Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Challenge of Islam: Part 2, Religious Liberty

In my last post I pointed out that we can no longer assume that the problems posed by religious extremist will be solved for us by the passage of time, with prosperity, education, the spread of democracy and the attractiveness of Enlightenment ideas. One of the implications of the end of the thesis of Inevitable Secularisation is that we can't expect the ideology of secularism, political liberalism, to be more and more widely accepted and to be our great ally in defending the rights of the Church. Here is an example of someone who appears to be doing just that: Lord (David) Alton
As I have outlined in a speech which rather inadequately has tried to set the scene for the many more detailed interventions which will follow, Article 18 is under threat in almost every corner of the world. As we approach the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, we should recall that, long before Article 18, it asserted the importance of religious freedom.

Societies which deny such freedoms are invariably unhappy societies. Research shows that there is a direct link between economic prosperity and religious freedom. In 1965, Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s proclamation on religious freedom, said correctly that a society which promotes religious freedom will be enlivened and enriched and one that does not will decay.

Article 18 is a foundational human right—many would say the foundational right—because, while there should be no hierarchy of rights and all rights are interdependent, without the freedom to choose, practise, share without coercion and change your beliefs, what freedom is there? As my noble friend Lord Sacks says, on this question, the fate of the 21st century may turn.

Lord Alton is drawing attention to the terrible persecution of Christians around the world, and doing so in language which their Lordships, with a bit of luck, should be able to understand, but I'm going to criticise at least this peroration because it is wrong.

First off, don't you love the reference to the Magna Carta? Oh yes, Article 18 was well entrenched in English law back in 1215. The Albigensian Crusade was going on in France at the time, accompanied by the young Simon de Montfort, a later champion of the barons' rights. Now that's the kind of religious liberty we can all believe in. What the Magna Carta actually upheld was the freedom of the Catholic Church, which is not the same thing.

To confuse the two seems amazing, but this confusion lies at the heart of the problem. Yes, we Catholics demand, and have always demanded, the liberty of the Church. It doesn't follow that we demand, or indeed permit, the liberty of heretical, schismatic, sectarian, or idolatrous groups. How would anyone imagine that wanting the liberty of the Church implies that we want liberty for these others, any more than those who want liberty in general for good people doing innocent things should want liberty for criminals committing crimes?

The answer is that Catholics in non-Catholic countries naturally have to appeal to  general principles which could be accepted by non-Catholic states, and they have, in the last couple of centuries, increasingly seized on the notion of 'religious liberty', an idea which developed in England, Prussia, and then America because of the failure of the biggest sect in each place to suppress its rivals in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a political expedient which, when the philosopher John Locke formulated it, excluded Catholics. It is not a coherent moral principle, and for practical purposes it lacks content. As I keep saying, the notion of what is just is prior to the notion of what is protected by 'religious liberty'. If the state decides that your religious practice is unjust - whether it be forced marriage, female genital mutilation, circumcision, or telling children that fornication is a mortal sin leading to hell - you are toast.

Let's have a look at this famous article 18. Here it is.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Now, this may seem a silly question, but is is true?

Do Catholic have a right to change their religion? That implies their repudiation of their baptismal promises. They have no such right in canon law. It is neither morally permitted nor are attempts to do this effective. Apostate Catholics do not succeed in escaping the obligations implied by their baptismal promises. (It makes no difference if they were baptised as infants or adults.) For a couple of decades the Church experimented with the rule that allowed Catholics to contract valid marriages without reference to the Church, if they first formally defected from the Church, making possible, in this respect at least, a mechanism of defection which actually made a difference. A few years ago this experiment was discontinued. As Homer Simpson memorably expressed it, Once you go Vatican, you can't go back again.

But the Church doesn't actually punish apostasy? Yes, she does. For practical purposes the marriage rules impose a heavy penalty on apostates. A Catholic who apostasises and wants nothing more to do with the Church is prevented from contracting a valid marriage: this is very serious. Even more explicitly, Canon Law - yes, I'm talking about the 1983 Code currently in force - makes provision for penalties for heretics, such as deprivation from office. This actually happened to Hans Kung. Was this contrary to Dignitatis Humanae? Of course not.

I'm all for making use of premises accepted by one's opponents, but this becomes problematic when those premises are actually false.

The other thing Lord Alton and the political class in general need to consider is that, useless as the concept of religious liberty has been in defending the Church from secularists, the idea that it is going to be effective in defending the Church against Islamic zealots plumbs new depths of absurdity. We must become used to the idea that the Islamists are the government, in an increasing number of countries, and a substantial body of opinion in many others. The idea that they will be cowed into adopting a liberal conception of religious liberty by Western influence is, to be blunt, a neo-colonial fantasy. Our gunships just don't have that kind of persuasive force these days.

How we can address, if not resolve, the Islamic challenge, is something I will discuss in the next post.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pope Francis the Politician


The publication of the latest 'Scalfari interview' has presented an extraordinary spectacle. Fr Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, tried to play the interview down, saying (not for the first time) that the atheist journalist Scalfari had taken neither notes nor a recording of the conversation - and nor had anyone else.

