancing who could hardly open his mouth without unconsciously uttering another example ("we must avoid the thin end of the iceberg" ... the Senior Common Room had a collection book full of them ... I wonder what's happened to it now). As a consequence, I've always liked coining them ... the only risk is that outsiders may laugh at one, not realising that one is making, not being, the joke.

But what does it matter if they do ...

6 February 2011

Why the Ordinariate? (1) ... and the Bloody Question

The Bloody Question, so I recall, was put when Elizabeth Tudor's interrogators asked: "If a papist army invaded this realm, would you fight for the Queen or the invaders?". Bloody, because unanswerable: "the Queen" means you would be fighting against coreligionists; "the invaders" means you are a self-confessed traitor.

People who have trouble accepting the women-priests dogma and who seek communion with the Holy See tend to get asked: "But what will you do if Rome herself changes her mind?" If the answer is "I will follow Rome", then the come-back is available that "If you're happy enough to change your mind when Rome changes, why are you making such a fuss? Why not wait and see if Rome does change?" Alternatives, such as "I'll join the Orthodox*" mean that one is confessing to being Protestantissimus; one is not accepting the Church's Magisterium, but testing the Church by one's own Magisterium. The assertion "Rome won't change" gets one into a scrappy argument when 'examples' are adduced of changes which, it is claimed, have occurred in Catholic teaching over the millennia.

Politicians have more sense that to get into discussions with journalists about possible contingencies. They are wise. Since contingencies, some probable, others improbable, are literally, logically endless, following the interviewer down this path means that, sooner or later, he will succeed in making a fool of you.

What I think one can do is to throw oneself into the contingency game as a willing player, rather than leaving the richly dangerous quagmire of Contingency-land in the exclusive possession of the enemy.
Example will follow.


*Do I recollect that one of the politicians who converted to Rome back in the 1990s once, in the early days, said something like this? If not, I apologise to all of them.

5 February 2011

Back to Bishops

Fr Ray Blake has a good short post on Episcopacy in East and West ('Bishop Bashing') which could suitably act as an endnote to my recent series on Episcopacy.

Am I right in thinking that Bishop Richard Williamson's latest Dinoscopus - particularly his last couple of sentences - suggests that he envisages a continuing 'pure' SSPX if Mgr Fellay does a deal with the Vatican?

God bless their scarlet cotton socks, the lot of them.

Fr H's Winter General Paper, 2011

Question 62
(A) "We have all been brought up on the story of Fr X, at the end of a magnificent procession of Our Lady, bursting into tears and ejaculating 'Won't Mama be pleased'".
(B) "During a procession of the Virgin, Fr Y was enjoying it so much that he said: 'Round the church once again' and an ethereal female voice from the region of the image said: 'Damn!' loudly and clearly".
Suggest, with reasons, (i) who is, in each case, the narrator;
(ii) to which denomination each anecdote refers; and
(iii) the identity of each priest.

4 February 2011

Knowing it by heart

One of the most important perceptions of the document Liturgiam authenticam, by which Rome set a new course in the matter of how Latin liturgical texts should be translated into the vernacular, is the idea that stability in liturgical texts enables people to make an interior appropriation of them so that the texts can then feed their Christian lives. I can illustrate this from my own life. I am nearly 70. I became familiar with the day hours of the Breviary in Latin as a 15-year old. The text I used had the Vulgate psalter in it. Then circumstances found me using a text with the new psalter of Pius XII. Then it became convenient to return to the Vulgate psalter. For the 25th anniversary of my priesthood, I acquired the Second Edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. It contains the psalter of the neo-Vulgate. Three different psalters.

The result of all this is that I can't say any one single psalm (except, for obvious reasons, Judica me and Lavabo), with confidence, by heart. If I try to do so, I find, creeping into my recitation, variants from the other psalters that my memory is cluttered up with. And I get lost. At Benediction, I need to make a conscious act of memory to tell me whether, in the second verse, to sing "laudate"(with the Vulgate) or "praedicate" (with Pius XII) or "collaudate" (with John Paul II). I am sure that hours of learned committee work and gallons of ink led those committeepersons, all doubtless infinitely cleverer than me, to hone and finesse every syllable of their texts to perfection. Sod the b*****s.

I hope that future generations, whether they are using Latin or English, will be spared this problem.

Mater Misericordiae

reprinted from May 2010We fly to [really 'beneath'] thy protection, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O ever [the 'ever' should really go with 'deliver us'] glorious and blessed Virgin.

That is a translation of the common Latin text; the Greek in the [see yesterday's post] papyrus could be rendered thus
We flee beneath thy mercy, O Mother of God; do not overlook our petitions in necessity, but deliver us from danger, O only Chaste, only Blessed.

You will notice that 'protection' was originally* compassionate mercy, eusplagnia. The root here is a word literally meaning 'bowels', seen as the seat of feeling, of compassion. When the Synoptic writers say that "Jesus had compassion upon ... ", this is the root they are employing. The Apostles sometimes implore their converts to show eusplagnia to each other. And the word for 'deliver' is the same one that we have at the end of the our Father. The prayer, in other words, is quite biblical in its language, and the writer is clearly familiar with the Lucan description of our Lady as Blessed, eulogemene. It is interesting to note how, well before the Council of Ephesus, it seems natural to call our Lady Mother of God.

