Friday, April 03, 2020

Baptisms when public services can't take place

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My latest on LifeSite

Much has been written about the lack of Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) in the current public health situation, but I’d like to say something about the Sacrament of Baptism. This will only affect a small number of people, but it has a particular interest because in principle, as we are all taught in Catechism, anyone having the use of reason can baptise. You can’t baptise yourself, but if you’ve not been baptised you can get your atheist cell mate to baptise you before you are thrown to the lions or whatever, if he follows the correct procedure.
The response of many priests and others will be that ‘private baptism’, without the full ceremonies, whether carried out by a priest or a lay person (and obviously only a priest can do the full ceremonies, with the anointing, blessings and so on), is only to be contemplated where there is ‘danger of death’.
This is clearly not the full story, however, since Catholics have found themselves in situations of persecution where priests were simply not available, sometimes for decades, like Japanese Catholics in 17th century. Readers may remember the classic film The Magnificent Seven: one of the features of the Mexican village that the seven gunmen go to protect was that the priest only visited them once a year. This was indeed the situation for many remote Mexican communities in that era, and historical parallels are not lacking. In the Catholic Highlands and Islands of Scotland, for example, for much of its history priestly visits were not as frequent, or predictable, as that.
Continue reading over there.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

LMS Guide to Holy Communion, Confession, and Baptism during the lockdown

St Charles Borromeo ministering to victims of the plague in Milan
The Latin Mass Society has published these short but comprehensive guides to the Sacraments of Holy Communion, Penance, and Baptism, while getting access to priests is restricted or impossible, in light of the Extraordinary Form and the Traditional Practice and Discipline of the Church.

Baptism

Penance

Holy Communion

What is a perfect act of contrition? What value has watching a live-streamed Mass? When would it be justified to baptise infants in the absence of a priest? Is it possible to gain indulgences if one can't go to Communion? What is the ceremony of 'supplying the ceremonies' after an emergency bapism?

Your questions are answered.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

New Prefaces and new Saints for the EF: Press Release from the FIUV

PDF version here.

Press Release:
CDF Decrees on new Prefaces and Saints for the Extraordinary Form
From the President and Officers of the FIUV
26th March 2020

Yesterday the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), now exercising the functions of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has issued two decrees, one on Prefaces to be added to the 1962 Missal (Quo Magis), and the other on the possibility of saints, canonised since 1962 to have Masses celebrated in their honour (Cum Sanctissima). (English summary here.)

The Federation was consulted on both issues, and we would like to thank the CDF for taking the views of our members into account in developing these decrees.

The Federation welcomes in particular the possibility of making a liturgical commemoration of saints canonised since 1962, without excessive disruption to the Sanctoral Calendar as it has come down to us. We wish, however, to issue some notes of caution.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Joy amid sorrow

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Last Gaudete Sunday, Holy Trinity Hethe with Fr Richard Conrad OP

My latest on LifeSite.

Last Sunday, Laetare Sunday, was a feast of joy. Stuck at home, in preparation for watching Mass on a small computer screen I read the commentary on the day from Fr Pius Parsch’s classic The Church’s Year of Faith. 
This Sunday has a unique distinction in the Church year—a day of joy in the season of penance and sorrow! …All the Mass texts ring with joy; the entrance song is a joyous shout, ‘Laetare—rejoice!’
This particular Sunday is a little moment of joy in a season of sorrow. As we approach Easter, there are, in fact, others: the joy of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, remembered on Palm Sunday, and the joy of the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, on Holy Thursday. Earlier, there was the Feast of the Transfiguration. Though not tied to the Easter cycle, but generally falling in Lent, are the great feasts of St Joseph and the Annunciation: not to forget St Patrick. And then, of course, is Easter itself, and the long Easter season.
As Fr Parsch likes to say, the Church is a good psychologist. You can’t have uninterrupted misery throughout Lent. It would wear us out, emotionally and spiritually, and we would become numb to it. The moments of joy, in fact, enable us to face the difficulties, the penance, and the sorrow: to face them and suffer them. Yes, sorrow: sorrow over our own sins, which is sharpened by our compassion for the sufferings of Our Lord, sufferings which He bore for our sins.
Read the whole thing.

