Thursday, August 25, 2016

Successful walking pilgrimage in Scotland

St Andrews

Press release from the organisers of the Scottish 'Two Shrines' Pilgrimage. More photos.



Scotland’s inaugural Two Shrines Pilgrimage took place this month from 6-8 August.  The walk, which began at the National Shrine of St Andrew in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, and concluded at the site of the pre-Reformation shrine to Scotland’s patron in St Andrew’s Cathedral, St Andrews, was undertaken for the particular intention of the conversion of Scotland.  Inspired by the Chartres Pilgrimage, the event incorporated daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form, accompanied by traditional devotions. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why they hate us


This has already done the rounds in the media, but I'd not seen one particular aspect pointed up. The slick propaganda magazine of the Islamic State (ISIS), Dabiq, has a chilling article entitled 'Why we hate you and why we fight you'. You can see this hideous publication here; the article starts on p30. They hate us, they say, for three reasons: for our Christianity, for our liberal secularism, and for Western foreign policy. They emphasise the point that the last issue is not the primary one.

To illustrate the West's secular liberalism they display a photograph of a pro-gay marriage demonstration. To illustrate the West's wrong-headed religious tradition they have a photo of... the Traditional Catholic Mass. The Altar Cards allow no room for doubt.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Video interview with Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R

Fr Anthony Mary is one of the older generation of priests of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, the traditional 'Transalpine Redemptorists' based on Papa Stronsay in the Orkneys. They also have an apostolate in Christ Church, New Zealand, where Fr Anthony is currently based.


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Monday, August 22, 2016

Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP on Fr Rolheiser

Michaelangelo's 'common misconception'
Not for the first time, Fr Armand de Malleray has written to correct a school-boy error on the part of Fr Ronald Rolheiser in the Catholic Herald. For my money, Fr Rolheiser's articles are the next-worst source of theological error in the dead-wood Catholic media in the UK after those of Mgr Basil Loftus. How a priest of good will could have failed to grasp the fundamental reality of the doctrine of hell as a point of no return is mystifying, but that is what he has done. He even presumes to correct the teaching of our Lord in the Gospels, writing as follows.

And yet, the Gospels can give us that impression. We have, for example, the famous parable of the rich man who ignores the poor man at his doorstep, dies, and ends up in hell, while the poor man, Lazarus, whom he had ignored, is now in heaven, comforted in the bosom of Abraham. From his torment in hell, the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to him with some water, but Abraham replies that there is an unbridgeable gap between heaven and hell and no one can cross from one side to the other. That text, along with Jesus’ warnings about that the doors of the wedding banquet will at a point be irrevocably closed, has led to the common misconception that there is a point of no return, that once in hell, it is too late to repent.
Yes, it has led to that impression: because that is the teaching of both Testaments of Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors, and of the whole Church.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Islamic terrorism: What can we do?

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Fr Mark Withoos celebrates a Low Mass in the church of
the Domus Australia, under a picture of St Peter Chanel, a
a French Marist priest brutally killed in Tonga in 1841. He is
the protomatyr of Oceania.

I wrote the below shortly after the killing of Fr Jaques Hamel, but for various reasons it's publication has been delayed until now.


The brutal murder of Fr Jaques Hamel in Normandy is the culmination of an extraordinary period of violence, even allowing for the tendency of the media to get into a rut of similar news stories. Even as an attack on a Catholic priest or a Catholic church, it was not as isolated as one might hope, since minor acts of violence are not usually reported nationally or internationally, but this represents a new low. The movement behind these attacks is not going to dissipate quickly on its own, and it is perfectly possible, indeed probable, that this kind of thing, at some level of intensity, is going to become part of our lives in the West, in the way that it is part of the lives of our Christian brothers in Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, and many other places.

