Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Quibus Eutyches, qui presbyterii nomine honorabilis videbatur, multum imprudens et nimis imperitus ostenditur, ut etiam de ipso dictum sit a propheta: Noluit intelligere, ut bene ageret; iniquitatem meditatus est in cubili suo. (St Leo, Tomus ad Flavianum, 449).

It has come to my attention that some people think I am a schismatic, or even a heretic. I'd be interested to know what kind of ''heretic'' - clearly not the liberal modernist kind (my views are apparently too extreme for that), so what? The general consensus seems to be ''I can't work you out - therefore you must be a heretic'', am I right? Or are my views about the Papacy perhaps misunderstood? If so, which views? Do I think that Popes have the authority to tamper with the liturgical traditions of the Roman Church at their whims? No. Do I believe that Popes have authority to talk nonsense about the Assumption in isolation (and even antipathy towards) from Liturgy? No. Do I think that the Signum Magnum propers are worthy of a thousand anathemas? Yes. Do I believe that Pius XII was a heretic? Denonstrably yes, and much worse.

Perhaps we have enough to be going along with here, but it will be interesting to see what response (if any) I get to this post. It is an honest question, and there are no ''barbs'' attached, so comments are welcome.

Two very different popes here. John XXIII is my favourite 20th century pope, if only because of the humility of his background, and person. Although I have to say what interests me most about this photo is Mgr Dante, Papal Master of Ceremonies from 1947 until I can't remember when (1965 I think) - didn't he see a great many changes!

St Aidan of Lindisfarne...

As you all know, I am terribly fond of St Bede. Well today (according to the Gregorian Kalendar mind you) is the feast of St Aidan of Lindisfarne (died 31st August 651), who came from St Columba's monastery at Iona at the invitation of King Oswald of Northumbria, in order to preach the Gospel and found a monastery at Lindisfarne. St Bede describes this holy man lovingly in the Ecclesiastical History:

He [king Oswine] had given Bishop Aidan an excellent horse so that, though he was normally accustomed to walk, he could ride if he had to cross a river or if any other urgent necessity compelled him. A short time afterwards Aidan was met by a beggar who asked him for an alms. He at once alighted and offered the horse with all its royal trappings to the beggar; for he was extremely compassionate, a friend of the poor and a real father to the wretched. The king was told of this, and, happening to meet the bishop as they were going to dinner, he said: ''My lord bishop, why did you want to give a beggar the royal horse intended for you? Have we not many less valuable horses or other things which would have been enough to give to the poor, without letting the beggar have the horse which I had specially chosen for your own use?'' The bishop at once replied: ''O King, what are you saying? Surely this son of a mare is not dearer to you than that son of God?'' After these words they went in to dine. The bishop sat down in his own place and the king, who had just come in from hunting, stood warming himself by the fire with his thegns. Suddenly he remembered the bishop's words; at once he took off his sword, gave it to a thegn, and then hastening to where the bishop sat, threw himself at his feet and asked his pardon. ''Never from henceforth,'' he said, ''will I speak of this again nor will I form any opinion as to what money of mine or how much of it you should give to the sons of God.''

When the bishop saw this he was greatly alarmed; he got up immediately and raised the king to his feet, declaring that he would be perfectly satisfied if only the king would banish his sorrow and sit down to the feast. The king, in accordance with the bishop's entreaties and commands, recovered his spirits, but the bishop, on the other hand, grew sadder and at last began to shed tears. Thereupon a priest asked him in his native tongue, which the king and his thegns did not understand, why he was weeping, and Aidan answered: ''I know that the king will not live long; for I never before saw a humble king. Therefore I think that he will very soon be snatched from this life; for this nation does not deserve to have such a ruler.'' Not long after, the bishop's gloomy forebodings were fulfilled in the sad death of the king which we have already described. Bishop Aidan only lived for twelve days after the murder of the king whom he loved; for he was taken from the world on 31st August and received from the Lord the eternal reward of his labours.

St Aidan of Lindisfarne, pray for us.

