Thursday, May 25, 2017

Eucharisticum Mysterium: blog post for the Catholic Herald

The Catholic Herald has published a post of mine on the 50th anniversary of one of the documents preparing the way for the Novus Ordo Missae. The highlight of the document is the evolving attitude to concelebration.

Simultaneous Low Mass at the LMS Priest Training Conference in Prior Park, 

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, signed by both the Prefect of the soon-to-be abolished Sacred Congregation of Rites, and the President of the Concilium, the temporary institution in charge of the liturgical reform. It now represents a fascinating snapshot of a fast-moving action sequence.

Go there to read it.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New book on the Third Secret of Fatima

Kevin Symonds, whose book on the composition of the Prayer to St Michael I recommended on this blog back in 2015, has written another careful, thorough, and sober study of a subject surrounded by conjecture: the 'Third Secret' of Fatima.

Get it from

I've provided a publicity-blurb for it as follows:

Symonds has done a very thorough job in getting to the bottom–insofar as it is possible–of the various confusions and conspiracy theories on the subject of the Third Secret, making a compelling case that what the Vatican published in 2000 was the whole text of it as written by Sr Lucia. No doubt the debate will continue, but the clarity and intellectual honesty of Symonds’ work, with copious reference to the relevant sources in their original languages, will be of enormous assistance for scholars in the future who wish to understand this tangled affair. –Dr. Joseph Shaw

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SSPX ordinations: with permission from the Holy See

Update: there's an amusing exchange in Fr Z's comment box on this. Fr Z quotes Archbishop Pozzo of the PCED that SSPX priestly ordinations are something they 'permit and tolerate' but which are still regarded as 'valid but illicit'. But, really, that doesn't make sense. If they are permitted, they are licit. The word 'licit' simply means 'permitted': any dictionary will tell you that.

Of course these are crazy times. And anyway I'm happy if Rome wants to make some concession now ('permit and tolerate') while allowing itself to make another, at least on paper ('make licit') at some future date. It is all part of a process, after all.


This is really wonderful news: Bishop Fellay, Superior of the Society of St Pius X, has said (h/t Rorate Caeli) that he recieved a letter from the Holy See last year telling him that he could continue with priestly ordinations, without needing permission from the local bishop. This is a move I noted as a possible 'next step' after those involving confession and marriages in my 'Chairman's Message' in the latest Mass of Ages, which I reproduce below.


Not for the first time in the present pontificate, the Catholic media is abuzz with the possibility that the Society of Pope Pius X (SSPX) will be ‘reconciled’ to the Holy See: which is to say, that it would gain official canonical status. On a previous occasion, when asked for comments by Catholic journalists, I told them to calm down: my view was that it wasn’t about to happen, because of the issue of mutual trust. I was correct, then, but things have continued to develop. The ‘jurisdiction’ needed for priests to hear confessions validly, outside an emergency situation, was granted to the SSPX for the ‘Year of Mercy’, and when that year came to an end this jurisdiction was granted permanently. Now provisions have been made in relation to weddings celebrated by SSPX priests, so that there need not be any doubt about their validity either. These arrangements give the SSPX privileges, such as jurisdiction to hear confessions given directly from the Pope, enjoyed by no other religious institute.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mass of Ages: Summer 2017 edition published

If your local church doesn't have copies, get one by post here.

Bishop Schneider on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.

James Bogle on the Emperor, Bl Charles of Austria.

Plus: Antonia Robinson, LMS Committee Member and Local Representative for Thanet, introduces the LMS Family Contact Register.

Joseph Shaw, LMS Chairman, introduces us to ‘a real devotional object’: the Easter Garden
Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP, issues the cry “Muster the Legions!” as he commemorates the tenth anniversary of the international prayer network for vocations: The Confraternity of St Peter.
Paul Waddington, LMS Treasurer and Local Representative for Middlebrough, visits the church of the Sacred Heart in Caterham.
Matthew Schellhorn, LMS Director of Music for London, reveals how he approached planning and selecting the music for the celebration of the Triduum Sacrum this year.
Alberto Carosa reports on the recent gathering of musicians in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Musicam Sacram.
Our regular columnists:
• The Lone Veiler with some words of wisdom from St Augustine
• Caroline Shaw looks at a pilgrim’s souvenir from the 16th Century: The miraculous bleeding Host of Dijon
• Fr Bede Row asks, “Do we still believe in marriage?”
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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Who are Pope Francis' 'rigid Catholics'?

Crush not the spirit. From the Rosary Walk
at Pantasaph, the Franciscan Retreat Centre
in North Wales.

Whenever Pope Francis talks about 'pharisees', 'rigid' Catholics and the like there is a speculation about whom he really means. Some of the things he says, which seem to concern liturgical issues, are interpreted as directed at Traditional Catholics, though as I have pointed out many are in fact explicitly targeted at the 'Reform of the Reform' movement. More general remarks about 'rigidity' in outlook may seem to be about anyone with a traditional understanding of the moral demands of the Gospel, given the background issue of marriage and divorce, but I think we should not be too quick to assume that the Holy Father is talking about common-or-garden traditionally-minded Catholics. There are after all other groups in the Church which may loom somewhat larger in his field of vision, and have no connection with the Traditional Mass.

How would we describe, for example, the atmosphere of the Legionaires of Christ under their founder, the manipulative, corrupt, and sexually abusive Marcial Maciel Degollado? 'Rigidity' is not a bad term, even if it hardly gets to the root of the problem. Other groups in the Church have reputations, rightly or wrongly, which place them, on the 'rigidity' scale, a long way way from, say, the post-Conciliar Jesuits. Pope Francis has some interesting things to say to them.

