15 January 2018


In 1948, an English novelist wrote thus about American young women: "She was the standard product. A man could leave such a girl in a delicatessen shop in New York, fly three thousand miles and find her again in the cigar stall at San Francisco ... she would croon the same words to him in moments of endearment and express the same views and preferences in moments of social discourse. She was convenient; but Dennis came of an earlier civilisation with sharper needs. He sought the intangible, the veiled face in the fog, the silhouette at the lighted doorway, the secret graces of a body which hid itself under formal velvet. He did not covet the spoils of this rich continent, the sprawling limbs of the swimming-pool, the wide-open eyes and mouths under the arc-lamps ...".

I would go further. My fantasy of an exquisite civilisation would include the return of the habit of women wearing hats ... preferably with a veil complicating ones perception of the face behind it ... skirts at least mid-calf ...

My problem is that what Waugh derides as American seems to have become the culture of Europe as well. Wall to wall immodesty is the order of the day. I am glad I am no longer a young man. I think I would find it difficult nowadays to find satisfaction of Waugh's 'sharper needs'. As an old man, happily married and many, many decades beyond the Chase, I do retain regrets at an purely aesthetic level ...

The online edition of one popular English newspaper has an illustrated sidebar directing you to endless stories about indecently dressed female 'celebs' ... it is a newspaper which, in the 1930s, supported Facism; whose proprietor referred to 'Adolf the Great'; and who wrote to Hitler to congratulate him on his every aggression. It waged a relentless campaign against the entry into this country of the fleeing thousands of European Jewry escaping from one of the most hideous atrocities in European History. Perhaps one should look on the bright side of things. The Good News is that it does not praise Adolf the Great. But the Bad News is that it, and its competitors, remain the slavish mouthpieces of the Zeitgeist.

14 January 2018

The Next Conclave and the Papal Oath

Nothing would better express the Traditional, Biblical, Patristic, notion of the Petrine Office, as happily defined at Vatican I, than the following reform in what is done at the inauguration of a pontificate.

The prelate who emerges elected from the next Conclave should instantly sweep away all the unnecessary and obsessive ritual flummeries dreamed up, I think, by Pietro Marini and first used at the Inauguration of Benedict XVI.

They should be replaced by the taking of a solemn Oath of Fidelity done in public. Analogies and formulae existed for this in previous ages, which might be used to supply textual materials.
     For people who like ritual stuff, the Oath could be taken on the oldest Bible in the Vatican Libraries.
     For people who like even more ritual stuff, or are fixated on the use of vernaculars, each paragraph, before the pope recites it in Latin, could be chanted by, say, a Jewish Cantor in Hebrew and a Byzantine Subdeacon in Greek and read by laypeople in any number of vernaculars.
     For strange people who want even more ritual than that, the document could then be solemnly attested by Cardinal Notaries and sealed with lead.
     For those whose affection for ritual amounts to a lunatic obsession, the document could, finally, be solemnly processed through the congregation, held aloft by the Cardinal Protodeacon in the popemobile, while the crowd hysterically shouted VIVAT IUSIURANDUM! Meanwhile, the pontiff would remain kneeling in quiet and humble prayer before the Altar. The popemobile could then be taken away, either for immediate ignominious destruction, or for sale at Sotheby's in New Bond Street, the money (including, of course, the auctioneer's commission) being given to the Poor and the Ordinariates.

Essentially, the new Pontiff should swear, in words drawn from Pastor aeternus of Vatican I, to hand down uncorrupted the Tradition which is from the Lord through His Apostles, the Deposit of Faith. He should swear to resist and to put down all novitates, tam in Fide quam in moribus.

He should acknowledge that, while he will indeed be the Supreme Legislator with full power to change the (human) Law of the Church, he will himself obey the Law and refrain from interfering with legal processes, particularly those relating to the trial, conviction, and punishment of clerical sexual predators who enjoy powerful curial protectors.

And a rather useful practical undertaking might be: "As We uncover evil practices and corrupt deeds and false teachings among Our Cardinals and their clientelae, We shall not allow Ourself to be deterred from dealing with them strictly and according to Justice, by any consideration of who supported or who resisted Our Own election."

To preserve the poor silly Media from their inveterate temptation to assume that a pope has or ought to have a "programme", the Oath should not be followed by a homily.