Monday, 30 August 2010


Last night I picked up my copy of Volume I of The Celebration of Mass (1941 edition), by J.B O'Connell and flicked through it to while away an hour. O'Connell was a master of the rubrics, but clearly the world's biggest bore, and part of the problem of 20th century Catholicism. The Celebration of Mass is an indispensable work, but I find it at once incomparably tedious and a tad depressing. It reads very much like the instruction booklet about how to work a complex piece of machinery, or even a railway timetable (the very things Fortescue criticised Dale for!). For example, turn to the section about ''liturgical law'' and he cites several sources, and lamentably names the so-called ''code'' of Canon Law as the principle source, the rubrics of the liturgical books (this is reasonable enough), the decisions of the S.R.C (Good Lord, I think I shall reach) and lastly legitimate custom. He then gives a list of the liturgical books, and gives various definitions and explanations about ''typical'' editions etc, being submitted to the S.R.C for approval, Imprimaturs etc. He then gives a brief history of the Roman Missal which is very interesting, and curiously mistakes the role of the Subdeacon in the early Church. It is curious that the Subdeacon now chants the Epistle - this is a late addition to his office, and probably some residue of the fact that, like the Diaconate, with the spread of Low Mass the offices of the Diaconate and Subdiaconate became gradually curtailed, and therefore less important, and so his chanting of the Epistle was added at some point to give him ''something else to do.'' This is my supposition and I may be entirely wrong of course.

The subsection about the Rubrics is again interesting, at least from a canonical and legal perspective. He goes through various moral questions etc, definitions of substantial, accidental, perceptive, directive rubrics etc, and it's at this point that I got rather angry, and probably the reason I hate this book. Is this what Liturgy is all about? Decisions of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (or whatever it's called these days) and Canon Law? I have no doubt that observance of the rubrics is important, not least for moral reasons and for the maintenance of liturgical decorum, but there comes a point when life, spirit and truth are sapped from the Sacred Liturgy because of rubricism - and this is exactly what happened in the 20th century, if not before, in the Roman Church. Liturgy became reduced to decrees from Rome, laws, meaningless (and in some cases obsolete) rubrics etc. No wonder there is such a liturgical crisis in the Church as is now! There is a fine line between laws there to safeguard the mystery, and laws for the sake of law. Such a disposition towards Liturgy clearly paved the way to ''whatever Rome says goes'', and haven't we suffered enough of what Rome says these last 60 plus years?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Kudos to me...

I have finished my revision of Jonah, and I can now say that, in spite of feeling disappointed that Tolkien's own translation didn't eventually get published earlier this year (my own reason for translating Jonah), I have produced a translation which rivals (or even surpasses) any translation hitherto produced.

Also, this blog has now had over 10,000 visitors since I started it in May. Lord only knows why people keep coming back here, and how they discovered me (since some people seem rather embarrassed that they know me - honestly I am the sort of person that people pretend not to see in public), but I still manage an average of about 150 visitors a day. The 10,000th visitor googled me, and even perused the Archives for about half an hour.

I am now off to celebrate. Because of such low interest rates I see no point in saving my money, so I'm going to invest it all in clothes and shoes. I might go to Cordings while their Summer sale lasts, or think about ornamental waistcoats (if Tolkien could pull it off in the '60s, why can't I?), but a nice new pair of Brogues might do. At any rate I don't have the money for a decent waistcoat...

Dormitio beatae Mariae...

For those of you using the Julian Kalendar (as I sometimes wish I could) I wish you every temporal and spiritual blessing in the Lord on this, the feast of St Mary's Dormition. I had planned on going to Ennismore Gardens for Pontifical Liturgy (blue vestments and all!) but I have had an upset stomach all night and feel very poorly.

This short hymn from The Lord of the Rings reminds me of the Sub tuum praesidium. What do readers think?

A Elbereth Gilthoniel! o menel palan-díriel, le nallon sí di'nguruthos! A tíro nin, Fanuilos! [O Queen of the Stars, Star-kindler! from heaven gazing afar, to thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death, O look towards me, Everwhite!]


Sometimes different circumstances remind me of the most remote and obscure passages in Tolkien. As I lay in bed last night thinking about the menacing incantation Frodo (Frodo is Old English for ''wise'' by the way, the wisdom of experience mind you, just like Samwise is Old English for ''half-wit'' or plain-wise - an odd couple you might say) heard in the Barrow (Cold be hand and heart and bone, etc) I chuckled and reached for The History of Middle-earth, Volume I, and turned to this ancient account:

...To this Manwë assented, saying that all their force might scarce dig Melko from his stronghold, whereas deceit must be very cunningly woven that would ensnare the master of guile. ''Only by pride is Melko assailable,'' quoth Manwë, ''or by such a struggle as would rend the earth and bring evil upon us all,'' and Manwë sought to avoid all strife twixt Ainur and Ainur. When therefore the Gods had concerted a plan to catch Melko in his overweening pride they wove cunning words purporting to come from Manwë himself, and these they put in the mouth of Nornorë, who descended and spoke them before the seat of Melko. ''Behold,'' said he, ''the Gods be come to ask the pardon of Melko, for seeing his great anger and the rending of the world beneath his rage they have said one to another: 'Lo! wherefore is Melko displeased?' and one to another have answered beholding the tumults of his power: 'Is he not then the greatest among us - why dwells not the mightiest of the Valar in Valinor? Of a surety he has cause for indignation. Let us get us to Utumna and beseech him to dwell in Valinor that Valmar be not empty of his presence.' To this,'' said he, '' Tulkas alone would not assent, but Manwë bowed to the common voice (this the Gods said knowing the rancour that Melko had for Póldorëa) and now they come constraining Tulkas with violence to beg thee to pardon them each one and to fare home with them and complete their glory, dwelling, if it be thy pleasure, in the halls of Makar, until such time as Aulë can build thee a great house; and its towers shall overtop Taniquetil.'' To this did Melko answer eagerly, for already his boundless pride surged up and drowned his cunning.

''At last do the Gods speak fair words and just, but ere I grant their boon my heart must be appeased for old affronts...'' (The History of Middle-earth, Volume I, Chapter IV).

Friday, 27 August 2010


''Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated.The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies - all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinately, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth. Ultimately it is by means of doublethink that the Party has been able - and may, for all we know, continue to be able for thousands of years - to arrest the course of history.'' (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Book II, Chapter IX).

I'm sorry but it seems to me that Traditionalist Catholics very often exercise the principle of doublethink because, as Moretben says in a comment in my previous post about the hierarchy of liturgical legislation, they go around and around in one series of contradictions after another. How, for example, is it possible for a man to at once accept, and believe firmly and with all sincerity, that the ordinary magisterium of the Church cannot err, and yet to place oneself at variance with the contemporary ordinary magisterium of the Church in liturgical and doctrinal matters? How can a man accept the content of Pastor Aeternus, and yet believe that what Pius XII did to the Sacred Liturgy was wrong, as plainly it was? How can a man claim at once that the Novus Ordo of Paul VI is defective liturgy, as plainly it is, and yet claim also that Paul VI had the authority to carry out the series of reforms throughout the 1960s? How can one consciously use the terms ''ordinary'' and ''extraordinary forms'' to falsely designate a supposed-Old Rite (which is in fact younger than my parents) and New Rite, and to accept (officially we might say) that these are two expressions of the one Roman Rite, and yet to claim also that the New Rite is defective, made-up liturgy and not ''sacred and great'' as Pope Benedict has made out?

The Catholic Tradition need not be riddled so much with scandalous falsehoods and half-remembered traditions. Pope Benedict XVI is an admirable man, clearly very pious and intelligent and concerned for the needs of the Church, but I just cannot accept this ''hermeneutic of continuity'', the euphoria (which still hasn't died down sadly) about Summorum Pontificum and the rest of the nonsensical and futile ''liturgical reform'' he is carrying out. The so-called Benedictine altar-arrangement comes to mind. What do you get from that? How in any way does sticking a row of six candles and a crucifix rectify the liturgical abuse of facing the wrong way? It conveys merely artificiality and pretence, and is moreover a falsely-constructed modern theology of Liturgy designed to explain away, or dumb down, a liturgical abuse. You either face Eastwards, according to the ancient Tradition of liturgical prayer and posture, or you don't. At any rate candles and a crucifix on the Altar are a late Medieval embellishment. If you truly want Tradition then any additional candles would be placed behind, not on, the mensa of the Altar. If I were the Pope, instead of trying to explain away this obvious abuse I'd have said something like: ''Either you face eastwards the next time you celebrate Mass, or I'll excommunicate you. Anyone who dares object to this, our ruling, shall incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.''

But thank God I'm not the Pope!