To say that these events are meaningless, irrational, or incomprehensible, is not a way of understanding them: it is a way of refusing to understand them. In truth, they are none of those things. They are the logical outcome of an ideology which says that a Muslim can redeem a far-from pious life by attacking, abusing, terrorising and killing non-Muslims, or Muslims who fall below the ideology’s standards. The attacker’s own death can even be seen as a bonus, as it is imagined that he or she will immediately attain the promised, supernatural reward. There is no need for any close organisational connection between those bitten by this ideological bug, or training, or special equipment, although some of the recent attackers had some or all of these. In the words of Fr Hamel’s killer, Adel Kermiche: “You take a knife, you go to a church, you make carnage, bam!”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Walsingham Pilgrimage preparations

I've just ordered 80 copies of the LMS Pilgrims' Booklet for the LMS Walsingham Pilgrimage.

If you're not coming, you are missing out! But we'll put up some reports on social media as we go along.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Mass of Ages available

The autumn 2016 edition is now available in which we publish part of the talk given to the AGM by Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio to Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Speaking on the subject ‘The persecution of the Church’, Archbishop Gullickson said:

“The refusal to admit suffering from persecution as a part of the Christian life is not so much a question of our struggle with the problem of evil (why must the innocent suffer?) as it is of properly attributing the ongoing suffering of the just to Satan’s wrath and to the presence in our midst of not few people unwilling to renounce the father of evil and his works and pomps. Why are there martyrs today? Why are Christians persecuted today? Because the ‘Beast’ is on the loose. The Church, the Body of Christ is lacerated yet today by those who serve the Father of Lies and the Prince of Darkness, by those who prefer darkness to light. To this mix, as it has to do with denial in the hearts and minds of fellow Christians, just add a heaping spoonful of ambiguity and will to obfuscate, then stir in stupidity and faithlessness, and you have a better idea as to why our insistent prayer should be that the Lord come quickly.”

Also in the new edition:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Deadline for the Walsingham Pilgrimage!

There deadline is Monday 15th August. This is necessary for the caterers and other aspects of the pilgrimage; please don't try to book after that date! Do it before! Do it now!

The Pilgrimage runs from Thursday 25th (we gather in the afternoon and evening in Ely) to Sunday 28th, when we have our big Mass in Walsingham at 2pm, followed by a procession to the site of the Holy House. Some stay the night in Walsingham but it is possible to get back to London on Sunday. If you stay until Monday morning, we have another Mass, sung, in the Slipper Chapel at 10am.

We walk over three days the 55 miles from Ely to Walsingham, accompanied by the Traditional Mass and devotions, in the spirit of the great Chartres Pilgrimage.

Here is a little video about it. The booking page has lots more information.


It is an unforgettable experience, plus hot evening meals!

Show your devotion to Our Lady, walk in the footsteps of your Catholic predecessors, do some penance and take some important intentions to the feet of the Lady of Walsingham.

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Mass in the Slipper Chapel at the shrine.
The cost is £75 for an adult, if you are an LMS member - and you can join at the same time.

There are generous discounts for students, and all are welcome.

Book here.

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Procession along the 'Holy Mile' to the site of the Holy House in Walsingham, from the
Slipper Chapel and Catholic Shrine

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Feminisation in the 1960s: the policy aspect, and the way out

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Mass in the private chapel of the historic Catholic house, Milton Manor.
I've been writing about Callum Brown's thesis that discourse about religion became feminised around 1800. What he means is that, by contrast with the two centuries before that date, from 1800 onwards not only were the dominant exemplars of piety women (in obituaries, for example); not only were men regarded as in need of conversion in a way women were not (the vices of men were addressed at length, those of women little or not at all); but the very idea of religiosity was closely bound up with the idea of femininity. To be feminine, women needed to be religious. To be religious, even men had to become somewhat feminised.

One little straw in the wind was the way angels are represented. Before 1800 they look masculine; afterwards, they look feminine. Female angels, of course, are with us still.

