Sunday, December 31, 2023

Artistic modernism and the Traditional Mass

My latest for the European Conservative: some reflections arising out of the work I did for The Intellectuals and the Latin Mass, about the intellectual and artistic signatories of petitions to save the Traditional Latin Mass.

A key passage:

This is a reminder that the relationship between artistic modernism and traditional artistic forms is a complex one. By definition, modernism involves a rejection of artistic conventions, but there is an open question as to which conventions are being overturned. The impulse of modernism is a response to modernity—new technology, social change, and so on—but there is again an open question regarding what form this response will take.

Those brought up in a strongly-manifested Catholic culture may feel that modernity is a challenge that requires the Church to change in order to address it, or they may feel even that modernity has proved the Church wrong. Artistic modernism may be an expression of this stance: James Joyce is the outstanding artistic example of such a view.

Other artists, no less rebellious, took things in a very different direction. Those whose lives have been dominated by a secularised culture, characterised by mass-produced art, may also take the view that their own culture is inadequate to the demands of the time: demands made, in particular, by the wars, political crises, and economic convulsions of the modern age. It is equally clear, however, that this culture is itself the product of modernity: in other words, modernity has created a culture which does not equip people to deal with modernity. To rebel against it, and to seek out less inadequate cultural forms, may involve the overthrow of the modern in the interest of reviving something older.

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Saturday, December 30, 2023

Non-Catholics supporting the Traditional Mass

My latest on 1Peter5. It begins:

Last month I launched a new book, The Latin Mass and the Intellectuals: Petitions to Save the Ancient Mass from 1966 to 2007. Many, if by no means all, readers will have heard of the “Agatha Christie Petition” which was presented to Pope Paul VI in 1971, stimulating him to given the first “indult” in favour of the Traditional Mass, for England and Wales. The story is much more complex and interesting than this, however.

For many years the main public source of information about the petitions was a 1999 article by Alfred Marnau, that had appeared in the Latin Mass Society’s Newsletter and was subsequently made available online. English-language references to the 1971 petition since then, up until now, have invariably used this as their sole source. It hasn’t helped that the UK Catholic press at the time of the petition and indult observed a substantial, if now quite complete, news blackout about them. The Latin Mass Society had to feed the news to The Times newspaper in order to get it into the public domain at all, and the text of the Indult was not made available to them by Cardinal Heenan for many months. Readers may remember the inability of the archivists at the Dicastery for Divine Worship to find the indult (we sent Cardinal Roche a copy).

Alfred Marnau was a hero of the early movement; after the petition he became the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, and later founded Pro Ecclesiae et Pontifice to campaign on orthodox doctrine and Catholic education. However, in 1999 he was dying, and his article gives a rather incomplete picture of the petition, its organisation, and its wider context. He doesn’t claim to have written the text, for example, but does not explain that the original was in Italian, and that in addition to the

57 names
that were published in The Times on 9th July 1971 there were another 48, non-UK based petitioners, whose names later appeared in Italian and French publications. The whole list of 105 was finally published in Una Voce Italia in their newsletter, that December.

Read the whole thing there.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Reactions to Fiducia Supplicans

I'll try to keep this up to date: not with the reaction of every bishop in the world, but groups of bishops and other significant groups.

The text of the Declaration Fiducia supplicans

Bishops of Kazakstan

'To bless couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples is a serious abuse of the most Holy Name of God, since this name is invoked upon an objectively sinful union of adultery or of homosexual activity.'

Bishops of Ukraine

'We see the danger in ambiguous wording that causes divergent interpretations among the faithful. What we missed in the document is that the Gospel calls sinners to conversion, and without a call to leave the sinful life of homosexual couples, the blessing may look like an approval. '

Bishops of Zambia

'In order to avoid any pastoral confusion and ambiguity as well as not to break the law of our country which forbids same sex unions and activities, and while listenig to our cultural heritage which does not accept same sex relationships, the Conference guides that the Declaration from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith of December 18th 2023 concerning the blessing of same-sex couples be taken as for further reflection and not for implementation in Zambia.'

