Saturday, June 29, 2013

The early years of Traditionalism: 'The Living Flame'

Evelyn Waugh
'The Living Flame: the first twenty-five years of the Society of Pius X in Britain' by Ronald Warwick was was published in 1997, and is available on Scribd:

In the context of the 25th anniversary of the 1988 consecrations, this may be of interest to readers. It also sheds some light on the early days of the Latin Mass Society (which otherwise gets hardly a mention in the book): I reproduce the main passage here, which covers the foundation of the LMS and the key decision, reached in fact by all the members to the newly formed Una Voce International Federation, to seek the preservation of the Traditional Mass after 1969, and not just the new Mass in Latin. (Those who disagreed with this decision would found the Association for Latin Liturgy.)

Evelyn Waugh, the foremost Catholic writer of his day, Sir Arnold Lunn, controversialist and skiing pioneer, and Hugh Ross Williamson, media personality and historian: quite a trio of founding fathers! All them, interestingly, were converts.
Sir Arnold Lunn

Until his death in 1966, Waugh acted as an unofficial spokesman for the conservatives, expressing their growing disenchantment to Cardinal Heenan and in the press. He was also instrumental, with Sir Arnold Lunn and Hugh Ross Williamson, in founding the Latin Mass Society in Easter 1965. Almost from its inception, the Society attracted significant support and was soon organising itself at a diocesan level. Most importantly it brought like-minded laymen and sympathetic clergy into contact. Before the introduction of the Novus Ordo in 1969, its objectives were clear and completely in accord with the wording of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Liturgy and the Encyclical Letter of 1962, ‘Veterum Sapientiae’ both of which urged the retention of the Latin language in the rites of the Church. Despite this, the Society was largely ignored by the English hierarchy and sometimes treated with downright hostility, a fact which gave rise, in some minds, to a suspicion that even more radical developments were in store.

The Latin Mass Society developed into a ‘broad church’ organisation containingwithin its ranks a range of differing opinions including those who considered the very identityof the Church to be imperilled and those who preferred the Latin liturgy for cultural reasons. I suspect that most members oscillated between the two opinions. Its Annual General Meetings were rather colourful and sometimes noisy occasions at which the clash of contending views was distinctly audible.

With the promulgation of the Missa Normativa came the biggest clash of all. There were those within the Society who felt bound in conscience to accept the new rite, while others favoured carrying on the fight for the old. At the AGM of 1969 there were impassioned speeches on both sides. Hugh Ross Williamson put the case for the ancient rite, citing the privilege contained in St Pius V’s Bull ‘Quo Primum Tempore’, the famous Ottaviani Intervention and the doctrinal dubiety of the Novus Ordo. Dr R. H. Richens argued for accepting the new rite pointing out the danger of schism implicit in the alternative course of action. By an overwhelming majority, the members voted in favour of the Ross Williamson motion - a decision which was described as ‘Latin Madness’, the banner headline in the following week’s Universe. The LMS was affiliated to the international federation, Una Voce, which also decided to carry on the struggle for the traditional rite.
Making this possible for future generations: First Holy Communion with the Traditional Mass
The patient advocacy of the Latin Mass Society yielded its first fruit in the form of an Indult granted by the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship to Cardinal Heenan on 5 November 1971. The Indult was highly restricted in a number of respects. It permitted local ordinaries in England and Wales to grant permission to groups of people to participate at Mass celebrated ‘according to the rites and texts of the former Roman Missal (27 January 1965) with the modification indicated in the ‘Instructio Altera’ (4 May 1967).’ In other words, the very mutilated rite as it existed on the eve of the Novus Ordo could, on rare occasions, be said with the express permission of the diocesan bishop. In practice, this grudging concession made little difference, though some cherished its symbolic value as the first breach in the wall of hierarchical intransigence. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Loftus: Pius XII wanted liturgical abuses. Really?

Strangely Mgr Basil Loftus' grinning face in The Catholic Times is still captioned 'Mgr Basil Loftus'. Hasn't the editor heard that Basil regards titles such as Monsignor as detestable flummeries? When can we look forward to seeing 'Mgr Basil Loftus'?
The Tabernacle is firmly fixed to the Altar at Our Lady of Willesden, just as Pius XII wanted.
Today (30th June edition) he makes the argument that the even the most extreme and illicit liturgical excesses of today are in continuity with the liturgical movement, as represented by Fr Pius Parsch and as endorsed by Pope Pius XII.

Pope Pius XII put the icing on the liturgical cake when he told the all-important Internationla Congress of Pastoral Liturgy meeting in Assisi in 1955, that "the liturgical movement is a sign of the providential disposition of God for the present time as well as of the Holy Spirit in the Church."

Loftus is quoting selectively. In his allocution to the Assisi conference (in 1956), Pope Pius XII gave some stern warnings against the very excesses which Loftus is arguing he approved. To give just one example, the practice of Mass 'facing the people' was making an appearance in the mid 1950s. What does Pope Pius say about this, in this allocution?
Infantilised laity? Fr Schofield distributes Communion at the Willesden Pilgrimage
It is one and the same Lord who is immolated on the altar and honoured in the tabernacle, and who pours out his blessings from the tabernacle.

