Monday, June 22, 2020

Online Latin Course in August and September

I'm delighted to announce that although our annual, residential Latin Course has had to be cancelled for 2020, another option for learning Latin has emerged. I can't take any credit for this, but am happy to advertise it: an online course using Christian Latin run by an experienced teacher of ancient languages, Matthew Spencer.

One reason for optimism about Latin is the continuing enthusiasm of teachers and students, and their continuing willingness to experiment with different approaches to language learning and the delivery of lessons, to reach new people, both beginners and those wishing to improve their Latin.

These won't take over your life: they will be 2 hours of online tuition a week, and homework between sessions is optional.

I am myself planning to do this course: join me and Mr Spencer in the adventure of Christian Latin!

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This year the Latin Mass Society's long-standing annual residential Latin Course has had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus epidemic. We are delighted therefore to be able to announce a new initiative by an independent language teacher, Matthew Spencer, for the online teaching of Christian Latin over August and September.

Mr Spencer has previously been teaching ancient languages to university students preparing for further studies, and he would now like to apply his skills to teaching Latin. The course’s focus on the distinctive, later period of Latin of writers such as Augustine and Boethius will make this course of particular interest and usefulness to Catholics and all those interested in discovering the rich world of Christian Latin.

He plans to teach very small groups once or twice a week, some aimed at 'Beginners' and others at those with some previous experience of Latin.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Conservatism after Bostock

The recent Supreme Court decision, penned by Neil Gorsuch, has knocked the wind out of a lot of Americans on the right. The central claim, that an Act of Congress in 1964 intended to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the word “sex”, as a characteristic to be protected against discrimination, is so evidently insane surely—one might think—no person of intellectual integrity could affirm it. If we view it as not, strictly and literally true, but as a necessary legal fiction, then the question becomes one of policy. What urgent issue of natural justice is served by erasing the distinction between biological sex, erotic preferences, and feelings-about-what-one-is?

The answer is protecting people from discrimination on the basis of those two other things. I can understand why the liberal Justices on the Supreme Court should think this. In UK law “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment” are both “protected characteristics” which must not motivate discrimination. So is “sex”. The Bostock decision goes much further than the UK law, however, in bypassing the need for any formal “gender reassignment” (the very concept seems old-fashioned today: the UK law dates from 2011), and also by rolling the three characteristics into one. Gorsuch’s remarkable reasoning is that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation just is discrimination on the basis of sex.

The precise legal consequences of the decision will emerge over time. The most astonishing aspect of it is that this decision was approved not only by liberal judges, but by two supposedly conservative ones: John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch. Republican-nominated Supreme Court Justices turning into liberals in office is nothing new, and it is part of a wider pattern of conservatives in positions of power and influence not wanting to stand up for conservative causes. At the individual level this is easy to understand: if you want to preserve your ability to earn a living, you have to watch what you say. But collectively, it is incomprehensible. On many occasions, liberal views have triumphed despite lacking popular support. If the conservative opposition to the latest progressive cause simply stood up for itself, in many cases the issue would not be in doubt. But not only does this not happen, but people tend to accept each step of the progressive revolution after it has happened.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Pagans attack Statue of St Boniface in Devon

As regular readers know I have an interest in neo-paganism and the related New Age movement. There is a FIUV Position Paper on these phenomena here.
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When St. Boniface traveled from Devon in England to convert the pagans of Germany in the 8th century, he did so with supernatural courage. The Germans’ savagery had been notorious for centuries, and they did, indeed, eventually martyr him, while he was traveling in Frisia (now the Netherlands) in the year 754. Fourteen centuries on, it seems that the pagans have returned to Devon. A stone statue of him in the small town of Crediton has had sprayed onto its pedestal the words “God is dead” and “Pagan justice,” the latter accompanied by a pentangle, the symbol of Satanism.
There is a lot of neo-paganism in England’s bucolic southwest. Glastonbury, some way to the north and east of Crediton, is a particular center. The incongruous combination of messages — suggesting atheism, paganism, and Satanism — is characteristic of the more militant varieties. The local newspaper describes the attackers as “anarchists,” which may be a fair description but seems intended to distract attention from the central point: that this vandalism has got nothing to do with the riots in the United States or London but is the manifestation of local anti-Christian hatred.
Pagan attacks on Christian and above all Catholic symbols and churches are nothing new. What the secular press would rather not say is that Christians are the targets of a sustained, if low-level, campaign of physical and spiritual violence: thefts, vandalism, and sacrilege. That this is so is very clear, talking to Catholics in this part of England, and also to pagan converts to the Faith. Neo-pagans are not all dreamy nature-lovers. It is common for them to harbor a deep antipathy to Christianity.
Read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Archdiocese of Munich in bizarre stunt with monstrance

My latest on LifeSite. 

