Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Psychology of Traditionalism

2009 06 27_2815_edited-1
Ordinations for the Fraternity of St Peter in Wigratzbad in 2009
Guide to this series:
The Psychology of the Rigid Personality
The Psychology of Military Incompetence
The Psychology of Ecclesiastical Incompetence
The Psychology of Traditionalism

Before my series of posts about Norman Dixon's Psychology of Military Incompetence, I'd been writing about Mgr Basil Loftus, who exemplifies the attitude that respect for rules indicates a conformist, 'anal', weak-ego individual. This inference enables him, and many others, to conclude that theological and liturgical conservatism and traditionalism manifests a kind of 'rigidity' incompatible with pastoral effectiveness.

I have shown what is wrong with this argument in general terms. It is a truism that people with weak egos and an unhealthy fear of failure will be risk-averse, and will seek the approval of their peers and superiors by conforming. In the post-conciliar situation, however, this approval is not forthcoming to conservatives and traditionalists in mainstream Catholic or non-Catholic institutions: it is, rather, given to those who toe the liberal line. It is rather remarkable that Loftus and his like have not noticed this, but as I have observed that classical presentations of the psychological theory they draw from, including Norman Dixon's, are prone to confuse the risk-taking non-conformism of a person with a strong ego and moral courage, with the liberal violation of traditional norms, and with the norm-violation of the merely self-indulgent.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The psychology of Ecclesiastical Incompetence

Bishop Mark Jabale at the LMS Annual Requiem in Westminster Cathedral
Guide to this series:
The Psychology of the Rigid Personality
The Psychology of Military Incompetence
The Psychology of Ecclesiastical Incompetence
The Psychology of Traditionalism

The reason I've been writing about Norman Dixon's theory of 'rigid' personalities and military incompetence, is that the Church has certain interesting parallels with the military. The Church is hierarchical and authoritarian; the Church's training institutions are places where people can enjoy the predictability of institutional life (particularly in religious communities) and the rewards of conformism. It is inevitable, therefore, that the Church, like the army, will attract conformists, and that good superiors in both cases must be on the look-out for those whose conformity to the necessary discipline of the institution hides a debilitating lack of self-confidence. Priests lacking in self-confidence will be useless in the field, so if they don't gain the necessary maturity they must be weeded out. Things will go very wrong if, on the other hand, the conformists gain the upper hand. In that scenario it is the self-confident ones who will be weeded out, and pastoral effectiveness will suffer across the board.

The tensions just described are built into the nature of things, and so the psychology of the use of authority in the Church, and especially in seminaries, could remain constant, in certain ways, through the Vatican II revolution. Institutions which had been taken over by conformists under the Old Regime could change their theology without, necessarily, changing their psychological dynamic, for the New Regime. Liberals might think that their 'let-it-all-hang-out' ideology had banished the authoritarianism/ conformism pattern of the past, but it didn't: it simply meant that instead of conformism meaning slavish adherence to late 19th century neo-scholasticism and the ruthless weeding out of liberals, it now meant slavish adherence to Hans Kung and his friends and the ruthless weeding out of conservatives. And indeed, since the products of such a system were priests who were conformists first, and conservatives or liberals second, a change of ideology would not even necessarily require a change of personnel.

I put forward these theoretical observations as a way to interpret certain historical patterns. Not all Catholic seminaries and communities were or are the same; nor were all the products of these institutions the same, with people bucking the trend in both good and bad ways. Nevertheless, I think few will dispute generalisations such as the following:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Psychology of Military Incompetence

The last stand on the retreat from Kabul (Wikipedia)
Guide to this series:
The Psychology of the Rigid Personality
The Psychology of Military Incompetence
The Psychology of Ecclesiastical Incompetence
The Psychology of Traditionalism

In my last post, I described part of the theory of the 'anal personality' widely used by psychologists of the 1960s and 1970s, and to an extent both before and after. Stripped of its Freudian explanatory basis (which is a lot of outdated and indeed laughable stuff about potty-training), the theory says that people with a 'weak ego' and a fear of failure will seek the approval of superiors and peers by conformism and playing it safe. This is not so much a theory, in fact, as a statement of the obvious.

I described how this observation has been applied in a one-sided way, by looking for conformism solely in terms of strict adherence to traditional rules. If attention is fixated upon this specific model of conformism, then it can seem inconceivable that a person opposed to traditional morality or social forms could be a conformist. This is the state of mind of seminary rectors, for example, who see theological or liturgical conservatism in seminarians as prima facie evidence of a weak ego, which would in turn indicate that the seminarians in question would be incapable of the flexibility of mind necessary for pastoral work.