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Rubricarius has left a superb comment in my recent post ''Oh it is so on...'' and raises one or two issues I try to address on this blog. One of them is a reasonable argument for Tradition. Especially since Summorum Pontificum traditionalists have thrown older, more reasonable, arguments for traditional liturgy out the window in favour of a stupidly Ultramontane ''the Pope says so'' argument, which amounts (in my opinion) to little more than a rather fanatical legal positivism. I'd like to ask: what happens when John Paul III comes along and says that the content of Summorum Pontificum is void? Whom do you obey then? Summorum Pontificum is juridical nonsense, yea more, Papal juridical nonsense. If the Pope can override previous liturgical legislation, which legislation is binding for all time and which isn't? Which legislation is going to be altered slightly, or completely reversed, by a future Pope? Is nothing safe?

I would cordially invite any Traditionalist reader to provide me with actual evidence that the numquam abrogatam clause in Summorum Pontificum is supported by previous liturgical legislation, or whether it is the Pope making use of his already far-out-of-traditional-and-scriptural-proportions authority to simply override that legislation to appease the Lefebvrists. I'm not going to bite, so don't be reticent - I'm just the schismatic, heretical, extremist poison Hobbit who is always complaining about unreasonable things...

I expect that no Trad is going to comment so I marvel that I bothered to write this post.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sacramental validity...

...is this all that really matters in terms of liturgy? It seems that modern Catholic hermeneutics of Liturgy, validity etc exclude rights and wrongs in the ars celebrandi of Liturgy. Since the celebrant of Mass is a validly ordained priest, all he has to do is have the right intention, to intend to do what the Church does (to procure the Sacrament)...and that's it - you have a valid Mass. Never mind about how the rest of the Liturgy is celebrated; so long as the priest says the ''magic words'' over the Chalice and corporal, this is all that matters. The King of Kings deigns to come down from on high to the Altar (or in some cases the box - like in Westminster Cathedral until recently, although I certainly don't approve of what they've since done to the real High Altar) for our nourishment. We've all experienced appalling liturgy - I expect that my Trad readers (if there are any left) are familiar with the liberal, modernist kind, as am I. But Liturgy can be abused in so many other ways. I have attended many so-called ''Old Rite'' Masses where I have been literally seething, and the one thing that kept me from departing in wrath was respect for Liturgy itself. Usually these things are the result of clerical ineptitude (I never cease to be amazed at how little the clergy know about Liturgy - some years ago I MCd a Sung Mass where I had to tell the Celebrant to kiss the Altar and say the Orate Fratres - at the time I thought ''how many years have you been saying Mass?'') or the mix and match routine...which I have spoken enough about recently. It seems to me that Liturgy itself, since it is the ancient worship of the Church, requires more than bare Sacramental validity. I have attended some liturgies where I have thought: ''Lord, that You would come down to nourish these people is a bit beyond me''...

Why would God send the Holy Ghost down upon the Altars of those who simply can't be bothered with Liturgy?

These two photos are both celebrations of Mass, but both contain heinous liturgical abuses. The top photo needs no introduction, and is quite familiar...but the last one is a celebration of Palm Sunday according to post-'56 rubrics in America recently. Can someone please tell me how they are different, and why? Because to me they are both exactly the same. How can a traditionalist in the Palm Sunday (or is it now the Second Sunday of Passiontide? I forget) celebration pretend to be superior to a Modernist in the top photo clapping his hands when in reality what he is doing is no better, or is perhaps even worse? At least the people in the top photo aren't pretending to be traditional! What constitutes ''traditional'' in Tradworld? Is it preference for lace cottas to polyester albs? Or perhaps the Deacon chanting Benedicamus Domino on Corpus Christi? Yet such photos as the Palm Sunday one are spread about the traditionalist blogs as though they are a boon for the Church! I attended post-'56 Palm Sunday some years ago, and when I went home, I didn't say to my mother: ''Gosh I wept so beautiful it was, I never was so moved;'' in fact, I compared it to the anticipation of seeing a great upcoming film and then being disappointed upon actually seeing it...

I really cannot understand Traditionalism...

Sanctus Magnus...

