Thursday, February 28, 2013

Goodbye, Pope Benedict.

And thank you for Summorum Pontificum.

This evening at 7pm there will be a special Benediction, with Polyphony, in SS Gregory & Augustine, Woodstock Road, Oxford, to mark the end of his pontificate.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Who's the hypocrite, Peter Stanford?

Peter Stanford is spouting the usual liberal media tosh on his Daily Telegraph blog. It is worth while reminding ourselves that, as he is thoroughly familiar with the Catholic scene as a self-described 'professional Catholic' (nice phrase) he is displaying exactly the jaw-dropping double standards which he is so ready to ascribe to the Catholic clergy.

His argument is oh-so-subtle, but can be summarised in two easy steps.

Premise 1. Many Catholic priests and bishops are subject to same-sex attraction.

Conclusion: It is 'hypocritical', and displays 'double standards', for them to criticise proposals for same-sex marriage.

There seem to be some missing steps, but Stanford isn't letting on what they might be. This one might fit the bill:

Premise 2: There is a moral principle P:

P: Solidarity among those with same-sex attraction requires that they should not believe there are any moral principles limiting the sex lives of people with same-sex attraction, or to appose anything presented by our political masters as promoting the life-options of people with same-sex attraction.

Liberals sometimes divide people up by victim group - ethnic minorities and so on - and expect them to conform to type. But is it actually morally wrong for them to fail to conform to type? When a white Christian woman, for example, burns her bra and joins the Communist Party?

Maybe this would be closer to the mark:

P2: Moral beliefs must not, on pain of 'hypocrisy', interfere with what one is tempted to do.

But it would seem to follow, by parallel, that heterosexuals must not believe that adultery is wrong, or in the age of consent.

More fundamentally, when one sees a person proposing moral principles because they make their personal vices more conveniently exercisable, and not because they think they are actually true or coherent, then we say that this person is a hypocrite.

So the truth is: when the same-sex attracted priests Stanford says he knows transmit the teaching of the Church, they are saying something which applies particularly to them: this is something heroic. They have not taken the easy option of saying that the vices they are tempted to are ok, and everyone else's are damnable. What Stanford is cross about is that they are not hypocrites: they do not take the hypocritical position of moulding what they preach to fit the their own proclivities.

What about Stanford himself? Does he apply his bizarre moral principles to other people? What about the 'openly gay' non-clerics who have opposed the same-sex marriage proposals, some even in the mainstream media? Here's one example; here's another, from France:

Xavier Bongibault, an atheist homosexual, is a prominent spokesman against the [same-sex marriage] bill. “In France, marriage is not designed to protect the love between two people. French marriage is specifically designed to provide children with families,” he said in an interview. “[T]he most serious study done so far . . . demonstrates quite clearly that a child has trouble being raised by gay parents.”

Is Bongiboult a hypocrite, Mr Stanford? Or do your standards make an execption for atheist homosexuals?

Oh but Stanford is talking about same-sex attracted priests who end up propositioning seminarians or altar boys. Actually, it makes no difference. They might, it is true, be using the clerical state to cloak their sexual predations, without any religious motives at all. More often, however, they are subject to Original Sin like everyone else. Before we get carried away here, many red-blooded heterosexual priests have committed terrible crimes. That doesn't mean the crimes weren't crimes.

Here's a question for Peter Stanford: do you think that priests are hypocrites if they tell their people to use the Sacrament of Confession and then, HORROR OF HORRORS, use that sacrament themselves? Or why do you think that sins against purity are so different from every other kind of sin?

There is an answer to the last question. Stanford has swallowed the liberal line that sexuality defines who you are, gives you an identity you cannot and must not escape, and that identity include a ready-made set of moral attitudes. Despite all our experience of gay priests and gay Tories, the liberals never cease to profess that gays must be left-leaning atheists. Well, the evidence seems to suggest something more complicated: perhaps people with same-sex attraction, for all their troubles, actually have free will, and can choose what religion or politics to adopt? Perhaps they might even get a bit fed up with the likes of Peter Stanford telling them they are 'hypocrites' whenever they disagree with him?

And is it not just a little hypocritical of Peter Stanford to present himself as a Catholic journalist when he clearly wants to tear up the teaching of the Church on sexuality?

Two Masses last Saturday

IMG_0969Last Saturday I attended two Masses: the annual LMS Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Caversham, which I organise myself as Oxford Rep, in the morning, and a Solemn Requiem for Chris Inman, one of my predecessors as Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, in the afternoon.

The Pilgrimage Mass was celebrated by Fr Daniel Lloyd of the Ordinariate, in the shrine church, that is Our Lady and St Anne, Caversham. Caversham is over the river Thames from Reading, and is the southernmost tip of the Archdiocese of Birmingham. This the diocese's official Marian shrine, the restoration of a very ancient and prestigious medieval shrine, consecrated in 1958.IMG_0963
It was Ember Saturday, and we had the full version ('forma longior'), with five Prophecies (readings from the Old Testament) in addition to an Epistle and Gospel. Who says the EF doesn't give you plenty of Scripture? A shorter version of the Ember Saturday Mass was created as an option in 1962, which must have been a relief for priests saying private Masses. But the full version is an ancient and wonderful liturgical feast, and the pilgrimage is a good opportunity to celebrate it.
For the first time on this pilgrimage, we used the High Altar, partly to facilitate the extra readings being sung, not from the altar but as shown above. The shrine proper is in a rather small chapel.
IMG_1999At the end of Mass Fr Lloyd processed to the Shrine chapel and incensed the very lovely shrine image, a medieval Virgin and Child, while we sang the Ave Regina Caelorum. Mass was accompanied by the Schola Abelis (for chant) and the Newman Consort (for a polyphonic ordinary and a motet).

