Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Final call for the Evangelium Conference

The conference is this weekend, but you may still be able to book.

I've been there the last couple of years and I'm giving two talks again, on Ethics. It is a great event, a wonderful opportunity for young faithful Catholics to meet each other and to engage with good priests, apologists, academics, writers and all sorts. You will go home knowing you are not the only Catholic in the world who takes Confession seriously or believes in the Real Presence, even if it can feel like that sometimes.

This year Bishop Davies of Shrewsbury is coming. He's worth the fee on his own.

I hope to see you there.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Trouble for the Friars of the Immaculate

Update: Rorate Caeli has the full text of the decree (in Italian).

I do not know the exact policy of the Franciscans of the Immaculate towards the Extraordinary Form, but it should be emphasised that their parish in Stoke, in England, by no means gave the EF a place of prominence: see the horarium here (screenshot posted also for when the website is changed).

It is hard to know what people mean when they suggest that the EF was being 'imposed' by the Superior on the Friars. This horarium looks to me like the cautious and pastorally sensitive introduction of the Traditional Mass for which traditionally-minded priests are well known. Perhaps it is different elsewhere, but there is certainly no basis in England for Mgr Wadsworth's suggestion that the EF was causing pastoral problems. But England is included in the ban: why?


Messa in Latino and Chiesa has the shocking - in the literal sense - news that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have a new Superior, not a member of the Order but a Capuchin, Fidenzio Volpi, and that the priests of the Order have been forbidden to say the Traditional Mass in public or private, without special permission. This is effective from Sunday 11th August.

This superior has been imposed on the Order by higher authority, replacing the founder, Fr Manelli.

I have independent corroboration for the truth of this story. No doubt more details will emerge.

A Friar of the Immaculate on the Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage
to Walsingham in 2011
The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, an order founded in 1969, have an apostolate in Stoke on Tent in England, where the Traditional Mass is celebrated every Sunday - or has been until now. It was recently announced that they will not be extending the five-year arrangement with the Archdiocese of Birmingham by which they run this parish, and so will in any case be leaving in September. The Sisters of the Order have both active and, at Lanherne in Cornwall, contemplative, houses in England. Lanherne went completely over to the Traditional Mass, Office, and other customs a few years ago.

The order has been moving in a Traditional direction for some years, and has recently been, for practical purposes, bi-ritual. Other orders and communities have developed in a similar way. Whenever there is change in an order, or for that matter resistance to change, there will be disagreements. I hope and pray that the Friars resolve these matters amicably, justly, and with due regard for the pastoral needs of the Faithful they serve around the world.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shakespeare on the Traditional Mass


I have mentioned before Clare Asquith's book Shadowplay and her argument about the coded messages in Shakespeare relating to religious matters. It can easily sound a bit Dan Brown-ish but actually a lot of it is common sense. If a playwright today wrote a play about a Prime Minister who involved his country in a distant war on the basis of false information, anyone who doubted that this gave the playwright an opportunity to pass some kind of comment on Tony Blair and the Iraq war would be regarded as very dull. When Shakespeare writes - as in A Winter's Tale - about a king who seeks to rid himself of a virtuous wife, and is enraged when the world-centre of religious authority, to which he appeals, sides with her, and you connect this with events of Henry VIII's reign, everyone thinks you are a conspiracy theorist.

The easy explanation for the double standards is simple enough. Shakespeare's comment on those events, if that is what it is, is that things can only be put right by a painful repentance and a seemingly impossible restoration. That is not the attitude to Catholicism which modern literary critics want to attribute to Shakespeare.

But taking a common sense approach to interpretation, Shakespeare has an opportunity to make a little comment on the centre of religious authority, 'Delphi': that is, Rome. He doesn't ham it up, it is just a tiny scene (Act III scene I) in which the ambassadors are returning and talking about their experiences. What did they find in Delphi, apart from the oracle itself? They found liturgy.

The ambassador Dion speaks.

I shall report,
For most it caught me, the celestial habits,
Methinks I so should term them, and the reverence
Of the grave wearers. O, the sacrifice!
How ceremonious, solemn and unearthly
It was i' the offering!

He is talking, of course, about the Traditional Mass, and its power to communicate divine realities to the onlooker.


Photos: Pontifical High Mass, celebrated in Ratcliffe by Bishop Malcolm McMahon for the LMS Priest Training Conference, and in Westminster Cathedral by Bishop John Arnold, for the LMS Annual Requiem.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Roger Scruton on the Traditional Mass

Roger Scruton, the philosopher, is a paradoxical, perhaps even a tragic figure. He is one of those many academics over the decades who stands on the edges of the Church, admiring its traditions and achievements, but unable himself to cross the line into belief. The views of such people can be interesting, sometimes they have insights derived from their critical distance, sometimes they get the wrong end of the stick. In both cases it may be important, because they are an important channel for how the Church's message ends up getting broadcast, or mis-cast - their writings reach people Catholics don't reach.

His 1998 book  'Modern Culture' is about how, given that we can no longer believe in God, we can perhaps appeal to culture to maintain some kind of civilised life and not fall completely into barbarism and despair. It is a completely Quixotic idea. You couldn't communicate the kinds of cultural understanding or appreciation he is talking about to even 10% of the population of Britain today, and anyway if you take away the religious realities the great cultural artefacts are about you take away their meaning and purpose. They may outlive these things a little, but not for long.

But here's an interesting passage on, of all things, liturgical reform. (Modern Culture, pp19-20)

Although the purpose of an act of worship lies beyond the moment, in the form of a promised redemption from the original sin of solitude, it cannot really be separated from the means. Means and ends are inextricable. Thought and experience are inseparable in the liturgy, as they are in art. Changes in the liturgy are of great significance to the believer, since they are changes in the experience of God. The question whether or not to use the Book of Common Prayer or the Tridentine mass are not questions of 'mere form'. To suppose that the rite is a matter of form is to imagine just the kind of separation of form and content which is the death (the death by protestation) of a true common culture.

