Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Prayer for the Queen in The Tablet

Last weekend a certain Fr David Clemens criticised the Bishops of England and Wales over their mandating a prayer for the Queen to mark he 90th Birthday in a letter to The Tablet. This weekend The Tablet published a whole sheaf of responses, including one from me. The other published letters focused on the importance of praying for the head of state; my interest was with the liturgical aspect of the question. Here is my letter.

I was amused by Fr David Clemens' description (Letters, 23rd April) of the 'Prayer for the Queen' mandated by the Bishops' Conference for Masses taking place on 11-12th June, as 'a quasi-Protestant prayer for the Queen that would not be unfamiliar to Edward or Elizabeth Tudor.'

The prayer the Bishops are asking parishes to use is a translation of the 'Domine salvum fac' ('salvam fac' for a female monarch), which originated in medieval France. It was used in the coronation of King Francis I in 1515, and in time gained a stable place at the end of the 'principal Mass on a Sunday' in countries with Catholic monarchs, but it has also been adapted to petition for the good estate of republics ('Domine salvum fac rem publicam'). It has been set to music by many Catholic composers, such as Lully, Charpentier, and Gounod.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Is Patrarchy a punishment for sin?

Chaucer's Wife of Bath. What is it
all women desire?
In my last post I considered the claim that all the many Scriptural texts saying that wives should be subordinate to their husbands should be read in light of Ephesians 5:21's reference to the 'mutual submission' of Christians. Here I want to address another argument, based on Genesis 3:16, or rather the second half of it. It is part of the curse of God on Eve after the Fall (King James Version):

your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.

The curse implies that the harmonious relationship between husband and wife, which was Adam and Eve's in Eden, will be disrupted by sin.

Pope St John Paul II suggests, or perhaps 'hints' would be a better word, that the ruling of the husband over the wife which this verse speaks of, can be seen as a part of the consequences of the Fall which can be seen as reversed in the Christian dispensation. Mulieres dignitatem 11:

Mary means, in a sense, a going beyond the limit spoken of in the Book of Genesis (3: 16) and a return to that "beginning" in which one finds the "woman" as she was intended to be in creation, and therefore in the eternal mind of God: in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary is "the new beginning" of the dignity and vocation of women, of each and every woman.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mutual submission of spouses: coherent, Pauline, true?


Among other issues raised by Pope Francis' Exhortation Amoris laetitia is the question of family life and the complementarity of the sexes. As I have pointed out on this blog, Pope Francis seems to have a relatively robust notion of the specialisation of gender roles, a subject Pope St John Paul II was less willing to broach. I have noted on this blog the strange position of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which brings up complementarity when discussing homosexual relationships. These lack 'genuine complementarity', the Catechism tells us, and therefore lack something essential to marriage. Something so essential, in fact, that its own discussion of marriage doesn't even mention it. D'oh.

Pope Francis nevertheless pays lip-service to feminism, and says that 'patriarchy', whatever he means by that, is wrong. More substantially, in section 154 he repeats in summary form the argument made by Pope St John Paul II in his 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieres dignitatem 24, that St Paul in Ephesians wants each spouse to submit to the other (Pope Francis refers in fact to a 'Catechesis' John Paul II gave in 1982, but the argument is the same). This is something, on the face of it, which is problematic in Amoris laetitia, not because it contradicts Pope St John Paul II, but because it agrees with him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

That Beattie petition

Prof Tina Beattie and some rather obscure others have called on the Polish Bishops to rethink their support for a blanket ban on abortion in Poland.

It raises the question of whether a blanket ban on abortion really is the goal of Catholic political advocacy. After all, it is not necessarily wise to seek the sanction of the civil law against all immoral actions: St Augustine famously argued for the toleration of prostitution.

However, in this case, while the question of when and in exactly what form it should be proposed practically to ban abortion, there is no real question that the civil law should fail to protect the innocent. If the law does not protect the lives of children, then what is it for?

I have written something at greater length on this on my Philosophy blog; here is an 'executive summary'.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pray for your lapsed family members

A few years ago the LMS set up the Sodality of St Augustine, whose members pray for each other's lapsed friends and relations.

A member of the Sodality is initiating a monthly public rosary before the Blessed Sacrament in St Bede's, Clapham Park. I hope this might inspire others to do the same.

