Monday, June 10, 2013

An open letter to Mgr Basil Loftus

St Peter Canisius, hammer of 
heretics: ora pro nobis
Mgr Basil Loftus has picked up his pen to write to me. This is what he wrote.

4th June 2013
Dear Dr Shaw,
May I once again ask you to refrain from garnishing your 'blog' with offensive illustrations when you refer to me. My attention has been drawn to yet another instance of this jejune, hurtful and totally unacceptable practice in you 'blog' of 29 May.
     It is particularly worrying that within the same computer-reference parameters (www.lmschairman) on 1 December 2012 you spell our your connection with St Benet's Hall, "my own academic home". You are already damaging the once conciliatory and respected Latin Mass Society with your personally vitriolic writings. Please do not also try to tarnish yet another well-loved institution.
     Your purported 'cartoons' have succeeded in their clear intent to cause hurt and harassment. Now, I ask you again to desist.
     Yours sincerely,
          Basil Loftus.

This is an interesting letter on a number of levels, and I think it is worthy of a reply. I am today sending him this open letter.

Dear Mgr Loftus,

Thank you for your letter of 4th June.

I am sorry you feel hurt and harassed by my blog posts about you. You may like to consider, however, the hurt and harassment you cause each week in your columns in that once respected Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Times.

As I have begun to chronicle more regularly, almost every column of yours attacks, in the most sneering and disrespectful tones, those Catholics in good standing with whom you happen to disagree. Allow me to illustrate the point briefly.

St John the Baptist: didn't mince his words
In your column of 26th May, to which my blog post of 29th was a response, you seek to ridicule priests who distribute communion at Mass from the Tabernacle: 'imitating the television cook who explains: "Here's one I prepared earlier"'. As you by implication acknowledge, this practice is widespread, permitted by liturgical law, and in accordance with immemorial tradition. It is not to your taste, but rather than offering a reasoned argument against it you use a degrading comparison which is disrespectful both to your fellow priests and to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

In the same column, you described the new English translation of the 1970 Missal as  'unwanted and unwelcome, artificial and stilted, unprofessional and occasionally theologically inaccurate', in relation to which 'priest and people lose the will to live', and which constitutes 'oppression'This is vitriolic language, directed at something promulgated officially by the Church, and by implication at those who prepared and authorised it, such as Mgr Andrew Wadsworth of ICEL, Bishop Roche of your own old diocese, and Pope Benedict XVI. Do you really think that this is an appropriate way in which to treat such a complex and delicate matter? Do you believe that that this way of addressing the Church's officials, including the Pontiff Emeritus, reflects the respect due to them, and the heavy burdens it is their duty to bear?
The Prophet Jeremiah: didn't opt for the
quiet life when faced with evil

In the same column you wrote 'And every week people in many parishes are deprived of fuller participation because, in total contravention of an explicit General Instruction in the Roman Missal, their view is impeded by a crucifix and six candlesticks.' This is an even more direct attack on Pope Benedict XVI who, I venture to say, had more authority to speak and act both on the meaning of liturgical legislation and on the best ways to foster liturgical participation than you do yourself. Granted that this is a subject open to free discussion, do you really think that your manner of addressing it is compatible with a proper respect for the Office of the Papacy?

It is not enough, however, for you to attack your fellow priests and your hierarchical superiors in this disedifying way, for you extend your campaign of degradation to the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. In your subsequent column of 2nd June, you attempt to cast doubt on three of her titles: 'the idea of Mary as 'co-redemptrix' is simply a non-starter', 'Some mediation on the part of Mary is part of her role - but clearly not for "all" graces', and 'Pope Paul VI cheated, and referred to Mary as "Mother of the Church" during one of his private documents during the Council' The suggestion in each case is that the titles are theologically inappropriate and not upheld officially by the Church. Since I doubt that you are entirely ignorant of the truth of the matter, it is hard to excuse you of mendacity in this case, something all the more extraordinary in the context of the honour due to Our Lady, intimately related as it is to the most heartfelt aspects of the piety of the simple Faithful.