What does this mean? It means that the Tabernacle should not be separated from the Altar. The following year Pope Pius XII signed off a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (Sanctissimam Eucharistiam) (1957) 4: ‘In churches, where there is only one altar, this cannot be built in such a way that the priest should celebrate facing the people

The Tabernacle ajar during Communion at SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford: Loftus hates the practice of taking hosts for Communion from the Tabernacle, a practice which emphasises that it is 'the same Lord' in the tabernacle, as Pius XII said.

If the Altar is fixed to the tabernacle, it is obviously impossible for the priest to celebrate Mass from the far side of it. Did Pius XII approve of celebration versus populum? No he did not: he argued against it, he legislated against it. How could he make it any clearer?

Pius XII ended his allocution with a general note of caution: 'it is also our duty to forestall whatever might be a source of error or danger.'

The tensions within the Liturgical Movement, and the role of Pius XII, and also St Pius X and John XXIII, to reign in what was wrong with it, are steadfastly ignored by Mgr Loftus, who wants to present us with a single 'organic' development.

It is clear, therefore, that the post-conciliar implementation and further specification of the liturgical reform was not only mandated by Vatican II but was an organic continuation of a movement which Pius XII had enthusiastically backed for some 15 years before the Council even began.
     The whole of the post-conciliar liturgical reform of the Mass and sacraments, as well as of the breviary, is the true hermeneutic of continuity in reform.
     Both the Council and the post-conciliar implementations were no more or less than the fuller ripening of a fruit which had been maturing for 15 years before the Council and was then ready to be picked and enjoyed.
     The hermeneutic or interpretation of rupture is typified only by those movements in the Church which ignore that organic and harmonious liturgical growth...
Another Tabernacle fixed to the Altar: at SS Peter & Paul, New Brighton, served by the ICKSP
     One facet of the 65-year-old Liturgical Reform Movement which must be preserved and further developed, perhaps above all others, is the accommodation of the liturgy to the common priesthood of all the bapstised. Attempts to undermine the participation of the whole People of God are sadly all too common when priests turn their backs on the people, or autocratically reimpose Latin. Translations which are coached in 'sacral' or 'hieratic' language are symptomatic of a retreat into some Old Testament kind of 'Holy of holies', where only the ordained or 'professional' priest knows what is going on - if even he does. There is no place for such a 'Holy of Holies' in Western Christianity, let alone in post-conciliar, liturgy. [sic] Likewise, opposition to women into the sanctuary [sic], refusal to admit lay-ministers of Holy Communion, and varied attempts to infantilise and individualise the People of God who approach Holy Communion in a united and adult manner, all conflict both with that common priesthood and with the unity of the whole People of God.'

I think that last bit must be about not making a scene when people want to receive communion on the tongue.

How can there be 'continuity' between John XXIII's insistence on the importance of Latin in 1962 (in Veterum Sapientia), and Vatican II saying 'Latin must be preserved' in 1963, on the one hand, and the villification of Latin promoted by Loftus? How can attempts to bring Latin back be in 'rupture' with the Council, and what went before it, which explicitly demanded that it be preserved?

More infantilised laity.
How can the claim that 'lay ministers' (ie Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) manifest the Priesthood of the People of God be in 'continuity' with forty years of official documents from Rome which have condemned this idea? Or with the Council, which doesn't mention the possibility of any such thing? The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) makes it very clear:

[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.

A modern chapel with the traditional Tabernacle / Altar arrangement: at the Oratory School.
I've written more about the difference between what the Council mandated and what was actually implemented here. But Loftus is not content with what was actually implemented officially - the legislation and official texts. He is talking here of liturgical abuses - practices which have been repeatedly condemned by the Church - or the wickedness of Papal initiatives such as the new translation of the Ordinary Form.

This is all quite dotty and harmless but for the fact that he is actually attacking his fellow priests: priests who are merely following the Church's liturgical laws, or are allowing the people to exercise their right to receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue. This is not harmless: it is serious. The madness of these articles has got to stop.
Communion of the Faithful: 'in a united and adult manner'.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oxford Pro-Life Witness this Saturday

Saturday, 29th June, Ss Peter and Paul,


3pm -4pm

We meet at the Church of St Anthony of Padua, Headley Way, Oxford.
Usually there is Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament and then we stand opposite the Church which is the entrance to the 


We pray the Holy Rosary and pray for all unborn babies, their families and the medical staff involved in the terrible crime of abortion.

Refreshments available afterwards in the Church Hall.

More information, please ring Amanda Lewin on 01869 600638

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A sociologist on the Latin Mass

A characteristic gesture of the Dominican Rite, at St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill, London. Archer's research centred around the Dominican parish in Newcastle.

I've been reading Anthony Archer 'The Two Catholic Churches: a study in oppression' (SCM Press, 1986); it's a classic in the sociology of the English Catholic Chuch, and his treatment of the liturgical reform is sometimes cited in traddy books. It deserves to be better known, however, so here is a good long quote.

