Friday, September 30, 2016

'You can't fight it'

An act of evangelisation: the LMS Pilgrimage to Walsingham
I have to confess that developments over the last few years in the Church and the world have left me a little dispirited. Not all the news has been bad--far from it--but on a series of issues fundamental to the continued possibility of civilised life, the forces ranged against sanity have, at present, considerable momentum. Not only is it difficult to see how they can be defeated on the current balance of forces, but the balance of forces is becoming progressively less favourable as time goes on.

To give an example from secular politics, here in the UK we have no serious political party which supports anything recognisable as social conservatism. To give an example from the Church, although numbers attending Mass have been bolstered by immigration, the decline in marriages celebrated in church continues. On previous occasions when, after all kinds of difficulties, the Church has experienced a great revival, it has been because Catholic families survived the crisis in sufficient numbers to provide the priests, lay leaders, reformers, and above all the foot-soldiers of a revived Church in the new situation. How many faithful Catholic families are there going to be, in England and Wales or indeed anywhere in the West, in 20 or 30 years' time?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Traditional Confirmations in London: not too late to book for November

Confirmation in the Traditional Rite will take place in St James', Spanish Place, in London, on Saturday, November 12 2016, organised by the Latin Mass Society.

Bishop John Sherrington, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and Titular Bishop of Hilta, will confer the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional Rite on Saturday 12 November 2016, at St James Spanish Place, London at 11.00am. This will be followed by Pontifical Benediction.

If you would like more information about Confirmations in the Extraordinary Form, or would like your child, or yourself, confirmed, please contact the LMS Office on020 7404 7284 or email us.

To register your child or yourself, see here for further details.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

'Declaration of fidelity to the Church's unchangable teaching on marriage'

Cardinal Burke with the LMS last year. Photos: Daniel Blackman
You can join Cardinals Burke and Caffara, Bishop Athanasius Schneider and many others in signing a detailed declaration on the teaching of the Church on marriage, divorce, and related matters here. Although it makes for a long read, I do encourage people to sign it.

It is being promoted by the people who did the 'filial appeal' before the last Synod on the Family.

It is a magnificent piece of work. Each of 27 paragraphs about a particular issue is supported by several quotations from magisterial documents: Pope St John Paul II, Pius XI and XII, instructions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and so on. They provide irrefutable proof of the solidity of the traditional understanding of the teaching and practice of the Church, and the necessity of the practice in light of the teaching, with crystal clear condemnations of many of the proposals floating about today. It thus makes for a very informative teaching document in itself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A dispute among philosophers

Update: I've done a proper post on this here.

The Jewish philosopher Yoram Hazony, quioted by Rod Dreher, puts it well.

The Society for Christian Philosophers posts an apology for a lecture given by the distinguished Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne that included his views on homosexuality. Personally, I find it painful to see a senior scholar such asSwinburne being apologized for in public. I often disagree with his views. But if we’re assessing pain, it hurts to see him being shamed in this way for taking a side in a philosophical and religious controversy. What are we trying to do–create a world in which philosophers are only permitted to express certain views? Isn’t the traditional response to write an essay arguing with him, rather than posting an apology?

Philosophers love arguing. What is surprising is to see one telling another, in as many words, that he is wrong, not because of a faulty argument, but because his conclusion doesn't accord with political fashions. At least, this is unusual among Christian philosophers of great prestige and experience, as opposed to bickering sophomores.

I may have more to say about this, but for the moment here's an account of the controversy, and here is Edward Feser and Rod Dreher. This is the original person trying to shout my old DPhil supervisor, Prof Swinburne, down. And here is an open letter criticising the critics of Prof Swinburne, which I have signed.

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

Beauty and virtue

Reposted from June 2014. The old comments are strictly for masochists only, though they illustrate some of the confusions I am trying to address in this post.



My philosophical interlude about fashion continues: part 1 is here.

In the last post about fashion, Queen of Puddings said that if we focus on beauty, modesty will follow. This was qualified by noting that the judgments about beauty we should be making are judgments by people who value modesty. To put the matter more simply, what is at issue is a correct understanding of beauty. It will take into account all the things relevant to the object at issue. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

I'm in Chinese!

Over the Summer I gave an interview to a Macau-based publication; the interviewer was an Italian journalist, Antonio Porfili. You can see it here.

This has now appeared on a Chinese website, in Chinese - above is a screen shot. One fun thing is that I have been given a Chinese name - a version of my name which can be written in Mandarin. I can't read a word of Chinese, but I'm told it works like this:

(Hsiao) is a reasonably common Chinese surname that sounds similar to Shaw.

若瑟 (Rwo-seh) is the traditional Catholic translation of Joseph, and literally means "as harmony".

I do know that the convention in China is to put the surname first. So if I ever travel East, I shall introduce myself as 若瑟.

