30 September 2016

I am NOT, NOT, NOT making this up!

After my frivolous account of modern Anglican wedding rites, you might easily think I am making this next bit up.

I'm not.

A day or three ago, some dear friends, devout Anglicans, whom we got to know well when we were in our Devon parishes, came to see us, and most generously took us to have a look around Blenheim Palace together. At the end of the tour is the Chapel. People often make jokes about the fact that everything else in the Chapel is dwarfed by the ginormous Kentissimo monument to the First Duke (alias Johnny Churchill). Doesn't worry me. Rysbrack carved it, and I like the baroque. And Sir Thomas Jackson, who designed so very much of Oxford in his 'iconic' Jacobethan style, including my own college, worked intelligently there.

But we didn't have a look around; because our friends very properly shepherded us out in horror. We discussed whether to demand our entrance money back.

There, in the sanctuary, concealing the altar, was a (temporary?) display the main feature of which appeared, to our fleeting glances before we fled, to be a large white marble statue of the back of a naked woman.

It is fair to assume that the new Bishop of Oxford, a former S Ebbesite Evangelical, has granted faculties for this. And the General Synod, which is qualified to pronounce what Anglican doctrine is without there being any possibility of appeal, must have altered the beginning of the Anglican Creed to Credo in anum Deum. And, of course, appropriately felicitous liturgical formulae will be in the process of being drafted.

I seem to recall ... or am I imagining it ... that, according to Pausanias, Praxiteles' first Greek statue of Aphrodite gumna, at Cnidos, was housed in a tholos and that proctophiliacs used to bribe the Verger to let them peep in at the back. Perhaps such proctoscopy will be the new Anglican way of fund-raising. The tax levied from parishes, which used to be called the quota and is now renamed the share, will have its name further abbreviated to the nomisma procticon.

But Papists, believe me, are in no position to mock. Whatever the Anglicans do today, the blessedly eternal Spirit of Vatican II will ineluctably prescribe tomorrow. Roll on, Pope Francis III! Clothed or unclothed!

28 September 2016

The Revd Prebendary Michael Joseph Moreton

A couple of years ago, I published this account of an Anglican liturgist who had just died. Before those who despise all things Anglican ignore it and move on, I would draw their attention to some aspects of what follows which are relevant to the current situation within the Catholic Church. 

A very great priest, a very great scholar, a very great man died on [25 September 2014], three years short of his century and in the 65th year of his Sacred Priesthood. He was a fine example of what Archdeacon emeritus Henry Manning disapprovingly called the old Oxford, Anglican, literary, Patristic tone. Others will write detailed and accurate obituaries; I warn you that I can only give a deplorably self-regarding sketch of what, in just one decade of his long life, Fr Michael Moreton meant to me.

I think of Michael as one of the Exeter mafia; priests who spent their entire priesthood with a sense that the Diocese of Exeter was their real home ... Bishop 'JR' (John Richards), Prebendary John Hooper were two such others who had an impact on my life. (The Church of England does not have a system of incardination, but clergy who have this sort of local identification seem to have a great capacity for enriching their priestly environment.) I did not become one of Michael's friends until Pam and I moved in retirement to the edges of Devon, and JR took me along to the Society of S Boniface. This priestly society, of which Michael was the dominant member, met monthly for Mass, for study of the Greek New Testament, lunch, and an academic paper. The Biblical exposition was always done by Michael, with immense and painstaking care; but it was in the old spirit of the sort of' 'modern biblical scholarship' in which by that time I had realised I no longer believed. So when we 'passed it round' after he had finished his exposition, we both knew that my contribution would be subversive. I suspect I might even have deployed the phrase 'More Dead Germans' to characterise the modern commentaries he so often cited. Life was fun.

Michael was, I believe, the first modern liturgical scholar to explode the myth that versus populum was the 'primitive' custom; he did this in a crisp brief paper read at one of Betsy Livingstone's Oxford Patristic Conferences. He was indeed a link with an older generation of scholars in the last golden age of classical Anglican Divinity; he recalled buying a copy of a 'large book with a dark green cover' (Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy) in the SPCK bookshop in Calcutta immediately after its publication. 'Boniface' had been founded by Canon Jasper, who used to report to it on the progress of Synodical liturgical revision in those heady days before it became clear that the Evangelicals would veto any viable Eucharistic Prayer. Michael had also known Dr Jalland, my erudite predecessor at S Thomas's in Oxford, and had said the Mass at his funeral. Ignoring the prejudices of some of those present on that occasion, he had used the Canon Romanus. "I decided that since he was a Patristic Scholar, he should have a Patristic Eucharistic Prayer".

Indeed, it was Michael who brought home to many thoughtful priests the importance of that great monument to Christian antiquity, to Catholicity, to Romanita, which we call the Roman Canon. I remember JR, an old-style 'Prayer Book Catholic' and a former (very disciplinary) Archdeacon, sheepishly borrowing a copy of the Canon Romanus from me when he was due the say the Mass at 'Boniface' ("Michael likes it so much, boy ... I'd better use it"). Michael used to explain that, far more important than mere legality, what mattered was the auctoritas which the Canon Romanus had in view of its origins in the same period in which the Canon of Scripture and the threefold Apostolic Ministry crystallised within the Church. [Pope Benedict XVI was later to write something rather similar to this.] I still vigorously assert Moreton's perception that this incomparable Prayer does have the same immoveable canonicity as Scripture, Creeds, Ministry. With some encouragement from another valued Exeter friend and fellow-member of 'Boniface', Fr Peter Morgan (who had the distinction of being the first priest ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre for his Society), I began to celebrate on weekdays the Latin 'Tridentine' Mass instead of the Novus Ordo in Latin. What happy days they were. What precious memories to cherish.

Michael was an immensely kind and gentle man; with a great natural generosity. He was also an endearing example of conjugal devotion. How many of us remember and celebrate each year the Day upon which we first set eyes upon our wives? Few things meant more to Michael than his memories of long and happy years with Peggy; quorum animabus propitietur Deus.

27 September 2016

More about Effchurch (see a recent post)

I forgot to mention that Effchurch Priory is in the custody of "English Heritage", and that, after the Tridentine High Mass, an Anglican Wedding took place. We found a comfy seat in the warm sun and watched the external accidentia of this bizarre event.

D'ye know, there were ten bridesmaids! But that wasn't the really odd thing, which was: not one of them seemed to be doing any actual bridesmaiding. They were all in an advanced state of squealdom and it took some time to get them lined up before the entry into the church. And they were lined up to precede the Bride! So who, you ask, went behind and held up the Bride's dress out of the mud? ... It fell to one of the two English Heritage employees in black skirts and pullovers! And the Bride's Father held her bouquet for her!

Finally they all tottered into church twenty minutes after the advertised time.

I know I still have some readers out there who have not yet succeeded in liberating themselves from the shackles of Old Mother Damnable; perhaps they will be able to explain these ritual changes which have occurred since the days when I was still around to lend the C of E a touch of style. Is it something in the spirit of Bubbles Stancliff's didactic ceremonialism, designed to evoke the Parable of the deka parthenoi and the eschatological krauge Ecce sponsus venit? Or, as one of my family suggested, might the Ten have been girls who had previously enjoyed the addresses of the numphios? So that as he looked down the church at the Entry, he would have to meet the eyes of each of them, and remember? Another of my family, who has perhaps read too much of Sir J G Frazer, Robert Graves, and poor gullible Margaret Mead, wondered if, in the nox nuptialis, it might be deemed the duty of the numphios to favour each of the ten girls before approaching his Bride, so that it would be a tribute to her hyperaphroditic excellences if she still had the power to move his sated and enervated capacities. Like Heracles and the Forty Nine Daughters of Thespios, sort of, as you might say, or up to a point.

And ... perhaps there are other amusing weirdnesses in up-to-the-minute rapidly-evolving post-Christian Anglican liturgical praxis which Anglican readers could reveal for our delectation? Go on! Spill the beans!

I think I got out just in time. Call me a rat if you like; but the ship was undoubtedly sinking pretty fast, leaving behind it just the flotsam and the jetsam. The Ordinariate, although smaller than the creaky, leaky old Tudor warship, is a very trim and attractive little craft. And we have a lot of fun.

26 September 2016

On the Internet ... the limits of papal authority

(1) The latest Catholic Herald has a good piece by a Fr Mark Drew on the ongoing Amoris laetitia  crisis. (I cannot resist entering here a snide comment that visitors to this blog have already repeately read most of his points here ... Parrhesia and all.) Father refers to the intimidation experienced in this country as  'discreet' ... but then, we are English, aren't we? In some other places, it has been anything but discreet.

(2) Sandro Magister (Chiesa 21 September) quotes an Andrew Grillo, whom he calls a keen Bergoglian, as forecasting that the next Synod will, among other things, deal with
"The Collegial exercise of the episcopacy and the restitution to the Bishop of full authority over the diocesan liturgy".

I presume we all know by now that 'Collegiality' is well established as a code-word for giving improper competences to Episcopal Conferences ... a serious potential ecclesiological corruption (upon which Cardinal Mueller spoke well a year or two ago). But what I am particularly drawing your attention to this morning is the part of the sentence I have put into italics. It means that the bully-boys who hate Ratzinger and his legacy are beginning to set their sights on demolishing Summorum Pontificum and eliminating its admirable doctrinal emphases on Subsidiarity and the auctoritas of Tradition.

I am only surprised that it has taken the Wolves and their cubs so long to get round to this.

Both of these two superficially diverse items exemplify the same over-arching problem which this increasingly dysfunctional pontificate continually throws up: the limits of lawful papal power. Time to read again what Ratzinger so wisely said on this. And to revisit Pastor aeternus (together with Denzinger 3114 and 3117).