Sunday Mass at St Magnus the Martyr was out of my experience. It was the first vernacular Liturgy I had attended in literally months, although most of the Ordinary was in Latin. The Propers were chanted to an English plainsong melody, which sounded rather nice. The Hymn was ''bouncy,'' and not really to my taste (or some others seemingly). Before the Prayer, the Celebrant said: The Lord be with you, to which the congregation replied: And with thy spirit - an accurate rendering of et cum spiritu tuo, of course. The Prayers were read from the English Missal, and at the Sedilia, which is at variance with the Roman praxis at a Sung Mass (and High Mass) of the Celebrant standing at the Epistle corner of the Altar, but the English was of an archaic and more courteous mode (much nicer than the mistranslations of ICEL). There were three Scripture readings, a revived ancient practice though using the modern Roman lectionary cycle. The lessons were read by a layman at a pulpit outside the Sanctuary, and the Gospel by the Celebrant in the same place. The Symbol of Faith was sung in English, to a melody I am not familiar with (though I thought it rather catchy). Curiously the Chalice, burse etc were brought to the Altar at the Offertory by the Master of Ceremonies (Roman praxis for a Sung Mass is for the Chalice to be arrayed on the spread corporal in the centre of the Altar with the burse on the Gospel side between the Altar cards - only at High Mass is it brought from the Credence table by the Subdeacon).

A hymn was sung at the Offertory. The Orate Fratres and Suscipiat were both said allowed and in English. Curiously the Preface was read and not sung (there may have been a non-liturgical reason for this), although the Sanctus was sung. I don't know whether the Celebrant read used the Roman Canon or not. There were two Torchbearers to greet the Elevation. The Domine non sum dignus was said only once, and by all the congregation with the Celebrant. I was delighted to see Communion administered under both kinds, which seemed to work rather well. The Celebrant adminstered the sacrament under the form of bread, as the MC held a communion plate beneath the chin of communicants, who knelt, and a senior server administered the Chalice, and wiped it with a purificator. If only this salutary custom could be integrated into Roman High Mass. Communion under both kinds is something I have felt strongly about for years.

After Mass I had a chance to properly look around the church, which I hadn't visited for many years. I was glad to see a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham - all too many Catholics are fond of foreign saints and shrines, such as the Curé of Ars and Lourdes when there is nothing wrong with English piety. Walsingham is older than Lourdes, and old English saints are just as holy and heroic as continental ones. At any rate saints from the first millenium seem more ''real'' to me. I was also glad to notice that the sacrament is not reserved at the High Altar but at a side altar with a nice altar piece - which is more traditional. I was made very welcome at St Magnus the Martyr and will certainly go there again.

Before I went home someone asked me my opinion of vernacular Liturgy. I don't think it's the worst thing in the world. The absolute worst thing you can do liturgically (other than use the liturgical books of 1962) is face the wrong way, which they certainly don't do at St Magnus. I think that half the problems of the modern Catholic Church would be alleviated if they followed the example of the Anglo-Catholics at St Magnus - have the Old Rite...in English, if you so desire. I prefer Latin liturgy myself, but English is not as big a threat to Tradition as some things are - such as turning your back on the East, or using modern inferior propers for the Assumption.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Oh it is so on...

For funsies I typed liturgiae causa into Google and came across this traditionalist forum, where my small blog is described as a ''creepy pseudo-Trad blog.'' Quite a lot is made of my tendency to demonize Pius XII, and I think the ''creepy'' part refers to my previous post about homosexuality in art. I'm rather confused by some of the comments there - one seems to confuse Pius X with Pius XII, another seems to confuse the 1962 Missal with the Missal of Pius V, and I can't quite work out what is meant by ''pseudo-Trad.'' Does this refer to my preference for Tradition, perhaps, to Papal innovation (viz last Sunday)? Or something else? I don't know. I would like to know how someone could possibly conceive of themselves as more traditional than me if they accept the liturgical books of 1962. I have been at variance with the Church for at least six years because of liturgical reform. I used to think it was all the fault of liberal modernists subverting the Church, but then I realised it was actually the Popes themselves who were responsible. Traditionalists are at variance with the Church themselves, although they might not care to admit this. As for homosexuality, perhaps people who accept '62 and admire Pius XII (the day this man is canonized is the day I leave the Church for good) might like to get off their high horses before they judge me. A number of my friends are homosexual, and if sodomy is a sin then so is using the liturgical books of 1962.

The wicked shall be turned into hell (Psalm 9:18).

Friday, 20 August 2010

Laetus sum...

I went shopping today with my brother at Westfield Shopping Centre, and spent about £400 on clothes. Despite now being crippled financially for the rest of the month, I am glad I did it, since I spend a lot of money on perishables like the anti-Depressants that keep me ever so happy to go back to that awful job week after week, and it's nice to have something other than books to show for the hours of misery I spend there. Afterwards we went to the park and spent Lord-knows-how-long on the swings. It was a good day!