The NeoCatechumenal Way. There has been some strong opposition to the NCW from Latin American bishops in the past, so it is interesting to know what Pope Francis has to say. It has long had official favour in Rome; most recently Pope Benedict (corrected: not, of course, Pope Francis), in 2011, effectively forced the bishops of Japan to let them in. But as John Allen has discussed an audience Pope Francis held with members of the Neocatechumiate in early 2014 included some pointed advice:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ann Furedi in Oxford

The Birmingham March for Life is on Saturday: see the full details of the day's event here. The march itself is from 2pm but the day starts with Masses and talks from 9am. It's huge and important; please go if you can.

I'm reposting below my comments from November 2013 on Ann Furedi's talk in support of abortion which took place in Oxford.


Last night I attended a debate organised by Oxford Students for Life. They invited Ann Furedi, head of the country's biggest abortion provider, BPAS; she was opposed by Sarah de Nordwall. I was very impressed, with my experience of abortion debates in the Oxford Union, at the good natured and rational quality of the discussions; this is a great credit to the organisers and their supporters (pro-abortion students were also present, in smaller numbers). It was a nice demonstration, in fact, that the hysteria in the abortion debate does not, in the main, come from pro-lifers, despite the strength of feeling on their side of the debate.

I was impressed by Sarah de Nordwall, particularly in the way she handled hostile questions. This blog post, however, which I promised Sarah I would write, is about what Ann Furedi had to say.

Furedi was witty and articulate. She made a number of very interesting concessions at an early stage which helpfully closed off a number of dead-ends for the discussion. She reminded us, for example, that there is no legal right to abortion in English law. Something else very interesting which she said is that until 1990 there was no time-limit on abortions in Scotland, but there were no more late-term abortions there than in England before then. Her point was that women don't want late-term abortions. Pro-lifers may need to consider the efficacy of time-limit legislation as a means to reduce abortion numbers.

Sarah de Nordwall surrounded by Dominicans
Furedi's argument for a moral right to abortion turned on two ideas. The first was that moral personhood is assocatiated with functional attributes, such as self-consciousness. As the debate went on she seemed to back away from this idea somewhat; she didn't want to draw the conclusion, for example, that infanticide was permissible. So her argument came to rely exclusively on the second idea, which is that for a pregnant woman a moral right to abortion followed from her right to 'bodily integrity'. Actually I think 'bodily self-determination' might be a better term for her intuition here. What happens inside a body, in effect, should be up the owner of the body.

I felt that this argument should have come under more pressure in the debate, and I offer here some objections to it.

1. The argument appears to generate the conclusions Furedi wants only if the distinct existence and bodily integrity of the fetus is ignored. Given that the fetus has his own body, that brings something else into the equation which needs to be taken into consideration. What right has a women to interfere with another person's body? Furedi appears to think 'none' if the woman is a pro-life activist taking an interest in the fate of a woman considering an abortion (a point she made a number of times), but if the woman is a pregnant mother it appears to be quite different in relation to her unborn child. The first point noted above was designed I suppose to deal with this, but as Furedi conceded it cannot bear the argumentative weight: just because a human can't talk doesn't take away a moral status he would otherwise have. This being so, Furedi's argument seems to defeat itself: if we have the right to bodily self-determination, then the fetus' right would prevent the mother from aborting.

The responses Furedi made to this kind of point consisted of insisting on the lesser moral status of the fetus. Although she wasn't able to make a principled argument for this, she seemed to think it was sufficiently obvious, even while conceding that a fetus has value - more, as she put it, than a goldfish or a cat. But given that the fetus' life is at stake, and the mother's is not, to say that the fetus weighs less in the scales of value is not enough. I might be obliged to suffer a lot of inconvenience to save the life of, say, a whale, a colony of rare bats, or, come to that, to ensure the continued existence of an historic building.

Ann Furedi
2. The principle of radical bodily self-determination, which Furedi needs, is not plausible, and is not applied in law or in common-sense moral thinking. Examples which show this are suicide and body-integrity disorder. No one has the moral right to commit suicide, which is why we all think that it is permissible for bystanders to save a would-be suicide from (say) drowning, or talk him off the window ledge. (The Samaritans even abandon their normal 'non-directive' counselling for prospective suicides.) Those suffering from body-integrity disorder, who want healthy limbs amputated, do not have the right to undergo the amputations, indeed it would be wrong for a doctor to carry out their wishes. These cases do not even involve the agents directly harming other parties, so a fortiori it cannot be concluded from our intuition that people are 'in charge of their own bodies', that a mother can harm a fetus enclosed inside her body. Yes, we say casually that we can do what we like with our bodies, but the principle here is a weak one. It may include body-piercing, but it doesn't even extend to experimenting with hard drugs, let alone anything more dramatic or irreversible.

A wider point is about people being (morally) the best judges of their own interests. The statute books are bursting with laws to prevent people making stupid decisions on the basis of what they imagine are their best interests. Everything from building regulations to tobacco duty acknowledges that the law has a role in guiding rational, grown-up and autonomous decision-makers away from bad decisions.

3. Furedi conceded that some women think of abortion in a moment of confusion and panic, and being better-informed or just a bit calmer they may well change their minds. She also conceded that many women are under intense social pressure to abort baby girls. She appealed to the case of the women who are cool, calm, and collected, and decide rationally to go through with it as being in their best interests. I would have liked to have asked, in light of this, whether making abortion easier, legally or practically, is in the best interests of women overall. It certainly isn't in the interests of the first kinds of cases, who are more likely to do something they later regret, and are easier for others to bully, the easier abortion is to arrange. Even supposing the cool, calm ones are right about their interests (see point two), it is far from clear that this means that a situation should be perpetuated in which many, many others end up being violated in the most horrible way, when they cave in to pressure to have an abortion which they do not want.

