Monday, 31 March 2014

The argument from the cheese sandwich...


"The law of gravity is nonsense. If I think I float, and you think I float, then I float!"
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In 1648 the Eorl of Pembroke, seeking to establish the sovereignty of Parliament, declared that Parliament could do anything but make a man a woman and a woman a man. Of course, ten years ago Parliament did exactly that with the Gender Recognition Act. So to what extent is the Law a reflection of reality? Can I say to my line manager at work that I am a cheese sandwich and expect him to believe me? Well, of course I can! Let me explain:

Me: "Mr Manager, I am a cheese sandwich. Do you believe I am a cheese sandwich?"
Manager: "No..."
Me: "Why not? I'm telling you that I believe I am a cheese sandwich."
Manager: "Because you're not a cheese sandwich, you're a human being."
Me: "But, that's your opinion and it's probably based on your religious beliefs, which I don't share. What's important here is that I believe I am a cheese sandwich; I am actually offended that you don't believe me. If I believe I am a cheese sandwich then I'm afraid that you have to respect my ego orientation or I'll be forced to take you to an employment tribunal on grounds of discrimination."

If I believe sincerely that I am a cheese sandwich, and my line manager also thinks that (to my face), then I am a cheese sandwich. This is by no means a meaningless proposition anymore than a deliberate manipulation of reality. It's about respect and tolerance of individuality and this applies, in principle, to the question of gay marriage. As the "honourable" Mr Lammy has said, "separation without equality is a fraud." It matters not that "same sex marriage" was never heard of 20 years ago, it's a matter of fundamental import to many people to-day, just like the matter of the wonderful 1962 missal for use in super-happy-fun land.

So how can I get the fact of my being a cheese sandwich into legislation? Well, I could start a campaign, set up camp at Parliament Square, go door to door seeking further support, and then maybe sneak some blue powder into the House of Commons and throw it at the Prime Minister. Then a few months down the line a law could be passed declaring that people who think they are cheese sandwiches are not to be discriminated against but treated with the same dignity and respect as the latest gay married couple. A magnanimous day for cheese sandwiches everywhere.

Of course, my thinking that I am a cheese sandwich is not reality, is it? Therefore, for a law to be passed that protected me from discrimination based on that belief would not be a reflection of reality, would it? It's completely deranged. It throws the whole question of law into oblivion. If a law is established on a posteriori premises, and the reality is that I am a human being, then I am a human being whether or not I believe I am a cheese sandwich. But it doesn't matter. Truth is a legal concept just as malleable as a piece of playdough. If, as a cheese sandwich, I have a grievance that I am discriminated against on grounds that other people think I am completely loopy, then I am all set! Everybody else is wrong because reality is in the mind, my mind. And so if a law is passed declaring that people are whatever they say they are, then that is reality. The grass is blue, the sea is red because Parliament says so, and Parliament is sovereign.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The gays...


Gay marriage is now legal in the United Kingdom. Marriage, as we once knew it, no longer exists in the law of the land. So, what comes now? Has Mr Cameron thrown down a lamp, bringing the shadows of a new dark age? The fact that this monstrous and unspeakable innovation was rushed in by a "Conservative" Prime Minister makes it even harder to comprehend, but then what difference does that make? The rival political parties are virtually indistinguishable. I don't actually vote because I am neither a political person nor do I have much faith in democratic polity. The Greeks were scornful of "mob rule" and were at the height of their sophistication under military dictatorships, as we were with the Empire. My mother thinks that voting ought to be mandatory, like paying council tax, because she naively believes that Members of Parliament actually represent their constituents. If my local MP (a Tory) stood up in Parliament and spoke in favour of gay marriage, is he representing my beliefs and convictions, established in faith and reason? No, he isn't. It is behoveful to remember that not all homosexuals are in favour of gay marriage, for a plethora of reasons. Dr Starkey, for example, is torn on the matter, considering marriage the quintessential badge of a heterosexual society in which homosexuals have no real part. Mr Crisp, I am sure, would also find the matter distasteful. For him the problem of homosexuality was that homosexual men's carnal lusts are insoluble, they bear no fruit, and so to ape an institution as old as marriage in this way would be...a profound waste of time. As for me, I stand by the Prayer Book definition of Marriage:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained. Etc, etc.

Not that arguing for the sanctity of marriage from the point of view of religion gets you anyway to-day. I felt very despondent about all this on the train to work this morning. I feel as though I am standing at the quayside watching at a distance as a ship far out to sea founders in a great storm. The ship represents our national institutions and cultural traditions. The storm represents the senseless hysteria of the driven-by-their-bodies'-needs and whims masses (democracy). Like the dwarves in The Last Battle by C.S Lewis. Do you remember that all kindly remonstrance notwithstanding they still clung to their delusion, collectively? That, I'm confident to say, is democracy in action; it's just the art of making the hysteria of the drinking classes seem like matters of wise human choice.

Our society is now so jumpy about being politically-correct and being mindful of "human rights" violations that you cannot speak out about anything without being tarnished forever as prejudiced. You cannot speak out against gay marriage without being labelled homophobic; you cannot speak out against mass immigration without being labelled a racist; you cannot express any opinion contrary to the metropolitan elite of our time without being shot down in flames and then urinated upon by mobs of outraged riff raff. Only the other day, I discovered that even correcting the solecism of a young Slav woman could get the word "racist" dangled before me. Moral of that story? Oh, hell, I'll just play them at their own game. I'll just say that I don't believe in the existence of the moon and that I am being discriminated against because I am a black, one-legged transgender Mormon. The absolute worst thing you can be in Britain to-day is a Caucasian British male. God alone knows how terrible this country will be 20 years from now. As my father often says, "this country is finished."

2014 is the centenary year of the Great War. I wonder, had any of the young men of my generation 100 years ago, the generation of Tolkien and Mgr Knox, some vision of the years to come, whether any of them would have bothered being the pawns in what was really a dynastic feud between cousins. Would they really wish to have given their lives for the defence of gay marriage? Remember that on Armistice Day! O tempora! O mores!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Only six courses?


I am very curious as to this annual dinner hosted by the RC bishops for clerical bloggers in Westminster, as mentioned by Fr Hunwicke. I'm sorry for being the unmitigated snob but most RC clergy of my acquaintance actually come across as very rustic and untutored. I've never met the Vicar Apostolick...sorry..."Archbishop of Westminster," Vincent Nichols, but it's enough that he speaks with a would-be-concealed Lancashire accent to perceive that he couldn't possibly appreciate the phantom wine cellars of Archbishop's house. The same could be said for Cormac whom I once passed in Westminster Underground station. Five years ago I telephoned a local priest about the baptism of the daughter of a friend of mine and I asked what rite he was using. He didn't understand this, so I asked what edition of the Ritual he intended to use, and, seemingly rather put out by this, he said "err, a normal one." As Basil Fawlty observed: "have you seen the people in room seven? They've never even sat on chairs!"