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Mass at a distance: devotional aids

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Mass in Chartres Cathedral relayed to Pilgrims outside (2014)
Tomorrow for the first time in my life I am going to sit down to watch the celebration of Mass on my computer screen. I'm not a great one for watching liturgy on screens. The experience of the liturgy cannot easily be reproduced through a screen, and indeed it is important to remember that at the end of the day one is looking at a (moving) picture of Mass, by contrast with one one can see, for example, through a window or a glass door. (I have extensive experience of following the Mass through windows and doors, in the company of small children who need a breath of fresh air.)

Huge screens outside a church for the overflow crowd, as we have at Chartres Cathedral for the Chartres Pilgrimage, are rather different, as you know it is happening right there in the church and the people around you are all taking part in the usual way. But no one would suggest that these are as good as being in the church.

But in one's home? In one's work space? On a little mobile device?

In these strange times we must do the best we can, and if we can't get to church, this is better than nothing. The experience of a live, as opposed to pre-recorded, Mass will give us a more intimate connection with what is happening, and it will be the liturgy of today, the liturgy intended by the Church specially for this moment in the Lenten season.

The Latin Mass Society has collected links to live-streaming Masses being celebrated in England and Wales here.


A plenary indulgence with special conditions, has also now been granted for those who ‘assist virtually’ at Mass, because of the extenuating circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 epidemic.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Prayer resources for epidemic

This Lent we are experiencing a special time of penance, including the cessation of public liturgies, even those of Easter itself.

At this time we must remember the Church’s patrimony of devotions suitable to such times: prayers expressing our sorrow for sin, and filial confidence in the mercy of God.

With this in mind I have created a printable booklet with the Seven Penitential Psalms in it (free download). Yes you can find these on lots of websites but this booklet has a facing translation, stress marks on the Latin, and 'pointing' to facilitate singing. 

The Psalms (without the translation) and many other such devotions can be found in the Latin Mass Society’s Vademecum Peregrini: a Pilgrims’ Handbook.

The Stations of the Cross: we include the version found in many editions of the Manual of Prayers, the official handbook of devotions and prayers for public use authorised by the Bishops of England and Wales over many decades up to the time of the Second Vatican Council.

Rosary Meditaions: to accompany the Rosary, the Vademecum includes the meditations on each mystery found in the Manuel of Prayers.

Prayers set to chant including the Marian favourite Salve Mater, Misericordiae; the Lenten Sequence, Attende, Domine; the Passiontide chants the Vexilla Regis and the Crux Fidelis; and the perennial prayer of penance, the Parce Domine.

In addition to these, the Vademecum includes chants, prayers, and hymns of Easter joy and thanksgiving, and the prayers of the Mass, including a Spiritual Communion.


Buy the Vademecum here. The LMS online shop may be slower than usual because of the steps we have taken to protect the staff, but we are still fulfilling orders.

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Taking part in the Prayer of the Church during the epidemic

My latest in the Catholic Herald, below.
This would, incidentally, be a great time to discover the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary: a wonderful way to take part in the Public Prayer of the Church, which can easily be said or sung in Latin, or said in English, with 'offices' (Matins, Vespers etc.) of very managable length, connecting you to the devotions of our Medieval predecessors. 

You can get two different editions of this from the Latin Mass Society online bookshop: this one includes what you need to sing it; this one includes the Office of the Dead.

An alternative would be to take up Compline from the Roman Office: this is quite short, mostly unchanging, and you can get a book dedicated to it from the LMS here.

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Public Masses, the Bishops of England and Wales have announced, will cease from tomorrow. It makes perfect sense, given the speed with which coronavirus can spread. It is also a reminder that Mass is about more than Communion, and the public prayer of the Church is more than Mass. Saying the prayers of Mass at home, and making a Spiritual Communion, perhaps in the context of a recorded or live-streamed Mass, is one way of uniting ourselves with the Holy Sacrifice. We also participate in the perfect prayer offered to the Father through the Son by praying the Office (Liturgy of the Hours), including the Little Offices, and the rosary.

Read the whole thing there.

