Thursday, October 30, 2014

We are not facing a heretical Pope

Douai Martyrs painting
The English Martyrs: triptych at Ushaw College. Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP
I've said it before, but the recent spate of articles by good-hearted but panic-stricken conservative Catholics makes me think it necessary to say it again. The worst-case scenario we are facing in the wake of the Synod, supposing things go pear-shaped after next October, is not a Pope announcing in an authoritative document 'We hereby declare, pronounce and define that a valid sacramental marriage can be dissolved leaving the parties free to re-marry, that marriages may be contracted by persons of the same sex, and that sex outside marriage is not gravel sinful.' It is not going to happen, and I can say that on both natural and supernatural grounds.

The supernatural grounds are, of course, the indefectability of the Church. It is conceivable that a Pope could have a thought at odds with doctrine, and even give voice to that thought. In fact, it has happened more than once over the very long history of the Papacy. But it will never be imposed on Catholics as requiring their belief by a properly formulated magisterial act. The Holy Ghost will prevent that. This is something Catholics must believe.

The natural grounds are two-fold. First, everyone knows it would be suicide for the Church simply to say 'sorry everyone it seems we've been wrong all along!'; not only suicide, in fact, but self-defeating, because how can you attempt to make authoritative any new teaching when you've just said that previous claims to authority were a load of nonsense? Secondly, and perhaps connectedly, the liberal modus operandi does not make use of properly formulated magisterial acts. 

I'm glad the conservatives are taking seriously the threat to the Church posed by the latest liberal push, in favour of giving Communion to public sinners, of 'recognising the value' of immoral ways of life, and so on. But I fear that their excessive focus on the Papacy is distorting their identification of how, exactly, the problem is going to manifest itself. We don't need to talk about the complicated possibilities involving heretical Popes, schism, and 'what happens then.' What might happen in the future is what has happened over and over again since the Second Vatican Council. Let me spell it out.

1. You get a fairly authoritative document (in terms of its format and origin at least) which is nevertheless vague and disinclined to define its terms, let alone the content of its teaching. Passages of this document lend themselves to a heterodox interpretation, but as a whole the thing can be read in an orthodox sense.

2. The document is given a clearly herterodox interpretation by the liberal media and liberals in the Church. They claim support in interpretations coming from bishops, Cardinals, and even the Pope; on closer examination these interpretations continue to admit a degree of ambiguity in proportion to the authority of the interpreter.

The rule is: the greater the teaching authority, the less clearly heterodox the interpretation.

3. The document is implemented, or at least things are done in its name, in relation to both practice and teaching (for example, how the doctrine is presented in Catholic schools), in a way which leaves the observer to say: this new practice, this way of teaching children, is clearly not inspired by the traditional doctrine. The people doing this do not have the traditional doctrine in mind.

4. If you challenge liberals about this, they will tell you the teaching of the Church has changed. If you challenge reasonably high-up officials, they will tell you that it has not changed, it is just being expressed and implemented differently to suit the circumstances of the times we live in. The latter may even produce the odd document stressing the more clearly orthodox passages in the original document.

5. Twenty years later, if you mention the traditional doctrine in mainstream Catholic circles, they look at you as if you're speaking Chaucerian English. They simply have no idea that the old teaching might still be the teaching of the Church.

I'm not being overly optimistic in presenting this scenario. In my view it is far more difficult to deal with than open heresy. It is a long, grinding campaign of inuendo, appeals to authority, silencing awkward questions and those who ask them, and steadily feeding poison to the Faithful. It is going to take a lot more courage, intelligence, and stamina to deal with this than it would to 'go into schism', whatever that means.

Just ask yourself: what happened to the teaching of the Church that the Mass is a sacrifice? How is it that this has completely disappeared from the way the Mass is discussed, explained, and celebrated? No one with serious authority ever stood up and denied the doctrine. But for practical purposes it is gone. Except that it isn't: the Church's teaching has not been changed, and so it is still there, even if it is actually maintained by only a handful of eccentrics. This is what could happen to the indissolubility of marriage.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FIUV Position Paper on Septuagesima, Vigils, and Octaves


Over on Rorate Caeli I am today publishing the 20th of the series of short briefings, 'Position Papers', on aspects of the Extraordinary Form, which I have been coordinating for the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce for the last two years. Go over there to read it. See all the Position Papers here.