Brown's thesis about the 1960s is that, after a 'final blast of feminisation', religiosity in the 1950s was uniquely vulnerable to a reassessment of what it meant to be a woman, in the 1960s. This duly took place in the context of Feminism. Without the support of women, religious practice collapsed, across all Christian denomenations, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Guild of St Clare Vestment mending day

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A young Guild member hand-sews a new linging on a maniple. This, like most the
days' tasks, simply cannot be done by machine.

The Oxford branch of the Guild of St Clare held a Vestment mending session on Saturday, an example of the kind of work which they can do to support the liturgy.

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Doing the same work on the matching Chalice veil.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Was religion feminised in the 19th century? Part 4: what happened in the 1960s

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St Anne, Our Lady, and the Infant Jesus: from the Walker Art Gallery
In the first post of this series I set out the sociologist Callum Brown's account of how piety came to be seen as female by evangelicals in the 19th century; in the second post I gave an explanation of how this came about: the influence of Romanticism. In the third post I made certain caveats about how British Catholicism fits into Brown's picture. Now I want to address the million-dollar question: why did religious practice collapse in the 1960s?

Callum Brown is a little short of explicit explanation, beyond saying that the 'discourse' changed, but one thing he makes clear is that Evangelical religious discourse was hugely dependant on women by the end of the 1950s. The dependance had started long before, with women picured as the pious ones, by contrast with 'heathen' men, but the situation was particularly acute in the post-war religious revival. For example, popular boys' magazines, which had started with a strong religious element, dropped this in the 1930s, just as girls' and women's magazines (if they survived at all) dropped explicit religious content in the 1960s.

What the discourse was about, was feminity and respectability. This was an era, as I've noted in an earlier post in this series, that affiliation was more importance than practice: thus 'rites of passage' moments are marked with religious ceremony (baptism and marriage etc.); a higher proportion of children were sent to Sunday school than adults went to church.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Feminisation of the liturgy: letter in the Universe

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A Traditional Sung Mass in Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, celebrated
by Prior Cassian Folsom of Norcia.
This weekend the Catholic Universe is publishing a letter by me. The have illustrated it with a charming photograph of altar boys - not a photo of mine, I don't know where they got it.

The article which occasioned my letter noted that the parents of 'poor white boys' did not tend to turn up to parents' meetings at schools. This is one sympton of a truly massive problem. Belinda Brown gives a talk about the effect on boys' interest in eduction of one-parent families here.

I read with interest Leon Spence's article on the education system's failure with regard to poor white boys ('Society has to address problem of poor white boys' education', 22nd July). While implicitly blaming parents, however, he fails to note the effect on boys in general of the feminisation of both the curriculum, and of the teaching profession itself. A recent report by the OECD notes that boys do better in anonymous tests: consciously or not, teachers discriminate against them.

Was religion feminised in the 19th century? Part 3: the Catholic experience

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The donors of a fabulous Medieval triptych in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool,
which the SCT Summer School visited, attend Mass, as presented on the outside of
the triptych doors. They are in a private chapel, but the curtains at the back have been pushed
aside by young men eager to witness the Consecration. Late 15th century.
In the first post of this series I set out the sociologist Callum Brown's account of how piety came to be seen as female by evangelicals in the 19th century; in the second post I gave an explanation of how this came about: the influence of Romanticism. Under this influence, a model of piety was developed which was feminine. Women were held up as models (dominating pious obituaries, for example); men were problems - the obituaries even of clergy emphasised their struggles with sin.