Enlightened people often mock the controversies surrounding the liturgy, and profess not to understand the desire for the old words, save for 'aesthetic reasons'. They are right to see a resemblance between aesthetic interest and the act of worship. But they are wrong in thinking this resemblance to be merely accidental. The quasi-aesthetic absorption in the holy words and gestures is a component in the redemptive process. In participating, the believer is effecting a change in his spiritual standing. The ceremony is not so much a means to this end as a prefiguration of it. In the ritual the believer confronts God, and is purified by standing in God's gaze.

The jealosy over the liturgy is of a piece with God's jealousy over idols. Sacred words do not issue from the merely human voice, but from the deity...
Liturgical communion between the mundane and the transcendent, and between the generations: the Family Retreat.
There is a connection in thought here with both Martin Mosebach's ideas in his The Heresy of Formlessness, and in Anthony Archer's observations about working class Catholicism.

One problem of this kind of discussion of ritual is that, since it seeks to generalise about ritual, you can't distinguish between true and false religions. This means you are obliged to explain everything in purely natural terms, and not in terms of grace. Nevertheless, looking at the natural side of things has its uses: we shouldn't presume on grace if we haven't done the outward, natural things which prepare the way for the reception of grace. It is just arrogance to think that God will send his grace to people through an irreverent liturgy in which the truths of faith are obscured. As Redemptionis Sacramentum (6) points out, liturgical abuses make it harder for us to recognise Christ in the liturgy. We can take the point further: the point of the ars celebrandi, the Liturgical Movement, and all the effort on all sides in the liturgical reform debate has been about making the liturgy speak more eloquently and clearly to the Catholic in the pew, to remove impediments to grace.

What Scruton is pointing out, from this point of view, is that a common liturgical culture, shared with past generations and passed on to the next, is vital to the function of the liturgy, and that for this reason liturgical change itself is an impediment to grace.

The other very interesting thing he says in this chapter is to link concern for future generations with concern for the dead. By saying that the dead are in some sense a continuing part of the community, one can be motivated to lay down one's life for the continuing life of the community. The attack on former generations, their memory, their achievements, is ultimately an attack on the community as it exists now, and threatens its future.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Anne Roche Muggeridge on Liberalism's tragic trajectory

Why are liberals so brutal, when their entire self-understanding is about opposing brutality?

There is both a general answer, applicable to revolutionary liberalism in general, and a specific answer for the case of the Church, in this interesting passage in Anne Roche Muggeridge's excellent book, The Desolate City.

It has often been said that all revolutions fail since the ideals of early reformers are inevitably betrayed by the dynamics of the very process intended to secure them. James Hitchcock, in his early study of the post-Conciliar revolution, The Decline and Fall of Radical Catholicism, noted this. The radicals had wanted a Church "more open, more honest, less authoritarian and more humane than at present." But they soon discovered that "it is also impossible to have effective revolution...without having authoritarianism, strong discipline, enforced orthodoxy, the sacrifice of individuals to the cause - all the abuses which the revolutionaries object to in the establishment...have already begun to appear within radical American Catholicism." [p.43] To survive in power over a large number of unwilling subjects who still adhere to the older idea, a revolution is forced to maintain more rigid and punitive orthodoxy than the one it is trying to supplant. Twenty years after Vatican II, the revolution, though it has failed to behead the king, has for all intents and purposes become the establishment. Yet the horrid truth has begun to dawn that the teaching authority of the Church, centred on the Roman magisterium, is not after all going to abdicate, scrap its cosmology, become a constitutional monarchy or a parliamentary democracy or a revolutionary commune. Therefore, instead of being able to settle down to consolidate its gains, the revolution has had to step up its attack. Though the post-Consiliar hierarchy, up to and including Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, have been consistently patient and gentle - the traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is suspended, Hans Küng is not - the charges of brutality directed against it by the revolution become ever more outrageous. ...

It is now time for conciliation of the revolution by the magisterium to stop. It had to be tried, but it hasn't worked; it never does. 

The Desolate City: revolution in the Catholic Church (1986, revised ed 1990) p174-5

Anne Roche Muggeridge, who died in 2010, was a great pro-lifer and Traditionalist. She married Malcolm Muggeridge's son John, and was an influence in Malcolm's conversion. Her best-known book, The Desolate City was published in 1986 and revised and expanded in 1990; in this passage 1986 seems to be the present (I don't think the reference to Archbishop Lefebvre has caught up with the 1988 consecrations and excommunications).

See an obituary of Anne Roche Muggeridge here.

The cartoon above nicely illustrates the point about the ever-shriller denouncements of oppression by the very people who represent, for many purposes, the Catholic establishment. It accompanied a 2011 article by Elena Curti which, with the thinnest of veils, called for the ordination of women. More about that here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chesterton Mass, 30th July, Our Lady of Lourdes Uxbridge

I'm not sure what I think about GK Chesterton's cause for canonisation, but if the necessary miracles happen that would obviously be great. I'll be at this Mass, which will be a Votive Mass of Our Lady.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mass for the Sodality of St Augustine

Last Sunday I was in St Bede's for a Mass celebrated for the intentions for the Latin Mass Society's Sodality of St Augustine. This sodality, which is open to everyone and has no membership fee, prays for the lapsed and non-Catholic friends and family of members. You can sign up here.

It was a nice opportunity to attend Mass in St Bede's, where there is a very vibrant EF congregation, which makes an important contribution to the life of the parish. Mass was celebrated by Fr Andrew Southwell, who is back from Rome for the summer where he is studying.

The Latin Mass Society promises to organise at least one public Mass each year for the Sodality's intentions; members can organise more, and offer extra prayers and so on as they like. There is a short Sodality prayer which members say each day, which is the collect for 'Devotis Amicis', for friends, which can be added as an extra collect at Masses (under certain conditions blah blah blah). The idea is that the annual Mass the LMS pays for is done with a degree of solemnity; last Sunday's Mass was accompanied by polyphony provided by the Cantores Missae of Charles Finch.

