Saturday, December 31, 2016

If the good guys win at the Synod

I first published this in October 2015. Events seem to have upheld my pessimism.

Farewell, the Year of Grace 2016! Hold onto your hats for 2017.

The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time.
The Fourth Station: Jesus is met by His Blessed Mother

I wasn't around for the Second Vatican Council and its immediate aftermath, but on the basis of what I've read about those years, I feel as if I am watching an action-replay.

One thing to remember about it is that the terrible things which happened after the Council came after the promulgation of documents which had been much tweaked in a conservative direction, documents which the more conservative bishops felt they could, after all, support, since they were quite capable of being read in a way consistent with traditional views. For example, it was quite late in the proceedings that one famous sentence of the document on liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, assumed its final form:

'there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them'

with the addition of the phrase 'genuinly and certainly', 'vera et certa'. With this in the document, what more could anyone ask?

All sorts of qualifying footnotes and subclauses went into the documents of the Council to acheive the consensus votes which were thought to be appropriate - and rightly so. But the disasters which befell the Church afterwards still happened.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Children and the Traditional Mass


In the pause between Christmas and the New Year, on the feast of the Holy Innocents, I invite a little reflection on children and the liturgy.

I have written a few posts about this already on this blog, and the current issue of the Catholic Herald has a short piece by me on this topic. But today I am publishing a Position Paper about it on Rorate Caeli go there to read it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

La Nativité - Lorenzo Costa
Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Read me in the Catholic Universe

I have a long article in the Christmas double issue of the Catholic Universe, about the Traditional Mass and the New Age. Here's a sneak preview. The article p42.

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Read me in the Catholic Herald

I'm in the Catholic Herald for their double, Christmas issue. Here's a sneak preview.

I can't say I'm very impressed by their choice of photo, but that's life.

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

The joys of polarisation

Cardinal Burke in St James', Spanish Place, for the Latin Mass Society

It is interesting to see EWTN giving Cardinal Burke the interview I posted yesterday, and the general pro-dubia stance they have taken. A similar editorial line is being taken by Church Militant. Less surprising is the support for the dubia coming from LifeSiteNews, which has long had a robust editorial line.

From a Traditional Catholic point of view, each of these organisations has come in for criticism over the years. Christopher Ferrara wrote a book, EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong with some stinging criticisms of their TV broadcasts, which showed a marked tendency to tone down their attachment to the Church's traditional teaching and spirituality after the retirement of Mother Angelica. I myself criticised Michael Voris's absurd and inconsistent vow never to criticise the Holy Father; in fact his 'Vortex' videos have continued studiously to avoid the subject of the dubia, which has been covered for them, as far as I can see, by Christine Niles. Even LifeSiteNews failed, in the end, to back up Hillary White when she was attacked some time ago by Ultramontanist fanatics for reporting something about the Pope which they simply wished hadn't happened.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cardinal Burke gives an interview

This isn't a blog which tries to keep up with all the news, but the video below is interesting. Cardinal Burke is very measured and very clear in an interview with EWTN's Raymond Arroyo.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why is it so important to support the 4 Cardinals?

I have had a post published on First Things. It begins:

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a score of Catholic academics and pastors—of whom I am one—spoke out, in an open letter, in support of the “Four Cardinals” who submitted and then made public five “dubia” (doubts or questions) to Pope Francis on issues raised by his post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The four cardinals—Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller, and Joachim Meisner—have taken a step that has few, if any, precedents.

As canonist Edward Peters has noted, the Four Cardinals’ letter is a “textbook” example of what one should do when in a state of perplexity about serious matters, according to Canon 212. What is unprecedented is that the problem should have escalated to this point, and have continued to escalate thereafter. That the pope should have declined—and made clear that he was declining—to answer such eminent petitioners, is extraordinary. That the Four Cardinals should have felt it necessary to go public is, in terms of the political expectations of the Roman Curia, little short of the nuclear option—even if the biblical, as well as the canonical, textbook would say it was their right and perhaps duty to do so (Matthew 18:15-17; Canon 212 §3). A group of academics and pastors weighing in on the Four Cardinals’ side, as certain bishops have, with a number of clerical and lay supporters of Pope Francis attacking them, would seem to be adding fuel to the flames.

