Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pilgrimage to Holywell Sunday 5th July

High Mass at 2:30pm.
St Winefride's Church, Holywell CH8 7PL: click for a map.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court and the Call of the Ghetto

I've been reading a few posts about the infinitly depressing US Supreme Court decision that, contrary to what anyone would have thought until five minutes ago, the US Constitution guarantees the right of men to pretend to marry other men, and women women.

A couple of them (Rod Dreher and Steve Skojec) mention the 'Benedict Option': as Dreher expresses it, this takes inspiration from St Benedict of Nursia's monastic vision.

'learning how to resist, in community, in a culture that sees us orthodox Christians as enemies.'

Skojek talks moving out of the cities and about living off the land.

I can understand the reaction, but we need to remember the differences between our situation and St Benedict's. St Benedict lived at a time when the power of the state was at an extremely low ebb. We live our lives during a time in which the reverse is the case. Moving to the countryside is going to make no difference at all. If social services are going to enforce gender theory onto homeschoolers, they'll do it in the countryside just as much as the towns.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Juventutem London Mass this Friday

In St Mary Moorfields, Friday 26th June 2015, at 7:30pm. High Mass to be celebrated by Canon Amaury Montjean ICKSP; all welcome.

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What is a 'contraceptive mentality'?

A recent article in The Telegraph shines a new light on Natural Family Planning ('NFP'): a smart-phone application means couples can replace periodic abstinence with periodic use of a condom, which will have no effect on the accuracy of the method, since this is based entirely on temperature. (This is not the case for the currently standard 'Billings' version of NFP.)

Couples adopting this approach will avoid the many hideous, and occasionally life-threatening (yes, thrombosis can kill you) side-effects of other methods of contraception. Since many methods can (and some invariably do) cause early abortions, it may be morally preferable as well, though this consideration won't be a motivating one for many secular couples.

I think that proponents of NFP would agree, however, that, if you take away the element of self-restraint and abstinence, a lot of what they say about the spiritual and relationship benefits of NFP would no longer apply. The stuff about being in tune with your body is still there, but while this is an appealing idea, it doesn't have any very obvious connection with Catholic spirituality. You're not a better person because you are 'in touch with your body'.

I don't know if this NFP app will take off, but it raises the question of the 'contraceptive mentality', to which, as a Catholic ethicist, I'd dearly love to give a proper definition. If this phrase means anything, it must apply to the couples supplementing fertility awareness with condoms.

An article here argues that the 'contraceptive mentality' idea is a 'myth'. It points out correctly (more or less) that the intrinsically wrong contraceptive act identified by Catholic ethics has two components: an intention to perform a complete sexual act, and an intention to frustrate that act's potential for procreation. Used in the normal way, without condoms, NFP doesn't make room for this: there are no sexual acts whose fertility is impeded, only ones which weren't fertile in the first place. But that is exactly why we need a vaguer phrase like 'contraceptive mentality' to cover the clearly wrongful use of NFP to implement an intention, for example, not to have any children at all within marriage. This intention, if present at the time of the marriage ceremony, invalidates the marriage itself. It is rather different if the couple choose not to consummate the marriage; but if there are sexual acts, there is a need for them to be 'open to life' in a sense which goes beyond the requirement not to engage in contraceptive acts. The question is, what does this mean?

What is wrong with a married couple's intention, however implemented, not to have any children (while still having sex) is that it is contrary to the vocation of marriage. It would be like a priest who decides never to celebrate Mass. Married couples are called to have children. It may be that they can't have any, physically; it may be that they discover that pregnancy would be dangerous to the wife's health after marriage. But it remains the nature of the marital state that it is ordered to procreation.

The same would go for couples who use NFP to limit their family size in an unreasonable way. I'm not going to define what would be unreasonable, but just to take it for granted that there is such a thing, since everyone agrees (or should) that the just use of NFP requires 'reasons'. If couples limit the number of children unreasonably, then they are offending against the nature of their vocation.

This, I would suggest, is what it is to have a 'contraceptive mentality'. It is a mentality which is typically accompanied by contraceptive acts, but can also be put into practice using NFP. It is an attitude not open to life in accordance with the marital vocation, excluding children altogether or to an unreasonable degree.