The Catholic Herald reported that Fr Lombardi
'released a statement confirming that the article “captures the spirit of the conversation” between Pope Francis and journalist Eugenio Scalfari, but cautioning that the “individual expressions that were used and the manner in which they have been reported cannot be attributed to the pope”.

Suggesting that the “naïve reader is being manipulated” by certain portions of the article, Fr Lombardi expressed particular skepticism about two statements attributed to Pope Francis: a claim that some cardinals have been guilty of sexually abusing children, and a vow to “find solutions” to the “problem” of priestly celibacy.'

Clearly Fr Lombardi is caught between saying the whole thing is a load of rubbish - which would imply criticism of the Holy Father, who has persisted in talking to Scalfari after all the problems which emerged after the first interview - and saying that it represents what Pope Francis actually wants to say, which seems problematic because (as it is presented) it appears to lack diplomatic tact and to give hostages to fortune on things like clerical celibacy.

A similar dilemma seems to have the Vatican website administrators in its grip. The Holy Father wants to give an interview; he's happy to see it published; the administrators live to serve the Holy Father, so up it goes on the website. The Holy Father does not, however, appear to see himself in any sense bound by what he is presented as saying, it doesn't in any formal sense represent his views, it causes some embarrassment, so it comes off again. And then it goes back up, and then ...

Certainly, Pope Francis has his bag-carriers and diplomatic pooper-scoopers in a spin. I don't envy them their job. I don't, however, think that Pope Francis is much concerned. Here is my humble take on it.

The Holy Father is not much interested in theology. I don't mean that as a criticism: not all prelates have a background in theology. In the Church's career-structure, there are people who start out as professional theologians, like Pope Benedict, philosophers like St John Paul II, diplomats like Pope Pius XII and Paul VI, and (less commonly) pastorally-oriented people like St Pius X. Not only that, but the Church includes people with all kinds of attitude and character. Pope Francis says 'I am a son of the Church', when he wants to qualify some of his impatient-sounding remarks about 'casuistry'. My take is that he takes his belief in the teaching of the Church for granted, he doesn't lie in bed struggling with doubts, far from it, but he doesn't view the practical problems which face the Church as manifestations of deep theological problems, in the way that Pope Benedict did.

Perhaps one might say that Paul VI was more inclined to view the practical problems of his day as manifestations of diplomatic problems, St John Paul as philosophical problems, St Pius X as pastoral problems. I'm just talking about a tendency, here; to repeat, this needn't be a criticism of anyone. To a hammer everything looks like a nail. So what does Pope Francis see them as?


From what I gather, Pope Francis has a very acute political sense. He is concerned about politics, in the sense that he thinks about groups of people with particular interests, concerns, and attitudes, which need to be dealt with by the use of particular kinds of language, concessions, and symbolic gestures, or else (when necessary) opposed, sidestepped, or neutralised, in a political fashion. This is, of course, a hugely valuable skill to have. It enables him to get through to people who would not normally be open to his message, and it may mean he'll be able to deal with the political infighting and sclerosis of the Curia.

So it is not surprising to see him doing some of the things politicians do. Politicians try ideas out with hints and leaks, to test the reaction while retaining the option of distancing themselves from the ideas if they turn out to be unpopular or problematic. Politicians can address different groups in different ways, and they spend a lot of time soaking up what people think and say, often in private or semi-public settings, and sounding as sympathetic as possible. Politicians tend to campaign for an idea or policy with arguments and speeches only after they've established a coalition in support of it; they often let single-issue groups, lobbyists and pressure groups, thrash things out first. A lot of their work is behind the scenes.

The political role is not so much a teaching role as a governing role: a role to smooth away problems which are less about concepts than about power relationships, and to identify groups in positions of influence who are blocking the proper functioning of institutions, and to deal with them.

Politicians aren't terribly popular, so it may be assumed that I'm being terribly rude, but I'm not. Politics is a necessary thing, and politicians have a necessary place in society. I don't think Pope Francis is corrupt, nor an ideologue with some dark agenda, so he has a big advantage over most politicians we are familiar with from secular politics. Nevertheless, to the extent I am right, he will suffer the temptations and limitations to which politics is subject.

One is the problem of appearing too maleable, too ready to say one thing to one group and another to another. I don't suffer the illusion that Pope Francis is a stuffy old conservative, but I do think that the long-term danger is not him allowing free love in the Church, but of raising false expectations among liberals. Having said that, they've been suffering these false expectations for so long that it's become part of the liberal package.

The other problem, which is related, is that the muted or mixed signals become a source of scandal, by which I mean a source of sin. Catholics who are not ideologically committed to liberalism but are weak in their Faith might jump to the conclusion that divorce and remarriage are about to be ok, for example, because of the use the liberals are making of what Pope Francis has said. Pope Francis has not slapped the liberals down; on the contrary, he seems to be encouraging them. For the time being he wants to see how this goes. Perhaps the very fact of a heated debate between Müller and Marx and the like will provide him with a political justification - as opposed to a theological justification - for maintaining the status quo on divorce. But in the meantime the Faithful are confused.

