Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Letter of the week: from The Tablet

The absolution before Communion: High Mass of Requiem at St Benet's Hall 
(Fr Edward van den Burgh)

This is something worthy of a slightly wider audience, I think: from The Tablet's Christmas double issue (18th December). 

The same issue has an article by the radio journalist Madeleine Bunting, who is creating a programme for Radio 3 on ritual. Coincidentally she refers to the very interesting book by Byung-Chul Han, The Disappearance of Rituals, which I am currently reading.

The Protestant and Enlightenment theory about ritual has caused a terrible devastation of Western culture, to whit (as Bunting quotes the Catholic anthropologist Mary Douglas) "ritual has become a bad word signifying empty conformity." This theory, though still guiding many institutions and people, has now pretty well run out of intellectual steam. The interesting people are now rejecting it as old hat, and looking at what ritual did for the societies which had or still have it, and why those which lack it are missing out on something of great importance. 

Monday, December 27, 2021

Responsa ad dubia: good news on private Masses

A private Mass in a side-chapel, at Prior Park, England, at our Priest Training Conference in 2016

As noted in the Latin Mass Society's canonical notes, there are a couple of points in the Congregation for Divine Worship's Responsa ad dubia on which there is good news. In both cases they are indicated by silence. 

First, the Responsa are silent about the celebration of the Traditional rites during the Easter Triduum, which the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Cardinal De Donatis, tried to prohibit in Rome. It was, indeed, an extraordinary thing for him to do, without a sliver of justification in the text of Traditionis Custodes, and it provoked a great deal of comment. The CDW obviously knew about the issue, and chose not to comment on it. Given the detail of the limitations on celebrations of the ancient Mass which it does include, this is a clear indication that they do not want to extend this arbitrary prohibition to whole world, which is to say that they do not think it is a reasonable interpretation of Traditionis Custodes.

Secondly, the Responsa are silent about the private celebration of the Traditional Mass. For reasons which elude me many bishops, including the bishops of England and Wales, have tried to insist that their permission is needed for a priest to celebrate even a private Traditional Mass. (An example is Archbishop McMahon's decree for his diocese, Liverpool.)

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Canonists cast doubt on the force of the Responsa ad dubia

LMS Pilgrimage to Chideock; High Mass was celebrated in the presence of 
 Bishop Mark O'Tool of Plymouth, England. Photo by John Aron.

My latest in the Catholic Herald. I'm grateful to them for publishing this so swiftly.

It is worth emphasising that the problem I discuss, essentially that the requirements on bishops in the Responsa infringe bishops' rights under Canon law, is not just some fever-dream of Traditional Catholics: it is being said by canonists all over the place. I am fortunate in having access to canonical advice from qualified people, which helped us in preparing our Canonical Notes on the Responsabut you can see this online now, notably here, here, and here. Confronted with this difficulty by the journalist Edward Pentin, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Roche, did not say anything which is likely to change anyone's mind. At this point we have to take the matter seriously.

My Catholic Herald article begins:

On Saturday 18th December a document was published by the Congregation for Divine Worship tightening up restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass: Responsa ad dubia. This is a clarification of Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, answering questions (‘dubia’) sent to the Congregation by bishops.

Since then canonists all over the Catholic world have been examining the document, which appears to tighten the screws on the availability of the Traditional Mass considerably compared with Traditionis Custodes itself. By a stroke of the pen it prohibits marriages, baptisms, burials, and even blessings, using the older books, outside a tiny number of ‘personal parishes’. Similarly, it prevents priests from saying more than one Old Rite Mass on a Sunday, and allows them to say it on a weekday only if they have no Novus Ordo Masses to celebrate.

The ban on parishes noting the times of Traditional Masses on their bulletins has caused widespread ridicule. However, it suggests a level of attention to detail, and a desire to make the Traditionist phenomenon disappear from view, which is more than a little alarming. There is no reference to this, or to the other points just mentioned, in Traditionis Custodes, which now appears quite mild by comparison.

Support the Latin Mass Society

Responsa ad dubia: back to the future, forward to the past

The Holy Mile at Walsingham in 2018, in the rain.

In the wake of the Responsa ad dubia from the Congregation for Divine Worship, there has been a fair amount of chatter on the internet about the uniquely bad situation Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass and Sacraments now find themselves in. As the canonists have got to work in interpreting the document, it turns out to have less force than previously assumed by many—and the Latin Mass Society has produced some notes to explain the situation in detail, which you can see here. Nevertheless, bishops have the power to follow its lead.

This may mean, for example, that in a particular diocese the number of celebrations of the Traditional Mass is drastically reduced, or stopped: indeed, in some dioceses this has already happened. Further, in places where it had been straightforward to get married using the older books, to have one’s baby baptized using them, or have one’s deceased loved ones buried using them, this may become a headache, or simply impossible. Again, finding out if Masses are happening may become difficult, if they are no longer simply advertised on online parish bulletins.