I was asked recently if I thought the EF was associated with a higher number of confessions. There aren't any figures on this that I know of, but anecdotally the correlation is pretty clear. Here's the queue for confession in St Bede's early in the Mass. It is in no way unusual for St Bede's.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The use of the Vernacular at the Traditional Mass

IMG_1516Having readings in Latin at Mass is something which many people find rather baffling about the Traditional Mass. Today I am posting a Position Paper on the subject over on Rorate Caeli, defending the traditional practice: go there to read it.

Here I want to reflect on an associated issue: the wider question of the use of the vernacular at the Traditional Mass. One of the things which struck me when reading up on the topic is a polarisation of views, among those who want to mix Latin and the vernacular, as to which should be used for what. I think this is quite revealing.

One view says that they should be used for the changing parts of the Mass - the parts which are unfamiliar. If we had the readings and the proper prayers in English (or whatever vernacular we are considering), then we wouldn't have to refer to our Mass books. We are after all familiar enough with the unchanging parts - or, if we're not, we will be in time. This is essentially what happens in most Latin Novus Ordo Masses: we revert to Latin in the bits everyone knows, like the Agnus Dei, the little dialogues ('Dominus vobiscum!' and everyone booms back, at different speeds, 'Et cum spiritu tuo!'), the Canon, and the Pater Noster.

The other view is the opposite. The most obscure propers, like the Collect, should be kept in Latin, and English should be used for really familiar things like the Pater Noster. This is the view of the influential and highly regarded liturgical schola László Dobsay. He's quoted in a footnote to the Position Paper as follows:

The citations from, and references to, the liturgical texts are present in the works of the Church Fathers and many spiritual writers, as well as in the prayers and meditations of the saints. Priests and a lay people who have a high level of theological formation but do not know the Latin liturgy extremely well (which means now they are not familiar with the Latin texts), surely cut themselves off from the historical records of the Church’s life. Not to know the vocabulary used, or the sentences referred to, means not being able to recognize their context and origin in the theological and spiritual literature of the tradition itself.
This is an interesting and powerful argument. But it applies equally, or more, to the Scriptures. Sacred Scripture is the basis of theology, and the terms of Sacred Scripture have an even more fundamental importance than the terms of the Collects. The Vulgate version of the Scriptures, which is used in the readings, has been pondered and commented upon by the great theologians of every generation since it was composed; often enough the earlier versions, used by St Augustine and others, are close enough to this text too. It diverges in certain ways from modern English translations, and it is exactly for this reason that it is important for us to keep up some familiarity with it: otherwise we risk losing touch with what the Fathers and Doctors are talking about.

This subject, of course, takes us back to an earlier Position Paper: on the use of the Vulgate and Ancient Latin Psalters.

IMG_1520Dobsay's suggestion that some of the most familiar texts of Mass should be in the vernacular, including the Pater Noster, remains baffling. What is supposed to be the point of this? Everyone - for practical purposes - knows the Our Father in their native language, so you aren't telling them anything they didn't already know when you recite it in English. It doesn't take long for people to become thoroughly familiar with the Pater Noster in Latin, and it is not uncommon for people to pray or sing it in Latin, as we do on traddy pilgrimages. Why break out of the sacred language for the sake of a text we know by heart?

To some extent the argument of familiarity applies to the readings. Because we are familiar with the Gospel stories, especially those used at Mass which we read in our hand-missals, it doesn't take long before you often recognise what the story is as it is being read, from the odd name or phrase: St John the Baptist and Herod, the Rich Man and Lazarus, and so on. If you listen to it and follow it in a missal, you start to recognise more and more of it, and you start to notice quotations from it in some of the other propers of the day. Even if you have little or no Latin to start with, you gain a certain familiarity with both the words and the meaning.

I can't help thinking that the only reason for Dobsay to suggest having the Pater Noster in the vernacular is that he wanted to say something should be in the vernacular, and couldn't think of anything else. But, as the paper argues, a problem is raised by even the most limited use of vernacular, because we end up switching between two languages. This, if you think about it, is a very strange thing to do, and it makes it impossible for Latin to mark out a sacred, liturgical space.

Pictures: preparations for the proclamation of the Gospel, Solemn Mass in St George's Cathedral, Southwark, for the Latin Mass Society's Annual General Meeting. The gospel procession pauses in the middle of the sanctuary to allow the singers to complete the Gradual and Alleluia.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reply to critics: Why do I defend the Simple Faithful?

My post about Tracey Rowland has attracted a lot of criticism, as well a lot of thanks, and I think it opportune to address this in more general terms that the comments box allows.

The critics focus on two aspects of the post: one is that Rowland is 'on our side' in some sense. The other is that it is rude.

Taking the rudeness first, I concede it - yes, it was rude, the question is whether the rudeness was gratuitous and unjustified. Our Lord, the Fathers and Doctors and saints and martyrs were often rude to their opponents. Some of the things written by St Thomas More to Luther are unprintable. So when is rudeness justified? If my critics seem to be saying: 'never to a lady', they are sadly out of touch, and I am sure Dr Rowland would be the first to say she didn't want special treatment. We may regret the passing of the Age of Chivalry, we may even want to restore it, but to pretend that the social expectations of 70 years ago still exist is like pretending you still need a man with a red flag to walk in front of your car.

So with that out of the way, my critics need to explain in a little more detail what is wrong with making a somewhat rude joke about Dr Rowland as a satirical response to her attack on the dress sense of traditionalist women. Perhaps it is the first point: that she is 'on our side'.

Long-term readers of this blog know by now that I do occasionally criticise people who support the Traditional Mass, or claim to do so, such as Damian Thompson and Stuart Reid. So my critics will perhaps say: this is internecine, we should stick together, we have plenty of opponents as it is. They are advocating a sort of tribalism, presumably they see the conflict within the Church as a sort of tribal warfare. Don't shoot at anyone wearing the same uniform!