The seventh question in Fr Hunwicke's spring time examination asks us to construct a suitable menu for the occasion, inclusive of vintage wines. Given my experience of RC clergy, might I suggest a trough of baked beans and some rinse water for most of them; perhaps turnip soup and a rotten peach for the ones who can at least conjugate amo in the present tense? The bishops could have a glass of the Beaujolais and a few slices of Cathedral City rubber with some Abbe Guettee.


There are a number of sophisticated Romanist clergy in London. I know two Patristics scholars of note, although one of them told me he is actually a Monophysite...I guess when you reach a certain calibre of scholarship, apathy about official teachings sets in. On the other hand, recent converts to Rome can be forgiven for being in the honey moon stage. Do you remember the film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four, with John Hurt (Mr Crisp's representative on earth)? If so, do you remember when Smith approached the prostitute in the proletarian areas? Can you remember why he found her attractive? It was because she'd applied her foundation with a shovel, much like the Roman Catholic church. When you get up close, you can see that the marvellous scarlet robes of the old hag are actually threadbare and that underneath is a withered, stinking corpse. All is not lost, though. I'll be waiting by the grey shores to welcome the converts back with open arms and not the faintest "I told 'ee so." Just waiting...

In case you're wondering, yes I am running out of ideas.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Farmer Giles of Ham...


Sometimes I think I'm not clever enough to read Tolkien. The other night I was rummaging through my Tolkien books looking for my first edition of Farmer Giles of Ham, a charming little story I hadn't read since I was doing my A Levels. It has no connexion to the legendarium; rather it's a comic Mediaeval fable. To add authenticity Tolkien even composed a (deliberately-insular) Latin title (expunged, like so much else of worth, from later editions):

Aegidii Ahenobarbi Iulii Agricole de Hammo
Domini de Domito
Aule Draconarie Comitis
Regni Minimi Regis et Basilei
mira facinora et mirabilis exortus.

Or in English, "The rise (exortus) and marvelous deeds (mira facinora) of Farmer Giles Julius Red-beard (Aegidius Ahenobarbus Agricola) of Ham, Master of Tame (Domitus), Count of Worminghall (Aula Draconarius), King and Basileus of the Little Kingdom."

Farmer Giles lived in a time when England was happily divided into Petty Kingdoms like Mercia. He was a fat and comfortable farmer with a cowardly dog called Garm (Old Norse for "rag"). Giles becomes something of a celebrity in the Little Kingdom when he scares off a giant with his blunderbuss. The tale of Giles' heroic deeds come to the ears of the comic dragon Chrysophylax Dives who comes to investigate. Giles, by this time an acclaimed hero and armed with a new sword Caudimordax given him by the King, is reluctant to live up to his heroic reputation.

Coming back to my not being clever enough for Tolkien, in my very modest library I have a polyglot New Testament in Gothic and Old English adjacent to the Wycliffe and Tyndale translations published by Dr Bosworth in 1865. I seldom read it because my knowledge of Gothic is minimal (I do have a primer), Old English is legible from a few modern words and I can read Middle English so long as Tolkien's 1922 Vocabulary is at hand. But it is interesting and the preface is highly informative. At the Crucifixion in St Luke's Gospel we read that the Romans affixed a sign to the cross, written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew characters. The Old English translation reads adjacent to Tyndale's:

þa wæs his of ergewrit of er hine awriten: greciscum leden and ebreiscum. þis is iudea cining.

His superscripcion was written over him in Greke, Latin and Ebruc letters, This is the kynge of the Iewes.

Anyway, I was drawn to the word leden in the Old English translation. This reminded me of a sentence in Farmer Giles in which the dog observed that "book-Latin was reserved for their betters." Now, I hadn't noticed this before but this is of Old English derivation. It comes from boc-leden, or the literary language. Farmer Giles is full of philological jests; its humour is as much in the comic dragon as the choice of names. The bad king is called Bonifacius, for example! Nevertheless, you have to be much cleverer than me to fully enjoy Farmer Giles. Probably only a philologist would fully "get it."

Harper Collins have recently published a new edition of Farmer Giles of Ham. It would make a nice present for your significant other, I think.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Monday, 24 March 2014

No thank you!


I am deeply suspicious of social networking sites. Years ago I made use of chat rooms and Facebook and all those other things when they were quite new but they became very addictive; so much so that it seemed that life was lived by and through the social networks rather than in the real world. I would spend hours looking at a screen or my iPhone (soon to go), waiting for people to shew up and "like" or comment upon any comments made on a whim. One time I think I typed out that I had just eaten some toast with marmalade. I didn't publish this because it was banal, boring and even mildly distasteful and certainly required no comment. Yet many people live their lives on this rubbish. If you feel called to living your life through the medium of your computer, why not read books online? I could entertain myself for years at a time reading Tolkien; sometimes I don't even require a book. There are characters in books far more interesting than real people. Or if you think that other people aren't a mistake, why not go out and engage with them in the flesh? Some weeks ago I met a friend of mine at Westminster Abbey and after the service we went into the yard and he said to me, "you must excuse me; I need to update my Facebook," so I turned to one side as he typed something out on his iPhone. He then turned to me and asked if his "status" seemed suitable enough for publication. I thought better of saying, "what difference does it make?" so I said, "oh, it's fine." It's like keeping up with the Jones,' or being in a small room where everybody is speaking and nobody is listening. I hope I am painting a thoroughly depressing picture for you all for that is, to me, the reality of social networks.

An elderly priest of my acquaintance admonished me over dinner once that if I continued to cut myself off from the modern world I'd end up being left behind and entirely alone. It was all right for him, said he, as he is old and past it. I have, if I am not soon lynched by a mob of ugly lesbians, 50 years to go or so and in the time close to my demise I foresee that real interaction betwixt peoples will have ceased altogether. There will be no more marriages, just brief, disgusting liaisons. There will be no more friendships, just superficial partnerships with each using the full force of his personality to use and destroy the other. Think of that! All this could well be caused by the dominion of social networks over men's lives. The evil of indoor toilets has already been demonstrated in falling church attendance. Very soon your best friend may turn out to be your worst enemy simply because he was following you on Twitter. You may be given the sack because one of your connexions on LinkedIn sabotaged your life's work in order to better his own life. So you can understand why I am enraged by the mere fact of the existence of social networks.