Bishops of Malawi

' avoid creatuig confusion among the faithful we direct that for pastoral reasons, blessings of any kind for same-sex unions of any kind, are not permitted in Malawi.'

Thursday, December 21, 2023

A conversation with Sebastian Morello and Charles Coulombe

We talk about monarchy and democracy, 're-enchantment', clerical abuse, Catholic education, Chesterton, and a few other things.


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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

2024 Ordos from the LMS and the FIUV

The Federation's own Ordo, giving the Mass to be said every day of the year according to the Universal Calendar (1962), is now available as a pdf download here.

Hard copies will be available to buy in the New Year, from the LMS online shop.

The FIUV took up the publication of this Ordo when the PCED, which used to do it, ceased to exist. It is modelled on the old PCED Ordos.

Do support the FIUV by becoming a Friend!

The Latin Mass Society's Ordo, which has the feasts of the dioceses of England and Wales, be be purchased in hard copy here. It will be available online here.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

LMS Chairman's Briefing No3: on blessings for irregular unions

I have recently started something new: occasional, short, news-driven briefings from me as Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, to anyone who would like to receive them.

We already have a monthly email newsletter, which goes out to the same mailing list.

Today I have used this format to comment on Fiducia supplicans, the issue of the hour; this is the third of the series. It begins:


On Monday the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Declaration, called Fiducia supplicans, on the possibility of blessing people in irregular unions: the divorced and civilly remarried and same-sex couples.

The document points out that priests giving blessings do not in general refuse to bless sinners (e.g. when blessing a group of pilgrims, or a stranger who has asked for a blessing in the street (40)). Further, it says that asking for a blessing is itself ‘a petition for God’s assistance, a plea to live better, and confidence in a Father who can help us live better’ (21).


Read the whole thing here.

Subscribe to these briefings by putting your email address in below.

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2024 Dates for Server Training

Cross-posted from the website of the Society of St Tarcisius.

Enrolments at the November Training Day

We are pleased to announce new server training dates.

These will take place at St Mary Moorfields: more about the venue here.

There is no charge. Please book, and please be on time: both of these really help us in organising the training on the day.

Saturday 3rd February (booking page)

Saturday 20th April (booking page)

Saturday 8th June (booking page

Doors open at 10am for a start at 10:30am. The day concludes with the ceremony of enrolment for new members, if there are any, at 3:30pm; we depart at 4pm. We have a break for lunch.

The Guild of St Clare's Vestment Mending Days take place in the basement of St Mary Moorfields at the same time as the training in the church. Adults accompanying children to the training are welcome to meet the Guild and join their activities: there are things for people of all levels of sewing experience to do. If you are interested, email the Guild at

The Guild of St Clare hard at work in the basement, while the server-training
continues upstairs.

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Monday, December 18, 2023

Talk on clerical abuse, by me

In November I gave a talk for the Iota Unum monthly series we have in London, on the subject of clerical abuse. The talk developed a chapter of my book, The Liturgy, the Family, and the Crisis of Modernity, which you can buy here (more about the book here).

What is distinctive about my approach to this topic--apart from the fact that I wade into it at all, as part of a traditionalist analysis of the crisis in the Church--is that I reject the idea that bishops and others inside and outside the Church cover up abuse as part of a risk-averse strategy to save the reputation of their institution. 

This idea is repeated so often that it has become habitual, but on examination it is obviously false. It would be far safer, for the reputation of the institution, to get the perpetrator to go away quietly once the accusations start piling up. This does happen, in fact, in many cases. What needs to be explained is why, instead of doing this, so many people in charge over so many years chose to fob off the victims and move the abuser to another position where he can abuse.

To find out what I think, listen to the talk, or better still, buy the book. That link will take you to the talk on a special website, but you can also find it on all the podcast platforms, if you search for 'Latin Mass Society'.