Archer, at the time a Dominican priest [see comment: he left the priesthood a couple of years after the book was published], was no traditionalist; he has complicated things to say about the Catholic working-class community and the social motivation (or pressures) which maintained it, which were declining for socioeconomic reasons in the 1960s and thereabouts. But his observations about the liturgical changes, larded with quotations from the scores of the older generation of Newcastle Catholics and former Catholics he interviewed, are acute.
Eloquent gesture: the celebrant confesses his sinfulness. The LMS AGM in St George's Southwark.

From pp138-140. I've put his block quotations in double quote marks " ". The photos and their captions, of course, are mine.

If the old mass most noticeably provided a break from the mundane, it was also able to bear a great deal more than the new mass. No doubt this was partly due to the half-understood mutterings and gestures and silences – and its familiar shape for as long as anyone could remember:

“Whether it was the very fact that I couldn’t understand it, but it was much nicer. As I say you couldn’t see much of what was going on while the priest has his back to you, you couldn’t understand, but you somehow still enjoyed it…
“I couldn’t understand three parts of it, but I used to love to hear it. I could sit and listen to it and me mind was far way. I could imagine all these things when I was listening to the mass.”
The holy perceived through a mist of incense: Corpus Christi at SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford.
The mass allowed people to engage the sacred in their own fashion, providing for a while range of religious demands and sensibilities and drawing people into the space where there was evidently something more to life. It provided a fixed centre to which people could relate their changing worlds. The emphasis given to the sacredness of the space itself enclosed within the precincts of the church reinforced this. Nor was there any need to belong to any particular community to take advantage of it.
Distant but meaningful mutterings: Low Mass at Prinknash Abbey
Much of the now vanished impedimenta contributed to the effectiveness of the mass, for it served as a remind of the human condition:
“You’re more saddened with the Latin and I think requiems it should be done in Latin – on sad occasions, Good Friday, things like that.”

The mass did take place ‘in this vale of tears’ and it did incorporate the ambivalent hosts of angels and the looming statues and the dark corners of the church. It did know that black, however discordant with modern liturgical scholarship, was the human colour for funerals and that the Dies Irae, however pagan the words, was a genuine cry of anguish.
A window onto another world: Solemn Mass through the Rood Screen at St Birinus, Dorechester
The new mass had lost much of this. It had damaged the sense of occasion:
“Let me go back to when I was young, when it was all in Latin. To me in the Latin mass there was more devotion, when all your bells rang for communion and all this. I really used to feel straight away that God was there on the altar and I wouldn’t talk or turn or do anything. But now during an English mass it’s really, now I feel I could talk to Tessa or something if I felt I had to say something.”

The mass had lost its characteristic difference:
“If I went back I’d rather it’d been in Latin. Them just gabbing off in English now – there’s no feeling in the mass now. I liked to listen to the priest saying it and follow it in me old mass book rather than everyone together yapping away. It’s just killed the mass off. They’ve killed the feeling of the mass off. You could be anywhere – right in the middle of Land’s End.”
In this way the mass came to press in on the individual. Not only had it become in itself much less of a means of solemn withdrawal from the world. It no longer permitted individual withdrawal.
Communication with splendour: the Faithful are incensed at SS Peter & Paul & Philomena, New Brighton
Moreover the new mass, by the very nature of its pruned matter-of-factness, worked to close off areas to which access had previously been given. From its opening salacious invitation to ‘call to mind our sins’, the English mass carefully avoided the kind of language that might be described as genuinely popular, in the sense of conceivably being used by anyone. (‘Let me call to mind the name of that plant?’) At the same time it eschewed any attempt at ‘fine writing’. It also excluded anything that might seem excessive in the way of language or gesture. At every point one, and only one, clear meaning was to be conveyed: ‘It’s just like a lecture, man. It goes on and on.’ But it was an unkind fate that allowed the new mass to come to completion just when – elsewhere – the importance of non-verbal communication was being rediscovered.
A sublime expression of human grief: a Solemn Requiem in St James', Spanish Place.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The shades of the shaven men

I was in Burford today, and I looked into the Medieval parish church. I was very struck by the hugely impressive tomb from the late 16th century, from a couple, Sir Lawrence Tanfield and his wife, who seem to have done pretty well out of the Reformation. Realising, I suppose, that no one was likely to pray for the repose of their souls, they built this monument to their own piety.

They lived in 'The Priory', by then not a religious institution but a very grand house, and I thought of Chesterton's lines:

'Perhaps the shades of the shaven men,
Whose spoil is in his house,
Came back at last in shining shapes
To spoil his last carouse...'

Here is their only daughter, he hands folded in prayer.

It seems, in fact, that the shaven men, the monks displaced by Tudor squires, had the last laugh after all. This young lady, Elizabeth, Viscountess Falkland, clearly a girl of remarkable spirit, who also secured a place for herself in English literature as the first known woman to write and publish a play, became a Catholic. Her four daughters all became Benedictine nuns at the English convent at Cambrai.