When I first composed this it wasn't clear whether the host in the monstrance being placed in different locations for photographs was consecrated. Apparently it was not. This is a good, but the stunt is still outrageous. As something which holds the Blessed Sacrament, under the old rules the monstrance should not even be touched by a layman. Under the new ones, it should at least be treated with respect (Canon 1171; GIRM 327). In the FIUV Position Paper on Reception under the Form of Bread Alone, Appendix A is devoted to the subject of the handling of sacred vessels. It was forbidden for laymen to touch them in the very earliest sources of Canon law which we have, and is taken for granted by Gregory of Nazianzen, who died before the end of the 4th century. The Munich website would have shocked the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

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The Archdiocese of Munich has endorsed a bizarre and sacrilegious website that supposedly celebrates and elaborates the message of Corpus Christi. The creators, two “pastoral advisers,” Michael Raz and Johannes van Kruijsbergen, explain (translated from German by Google):
This festival is about showing people on the spot that God is in the middle of us, in the middle of the world, at all times. The idea arose to photograph the monstrance, i.e. this vessel for showing the body of Christ, in different places of everyday life. The oral project received broad approval from the other sixty or so pastors.
And so we have photographs of a monstrance in a playground, on a roadside bench, on a pedestrian crossing, in a car, next to a building site, on a water feature in a park, and so on, with supremely un-memorable little texts to accompany each one: how our lives are bit like a building site or whatever.
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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Western Civilisation has got to go!

My latest on LifeSite.

A lot of academic subjects have been infected with political correctness. Today, we are seeing on the streets and in the newsrooms some of the consequences. 
Not only are activists defacing and toppling statues of the kinds of people their university lecturers dismissed as “dead white males,” but they are being defended by journalists and politicians. 
The defacement of the statue of the man who, more than anyone else in Europe, opposed Fascism, Winston Churchill, and the memorial of the men and women who died in their tens of thousands for this cause, the Cenotaph in London, is not about opposing “racism” and “fascism.” It is about denigrating and removing from public view manifestations of the “Western Civilisation” that has been denigrated and reviled, especially in second-rate academic institutions, for the last 30 years.
Some academic disciplines have fared better than others. One of the least affected, Classics, is now under sustained attack by people who regard the whole idea of the study of ancient Greece and Rome as intrinsically problematic. I don’t think this is primarily about the colour of ancient Romans’ skins, and efforts by trendy Classicists like Dr. Mary Beard to point out (correctly) that ancient Rome was ethnically diverse, and that a black officer in Roman Britain was perfectly possible, will not be enough to get the activists off their backs. 
Read the whole thing.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

J.K. Rowling faces down the mob

My latest on LifeSite

I’m not a great fan of J.K. Rowling. I regard her as overrated as an author of children’s books, and her forays into adult fiction have, by all accounts, been less successful. I don’t object in principle to magic playing a role in fiction (many great Catholic writers used it), but the Harry Potter series ends with a strange apologia for the culture of death. Watching her 2016 film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, ended any lingering doubts. A triumph of computer-generated special effects, the plot is an attack on religion, at both obvious and subtle levels: something for another post perhaps. I came away thinking that with this film, and of course her notorious post-mortem outing of her fictional character Dumbledore as a homosexual in 2007, fame and fortune had seized her for their own. She had decided to maximize her sales by serving the progressive fashions of the day. From now on, we can expect the kind of material Hollywood will instinctively love.
It is all the more surprising, then, to see her emerge as a champion of the rights of women, in defiance of the trans lobby. She has generated a few Twitter storms already and has now written an essay setting out her position in some detail. She has been ritually denounced by actors who played leading roles in her films, and, as she must realize, she is risking a lot of future revenue, as well as death threats, by leaving the winding but brightly-lit path of wokery. However she is already extremely wealthy, and has an immense fan base, so her vulnerability to the lynch mob is unusually low for a celebrity. This is of considerable significance, because people who defy the Jacobins of our age usually disappear from public view, if they refuse to back down. Rowling is not going anywhere.