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EF Communion Rite outside Mass: handy printable pdfs

From Una Voce Scotland
We have prepared PDFs of the formula for administering Holy Communion outside of Mass in the Traditional Rite. It should be noted that Holy Communion in the Old Rite can only be received kneeling and on the tongue. This is still permitted in some of the Scottish Dioceses.
  • Click here to download a PDF including the rubrics for priests (2pp, A4)
  • Click here to download a PDF for servers or communicants (2pp, A4)
  • Click here to download a PDF for servers or communicants, which can be cut to A5 size.
Please make these sheets available to priests with whom you are in contact, or print it out and take it to a priest if you wish to receive Holy Communion in the Traditional Rite.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

LMS Caversham Pilgrimage cancelled

The Latin Mass Society's annual Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Caversham, at the church of Our Lady and St Anne's outside Reading, due to take place on Saturday 21st, has been cancelled.
This is due to the extra burden of sick visiting falling on the priests of the Fraternity of St Peter in Reading, who were due to celebrate this Mass.
Please remember them in your prayers.
Above all, do not allow the necessary practical measures to distract you from the appropriate spiritual response to public calamities. Persevere in prayer and penance, and unite yourselves with Our Lord in His Passion.
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Saturday, March 14, 2020

Corona virus and Holy Comunion: letters in the Catholic press

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Holy Communion at the LMS Oxford Pilgrimage, at the Oxford Blackfriars (Dominican Rite)
This weekend I have had a letter (the same one) published in The Catholic Herald, The Tablet, The Catholic Universe, and The Catholic Times.

I am very grateful to the Editors of our UK Catholic national weeklies for publishing it, and in this way making it possible for the Latin Mass Society to get our view out to the widest possible public.

As well as publishing our own 'statement' online and through social media, we have written on related matters to all our priest supporters, and to the Bishop Chairman of the Bishops' Conference Committee on Worship (Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia), who is our regular liaison with the Conference.

The current situation is a reminder of the utility of an organisation such as the Latin Mass Society which has the recognition and standing, and the resources and contacts, to do something like this when the need arises.

Here it is. (It has been edited slightly in different ways in the different papers; this is the ur-text.)

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Sir,

In light of the news of the continuing Corona virus epidemic and measures responding to that from bishops around the country, I would like to note the following.

At celebrations of the Extraordinary Form (the Traditional Mass) it is not permitted to distribute the Host in the hand. Should the suspension of distribution on the tongue be necessary for the safety of the public, there would be no Communion of the Faithful at celebrations of the Extraordinary Form.

This is not a matter of legalism. The Extraordinary Form places great emphasis to the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament in all its ceremonies and texts, and reception in the hand in this context would be not just incongruous but a cause of distress to the Faithful. The overwhelming majority of Catholics attached to the ancient Mass would rather make an Act of Spiritual Communion.

There seems, however, to be no objective medical foundation for the claim that reception in the hand is safer than reception on the tongue. The office of Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, notes, following consultation with medical specialists, that in terms of the danger of passing on infection from one Communicant to another by the Minister inadvertently touching them in turn, ‘done properly the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand pose a more or less equal risk.’

There is also the danger of each Communicant infecting his own Host from his own hands, which is entirely avoided by the method of receiving on the tongue.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, Latin Mass Society


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Friday, March 13, 2020

Corona virus and God's anger

My latest in LifeSiteNews.

Immediately this was published someone in the LifeSite comment box appeared to say I am wrong: God is not punishing us. It's not me who needs to be persuaded, however, but the Holy Ghost who inspired so many texts in both Testaments about divine punishment. 

What we should certainly avoid doing is trying to determine individuals' spiritual state according to the burden of suffering they bear. Perhaps such an extrapolation works in Budhism or Hinduism, but Christians are familiar with the fact that the saints frquently suffered, and sometimes the more God loved them, the more they suffered, and the greater their glory in heaven. But not always: you can't read off an inner state from outward circumstances the other way either.

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In relation to an epidemic, we must exercise prudence and take seriously the consequences of what we are doing for the good of our neighbor. Exposing others to a significant and unnecessary risk of infection, for example, is a sin against justice. There is also a risk involved in excessive caution. Closing down all schools and businesses, were that to happen, would have a huge cost. To impose this cost on children and employers without sufficient justification would also be a sin against justice.
Of even greater concern are measures taken or considered that affect the spiritual good of the faithful. In nearly all cases, the response of bishops to the epidemic has been restrictive, public Masses being suspended in Italy being the most extreme, but the suspension of the Kiss of Peace or the Reception of the Chalice, at the less serious end of the scale, are now becoming widespread. All of these measures may, or may not, be justified; I do not have the expertise to judge. But what they have in common is that they are negative and reactive.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Sense on COVID 19 from Peru

This is a Google-translate (slightly improved) version of an article from Aciprensa. The medical experts consulted by Archbishop Eguren of Piura, Peru, agree with those consulted by Archbishop Sample of Portland, Oregon.