They are confused already, of course, and the clearer teaching from the last two pontificates served only to establish one side of the confusion, the other side of which was coming from liberal priests and bishops. Now there are more conservative priests and bishops, and the liberal generation has reached the level of the older cardinals, who would be difficult even for the most conservative Pope to silence. Certainly, Pope Benedict did not manage it.

O time, thou must untangle this, not I.
It is too hard a knot for me to untie!

As I've said before in posts about Pope Francis, I want to understand him first and foremost. I'm open to the idea that he might be doing something too clever for me to see, but also to the idea that he will turn out not to be a good pope. Not all popes are good, after all. If we approach every issue with the assumption that the Pope is perfect, we are going to come to terrible grief sooner or later.

So far, Pope Francis has evaded the defences of some very hardened opponents of the Church, and he has embarked on a strategy within the Curia, of asserting control over the money, which might actually make some headway. Strategies come with risks. The danger of scandal through the toleration of heterodoxy is not exactly a new one. There are many precedents for well-meaning Popes to allow intractable problems to seethe for a bit before intervening decisively. And, come to that, not actually getting round to any decisive intervention.

In the meantime I think it is a pity that all those clerical bloggers have gone quiet. Without going berserk with scandalous attacks on the Holy Father, I think we can all contribute something by reiterating the teaching of the Church, and by reminding people that Catholics are not bound by the Pope's off-the-cuff remarks. I think Pope Francis is rather assuming that we, the traddy side of the debate, will carry on saying what we want to say about the issues of the day. If only because he thinks it is part of life's rich pattern.


Photos: Cardinal Brandmuller, Mgr Richard Soseman and Mgr Pablo Colino presiding at liturgies (Vespers and Benediction and two Masses) for the FIUV General Assembly last November.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Loftus and Natural Marriage

2010 06 12_6055
A wedding in the Traditional rite

I have been puzzled before by Mgr Basil Loftus' references to the idea that marriages between Catholics might be non-sacramental. Or, perhaps, that it is possible for a Catholic couple to be joined in a non-sacramental marriage. In his column of 11th July in the Catholic Times, Loftus sheds a little more light on what he has in mind.

As we have come to expect, it is pretty loopy, and based on an egregious factual error.

Pieter Huizing, the Dutch Jesuit canonist [d.1995], argued until the bitter end, when the present Code of Canon Law was being drawn up some 40 years ago, that there was no scriptural, doctrinal or logial foundation for the canonical conclusion that because undoubtedly Christ raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, "therefore every valid marriage between baptised persons has to be a sacrament."

Loftus goes on to claim, incorrectly, that the when the Orthodox allow a second marriage after divorce, they do so on the basis that it is non-sacramental. This, then, would seem to be the idea: that we should allow for a non-sacramental marriage after civil divorce.

The problem is that it is no easier to be engaged in bigamy with a non-sacramental second marriage, than with a sacramental second marriage. It wouldn't, come to that, be any easier to have two non-sacramental marriages on the go at the same time. A valid marriage, of any kind, while it exists, renders the parties incapable of contracting another valid marriage, of any kind.

It may be that Loftus is subject to another confusion, the idea recently examined by the canon lawyer Edward Peters that one can conceptually separate the questions of a marriage's validity and its sacramentality. As Peters points out, we never get a decree from a tribunal that a marriage wasn't sacramental, only that it wasn't valid. To explain why, we need to remember that when two Catholics fail to contract a sacramentally valid marriage with each other, they fail to to contract any (real, binding in conscience) marriage. When the law of the land fails to recognise this, it is failing to recognise the moral reality of the situation, the relationship between what has happened and the institution of marriage, which the state can regulate but does not own.

The difference between a sacramental and a non-sacramental marriage is, apart from the extra graces which flow from the former, that non-sacramental marriages can under certain restricted circumstances be ended by divorce, allowing the parties to remarry. Perhaps Loftus would like to see the disappearance of the indissoluble sacramental bond in Catholic marriages, which he appears incapable of seeing as anything other than an inconvenience. But the suggestion that second marriages be viewed as non-sacramental isn't going to help: it is the first marriage's sacramental bond which is the problem, not the second's. Unless, I suppose, there's a third or subsequent marriage to deal with...

Here's a question. Suppose that Catholic couples had the option, when preparing for marriage, of contracting some sort of arrangement of concubinage, instead of an indissoluble sacramental marriage. So they could have marital relations without sin, but could still, under certain conditions, walk away from their partners. How many would actually go for that?

It is true that there are couples who just get married in church because it looks nice, and have no intention of keeping their wedding vows. Their marriages are clearly invalid, however, so, in this way, they aren't part of the problem with people like Loftus want to solve. That problem is created by people who don't want concubinage, or natural marriage, or anything like that: they want sacramental marriage, succeed in contracting it, and then, while their spouses are still alive, decide after all that they want to marry someone else. Loftus' proposed solution is not going to help them, even if it made sense, because they don't actually want 'marriage lite': they wanted the real thing when they first got married, and for the most part they would like the real thing, were it possible, all over again, with their new partners.