Read the whole thing.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Guild of St Clare sponsorship for RSN Embroidery Certificate

Crewel work completed by our first sponsored
student, James Sharpe
Cross-posted from the Guild of St Clare blog.

In 2019 the Guild of St Clare made the first award under its Sponsorship Scheme to help a student through the Certificate Course at the Royal School of Needlework. Our sponsored student has made good progress, and as he enters his second year of part-time study, we can start sponsoring a second.

The deadline is 22nd June.

The RSN Certificate Course takes between one and four years, depending on how intensively students wish to do it. Its great flexibility makes it ideal for those who can only spare limited time, or whose availability fluctuates over the year. The Certificate gives its graduates a thorough grounding in a range of traditional hand-embroidery skills, skills for which the RSN is renowned, and which its experts apply to historic restoration projects and important commissions.

Sponsored students will be able to reclaim half the cost of their tuition days, up to a maximum of £2,000 a year (September 1st to September 1st), subject to satisfactory progress in the Certificate course, and their attendance at least one of the Guild’s two annual Sewing Retreats. Students at the RSN have to pay for tuition days when they book them; they would be reimbursed at that point. Progress will be monitored by reference to the successful completion of each module, and the reports which are provided by RSN tutors on each piece of work.

More information, and how to apply, can be found here.
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Monday, June 08, 2020

Communion and Covid: from the Una Voce Federation

A press release from the FIUV. PDF version here.

Foederatio Internationalis 
Una Voce

Quae patronum invocat sanctum Gregorium Magnum Papam.


Press Release: Communion on the Tongue and Epidemic

In light of the recent statement (and here) by Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, in the United States of America, on social distancing during the reception of Holy Communion, and related issues surrounding the reception of Holy Communion around the world in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic, the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce (FIUV) would like to make the following observations.

1. In the Ordinary Form, the universal law of the Church gives every Catholic the right to receive on the tongue. This was reaffirmed by the Congregation of Divine Worship in the context of earlier public health concerns, the so-called ‘Swine flu’ epidemic of 2009. (See for example RedemptionisSacramentum (2004) 92; Letter of the Congregation of Divine Worship 24th July 2009, Prot. N. 655/09/L.)

2. In the Extraordinary Form, the universal law of the Church allows for the reception of Holy Communion only on the tongue. (See UniversaeEcclesiae (2011) 28; MemorialeDomini (1969).)

3. In neither case can the law of the Church be set aside by the Ordinary.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Singing and the Coronavirus

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The Schola Abelis, Oxford's Gregorian Chant Schola, shrouded in incence
in the rather roomy 'tribune' (choir loft) at Blackfiars back in 2018.
Some potentially good news: there is now some evidence that the idea that singing is a specially dangerous activity in the context of the pandemic is false.

At the outbreak of the pandemic very little relevant research existed, but some has now been done: this paper, awaiting its peer-review, is at least a hopeful sign.

One of its key points is that singing does not spread air--and therefore anything carried by air such as viruses riding on droplets of water--very far:
The experiments clearly show that air is only set in motion in the immediate vicinity of the mouth when singing. In the case of the professional singer, the experiments showed that at a distance of around 0.5 m, almost no air movement can be detected, regardless of how loud the sound was and what pitch was sung. It is therefore unlikely that the virus could spread beyond this limit via the air flow created during singing. Amateur musicians who do not use the diaphragmatic breathing most commonly used by professionals when singing, but rather the natural chest breathing, do not get beyond this range either. By singing a very loud and long sequence of the same tone at about 2 Hz, a slightly wider spread of air movement could be achieved.
From: "Singing in choirs and making music with wind instruments ‒ Is that safe during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic?" by Christian J. Kähler (Prof. Dr.) and Rainer Hain (Dr.) Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerodynamics, University of the Bundeswehr Munich, Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39, 85577 Neubiberg, Germany.

The hope is that the issue with choirs will be social distancing, contrary to the cramped conditions many choirs frequently have to endure both in rehearsal and performance, but not the act of singing itself.