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Based on the advice of world experts in immunology, José Antonio Eguren, Archbishop of Piura (Peru), will allow Communion to be received in the mouth during the COVID-19 Coronavirus epidemic, and called not to close the churches or yield to the "virus of fear."

In a statement published on March 7, Mons. Eguren announced measures to "contribute to this evil not spreading among us."

The Metropolitan Archbishop of Piura said that “Holy Communion can continue to be received in the usual way at the choice of the faithful Christian, that is, either in the mouth or in the hand, since world experts in immunology point out that the risk of contagion, between to give communion in the mouth or in the hand is the same ”.

"Ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are asked to avoid the risk of touching the mouth or hands of communicants, and that the faithful be instructed on how to receive Communion properly in each of these cases," he said.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Una Voce International Magzine: new edition

Una Voce International, the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce (FIUV), the federation of lay groups attached to the Traditional Mass, publishes a magazine twice a year. Here is the latest: Gregorius Magnus 9.

Contents include:
-Photographic report of Bishop Schneider in St Petersberg
-Photographic report of the Polish Ars Celebrandi conference
-News from Canada, Nigeria, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and India
-Articles from the magazines of Una Voce France, PMT Germany, and the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales
-Book reviews and more!

It can be downloaded here.

Join the email distribution list here.

See past editions here.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2020

LMS Statement on the Coronavirus and Holy Communion

STATEMENT ON COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) AND THE RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION AT CELEBRATIONS OF THE MASS ACCORDING TO THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM,

FROM THE LATIN MASS SOCIETY, 3rd MARCH 2020
The Bishops of England and Wales have issued ‘Guidelines’ (dated 27th February 2020) on steps to be taken in parishes in relation to the possible spread of COVID-19 (the Coronavirus).
While noting that these guidelines do not take the form of a decree with the force of canon law, we welcome them. We should like to make the following clarifications on their application to celebrations of the Extraordinary Form and other traditional Rites and Usages of the Latin Church, such as the Dominican Rite.
1.  In these celebrations the Sign of Peace is not given among members of the congregation; the Precious Blood is not distributed to the Faithful (from the Chalice); and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are not employed. In these respects these celebrations already adhere to or render unnecessary recommendations given in the Guidelines for a heightened level of hygiene necessary in the case of a more serious outbreak of the virus.
2.  In these celebrations Holy Communion (the Host) may not be distributed in the hand, according to the universal liturgical law applicable to them. Should the spread of COVID-19 necessitate the suspension of the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue, this would mean the suspension of the distribution of Holy Communion to the Faithful in these celebrations.
The Communion of the Faithful is in no way necessary to the validity or liceity (in such circumstances) of the Mass. Should prudence dictate the necessity for such a step, the Faithful should be encouraged to make a ‘Spiritual Communion’. One form of words for making such a Spiritual Communion is given below.
3.  We wish to observe, however, that the distribution of the Host in the hand does not appear to be less likely to spread infection than the distribution on the tongue. On the contrary, distribution on the hand has the result that the Host touches possibly infected surfaces, the palm of the left hand and the fingers of the right hand of the communicant, which is avoided in distribution by a priest directly onto the communicant’s tongue.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Traditional Mass in Campion Hall

On Thursday 20th the first public Traditional Mass was sung in the chapel of Campion Hall, Oxford.

Campion Hall is the Jesuit house of studies, a Permanent Private Hall, in the University of Oxford. The building, including the fine chapel, was designed by Lutyens.

Mass was celebrated by Fr Joseph Hamilon, an American priest doing studies in Oxford and a regular celebrant of the Traditional Mass at the Oxford Oratory.

Fr Joseph Simmons SJ preached.

The Mass was organised by the Newman Society - Oxford's student Catholic society.

The Mass was accompanied with chant and polyphony by a group led by Dominic Bevan. It was a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.

New CTS booklet on the Traditional Mass

A new booklet from the Catholic Truth Society is coming out on the Traditional Mass. It is available for pre-order now and will launch on 3rd April. It is the standard pocket-sized CTS production, and priced at £3.50.

It is by me. Here is a little excerpt:

... attending the Extraordinary Form can be understood as the privilege of seeing, from a distance, something of great solemnity and holiness. The things which contribute to the distance between the priest and his doings, and the congregation, are essential to creating the corresponding sense of the sacred. The fact that we can’t see things clearly because the priest has his back to us; the use of Latin; silent prayers; the exclusion of the laity from the sanctuary, except for vested servers: all these things serve to remind us that we are looking in at something very special, from the outside.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Requiem for Colin Mawby: photos

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Last Saturday Mgr Gordon Read, National Chaplain of the Latin Mass Society, celebrated a High Mass of Requiem for the late composer Colin Mawby, who had been a Patron of the Society.