25 September 2016

Offchester and Effchurch

While Doing the North, we found ourselves looking over a perfect 'transitional' Augustinian Priory Church, which, as Pevsner observes, was in ruins but still complete enough in the 1840s to make its restoration at that time almost totally reliable. It is beside a ruined Regency house: if only the Priory were still in ruins; and the Regency house were not in tatters; the whole (immensely romantic) site would be a perfect setting for S Jane's Northanger Abbey. I will call it Effchurch Priory; we visited it at noon on the Saturday when forty or fifty people were gathered there for a Tridentine High Mass. It happens, I gather, once a year. An elegant and very accessible sermon on the day's Saint (S Nicolas of Tolentino); perfect liturgy; excellent singing. An enthusiastic and very participatory congregation, who knew their way around the Church's immemorial Liturgy and took part in a natural, relaxed, unforced, often quite loud, way.

Sadly, I did not feel that having heard Mass on Saturday at 12:00 would fulfill the Sunday obligation; so in the evening we went to a Vigil Mass in a town some miles away, which I will rename Offchester. The difference was palpable. The 1969 rite done very badly. Very little participation; the organ droned out eight stanzas of a hymn tune and not a person made a sound. The pp obviously deemed himself a brilliant mystagogue, because every single 'presidential formula', even the pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer, was either changed or interpolated. There was, unsurprisingly, no sermon. I say "unsurprisingly" because I have met the same liturgical corruption in the South of England, not least in a church where the priest proudly referred to it as "a Vatican II church".

I wonder why some priests of a certain generation and a 'Conciliar' culture have such a rooted aversion to preaching. This leads me on to wonder what exactly it was that they were taught in the corrupted and emptying seminaries of the post-Conciliar decades. We know that (despite Canon 249 and the Veterum Sapientia of S John XXIII) they were not taught Latin or Greek; because of this, they were blocked from sudying Patristics. They did not ... clearly ... do Liturgy or Liturgical Theology or Practical Liturgy; it appears that they received no education in Scripture, Biblical Theology, or how to open the Word of God for their people. I somehow doubt that they were all given a deep formation in traditional moral theology or the hearing of confessions, because I know of (another) church in the South of England where the priest explained that the difficulty about hearing confessions was that the Confessional had for many years been used for stacking away the unsold debris of Parish bazaars. What, in the Name of God Almighty and God most Adorable, did all those men learn in those seven expensive years of 'priestly formation'? 

I know some traddies cheerfully but (IMHO) irresponsibly point out that Monsignor Time will solve the problem of that generation of clergy; but, in a decade or two's time, will the joyless and infantilised congregations still be in existence? These are souls for whom Christ died.

If I were a bishop, I would send round formidable, even terrifying, hit squads of bright, orthodox, and cheerful young clergy with the oil of ordination still damp upon their hands, to teach the dear old gentlemen all the things that their lecturers forgot to mention in the 1970s and 1980s; and to overhaul a radicibus the parish liturgies. Cardinal Sarah's recent extremely sound suggestions could provide a lively and exciting start to a programme of restoring catholic authenticity in the desert areas. And His Eminence, with his true and accurate pastoral heart, clearly understands the urgency of this need. Happily, one hears of diocesan bishops loyally responding to his timely initiative. Let us hope that, on Advent Sunday ...

But not, sadly, quite all bishops. One or two Ordinarii locorum prefer to resemble stewards careering crazily around on the Great Liner's dangerously sloping decks while shouting noisily and inaccurately at anyone they meet about the 'true post-Conciliar' alignment of deckchairs.

24 September 2016

The ORDINARIATE and Malines, Mercier, and Mary

A great day! Our Patronal Festival! We accept your respectful felicitations!!

September 24 is the Ordinariate Solemnity of our Lady of Walsingham. Our admirable Ordinariate Missal provides for use today the beautiful Mass which Fr Hope Patten and Fr Fynes Clinton ingeniously created by making one very minor adaptation in the Mass granted pro aliquibus locis by Innocent XII (1691-1700) in honour of the Holy House at Loretto. (The Breviary Office which complements this Loretto Mass is also extremely beautiful and I assume that application of the principles of Canon 19 enables Ordinariate clergy who say the Breviarium Romanum to use it.)

It is a very fine Mass. Unfortunately, management at the Anglican Shrine later abandoned it in favour of some new Mass formulae confected by themselves in the Spirits of Hannibal Bugnini and Old ICEL; my copy of the 1979 (fourteenth) edition of their pilgrims' Manual informs us that "considerable revision was both necessary and appropriate, and this [a committee] proceeded to provide". (That presumably happened around the time when, so I was shamelessly informed, they made a bonfire of their maniples, burses, and veils.) Happily, in the Ordinariate we remain true to the vision and genius of Hope Patten and Fynes Clinton. Both that vision and that genius were and are of a very high order. "Considerable revision" is neither "necessary" nor "appropriate".

After all that, I hope it will not seem eccentric for me to write today about another Marian Mass; one which, it seems to me, also has interesting links with the long process which eventually, in Good Pope Benedict's Golden Days, led to the erection of the Ordinariates.

Our Lady, as Mediatrix of all Graces, used to have a big shop window in the Supplementum pro aliquibus locis; she possessed a festival granted for May 31 by Pius XI in 1922. It was granted largely at the instance of one of the great Prelates of the twentieth century, Desire-Joseph Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines 1906-1926.

Mercier, like Ratzinger, was one of those rare and admirable Catholic Prelates who were much attracted by the essential orthodoxy of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England and realised its enormous value to the Catholic Church, its true home. That is why, although he was a hammer of the Modernists (appointed, indeed, to Malines by S Pius X), Mercier was, with no inconsistency, the leading spirit in the Malines Conversations, in which Catholic and Anglo-Catholic theologians came to substantial agreements and espoused the idea of 'Corporate Reunion' expressed in the phrase "The Church of England United Not Absorbed'. 'Malines' is, in fact, part of the pre-history of our glorious Ordinariate, and Cardinal Mercier one of its godfathers.

Pius XII is said to have disliked our Lady's title Mediatrix of all Graces. That may be why he effectively sabotaged the feast in 1955 by submerging it beneath his own new festival of our Lady, Queen, on May 31.

The Mass and Office of our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces, authorised before 'the Council' for many places (including Belgium; much of the North of England; and Wales where, back in the age of Octave Days, it was transferred to June 1) contained good things. Here is part of the fourth Reading at Mattins, from S Ephraim the Deacon. I have written before about the Latin and Byzantine testimonies to this doctrine; I hereby now, in honour of today's great Marian Solemnity, cheerfully mix in the Syrian, Semitic tradition.

My mistress, most holy Mother of God and Full of Grace, inexhaustible ocean of divine and secret bounties and gifts, the beseeching of all good things, Mistress of all after the Trinity, another consoler after the Paraclete, and, after the Mediator, Mediatrix of all the world ... thou hast filled creation with every kind of benefit, to the dwellers in heaven thou hast brought joy, thou hast brought salvation to earthly things. By thee we hold the most certain proof of our resurrection; by thee we believe that we shall obtain the kingdom of heaven; through thee all glory, honour and holiness, from the first Adam and unto the very end of the world, has flowed, is flowing, and will flow, to the Apostles, the Prophets, to those of righteous and humble heart; and in thee rejoices, O Full of Grace, the whole creation.

Supplex Omnipotentia, ora pro nobis.

23 September 2016

Bishop Fellay and Mutual Enrichment

I was very moved when I listened to the two videos of His Excellency Bishop Fellay, justifying his hope of leading the Society of S Pius X into a canonically regular situation.

And particularly by the section in which he read long extracts from a letter sent to him by a diocesan bishop. (I suspected that he laid emphasis upon the fact that his correspondent was a diocesan bishop to prevent it being assumed that the writer was Bishop Schneider!) It seemed to me sad that His Excellency felt that he needed to conceal the bishop's identity; such, I suppose, is the result of the atmosphere of fear which pervades Christ's Catholic Church militant here in earth during the current pontificate. (Although no steps appeared to be taken against Reinhardt Marx when he said all that stuff about not being a subsidiary of Rome and not being prepared to 'wait' ... which is confusing. Might there be different standards of punitive retaliation for the differently dissident?)

It is no secret that there is a tendenz within the Society which favours an ecclesiology of remaining dug into a heavily fortified defensive position. I would not myself find this at all easy to justify. It can never be safe to be out of perfect canonical unity with the Successor of S Peter. And such a position can never be free of a suspicion that a schismatic mentality is being generated; a mentality which can only harden over the years. The longer communities exist in separation, the less easy it is to reconcile them. Surely, whatever else History teaches, it teaches this. Every unreconciled year is 365 more days' journey into the land of hardened cultural arteries

It is very much to the Holy Father's credit that, apparently, he has lowered the doctrinal bar for reconciliation, in line with the interesting remarks made by Archbishop Pozzo ... who had (or has a friend who had) clearly been diving into the Conciliar archives and unearthing formal statements made in the aula about the non-binding status of certain documents. And the Pope's statement that he had not spoken infallibly when he performed certain recent canonisations must help reconciliation. Obviously, a formula of canonisation does not fall within the parameters of Pastor aeternus; additionally, there is significance in the changes Pope Francis made in the rites of Canonisation. (The Search Engine would reveal my extensive views on this subject.)

The nameless bishop, in his letter to Bishop Fellay, was in fact echoing the appeal recorded in Acts 16, Come over to Macedonia and help us. But the Society has only some 600 priests. How can it possibly 'help' the so much vaster Universal Church Militant? As the disciples said to the Lord, alla tauta ti estin eis tosoutous? [John 6:9]. 

He answered their very natural apprehension non verbo sed actu. Such is the way with God.