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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gaudete Sunday in Hethe


Last Sunday I attended (and sang at) Mass in Holy Trinity, Hethe, an EF Sung Mass celebrated by Fr Paul Lester the Parish Priest.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Responses to Ivereigh on 'dissent'

Austen Ivereigh has written a rambling and intensly boring article on Crux in which he describes anyone not on board with his personal interpretation of Amoris laetitia as 'dissenters'. Yes, it is his personal interpretation because, as yet, there is no magisterial indication of how it should be understood, and liberals claiming to support the Pope over it have come up with a bewildering range of views. What does Austen think the authentic interpretation is? He doesn't say. But beware! If you reject it, you have dissented, just as those who wanted female ordination dissented back under Pope John Paul II.

Dissent from what? The word is usually used to refer to the teaching of the Church, but Ivereigh appears to mean from the personal views of the current Pope, which may of course vary from day to day and depend on whether he has toothache.

It would be nice to be able to say that anything so utterly ludicrous should be ignored but, sadly, this impassioned but empty invective appears to be the best that the semi-official Francis media team can come up with, and they are saying not only loudly, but with real menace. It serves to demonstrate, if nothing else, how completely empty is the intellectual backing for their position. Since Buttiglione tried to make a serious case for a 'liberal Amoris' and ended up contradicting what the Pope's favourite bishops were saying all around the world, they have actually nothing to say to defend themselves.

I don't have time to write more right now but several good responses to Ivereigh have appeared.

Christine Niles (Church Militant)

Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman

Fr John Hunwicke

Carl Olsen (Catholic World Report)

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What's with a saturno?

Red Cappello Romano (or Saturno)
Blessed John Henry, Cardinal Newman's saturno, in the Birmingham Oratory

How could a harmless hat become the object of such strong feelings? Perhaps it is not so strange. My Facebook timeline has filled up with images of, mostly young, priests, wearing the things: posted by themselves. They are trying to say something by wearing it, and we shouldn't be so surprised when people who don't like the message use the hat as a symbol of it.

So what's the message?

1. Saturnos are fun.

You know what? Young priests have a sense of fun. This will perhaps be the aspect of the message which liberals find it hardest to understand. People of my generation, and younger, don't see liberalism as a blessed release from the strictures of the past. We grew up under the liberal jackboot. Liberals were the kill joys, the fun police, the people who like to say 'no'. Catholic culture is all about innocent pleasures, healthy and often edifying pleasures: about music and art and food and family life, about the joys as well as the pains and perils of pilgrimages, about feasting as well as fasting. Liberals hate those things: that, at any rate, was the impression we received.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Finnis and Grisez appeal to Pope Francis over Amoris laetitia

John Finnis and Germain Grisez, longstanding collaborators, are extremely eminent Catholic academics. Finnis is best known as a legal theorist, and Grisez as a moral theologian, but they have had the most notable influence on the Catholic debate in their joint and several work on the ethics of sex and of killing. They have been hugely influential, having founded what is identified (though not by them) as the school of 'New Natural Law' theory. They are not 'traditionalists'; they are rather establishment figures, in the context of the 'conservative' Catholic establishment. Their weighing into this debate is of the greatest significance.

I have followed their work closely as a philosopher, and there are many areas in which my own views diverge from theirs. One of the interesting things about their letter, for me, is that I agree with every word of it.

Here is their letter. There is some more commentary on First Things.


The Misuse of Amoris Laetitia to
Support Errors against the Catholic Faith:
A Letter to the Supreme Pontiff Francis, to all bishops in
communion with him, and to the rest of the Christian faithful

In this letter, John Finnis and Germain Grisez request Pope Francis to condemn eight positions against the Catholic faith that are being supported, or likely will be, by the misuse of his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. They ask all bishops to join in this request and to issue their own condemnations of the erroneous positions, while reaffirming the Catholic teachings these positions contradict.

The eight positions are these.