After Mass in Caversham, and while the singers and Fr Daniel were having a rather jolly lunch, I jumped onto a train to London to attend Chris Inman's Requiem.
This was, as befits a former Chairman of the LMS, a Solemn Requiem, in St James's Spanish Place, a stunning church. It was celebrated by Mgr Gordon Read, the Latin Mass Society's National Chaplain. Chris' family were there, and a number of representatives of the Latin Mass Society, as well as me. I mean, heck, if we can't do this for him, what would that say?
We had a catafalque, and Mgr Read blessed it with holy water and incense. Mass was accompanied by the singers of St James' own, highly competent, choir, with chant.

Chris Inman died on May 25th 2012. He worked hard for the Traditional Mass over a many, many years, being most prominent during some of the leanest times, the 1980s and 1990s. We owe him and his generation a lot for keeping the lamp lit in those decades. A little insight into his work is given in this Mass of Ages article (see the last item).

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Clifford Longley defends The Tablet

The Church overcoming hideous, hermaphroditic, heresy
Fresh from his triumph over Pret-a-Manger and their blasphemous crisps (which earned him the accolade of a mention in the Financial Times), the excellent Deacon Nick Donnelly of Protect the Pope has turned his sights on The Big One: the Tablet. There is a Facebook petition calling for its privilege of being distributed through Catholic churches and cathedrals to be withdrawn. I didn't think much of this when I first saw it, as a FB petition is as likely to dislodge The Tablet from its place among the dusty flyers for the next liturgical dance class at the back of Catholic churches as a rubber battering ram. But it got a rise out of Clifford Longley, of all people. In response to comments making the obvious point - that The Tablet is not exactly a bastion of orthodoxy - he wrote:

Clifford Longley February 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm ·
Patrick tells us – “On the contrary, the Tablet is a disgrace, and lacks journalistic integrity. The occasional critical article in a supposedly Catholic journal is one thing, but week in, week out, to oppose the teaching of the Magisterium in general and just about every initiative of Pope Benedict’s in particular, is another.”

Where is your evidence? Do you even read The Tablet week by week? The charge that it lacks journalistic integrity is a grave calumny – can you prove it? It is a plain lie to say The Tablet opposes the teaching of the magisterium week in week out or “just about every initiative of Pope Benedict”. 

Those who read the Tablet know this is completely absurd and grossly dishonest; but those who don’t, have no yard stick with which to assess your seriously defamatory allegations, and may even be stupid enough to believe them. I really think you should consult your conscience, and you are very lucky you are not subject to a writ for libel or malicious falsehood. So what lies behind this extraordinary hatred of The Tablet, given that it strives to be orthodox in matters of faith and is accepted as such by the English hierarchy, as well as being widely read in Rome? I am baffled. But I will pray for you.

Longley could do with a refresher course in journalism if he thinks that the kind of criticisms of The Tablet voiced on Protect the Pope could be libellous, but never mind. Since I am someone who does try to engage with 'The Tablet, International Catholic Weekly', I'm in a position to answer his questions. (I posted a critique of some of his own Tablet journalism here.)

What is journalistic integrity? Isn't that an oxymoron? When, a few years ago, a Tablet journalist was looking for a comment from the Latin Mass Society about something, this journalist rang me to say that an LMS colleague had suggested the journalist ask me. In fact, it later transpired that my colleague had simply said 'no comment'. To ordinary mortals this might look like a bare-faced lie, on the journalist's part, but it is what one can expect from a journalist. I'm not too bothered about that kind of thing. Anyone dealing with the press should be on his guard against tricks like that, and worse ones too.

One can expect, also, a certain editorial position: there's nothing dishonest about that, in itself. Do they give a 'right of reply'? Well, they publish my letters. They used to cut out the good bits and print the rest, but I always blogged about it and on one famous occasion (with a letter not from me, this time) the bit they cut out found its way into a Gloria TV report, and they seem to have learnt their lesson. I don't mind my letters being cut for reasons of space, but these were attempts to make strong arguments they didn't like look weaker.

On one occasion we supplied them--at considerable cost of time and effort--with statistics about the progress of the EF following the Motu Proprio. They only printed the ones they liked, and the article's tone and conclusion was incompatible with the ones they didn't print. Fine, you don't have to print all the information we give you, but you can't claim, in print, what that information shows to be false. That isn't presenting your side of the story, it is falsehood.

Most seriously, they offered us an article-length reply, on the subject of Altar Girls. Within an impossibly tight deadline, we got an article of exactly the right length from a theologian of international reputation delivered to them. It never appeared in print. After acknowledging receipt, they just stopped answering our emails. The article appears to have been too good: they didn't want to print something effective which was at odds with their agenda.

By contrast, more recently they printed a rather bad article by George Weigel which responded in a 'conservative' way to something they'd printed. Since the article was vacuous and attacked traditionalists, I imagine it was more acceptable.

This kind of attitude runs through the whole magazine. A extreme example was an article in 2011 by Elena Curti on the ordination of women (here, for subscribers). She'd done a fair amount of research, talking to a number of different people whom she quoted in the article. Not one of them, however, was against the ordination of women. It was as if intellectual opponents didn't exist. Her conclusion was couched in careful language, it wasn't an explicit call for the ordination of women, but the reader was simply left with no reason to object to it.

