Friday, May 31, 2013

Mgr Loftus attacks the titles of Our Lady

Happy feast of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces! It is celebrated on May 31st, Extraordinary Form calendar for Belgium and the Dominican Order.

One person not celebrating is Mgr Basil Loftus. He
writes (2nd June 2013):

'A particularly difficult problem, and one that was taken on board by the Second Vatican Council, is that not a few of Mary's titles are either of doubtful theological provenance or, even worse, theologically suspect. Thus the idea of Mary as 'co-redemptrix' is simply a non-starter - Christ alone is responsible for our Redemption. There simply isn't, nor theologically could be, any 'co-redeemer' make or female. So the title has been abandoned. And 'mediatrix of all graces is, at best, ambiguous. We have it on the authority of St Paul that Christ, and he alone, is our Mediator with the Father, from whom all graces come: "There is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus." (1 Tim 2:5).
     Some mediation on the part of Mary is part of her role - but clearly not for "all" graces.
     'So during Vatican II Cardinal Leger insisted the Church should "use accurate words and precise and sober terms to express Mary's role" (The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, p154). Apart from anything else there were ecumenical considerations to be taken into account. So the Council was quite adamant that there would be no new titles given to Mary.
     Pope Paul VI cheated, and referred to Mary as "Mother of the Church" during one of his private documents during the Council...'

Not content with attacking Pope Benedict, various other popes, and the liturgy of the Church, both traditional and in 1970 Missal, Mgr Loftus now turns his sights on the Blessed Virgin Mary, seeking to strip her of some of her most cherished titles. The multiple errors, confusions, both deliberate and not, and mischevious half-truths in this short passage make me feel tired. But let's have a quick go at them.

First off, the Feast of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces was approved by Rome in 1920 for Belgium for May 31st. It appears as such in the 1962 Missal, which Pope Benedict XVI ruled was 'never abrogated'. (It is also in the traditional Dominican Rite Missal, for some reason it was moved to 8th May there in 1962.) So, the title was and remains fully authorised for public, as well as private, use, by the highest authority in the Church.

The title 'Mother of the Church' was given to Our Lady by Pope Paul VI, not a 'private' document, but an exercise of the Pope's teaching office. It is true that it wasn't the Second Vatican Council which did this, but Papal proclamation is the usual means of authorising Marian titles, and the notion that the Council could have attempted to forbid this is utterly ludicrous. Bl John Paul II added it to the Litany of Loreto, along with the title 'Queen of the Family' (Regina Familiae). So, again, this title is authorised by the highest authority for public, as well as private use. (Both titles are found in the Litany I include in booklets for the Family Retreat, Oxford Pilgrimage, and other events I am involved in, although they obviously aren't in the 1961 Liber Usualis version.)

(Notice the way that, unable to quote anything useful from the documents of the Council, Loftus quotes from a speech made to the Council. This obviously has no dogmatic authority whatsoever. It would be a simple matter to quote Council Fathers who opposed him. So what? He quotes from the famous liberal account of the Council, Wiltgen's The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, a handy place I suppose to find collected the most barmy liberal remarks made during the Council's deliberations.)

On the Co-Redemptrix title, this is simply a matter of recognising in Our Lady the highest possible case of co-operation in redemption which is central feature of Catholic theology. As Augustine said, 'God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.' (St. Augustine, Sermo 169,11,13). We can cooperation not only in our own redeptions, of course, but in those of others. Our Lady did this is to the highest degree by her fiat,'Let it be done', cooperating in the incarnation which was the means God chose to accomplish the Redemption of the human race. When we speak of co-redemption (on anyone's part) we assume that the person's actions and sufferings only have a meritorious and satisfactory power in virtue of the merit and satisfactions of Christ: so far from reducing His contribution to redemption, the possibility of 'co-redemption' manifests the power of His activity. Ultimately Loftus' logic is Protestant and would imply the abolition of the sacraments, as these involve human actions, and those human actions play a role in the redemption of the sacraments' beneficiaries. I wonder if Mgr Loftus is entirely comfortable with this aspect of Catholic theology; he frequent attacks on Pelagianism can leave one with the impression that he has gone to the opposite extreme...

Thus, St Pius X says (Encyclical Ad diem illum (1904) 14) that our Lady merited de congruo (as a fitting reward) all that Christ merited de condigno (by strict justice). This passage indicates the truth of the title 'Co-Redemptrix' and explictly gives her the title 'Mediatrix', so let's have it in full:

We are then, it will be seen, very far from attributing to the Mother of God a productive power of grace - a power which belongs to God alone. Yet, since Mary carries it over all in holiness and union with Jesus Christ, and has been associated by Jesus Christ in the work of redemption, she merits for us de congruo, in the language of theologians, what Jesus Christ merits for us de condigno, and she is the supreme Minister of the distribution of graces. Jesus "sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high" (Hebrews i. b.). Mary sitteth at the right hand of her Son - a refuge so secure and a help so trusty against all dangers that we have nothing to fear or to despair of under her guidance, her patronage, her protection. (Pius IX. in Bull Ineffabilis).

Some of the papal documents are put together in the TAN version of 'This is the Faith' by Canon Ripley; the Wikipedia page on the title Co-Redemptrix is actually not bad; nor is their page on Mediatrix.

Gaude Maria virgo, cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo. 
Rejoice o virgin Mary, thou only hast killed all heresies in the universal world.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Canticum Clericorum Romanum

Those busy Americans have been at it again - I've received another book which must have taken a vast amount of work to create.

I should add that I pay for these things, they aren't freebies, perhaps that's why I feel free to criticise them!

This is essentially a hard copy of the excellent, enormously useful collection of epistles and gospels, which you can see here on a page of the Fraternity of St Peter's American seminary, Our Lady of Guadalupe; it was done with the help of the Windsor Latin Mass Society. On that page you can look up any Sunday of the year and download a page which sets the epistle and gospel to Chant notation. You can also listen to them being sung by FSSP clerics: a fantastic resource.