At least I would, if I could say it without embarrassing myself!

At any rate, the spread of this humble interview is a nice demonstration of the univerality of the Church, and the interest the Traditional Mass, and doctrinal orthodoxy, has in China. Read my post on the Position Paper on the Extraordinary Form and China here.

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fr Longenecker, the Latin Mass, and the magic bullet

Reposted from October 2015.


An act of revence during Mass before the Blessed Sacrament Exposed, for Corpus Christi:
it tells us something, does it not? (What does the little chap on the left think?)
Further to my post the other day someone noted a recent post on this topic by Fr Dwight Longenecker: 'Is the Latin Mass a Magic Bullet?'. In it he attempts to put the thoughts of those 'conservative' Catholics who don't much like the Traditional Mass, about the relationship between the crisis in the Church and the liturgy, into order. The result is fascinating. Some key quotes, with a few comments of mine in black.

The problems in the Catholic church are not due to lack of reverence at Mass. The lack of reverence at Mass is due to the problems in the church. But it can't help, can it?

Simply obeying the rubrics or performing the Mass in this direction or that direction or standing here or there or wearing this particular vestment or that particular vestment or holding your fingers together there and bowing properly there do not necessarily make a Mass reverent. It makes the Mass more formal. .... So what's the point of them?

Here is my main point: I think those who blame all the problems of the church on the Novus Ordo are simply missing the point. If there are things wrong with the Novus Ordo they are symptoms, not causes. The core problem in the church is not the Novus Ordo or the liturgical abuses or the bad hymns and liturgical dance and all that awful stuff. So why exactly are these things 'awful'?

The reason the Latin Mass seems to be ‘more reverent’ is not because the language is in Latin or because the priest obeys all the rubrics or because he faces East. (remember I am not against all those things!) The reason the Latin Mass seems more reverent is because the people who attend the Latin Mass are far more likely to be well catechized Catholics ... So why do they go to this Mass and not another?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mass in Snave, the Kentish 'Marsh church', this Saturday

This Saturday - A Missa Cantata in the marshes. (Click for a map.)

For only the second time since the reformation, St Augustine's in Snave, a medieval Kent church will hold a Latin Mass this Saturday 24th September at 12 noon.

This is an extremely important event because last year was the first time since the Reformation that Mass was celebrated in the church.

Snave is one a group of medieval churches built to serve very small communities on Romney Marsh in Kent. Now redundant, they are in the care of the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust

The celebrant will be Fr Marcus Holden (Rector of the Shrine of St Augustine, Ramsgate) and music will be supplied by The Victoria Consort.

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

Communist infiltration: a comforting fantasy

Today I'm re-posting this from January 2014, in response to comments on the book I discuss, Marie Carré's AA-1025, by David Martin over on 1Peter5.

This post of generated a bit of comment when first published, partly from people apparently incapable of understanding the genre of Carré's book. It is a work of fiction; that is not, in itself, a criticism of it, just a classification. It is an exploration of an idea, suggested by the testimony of Bela Dodd and other (alleged) Communist infiltrators into the Catholic Church. What exactly were they doing? What historical events or trends can be attributed to them? So, the reader must ask: does this exploration yield convincing results?

The answer is that the book is very clearly a product of its time, the early 1970s. Vatican II and the liturgical reform were, understandably, uppermost in the author's mind. I point out in the post that the author completely missed the sex abuse scandal, in which real Communists were very interested indeed in the Soviet bloc at the time she was writing, though this was not then publicly known; she also misses Liberation Theology, which was in advanced stages of preparation at that time. Instead she latches onto the liturgical reform, which was something for which real Communists showed no enthusiasm whatsoever. Maybe they believed the claim, frequently made at the time and since, that the Novus Ordo would be a more effective tool of catechesis when preaching was heavily restricted in Communist countries. In any event, the implementation of the reform was actually delayed in parts of the Communist world, by up to 20 years. Nothing like it was ever imposed on the Russian Orthodox Church, over which the Soviet authorities had - to say the least - rather more influence than they had over the Catholic Church. In China, its implementation was a major goal of Vatican diplomacy for years, a hard-won concession from the authorities; the Novus Ordo was first celebrated (by Cardinal Zen, that Communist cat's paw - not) in mainland China in 1989. Marrie Carré wasn't to know all this, of course. But the result is that her assessment of Communist strategy in opposing the Church is way off the mark.


I've just read Marie Carré's strange book AA-1025: Memoirs of the Communist Infiltration into the Church. I've seen it around and hear references to it so I got round to reading it. It is very short, only 120 pages or so; someone has gone to the trouble of putting the whole thing online. It is not very well written, but you can find lots of breathless endorsements online so I thought I'd say something about it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A third priest for the Institute in New Brighton

From Canon Amaurty Montjean of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Rector of the Shrine of SS Peter & Paul and St Philomena in New Brighton, the Wirral, the 'Dome of Home':

Dear friends of the Dome of Home,

After our return from the General Chapter of the Institute, we were given permission by Rt Rev. Mark Davies, our Bishop, to welcome Canon Cyprien Parant as a third resident priest in New Brighton: we are very grateful to His Lordship and Mgr Wach.