These are examples which go beyond ordinary journalistic practice; they take 'The Tablet, International Catholic Weekly', from the realm of the partisan broadsheet in the direction of a propaganda rag. It is not about getting a good story, it is not even about spinning things in a particular way, it is about presenting a systematically distorted picture of reality. Serbian dissidents during the war in the Balkans used to talk about the state-run media as 'the alternative universe': that's what we have in The Tablet. This is a place where conservatives and traditionalists have no good arguments; where there is no widespread support for the Extraordinary Form, the new Missal translation, the Ordinariate, for the re-sacralisation of the liturgy, or for any of the Holy Father's initiatives. It is a place where everyone, baring the odd eccentric, agrees that that priests should be allowed to marry, where it is just obvious that everything was bad before Vatican II, where Humanae Vitae is a dead letter, and where the attempt to stifle debate on female ordination is clearly unhealthy. And above all, where child-abuse is perpetrated by horrible old conservatives. The picture they like to present is one in which 'the Curia', relying on naked power alone, are always ignoring the overwhelming arguments and pastoral experiences presented by a united front of thinking Catholics: theologians, academics, clergy, journalists. The cartoon, right, which accompanied Curti's article expresses it well.

This in fact is not so much a distortion of reality as its mirror-image. For in fact, no one from their side of the argument has presented new thinking or new research for getting on for twenty years, by contrast with the stream of conservative scholarly publications. It is the liberals who are relying on naked power, and positions of privilege and prestige which they certainly didn't achieve on merit, to suppress dissent, to close down debate, to maintain the tottering status quo against a groundswell of opposition. The Tablet maintains an ever-narrowing spiral of denial, supported by a dwindling band of aging fire-brands like Hans Kung, and younger thinkers ever more reliant on post-modern bilge rather than argument, inhabiting institutions ever more remotely connected with the Church.

I'm not surprised that Clifford Longley doesn't see it that way. For him and his Tablet colleagues, their version of reality just is reality. They simply try to stop facts and arguments from appearing which will confuse people, and distract them from the big picture. I don't doubt they are sincere. But their views are not Catholic, their efforts undermine not only the Vatican but the efforts of our own bishops. It is time we stopped giving them power over us by allowing them to present themselves as Catholics, and by selling the mag in churches. What gave them the right to use the Church as a host for their parasitical life? What gives them the right to call themselves an International Catholic Weekly?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dome of Home: YouTube film

This is fun. I am going to visit in three weeks, I can't wait to see for myself the ongoing changes since my first visit.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Una Voce Federation Press Release on Abdication

Received today.

The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

International Federation Una Voce. 

The news that Pope Benedict XVI will leave the Chair of Peter on the last day of February 2013 was received with sadness by the members of the International Federation Una Voce.

Our founder President, Dr Eric de Saventhem, and his successor, Michael Davies, were always welcomed in Rome by Cardinal Ratzinger who was very supportive of the aims of the Federation in promoting the traditional liturgy and restoring the traditional Mass once more to the altar. The unwavering trust of our former Presidents was vindicated soon after the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the Papacy in April 2005.

The promulgation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, in July 2007, just over two years into his pontificate, was the act of a Pope who displayed courage in the face of great opposition. In the introduction to the motu proprio Pope Benedict said:

“Since time immemorial it has been necessary – as it is also for the future – to maintain the principle according to which ‘each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, which must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church’s law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.

Among the pontiffs who showed that requisite concern, particularly outstanding is the name of St Gregory the Great, who made every effort to ensure that the new peoples of Europe received both the Catholic faith and the treasures of worship and culture that had been accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries. ….It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.”

The immense courage of Pope Benedict XVI in declaring publicly what so many knew, but were either reluctant, or fearful of expressing, that the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962 had never been abrogated and that this form of Mass was permissible, has brought, and will continue to bring, abundant graces to Holy Mother Church and future generations. With the wealth of teaching bequeathed to us, this clarification of the position of the traditional liturgy within the Church by Pope Benedict, was a most historic contribution to the Magisterium of the Church in reaffirming the link in worship of generations past to generations of the future. The usus antiquior of yesterday, is now of today, and will be of tomorrow. The second flowering of the usus antiquior does indeed bring joy to our youth. Its miraculous spread and increase, of which Pope Benedict has been the providential instrument, is manifest of the growing numbers of young people who are contacting the Una Voce Federation.

Accordingly, the International Federation Una Voce gives thanks to Almighty God for the Papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, to whom we convey our filial gratitude, and to whom we give, and will continue to give, our prayers and thanksgiving.

22nd February 2013.
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

Traditionalist 'cafeteria Catholics', again

My correspondence in the Universe continues: after my last letter about Martin Elsworth's accusation of 'Cafeteria Catholicism' against the SSPX, he leveled the charge against me. Last weekend his letter said, in part:

'In rejecting [Vatican II]'s teaching on the need for reform in the liturgy, religious freedom and relations with other Churches [sic] and faiths, among other things, the Lefebvrists show themselves to be at odds with the magisterium.
Could Mr Shaw too really be a cafeteria Catholic, just picking and choosing what it is he wants to believe?

So, the 'need for reform in the liturgy' is a dogma of the Faith now, is it? An interesting idea. My reply:

Mr Elsworth (Letter, 17th Feb) claims, among other things, that the Second Vatican Council taught ‘the need for a reform in the liturgy’, and that since ‘traditionalists like Dr Shaw’ reject this, we are ‘dissenters’. There is a nest of confusions in this assertion. 