This is useful because the Missal used for Mass does not include the music for the readings (though it does have the music for the Prefaces). It assumes clerics know how to apply the (pretty simple) rules which tell you when it goes up or down a tone or two: at the end of sentences, for example, with a variation for questions, and something a little more elaborate for the end. Seminarians were once trained how to do this, and when ordained priests in parishes would have done it a lot, it would have been second nature. Things are different today, with priests and deacons being encouraged to start using the Traditional Mass for the first time and putting on, for example, a monthly Sung Mass. You can't expect them to know everything right away.

It is worth noting that the rules for singing the lections are not absolutely rigid; there is some room for differences of opinion on how they apply. Another way in which using this volume is second-best to knowing the rules and being able to apply them is the rigidity which it introduces: it obviously gives only one interpretation of the rules. Even the business of setting it to chant notation may suggest a less fluid approach to singing it. Whenever you see a line of text with a punctum over every syllable, there is a temptation to give each syllable an equal length, which is not how chant works. One just has to note these difficulties and overcome them as much as possible.

The point of this book, published by Biretta Press, is that it goes beyond a crib, which, in the form or a printed sheet, you could perhaps insert sneakily into the Missal during Mass. It is in itself a book worthy of liturgical use, with a price-tag to match: $275, plus postage. Ouch. But it really is nice, well bound, lots of reading ribbons, gilt edges. It will look good and it will last. Though thinking about the cost, bear in mind that it only includes 'Sundays, Solemnities, and Holy Week'. There will in time be another three volumes, to cover everything else.

(What are 'Solemnities'? Presumably they mean First Class feasts.)

One oddity about the book is the complete absence of an introduction or preface. Not that I'm volunteering to pay more for anything not strictly necessary, but I wonder about how exactly they envisage it being used. It seems to me that it makes most sense for Solemn Mass, when the Deacon and Subdeacon sing from a different book from that on the altar. But I see this has the Collects and Postcommunions in it as well. Since it doesn't have everything else (the Ordinary and other propers) which you find in the Missal, it couldn't replace the Missal, so for the priest to use it to sing the Collect and Postcommunion, or indeed to use it to sing the lections at Missa Cantata (when they are sung from the Missal on the Altar), would require swapping books around or putting it on top of the Missal, and then taking it away again. Not impossible, but not exactly ideal either.

But then there is no ideal solution here. An altar Missal which included the chant for the lections would obviously have to be in several volumes. This book includes different tones for collects - each collect is set to the festal tone, and then the whole thing again is set to the solemn tone. It includes the little introductory formula to each reading - in full, before every single reading. It avoids awkard page turns where possible too. It really is impressive, and will make a huge different to priests and deacons who may be put off sung Masses because of the difficulties of the singing. So I say a big 'well done' to those who created this book, a real labour of love, and I recommend it. Let's hope it facilitates more Solemn Masses, and enables them to be celebrated as worthily as possible.

Above: at Solemn Mass, the subdeacon sings from a copy of the Canticum Clericorum; the Missal remains on the Altar: at SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford.

Below: at Missa Cantata (Ash Wednesday) in the same church, the Canticorum Clericorum is quietly replaced with the Missal (at the Offertory, I think).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creches and care at home for children

I'm pleased that the Irish Iona Institute is taking up this issue. The point made in the press release is obvious and should be stressed: parents who do not want to use creches for their children should not be forced to pay for them. I would add that very often there is a financial sacrifice in not taking that option: parents who make that sacrifice for the sake of giving their children the best start in life should NOT be punished. What sort of Government would do that? Actually, it is constantly being touted as a progressive policy, in the UK as well as in Ireland.

The UK's 'Family and Youth Concern' (Family Eduction Trust) responded a UK Government consultation on child care in 2005 in the same vein: you can read it here, it cites studies showing that creches lead to poorer outcomes for children.

Also not to be swept under the carpet are the repeated horror stories of mistreatment of children at creches. The Iona Institute mentions this in relation to an Irish TV investigation; other stories have more than once appeared in UK papers.

From the Iona Institute
Child-care policy must respect parental choice and not favour creches over home

May 29, 2013 – A national debate is underway about the quality and supervision of our crèches following the airing of a Prime Time documentary last night revealing very disturbing mistreatment of young children by some crèche workers.

It is vital that any policy changes that may result from this debate properly respect the choices parents actually want to make in respect of how their young children are cared for during the day and not favour crèches over home.

It should not be assumed that all parents want to place their children in crèches for many hours each day no matter how well-funded and high quality those crèches are.

If we move towards a very expensive system of State-funded crèches it will effectively mean that parents who wish to look after their young children at home will end up subsidising parents who either want to or have to place them in crèches. This would be unfair.

Commenting on the matter, Breda O’Brien of The Iona Institute said: “Last night’s very disturbing Prime Time programme highlighted the need for young children to receive quality, loving care wherever they may be. What is clearly needed is proper supervision of our crèches and proper follow-up where failings have been uncovered.”

She continued: “.However, we should not move towards a universal system of third-party childcare as exists in some other countries. In those countries, parents have little choice but to put their children in creches for hours every day. This is because taxes become so high as a result of subsidising childcare, it is very difficult for a couple to live on one income and look after their children at home even when they wish to. This effectively removes parental choice.”

Ms O’Brien concluded: “Therefore we must properly supervise childcare, including ensuring fair rates of pay, but also support the choices parents want to make in order to care for their children, to the best of our ability and within the limits of our resources.”

Mgr Loftus attacks the Ordinary Form (as celebrated)

Oppression! Oppression!
Readers might have receive the impression that Mgr Basil Loftus is dismissive of the idea that priests and people should be slavishly obedient to the minutiae of ceremonial legislation. His phrase, from his column only last week, about 'rubrical nit-pickers' may have added to this impression. But how wrong that is! No, it turns out that he is actually in favour of rubrical nit-picking, as long as it is he who is picking the nits - or pointing out which nits should be picked, and which nits (or, as it may be, camels) should be left alone (or swallowed).

It seems he has the highest regard for the role of rubrical nit-pickery as a form of liturgical catechesis. He is oddly obsessed by the importance of the 'Communion song', but he is interested in other matters too. 