She has a Wikipedia page. So perhaps the smug old Tanfields got more prayers than they bargained for.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

LMS Pilgrimage to Padley

On Sunday I went on the Latin Mass Society pilgrimage to Padley Chapel in Derbyshire. It was a bit crazy to go on another all-day trip after my visit to Willsden, but I'm glad I did

 The pilgrimage honours two martyr-priests of Penal times, both beatified: Bl Nicholas Garlick and Bl Robert Ludlam. The chapel was in the upper floor of the gatehouse of Padley Manor, the home of the Fitzherbert family, who were Catholics. It came back into Catholic hands, and was restored as a chapel and shrine in 1933.

Missa Cantata was celebrated by Fr Martin Clayton, a long-standing friend of the Traditional Mass and the LMS in this part of the country.

I fancy it was a bit off the beaten track in the 16th century; to get there today, you have to walk half a mile from Grindleford station.

I think that's rather cool. It is a real pilgrimage.

The two priests were captured in the chapel, and soon afterwards martyred in Derby; the manor was seized also, and is now a ruin; only the gatehouse survived, where the chapel had been.
The story of the martyrs is told in Padley Chapel's stained glass windows, as is the rather amazing discovery in 1934 of the original chapel's altar. The chapel had, of course, been dismantled by its new Protestant owners, who included the notorious priest-hunter and torturer Topcliffe. At some point the altar stone - not just a miniature square one for insertion into a wooden altar, but a great slab - was buried in part of the manor. It was discovered, unmistakable with its five crosses, and restored to its place in the chapel.
The original site of the chapel on the upper floor is where the historic altar has been restored; the floor has mostly been cut away, however, and it is possible for Mass to be said up aloft, or on the ground floor. It can also be said under a special shelter in the ruined manor house, when there are too many pilgrims to fit into the chapel.
We didn't only honour the martyrs with a lovely Sung Mass, but by hanging around in the drizzle while the key to the chapel had to be fetched (some wires had got crossed, these things happen).

A minor penance which gave an edge not only to Mass, but to a rather splendid tea we had just down the road afterwards.

There are more photos here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

LMS Pilgrimage to Willesden

On Saturday I went on the Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Willesden. Solemn Mass was celebrated by Fr Nicholas Schofield, who was ordained in the church and had been assistant priest there until his move to Uxbridge. He has recently been appointed the LMS' Regional Chaplain for the South East (to replace Mgr Gordon Read, now our National Chaplain).

Mass was followed by Rosary, a procession, a great sermon from Fr Schofield, and Benediction. It was well attended, by about 90 people. Our Lady of Willesden is soon to host a Sunday EF Mass, which makes provision for the EF in a new part of London.

The impressive church was finished in 1930. The shrine was important in the late 15th and early 16th century, before its destruction by King Henry VIII in 1538, and was visited frequently by St Thomas More, one of whose daughters lived in the area. It origins, however, are lost in the mists of time, rather like those of Our Lady of Caversham: we simply hear of its flourishing existence.

Devotion to Our Lady of Willesden was re-established earlier than many of England's Catholic shrines. The present church is probably about a mile from the medieval one. The shrine image (the processional one is a copy), is made from a timber of the ancient shrine, and was crowned by papal mandate.
Full set of photos here.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Loftus on the Resurrection

IMG_0447In reviewing the work of Mgr Basil Loftus - or, as he now prefers to be known, Mgr Basil Loftus - it would be wrong to neglect his views on the Resurrection. For among all the strange things he has written, these are perhaps the most striking.

He writes about it most Easters, and I have before me his articles for April 8th 2010, April 17th 2011, and April 11th 2012. He preferred to cover other topics in 2013. Perhaps that was wise.

April 8th 2010

What we have today in the New Testament is a combination of three elements: historical facts, early teaching, and oral tradition.

What about the innerancy of Scripture, reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council? Loftus neglects to mention this.

There is also the simple fact that we don't have it as an historical fact that Christ rose on the 'third day'. We only know that he had risen by then, because that is when the tomb was found to be empty.

So the fact that Christ rose on the third day, which we find in numerous passages of scripture (eg Acts 10:40), isn't a fact?

Luke in his gospel has Christ ascending to Heaven on the same day that he rose from the dead (chapter 24), while the same author, writing in the Acts of the Apostles, has the Ascension taking place 40 days after the Resurrection (chapter 1).

IMG_0446No: Luke 24 says no such thing, though the events are presented in a telescoped fashion. It is hardly credible that Luke would contradict himself, and the more detailed account in Acts disambiguates the brief summary in the Gospel. But Mgr Loftus seems rather keener on the two events happening, not just on the same day, but more or less indistinguishably. For the rest of the article he talks about 'Christ's Resurrection/Ascension event'.

In other words, the Resurrection/Ascension is our invitation to the Feast in Heaven... 

the Resurrection glorifies Jesus. ...Effectively, Jesus has been enthroned in Heaven.