In this post I will take the opportunity to say one or two other things about the issue addressed. It is a problem, in a practical way, for parishes where both the Traditional, Vetus Ordo and the reformed, Novus Ordo are celebrated, in that on a Sunday, between Masses, the liturgical colour has to be changed on the altar frontal, tabernacle veil and anything else using the colour of the season, three Sundays in a row, between green and violet. This is hardly the biggest problem facing the Church today, but it is an indication of a particular kind of crashing of gears which results from the lack of continuity of the new Mass with the old. It also happens here and there in the liturgical year when feast days have been moved or abolished. But there is something particularly awkward about a parish proposing a season of penance in one Mass on a Sunday, and carrying on as normal for the other Masses on the same day.

Once we look into the history it becomes clear that the abolition of the very ancient and liturgically rich season of Septuagesima was an extraordinary act of violence against the calendar, which not only was not called for by the Second Vatican Council, but would appear directly to contradict what the Council document on the liturgy said: that seasons should be preserved, and particularly those leading up to Easter. Well, I've written before on what happened to the things whose preservation was demanded by the Council.

The rationale of the reform was that Septuagesima was a distraction from Lent. How can a preparation for a thing be a distraction from it? Let's not dismiss this argument too quickly, however, because parallel arguments are used all the time by the reformers and their supporters. Examples are obviously the vigils and octaves: they are presumably a distraction from the feasts. In church architecture and devotional art, with vestments, with anything in the liturgy which anticipates or recalls, which prepares for in advance or celebrates and rehearses and reminds us afterwards, in short all the things which surround, draw attention to, gloss, explain and teach the central mysteries of the Faith, they should go. We should be left with the bare rites, or truths, or symbols of the mystery, with nothing else, no setting for them. The Blessed Sacrament, for example, should be without beautiful and precious sacred vessels, genuflections, confessions of unworthiness, or the repetition of those significant phrases: Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tanto dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea. The tabernacle should be stripped of its veil, the monstrance should be melted down.

I am reminded of Chesterton's lines in The Secret People, on the monarchy after the Wars of the Roses: with the destruction of the nobility,

There was nought but a naked people, under a naked crown.

The rites we have been left with, and even more so the reformed rites as they are celebrated by the more progressive priests, are bare, stripped, naked.

How was this supposed to help us get the most out of the liturgy? How is it supposed to help us understand the mysteries, if those aids to understanding, the extra bits and pieces, have been taken away? There was of course a mania for simplification which seemed to float free of any theological reasoning. But there is something else as well: the view of the liturgical reformers was frequently that the commentary on the mystery given by the ancient rites and so on was actually mistaken. That when the rites surrounding the reception of Communion, for example, emphasised the honour due to the Sacrament, our unworthiness, and yet our confidence in God's mercy, this was wrong. In the case of the season of Septuagesima, the season's emphasis on penance, again, is unhelpful, it is a mistake.

Stripping away the things which help us to understand the liturgy, the authentic commentary on the liturgy provided by the liturgy itself, made it possible for the reformers to impose their own commentary, their own understanding. In reforming the liturgy as they did, the reformers were facilitating the liturgy's reinterpretation according to their own ideas. In recovering the liturgical tradition, we are also recovering the understanding of the liturgy, and the sacraments, which is the Church's own understanding, since it is proposed by the Church's own liturgy.

Not to labour a point I've been making a lot recently, what has been happening since the 1960s is not, generally speaking, a clear, authoritative, rejection of traditional teaching. It is highly significant that reformers took so much away from the honour given in Mass to the Blessed Sacrament, but we can't conclude that the Church stopped believing in the Real Presence. After all, the Blessed Sacrament is still give some honour in the Novus Ordo. Its significance lies in the fact that, first, the teaching is no longer conveyed so effectively, so the people become less certain about it and may even forget it altogether, and, secondly, that it became possible for priests and theologians to deny it, without their denial being immediately contradicted by the Mass. The vacuum created by the official liturgy ceasing to teach the doctrine clearly, could be filled by unofficial progressive preaching against the doctrine.

