Saturday, September 29, 2018

Long Prayer to St Michael

Happy Michaelmas to my readers!

On this day dedicated to the honour of the glorious leader of the heavenly armies, St Michael the Archangel, I thought it would be useful to reproduce the 'long' Prayer to Michael, published in 1890, a few years after the familiar short one used at the end of the Traditional Mass, by the same author, Pope Leo XIII. He composed it for use in exorcisms: the prayer of exorcism itself comes next.

I take this from Kevin Symonds, The Prayer to St Michael. This book gives a thorough account of the historical and supernatural background to both prayers to St Michael. As Symonds notes, exorcisms are not to be used by the laity; I reproduce it here because of its historical interest; its own seems to have a wider application, in any case.


O most glorious prince of the heavenly hosts, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in our battle and struggle ‘against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places’ (Eph.6:12). Come to the aid of men whom God has created incorruptible and has made to the image of His likeness (Wis. 2:23) and has bought at a great price from the tyranny of the devil (1Cor.6:20). O fight today with the army of blessed angels in the battle of the Lord, as formerly you fought against the leader of pride, Lucifer, and his rebellious angels - ‘and they did not prevail, neither was their place found anymore in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, who leads astray the whole world; and he was cast down to the earth, and with him his angels were cast down’ (Apoc.12:8-9). Behold the ancient enemy and murderer has risen up terribly! Transformed as an angel of light he goes about at large with a whole troop of wicked spirits and attacks the earth, there to blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, and to steal souls destined for a crown of eternal glory, that he might afflict and destroy them in everlasting death. On men depraved in mind and corrupt in heart the wicked dragon pours out the poison of his iniquity as a most foul river; a spirit of lying, of ungodliness and of blasphemy and the deadly breath of lust, of all iniquity and vices. The most cunning enemies have filled the Church, pride of the Immaculate Lamb, with bitterness; they have drenched Her with gall, they have laid their impious hands on all things desired of Holy Church. There the See of Blessed Peter and the Chair of Truth has been established as the light of the nations, there have they placed the throne of the abomination of their impiety, so that having struck the Pastor they may also prevail to scatter the flock. O leader most invincible, be present with God's people against invading evil spirits, and bring us victory. Holy Church venerates thee as her guardian and protector; She takes pride in thee as her defender against the wicked powers of earth and hell; to thee the Lord has entrusted the souls of the redeemed, to be placed in heavenly bliss. Beseech the God of peace to crush Satan under our feet, that he may no longer be able to hold men captive and harm the Church. Bear our prayers into the sight of the Most High, so that the mercies of the Lord may come to our aid without delay, and that you may seize the dragon, the ancient serpent which is the devil and Satan, and cast him into the bottomless pit, ‘so that he may no more seduce the nations’ (Apoc. 20:23).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The episcopal crisis comes to England

We all knew about Fr Hill, the priest-abuser of Gatwick Airport, long ago; we learnt about Bishop Kieran Conry more recently. One of the links between the cases is the involvement of the late Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who moved Fr Hill to fresh pastures after earlier victims came forward, and promoted Bishop Conry's career. In both cases he was only doing what most bishops seemed to be doing: giving abusers new opportunities for abuse and seeing priests clouded by questions about their chastity as ideal candidates for promotion: that was just what happened in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, isn't it? Remember that Bishop Kieran was chosen by the Bishops' Conference to be head of their catechetical initiatives and 'Bishop for Youth'. (The official website summary of his career somehow neglects to mention his extra-curricular activities.) He must have had the support of a lot of other bishops as well.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Institute of Christ the King established in Shrewsbury

Bishop Mark Davies celebrating the Traditional Mass
in the seminary of the Institute in Italy.
Well done to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest! My last report of their progress is here.

The ICKSP Facebook page announces the following:

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest receives a new mission in the UK!

The Right Rev. Mark Davies announced last week that he appoints Canon Smith, icrss, to celebrate week day Mass, hear confession and celebrate Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament at Shrewsbury Cathedral.

Canon Smith will be in charge of the celebration of Mass and Office at St Winefrides Shrewsbury, where we will reside with a Seminarian of the ICKSP.

Thank you, your Lordship!