Perhaps the fostering of vocations and seminary training could be areas in which the Societry's long, well tested, and proven experience could be of general usefulness. I gather that one in five of the priests ordained in France this year was ordained in the Extraordinary Form ... Possibly this is what that rather sporting Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had in mind when he observed, I think in 2012, that he would be happy to see the Society running his seminary. Does anybody have any better plan for reviving Wonersh? An Ushaw redivivum might end up full again, just as it was in that splendid old black-and-white video of High Mass on the eve of the Council!!

Incidentally, it could be useful for orthodox presbyters being hounded by unsympathetic diocesans to have a refuge into which they could be incardinated. The Society might end up growing faster than it anticipated!

Indeed, things after the regularisation of the SSPX might be fun. Since the Society's priests are relatively thick upon the ground in France, there would just have to be some entertaining exchanges of opinions as they took a full part in deliberations with the aged liberals in French dioceses and deaneries. And just suppose the Savoyard Bishop Tissier de Mallerais were nominated to sit in ... merely as an observer, you understand ... on the meetings of the CBCEW ... imagine that engagingly dismissive flap of the hand and the laconic verbal grenade blandly lobbed across the table, just when some item on the Agenda seemed to have been safely sewn up ... and, incredible though this must seem, Tissier might just possibly not be overawed even by Vincent Nichols ...

22 September 2016

The Tome of S Leo

Did you think I was a bit hard  in my criticisms a day or two ago of bureaucracies which operate under the cover of episcopal conferences? But those of us whom Pope Benedict so graciously invited to bring our own distinctive patrimony into the one true fold of the Redeemer have seen it all before ... these bureaucracies, their unaccountable Spokesmen. Sequuntur a couple of boring old anecdotes of my own. I hope you're sitting comfortably.

Once upon a time, S John Paul II, in the course of his admirable catecheses, spoke about the Perpetual Virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God. Virginity in any shape or form being an unusual concept to journalists, the Press wanted a Story out of this, and so they turned to the Press Office of what our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman so beautifully called the House of Bondage. Duly, next day, it was reported in the public papers that a Spokesman of the Church of England had disclaimed the doctrine and said that Modern Scholarship did not accept it. Since I was working as a priest of the Church of England, I rather objected to this anonymous individual claiming to speak on my behalf. I objected all the more, because 'Ever Virgin', aeiparthenos, is in the Conciliar documents of the Council of Chalcedon, a Council to which the Church of England has historically been regarded as doctrinally committed (under the legislation of Elizabeth I, you could be burned as a heretic for denying its teaching). Semper Virgo is, to be specific, present in the Tome of S Leo, who was one of the dozen greatest latinists of all time. I am very attached to (as we say nowadays) the Spirit of Chalcedon ... but also to its words. And equally attached to the Spirit and words of S Leo. And to the doctrinal interventions of all Roman Pontiffs except Pope Honorius I, whom, of course, I anathematise.

So I made enquiries about this Press Statement. To be brief: my enquiry was passed from hand to hand, office to office, with nobody taking responsibility, everyone disowning it. But I persisted, eventually discovered the identity of the 'Spokesman', and the processes he had gone through.

His media contacts had demanded a response before their press deadline that very same day. So he had 'phoned up the only bishop of the Church of England who had an academic reputation ... a liberal Evangelical who was 'chair' of the Doctrine Commission ... who had told him what to say.

Thus did a 'Spokesman' for the Church of England disclaim, and dissociate his ecclesial body from, the common teaching of the ancient Churches, Latin, Byzantine, Oriental, and their ancient liturgies; and of the ancient Ecumenical Councils. And disrespectfully dismiss the words of the World Leader of one of our 'partners in ecumenical dialogue'. It's as easily done as that! It's what bureaucrats are for!

The waywardness of these proceedings was emphasised by the subsequent ARCIC document on Mary, which spoke about the doctrine with much more respect, and reminded readers that Cranmer, Latimer, and Jewell had subscribed to it. 

Incidentally, I met a similar implicit disrespect for the Tome of S Leo during the period of 'priestly formation' which we had to go through at the beginning of the Ordinariate. One of the 'lecturers' described a formula found in the Tome (De nostro enim illi est minor Patre humanitas; de Patre illi est aequalis cum Patre divinitas) as "heretical" (ipso ipsius verbo). I was not impressed by what this revealed about the reliability of the doctrinal teaching still perhaps being given even today to Catholic seminarians, or the competence of all their teachers.

I pursued that chap, too. You just can't let these people, wherever you may find them, get away with things, can you?

21 September 2016

ASSISI

I hope that the 'Spirit of Assisi', which has so worried many good Catholics, may be losing its power to offend.

It is well known that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger felt that he must absent himself from one of the 'Assisi Events' sponsored by his admired friend and Pope S John Paul II. Indeed, I do not think it is disrespectful to suggest that the great 'showman pope' may have been even culpably careless with some of his gestures; or that some of the arrangements at 'his' Assisi came near to the sacrilegious. Complaints were in order.

But I felt that some traditionalists failed to give Pope Benedict XVI credit for the differences which he introduced when he made his own papal journey to Assisi. Had he simply discontinued these events during his own pontificate, he would have left, among the precedents from the previous pontificate, objectionable arrangements which subsequent popes might have accepted as normative, and followed. I believe that this is one important reason why Benedict went to Assisi ... to change the precedents; to correct and sharpen the implicit meaning of the event.

And now our Holy Father, in his Address at Assisi, has explicitly and clearly renounced "syncretism and relativism". This is splendid; and, because of its formal and scripted nature, is worth far more than those off-the-cuff observations which cause such justified unease.

'Assisi events' may still not be entirely to our taste. I can't imagine taking part in such things myself. But I think that anybody who claims to raise questions of principle must think very carefully about which details he/she finds radically unacceptable.

I add, as a footnote, my own warm approbation of the repetition by Pope Francis of the spirit and much of the language associated with S John Paul's condemnations of war. I wish that the Camerons of this world had listened more attentively to such teaching when they were wildly and irresponsibly clamouring for Regime Change in the Arab world under cover of the daft and murderous slogan "the Arab Spring". It was like handing out matches and encouraging the kiddies to run along and celebrate Bonfire Night in the forecourt of a petrol filling station. There is much blood on many fastidious hands. But not on the hands of successive Roman Pontiffs, who have discerned with clarity and have given their warnings in unmistakeable language.

20 September 2016

The Catholic Herald

It seems to me a bit of a pity that the ability of what the CIC calls Christifideles to make their views known via the Internet, courtesy of the Catholic Herald, is, apparently, no more.

More important, however, than my personal 'seemings' and my subjective 'bits of a pity' are the right, and indeed duty, prescribed in Canon Law (vide Canonem 212), for Christifideles to make their necessitates et optata et sententias known to their pastors and to each other. A valuable forum for the the exercise of this ius et officium is being removed. The all-important Spirit of the Code of Canon Law is thus being gravely infringed. We really can't be having that, can we?

Surely we may with confidence expect our beloved Episcopal Conference to take steps to ensure the restoration of this or a similar forum; and to encourage clerics and laics alike to practise thereupon the fullest Parrhesia. Since the Catholic Herald mentions the enormous economic burden of providing this service, perhaps the Conference could make a financial contribution, saving an equivalent sum of money by effecting extensive economies in Eccleston Square.

Indeed, discussion about the nature of such economies could be the initial topic which a revived and revamped Internet Forum (Forum Interretiale Christifidelium) could open up for discussion by clerics and laics. In accordance with Canon 212, I would nominate for the First Big Wave of Major Chops all the Liturgy wallahs, especially the one who provided a misleading translation recently with regard to the ad Orientem question; and all the chaps (and chappettes) who deal with Inter-faith Relations, particularly the one who advised the bishops with regard to the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; and all the Spokespersons, especially the one who made a statement a couple of years ago dissociating the Conference from Bishop Egan's reminder about the canonical provisions for refusing communion to legislators who legislate against Catholic morals. Oops: I nearly forgot to include the anonymous lady (or gentleman) who wrote the document I analysed in my recent "BUT ..." post. Clear 'em all out, sez I. Surely, such people precisely represent all the dangers Cardinal Mueller has had in mind when he has spoken over the years with such clarity and wisdom about the problems inherent in powerful 'Conference' bureaucracies. To His Eminence's words, with which I entirely concur, I will add my own humble ha'p'orth: that the mischief is increased when, as so often, these people make their utterances anonymously, thus, as dear Mr Baldwin put it, exercising power without responsibility, 'the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages'.

And the CBCEW could discontinue any subvention the Conference makes to ARCIC and other time-wasting bodies (I know you will all be able to nominate some).

We could save oodles of dosh.

But that's all just my own personal and deeply subjective and whimsical view. Please, in accordance with the Holy Father's wishes, use much Parrhesia in making your own suggestions.

19 September 2016

S Januarius and the Ordinariate

Oxford is a city of secrets; and one of its best kept secrets is its very personal relationship with the 1630s, an interesting decade when the Ordinariate very nearly happened ahead of its time. There appeared to be exciting ecumenical possibilities between England and Rome, partly helped by Charles I's laudably uxorious infatuation with his Queen Henrietta Maria.