If the Tourist Industry desired the service to be padded out to a greater length and dignified with rather more 'heritage', this could be done by a reaffirmation and confirmation (with great solemnity) of the anathemas pronounced by the Sixth Ecumenical Council against Pope Honorius I.

13 January 2018


I hope readers have not forgotten to get a copy of the ORDO produced by The Saint Lawrence Press Ltd, 2017.  It gives directions for using the Missal and Breviary of the Roman Rite as they were in 1939. It really is important to know how radically some things were changed before the pontificate of Pius XII. It didn't all begin with 'the Council'!


President Trump

I am one of those brits who likes Americans. My circle of friends would be significantly reduced if I deleted Americans. And I actually rather admire very many Americans. And, in the last Presidential election, I would certainly have voted for anybody or anything to exclude the clinton. And would do so again without any hesitation.

So I would like my American friends to understand better why President Trump is so loathed and detested in this country that the likelihood of big demonstrations against him has led to the cancellation of his planned imminent visit here.

There is undoubtedly the fact that British (and European) politics are shifted well to the left of American politics. For example, our previous 'Conservative' and 'right wing' Prime Minister, David Cameron, would probably be considered a dangerous left-winger in terms of the American political spectrum.

And it is enormously true that DT is precisely that sort of American who incarnates what brits of pretty well every type think they find most alien about Americans.

But let me conclude by mentioning just one little episode that particularly infuriated me personally.

We had a terrorist incident in London. DT reacted to this by attacking the Mayor of London.

If there were a terrorist atrocity in New York and a British Prime Minister took precisely that opportunity to attack the Mayor of New York, I suspect that we might be very gently urged to remember that the British Crown no longer exercises jurisdiction over the United States.

OK, we are now small and insignificant and in rather a mess. But do you think that makes us enjoy being rudely and crudely humiliated?

12 January 2018


As the Coronation of George VI on May the 12th 1937 drew closer, Press interest in those who desired to be differently monarched did not lessen. Towards the end of April, an eccentric fantasist called Captain Henry Wheatley-Crowe announced to the media that the King over the Water had appointed him Regent of the Three Kingdoms, in which capacity he protested against the imminent Coronation (Crown Prince Rupprecht very quickly made clear that the Captain's claims were totally without foundation). At the beginning of May it seems that, back at Balliol, Peter Geach made a second foray in the Jacobite interest. The Milwaukee Journal reports that the "Oxford university authorities frustrated, as a student prank, a Jacobite demonstration scheduled to proclaim Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria 'king of England'. Peter Geach, 20-year-old, pink cheeked leader of Oxford Jacobites, had prepared a proclamation acclaiming Rupprecht as the British Monarch and denouncing 'a certain George Windsor' as a pretender to the throne. ... One of [Geach's] supporters was arrested Friday and fined a pound ($5) by the university's proctors."

I do rather wonder whether the nameless undergraduate 'arrested' and fined may in fact have been Geach himself. It is not clear whether the Bulldogs 'arrested' the young man, whoever he was, or the Police nabbed him and handed him over to the Proctors. There seems to be a legend that this declaration was to be made at Magdalene Bridge; which would make sense, since it was from that bridge, according to Oxford tradition, that two undergraduates were hanged during the events of 1745 ("the '45"), when Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales and empowered by a Commission of Regency from his father King James III and VIII, was endeavouring to restore the rule of law during the usurpation of ... I am indebted to that great Englishman and Oxonian Mr Max Beerbohm for this diverting periphrasis ... 'smug herrenhausen'.

Perhaps, entering into the idiom of the eighteenth century, one could aver that the future Professor Geach was "out" in "the '37".

As well as during "the '45", there were 'disorders' in Oxford, in favour of King James, during 1748, which were serious enough to make the University authorities very frightened indeed that the Whig de facto regime might come down heavily on Alma Mater Oxonia. The Dedication of the Radcliffe Camera had to be postponed; when, in 1749, that event was able finally to take place, the renewed 'disorders' were led, this time, by a don rather than by the undergraduates. A lengthy Oration was delivered by 'the Pretender's great agent' [Horace Walpole's description] Dr William King. Jacobites gathered from all over England and Wales to hear King's ringing denunciations of the wealthy Whig oligarchy, its network of informers, its culture of bribery, its militarism ... leading up to a magnificent peroration in which paragraph after thundering paragraph began with the word REDEAT ["May he {i.e. Prince Charles} return"]. But the Latin syntax was so delicately manoeuvred that the subject of that subjunctive was, technically, never explicitly Prince Charles. Since in Latin word-order a subjunctive like REDEAT can come first in its sentence (and, in a rhetorical cause, might indeed prefer to do so; vide the last line of this post), King could utter it, pause awhile to milk the enthusiastic applause, and then carry on to supply some other, vaguer, phrase as the 'official' grammatical subject (e.g. 'Redeat ... magnus ille genius Brittaniae'). King prudently included in his printed text a prohibition against any translation being made into the vernacular: a process during which grammatical niceties might well have been fatally coarsened.