It might seem odd to call our Lady only [mone] chaste. And other women might also qualify as blessed. I take it that the sense is that Mary is in quite a different league from other chaste and blessed women. Indeed, it is the very elevation assigned to the Mother of God that made the original editor misrepresent the date of this lovely prayer.


* Logically, of course, the Latin and the Greek might both come from a lost archetype ...

3 February 2011

Fr Tim ...

... has written a very good piece on Initiation (Hermeneutic of Continuity blog) pointing out that all the modern stuff about witholding sacraments until endless catechesis has been done is rather like the puritanical Jansenism of the 18th century. It is a must-read. Somebody one day will have to write a history of the contribution of the blogosphere to investigating the Tradition and recovering its wholeness and bringing new - yet traditional - awarenesses to the attention of the modern Church.

Tesco zucchetto

Continues a series on Episcopacy
Anglican Diocesan Bishops are, formally, the pastors of the congregation which meets in the building where they have their cathedra. But that congregation will in fact only see them on major occasions and at the main festivals. Otherwise, the congregation will be pastored ... not even by the Dean or Provost, who is himself a grand functionary running a large and expensive piece of heritage ... but by a priest sometimes called a Precentor. However, in the case of diocesans, at least the technical proprieties of episkopos, ekklesia, kathedra, are, on paper, maintained.

With suffragan bishops and 'area bishops', even this fictitious memory, this pretence, is absent. A suffragan bishop does not even formally have a congregation of which he is pastor; nor does he have a building in which you can go and look at a piece of furniture which - even if he never sits in it - is his cathedra. I do not find it easy to think of a more corrupt perversion of Episkope than this. No wonder the Free Churches are (except for some of their aspiring bureaucrats) so resistant to it. Unless one believes that, underneath the prelacy, the pompous dysfunctionality, the unreformed medievalisms, the sheer corruption, we Anglicans still do, in Episcopacy, really possess that Apostolic Ministry with which the Lord wished to endow His Church, only a fool would put up with it all. What it amounts to is episkope conceived purely as management; as our own Patrimonial Dom Gregory Dix put it with his characteristically lapidary accuracy, "the business-man in gaiters" [perhaps this could be translated into RC-speak as "the Tesco Area Boss in a zucchetto"]. For the Modern Church, there are senior managers; there are junior managers; there are the managed; and from time to time we ask the question 'How shall we make this management system work better?'

Why is such a corrupt system not reformable? Let me tell you a story ... or is it a myth?

The First Vatican Council gave expression to the ambitions of a centralising papacy; power, both in terms of government and of teaching, was concentrated in the hands of the Roman Pontiff and his collaborators. This needed to be balanced. In fact, it needed to be balanced by the Ordo Episcoporum. So we had Vatican II, which recovered the truth that bishops are themselves successors of the Apostles and not merely Vicars of the Roman Pontiff. Thank the Lord! So we moved into Broad Sunlit Uplands. The bishops returned from Vatican II, their faces wreathed in broad, sunlit, complacent smiles of self-satisfaction. Propriety ... balance ... embodied in themselves and their own perception of their own corporate importance ... had been restored.

Nowhere, as far as I am aware, did the conciliar documents of Vatican II, while they were busily and cheerfully 'balancing' the papacy, show the least awareness that the current expression of Episcopacy, at least in the Western Church, was itself arguably in need of reform. Nor, in the decades since, has there been any substantial movement for rethinking this episcopal system. In fact, matters have in some respects become worse. The aggrandisement of Episcopal Conferences has brought in its wake - people say - bureaucratic structures of Advisers and Committees, vast enough - so I am told - even to rival the bloated bureaucracies of Anglicanism. The old dream of the Bishop as the Man of, the Father of, his own Church ... what has become of that? Indeed, I can't help feeling that it may have been easier - especially before the advent of modern instantaneous electronic communications - to ignore the diktats of a pleasantly, gloriously, remotely, distant and ineffectual Roman Curia, than it is to be one's own man (or rather, the Man of One's Church) when enmeshed today in the structures of an Episcopal Conference. But, as a mere Anglican, I know I ought not to express views on this.

As far as I can see, not many people have any sort of inkling of any endemic weaknesses in the structures of modern Western Christianity. One man does; the man who shared responsibility for John Paul II's document (1998, Apostolos suos) reminding Episcopal Conferences of their very limited nature and status: and, my goodness, how the pair of them were vilified for that overdue and very necessary reform. Curiously, or perhaps not curiously, it is that same Bavarian gentleman who has legislated that the Ordinariates should, in 'episcopal' vacancies, submit their own ternas directly to the Holy See ... rather than going through the Nuncios.

There is a paradox in all this. Undoubtedly - in my view - Churches should choose their own bishops. But is this the historical moment to effect such a change? Perhaps this Pontiff's aim is gradually to move back to a system of local choice, starting with those ecclesial bodies whom he knows he can most confidently rely on to possess and perpetuate a holistic and orthopractic Church life ... such as Ordinariates.