2010 06 12_6113

As a service to the public, I have put together quotations on a range of themes from Loftus' published writings, mostly his Catholic Times columns, in a dossier here, and made one of his most theologically egregious articles, on the Resurrection of Our Lord, available here.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

LMS Pilgrimage to SS Peter & Paul, New Brighton

Come and see the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in their splendid church in the Wirral!


A reminder of the Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to the Shrine Church of SS Peter & Paul & St Philomena, New Brighton, taking place on Saturday 2nd August.

11.30am Solemn Mass
1pm break for lunch 
1.45 Talk 2.30 
Tour of the Shrine 
3.00 Benediction and Veneration of a Relic of St Philomena

The address is:
7 Atherton Street
New Brighton 
CH45 9LT

Click here for a map.


It is a very impressive church, with what will probably be the biggest Monstrance you will ever see. Yes, we will use it for Benediction! It has to be winched into place with a special lift. Since it to too large to lift to bless the Faithful, there is a smaller 'foot' which slots on when it is taken off its 'throne' above the Altar.


Here's a cool little video about the church.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chesterton pilgrimage and Mass

There will be a High Mass at 1:30 on Wednesday 30th July for the Chesterton Pilgrimage, in Our Lady of Lourdes, Uxbridge. The church is on the Osborn Rd (or, more simply, next to the A4020), and the post code is UB8 1UE. Click for a map.

The Mass is sponsored by the Latin Mass Society, and will also be an opportunity for anyone who wants it to get some experience singing chant with the Schola Gregoriana: for this, please book in advance.
Tel: 01223 263063

A group of walking pilgrims will be walking 27 miles from the place Chesterton was baptised, in central London, to where he lived much of his life, in Beaconsfield, and will be praying for anyone they are asked to pray for:
email or text names to 07795205114

The are also raising (much needed) money for the Good Counsel Network; go and bung some money on Stuart McCullough's 'sponsored walk' page here! There are only six donors so far.

You can print off praycards from the website above and sign up on Facebook to say the prayer on the 30th for all those on the prayer list.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Michael Davies: Anniversary Conference, London, 4th October

September 25th this year will be the tenth anniversary of the death of one of the giants of the Traditional movement, Michael Davies.

To mark the occasion a conference has been organised, not by the Latin Mass Society but with our support.

Date: Sat 4th October 2014

Time: Registration from 10am; first talk at 10:30; the conference concludes with a High Mass of Requiem at 4:15pm, which will be over by about 5:14.

Place: St Mary Moorfield, central London: in the parish hall (the basement below the church), with Mass in the church itself. Click for a map.

Speakers: Dr John Roa, Chris Ferrara, Michael Matt, and James Bogle, President of the International Federation Una Voce (FIUV).

Price: Tickets are just £15.

Full details and booking form can be found here.

The influence of Michael Davies was and continues to be immense. His numerous books, especially 'Pope John's Council' and 'Pope Paul's New Mass', introduce many to the Traditional Catholic approach to the crisis in the Church. Unfailingly fair-minded and orthodox, they set out the issues with great precision and clarity, and even a decade after the author's death are highly recommended.

To see a selection of his books on sale see here and here.
There are a good number of downloadable talks by him here and here.

As well as his books, Michael was active on the Committee of the Latin Mass Society, and as President of the International Federation Una Voce.

The interior of St Mary Moorfield, in Passiontide (before the start of Tenebrae) this year.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Make Friday 1st Aug a day of prayer for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

The below is copied and pasted from Rorate Caeli. Please, dear readers, disseminate this proposal as widely as possible - no attribution is necessary - not just to trads. See if you can get your parish priest to do something.

In solidarity with our Persecuted Brethren in Iraq and Syria

Friday, August 1, 2014

This was the day chosen by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) for a worldwide day of Public Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in supplication for our persecuted brethren in Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East:

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter asks all of its apostolates around the world to dedicate Friday, August 1 to a day of prayer and penance for the Christians who are suffering terrible persecution in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

August 1 is the First Friday of the month and the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, which is celebrated as a Third Class Feast in FSSP houses and apostolates. It is the feast in which we read of the great power of the persevering prayer of members of the Church: “Peter therefore was kept in Prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the Church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5)

This feast of our Patron should be an invitation to the faithful to join us in Holy Hours and other fitting prayers to beg the Most Holy Trinity that these members of the Mystical Body may persevere in the faith, and that, like St. Peter, they may be delivered from this terrible persecution. May such a day serve as a reminder to us of the stark contrast that stands between our days of vacation and ease, and their daily struggle for survival as they are killed or exiled from their homes. (Source)

It is a day, we believe, chosen wisely by that Fraternity: we please upon all our Catholic brethren, East and West, attached to the Ordinary Form (Mass of Paul VI) or to the Extraordinary Form (Ancient Mass), whatever their theological bent, to join this worldwide prayer day. Whether you consider yourself a more liberal, conservative, traditional, or just plain Catholic, let us join together in this worldwide Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, together with all the Angels and Saints.