'But on some occasions it is a relief to be able to speak from the conviction of specialised knowledge. This is one of those occasions, and it allows me to say that as far as canon law is concerned we are still being oppressed by non-essentials, which ignore Paul's decision not to burden the Church with them (Acts 15:28). Our interior growth in holiness may not be positively impeded, but it very often isn't helped either.

'...The energy, and indeed the money, recently expended in the imposition on the English-speaking world, an unwanted and unwelcome, artificial and stilted, unprofessional and occasionally theologically inaccurate translation of the Mass, which did not even originate from the "competent territorial authorities" entrusted with liturgical translation by Vatican II (SC, n.36.4), must have been at the expense of more fruitful ways of achieving the goal of "full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n14).

     'Certainly, it appears to have been to the detriment of of emphasis on elementary measures to improve participation. When was the last reference to Vatican II's "hearty endorsement" [ie not command] of the use of hosts consecrated at the Mass in which they hare to be given in Communion (n.55). How may parishes still routinely and abusively [abusively? In conformity with immemorial tradition] turn to the tabernacle for the Communion hosts, imitating the television cook who explains: "Here's one I prepared earlier"? How many ignore the ruling that, in order to preserve the dynamism of the Presence of Christ in the altar where Mass is celebrated, the secondary altar which houses the tabernacle should not be reverenced or decorated with lights or flowers during Mass? What of the Church's wish that people be educated to appreciate that reception of Holy Communion under both kinds is "fuller" in its symbolism? No urging on that seems to have taken place recently. 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 [as Pope Benedict did: see photo]. Nor does there seem to be any concern that there is also very widespread ignoring of the equally forceful instruction that there should be a Communion song...'

In short, the way the Ordinary Form is celebrated is commonly lousy (or nit-infested) with liturgical abuses that "contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament". Those are the words of the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum; more of that later.
The worthy man goes on to rail some more about the new translation: faced with its phrases 'priest and people lose the will to live, let alone try to understand Church teaching about the hand as a throne for Christ at Communion, the fuller symbolism of Communion from the chalice, of the need to sing during the Communion procession. In consequence a liturgical catechesis, which is not only desirable but mandatory, is not taking place.' 

Well let me let some light into the darkness Mgr Loftus has generated here. To go into all the issues of liturgical law he raises would be tedious indeed, but briefly on three narrow points: the use of 'hieratic' language in the new translation of the 1970 Missal, the 'secondary altar', and the reception of Communion under Both Kinds.

The problem of the obscuring of the teaching of the Church and its intelligibility to the Faithful by poor translations is real enough, but this was the problem with the old translation far more than the new. Who could defend translating 'Credo' as 'We believe', 'pro multis' as 'for all', and so on? Actually many people defended them, with spaniel-like devotion, but they were nevertheless indefensible. It is impossible to deny that the new translation is more faithful to the Latin original than the old one. It isn't perfect: no translation is. That's one reason why the liturgy should be celebrated in Latin: then we actually use the canonical liturgical text, and don't tear the Church in half every couple of decades arguing over the best vernacular equivalent: see the FIUV paper on Latin. But the point about the new translation is that it uses 'hieratic' (Loftus: 'posh') language because the Latin does. The Latin is not everyday Latin, it is funny church Latin with lots of grand adjectives, archaic words, and (dread word) poetic phrases.

The 'secondary altar' business is complicated, but many churches either do, or ought, according to the rules, use an altar with the tabernacle fixed to it, a practice Loftus clearly abhors. Here's the Congregation for Divine Worship: 

Cases must be considered in which the sanctuary does not allow for the placing of an altar facing the people or in which it would not be possible to maintain the existing altar with its ornamentation intact and at the same time install a forward-facing altar that could be seen as the principal altar. In such cases it is more faithful to the nature of the liturgy to celebrate at the existing altar, back to the people, than to maintain two altars at the same sanctuary. The principle of there being only one altar is theologically more important than the practice of celebrating facing the people.’ Notitiae 29 (1993)

Communion under both kinds: yes, Sacrosanctum Concilium suggested this might be allowed for certain highly restricted and intimate occasions. What rulings following this repeated again and again was that it is innapropriate for the Chalice to be offered when there are large numbers of communicants: as in a typical parish on a Sunday. Thus, Inaestimabile Donum (1980) tells us:

Episcopal conferences and ordinaries also are not to go beyond what is laid down in the present discipline: the granting of permission for Communion under both kinds is not to be indiscriminate, and the celebrations in question are to be specified precisely; the groups that use this faculty are to be clearly defined, well disciplined, and homogeneous.

Some time after this the Vatican gave up trying to stop bishops from permitting it as widely as they liked, but the document's point is still valid. Offering the Chalice routinely to large numbers of people is asking for trouble, practically (given how it is distributed in the Latin Church) and theologically (obscuring the reality that Our Lord is present entire in the Host), and was never the intention of the Council Fathers.

Inaestimabile Donum in 1980, Redemptionis Sacramentum in 2004, and a number of documents in between represent the concerted, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to reign in liturgical abuses in the Ordinary Form, under Bl Pope John Paul II. They failed because there was no system of enforcement, and if things are better now it is not because of fear of sanctions from these rules, but because a new generation of priests, and in some cases bishops, want to be stricter about the rules even if it makes them unpopular, even if people like Mgr Loftus attack them for it.

Loftus is suggesting that the failure to persecute priests who don't conform to his favourite liturgical fads is oppressive. He proudly points out that some of these fads are permitted, and is sad that they are not widespread. Last week he violently attacked priests who keep other rules, which he think are themselves oppressive. All in all, he is very dissatisfied with the way the Ordinary Form is celebrated, not just because of failures to keep the rules but because of the rules themselves, a position which seems to be widely shared right across the spectrum of opinion in the Church.

Bishop Rifan incenses the Altar at an LMS Mass in Leeds last year. Notice the candles and flowers embellishing the tabernacle (a normal feature of this church I assume). It is an irrepressible Catholic instinct to honour Our Lord in the Sacrament.