Loftus fails to mention the strong and repeated emphasis in the Gospels of Jesus return to physical life: the fact that he can be touched, and that he eats. Perhaps these come into the category he has invented, of things you needn't take too much of in the Gospels:

It has been contaminated, for instance, by differing details such as who went to the tomb.

Contaminated? The Gospels?

April 17th 2011

Here Loftus makes the bizarre claim that the New Testament does not attest to the Resurrection as a historical event.

Yes, there is mention of the empty tomb. But that doesn't historically mean that Christ rose from the dead - just that his body was not there. All that historical science can say about Christ's resurrection is that the disciples believed in it and witnessed to it. The Scripture account of the resurrection is merely an account of that witness.

IMG_0444Clearer, now? So when Acts 10:40 reports St Peter saying that Jesus rose from the dead after three days, when Matthew 28:6 reports that the Angel said that 'He is risen' to the women, when St Paul tells us on various occasions that Jesus rose from the dead, we cannot infer 'historically' that this took place, for these are reports of witness to the Resurrection.

But how is this different from the witness to the empty tomb, which the Evangelists give us? Loftus hasn't really thought this one through. Each of the four Gospels is simply what the Evangelist, in each case, is telling us: it is witness. But it seems Loftus is more comfortable accepting the witness to some historical facts - like the empty tomb - than to others - like the physical resurrection of Our Lord.

I can't tell if he blushed when he wrote what came next, but Loftus actually quotes the notorious Dutch Catechism on the subject.

The way that the resurrection, as such, happened is hidden from all human sight and outside all scientific verification.

This is the document deemed so defective by the Vatican that the Dutch bishops were obliged to add 50 pages of clarifications to it (though they never fully complied with the demand for corrections). For our purposes, what about the scientific verification of St Thomas the Apostle, who wanted, and was able, to put his fingers into the wounds?

Further on, Loftus repeats the claim that St Luke's Gospel has the Ascension on the same day as the Resurrection - the differences between the narratives 'do not matter, because the New Testament is not a historical account of the resurrection.'

Again, what the Resurrection of Our Lord actually means is left unclear. Is it a 'historical event' of which there is sadly no 'historical account', or some kind of non-historical event, which receives an entirely appropriate non-historical account? Loftus only hints what he thinks, but he is very careful, again, to ignore the Gospels' emphasis on its physical reality. On the contrary, he quotes:

The meaning of Christ's resurrection is not the reanimation of a corpse. ...It is rather that the Son of God, made man, through his death on the cross, came to be exalted as the right hand of the Father in his historical-bodily being.

Well, I can tell you that, after reciting the Nicene Creed all my life, I'll be mightily disappointed if my corpse is not reanimated.

April 8th 2012

Now we have a little clarification.

Christ did not return to life through his Resurrection, any more than we shall return to life when we share in that Resurrection. Rather, Christ entered into a new life, just as we too shall be transformed and enter into a new life.

And so out comes the usual misleading use of St Paul's term 'spiritual body' (1 Cor. 15:44). Why didn't Loftus think of this before? It is a perfect way to insinuate that the Resurrection was not a physical, historical event, but something mystical and spiritual. But only if you - yet again - ignore all the stuff in the Gospels about the physicality of the Risen Lord, touching Him, His eating. So that is what Loftus does.

What would it cost Mgr Loftus to reassure his readers that Christ rose from the dead physically, and that although His body was glorified, it was still a physical body, tangible, able to eat, present in one place in a sense that it was not present in another? It would cost him nothing. But he refuses to say it.

IMG_0441It is pretty clear that he has a problem with this aspect of the Church's teaching. Whatever orthodox spin he might put on his words if challenged does not change the effect that they must have on the mostly unsophisticated readers of the Catholic Times. The fact that he is allowed to set out his confused and misleading screeds in a Catholic newspaper year after year is a scandal.

Photos: The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, at the Fransiscan Retreat Centre at Pantasaph. More here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Loftus renounces 'Mgr' title

Or at least, that seems to be the idea. He writes this weekend in the Tablet letters page:

Something has to be done to challenge those cardinals, bishops and priests who simply don’t get it.  Is an appeal for £500,000 for work on Archbishop’s House, Westminster, and the some £1 million reportedly spent recently on the nunciature, compatible with the example Francis wants to “send ... to other cardinals, bishops and priests” when he lives in a clergy hostel? Are Eminences, Graces, Lordships and Monsignori admissible as titles, when Francis has renounced virtually every title except Bishop of Rome?

The Chapter House of Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire: Loftus would like to see the residence of the Archbishops of Westminster more like this.

How should we address Monsignor Basil Loftus henceforth? Fr Loftus? Mr Loftus? Sirrah? Maybe just 'Oi you!'. Out of respect for his exalted rank as a Minor Prelate, I will of course from now on, in accord with his expressed preferences, stop referring to him as 'Monsignor'. I'll stick to the nobly simple, unadorned surname: Loftus.