It took place in St Mary Moorfields in the City of London.

It was accompanied by Cantus Magnus under Matthew Schellhorn, with Officium Defunctorum by Victoria, and two motets by Colin Mawby: Jesu dulcis memoria and Hodie nobis de cœlo. 

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sunday Masses in Holy Trinity, Hethe

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We have had some lovely Sung Traditional Masses in this historic church--the oldest Catholic parish church in Oxford, founded in 1839. And these will continue in 2020!

Quarterly Masses, Sung, at 11am, on the following:

22nd March, Laetare Sunday
31st May, Whitsun
1st Sunday of October: Our Lady of the Rosary, 4th Oct
Gaudete Sunday, 13th Dec

Holy Trinity Church
Hardwick Road
Hethe, Oxfordshire England
OX27 8AW

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Friday, February 21, 2020

Spring 2020 Mass of Ages available

In this issue: • We feature the Pontifical High Mass at Birmingham Oratory in thanksgiving for the Canonisation of St John Henry Newman • Joseph Shaw finds no evidence to support the idea that traditionally minded Catholics are 'rigid' • Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP reports on the success of the Priory Campaign • Charles A. Coulombe shows how the British Empire helped spread the Faith • Henry Walker is inspired by the number of young people attending the Traditional Mass • Barbara Kay reports on a visit to a new hybrid education venture in Bedfordshire • Jeremy Boot introduces a Muslim colleague to the beauties of the Traditional Mass.

Copies are mailed to members and available in many churches around the country for free: or get one here.

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

The liturgical reform and 'the missions'

A key part of the argument for the liturgical reform was that it was needed for 'the missions'. What was never explained was why a reform which responded to objections from Enlightenment thinkers to the liturgical tradition was appropriate for cultures to which such objections were completely alien, and indeed incomprehensible. The Emperor Joseph II, Voltaire, and the like complained about excessive ritual, supposedly superstitious veneration of holy places, images, and objects, the obscurantist use of sacred languages, silence, and so on and so forth. What on earth have these concerns to do with traditional societies? Unless, perhaps, one imagines that they are Rousseauist 'noble savages', like the lovers of 'noble simplicity' imaginatively projected in the Early Church by liturgists.

Daniel Dolley put paid to such fantasies about the native peoples of South America in his excellent article in the Catholic Herald which I commented on here, and this weekend Dr Pia Joliffe has had a letter published in the same place about the traditional culture she studied in Thailand, the Karen.


SIR – It was with great joy and interest that I read Daniel Dolley’s article on “how to evangelise the Amazon” (Cover story, January 24).

Dr Dolley’s point that the Amazon communities are more traditional in their approach to gender roles, religion and ritual action than those who advocate on their behalf is also valid for the Karen communities in northern Thailand, where I did my own ethnographic fieldwork for my DPhil in International Development.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The usefulness of Latin

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Mass during the LMS Priest-training Conference in Prior Park.

Letter published this weekend in The Catholic Herald.

Sir,

On Richard Ingrams’ reminiscences of his classical education (‘The Perils of Latin’, Charterhouse, 7th Feb), it is indeed astonishing how much time many of our predecessors spent on Latin and Greek. It didn’t seem to do them much harm: this was, after all, the generation which invented the computer, space travel, and the nuclear bomb.

Cobbett’s rejection of learning ‘what can never be of any real use to any human being’ (quoted by Ingrams) is corrosive of a humane education. Even in the sciences, the vast majority of what children learn, once they get beyond the kindergarten level, is not going to be of direct use to them in adult life.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Reply to Prof Healy in Homiletic and Pastoral Review

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Low Mass in the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham, England

Professor Mary Healy, a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, recently wrote a piece for the Homiletic and Pastoral Review on the 50th Anniversary of the Novus Ordo Missae: the 'Ordinary Form'. She wrote:

It has become common to blame today’s lack of Eucharistic faith and fervor on the revised rite. Critics rightly point to certain weaknesses such as collects that are less expressive of God’s majesty, and the omission of important biblical texts from the lectionary. Another unfortunate change is the elimination of the Octave of Pentecost, giving the impression of downgrading the great solemnity that culminates the Easter season. The primary problem, however, is not the reformed rite itself but its flawed implementation, due to poor — and, in some cases, catastrophically defective — theological and spiritual preparation among clergy and laity alike. Too often, the liturgical changes were accompanied by a downplaying of the notion of sacredness. A casual attitude toward the liturgy was fostered, and beautiful churches were “wreckovated.” Lukewarm liturgy has, tragically, obscured the authentic renewal called for by the Council itself.