It is also appropriately chosen because Pastors and Chaplains will have 10 days to prepare properly, to contact projects that help Christians in need and collect all kinds of contributions for the Christians of the Middle East (from Aid to the Church in Need to CNEWA, the Syrian and Chaldean Catholic Churches, and other organizations), and, in particular, to add to their bulletins and convey to their congregations how to participate next Sunday, July 27.

Please, spread this initiative around. No need to link to us, or to even mention you saw it here -- just copy, paste, and just let this idea spread around throughout the world, through the web, through social networks, to your family and friends.

Bishops, Pastors, priests, join us. First Fridays are a special day of the month, and nothing better next First Friday, August 1, than for all Catholics around the world to join in Adoration before Our Lord to implore his mercy and kindness for our most neglected brethren in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East.

More Prayers for Persecuted Christians

Pope Pius IX
Here are two more Prayers for the Church against persecution.

The first is very familiar to those attached to the Traditional Mass: it is part of the Prayers After Low Mass. These were established in 1859 by Pope Pius IX (though not for the whole Church), when the Papal States were under threat. The prayers were added to and made universal by Pope Leo XIII. The prayer below is part of Pius IX's original version, though Pope Leo added the words 'the conversion of sinners, and': in other words, it was originally just for 'the liberty and exaltation of our holy Mother the Church'.

O God, our refuge and our strength, look down in mercy on thy people who cry to thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St Joseph her spouse, of thy blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ our Lord.
R: Amen.

Deus, refúgium nostrum et virtus, pópulum ad te clamántem propítius réspice; et intercedénte gloriósa et immaculáta Virgine Dei Genetríce María, cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, ac beátis Apóstolis tuis Petro et Paulo, et ómnibus Sanctis, quas pro conversióne peccatórum, pro libertáte et exaltatióne sanctæ Matris Ecclésiæ, preces effúndimus, miséricors et benígnus exáudi. Per eúndem Christum Dóminum nostrum.
R: Amen.

(Although it was always permissible to say them in the vernacular, Rome never produced an official vernacular version. This means that there are various vernacular versions in circulation, authorised by different bishops or groups of bishops. Don't panic if you know another translation! The one above is the one used in England.)

Here is another prayer from the Raccolta, the manual of indulgences. It was granted an indulgence in 1891, and again in 1935.

Prayer to Our Lady Help of Christians.

Virgin most powerful, loving helper of the Christian people, how great thanks do we not owe thee for the assistance thou didst give our fathers, who, when they were threatened by the Turkish infidels, invoked thy maternal help by the devout recitation of thy Rosary! From heaven thou didst see their deadly peril; thou didst hear their voices imploring thy compassion; and their humble prayers, enjoined by the great Pope, Saint Pius the Fifth, were acceptable unto thee, and thou camest quickly to deliver them. Grant, dear Mother, that in like manner the prolonged sighs of the holy Bride of Christ in these our days may come to thy throne and engage thy pity; do thou, moved anew to compassion for her, rise once again to deliver her from the many foes who encompass her on every side.

Even now from the four quarters of the earth there arises to thy throne that lovéd prayer, to win thy mercy in these troublous times even as of old. Unhappily our sins hinder, or at least retard, its effect. Wherefore, dear Mother, obtain for us true sorrow for our sins and a firm resolution to face death itself rather than return to our former iniquities; we are sore distressed that, through our fault, thy help, of which we stand in such extreme need, should be denied or come too late.

Rise, then, O Mary, incline thyself to hear the prayers of the whole Catholic world, and beat flat to the ground the pride of those wretched men, who in their insolence blaspheme Almighty God and would destroy His Church, against which, according to the infallible words of Christ, the gates of hell shall never prevail. Let it be seen once more that when thou dost arise to protect the Church, her victory is sure. Amen.

I've put all these prayers on a page on the LMS website.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day of Recollection: photos


We are very blessed to be able to hold events in some of the most beautiful and interesting historic Catholic churches in England and Wales. St Edmund's College, Ware, is a spectacular example.

The view from the Rood Loft.
The chapel, by A.W. Pugin, was built for an institution which included both a Seminary and a School. (The Seminary later moved to Allen Hall.) The characteristic Pugin Rood Screen is in place, but there is a substantial choir for the clergy and seminarians, and the planned nave was only partially built, and added to later with the 'Galilee chapel'. The overall impression is that the Rood Screen, with its substantial Rood Loft where the choir can use, does not so much screen off the sanctuary, but forms the East wall of the chapel. However, it is still possible to view the ceremonies through the screen, as Pugin had intended the Faithful to do.


The importance for the Catholic Church in England of Pugin's work in the Gothic style is hinted at in many of the stained glass windows, depicting something you tend not to see in Anglican churches or, for that matter, in modern Catholic art: that is, previous generations of Englishmen engaged in Catholic worship.


Pugin was demonstrating artistically the continuity of the Catholic Church in England. What our ancestors did, we still do. We aren't embarrassed by the relics of the past we find, by people in Shakespeare exclaiming 'by the Mass!', by Medieval wall paintings coyly whitewashed over. No: there is an organic continuity between the belief and practice of the ancient and medieval Church in these Islands with the Catholic Church here today, and not with the 'Ecclesia Anglicana' which has usurped so many of its titles and taken possession of so many of its buildings.