All this is to say that I am not interested in joining or re-joining social networking sites. I am not now a member of any such site and I do not wish for any invitations to join them. May I then ask you all to delete your social network accounts as a litmus test of your Orthodoxy? If you like soapboxes and shewing off then, by all means, stay connected with your online friends, many of whom I am quite sure you've never actually met; if you prefer your own company and the society of real people, then that is different. There is no real reason, to my mind, for bothering with online friends.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Holy Week offices...


Rubricarius of The St Lawrence Press has informed us of an excellent new libellus published by Carmel Books; a facsimile reprint of Dom Cabrol's 1927 Holy Week - The Complete Offices in Latin and English. I encourage you all to purchase a copy as it appears to be a highly useful resource for churches and individuals seeking to access the vast treasure trove of the old Roman Rite for the most solemn and serious week of the liturgical year. You can purchase the book here.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Please!

Don't waste your money!

A Debate...


This is part of the famous debate on BBC radio between Dr Copleston and Lord Russell. It was 1948. I first listened to this debate when I was a student at Heythrop and my professors spoke unanimously of their admiration for Dr Copleston, most of whom knew him personally (one of my Church history tutors wrote his obituary). The concepts of contingency and necessity, knowledge or experience gained in a priori or a posteriori ways etc were still fresh in my mind then but I expect you can all keep up with it. I certainly couldn't understand Lord Russell's conclusion that the questions were ultimately meaningless. It reminds me of what Mr Williams said about the taxi driver who put the question of our existence to Lord Russell. "Do you know he couldn't give me a straight answer," said he. Nevertheless, the standard of this debate is colossally high. Both men were of a noble kind seldom seen nowadays, intellectual and courteous. I am unworthy to untie the shoe laces of either of them.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Lewis, Lefebvre and such...


Fr Hunwicke has been synthesising the works of C.S Lewis and Marcel Lefebvre recently. Confessedly, I never thought I'd see those two names in the same sentence. I wouldn't presume to disagree with a man as well-read as Fr Hunwicke lightly but my impression of Lewis and Lefebvre is that the only thing they had in common was their distinct lack of subtlety. They were otherwise two very different men. I doubt either of them would have accepted the Ordinariates. Lewis, I expect, would view them in much the same way as I do: Rome, being a monster with an insatiable hunger, glut to the point of bursting the traditions of churches other than herself. Lewis remained (as Tolkien often said) an "Ulster Protestant," despite the more catholic elements in his apologetical works. Lefebvre would undoubtedly have viewed the Ordinariates with suspicion too, though for very different reasons. The raison d'être of his Society was to oppose such innovations as ecumenism (those terrible other "Christians"), the use of vernacular tongues in the Mass (the Greeks and the Protestants are all wrong!) and the adulteration of the liturgical texts (ha!). For the "Conciliar" Church to create a body in which these things would be enshrined would be anathema to him; a modernist error! Incidentally, is anybody aware of an official position of the $$PX on the Ordinariates? Do they see the adoption of Cranmerian texts by Rome, hitherto condemned by popes as "impious rites," as a legitimate enrichment of the Roman liturgical tradition? I have read tracts on Lefebvrist and Sedevacantist websites attacking the very notion of vernacular liturgy! 10 years ago, when I was giving serious thought to joining the Lefebvrists, I'd have been up in arms about even the faintest suggestion that Rome would sanction elements of Cranmer into our Tradition. First the "mess" of Bugnini, now this? What could Cranmer, who was certainly Satan himself, have to offer our glorious rite of 1962, which is the culmination of all liturgical perfection?

Some have argued, even recently, that my position on 1962 is a bit extreme. They have said that 1962 is in some sense the stimulant of tradition; that as the 1962 missal was the building block upon which the later liturgical reforms were built, so the 1962 missal can be seen, in the light of Summorum Pontificum, as the building block upon which to reconstruct a holistic liturgical tradition for the modern Church. They then consider the Ordinariates in conjunction with 1962 (despite their hybrid rites) as an enrichment of modern praxis, indeed the "mutual enrichment," envisioned by Benedict XVI. This amazes me! For on the one hand they admit that the state of the Roman liturgy in 1962 was...what would they say, exactly...imperfect? In fact a Dr Kwasniewski, in his article on the New Liturgical Movement condemning 1965, suggested that "1964" was "the beginning of the end," a position which seems arbitrary to me. But on the other hand they have no qualms about supporting the use of 1962 as a forma extraordinaria as an official adjunct to the rite of Paul VI until some nebulous other time. There are several things to say about that:

1. The premise that the 1962 Missal was never juridically abrogated has proven to be a lie. The prominence of this edition of the MR is due entirely to its imposition in the Society of Pius X by Marcel Lefebvre in 1983, a decision which had its uttermost origins in the liturgical heteropraxis of many Lefebvrists at the time (including the man himself).

2. There was considerable outrage in the Seminary at Ridgefield when, in the name of "unity," Lefebvre imposed the liturgical books of 1962. The Reverend Fr Eugene Berry composed a letter to Lefebvre, signed by eight other priests of the Society (the "naughty nine"), in which he said:

"Our people would be shocked by any liturgical change. To introduce a change in the direction of the Council would be seen as one step toward the changes of the 1960's. We simply could not stand up in front of our congregations and tell them that we were abandoning the Missal, Calendar and Breviary of our Holy Patron, St. Pius X, for that of John XXIII — one, the greatest pope of the century, the other, the originator of the aggiornamento whose effects remain with us today."


They were all of them forced out by Lefebvre less than a month later. In after days it was seen that the liturgical books of 1962 guaranteed not unity, but hatred and division.

3. What Fr Berry says rings very true for me. It is true, and this is a point in which we are all in agreement, that the average parishioner is not a liturgical expert; he is a bus driver with a mortgage! And so, why would he go to a "traditionalist" church? He would go there earnestly, in good faith and without guile seeking "Tradition." Now this presents something of a moral problem for all concerned when what he is presented with on Sundays and Feasts is anything but Tradition, especially when the priest in charge, the serving team, the choir etc all know that what they do is contrary to Church Tradition. During Lent, for example, our bus driver might expect to see the ministers of high Mass in planetic plicatis, a self-evident distinction between traditional praxis and the rite of 1962; but, expecting Miranda, he is greeted by Caliban!

4. As has been noted, the modern traditionalist maintains his "sober" aversion to the rite of 1962 yet concedes to its prolific use. Therefore when people like Fr Berry and I come out and condemn use of the rite of 1962 on moral, canonical, liturgical, aesthetic and customary grounds it cannot be born. To discredit our position we are labelled extremists, liturgical fetishists, that we revel in the exaltation of form over substance and that our views are not in accord with the sentiments of the bus driver or the old Irish peasant woman. I say, on the contrary! My views and those of Fr Berry are at the service of the parishioner. They, not us, are the salt of the earth and they come to church in good faith expecting nothing less than the most sublime sacrifice of praise to the glory of God. You, the 62ists, are the extremists! You seek the mastery of every parish and to keep the parishioners thereof in ignorance of their tradition. When, pray, is this fanciful future time when use of the liturgical books of 1962 will cease to be expedient? Doomsday, perhaps? Until then you make an arbitrary set of principles the litmus test of their loyalty; as arbitrary as, "don't pick your nose in church but you may scratch your testicles." Ye blind guides which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel!