It would follow from what I have said that it would not apply to non-married couples. Although contracepted fornication or adultery is worse than non-contracepted fornication or adultery, since the act has been deformed in an additional way, a blanket use of NFP would not be wrong, since the couple are not under an obligation to partake of the marital vocation in this way. On the other hand, they are attacking marriage in another way: from the outside, at it were.

Something I've skirted round here is continence in marriage: a decision not to engage in sex at all, either from the start, or at some time later, or temporarily, for a longer or shorter period of time. This finds a place in the history of Catholic spirituality. The logical conclusion of the practice is when a married couple agree to give up their marital rights in order to join monasteries. I think this case makes sense of the whole practice: it is the exchange of one vocation for another. Since the vocation to the religious life is the higher vocation, the exchange is a reasonable one, even if not formalised by public vows, and even if just a temporary arrangement to 'make time for prayer'.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Filial Appeal

(Reposted: now over 270,000 signatures)
Read it. Sign it. Spread the word. (Click on the image.)

Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of His Father both by the testimony of His life and the power of His words, continually fulfills His prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith (sensu fidei) and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.
Lumen Gentium, 35

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Loftus: involuntary untruths or wilful lies?

What are we to make of this statement from the latest column (19 June 2015) by Mgr Basil Loftus in The Catholic Times?

The very words of the sacrament of baptism have changed - in the early Church baptism was not with a Trinitarian formula, but "In the name of Jesus".

It is scarcely conceivable that Loftus could be ignorant of the final two verses of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19-20)

19 Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.

If he knows it, however, his statement would appear to be a barefaced lie.

Loftus never says anything for which he could not offer some defence, however specious. In this case it is the fact that the phrase 'baptised in the name of Jesus' appears several times in Acts, eg 2:38.

But such a defence would carry no real weight. It makes no sense to say that Acts represents the practice of 'the early Church' whereas Matthew does not.

1. There is no scholarly consensus that Luke/ Acts is earlier than Matthew; quite the reverse.

2. The term 'early Church' covers the first centuries, when Matthew would in any case have been known. Matthew was also known in the 'primitive Church', which refers to the very earliest period and which Loftus may have in mind, even if it had been a bit later than Luke / Acts. The very existence of Matthew rules out the claim that the Trinitarian formula not not used at that time.

3. The apparent conflict between Matthew and Luke is easily understood on the supposition, agreed by a wide range of scholars, that 'baptism in the name of Jesus' does not exclude the use of the Trinitarian formula, but merely distinguishes Chrisitian baptism from the 'Baptism of John' (John the Baptist), which is explicitly contrasted with it in Acts 19:1-5.

As usual, Loftus would have something to say if accused of bad faith. But what he would have to say, as I have reconstructed it for him, is itself subject to accusations of bad faith. He knows perfectly well that the Church has never accepted the idea that baptism without the Trinitarian formula would be valid, and has a perfectly reasonable way of understanding the Acts references to 'baptism in the name of Jesus' in accord with this. To take up the contrary view is to take up heresy.

Loftus is deliberately leading his readers up the garden path on this subject, without addressing the real teaching of the Church or the arguments for that teaching. This is dishonest, and worse than dishonest. It is a sin against Faith, if conscious. And humanly speaking, how could it not be conscious?

This is one sentence in this column. I could have written as much or more about each of about a dozen other sentences, in which he most notably denies 1 Cor 11:29, and (more or less) calls it a human obstacle placed on Christ's mercy. But we've heard this one before, and life is short.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

First High Mass of Fr Ian Verrier FSSP in Spanish Place, Sat 20th June

A High Mass of Requiem in St James'
From the FSSP.

Saturday 20 June, 11:00AM: First Solemn High Mass in England of newly ordained Fr Ian Verrier, FSSP at St James Church, Spanish Place, 22 George Street, London W1U 3QY. 