I don't see our battles as tribal warfare. Being an intellectual, by temperament and training, I see it as a complex web of ideas and theories, cutting across each other in interesting and hugely intricate ways. On a human level, I see good people on different sides of the arguments, often trapped into ways of thinking by assumptions they have never questioned. As far as making progress for the Truth goes, we need free and open discussion, within and between our little parties, and not an attitude of 'he's on my side, I'll back him up whatever he says.' That just leads to dishonesty and bitterness.

But of course I've not just disagreed with Dr Rowland, I've done so with a rude joke. The reason for that takes me to the heart of the matter: it is necessary to react, not just with arguments, but satire and ridicule, to certain kinds of challenge. (A clue: there had to be a reason why the saints used these tools.) I am thinking (there may be other cases too) of attacks on what Archer called the 'simple faithful'.

Remember William Blake's lines:

He who mocks the Infant's Faith,
Shall be mocked in Age and Death.

There is more than poetic justice here. What can you say to a child who is bullied? You may say that, no, his nose is a perfectly normal size, and get out nose-surveys to show this, but these arguments are difficult for the child to understand. What we instinctively say is: the bully is a silly person. (The bullying has, of course, demonstrated this.) The bully does not have the prestige to demand being taken seriously. If the children in the playground succeed in mocking the bully, they have defeated him. This is not two wrongs making a right. It is the revelation of a truth which takes away the bully's unjust power over others.

It is true of adults also, which is why a healthy society has satire, and why Shakespeare links the disappearance of the court 'fool' with tyranny and even madness.

What we have seen for the last two generations is the systematic ridicule of the simple faithful. To a large extent we all come into that category vis-a-vis professional theologians. I remember it acutely from my childhood: priests and teachers picking up some pious attitude or habit some innocent had exhibited and subjecting it to mockery. But it happens every week still, in Basil Loftus' column.

Yes we provide complicated arguments about sociology and Patristics and everything else to defend the instincts of the simple faithful. But we need to do more than that: we need to address the issue at an emotional level as well. We can't just point at the dusty volumes - though few of my critics have spent as long among these seeking pithy answers to Loftus and his ilk as I have. Those worm-eaten books can save no-one on their own. We must show, about the real bully, the insinuation, the snide aside, the smiling stab in the back: that this is itself worthy of ridicule. It is that, the emotional engagement, which puts heart back into the victim.

We all know this. I think there are some out there - some who regard themselves as giving a good example to others - who think that, while they can joke with their chums about these things, the more isolated simple faithful should just be told to suffer, because anything else would be just not the done thing. Well, if that is your view, reader, this is where we part company. I am not going to abandon them.

Loftus on Living in Sin

2010 08 21_7520
Confession on the road on the Walsingham Pilgrimage
From the Catholic Times, 14th July 2013.

And here conscience can sometimes seem to conflict with doctrine, without affecting our membership of the Church. Vatican II spoke of the "hierarchy of truth" - allowing that differences of opinion on minor matters of doctrine could be given a 'living space' within the Church. Here we must remember that Pope Francis studied in Germany, and often quotes the German Jesuit, Karl Rahner. ...

Recently Cardinal Müller rightly shocked many people when he dismissed the possibility of Holy Communion for the divorced and re-married as "not something that can be appealed to God's Mercy". Quite honestly, if the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, of which he is Prefect, sees its roles as setting limites to God's Mercy, then it is not fit for purpose. Contrast this with the discussion Pope Francis had on 13th June with the bishops who were de-briefing him about the last Synod of Bishops. Speaking to The Universe, one of those bishops, and himself one of the eight 'super-cardinals', Oswald Gracias of Bombay, recalled how Francis agreed with the bishops that the whole question of young people living together when not married is a big question for the Church - a pastoral question, like that of the divorced and re-married which the Pope is thinking about - not saying 'this is a closed matter'.

Nothing is closed to God's mercy. Pope Francis keeps harking back to this.

This is what Cardinal Gracias actually said. The emboldened words are those of an interviewer.

Pope Francis also said at that 13 June meeting that the whole question of marriage, young people living together not married and so on is a big question for the Church. He said he’s going to ask his 8 cardinal advisors in October how best to approach this whole question: whether in a synod, or in some other way.   Is this an issue that you recognize as a hot topic?
It came up in the last synod also. Bishops spoke about it in the group discussion, and we spoke about it informally in the (coffee) breaks also. This is a pastoral question that we must address. I know it’s worrying many bishops. 
I take it you are referring to the question of the divorced and re-married?
Yes, the question of the divorced and re-married, and how it is to be handled.  And what is the pastoral care here?  It is definitely an issue in certain countries today, more than in India, where it is not so much yet although there are already cases in India too.  
I’m happy that the Pope is thinking about it, that he is not saying ‘this is a closed matter’.  I was pleasantly surprised when he mentioned that. It’s a pastoral problem which we cannot push aside. There are human lives involved, the spirituality of these people is involved, their faith, their faith life is involved, their ecclesial life. So the question is: How do we handle this? How would Our Lord handle it? 

Confession on the road on the Chartres Pilgirmage

On gets the impression from Mgr Loftus that these issues are somehow up in the air, but it is obvious (at least to me) that the Cardinal is just talking about pastoral resonses to the questions. Yes, they are serious pastoral problems for the Church, no one denies that. But the Church is not about to change her teaching, and nor is anyone going to say officially that a faulty conscience on the matter somehow makes sins objectively ok. That idea doesn't even make sense.

This is the same tired old nonsense we have heard so much in the last half-century: that if you pepper your remarks enough with phrases like 'God's Mercy', 'pastoral problem', and 'conscience and personal responsibility', you can make issues of sin and sacramental validity just go away. They don't. They stay there, partially obscured by the verbage but losing none of their power to wreck your life, here and hereafter, if you crash into them.

The ultimate pastoral response to sin is absolution. If Loftus' words have any affect, by surrounding the issues with confusion and the suggestion that the Church is about to change the rules, it will be to keep sinners away from absolution. That is a terrible thing to do.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Reply to Tracey Rowland

I noticed on Twitter, from people live-tweeting the Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome, that the Australian theologian Tracey Rowland was having a go at skirt-wearing traditionalists. Well, two can play at that game. Big floral prints are, in general, a risk...