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Marriage to end in the UK: with a whimper

My latest on LifeSite.
The weakening of the UK’s divorce law is reaching its final stages. 
It is currently possible to end a marriage for almost any reason, or if you prefer to divorce for no reason at all, after a period of separation (two years with the agreement of the other party; five years without). It is almost impossible for a spouse to defend himself or herself against an application for divorce. For the Conservative Party Government in the UK, this isn’t good enough. They want to abolish the requirement to give any reasons (such as that old standby, “unreasonable behaviour”), and reduce the separation period to six months, or, if they feel like changing it again later, to nothing.
The justification being used by the government and repeated across the liberal media is that the current system forces couples to assign blame, unless they want to use the separation-period approach, which is presented as an intolerable burden. Giving reasons for wanting to end a supposedly life-long union, or creating a short time in which reconciliation might be attempted, doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable. Did I say “lifelong?” Well, that is how marriage is legally defined, with the proviso “unless legally terminated.”
In truth, the phrase is the pathetic remnant of a conception of marriage that is no longer given legal recognition.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Cardinal Koch and the amalgamation of rites

An Altar Missal defaced to keep it up to date with the
liturgical changes of the 1960s
Cardinal Kurt Koch has taken up an idea which floats into the Catholic press every now and then, that the Extraordinary Form should be merged somehow with the Ordinary Form. Here in German, quoting the Cardinal at the end. The money quote (thanks to Google Translate) is

'The Eucharist is the central celebration of the unity of the church. It cannot have this meaning
when there is argument and confrontation around them.'

In that case, perhaps the extremists among the liturgical progressives should stop attacking the EF's right to exist. If they can't do that, I can't see them rallying around a rite which is a 'synthesis' of the two, and the conflict would continue: as it does, indeed, in practically every diocese and religious community where only the Ordinary Form is celebrated.

The argument is particularly puzzling, as there are far more than two liturgical forms in the Church. In major European and Middle Eastern cities alike one can find the Latin Rite liturgy celebrated in one church and a variety of Eastern Rites celebrated down the road. Cardinal Koch is in charge of ecumenism at the Vatican, and he cannot have forgotten the role of liturgical diversity in fostering unity, not impeding it, in the reconciliation of Anglicans to the Holy See. The same thing has long been the policy of the Vatican towards our separated brethren in the East. Imposing liturgical uniformity on the Church would be an ecumenical disaster.

I paste in below an article I wrote for the Catholic Herald online in July 2017, which is no longer available on their website, which addresses the version of this idea floated by Cardinal Sarah. It is interesting to see Cardinal Koch taking up the same term, 'reconciliation', as if it were the Forms which were in conflict, rather than Catholics with different views.

I followed this up with another piece on this blog which can be found here.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Remembering the Chartres Pilgrimage

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The British Chapter in sight of Chartres Cathedral, in 2014
The Chartres Pilgrimage would in normal circumstances have taken place this weekend. I should be able to make it next year. We must make it a year to remember!

And don't forget: with a bit of luck we should be able to have the Walsingham Pilgrimage this year. Book here.

My latest on LifeSite.

I have been four times on the Chartres Pilgrimage. It’s not a competitive sport, but I should add that only on two of these occasions did I manage to complete it — that is, to walk the entire distance from Notre Dame in Paris to the mighty Chartres Cathedral, more than 60 miles, in two and a half days.
It takes place over the weekend of Pentecost Sunday — Whitsun — with sometimes more than ten thousand pilgrims. Last year, for the first time for many years, it was not able to use Notre Dame because of the terrible fire there in April 2019. In 2020, it will be taking place only “virtually,” due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The participants are mostly young people, and many pilgrims come every year. Its cancelation is a great blow to them and to those hoping to experience it for the first time. Serious pilgrims are used to setbacks, however, and they will be back.
Read the whole thing.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Even fake 'water pistol baptisms' are disedifying

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A very un-socially-distanced baptism, back in the days of innocence.
The priest annoints the candidate.
My latest on LifeSite.

 Photographs have been proliferating of clerics of some kind aiming water pistols at babies in order to baptize them. Some of these seem to be fake news, inasmuch as they did the baptisms in the ordinary way but then staged the photo afterward. This makes a difference, but I’m not sure how much. Should clerics be clowning around in church after baptizing a baby? Again, there’s the photo of a priest wearing vestments using a water pistol to bless adults with holy water. If that was staged, it almost makes it worse.
Sometimes it is said that the era of the “clown mass” and other extreme examples of disrespect for the liturgy is over, but it would appear that its spirit lives on, among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Those who published these photographs, and the people in them, clearly think this is all terribly funny, and that that is fine.
Before anyone suggests that the use of water pistols is a serious response to the coronavirus, let me be the thousandth person to point out this is not so. At the “asperges” before Mass people have been blessed at a distance for centuries, with a liturgical implement called an aspergillum; as for baptisms, it doesn’t need to be the priest doing it anyway. 
Read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Anglican Bishops aren't having a good crisis

My latest on LifeSite.

