26 April 2017

John Leland, and does the Devil break wind over Wales?

In the 1530s, as Henry Tudor attempted to gather evidence in his campaign for the annulment of his marriage - and later, his contest with the Pope - a tame intellectual called Leland was sent round the monastic libraries of England to pick up, in the years before the imminent dissolution, texts which might help the royal cause. He also did what he could to secure, for the royal collections, some of the choicest books harboured by the religious orders. He was not very successful in the former enterprise; when he got to the Oxford Greyfriars, where he confidently expected to secure a great haul of the works of Grosseteste, he found ... zilch ... I wonder why ... But in the latter business, he did rather better; there is in Bodley a preconquest book put together by S Dunstan, looted from Glastonbury, with a picture of a prostrate monk which might conceivably have been drawn by the Saint himself.

I hope you made your way through my recent post on the Middle Cornish plays written (probably) at Glasney College in Cornwall, and the iniquities of Bad King Tudor. Leland ... drole, yes? ... found it prudent to 'discover' in Cornwall evidence that Tudor was not so bad, after all; surprise surprise, he was a good religious king and a benefactor of the Church! 1984 and all that! Intellectuals, intellectuals!!

Incidentally, although nowadays racial ideologues within the soi-disant 'Celtic' nations (unaware still that research in DNA has disproved any possibility of a common genetic inheritance) are elaborately enthusiastic about a warm pan-Celtic solidarity, there is little evidence for this sensitive fellow-feeling in the Middle Cornish texts or in sixteenth century history. The sorceress Owbra, while collecting the magical substances whereby to get the amorous Tudor stuck in her bath (memories of Anne Bullen 'bewitching' Henry VIII?), includes in her pharmacology the 'noises' ('trosow': 'farts'?) which the Devil 'throws' over Wales.

And, after the Prayer Book Rising of 1549, while the regime's Welsh troops didn't quite manage the long journey to the battlefields until the Italian mercenaries had done most of the slaughtering, they certainly arrived in time to share effectively in the looting. A Exonian (and Protestant) chronicler recorded the contemporary witticism that the prices they charged for selling stuff back to the locals from whom they had stolen it were quite reasonable!

25 April 2017

Bad King Tudor ... or good?

While in Cornwall, Pam and I have been spending the evenings in our usual way when down that way: reading some texts in the Cornish language. The current Cornish Nationalist and Awareness Movements are predominantly secular; but, amusingly, they have to pay lip service to the relics of the old Cornish language and literature. Yet these are predominantly Christian and Catholic: religious plays written in the Middle Ages by (probably) the Canons of Glasney College to be put on in dramatic festivals (spread over two or more days, held in the round 'Playing Places' remains of which can be found in various parts of Cornwall); or else are Cornish sermons done for the Catholic education of the people in the reign of or soon after Good Queen Mary (largely translated from sermons of Bonner).

A recurrent motif of the plays is Bad King Tudor ('Teutharus' in the mss.; rendered nowadays as Tewdhar). In the quite recently discovered Life of S Kay, the Saint bamboozles the Bad King; Tudor, after sundry mistreatments of Kay, has promised that the saint can have as much land as he can impark while the king is in the bath. But the sorceress Owbra, who lures the king into the bath with expectations that he will be able to 'launcya' her (lots of loan words in Middle Cornish) therein, contrives by her potions that he will not be able to get out of it. "Wicked woman! For a thousand pounds I would not wish to see thee, by the Mass (ru'n oferen)! Through thee I am bewitched! Here I am stitched and stuck to the tub!"

Bad King Tudor appears in the literature of Cornwall much earlier, in the Latin Vita Sancti Petroci published by the Bollandist Fr Grosjean. The big question about the Glasney plays is exactly how they relate to the Cornish experience of the Tudor dynasty. Did they contribute to the Cornish backing of Pretenders in the time of Henry VII? Are they connected with the Cornish rebellion of 1497? With the religious discontent felt in Cornwall under Henry VIII and Edward VI?

More on Tudor tomorrow.

24 April 2017

Saint Augustine and Limbo

A Colloquium on Limbo? A visit to the restored Pugin Shrine of S Augustine of Canterbury? 30 June to 1 July? £150 but only £75 for Seminarians, because they are already in a type of Limbo.

Try googling the Dialogos Institute.

Go on, have a look 

Mr Corbyn and S George

Mr Corbyn, the "hard left" party leader in British politics, has never been primarily known for an interest in Liturgy or Hagiography. But he has just made the commitment that, should he become Prime Minister, the Festivals of the Patron Saints of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland will be made public holidays!

Some time ago, there was a proposal that there should be a Patron Saint of the United Kingdom. I found it strange that such an ephemeral institution as "the Yew Kay" should have a Patron.