Our Blessed Lord: not exactly flattering
toward the Lakeside Towns
Is is really possible that you do not know that the title co-redemptrix was, at least implicitly, upheld by Pope St Pius X in his Encyclical Ad diem illum (1904) 14? 

On the title 'Mother of the Church', can you really be so deluded as to have convinced yourself that Paul VI's Address to the Second Vatican Council on September 21, 1964 was a 'private document'? Can you possibly describe his Encyclical Solemni hac liturgia of 1968, in which the title is repeated, as a 'private document'? And what of the addition of this title to the Litany of Our Lady by Blessed Pope John Paul II: does this not count as an official public act?

On the title 'Mediatrix of All Graces', what you regard as 'clearly not' true was affirmed as not only true but suitable for a public liturgical celebration by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. Do you perhaps imagine yourself to be superior, not only in wisdom but in magisterial authority and legislative power, to a succession of Supreme Pontiffs?

In your columns you have deployed your invective against good Catholics at every level of the Church. You have made The Catholic Times notorious for your rudeness, insensitivity, and divisiveness. You have trampled on the piety and traditions of the simplest of the Faithful and of the Holy Father alike. And now you complain that my blog posts about you cause 'hurt', that they aren't as 'conciliatory' as the Latin Mass Society was wont to be, and that they are 'personally vitriolic'. I think readers of my blog and your column will find the mote-and-beam comparison here easy to make.

Edmund Burke (attrib) 'All that is necessary for
the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.'
I wish to end, however, on a conciliatory note nevertheless. I will undertake to cease writing these posts about you, with or without the illustrations you find so offensive, on one simple condition: that you similarly cease to write your columns, and also the letters to the Catholic press in which you carry on the same themes. You have had a good many years and a good large space to set out your ideas. The debate within the Church has moved away from your views in so many ways. Isn't this a good moment to give it up? Or, as you put it, 'I ask you again to desist.'

Failing this, I will on the contrary undertake to make reasoned criticisms of as much of your output as I can, as I have been doing in recent weeks, lest lack of contradiction give your views specious credibility. 

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Shaw


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Anonymous5:00 pm

    Thank you for your reasoned and reasonable response. You are a patient and painstaking author, imho.

  3. jejune indeed! Excellent stuff;
    as for vitriolick; I cannot find an ounce of that.
    keep up the good work

  4. Thank you for deconstructing Mgr Loftus's columns - not something I could do myself, as I ceased buying the Catholic Times about three years ago, despite the consistently excellent contributions of Fr Francis Marsden: I couldn't stomach Mgr Loftus any more.

  5. Dr Shaw, I was going to read the whole blog, but in scanning down the page I decided it was not worth the effort when I noticed these appalling words that you had written:

    'Pope Paul VI cheated, and referred to Mary as "Mother of the Church" during one of his private documents during the Council'

    CHEATED? What kind of juvenile, idiotic, theologically illiterate words to use about a teaching of the Holy Father which was acclaimed by the whole Church! How can you write such a thing and keep a straight face? Are you even fit to teach Holy Communion classes to 7 year-olds? You should be ashamed of yourself.

  6. It was Mgr Loftus who wrote those words. That's why they are in red.

  7. Dear Dr Shaw,

    Your reply to Mgr Loftus is exceptional. May God bless you abundantly for your courgeous, steadfast, unswerving faith and for revealing to the masses the modus operandi of heretics today.

    I do think you could be now more benevolent to Mgr Loftus. Perhaps as a mark of brotherly love you could organise a novena to St Peter Canisius for his conversion to the One True Faith?

    Yours in Domino,

  8. Dr Shaw, please do accept my most humble and abject apologies. I should have guessed that such heretical drivel would not have been spawned from your own good keyboard! To think that I thought you an ignorant goat!

    God bless you in your work.

  9. "...their view is impeded by a crucifix and six candlesticks.'

    That was written by Msgr Loftus? Words fail me.

  10. Anonymous7:50 pm

    An excellent reply to Mgr Loftus, who really should leave the Catholic Church if he cannot accept its authority.