The dates for this Rosary: Thursday May 5th - (Ascension Day); Thursday June 2nd; July 14th. It will start at 11:30am. There is usually an EF Low Mass at 12:15pm in the Lady Chapel.
To join the Sodality, all you have to do is email the LMS to add your name:
There is no membership fee. Members undertake to say the Sodality prayer each day - see below.

From the website:
The purpose of the Sodality is to unite the prayers of members for the conversion of those dear to them. There can be few Catholics today who do not have family members or close friends who have either lapsed from the practice of the Faith, or never had it; it is a particular source of grief when parents see children and grandchildren living without the support of the Sacraments. We take heart from the example of St Augustine, converted at last by the prayers and tears of his mother St Monica, and wish to demonstrate our fellowship with others in the same position, by praying not only for our own dear ones, but for those of others who will do the same for ours.

The Sodality takes advantage of three principles of Catholic prayer:

Conference 14th May: reminder

LMS One-Day Conference - Saturday, 14 May 2016

Edmund AdamusFr Serafino
Lanzetta FI
John SmeatonPrior Cassian
Folsom of Norcia
Dr Joseph Shaw

This is the third bi-ennial One-Day Conference organised by the Latin Mass Society, the theme of which is 'The Family'.

VENUE: Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, London W1C 2DJ [map]
(opposite BHS, less than 5 minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus)
Doors open at 10.30am and the conference is expected to end around 5.00pm

Book here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Is UKIP harbouring anti-Catholics?

UKIP in Scotland has been accused, by Dr Jonathan Stanley, a former party official, of trying to hoover up sectarian votes by indulging in anti-Catholic rhetoric, The Scottish Catholic Observer The Tablet report. They refer to tweets by Caroline Santos, a candidate for the Holyrood elections which take place in May, for the South of Scotland.

I thought I'd have a look myself. Ms Santos has not deleted her tweets, which is interesting in itself, and I can't say I like the look what she says. I should add, of course, that UKIP is not the only party with activists, and even candidates for elected office, with dubious views. I'm interested in this because the target is the Catholic Faith.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

God bless Michael Voris

I've had my differences with Michael Voris (and here), but never doubted his zeal and sincerity. The idea that the repented sins of his past life should cause one to question either zeal or sincerity is patently ludicrous, from a Catholic standpoint, and like pretty well everyone in the Catholic online community I am very impressed by his response, which can be seen here.

Liberals have a very different line, as their attacks on Kim Davis indicated not long ago. For anyone who has forgotten, Kim Davis was the elected County Clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She is a 'born again' Christian, and liberals thought they could undermine her witness to her faith by pointing at her former life - she'd been married four times. On so many levels, So what? What difference does it make to the truth or falsity of what she says? What difference does it make to the sincerity of her faith? What difference does it even make to whether she is assessed as a good person?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Why the 'Old Mass' disturbs a conformist age: in the Catholic Herald

I have a feature article in this weekend's Catholic Herald. It's not online, you'll have to buy a copy to read it. Here's an extract.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ascension and Bach: another lost opportunity

J.S. Bach
Another meeting of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and another missed opportunity to restore Ascension, along with Epiphany and Corpus Christi, to the days they have occupied for umpteen centuries, the days they are celebrated in St Peter's in Rome, and the days they are celebrated even by many non-Catholic Christians. And to the days they are celebrated in the Extroardinary Form of the Roman Rite.

On Sunday 8th May, Oxford Bach Soloists are doing something rather fun: they are singing the two Cantatas written by J.S. Bach for the Sunday after Ascension. Bach wrote masses of cantatas for liturgical use, and they correspond to the liturgical calendar, with references to the readings and proper prayers. He did this for the German Lutherans, and the German Lutherans had essentially the same calendar, the same readings, and even many of the same prayers, as the ancient Latin Missal. The same is true of the Book of Common Prayer, where, with the odd theological tweak, you'll see Cranmer's translations of ancient Latin collects on the very same days as they are used in the Extraordinary Form.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Amoris laetitia on gender roles and parenting

Don't be too indulgent to them, says Pope Francis. Children at the Family Retreat.
Tim Stanley has written an article in the Telegraph about how Pope Francis has turned out, in Amoris laetitia, to be something of a social conservative, highlighting a passage I drew attention to on this blog about the handing on of traditions, and the need for continuity and a sense of history. I'd like to take this idea further, on the specific issue of the kind of family the Holy Father wants to foster.