All political arrangements are transient and include flawed elements. And the United Kingdom particularly so; it had its genesis in the unwholesome imperatives of the whig agenda after the Dutch Invasion; subsumed Ireland only in 1800; lost most of it little more than a century (of bungled rule) later; and retains only a questionable and debated hold over the part of Britain which Whiggery tried to rename North Britain. It seems to me that a much more useful sense of identity is urged by the suggestion in Fr Aidan Nichols' The Realm that Christians should think of having a bipolar existence. We belong to a cultural construct which is 'at once internationalist as the Church of all nations, and yet patriotic'. And surely our priority must be S Paul's striking metaphor that our politeuma is from above: our real passports are issued neither by England nor by the UK nor even by Europe, but in heaven. That is why S George - whose feast is transferred to today - is such an ideal Patron for England. He never came here; indeed, Provincia Brittannia had not even become Angleland when he bore witness. He reminds us that faith in Christ, even unto death, is what takes priority by several thousand miles over narrow loyalties. According to the lectio iv at Mattins, he was declared Protector of the Kingdom of England by that admirable Pontiff, Benedict XIV, at a time when, according to the constitutional understanding of the intruding Hannoverian Regime, there was no such thing as a kingdom either of England or of Scotland!

If the UK were to have own patron Saint, S Aidan has been urged on the grounds that he has Irish, Scottish, and English connections. Well, I've nothing at all against S Aidan. Far from it. But my alternative proposal (granted that the UK did need a patron) would be S Theodore: a Greek-speaking Syrian monk sent by a Pope of Rome to be Archbishop of Canterbury.

I feel myself a Christian before a citizen of the UK. Indeed, I feel myself a Latin Christian in my culture before I think of myself as English. I feel quite as much at home in still-quite-Catholic Western Ireland or worshipping at a Latin Mass in the Alpine foothills overlooking Lake Garda, as I do in England.

Er ... well ... perhaps a bit more so. Am I a disgrace? Or do all readers feel a similar superior loyalty?

23 April 2017

The child-like simplicity of some Natural Scientists (1)

I once read an article in New Scientist, exulting (as I must confess I also do) in then-recent Pluto fly-past, which enquired 'where we go to next'. The author replied to his own question by suggesting a visit to Alpha Centauri, our nearest neighbouring star, which is a mere four light-years away. Acknowledging that a space-craft constructed in accordance with our current technology would take a rather long time to get there, he nevertheless enthusiastically urged such a project on the grounds that it would be tremendously exciting for our descendants, in 100,000 years, to be getting the pictures (and other data) back.

I think this sort of sweet and child-like simplicity really marks out the instinctive differences between those like me, bred to cynicism and scepticism in the Humanities, and what I will call the naive journalism-end of Science writing. (I put it like this because, during my teaching career, I had colleagues, published scientists, who were men and women of very broad interests and formidable intelligence, whom I have no desire to patronise or insult.) For me, litteris humanioribus nutritus, nothing is more obvious than that the interests and assumptions and intellectual fashions of our species vary hugely from year to year, generation to generation, century to century, millennium to millennium. My own immensely shallow forays into intellectual history have included the 1930s, the 1840s, the 1630s, the 1490s, the Classical Roman World, the Classical Greek World ... in other words, brief, superficial  forays into brief periods spread over a little more than two thousand years. Many readers will recall that a very able mind, Mgr Ronald Knox, described with erudition and brilliance the mutating preoccupations in a fictional Oxford Senior Common Room by eaves-dropping its after-dinner conversations at fifty year intervals from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries (Let Dons Delight).

Of course, I may be wrong, and I grant you the liberty to be quite certain that I am. But I have to say that nothing strikes me as more totally, mind-blowingly, absurdly improbable than the idea that, in 100,000 years, our human descendants, assuming that we have any, will be possessed of interests even remotely similar to those of early twenty-first century astronomers. 

Anyone who can believe that (I feel inclined to say) will believe anything.

22 April 2017

"Archbishop Becciu"?

So an English gentleman, Fra Matthew Festing, has been ordered by some Italian archbishop called Becciu not to set foot in Rome. Such is the degree of petty tyranny to which Christ's Church Militant has now descended.

 Did I say 'archbishop'? This Becciu has never discharged a pastoral role as a real Bishop, let alone an 'arch'bishop. He is styled 'Archbishop' because of a nasty, corrupt practice set in place by S John XXIII, of spraying episcopacy over pen-pushing bureaucrats.

I complained about this twice in 2014. Interestingly, Cardinal Kasper made exactly the same point around the same time. In this matter, he is absolutely right. This is a massive abuse calling for reform, but still unreformed even in an allegedly reforming pontificate.

I wonder what conclusions we should draw from the spectacle of a Pope whose rhetoric is about Shepherds Smelling of Sheep, and about a Church Which gets Its Hands Dirty, but who actually functions oppressively through 'archbishops' who smell of nothing so much as the Computer.