This is also a grace to add a second Mass at 12noon from Tuesday to Friday included ! No doubt this is an extra source of graces for our family of the Dome.

See their website here.

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

Letter on Child Protection

I'm not going to comment on the news about Ampleforth College; but today I am reposting this from January 2012, about Downside.


This weekend the Catholic Herald has published a letter of mine on the subject of 'Child Protection'. It responds to an article by Will Heaven.

Will Heaven (Comment, Jan 20th) tells us that monastic schools, like Downside, where there have been failures of child protection, should be handed over to lay trustees. By the same logic, I assume he would want the many lay schools plagued by such failures to be handed over to monks.

We need to look, not at the clerical or lay status of trustees, but at their attitudes and policies. Unfortunately the leadership of Catholic schools appears to be following the example of its secular counterpart, both by imposing explicit sex education on our children and by an increasing reluctance to expect staff to live in accord with Church teaching.

The secular model is to promote anarchic sexual liberalism in schools, balanced by an hysterical concern for the procedures of child protection. This is not going to solve the problem of the sexual exploitation of children in the long term. Until the Catholic school sector is prepared to buck this trend decisively I, like an increasing number of Catholic parents, will be teaching my children at home.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Shaw

Two things struck me about Heaven's article. The first was his idea that the problems at Downside would go away if the monks were no longer the trustees. It is reasonable I suppose that a religious order which makes a hash of an apostolate hands it over to someone else, but Heaven's suggestion smacks of anti-clericalism. How, exactly, would having lay control help? Hasn't he noticed all the non-religious, indeed non-Catholic schools which have had child protection issues? It is the attitudes and policies of the individuals in positions of authority which are important, not whether they wear clerical dress. On this, Jonathan West of 'Confessions of a Skeptic' agrees with me, in his Tablet article this week and his comments under Heaven's article: lay leadership is not a 'silver bullet'. (Tablet link for subscribers.)

I have another concern about the attempt to separate monastic schools from the monasteries which founded them. If this happens we will have two institutions sharing a site, but nothing else. It will be entirely reasonable for the monastic community to ask why they are allowing this alien institution to take up so much of their land, rent free. Why not turn it into luxury flats? Hybrid models, in which the Abbot appoints some trustees and some unnamed person others, seem to be a recipe for permanent conflict.

The other thing which struck me was Heaven's jaunty reference to Downside going mixed. He writes:

There is no question about it: Downside School is still flourishing. A few years ago, I wrote in this newspaper about its “second spring”, which occurred after 2005 when it allowed girls to join. I noted that the school was livelier and noisier than before and was at its capacity of 430 pupils.
Alas, Downside – as a community – is now experiencing an unexpectedly harsh winter.

You might think that the sudden onset of colder weather might make Heaven wonder whether 2005 was spring after all. For why did they they let in girls, to a school which had been single-sex since its foundation a century earlier? Did the monks suddenly feel a special charism to look after the emotional needs of adolescent girls? I don't think so. Letting in girls enabled it to bring number back up to capacity: oh, that's it!

I don't blame the monks of Downside in particular, they were just following the trend. The point is that this is a trend in which the interests of pupils were sacrificed to financial considerations, and to educational fashion. No one was ignorant, by 2005, of the educational benefits to girls of being in a all-girls' school; the subject had been studied to death. Catholic boys' schools, usually with superior brand-recognition and resources, continued to undermine the girls' schools by going mixed because it was in their interests, not in the girls'.

If anyone is interested in the Church's teaching on co-education, they can look at Pius XI on the subject in 1939 (Divine illius magistri):

68. False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of "coeducation." This too, by many of its supporters, is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin; but by all, upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a leveling promiscuity and equality, for the legitimate association of the sexes.

This is related, by the denial of original sin, to the real elephant in the room, which I mention in my letter, which is the sexualisation of children. The motto of the secular educational establishment is 'Do whatever you are comfortable doing; don't let anyone make you feel guilty about it; don't let anyone do to you what you're not comfortable with'. This places the burden of child protection on the children themselves. Since the only standard of what is abusive is the child's perception, accusations of abuse are justified almost by definition. By the same token, the 'grooming' activities of abusers, in which they attempt to convince their victims that abuse is really ok, have been adopted as school policy: nothing is not ok, children, if you just accept it. This is why we have the extraordinary situation in which schools are deliberately sexualising children, and then crying blue murder at the least plausible accusation.