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Sunday, December 17, 2023

A Defence of the Monarchy: book launch

A date for the diary: we will be launching A Defence of Monarchy: Catholics Under a Protestant King on 11th January in the St Wilfrid Hall at the London Oratory.

All are welcome; refreshments provided. Please sign up here so we can keep track of numbers.

I am the editor; the contributors are Sohrab Ahmari, James Bogle, Charles Coulombe, Peter Day-Milne, and Sebastian Morello.

Buy the book from the publisher, Angelico, and elsewhere.

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Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Abomination of Desolation: for Catholic Answers

My latest on Catholic Answers, on the Gospel of the Last Sunday After Pentecost.

The traditional lectionary for the Twenty-Fourth, or Last, Sunday After Pentecost has for the Gospel reading Matthew 24:15-35, which begins this way: “When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand. Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains.” This is from what is called the Gospel of Matthew’s apocalypse: mysterious, profound, and troubling.

One mystery about it is why it should be found on that particular Sunday, as we are about to enter Advent. (It is not found anywhere—not even as an option for some category of martyr—in the lectionary produced after the Second Vatican Council.)

The obvious, but wrong, answer is that a treatment of the “Last Things” (death, judgement, hell, and heaven) is called for on the occasion of the end of the Church’s year. This is wrong because the Last Sunday After Pentecost was not, historically, regarded as the end of the Church’s year; there was no such concept. The liturgical year is not a linear thing, but a cycle.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Requiem roundup


There were a few requiems in November I was involved in that didn't get their own blog-posts.


Above all, I didn't post any photos of the Latin Mass Society's own Annual Requiem, which had to be moved from Westminster Cathedral to Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, on 7th November. It was accompanied with polyphony from the Southwell Consort and celebrated by Fr John Scott. Photographs by John Aron.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

The Tablet on Bernard Wall, and 'The Latin Mass and the Intellectuals'

I'm delighted to see short piece on Bernard Wall in the latest issue of The Tablet, in the 'Word from the Cloisters' column. Wall is a central figure in my book, The Intellectuals and the Latin Mass, as this piece explains. On the one hand he rented a room from Tom Burns, legendary Tablet editor (the one who came out against Humanae Vitae in 1968), and on the other hand he was the chief 'convenor' of the 1971 petition to save the Traditional Mass. The letter of invitation to sign asked signatories to send replies to him, at his address in Ladbroke Grove.

Wall is somewhat obscure figure, and one of his chief claims to fame is as the first translator of Teilhard de Chardin. He was an enthusiast for Vatican II, to start with, but like many others was disappointed by the results. He wrote in a book published in 1969, reminiscing about his naive earlier enthusiasm for reform:

In those days liturgical reform meant the exact opposite of what it has come to mean since the Second Vatican Council. It meant a purging of the liturgy of hideous accretions—sugary nineteenth-century hymns and their counterparts, mass-produced statues—but also restoring it to its pristine purity of Latin chanted in the Gregorian manner.

You can see more about the book here. I'd link to the Tablet piece, but it is paywalled.

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Monday, December 04, 2023

LMS Mass listings

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.

Since its inception, the Latin Mass Society has published lists of traditional Masses in England and Wales; for many years these have been available to all on its website. If you go to the relevant page now you will be asked to log in as a member. The reason for this is explained in the 'Chairman's Message' of the currant Mass of Ages, the magazine of the Latin Mass Society, which arrived with members over the weekend.


Chairman’s Message

Joseph Shaw

Mass of Ages began as the Latin Mass Society’s Newsletter; we started selling a few copies in about 2005 and we made it free in 2009. It’s availability to non-members, indeed to anyone in the world online, allows us to explain ourselves to a wider audience. It also means that in these pages we are not simply talking among friends.

With this issue, we are instituting a new approach to the information available to readers. Readers picking up Mass of Ages for free at the back of church will no longer find, bound into their copies, a list of Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missal around England and Wales. Nor will this list henceforth appear on the publicly accessible part of our website. Members of the Latin Mass Society who receive their copies in the post, on the other hand, will find them included.