She's now delivered herself of a three-point critique of those dreadful people who go to the traditional Mass (see comments by Fr Ray Blake and Fr John Abberton). They just get in the way of the Reform of the Reform, with their silly ideas and personal imperfections, moral and aesthetic. Rowland reminds me of the hospital manager who thinks his job would be easier if there were no patients.

Her three points are these.

1. When she goes to the EF, she afterwards finds herself 'surrounded by' people who pick over the liturgy like opera-buffs after an opera. They are attracted to the EF just by its beauty. She calls this 'Aestheticism'.

2. When other people go to the EF, they find themselves surrounded by people dressed as if from 'another era': so they tell her.

3. The EF is associated with a 'political' position: 'opposition' to the Second Vatican Council.

The first thing which strikes me is that the first two criticisms are pulling in different directions. What she is saying, essentially, in the first is that EF-goers are too middle class. They are educated, articulate, can detect 'buff notes', and like talking about it after Mass. The sort of people, in short, who might be friends of Tracey, and might accompany her to Mass or talk to her afterwards. Or who might turn up to a one-off special occasion Mass in a Cathedral with a special choir and so on. Perhaps this is the only kind of EF the great Professor has made it to.

In the second criticism, she is saying that EF-goers are not middle class enough. They are the sort of people who take the obligation to dress modestly more seriously than the demands of the modern fashion industry, and don't have the time, money, and perhaps fashion expertise to find the few clothes which are both 'with it' in fashion terms and still perform the function clothes once had, even in Australia, of, well, covering you up. So they end up looking a bit old-fashioned. These are not Tracy's friends: she doesn't say she's even seen these people herself, but she's heard about them from other people who like to dip into the EF occasionally as an alternative to their regular OF. So we are presumably talking about regular Masses with stable communities attached them.
Rowland's second criticism could be described as social, or moral (because those trads take morality too seriously - shame on them!), but above all it is aesthetic. Professor Rowland thinks it is wrong to criticise a professional choir for fluffing Lassus, but quite appropriate - indeed, a good thing - to criticise a Catholic mother for not having enough money to get the latest dress.

It is hard to know how Traditionalists are supposed to respond to this. When there is an opportunity to have an EF Mass in a prestigious church, perhaps a Cathedral like Sydney's which opens its doors to them after years of asking, the organisers - and I speak for myself too - tend to say: well let's make this as lovely as possible. Let's give glory to God on this special occasion, let's do something in accord with the nature of the church and reflective of our joy at this breakthrough. Let's get in a really good choir, never mind the cost, let's crack open the best vestments we can find, let's make sure the servers know what they are doing. So we do all that, and give it lots of publicity, and as well as the regulars from the EF community down the road it reaches out beyond the core vote, if you like to think in those terms, and draws in all sorts of people who think this is a good opportunity to experience the EF for once, and - who knows? - maybe like the chosen composer. And then afterwards some of these people talk about the music or the vestments or whatever and the entire movement gets tarred with the brush of 'Aestheticism', and you go back to your regular Sunday Low Mass with one server in a dark side-chapel at the crack of dawn, or a Missa Cantata in the middle of Sunday afternoon with a volunteer schola which has to struggle each week to get it right, and you think: why did I bother?
Sung Mass in Basingstoke: don't bother coming if you only want see Mass in Pugin churches
Well, Professor Rowland, let's just say that we bother not because we want to please you, but because we want to glorify God. Let Him be the judge of our efforts. If you don't like it, you can go and jump in the Pacific.

What of the last point? I was interested to see Fr Ray Blake summarise it as being about the 'politico-theological baggage', but that's not quite what she says in the video. She just calls it a 'political statement in opposition to the Second Vatican Council' (at about 2:10). 'Political' is code for 'theological position I don't like'. She is annoyed that too many people attending the EF don't agree with her take on Vatican II.

Again, this is in tension with her first point. Like the people criticised in the second point, the people she is talking about now do not just 'love the EF because it is beautiful'. It is hard to resist the idea that Rowland thinks that it would be better if they did. Their crime is to ponder the implications of the Catholic Faith which are so eloquently represented by the Traditional Liturgy, and to allow those implications to transform their lives and their thinking about a range of issues. If only, she seems to be saying, if only they were more superficially interested in the liturgy, if they just popped in and out of different kinds of Mass for a bit of 'enrichment' without thinking too hard about the theological issues this variety raises. Pope Benedict, of course, is a prime example of someone who doesn't just enjoy the variety of Masses facing the people or facing East, people kneeling for Communion or standing, and so on, but has to spoil the 'enrichment' by pointing out that there are serious theological problems with the usual OF practice, and insofar as that can be blamed on the Spirit of the Council, too bad for the Spirit of the Council.

Solemn Mass in Westminster Cathedral: there's not actually anything wrong with beauty. 
The fact is that anyone who goes regularly to the EF has to face, sooner or later, the question of what to make of the fact that the the Second Vatican Council called for changes to this Mass, the Mass they have come to love. I've written about the different options here: the point is that there is a range of views on the subject which are perfectly compatible with fidelity to the Magisterium. One of those options, of course, is that represented by Pope Benedict's private views in his great book The Spirit of the Liturgy. Those attached to the EF have to think about it, they have to read about it and to discuss it, if they are to live as thinking Catholics and not go mad.

The only alternative to this, Professor Rowland, is called Aestheticism.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Last call for the Summer School 2013, 21-28 July

Update: The Summer School is getting closer: if you want to take part you need to apply right away!

This is something I've been doing since 2005, and it is one of the most exciting, and (for me!) exhausting event I'm involved in each year. We have a little school, for just a week, with maybe 40 children: lots of interesting discussions, lots of prayer, lots of fun.

The Summer School is for children aged 11-18; there is NO FEE, parents and guardians make a donation at their discretion. It is run by St Catherine's Trust with the support of the Latin Mass Society.