The Catholic Church has a great opportunity here, because the secular orthodoxy has become so extreme, and so incoherent, that at least some people will give an alternative a hearing. The Natural Law tells us what is abusive, and we have the intellectual resources to create an environment for children in which abuse is less likely to happen. Why not do it, and make a virtue of it?

I see Oona Stanard is stepping down from the Catholic Education Service. Perhaps her replacement can give these matters some serious consideration.

Full disclosure: I am a Fellow of St Benet's Hall, a Hall of Oxford University whose trustees are the Abbot and Council of Ampleforth Abbey.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Oxford Pilgrimage 29th October

I can now confirm that, at Mass, as well as Dominican chant sung by the Schola Abelis, we will have some particularly lovely early polyphony from the Newman Consort, a choir associated with Oxford's Ordinariate group. They will sing parts of Ockeghem's Missa Sine Nomine and of Martini's Missa Ferialis, then the motet Intemerata Dei Mater by Ockeghem.


The Latin Mass Society's Pilgrimage to Oxford - which I organise as the Society's Local Representative - will take place on 29th October, with High Mass in Oxford's Blackfriars at 11am, in the traditional Dominican Rite, followed at 2pm by a procession to one of the two sites of martyrdom in the city.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is Mass in the vernacular inaudible?

Reposted from April this year, partly because it's had a new comment.

In the Catholic Herald of 18th March, Ann Widdecombe suggested that it frequently is: so much so, that with the withdrawal by her parish priest of sheets with the proper prayers and readings printed on them, she has resorted to using a hand missal, as have many others in her parish.

There have been a lot of complaints from liberals about the unintelligibility of the vocabulary of the 2011 English translation, which contains hard words like 'ineffable', 'venerable' and 'contrite', but Widdecombe's difficulty is a separate issue entirely. She wants a printed text to look at because she can't understand badly read or heavily accented lections, mumbled psalms, or words overlaid with the crying of babies. (Her article is not on the Catholic Herald website, but on the right is the money quote.)

Thursday, September 08, 2016

LMS Pilgrimage to Aylesford, 1st October

Aylesford Priory is the international home of the Brown Scapular, and we have a pilgrimage here each year. The site of the medieval priory - which includes medieval buildings - was bought back the the Carmelite order after the Second World War.

This year the Pilgrimage takes place on Saturday 1st October, with Mass at 1:30pm.

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

Saturday, September 03, 2016

What happened to hats? Christian Dior speaks

Bishop Cunningham was too polite to notice, but others did.
Reposted from March 2015.

A short time ago I published a position paper on head coverings in church. In the Church's tradition, going back to the Apostles, men uncover their heads, and women cover them, during the liturgy. Men removing their hats is still demanded throughout the Church in practice: deviation from the custom is noted with a degree of shock. The custom of women covering them is widely, if not universally, observed in the context of the Traditional Mass, as well as being maintained in the Eastern Churches, but is seen in the Ordinary Form only when grand weddings demand hats for the ladies.

A complicating cultural factor is the disappearance, to an overwhelming extent, of headcoverings for both sexes in everyday life in Western fashion. This means that the liturgical custom looks like more of a big deal for women (who have to do something unusual: cover their heads), and less of a big deal for men (who just remain bare-headed), when for most of the history of the Church it was the other way round. Women simply kept on the headscarves, bonnets, veils, or hats, of their era, but men had to dandle their caps and hats in their hands or find a place to put them down or hang them up, no matter how cold the church was. This is why the Position Paper insisted on looking at the custom from the point of view of both sexes, and not just address the question: Why do (some) women cover their heads at the Traditional Mass?

LMS Tyburn Walk 2016


In 2014 the Latin Mass Society organised a devotional 'walk' from the site of Newgate Prison to the site of the Tyburn Tree, the gallows where prisoners from Newgate were executed, among them at least 105 Catholic martyrs. We didn't manage to do it last year, but it happened on the Bank Holiday Monday this week, while I was still in Walsingham. Here are some pictures, thanks to @idlerambler.


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Walsingham 2016: Photo essay

I took very few photos this year, since John Aron was taking lots; I've included some of his below.


In a nutshell, the LMS Walking Pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham was a great success, with lots of people, lots of prayers and songs, and lots of graces. And lots of children.


We had with us Fr James Mawdsley FSSP, now at St Mary's, Warrington, and Fr Michael Rowe from Perth in Australia, who has been with us twice before. We were able to have High Mass with the help of Br Anthony of the Friars of Gosport, who is awaiting ordination. We also had a Fraternity seminarian, the Rev Mr Thomas O'Sullivan, very well known to me from his Oxford days; he was MC at our masses, another Gosport Friar, Br Philomeno, who has done the pilgrimage before, and a lay brother of the Society of St Vincent Ferrer, Br Vincent Hoare, who sang with our small schola.