All this is just to say that use of the rite of 1962 is a profound moral sin. It is a grotesque affront to the innocent and the simple. They ask you for Tradition and you give them novelty. Are you sick?

Thursday, 13 March 2014

C.S Lewis and the pope...


"Quo scribis Papam esse il punto d'incontro [the point of meeting] fere committis (liceat mihi venia vestra dicere) id quod logici vocant petitionem principii. Nam de nihilo magis quam de auctoritate Papae dissentimus: ex qua dissensione ceterae fere omnes dependent." C.S Lewis to Giovanni Calabria.

Reformed choir dress?


This photo was taken in the sacristy of the church of St Magnus the Martyr at London Bridge on January 25th 2011. The Archbishop of Westminster was guest preacher at a service for the Worshipful Fruiterers Company, one of the old livery companies of the City of London. Fr Philip Warner and Fr Nigel Abbott, the gentlemen to the right and left of the Archbishop respectively, look very dignified in the traditional surplice, hood and tippet of the English Church, reminiscent of blessed Thomas Cranmer and St John Fisher (!). This is in stark contrast to the popish fellow in the middle whose choir dress is circa 1970.

Which, therefore, looks the more Reformed?

They're indistinguishable! Perhaps Roman Catholics forget that St John Fisher dressed in exactly the same way as Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

And that made all the difference...


I sometimes wonder whether Marcel Lefebvre practised sorcery. How else can one account for his profound influence over modern RC discipline in matters liturgical? I mean, if contemporary traditionalists were to look to his works, to his legacy aright they might see that his followers revel in schism and rejoice in the slightness of their numbers, being the party of the "elect," and that Lefebvre's writings read like the last, desperate words of a defeated imperialist. I was at a party recently and blanched visibly when I met a Lefebvrist. She told me, "I can't believe in a religion without transubstantiation." So I said, "well, one can believe in the Real Presence without necessarily adhering to the doctrine of transubstantiation. It is only 800 years old." And she said, "I understand what you mean but transubstantiation is at the heart of the Mass." It was entirely hopeless so I changed the subject. My thoughts then went back to all the arguments I had ever had with traditionalists, you know about "tradition," and I thought it doesn't matter to them. So long as a priest comes out in a stiff chasuble, utters a few inaudible prayers in Latin with his back turned and then lifts up a wafer, that's it. That is the sum total of their religion. And so all arguments about the necessity of certain ceremonies, about Paschal Mattins and Lauds, about the correct psalms for Tenebrae, Palm Sunday in violet or red, Tomus Prior and Tomus Alter, Signum Magnum, San Giuseppe Comunista, and all those other things, they are negligible; a complete waste of time. Transubstantiation makes all the difference. So long as you're there to witness the elevation, and you have the pope's portrait over the mantelpiece, everything else might as well disappear, even Christ himself. It's like a woman going to Paris for the first time in search of the finest, most historical church: she goes to Sacre Coeur. She is not dissuaded by her friends, she is encouraged because Sacre Coeur is the most beautiful and the oldest church in France, a fact easily deduced by its dedication. Or a woman who attends a real Palm Sunday, with violet throughout, the full solemn blessing, the procession of palms complete with subdiaconal seeking of admittance to the church, the full sung Passion narrative with three deacons, etc...she takes photos but misses out all the interesting, important things scrapped by the Papacy. She photographs the two major elevations, something which is in no sense different from any other celebration of Mass.

This is Lefebvre's legacy: the profound ignorance of his followers. It's a complete waste of time trying to remonstrate with any of them because they're not interested. Rome would do well to shelve any attempts at reconciliation because, as I have said, they delight in their schism and sense of triumphalism. They despise mainstream Roman Catholicks because they do not identify their catholicity in terms of schism and hatred. May Lefebvre be damned by Jesus Christ.

Lewis on Leithian...


Towards the end of 1929 J.R.R Tolkien gave the typescript of The Lay of Leithian to C.S Lewis for him to read. On 7th December Lewis wrote to Tolkien and said:

"I sat up late last night and have read the Geste as far as to where Beren and his gnomish allies defeat the patrol of orcs above the sources of the Narog and disguise themselves in the rēaf. I can quite honestly say that it is ages since I have had an evening of such delight: and the personal interest of reading a friend's work had very little to do with it. I should have enjoyed it just as well as if I'd picked it up in a bookshop, by an unknown author. The two things that come out clearly are the sense of reality in the background and the mythical value: the essence of a myth being that it should have no taint of allegory to the maker and yet should suggest incipient allegories to the reader."

Some time after this, Lewis sent Tolkien fourteen pages of detailed criticism (you can find the bulk of these in volume III of The History of Middle-earth). This criticism he contrived as an heavily academic commentary on an antient text surviving in a few corrupt manuscripts, overlaid by scribal perversions in antiquity and the learned argumentation of nineteenth century scholars. It is noteworthy that nearly all the textual criticisms of Lewis were amended by Tolkien during his next revision of the Geste. What I like most about Lewis' criticism, quite apart from the quaint names of the 19th century scholars he invented (Peabody, for example, and Pumpernickel) and the seriousness with which he undertook the matter, is the feeling that it is a key moment in the development of Tolkien's legendarium. Tolkien said in later years that he was indebted to Lewis for sheer enthusiasm and encouragement, and this is so evident in these early days of their friendship.

I sometimes wonder if Tolkien's legendarium worked something towards Lewis' conversion to Christianity. Lewis' commentary on The Lay of Leithian was written before that fateful evening stroll in the Oxford Botanical Gardens; the evening on which Lewis and Tolkien debated the value of myths relative to Christianity and afterwards Lewis knelt down at his bedside and said his Pater Noster. If this is so, and Tolkien's sublime lay (sadly little known) should have proved a means of Grace, even for one person, then I think that the legendarium can be a real foundation upon which people can build their Christian faith.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Random thoughts on eccentricity...