This extends beyond the Mass, to other devitions. A small chapel where the relic of St Edmund of Abingdon is kept is decorated with windows and a ceiling painting depicting the history and veneration of the relic - naturally enough. We venerated it yesterday. Catholics who feel uncomfortable about venerating relics need to ask themselves what the sensus fidelium was up to during the long centuries in which this practice was a major part of the Catholic spiritual life.

The relic of St Edmund is carried to a man ill in bed - lower left panels.


It is, of course, the same relic in the same reliquary, in the pictures and in use today. St Edmund's relics were preserved thanks to the fact that he died in exile, so his relics were beyond the reach of the agents of King Henry VIII, a man who did not want to be reminded of Archbishops of Canterbury who stood up for the rights of the Church against the Crown.



The Day of Recollection was well attended, and led by Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP. We had a good number of priests, making possible confessions throughout the day and High Mass and Solemn Vespers. Fr de Malleray was joined by Mgr Gordon Read, the LMS National Chaplain, who was deacon and preached at Mass, and officiated at Benediction, Fr Patrick Hayward, who was subdeacon at Mass, and Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP. We also had three seminarians of the Fraternity helping, and those who know them will spot them in the photos.


More photos here.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Why 'assisted dying' will erode care for the dying

Matthew Schellhorn has written a very touching short piece on the Assisted Dying Bill, in light of his care for his mother, who died after a long illness.

'I am so glad I did not have to discuss the Assisted Dying Bill with my terminally ill mother. I think that if my mum had lived to know about this Bill it might well have destroyed all our happy experiences. I think she would have been terrified to know that the same doctors so keen to see her enjoying life, even in a limited way, might be perfectly willing to help her to end her life, should she have so chosen. It would have destroyed the relationship of trust to know that there were no boundaries between healthcare professionals and patients. And it would have demoralised her carers, who together worked towards making life comfortable, to think that their efforts might be considered futile. '

Read the whole thing on the Care Not Killing website.
The death of St Joseph

All who live must die. The sentence of death on the human race after the Fall is not only a punishment, it is a bond of solidarity we have with everyone who has gone before, and will come after us. Our Lord willingly submitted to it, though sinless; Our Lady too, according to the Western tradition, suffered death. Our final hours, days, weeks and months is part of our life, and with a protracted illness (when we know we are dying) it can be among the most significant parts. We experience the compassion and love of others in a unique way when we are helpless and suffering. The dying have a unique opportunity to prepare for death, which can include reconciliation with others, leaving a lasting legacy of restored relationships.

What Lord Falconer and his supporters want to do is to shuffle the dying off in a hygenic and out-of-the-way manner, like the 'unwanted' pregnancy or the disabled. The dying are inconvenient, inefficient, and embarrassing. They remind us of our failings of compassion, and they remind us of our mortality. That is exactly why a healthy society needs them.

What is going to happen, if a Bill like this becomes law, is the systematic bullying of the dying into thinking they are doing us a favour by consenting to 'assisted dying', being killed. It has got very little to do with making them comfortable or giving them dignity. It will loom on the horizon as soon as old age becomes accompanied by illness. It will forshorten all life's pleasures, expectations, and relationships. It will take away all sincerity and trust between the dying and the medical profession. It will frequently be done to patients who are not, in any meaningful sense, either dying or suffering. It will become a conveyor belt, with scant concern for dignity or even pain control. If life is not respected, people won't be respected either. That's why the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, according to a woman who accompanied her mother there, resembles 'an execution chamber.'

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mass in St Mary Magdalen's, Wandsworth


I love this church. St Mary Magdelen in Wandsworth is the church of Fr Martin Edwards, the National Chaplain of the UK Chartres Pilgrims. He has been responsible for much restoration, to its present impressive and artistically coherent state.


It has a rood screen: this is how rood screens sometimes developed in the Baroque period, essentially just a rood loft (see this from Paris). It is a pity that it lacks the Altar rails which would, I assume, have matched it and continued it. It is the suggestion of a screen between the nave and the sanctuary, not anything actually impeding one's view - not that Rood Screens really do that, outside cathedrals, as I have explained elsewhere.


The Mass was the occasion for a reunion of the Chartres pilgrims; we sang the Chartres anthem 'Chez nous' after Mass, in French. It was accompanied by a professional choir, sponsored by the Latin Mass Society. This excellent choir accompanies a Missa Cantata once a month.


The church is actually square: it is very wide and very short. Somehow it doesn't feel like that: the side-aisles feel like additions to the nave, with lower ceilings. It has an impressive decorated ceiling.


More photos.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Funeral in Oxford


I was privileged to sing at a funeral a few days ago, in the Oxford Oratory.


It was low key; but still a Missa Cantata with Gregorian Chant and incense. Singers of the Schola Abelis were led for the occasion by Thomas Neil, who plays the organ for Fr Holden in St Augustine's, Ramsgate.