Again, compare the case with drugs. Drug users constantly tell us that, in the immortal phrase, 'they can handle it'. Suppose they can - suppose it is true that a certain proportion of users can genuinely derive pleasure from hard drugs without it destroying their lives. As an argument for de-criminalisation this is extremely weak, because everyone can see the drugs users who clearly can't handle it, and making drugs more widely available will cause terrible harm to people in that category.

These parallels are not exact. It is for the pro-abortion advocates to explain, however, what is the principled basis of a moral right to abortion, and why such principles don't lead to counter-intuitive results when applied to other cases.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Votive Mass for Fatima: photos


Here are some photos of the Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart which was celebrated in SS Gregory and Augustine by Fr John Saward, last Saturday: 13th May.


Monday, May 15, 2017

'What does Fatima mean?' by Hamish Fraster

Hamish Fraser with a dove
on his head: one released
during a Fatima conference
in Paris.
I'm not an expert on Fatima, but I thought that this excerpt from Hamish Fraser's book Fatal Star serves a useful contrast, and perhaps corrective, to certain conventional views of 'the message of Fatima'. The blog title is taken from a section heading in the book, p145, and the passage below follows it.

It is true that Our Lady of of Fatima did ask for prayer: for the Daily Rosary, the First Saturday devotion, and for the wearing of the brown scapular. Nevertheless, these are purely incidental to the essence of the Fatima message. This was made clear to John Haffert ... of the international Fatima apostolate...

When Haffert asked Sister Lucia whether the principle [sic] request of her heavenly visitor was for the Rosary, Sister Lucy's answer was most emphatically in the negative. Moreover, he affirms that her reply was given with a quite "surprising assurance" [from Haffert Russia will be Converted]. And Haffert, who is far too honest not to admit it, tells us that until then he had always assumed that the Rosary to be Our Lady's principal request.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Why I'm not going to lambast Traditional Catholics

Self-cricism. They were executed anyway.
I've been taken to task for defending Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass from various exagerated criticisms, and for pointing out that other identifiable groups in the Church have the same characteristics, if not worse ones, rather than engaging in Maoist-style self-criticism. Today I'm going to say a bit more about this.

We are all sinners, and if anyone reading this has a story about a sinful Traditional Catholic, I'm not going to claim that such a thing could not be true. There are a number of dangers, however, with Maoist self-criticism, which really should be obvious.

1. It is narcissistic and inward-looking. Frankly, the personal qualities of Traditional Catholics are not very important for the Church as a whole. Let's just get over ourselves, shall we?

2. It implies the truth of generalisations about Traditional Catholics, which is itself uncharitable. For me to say 'I've heard these criticisms and there is truth in them - yes, [taking out an onion] I'm a Traditional Catholic, and I'm a bitter, hate-filled, Pharisee' implies something not just about me personally but about the group as a whole: it is an accusation against my fellow trads, and one I have no right to make.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Donna Steichen on the New Age in the Catholic Church

I've been reading Donna Steichen, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism (Ignatius Press, 1991). It is a snapshot of the situation in the second half of the 1980s. It is important to understand how we got to where we are today, and Steichen's observations from a quarter of a century ago are particularly helpful in that respect. She wrote at what was in many ways the high-water mark of the attempt by liberal Church employees, clergy, and religious, to use the resources of the Church herself to teach Catholics an alternative religion. This was the era of tens of thousands of priests and religious being laicised and released from their vows (or simply leaving without authorisation), but these individuals very often remained active in the Church, writing, speaking, teaching in schools and universities, and being involved in diocesan offices of one kind or another, and providing the warm bodies for a movement for reform. They managed to gain and retain control of Catholic educational institutions, above all, but also of many other aspects of the Church with propagandistic potential, giving talks in parishes, organising liturgy, and so on.

Steichen explains that the route out of the Faith was opened up by the common-or-garden variety of theological Modernism, but the opening was exploited by people influenced by quite distinct movements: feminism, the New Age, and Neo-Paganism.

Scholars who pruned the supernatural from scriptural interpretation on the grounds that 'modern man' could not believe it give no sign of having second thoughts as modern men and women flood into fundamentalist churches or pay thousands of dollars to seek advice from New Age mediums.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Are traditionalists paranoid?

Over on Unam Sanctam blog, the old canard of the 'obnoxious trad' is wheeled out. Apparently the author has met a couple of priests don't like the people who come to the Traditional Mass; one has stopped celebrating it. Hmm. Maybe these Catholics were sinners, in need of the sacraments. It seems they won't be receiving them with much good will from these priests.

It has been well answered by Brian Williams at the Liturgy Guy here. Catholics attached to the ancient liturgy are accused of 'chasing' the traditional Mass from parish to parish, and not coming to other parish events. Williams points out that this is simply a consequence of the fact that they are not having their legitimate aspirations for the sacraments in the traditional forms met in any one parish, and very often have to travel long distances to attend services and events. A priest who declines to go beyond what he describes as a 'semi-regular' provision of the EF can hardly complain about that. I don't necessarily blame the priests for not doing more: I don't know what their other committments are. But by the same token no one is in a position to criticise laity for not making multiple two-hour round trips each week for extra events at a parish which has not given them a liturgical home.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Rigid Young People and the Traditional Mass

'Feed my sheep.'
Once again the Pope has criticised 'rigid young people'. The Church is a big place and I'm sure his criticisms apply to some people. The issue of hypocritical rigid Catholics is a big theme in The Devil Hates Latin, and it may well be that Pope Francis has the kind of people in view there in mind, at least among others. The difficulty is how the tone comes over for a lot of the Catholics in the West who are actually going to read some summary of these remarks. It can easily sound as though the Pope is criticising people who take their Faith seriously, or would like to.