Position A:
A priest administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation may sometimes absolve a penitent who lacks a purpose of amendment with respect to a sin in grave matter that either pertains to his or her ongoing form of life or is habitually repetitive.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Letter from Catholic Academics and Pastors in support of the Dubia


This press release speaks for itself; I am a signatory.

I have given a statement to Lifesitenews:

While many prominent prelates and academics feel obliged to remain silent during this time of crisis, it has fallen to the four Cardinals to seek paternal guidance from the Holy Father, asking him to exercise the central charism of the Papacy, and 'confirm the brethren' in the faith (Luke 22:32).

I and the other signatories wish to support that request. The Holy Father alone has the power to resolve the current confusion, and must urgently do so for the good of souls.

The message from some of those who claim to support Pope Francis' position, appears to be the Catholics should simultaneously believe that the teaching of Pope St John Paul II--and all his predecessors--remains correct, and also that it is no longer applicable in concrete situations. To demand that people undertake this doublethink is not the action of a good father; it is an abuse of ordinary Catholics and of the truth. To reject this kind of defence of Amoris laetitia is required not only by the Faith but by our sanity.


Statement of Support for the Four Cardinals’ Dubia

As Catholic scholars and pastors of souls, we wish to express our profound gratitude and full support for the courageous initiative of four members of the College of Cardinals, Their Eminences Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Leo Burke, Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner. As has been widely publicized, these cardinals have formally submitted five dubia to Pope Francis, asking him to clarify five fundamental points of Catholic doctrine and sacramental discipline, the treatment of which in Chapter 8 of the recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL) appears to conflict with Scripture and/or Tradition and the teaching of previous papal documents – notably Pope St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis Splendor and his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. Pope Francis has so far declined to answer the four cardinals; but since they are in effect asking him whether the above weighty magisterial documents still require our full assent, we think that the Holy Father’s continued silence may open him to the charge of negligence in the exercise of the Petrine duty of confirming his brethren in the faith.

Several prominent prelates have been sharply critical of the four cardinals’ submission, but without shedding any light on their pertinent and searching questions. We have read attempts to interpret the apostolic exhortation within a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ by Christoph Cardinal Schӧnborn and Professor Rocco Buttiglione; but we find that they fail to demonstrate their central claim that the novel elements found in AL do not endanger divine law, but merely envisage legitimate changes in pastoral practice and ecclesiastical discipline.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The meaning of Papal silence

Jesus is stripped of His garments.

Silence is not necessarily a neutral response to a question. There is an interesting discussion of it in the courtroom scene in A Man for All Seasons. Silence implies consent: but consent to what depends on the context. Silence can imply approval and complaisance, or the opposite: contempt, or a complete lack of interest.

In any case, the question of meaning is separate from the question of motivation. Motives for actions may be hidden deep in the heart; meanings are public, and are set by the public understandings of words, gestures, and the context in which they occur. That’s not to say that any one person’s understanding of the meaning of a statement, or a symbolic action, or omission, is infallible; it is just to point out the obvious, that it is not open to anyone to use the word ‘no’ to mean ‘yes’ simply by a mental act inaccessible to anyone else. His statement may be insincere, but it still means ‘no’.

With Pope Francis, it is hard not to be reminded of politicians’ use of the phrase ‘my position is very clear’, which is generally followed by a pre-prepared statement which does not answer the question. We may say that the Pope’s position is ‘very clear’, in a similar way. The path to the present crisis is strewn with references to how the teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is maintained. But no less insistent is the claim that Amoris laetitia has not simply left things as they were before. Something has changed, something which will make a big difference to a large number of people, something which makes it possible for many people formerly considered, officially, ineligible for Holy Communion, able to receive now, after they and their friendly local priest have ‘discerned’ this.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Does anyone want a harmonium?

A (more or less) working harmonium is Holy Trinity Church, Hethe, Oxfordshire is available for anyone who wants it. (Contact details here.)

Contact the parish to see it or collect it.

Holy Trinity is a lovely church, which thanks to an enterprising former Parish Priest has a very interesting 18th century chamber organ (in need of some restoration). For some reason it also has this harmonium, which takes up a good deal of space in the tiny choir loft.

Someone: give it a home!

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