Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Religious absolutism

Reposted from January 2015

Some years I recall a fellow Oxford academic speculating about why Christianity and Islam, among world religions, were the ones used to justify the persecution of religious dissent. Perhaps, he suggested, it was because they were absolutist religions: they claimed an exclusive possession of the truth.

It wasn't clear how he imagined Hinduism and Buddhism worked; I fancy he was as ignorant about them as I was, and am. But it must have been a long time ago, because this conversation clearly predated the emergence, at least into the Western media, of militant Hinduism in India, and the persecution of Christians and Muslims by militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Burma.

So, so much for that idea. But the idea of religious absolutism has been wheeled out again in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Some forms of some religions are incompatible with Western democracies, we hear, but most are fine, and the difference can be expressed by the idea of religious absolutism. Absolutist religions: bad. Non-absolutist religions: good, or, at least, ok.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

First EF Missa Cantata in Holy Rood Church, Oxford


Since the church was consecrated in 1970 I think we may fairly claim that this is the first time a Missa Cantata has been celebrated there.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Prior Cassian Folsom of Norcia retires

Fr Benedict, new Prior of Norcia
Fr Cassian Folsom, the founder of the Benedictine community at Norcia (Italy), has after 18 years as superior retired. The new Prior is Fr Benedict, of the community.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What could happen next?

Proclaiming the Gospel: Dominican Rite
The letter of the 'four Cardinals' seeking a clarification of the meaning of Amoris laetitia raises the question: what could happen next? In terms of official process, Cardinal Burke has answered: a formal 'correction' of the Holy Father. This kind of thing is so rare in the Church that the way this could happen, and the implications it could have, are simply not mapped out by custom, but only by theological speculation.

The theoretical possibility of the condemnation of a reigning Pope for heresy, in such a way that has canonical consequences, is explained helpfully by Robert Siscoe here. Although this account seems sensible to me, I'm no expert and no doubt some will find fault with it. I don't want to get into the details, however: Siscoe's analysis can serve as a reference point, the view of a traditionalist, but definitely not a sede vacantist. My point would be: if this is what people like him think, then the hoops people are going to have to jump through to make such a thing happen are, for practical purposes, insuperable. Call a council of the Church? Get it to meet? Get it to denounce him? Get it to recognise such a denunciation as activating his loss of office? Elect a new Pope? We'll all be having snow-ball fights in hell before this happens.

But if that is so, what will happen? Or, perhaps better: what is happening?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Annual Requiem in St Benet's Hall


Last Saturday the annual Requiem Mass I organise in St Benet's Hall chapel took place. St Benet's is the Benedictine house of studies and a Permanent Private Hall of Oxford University.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Is Brendan O'Neil a snowflake?

I'm reposting this from Facebook, with a little extra commentary.

Is Brendan O'Neill a snowflake? I challenged his Dan Brown version of history and got my comment deleted from his post. Funny thing is that he believes in an almost absolute freedom of expression, and I don't at all. I just think what you want to censor tells everyone else something about you.
He wrote:
The response of the old media to its waning influence over public thinking, and its displacement by new sources of information and internet chatter, has been extraordinary. Following Brexit and Trump they've behaved like those monks who raged against the invention of the printing press because they feared -- rightly, as it turned out -- that it would overturn their dominion over truth. Fifteenth-century monks feared the spread of heresy thanks to printing; now we fear the spread of fake news thanks to Facebook.
Sure, there's a lot of bullshit on the internet. I see it everyday. But so what? I still feel about the web what John Foxe felt about the printing press:
"[W]ith printing, writing, and reading, convince darkness by light, error by truth, ignorance by learning... [and] hereby tongues are known, knowledge groweth, judgment increaseth, books are dispersed, the Scripture is seen, the doctors be read, stories be opened, times compared, truth discerned, falsehood detected, with finger pointed, and all, as I said, through the benefit of printing."
This is 'John Foxe' as in the notorious Protestant propagandist, author of the Book of Martyrs, who hastily re-invented the idea of post-Biblical saints (after the real ones had been expunged from popular devotions by the Reformers), in order to score points off 'Bloody' Mary. Yes, the book was called by 'Foxe's Book of Liars' by Cobbet, who ought to be a hero to people like O'Neil but perhaps he was off school when they covered him.
I asked him if he had any sources for his claims about '15th century monks' and was told 'Jesus wept. Read some history', so I posted a photo of p77 of Eamonn Duffy's Stripping of the Altars, which begins Duffy's magisterial demolition of the hoary old chestnut that printing was more useful to the radicals than to the religious conservatives. How does O'Neil respond to reasoned argument? He hits the delete key.
It was Catholics who had the secret printing presses and the samizdat bookshops in England in the Reformation period. That doesn't fit the establishment's official historical narrative. I don't think O'Neil sees himself as an establishment shill. If he has swallowed that, it can only be through ignorance. Perhaps he should take his own advice and read some history.