I thought I'd repost a section of an old, over-long post from this blog on young people and the Traditional Mass: this is below, and the post is here.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Masses in Limerick: Letter in The Tablet

Not available in Limerick?
Update: I'm told (by someone on Facebook) that there were in fact a few OF Masses celebrated in the diocese, by religious (as opposed to secular, diocesan) priests. Also, that the lay-led liturgies were not Eucharistic, just 'liturgies of the word'.

This makes the falsity of the report by the diocesan 'manager' more egregious, and the deprivation of the Faithful of the Sacrements more clear-cut.

Original post below.

Last weekend The Tablet reported on the alleged fact that the previous Tuesday had not seen any public celebrations of Mass in the Diocese of Limerick. The headline connected this with a shortage of priests, but the text of the story took a quite different line, pointing out that the diocese has no fewer than 108 priests. Surely one or two could have said a public Mass? The reason they didn't is that they were all involved in a training day. So there were lay-led eucharistic liturgies instead.

According to Catherine Kelly, general manager of Limerick Diocese, the liturgies are one of the many initiatives from last year’s synod. The diocese is offering people opportunities to have “greater involvement in the Church, greater leadership [and] greater ownership”, she said.

“The Church we all grew up with could be viewed as a train,” said Bishop Leahy, “a locomotive pulling many carriages behind it. That is not fit for purpose today. We all need to be engines of the Church, out there, working for others, doing good work”.

An interesting attitude. What the Protestants couldn't do, the liberals have done. Anyway, this weekend The Tablet have published a letter of mine:

Your report on the Mass-less Tuesday in the Diocese of Limerick gives the impression that it was not just an unfortunate coincidence, but a deliberate stunt to promote lay-led Eucharistic liturgies. Let us hope that the bishop of Limerick does not see his role as depriving his people of the sacraments, instead of feeding his flock, which would indeed be strange if true.

In any case, the report was false. The church of the Sacred Heart in Limerick, sold to developers by the Jesuits in 2006 and re-opened for worship by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 2012, had Mass at 8am and at 7pm, and also times for Adoration and Confession. No doubt it didn't appear on the radar of the diocesan employee quoted in the story because, although the Institute works in the diocese with the permission of the bishop, they celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, The Latin Mass Society

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Bullying and ostracism from the Catholic Education Service

Update: as well as Mark Lambert, CCFather has written three posts about this which are worth reading.

Something which has emerged is that much of this document is cut and pasted from materials created by Stonewall, the charming gay advocacy group which gave Cardinal O'Brian its annual 'Bigot of the Year' award for opposing same-sex marriage, and a group called 'lgbtScotland'.


Copies of a guidance document entitled 'Made in God's Image', on homophobic bullying, from the Catholic Education Service are doing the rounds. It is going to be sent to Catholic schools soon but Mark Lambert has put the pdf on DropBox and made a few comments.

The document has both superficial and deep problems. Superficially, I'm suspicious of documents which don't include the names of the people who drew them up, or indeed the name of anyone willing to take responsibility for it. This document has the logos of the CES, St Mary's University, and the Aquinas Centre for Theological Literacy on it. Is it actually endorsed by these institutions? (Did St Mary's ask its governing body to vote on it? I hardly think so.) Where does it come from? Who paid for it? Who composed it? No matter, the CES is promoting it, maybe that is all we need to know.

Again, this is a 37-page document on homophobic bullying, which sets out lesson plans for eight 50-minute lessons to be devoted exclusively to this topic. What about other forms of bullying? What about other forms of bullying which target 'protected characteristics' under English law? No doubt the CES has policies on all these things but there is no sense of an integrated approach here. How does this fit in with Sex Ed, Religious Studies, or anything else? It is not even clear what teachers are supposed to deliver these lessons, which make frequent reference to gospel passages, but stray into history, current affairs, and Sex Ed. In some places the reader gets the impression that it would be PE teachers who are most relevant to the issues raised.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Dominican High Mass for St Peter Martyr: photos


Last Saturday Oxford's Dominicans celebrated a High Mass; it was the feast of St Peter Martyr in the Dominican calendar.


The Celebrant was Fr Oliver Keenan, OP (English Province); the Deacon Fr Richard Conrad, OP (English Province), and the Subdeacon Br Richard Steenvoorde, OP (Dutch Province).


It was accompanied by the Schola Abelis of Oxford, led by Dominic Bevan.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Novel: The Devil Hates Latin

I've just read a new novel, a first novel, with a Catholic theme: 'The Devil Hates Latin' by Katharine Galgano. It is being published by Regina Magazine. It is really more of a thriller than anything else, involving both the corruption and the graces which characterise the Church of today, and of all ages.

You can buy it here (UK) and here (USA).

Something we need to try to keep hold of today is the interplay in the Church, and in the world as a whole, of really terrible bad things, and the action of God. I think Catholics can handle this better than Protestants, as long as we manage to escape the historically Protestant idea that the Church is or should be the community only of the saved. Of course the Church contains sinners, chancers, the ambitious and the corrupt, and some of these will attach themselves to positions of prestige in the Church because they like the idea of the prestige and the money and influence that it might bring. The Church also contains the lukewarm, and people who have made all sorts of compromises without ever saying to themselves that they no longer believe.

Into this endlessly complicated situation the Devil seeks to bring souls to Hell, and God works his grace, especially through the sacraments. It is a battle fought by all of us, day by day, Mass by Mass, confession by confession, temptation by temptation. Galgano presents this in a highly dramatised form, which is hugely fun to read, but also also says something fundamentally true about the fallen human condition, with some pithy insights into culture, politics, and the Church.

You can buy it here (UK) and here (USA).

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

New Book: 'Gradual' by Berkely and Scotland

From the Moretus Gradual, 1598
I've just purchased a read an intriguing, short book on the restoration of rare, late-16th century printed Gradual: a collection of chants for the Church's liturgical year. The Gradual in question was beautifully printed in the Spanish Netherlands, using hand-copied monastic chant books as its sources.