He's on fine form this weekend, attacking Bishop Mark Davies, the Nuncio, and Archbishop Nichols in The Tablet, and attacking Bishop Egan in the Catholic Times. I suppose, for the Nuncio and Archbishop Nichols, he thinks they should let their historic residences fall into ruins around their ears, contrary to their obligations as custodians of listed buildings. The crimes of Bishop Davis and Bishop Egan are more ideological.

Loftus says that a sermon of Bishop Davis 'may even call for anger'. I wonder whether Loftus has read Bishop Davies' sermon, which is available in full here; it was given to the Union of Catholic Mothers. Perhaps this was the bit that really got under his skin:

[T]the Christian simplicity we see in Pope Francis leads us, not towards abandoning the demands of the Catholic faith, as some commentators might hope or suppose, but directly to those demands in their most radical, beautiful and uncompromising essence.
Kitchens at Jervaulx Abbey, Yorkshire. Not much soup for the poor gets cooked here these days.

It is not difficult to quote Pope Francis in support of this interpretation, as Bishop Davies goes on to do. Loftus wants us to fixate, instead, on his choice of footwear. I'm not exagerating: Loftus fulminates about

Francis’ example of evangelical simplicity and poverty, articulated through his far from“irrelevant” footwear...

Those shoes! They are going to lead us to the promised land of dogma-free religion, are they, Basil?

Bishop Egan's error was to refer to Pope Benedict without being rude. This seems to annoy Loftus so much that he's bringing up this example even though it is from more than three months ago - Loftus has gone through his back copies of The Tablet to find this:

Fountains Abbey Church, from the East end. How Loftus would like all our churches to look, perhaps.
I felt safe under Pope Benedict. He made us all feel in human terms that the Church was in good hands, reminding us that Christ founded his Church on a rock.

What, exactly, is wrong with this? Loftus contrasts it with the criticism of the false, or merely human, feeling of security of a non-evangelistic attitude which was recently made by Pope Francis. 'The Holy Spirit is more demanding because ... it does not give us that human security.'

What's the point here? Loftus' presentation of the quotations suggests that Pope Francis is condemning an attitude of Bishop Egan, and even of Pope Benedict. That is both deeply uncharitably and deeply dishonest. Clearly the kind of security Bishop Egan is talking about is not the kind of security Pope Francis is setting aside. A moment's reflection on the Pontificate of Pope Benedict does not suggest that he was someone who played it safe, who didn't step outside the comfort zone of the people around him when he thought that doing so was an evangelical imperative. (Regensburg? Summorum Pontificum? Anglicanorum coetibus?) As for Bishop Egan, he was writing during the period of Sede Vacante, and his column on the qualities needed by a new Pope was well summarised by the Tablet's headline: 'Combine the energetic creativity of John Paul with the prayerful fidelity of Benedict'.

Loftus is just making trouble here: it is nothing more than malicious mischief-making. The rest of the Catholic Times column is devoted to a rambling reminiscence of the bad old days, including the utterly preposterous claim that

Theologically, no progress was being made at all. The lectures I attended at Rome's Gregorian University in the 1950s in no way differed from those given four centuries earlier.

The theology of the Eucharist expressed on the tomb of a medieval
Abbot of Jervaux: not something which has changed
Really? So they neglected to tell the young Loftus about the condemnation of Jansenism in the 17th century, and the clarification of the theology of grace that entailed? They neglected to tell him about the theology of Church and State developed and promulgated by the great Popes of the 19th century? They didn't tell him about Leo XIII's Social Teaching? They didn't mention the development of devotion to the Sacred Heart, and its theological implications, which swept through the Church in the 19th century? They didn't teach him that the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been defined in 1854? Or the Dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady in 1950? Or has the old chap's memory of those far-off days become a little hazy?

Not that these developments were incompatible with the teaching of the Council of Trent. Like Trent itself, they represent an unfolding of the implications of the Deposit of Faith given to the Church by Christ. This was real 'progress': not like the kind of 'progress' proposed by the hero of this article, the modernist von Hugel.

Watch out, Loftus! von Hugel, perhaps unlike you, accepted the condemnation of modernism by Pius X, and in his twilight years scandalised his modernist friends by his devotion to the Rosary. Loftus' readers should pray that something similar happen to him.

But come back tomorrow and I'll have something to say about Loftus' very interesting attitude to the doctrine of the Resurrection of Our Lord.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Does Mgr Loftus want a 'fear-free atmosphere'?

IMG_0452Such was my excitement at receiving a letter from Mgr Loftus last week that I've missed the chance to fisk one of his articles. I don't want to miss another, so here are some comments on his latest, in which he wades into the 'fetid air of the swamp' of the debate about what Pope Benedict XVI said, or did not say, or meant, or did not mean, about prostitutes using condoms. I've addressed those issues myself here; what Mgr Loftus makes of them, however, is to to with free speech first of all (9th June column the The Catholic Times):

'opinions which formerly could only be whispered within what Archbishop Marini recently referred to at the "foetid air of the swamp", can now be spoken openly, as the articulation of the belief of the "Holy People of God", in a fear-free and and fresh-air atmosphere, blown by the Holy Spirit, ...'