'Fatally' because Dr King's head, indeed, did depend upon the syntactical nicety!

Vivat Rex! Floreat Oxonia! Requiescat in pace vir doctissimus Petrus Geach!

11 January 2018


Today, a little more on Professor Peter Geach, Balliol College, distinguished Catholic philosopher and husband of the equally distinguished Elizabeth Anscombe (see post of December 21). Readers will recall that 1937 was a time when the Abdication crisis had put the institution of the Monarchy under considerable pressure, and a charismatic and popular 'modern' (i.e. e.g. pro-Nazi) king had been replaced by a younger brother whose startling lack of glamour was exceeded only by the courage and resolution he was to display in the unwanted role of kingship during a difficult war ... a damn' close run thing. But, in 1937, the virtues of 'Stuttering Bertie' still awaited future demonstration.

"Fifty Oxford undergraduates championed a lost cause when, on January 31, they proclaimed Rupprecht, ex-Crown Prince of Bavaria, legitimate heir to the throne of Britain' as descendant of the Stuarts."

The proclamation was read at the Martyr's Memorial. The undergraduates did not even Anglicise the new 'king's' name to the Stuart 'Rupert' - who was a member of St John's College and who led the German forces against Britain on the Western Front. ... The proclamation sneered at the House of Windsor for failing to defend "the dignity of the crown and the liberties of the people". The ceremony lasted but a few minutes. "The undergraduates, wearing in their button-holes the white rose of the 'Legitimist' clique, raised a cheer. Mr Peter Geach, 21-year-old scholar of Balliol College, who made the proclamation ... stressed the 'loyalty' of Balliol. 'There are many in Oxford', he said, 'who would be willing to fight for the Stuarts'. ...He said the Jacobites would take no part in the Coronation celebrations ...".

Another newspaper added the information that "should former Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria become king of England, the only reward Peter Geach plans to ask is 'the right to lead a quiet academic life' ... Geach, who wore his scholar's gown when he made the proclamation, continues to peer through his horn-rimmed spectacles at the Latin and Greek tomes on which he must stand examination [Honour Moderations in Litterae Humaniores, aka 'Mods'] this spring. ... slender for his six foot height, Geach comes from Cardiff, Wales, and is of Cornish descent ..." This account is headed by a photograph of Geach waving his academic cap.
To be continued and concluded tomorrow.

10 January 2018

Thank you ...

... to everyone who sdent me Christmas Greetings!

Most of the American cards arrived a few days after Christmas; I blame the Royal Mail! And today, a card to celebrate the Julian Christmas.

God bless all of you; and everybody who reads this blog.

Rowan Williams on "the Celtic Church"

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, who was previously [Anglican] Archbishop of Wales, wrote (2012) about the Celtic Myth in these words:
"A great deal of nonsense has been written about Celtic Christianity, as if this were an intelligible designation for some selfcontained variant of Catholic orthodoxy in the early Middle Ages, a variant more attuned to the sacredness of nature and less obsessed with institutional discipline. Historically, the churches of those regions where Celtic languages were spoken never thought of themselves as part of a network other than that of the Western Catholic Church. They wrote and spoke Latin. They looked to Rome as the focus of their ecclesial life (Welsh kings as well as English spent their final years in Rome) and they accepted the creeds and canons of the Catholic Church. The irony is that Bede's concern to show them as mysteriously and suspiciously 'other' to the Roman norm is one of the the roots of modern mythologies about a Celtic Christianity that is somehow deeper and more spritually comprehensive than the orthodox mainstream.  ... what modern fantasy has turned into a contrast between institutional 'Roman' Christianity and native Wordsworthian innocence and mystical insight ... if Bede finds a genuine nineteenth-century Catholic echo, it is perhaps more obviously in the mature Newman, who both understood the need for universal communion and valued the spiritual legacy of those who, for a variety of good and bad reasons, had stood on or beyond the edges of that communion."