 
I saw a post on Rorate Caeli about the phenomenon of "coming out" and a Cardinal, having sold his soul to the Devil, who congratulated someone for having done so. I am not going to comment on the judgements of Rorate Caeli on the matter; they are a self-styled "traditional" RC weblog and they are, as such, bound to the Roman Catechism (or to its modern equivalent). My thoughts on homosexuality are deliberately ambiguous. To some I would say that homosexuality is a terrible affliction (it is, but no more than being left-handed). To others I would say that homosexuality has had a profound influence over art and musick, and that in a good way. But homosexuality and the phenomenon of being inside or outside a closet are of this age. I use the word purely for convenience. One hundred years from now it is conceivable that homosexuality will no longer exist. Then people might say, "Oh, I used to be homosexual but I gave it up," or something similar. But that doesn't mean that men will cease to be attracted to other men; that has been in the nature of man since many ages past; it will just mean that the label has disappeared because we shall have come to a time when there is no societal requirement to confirm or deny. There may well no longer be a need for Stonewalls or "gay pride" parades which are affronts to our sense of decency. In 2008 I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Last year Asperger Syndrome was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and replaced with a diagnosis of Autism on a severity or functional scale. Do you see how arbitrary these kinds of taxonomy really are? This removal hasn't made the least difference to my life. And so it will be with homosexuality. (By the way, I am by no means optimistic about the future. The future will be a terrible time where people are more ignorant than they are now and liberty will be indistinguishable from thralldom).


I tend to think of myself as an eccentric. Of course, there is a class distinction between being eccentric and being plain bonkers. I met two people recently, two very different people, and both of them said that I reminded them of a young Kenneth Williams; the difference being that one of them meant it as a compliment, the other meant it in scorn. Someone with whom I used to work even suggested Charles Hawtrey. But they all of them were right in observing that my views and to a certain extent my appearance set me apart from most people. Mr Williams was the quintessential example of the kind of class arrogance with which I have to deal on a day-to-day basis. I am invincably middle-class and have all the snobbery to match. So is my mother though she would never admit to it. My Irish grandmother had extensive elocution lessons, designed to rid her of an Irish brogue. I never had elocution lessons; I just learned very early on how to imitate the traditional RP of the upper echelons, never dropping 't's, etc, very much like Mr Williams. "Putting on airs," as they say, but I'm stuck with it.

My father, on the rare occasions when he admits some problem with me, would say that I am just "slightly odd in my ways." Most of the time he carries on as though nothing unpleasant has happened; however he has let it slip on occasion that I am, in his words, "completely hopeless." My mother tries to cope but is utterly bewildered most of the time and certainly less sympathetic. I have never related this before but I only started wearing prescription glasses in 2002. I blessed God the day my mother bought me my first pair of glasses because for years I had been obsessing about them. Just think of that; why would anybody be glad of a vision impairment? As a child I wanted to wear glasses because my Irish grandmother (whom I adored) wore glasses. She had those "old dear" frames, very elaborate and colourful, with a gold chain; reminiscent of Dr Hinge. She looked stunning and studious and I decided that that was the look for me. One day, to satisfy my obsession, my grandmother gave me two pairs of her old prescription glasses that I could wear around the house (the lenses had been removed, of course). This was unbeknown to my parents. My father eventually confiscated them when he caught me wearing one of nanny's headscarves and I never saw them again. But when I did have an excuse to wear glasses I was always careful to choose glasses designed for women and I still do.

I thought the bow was very nice. I do also have a gold chain though I seldom use it, except in the Summer months when I take my prescription sunglasses out. Then I put these onto the gold chain and hang them around my neck.
 
I think that for most people who are eccentric or otherwise have no wish to take their place in society there is a subconscious desire to draw attention to this. For example, I am very open about being homosexual. This is not because I think that my having this cross to bear is needful for people to know but rather that it is needful for people to know that homosexuals exist and that some of them are fairly decent, honest people who just wish to stagger on in peace. I went to a gay pride event in London once, out of morbid curiosity, and I was so scandalised by what I saw that I have avoided them since. A lesbian couple approached me that July day and asked if I was lost! So you can see that inability to identify with most "gays" is more than a bit conspicuous! I am equally uninterested in homosexual relationships; I certainly don't think they're a thing to be sought. But then I have never fully understood why anybody would wish to live in such close proximity to anybody else, whether in marriage, incest, fornication or God knows what else. Imagine wasting the better part of your life on trying to impress, sustain and indulge somebody else. There's just too much effort involved and I don't know about you but I am generally exhausted after simple social occasions; imagine having to undergo that routine day after day and night after night! It amazes me that highly social people don't look like to waifs of the wood after all the social networks, tweeting, cocktail parties, nights out with anonymous lovers, etc. Not to mention all the money wasted. But all this is not to say that whenever I am introduced to people, I say, "yes, in addition to my name you might as well know that I am one of those." You should never do anything so base as to "come out of the closet." This is why that Cardinal was wrong to offer his congratulations, however sincerely he meant it, to the young American. In anticipation of the abolition of gay pride events and Stonewall, neither confirm ye nor deny. Don't ever get involved with your parents in a conversation that would lead them to believe that one of these days you're going to get married and sire children. On the other hand, don't waltz down to breakfast in one of your sister's frocks with the words, "guess what!" And don't, for God's sake, try to convince everybody that your relationship with another man is in some sense equally beautiful, equally fecund as marriage. I think everyone would be happier if homosexuality were an open secret. Why else would Dame Hilda's jokes about her nephew Julian "never marrying" be so funny?

As for being eccentric, well that is, of course, just down to having a terrible time of things. My mother tried earnestly to suppress all of my oddities. She had some success, I think. I can safely pass for a normal person provided nobody talks to me in publick (which is preferable) or asks me to do something outside my experience. As a rule, I don't function properly at social gatherings and during great concourse of folk. It is very rare that somebody will give me their telephone number after a party; they're usually delighted to be rid of me, as I am of them. On here I can say and behave in exactly the manner that I choose because the inconvenience of modern parlance and trying to sustain somebody's interest is entirely absent. I am happily oblivious to people's reactions too. It also means that I don't have to leave my house in order to engage with other people. Perhaps people are happier this way? Now people won't say among themselves upon seeing me in the distance, "oh God, it's him!" Everybody's happy!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Truth and knowledge...


Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is one of a handful of books I would recommend, equally commendable as The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp for its sheer frankness and applicability. During his torture in the Ministry of Truth, Smith was interrogated by O'Brien the dutiful servant of the Party. At several points Smith felt the frustration of knowing the truth and being unable to prove it because his audience (O'Brien) had deliberately and systematically confounded the truth with lies and myths; the Party had declared truth to be indistinguishable from falsehood. So it is with Benedict XVI's declaration that the 1962 missal was never juridically abrogated. I have challenged the pope's declaration, much like Smith challenged the nature of reality as declared by the Party, but the silent indifference of the traditionalists crushes me like a bludgeon because we know, we know, that we are in the right. The pope said to the English bishops once that truth was not subject to a majority vote; and this is true, Truth has a sovereignty of its own quite apart from human beings with all their deceit and willingness to follow crowds. Metaphysics is not my strong point but I would say that this is because Truth is an emanation of Divinity inextricably linked to Creation. Why then, given the nature of Truth, are the traditionalists so willing to accept the claim that the 1962 missal was never juridically abrogated? It is false! You are not bound, even as Roman Catholics, to accept lies and assent to them as one would to the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union or the Virgin Birth!