Byrd's Mass for Four Voices
With Clergy from the FSSP

Born in Birmingham in 1982, Fr Verrier grew up as an Anglican and read Music at Manchester University. After his conversion, he taught Music in a boarding school and entered our American seminary in 2008. Please come and give thanks to God for yet a new priest, who will begin his ministry in Reading this summer.

Refreshments and First Blessings in church basement after Mass. 
Plenary indulgence granted to those attending the Mass. All welcome. 

Read interview of then-Seminarian Verrier here: 
http://thepathlesstaken7.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/i-fell-in-love-with-latin-mass.html by Mary O'Regan.
Info: www.facebook.com/fssp.england

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Congratulations Sir James MacMillan!

IMG_8821Knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours, Sir James MacMillan is a Patron of the Latin Mass Society.

Our heartfelt congratulations for this much-deserved honour. He was made a CBE in 2004.

Sir James is a composer of international reputation, and his passion for Catholic sacred music is reflected in his tireless work in his own parish in Glasgow. He is an inspiration for all Catholic musicians.

This photograph shows him speaking to a meeting of the Gregorian Chant Network, an umbrella group for chant choirs sponsored by the Latin Mass Society.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Anthea Craigmyle Open Studio, 19-21 June

My annual plug for my mother's informal exhibition over the weekend on the Chiswick Mall. If you are passing, there are several artists down there who show (and sell) their work in their own homes. It's a lovely place to stroll along the river and see some contemporary artists at work. There's usually someone selling icecream.

See Anthea Craigmyle's website here.

Tobit and the fish.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

LMS Day of Recollection at St Edmund's College, Ware, Sat 18th July


To be held in Pugin's beautiful chapel in St Edmund's College, Ware, Hertfordshire, the day starts at 11.00am with a talk by Rev. Dr M.P.F. Cullinan. Solemn High Mass (Votive of Our Lady) will be celebrated at 12 noon and the Day concludes with Solemn Vespers and Benediction at 3.30pm.

The Day of Recollection is open to members and non-members. To book your place, please see details on our website.

Click for a map of the venue.


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Friday, June 12, 2015

Worries about Robert Spencer on Islam

The celebrant blesses the deacon in preparation for the latter's proclamation of the Gospel
I've been reading some of the Catholic, Robert Spencer's books on Islam: The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran, The Truth About Muhammed, Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics. (There are lots more.) The books are very informative, and Spencer has put himself on the line to say what is true, as he sees it, about a subject more afflicted by ferociously enforced taboos than any other. The back of one them informs us that he 'lives in a secure, undisclosed location'. But this post is about reservations I have about his approach.

One thing which should alert us to the problems I am going to discuss is Spencer's involvement, as co-founder of the organising group, the American Freedom Defence Initiative, with the Mohammed cartoon event in Texas at which two Muslims got themselves killed. The event, which offered a prize to the best cartoon of Mohammed and displayed the entries, had a predictable result: a murderous protest by a couple of local Muslims. Since the event was well guarded, it was the Muslims who ended up in the morgue; one of the security detail was also injured. This doesn't reflect well on Islam, but I fail to see the moral justification for making this kind of deliberate provocation. The glorification of free speech, and the carelessness about human life, are both very disturbing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Part-time job available at the Latin Mass Society

St Joseph in his workshop with Jesus and Mary.
We are advertising for a part-time administrative assistant. Essentially it is about data-entry and secretarial tasks, and supervision of volunteers. It is potentially very flexible as to when the hours are worked and could suit all sorts of people.

Here's the blurb, from the website.

We are looking to appoint a part-time Office Assistant. Based in our central London office in Holborn, the successful candidate will be responsible for the administrative work of the LMS. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Doubts about Alice von Hildebrand on the sacredness of women

Mantillas at St David's, Pantasaph, during the St Catherine's Trust Summer School
Regular readers will know that I am just as happy criticising allies as criticising opponents; I think people who are 'on the side of the angels', and those influenced by them, are just as much in need of having their ideas refined in the furnace of reasoned discussion as those who are completely wrong-headed. So in this spirit I wanted to say something about Alice von Hildebrand, who is having an influence, in particular, on discussions of head-coverings for women in church, as I promised when I posted a video about mantillas in which her views (though not her name) are mentioned.