First stop, if one wishes to do a pilgrimage to the 1630s, might be to contemplate the glass in Magdalen Chapel; 1632 and a baroque reinterpretation of the 'perpendicular' schemes in the windows of All Souls, New College, and elsewhere, each light being occupied by one saint. That in itself is interesting in a period commonly supposed to be 'Protestant'; and the selection of saints is even more so. They are not, as you might expect, a predominantly Biblical band; indeed, numerically they are less biblical than the saints in Oxford's medieval glass. Some of them, interestingly, are saints whose very existence plays a deft game of hide-and-seek with the canons of Enlightenment historicity, such as S Catherine with her wheel. There is S Anne 'Mater'; and S George; and S Januarius. S Januarius!! That admirable Saint who, this very day, is being celebrated in Naples, with supplications that, by the annual miracle of the liquefaction of his blood, he will guarantee the safety of that city! Many of the Saints in the window are so deliciously obscure that I cannot find them in my Dictionary of Saints. There is a strong cohort of Fathers: Ss Cornelius and Cyprian; Basil; a brace of Gregories; Dionysius; Polycarp; Hippolytus; Ignatius; Irenaeus; Clement. All this is faintly reminiscent of the Tractarian period: Fr Faber would have been happy writing biographies of Ss Eulalia and Theodosia; while Blessed John Henry Newman would have felt at home among the Fathers (one recalls that feature of his character which Dr Manning never stopped suspecting: 'the old patristic Anglican tone'). A most provocative curiosity: only one of the saints is wearing a halo. She is labelled 'Sancta Maria Deipara'.

A quiet saunter along the curve of the High brings one to the porch of the University Church, built in 1637, grandly and exuberantly baroque, its twisted columns identical with those supporting Bernini's canopy in S Peter's, Rome; a tantalising hint of the Catholic Baroque England that just might have been. Enshrined within a jolly ensemble of classicising details is a female Figure royally crowned and holding a Child ... the 'Sancta Maria Deipara' we met in Magdalen. The statue in this porch was listed on the indictment of Archbishop Laud when he was to be martyred for being Popish. Sancta Maria Oxoniensis, ora pro nobis! Et beate Gulielme Laud, sis memor nostri!

A third statio is much more private; no public thoroughfare. The back quadrangle at S John's was built by Archbishop Laud in an elegant Renaissance style; a statue of blessed Charles Stuart at one end looks across to a statue of Queen Henrietta Maria. An interesting suggestion of the workings of Providence: that it was a King who had no mistresses, and promoted a culture of Married Love, who was privileged with a crown of martyrdom ... am I right in thinking that the same may be true of Louis XVI?

If you want to have a better look at Queen Henrietta Maria, you could try the Old Common Room in Merton (the college in which the Queen resided during the Civil War), but they probably wouldn't let you in. But not to worry: there is at least one other portrait of her somewhere or other in the Ashmolean. (And indeed, I visited her last week among the Roman Renaissance magnificences of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland; I suspect loyalist fervour demanded her mass-production.)

In Oxford Cathedral, in the Lucy Chapel, you will find monuments of the royal servants who died (sometimes under arms) while the King and the Court were in Oxford, quorum animabus propitietur Deus (as well as the Shrine of S Frideswide and a bust of beatus ille Doctor Veritatis Edward Bouverie Pusey).

What more could a visitor want?

NOTICE

Readers will remember my Notice of 2 September explaining that I would no longer be taking in-coming computer traffic, including comments offered to this blog, until today, September 19.

I am now willining to consider any comments that anyone may wish to offer with regard to any posts during this very refreshing period.

I commend such breaks to all readers!

18 September 2016

Elephants never forget

Is it really true that Archbishop Bugnini's baptismal name was Hannibal? Is it really permitted to baptise with a name that perpetuates the memory of the old Semitic fertility god Ba'al? Wouldn't such a name imply that its holder was destined to be a promoter of idolatry? Or that he was philoprogenitive?


Is the name Annibale common among Italian Freemasons?

17 September 2016

(5) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem

This piece assumes that the reader already knew, or has by now taken on board, the sense of ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM which earlier posts of mine explained. The following example of this argumentum is taken from the great Anglican Catholic theologian Dr Eric Mascall.

Fr Eric is dealing with the claim that Anglo-Catholics are subversive Quislings because they try to reverse, within the Church of England, the changes made at the Reformation. He points out that it ill becomes those who support the Reformation Settlement to argue that a status quo should never be changed.

Let's unpack that or, to use Fr Zed's neat term, 'drill into it'.  [What follows is Hunwicke, not Mascall.]

Someone who believes "Changing a status quo is always bad" cannot be a supporter of what was done at the Reformation. Because, in that period, a status quo was changed.

Someone who supports what was done at the Reformation cannot also, simultaneously, believe that "Changing a status quo is always bad", because that is exactly what the 'Reformers' did.

Of course, it is open to anyone to say "Ah, but the status quo which the 'Reformers' changed was a wicked and corrupt status quo and so they were right to change it; but the present status quo is a good one, so you are wicked to try to change that". That is fair enough, because you and he can then dialogue or argue about whether the two claims in his statement are in fact true.

If he modifies his assertion of principle to "Bad status quos should always be changed and good ones should always be preserved", then he has shifted his ground to a rational (if a somewhat blindingly obvious) stand. You may well agree with him, while insisting that it is necessary to apply the two halves of his proposition with dispassionate care.

What he is not entitled to do, not today, not ever, not even on the Day of Judgement, is to have his cake and eat it: to rant about how "change is always per se wrong" when it suits him, and then to change horses to "Change is sometimes necessary" when that suits him. If he persists in trying to have things both ways, there is no point in wasting your time on arguing with him.

We could disentangle this from inter-Anglican squabbles and apply it to the Catholic Church of 2016 by considering the attitudes of the 1970s Liturgical Fetichists who dislike Cardinal Sarah's recent admirable and admirably repeated call for worship Ad Orientem and who also claim that it is totally beyond the pale even to imagine reversing the gigantic changes made in the 1970s; forgetful as they are of how vicious and radical were those changes of the 1970s.

A traddy Socrates would (despite his own very profound dislike of the 1970s 'reforms') probably start by cunningly representing himself as being where his interlocutor actually is (as a supporter of the 1970s 'reforms') by saying ...

Socrates Do you agree that the 1970s liturgical reforms were a good thing?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist I jolly well do (panu ge).
Socrates And did those reforms constitute a profound change in the inaccessible, guilt-ridden, incomprehensible, clericalist and hide-bound Liturgy of the pre-Conciliar Church?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Dead right, Socrates, that's just what they did. You never said a truer word (panu men oun, kai alethe legeis).
Socrates So when the 1970s reformers made their root-and-branch changes, they did well?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist B****y well, if you'll forgive the French, Socrates me old chum (kai mala, o sokratidion, houto phainetai).
Socrates It seems, then, that we are agreed that change can sometimes be necessary?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Yeah, well, fair do's, I s'pose we are, if you put it like that (alla moi dokeis ge, o sokrates, metrios legein, kai houto tithemai).
Socrates So if it were to appear upon further study that what Cardinal Sarah and the Traddies are currently trying to do to the worship of the Catholic Church is a necessary change, then we would need to applaud them and to follow them?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Crikey! I don't at all like the sound of that! (ou ma ton Dia).
Socrates But you cannot both agree that change may be necessary, and say that we must refuse to consider the changes proposed by Sarah and the Traddies. *ei gar tauta amphotera ereis, oukh hoios t'esei sumphonein soi.

There is the essence of the Argumentum ad hominem, in that last sentence of Socrates: *"For if you are going to say both these things, you will not be able to be in agreement with yourself". 

This, the Argumentum ad hominem, is how B John Henry Newman confessed that he amused himself in the Oriel Common Room by playing with slower people; this is the sort of device that Dom Gregory Dix so relished. Not to mention Mgr Ronald Knox, Protonotary Apostolic, and Fr Eric Mascall. Even Socrates and ... your humble servant. As Locke pithily described it, the Argumentum ad hominem is "Pressing a man with the Consequences of his own Principles or Concessions". Aesthetically, at its best it affords you the pleasure of watching, perhaps with a vivid glass of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc in handas your adversary squirms and wriggles on the painful horns of a dilemma which ... am I mixing my metaphors? ... he has walked right into.

There are, surely, in God's wonderland of pleasures, few sweeter, more exquisite, delights than contemplating that? You agree? Panu ge!!
____________________________________________________________________________
* Plato, the Cratylus, 433B.

15 September 2016

(3) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem

DIX: "The doctrine of the full Deity of the Holy Ghost ... was defined in 381 against the teaching of Macedonius that the Holy Ghost is not God as the Father and Son are God, but is in some way subordinate and intermediate between God and creatures. There is nothing in the NT which clearly indicates that the Orthodox doctrine is certainly right, or which is irreconcilable with Macedonianism in some form. Even the baptismal formula of Mt 28:19 can scarcely be pressed (as it was pressed then) in such a sense, seeing that baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus" only is scriptural, and so late as the ninth century was still an officially accepted alternative. S Athanasius and S Basil both raised the question of the Third Person, but their controversy was waged with those who had followed them against the Arians. They appealed, naturally, to Scripture and Tradition, and it is notorious how defective in substance their appeal is found to be when it is closely examined. It is also remarkable that in the works which they wrote to vindicate this doctrine both carefully avoid even once applying the decisive word "God" to the Holy Ghost, though in this they are but following earlier writers, even professed Trinitarians like Novatian, and the NT itself.

"S Gregory Nazianzen, "the theologian" par excellence for the East, under whose presidency the Oecumenical Council of 381 actually defined the doctrine, is explicit that there were but "few" who accepted it in his day, and that Athanasius was the first and almost the only doctor to whom God had vouchsafed light on this subject. Elsewhere he is even more devastatingly honest with the admission that while the NT plainly revealed the Godhead of the Son it no more than "hinted at" that of the Holy Ghost, which was now being plainly revealed in his own day. This is some distance from talk of "most certain warrants of Holy Scripture". It was neither Scripture nor Tradition which imposed the dogma of 381, defined by the most thinly attended and least unanimous of all the assemblies which rank as General Councils, but the living magisterium of the Church of that age.