This also seems to be the way that Pope Francis thinks. I don't want to pick him out, however: this is a very widespread attitude among senior clerics of his generation. The situation in seminaries and religious communities is beginning to change as a result of the retirement of this generation.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Psychology of the 'rigid' personality

Guide to this series:
The Psychology of the Rigid Personality
The Psychology of Military Incompetence
The Psychology of Ecclesiastical Incompetence
The Psychology of Traditionalism

I've been reading Norman Dixon's 1975 classic, The Psychology of Military Incompetence. It has many insights, and also many flaws; one point of interest in reading it today is to see how psychology was done in the 1970s.

I was stopped in my tracks by one passage, a quotation (p254). It is from Peter Kelvin, The Bases of Social Behaviour, 1970. He is talking about the 'authoritarian' personality. (Elipses are Dixon's.)

These tendencies reflect on a type of individual who needs to feel that his environment is highly predictable ... he needs to know where he stands; and so he fastens on to norms: he does not 'let himself go', for fear of where this might lead; he looks to authority as a guide ... [He also] relies very heavily on stereotypes in [his] perception of the social environment. Moreover, the stereotypes used by an authoritarian personality tend to be very clear-cut, and the characteristic infelixibility of this personality leads to relative inability to modify the stereotype once it has been formed.

This is a concise characterisation of what progressives, in the Church and outside it, in the 1960s and 1970s, thought was wrong with their opponents. It also seems to match what Pope Francis has in mind when he talks about 'rigid' people. We don't have to imagine that he ever read Kelvin: these ideas which were widespread when the Holy Father was at an impressionable age.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Loftus on sacrality

A glimpse of something a bit different from the everyday world.
In my last post on the egregious Catholic Times columnist Mgr Basil Loftus, I noted his hatred of the Reform of the Reform and of the Traditional Mass. This hatred extends to the Ordinariate liturgy as well, to which he referred on 7 July 2013:

How can we tolerate, let alone encourage, alternative and extraordinary forms of worship within the parameters of the Catholic Church, whether in the extraordinary form of Mass or in personal ordinariates, where the ‘clamour’ or pomp now rightfully being expunged from the Church lingers on? At the moment this is only a question. It may well soon become a real problem.

This aggressive attitude alternated for a time with expressions of a live-and-let-live philosophy, which of course has for the most part been Pope Francis' own, on liturgical matters. In his more recent columns, however, Loftus has taken a more consistently hostile view of all liturgical developments which aim at what we might call a resacralised liturgy. The 2011 translation of the Ordinary Form is an example upon which he constantly harps; others include the 'Benedictine arrangement' of candles on the altar when the priest celebrates 'facing the people' (i.e. the traditional 'big six' candles, plus crucifix, obscuring the people's view of the priest); the use of Latin; the non-use of Altar girls; the Traditional Mass; and above all the celebration of Mass ad orientem, with the priest and people facing the same way, east.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Update on Mgr Loftus

Eat your heart out, Basil. That's Archishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool with the FSSP
in Warrington, about to ordain two of their men priests.
I've not been blogging about Mgr Loftus recently; he is terribly repetitive and I've said pretty well everything which can usefully be said, while other issues have arisen. However, since the big push I made about him in March 2015 a few observations may be of interest to my readers.

Long-term readers may recall that at that time I prepared a dossier of his jems, and I didn't keep this document to myself. Reviewing my ever-growing paper archive of his columns since then, it is clear that this had some effect. Mgr Loftus must have been given some kind of warning by person or persons of authority, whether it be bishops or the Editor of the Catholic Times in which his screeds are published. So my project was not a waste of time.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Prayers for Advent and Christmas: Booklet

If you want to mark Christmas as a spiritual, and not merely bodily, feast, then buy this booklet of traditional prayers for the season, compiled mainly from the Raccolta, the old manual of indulgenced prayers.

My particular favourite is a Novena from the 16th to the 24th 'of any month', in honour of the nativity. It obviously has special appropriateness in December, and maintains the spiritual character of the busiest part of Advent.

The LMS on-line shop has a big range of Catholic items for Christmas: cards, advent calendars, nativity scenes, books and gifts. Go and have a look!

And if you are a member, don't forget to log in to get your 5% discount.