Whether there is a need for liturgical reform is something which is going to vary from age to age, and it depends not simply on the truths of Faith entrusted to the Church by Our Lord, but on empirical observations. Vatican II’s treatment of the liturgy, in Sacrosantum Concilium (SC), outlines a limited programme of possible changes. If Mr Elsworth thinks this is a set of dogmatic truths, he presumably thinks Pope Paul VI committed heresy by permitting Mass entirely in the vernacular, when SC 32 said ‘the use of the Latin language is to be preserved’. But exactly what form the reform, if any, should take, is a matter of prudential judgement and free discussion.

By contrast, the Council of Trent solemnly anathematised condemnations of the ‘ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs’ of the (Traditional) Mass, and of the silent Canon (Session XXII, Canons 7 and 9). I hope Mr Elsworth has not chosen arbitrarily to reject this infallible teaching.

Catholics are free to believe that there was no need for liturgical reform in 1962. Again, they are free to believe that reform was implemented unwisely: Pope Benedict himself famously wrote, before his election, that the 1970 Missal was ‘a banal on-the-spot product’. Finally, they are free to believe that the reform was good, but that the Traditional Mass is still worthy of preservation. It is this range of views that the Holy Father had in mind when he urged us, when he issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, to ‘make room for everything which the Faith itself allows’.

I would encourage Mr Elsworth to take that admonition to heart.

As I have argued before, liberal Catholics tends to share with Ultramontanist conservatives an inability to distinguish dogma (and 'dogmatic facts') from non-dogmatic statements in Church documents. These include, most obviously, prudential judgements and policies. Thus, when Bl. Pope John Paul II said (Evangelium Vitae 27), about the Death Penalty, that 'Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform', he was making a judgment about empirical conditions and the likely consequences of practical policies. It appears, for example, from the context of his remarks that he had Western democracies in mind. What about societies where highly dangerous prisoners can reliably bribe or fight their way to freedom? These are serious questions. The views of a Pope deserve a hearing, but they don't demand the assent of dogma.

The elision of dogmatic and prudential statements by conservative and liberal Catholics serve opposite ends, however: the conservatives want us to accept them all without distinction, the liberals want us to hold them all with equal contempt. Mr Elsworth wants to urge the charge of 'cafeteria Catholicism' against trads not because he is an ultramontanist himself, but because he thinks it a paradox that trads don't come up to the self-imposed standards of conservatives.

His own views are, in fact, rather interesting. Over the past year he has written six letters to the Catholic Herald which criticise or deny a series of practices or teachings.

In June 2012 he attacked clerical celibacy.

In August 2012 he attacked the (then, new) Bishop Gilbert of Aberdeen for the latter's critique of same-sex marriage.

In November 2012 he attacked clerical dress, and in a separate letter opposed Daphne McLeod's defence of traditional catechesis.

In January 2013 he declared that the Church as Mystical Body is 'obscured' by the 'institutional Church'.

Also in January this year, he attacked Humanae Vitae. He began his letter:

Is there not something essentially absurd about the cult of personality with which some Catholics invest the papacy, as if the Pope were a Soviet dictator whose every pronouncement has to be greeted with uncritical adulation?


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mick Jagger and the TLM

It's not often a book about the Rolling Stones mentions Archbishop Lefebvre, but Prince Rupert Loewenstein's memoirs do that.

Prince Rupert has a long association with the Latin Mass Society; having been Chairman and President, he is now one of our Patrons. He was also the financial wizard behind the Rolling Stones, and his book, 'A Prince Among Stones', is mainly about that. He does mention some of his charitable work however, for the Order of Malta an Aid to the Church in Need, and that his two sons have become priests. One, Conrad, is a priest of the Fraternity of St Peter, and that's where the (passing) reference to Archbishop Lefebvre comes in.

It is a curious book. Prince Rupert had no affinity with the music of the Rolling Stones, though he respected them as musicians. The set-up seems extraordinarily incongruous.

Here's a rather unflattering review in the Daily Telegraph, which gives more background, and the kind of response one might expect from a rock journalist.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Lay Apostolate and the web

'Lay Apostolate' series
Part 1: Where next?
Part 2: What do we need?
Part 3: The Lay Apostolate: a proposal
Part 4: Why not existing groups?
Part 5: The Lay Apostolate and the Internet

This is, I think, the last of my posts in this series. I have argued that, however admirable they have been and in some cases still are, existing groups for the Catholic laity, groups intended to add some value-added to weekly attendance at Mass, don't supply a particular thing - sanctification of members based on the liturgy - in a particular way - face to face meetings, but not too frequently. This is what the Confraternity of St Gregory sets out to do.

In this post I deal with the challenge of the internet and the social media. This is, after all, the big thing which has happened in the last couple of decades. And it is true that Catholics have done their best to use these to counter the isolation caused by the collapse of civil society. We may not know our neighbours, we may never see our fellow parishioners except for an hour a week during Mass, but we can engage in friendly chats with a bloke from Minnesota who shares our interest in fanons.

We have to come to some kind of view about how the internet fits into the range of things we do, or could do, as Catholics seeking to build up the Body of Christ. On the one hand, blogs and other social media make up to some extent for the lack of community on the ground; on the other hand, by doing so they have contributed to the further erosion of that community. For example, it is very difficult to get people to attend talks or buy magazines and journals, and the plausible consensus links this to the existence of unlimited (though generally shallow) information and commentary on the internet. Why pay for what you can get for free?