There has been a fair amount of criticism of Catholic bishops over the period of the coronavirus epidemic, but if you want to put things in perspective, you only have to look at the bishops of the Church of England (Episcopalians). While Catholic priests up and down the land were optimising their churches’ live-streaming technology, Anglican clergy were forbidden to enter their own places of worship, even if these actually adjoined their homes. Their flocks have been treated to the sight of services celebrated in kitchens and living rooms instead. This utterly pointless ruling was roundly criticised, but the bishops stuck to it even over Easter, only finally succumbing to the pressure of common sense on May 5. What possible motivation could they have had for insisting that their clergy not go through the sacristy door into their empty and locked churches to celebrate the liturgy? 
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks of himself as the successor of St. Augustine of Canterbury, who brought the Christian faith to England directly from Pope St. Gregory the Great, told us that it was to set an example. Referring to the government’s message about public health, he told the press that “by closing the churches, we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message.”
I’m not someone who has called for people to flout the government’s guidelines, but going beyond them in this extraordinary way seems to me a powerful symbol of the Church of England’s worship of the idol of “health and safety.”
This isn’t the first time Welby has jumped on a bandwagon without engaging his brain.
Read the whole thing.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The mysterious teaching union that doesn't want to teach

My latest on LifeSite.

Britain’s teaching unions are decidedly unenthusiastic about the re-opening of schools as the coronavirus lockdown eases. Surprisingly, they aren’t keen on online learning, either. The National Education Union (NEU) has told its members not to live-stream lessons from their homes, engage one-to-one with pupils, or expect any input from parents. Their bald statement, directed to primary (junior) school pupils, “Teachers cannot be expected to mark work,” sounds like a parody of obstructive trade unionism from the 1970s.
It is a particularly puzzling attitude in the context of education. There has been a lot of talk of the harm done to the education of children by the closure of schools and how this will widen the gap between the educationally privileged and the educationally deprived. There has also been a lot of talk about the non-educational functions of schools. Apparently the role of schools is not just education, but the provision of childcare, especially for “key workers”; the surveillance of children in danger of domestic abuse; and the provision of nutritious meals. Given what is said about the nutritional value of much school catering, I can only assume that this last claim is made against a very low baseline.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Another chat with Fr McTeague: On Criticising Fellow Catholics

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Spot the sinner! Can you see him? If there is one there, clearly this is no place for
respectable Catholics. Cardinal Burke celebrates Mass in Corpus Christi Maiden Lane, London.
Last evening I was interviewed again for The Catholic Current, a radio show hosted by Fr Robert McTeague SJ (a good one).

Our theme was an article I posted on Rorate Caeli and here, 'On Criticising Fellow Catholics'.

As regular readers will know I'm not against criticising people. My specific concern was the tendency on social media to divide Catholics into segments according to their views or preferred liturgy, and to make catty generalisations about them on the basis of isolated personal experiences: most often taking the form 'I went to that Mass once, and I felt uncomfortable because of what someone said to me afterwards'.

An important point here is that obviously there are sinners in the congregation and obviously the clergy and others should not chuck them into the street for breaking 'message discipline': nor yet lock them in the broom cupboard whenever a potential new recruit hoves into view.

You can listen to our chat here:

Episode Page:

Direct Audio Link:

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Spare a thought for Church musicians

IMG_3160
A professional singer, Dominic Bevan (facing right), leading a training choir during the
Latin Mass Society's Chant Training Weekend in 2019.
The excellent article on church music by Matthew Schellhorn in the new Catholic Herald, who among other things is the Latin Mass Society's London Director of Music, prompted me to write on a related subject for LifeSite.

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Church employees have been badly affected by the coronavirus epidemic and the subsequent cessation of public services. Particularly hard hit are those who did not have formal contracts, or who were paid service-by-service. This includes many musicians.
There is a strand of thinking in the Church that says that the liturgy should be served by musicians who appear spontaneously from the congregation and offer their skills for free. Sometimes this is possible, and in particular circumstances it may be the best solution, or the only one. Indeed, I am an amateur singer myself. The worrying thing about this claim, however, is the word “should” which appears in it: the idea that it is somehow less authentic, or appropriate, or worthy of the liturgy, to pay musicians. 
Occasionally a parish may find that a member of the congregation has the skills to help fix the heating; quite often parishioners help with the accounts. But generally, people with professional qualifications need to be paid for their services. This extends to things intimately connected with the liturgy, such as vestments and sacred vessels. The more important something is for the liturgy, the more willing a parish should be to part with cash to get the best possible results.
Read the whole thing.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

DIY First Holy Communion in Ireland

My latest for LifeSite.