Here is one of the pieces I originally wrote in 2014.

It is nice to know that Important People in Rome read my blog so carefully and take it so seriously. Cardinal Walter Kasper, I gather, agrees with me that: it is an abuse to thrust episcopacy upon curial bureaucrats as a sort of 'honour'. Kasper points out that even the great and admirable Cardinal Ottaviani, that hugely wonderful apotheosis of doctrinal rigour combined with Traditional peasant Catholicism [that bit's my description, not Kasper's], was not a bishop until S John XXIII, in accordance with his deplorable new policy, forced him to become one. Indeed, back even in the days of the derided 'Renaissance Prince' papacy, this was not thought necessary. (Blessed John Henry Newman was a cardinal but never a bishop.) Why can't the present Holy Father see the logic of my and Kasper's point? To thrust the charism of a Successor of the Apostles upon someone who is not going to be using that sacramental status in et cum Ecclesia, as the Shepherd of a Particular Church with its presbyterium, diakonia, and laos, but is merely going to have a 'titular' see in some long-forgotten place, is an abuse of the Sacraments. It is to use the Sacraments themselves merely to augment a bureaucrat's dignity and vanity ... as well as Signor Gammarelli's profits! Of course, there are bishops whose ministry of episkope is unusual but is pastorally episcopal (one thinks of Archbishop Pozzo, in the Ecclesia Dei  Commission), but I do not think that this is typical of curial roles.

Neither Walter Kasper nor I are attacking the present Pope individually in saying this. Pope Benedict XVI and S John Paul II used episcopal Consecration in precisely the way we are criticising. In my view, it would show Pope Francis in a very good light if he took the opportunity of his reform of the structures of the Curia to introduce this reform as part of the package. He's removed all the silly stuff about curial prebyters getting automatically to call themselves Monsignore ... good ... but the abuse of the Apostolic Ministry carries on, and is a far worse abuse. [Frankly, the speed with which Bergoglio made Tucho Fernandez an archbishop, in little more than hours after becoming pope, calls into question his credentials as a 'reformer'.]

Let curial Cardinal Presbyters be and remain Cardinal Presbyters! (And wear, daily, a galero, if they want to!) But what is worst is that secretaries of dicasteries are made archbishops. Is the Holy Father not aware that, in the local churches throughout the world, 'Archbishop' is a title of some distinction?

Sometimes it is suggested that such 'rank' is necessary so that the curial chappy concerned can 'outrank' Bishops from dioceses (rather as the Officer commanding a naval base used to be made the 'Harbour Admiral' so that he could outrank pushy visiting ships' Captains).

But does the Body of Christ need this infantile preoccupation with rank?

21 April 2017


This year, the Julian and Gregorian Easters coincide, a glorious pignus of Unity. So Easter Week is also Bright Week. And on Friday in Bright Week the Byzantines celebrate the role of the Mother of God in pouring Christ's healing streams of grace upon us. Originally Zoodochos Pege (the life-receiving fount) refered to one of Constantinople's greatest basilicas (next door to the imperial residence), Blachernae. Our Lady appeared there at the hagiasma (miraculous stream), standing with her hands raised in the orans posture. After an ikon was created to portray this and placed in the church, water began to flow from her hands. One is reminded of similar imagery and ideas at much later Western shrines such as Fatima and Lourdes, and of linked motifs of water and of grace flowing from her hands. The congruence here between East and West is quite uncanny, and it can only be a glorious intimation of the fact that both East and West drink from the same wholesome wells.

Zoodochos Pege is is also the dedication of that nice little Orthodox chapel up the stairs at the back of the Anglican Shrine Church of Our Lady of Walsingham. Suitably so, because a big part of the pilgrimages at Lourdes and Walsingham is the use of the water which our Lady showed to her servant. What a shame there is no Catholic Byzantine chapel at Walsingham! How lovely if the historically biritual Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer were able to start one!

It seems to me that the symbolism of Zoodochos Pege is an expression of what we Westerners have in mind when we call Mary Mediatrix omnium gratiarum, or refer to her Omnipotentia supplex. May she pray for the unity of all her Son's people.

20 April 2017

William Cardinal Allen ...

... is one of my favourite Cardinals. What a shame the Armada, perhaps the greatest Ecumenical venture ever planned, was unsuccessful! What a loss to the Ecclesia Cantuariensis!

In Westminster Cathedral, a large church in a Byzantine-derived style near Victoria Station, there are big brassy brass lists, dating from the pontificate of Cardinal Vaughan, erected to demonstrate the links of communio between successive Roman Pontiffs and the heads of the Catholic Church in England. (I have written about them before; my suspicion is that they are intended as an attempted counter-blast to Anglican claims of linear succession from S Augustine's quite successful little Church Plant from the Caelian Hill.)