The overwhelming fact is that the internet can't provide us with face-to-face relationships. In some ways it undermines them, and in some ways it facilitates them, but it doesn't render them unnecessary. And while it may appear less necessary for us to meet each other if we read each other's blogs, it may actually be more necessary. Because blogs, and the social media in general, create (with or without our deliberately willing it) a public image of ourselves which can diverge from reality. And relationships built up on the basis of such public personae don't really reach us or sustain us.

Here's a slightly horrifying account of what romantic relationships can be like when facilitated by text-messaging and Facebook. It is true of blogging too. What am I really like, for example? Probably at least six inches taller than you imagine, for example, if you've never met me, and tubbier.

But above all we bloggers shouldn't fall into the assumption that the Catholic Church consists only of bloggers. What about everyone else? Most readers don't even comment. (Imagine that!) They are engaged in the phenomenon of social media as onlookers rather than participants. But I'm not complaining. Where there is a higher level of engagement, as with discussion forums, in my experience misunderstanding is more likely than a meeting of minds.

We need to drag ourselves away from blogs, Facebook, and twitter, long enough to meet our fellow Catholics in the flesh, to pray with them, to make pilgrimage together, to put their words (or silence) into the context of their faces and their body-language. If you want to look at it this way round, this will enormously enrich your on-line experience. But that's a crazy way of looking at it: we need to see each other because that is a fundamental human need, and the internet is offering us only an ersatz substitute.

The internet is fantastic for spreading information; it is good at encouraging debate; it is ok at keeping people in touch with each other; it is not terribly good at forming and maintaining relationships. But it is also mesmerising. The Confraternity's commitment to at least quarterly outings to the real world, to a real community, may be exactly what we need to keep sane.
Audience at the LMS One-Day Conference

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Lay Apostolate: why not existing groups?

'Lay Apostolate' series
Part 1: Where next?
Part 2: What do we need?
Part 3: The Lay Apostolate: a proposal
Part 4: Why not existing groups?
Part 5: The Lay Apostolate and the Internet

I've now outlined my cunning plan for a Guild, which will commit members to meeting on a regional, rather than local, basis, on a quarterly, rather than weekly, basis. They will be bound together by their attachment to the Extraordinary Form.

I don't suppose anyone will object to this in itself, but many will say this is not the solution to our difficulties, and will continue to push other models. So here's a post about why existing Catholic membership organisations won't do what the Confraternity is setting out to do.

I've already argued that anything which relies on Catholics popping round to a central location in a parish at frequent intervals is going to be very difficult, because we no longer have either the time nor the population density which made it so straightforward in the Good Old Days. Another factor which is relevant, which is a self-inflicted wound for the Church, is that one cannot rely on a new parish priest being supportive of a group founded by a previous one, and in most dioceses one can't rely on a priest being in a parish more or less for ever. The consensus that a group promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart, or for that matter knitting their own Fairtrade sandals, is a good and helpful thing in a parish, does not exist. And of course this goes for the faithful as well as for the clergy. Parish groups can easily be seen as controversial and divisive. They can easily be pigeon-holed in terms of Church politics, and become a political football.

In densely populated places - London, for example - parish groups can still have life in them, and I don't wish to denigrate them. But they are only ever going to flourish with the support of a priest who really believes in what they are doing; again and again they collapse when there is a change of parish regime. It is impossible to envisage such groups having a wide impact under current conditions, because only a small minority of priests would put in the work to support groups with a conservative or traddy agenda, and many of that minority are stuck in rural parishes where it is impossible anyway.

The groups based on face-to-face meetings which have survived are those organised at a supra-parish level: circles of Catenians, for example, the Knights of St Columba, or the Newman Association. A catchment area much larger than a single parish helps these groups, but they have found it a challenge to maintain their traditional model of fairly frequent meetings, and to recruit new members.

Next item: shall we sing a Latin Sanctus at Mass?
I've nothing against these groups, but they don't and couldn't do what the proposed Confraternity wants to do, for a simple but important reason. Few of them can be described as principally spiritual and liturgical in character; generally, that was never the point of them. But furthermore, all of them have a problem today with their spiritual side: spirituality, and the liturgy, has ceased to be something which unites Catholics; it is now something which divides them. What sort of prayer should be used to start a meeting? What sort of annual Mass should be celebrated? What sort of retreat giver should be invited? What sort of religious imagery, if any, should be used for publications or the website? A committee of upright, educated, practicing Catholics representative of the Church's normal spectrum of opinion - excluding the extremes - could argue forever about these questions. And whatever they decide, it will sadden, embitter, or enrage a section of the ordinary members. Groups have an unenviable choice between perpetual trench warfare, secularisation, or coalescence around an inoffensive milk-and-water spirituality and liturgy which will not provide its members with nourishment.

A group with a serious commitment to the sanctification of its members, using the public prayer of the Church, the liturgy, for that end, must start with a clear conception of its spirituality. This needn't be as specific as a particular school of spirituality (Ignatian, Benedictine etc.); a commitment to the Extraordinary Form will do very well. If you become enraged when you see no female Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and hear no bidding prayers for nuclear disarmament, at Confraterntiy Masses, don't join, it's not for you. It might look as though we are excluding people of particular liturgical tastes, but in fact we are basing ourselves on a conception of the liturgy which is uniquely able to transcend differences of politics, education, and culture.

The next post will consider the role of the internet.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Catholic Times doesn't get it...