We entrust this new foundation of the ICKSP to our Lady of Walsingham

Friday, September 21, 2018

Clericalism and Clericalisation

Re-posted from May 2016


Not a specifically clerical role.
Some time ago I criticised the views of Russell Shaw (no relation) on the subject of clericalism and caesaropapism. He appeared to think, in his book To Hunt, To Shoot, To Entertain, that cases of caesaropapism, such as the Emperor Constantine regarding himself as holding ultimate authority over doctrinal matters, are actully cases of its opposite, clericalism: clericalism being the arrogation of lay authority by the clergy.

I have been thinking since then about the notion of 'clericalisation of the laity'. This term was popularised by Pope St John Paul II; it is used in Christifideles laici (1988: 23), but the most explicit discussion I have found is, for some reason, an address to the Bishops of the Antilles in 2002. As he explained, it

becomes a form of clericalism when the sacramental or liturgical roles that belong to the priest are assumed by the lay faithful, or when the latter set out to accomplish tasks of pastoral governing that properly belong to the priest.


The commitment of lay persons is politicised when the laity is absorbed by the exercise of ‘power’ within the Church.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Reform, restoration, and Pope Francis

I'm re-posting this from August 2015. It is a reminder of how hard I and many others tried to understand the strange things Pope Francis has been saying over the years, and also, I think, that these attempts were not entirely without value.

The putative opposition between 'reform' and 'restoration' has a renewed importance in the context of the debate about clerical abuse. I shall be reposting some old writings of mine about clericalism in the same spirit.

Cardinal Burke in Oxford: a reformer or a restorationist?
Today I am publishing a Position Paper from the International Federation Una Voce on the concepts of tradition, restoration, and reform. Go over there to read it.

Some readers will know about all this already, but the paper establishes with a degree of care and thoroughness the fallacy of claiming that there is some kind of opposition between reform and restoration. The talk of reform 'going forward' and restoration 'going back', and all this sort of irritating guff, seems to emerge from nothing more than a metaphor gone berserk - the metaphor of spatial movement for political change. Anyone would think, from the language of 'change change change' in current politics, that change is a good thing in itself, as long as the situation it produces has not been tried before. (See Peter Kwasniewski on this over on the NLM.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Walsall NHS Trust on parenthood

The National Health Service trust (a local grouping of health service institutions under the National Health Service) in Walsall produced an offensive poster, reported for example here. It has proved to be offensive to a lot of different people for different reasons.

It has stimulated me to produce some memes of my own, which I include here; the original version was contrasting the shoe-n-lipstick combination with a baby's dummy.

It is offensive to feminists, because it makes use of a stereotype of women: it suggests that they are motivated by what is represented by the shoe and lipstick. They stand for 'fun', presumably: the fun a woman can have most easily when unencumbered by pregnancy or a dependent child.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

FSSP in Reading given a 'personal parish'

Easter Sunday with the FSSP in 2014, in St William of York, Reading
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has given the apostolate of the Fratenity of St Peter in Reading an elevated legal status, making them a 'personal parish'.
This is a very unusual legal status, but one well suited to the reality of the traditional priestly institutes.

It won't make any immediate practical difference to the work of the Fraternity, but it is a very pleasing vote of confidence by the bishop, and an example for others to follow if they wish.

Bishop Crispian Hollis gave their residence in Reading canonical status in 2010, not long before his retirement.

Full story in the Catholic Herald.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

The Viganò crisis: 'The conservatives are winning'

This must count as one of the most absurd comments on the clerical abuse crisis centred, for now, in the United States. The attempt to carry on as if nothing at all was happening, always the first recourse of the bureaucrat to a crisis, has at this moment not only failed, even according to a supporter, but become utterly ludicrous. Of course people are more interested in Archbishop Viganò's statement than in the latest missive from the Bishops' Conference about the dignity of work. Are we supposed to think that this interest is misplaced?

By that time 'team Francis' had already moved on to a kind of damage-limitation which, instead of trying to distract attention from Archbishop Viganò, focused it on what they hoped would prove to be his weaknesses. This, too, has proved a failure, however. Few people had heard of Viganò before his statement, and no-one has anything invested in his personal reputation or political associations. They just want to know if what he says is true.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

The abuse crisis: too little authority, not too much

Abraham, our Patriarch
A letter to The Tablet, which they have apparently chosen not to print.


As a former Ampleforth pupil (1985-90), I share the disgust of your leader, feature article, and letters page (18 August). I think the various references to the ‘patriarchal’ Benedictine leadership model are in danger of confusing the issue, however.

