Sunday, June 25, 2017

LMS AGM Mass with Fr Alex Stewart FSSP: photos

Fr Alex Stewart, ordained only a week, celebrated a High Mass in St James' Spanish Place in London for the LMS Annual General Meeting.




Monday, June 19, 2017

Ordinations in Warrington: Photos


Holy Orders was conferred, and Mass celebrated, by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, in St Mary's Church, Warrington. The ordinands were  Alex Stewart, FSSP and Krzysztof Sanetra, FSSP. Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury was in choir.



Friday, June 16, 2017

A computer game based on Plato?

I know nothing about computer games, but no doubt some of my readers do, and may be interested in this Kickstarter funding campaign to create a game based on Plato's Critias - the one about the lost island of Atlantis.

This is a fantasy 'quest', based not on the Hollywood nonsense-history of Lara Croft and company, but on the profound and intriguing myth-history of Plato's Critias. Perhaps many historians today would like to turn the more eccentric corners of their studies into a computer-game, but the creators of 'The Unwritten Critias' have the technical virtuosity actually to do this.

Official Trailer

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Juventutem Mass in London Friday 23rd

With the newly ordained Fr Alex Stewart FSSP, in St Mary Moorfields, London EC2M 7LS

7:30pm, Friday 23rd June

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trinity Sunday in Holy Trinity Hethe


The Victoria Consort under Dominic Bevan accompanied the patronal feast of Holy Trinity, Hethe, celebrated by the parish priest, Fr Paul Lester.


Readers will perceive that I don't only go to modern churches. Holy Trinity, in fact, is the oldest Catholic parish church in Oxfordshire, dating from 1839. It has some lovely stained glass, and the stunning wall decorations date from the church's centenary refurbishment; architecturally, it is very simple.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ember Saturday of Pentecost in Holy Rood, Oxford


The southern part of Oxford is part of Portsmouth Diocese, since the Thames is the diocesan boundary: as it was in the Middle Ages. So just outside Birmingham Archdiocese, at the modern church of Holy Rood in the Abingdon Road, Fr Daniel Lloyd, Parish Priest and member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, celebrated the Ember Saturday of Lent. This Mass was sponsored by the Latin Mass Society and accompanied by the Schola Abelis, Oxford's dedicated Chant schola (the Oxford Gregorian Chant Society).


I'm not going to claim that this is the style of church I would choose above all others if I was allowed to choose... no one would believe me anyway. But as a matter of fact this church was built for the Traditional Mass, and the first Masses here were celebrated facing East, as it was last Saturday. Today the EF is celebrated every Friday at 12:30pm, and it is also the place in Oxford to find the Ordinariate Use.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Protestantism and the cult of ugliness

Reposted from June 2014. A footnote to what I write here is an interesting fact I have since learned about 'Puritan' fashions: the Roundheads and Pilgrim Fathers and so on wearing black. The contrast between Roundheads and Cavaliers in the English Civil War derived from two different inspirations: the Cavaliers took their fashions from Catholic France, the Roundheads from the Protestant Netherlands. And where had the Netherlands got it from? Spain: a natural influence because of the Spanish control over much of it. This is of course an historical irony, but even in its Catholic origin it was a statement about rejecting frivolity and licentiousness. (See this section of a Wiki article.)


This is both ugly and glamorous.
Continuing our series on a Catholic approach to fashion, I interrupt the posts of Queen of Puddings with a little philosophical interlude. I promised to say something about how the Protestant attitude is different from the Catholic, something referred to (without being developed) by Tracey Rowland.

Our inveterate commenter 'Eufrosnia' wants to know if there is anything wrong with dressing in an ugly way. Of course there is.

1. Ugliness is a natural evil. (Will anyone disagree with this?)

2. To embody it is bad. (This just follows from 1)

3. To do so deliberately or through negligence is morally bad. (This just follows from 2.)

Friday, June 09, 2017

FSSP Ordinations in Warringon

Mass for the installation of the FSSP in the church, which was previously owned by the
Benedictines of Ampleforth. Abbot Cuthbert of Ampleforth, as well as
Archbishop McMahon of Liverpool, were present.
Next weekend two seminarians of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) will be ordained to the priesthood in their impressive church of St Mary's, Warrington by Archbishop McMahon. Everyone is welcome to this historic events: the first ordinations in England using the traditional rites since the liturgical reform.

