Thursday, June 30, 2016

Of your charity...

Please pray for Anthea Craigmyle, who died peacefully, this morning, aged 83.

She was at home, surrounded by her family.

Requiem aeternam do ea Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ea.

I will not be posting for a few days.
Feeding hens.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Traditional Mass and the Laity

The congregation is blessed with incense as the celebrant carries on the prayers and
ceremonies at the Altar. Dominican Rite Mass in Oxford.
Over on Rorate Caeli I am publishing today a Position Paper on the Laity in the Traditional Mass. It is a response to the argument that the Traditional Mass exemplifies 'clericalism', because it doesn't have swarms of lay peope in the sanctuary, reading the lessons, cleansing the sacred vessels, leading prayers and hymns and distributing communion. Read it here.

The key point of the paper is that, while at least some 'special' lay roles in the liturgy are perfectly defensible - serving and singing being the obvious examples - even these don't exist for the sake of the liturgical participation of the people doing them. This is a crucial point. Without it the rest of the congregation may well feel excluded wrongly from graces available only to the parish elite.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Roman Church must stop attacking Eastern Liturgical Traditions

(I'm posting this in light of the recent Synod in Crete.)

But the Roman Church does not attack these traditions, I hear my readers cry! Well, no, but yes.

Here are some extracts from the FIUV Position Paper on the Traditional Mass and the Eastern Churches.

... the Latin reform saw the almost universal abandonment of the Latin tradition of liturgical orientation: the celebration of Mass by a priest facing liturgical east, which meant (outside a small number of exceptional churches), facing the same way as the Faithful. The promotion of this change, which was not discussed by the Second Vatican Council and has never been made obligatory in the Latin Church, has been accompanied by a polemic against the traditional practice, which is disparagingly described as ‘the priest turning his back on the people’. This polemic is not endorsed in the Church’s official documents and has often been criticised, notably by Pope Benedict XVI. It is, nevertheless, very widespread, and is clearly applicable to the tradition of worship ad orientem in the Eastern Rites. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches has felt it necessary to address the issue in the Instruction Il Padre, (107):

Sunday, June 26, 2016

LMS Pilgrimage to Holywell: Sunday 3rd July


Come and visit the only shrine in England and Wales which survived the destruction of the Protestant Revolt: the beautiful healing well of St Winefride in North Wales.

It's not as difficult to get there as you might think! From the south, north, and East there are motorways which take you to Chester, and an excellent main road takes you the rest of the way. Click for a map. There is even a coach from London- see the poster.

Note that unusually among LMS pilgrimages, this event is (as always) on a Sunday. The celebrant is the young English priest of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Fr Scot Tanner.

As well as High Mass there is a procession to the well and veneration of St Winefride's relic.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Now to rebuild Europe

Britain’s departure from the European Union may not mean the end of the EU, but it does mean the end of the EU as the way we, in the UK, perceive our relationship with ‘Europe’. It means that we need to engage with our neighbours in a way not mediated by EU institutions. It is striking how people have been talking about ‘Europe’ as though that simply meant the EU, and how the issue of human rights, connected with a treaty and court entirely separate from the EU and covering a wider set of countries, as though it was the same thing. (David Cameron, remember, wanted to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights. He did not want to withdraw from the EU.) The EU had taken over our imaginative understanding of Europe.

The same people wanted to roll up the UK’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland, our bilateral deal with France over the migrant camp in Calais, and even our relationship with the United Nations and the USA as though all these things were just aspects of our relationship with the EU. Perhaps real life is too complicated for political sloganeering.

For better for or for worse, we will be leaving this particular political structure. What is necessary now is to re-imagine the UK in Europe. And that is something for which UK Catholics have a special vocation.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Guild of St Clare: 'Memory Quilt' day course

Quilt making is not just for Americans; we have a wonderful tradition of quilt making in the UK as well. The Guild of St Clare is making this tradition available to a new generation in an initial class on quilting on 16th July. It is intended for beginners and the less experienced.

Quilting using pieces of left-over fabric is the classic of thrifty sewing; using fabric from old clothes and such-like it is a way of preserving the memory of articles which would otherwise be thrown away and forgotten. This pleasant idea gives us the notion of the 'memory quilt'.

It is also an opportunity to practice sewing-machine and many other sewing skills.

For all the details see here.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The EU Referendum: do you believe in politics?

Looking at the propaganda from both sides over the referendum campaign, I wanted to make a final point about the nature of the question facing the people of the United Kingdom.