If one wishes to discover the traditional, patriarchal attitude to criminal behaviour, consider the early Roman hero Brutus when, on the eve of battle, his sons were accused of treason. He executed them.

The Christian model of leadership does not endorse Brutus’ savagery, but it does stress a leader’s role in governing for the good of the community. This is the kind of government of a patriarchal family we find described in Proverbs, and modelled by saintly reforming Abbots, Bishops, and Kings in the Christian centuries. They would all have been appalled at the idea that their role had anything to do with giving criminals further opportunities to commit their crimes.

What we find described in the IICSA report into Downside and Ampleforth is not the rule of a ‘father in God’ inspired by a traditional conception of God himself. Rather, we see the influence of a modern conception of a ‘God without wrath’, a senile and indulgent grandfather. The problem is not the Benedictine model of leadership: the problem is the corruption of that model.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Attacking the whistleblower: the abuse-enabling culture is alive and well

In the current phase of the Church's crisis, we are focusing as much or more on the enablers of abuse, than on the abusers themselves. It is time we thought about them, because it removes the comforting impression that a 'few bad apples' could be ejected from the priesthood and all would be well. As is sometimes pointed out, perhaps 4% of priests were sex abusers. The problem is the general ethos and culture which enabled them to carry on their abuse, and the superiors systematically protected the abusers. Never mind the 4% of priests: it is the 60% or 80% or more of bishops and religious superiors who harboured sexual predators and provided them with fresh opportunities for abuse. It may be that most of the priest-abusers have died or been laicised by now, but their hierarchical enablers, few of whom had to face up to their crimes when the clerical abuse became a big story in 2002, have continued to flourish. This is an indication that, even if stricter reporting procedures have had a restraining effect on sexual predation by priests since 2002, the ethos and culture which made the abuse possible is still largely intact.

What is this culture? I have on this blog tried to go beyond a superficial understanding of it with the help of two perspectives: first, the classic account of how conformism can distort an individual's behaviour, and how it can take over an organisation; and second, the way that the rejection of the Church's teaching on sexuality has destroyed the hierarchy's ability to respond appropriately to cases of abuse. In this post I want to consider things from a third perspective, which is connected with conformism: the pattern of abuse-enabling.

Eleven months ago I was defending the 'Filial Correction', and wrote this about some of its critics:

Something profoundly worrying about criticisms of the signatories of the Correction specifically for speaking out about problems which every informed Catholic already knows about, is the mindset it reveals, one focused not on the truth, but on appearances. It is strongly reminiscent of the mindset at work in abusive families, where children are taught to pretend things are all right, when they are not: certain topics are not to be broached, certain facts are not to be referred to. This attitude can be enforced not by the abusive parent directly, but by other family members who are trying to keep up appearances and hold the family together. It is nevertheless profoundly unhealthy, and indeed is linked to psychological disorders in the children.

We should fear any such attitude, however well-intentioned, invading the Church. If there are problems, we should talk about them, and not pretend they do not exist.

It is natural to ask whether, since Cardinal McCarrick was himself a sexual predator, those who defend him, and often had such long associations with him, are or have been sexual predators as well. It is after all very possible. But even if some are, I expect most are not. They stand in relation to McCarrick as many family members stand in relation to an abusive parent. They desperately try to protect him, not because they approve of what he does, but because they are terrified of the consequences of it all coming out. They are frightened that the exposure of the abuser will destroy the family.

That specific fear is not, of course, entirely irrational, but the behaviour of these family members is not to be understood in simple, rational terms. They are, after all, victims of the abuse, whether sexual or psychological, and this has shaped their behaviour in non-rational ways. To put it in crude terms, they have for years and perhaps decades been bullied and brainwashed by the abuser, and the complex and self-contradictory message the abuser has sought to impress upon them includes the following: the abuser does no wrong; they are at fault for bad things which are happening; they are guilty and should fear the attention of outsiders; the abuser loves them and protects them; and terrible things would happen if he were removed from the scene.

Those who have internalised this message can go to astonishing lengths to protect the person who is making their lives hell, and to maintain the situation in which his behaviour can continue.

An added factor, particularly when we move from families to larger institutions, is when the abuser is able to promote favoured victims to the status of co-abuser, or give them other privileges which depend upon the continuing existence of the abusive system.

