Friday, February 19, 2021

Conspiracies! Podcast with Kevin Symonds from the LMS

Iota Unum Podcasts

Catholic Conspiracy Theories Part 1:

The Prayer to St Michael; Bugnini and the Freemasons

Kevin Symonds talks to Joseph Shaw

Kevin Symonds is the author of books on private revelations and aspects of modern Catholic history, including some which seek to get to the bottom of some famous stories: did Leo XIII really have a vision of Satan before composing his Prayer to St Michael? Has the Vatican hidden the key part of the Third Secret of Fatima? He has recently been working on the question of Annibale Bugnini’s alleged Freemasonry, and the question of Communist infiltration of the Catholic Church: both issues discussed in the podcast.

See Kevin’s personal website. His most recent books are Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael (2018) and On the Third Part of the Secret of F├ítima (2017).

Discussed in the podcast is the story of Annibale Bugnini and the briefcase, which is recounted in a book review by Kevin in the Latin Mass Society’s magazine, Mass of Ages, from Spring 2020.

This podcast can be found on various Podcast platforms, including Spotify: just serach for 'Latin Mass Society'. Here's a link to it on Podbean:

This is Part 1 of my conversation with Kevin: Part 2 will be released on Thursday 25th Feb.

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Saturday, February 13, 2021

French Bishops: Statement from the FIUV

Un-marginalised: Archbishop McMahon of Liverpool celebrates
the EF having conferred Holy Orders on two priests of the FSSP, 
in St Mary's, Warrington, in 2017.

I have just posted a statement from the FIUV which reacts to the Bishops' Conference of France, on the FIUV blog here.

Some, perhaps many, French Bishops, insofar as this document of their Conference accurately reflects their views, are worried about the Traditional Mass being a cause of division, establishing congregations and their priests lacking in their connection with their bishop and diocese. Who, we may ask, is responsible for this? Who was has it been, over the last half a century, denigrating the Traditional Mass and driving its adherents into an isolated corner? Who is ultimately responsible for things like excluding traditionally-minded Catholics, priestly or lay, from diocesan staffs, consultative panels, and newspapers, from Catholic schools, and from diocesan events? Here's a clue: it wasn't the traditionalists.

How do you undo the effects of decades of marginalisation? If you are serious about it, the first thing to do is to end the marginalisation. This is a lesson, sadly, that the authors of this document have yet to learn.

In 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Latin Mass Society's foundation, I had occasion to send an Open Letter to the Bishops of England and Wales. I thanked them for the increasingly welcoming atmosphere which characterises the Church here for Catholics attached to the ancient liturgy. I also felt it necessary to address the complaint that this Form of the Mass can become 'ideologised'.

I wrote: is well to consider the relationship between a perceived ‘ideologisation’ and effective marginalisation. As Cardinal Ratzinger so memorably expressed it at the end of the last century:
Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here.
Sociologists tell us that marginalised groups typically become radicalised, and attract new members who are already marginal, perhaps for unrelated reasons. I believe that we have resisted these tendencies very successfully for the fifty years of the Latin Mass Society’s existence. Those who have any worries in this regard, however, will be able to see the remedy. Problems created by marginalisation will be cured by ending the marginalisation.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

More Socratic seminars!

I'm reposting this: a final call for expressions of interest. Many of those involved in the first series are carrying on with the second, and others have asked to join. If you would like to join Series 2, which will begin in the week starting 21st February, please let me know by the end of this week so groups, times, and dates can be arranged. Email joseph.shaw99 AT (replace AT with @).

Socrates is in green up on the left, in profile.

In early January I offered to lead some online seminars on early Socratic dialogues, as a small personal response to the lockdown, and (almost to my surprise) this has actually happened. We have now done three of the four proposed seminars, with seven students spread across two groups. It has been fun and I am planning the next set.

It is a remarkable fact of my experience - and I know other academics have found the same - that however many times one looks at a great text, discussing it with students seems to bring out new aspects of it. Different people notice different things, and these texts keep surprising us.

It's not that I think Plato (or Socrates) is right about everything in these dialogues. Indeed, in some ways he is stubbornly wrong-headed, in my view. What I value about them is that they are carefully crafted arguments addressing important ideas without too many preconceptions. I mean this in the sense that they are at the beginning of a tradition, rather than at the end of one (though these things are a matter of degree): in relation to Plato's own thinking, and in relation to great Greek-Roman-Latin-European philosophical tradition.

It is inevitably more difficult to understand later products of a tradition without understanding the earlier stages. Nothing comes without a background, but the background here is more managable than that of some other texts I could mention. For these, I've been putting together a single page of information about the cultural and historical background to each dialogue, and not asking students to do any other reading apart from the text itself.

I'd love to hear from anyone who'd like to join us to discuss the next four in my projected list. These will be the Apology, Crito, Charmides, and Hippias Minor.

More details, including prices, here.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The French Bishops and the Traditional Mass

LMS Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bedford, 2019

My latest on LifeSite.