This situation, insofar as it becomes a reality, will certainly be unjust and pastorally harmful. Contrary to certain febrile suggestions on Twitter and elsewhere, however, it does not mean the end of the Latin Mass Society, or the Una Voce Federation, or similar bodies around the world. Because if this situation were to arise, it might be new to some of the younger Traditional Catholics on social media, but it would not be new to the Traditional movement as a whole. It would simply take back to before 2007, or perhaps before 1988.

Difficult or impossible to get a priest to celebrate a wedding or baptism according to the old books?

Closest Traditional Mass an hour or more's drive away? 

Masses not being publicly advertised, by order of the bishop? 

Masses needing to be kept away from the ordinary, legitimate, worshippers?

Arbitrary restrictions and conditions placed on Masses?

Official hostility expressed at every level of the Church? 

Accusations of disloyalty and schismatic leanings? 

How did we survive the lean years before 2007? Well, it was tough. Many, many supporters of the Latin Mass Society were only able to get to the old Mass for occasional celebrations: an annual Mass here, a pilgrimage there, a Day of Recollection somewhere else, often a long journey from where they lived. Some, particularly those with difficulty travelling, could get to no Masses at all. Coach trips from London were frequently part of LMS events, for people who didn’t have cars and were starved of opportunities to get to, especially, sung Masses. I remember driving an hour and a half each way to attend a High Mass (with deacon and subdeacon), with a good choir, in Portsmouth Cathedral, in about 2003, because these kinds of Masses hardly ever happened. It was only with considerable difficulty that the Latin Mass Society established, in the early 2000s, an annual celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation in London, and people came from all over England, Scotland, and even France and Belgium.

The Fraternity of St Peter, founded in 1988 with the good will of Pope John Paul II, found it extraordinarily hard-going in the early years, indeed up to 2007, as did the other traditional priestly institutes attached to the Traditional Mass. I well remember the heroic, and ultimately successful, efforts of priests of the FSSP and also of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, to become established in England. Bishops were extremely reluctant to give them stable apostolates, with a place to live and a church to say Mass in.

And indeed things have continued to be difficult since 2007. Perhaps many Traditional Catholics in the pews do not realise quite how difficult things are for those, both priests and lay Una Voce activists, who try to organise Masses and other events, stabilise apostolates, and talk to bishops and the Curia. When Una Voce International did its world-wide survey of the Traditional Mass in 2020, we received many reports of whole countries where the bishops simply refused to talk to the local Una Voce group, and persecuted priests who wanted to celebrate the ancient Mass, and where, as a result, years of requests had yielded no celebrations at all.

It has never been easy. And now it is getting harder. We have been told that our annual Masses in Westminster Cathedral are now to be Sung, without deacon or subdeacon, as part of the implementation of Traditionis Custodes. I have no idea whether the “other sacraments” are going to be allowed, and in which dioceses, of England and Wales, let alone elsewhere. Perhaps Traditional Masses will have to take place in such a way that no-one not in the 'group' for which they are celebrated will ever stumble across them. I remember in the bad old days one priest's arbitrary rule was that there should be a two-hour gap between a Traditional Mass and a Novus Ordo one, so toxic and infectious were we deemed to be.

How are we going to cope? The Traditional movement and Una Voce groups in particular were built precisely to cope with this. We established close-knit groups for moral support and networks for exchanging information: and these still exist. The technology has developed (find our Telegram channel for Mass listings here), but the principle remains the same. In fact, in our organisations, in our ability to communicate, and in many other ways, we are stronger than ever.

The Latin Mass Society is the place, in England and Wales, where Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass can find information, support, and like-minded people. Our network of Local Representatives understand the conditions of each diocese and parish. We are in touch with priests and bishops, and through Una Voce International, with the Roman Curia. 

All Latin Mass Society / Una Voce groups rely on supporters for funds and volunteers, and this is the moment, if you have not yet done so, if you are concerned about the Traditional Mass, to show your support by joining them: you can also become a 'Friend' of Una Voce International.

Qui autem perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit. (Matt 24:13)
Support the Latin Mass Society

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

LMS Canonical Notes on the Responsa ad dubia

Rorate Mass last Saturday, Holy Rood, Oxford

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.

You can read the Latin Mass Society's discussion of the Congregation for Divine Worship's Responsa ad dubia, point by point, here.

Many canonists on the internet and off it have noticed that the Responsa issued by the CDW seem to be making demands on bishops and priests which go beyond the authority of a Roman Congregation to make. In some cases they seem to be taking away prerogatives from bishops which they are explicitly given by Canon Law, and even the Second Vatican Council. The Supreme Legislator, the Holy Father, can of course change Canon Law, but it would be ludicrous to suggest that the Congregation for Divine Worship can do so. Since the Holy Father has—presumably, deliberately—given the Responsa only generic, not ‘specific’, approval, it is the Congregation’s authority which is at issue.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Keep calm and find out where go to Traditional Mass

Rorate Mass at Holy Rood, Abingdon Road, Oxford, last Saturday
(with a very slow shutter speed!)

I am preparing comments and canonical guidance on the subject of the Responsa ad dubia.

In the meantime, if parishes will not be allowed to publish the times of Traditional Masses in their bulletins, as the Responsa suggest, the long-standing service of the Latin Mass Society in publishing Mass listings is going to be more important than ever. Get instant updates from our new Telegram channel: click here:

And while you are about it, why not join the Latin Mass Society?