The Fraternity are putting on a full programme for thos who can stay the night in the area. The church can be found on a map here.

The Ordinations Weekend at St Mary’s Warrington (Smith Street, Cheshire, WA1 2NS) will include:

Saturday 17 June:

·         11am Priestly ordination of Deacons Alex Stewart, FSSP and Krzysztof Sanetra, FSSP by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool (no booking needed)
·         1:30pm Refreshments in Priory Garden – while First Blessings are given by the new priests
·         2pm Buffet Lunch at nearby venue (no booking needed)
·         5pm Solemn Vespers

Sunday 18 June:

·         11am First Solemn High Mass of then-Father Alex Stewart, FSSP on the Feast of Corpus Christi, with First Holy Communions of children
·         12:30pm First Blessing by Fr Stewart and Picnic lunch (bring & share) in Priory Gardens
·         3pm: Corpus Christi Procession led by Fr Alex Stewart, FSSP with wider parish: with 30 FSSP clerics, diocesan clergy, First Communicants and families

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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Reacting to novelties in the Church

Reposted from March 2016

LMS Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Caversham. Come on in.
It must be a perennial truth about the Church, that to every issue some people will criticise what you do - whatever it is- as too 'soft', and others as too 'harsh'. Since Vatican II, this has gone from being a parlour game to a major industry, as those who have wanted to maintain the Faith in its integrity cheer themselves up by criticising each other for being either too accommodating of novelties, or too suspicious of them.

The 'circular firing squad' this easily becomes is not helpful to the cause, but the question, of how suspicious or accommodating one should be, is an important one and does need to be addressed seriously. Which new initiatives, new theological perspectives, new structures or new forms of worship, are perfectly ok, and which are not? Of the latter, which need to be criticised, where possible evaded (by not using them), or repudiated? Each initiative should in principle be treated on its merits, though the scale of the avalanche of new things since 1960 is itself open to critical assessment.

(Anyone afflicted by the thought 'Anything the Pope says must be ok' should, of course, read my posts about Papolatry, but can still follow the argument in this post by considering examples where the Pope had not actually mandated anything. In a number of cases Popes have condemned novelties, which have still spread through the Church, such as routine use of EMHCs, or General Absolution.)

The difficulty in most cases has been that the problem presented by the new things has been not that they contradict the teaching of the Church in a propositional way - only in seminaries and certain academic institutions have Catholics actually been asked to deny the faith in as many words. Rather, where the old version of whatever it is pointed towards the teaching, the new one points away. They are typically accompanied by official documents which are worded in such a way that they can be read, perhaps with a little effort, in accordance with the Church's teaching, and also read, with a little effort, in accordance with a new view which is not compatible with the teaching of the Church (although this may depend on ignoring some of the document in question).

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Institute of Christ the King to open a school in Preston, England

This was noted in their newsletter of last weekend. It seems they have a building for the school, which is often a big obstacle to opening a school.

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has a very successful, highly professional, bi-lingual school in Belgium, the Brussels International Catholic School, with the energetic English priest of the Institute, Canon William Hudson as headmaster.  It is wonderful news that the Institute is starting something in England; I wish them luck.

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Islamic terrorism: What can we do?

Fr Mark Withoos celebrates a Low Mass in the church of
the Domus Australia, under a picture of St Peter Chanel, a
a French Marist priest brutally killed in Tonga in 1841. He is
the protomatyr of Oceania.
Reposted from August 2016

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

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

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

It is a type of terrorism which is significantly different from those we have experienced in the recent past, but it is not entirely without modern European precedent. A parallel is offered by the anarchist assassins of the late 19th century. Like the Islamists, they emerged from a milieu (in their case, of left wing radicalism) in which most people, most of the time, lived fairly normal lives, and certainly weren’t constantly in danger of murdering people. Out of this milieu a few individuals got the super-radical bug, deciding that only assassinations were going to achieve their political goals. All they needed was an easily-obtained pistol or some dynamite; since they were careless of their own survival, they were very difficult to stop. Their ‘propaganda of the deed’ encouraged both admiration and imitation. Just as secular ideology inspired history’s greatest acts of mass-murder, so, in its day, it has inspired suicidal terrorism. It must be admitted, however, that there were only ever relatively tiny numbers of such assassins, and they generally chose only very specific targets.