The Irish broadcaster RTE’s website posted a strange story on Saturday: “Children celebrate a virtual First Communion via video link.”
At first I couldn’t understand the headline. How can you receive Holy Communion via a video link? Did RTE mean that the children made a Spiritual Communion?
But no. It turns out that, since the children had been due to make their First Holy Communion, their parish priest decided to allow them to do this at home. “Fr George consecrated the hosts at an earlier mass today and then families were given different time slots to collect them.”
They received Holy Communion in the course of watching a live-streamed Mass. The priest commented:
The parents of ten pupils took up the offer of a virtual Communion. It gave me a real sense of what the early Catholic church must have been like, when people gathered for mass in each other’s homes.
Except, of course, that it has nothing to do with having Mass in a private home. Mass took place in church, without the people. The only thing that happened in their homes was the reception of Holy Communion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Prepare carefully for post-lockdown Holy Communion

My latest on LifeSite.

As the Easter season proceeds, the liturgy begins to prepare us for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Last Sunday, the fourth after Easter, in the Extraordinary Form lectionary that I follow, the Gospel contains Christ’s promise to send the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, to the Apostles after he is finally taken from them at the Ascension. 
And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin and of justice and of judgment. Of sin: because they believed not in me. And of justice: because I go to the Father: and you shall see me no longer. And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged. (John 16:8-11)
Public Masses are still impossible in England and I have been reading liturgical commentaries with particular attention during this time. Dom Proper Guéranger comments on this passage, in his monumental The Liturgical Year (which is available online):
By these words, which were spoken shortly before his passion, our Savior does more than tell us of the coming of the Holy Ghost; he also shows us how terrible this coming will be to them that have rejected the Messias.
The coming of the Holy Ghost will be a bad thing, for some? We are more used to stressing the gifts and graces He will bring on the nascent Church, which are passed on to all members throughout the ages, particularly in the Sacrament of Confirmation. But as our Lord emphasizes, the Holy Spirit’s arrival will be a moment of vindication for the Apostles, and by that very fact it will be a moment of condemnation for their opponents. You can’t have one without the other.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Summer Mass of Ages is here!


Yes, the Latin Mass Society has published Mass of Ages as usual, though the post is a bit slow and my copy only arrived yesterday.

It is a little thinner than usual because the Mass listings are shorter. We do include all the live-streamed Traditional Masses in England and Wales.

It is full of interesting material as always, and if you are not a member receiving it every quarter automatically you can get your free copy from the LMS HERE, or read it online HERE.

In this issue Kevin Symonds reveals new details about the accusation of Freemasonry made against Annibale Bugnini, as a result of him leaving a suitcase behind in a Vatican meeting-room.

Also in this issue: • Joseph Shaw asks: Why is the Traditional Movement stronger in some places than in others? • Paul McGregor explains how the Traditional Mass returned to Culiacan, Mexico • Maurice Quinn tells the history of Dorset’s ‘Little gem’ – Our Lady of Marnhull • Clare Bowskill shows how the Traditional Mass online was the norm for us all this Easter • Charles A. Coulombe on fire and water – and ghost stories • Joseph Shaw on the Coronavirus epidemic and the liturgical reform • Lucy Shaw reports from the Guild of St Clare Sewing Retreat held earlier this year.

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Saturday, May 09, 2020

Video interview with CTS

Pierpaolo Finaldi, Director of the Catholic Truth Society, interviewed me by Skype on the booklet by me which they have published: 'How to Attend the Extraordinary Form'.

The booklet can be purchased here.


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Friday, May 08, 2020

German bishops repent of the past, but not of the present

My latest on LifeSite.