There are questions to which we cannot possibly know the answer, and have good reason not to believe the predictions of the campaigners on either side. These include the kind of trade deals the UK might or might not be able to negotiate, the effect of leaving the EU on questions like Northern Ireland's relationship with the Republic of Ireland (which has been sui generis since long before we joined the EU), and the ongoing careers of various politicians.

But there is something more straightforward which has come up again and again in different guises. It is the question of whether we believe in politics.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Interview with the 'New Emangelization'

Matthew Christoff
The other day I had a Skype interview with of the 'New Emangelization Project', about evangelising men and the teaching of the Church on the father as the head of the family.

He has put the audio here - it is more than an hour long! It was an enjoyable conversation and an important topic.

I've referred to the New Emangelization website a few times; it has some useful resources, including a large collection of such interview audios (arraned in alphabetical order). Getting the views of lay Catholics - not all men - and clerics on this subject is a major part of the Emangelization project.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

What to do about Catholic marriages

Pope Francis' words about 'the great majority' of Catholic marriages being invalid have, it appears, been redacted, in the official transcript of his press conference at the Lateran on Thursday, to read 'some' Catholic marriages. Assuming that the Holy Father had a hand in this, or at least allowed it to happen, we should understand it as his second thoughts. He acknowledges, in some sense, that what he said the first time was not right, or not wise. This ought to mean that the people criticising us for disagreeing with the Pope should now eat their words, since he agrees with us in disagreeing with what he said, but I don't suppose many of them will look at it that way.

What we can all agree about is that there is a crisis of marriage. I would also like to draw out one aspect of what the Pope said, or implied, which I also agree with: that the problem is not that people simply don't know, intellectually, what marriage is, but that, deep down, that understanding is not part of them. 'They say it', the Pope says. But in some sense, they don't grasp it. The problem, then, is not, as many people have suggested, a deficiency of marriage preparation. A course of talks could catechise couples; it cannot give them a culture or virtue.

The problem is one of formation, not knowledge. That problem manifests itself not in the nullity of marriages, but in their failure.

Of course good marriage preparation would be a good idea. What would make even more difference would be if the couples made a good confession immediately before the wedding. Getting married in a state of grace is necessary to receiving the graces of the sacrament, in marriage as with Holy Communion and Holy Orders. Perhaps bringing couples to confession should be a priority for marriage preparation. What that means, of course, in the context of couples who are mostly cohabiting before marriage, is that the marriage prep. should not be about catechesis so much as about bringing about a conversion of life. Not patting them on the back and saying, we don't condemn, and anyway you are getting married now, but rather saying: if you are to form a Catholic family, you need to straighten your lives out.

Something else worth saying is that if we suspect there is a crisis of invalidity in marriage, the Church must react as she would to a crisis of invalidity with Holy Orders or Baptism: not by bewailing the problem, but by making the sacrament valid. Call in the couples and get them to go through a conditional form of marriage with the right intentions; don't just wait for them to divorce and say, oh well it was probably invalid. The fact that this option is not being discussed suggests to me that the idea of invalidity is not being used, in this debate, in a serious way, to mean what it actually means. Invalidity is not just a handy excuse to get remarried. It is a defect in a sacrament which means that it hasn't worked. If it's not worked, it's not had its good effects. In that case it should be - and could easily be - sorted out. If, that is, we care about Catholics' marriages.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Pope is wrong about Catholic marriages being invalid

Yesterday Pope Francis gave a press conference at St John's Lateran.

NBC News:
"Young people say 'for life,' but they do not know what it means," he said. And because they get married with the philosophy that a marriage can be ended if it becomes an "inconvenience," their marriages are "nulli," he said, using an Italian word that can be translated as "baseless" or "invalid."

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say “yes, for the rest of my life!” but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”


Pope Francis attributed the marriage crisis to people who “don’t know what the sacrament is” and don’t know “the beauty of the sacrament.”

“They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard,” the Pope said.


He said that in Argentina’s northeast countryside, couples have a child and live together. They have a civil wedding when the child goes to school, and when they become grandparents they “get married religiously.”

“It’s a superstition, because marriage frightens the husband. It’s a superstition we have to overcome,” the Pope said. “I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity, but there are local superstitions, etc.”

I can't find anything approaching a full and chronological transcript, but the audio is available for those who speak Italian. There doesn't seem to be much doubt about what he said or what it meant.

(Update: there is a transcript in Italian, but that's a story in itself.)