Thus far FB. For my temerity in noting these events, I have now been blocked and unfriended by O'Neil.

The alliance between Catholics and libertarians is always strictly tactical, not strategic, as I've pointed out a few times on this blog. What is interesting is that O'Neil has behaved in exactly the way that what he calls the 'snowflakes' of the left have behaved, for which he has been lambasting them for years. They proclaim their openness to ideas, they talk about free speech, but when challended by actual, scholarly, arguments about something they hold dear, they throw their toys out of the pram.

Clearly, the idea that '15th century monks' were evil and oppressive is just too close to his heart for O'Neil to brook dissent. The funniest thing, really, is the idea that 15th century monks, or indeed monks of any century, somehow had a 'dominion over truth'. This is Dan Brown merging into Philip Pullman, on speed. Long before the 15th century there was a brisk non-monastic, commercial book-copying industry in London and the University towns. The monks were important in preserving classical learning in the early Middle Ages, but a funny kind of 'dominion over truth' that was: copying books they didn't agree with being more or less the opposite of Brenden O'Neil's social media policy.

For the record, I believe in censorship of pornography, blasphemy, and profanity, as far as my twitter feed goes, which is about the only thing I have any control over outside my own home, and I unfollow people who tweet those things into my timeline. Everyone is free to draw what conclusions they like about me from that.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Confirmations in London: photo essay


John Aron took lovely photographs of the Confirmations which took place last Saturday at St James' Spanish Place. Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster, officiated. There were I think 20 candidates.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Young trads: faddish and rigid

Dominican High Mass in Oxford with the Latin Mass Society
The Holy Father's discussion of the motivation of young people who like the Traditional Mass has been somewhat eclipsed by other news, but I wanted to come back to it. There is more than has usually been quoted; here's a bit more context from Rorate Caeli.

I ask him: "Other than those who are sincere and ask for this possibility out of habit or devotion, can this desire express something else? Are there dangers?"

[Pope:] "I ask myself about this. For example, I always try to understand what is behind those individuals who are too young to have lived the pre-Conciliar liturgy, and who want it nonetheless. I have at times found myself in front of people who are too rigid, an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: how come so much rigidity? You dig, you dig, this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, at times perhaps something else... [sic] The rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid."

I insist: what about tradition? Some understand it in a rigid way.

[Pope:] "But no: tradition blooms!" he responds. "There is a Traditionalism that is a rigid fundamentalism: it is not good. Faithfulness instead implies a growth. Tradition, in the transmission from one age to the next of the deposit of the faith, grows and consolidates with the passage of time, as Saint Vincent of Lérins said in his Commonitorium Primum

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Juventutem Mass in London on Friday 25th Nov

Friday 25th November at 7:30pm, at St Mary Moorfields', Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS.

Polyphonic music by Morales, provided by Cantus Magnus under Matthew Schellhorn.

See Facebook here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"a formal act of correction of a serious error"

Cardinal Burke speaks to Edward Pentin: see the NCR here. But I'm pasting in the whole interview - it is quite short. It answers some of the questions people have been asking, on this blog as elsewhere.

The step of making a 'formal act of correction' would be the preliminary, according to classical theology and Church discipline, of declaring someone - anyone - a formal heretic. Being a material heretic - having the wrong ideas and not realising it - could happen to anyone and doesn't have any implications for being in communion with the Church, holding offices and so on. (This is something sede vacantists don't always understand.)