Not long ago I read her short book Man and Woman: A Divine Invention, where these topics are discussed. She is in favour - as am I - of head coverings for ladies in church, and she appears to give a theoretical basis for the practice which bypasses the embarrassing (to many) stuff in St Paul about women being 'under authority', which he tells us is a central symbolic meaning of the veil (1 Cor. 11:10).

This may seem convenient, but in fact it is problematic, since she is constructing a theology of the complementarity of the sexes and St Paul's treatment is the treatment of complementarity in sacred Scripture. Furthermore, she provides her readers with no resources to deal with St Paul's difficult passages. Instead, bypassing the issue of authority, she wants to talk about superiority, and tells her readers that women are superior to men ('this superiority is mostly a moral one', p73).

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Corpus Christi in Oxford


I don't think anyone could accuse Oxford's Catholics of belittling the feast of Corpus Christi. On the Thursday, there were two Traditional High Masses, and on the Sunday there was the long-standing annual Blessed Sacrament Procession through the streets of central Oxford.


I have photos here of only one event, the High Mass before the Blessed Sacrament Exposed at SS Gregory and Augustine's in North Oxford, where I had the privilege of singing. This included a procession around the grounds and Benediction. Fr John Saward, the celebrant and Priest in Charge of the parish, was assisted by the parish's permanent deacon, as subdeacon, a Benedictine student, as deacon, and also by another priest, Fr Gabriel Diaz.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Mass at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris


Pilgrims on the chapters from England and Wales, and from Ireland, travel to Paris the afternoon before the early-morning start of the Chartres Pilgrimage. This year we got together for Mass that evening, in the Irish Cultural Centre: the old Irish Seminary in Paris.


The chapel is lovely. Sadly the original Altar has been rendered unusable; the step has been cut away to make room behind the 'forward' Altar. Nonetheless, we had a very nice Low Mass there before heading off to local eateries.


Here are the Irish pilgrims. For reasons of inscrutable French organisation, we camp with the other non-French groups but don't walk anywhere near them, so it was good to meet up.


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Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Economist on the man crisis

A short time ago The Economist reported on the OECD report on the 'man crisis': a statistical report on how boys are falling behind in school, women outnumber men at University, and so on, which I blogged about here. Clearly stimulated by this, the current issue's cover story is a five-part 'essay' (an odd genre for The Economist) on men, entitled 'Manhood', with an accompanying Leading Article.

It's not as enlightening as one might hope; it is anecdotal and rather meandering. It has some amusing little titbits, like this:

Some liberal Scandinavian men find their new roles demoralising. Karl Ove Knausgaard, a Norwegian novelist married to a Swede, writes of walking “around Stockholm’s streets, modern and feminised, with a furious 19th-century man inside me”.

But the overall tone and conclusion have interest as an insight into how a deeply 'establishment' and conventional publication, with a socially and economically liberal angle, sees the problem. (The same issue contains a ferociously anti-Catholic diatribe about abortion in Latin America; this certainly isn't part of a socially conservative echo-chamber.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Photos from Chartres

I was on the Chartres Pilgrimage this year; here are some photos taken by John Aron; used with permission. My own camera packed up before the pilgrimage started!

I was delighted to see Bishop Athanasius Schneider who followed the pilgrimage and walked with the pilgrims at certain points. He celebrated Mass on the second day.

James Bogle, President of the FIUV, is a long-term leader of the British contingent.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Prof. de Mattei to give two talks in London: July 10th and 11th

Last year's High Mass of Requiem for Michael Davies, in St Mary Moorfields, London,
celebrated by Fr Anthony Conlon

On Friday 10th July, the Michael Davies Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Prof Roberto de Mattei;

on Saturday 11th, Prof de Mattei will address the LMS Annual General Meeting.

Roberto de Mattei is a professor of history based in Rome, increasingly well known in Traditional Catholic circles, very much worth hearing on the issues of the day.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Corpus Christ Procession in London

It is good to see a public procession in London for Corpus Christi, and in the presence of the Cardinal. Traditionally these processions have often taken place on the Sunday following the feast. I hope this is a great success.

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