There can rarely have been a more intellectually exciting time than the pontificate of Benedict XVI. The exhilaration I felt on hearing of his election has in no way abated.

2 February 2011

An oligarchy of mediocrities?

What is a Bishop? In the early centuries ... not that I am suggesting the immutability of patterns ... but let's see how this goes ... the bishop was the Man of his Church; chosen within the local Christian Gathering (ekklesia); consecrated for them by bishops representing the Catholica but destined to remain their Apostolic Man until he died (Translation=Adultery)*. He was the Pastor of a Congregation; and when church buildings became common, he had his cathedra, his chair of teaching and ruling, situated in the church building of his congregation, in the midst of the people he pastored Sunday by Sunday and day by day. Some of us have experience of how something like this still works out in some Orthodox communities ... I did in South London ... and a very lovely sight it is too, as the the hairdressers and cafe owners and hospital attendants and wide-boys drift in to seek his guidance or, most commonly, simply to gossip with the man whose hand they kissed as he made them a cup of coffee.

We are, of course, unwise to try to impose too rigid an interpretation on any institution. In the early centuries, there were chorepiskopoi who ran around the countryside bishoping; we know very little about how their episkope operated - there is some evidence that at least some them really did have sees, however small the village - but the story of this institution makes clear that they were viewed with unease, restricted, and finally eliminated ... as we Anglicans might say, the 'period of reception' led to their rejection by the Church. I would see them as a tentative first attempt to deal with the new problems which arose as the Church moved into the countryside. More recent centuries have known the custom of bishops with merely titular sees, both in the East and in the West; I rather agree with what John Zizioulas wrote about this practice ... catty bit coming up now ... before he became Metropolitan of Pergamon. I venture, however, to suggest that in such side-roads we do not discern the essence of Episcopacy.

In much of the first millennium, a Bishop was the Man of his Church in the sense that the People might very well have known him since his childhood; had, perhaps, seen him ordained in their midst as diakonos while a young man; had watched him mature over the years; become Archidiakonos; serve for decades as the Right Hand Man of the Old Bishop both at the altar and in Church affairs; until, upon the old gentleman's demise, he seemed the obvious successor. Such a system enhanced the stability of the paradosis of a Church; diminished the risk of Clever People with New Ideas getting their shifty hands upon the tiller of God's Church. If a bishop taught a different doctrine ex cathedra from what he taught last week, or from what his predecessor had taught, it would be noticed.

In the Church of England, diocesans used to be appointed by the Crown, which was an outrageous system but did at least from time to time provide a bishop of outstanding ability who might not have been successful in a more 'democratic' system. This system was reformed so that a Vacancy in See Committee now submits names for formal approval. On the face of it, this system, with representation of the local Church, the wider Church, and the local community, has a lot to be said for it. In fact, as very different commentators with very different standpoints have pointed out, it leads to a self-perpetuating oligarchy of mediocrities. Because: those committees almost always play for safety by prefering a man who has served as a suffragan. And all suffragans are appointed by the diocesans. And diocesans have a deeply rooted fear of appointing a subordinate who will outshine them. Hence the appallingly low quality of the present Anglican episcopate.

But, mediocrities or not, the individuals thrown up by this system are not - like the bishops of old - Men of their Own Church.


I am sure readers will recall the immortal exchange between Bertie Stanhope and Bishop Proudie ... I quote from memory ...
Bishop Translations happen less frequently nowadays than previously.
Bertie They've cut them all down to much the same, haven't they?
i.e. the Ecclesiastical Commission had made the revenues of most sees the same by amalgamating and then dividing equally the ancient endowments, inequalities in which had hitherto fuelled the incessant quest of Whig episcopal oligarchs to get themselves translated to wealthier sees.

1 February 2011

Fr H is furious yet again

I recently listened on the Steam Wireless to some daft woman who's got an exhibition opening at the Tate. She appeared to me to be incapable of opening her mouth without imparting misinformation. I give the gist of her meanderings as I remember them, with my own bracketed comments in italic.

"I collect Holy Water [since she asserts this about herself, I am inclined to give it some credence; although in view of what follows, you may think I am over-credulous]; you get Holy Wells wherever there is Celtic influence [you get Holy Wells all over the place; and, in any case, the whole idea of the 'Celtic' is regarded as extremely questionable in the eyes of a lot of modern scholarship] which were originally associated with a Mother Goddess before being Christianised [I myself know of no evidence for this popular old fantasy]; for example, at Lourdes you can still buy bottles of Holy Water [where in Lourdes can you do this? I saw not a shred of evidence of it. There are a number of rather ordinary taps where you can help yourself to shrine water free of charge; I picked up a discarded plastic mineral water bottle off the ground, gave it a good wash and rinse under the tap, and filled it with Lourdes water which I brought home and subsequently used for the Asperges on Assumption Day. I never paid anybody so much as a Eurocent for it.]".

How is it that Christians, of all people, are suspected of credulity and superstition? It often seems to me that, in a world of twaddle, we Christians are the only folk around who test facts, attempt to be accurate, and try to apply the canons of elementary logic.