The German Bishops’ Conference has issued an interesting document criticizing the degree to which their predecessors failed to oppose Hitler’s programs of mass murder and his unjust aggression in starting the Second World War. 
It is a complex historical issue, and a fairly long document. But while open to criticism, it makes an important point: that in that situation, the argument of prudence led in the wrong direction. This was a moment when heroism was a duty. The bishops declare:
Inasmuch as the bishops did not oppose the war with a clear ‘no’, and most of them bolstered the (German nation’s) will to endure, they made themselves complicit in the war. The bishops may not have shared the Nazis’ justification for the war on the grounds of racial ideology, but their words and their images gave succor both to soldiers and the regime prosecuting the war, as they lent the war an additional sense of purpose.
It was understandable for the bishops to follow the lead of the Holy See, in the Concordat of 1933. It was understandable for them to want to preserve their ability to administer the Sacraments freely. It was even understandable, if not admirable, for them not to want to fall foul of a ruthless regime untrammeled by the rule of law. The “cooperation” the bishops gave the Nazis was “material”: they never intended any wrongful action. But even this material cooperation was serious and had serious consequences. The suggestion that Hitler was a legitimate leader, and that therefore he should be given the benefit of the doubt about the justness of his laws and policies, smoothed the way for his crimes. In 1933, Catholics had not come under Hitler’s spell, for the most part: they could have made a difference. The bishops chose not to encourage resistance.
It is easy, however, to repent of other people’s sins. If this acknowledgement of past complicity is to have any meaning, it must inform action in the present, when they cannot claim to fear the kind of reprisals the Gestapo would have visited on their predecessors. I am reminded of a more recent example of episcopal cooperation with evil in Germany: as LifeSite reported back in 1999:

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A dialogue with a trans advocate

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

One of the things I think many people struggle with in relation to the transgender movement is, well, understanding the movement’s assertions. As a service to the public, I would like to explore some of the things that the movement’s partisans say, in the form of a dialogue. Imagine I am talking to an apologist for the ideology; let’s call this individual Sam.
Sam: There is nothing complicated or confusing about our new understanding of gender. What is increasingly acknowledged by social norms and legislation is that gender, being a man, being a woman, and being anything else, is a matter above all of feelings. Your feelings, in your mind, are the most important thing about you, and it is natural that we accept that a person who feels she is a woman, for example, really is a woman.
Me: Even though she might have the chromosomes and characteristics typical of a man.
Sam: Yes. The transgender movement was founded by people who felt that their physical characteristics, which society had determined indicated one gender, were at odds with the gender that they felt themselves to be: they were ‘born in the wrong body.’
Me: So there might be, for example, a woman in a man’s body?
Sam: It often felt that way, because physical characteristics tend to determine the way we are treated (that is, as a man, or as a woman), but if gender is determined by the mind, then it would be more accurate to say that the body of a person who identifies as a woman is a woman’s body. She is, after all, a woman.
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Monday, May 04, 2020

Holy Communion in a plastic bag?

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

Someone in the Italian bishops’ conference has had the bright idea that people could be given Holy Communion not on the tongue, not in the hand, but in a plastic bag. There may be some logic to what is being called “take-out” communion from perhaps a hygienic point of view, but Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was quick to point out that it is, well, “insane.”
Cardinal Sarah said, accord to Crux:
It’s absolutely not possible, God deserves respect, you can’t put him in a bag. I don’t know who thought this absurdity, but if it is true that the deprivation of the Eucharist is certainly a suffering, one cannot negotiate how to receive communion. We receive communion in a dignified way, worthy of God who comes to us.
The Italian bishops’ proposal is extreme, but it is a useful test of an idea which is widespread: that ultimately, it just doesn’t matter, or matters very little, how we receive Holy Communion, or how Mass is celebrated (as long as it is valid). Those who share Cardinal Sarah’s instinct are challenged: would you refuse to receive Holy Communion if you could not do so in a way you personally regarded as adequately respectful? Where is your love of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament if you reject Him on the basis of such trivial inconveniences?



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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

New and Old Masses in Plaguetime

My latest in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
The Church reformed the liturgy at a moment of great optimism. The developed world was enjoying the long post-war boom. Seminaries were full. And new-fangled antibiotics and vaccination programs were sweeping away one major disease after another. It seemed time for a great big group hug.
It is not surprising to find that when medieval-style pestilence stalks the streets, the Church has to reach back into the past, before that brief gilded historical moment, for responses. The most obvious example is “spiritual communion”: the practice of uniting oneself in prayer to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, since one is not able to receive sacramentally. Our predecessors in the Faith used to do this at the great majority of the Masses they attended, either formally or informally, since they received Holy Communion only once or a few times a year. When I mentioned the practice as a response to the epidemic in a letter to the UK’s liberal Catholic weekly, The Tablet, the first response of one priest was ridicule. We wouldn’t, he wrote, have a “spiritual collection,” would we?1
He will have written his reply before public liturgies were suspended. I doubt he is laughing now. 
Read the whole thing.