The only people who could possibly give such a warning to a Pope would be, as Burke suggests, Cardinals and Bishops. What exactly would happen if the Pope received such a warning and ignored it (maybe twice or three times), is a matter of theological dispute. These are uncharted waters, and I still don't think it very likely we'll get to that point. The process itself is important, however, because as well as the Holy Father having the right that people speak to him honestly about their concerns, the Faithful have the right to guidance, from those in the Church with the competence to give it. That is why it is necessary that, at the appropriate time, this document has been made public.

It is possible (epistemically possible: 'for all I know') that there is a way to read all the documents in such a way that they cohere and the difficulties all go away. Such an interpretation cannot just be hinted at or adumbrated by private scholars: given the gravity of the situation, it must be done both clearly and authoritatively. That is what hasn't happened, and this initiative of Cardinal Burke has been to ask, politely but insistently, that if there is such an interpretation out there, Pope Francis should not be keeping it to himself.


Your Eminence, what do you aim to achieve by this initiative?
The initiative is aimed at one thing only, namely the good of the Church, which, right now, is suffering from a tremendous confusion on at least these five points. There are a number of other questions as well, but these five critical points have to do with irreformable moral principles. So we, as cardinals, judged it our responsibility to request a clarification with regard to these questions, in order to put an end to this spread of confusion that is actually leading people into error.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Letter of four Cardinals to Pope Francis for clarification of AL: unanswered

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli - I don't have time to write about this today or tomorrow, but this is tremendously important, please read the letter, dubia, and explanations given by the four Cardinals.


The letter containing 5 clarification questions ("dubia") was signed by four Cardinals on September 18 -- Italian Carlo Caffarra, emeritus of Bologna, American Raymond Burke, emeritus of St Louis and former president of the tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and Germans Walter Brandmüller, eminent historian and emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and Joachim Meisner, emeritus of Cologne. They were sent with an accompanying letter.

The full text is provided below (several sources, including Edward Pentin and Sandro Magister).

Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in "Amoris Laetitia"

1. A Necessary Foreword

The sending of the letter to His Holiness Pope Francis by four cardinals derives from a deep pastoral concern.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Traditional Requiem in Westminster Cathedral

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.


Last weekend the Latin Mass Society held its annual Requiem in Westminster Cathedral. Solemn Mass was followed by Pontifical absolutions at the catafalque led by Bishop Mark Jabale, the retired bishop of Menevia in Wales. Photos were taken by John Aron.


Sunday, November 06, 2016

LMS Wall calendars and Christmas cards

For the first time for many years, the Latin Mass Society is selling Christmas Cards. These are, naturally, cards with a religious theme and an appropriate picture on the front! Not something to be taken for granted from most suppliers.

Christmas cards available here.

Wall calendars available here.

Please take the opportunity to support our work by getting your cards from us and one of our beautiful wall calendars.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Vespers of the Dead in Warwick Street

The Vespers of the Dead I've been advertising took place on Wednesday, and was very well attended. Matthew Schellhorn with his Cantus Magnus group sung faux-bourdon by Viadana and Palestrina on alternate verses of all the psalms and the Magnificat, which was very effective.


Chris Hodkinson expertly led the team in the sanctuary.

I hope to make this an annual event.


Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Westminster Cathedral EF Requiem this Saturday


On Saturday, 5th November 2016, the Latin Mass Society will have its Annual Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral at 2.00pm. This will be celebrated by Bishop Mark Jabalé O.S.B., Emeritus Bishop of Menevia. The MC will be Canon Poucin de Wouilt ICKSP.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Annual Requiem in St Benet's Hall

Saturday 19th November, at 11:30am, in the chapel of St Benet's Hall, Oxford. Everyone is welcome.

I hope it will be another High Mass; if not, it'll be a Missa Cantata.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

LMS Oxford Pilgrimage - and the fruits of the Reformation


The LMS Pilgrimage to Oxford last Sat honoured the four martyrs of 1589 who died on the Town Gallows, now marked with a plaque: two priests and two laymen who had protected them.