Monday, February 03, 2020

The peoples of the Amazon need Christ

My latest on LifeSite, inspired by the cover article in the Catholic Herald by Dr Daniel Dolley (now onling) the other week.
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The ancient Greek historian Herodotus records a story about a young man who caused the accidental death of his brother. Fleeing from home, he was taken in by a king who performed the necessary rite of purification and took him into his own household. One day, out hunting with the king’s son, the young man accidentally caused the prince’s death. In despair, he took his own life.

What is the moral of this story? The king’s act of kindness was misjudged; the rite of purification was not sufficiently powerful; those whom the gods have chosen to afflict cannot be helped. Perhaps the young man had inadvertently offended some deity, a common occurrence in Greek myth. You can’t be too careful: Works and Days by Hesiod attempts to summarize omens and auspicious and inauspicious days for everything from getting married to planting beans. The result is a mind-boggling collection of material that, if taken seriously, would control one’s every action, with no guarantee of success. This is what life under paganism was like in ancient Europe, and it was to this world that the Church’s sacraments and spirituality were first directed.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Saturday, February 01, 2020

The vocation to have children

My latest on LifeSite.

The basic outlines of the Church’s teaching on family life, in terms of what we must on no account do, are clear, but we need to beware of the more subtle ways our thinking has been warped by our contraceptive culture. This is a hugely complex topic and I want to look at just one aspect of it: the attitude to large families.
It has become a joke, albeit a boring one, that many people can’t see a family of more than three children without having a dig at the parents. My lifestyle does not expose me to much of this but I did get a “You should get a TV” from a stranger recently, which was intended as light-hearted. (Actually, I’d rather have the children.) Such comments can be particularly upsetting when they come from fellow Catholics. No less annoying is the counter-pressure occasionally found in those pockets of Catholic society where larger families are more common. It is such a stupid thing to ask mothers if they are going to have another baby. Who knows what has been going on? Just don’t do it.
These opposing remarks have something in common, which is the odd way they hold parents to account for having or not having children, and see a certain family size as the right one for everyone: whether is it two children, six, or none. This is obviously absurd in ignoring the particular circumstances of different families, above all biological factors which are of no concern to complete strangers. But it also puts an artificial limit to family size, whether the limit small or large. 
Carry on reading.

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Friday, January 31, 2020

Engaging with post-Brexit politics

I've written for LifeSite about the possibilities for Catholics to engage with the new generation of politicians who have emerged from Brexit: despite their greater distance from the practice of Christianity than their predecessors.

It begins:

There is a theory going around that Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is going to grasp a historic opportunity to realign his Conservative Party in relation to emerging voting patterns. It goes like this. Johnson’s predecessor-but-one, David Cameron, combined austerity and globalisation with social liberalism, notably by forcing “same-sex marriage” through Parliament, against great opposition from inside his own party. This did much to neutralise the opposition of the liberal media and arts establishment.

But things have moved on. The hyper-liberalism of the political left has cut them adrift from their traditional working-class supporters, who value family and country. Public finances don’t look quite as bad as before. The vote to leave the European Union and the ferocious opposition to this by the political and media establishment has crystalized the break between the left and its traditional base. Johnson’s strategy will be to pivot the Conservative Party into a more socially conservative, but less capitalist-friendly, party, to scoop up these newly available votes.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Serving and Sewing for the Kingdom of God

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What can we do to advance God's reign on earth? What does it mean, today, to work in the Vineyard? If you are in despair about state of the Church and the state of society, what can you actually do about it?

It is far from the case that you can't do anything. The work of resistance to the chaos and of restoration is going on all around you. Here are two examples taking place in London: training on how to serve the Traditional Mass by highly experienced Masters of Ceremonies, and the mending of old vestments under expert guidance. Stop complaining, and come along! You don't need any qualifications, and there is no fee to pay.

Photos from last Saturday. The next dates are

March 14th (booking page for the serving), and May 9th (booking page for the serving). More info.