Here is the most recent St Catherine's Trust Newsletter, with more information about the last Summer School; you can download the forms or apply online.

It takes place at the Franciscan Retreat Centre at Pantasaph, 10 minutes from Flint station, half an hour from Chester. We can offer lifts there from London. It has a Pugin chapel, and is home to the National Shrine to St Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).

As well as liturgy and catechesis, the Summer School introduces children to wide range of subjects, including history, philosophy, history of art, Latin, music and drama, an ideal Catholic supplement to homeschooling or conventional schools, Catholic or not.
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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Last call for the LMS Latin Course, 22nd-27th July

Last chance to apply for this!

Want to brush up your Latin? Apply here for

The Latin Mass Society's Residential Latin Course
Monday 22nd to Saturday 27th July.

There are lots of intensive Latin courses you can attend in the Summer, often designed for those about to take up degree courses for which Latin is required. The LMS course is better (for you, the reader of this blog) because:

-It takes place in a Catholic and liturgical atmosphere: there will be Solemn Mass each day before lunch, in a Pugin chapel in the Fransicsan Retreat Centrat at Pantasaph, North Wales.

-It is focused on Christian Latin, and specifically the Latin of the liturgy.

-It is directed by Fr John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate, who taught Latin for 30 years at Lancing College. What Fr Hunwicke doesn't know about Latin, you really don't need to worry about.

-He is assisted by Br Richard Bailey of the Manchester Oratory, also a great classicist with a keen interest in conveying the knowledge of Latin to ordinary people, creating a very poplar parish course in Manchester.

-Having two tutors means that the group can be split up by previous experience, so everyone will be taught at an appropriate level and get the most out of it.
-Students and staff are lodged in the very comfortable Pilgrim's Guest House at Holywell, run by the charming Brigdettine Sisters, and eat breakfast and supper there each day. Teaching is in the Franciscan Retreat Centre at Pantasaph 5 minutes down the road (we'll take you to and fro).

-It is easy to get to: by car there are motorways almost all the way from the North, West, and South; it is close to Flint Railway Station (we'll pick you up from there). (Map to the Guest House)

-It is amazingly cheap: £340 headline price. We offer it to everyone at cost price, and it is half price for priests, deacons, seminarians (including those about to start seminary), and students.

In other words, the Latin Mass Society pays for half the cost of the clergy to do the course. That's how important we think this is.

Prices in full:

£340 + £70 supplement for a single room, in St Winifride’s Guest House in Holywell.
£225 without accommodation (find your own B&B).

10% discount for LMS members.
50% discount for students, seminarians and clergy.

Can you apply for LMS membership (£25) simultaneously and get the 10% discount (£34)? Of course  you can! 

Apply online today!

Sodality of St Augustine for the lapsed: Public Mass, Sunday 14th July

Update: the music for the Mass is now confirmed:
Ordinary: Missa O quam gloriosum by Tomas Luis de Victoria
Offertory motet: Locus iste by Anton Bruckner
Communion motet: Ego sum panis vivus by William Byrd

The Latin Mass Society's Sodality of St Augustine, whose members undertake to pray for the lapsed and non-Catholic family and friends of fellow sodality members, will be having a public Mass in St Bede's, Clapham Park, on Sunday 14th July at 10:45am.

That is to say, the regular 10.45am Mass there will be said for the Sodality's intention. It will be sung with polyphony provided by the Cantores Missae led by Charles Finch.

Members of the Sodality may like to attend this Mass, and/ or contribute to the cost of the stipend and the professional singers who will accompany it.

Membership of the Sodality is free and the only obligation of members is to say each day the Sodality's prayer, the Collect 'Pro Devotis Amicis' from the Roman Missal.

O God, who, by the grace of the Holy Ghost, hast poured the gifts of charity in the hearts of thy faithful, grant to thy servants and handmaids, for whom we entreat thy mercy, health of mind and body; that they may love thee with all their strength and, by perfect love, may do what is pleasing to thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who liveth and reigneth in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

The LMS web page on the Sodality is here: you can join and make donations there. 

For how to get to St Bede's: see the map below. It worth the trip to see the very vibrant Catholic community there which has grown up around the daily availability of the Traditional Mass provided by the Chaplain to the Traditionalist Community based there, now Fr Simon Leworthy, with the agreement of successive Archbishops of Southwark.

View Larger Map

Monday, July 08, 2013

Congratulations to Fra Julian Chadwick

On Saturday I attended the Solemn Profession of Fra Julian Chadwick as a 'Knight of Justice' of the Order of Malta. That is to say, he took solemn and permanent vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, like a monk. He joins the small but important group of 'professed knights' within the Order of Malta; most members of the Order are not professed in this way, they are often married, and are called 'Knights of Obedience' or 'Knights of Honour and Devotion'. They are similar to the tertiaries of other orders.

Julian also happens to have been my predecessor as Chairman of the Latin Mass Society. The cake, showing his coat of arms, was courtesy of Lucy Shaw Cakes.
 The Grand Master - the international religious superior - of the Order, Fra Matthew Festing, was there; he has a unique status as the head of a sovereign organisation: they have extra-territorial embassies in those countries which recognise them. He is preceded by a knight carrying the biggest sword I have ever seen.
It took place at the Oxford Oratory. I expect there are more and better photographs elsewhere on the itnernet by now, I took these with my IPhone. It was an occasion of great solemnity - Basil Loftus would have had a fit. But then it was an occasion of special importance. How else are we to mark, liturgically, such occasions?

The vows and ceremonies of the profession are very impressive; the candidate is invested with sword and spurs, and then the choir dress, which (for a professed knight) includes a wonderful embroidered thing a bit like a stole with the Instruments of the Passion on it. He undertakes to defend the Faith with his life, if necessary, and serve the sick and the poor.

Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated by Mgr Anthony Conlon, chaplain of the Order. It was a great gathering of friends of the Order, clerical and lay, as well as an impressive number of knights; the church was packed.