Juventutem at World Youth Day

English-speaking young people who want to attent World Youth Day in Poland in the context of the Traditional Mass, can go with Juventutem for £299, plus travel to Krakow, which is very good value.

They will get to see Cardinal Burke, Bishop Athanasius Schneider and others.

See here for full details.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Vespers for St Barnabas in Merton


Last Saturday evening the Oxford Gregorian Chant group, the Schola Abelis, sang Vespers in Merton College Chapel in Oxford.

Fr Richard Biggerstaff, the Director of the St Barnabas Society, officiated.

We don't often do services in Anglican chapels, but Vespers is a rather different proposition from Mass. It was an opportunity for the Schola to tackle the somewhat different challenges of the Divine Office, compared to Mass, and to sing in the wonderful acoustic of Merton's historic chapel, as well as to honour St Barnabas and beg his interecession for the important work of the St Barnabas Society.

IMG_8964This supports Anglican and other ordained ministers who become Catholic, frequently losing their livlihoods in doing so. Go and support them through their website here.

The Schola Abelis is the only choir in Oxford focusing on Gregorian Chant. And though I say it myself, we sounded very good at Vespers. Anyone, from Town or University, who is interested in singing with us should contact us ( We don't expect previous experience singing chant - or anything else. I should mention that it is an all-male schola.

These days we are being looked after, in the capacity of cantor and trainer, by Will Dawes, a professional singer based in Oxford with an excellent knowledge of chant. Amusingly enough, he also directs an all-female liturgical choir. There is something for everyone in Oxford!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pontifical Vespers in St Mary Magdalen's, Wandsworth, 8th July

The speaker at the Latin Mass Society's Annual General Meeting will be Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Nuncio to Switzerland and former Nuncio to the Ukraine.

The evening before the AGM, Friday 8th July, he will be officiating at Vespers in St Mary Magdalen's, Wandsworth, at 5:30pm.

Saturday's feast, of SS Thomas More and John Fisher, is of such importance that this Vespers will be the 'first Vespers' of it. Vespers will be offered, however, for the repose of the soul of Evelyn Waugh, who's 60th anniversary is this year. Waugh was invited to be the first President of the Latin Mass Society, but decline; he was to die the year after the Society was established. Until his death he was the acknowlegded lay leader of the movement for the preservation of the ancient Catholic liturgy, and we owe him a great deal.

Matthew Schellhorn will lead Cantus Magnus with some polyphony for the occasion:
Giammateo Asola (1532–1609): Sanctorum meritis
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594): Magnificat primi toni
Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934): O salutaris hostia; Ave verum

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

LMS AGM & Mass in Westminster Cathedral: 9th July

The Latin Mass Society's Annual General Meeting (which is open all LMS members) is taking place as usual in Westminster Cathedral Hall, behind the Cathedral (entrance on Ambrosden Avenue), at 11am on Saturday 9th July. It will be addressed by Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Nuncio to Switzerland. Until recently he was Nuncio to the Ukraine, and will speak about the persecution of the Church today.

This will be followed, at 2pm, by High Mass in the Cathedral (open, obviously, to everyone). This will be celebrated by our National Chaplain, Mgr Gordon Read. We are offering this Mass for the good estate of the Queen, since we have just celebrated her 90th birthday.

We have some interesting music from British composers at this Mass: see the poster below.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Will gays be told not to provoke Muslims?

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it looked like the whole world--except Barak Obama--rallied to the cause of free speech.

Obama was already getting ready for the next stage in the process of adjustment to the atrocity, however. This is to say that, really, free speech shouldn't be used to criticise Islam. At any rate, he has never used his own right of free speech to do such a thing.

Friday, June 10, 2016

'War on boys': people are starting to notice

Policy-makers have actually been worrying about 'failing boys' for a while. Pope St John Paul II noted the absence of men from church back in 1988 (Christifideles laici 52). But the debate and the facts are now becoming mainstream.

As I have noted before, the connection between what I've called the 'secular' man-crisis and the Church's 'man crisis' must be taken into account. It can hardly be a coincidence that boys and men are falling short in school, university, and marriage, and also in vocations and in church attendance.

This little video is about boys in school. It is welcome, and the remedies are welcome too. The more fundamental issue, however, is not addressed. What used to motivate young men and, by their influence, boys down the age-range, to put in the hard work at university and school was the prospect of being a bread-winner, and being respected for it. The very term 'bread-winner' is regarded as tantamount to a profanity today, but the incentive must be restored or replaced if men are going to pull their weight in society.