Take some advice from me, Mgr Loftus. If you want to criticise the Ordinary Form, do so in moderation, and without impugning the good will of those who disagree with you, or who take advantage of liturgical options are not to your taste. Otherwise, you end up embittering the debate and entrenching positions.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Inwood vs. Ostrowski on chant propers in the OF

I came across by chance this critique, by Jeff Ostrowski, of one of Paul Inwood's attacks on the idea that we should sing the chants given in the Graduale Romanum for the Ordinary Form. It's an interesting post but it gets terribly complicated and technical. I'm not going into the complications, but I want to comment on why it is so complicated.

(I also recommend the Corpus Christi Watershed blog it derives from, which has a lot of interesting stuff on it.)

A thumbnail's worth of background: the Graduale Romanum has for centuries been the Church's book of liturgical music. The Liber Usualis, which is the more common volume for chant singers in the EF, is derived from it (with the addition of some handy material from the Missal and the Breviary). The chants of the Graduale are, in the Extraordinary Form, liturgical texts: as well as being sung by the choir, they are said by the priest. There is an 'entrance antiphon' (Introit), chants to go between the Reading and the Gospel (usually Gradual and Alleluia), a chant for the Offertory and a Communion antiphon, for every Mass for every occasion in the year.

When the Novus Ordo came out, a vast number of these texts had been changed. Bugnini had gone through with his trusty blue pencil and re-written some, deleted others, composed still more afresh. The very idea of singing complex chants before the Gospel was replaced with the notion of the 'Responsorial Psalm'. Hymns were sung at the Offertory and at the Communion.

But then, in 1974, a new edition of the Graduale Romanum was published, with a preface by Bugnini himself. (In Latin.) The texts were the same as the ancient texts - you can't really change them, after all, if you respect the ancient melodies, since words and music are very closely bound up in chant. They were rearranged, however, to fit in, more or less, with the 1970 Missal, in terms of appropriateness, theme, and so on. And the rubrics said that singing these chants on the (newly) appointed days was an option: option number one, in fact, in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

But no-one actually did this. Ok, that's an exaggeration. Very, very, very few people did it. The groups of skilled singers able to do it had been disbanded. All sorts of ghastly musical experiments took their place. The 1974 Graduale Romanum remained in existence as a sort of rebuke to the new musical order of things. But it was only an option. And the texts were, mostly, no longer the liturgical texts, the texts of the Mass being said. They were just appropriate - just like 'In bread we bring You, Lord' is supposedly appropriate to the Offertory.

Yes, you can use the argument that these chants have been an integral part of the liturgy since about the 5th century. But that argument may end up proving too much. Why not just go the whole hog and go to the Traditional Mass?

One of the things the Reform of the Reform crowd want to do is to encourage the singing of these chants again. It is great, of course, to revive the tradition of chant singing, it is great that Catholics will hear these chants, at least in a few places. But they don't have the same relationship with the liturgy that they do in the Extraordinary Form. And since they replace the kinds of things composed by Paul Inwood and his chums, the musical establishment has a vested interest in opposing this development.

Well, as usual in seeing this debate within the Ordinary Form, I support what the Reform of the Reform people want to do, but I have to concede that the legal, liturgical and historical situation has been turned into quagmire of confusion by developments which seem to run counter to each other. I mean, Paul Inwood has a point: these aren't the liturgical texts for the OF, they are just an option. Even with his most annoying claim:

"we know from those who worked on the 1970 Missal that they never intended those actual texts to be sung. The texts are there to remind us that we should be singing something at those points, but not those texts. They are only there for recitation if there is no singing."

Yes, that statement sounds quite mad, but I fear he has a point all the same. What did Pope Paul VI say about it?

In 1963, he promulgated Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council's document on the liturgy, which says that chant should have 'pride of place'. But it made a crucial concession: 'other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action'. Only time would tell what these would turn out to be.

In 1969 he said that, as a result of vernacularisation: 'We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant' (General Audience, 1969). He makes it clear that this is a sacrifice he thinks must be made, for a greater good.

In 1974, he sent around the world a booklet, Jubilate Deo, designed as a minimum chant repertoire for parishes, whose preface says: 'those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing cannot refuse to Gregorian chant the place which is due to it'. This is about congregational singing of the Ordinary of the Mass, but this is also the year of the publication of the new Graduale Romanum, with all the propers.

What attitude was taken to these conflicting statements by the Congregation of Divine Worship, the Vatican department with direct responsibility for these issues? In 1987, under Pope John Paul II, The Congregation for Divine Worship noted that 'Any performance of sacred music which takes place during a celebration, should be fully in harmony with that celebration. This often means that musical compositions which date from a period when the active participation of the faithful was not emphasized as the source of the authentic Christian spirit are no longer to be considered suitable for inclusion within liturgical celebrations.' (Concerts in Churches, 1987).

What did Pope Benedict XVI say about Chant? After some indications that he would write an encyclical on chant, he never did. His personal views on the artistic and spiritual importance of chant are well known, but we had almost no official encouragement of chant from the Chair of Peter. It is almost as if there was a ban on the word 'chant' in official documents. He did say this in an 'address' in 2012, which is important, and seems to turn over completely what the CDW had said in 1987:

'And, here dear friends, you have an important role: work to improve the quality of liturgical song with being afraid to recover and value the great musical tradition of the Church, which has in Gregorian Chant and polyphony 2 of its highest expressions, as Vatican II itself states (cf. “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” 116). And I would like to stress that the active participation of the whole people of God in the liturgy does not consist only in speaking, but in listening, in welcoming the Word with the senses and the spirit, and this holds also for sacred music. You, who have the gift of song can make the heart of many people sing in liturgical celebrations.'

If you're not confused, then you haven't been paying attention.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mass at Prinknash

 Some time ago I went for the first time to a Saturday morning Low Mass at Prinknash Abbey; we went again on Saturday and I got a few better photos of Mass there. Mass is at 11am each Satuday; last weekend it was an Ember Day.
The Sanctuary lamp is remarkable; it has followed the monks through their various travels since they were Anglicans on Caldey Island.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Crisis and Catechesis

More than once I have aired the disagreement which exists between Traditionalists, or most of them, and Daphne McLeod and some of her supporters, about What Went Wrong. Mrs McLeod insists that it wasn't the liturgy which caused the crisis in the Church, lapsation and so on, but the new catechesis which was imposed on schools in the wake of the Council.