The identification of the feminine with the pious is exactly the problem which Leo Podles talks about in a Catholic context, but in his book he blames 'Bridal Mysticism', the identification of the individual Christian, as opposed to the Church, with the 'bride of Christ', in the High Middle Ages (starting with St Bernard). In a more recent talk, he lays stress, instead, on the role of the clergy as the 'fun police', referring to opposition to dancing by St Jean Vianney and St Charles Borromeo. In either case, he gives a bit of anecdotal evidence for women being regarded as more pious than men in the later Middle Ages, and more frequent church-goers.  He draws a line between this and the lack of men in church today, bypassing the Reformation, Romanticism, and the changes of the 1960s and '70s.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Appeal to Cardinals: Letter in The Tablet

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Happy feast of Our Lady of the Snows, 5th August. An image from the
Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
Last weekend The Tablet responded to the publication of the Appeal to Cardinals over the interpretation of Amoris laetitia - an appeal for a clarification of the document - with a feature article by Fr Gerald O'Collins SJ, a retired theologian. O'Collins' line was that the Church does not do clarifications, because that would lead to an infinite regress. He goes on to defend a liberal interpretation of Amoris laetitia. This weekend The Tablet has published a letter from me in response.


Fr Gerald O'Collins comments on the appeal to the cardinals by 45 Catholic academics which seeks a clarification of the teaching of Amoris laetitia (Features, 30th July). He claims that clarifications of teachings and documents are alien to the Church's usual practice. Anyone who takes the trouble to look in Denzinger, the handbook of Catholic teaching, will see, however, that it is stuffed with clarifications. Nor has the stream of clarificatory verbiage dried up. Indeed, the Vatican Press Office seems recently to have taken on a semi-official function of clarifying papal remarks in real time.

The test of whether a clarification is needed is the degree of confusion a document has generated. If there is broad agreement about what a document means, and the author is happy with this agreement, then further clarification is not necessary. If a document is generating diametrically opposite interpretations, then only a clarification will enable it to convey the meaning its author intended.

In the case of Amoris laetitia, as Fr O'Collins admits, we find some theologians, bishops, and Cardinals, saying that it has changed Catholic practice and teaching fundamentally; others say that it has changed nothing. Fr O'Collins claims that the first group is applying 'what they rightly take to be the teaching of Pope Francis'. Would he not like to see this interpretation made clear to everyone? The fact that he doesn't want to see a clarification suggests that he isn't as confident as he claims that his favoured position is really the Holy Father's. The 45 signatories would seem to have more confidence in Pope Francis, and in the Holy Spirit which guides the Church.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Joseph Shaw



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Month's mind for Anthea Craigmyle, 18th August

St Columba, by Anthea Craigmyle
As previously noted on this blog, I have organised a 'month's mind' Mass for Anthea Craigmyle. All are welcome. At the time of writing I'm still looking for servers, email me via the LMS office if you can help on the day: info@lms.org.uk


Thursday 18th August, 11am: the Little Oratory, at the London Oratory (address: Brompton Rd, London SW7 2RP: click for a map). The 'month's mind', Traditional High Mass accompanied by Oratory singers, who will sing Anerio's Requiem. The 'Little Oratory' is not in the main church, but the other side of the small car park.

In addition to this, I can also now announce:

Wednesday 2nd November (All Souls Day), 5:30pm, Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, W1B 5LZ (click for a map). Traditional Latin Vespers of the Dead, with polyphony (Viadana and Palestrina) provided by Cantus Magnus. This will be offered for all the deceased members of the Craigmyle family.

This Vespers has been timed to fit in with the annual Craigmyle Memorial Lecture organised by the Catholic Union. This is an invitation-only event, within easy walking distance from Warwick Street, at 6:30pm.

These are public services, everyone is welcome to attend.

I would like to reiterate my thanks for the many Masses offered by our priest friends. We are truly blessed in your generosity.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Romanticism, Feminism, and Misandry

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, alone and paleley loitering? (La Belle Dame)

This is a little interjection into my series on Callum Brown's thesis that religion became feminised in the 19th century.