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Sunday, January 26, 2020

CMA Youth Retreat, 8th Feb, Haverstock Hill, London

The Third Annual Retreat
for young (18+) Catholics in healthcare
and young (18+) Catholic adults
Organised by the Catholic Medical Association's 
Youth Branch

Where? The Rosary Shrine
St Dominic's Priory
London NW5 4LB
When? Saturday 8th February 2020
11:30 Mass, followed by lunch, talks, and tour of the shrine. 
Day ends at 17:00
How much? £5 payable at the door (day includes lunch)

For more information and to register: 

- Registration essential as places limited -


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Are Western Christians persecuted?

My latest on LifeSite.
Are Christians in the West being persecuted? To some, it seems ridiculous to say so, smacking of paranoia, and even an insult to those being genuinely persecuted in Africa and Asia. But persecution need not be equally serious everywhere. Persecution comes in relatively mild and relatively fierce forms. It also tends to come and go over time. Life under undeniable historic persecutions went on, sometimes to a surprising extent: a priest was ordained in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. Being persecuted is not the same as being killed.
If the term “persecution” is distracting us, think simply about what it means to suffer for the Faith, for the truth. Suffering for the Faith, or the prospect of suffering for it if one does certain things, shapes the lives of those living under persecution. They must choose whether and when to pay the price of suffering, or take the risk of suffering, in order to receive the sacraments or to speak the truth, or whether to hold back, to allow certain possibilities to be closed off, perhaps permanently.
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Friday, January 24, 2020

Sex abuse clerical and lay

The second of a linked pair of LifeSite articles.


In my last article on LifeSiteNews, I explained how the reluctance of the U.K’.s police and social workers to apply the law on underage sex and on drugs created an environment in which girls, very often in the care of the state, could be targeted by gangs, who groomed, abused, and pimped them over years. There is an ever-lengthening list of places where well established networks of abusers operated with apparent impunity, with victims in the thousands.
This may sound familiar to readers who have been following clerical abuse cases.
I distinguished three layers to the problem: the cover-up; the refusal to face the sociological reality of the gangs; and, most fundamentally, the assumption that the crimes were not real, or not serious, because the victims must have consented. These three layers are also at issue in clerical abuse.
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Thursday, January 23, 2020

The latest Sex-abuse cover up: by Greater Manchest Police

Update: this new article on Quillet by Ben Sixsmith supports many of my conclusions and refers to an interesting body of research on the grooming gangs.

The first of a pair of articles on LifeSite;

This week has seen the report of yet another UK “grooming gang” pimping and exploiting vulnerable underage girls, this time in Manchester. (There is a long newspaper report here.) 
The men targeted care homes. 
The victims repeatedly told those charged with their care that they were being raped and given hard drugs, but social services, medics, and police showed enormous reluctance to get involved, an attitude that seemed to be endorsed by the coroner investigating the 2003 death of Victoria Agoglia, a 15-year-old victim of a heroin overdose (her caregivers were not to blame, he found). This death did lead to a wider investigation, but it was starved of resources and then shut down. 
It has become a depressingly familiar pattern. The RochdaleBristol, and Oxford sex abuse gangs have gained the most attention, but there are now “case reviews” and public inquiry reports from an ever-lengthening list of locations. The victims number in the thousands. It is far from clear that the lessons of these cases have been learned: the Greater Manchester Police were hanging tough and refusing to reopen the investigation, which they had mysteriously shut down in 2005, as recently as 2018. What, one might ask, is going on? 
Continue reading.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Some worries about Roger Scruton

The more adulatory material I see on the Catholic internet about the late Roger Scruton, the more I think some corrective is necessary. I wish I'd been more critical now, in what I wrote for LifeSite (below).
In Scruton's subtle and often brilliant work, we are gently led away from the idea that it is of any importance whether there is any objective truth, whether God actually exists, or whether there are any moral truths. It doesn't matter because we have our terribly interesting reactions to things and our terribly complex relations with each other and with the past. I want to agree with many of his positive assertions but say to him and his followers: look chaps, this isn't enough. It's not going to work on its own--it'll collapse like a souflé without some, you know, reality behind it. Look, all the people you describe living these elegant, sceptical lives in the 18th century or whatever were living off the capital of a millennium of Christianity, during which time people actually believed in something. It is when this belief starts disappearing from the mass of the population in the 20th century that society starts unravelling. You can't bind it all back up again by saying that the new barbarians should be more like Enlightenment gentlemen. The barbarians are just following the Enlightenment logic through.
Heigh ho. Here's my LifeSite article.
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The English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton has died at the age of 75. He was the most prominent proponent of conservatism in political theory of his generation, and his theory of aesthetics was also significant. He came into conflict with the intellectual establishment throughout his life, and his independence of mind was impressive. So intensely hostile to him, indeed, were his fellow philosophers that I witnessed apparently rational mainstream academics actually apologising, in advance, for saying something complimentary about him. And yet he was rather a gentle soul, not given to hasty polemic or feuds, who did not give way to bitterness. His works will long survive those of many of his detractors. 
In many ways, his work has been helpful to Catholic thinkers, particularly his articulation of the importance of community, an idea whose time in some ways seems to have come. But he was not a Catholic, and there are important ways in which his thinking went in a quite different direction from that of the Catholic tradition. As a tribute to a great man, I want to say something about this: the best way to show one’s appreciation of a serious thinker is always to engage critically with his ideas.
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Thursday, January 09, 2020