She certainly has a point about the importance of teaching the Faith. The chart to the left is just staggering; it is brand new research from here.

The Traditionalist instinct, however, that the post-Conciliar liturgy had something to do with it, has an important supporter: Pope Benedict XVI. Writing before his election, he explained:
I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy, which at times is actually being conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: as though in the liturgy it did not matter any more whether God exists and whether He speaks to us and listens to us.
 But if in the liturgy the communion of faith no longer appears, nor the universal unity of the Church and of her history, nor the mystery of the living Christ, where is it that the Church still appears in her spiritual substance?

Of course this is not ex cathedra, we are free to disagree. But Pope Benedict puts his finger on something important: that the liturgy has a catechetical aspect, it incarnates Christ for us.

It is interesting to ask if the statistics the LMS has produced which illustrate the crisis in the Church so vividly help answer the question. Here are a couple of indicative ones: click to enlarge.

Baptisms per 1,000 Catholic compared to live birth per 1,000 of the total population of England and Wales. This is essentially a graph comparing the birth rate of Catholics and non-Catholics. Catholics had more children than non-Catholics until the level started to plunge in 1964. It bottomed out in the late 1970s. The graph suggests that from then to the present, the Catholic birth rates is slightly ahead of the general population, consistent with what one would expect.

Catholic marriages as a percentage of all marriages. It was rising steadily from before the First World War, and peaked in 1960. It then started to plunge at a truly alarming rate - even more alarming when one considers that marriage in the general population declined steeply after 1970.

What do these show? Two things.

First, the decline started before Catholic teachers were re-programmed in how to teach the Faith. This re-programming, in which RE teachers from Catholic schools were sent on special courses, began in about 1968.

Second, the decline affected adult Catholics, from its very beginning, and not only those who were at school in the late 1960s onwards. The people getting married and having children - or not - in the course of the 1960s and early 1970s had not, mostly, heard the new catechetics when they had been at school.

It will be pointed out, of course, that the promulgation of the New Order of Mass also came after the peak in both cases: in late 1969. This is true, but the disruption to Catholic liturgical life had started long before that. Latin started to disappear in 1965. Popular devotions were under attack in the later 1950s; liturgical experiments, such as the Dialogue Mass, celebration versus populum, and vernacular readings, were rife; things were getting very touchy-feely. The famous stability of the Catholic liturgy was fraying at the edges, at the same time, and for the same reasons, as the famous stability of Catholic discipline.

And it was this fraying of discipline, on the subject of contraception, which is the key here. Adult Catholics, taught in the old way, fell for the glib nonsense of trendy theologians, who managed to create a sense that the teaching was about to change in the run-up to Humanae Vitae in 1968, and then presented that document as an intolerable imposition.

It is pointless to ask what would have happened if the liturgy or catechesis had been maintained throughout this period. The destruction of catechesis, the collapse of the liturgy, and the disappearance of moral and theological discipline all happened together because they had to. The Old Mass was too bound up with the old theology for it to be tolerated by the new, dissenting theologians. So, obviously, was the old catechesis. You can't deny personal sin and then comfortably attend, or celebrate, a Traditional Mass, with the double confiteor and everything else. You can't deny the magisterium's development of arguments against contraception and submit oneself to the development of the liturgy. If you are going to follow your inclinations on one, you are going to do it for the other - and nota bene, if those inclinations happen to include lace and birettas, that doesn't make you a traditionalist.

From a sociological, as well as a theological point of view, radical changes to the liturgy were bound to shake people up. Catholics identified with the liturgy. Again and again we hear people saying: if the liturgy can change, why not teaching? On one level this is a silly inference, but on another they had grasped something about the importance of the liturgy which the liturgists had missed. If the liturgy can be made man-centred, then the old restrictions on birth-control just don't fit in any more.

Bishop McMahon of Nottingham at the LMS Priest Training Conference

As to how to go about a restoration, we need a catechesis which gives the whole Faith to our children, and a liturgy which presents the whole Faith to everyone. Traditionalists have never questioned the need for the first of the two. We just don't want to go into battle with error with one hand tied behind our backs.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Painted altar frontal unveiled at SS Gregory & Augustine's

Unveiled on Whitsun, the newly painted altar frontal is intended to be the way the Altar is presented other than on more important feasts, for which the parish has cloth frontals to hang on the Altar in all the liturgical colours.
It comes from the studio of James Gillick, who has done much of the new decoration in the church, including the reredos.

In use.

Friday, May 24, 2013

20th and 30th July: ChesterBelloc events

The Latin Mass Society's annual Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead, taking place this year on Saturday 20th July with Sung Mass at 12noon, is also an opportunity to visit the grave of Hillaire Belloc, which is next to the church.

This year the Pilgrimage will be celebrated by the veteran Bellocian Father John Emerson, and will be followed by prayers at Belloc's grave and a French military trumpet piece to rouse the spirits. In the evening there will be folk music at a nearby pub.

There will be a mini bus leaving from Saint Bede's parish and there is space for eighteen people

On 30th July, there'll be an event centred around Belloc's friend GK Chesterton. From the GK Chesterton Society:
"This year's GK Chesterton Pilgrimage will be on Tuesday 30th July. Meeting outside St George's C of E Church, Aubrey Walk, London, W8 7JG where GKC was Baptised as a baby. Then at 8am start walking to Uxbridge (15 miles approx).