"That the full doctrine of the Spirit's Godhead was then believed in some sense "everywhere" we may hope, though the evidence is not reassuring. That it had "always" been believed by some we may suppose, though the evidence is at least defective. That it had previously been believed "by all" is demonstrably untrue."

This piece by Dom Gregory Dix is to be read in conjunction with the recent post titled Argumentum ad hominem.

14 September 2016

(2) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem "ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM"

I recently posted a piece on what a good thing the Argumentum ad hominem is, as used by Blessed John Henry Newman and Dom Gregory Dix. What I need to make clear is that I use the phrase in the original sense in which it was used by Locke: "to press a man with Consequences drawn from his own Principles and Concessions". 

In other words, if a man says "Matilda never lies", and two paragraphs later he says "Matilda lied when she said X", then you are entitled to 'press' him with this. Logically, he must withdraw one of these two statements, or he is involved in a contradiction and cannot expect us to follow him. (He can, of course, also withdraw both.) If a man says "I believe A" and later says "I do not believe B because it is not explicitly in Scripture", he has handed you a hostage to fortune: if you can successfully demonstrate that A also is 'not explicitly in Scripture', then either he must preserve the 'principle' in his second statement "I do not believe B" by also discarding his belief in A; or, continuing to believe in A, he must cease to deny B on the grounds that it is not explicitly in Scripture (he might, of course, if he is quick on his feet, be able to think up a different reason for denying B and argue that; what he cannot maintain is his original and stated reason for denying it.)

This is called an argumentum ad hominem because, strictly speaking it does not prove anything at all; it only demonstrates that this particular man cannot maintain two contradictory or inconsistent statements. So it is "an Argument against [that particular] Man". For example, if you are strolling through the Parks with a friend to watch the Varsity Cricket Match, and he says "I don't believe Mary is the Mother of God", you can ask him if he believes that Jesus Christ is 'fully' God. If he replies "Yes I do", you can then say "So Mary, who is the Mother of Jesus Christ, is the Mother of God". Let us suppose that your friend says "Ah yes! I see! She is Mother of God in the the sense that she is the Mother of the one hypostasis of the Incarnate Second person of the Glorious Trinity. Fair enough". You and he can then warmly embrace; an ecumenical advance has been made. But Stay!!!: behind that substantial Rhododendron Bush was lurking Dr Dawkins of this University, beautifully coiffured as ever, eavesdropping upon your dialogue. He now leaps through the leaves and blossoms screaming maniacally "But there is no God at all and so Jesus Christ is not God and his Mother is not the Mother of God because there isn't a God for her to be Mother of because there isn't a God". Premises which were common ground between your interlocutor and yourself are not, you gather, shared by Dr D, poor silly old thing. So, to him, Dr Dawkins, you have proved absolutely and totally nothing. Indeed, your argument was not intended to convince someone of Dr Dawkins' limited understanding; you were only endeavouring to convince your friend, by appealing to his beliefs, to his 'Principles', to what he already holds dear and has asserted. Your argument was designed to persuade him by presenting him with the dilemma: "Either withdraw your belief that Jesus Christ is God; or withdraw your statement that Mary is not the Mother of God".

It is in this old Lockean sense of the phrase I that I commend Dr Newman's and Dr Dix's attachment to the Argumentum ad hominem. 

In a little while I shall post on this blog in full an interesting example (from Dix) of a (Lockean) Argumentum ad hominem. Dix argues, implicitly, that classical 'orthodox' Reformation Protestants cannot logically deny 'Popish additions to the Faith' on the grounds that they are 'unscriptural', while they themselves accept the dogma of the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, which is equally - or in fact, more - 'unscriptural'.

13 September 2016

(1) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem

Blessed John Henry Newman, Patron of our English Ordinariate, made an observation which seems to me germane to the purpose of our Ordinariate. He was praising B Pius IX for the restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850; but I think it has an application particularly to ourselves: "... by giving us a church of our own, he has prepared the way for our own habits of mind, our own manner of reasoning, our own tastes, and our own virtues, finding a place and thereby a sanctification, in the Catholic Church".

In his review of Ian Ker's Biography of Newman, the maestro assoluto of Anglican writers, Henry Chadwick, called Newman "as supreme a master of irony and satire as any in our literature". It is the great gift of Irony and satire, which Newman developed first as an Anglican and then brought to its full flowering in the Catholic Church, which I wish to think about today. The capacity for Doing Divinity within the forms of Irony and Satire was not an invention of Newman's ... one only has to think of the admirable Dean Swift ... but I believe that Newman both formalised it and cast it in a form which has done good service since. It is pre-eminent among the habits of mind, manner of reasoning, tastes which, following him, we in the Ordinariate have brought into Full Communion with S Peter. It is part of us; we are not (just?) an eccentric group to whom, of its goodness, the Holy See has granted an unusual form of the Roman Rite. We have a culture, which no-one shall take from us. Reducing us to a community which simply has a distinctive Liturgy without its associated culture, is that "Uniatism" which is rightly so disliked by Orientals and is disowned by Catholic ecumenists who know what they are talking about. 

Blessed John Henry wrote about his controversial habits as a young don: "I was not unwilling to draw an opponent on step by step to the brink of some intellectual absurdity, and to leave him to get back as he could. ... Also I used irony in conversation, when matter-of-fact men would not see what I meant". He is here describing the argumentum ad hominem mode of controversy, a method used, according to Origen (so a friend tells me), by S Gregory Thaumaturgus. It was brought to perfection by another great Anglican Ironist and Satirist, the Benedictine Dom Gregory Dix, in the 1930s. Have you just proved ... Hooray! ... that the early popes did not exercise jurisdiction, in its modern sense? Dix will not contradict you ... nothing as crude as that. He will agree with you; and then spring his trap: neither, in those times did bishops. If you wish to assert episcopal jurisdiction, you won't be able to avoid the papal. If you deny the latter, you have cut the episcopal branch from underneath you. Do you assert, with tuttuttery and disapproval, that Vatican I defined papal primacy in terms of a modern Canon Law which did not exist in the New Testament period? Dom Gregory will pat you on the head ... and then enquire how you cope with the fact that Nicea defined the Nature of Christ in terms of Greek metaphysics ... which also had no place in the minds of the New Testament writers.
To be continued.

12 September 2016

Maria Rediviva

Today is the Feast ... or Memoria ... of the Most Holy Name of Mary. This festivity is itself sort of weathercock of liturgical fashions in the Roman Rite.

It already existed in certain parts of the world when it was extended to the Universal Church by Pope Innocent XI in 1684 in memory of the defeat of the Turks near Vienna in Austria in 1683; as the old Breviary puts it, 'on account of the remarkable victory won under the patronage of the same Virgin over the most monstrous Tyrant of the Turks, who was jumping arrogantly upon the necks of the Christian people ...'. Pope Innocent fixed it for the Sunday in the old Octave of the Nativity of our Lady. For this was a period when commemorations such as this one were considered more important than the ancient 'Green Sunday' Masses inherited from the old Roman Sacramentaries, By the end of the nineteenth century very few of those Masses survived on Sundays.

The earlier proponents of the Liturgical Movement, such as Fr Adrian Fortescue, deplored this and begged: 'Give us back our old Roman Masses'. The reforms of Pope S Pius X, at the beginning of the twentieth century did just this, and the Name of Mary was shifted onto September 12 so that it should not permanently and automatically supersede a Sunday Mass. There it remained until the post-Conciliar reforms; when 'it is suppressed, because it seems to be some sort of duplication of the feast of the Nativity of the BVM'.

Pendula swing; when the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal graced the dawn of the twenty first century, this commemoration was restored as an optional memorial. Better than nothing.

11 September 2016

The Problem about Pedestals

There is an old joke ... I apologise in advance; what follows is most definitely not the sort of course vulgarity you have come to expect to find in this blog ... that an American and a European were arguing about Women; and the European said "We like to put our women on pedestals", to which the American (probably a New Englander rather than a Texan) replied "Good idea: see their legs better".  

Pedestals (observe my alliterative facility) are the principal problem of this pontificate.

Especially the exquisite Parian marble, neo-Classical pedestal, attrib. workshop of Canova, six feet high, upon which the present pope has respectfully enthroned Doctrine.

Get a load of this: "The question is not that of changing doctrine, but of digging deep and making sure that pastoral care takes into account situations and what it is possible for persons to do."

Commentary:
(1) Source: Papa Bergoglio, Corriere della Sera, March 5, 2014.
(2) Observe the disjunctive but performing its customary role of privileging what follows it over what precedes it [vide my piece of September 10]. 
(3) Notice the term situation, which acquired a dubious reputation in the ethical discourse of the 1960s. 
(4) Consider the apparent suggestion that there are things which even the redeemed Christian with the help of Grace may not find it possible to do.
(5) Compare the coherence of this teaching with the reference by S John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor to "acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed "intrinsically evil" [intrinsice malum]: they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that 'there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.'" " ... an attempt is made to legitimise so-called 'pastoral' solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium ..." [Paragraphs 80 and 56].
(6) Recall the claim of Graf von Schoenborn that Amoris laetitia is a "development" of Familiaris consortio, and then attend to this: If Pope A condemned Proposition X, how plausible would it later be for the minions of Pope B to maintain that B's assertion of X was a legitimate development of A's condemnation of X?
(7) Discursively meditate on the extent to which the Church at the moment, even in this pontificate of Mercy, considers sympathetically the situation of paedophile priests. These are a category of men so manifestly prone to repeated recidivism, so apparently beyond the reach of all therapeutic techniques, that they, above all others, might expect to benefit from a gracious attitude of "taking into account what it is possible for persons to do". Yet this pontificate (in my disgracefully traddy view, absolutely rightly) adopts a very hard line towards them. Is it, are we, right to do so?
(8) Discuss quietly among yourselves, while I polish off part of the Divine Office, Bergoglio's attitude of burning incense before Doctrina kallisphuros sed intacta high up upon her marble pedestal, and of assuring her that her person is safe from all dubious interferences or change, while at the same time he entertains inconsistent methodologies for everyday ethical praxis.
(9) Ask yourselves whether this attitude is dissolvent not only of Christian dogma and ethics, but even of unredeemed human rationality.
(10) For your next project, read a few Socratic Dialogues and then construct in Greek a Dialogue in which Socrates debates these questions extensively with Pseudolus and Ballio.