The Papal Slap

I wrote this for Rorate Caeli.

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A lot of people have weighed in on Pope Francis repeatedly slapping the hand of a pilgrim in St Peter’s Square. Reactions have not divided simply along ideological lines. Austin Ruse suggested, on Twitter, that Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II would have reacted even more fiercely to a pilgrim grabbing their hands and not letting go. I was undecided myself at first. The pilgrim’s action did seem a little aggressive. On the other hand, there she is, in the video, a rather small Chinese lady, making a sign of the cross to steel herself to take the hand of the much larger Pope, surrounded by body guards. From what one can see of the timing of the incident, the Pope reacts as he does not to the surprise of the physical aspect of the gesture, but to what she is saying. She is saying something about Hong Kong…

Read the rest on Rorate.

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Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Roger Buck's 'Gentle Traditionalist' returns

My latest for LifeSite. Buy Roger Buck's latest book through this link which gives him a little more of the cover price.


In 2015, Catholic convert Roger Buck published The Gentle Traditionalist, a work of apologetics in a dialogue form which, like some of Plato’s dialogues, is flavoured by a fictional dramatic setting set out at the beginning and the end. Despite its classical antecedents this is an unusual format, but Buck’s work was very successful. I have been recommending it to everyone ever since, as the ideal non-threatening introduction to traditional Catholic concerns on culture, education, and politics, the issues which motivated Chesterton, Belloc, and Evelyn Waugh.
The Gentle Traditionalist was followed in 2016 by Buck’s magnum opus, the 450-page Cor Jesu Sacratissimum: From Secularism and the New Age to Christendom Renewed. This is partly autobiographical, featuring Buck’s former life as a New Age practitioner and activist. Buck’s latest book, The Gentle Traditionalist Returns: A Catholic Knight’s Tale from Ireland, returns to the characters and format of the first book but more of the issues of the second. It is an exploration of the New Age as it is invading a newly-post-Christian Ireland, Buck’s adoptive country, in the context of the abortion referendum of 2016.

Carry on reading there.

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Monday, January 06, 2020

Learn to cook in 2020

My latest on LifeSite News

I’ve mentioned more than once the importance of culture. Catholic culture, I wrote in one article, presupposes culture. I would like to say more about this issue, not only because it is important in itself, but because people want to know what they can or should do about the current crisis in the Church. Well, they — you, we — should learn how to cook.
Our Lady of Fatima’s message to the children in 1917 was, Sr. Lucia later explained, was not primarily about the First Saturdays or the rosary or the brown scapular, important as those devotions are. It was “the faithful accomplishment of our daily duties.” The world would be converted if Catholics performed their daily duties more faithfully. That is why the enemies of the Church have attacked precisely those daily duties. For most Catholics, online zealotry is easy, or at least appears so; it is being a good Catholic father, mother, husband, wife, son, or daughter that has become extraordinarily difficult, not to mention being a good Catholic employer, or employee, a good Catholic citizen, or a good Catholic public servant. One might say, perhaps, that being a good Catholic public servant — an elected representative or career civil servant — has become impossible in some places, and that this kind of public engagement is best avoided. We wouldn’t dare say that it has become impossible to be a good Catholic spouse or parent, though, because that would imply that we could not have families at all. Somehow, we have to face the difficulties and overcome them.
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Thursday, January 02, 2020

James MacMillan interview: music, culture, politics, religion

I've just round to watching this, and it is very interesting.


Sir James is a Patron of the Latin Mass Society.

He mentions a recent book of his reflections, which can be found here.


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