Chesterton, Belloc, and Maurice Baring
"1.30pm Old Rite Mass, in thanksgiving for Chesterton's Conversion, which took place 91 years ago on this day. Our Lady of Lourdes and St Michael, Osborn Road, Uxbridge, UB8 1UE. You are welcome to attend the Mass even if you are not doing the walk. Walk on to Beaconsfield (10 miles approx) where Chesterton lived, converted, died and is buried. Then we will say the prayer for the Beatification of GK Chesterton at his graveside. You can find the prayer here;

"For more details or to join the pilgrimage or DM on Twitter and/or follow on the day, @Stuart1927 "

"Have we now, [seventy-eight] years after Chesterton's death, reached a kind of tipping point in his reputation, of the same kind that Newman's reputation reached, leading to the opening of his cause in 1959, seventy-eight years after his death?" Dr William Oddie

Latin and Greek Scholarships

I am delighted to pass on the amazing offer of the Vivarium Novum academy, of a large number of scholarships for their extraordinary course: total immersion in Latin or Greek. Teaching in the target language: why not? They've been doing this for a number of years, so you won't be a guinea pig. Have a look at the Vivarium Novum website for all the things they do.

If you need a shorter course, come on the LMS Latin Course this Summer, 22-27 July 2013, Pantasaph, North Wales.

Announcement of Competition
Latin, Greek and Humanities at the Academy Vivarium Novum in Rome – Italy
Academic year 2013-2014

The Academy Vivarium Novum is offering ten full tuition scholarships for high school students of the European Union (16-18 years old) and ten full tuition scholarships  for University students (18-24 years old) of any part of the world. The scholarships will cover all of the costs of room, board, teaching and didactic materials for courses to be held from October 7, 2013 until June 14, 2014 on the grounds of the Academy’s campus at Rome.
Application letters must be sent to by July 15th in order to receive consideration.
A good knowledge of the fundamental of Latin and Greek is required.
The courses will be as follows:
  1. Latin language (fundamental and advanced)
  2. Greek language (fundamental and advanced)
  3. Latin composition
  4. Roman History
  5. Ancient Latin literature
  6. History of ancient Philosophy
  7. Renaissance and Neo-Latin literature
  8. Latin and Greek music and poetry
  9. Classics reading seminars
The goal is to achieve a perfect command of both Latin and Greek through a total immersion in the two languages in order to master without any hindrances the texts and concepts which have been handed down from the ancient times, middle ages, the Renaissance period and modern era, and to cultivate the humanities in a manner similar to the  Renaissance humanists.
All the classes will be conducted in Latin, except for Greek classes which will be conducted in ancient Greek.

In the letter the prospective student should indicate the following: 
1. Full name;
2. Date and location of birth;
3. What school you currently attend;
4. How long you have studied Latin and/or Greek;
5. Which authors and works you have read;
6. Other studies and primary interests outside of school.

In addition, please attach a recent passport/ID photograph.

(For more information about the Academy, you may visit the website

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fun in the archive

1954 advert
Looking over the Catholic Directories from 1839 to the present was interesting in a number of ways. The adverts, which got going after the War, show architectural and liturgical items which are actually rather nice and well-made in the 1950s; later there are endless ugly promotions for CAFOD; today there are endless adverts for schools,l generally Catholic in name only. Here's an early one which caught my eye: the Dome of Home, SS Peter and Paul and St Philomena, in the Wirral, clearly a prestige project for the architects who are using the High Altar to drum up more custom.

Early 20th century Directories periodically included a map of the Dioceses. It would be very useful if it were possible to get hold of an up to date one. In this one the dioceses of Wrexham, Menevia, East Anglia and Arundel and Brighton don't yet exist.

In the very early editions, going into the 'Laity's Directory' before 1839, there are complete catalogues of Catholic books: pages and pages of books for sale, on history, 'controversy', theology and so on. Real evidence of a 'well instructed laity', and a scholarly community to serve them.

1998 absent tableThe gaps in the data are infuriating; I get the impression that at certain points they just didn't care. They gave up reprinting two years of tables in 1990, a practice of the Directory dating back to 1925. Why? It means the series is more vulnerable to glitches and errors; a number of time the reprinted table has slightly revised numbers.

The date of the data for Baptisms, Marriages, and Conversions was always one or two years earlier than the date of the rest of the table (numbers of clergy, places of worship, and Catholic population), from 1912 to 1994, at which point they decided to bring them into line. Fine: but they didn't bother to print the missing year's numbers, those for 1992. Why? Two years' Directories were never printed, in the transition from Burns and Oates to the Universe. When it came back, in 1973, only the table for 1973 was printed. What happened to the data for the previous two years? And how can you print data for the year following the thing's publication? Always before, and soon afterwards, the date of the table is a year or two earlier than the date on the front cover.
1970 1973 covers
These are a researcher's gripes, I suppose they weren't thinking of posterity when they did these tables. (What were they thinking of, I wonder?) But here is someone else who didn't care about posterity: though he was very keen 'to embrace the sick'. This is the bookmark bound into the 1987 edition, showing the late Jimmy Saville.
1987 bookmark

Pro-Life Witness in Oxford

Every Catholic has to be concerned about the horrifying reality of abortion in the modern world. Please support these events.

Here in Oxford:

Saturday, 25th May.

PLEASE join us to pray for all the unborn babies who are at risk of abortion.

Each time your heart beats another baby is killed by abortion.

3pm - 4pm

At- Entrance of the JOHN RADCLIFFE HOSPITAL, HeadleyWay, Oxford.

The Most Blessed Sacrament is exposed for the hour in the Church of St Anthony of Padua, right behind where we stand.
(115 Headley Way,Oxford OX3 7SS) 

Refreshments available afterwards in the Church Hall.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Video on the Gregorian Chant Course

In which yours truly makes an appearance!

One Weekend in April, Part Two: The Gregorian Chant Network Weekend Course from LMS on Vimeo.

Historic Statistics for Ordinations and Priest numbers

After another session in the archive, we have been able to extend the historic data to as far back as it will go. It seems that for numbers of priests this is 1841, the fourth year of the publication of the Catholic Directory; for ordinations, it is 1846. The 'Laity's Directory', which was in many ways the predecessor publication (though they overlapped for two years), does not give this information.

We have also tidied up the methodology of collecting the data and made some corrections. A full and complete set of Excel files of the raw data can be downloaded from the LMS website here.
Numbers of Priests ordained for the Dioceses of England and Wales, and for Religious Orders here, from 1847.