The chant notation (shown, left) looks very like that used in the editions most singers use today, though it used five staves and lacks some of the specialised note-shapes (singers will note that there don't seem to be any quilismas or liquescents). Again, it (obviously) doesn't include the editorial marks added by the monks of Solesmes to most modern editions.

Although the melodies are somewhat different from the ones used today, which have been restored by reference to the oldest available manuscripts, they are quite different from the simplified and clunkily-printed chant used immediately before the Solesmes-influenced 1907 Graduale Romanum, upon which later editions have been based, exemplified by the 1870 Pustet edition shown below.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Colloquium on Limbo in Ramsgate, 30th June-1st July

This sounds fascinating. From the Dialogos Institute: link.

Dante visiting the First Circle of Hell: limbo, where the souls of good pagans,
like the ancient philosophers, enjoy a state of peace and natural happiness.


The doctrine of Limbo has been a subject of controversy for nearly seventy years. What is the state of those who depart this life with original sin only? Is it possible to maintain that no souls do depart this life in such a way? Intimately tied to the question of the 'natural desire for God' and to the dispute over the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, Limbo occupies a strategically vital position in the theological landscape.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

News on the Order of Malta

The election of a new Grand Master of the Order of Malta in Rome on Saturday - tomorrow - has precipitated an avalanche of news stories, many containing intriguing claims about the root causes of the shock resignation of the last Grand Master, Fra Matthew Festing.

The most interesting aspect, which has been revealed already in part by past postings by Steve Skojek at One Peter Five, is the role of money in the saga of the Knights. The claim is that because Order was a beneficiary of a shadowy trust based in Switzerland, the attempts by Fra Matthew Festing to get to the bottom of this trust and ensure that the law was followed threatened to precipitate revelations which would be embarassing to people in positions of considerable influence in the Vatican. Festing had to be removed in order to remove this threat. The interim leadership of the Order has, at any rate, rapidly come to an amicable agreement with the trustees of this trust and we may now hear no more about it.

Pope Francis' alleged role in this reminds me very much of the role of Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II in various Vatican scandals: that of trying to keep a lid on a situation which he cannot ultimately control. Pope Benedict was, frankly, defeated by the problems at the Vatican bank, and Pope John Paul by the clerical abuse problem. I don't think any of these popes were personally implicated in wrongdoing. What none of them allowed, however, was a big melt-down involving the public disgrace of senior officials and the publication of a lot of embarassing information. Such a thing is almost unthinkable in the Vatican, but it may in fact be the only thing which would actually resolve the problem,

Here is a selection of news stories:

The Remnant: comprehensive article on the background

One Peter Five: Fr Matthew Festing has decided to go to Rome for the election despites attempts to stop him

Church Militant: several strands about the current situation and its causes

Lifesite News: members of the Order petition Pope Francis for an explanation of his unprecedented intervention in the Order

AP / New York Times

Edward Pentin in Catholic Register: Vatican allows Festing to attend the election after all
Daniel Hitchens in The Catholic Herald: the Germans want to sideline the professed knights

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mass in a bottle

This is so wonderful that I want to share it. From Twitter, hat-tip to Dr Francis Young (website):


I don't, unfortunately, have any other information about this image.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Dominican High Mass this Saturday in Oxford

Blackfriars is in the centre of Oxford in St Giles; click for a map.

High Mass is at 11am; it will be accompanied by chant from the Schola Abelis.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hamish Fraser on making the Faith visible

A passer-by taking a photo of the procession with the Easter Candle at the Easter Vigil in
St Mary Moorfields.
I've been reading Hamish Fraser's Fatal Star, part biography and part commentary on the Church of his day. It was published in 1952, Fraser having been received into the Church some seven years earlier, after an extended period as a Communist activist: including in the Communist secret police in the Spanish Civil War. The edition I have includes extracts from his writings up to the 1980s.

Fraser became a greater supporter of the Traditional Mass, but this isn't the focus of this book. Instead, he connects the Presbyterian culture of his childhood with the untrammelled capitalism which made Communism attractive, laments the failure of the Church to offer an alternative, and points to the message of Fatima as a call to do just this, not (simply) through private devotions, but through penance and conversion of life. He quotes Sister Lucy as saying that the primary message of Fatima is not the Rosary or the First Saturdays, but Penance, and the duties of one's state of life.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Children misbehaving in Mass: and an interview in Regina Magazine

I recently completed an interview with Anna-Maria Vesey of Regina Magazine on children at Mass. She said, what I am sure is true, that some parents with small children are concerned that their children won't be engaged at the Traditional Mass, or else that their behaviour won't come up to the expectations of the regulars, and that such thoughts put them off trying it out.

Watching (part of) the Easter Vigil two sets of closed doors away from the action...
It is impossible to guarantee no one at the Traditional Mass will tick off parents of small children, but I can say this to reassure parents:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Vigil at St Mary Moorfields


The LMS-organised Easter Vigil service in London, at St Mary Moorfields, was celebrated by Fr Michael Cullinan, with Fr Christoper Basden (of St Bede's, Clapham Park) as Deacon and preacher, and Fr Patrick Hayward as Subdeacon. Cantus Magnus under Matthew Schellhorn accompanied.




Saturday, April 15, 2017

New Book: St John Fisher on the Priesthood

St John Fisher was the learned and heroic Bishop of Rochester, was the only one of all the Bishops of England and Wales refused to consent to Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy of 1534, the Act supporting to separate the kingdom from the jurisdiction of the Holy See. He was executed on 22nd June 1535.

He had earlier written a book against Luther defending the Catholic theology of the priesthood: ironically, in support of Henry VIII's own work against Luther, to which Luther had made a characteristically intemperate response.