As LifeSiteNews has reported, a document emanating from the French Bishops’ Conference has found its way into the public domain on the subject of the Traditional Mass or Extraordinary Form (EF). It describes itself as a summary of the responses made by individual bishops on the application of Summorum Pontificum, the 2007 Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI which made it easier for priests to celebrate, and for people to request, the Mass in the form it had at the eve of the Second Vatican Council, in Latin.

The document has angered many French traditionalists for its hostile tone. Una Voce France, for example, fails to find in it “the slightest trace of empathy, cordiality, or ‘heart’.”

One should not too quickly assume that this tone is representative of the French bishops: the document is clearly the work of a middle-ranking functionary of the Conference staff, and not a very well-educated one at that, in light of its numerous errors of syntax and spelling. Nevertheless, it has some relationship with individual bishops’ reports, which are often quoted, and two themes in particular stand out.

Read it all there.

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Sunday, February 07, 2021

Holy Communion from the Tabernacle: Letter in The Tablet

SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford

It is sad to see The Tablet's Letters Editor reverting the habit of cutting out the key sentences of my letters. Here is my letter in full - with the expurgated sentences in red. In this weekend's edition.

This particular issue is a favourite of the kind of progressive liturgist who likes to sprinkle his attacks on the Tradition with plausible-sounding quotations and references. Don't be fooled. The distribution of Hosts from the Tabernacle is a practice perfectly in line with the Tradition of the Church for very important theological reasons, and is licit in both Forms of Mass, whatever the faddish 'recommendations' of the General Instruction may say.



Canon Atthill (Letters, 30th January) quotes Pope Pius XII quoting Benedict XIV encouraging priests to give, in Holy Communion, hosts consecrated at the Mass being celebrated. In context, however (Mediator Dei 118, 121), the passage reads slightly differently. Pius XII is speaking of those who request to receive the hosts consecrated at the same Mass as a special act of devotion, and notes that ‘not infrequently’ this is not convenient. He clearly envisages the reception of Hosts consecrated at the same Mass as the exception, not the rule.

The practical considerations at issue have not gone away since 1947. The number of communicants is not always easy to establish in advance, and the hosts which are reserved need to be regularly consumed and refreshed.

But there is also a theological consideration. The ritual of commingling recalls the ancient practice of dropping into the consecrated chalice a portion of a host consecrated at a previous Mass, to express ‘the continuous unity of the Eucharistic sacrifice’ (as Josef Jungmann put it). The use of reserved hosts today has the same significance. As Pius XII remarked, when insisting that tabernacles be joined to the altar: ‘it is the same Lord who is present on the altar and in the tabernacle’ (Assisi allocution, 1956).


Yours faithfully,


Joseph Shaw 

Chairman, the Latin Mass Society

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Saturday, February 06, 2021

China steps up persection

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

With almost every day that passes, there are new revelations about human rights abuses by the Communist-run People’s Republic of China. Those of a sensitive disposition are not advised to listen to this BBC report on the systematic rape of Uighur girls. It is just the latest news from a particular region of China, where the majority population is distinct ethnically, culturally and religiously from the Han Chinese who dominate China.

The Uighurs, who are Muslim, have received no detectable public defense from the Islamic world, which seems more concerned with doing deals with the Chinese government. They are not alone. Governments and especially universities around the world have been silenced by China’s policy of buying influence. A committee of the U.K.’s House of Commons recently declared, after taking evidence on the problem:

There is clear evidence that autocracies are seeking to shape the research agenda or curricula of UK universities, as well as limit the activities of researchers on university campuses. Not enough is being done to protect academic freedom from financial, political and diplomatic pressure.

Read the whole thing there.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2021

The Virus and the Exams

I feel extremely lucky that I was already home-educating my children before the Coronavirus struck. My children's education has not escaped entirely unscathed--their sporting opportunities have been eviscerated--but they have fared as well as anyone and better than most. Teaching and learning have simply carried on, if necessary online. One thing we can't control, however, is the setting of public examinations. 

Now we are told that the Government has cancelled this summer’s public examinations in schools, and is consulting on what to do instead. An article on a blog on the government website explains:

The cancellation of examinations this summer is not because the pandemic makes them impossible to sit … but rather because the unequal impact of the pandemic makes it impossible for them to be fair.

This is for the simple fact that disadvantaged students have had less digital access and schooling, resulting in higher learning loss than their more advantaged peers. They will not be on a level playing field.

As such, qualifications for 2021 can never be an objective measure of performance in the way we are used to, no matter how much we might wish it.

This is a thoroughly disingenuous argument. Certainly the closure of schools has made an “unequal impact”, and this is a catastrophe which will have terrible and long-term consequences.

But it does not follow that exams this summer would not be “an objective measure of performance in the way we are used to.” We are used to disadvantaged children performing poorly in exams, because for whatever reason they have learned less than other children and are less competent in getting their knowledge down on paper. If there were exams this summer, we would see that again, with knobs on, and would learn precisely how much educational damage had been done, and to whom.