And what opinions might those be? Opinions critical of Mgr Basil Loftus, for example? Does that mean that there aren't going to be more underhand attempts to silence his critics? No more shouting down the phone, as Fr Ray Blake experienced? No more legal bullying, as Fr Michael Clifton experienced? I've already had a pretty interesting time with letters from the Monsignor. His attitude seems to be: if you've lost the argument, silence your opponent.

IMG_0451So no, I don't think that is what he means. I think he means he can go on using the resources of the Catholic community, such as the newspapers sold in churches, to attack that community's most cherished beliefs, such as the titles of Our Lady, or the most fundamental principles of the Faith, such as the doctrine of sin. Here is what he says about that:

Inexorably the Church is now going to have to revisit the vexed question of what constitutes sin. In the classical moral theology position sin is committed when the moral law is broken. From that moment, and by that act alone, sin becomes 'ontic'--in other words, it "exists". [It has to exist, of course, to be matter for the Sacrament of Confession: something Loftus seems to have forgotten.] All that can then be done is to seek some form of mitigation--through imperfect knowledge, lack of full consent to the 'sinful' act, or overall lack of mature judgement in general.
But more and more moral theologians are anxious to establish that sin does not "exist", does not become "ontic", if someone genuinely believes that an act is not sinful, even though it breaks moral law. They are not sinners if they do not believe that, in all the specific concrete circumstances, their act was sinful. The mere breaking of a moral law does not then, in itself alone, and divorced from paticular considerations, necessarily constitute sin. The judgement belongs in no small part to the individual. The sense of personal responsibility for sin in part and parcel of the personal inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Theologians such as Jozef Fuchs [died aged 93 in 2005] and Sean Fagan [octeganarian Irish theologian condemned by the CDF for advocating women priests: not exactly the rising generation] have not invented the 'new' approach to sin. They have merely articulated the faith which the Holy Spirit has put into the hearts of the People of God, who cannot err in matters of belief. [The Holy Spirit or the people??] This personal faith is not in contradiction to the teaching of the magisterium of the Church, but filters and refines its acceptability and interpretation. [??]

The classical Church teaching on sin is reminiscent of St Paul's observation that when he was a child he thought like a child. ...But we are not children. We have grown in the faith. We explore, we take personal responsibility. ...part and parcel of this approach is that as the People of God we will also help to put right the errors of emphasis and interpretation which have grown out of authentic Church teaching.'

IMG_0449 This illustrates Mgr Loftus' favourite trick, of leaving it just a little unclear whether he is giving his own views or talking about other people's. But looking at the ideas which he is, let us say, 'exploring', we are faced with an even bigger ambiguity.

On the face of it he could be making a very simple point which can, in fact, be expressed within the 'classical' position: those who genuinely believe they are not sinning are clearly not committing mortal sin, and we can further say that their sin, while 'objective', is not 'subjective'. Subjectively speaking, what they did was not a sin. Of course this raises the question of how far the 'erring conscience' can extend, given that the Natural Law cannot be erased from our hearts. The Nazis who seemed so convinced that killing Jews was morally good won't get off that easily. The corruption of their consciences which led to those beliefs must have been at least partially their responsibility, and the humanity of their victims is not something which they could ever completely forget.

IMG_0448But unless you are determined to force the sense of Loftus' words into the straitjacket of orthodoxy, the tendency of this passage appears to be much more radical. The suggestion seems to be that whatever the 'People of God', or even just 'the individual', decides is the right thing, just is, ipso facto, the right thing. The contrast between (subjective) sin and the 'moral law' seems to disappear at a certain point, and instead we find him talking about the individual's judgement of the precise circumstances of the case, and a grown up 'taking responsibility'. If you look at the circumstances of the case, and come to a conclusion (killing is usually wrong, but maybe we can make an exception for Jews), then the suggestion seems to be that you are actually infallible, at least if there is a group of you and you can parade yourself as the 'People of God' (or should that be, the Volk?).

I use an extreme example - Nazi anti-semitism - to test the implications of Loftus' ramblings, because it is typical of theological liberals and philosophical subjectivists to focus exclusively, when talking about how people should be allowed to do whatever they like, on a narrow range of examples which they have themselves already decided that people should be allowed to do: say, use contraception, or divorce and remarry. But if contraception is to be allowed for no reason other than that people are tempted to use it, then what of the kinds of wrongdoing that even liberals still reject?

IMG_0447What Loftus is doing here is fundamentally dishonest. First, by refusing to make clear whether he is talking, at different points, about objective or subjective wrongdoing. Second, by refusing to make clear whether he endorses the position he discusses. And third, by presenting in plausible terms a view which is absolutely toxic: that it is 'childish' to take the objective moral law seriously, and that somehow the Holy Spirit guarantees that what people convince themselves is right, is right.

This won't do, Monsignor. It's not big and it's not clever. And it's not new either: not even your antiquated theological exemplars, Fuchs and Brady, thought it up, the precursors of this rubbish belong in the 19th century or even earlier. Loftus' inability to name a theologian under 80 who agrees with him is, perhaps, the ray of hope which shines through the article despite all his best efforts. The Church may be going through a Passion in imitation of her Lord's, but we have the promise of the Resurrection.