Fisher's work deserves wider recognition, and I am pleased to see this new edition and printing available. It can be bought from Amazon here.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Maundy Thursday in St Mary Moorfields, London


Each year the Latin Mass Society organises Easter Triduum services in London. For the last few years this has included all three Tenebrae services as well as the Mass of Maundy Thursday, the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. These are taking place in St Mary Moorfields in Eldon Street in the City of London.


I was part of the liturgical schola for the first two Tenebrae services, and was able to attend the Mass of Maundy Thursday: and for the first time ever I found myself conscripted into the group having their feet washed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Is Pope Francis 'restoring tradition' in the Mandatum?

Taking the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose
on Maundy Thursday. 
Reposted from January 2016.

Austen Ivereigh claims that in opening the Mandatum to women, Pope Francis is 'restoring an older Tradition'. Claiming the change has 'infuritated traditionalists' (sorry, Austen, I'm not infuriated), he explains:

Yet Francis has been restoring what once was tradition. The custom in the seventeenth century, for example, was for bishops to wash, dry and kiss the feet of 13 poor people after having dressed them and fed them. Nor is there any obligation for the foot-washing to be part of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

This is a bit thin as an explanation, so let me fill it in a bit. Because Ivereigh has a point.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Mandatum: let's not be hard on Pope Francis

I see from my stats a small spike of interest in this post: someone must have linked to it somewhere. So I thought I'd repost it. I'll repost a follow-up post on the same subject tomorrow. They both first appeared in January 2016.


It is tempting to see the decree allowing women's feet to be washed on Maundy Thursday as an indication of an acceleration of liturgical decay underway with Pope Francis, following his breaking of the rule up to now. However, what has happened is no different from what happened under his predecessors.

Bl Pope Paul VI gave in to the pressure of endemic abuse when he allowed the reception of Communion in the hand. But there are other examples too from his troubled reign. One of the most peculiar documents of the Papal Magisterium is his Sacrificium laudis, an Apostolic Letter directed to religious superiors, begging, cajoling, and ordering them to preserve Latin in the Office. You won't find this document in the Acta Apostolicis Sedis, and only in Italian on the Vatican website. The speed of its transformation into waste-paper gives new meaning to the phrase 'dead on arrival'. (You'll find an English translation on the LMS website.)

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Scotland's 'Two Shrine' Pilgrimage 2017

I noted the success of the first 'Two Shrines Pilgrimage' a while ago; her is the booking info for the next one.


Two Shrines Pilgrimage: 5th - 7th August 2017

St Andrews We are pleased to announce the dates of the second annual Two Shrines Pilgrimage, a three day walk from Edinburgh to St Andrews with the particular intention of the reconversion of Scotland. The pilgrimage will incorporate the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass and traditional devotions.

If you are interested in walking all or part of the route, please register your interest by e-mailing as soon as possible.

The itinerary will be as follows:
Saturday 5 August - St Mary's RC Cathedral, Edinburgh, to St Margaret's Memorial Church, Dunfermline;
Sunday 6 August - St Margaret's Church to Falkland Palace;
Monday 7 August - Falkland Palace to St Andrew's Cathedral, St Andrews.

Members of the public are welcome to follow the pilgrimage and to attend its liturgies and other events, which will be advertised in due course. If you wish to be kept updated by e-mail please contact us using the address above.

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Friday, April 07, 2017

Debate about teaching music (and Latin)

James MacMillan, Patron of the Latin Mass Society, has signed a joint letter on musical education in response to an article by Charlotte Gill wrote in the Guardian. Gill wrote:

For a creative subject, music has always been taught in a far too academic way, meaning that theoretical knowledge is the main route to advancement. While there are routes into musical careers for the untrained, and many pop, rap and grime artists have never studied music formally, there are also dozens of choirs and amateur collectives that put a huge focus on musical notation.

This is a cryptic, tricky language – rather like Latin – that can only be read by a small number of people, most of whom have benefited from private education. Children who do not have the resources, or ability, to comprehend it, are written off. Even when they are capable performers.

Gill is winding a good few issues up together here. We might agree with her criticism of the 'Grade' system of learning instruments, followed by many children, that it can make learning an instrument something of a grind. But a more important issue she has left out is the poor quality (or motivation) of many music (instrument) teachers. This is not be unrelated to their poor pay, and their poor treatment by many schools, where they have to eke out an existence on the fringes of the timetable and the school community, often working for several schools at once, resented by the teachers of other subjects for taking children out of their classes. It's a pretty bad system, all things considered. (Would anyone tolerate this for sports? For art? For Maths?)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Why home school your children? Matt Walsh

I criticised a post of Matt Walsh's the other day, on the subject of getting men to 'man up', so it is only fair I note this post of his on home schooling which is excellent.

Read it here

Here are just a couple of his points. He's writing about the USA. How much better is the UK?

Third, yes, my kids will eventually be exposed to all kinds of strange and terrible things. As much as I’d like to keep them shielded from the evils of the world forever, I know that I can do no such thing. The question is not whether our kids will be exposed to this or that depravity, but when and how and in what context? Are you prepared to trust the school’s judgment on when Junior is ready to learn about concepts like “transgenderism”? Do you trust their judgment on how he learns about it, and what he’s told about it? If you do, I suppose you aren’t even reading this post right now because you’ve been in a vegetative state for the past 30 years.

Fourth, when a kid is sent to public school, he’s expected to navigate and survive and thrive in a hostile, confusing, amoral environment, basically untethered from his parents, 6–8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 9 months a year, for 12 years. Is a child ready for that challenge by the time he’s 5 years old? Is he ready at 8? At 10? No. Our job as parents is to “train them up in the way they should go,” equip them with the armor of God, fortify them in the truth, and then release them into the world. That process has not been completed in conjunction with them first learning how to tie their shoes. I mean, for goodness’ sake, most adults can’t even manage to withstand the hostilities and pressures of our fallen world for that amount of time. And we expect little kids to do it? That’s not fair to them. It’s too much to ask. Way too much. They aren’t equipped, they aren’t ready, they aren’t strong enough, and they will get eaten alive.