What I want to know is: Why is Cardinal Allen not on that list?

Was he not appointed Head of the English Mission on September 18 1591 by Gregory XIV (an admirable pope who was a friend of S Philip Neri and of S Charles Borromeo, perpetuator of our own dear Cardinal Pole's Counter-Reformation).

What has the Ecclesia Westmonasteriensis got against William Allen? Or against Gregory XIV?

Was Vaughan in Lord Burley's pay?

A toast to the Glorious Memories of Popes Gregory XIV, Benedict XIV, and Clement XIV! And of William Cardinal Allen!!

19 April 2017

"In communion with the Pope"

Some bishop somewhere out there in foreigner-land has suspended a priest who criticised Pope Bergoglio in a sermon.

Personally, I think it is bad form to use a sermon to criticise directly any other Catholic cleric ... including the Pope. It is not what sermons are for.

But I take great exception to the wording which this bishop is reported to have used. And I mention it because it is a linguistic usage I have come across elsewhere during this increasingly illiberal pontificate.

Preaching should serve, said the bishop, "meditation of the readings of the day, and certainly not to give personal judgements, especially if they were not in communion with the Pope ... It is certain that priestly ministry in the Catholic Church presupposes communion with the Holy Father [sic all the syntax]".

Being in Communion with the Pope, or (since baptised non-Catholics may be said to be in partial communion) being in full Communion with the Pope is, surely, a juridical category whch implies that one has not been separated from the Communion of the Catholic Church by some formal judgement or by committing a canonical crime which, according to Canon Law, carries with it a sentence of excommunication latae sententiae.

Simply to criticise the Pope (however improperly or unwisely) surely does not incur such a sentence. Or, if it does, which Canon says so? And which Canon says that a cleric so acting incurs suspension either latae or ferendae sententiae?

If criticising the Pope automatically puts one out of communion with Christ's Body the Church, then there must be quite a lot of people who criticised Pope Benedict and who are still wandering around with an invisible but very real excommunication latae sententiae dangling round their necks and clashing at embarrassing moments with their pectoral crosses.

18 April 2017

Canon Brian Brindley ...

... wrote a nice piece on S Mary's Bourne Street ... or, as we called it once, Graham ['Grahm'] Street. My last visiting preachment as an Anglican was to this lovely 'Travers' building; the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, in aeternum floreat, represents in my mind the Faithful Remnant of that great old tradition, with its 'Mascall' connections.

Brindley explained that the key to understanding this Church was that it was intended to look like a Catholic Church which had gently and organically evolved over the centuries. He went on:

" ... in the Church of England, in all circles, low church and moderate as well as high church, the liturgical initiative is seen to lie with the Roman Church, and the Roman Church on the continent of Europe in particular. All the gimmicks which we see accepted without demur in the most official Anglican circles within the Church of England today - evening Mass, 'concelebration', Mass facing the people, 'primitive' vestments - all of them came to us direct from the Roman Church. Even in the matter of liturgy 'understanded of the people', where the Church of England has had a few centuries' start, it must be confessed that it has lagged behind the Romans. Church people who travel on the continent now find a very different external manifestation of Catholic continuity from that which delighted Maurice Child and Ronald Knox in the days before the Great War - tabernacles empty, high altars stripped and deserted, statues removed, votive-stands gone, high mass abandoned, plainsong and polyphony alike cast out in favour of vernacular hymns and trivial melodies; and, everywhere, communion-tables strictly in accordance with Cranmer's rubrics of 1552, in use at Mass. A Belgian or a Spanish visitor, wandering by chance into St Mary's, might be forgiven for thinking that he had strayed into some forgotten land of liturgical conservatism."

Father got some things wrong:
(1) Evening Mass was invented by Evangelicals, probably (has anybody researched this?) as an attempt to subvert Tractarian emphasis on Fasting Communion; and
(2) the 1552 BCP rubrics ordered the priest to stand at the North, or left, side of the Table. Thus he would be sideways-on to the people, who would have a good view of his right ear but would not be required to be confronted by his grinning face ... as the custom is in most Novus Ordo Churches. And

(3) are things quite as bad now?

Thanks to the erudite Dr Cotton for this.

17 April 2017

Fr Thurston again

Fr Altiere has kindly told me that Fr Thurston's book Lent and Holy Week can be read integrally online:


Father adds that Ft T also has an interesting article on the O Antyoiphons and, among other things, a study of the English Coronation Service, probably written at the time of the Coronation of George V.

16 April 2017


A courtier once asked Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini, whether he had noticed the large cross being worn suspended from a necklace by a certain well-endowed marchesa.

The enquiry was a cheeky one because the lady was displaying her emerald cross just above a very plunging neckline.

"Yes", replied the Sovereign Pontiff. "And I've also noticed the hill of Calvary upon which it is set up".