Pictures: Mysteries of the Rosary, from Pantasaph, North Wales, where we will have our Summer School this year, July 21-28

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rolheiser and de Malleray on Celibacy

Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP had a letter published in the Catholic Herald the other week which I think deserves a permanent place on the internet, so I reproduce it below.

It is a very beautiful brief explanation of the value of celibacy, and it demonstrates what would be perfectly possible to have, in our Catholic press, if the various papers thought it appropriate to have as columnists articulate writers with a traditional formation, rather than fill about 80% of their comment space with a rag-bag of C-list celebrities and self-promoting dissidents.

Fr Rolheiser is perhaps the most annoying columnist in the UK Catholic press after Mgr Loftus. Admittedly there is stiff competition from Quentin de la Bedoyere (pet topic: the falsity of Humanae Vitae), also in the Catholic Herald, and Robert Mickens of The Tablet, and some of the columnists in the Universe are just so boring I can't claim to have formed a judgement about them. Rolheiser has the distinction of writing a 'syndicated' column, which means that it appears simultaneously in publications all over the English-speaking world, which is nice for him. The most scandalous of his columns are those, which appear once a year, in which he plays down the teaching of the Church on suicide, something which is not just offensive to pious ears but actually dangerous, particularly for young people who may be tempted towards that terrible sin. Being an accessory (in the sense used in moral theology) to suicide isn't something I'd want on my conscience, but Fr Rolheiser seems to be made of sterner stuff.

Here's a nice fisk of him writing on ecumenism. I wonder if it is significant that the Catholic Herald uses, for its byline photo of him, one in which he's wearing a clerical collar; all the others I can find have him in civvies.

The fact that Fr Rolheiser starts his reflections on celibacy with a quotation from Thomas Merton, who famously broke his own vow of celibacy, should ring a few warning bells. Rolheiser doesn't burden his readers with that contextual information.

You can read the article to which Fr de Malleray is replying here.


Last week Fr Rolheiser endorsed Thomas Merton's unfortunate option that 'celibacy is abnormal and dooms you to live in a state not willed by the Creator'. But Thomas Merton confessed in his Journals that he had not kept his solemn vow of chastity.

Perhaps more eloquent witness could be quoted to display the value and beauty of so deeply Catholic an institution as consecrated celibacy. I would suggest that St Padre Pio, St Catherine of Siena, the Holy Cur
é of Ars, St Thérèse of Liseux, St Maximilian Kolbe, to name but a few among hundreds of thousands of unmarried saints, answered their called to celibacy without illusions but with a filial trust, relying on the greater love of the One to Whom they offered up the sacrifice of matrimonial intimacy and of biological parenthood.

Were they lonely? Perhaps at times, but then they knew it was only an invitation to throw themselves

more confidently into God's arms and to devote themselves more compassionately to the service of others. And soon enough they would be comforted by the One Who promised: 'And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting' (Matt 19:29). Therefore, affirming that 'celibacy does condemn you to live in a loneliness that God himself condemned' is fundamentally at odds with Christ's special blessing on consecrated celibates, following Christ's election of that state for his own Self.
No one is forced to enter that blessed state and no one should, unless they firmly rely on the actual presence of their Beloved Saviour to fill them daily with everlasting love. But if they do, God's grace will not fail them.
Yours faithfully,

Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP,Reading, Berkshire.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Open Studio: Anthea Craigmyle in the Chiswick Mall

This is my annual plug for the open studio of a rather obscure artist, who happens to be my mother. If you are in London this weekend, she is having her 'Open Studio' exhibition on the Chiswick Mall from 11-6 today and tomorrow.

Cedar House, Chiswick Mall, W4 2PS
Click here for a PDF map to the house.

She exhibits in commercial galleries too, this is a chance to see some affordable work in a relaxed domestic setting.

This year she has also completed an edition of her mother's letters, complete with her own illustrations: 'A Vicarage in the Blitz'. Molly Rich was the wife of the Chiswick vicar (later Dean of Peterbrough Cathedral, and later still a Catholic convert, Edward Rich), and her war-time letters are a fascinating insight into that period, and also the Anglican milieu of the day. You can buy the book on Amazon (as well as from the Open Studio).

Here are a few of the pen-and-ink illustrations, which are also for sale.

The middle one depicts a dramatic scene in which the vicarage, together with the Church (St Nicholas') and the neighbouring houses, was nearly engulfed by fire, after a bomb hit a wharf on the Thames igniting barges full of wax destined for a shoe-polish factory. Molly wrote to her friend, the following day, rather laconically: 'Tata, the Volkov's Russian cook, saved the situation by bringing out her icon and praying to St Nicholas and suddenly the wind changed and blew the flames where they could do no harm.' (p51)

And we think we live in interesting times...

The illustration below shows the consequences of Molly's attempt to combine the war-time project of keeping hens with civilised vicarage life.

There are lots more pictures from the exhibition on the website here.