10 September 2016

BUT

Here is most of a post I first published on 28 12 2014. It raises the question of a rhetorical game which is as alive and kicking today as ever it was. I wrote about ....

... devices used by people whose intention is to dominate some particular discussion. I am inspired to do this more immediately by seeing a document headed CATHOLIC BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES  Reflection Document for the Clergy on Marriage and the Family. It begins with a couple of pages of introduction in which some highly personal views are expressed, but without any indication of who wrote it, or of its status. (The drift of its argument makes it unlikely that it represents the united view of each and every individual bishop, unless they are truly a miraculously homogeneous group. There are, incidentally, signs of very hasty composition.)

More broadly, these months before the next [2015] Synod are months in which people on each 'side' will be deploying their best rhetoric to promote their own strongly held prejudices. It seemed to me useful to point out some of the devices which can and will be used. I often use just such dodges myself; there is nothing shameful in doing so; I am criticising neither the anonymous episcopal ghost-writer nor anybody else. Equally, there is nothing shameful in analysing these smart tricks, as an aid to assessing the probative quality of a piece of argumentative rhetoric, and thus advancing dialogue.

I begin with BUT. BUT links up two statements and, I think almost invariably, privileges the statement which follows the BUT over the statement which precedes it. Often the statement before the BUT is put in solely to pre-empt and thus debilitate what could have been a powerful response*.
"You have worked for this firm for 45 years and you have always put its interests before your own or those of your family or even the dictates of Morality, but you are sacked". 

There is an extremely fine example of this phenomenon in the CBCEW document.
"The Synod does not shirk from the truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, urging us to make the demands of the Kingdom of God but this must be accompanied with a compassion and love, seeing firstly persons who are loved by God ..."
Here, the part which follows the BUT is clearly the part which the writer desires to promote as the dominating idea. This can be seen by inverting the sentence thus:
"[Action] must be accompanied with a compassion and love, seeing firstly people who are loved by God, but the Synod does not shirk from the truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, urging us to make the demands of the Kingdom".
Whereas the first version can roughly be summarised  as "Be nice", the second would as clearly suggest "Be strict". Yet each alternative deploys the same two data.

Another clever trick which BUT can play is to suggest polarised contradictions between key words or phrases in each half of a sentence. Thus, in this anonymous passage, "truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom/demands of the Kingdom of God" are clearly set in contrast with "compassion and love". The writer, an able rhetorician, skilfully contrives to smuggle into our minds the assumption that these are two ideas which pull in different directions. He or she hopes that you will not spot the logical possibility that "making the demands of the Kingdom" and "compassion and love" could be but two ways of saying the same thing. (One does not say "A must accompany B" if one believes that A and B are, in fact, identical.)

9 September 2016

Papa Lambertini and Callimachus: is it a mega kakon?

The Holy Father had clearly been waiting for me. I expect it does get lonely in Ashmole, especially since the canvas of Henrietta Maria the other side of the doorway mysteriously disappeared (Hannover Rats at work?); and Japanese tourists may be rather limited company for erudite canonists. He began the conversation without delay: "Libellus ille pinguis Amoris laetitia ... meministi quae dixit Callimachus de magno libro magno malo ... quid tu de illo sentis? Estne scandalosus?" "Perlegi, Domine", I panted (I had climbed the staircase with only one pause), "perlegi locum quemdam in Sancto Alphonso ubi ille quaedam de Scandalo protulit." He smiled. I decided to take encouragement from this and to strike while the iron was hot. "Scandalum activum est dictum vel factum (quo nomine etiam omissio intellegitur) minus rectum, praebens alteri occasionem ruinae spritualis. ... per se dicitur, quando directe intenditur alterius ruina ... per accidens dicitur, quando indirecte ... omne Scandalum activum directe ..."
"Satis satis satis", he interrupted me, with the impatience of a mind which is always at least three moves ahead. "You've done your lesson; you've read S Alphonsus. I'm very impressed. Scandal, you tell me, is grievously sinful, even when it is indirect. You are familiar with I Corinthians 8:9 ... where the Apostle is speaking about indirect Scandal. I hope you appreciate the significance of those words of S John Henry Newman about the evils of Sin; and clearly, Scandal ... in its sense of providing any occasion of sin to another ... cannot but itself be sinful. Ergo te rogo ... Amoris laetitia ... peccatumne scandali illi commiserunt qui Exhortationem illam composuerunt ... et quanti id aestimas quod ibi cernis esse scandali peccatum?"
"Well", I said, temporising, "I think the guilt of the drafters must have been that of indirect Scandal, because they clearly were not intending directly to encourage Christifideles to live adulterously in a sic dicto 'second marriage' ... ". I noticed his eyebrows lift slightly. He murmured
"Were there, by your casuistry, any aggravating features?"
"I believe, Holy Father, that the gravity of the Scandal may have been the greater because of the considerable influence which those words might prudently be expected to exercise upon others ... and because of the seriousness of the sins involved ... adulterium vix parvi aestimatur ... et in Catechismo nostro hodierno legimus grave esse Scandalum cum ab illis efficiatur qui munere teneantur ad alios docendos; legimus quoque de lupis agnos specie simulantibus ... rei quoque huius fama multis suasit Ecclesiam Catholicam suam doctrinam seu mutasse seu mox mutaturam esse ... "
"Satis! Et quid, dic, sentis de pontifice ipso Romano qui quondam in aeronave rogasse dicitur 'Quis sum ego qui iudicium proferam?' De pathicis et de mollibus amplexibus eo tempore sermo habebatur. Ibine cernis Scandali peccatum?".
"Da veniam, Sanctissime, da veniam!" I cried. "Parce misero! Quis in Romanum pontificem me constituit iudicem?!"
"Responsio bona, care ... sed tu, quibus legibus uteris in temetipso iudicando?"
After a moment I said, very quietly so that only he could hear, "hos d'an skandalisei hena ton mikron ..." He lowered his eyelids a little as if signaling to me to stop talking. I fell silent. He looked at me without speaking for quite a while, and then ... for quite a while after that. Finally, with immense gentleness, he said:
"Testamentum tuum Graecum prope tene et tacitum custodi, fili dilectissime. Verbum Dei periculosum est in istis tuis diebus periculosioribus."

Nutus aequatur nictui?


8 September 2016

The First and Last Gospel

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the Flesh, nor of the will of Man, but of God. So the Johannine prologue, the Christmas Gospel in the Missa in Die, the wonderful pericope which we read day after day at the end of Mass, describes those who have 'received' Him. By Baptism, we have that New Birth which is of God and not of human begetting.

But there is a very early variant reading in some witnesses to the text of S John: Who was born .... In other words, the sentence is made to refer to the Lord Himself and to His Virginal Conception. It fits rather well, doesn't it?

The scholarly consensus has always been that the text as usually translated is the correct one. Frankly, I've never been completely sure about that. (My old mentor in the science art of Textual Criticism, the immortal Professor G D Kilpatrick, was once prepared to accept the reading of a single Armenian ms contra mundum, so determined was his 'eclecticism'.) The old 'Westcott and Hort' Victorian certainty, the superstition of 'the best manuscript' -  the idea that if only we had sufficient evidence ('O God, please give us some fantastic First Century Papyri!') we would be able to reconstruct the authorial original that came hot from the pen of S John -  represents an attitude to Textual Criticism which among Classicists has either been abandoned or qualified.

But, assuming that the Textus Receptus is indeed to be followed, it nevertheless remains true that S John is here deftly alluding to the Lord's Virginal Conception; and that the Fathers and scribes who produced the variant reading accurately picked up and made explicit an implication which the Evangelist intended to be perceived. He is saying 'Nudge nudge, of course we know that the Lord was born of a Virgin; but I want you to realise that your own New Birth, in Him, is just as Virginal as his temporal Conception'. That's the sort of way the Fourth Evangelist works. (He doesn't, for example, describe the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, but he does give us his Chapter 6.) Could the Disciplina arcani have something to do with this? We remember the words of S Ignatius of Antioch that the Virginity of Mary and her Childbearing and the Death of the Lord  were Three Mysteries of a Cry [krauges] which were hidden from the Devil, wrought in the stillness of God (Ad Ephesios XIX 1 et vide egennethe in v. sup.).

Incorporated into Him, we are made sharers in His Divine, unfleshly, Birth "from above" (gennethentes anothen), just as we also share His Death and His Resurrection.

So we are Sons of the Father, Corde nati ex Parentis, and Enfants de Marie, just as the Lord himself was.

7 September 2016

"Textcrit"

Since I plan to do a piece or two on Textual Criticism, I thought I'd say just a few words about what that term means ... because, in my bitter experience, even very well-informed people often misunderstand it. You can even find the term misunderstood in otherwise respectable books.

Textual Criticism does not mean commenting on a text; going deeply into its meaning; explaining to people who don't understand it what the author was getting at; still less, criticising it in the sense of explaining why it's wrong! NO! It means this: -

Pre-modern and early modern texts rarely give us that text as it sprang like Athene straight from the head of its author. Almost invariably, a text has been transmitted by scribal copying, during which changes will have been made. Sometimes these changes are mistakes (like leaving out a line in error); sometimes they are intentional (I can improve that; or He can't really have meant that; or I think I'll bring this verse of S Mark into line with the parallel passage in S Matthew; or This is in rather awful Greek ... I'd better correct it ...etc. ad infinitum). So you will find that no two manuscripts are entirely the same.