So congratulations to Fra Julian! Two other knights renewed their temporary vows, so there may be more such ceremonies in the next few years.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Loftus attacks St Basil

This week Mgr Basil Loftus attacks pretty well everyone. Consequently the editor of The Catholic Times is so pleased with him that not only has he included Loftus in the banner headline on the top of the front page (notice the MGR in capitals), but he has dug up a short letter praising Loftus from the mailbag.

Whoever has that job, of shredding the cart-loads of letters critical of the great Mgr and fishing out the occasional one in his favour, isn't paid enough.

As always Loftus' article is accompanied by a large photograph relevant to it with an appropriate caption. This of course is another subtle indication of the prestige the Catholic Times accords him. It rather backfires this time, however. Loftus writes, of the Holy Father's non-attendance at a concert (a non-story if ever there was one: is it really impossible to accept the explanation that he was busy? Is there any other plausible explanation anyway?):

...he would rightly have been appalled when he saw the huge white throne, surrounded by slightly lesser scarlet ones for cardinals, with second and third-class seating-arrangments provided for those who wore only purple or black. Then, of course, the laity were 'in the gods'. Certainly they were nearer to God than some of the vain-arrogant people in the 'stalls'.

The bitterness is incredible. What does Loftus know of the inner dispositions of the clerics at the concert? Anyway, it is all a fantasy. The photograph above these words, which is identical to the photo I have uploaded, clearly shows that, apart from the Pope's chair (only a 'throne' by association with its intended occupant: I've seen grander chairs at the dentist's), all the other seats were alike, and the laity were occupying the very next row behind it. They could have touched the Holy Father by standing up and taking one step forward. Had he been there, that is.

Low Mass (Missa sine pompa, we might call it): Fr Philip Harris at the Evangelium Conference last year, St Joseph's Chapel, the Oratory School
Not that it is for me to defend the personal holiness of Curial monsignori. They are probably a mixed bunch, like the rest of us. Equally it's not my brief to defend the various orders of knights which Loftus attacks this week, singling out the Order of St Lazarus, which he claims has been 'outlawed' (see such a defence here, I confess my ignorance of the minutiae). I think he has confused the clarification of the status of such groups (in October last year) with the question of their legitimacy as an association of the Faithful. The idea that the laity aren't allowed to group together, and have their groups recognised by the Church, is just bizarre.

He doesn't seem to make any distinctions when he writes, of groups of any kind, that 'together, dressed up in church, they are an obstacle on the pilgrim-path to the one Kingdom to which we all aspire, where there will be no titles, no diviseness [rules you out, then, eh Basil?], definitely no fancy dress, and where only the angels will have plumes to preen.

Another unclamorous Low Mass: the Dominican Rite in St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill. One server, no pack-drill.

This is baffling on so many levels. The question of legitimacy seems to have been left behind - he just hates any association of the Faithful, or for that matter of clerics. What about Benedictines, one may ask? Are they ok? Why? They dress up! ('Because they are clerics' is the wrong answer: monks are not clerics, unless they happen to be ordained. But why would clerics be exempt anyway?)

Along the way he is betrayed into the absurd claim that everyone will be equal in heaven. Do you mean that, Mgr? Our Lady equal to those saved 'as a brand from the fire' (Zachariah 3.2)? We have St Paul's teaching on this: 'star differs from star in brightness' (1 Corinthians 15:41).
Mass as simple as they come: Low Mass at St Dominic's Nymphsfield, celebrated by Fr Alexander Redman.
What we have to challenge today is the 'clamour' in church. Not the noise, which is a life-sign of the Church, but the pomp, which is the very antithesis of the People of God. [Pope Francis does not] have any room for 'liturgica clamorosa' - or pompous liturgy. As he stamps that out by the instruction of his own example, we surely then need to move on to a further consideration. How can we tolerate, let alone encourage, alternative and extraordinary forms of worship within the parameters of the Catholic Church, whether in the extraordinary form of Mass or in personal ordinariates, where the 'clamour' or pomp now rightfully being expunged from the Church lingers on? At the moment this is only a question. It may well soon become a real problem.

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Low Mass in a modernised church: St George's, Warminster, with Fr Bede Rowe

If Loftus was not such a pathetic has-been, that last sentence would sound menacing. As it is, it reminds me of a story, from the Life of St Basil in the Golden Legend.

Another hermit saw St Basil, how he went in the habit of a bishop and deemed evilly in his thought, how he delighted in this estate in vain glory, and anon there came a voice that said to him: Thou delightest thee more in playing with and handling thy cat, than Basil doth in all his array and adornments.

St Basil wore the splendid vestments of a bishop, and the hermit thought himself terribly superior: clearly this was a man of vain glory! Not like him - oh no. But actually the hermit was a more sensuous man than St Basil, even if he sensuality was expressed only in the delight he took in stroking his cat.
So you still think the Traditional Mass is always elaborate and 'pompous'? Here is Low Mass in a basketball court - because there was nowhere else to have it, in Oxford, back in 2004. Celebrated by Fr Andrew Southwell, with the permission of the then Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols.
 Instead of attributing faults to others, we should examine ourselves. Basil Loftus, he of the 'MGR' in capitals on the top of the front page of a national Catholic weekly, could learn a lesson from the life of his illustrious namesake.

Friday, July 05, 2013

The other LMS

Back in 2010 (13th Feb) The Tablet started a Notebook article with the words:

'FOR THE LMS – that is, the Latin Mass Society rather than the old railway company of the same abbreviation –...'
 One can only assume that the average age of Tablet readers is so great that the London, Midlands, and Scottish Railway (which ceased to exist in the 1948 nationalisation of the railways) is still a familiar name, and at any minute they expect the LMS to take them from London to Glasgow just like the good old days.

Possibly Bruvver Eccles suffers the same senile confusion as he calls my blog 'LMS Railway' (ok, I know this is a joke!).