Pope Francis says he is in favour of Feminism and against Patriarchy, but liberal readers may beg to differ, having rather different ideas about what those terms mean. Pope Francis writes:
54. There are those who believe that many of today’s problems have arisen because of feminine emancipation. This argument, however, is not valid, “it is false, untrue, a form of male chauvinism”. The equal dignity of men and women makes us rejoice to see old forms of discrimination disappear, and within families there is a growing reciprocity. 

The key word here is 'recoprocity': equal dignity does not, for Pope Francis, mean 'interchangable in function', it means equal in dignity, with distinct functions. And so he goes on - yes, I'm afraid so - to affirm traditional gender roles and traditional parenting.

You see, men and women just aren't the same:
136. Men and women, young people and adults, communicate differently. They speak different languages and they act in different ways.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Big Questions on YouTube

As predicted, Sunday's TV debate now appears on YouTube for the benefit of non-UK based readers.

I didn't say anything in the first of the three discussions (about the right to privacy). Here's the second of the three: 'Does the Vatican need to give more power to women?' Caroline Farrow kicks off the discussion; I come in later, in response to something said by a lady from a Catholic Women's Ordination group called Miriam, who was actually invited by the presenter to interrupt Caroline. Miriam's intervention starts at 8 minutes 20 seconds.

The next clip shows the last of the three topics: 'Does God care what you wear?' I appear on this 11 minutes in; Caroline Farrow spoke from 7 minutes 50 seconds.

I've been on BBC radio three times - twice on the local Oxford station, and once with Edward Stourton - and yesterday morning's appearance on The Big Questions was my first appearance on the Telly, but it conformed to my expectations.

Ever since I can remember, left-wing and liberal points have had the biggest applause on BBC debate shows. On The Big Questions, it would seem that they are the only ones which get any applause at all. (Although I think I raised a bit of laugh once or twice.) I don't know how they select their audience, but it is clearly not the same way they select the panel. They wanted to get conservative Catholic voices on the show, it wasn't an accident, and if Caroline Farrow and I had to work harder than other panellists to make our points, at least we were able to contribute. There was just very little sympathy for us - or to the rather pleasant Sikhs, or the very reasonable Muslim lady - on the back benches. This isn't rocket-science: every religious or culturally conservative point being made on the BBC's airtime is made to a backdrop of disapproval.

It makes us come across as somewhat embattled, but then again I suppose we are a minority voice in 21st century Britain, and it is better to be heard in this way, than not at all. The trick is to use the limited band-width accorded to us to be say something striking and forceful, without allowing ourselves to be portrayed as nutters.

That lawyer chap, Mark Stephens, can be as aggressive as he likes, because he is reassuring the studio audience their prejudices need not be disturbed. It is amazing, even more with the cool light of hindsight, to see how the mention of women covering their heads in church actually got me shouted down.

This, or something else I said, even got me a classic social-media death-threat. Judging by his twitter-feed, he is on the political right. There is actually no indication what exactly he objected to.


We'll see if I get asked back!

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

See me on The Big Questions

You can see me talk about two of the three topics discussed on this morning's 'The Big Questions' on BBC 1, presented by Nicky Campbell,

on IPlayer here, if you are in the UK. The topics to which I contribute start at 25 minutes in.

(Chances are it'll be on YouTube pretty soon for an international audience.)

The topics were: in light of Amoris laetitia, should women have more power in the Catholic Church? and, Does God care what you wear?

I enjoy a bit of rough and tumble in debate, and I'm used to it. Having reviewed the footage, I'm reasonably pleased that I got certain points across, and I think my contributions made for interesting TV. What does strike me, on reviewing it, was the enormous amount of time allowed to the advocate for women's ordination in the Catholic Church: it looks more like a party political broadcast than a contribution to a debate programme.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pope Francis the Traditionalist

The Child Jesus among the Doctors of the Law: the Fifth Joyful Mystery, from Aylesford.
Truly, all Catholics are Traditionalists: to be Catholic is to respect tradition, to want to see tradition strengthened rather than cast aside. A proper Catholic attitude to the traditions of the Faith, whether it be Tradition as a channel of Revelation, or Apostolic and Ecclesial traditions, inevitably spills over into a respect for human traditions, even if these need to be evaluated more carefully. Pope Francis eloquently expresses his own concern for tradition in this passage of Amoris laetitia, starting from a discussion of the elderly.