Over one of Mgr Basil Loftus' appalling articles, the Catholic Times this weekend prints a vast photograph (showing, interestingly, a church apparently bereft of menfolk), with the following caption:

'A eucharistic minister distributes Communion during Mass - Last August, as Catholics prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI said all Church members need to make a renewed effort to ensure laypeople are aware of their responsibility for the Church and are allowed to exercise it.' (sic)

I've written a letter to the Editor about the accompanying Loftus article, which is the usual confection of half-truths designed to lead readers to a conclusion at right-angles to the law and teaching of the Church. We'll see if they print it.

But the caption, I assume, is the responsibility of the editors. In a one-man show like the Catholic Times, editor Kevin Flaherty must have seen and approved it, if not had personal responsibility for its grammar. What on earth was he thinking?

What is a 'eucharistic minister'? Flaherty cannot fail to be aware that this term is a grossly misleading expression, with no basis in the documents of the Church. The minister of the Eucharist is the priest. End of story. If you want to know about 'Extraordinary' Ministers (of Holy Communion: EMHC), then we come into the realm of exceptional circumstances.

Thus Redemptionis Sacramentum (151):

Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.

Now isn't this weird? Loftus is doing the old schtick of suggesting that the Traditional Mass is only intended for a tiny minority of eccentrics who grew up before the Council. (Er, like him.) So the 'extraordinary' bit of 'Extraordinary Form' is a bit of boon for him, at least superficially. But then Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion really are 'extraordinary', in the sense of exceptional, and the Catholic Times fails to see the irony in trying to finesse this away.

The passage from Redemptionis Sacramentum makes it, literally, incredible that EMHCs would be an example of what Pope Benedict, of all people, has in mind when he talks of the laity with a responsibility for the Church. It would be a strange example indeed, since they only perform their function exceptionally. But above all their being allowed is NOT for the sake of their own 'fuller participation', a point which can never be made too often. When they are allowed, it is not to help them feel smug about how close to the clergy they've become, but to save an emergency situation.

And what's this about being 'allowed' to exercise this responsibility? Is that a jibe aimed at the poor fools who want to celebrations of the Ordinary Form to follow some semblance of liturgical law, and try to put some limit on the unnecessary use of EMHCs? So the Holy Father is taken to be condemning those who follow, and want others to follow, the law of the Church?

Well, what exactly does the Holy Father think about liturgical abuses? This about sums it up. many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.  I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.

Another passage from Redeptionis Sacramentum is also worth quoting:

For abuses “contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament”. Thus, they also hinder the faithful from “re-living in a certain way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus: ‘and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him’”.
Holy Communion at the SCT Family Retreat: see sidebar, it's coming up again!
Now I don't have time to write to the papers every time liturgical abuses in the Ordinary Form are defended: there just aren't enough hours in the day. Where are those 'conservative Catholics' when you need them?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The 1955 Holy Week: a can of worms

Today I am publishing on Rorate Caeli another FIUV Position Paper. These papers have been very successful in drawing attention to the issues in the 1962 Missa, in the context of a brief but careful consideration drawing on the Magisterium and scholarship.

We have had a bit of a break in the series; the first thirteen are now available from Lulu as a short book.Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

You can also download them as pdfs from the FIUV website.

So today I return to the fray, as the person editing and publishing these things on behalf of the Una Voce Federation, with a real can of worms: the 1955 Reform of Holy Week. Go over the Rorate Caeli to read it. It is in fact only Part I of what will be two parts; Part II is about individual services, this one is about general issues.

It is rare to meet a Catholic attached to the Extraordinary Form who has a good word to say about the 1955 Reform. They swept away a number of much-loved aspects of Holy Week: the banging of the church door with the foot of the processional cross on Palm Sunday, the evening celebration of Tenebrae, where the candles were extinguished one by one in the deepening gloom, popular devotions such as the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday afternoon, the Seven Altars and the Easter Sepulchre. They completely changed the rite of blessing the Paschal candle, on the basis of an over-enthusiastic attempt to capture some supposed ritual of the 8th century, which they failed, in fact, to do.

For myself I recall the rather shattering effect of reading the account of Holy Week in Guéranger's great work, 'The Liturgical Year', during Holy Week a number of years ago. This is a massive, edifying, and very informative commentary on the liturgy of the whole year, and it is one of the joys of the Traditional Mass that something written by a French monk in the 19th century is still applicable to what one is experiencing, liturgically, today. But this isn't true of Holy Week: large parts of it are scarcely recognisable, and Guéranger's commentary is highly confusing, if not useless. There is a discontinuity of the the liturgical tradition.

Tenebrae in St Mary Moorfields last year, organised by the Latin Mass Society
The most popular argument in favour of the reform, apart from practicality (the reformed services are shorter, despite adding some peculiar, extraneous, bits and pieces), is that it is just illogical to have the Easter Vigil on Saturday morning, which is what used to happen. To which one might answer: what has logic got to do with it? What sort of reductionist, functionalist, attitude says that the way of celebrating the vigil adopted by the Church for perhaps eight centuries must be stopped because the service is called a 'vigil', and was in the distant past celebrated at night? The liturgy is not governed by a literal-minded analogy with the events it celebrates, or an assumption that everything which developed in the Middle Ages is necessarily bad. Once we escape from those two ideas, which once made explicit must be seen as absurd, it becomes very much an open question.

The lay apostolate: a proposal

'Lay Apostolate' series
Part 1: Where next?
Part 2: What do we need?
Part 3: The Lay Apostolate: a proposal
Part 4: Why not existing groups?
Part 5: The Lay Apostolate and the Internet

The problem: the kind of lay groups we know about from the past have become difficult to maintain because they relied on the fact that people could pop round to the parish hall on odd evenings for frequent - say, weekly - meetings. People are too busy and too thinly spread out to do this today with any ease. This is even more true of those attached to the Traditional Mass, who often have to travel long distances to get to a venue for the Extraordinary Form.