It occurs to me: there is surely a parallel between the invention soon after the year 1700 of the idea of 'Celtic' nations, 'Celtic' religion, 'Celtic' culture, 'Celtic' identity, 'Celtic' solidarity; and the invention of Africa. Just as the Irish and the Cornish in the year 1500 had no inkling ... not the remotest idea!! ... that they were 'Celts', let alone 'fellow Celts', I would wager that the Zulus, the Hottentots, and the Swahili had no awareness that they were 'Africans', sharing a combined mystical destiny. Nkosi Sikelei Afrika is a text set to a stirring and moving melody: but 'Afrika' can in its origins rest only upon a Western imperialist cultural construct. Based, of course, on a Roman imperialist cultural concept!

I wonder if we invented India and China too. And what about Russia? Where would the world without us?

9 January 2018

Sunday Mass

For a century and more, life in our society has become more atomised and individualistic. We no longer live in integrated communities in which different people fulfil different and complementary roles for the common good. Millions live in dormitory suburbs, have no common interests with their neighbours, and few common activities. I do.

This has inevitably had an effect upon the liturgical community. Particularly in Northern Europe and particularly among Catholics, the Church has operated an efficient system based upon optimum use of plant and personel. One priest with one Church and a decently sized carpark and faculties to trinate can serve a large area, and do so economically. Rural Anglicanism, on the other hand, often functions with one priest serving six or more congregations the size of which may vary; in Devon I had congregations of ten to twenty five, with just one Church among the six gathering about forty. Anglican and ex-Anglican clergy will recall the the difficulty of persuading people to unite, even just once a month, in a 'United Benefice Service'. In my experience, about 50% of those nominally on the roll never went to Church on those Sundays when 'the Service' was not at 'their' Church.

The Catholic model has a resilience which the Anglican lacks; I have little doubt that, in a generation, Rural Anglicanism will be as dead as Inner City Anglicanism (leaving just Prosperous Suburb Anglicanism). But the Catholic model has weaknesses too. It means that you might well not know the worshippers with whom you so cheerfully 'exchange the peace'. You are an aggregation of individuals (laudably) fulfilling your obligation, but with an enervated sense of coinherence. How alive can the phrase 'The Body of Christ' be in such a context?

The old culture of the community church, the Church of a community which worshipped regularly together, had a beauty as well as a theological strength to it. And one of the things which has weakened it is the Vigil Mass.

Only God knows the tally; how many people the Vigil Mass culture has retained in the practice of the Faith; how many it has lost because of the weakening of communal links. No sane person would want to step back from it, however much we may sense a certain dreariness in the sight of all those people 'getting it out of the way' so that they can be 'free' on Sunday. And, however much we explain to ourselves and to others that the Liturgical Day begins with the Eve, we all sense that Saturday Evening is not ... really ... instinctively ... Sunday. And let us admit it: the Vigil Mass constitutes a surrender to the life-style of the zeitgeist. What father could face explaining to his sons that they cannot take part in the local footie culture which invariably situates its practice sessions ... on Sunday morning?

The experience of a whole community, wearing 'Sunday Best', strolling down in families to their Parish Church as the bells ring on a Sunday morning in which secular pursuits have been set aside has, I am convinced, much more value to it than mere romanticism, or (as you are probably intending to explain to me) nostalgia for an irrecoverable social order.

Is there really no way in which we can move back in the direction of a Sunday Community Mass? Does it still survive anywhere other than in rural Greece?

8 January 2018

Cardinal Mueller on Exclusive ideologists

"Some ideological groups present themselves as the exclusive guardians of the only true interpretation of Amoris laetitia. They feel they have the right to condemn all people of another standpoint as stupid, rigid, old-fashioned, Medieval, etc.. ..."

I have a problem with this ... not that I often quarel with his Eminence ... I have always prided myself on being stupid, old-fashioned, and Medieval. Then, this last year, following PF's insistent encouragement, I added to my temperament the additional characteristic of Rigidity.

I'm very happy with this combination of the virtues. Couldn't I hang on to them just until the end of this pontificate?

7 January 2018

The Ordinariates, and How To Save The English Church

"Given the kinds of statistics I've outlined - that is, too many churches for the numbers of priests and worshippers we actually have - it's no wonder that many bishops have readily borrowed ordinariate priests for their dioceses. 