 The growth in the period up to the Great War is steady and workmanlike. The period from 1925 to 1964 represents a new phase: recovery from the each World War but heightened growth going somewhat beyond that. And then, after 1964, a catastrophic and unprecedented decline.

The red line, for religious orders, which is steadier, shows a very clear trend over a century up to the mid 1960s. It is impossible to describe the figures for the 1930s or 1950s as frothy or unsustainable: they were just the culmination of a long period of growth. Perhaps they kept their heads better than the secular seminaries in those decades. But they certainly lost them after 1960.

Numbers of priests in England and Wales, 1841 to 2010
The big jump in 1890 is unexplained; a decision to include regular clergy for the first time would fit the bill, however. There were 1,475 of them in 1912, when a separate total for them is included for the first time; there could very well have been 1,100 or so in 1890.

Again the boom starting in the 1920s is preceded by a long period of steady growth; it didn't come from nowhere, and that is important to stress. The unprecedented decline starts early - numbers peak in 1965. Even the large number of ordinations that year, 225, was not enough to offset the number of priests dying or being laicised. Laicisations must have had something to do with it, because assuming priests had an average life-span after ordination of 30 years or more, the cohort of priests going to their reward in 1965 had been ordained, on average, before ordinations went over 150 a year. It looks as though about 75 priests more disapear from active service than you'd expect.

Of course, once we have the double whammy of ordinations dropping and the extra-large cohorts of priests ordained 1925 to 1965 dying, the decline in priest numbers accelerates. There were also, of course, a very significant number of laicisations in the following decades as well. We have increasing life-expectancy to thank for it not looking a lot steeper; as it is they've started counting 'Retired Priests' (who are still included in the total), and we have now about 800 of these, 15% of the total. Even with the latest medical technology the '60s generation isn't going to live forever, so we can expect this graph to look more like a cliff in the next decade.

I photographed the tables called the 'Recapitulation of Catholic Statistics' from every volume of the Catholic Directory in which they appeared (not counting the ones which appeared twice); anyone who'd like to see them can view them on my Flickr page here. You can see, for example, breakdowns by diocese for many of the statistics.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Same Sex Marriage: a reminder

I plight thee my troth...
As the legislation for Same Sex Marriage (SSM) makes it way through Parliament, there has been another splurge of bad arguments against it.

SSM is bad for the Tory Party. True, but not really to the point.

SSM has no democratic mandate. True, but that is not an argument against it. At best it would be an argument for a brief delay. That gets us nowhere.

SSM is going to be bad for Religious Freedom. True, but as I've said a number of times here, what religions can demand in the way of freedom depends on what is regarded as just by society as a whole (or: the law), and not the other way round. You can't use Religious Freedom as a card to trump Justice. If stopping gays marrying is unjust, the religions opposing it are unjust and will have to change.

People should stop using these arguments. There are much better ones which have been articulated with great clarity by a number of people. Here is the central one:

In order to accommodate same-sex couples, the legal concept of marriage will have to shed the distinctive characteristics which make it useful and important for heterosexual couples starting a family. It will no longer be understood in terms of an exclusive sexual relationship, geared towards children, which is difficult to escape.

Same Sex Marriage will destroy marriage as it currently exists; marriage as it currently exists is a vital and irreplaceable institution of civil society for the protection and education of children.

Here are a series of posts I did about the Defence of Marriage when the legislation was first proposed. (The first one is at the bottom, the last at the top.)

The best full-length account of the case against SSM is the Girgis, George and Anderson paper, What is Marriage? (A revised and expanded version is available as a book to buy.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Loftus: reverence to Our Lord is totalitarian

'On a general level a priest naturally, and supernaturally, will want to smile into the eyes of those to whom he gives Holy Communion. [So this is for the priest's benefit, right?] It's a lot easier to do so if they are all joyfully singing the Communion song together with their heads thrown back [ie, without looking at a hymn book], in accordance with liturgical law [yes, a chant or song is allowed at Communion, well done Basil], rather than looking at the ground as they first of all bow, and then try to avoid being swiped by a redundant communion plate, as prescribed by rubrical nit-pickers [surely, 'liturgical law', which says that the 'Communion Plate is to be retained' (Redemptionis Sacramentum para 93) and the recommendation to make an 'act of reverence' before communion (Redemptionis Sacramentum 90)].

'Look at North Korea. Is there in that blighted and over-regulated dictatorship any of the joy and freedom which is needed if human dignity is to be protected? Was there any joy or freedom in Stalinist Russia or Maoist China, or East Germany? Would anyone in the free world want to live there? In all of this there are lessons about freedom and joy for the Church.'

Lost: if found, please send to the Catholic Times
Mgr Basil Loftus, Catholic Times 19th May 2013.

I kid you not. Is he finally losing his marbles? Does he really want to suggest that Bl Pope John Paul II, under whom those rubrical prescriptions were made in Redemptionem Sacramentum in 2004, was a joyless dictator to rival Erich Honecker, Kim Jong-Il, Stalin and Mao? Where are the gulags where dissidents were locked up to maintain this reign of terror? Oh, how silly of me! They were condemned to the ultimate torture: of writing perpetual articles in the Catholic Times.

Actually, Basil, reading this stuff is the real torture, not writing it.

I sometimes complain that it is not really my brief to defend the Novus Ordo; I mean I'm happy to do it, but why is it left to me? Why aren't all those 'conservative' Catholic bloggers defending these rubrics against Loftus and his ilk? I fancy they have given up. But you can't just give up: he's spewing this stuff out every week.

Yet again this week - I think for the third time at least - he recounts the story of Pope Francis saying 'the carnival is over' to the Papal MC Mgr Marini, despite it long since being debunked as a malicious smear, above all a calumny against the Holy Father, who doesn't share Loftus' habit of unthinking rudeness.

When is the madness of these articles going to end?