Relativism is one of the chief enemies of Christianity. Perhaps the Papacy has become so advanced in lying that popes have no qualms at all about presenting lies as truth? What better way of shutting off the paths to men's salvation! Make truth seem hateful by confounding it with heresy and command obedience to a set of lies. If liturgical renewal is to bear any fruits in blessedness then it must stem from the Truth and not falsehood. I can think of no instance where falsehood has availed anyone, whatever the intention.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

To Fr Peabody...


This was initially a private e-mail but it might as well be published here:

Dear Fr Peabody,

I don't like blowing my own trumpet but in the light of your recent post about reviewing books by Marcel Lefebvre perhaps you might like to read my recent post on Summorum Pontificum?

My contention is that had Lefebvre never existed, or had just quietly acquiesced to the Novus Ordo, there'd be no Summorum Pontificum, the Latin Mass Society would be getting on with pre-1962 liturgy, as they ought, and the world would be a happier place - who knows, I might still be a Roman Catholick! I think that to take Lefebvre's views seriously and to "reappraise" Vatican II according to his "twisted ecclesiology" (that's Paul VI's not mine) is very dangerous and one of the many rotten fruits of Summorum Pontificum. SP is as much about ecclesiologies born out of schism as defective liturgy. What irritates me is the herd mentality. None dares question the views of this age which be utterly at variance with the views of the great proto-Traditionalists of the 1960's; Waugh, Houghton-Brown, Tolkien, Tyson, etc. If intelligent blogs are to have any purpose it is the edification of their readers. Please, therefore, take note and burn any copies of Lefebvre's works that are sent to you.

Kindest regards,

Patrick

And no, Fr Peabody is not the man's real name. Peabody is borrowed from C.S Lewis' critique of The Lay of Leithian.

UPDATE: The e-mail was never actually sent. Why? Well, it's like hammering away at an insoluble problem. The more you write about these problems, the more the desired object (rehabilitation of traditionalists) recedes.

UPDATE II: See here for an explanation of Peabody.

The castrati...


I attended a concert at St James' church Spanish Place a fortnight ago. It was my first publick appearance since I joined the Royal Stewart Society at Westminster Abbey on 8th February and met Lord Aylmer. I wore tweed for the occasion. All the while I was sitting in St James', as mine ears were assailed by the choir, I felt worried that God might thrust his arm through the roof of the church and ask what I was doing there. What would I say? In any case, after the performance a few people embarrassingly approached me about Liturgiae Causa (this awful place doesn't encapsulate me, you know!), but I was invited to a gala reception in Marylebone at which happily nothing of the sort was mentioned. An Anglo-Irish professor at the University of London and I were discussing Handel and Handel's castrati. We agreed that operatic taste in the 18th century was markedly superior to to-day, before operetta (a guilty pleasure, actually) and Puccini. The castrati ruled the world! We also agreed that we should like to see the castrati take their place on the 21st century operatic stage and to assume the parts that were written for them. Most castratri were pretty mediocre and ended up singing in the choirs of provincial cathedrals but the superstars, Farinelli, Senesino, Carestini, etc...I'd pay handsomely for a time machine because I believe the castrato voice, now lost forever, to have been the most beautful, haunting and poignant voice ever heard under the sun of this world.

What are questions of morality compared with aesthetic pleasures?

The video is of the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky singing Handel's aria Lascia ch'io pianga which, I believe, was composed for the castrato Senesino. Not that a castrato would sound much like a countertenor but I guess they are the closest equivalent in these allegedly more humane times; singing, perforce, from the head rather than from the chest.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A rotten rope over an abyss...


"If you're on a tightrope, when you first set off you don't know how much play there is in the rope. But when you get into the middle, between the ages of twenty and forty, the thing rocks like mad and it's too late to go back, even to look back. But if you go on as carefully as you can, you see the other platform and then you just make a dash for it, not bothering with what the audience thinks, or waving your arms, or looking dangerous, and difficult and prodigious. What you seize hold of when you get to the other side is, in fact, the edge of your coffin, and you get into it, and you lie down. And you think, 'my cuffs are frayed,' 'I haven't written to my mother,' and all those other things, and then you think, 'it doesn't matter because I'm dead.'

"And this is a message of hope. It will come to an end. It will come. We cannot be blamed for it, and we shall be free." Quentin Crisp.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

What ever...


...happened to the Liturgical Pimpernel? That mysterious character who set up a blog in defiance of this one and in grandiloquent style would rail constantly against me for pointing out the want of consistency in Roman Catholic traditionalism. He accused me of cowardice for refusing to answer a question he once posed (I forget what it was), of "cafeteria traditionalism" for wearing a Roman biretta with a surplice during my experimental days, and generally disparaged the integrity of my blog because I made a mistake about the precise year in which folded chasubles were abolished. You will all know that my full name is Patrick Sheridan, that I was once a student at Heythrop and that I was for a time very active in the parish of Blackfen. You can contact me any time using my personal e-mail address. But what do we know about the Pimpernel? Do we know where he goes to Mass, or what his right name is? It seems to me that such a charge as cowardice is more apt for persons who launch ad hominem attacks from the safety of anonymity. The Pimpernel's pontifications were upheld, while they lasted, by the New Liturgical Movement, among other traditionalist blogs, because the Pimpernel was "respectable," arguing that it would do us well to defer our judgements to the authority of the Apostolic See; in other words, just complacently get on with 1962. In which case, what he was arguing was hardly new or refreshing! It was all very of-this-age and demonstrably not in keeping with the sentiments of real traditionalists like Mr John Tyson or Geoffrey Houghton-Brown, some time chairman of the Latin Mass Society.

But I do miss the Liturgical Pimpernel. It is a consolation to know that Liturgiae Causa was once interesting enough to inspire others to start up their own blogs.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The days have passed...