"Anglicanorum coetibus was, in this sense, an unexpected windfall of additional clergy. There are, I believe, currently 60 ordinariate priests on loan to the English and Welsh dioceses, with most of these assigned to parishes. I recognise, of course, the benefits and expediency of such arrangements. As it happens, I have been glad of 'borrowed' ordinariate priests in two dioceses I've lived in. Bishops need priests, and priests - and their families - need stipends. Nevertheless, I don't think the current model of plugging gaps in ordinary diocesan provision is, in the long run, a sensible one for either party.

"From my outsider's view - I'm neither a member, nor eligible to become one - the ordinariate offers the Church in England and Wales (Scotland too!) a significant pastoral opportunity: the possibility of a permanent structure, fully part of the wider Catholic community, but with its own distinctive liturgy, spirituality, musical traditions, parish culture and atmosphere. Rather than being simply a one-off fix to bring a wave of former Anglicans into full communion with Rome, it is genuinely sustainable. It is continuing to attract former Anglicans and others (not excluding other Catholics) on its own terms, while at the same time being a community in which children are brought up, who in turn bring up their own children in it.

"Christ's Church has plenty of room in it for such a body, as is again amply proved by the Eastern Catholic churches ... with the ordinariate offering a niche way of 'being Church' that complements, rather than competes with, the default normal parish offering. 

"I've even seen it work - in Texas, of all places. Last year I stood at the back of a packed vigil Mass at Houston's ordinariate Cathedral of our Lady of Walsingham. The next day there would be four further Masses, all using the Divine Worship missal and all similarly well attended. Around a third of those present, I was told, were former Episcopalians and their families, a third were cradle Catholics of various types, and a third were converts from otherChristian denominations, other religions, or no religion at all.  ...

"From where I'm kneeling, we seem to have a God-given cure to many a diocesan bishop's headache. So why are our dioceses not queuing up for the ordinariate to take otherwise under-threat churches  off their hands, and on extremely advantageous terms? This is a genuine question, for I am genuinely puzzled."

This is the end of an article by Professor Stephen Bullivant in the Catholic Herald. (Father Zed reprinted most of the aricle, but only briefly alluded to this final section.)

I have no other status in the Ordinariate than that of an incardinated retired priest. But, entirely as an individual, I agree with every word of this. I would only add something which has come to me as a widely heard rumour, with a number of sources, but for which I cannot vouch. It is that, somewhere in the Church's system, there is blockage point, a spirit of negativity, with regard to the rapid and smooth 'reordination' of former Anglican clergy ... what our jargon calls 'respraying'.

I have no idea why this should be, if indeed it is so. Might it possibly be that some bishops hope their staffing problems will soon be solved by the mass ordinations of married deacons? Or do stretched diocesan finances dictate the closure of churches and the commercial development of their sites? I dunno!

But I am kneeling somewhere very close to Professor Bullivant. If the English Bishops wanted an influx of what he describes elsewhere in his article as "dozens of young and energetic clergy, thoroughly immersed in British culture, and with years (if not decades) of pastoral experience as well", they could have them for the asking.

6 January 2018

Gold ...

On the Feast of the Epiphany, by ancient English Tradition the Sovereign's representative offers in the Chapel Royal (Catharine of Aragon's Tudor one right inside the Palace of S James, where the Chapel Royal functions in the Winter months; not in Henrietta Maria's Inigo Jones masterpiece whither the Chapel migrates at Easter) gifts of GOLD, Incense, and Myrrh ... Epiphany, when pictures of the Magoi ... or, as the folk-religion of Latin Christendom calls them, the three kings ... get one thinking about money yet again. GOLD! We had our Golden Wedding last year. Our ingenious children  ...

But I digress.

In the Mueller Interview, I read:  
"The biggest danger to the Pope these days are those opportunists, careerists, and false friends who are concerned not for the good of the Church, but for their own financial interests and self-advancement."

Money! There's money, his Eminence reveals to us, in being a Bergoglian! How does one get it?  I thought the naughty fellows were disinterestedly clustered in the Bergogliosphere out of mere pravitas haeretica. Gold! Does one get in touch with the Papal Almoner? Would he provide me with a nice golden chalice and paten ... baroque ... putti crawling all over it ... you know the sort of thing ... after all, there are insistent calls for the immense wealth of the Vatican to be shared among the Poor, which we certainly are. They must have thousands of those things in Rome. Certain passages of the prophet Amos (in my view, the greatest of the prophets) come to mind ...

Would I have to declare it to the Tax Man?