I don’t have the expertise to offer specific policy suggestions in the face of this challenge, but I’d like to make two general observations about our response, the response of the target, Western societies, to the latest pattern of outrages.

The first thing to note, since it is being (apparently) denied by some, is that violence, and other forms of coercion, is certainly part of the solution. It is sometimes possible to stop unjust violence non-violently, but generally speaking it requires violence. I’m talking about violence and coercion by the forces of law and order, and occasionally private self-defence. Christ chose not to use violence to defend himself against the unjust actions of the public authorities of his own day; it is perverse to interpret this as undermining the right of public authorities to use violence justly. States may not neglect the necessary, violent, means to defend the populations which they are supposed to be governing. The state has the right and duty to employ violence, up to and including the right to kill, in war and in police action, for the sake of public peace. Public officials who refuse to defend the public by just and necessary means are not being noble; whether or not they are motivated by cowardice, they are doing grave wrong. Citizens and voters won’t put up with inaction, and nor should they. As far as the aggressors are concerned, a failure to use violence to oppose them is seen, correctly, as a sign of moral weakness, a sign that this is a society wide open to demolition.

So, within the limits of justice, we should support state action aiming to give effective opposition to terrorism. The danger of injustice here makes it all the more important to support just measures, or at least (if we disagree about their effectiveness), to make it clear that we do not regard them as unjust. If things get really bad, our societies are going to need to hear voices making a distinction between killing unjust aggressors and killing the innocent. If we have opposed every measure taken against terrorism, however mild and common-sensical, up to that point, no one is going to listen to us when they really need to.

A second, related, thing to note is that, while the cultural self-hatred of some on the political left is not a direct cause of terrorism, it is certainly making the situation worse. This goes beyond its manifestations in public policy. Outsiders see in the West a society which does not believe in itself, in its own values. As a society we suffer from the low self-esteem of the classic victim of bullying. In philosophical terms, there has been a move, over a number of centuries, from the substantive values of Christianity and classical culture, towards empty formalism. Instead of saying: ‘this is true’, ‘this way of life has value’, or ‘this work of art is good’, modern Westerners want to say: ‘nothing is true or false’, ‘only the choice between ways of life can be called good’, or ‘any purported work of art is good if they artist says so’. We can maintain for a little while a community of people committed to the notion of choice and the power of the individual to invent himself and set his own goals, but eventually people will ask: ‘If nothing substantive is true or good, why should choice or self-invention be true and good?’ There being no answer to this question, the whole thing turns out to be an empty charade. Even before the final, post-modern implosion of Western culture, there is nothing here for the soul to feed upon, there is nothing of substance to give society common values, there is nothing worth defending or promoting. People who possess nothing they regard as worth defending are not going to be very vigorous in its defence.

Here, there is something which can be contributed by people who still believe in something, something wholesome and historically rooted. Self-doubt and self-flagellation, even when offered by Christians, has nothing to offer the West; these are things already widespread in our societies. What we can offer is something substantive: that life, beauty, and God are real and have value, are worth something, and can give shape, discipline, and meaning to our lives. If Westerners really believed these things, and set themselves in their lives to live accordingly, then the Islamists would not be confronting such an easy and open target.

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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Book now for the LMS Latin Course: 24-28 July


Latin is the doorway to a full appreciation of Catholic culture, spirituality, liturgy, history, theology and law. St John Paul II told young people:

Let them realise that this remark of Cicero (Brutus 37, 140) can be in a certain way referred to themselves: ‘It is not so much a matter of distinction to know Latin as it is disgraceful not to know it.’ (Address to the Latinitas Foundation, 27th November 1978)

Don't miss out on the Latin Mass Society's intensive, residential Latin Course, which takes place from Monday to Saturday, 24th to 28th July. Book online here.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

On hat-doffing, in the Catholic Herald

A Roman sacrifice: the (male) priest has covered his head.
This weekend I have a letter in the Catholic Herald about hats.