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Sex and shame

My latest on LifeSite.
I’d like to add something to my recent post about ‘consequence-free sex’, something more about the motivation for chastity. 
In that post, I noted various consequences of the lifestyle of “serial monogamy shading into promiscuity”, which is the expected, if not universal, way of life for unmarried people. 
Among these consequences are the spiritual consequences, which are of ultimate importance. 
Chastity requires heroic resistance to social pressure, and the best foundation for this resistance is a supernatural love of virtue. Nevertheless, in this post I want to say something about another aspect of the situation which tends to be ignored: we might call it disgust at sin, or shame.
When I was a philosophy student, I heard the late Prof. Bernard Williams talking about virtue, and how virtue concepts change over time. There is something in this: the conception of honor found in Homer, for example, is somewhat different from that found in Dickens. The example he used, however, was chastity. As a virtue concept, he said, it had completely lost its applicability in modern moral discourse. It no longer has any meaning.
Williams was wrong. To see this, do an internet search for the term “slut-shaming”. 
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Friday, April 24, 2020

LMS shop re-opened; CTS booklet available


My CTS booklet, 'How to Attend the Extraordinary Form', has arrived in physical form, thanks to the efficiency of the Catholic Truth Society, whose printers and distributors have managed to keep working through the lockdown.

The Latin Mass Society has decided to mail a copy to each of the priests on our mailing list, in the UK and Ireland. That's more than 150. In the peculiar circumstances of the times this could be done most easily from my home.


At the same time I am delighted to announce that the Latin Mass Society's online shop has re-opened. We are still working almost entirely from home but we have made arrangments to be able to fulfil orders, although this may still be a little slower than normal.

So please take yourself off to our shop to buy more copies of this booklet and of all the other things we sell: members get a 5% discount, and there is a bulk discount for the booklet. (You can of course also get the booklet direct from the CTS.)

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Some good, personal, news

Ecce hæreditas Domini, filii ;
merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittæ in manu potentis,
ita filii excussorum.
Beatus vir qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis :
non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

52nd Anniversary of the Abortion Act

Another LifeSite piece. The anniversary will be Monday 27th.

Next Monday, April 27th is the 52nd anniversary of the coming into effect of the UK’s Abortion Act (1967), the key legislation which opened up abortion on a mass scale in England, Wales, and Scotland. 
The government has been celebrating early, first by imposing abortion on Northern Ireland, to which the Act never applied, and then by loosening the rules on ‘do it yourself’, home abortions, in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic.
A lot of things have happened since 1967 in the UK, as in other jurisdictions, which have clarified the issues at stake. The Member of Parliament who sponsored the passage of this law—it was not a government bill—later admitted that he had grossly underestimated the number of abortions that would be performed under the Act. 
If the vast number of deaths the Act would bring about had been foreseen when it was being debated, it would have been much harder to get it passed. The same goes for the way that safeguards have been interpreted and evaded. But isn’t that always the way? The radical agenda is forced through with the claim that each change is quite minor. When it turns out that it is anything but, the promoters say, oh well, but there’s no going back now.
Read the rest on LifeSite.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Harvard's attack on home educatioin

My recent article for LifeSite.

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Harvard Law School appears to be coordinating an attack on home-education. A planned conference appears to be intended as a pile-on by critics of homeschooling. Harvard Magazine has published an approving summary of an 80-page article in the Harvard Law Review by Professor Elizabeth Bartholet about why home-education should be banned. The Harvard Magazine account cites no dissenting or alternative views. 
Wags on social media have pointed out that the cartoon accompanying Harvard Magazine’s piece manages to misspell “Arithmetic” (“Arithmatic”). Matthew Peterson (@docMJP) definitely won Twitter with his observation, “If you replace ‘homeschooling’ with ‘attending Harvard’ a lot of the article makes sense.” He illustrated:
“We have an essentially unregulated regime in the area of elite Ed,” @docMJP asserts. All 50 states have laws that make education compulsory, & state constitutions ensure a right to education, “but if you look at the legal regime governing elite colleges, there are very few requirements that professors teach anything of value.” Even apparent requirements such as submitting curricula, or providing evidence that teaching and learning are taking place, he says, aren’t necessarily enforced.
Since the article, like a great deal of elite education, is patently driven by ideological concerns, the point is well made.
What of the underlying academic article? My brief review of it suggests that it suffers from three fundamental flaws.


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