  11. A very eloquent response. Thank you for taking the time to compose such a fine letter.

  12. "Heretical drivel" is about the level of invective to be expected from traditionalist Catholics. Clearly not many contributors to this blog will agree with this, but I think you should know that there are probably many many Catholics who have for a long time been dismayed by the way in which the great and inspiring vision of Vatican II for the renewal of the Church has been betrayed and undermined by members of the hierarchy (who is really being disloyal to the authority of the Church?) and are very grateful that there are people like Basil Loftus who still uphold that vision and are given a platform by the Catholic Times. There are plenty of other writers in that paper on the traditionalist wing, you could at least allow this one column. If he occasionally expresses himself somewhat bluntly in a satirical way, maybe one does not need to respond over pompously. Those who are devoted to the Latin Mass and want to restore pre-Vatican II Catholicism are perfectly entitled to their views. I would not want to censor them, but I think they speak for only a minority of the people of the Church, a very vocal one admittedly. They have been in the ascendancy lately, but there are signs with the new Pope that their days may well be numbered and that aggiornamento is back on the agenda. For the wellbeing and future health of the Church I believe this can only be a good thing.

  13. Loftus's words are good for one thing ... wrapping up fish and chips. He ought to review his journalistic position if not his ministry!

    1. Anonymous1:40 pm

      You are cruel to fish and chips!

    2. Ha ha, very clever/

  14. Mgr Loftus no doubt should have his say. But as Dr Shaw pointed out the arguments really have moved on.

    We are now in a position to look back from a reasonable perspective in time at Vatican II. My personal view, speaking as a middle of the road Catholic who has observed developments over the decades, is that it was the wrong council called, against advice and above all, at the wrong time. There had been a build up of liberal/Modernist heresy within the Church prior to the council and, set as it was in the secularist excesses of the sixties, it gave the heretics their encouragement and opportunity. The naivety of the Vatican and the bishops in the face of this beggars belief.

    It is now accepted beyond doubt that the documents were manipulated by these people, but more importantly, in a sense, they abused the liturgy of the Pauline Mass which already went beyond the intent of Sacrosanctum Concilium, to bring about not only a banal but also a doctrinally misleading liturgy.

    The result has been the biggest disaster the Church has suffered since the Protestant Reformation. Many, many, many Catholics have simply walked away.

    Pope Benedict showed us the way forward both doctrinally and liturgically, that is, in Continuity with two thousand years of Catholicism. Pope Francis is orthodox Catholic, so I have no fears there. But just as after the last Reformation it will take many Popes before the mess is sorted out.

  15. May I draw your attention to the displacement of the hamster animation on Fr. Z's blog, explained thus:

    As of 28 February 2013, Basil has left his position of running the rat-race on the side bar. He now has retired to his own page.

  16. I wonder what the Monsignor thinks "jejune" means.

  17. Monsignor Loftus is the reason why I don't buy the Catholic Times.

  18. Basil Loftus is the reason why I stopped buying the "Scottish Catholic Observer".

    1. Me too, that and the way they chopped up the letters. If they were traditional that is.

  19. If a person is prepared to give criticism then he should be able to take it,,,,, Touche Monsignor

    Fr S Gardner

  20. Your reply is an excellent, well deserved response to the drivel which Mgr. Basil Loftus has poured out over many years. I happen to be one who attended the same school as Basil when we were boys. He has never changed, more's the pity!

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. This Loftus sounds like a right tosser.

    1. Vulgar abuse of that nature is NOT appropriate in this Blog or indeed any other. Disagreement. Debate even Anger yes but not mere vulgar personal abuse

    2. Yes, but he is correct.

  23. Having reached the end of all these comments - well I haven't laughed so much in ages.
    Absolutely agree with Dr. Shaw.
    Fr. Francis was an antidote to the Mgr but, like a few other commenter I too stopped buying the C.Times.
    It was after the Terrence Higgins leaflet was placed in them one week. Were they MAD?
    No money from me after that.

    Bless you all.

  24. Oh well done Dr Shaw. This gentleman not only is allowed to sound-off in the Catholic times, but also up here in the Scottish Catholic Observer."Catholic" seems to have a very wide application in these papers.

  25. Anonymous11:50 pm

    Congratulations for the excellent and very measured answer.

    I allow myself to doubt Monsignor Loftus is losing the will to live.