Regular church attendance has never been something I have seen as absolutely necessary. When I commenced my Bachelor of Divinity at Heythrop in 2006, in the days when I had stacks of money but little sense, I never went on Sundays at all. This presented a "problem" as all my fellow students were seminarians at Allen Hall and, understandably, were interested in where their young friend, whose views were "highly conservative and militant," went to Mass or why he didn't. My explanation that nowhere offered a suitable rite of Mass to which I would happily condescend to attend was hardly endearing and so I was avoided. It was not always so. Roughly between 2004 and 2005 I would occasionally go to the low Mass at the London Abattoir but I was never an early riser and even then found said services, however "traditional," to be scarcely worth the trek on a Sunday morning. There was nowhere else to go. In the days before Summorum Pontificum being a traditionalist was tantamount to being in a persecuted minority, even (or especially!) at Heythrop. The Mass Supplements of the Latin Mass Society magazine were conspicuously short in those days!

I was very optimistic about liturgy then and when I started buying the Latin Mass Society magazine (and three times filled out the membership form, though never, in God's providence, sent it off), I heard about Corpus Christi church in Covent Garden, so I started going there. This would be in the Summer of 2005. It was about this time that I stopped going to the Oratory on Sundays though later, when I was at Heythrop, I would go to the low Mass at St Joseph's altar before lectures on most days. I came to see Monday evenings as the substitute for Sunday mornings and never went to Sunday Mass again until I discovered Blackfen in 2007. I had heard of Mr Finigan's blog through the New Liturgical Movement but I put off walking the seventeen minutes to Blackfen on Sundays for the very reason I gave my fellow students. Sunday Mass was still in the Novus Ordo, which I would not brook, however much it was embellished with incense and acolytes. After that fateful Holyrood Day in 2007 the "old rite" was introduced in full and I started going more regularly. The parish priest even invited me to serve Mass. Despite my views I became very active in parish life.

Blackfen was held in scorn by most people at Heythrop; its notoriety was established mainly due to that Tablet controversy, with most of my fellow students sympathising with Elena Curti. It was at Heythrop that I first took to the serious study of historical liturgy. With a treasure trove like the theology library to which I had free access, it was certainly an occasion of temptation (especially relative to my experiences in Blackfen). I would spend hours reading 19th century missals and breviaries, books of ceremonies, making my own translations and photocopying, ever neglectful of my studies and, still having the money, would spend the evenings in Covent Garden (the Royal Ballet, not Maiden Lane), or sometimes Soho. When I left Heythrop, needless to say without a degree, I could think of no better option than to start a blog to keep my mind working. It was all very childish, to be honest. One reader described my intellect as "raw," and "unformed;" very perceptive. Another, though not here and defended by anonymity, said that my lack of liturgical knowledge was almost as comprehensive as my lack of charity. I hope that readers can understand that I am not insincere and I hope equally that they can forgive my shortcomings. I am young (soon I shall have reached 26 years of age...not very often we use the future perfect tense in English) and ignorant but when I have inveighed against people for their lack of consistency (or a backbone), I have done it for their own good. As Tolkien said, "it may be the part of a friend to rebuke another friend's folly."


I stopped going to Mass three years ago. When I was still new at Blackfen the parish priest was embroiled in a controversy with liberals or modernists, or whatever the correct term is. There was a real sense of the church militant! When that died down and with the passing of time I realised that the place was becoming more and more "respectable;" you know, the parish priest being invited up to Oxford to speak at LMS conferences and the paradigm of "no reform prior to the Council, the real enemy of our faith is the rite of Paul VI," I felt alienated. Feasts of the year would come round only to be ignored (May 1st) and on August 15th Signum Magnum would strike without fail. I stopped serving and sat through services grinding my teeth. When I started going to St Magnus the Martyr as a sort of trial run of Anglo-Catholicism (at that time keeping my feet in both camps), when I went back to Blackfen I was even preached at one Sunday! I was still on friendly terms with the mainstream folk though my arrival among the traditionalists generally caused a hush clamorous with resentment. Eventually I was honoured by the parish priest by being turned out and I soon stopped going to St Magnus too. As in my teenage years I had come to the realisation that there was not a church anywhere in this world to which I could happily go on Sundays; the difference then, of course, was that I was more put off by the traditional ones (then more numerous than aforetime) than the modern ones.

A friend of mine from Heythrop who went to study Celtic Christianity in Wales once told me that I am too young to have regrets. I shouldn't put it so myself. I just would that I knew in 2006 what I know now.

The images were not chosen (as I do so often) in idle fancy. The icon depicts St Anastasia the Martyr. When I was new at Blackfen I once remarked to the parish priest that the liturgical "revival" there was much akin to the establishment by St Gregory of Nazianzus of the chapel of St Anastasia in Constantinople in A.D 379. Constantinople, at the time, was dominated by the Arians but St Gregory's preaching was so powerful (he may even have used actual words) that in two short years orthodoxy came to be re-established in the city and his chapel was afterwards seen to have been the scene of the resurrection of the faith (a philological nod to St Anastasia). The other painting is by the Tolkien artist John Howe and shews Glaurung the Worm casting the spell of forgetfulness upon Nienor.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Francis effect...


Canon 838 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states quite clearly:

Within the limits of his competence, it belongs to the diocesan Bishop to lay down in the Church entrusted to his care, liturgical regulations which are binding on all.

So what is the problem? The bishop is clearly acting lawfully and in the interests of the unity of faith and has said that there is a "TLM" already provided in another locale of the diocese. Let the students go thither if they want that rubbish! But I was forgetting Summorum Pontificum, that sloppy document which set the authority of bishops at naught. But what does that matter these days? That was seven years ago; this is now, the trendy, relevant reign of pope Francis. If it transpires that the students of Fisher More College, them that are attached to the TLM, make an appeal to Rome, who's going to care? Certainly not pope Francis! As I said in my previous post, nothing accentuates the fallacy of the traditionalist position more than the present incumbent of the Roman see!

May I offer my sincerest congratulations to Bishop Olson for this wise move and express my hope that other diocesan bishops, acting lawfully according to their authority within their own dioceses, follow his apostolic and Christ-like example.

Sedevacantism...


In October 2010 I wrote about my disdain for the Sedevacantists. These days I think I actually prefer them to the mainstream traditionalists; for the simple reason that they admit some problem with the modern papacy relative to the propagation of novel doctrines. Their rationale is more simple than the mainstream lot. The modern papacy, whether that starts with John XXIII or Paul VI, cannot possibly be valid because "modern popes," having declined the tiara and the sedia gestatoria and having refused to pronounce any anathemas at the Second Vatican Council, expressly contradict the mores of pre-Conciliar popes. Where Pius XI said in the encyclical Mortalium Animos that ecumenism was to be shunned by the faithful, the decree Unitatis Redintegratio of the Second Vatican Council, promulgated scarcely forty years later, says that it is to be welcomed; yea more, antipope Paul VI went so far as to bring protestant heretics and schismatic Greeks into that most holy of all places, St Peter's pagan basilica, where they undoubtedly dominated all discussions at the pastoral council!Where Pius IX condemned religious liberty in Qui Pluribus, the declaration Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Paul VI, endorsed religious liberty. Where Pius IX absolutely condemned modernising the Roman church in any way in his famous Syllabus of Errors the constitution of the Second Vatican Council Gaudium et Spes advocates this as a boon for the church! (Incidentally, when I was a student at Heythrop College, I brought this matter up with my Fundamental Theology professor who simply said that the authority of the Roman pontiff is less binding than that of an ecumenical council...just think, if he'd only met Pius VII!) Cardinal Ratzinger later wrote of Gaudium et Spes as a "counter-syllabus," an instrument with which the Roman church could reconcile herself to the modern world!