From the booklet's contents page:

A Note on Indulgences
Pious Exercises
Prayers in Honour of the Nativity of Our Lord

Sequence of Prayers
Prayers for the Feast of Christmastide
The Nativity of Our Lord
The Circumcision & The Holy Name
The Epiphany
The Holy Name of Jesus
Other Prayers
Prayers From Other Sources
Blessing of the Advent Wreath
Alma Redemptoris Mater
Prayers Before the Crib
The Holy Innocents

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Disappearing 'Catholic Guilt' or disappearing Catholics?

Reposted from March 2013. This reflects the ecclesial situation before Pope Francis, but the observations about the nature of the 'Catholic population' identified in surveys is still relevant.
Venerating Our Lady of Walsingham at the conclusion of the LMS Pilgrimage
The Sensible Bond draws attention to a little-reported survey of attitudes which claims that Catholics feel little or no more compunction about immoral behaviour than the general population. He links that to the recent scandal about Cardinal O'Brien - which is very interesting, but here I'm just going to focus on the survey.

The Religion and Society Programme of the University of Lancaster has a helpful page with details of a long list of 'research findings'. The stuff about Catholic guilt is not to be found there, however, but in a press release. It is based, not on a study by sociologists, but an opinion poll by YouGov. The sample size of more than 4,400 sounds impressive, but it was conducted over the internet, and they only reached 391 self-described Catholics. This self-description, translated, in the Press Release, into the term 'practicing Catholic', comes down to whether they 'currently engage in religious or spiritual practices with other people, for example attending services in a place of worship or elsewhere, or taking part in a more informal group', where the 'group' etc. is Catholic for 'Catholics', or Anglican for 'Anglicans'. There is no reference to frequency of this vague spiritual interaction, so it would presumably include non-baptised people who go to their late work-colleagues' Catholic funerals once a decade. And if readers don't know a lot of serious-minded Catholics who'd never find themselves filling in an on-line poll, they need to get out more.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Seasonal offerings in the LMS Shop


Now available is the famous Latin Mass Society Ordo, which has all the feasts of England and Wales as well as the Universal Calendar;

Our indispensible Wall Calendar with its unique design to give you more space to write things into the dates and lots of photos;

Christmas cards with four different classical paintings of the Nativity and a proper seasonal greeting inside.

Get yours now!

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Monday, November 20, 2017

The Traditional Movement and orthodoxy: Chairman's message

The Latin Mass Society pilgrimage to Walsingham, at the site of the Holy House
For those who've not seen the latest Mass of Ages, the magazine of the Latin Mass Society, here is part of my 'Chairman's Message'.


It might be thought that it would be better for those attached to the Extraordinary Form to travel light, and not associate their cause with anything else controversial: to fight one battle at a time. I know that this is not how the Latin Mass Society’s members and supporters usually feel, however. On the contrary, while the case for the holiness and beauty of the Vetus Ordo can stand on its own feet, the Mass we love points beyond itself, to the God it worships and the praying Church which it serves. It points not only to the theological truths it teaches directly, like the communion of Saints, and the reality of sin and grace, but to the antiquity, majesty, and authority, of the Church’s teaching in general.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Photos of St Benet's Requiem

The annual Traditional Requiem, sponsored by the Latin Mass Society, took place yesterday; here are some photographs.


Celebrated by Fr Edward van den Burgh of the London Oratory, assisted by Fr Nicholas Edmunds-Smith of the Oxford Oratory and Br Albert Robertson OP.

Mass was accompanied by the Schola Abelis of Oxford under Dominic Bevan.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The New Age and the Old Mass

Milton Manor House, Oxfordshire
Today I am publishing a new Position Paper from the FIUV on the New Age. Go over to Rorate Caeli to read it. Here I present some background and further reflections.

A few years ago on the LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham I noticed that four of my fellow pilgrims were converts to the Catholic faith from Buddhism. Buddhism is not a major religion in the UK, so the coincidence was rather remarkable. Indeed, in a number of obvious ways Buddhism presents a very marked contrast to Catholicism, and traffic between Buddhism and Catholicism tends to flow the other way. In fact, three out of these four pilgrims had been Western converts to Buddhism, before they came to the Catholic Church.