The Traditional funeral Mass combines grandeur with simplicity. It neither denies nor wallows in our emotions. I implores God's mercy without presumption, but in humility, persistence, and hope. It is the embodiment of the decorum which more or less everyone, even today, instinctively feels appropriate for the occasion.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.

Download the LMS booklet about organising funerals here.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

LMS Mass in Westminster Cathedral: photos


Yesterday we had our AGM, followed by Mass in Westminster Cathedral.


For the first time, I was able to take photos from some of the galleries. See, I have the power of bilocation. I pressed the button for both of the above photographs of the Consecration. One was remote-control, however.


The celebrant was Fr Anthony Glaysher, a parish priest on the Isle of Wight who is the LMS Regional Chaplain for the South West. He also gave an excellent address to the AGM before Mass. The deacon was Fr Young of the Ordinariate, the subdeacon was Fr Patrick Hayward.





The only trouble with leaving one camera in the gallery was that I was more limited than I otherwise would have been in the lenses I could use from the ground. The above photo was taken with a zoom lenses from miles back in the nave. Westminster Cathedral does, of course, have a very long nave! The photo below was taken with a wide-angle lens.


More photos.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Last Call for the Summer School and Latin Course


The Latin Course is a must for anyone wanting to bone up on Latin in a Catholic environment. Let by Fr John Hunwicke and Fr Richard Bailey. Details and booking here.

The Summer School is a fabulous event, not to be missed, in a fantastic Catholic venue, the Franciscan Retreat Centre at Pantasaph in North Wales - a short distance from Holywell and Flint, and half an hour from Chester. Students come year after year - don't let your children miss out!

There is NO FEE. Parents can donate what they want. Donations from others are very welcome too!


The St Catherine's Trust Summer School takes place from Sunday 27th to Sunday 3rd August, for children aged 11-18. We have the Traditional Mass every day, the children are introduced to a wide range of subjects of Catholic interest - as well as catechism, art, music, history, literature, philosophy - and make friends with children from like-minded families from all over the country, and beyond.


This is the last call to sign up. We've already got more students than last year, and there's always a late rush, but please don't leave it to the last minute!

To apply please use our downloadable application form, or apply online.


LMS Day of Recollection, St Emund's College Ware

The Pugin chapel at St Edmund's College, Ware

Saturday 19th July

The Latin Mass Society's annual Day of Recollection takes place in St Edmund's College Ware, which has the only (yes the ONLY) Pugin chapel in the country not to have been 're-ordered'.

The retreat begins at 11.00am and will be preached by Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP.

High Mass (Extraordinary Form) will be celebrated at 12 noon.

Solemn Vespers and Benediction at 3.30 p.m. 

The cost of the Retreat will be £7. 

Please bring your own lunch. 

Tea & coffee will be provided. 

To confirm your place, please email or ring:

Nicandro Porcelli:
nicandroporcelli [at] yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk 
07920 122014 

Eric Friar  erichafriar (at) gmail [dot] com 
07792 766103

St. Edmund's College, Hall Green, Old Hall Green, Ware, Hertfordshire SG11 1DS

Click to a MAP HERE.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Latin Mass Society AGM Mass in Westminster Cathedral: Saturday 12th

This Saturday in the Latin Mass Society's Annual General Meeting. If you want to hear me speak, this is your chance - the meeting starts at 11am in the Westminster Cathedral Hall. Obviously you need to be a member of the Society to attend the AGM, but if you're not, you can always JOIN.

The Mass which follows at 2pm is of course open to all. It will be a High Mass celebrated by our Chaplain for the South West, Fr Glaysher. It is a truly awe-inspiring venue, we'll have excellent singing from the Cathedral's own singers, so come along.

We've not had the AGM in Westminster for a few years, it has become harder to get a slot since they started doing Confirmations on Saturdays there for the whole diocese in the Spring and Summer.

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Breaking conventions

Rorate Caeli has posted a video - among other things - showing the sad state of the Redemptorists in Ireland. The preacher tells a little story about his meeting with Pope St John Paul II.

He met him in Rome, when he was at the Redemporist monastery there and the Pope came to visit the parish. It was a formal occasion. The Redemptorists all lined up to greet the Pope. Having been told to kneel and kiss the Holy Father's ring, he decided to refuse - 'the Devil got into me', he says - and simply shook the Pope's hand. You only have to listen to the first minute or two to get the anecdote.

It reminds me of my meeting with Cardinal Hume. I was on the Ampleforth Pilgrimage to Lourdes, it was 1990 and I was 18. Cardinal Hume happened to be in Lourdes at the same time, with the Westminster Diocese Pilgrimage, and because of his connection with Ampleforth (he'd been Abbot before going to Westminster) he came to greet us. It was a formal occasion. We all lined up in a large semi-circle and he worked down the line shaking everyone's hand. I was some way down the line and watched this happening. Somehow the Devil - or something - got into me. I was a bit of a rebel, a non-conformist. When my turn came I broke the convention. I took his hand and kissed his ring.

The shattering of the convention was like a bolt of electricity. He sprang away from me as though I had bitten him.