The opportunity: the need for this kind of group, both the social need and the spiritual need, has not gone away. On the contrary, traditional Catholics can easily feel very isolated. As well as wanting something like this, the common feeling among those attached to the Traditional Mass provides an opportunity for a group with a strong sense of identity and common purpose, which can cut across geography, and social and cultural differences.

Following from yesterday's post, here's the idea, which I set out in my Chairman's Message in the new Mass of Ages.

The Confraternity of St Gregory the Great, affiliated to both the Latin Mass Society and the Una Voce International Federation, will commit members to some (moderate) daily prayer, and to attending at least quarterly meetings with other members. These meetings may be simply meetings of the Confraternity, but they can also be the Latin Mass Society's regional or national events. They will however include a silent retreat, one for men and one for women, which would be organised specially. Silent retreats are something currently largely missing from the traddy scene in the UK, so this is a good thing in itself.

A lot of LMS members may be doing something along these lines already. But by committing to it, and by encouraging more people to do it, we can set up a situation in which one can expect to meet a widening circle of people at events in a fairly wide geographical area, in the context of prayer in common.

It is possible for people to get in the car and travel to events some distance away, and it is possible for people to set aside a weekend for something: people in the 21st Century go to rock concerts and stag parties, they travel to see family members and they go on holiday. What is impossible is asking people to do this every week. On the other hand, unless you do this with a degree of regularity, you are never going to establish the face-to-face relationships with like-minded people, and the moments of spiritual refreshment at a special liturgical event, which could provide the social and spiritual support more necessary for a faithful Catholic life today than ever before. And of course you won't get to to attend the Traditional Mass in the wonderful shrines, historic houses, and Cathedrals which are part of our Catholic culture and heritage.

At the moment the Latin Mass Society's pilgrimages and annual events look more or less like this. These can easily be supplemented by Confraternity events, which are at the simplest just Mass and a set of prayers together, with two or more Confraternity members.

View LMS Pilgrimages and Annual Masses in a larger map

Here's the official description of the Confraternity, and the Guild we plan to establish within it, from the Chairman's message:

it is to be a 'Guild, for the sanctification of its members and with the special vocation of supporting the work of the Society, which also connects members to the international movement. More information will be supplied to anyone inquiring, and if there is enough interest we will set it up. Here is a brief description from the Federation: “The FIUV is launching an International Confraternity to honour Saint Gregory the Great, its Patron Saint. Where a number of individuals are interested, a Guild of the Confraternity will be erected to meet four times a year for Mass in the Extraordinary Form and devotions and to make an annual retreat together. The purpose of membership will be to grow in personal holiness in the context of the Traditional Liturgy, Gregorian Chant, devotion to Saint Gregory and loyalty to the Holy See, and to be active as a group in some of the activities of the Society.” If you are interested in participating, contact the LMS, ideally by email: 

This is only going to be established if a critical mass of people want to join. So don't wait for everyone else to set it up: get in touch now!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The lay apostolate: what do we need?

The local Church?
'Lay Apostolate' series
Part 1: Where next?
Part 2: What do we need?
Part 3: The Lay Apostolate: a proposal
Part 4: Why not existing groups?
Part 5: The Lay Apostolate and the Internet

To summarise the conclusions of yesterday's post:

It is very hard to get people to come to physical meetings with any frequency. They are too busy and are spread too thinly.

Therefore, groups of any kind which depend upon people coming to weekly or even monthly meetings are going to find it very difficult to make headway.

But that is exactly the historical model we have for the lay apostolate: people getting together to meet, to worship or pray together, to do some kind of good work, to talk about the difficulties of being a Catholic in their professions, or whatever it might be.

The tempting idea that people should be shamed or compelled to give more time to this kind of thing is mistaken because Catholics are NOT being unreasonable. It is genuinely harder to get to these meetings than it was in the past. They live further from the parish church, or any other fixed meeting place, and they have less time. They haven't become more selfish: Putnam has some interesting data on how the amount of volunteering has actually increased over the same decades as all these groups have been withering, and the withering has affected leisure and business groups just as much as charitable or religious ones. We can't blame the wind and the sea, we have to work with them as best as we can.
If you like this, then...

So: what exactly do we want to achieve in a lay group?

We do want to give people a sense of belonging, and contact with like-minded people. The collapse of local groups and local community has made people need this more than ever. Sodalities which never meet - like the Latin Mass Society's Sodality of St Augustine - have their uses, but they don't meet this need.

I mention the social aspect first because I've come to this through Putnam's research, but obviously we also want to advance the good things which were once advanced by the local groups: personal sanctification and all kinds of good works. Groups and extra parish devotions and activities have always taken the average Catholic beyond the basic level of going to Mass on Sunday, and this is still needed.

So: what we need must have the following features.

IMG_9634've got a lot in common with them.
1. It must operate on a regional and national level, and not at a parish level. Parishes are great at fostering face-to-face relationships, but since only one in ten (or maybe one in 100) people in a congregation are going to join anything 'extra', under the conditions of today, they don't have the necessary scale. A group of five people is great for praying the Rosary, but it isn't going to work for many of the things we need groups for. It is too dependent on every single person turning up and not moving away. It has a very shallow talent pool. It is too easily dominated by a single personality. And so on.