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Thursday, June 09, 2016

A Rabbit's Lament

Today I am reposting this response of mine from January 2015 to the Pope's notorious aeroplane quip that Catholics need not breed like rabbits. Since this is one of the few times (the only time?) that something looking a bit like a public peddling-back by the Holy Father followed such an airborne remark, I don't want to make a meal of it. But it does serve to illustrate an important point about the presentation of the Faith to outsiders.


Update: at today's (Wednesday 21/1/15) Pope Francis said this at the General Audience: 'It gives comfort and hope to see many families that welcome children as a true gift of God. They know that every child is a blessing.' 

The Pope's remarks on contraception on the aeroplane back from the Philippines were an extreme example of what has become a characteristic of this papacy. Without his words moving one iota from the teaching of the Church, and indeed reaffirming it, what came across was something appearing to undermine the actual living out of that teaching. Contraception is not just bad, it is - says the Holy Father - reminiscent of the ideological endeavours of the Hitler Youth. The example of a mother for whom some kind of ethical avoidance of pregnancy would be sensible is so extreme that it is impossible to argue with it. And yet somehow the take-home message is that large families are a bad thing. 'Catholics need not breed like rabbits.'

It is always good to put things in their context, so let me attempt to do so. For the last half a century or more the rhetoric of many of those charged with proclaiming the Gospel has been directed to the task of distancing the Church from the pious ideal, in order to make the Church more acceptable to those who reject the pious ideal. 'Oh, we don't spend all our time on our knees!' 'We don't believe all that nonsense any more!' You know the kind of thing. This strategy was based on two truths and one falsehood. The two truths are, first, that the pious ideal in the minds of those who reject the Church is generally an amalgam of misunderstandings and anti-Catholic propaganda, and second that the the pious ideal in the minds of those actually trying to lead good lives can itself be immature or unbalanced. The falsehood involved in this strategy is the idea that it is better to join in the attack on the ideal from an anti-Catholic perspective, than to correct, if necessary, and explain and defend the value of the ideal.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Annoying arguments about the EU

For some reason I wanted a picture of Charlemagne to go with this post.
I like the fact that the Traditional Catholic movement in the UK and the Latin Mass Society are politically (as well as geographically and socially) diverse, but I get the impression that it tends to swing towards 'Brexit' in the current referendum debate. This is not surprising, as being governed by the laws of our own nation-state (or four-nation state, depending on how you count) is in accord with the kind of human tradition which we Catholic traditionalists understand is important in maintaining stability, consent, and the kind of dense political culture which only stability and consent can bring, over centuries. What I mean is the kind of instinctive understanding of parliamentary democracy, and many other aspects of our political institutions, which come from it being part of the fabric of national life since, well, the Middle Ages.

Obviously human customs and customary ways of doing things can and should be changed for a sufficient reason. So there is a sensible debate about possibly sufficient reasons to consent to the progressive destruction of British political institutions as bearers of real power. The importance of environmental legislation covering the whole of the EU, the need for a common response to various other challenges - this is what we need to talk about. The difficulty many have with these arguments is that it is precisely the continent-wide problems that the EU seems too often to have made worse, or even created, the refugee crisis and the euro/financial crisis being Exhibits A and B.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Does the Church want Catholic men to be weeds?

This blog post purportedly about the 'traditional Catholic wife' quickly degenerates into 'man up' man bashing, and now I've started noticing this phenomenon I think I ought to attack it, especially since it creeps into traddy blogs and FB feeds.

My challenge to people who write like this is simple. Are you man enough to say what the Church actually teaches about the role of the father in the family? If you aren't, I suggest you stop writing on the subject.

Here's a post from my recent series of posts on the subject, in February this year. Click on the labels 'masculinity' and 'patriarchy' to see more.


In some of the earlier posts of the series, I referred rather vaguely to things being said by Catholics about these matters which I thought unhelpful, so it behoves me to give some detail.

All kinds of things can be found in the more marginal sources (in which category I place this blog, for example). Looking at the more mainstream sources - blogs, bishops' statements, magisterial documents and the like - we find, in the more conservative ones, a pattern.

First, there is here and there a recognition that there is a problem of manhood. The Tablet had a minor breakdown when Cardinal Burke made his statement about the loss of men to the Church, and the underlying social causes, but the observation has been made before. The bare fact of male absence is lamented in Pope St John Paul II's 1988 Christifideles laici. In 2014 Mgr Charles Pope, in a much-linked to blog post, explicitly links the problem with feminism.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Rogue bishops and Traditional Institutes: Letter in The Tablet

Fr Magdala Maria and Fr Jean Marie of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (F.SS.R.) based in the Orkeneys.
It is an Institute of Diocesan Right in Aberdeen Diocese and also in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Last weekend The Tablet's man in Rome, Christopher Lamb, noted that Pope Francis was taking away the prerogative of bishops to found religious institutes, orders, and communities, or at least circumscribing it, by insisting that in each case they get permission from Rome.