If our Redemptorist priest heard this, he might object that I was just following a different convention, not overturning a convention. But as a matter of fact, although I was aware of the old custom, I had never experienced a milieu in which it was done. What the Redemptorist did, on the other hand, was to abandon a specifically Catholic and religious custom for the universal, secular convention. It was the action of a conventional person who gravitates to the most powerful, widespread convention, who can't cope with maintaining the counter-cultural conventions of the Church against those of the World.

So yes, I was young and foolish: I broke the convention. The Redemptorist claims, next, in the sermon, that Our Lord broke convention when handed the scroll in the synagogue in Caperneum (Luke 4:17): he says Our Lord chose a different passage to one set for the day. This is a fantasy, there is nothing in the text which suggests this. As a matter of fact Our Lord not only worshiped according to the customs of His age, but he kept the Law of Moses perfectly: the only man ever to have done so. When criticised for breaking rules, he never says 'Oh I can't be bothered with the Law of Moses, that's old hat, you need to chill out,' no, he explains that what he had done had not in fact infringed it.

Bishop Malcolm McMahon - now Archbishop of Liverpool - at an LMS Priest Training Conference
So this Redemporist and I can't comfort ourselves with Our Lord's example. He may be on safer ground claiming the precedent set by Pope Francis, but it's bit risky imitating the spontaneous gestures of the Supreme Pontiff. And suggesting that Pope Francis violated a convention by not using the Popemobile is stretching the concept to breaking point. The Popemobile was not exactly a venerable custom.

Seeing Our Lord as a convention-breaker is very tempting, because convention-breaking is what we are all supposed to be doing all the time, but it is the wrong hermeneutic. When He touched the bier carrying the dead Son of the Widow of Naim (Luke 7:14) the onlookers would have thought that he would incur ritual impurity. It wasn't forbidden, some people had to deal with dead bodies, impurity wasn't permanent, but the Pharisees would have done their best to avoid doing it. But for Our Lord it was different: His touch purified, it raised the dead to life. Similarly, when he healed the Man with a Withered Hand on a Sabbath (Luke 6:6-11), it might have looked as though he was working and so breaking the Sabbath, but when Christ cures it is a symbol of the giving of spiritual life, and saving from death was always permitted on the Sabbath.

No, the Redemptorist and I have to think of some other justification, if any. We need to think about what breaking these conventions meant in our specific cases. By stepping outside the expected behaviour, we were making a statement. And the Redemptorist priest needs to be careful about praising the breaking of conventions, because he and I were making quite opposite statements when we broke the respective conventions, the one being followed by everyone else apart from us.

What does it mean to refuse to kiss the Pope's ring? I mean, to do that back in the days, perhaps twenty years ago or more, when attempts were still being made to insist on it at these occasions. It was a deliberate act of disrespect for the man and his office. It was a claim to equality of dignity, an equality of dignity which is only possible by pulling the Pope down to your own level.

Bishop Terence Drainey at the LMS York Pilgrimage 2012
What did it mean for me to insist on kissing the Cardinal's ring? It was a rebellion against the pretense of equality of dignity in which the Cardinal was taking part. No one really thought that he wasn't a great man with a great office: there we were, all terribly honoured to meet him, even momentarily. But the convention of kissing a bishop's or a cardinal's ring was still enough in our consciousness that a statement could be made by pointedly eschewing it: a statement saying: Let's pretend we'll all on a level, that there is nothing special about being a cardinal. We could get a little thrill through the double-think: he's a cardinal and yet he's not behaving like one.

As a young man - yes, I was young and foolish - I had a particular aversion to this kind of pretense. I wanted to prick the bubble of pompous nonsense. I thought it was dishonest. I might take a more nuanced view today. But at the time Cardinal Hume's reaction rather confirmed my feeling that we were being asked to maintain some kind of Emperor's New Clothes illusion. Why did he mind so much if I wanted to kiss his ring, a gesture of respect for his office? Presumably because it disturbed the impression he was eager to create, of relaxed informality in front of young people. Young people who were, in fact, not relaxed at all, but completely in awe of him - with the exception, I suppose, of the foolish youth who was cocky enough to break the convention.

Abbot Stonham of Belmont at the LMS Holywell Pilgrimage 2014
The statement I made was that I respected his office, and the values it stood for, even in spite of his wishes. Cardinal Hume did not abolish the office, or the power that went with it; the men of his generation too often wanted the power without the conventions which had previously served to limit the power, like the conventions which surrounded a Medieval monarch, before the age of Absolutism. It was necessary, and indeed it remains necessary, to reassert the old conventions, the expectations of respect for tradition, respect for the Faith, respect for the Church's law, and come to that respect for God, while not denying the power, because without those conventions the power can be used, and often has been used, arbitrarily.

To reassert those traditional expectations and conventions today, we have flout the expectations and conventions which have replaced them. We have to be rebels in the cause of restoration. This is not an unprecedented situation by any means, but it confuses the liberals no end.

2010 10 23_7919
Archbishop Bernard Longley at the LMS Oxford Pilgrimage 2010

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