2. Physical, face-to-face meetings are a necessary supplement to anything based on a newsletter or internet communication, because we just have to meet people in the flesh to get to know them. (Think of the desire bloggers have to meet up: an interesting side-phenomenon of the new media.) But we have to think more in terms of quarterly events rather than weekly ones. Some events can be multiday events, such as retreats, which make long-distance travel worthwhile, and facilitate more social interaction.

3. In order to work, members must be connected by common experience and aspiration far more than in the standard parish group. This will be the case if the group is committed to the traditional Mass, because attachment to the Traditional Mass will give members at least the same level of common experience and attitude which, fifty years ago, you'd have had in a local group of Catholic writers or plumbers, or the parish ladies.

Ok, so what is the proposal? See the next post.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The lay apostolate: where next?

'Lay Apostolate' series
Part 1: Where next?
Part 2: What do we need?
Part 3: The Lay Apostolate: a proposal
Part 4: Why not existing groups?
Part 5: The Lay Apostolate and the Internet

I'm currently reading Robert Putnam's 'Bowling Alone', about the decline of what he calls 'civil society'. All sorts of groups which put people in touch with each other - religious, charitable, recreational - had a boom in the first half of the 20th century, and went into decline in the second half. The networks they provided were hugely important for facilitating every kind of interaction, business or social, because they expanded the number of people each person knew and trusted. They created 'social capital', in addition to the good work many of them did explicitly, such as hospital visiting or whatever.

This is part of the background to the difficulties we have witnessed in the Church, and the sociological changes effecting organisations like the Church must be separated from ideological and other issues.

The kind of groups which did so well in the mid century, and have been having such a lean time since then, are groups where people meet up regularly: for card games, reading groups, feeding the homeless, sports, music, or anything. The parish system, and the guilds and sodalities which used to exist within parishes, are of course an example of this kind of group. To belong, you have to go along to face-to-face meetings. To really belong, you have to go along regularly, and go to extra meetings. This is something which people are much, much, less inclined to do today than 50 years ago.

Some reasons for this are very straightforward. Here are three:

1. The decline of population density: the move to the suburbs. The catchment area for a bowling club or parish of a given size increases, or the groups shrink. Not only are meetings less convenient, but membership of local groups is less likely to be reinforced by meeting the same people in the shops, schools, and so forth.

2. Other calls on people's time:  not only do you have to travel further for your local group, but there are so many other things to do: not just home-based entertainment (notably the Telly), but work. Since the 1970s people have less leisure, they are worried about losing their jobs; they also have to commute further.

3. Geographical mobility: you can't put down local roots, make strong friendships based on locality, if you move every few years. Local groups are constantly disrupted by people coming and going; they can't develop long-term plans if key people keep disappearing.

The striking thing about these factors is that there is absolutely nothing we can do about them. We could in theory encourage people to live in cities close to their work and get an undemanding job, but it would be like encouraging water to flow uphill. (Actually Leo XIII did discourage the aspects of worldly ambition which were socially disruptive, such as urbanisation. Thinking about the social consequences of our life-plans, for ourselves, our families, and our communities, should be part of a Catholic outlook.)

This is a sociological nightmare for the parochial system, but Catholics do at least feel a strong motive to go to church on Sundays. For the lay apostolate, it has been a unmitigated disaster. Having traveled all the way to Sunday Mass to sit among strangers in a parish with which you feel little or no family or historic ties or loyalty, you trail home with invitations to a prayer group on Tuesday evening, a pro-life group on Wednesday evening, and a meeting of the fundraising committee on Thursday evening, and you say: no, I'd actually quite like to spend at least half an hour with the children, after my 9-to-5 day and an hour-long commute back from work. I don't blame you.

But I have a proposal, which may seem a little more attractive: to follow.

Spring 'Mass of Ages' hits the streets

The Spring 2013 edition of Mass of Ages is now with our members and is available to buy from the LMS website, or from selected bookshops and parish repositories.

You can view sample articles here, including an article on the Christus Rex pilgrimage, an Australian walking pilgrimage, by James Bogle, the Chairman's Message, and an introduction to the Sodality of St Augustine, for lapsed Catholics.

Other features include Fr Thomas Crean on worship ad orientem, an interview with Fr Armand de Malleray, a compendium of forthcoming events, and a commentary on the famous painting of St Augustine and St Monica by Ary Scheffer (1845).

The Chairman's Message is accompanied by this Brother Choleric cartoon from 1972. The caption is:

Yes, Sister, here we have Masses in any language you care to choose - except of course the one the Church chose to use for upwards of 1800 years.

This is still pretty close to the bone...

Mass for the Election of a Pope: Westminster Cathedral, 2nd March

Having called for Masses to be said for the intention of the Election of the Pope - as per the 1962 Missal, there is a special Votive Mass for this. I'm delighted to announce that the Latin Mass Society will have a Solemn Mass with this Votive Mass in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 2nd March at 2pm, as part of our regular Lenten Day of Recollection. The celebrant will be our National Chaplain, Mgr Gordon Read, and the speaker will be Fr Simon Leworthy.

Anyone can turn up to the Mass; we like to know numbers for the rest of the Day of Recollection: there are talks from 9.50am to 12 noon. See here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sponsored places for the Chartres Pilgrimage

The Latin Mass Society is sponsoring 15 places on the Chartres Pilgrimage for young people. The full price is a very reasonable £250; we knock off £100.

These places go like hot cakes so don't delay! Apply through this page on the LMS site.

All other pilgrims can get application forms from the Chartres UK blog here.