Holy Communion at the Family Retreat, with Fr John Hunwicke
Since I'm not a neo-conservative with the task of defending every detail of the Novus Ordo Missae ('Ordinary Form') and its associated legislation, I should add that Loftus is given an easier target by the awkwardness of the current liturgical settlement, if I may call it that. It is perfectly true that there is something a little unnatural and contrived about asking people to bow before receiving Holy Communion. Why not just have them kneel down? And it is also true that the is something a little unnatural and contrived about having a communion plate where practically everyone receives in the hand.

These rubrics were ways of trying to claw something back from the disaster of the spread of, and then the permission for, the abuse of receiving Communion in the hand, and the novelty of receiving standing up. Those things didn't work, and trying to ameliorate them with these rubrics hasn't worked either.

But then, the Novus Ordo manner of receiving on the tongue is awkward too: having to say 'Amen'. You can't make it clear that you are ready to receive - people tend to stick their tongues out, pull them in to say 'Amen', and then stick them out again. At least, this is what I seem to end up doing at the OF.

Say what you like about the Traditional Mass, it works. It works because it has developed to work, over many centuries, instead of being some kind of bureaucratic compromise in the midst of an endless liturgical war.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 17, 2013

What happened to conversions?

Over on Rorate Caeli I've been talking about the meaning of the statistics the LMS has collected on Catholic marriages; there's also article on our research in the print edition of the Catholic Herald out today, on p3. There is just so much to say about these statistics it is impossible to cover them all in a single post: here I'll say something about adult conversions (coyly renamed 'receptions' in the statistics for 1976 and thereafter). In another post I'll have a look at baptisms.

England and Wales has a special place in the world-wide Church, I think, as constantly refreshed by converts, to an extent far greater than in other countries. For long stretches of time Catholic life here has been dominated by converts, men like Newman and Manning in the 19th century, or Chesterton and Knox in the 20th, or indeed St Edmund Campion in penal times. One of the remarkable things about the statistics from before the Council is the scale of conversions.

  Receptions in England and Wales (1913-2010)
Between the start of the series, in 1912, and 1960, 534,117 people were received into the Church, not counting those received in 1942, for which data were never published (probably in the region of another 10,000). Well over half a million people. People were talking about the 'conversion of England', and it wasn't hot air. Those are the kinds of numbers which actually make a demographic impact. Remember, the population of England and Wales was only 32.5 million at the 1931 census, and 43.8 million in 1951 (there wasn't a census in 1941.)

If you look at the graph expressed per 1,000 Catholics, the achievement of the interwar years is even more impressive. Fr Martindale and his like, hardly remembered today, were truly the St Francis Xaviers of their day.

Receptions per 1000 of the Catholic population of England and Wales (1913-2010)
However you look at it, something truly horrible happened between 1960 and 1970. The number of conversions declined by about three quarters, and assumed a plateau at this new, abysmal level. It is as if the Church shifted from one gear to another, an effect far more dramatic than the disruption caused by the Second World War.

Now, there were certain changes in the Church in the 1960s and early 70s, to say the least. They shook up the existing Catholic community, who were presumably often set in their ways. They were designed, however, to make the Church more attractive to outsiders. As Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii nuntiandi (1975):

'... on this tenth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the objectives of which are definitively summed up in this single one: to make the Church of the twentieth century ever better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the people of the twentieth century.'

Well, it didn't work.

One aspect of what we see, of course, is the lessening of the phenomenon of 'marriage converts'. Catholics were no longer taught that marrying a non-Catholic was seriously problematic, and that dispensations to marry a non-Catholic were not a mere formality. Some people think this is a good thing, on the basis that any kind of incentive to become a Catholic (such as wanting marry one) undermines the purity of the motive to convert.

This is a truly silly and deeply unCatholic attitude, however. All sorts of things stimulate conversions, and are designed to do so: should we deliberately put people off the Faith, so they have to struggle more to join? One does hear that sort of idea expressed, but it is not what the Saints did: they tried to attract the flies with honey. We should also remember the great social pressure not to become Catholic, up to and including the 1950s. Let's hear it from the great Fr Bryan Houghton, speaking in persona of his fictional Bishop Forrester, but certainly from his own pre-1970 pastoral experience.

'In the odd twenty years that I had cure of souls, either as curate or parish priest, I doubt if I ever received fewer that ten converts a year into the Church. I loved them. Along with the Eternal Truths I gave them all I had to offer. I never talked down to them, no matter how simple they were. The human mind can absorb infinitely more that it can rationalize and explain. How wonderful they were and how I admired them! ...
     'I suppose rather over half, say 60%, were "marriage converts". They were often among the best. Human love seems a natural introduction to divine love. In those days, the Catholic knew he had something to give and the non-Catholic something to receive. It was right and proper that the wedding ring should be set with the Pearl of Great Price. And the heroism of so many of those marriage converts! Not only were they cut off from their families (a more tragic situation in the working than in the educated classes), but they undertook willingly to obey the marriage laws. "I am only a marriage convert, Father"; my dear, you could be nothing more noble.'
(Mitre and Crook (1979) pp85-6)

Most of Fr Houghton's experience was garnered as Parish Priest of Bury St Edmunds in East Anglia (from 1955 to 1970), a part of England with an exceptionally low number of Catholics. There, one might assume, there would be more Catholics marrying non-Catholics, or converts, than in places of higher Catholic density, such as Lancashire or the Irish community in London. Supposing, then, not 60% but half of all conversions in England and Wales over this period were 'marriage converts', that would mean a bride or groom had converted in about a quarter of the weddings taking place over the period 1913-1960, a figure which is striking but not totally implausible.

Suppose, then, we halve the number of conversions recorded in 1959, and compare this reduced figure with the total for 1973 (after the gap in the series of Directories): what then? Well, then we get a decline of 27%. In other words, even if we took the insane view that, because of marriage converts not being sincere, the pre-1960 figures are inflated by 100%, we are still looking at a huge decline in conversions.

Has the new policy of granting dispensations to marry non-Catholics without quibble, and of not encouraging young people to seek partners from the household of the Faith, been a roaring success? I don't have numbers for divorces and annulments, but I think it is pretty obvious that this policy has been a disaster. The 'pastoral' policy, as so often, has created a pastoral nightmare.