That's what they want to do with marriage, by getting rid of the Church's visible discipline on remarriage after divorce.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oxford Pilgrimage 2014: Photos


The traditional Dominican Rite was celebrated by members of the Dominican community at Oxford's Blackfriars: Celebrant, Martin Ganeri, OP, Deacon, Gregory Pearson, OP, Subdeacon, Jordan Scott, OP.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mgr Loftus defends the Terror

The Carmalite nuns of Compiegne, queing
up for the guillotine.
Yes, he really does. Last week he compared Pope Francis' activities to the French Revolution, and in response to a letter pointing out the tastelessness of of the analogy he digs himself a lot deeper into his hole.

Here is the letter, from the well-known Catholic barrister Neil Addison.

Dear Sir

Even by his own standards the suggestion by Mgr Basil Loftus (19 October) that he looks forward to "a Franciscan revolution to eclipse in drama and extent the French Revolution" is bizarre.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Astonishing Carfin

IMG_0143I visited the shrine at Carfin near Glasgow on the way south from holiday a couple of weeks ago. This is Scotland's national Marian Shrine; I was staggered, when I saw it, by its scale. There must be a score of statues, as well as recreations of the grotto of Lourdes, the scene of the vision at Fatima, and Calvary. There is an Exposition Chapel and a chapel dedicated to St Therese of Lisieux, as well as the large main church and a relic chapel.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pro-Life Witness on Saturday


Saturday, 25th October


Please note these guidelines (on advice from the police) for the pro life witness which we have had to implement as we have recently had counter-protesters.

We will all stand on the grass just in front of the Church wall. Please will everyone stand in a row. Young (and fit!) people can stand up on the wall if they choose.    

The Holy Rosary will be led by Fr John Saward and he will not raise his voice in response to the protesters' noise. Our responses will also be quiet and reverent.

*  Please will everybody not enter into any discussions/debates with the protesters - the advice is to completely ignore them and to not make eye contact. (Evil hates to be ignored.)

If you would prefer to pray inside the Church, please know we have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the hour.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

LMS Oxford Pilgrimage, 25 Oct

High Mass in the Dominican Rite in Blackfriars, Oxford, at the 2013 Pilgrimage 

11am Solemn Mass in Blackfriars, St Giles’, Oxford.

2pm Procession, to the place of martyrdom of Bl George Napier in Oxford Castle

3pm Benediction in Blackfriars.

The plaque marking the place of Bl George Napier's maryrdom was blessed by Archbishop Bernard Longley during the LMS Pilgrimage in 2010, the 4th centenary of his death.


The church of Blackfriars is the Priory Church of the Oxford Dominican community in Oxford, located on the West side of St Giles, OX1 3LY. There is limited stay parking in St Giles and Wellington Square, and car parks in Gloucester Square, Worcester Street and Westgate.

View Larger Map

Bl George Napier (or Napper) was born in Holywell Manor, Oxford, in 1550, and attended Corpus Christi College 1566-1568, until ejected for recusancy. He was ordained in Douai in 1596 and was sent on the English mission in 1603. He was captured near Kirtlington, north of Oxford, in July 1610, and was executed on the Castle gallows on 9th November the same year. He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

Dialogue at Bl George Napier's execution:
A Protestant minister: ‘Napper, Napper, confess your treason.’
Napper: ‘Treason, Sir! I thank God, I never knew what treason meant.’
The minister: ‘Be advised what you say, do not you remember how the judge told you it was treason to be a priest?’
Napper: ‘For that I die, Sir, and that judge, as well as I, shall appear before the just Judge of heaven, to whom I appeal, who will determine whether it be treason or no to be a priest.’
Taken from Memoirs of Missionary Priests
by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Challoner Vicar Apostolic.

2010 10 26_7980

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