It is worth emphasising that I am talking about abuse, not what the secular press likes to call 'consensual relationships with adults'. Abuse does not stop being abuse when the victim turns 18, but the pattern of behaviour I am describing has little in common with, say, a seminarian having an affair with a fellow seminarian, or a woman outside the seminary, serious as that would be. Nor am I principally concerned with sexual orientation: the pattern of behaviour can equally be displayed when the underlying abuse is not sexual at all, but psychological. My interest here is the relationship between what we might call the core abuse and the penumbra of unhealthy attitudes and patterns of behaviour which come to be displayed by those around the abuser, even by people who don't take part in the core abuse.

For these attitudes and patterns of behaviour in the circle around the abuser are themselves abusive.

Imagine a family or institution at whose apex there is a classic abuser. He has surrounded himself with people who permit, facilitate, and cover up the abuse, and placed them in positions of privilege. Beyond this inner circle there will be people who have not been completely conditioned by the abuse, for example because they are newer on the scene, or younger. Most of them will have much more contact with the inner circle than with the abuser himself. It is the inner circle who will do much, or perhaps even all, of the direct work of bullying and brainwashing these outer-circle people, who will be looking to them for guidance. Consistently turning a blind eye to abuse, refusing to talk about it, becoming angry when certain topics are broached: these are powerful tools, if applied consistently to a captive audience over a long period of time. They train the junior members of the institution or family in the behaviour which is expected of them. This is a training in patterns of thought and behaviour which are unhealthy: which are harmful to mental health. They are gaslighting them.

This will work most profoundly in a closed institution like a cult, but it can work in families, seminaries, dioceses, the whole Church, and indeed in a whole society. The more open the institution the harder it will be for a culture of abuse to distort members' sense of justice and of what is normal, but it can still work to a large extent. This is how totalitarian states can continue to exist.

The most important thing for abuse-facilitators to do is to keep a lid on the exchange of information and dissent. This is a very pronounced principle in many cults, and of course in repressive states. In institutions and families which have limited coercive measures to employ against members, social pressure is the key to this. People who speak out internally or seek to attract the attention of outsiders are subjected to vilification and ostracism. Abusive institutions are generally also on the look-out for scapegoats to blame for their poor functioning, so hysterical attacks on whistleblowers can serve a double purpose.

The people attacking the whistleblowers are, to repeat, not necessarily the top-level abusers in the institution. They are people who are both abused and abuser: who are inflicting on others what they fear will happen to themselves. At the limit, we might want to absolve them from blame altogether: they may be too terrified and pyschologically damaged to think straight. But my concern is not with Maoist China; I'm talking about something at the milder end of the range. The Church is a dysfunctional family, not a death-cult. The unbalanced attacks on Archbishop Viganò, the desperate attempts to change the subject, are not being carried out by brain-washed zombies. They are being carried out by people who have got into a habit of protecting the institution regardless of the rights and wrongs of it.

Talking of tiers of abuse may seem a rather extreme approach to analysing a simple problem of over-zealous loyalty to the Church, but remember, we now know that we are dealing with the institutional manifestation of widespread sexual abuse. The question I am probing is: given that we have had an endemic abusive system at the heart of the institution for fifty or more years, at the level of the episcopacy, the seminaries, and even the Roman curia, what effect on the overall culture of the Church has it had?

The answer is that it will have done its best to draw into its distorted mind-set as many people involved with the Church as possible. It will have done its best to inculcate in them the abusive assumptions that the system is not, really, bad; the victims are guilty; and it would be terrible if the system is exposed: whistleblowers are traitors. We know how ruthlessly men too strong, too healthy, to bow to this set of attitudes have too often been treated. We know the kind of weak and weaselly individual who too often has found preferment in this system. Thank heaven, there are exceptions. I am not making a generalisation about bishops or priests, so much as an observation of the direction in which things have been pushed, a direction we would not have gone in at all had it not been for the poison of abuse eating away at the good sense of good people in the Church over many decades.

This problem will not quickly be cured. Removing the chief abusers and their chief enablers is obviously urgently necessary. Making it clear to the next rank down, to people who have consciously or half-consciously been aiding abuse and its cover-up, that this is unjust and continues and spreads deeply damaging attitudes and behaviours - that it is itself abusive - is the next step.

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