Textual Criticism means using very many different skills to try to get back, from the available copies, to what the author actually did write. Although ... many of us now doubt whether the 'original text' really is always ascertainable, because in the Ancient World at least some sorts of texts existed fluidly rather than statically ... a bit like your favourite Cookery Book in your kitchen, where you have entered in some of your own discoveries ... changed the quantities here ... extended the times because of the idiosyncrasies of your own oven ... written in a new recipe there ...  Shakespearian scholars among you will know that, even after the invention of printing, Textual Criticism still cannot be avoided, because the questions of 'Actors' copies', modified within the actual process of dramatic production, and of 'pirated' editions, published from a shorthand copy, crop up. And have you ever looked at the Oxford Edition of Wordsworth? Phew!

The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has employed Textual Criticism; perhaps most notably when S Jerome and, later, Roman Pontiffs were working on the Vulgates and when S Pius V had the Missale Romanum revised; so don't be afraid of it!


6 September 2016

"British Values"

Our courts have just convicted by due and proper process a "Hate Preacher" who has "radicalised" a lot of people for quite a long time. You won't catch me complaing. But, in the aftermath, the cry is arising for changes in our laws to make it easier to put away those who do not accept British Values.

Oh dear. I am not blind to the dangers posed by Islam. But I am uncertain how good an idea it is to oppose one enemy by warmly embracing another. As Churchill did when the Bolshevik Monster was transmuted overnight into Kindly Uncle Joe.

I suppose, if one goes back far enough, it would be possible to find a definition of British Values to which I could indeed with a very good conscience subscribe. But if "British Values" compulsorily means the novel "values" which are peremptorily prescribed for us by our political and cultural elites ... now ... today ... then I can only say that I repudiate those "British Values" with some fair degree of warmth.

The "British Value" I loathe most is the mass slaughter of human beings who have been sentenced to death by no court of law. "A woman's right to choose" is, to me, the most demonic slogan since Ein Volk ein Reich ein Fuehrer. The Devil, of course, is never so stupid as to dress in the same clothes as last time. You won't catch the modern British killers wearing jackboots, and I doubt if they could sing the Horst Wessel song to save their clinical lives. But, like the genocidal Hitler, David Steele began his holocaust relatively modestly. He never explained, a few decades ago, that his parliamentary bill would enable abortion on demand; and would mean that midwives refusing to be complicit in organising the Death Clinics would be sacked; and that a "Supreme Court" would find their sacking lawful. Neither he nor his supporters mentioned that, if physicians eased their murderous workload by presigning abortion forms, or if gender-specific abortions were carried out, the Crown Prosecution service would decide that, although these practices are illegal, "it is not in the public interest to initiate prosecutions".

The second filthiest "British Value" is the outlawing of Christian Marriage. We are now told that a marriage can be 'dissolved' even unconsensually; that "Marriage" is still "Marriage" if the relationship involved is sodomitic or tribadic. Linked with this is the other disgusting "British Value" requiring us to accept the anthropological nonsensense that Gender, if it exists, is mutable at the will of each individual. Thus "Homophobia" as a term of abuse has now been joined by its nasty friend and dirty playmate "Transphobia". The law has already intruded itself so far as to persecute Christians by making it possible to prosecute in the courts simple ordinary folk who are deemed to be providing a service (such as baking and icing a cake) if they are found to "discriminate" in providing such services. And we were informed a few days ago that some Police Forces plan to set up units dedicated to searching out and prosecuting "Hate Crime" on the Internet. Does anybody seriously doubt that this provision will, manpower permitting, eventually spread itself so as to enable Mr Plod, with helicopter cover, to bang on our doors at six o'clock in the morning (having tipped off the BBC cameramen) and to drag us off to his custody cells, if we have written in what he deems to be a "Homophobic" or "Transphobic" way on our websites or blogs, or so spoken in our sermons?

OK, they'll go for the Moslems first, but ... they won't want to be seen to be unfair or "discriminatory".

And this could be only the beginning.

If one accidentally touches "British Values", one should give ones hands a very thorough wash afterwards.


5 September 2016

Stowe Hanc Igitur

Here is a translation of the Hanc igitur in the early Irish Stowe Missal (c790, probably from somewhere in Munster); I place in {} the additional bits from Stowe.

Therefore, Lord, we pray: graciously accept this oblation of our service and also that of your whole family {which we offer to you in honour of OLJC and in commemoration of your blessed martyrs in this church which your servant has built to the honour of the glory of your name; deliver him and all the people from the worship of idols and turn them to you the true God the almighty Father} etc

Beside the track leading out to Bolus Head, one of the most westerly - and surely most beautiful - parts of Europe, is the 'monastic' settlement of Kildreelig. Most of the ruins are inside a stout circular rampart which has all the massive appearance of the local circular stone forts. It was probably ... sic Mlle Francoise Henri ... given by a chief (whose fortified house it had been) to a monk who adapted it. One such site (on nearby Church Island) has, on a pillar, the name of the father of the donor - and it is a pagan deity name.

As I tramped, twenty years ago, through the brambles and bracken of such sites, I felt myself transported back to the exact moment of transition between paganism and Irish Christianity, when the New Faith had received some sponsorship from a local magnate - possibly he had in mind the hedging of bets like the King Redwald of East Anglia who had a Christian and pagan altars side by side in one complex - but Christianity was not secure and the advance had to be consolidated; remnants of pagan culture and worship were still abundant and still needed extirpation. Dom Gregory Dix had a different but very similar context in mind when he wrote "Men found nothing better than 'this' to 'do' ... for ... for ... or for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed".

An erudite friend - Oxford readers might well hazard a guess as to her identity - once told me of an unpublished and now missing draft of a paper written shortly before his death by the late Dr F L Cross. He was one of  our great Anglican Catholic Patristic scholars and liturgists in the last generation, and among the presbyters who laid hands on me during my Ordination in 1968 (you probably have his Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church on your bookshelves). In that paper, he advanced the hypothesis that Stowe was first written specifically for use in the dedication of such first-generation Irish churches.

One problem is that Stowe seems to have been written in the 790s. But its version of the Roman Rite comes from at least two hundred years before, since it precedes the changes made by Pope S Gregory I the Great. Which means that it was copied from an archetype, the existence of which indicates that ... centuries before Charlemagne set out on his imperial mission to impose the Roman Rite on his empire ... before, even, Monsignore Agostino dragged a wagon-load of Roman books through Merovingian France to Canterbury ... the Roman Rite had bedded down in some Irish [?] circles. At a time when, we thought, the Roman Rite was little known or used outside the environs of the Urbs itself.

It is a book of mysteries.

If Stowe were a hitherto unknown codex and it were suddenly to be discovered now, I think it would cause revolutions galore in the study of historical Liturgy. It deserves better than to be left, in its fine and efficient HBS edition, gathering dust on library shelves.

4 September 2016

(4) The Magical Magisterium: your rights and mine

Canon 212 (paragraph 3) informs us that Christifideles (i.e., vide Canonem 207, both clerics and laics) have the ius immo et aliquando officium conformably with their scientia, competentia, et praestantia, "ut sententiam suam de his quae ad  bonum Ecclesiae pertinent sacris Pastoribus manifestent" [Anglice "the right, and, indeed, sometimes the duty, according to their knowledge, competence, and dignity, to manifest to Sacred Shepherds their judgement about those things which pertain to the good of the Church"]. The text goes on to add that they also have this right and (even) duty to make their judgement known to the rest of the Christifideles.

Not long ago, as is well known, a group of 45 scholars, teachers, and pastors, wrote a Letter. (I emphasise that these people came from a wide variety of countries throughout the world: I emphasise this because I do not want what I am about to say to be narrowly construed as a criticism of any members of the English Church.) The Letter was addressed to each member of the Sacred College of Cardinals respectfully asking them to beg the Holy Father graciously to consider the clarification of certain parts of Amoris laetitia which have proved to be dangerously ambiguous. Cardinals, I think, count as Sacred Shepherds. This was a private letter (although its contents have unfortunately become public). Even if it had been a public letter, I do not see how it could have failed to enjoy the protection of Canon 212.

Dr Javier Hervada, sometime Professor of Canon Law at Navarra, comments on Canon 212: "The right of free speech and public opinion within the Church is acknowledged. Science, skill, and prestige are required to exercise the right justly or to give the corresponding moral obligation greater or less force. The basis of this right does not reside in these prerequisites but in the condition of being one of the faithful".

In the fourth year of this current pontificate, it is appropriate also to mention the insistently repeated calls of the Holy Father Pope Francis himself for Parrhesia [bold and free speaking] in the Church.

With regard to the paragraph which now follows below, I would like to make it very clear that I am not talking about myself or in any way describing or alluding to my own situation or any experience I have had.

Intimidation and cruel pressures have, it appears, been applied to persuade some of the signatories to the Letter to rescind their signatures. 

Perhaps this may remind English readers of the occasion when, a couple of years ago, some 450 English clerics wrote an open letter with regard to the agenda of the Synod of Bishops, and it was reported in the public papers that intimidation had been applied to dissuade priests from signing. How those guilty of such worldly intimidation can think that their behaviour helps any cause in which they sincerely and Christianly believe, I simply do not even begin to understand. It all seems to me so much more like the actions of playground bullies than any conduct which could be appropriate between those whom the Lord called His Friends (philous; John 15:15).

I have not always agreed with everything this Holy Father has said and done. But I very much doubt whether he is complicit in this. There is such a pettiness about it.