Monday, December 20, 2021

A small difficulty with the Responsa ad dubia

Rorate Mass at the Oxford Oratory, England

Update: it has been pointed out to me that the Rite of the Communion of the Faithful is described (not quite the same as being set out for liturgical use) in the front matter of the 1962 Missal, in a section called Ritus Servandus, X 6. It is not in the main text of the Missal. Also found between the Missal's covers, as a matter of fact, is the Rite of Confirmation: in Appendix II. This is set out for liturgical use.


Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.

No doubt more and better analyses will be published about yesterday's Responsa from the Congregation for Divine Worship, but working through its implications I was struck but something others may not notice, which can serve to illustrate some features of the document as a whole.

All the Church’s legislation needs to be understood in light of common sense, of previous legislation with greater authority, and of the Church’s the fundamental theological and moral principles. These principles of are of particular importance when we consider legislation which appears, on the one hand, to be hastily composed, and on the other, to have far-reaching, and perhaps unforeseen, consequences.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Rorate Mass at the Oxford Oratory


It was celebrated by Fr Benedict Manning of the Oratory.


Tuesday, December 07, 2021

'Ministers of Christ' by Peter Kwasniewski

See the book on Amazon UK here; Amazon USA here

When this project was first conceived over a year ago, my initial idea was to write a critique of Paul VI’s attempted suppression of the subdiaconate and minor orders, of John Paul II’s permission of altar girls, and of Francis’s innovation of female “acolytes” and “lectors.” During its writing, however, the scope of the book considerably broadened to include a full-scale presentation and defense of the traditional sevenfold manifestation of Orders — priest, deacon, subdeacon, lector, acolyte, exorcist, and porter — together with an explanation of the distinct but mutually supporting roles of clergy and laity. In order to accomplish this, I stepped back further to look at the distinction and complementarity of the sexes in the order of creation and the order of redemption, a perspective that provides the ultimate foundation for the Church’s entire teaching on states of life, roles, and ministries. In this way the book serves as a response to the “gender madness” that has afflicted the world and has increasingly infected the Church. ...

Ministers of Christ analyzes the problems with recent popes’ successive innovations in the area of ministry, showing how they have created a theologically and liturgically incoherent situation—a categorical rupture from a tradition firmly rooted in the most profound anthropological, Christological, and ecclesiological principles. In this regard the Church stands in desperate need of the correct (and corrective) witness of the usus antiquior.

Support the Latin Mass Society

Friday, December 03, 2021

Pilgrimage to Lyford Grange


Lyford Grange is the Recusant Catholic house where St Edmund Campion was captured in 1581. Traditional Low Mass was celebrated in a barn next to the house by Fr Richard Aladics of the Leeds Diocese. The pilgrimage was organised by Declan Jones.



Support the Latin Mass Society

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Annual Requiem in St Benet's Hall


It is my pleasant duty to organise a Requiem each year for the deceased members, benefactors, and staff for my home institution within the University of Oxford, the Benedictine foundation, St Benet's Hall. It was particularly good to attend it this year, as it did not take place in 2020 due to the Covid epidemic.


Wednesday, December 01, 2021

An anti-Christian cultural hegemony

Mass last Saturday: annual Requiem in St Benet's Hall, Oxford.

My latest on Voice of the Family

If one is to live a Christian life, let alone evangelise in some small way, one has to recognise the unique challenges of one’s time and place. At all times and in all places there is the reality of Original Sin, one’s own sin and the sin of others. For the last century or so, we in the West have also had to live with the fact that being any kind of Christian, and perhaps particularly being Catholic, is regarded by most people as either incomprehensible or malign. In the words of Hilary Mantel, the much-lionised, best-selling author of historical fiction, which twists the narrative to demonise St Thomas More, being a Catholic is not “respectable”.

Mantel, like the author Philip Pullman, seems to have “issues”, as the modern jargon has it, with Catholic faith and culture. She has no intrinsic significance — there have always been strange people around — what is important is the use which has been made of her: she has been awarded all kinds of prizes and her repulsive novels have been adapted for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Pullman, another winner of multiple awards, has had one book made into a film and another into a play. Both writers have received the accolade of special editions of their works done for the bibliophiles of the Folio Society.

The publicity machines have nevertheless found it difficult to explain these peculiar individuals. Mantel was initially praised for the historical accuracy and realism of her work but, as real historians began to notice her material, she hastily rebranded it as a very fictional kind of historical fiction. After pocketing prizes for children’s books, Pullman decided, as his graphic descriptions of child torture began to get a bit out of hand, that this was just a misunderstanding; no, he was writing for adults.

Such U-turns would have sunk lesser folk, but the secularist establishment needs Mantel and Pullman. They possess some literary skill and their work can be used to counter-balance and even to exclude the Christian narratives given to us by writers of a previous generation: notably, Robert Bolt’s play and film, A Man for All Seasons, about St Thomas More, and the children’s books of C.S. Lewis. Literature and historical memory is being remade in the snarling image of secular modernity.

Read the whole thing there.

Support the Latin Mass Society