Buddhism in the West is part of a wider phenomenon, of the attraction posed by eastern spirituality to post-Christin or nominally Christian westerners. This eastern spirituality is often somewhat re-packaged for western tastes, and only the most serious-minded go the whole hog and become Buddhists. Far more popular are the (apparently) nice bits of eastern spirituality, such as reincarnation and the idea of self-realisation, without the asceticism and the infinitessimal prospects of success. Add these to a bit of Tarot-reading, Astrology, the 'all-religions-are-one' dogma of Freemasonry, and other bits of Western-inspired clap-trap, and you have the New Age Movement. This soup of influences is united by the idea that we can free ourselves from soul-cramping restrictions imposed by bad upbring, traditions, and habits, by spiritual techniques, such as meditation, perhaps aided by Yoga, or maybe even drugs.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Bishop Li, semper fidelis, dies at 97

Bishop Li in 2013

Bishop Luke Li Jingfeng of Fenghsiang, an 'underground' bishop consectrated secretly, died this morning (11:20pm GMT), aged 97. Please pray for him.

Bp. Li was a pillar of traditionalism, as well as of true fidelity to the See, in the Chinese speaking Church. 

In his nineties he translated the 1962 missal into Chinese, to aid Chinese speaking clergy in the understanding of the prayers. This massive project will continue to be of great significance for Chinese Catholics far into the future.

On a more personal level, he and some of the priests in his diocese gave the old mass movement much support.

The Novus Ordo Missae was not introduced into China until the 1980s, so there remains a generation of priests who were taught the the ancient Mass in seminary. See the FIUV Position Paper on the Extraordinary Form and China.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Annual Requiem in St Benet's Hall, Oxford

A High Mass of Requiem will be celebrated in the chapel of St Benet's Hall, Oxford, on Saturday 18th November at 11:30am.

All are welcome.

St Benet's is at 38 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LN.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Priest Training Conference, Low Week 2018

The LMS Priest Training Conference is back! It didn't happen last year because of the late Easter (Low Week was in term time at our venue, Prior Park).

Details and booking here.

The Latin Mass Society will be holding a residential training conference for priests, deacons, seminarians and laymen wishing to learn to celebrate or serve Mass in the Extraordinary Form. It will be held at Prior Park College near Bath from Monday 9th April to Thursday 12th April 2018.

Tuition will be in small groups. For clergy and seminarians, this will be provided by priests experienced in the Extraordinary Form, for servers this will be provided by laymen with years of experience in the Extraordinary Form.
Low Mass, Missa Cantata and Solemn Mass will be covered, although participants will be expected to be proficient at Low Mass before progressing to the more complicated forms.
No previous experience is necessary, and participants will be divided into groups, according to their abilities.
There will be daily Mass intended to be an example of best practice.

The conference will start after lunch on the Monday and conclude before lunch on the Thursday.
Full board and lodging is provided in basic single rooms (not en suite).
Lunch on the Monday and the Thursday can be booked at extra cost, £5 per lunch for all participants.
The fee for attending is: £120.00
Full-time students: £60
Seminarians: FREE OF CHARGE
To book your place on the Training Conference, please complete the form below and submit your payment using the paypal buttons; credit and debit cards are accepted through paypal.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Autumn Mass of Ages now available

In this issue:
• Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, Bishop of Lancaster, leads us in to the great liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas with a thought-provoking meditation
• John Coverdale reports on a magnificent work of restoration at St Augustine’s, Ramsgate 
• In our series on Catholic traditions, Joseph Shaw looks at the history of the Christmas crib 
•There is a review of Leo Darroch’s new book Una Voce: The History of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce 1964-2003 (copies of which can be purchased from our website) and much, much more.

Feature on St Augustine's, Ramsgate:
"Augustus Pugin is a name that should be on the lips of every Catholic in England... He became one of the most influential architects and designers of the nineteenth century, championing Catholicism and the Gothic style in everything…

"He said that building a church was the greatest thing a man can do, and that is precisely what he did in Ramsgate. For the greater glory of God, he created this ideal church where God could be worshipped according to the ancient rites of our Holy Mother the Church.”

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Developments at Holy Trinity, Hethe, and Spetchley Park

The highly decorated interior of Holy Trinity, Hethe.
This Sunday, 12th November and Remembrance Sunday, will see Fr Anthony Talbot's last Mass in the Chapel of St John the Baptist, Spetchley Park.

After a short break, however, he will celebrate his first Sunday Mass in Holy Trinity, Hethe, near Bicester, on Sunday 7th January (updated).

Fr Talbot will be missed in Spetchley, but welcomed in Hethe! This will bring to an end the current situation of a rota of priests serving this Sunday Mass, at 12 noon, which was established three years ago by the Parish Priest Fr Paul Lester. These Masses are sung on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month.