I shall not entertain any comments or queries on this distressing subject, now or at any later time.


Footnote: Canon 212 also talks convincingly and appropriately about the obedientia necessary when Shepherds, as fidei magistri, make doctrinal declarations, or, as rulers of the Church, legislate (statuunt). In view of the opening paragraphs of Amoris laetitia, I do not get the impression that the Sovereign Pontiff is, in this Exhortation, claiming either to define dogma or to legislate.


3 September 2016

September 3 Anno Domini 2116: a family dialogue

An old favourite of some appreciative readers, reprinted by request with one or two tinkerings. 

Literate and Latinate six-year-old: Papa, why was the psalmody of this morning's Mass of St Pius X so odd? I mean, in the psalmus of the Introit, why did we have Gratias Domini in aeternum cantabo, rather than Misericordias ...? And why has ecclesia been replaced with coetus?
Papa: Well, my child, when that Mass was added to the Missal, the Holy See was rather keen on the Bea psalter.
Literate ...: What was the Bea, Papa?
Papa: It was an evil German Jesuit who ...
Literate ...: What, Papa, is 'Jesuit'?
Papa: I think you'd better ask your Mother ... not many people nowadays know the answer to that question ... I'm not sure I do ... but the Bea had acquired the confidence of Pius XII ...
Literate ... (fiercely): Ah, the pope who appointed Hasdrubal Bugnini who engineered the Great Liturgical Deformation of the twentieth century?
Papa: Exactly, best beloved, except that his name was Hannibal ... Hasdrubal was his brother ... sort of ... perhaps I allow you to read too much Livy ... and the Bea began its evil work by doing a new translation of the Psalter into Classical Latin and ...
Literate ...: But surely, Papa carissime, St Christine Mohrmann, the great Dutch Latinist and Doctrix of the Church, had just demonstrated that Liturgical Latin was an exquisite deeply Christian form of Latin expressly crafted to convey in all its transcendent beauty the Catholic Faith?
Papa: Indeed she had, but Pius XII, a weak and foolish pope, ignored her scholarship and allowed the Bea to do its worst. And ...
Literate ...: But why was today's Mass not subsequently corrected when St Benedict XVII completed the Great Liturgical and Doctrinal Restoration in 2066 by promulgating the anathemas against Kasperism?
Papa: Because the liturgy, learned offspring, bears within it marks of all the periods through which, in its triumphant march across the centuries, it has passed. These harmless if profoundly eccentric details provide a powerful incentive to historical research such as that upon which you, after your Seventh Birthday, will embark. Now run along and finish your doctoral thesis on the de Beatificatione et Canonizatione of St Benedict XIV. Then you can ask your Mother what 'Jesuit' means before I read you your bed-time story from the newly recovered Hecale of Callimachus.
Literate ...: Thank you, Papa. I warmly anticipate each of those three agenda.

2 September 2016

NOTICE

I am, again, taking one of my breaks from the Internet. A few things will go out, including, I hope, a daily or near-daily post on this blog. But I shall be taking no incoming traffic or emails at all; and this includes reading and moderating comments.

This break will last from now, the morning of Friday 2 September, until Monday 19 September, inclusively.

George Orwell


I think all traditional Christians should reread, once a year, George Orwell's 1984 (written, of course, in 1948). It makes two points:
(1) Language is remade to suit new ideologies. A lexicographer in the story is described as explaining that when the process is completed, it will be impossible to express, even to think, ideas that had existed half a century earlier. (We think of 'Equality'; 'Choice'; 'Inclusive'; 'Diversity' ...)
(2) History is rewritten. The central figure in 1984 is employed to 'correct' earlier records, and then to destroy the originals, so that there will be no evidence that what happened did happen.

The sort of 'hard' totalitarian society 'predicted' by Orwell, influenced as he was by memories of Hitlerism and Stalinism, has not come about as he described it; instead, subtle perverts are successful in imposing on us a 'soft' totalitarianism. But his predictions about the corruption of language and the rewriting of History are, it seems to me, pretty well bang on.

For us as Catholic Christians, Freedom will reside in our being aware of what is being done, and in refusing to be complicit. We must be prepared to use words which are now proscribed, or in the process of being proscribed. A gaggle of totally random examples:

 ... "Pregnancies are being terminated", they tell us; we must insist that unborn babies are being killed.  Notice also here the use of a passive verb to elide agency ("We are killing babies ...").

... Why are we no longer allowed to use the word pervert, except, of course, to describe a paedophile?

... I once heard a nurse, who had been efficiently brainwashed, explaining that a certain Pill was not an abortifacient; "It's Emergency Contraception", she insisted.

 ... Spurious Hellenisms or Latinisms are coined: dysphoria and gender reassignment sound so very scientific and medical. Why can't we just talk about castration and eunuchs? (Fr Blake of Brighton has, in the past, been attacked for speaking English.) And, as I will write later, we now have Homophobia and Transphobia. The philologically agile need to be able to juggle with cismen, transwomen ... the nonsense is and will be endless.

 ... Then there are all the mechanisms of Management Talk, designed to make the Manager appear aloof, objective, passionless. So, instead of frantically and humanly saying "You make me hopping mad by doing XYZ", the Manager will adopt measured and disdainful tones in order to say "Concerns have been expressed to me that you XYZ."

 ... The shed at the bottom of the garden is being filled to overcrowding with invented bogeymen. Even ecclesiastics take part in this work of invention. The term Lefebvrian is generally a meaningless way of hurling unargued abuse at a victim (I would say the same about Cryptolefebvrian). It was used when some bullies in Rome attacked the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

REREREAD ORWELL.

1 September 2016

Bring back the Freaks

Oxford, perversely, pedantically keeps its own time, so that Cathedral services begin five minutes later than Greenwich Mean Time (or British Summer Time). Perverse; but distinctly more rational than celebrating the S Giles' Fair, the 'Giler', four days later than S Giles' Day itself (which occurs today, September 1, in older calendars).

The broad thoroughfare which leads Northwards out of Oxford will, at midnight on Sunday, metamorphose like Cinderella's pumpkin into a vast Fair (returning to pumpkinhood 48 hours later). In Dacre Balsdon's words, S Giles ceases to be a murderous highway of fast-moving traffic and becomes a playground instead. "It is a tightly packed confusion of booths and hurdy gurdies, fat women, fire-eaters, performing fleas, fairing, streamers, and warnings against pickpockets". When Pam and I were undergraduates, Prebendary John Hooper ["Prebendary" because of his years in the Exeter Anglo-Catholic mafia] used to emerge from S Mary Mags with his bucket and his aspersorium after Mass on the Monday morning, and douse the whole business with holy water ("Over 'ere, Favver, give us a bi' more over 'ere").

Fings aren't what they used to be, and I don't think we'll go to the Giler this year. Traditional Freaks ... Dwarfs and Fat Women and the World's Tallest Man ... are no longer politically correct objects of mirth (or wonder). My own favourite Freak ... the Spider Girl (a young women curiously and ingeniously disposed so as to resemble a large arachnid with a human face) ... has, I am sure, long since collected her bus-pass. The performing fleas would simply invite a noisy demonstration from the Animal Rights people ('Free the Fleas' a good tongue-twister?). The dour, merciless Puritanism under which we now spend our days decrees that the most exciting or Freakish thing you can now see at the Giler is candy-floss.

But Freak-shows are very much in the Oxford - and Anglican - tradition ... as was pointed out by Canon Arthur Couratin, once (rather before my time) the Principal of S Stephen's House ['Staggers'], England's premier seminary. When sacerdos ille valde magnus Bishop Kirk of Oxford purposed solemnly to administer Holy Orders in his Cathedral Church of Christ ... or to sing Pontifical High Mass there on a Solemnity such as that of S Frideswide ... Arthur used to turn up with an immaculately trained team of seminarians to serve. A few days before one such occasion, Mr Dean Lowe observed "I suppose we shall have Arthur Couratin here next Sunday with his travelling circus". Now ... and you need to know this ... in Oxford, there are worthy souls who, like the disciples in the accounts of the Lord's Miraculous Feedings, rejoice to gather up in their baskets all such waspish remarks "so that nothing be lost". So the Dean's comment was faithfully reported to Arthur, who promptly observed "Well, old man, I'd rather belong to a travelling circus than a permanent Freak-show". (Arthur was a habitue of the nearby sanctuary of Parsons' Pleasure, now horribly violated, so a malevolent chronicler might infer that he had himself been able to make an intimate study of freakdom.)

Dr Eric Mascall, who preserved the story, admitted that, while this less than wholly flattering description of the Oxford Cathedral Chapter was no doubt exaggerated, "the Chapter of Christ Church when I came to know it was certainly a remarkable assortment of clergymen". (Fr Eric was objective enough to recognise the possibility that he might himself have seemed to some observers to merit being bracketed among the capitular Freaks.)

Even fifty years ago, in my time, the Giler ... to which I now return ... was that bit more surreal because it coincided with the Staggers House Retreat (in those days, Staggers was just round the corner in Norham Gardens). So you might have seen little knots of devout seminarians gawping at the Freaks while carefully maintaining Greater Silence. (I should explain to cradle Catholic readers that Anglican retreats were not gossipping shops but took place in silence.)

Perhaps it is part of the calling of the Ordinariate to revive the good old Anglican Patrimonial traditions of Freaks and Freak-shows. Perhaps they are exactly what the culturally impoverished English Catholic Church needs in order to put some oomph ... I meant to say Inculturation ... into its public image. Part of the New Evangelisation? Should we again risk entanglement in the Web of an androphagous Spider Girl? Re-embrace the fleas?

I just know you agree with me. But where would we find a new generation of worthy and authentic Freaks?