192. ...Their words, their affection or simply their presence help children to realize that history did not begin with them, that they are now part of an ageold pilgrimage and that they need to respect all that came before them. Those who would break all ties with the past will surely find it difficult to build stable relationships and to realize that reality is bigger than they are. “Attention to the elderly makes the difference in a society. Does a society show concern for the elderly? Does it make room for the elderly? Such a society will move forward if it respects the wisdom of the elderly”.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The problem of divorce in the first place

The Visitation. From the Rosary Walk at Aylesford Priory.
I, like many people, have been rather focused on the question of what happens after the divorce of a Catholic couple. There is a danger of allowing a very dubious liberal assumption to go unchallenged: that marital breakdown 'just happens', and when it happens it is by definition irreparable.

Catholics are not allowed to walk out on their spouses whenever they fancy. Knowing that this is the case puts one in a different frame of mind in dealing with marital problems. If this truth is not taught and understood, Catholic spouses, and their children, are exposed to the horrible problems of divorce as practiced in the secular world.

If you don't have a firm grip on the obligations of marriage, the obligation to maintain a common life - not walk out - the contribution of the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage is to make life more difficult, without any compensation. But that is exactly the situation we have. Marriage is indissoluble, we are told, but in practice the Church places no constraint on separation. In theory, the Church condemns separation except for a limited number of very grave causes; in theory, Catholics with marital difficulties should go to their bishop before seeking legal separation or divorce, to determine the justice of such a move. But no one wants to call unjust separation and divorce, and marital abandonment, what it is: a grave sin.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New study on the Lectionary: old and new

Mathew Hazell's Index Lectionem is a comprehensive comparison of the old and new Lectionaries. It is not exactly bedtime reading - it is a huge table. But the contents are fascinating. Buy it here.

Peter Kwasniewski notes in the Introduction:

John 19:25–27: 'Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.'

In the older form of the Mass, this Gospel is read each year for the Seven Sorrows of the BVM (September 15), the Commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of the BVM (Friday after Passion Sunday), the Immaculate Heart of the BVM (August 22), the Common of Our Lady on Saturdays (fourth formulary), and feasts celebrated in particular places, e.g., Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces (May 8). A Catholic frequenting the usus antiquior would hear this Gospel several times a year. At an Ordinary Form Mass, he is likely, at best, to hear these verses only once, in passing, on Good Friday, since all other uses of it are optional and buried among numerous options 
What the table looks like. This page illustrates how the texts,
here from Daniel, chosen by each lectionary differ.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Skojec and Burke on the significance of Amoris Laetitia

Ecce sacerdos magnus: Cardinal Burke enters St James', Spanish Place, to confer the
sacrament of Confirmation last November, in a service organised by the Latin Mass Society.
It is hardly surprising that the Exhortation Amoris laetitia has provoked a range of responses, but I was struck by the unhappiness expressed by Steve Skojec on One Peter Five about the response of Cardinal Burke - Skojec expressed great disapointment that it was not more strongly-worded. Skojec would perhaps have the same thing to say about the response of the British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, of the canonist Edward Peters, and of my own response. These, as a group, certainly contrast with Skojec's response, the responses of Antonio Socci and of Prof de Mattei published on Rorate Caeli, the response of Voice of the Family, and many others from a Traditional Catholic or conservative perspective, as they do with the response of avowed liberals. Readers can populate the categories with further examples for themselves.

The liberals are telling us that the Communion for the divorced and remarried is now allowed.

The group I will call Skojec's, for want of a better label, is telling us that the Exhortation is a 'disaster' because the liberal reading is a natural one.

What Cardinal Burke and his group are saying is that, if you look carefully at the document, and in particular at the key passages the liberals appeal to, it turns out that it makes no attempt to establish new teaching, or even make formal changes to discipline, for example by changing Canon Law.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Some Spring and Summer events

Details are being confirmed for a number of Latin Mass Society events, so here is a little reminder. Click on the links for more information. Click on the photos for more photos - from previous years.

30 April 2016 (Saturday) LMS Pilgrimage to York

In honour of St Margaret Clitherow, one the LMS' two patron saints. Mass in the York Oratory, and a procession past her house to her place of execution, and back for Benediction.