I was delighted to find myself in a genuine LMS railway carriage the other day, on the Severn Valley Railway, a volunteer-run steam railway running between Kidderminster and Bridgenorth. The line was in fact part of the Great Western network, but they have carriages and locomotives from all over - GWR, LMS, LNER. It was huge fun, and I recommend it. The ride takes about an hour each way; we went north and had a nice lunch in Bridgenorth before going back. By coincidence one of our local LMS Representatives was a founder member of the Severn Valley Railway (SVR), as well as of the LMS, in the same year: 1965.

The Severn Valley Railway is a project to preserve an aspect of British life and culture which was threatened by a savage act of bureaucratic planning, an act which is today widely regarded as having been misguided, at least in part. The elimination of steam so quickly in the 1960s was wasteful and the cuts to the lines was brutal and excessive.

In that way the Latin Mass Society has something in common with the SVR. Culture is a set of values: artistic, moral, religious. The achievements of steam engineering are worth remembering and preserving. The achievements of the tradition of the Church are also. But the values of this latter culture, unlike the romance of steam, actually have the power to save our souls. We are not a re-enactment society: what we do is not guided by tradition because of nostalgia, but because tradition is a guide to Gospel truth and evangelical effectiveness.

That will sound counter-intuitive to many Catholics today, but it is the mind of the Church.

"The true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries nor innovators, but men of tradition." – Pope St. Pius X

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Old Mass and the Workers

I've just finished reading Anthony Archer's classic 'The Two Catholic Churches: a study in oppression' (see also my previous post). It is a fascinating book, imperfect in many ways but still containing some precious insights. The main idea is that the working class were betrayed by the changes to the liturgy, spirituality, and what we might call the general orientation of the Church, following the Second Vatican Council. This is such a surprising, and such a closely-argued claim, that it is worth a blog post.

There is something rather dated about Archer's way of talking - all this stuff about working class culture is very redolent of the sociology of the 1970s. This is partly because that culture has, depending on your definition, either disapeared completely or become a much less significant part of our national life. There are, nevertheless, some very interesting critiques of post-war public policy from what we might call the 'old left', socialists who believed in the organic nature of society and the importance of the family, who were aghast at the effect on the working class by processes such as slum-clearance (and what replaced the slums) and de-industrialisation. Archer fits into this general trend.

The first point is that, as Archer says, the Catholic Church was the only Christian church to hold the allegiance of significant numbers of the industrial working class in England. This is a fact of great significance and itself demands explanation. The explanation, in a nutshell, is that the Anglican church was so identified with the establishment that when Anglican farm workers moved to the cities to become factory hands, leaving the social structure of village life behind, with its pressures to go to church, they had no interest at all in practicing. The non-conformists were essentially lower-middle class. The Catholic Church of the 19th century had an appeal for the working class, both indiginous and Irish-immigrant, for two immediate reasons. It let everyone in: you didn't need to be wearing a smart suit of clothes. And it had considerable critical distance from the establishment.

The latter was partly a matter of long-term persecution, but as time went on the old Catholic gentry hoped that they would be increasingly accepted by their peers. The great 19th century Churchmen took a different line: to the horror of some of the old families, as things got easier they didn't seek to blend in but to push the envelope with more exotic ritual, more Italianate churches, more assertive social teaching. The social teaching never had a chance to influence the state, but it was part of a set of distinctive values, a vision of what society should be like, at odds with the way society actually was. It was also linked to the great long-term project of Catholic restoration: the hierarchy, the splendid churches, the guilds, of the Middle Ages were to be built back up brick by brick. The ancientness of the liturgy was naturally essential in this appeal to the past. A tough-minded spirituality of perseverance in adversity was necessary to it also. The result was something appealing to the less comfortable members of society: the working class, and particularly the Irish, when they started arriving in large numbers with the potato famine of the 1840s.

It was also appealing to a lot of intellectual converts, and indeed to many aspiring middle-class people. The traditional Mass, as I have quoted Archer as saying, enabled people to engage with it at many different levels. So did the whole structure of Catholic life and thought: from popular devotions right up to neo-Thomism, there was something for everyone.


Archer's critique of the changes after Vatican II is based on the fact that the aspects of the Church which were most appealing to the working class were swept away, and what was brought in was appealing only to the educated and leisured middle class. Out went the Latin Mass in which everyone could engage at their own level; in came an English Mass where your engagement is supposed to be strictly controlled: exactly what the banal phrases mean, what responses to make, when to be friendly to your neighbour, etc.. Out went popular devotions, in came cliquely little groups at house-Masses, charismatic gatherings, or parish councils. Out went the Church as a sign of contradiction, an eccentric, exotic, refuge from society, where truth and authority were alone to be found; in came a Church in which the bishops talked as equals to Anglican bishops, and attended state functions. Out went the spirituality of perseverence in adversity; in came a way of 'finding Jesus' to escape from middle class problems such as lonliness and depression - or just hypochondria. The inspiration for the changes, after all, did not come from any attempt to find out what the bulk of Catholics wanted: it came from theologians, who wanted the respect of their Protestant colleagues.

On the new spirituality of 'meeting Jesus', often in the context of charismatic groups, Archer observes, 'The availability of such groups offered a solution for those who regarded the sacred as mediated through participation rather than ritual efficacy...'

Again, on the working class:

'Theirs was not the world of an intellectual elite and their religious idiom not that of a specially constructed rationality. Since they spent less time alone or in reading and introspection, and found their solidarity in larger numbers, their religious framework did not bear so much on individualistic expectations as on people generally. It did not find expression in that form of religion understood as individual conversion. Hence the emphasis on helping rather than harming people and on the dimension of religion that expressed belonging to one's own kind.'

This is, as they say, an interesting angle on 'the changes'. I'll have more to say in a future post about Archer's assessment of the weaknesses of the pre-conciliar Church, and the social changes which undermined it.

Pictures: Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Caversham. The shrine, and our Mass there, is a perfect example of the 'restoration model' abandoned after the Council. It is a restored medieval shrine, built as a Norman chapel on a Gothic church. The shrine image is a late-medieval one from Germany. The Mass we celebrated, and the chant we sang, would not have been too startling to medieval pilgrims.