I've written about headcoverings in church here, and the decline of hats in fashion here.

What I didn't mention in the letter is that the view I put forward in it, which I think is overwhelmingly plausible--that the discipline on head-coverings in the primitive Church was at the time a counter-cultural sign, as a reversal of Jewish practice--contradicts the standard narrative explaining why Catholic women are no long obliged to cover their heads in church today. This view found its way into the 1976 Instruction of the CDF, Inter insignores: that St Paul's stern demand that what he describes as a universal custom among Christians was 'probably inspired by the customs of the period', or, more simply, was a 'cultural fact'.

Friday, June 02, 2017

SCT Summer School 2016: photo essay

Sign up for the Summer School 2017! For children aged 11-18, at Pantasaph, North Wales.

The dates are Sunday 23rd July to Sunday 30th July.

There is no fee!

Further information and online booking here.

The below is reposed from July 2016.


This was the tenth Summer School run by the St Catherine's Trust. Numbers have been increasing over the last several years, and we are now close to capacity with 35 students.


Fr John Hunwicke, the celebrant above, and Fr Richard Bailey of the Manchester Oratory, were present for most of the week teaching the Latin Mass Society's residential Latin course, with Fr Andrew Southwell, the Summer School's chaplain.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Can non-Latinists pray the Latin Mass?

Reposted from Feb 2016

Eloquent gestures and expressive ceremonies in the Traditional Requiem Mass.
Dr Robert Kinney (his doctorate is in Pharmacy, interestingly) has argued over at the Homiletic and Pastoral Review that is it impossible actually to pray in a language one does not understand, or with a celebrant who is using a language one does not understand.

[A]s Catholics, we believe that the Mass is the most powerful prayer on earth. If the Mass is said in an unfamiliar or entirely unknown language, though, can it properly be labeled as a “prayer”? Or, are the words uttered merely beautiful-sounding syllables without willed meaning?

This would have some pretty radical implications for Catholics visiting foreign countries and Masses celebrated for international congregations: in Lourdes, for example, it is common to find Masses celebrated in several languages, one lection in German, one in English, a prayer in French, another in Italian, and so on. The thought 'they'd be better off using Latin' is one which Dr Kinney presumably shares, since praying just a snatch of the Mass, or hearing just one lection meaningfully, must count as almost pointless.

It also implies that the silent prayers (the 'priestly prayers', such as the Lavabo) of the Novus Ordo are so much mumbo jumbo, even when Mass is celebrated in the congregation's mother tongue. If you can't hear the prayer, you can't understand it, right? As so often, attacks on the Traditional Mass rebound on the 1970 Missal. That Bugnini and Pope Paul VI: they got it all wrong, eh, Dr Kinney?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Protecting people against bad ideas

John Stuart Mill
Like everyone else involved in universities and schools, I have had to undergo training on dealing with students who might be at risk of 'radicalisation', as part of the Government's 'Prevent' strategy. In fact I think anyone can access and do this little on-line course. There has been a lot of criticism of the Government's policies in this area, but this aspect at least seems pretty sensible. It contained some important insights into how people are drawn into dodgy groups, which correspond with what I have read about recruitment done by cults, which is of course a pretty close parallel to what is happening. I can't comment on other aspects of Government policy, but I'm not uncomfortable with what I am myself being asked to do as a university tutor. It just looks like good practice: a matter of being concerned with student welfare.
What's interesting is how it seems to be in tension with developing attitudes and even official policies coming from a different direction. Two such tensions struck me.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

YouTube Video from Roger Buck

Having read two books by Roger Buck, and had some email correspondance with him, it is rather interesting to see him in the flesh, so to speak, on video, for the first time.

My posts about his books:

The lovely Gentle Traditionalist, suitable for non-Trads and indeed non-Catholic readers.

The longer Cor Jesu Sacratissimum: From Secularism and the New Age to Christendom Restored, detailed critique of the New Age, partly autobiographical, and a plea for the restoration of Europe.

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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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