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Family Retreat: Photo essay


The St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat took place last weekend, in the Oratory School. It was our ninth Family Retreat, and a wonderful event as always.


One of the highlights was Stations of the Cross outside, which concluded with Benediction in the 'old' chapel.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Catholic University of Louvain: Abortion 'a fundamental right'

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.

In response to a junior philosophy lecturer distributing a document to students making the argument for calling abortion 'murder', a spokewoman for the 'Catholic University of Louvain' (UCL) in Belgium has made it clear that this is 'contrary to the values' of the institution.

Tania van Hemelryck, the special adviser to the university president on gender politics, spoke to Belgian television on behalf of the university, saying: “The authorities want to find out the exact status of the text and how it was used during this course, bearing in mind that in any case UCL defends the fundamental right to abortion, and particularly women’s right to choose.”...
The official statement published by UCL on its website says much the same thing:
“Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, the right to abortion is enshrined in Belgian law and the note that was brought to the attention of UCL is at odds with the values upheld by the university. Conveying standpoints that contradict these values in the framework of a teaching course is unacceptable.”

Louvain has not been a very 'Catholic' Catholic University for a long time, but these statements take matters to a new level. Please consider signing a petition to support the lecturer at the centre of the row, St├ęphane Mercier.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Albertus Magnus Summer Programme in Norcia

In light of the earthquake this seems particularly deserving of support this year: the annual Summer Programme of the Albertus Magnus Centre, associated with the monks of the Norcia community. It is a 12-day programme of study on Aquinas, this year on his sacramental theology.

"Divine Power in a Hidden Way:
Thomas' Commentary on the Sentences IV"
July 2nd - July 14th in Norcia, Italy

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sex education, sexual exploitation

Not long ago I posted on this blog about how sex education which focuses on consent and ignores all other aspects of sexual morality opens children up to abuse. Here is some concrete evidence, via the excellent Family Education Trust. This focuses on the corrosive nature of the sex ed ideology not only on the children, but on those charged with their care.

A serious case review published by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board last year notes ‘an underlying confusion for practitioners in distinguishing between underage but consensual sexual activity between peers and child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation’. But that confusion does not exist in a vacuum. It is rather ‘rooted in the complex and contradictory cultural, legal and moral norms around sexuality, and in particular teenage sexual experimentation’. Put simply, a major part of the problem lies in the moral confusion that has resulted from an abandonment of moral absolutes.

The same theme features in the 2015 serious case review into child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire. Having made the observation that there were times when ‘confidentiality was put before protection’, the report suggests that for at least some professionals this related to ‘a reluctance to take a moral stance on right and wrong, and seeing being non-judgmental as the overriding principle’. The Oxfordshire report further states that: ‘[T]here was…an acceptance of a degree of underage sexual activity that reflects a wider societal reluctance to consider something “wrong”,’ and argues that ‘action to prevent harm’ should always take precedence over ‘action to be non-judgmental’.

In a most telling comment, the report notes that ‘the reluctance in many places, both political and professional, to have any firm statements about something being “wrong”’ is among the factors that create ‘an environment where it is easier for vulnerable young people/children to be exploited. It also makes it harder for professionals to have the confidence and bravery to be more proactive on prevention and intervention.’

In the light of these observations from the serious case reviews, we should be wary of any approach to sex and relationships education that is reluctant to declare anything ‘wrong’. Children, young people and professionals alike all need a clear moral compass in order to safely negotiate the confused and confusing landscape that lies before them
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Silverstream Priory on RTE

A sympathetic introduction to the traditional Benedictines at Silverstream in Ireland.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Challenge of Islam: Part 1 - the end of secularisation

I was reminded of this post from July 2014 by a story in The Tablet about retired Major-General Tim Cross, an Anglican, who was in despair about the attitude at the Foreign Office that religion really couldn't be the real explanation of anything important in, say, Iraq. The message is sinking in, but very slowly.

The other posts in the short series this post introduced are:
2. Religious Liberty
3. Caught in the Critique of the Decadent West

I've been reading up a little on the sociology of religion, and the latest stuff is no longer about the Secularisation Thesis: the inevitable secularisation of society. This was to do with the ideas of the Enlightenment, wider education, and prosperity, eroding religious belief, as expressed in that stupid poem by the over-rated Matthew Arnold, published in 1867.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

As Linda Woodhead explains, in her Introduction to a collection of articles, the secularisation story no longer works. It only ever worked if you ignored the contrary evidence - such as the big revival of religious practice which started pretty well as soon as Arnold's lacrimose effusion came off the presses, and another even more impressive one in the 1950s - but now it is obvious that things simply aren't travelling in the right direction.

Woodhead explains how sociologists' faith in the secularisation hypothesis was shaken first by the Salman Rushdie affair. Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses was condemned by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who issued a 'fatwa' (ruling) against Rushdie, ordering that he be killed. This was in 1989. It made the sociologists realise that religion, or at least Islam, was actually stronger, in its ability to shape events, even in the West, than it had been before: it wasn't fading away in obedience to the Secularisation Thesis. And then, 22 years later, there was 9/11

If Western sociologists had been paying attention, they would have noticed the revival of Islamic practice and zeal with started in Egypt in the 1970s, and was continued by the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and has continued some more in the overthrow of a whole heap of secular-minded regimes across the Arab world in recent years. To give them due credit, however, sociologists like Woodhead have been more on the ball than Western politicians, who appear to have clung to the Secularisation Thesis right up to the last few months. I suspect many of have not abandoned it yet. The idea that all the Middle East needs is prosperity and education, and religious zealotry will dissipate, is still rattling around in the corridors of power. Do these people read the newspapers? Syria was a prosperous nation with a big, educated middle class. They've got money coming out of their ears in the Gulf. There are universities of international standard in Egypt. And guess what? It was as those universities that the Islamic revival began. It was there, not in the slums, where young women started to wear head scarves.