Am I the only one here who can see any discrepancy? You can't have the unity of faith and a genuinely Catholic sensus fidei with your 19th century great-great grandparents if they were constrained by their ecclesiastical masters to believe one thing and you are called upon to believe something totally different! Or perhaps, as Cardinal Ratzinger applied to Gaudium et Spes as much as to the liturgical books of 1962, there is no real problem with holding two mutually-contradictory beliefs in one's mind and believing both simultaneously; we call that the hermeneutic of continuity! My problem, of course, is that I have always held that the older a particular custom, law, belief, ceremony can be proved to be, the greater auctoritas it holds for us to-day and therefore it is more binding on us; it is behoveful for us so to hold ourselves as tributary to our salvation. And so, what place does the hermeneutic of continuity have in the Church? It's just windy rhetoric! The truth needs no assistance. Only lies require so much maintenance and revision. The principle of the hermeneutic of continuity is the means by which the Roman church consistently re-invents herself so as to perpetuate her presence throughout the ages.

That is why the Sedevacantists are more sensible than their mainstream traditionalist brethren, who bind themselves to the Roman pontiff. The Sedevacantists hold to certain principles; they might be wrong, but they are principles. The traditionalists, by contrast, must maintain their communion with the Roman pontiff at all costs, and they just watch as their feebly-held principles, some of which they share with the Sedevacantists, are eroded away in the modern Roman church. There is no greater evidence for the fallacy of their position than the changing incumbent of the Roman see itself! The response to the election of pope Francis on Rorate Caeli was quite telling!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Priests as Deacons...


Without getting too bogged down in questions of sacramental theology (for which I am by no means qualified anyway), there seems, to me, to be something very improper about an ordained priest dressing up as a deacon or subdeacon for the purposes of high Mass. Some would say that a priest is a deacon by reason of his ministry, according to the Roman understanding of the sacrament of order, but I'm not so sure. Even worse are cases where a priest ordained after 1973 (the year in which Paul VI abolished the minor orders and subdiaconate) dresses up as a subdeacon, having never actually been ordained thereunto. Or the famous case where Marcel Lefebvre, after lecturing on the liturgical dignities accorded to bishops, celebrated a missa cantata!

If you are a priest, then celebrate the Mass as the delegate of your bishop as a priest; that is your ministry and vocation. Don't go about dressing up as deacons just so that you can wear a dalmatic for a nice change and then go off and celebrate a low Mass away from the people. Vatican II, with some success I think, did restore permanent deacons! But that's one of those awful anachronisms; I was forgetting that traddies don't like permanent deacons! They'd also sooner a priest act as subdeacon than a lay person, which is the custom of Anglo-Catholic churches. What is the objection here? If a layperson can act as master of ceremonies and boys can be acolytes, why may a layperson not wear a tunicle? In a parish with limited means, this would make more sense to me. The idea of common prayer, of corporate worship, the spirit of liturgy, is to offer our utmost to the Most High, to use every resource within our reach to procure the finest possible celebration of the liturgy. So to deliberately simplify the celebration of Mass because you don't have three priests at your disposal is absurd!

Five or six years ago I served a high Mass at Covent Garden and going about the business of preparing the sanctuary I overheard three priests debating among themselves who was to do what, one of whom said: "I don't mind what I do." I thought then, as I do now, how strange that sounded.

I've borrowed the photo from Dr Joseph Shaw's blog; I hope he doesn't mind. Andrew Southwell, whom I knew at St Bede's Clapham Park, is celebrant here, with John Hunwicke as deacon.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Pater ad filium natu...


...sed haud alioquin minimum, no.80 (a series of letters Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher during the Second World War):

11th February 1945

I've wasted some precious time this week-end writing a letter to the Catholic Herald. One of their sentimentalist correspondents wrote about the etymology of the name Coventry, and seemed to think that unless you said it came from Convent, the answer was not "in keeping with Catholic tradition." "I gather the convent of St Osburg was of no consequence," said he: boob. As convent did not enter English till after 1200 A.D. (and meant an "assembly" at that) and the meaning "nunnery" is not recorded before 1795, I felt annoyed. So I have asked whether he would like to change the name of Oxford to Doncaster; but he's probably too stupid to see even that mild quip. (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no.97).

So you see, even Tolkien had no time for the narrow-minded who go on about Catholic tradition and know not the first thing about it.

Numquam abrogatam?

Paul VI; there's another one too...

"In conclusion, we wish to give the force of law to all that we have set forth concerning the new Roman Missal. In promulgating the official edition of the Roman Missal, Our predecessor, St. Pius V, presented it as an instrument of liturgical unity and as a witness to the purity of the worship the Church. While leaving room in the new Missal, according to the order of the Second Vatican Council, "for legitimate variations and adaptations," we hope nevertheless that the Missal will be received by the faithful as an instrument which bears witness to and which affirms the common unity of all. Thus, in the great diversity of languages, one unique prayer will rise as an acceptable offering to our Father in heaven, through our High-Priest Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

"We order that the prescriptions of this Constitution go into effect November 30th of this year, the first Sunday of Advent.

"We wish that these Our decrees and prescriptions may be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by Our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation."
(The abrogatory clause of the Apostolic Constitution, Missale Romanum (1969), which promulgated the New Missal).
 
In Summorum Pontificum we read:
 
"As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted."
 
Is this the imposter who kidnapped the real pope and replaced the cardinals with Freemasons and liberals? The real Paul VI, now 117 years old, must be living in the Amazon rainforest awaiting a change of days!
 
On the contrary, the liturgical books of 1962 underwent increasing derogation during the 1960's and were finally, as you can read above, juridically abrogated by the highest authority in the Roman communion. They were never permitted in principle. Conspiracy theories about being deprived of particular forms of liturgy by unsympathetic diocesan bishops just seem like hot air to me and very characteristic of your average traditionalist. The restoration of liturgical authority to the bishops by Paul VI was a good thing and a boon for the Roman church. If only we could see a return to those days, but it might come soon enough. I have said before that I have high hopes for pope Francis, but perhaps liturgy is not his first priority?