It sadly reflects the intellectual and journalistic standards of The Tablet the Lamb goes on to try to make this a stick to beat the Traditional Institutes and orders, and uses the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to do so.

This ruling is clearly targeted at the large number of traditionalist religious orders that have sprouted up in recent years, many of them exclusively celebrating the sacraments in the pre-Vatican II Old Rite. Many of them do good work but there are suspicions about others.  

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Esperanto vs. Latin

Last year's Summer School - a bit of Latin is included, naturally. Details for this year are here.

The weekend The Catholic Universe has printed quite a long letter of mine on the subject of Latin and Esperanto, in response to an equally long letter praising Esperanto in last week's Letters.

Last time I mentioned Esperanto on this blog - as an aside - I got some rather irate comments, so this time, well, come and get me! My sympathy with the idea of an artificial language of any kind is simply zero. If people want to learn Elvish, Klingon or Esperanto, they are, I suppose, no more wasting their time than if they were playing patience on their IPhones (which seems to be de rigour on the commuter trains out of London these days). I don't want to criticise such harmless recreations. But to propose it as an educational task for children is as insane as suggesting it as a substitute for Latin (or any other language) for comunication within the Church. Artificial languages are languages without a history, culture, or literature, or at least without one going back before (in the case of Esperanto) 1870.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Church statistics: what happened to the young men?

A break on the LMS Walsingham Pilgrimage last year.
In my last post I noted that the figures for lapsation from the Church given by Stephen Bullivant, which originated with the British Attitudes Survey, are systematically distorted by attitudes to Church membership and motives for getting babied baptised, which themselves vary over time and between regions. The inclusion of people in the category of 'self-identified Catholic' who have only a nominal or tribal affiliation increases the number of 'Catholics', but not the number of church-goers. If they felt that they shouldn't call themselves Catholics, the rate of practice would increase without any increase in the numbers of bums on pews. For this reason, I think that saying that 39.2% of 'Catholics' never or practically never go to Church is pretty meaningless.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Stephen Bullivant's lapsation statistics: methodological problems

A window into what is going on in the Church.
Stephen Bullivant of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society has produced a study based on the British Social Attitudes Survey, focusing on the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

It is marred by some typographical errors, for example referring back to the wrong diagramme at one point, and saying 'somewhat under two in five [cradle Catholics] attends religious services once a week or more' (p14) when the figure is 17.1%. Thelittle video they've produced to go with it fails to explain what the percentages they are quoting are percentages of.

A general methodological point is we get individuals' views of whether they are Catholic, Anglican, or whatever, rather than any objective judgment based on belief and practice. An interesting result of this comes out with Baptists. For some reason Baptists are much less likely than Catholics and Methodists to say that they are Baptists if they aren't practicing. This means that the lapsation rate for Baptists is the highest of the groups identified: only 28.9% of cradle Baptists identify as Baptists. Conversly, the percentage of nominal Baptists who practice is also high: 58% go to church at least weekly, another 6% at least monthly. We've all met people who think of themselves as Anglicans, by contrast, even if their family has hardly set foot in church for generations. Accordingly, 51.7% of cradle Anglicans identify as Anglicans, but only 8.9% of self-identified Anglicans actually get themselves to a service once a week, with another 10% going at least once a month.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Inquisition: something everyone should expect

The latest from Lux, made for EWTN.

'The series will be premiered by EWTN in October of 2016 and is a four episode docudrama. It was filmed across Europe in 2015 and was completed in early 2016. It is perhaps our most ambitious yet with live action.'

The Inquisition - a four part mini-series for October 2016

EWTN's new docudrama series explores the history of the Inquisitions. What they were, why were they set up, and why have they acquired such a bad reputation today? Indeed if the modern media are to be believed the Inquisitions, particularly the Spanish Inquisition, are laced with images of cruelty, terror and religious fanaticism. However, these images are false, a misrepresentation developed over four centuries ago by Protestant Northern Europe as part of the propaganda campaign against the Catholic Church, and perpetuated ever since. This new four part original film was shot on location in six countries across Europe. It uses drama sequences and interviews with leading historians and churchmen to reveal the truth.

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