In truth, the Secularisation Thesis was kept on its shakey legs after the War not by the inevitable effects of education and prosperity, but by the Cold War. It was the resources poured into Communist and anti-Communist factions, by East and West, which made the world outside North America and Western Europe look as if it was focused on secular issues. Once that was out of the way, an awful lot of people have turned to traditional religious themes to assert their identity and culture and distinguish themselves from their colonial past. We are now living in a period in which radicalised Hindus are persecuting Muslims in India, radicalised Buddhists are persecuting Muslims in Burma and Sri Lanka, radicalised Sunni Muslims are persecuting Shia Muslims in Iraq, and Christians are being persecuted by pretty well everyone. It's not a pretty sight, but it's not secularisation.

Is victory for the homosexual lobby and 'reproductive rights' feminists at the United Nations around the corner? You've got to be joking. I follow the excellent Friday Fax, which covers the infinitely depressing machinations of the World Government in Waiting. The progressive lobby's breakthrough is always round the corner. They've got the western nations in their pockets, they have the procedures taped, they like to see aid money being used to buy votes. But things are not going their way. A horrible realisation should begin to dawn on them some time soon. We have a world-wide revival of traditional values on our hands.

To repeat, this has actually been going on at least since the early 1970s. And it is not just Islam. Even Christianity is benefitting: the Catholics of southern India and West Africa, pressure from Hindus and Muslims notwithstanding, have had a very good few decades, and the very visible presence of their priests in the West has more to do with the massive numbers of vocations they have than persecution. In China, too, Christianity is on the march, as the most vigorous alternative to Communism.

There is nothing inevitable about secularisation. The sociologists have now accepted this, and the politicians, eventually, will follow them. This reality will solve some problems, such as the prospect of a right to abortion being established in international law by some international mega-treaty, but obviously creates others. The punch-line of this blog post is simply this: in addressing the problems, which are very real and very pressing, let's not try to pretend that the Secularisation Thesis is true after all. And part of that pretence is the guff about Religious Freedom.

I've argued more than once that appeals to Religious Freedom, to defend the Church against militant secularists in the West, is a complete waste of time. It is even more of a waste of time when directed against non-Christian religious zealots. This is so blindingly obvious that it shouldn't need saying, but I am saying it because I can see the temptation to make this appeal in a recent speech by Lord (David) Alton. I'll address this in the next post.

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Islam and the decadent West

Reposted from the time of the Paris attacks, November 2015. Requiescant in pace.


I've not had time to write anything about the terrible massacres in Paris. It was good to be able to attend a solemn Mass for the dead the day after the killings had taken place. Every Mass for the dead, and practically all traditional prayers for the dead, even if they are for the benefit of a specific person or group of persons, is also for 'all the Faithful departed'.

May they rest in peace. And may God protect us all from an unprovided death.

I've done a number of blog posts criticising the approach to understanding and tackling Islam taken by various people, notably the zealous Evangelical David Wood, and the American Syrian Catholic Robert Spencer. In the comments to one of these posts a reader recommended a book by a Jesuit who hails from the Levant, Samir Khalil Samir, which proved to be excellent. Samir has given a very interesting interview to Edward Pentin, in which he explores the way the West is seen from the Arab Muslim perspective, an important factor, obviously, in these attacks.

Here are some extracts:

Muslims know that modernity is coming from the West; this is a fact. Now they see the West as having lost its ethics, especially on sexual questions. They’re very shocked by what they see or hear. … So they say this comes from modernity. They want to reject the excesses and abuses of some principles, but end up rejecting the whole thing. The problem is that the West is responsible, without knowing it, of the reaction of the Muslim world.

When Muslims see that, they immediately recall that homosexuality is absolutely condemned in the Quran, with reference to the biblical Lot. See chapters 7: 80-81; 11: 77-82; 15: 58-74; 21: 74; 26: 165-166; 27: 54-55; 29: 28-30; 54: 33-34. In some cases, they were burned alive. Then the Muslims say, “Okay, the West is Christian, Christianity allows this, and so Christianity is not the true religion; it’s a false religion. And we want to be true, to stick to the Quran and to the tradition.”

This means we are partly, indirectly responsible for the fanaticism that is spreading more and more in Islam, as a reaction to the West — not only, but this also — and playing a role in the radicalization of Islam.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Launching a new Confraternity in Scotland: May 13

Further details from

The event will take place in Bannockburn, Stirling, and the proposed format is as follows:

From 10am (TBC): Holy Hour concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament;
11am: Procession from Holy Spirit Church to Our Lady & St Ninian's Church with traditional devotions;
12 noon: Sung Mass;
2pm: Inaugural Meeting to formally establish the Archconfraternity.

13 May will be the 100th anniversary of Our Lady's 1st Apparition at Fatima so we will also incorporate the devotions necessary to obtain the plenary indulgence associated with the centenary.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat: 31st March to 2nd April

Bookings are coming in. Don't miss out! Book now for the Family Retreat in the Oratory School near Reading with Fr Serafino Lanzettta. Details and booking here.


The Family Retreat is back in the Oratory School near Reading this year, for Passion Sunday weenkend (the weekend before Palm Sunday), led by Fr Serafino Lanzetta of the Gosport friars. Details and booking here.

The Family Retreat, run by the St Catherine's Trust, is designed to make it possible for the parents of small children to attend a retreat without leaving their children behind. We arrange activities for the children during the spiritual conferences. Everyone is welcome, however: you don't have to bring children with you!