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Sunday, November 05, 2017

LMS Annual Requiem in Westminster Cathedral: Pictures


Celebrated by Bishop Mark JabalĂ©, assisted by Mgr Gordon Reid (AP), Fr Patrick Hayward (deacon), Fr Mark Elliot Smith (subdeacon), and Canon Vianney Poucin de Wouilt (1st MC).

It was accompanied by singers of the Cathedral Choir with chant.


Saturday, November 04, 2017

Correctio Filialis: it's not going away

The traddies on the march: the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage in Rome marking the 
10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. It turns out this is just the vanguard.
Hard on the heels of the distinguished theologian Fr Thomas Weinandy publishing a letter to Pope Francis strongly criticising his government of the Church, Dr. Gregory Popcak has published a remarkable article on the Patheos site, calling for critics of those who say they are 'confused' by Amoris laetitia Ch 8 need to 'repent' of grossly patronising clericalism.

Not all readers may understand the significance of this, so allow me to fill in the background. Dr Popcak, as he explains in the article, is not only a 'pastoral counsellor', but is head of a major centre of pastoral counselling, and trains pastoral counsellors. The Church in the United States has the resources (and of course the needs) to maintain an entire industry of pastoral counselling. Maybe I'm too English, or too traditional (I'd rather talk to a priest), but this kind of thing isn't really my kind of thing. But that's just the point. This industry of pastoral counselling going on over the pond has got absolutely nothing to do with an interest in the Traditional Mass, which some people are now trying to suggest is the common factor in opposition to liberal interpretations of Amoris laetitia. Well, they couldn't be more wrong. This guy is from the centre of the 'conservative', Pope St John Paul II-focused, mainstream, establishment Catholic world, and the Patheos platform, which has hosted a good many attacks on traditional Catholics over the years, is this world's in-house magazine.

Friday, November 03, 2017

ICKSP Sisters arriving in England

The date has now been fixed for the arrival in England of a group of Sister Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus, who will establish a community alongside the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest apostolate in Lancaster Diocese.

The sisters are a community of contemplative nuns dedicated to reparation and adoration of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest. Leading a non-cloistered contemplative life, the sisters offer their daily prayers and sacrifices particularly for the priests of the Institute and the souls entrusted to them.

This is a tremendously important development for the Traditional movement in England and Wales. You can read more about the Sisters here.

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All Saints and All Souls in Oxford and Didcot



I sang in SS Gregory & Augustine in Oxford for All Souls, for the Priest in Charge, Fr John Saward (above), and the following day, for All Souls, in Didcot at the Church of the English Martyrs for the Parish Priest, Fr Phillip Harris. I think the latter was probably the first Traditional Sung Mass in the church since the 'changes'. It was a privilege to be of service to Fr Harris in his bringing the Traditional Mass to his parish and his (enormous) church, one of the great things which Latin Mass Society volunteers can do. Fr Harris celebrates Low Mass in English Martyrs most Wednesday evenings.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Fr Thomas Weinandy, Capuchin theologian, criticises Pope Francis

Update: read Fr Weinandy's letter to Pope Francis (made public only after the Pope declined to respond, since July) with a very interesting account of how he decided to write it (scroll down) here.

He has, of course, now been sacked from his position as advisor to the US bishops.

This caught my eye on Crux partly because Fr Weinandy used to be in Oxford, as head of Greyfriars. It is interesting because Fr Weinandy is something of an establishment figure: a former advisor to the US Bishops' Conference, a member of the International Theological Commission, and a senior member of his order, the Capuchin Franciscans, who aren't exactly traddy bad-boys. And here it is, being reported on John Allen's website, Crux.

It is one of a number of indications that the theological establishment in the United States is not happy with the direction of travel under Pope Francis.

A former chief of staff for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, and a current member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, has written Pope Francis to say that his pontificate “has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness,” which, one day, will have to be corrected.While expressing loyalty to Francis as the “Vicar of Christ on earth, the shepherd of his flock,” Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy nevertheless charges that the pope is:
  • Fostering “chronic confusion.”
  • “Demeaning” the importance of doctrine.
  • Appointing bishops who “scandalize” believers with dubious “teaching and pastoral practice.”
  • Giving prelates who object the impression they’ll be “marginalized or worse” if they speak out.
  • Causing faithful Catholics to “lose confidence in their supreme shepherd.”
“In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew itself, and so continue to grow in holiness,” Weinandy wrote in the letter, which is dated July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the pope’s Jesuit order.
Read the whole story on Crux
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