Callum Brown writes (The Death of Christian Britain):

As femininity and piety became conjoined in discourse after 1800, the spectre arose of masculinity as the antithesis of religiosity. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, a wife's femininity was perceived as a threat to piety and household, and a husband established his moral status by controlling her. From 1800 to 1950, by contrast, it was a husband's susceptibility to masculine temptations that was perceived as a threat to piety and household, and the wife established a family's respectability by curbing him. Exemplars of piety changed sex, from being overwhelmingly male to being overwhelmingly female, and the route to family harmony no longer lay in the taming of the Elizabethan shrew but in the bridling of the Victorian rake, drunkard, gambler and abuser. (p88)

During 1887 and 1888 the religious newspaper the British Weekly published some forty articles on 'Tempted London', a series concerned with the moral condition of men and women in the capital. Men and women were dealt with separately - men during the first thirty articles, women in the last ten. The nature of moral weakness in the two sexes was conceptualised very differently. The articles on women were organised on the principle that occupational exploitation corrupted women. ... The iniquity of the trades in which the women worked were studied in detail, focusing on low wages, home working, long hours and the exploitation of employers and merchants. ...The women themselves were not deemed 'immoral', ... but as victims ...

...The men's articles were organised around three headings: drink, betting and gambling, and impurity. The venues for each temptation were studied in detail... (p89)

Brown's focus on the role of gender in religious change forces us to confront something which is not far below the surface in a great deal of Victorian fiction: the Romantic exaltation of the female, and contrasting, jaundiced, view of masculinity. There are a number of things which I think need to be absorbed from this in any discussion of gender in the Church today.

Was religion feminised in the 19th century? Part 2: Romanticism

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Clergy and servers at the Ecce, Agnus Dei in High Mass at the SCT Summer School.
In the last post in this series I set out the thesis of Callum Brown (in his The Death of Christian Britain): that around 1800 religion began to occupy the feminine realm, with men being described as 'heathens', male pastimes regarded with suspicion, and femininity and religiosity being understood in terms of each other: to be feminine was to be religious, and to be religious was to be feminine. This state of affairs carried religion in the UK - the focus is on Evangelical Protestantism, understood in a broad sense - for 160 years, with considerable success, with indicators of religious practice and affiliation rising throughout the 19th century and, in the 20th, recovering strongly from the disruption of the two World Wars.

Brown has nothing to tell us, however, as to why religion took this surprising turn in 1800, or why this 'discourse' suddenly collapsed in the 1960s. Nor does he have anything to tell us about how the Catholic experience differed. At one point he says that Catholic attitudes were very similar to Evangelical ones. Well, up to a point. I want to deal with the first question in the post, and the second in the next, after a short intermission.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Was religion feminised in the 19th century?

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Young ladies at the Summer School attending High Mass
A good deal has been written on the feminisation of the Church, and of all Christian denominations, since the 1960s. In the Catholic case, there are a number of easily-identifiable markers which date to the liturgical reform and the following decades: the loss of silence, ritual, and reverence, the preoccupation with community, emotion, and spontaneity, and the filling up of Catholic sanctuaries with altar girls, female lectors, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, while parish ministries such as looking after the 'children's liturgy' and catechism are run almost exclusively by women.

This is the picture we get from the American Jesuit sociologist Patrick Arnold, and English Dominican sociologist Anthony Archer, about both of whom I've written on this blog. The statistical evidence for the female domination of congregations and parish ministries come from the highly respectable CARA in the USA and the British Social Attitudes Survey in the UK. Leon Poddles, another author who has written on the problem, by contrast locates the key moment of feminisation with the rise of bridal mysticism in the high Middle Ages. I've also discussed this, and the extent to which he has a point. I've just finished reading a more recent expert treatment, The Death of Christian Britain by Callum Brown, which focuses on the evangelical British experience. (Hat-tip to the Evangelical blogger Alastair Roberts who recommended the book in a comment on this blog.) Brown is extremely interested in gender, and locates a key turn of religion into the feminine realm at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries: around 1800. His book is so helpful and interesting, even though I disagree with some important points in it, that I want to clarify my own thoughts by means of a few blog posts about it.