14 May 2016 (Saturday) LMS One-Day Conference on the Family

With Fr Serafino Lanzetta, John Smeaton, Edmund Adamus, Prior Cassian Folsom of Norcia, and Joseph Shaw, an opportunity to reflect on the Family and the Church in light of Amoris laetitia. Tickets can be purchased on the day, but booking in advance encouraged, and essential if you want to get lunch in the venue.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Amoris laetitia: a preliminary conclusion

High Mass of Requiem at the LMS Priest Training Conference, Prior Park.
I've done a series of posts about the Exhortation now, focusing on particular passages. I must confess that it has not conformed to my expectations, and I suspect those of many, if not most, people. I had been expecting a more explicit addressing of the pastoral issues which have been so discussed in the last two years or so, with some practical guidance for priests, for example, about offering Holy Communion to couples in illicit unions. Instead, it has offered us a lot of discussion at a slightly more abstract level, and explicitly refused to make new rules, instead drawing our attention to a number of relevant factors, without telling us how to weigh those factors against each other.

It was predictable that different people would point to different passages and claim victory for different views. However, Pope Francis has deprived liberals (and depressed conservatives) of any passages (at least, which I have as yet got into focus) which say simply and clearly even that pastoral practice should change in a particular direction. The other thing he had not done is what we had at the end of the last Synod, which was a condemnation of the excesses of both sides of the debate.

As far as these more abstract discussions go, among a lot of other things, some very helpful, we have passages which take seriously some of the arguments made by Cardinal Kasper about the difficult situation some people find themselves in.

Amoris laetitia footnote 329: on the moral necessity of adultery

Gestures pointing towards the reality of Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament. At LMS
priest training conference, Prior Park.
Section 298, with footnote 329, warrants comment. Here is the text.

The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate”. 

Note (329): JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186. In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51)

First, let's see what is being referred to.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Amoris laetitia: that footnote 351

Fr Jean Marie F.SS.R. performs the Ritus Aspersionis. Outside Eastertide, the accompanying
chant is about how we want to washed 'whiter than snow.' In Eastertide, the focus is on the
flow of this cleansing water, from the side of Christ on the Cross.
A passage making the same kind of point as the one I discussed in my last post is embellished with a footnote which has raised eyebrows - and was flagged up in the press conference. It is part of section 305.

Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.

Note (351): In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid. , 47: 1039).

While this might not be as clear as one might like, I don't see what the fuss is about here.

Pope Francis on Fatherhood and authority

Children in Mass at the recent Family Retreat,
Since the Post-Synodal Exhortation Amoris laetitia is not the bombshell many were assuming, confining itself, on the 'hot button' issues, to what appears to be a restatment of the status quo (priests have to assess matters case by case, Holy Communion is not a reward for perfection etc. etc.), here is something which other news sources may neglect, but which was mentioned briefly in the Press Conference: the Holy Father has a surprising amount to say about Fathers. Surprising only because it is a subject, as I have lamented on this blog, which has been somewhat neglected in the Church. So here is a long quotation, sections 175-177. (Mothers are discussed in the immediately preceding sections. I don't include the footnotes, which refer to the sources of the internal quotations: mostly speeches of Pope Francis himself.) The full text is here (h-t Edward Pentin).

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

New Catholic School in Bedfordshire

I've been asked to post this, which seems worth investigating. They are having an Open Day on 23rd April. 

A group of Catholic parents and educators are setting up a school to provide excellent, affordable Catholic education in a rural setting. They aim to start with a small class of Reception / Year 1 pupils in September. You can read more about the initiative here:, or else a recent article about it is here.

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Monday, April 04, 2016

Photos from the Family Retreat


The St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat, with the Gregorian Chant Network Chant Course, both sponsored by the Latin Mass Society, were attended by more than ninety people over Low Sunday Weekend.


The two events took place at Ratcliffe College in Leicestershire. The retreat was led by two young priests from the remote but international Golgotha Monastery on Papa Stronsay in the Orkneys, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, who follow the Rule of St Alphonsus. With the accompaniment of the Traditional Latin Mass, Fr Magdala Maria F.SS.R, who hails from India, and Fr Jean Marie, who was born in Samoa and grew up in Australia, gave talks and led devotions for the families present, who included children of all ages.