I've decided to convert back to the Traditionalist movement. I figured that since I have ''the burden of knowledge'', I am rather unhappy with things now, so perhaps with a good dose of Low Votive Masses of the Sacred Heart, chaplets of the Divine Mercy and thousands of decades of the Rosary I might once again become stupefied and cured of my unhappiness and start praising Benedict XVI as the ''healer'', who has reversed the damnable heresies of Bugnini (Heaven forbid separating Altar and Tabernacle!) with Summorum Pontificum and has once again restored the Usus Antiquior as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (I mean it's not as though there are only two historical ''forms'' of the Roman Rite - Religious Orders and local custom are a myth) as never juridically abrogated etc. Why stop at that when I could join the '62 police and grass up any ''dissidents'', any deviation from strict observance of the Extraordinary Form (1962)? Of course to do that I'd have to commit intellectual suicide and is happiness really worth that?

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Tolkien hated conscious allegory, but was open to applicability of his work. Well this quote from The Lord of the Rings is rather funny given the last post...

''But in the meantime, the general opinion in the neighbourhood was that Bilbo, who had always been rather cracked, had at last gone quite mad and had run off into the Blue. There he had undoubtedly fallen into a pool or a river and come to a tragic, but hardly an untimely, end. The blame was mostly laid on Gandalf.

'''If only that dratted wizard will leave young Frodo alone, perhaps he'll settle down and grow some hobbit-sense''' (The Lord of the Rings, Book I, Chapter II).

Annoyed, very annoyed...

I was quite disgusted with Sunday celebrations of the Assumption in ''tradworld'', although I expected as much so it didn't come as quite a shock as May 1st. I only thank God that I can tell the difference between the Old Rite and innovation - I mean Heaven help the vast majority of people in the pews, who come in all sincerity expecting the Old Rite. I have said so before and I shall say so again - my two dogs have a more acute sense of Liturgy than Catholic Traditionalists. The thing I find most annoying (apart from the mixing and matching in strong evidence in some churches - commemorations of the Sunday, for example, whilst using the inferior Signum Magnum propers - if such churches were being so ''obedient'' to Mother Rome why do they not, in deference to Summorum Pontificum, just stick to the '62 Rite for the whole year if they can't even get a major feast such as the Assumption right?) is that I, and a few other erudite friends, seem to be the only one who cares. So I must ask - why am I being forced to find better Liturgy in other churches, not in communion with Rome?

It seems to me that only in ''schismatic'' and ''heretical'' churches is the Sacred Liturgy done properly, and consistently. Why is this I wonder? Is it because they all see the errors of Rome, and are free from the yolk of any Romish influence? Yes, yes and yes (in most cases). Unfortunately very few Catholic Traditionalists are interested in historical liturgical accuracy at all, and are demonstrably not traditional in any meaningful sense. And so I am giving very serious thought to repudiating the Church of Rome utterly as irretrievably lost from Tradition. If the Church of Rome were the One True Church there would be no such thing as the liturgical books of 1962. In my days as a Traditionalist I was very unhappy, and I am unhappier still now, so is this really the way to live life as a Christian? At any rate I have long ceased to take any notice of modern Rome. The Sacred Liturgy is the yardstick of orthodoxy, not the latest innovation emanating from Rome. If justification for using Signum Magnum is deference to Munificentissimus Deus then I repudiate that bull as superfluous to the tradition of the Church and reject it utterly as fraught with lies and contempt for the Sacred Liturgy. I believe in the doctrine of St Mary's Assumption - but because the Sacred Liturgy bears witness to this Truth across the ages, not because the Pope said so when my grandfather was my age...
Still, I'm going clothes shopping now - I need a new Ralph Lauren polo shirt, and may buy a new pair of chinos to go with it...apart from Liturgy, Tolkien and Latin another favourite hobby of mine is shopping for myself...

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

To remember...

It's funny the things we remember. I was referred by my school to a Child Guidance Clinic when I was 5 years old - I don't know why, and the only answer I can get from my mother is that I was considered ''odd.'' One small oddity about me was that I was gifted at drawing - but only images of the Crucifixion. I drew nothing else, and this seemed curious to the child psychologist I saw. In fact I remember doing catechesis with my mother, and continually turning to a wonderful painting of Calvary and making a rough copy of it. I remember my first trip to the National Gallery I insisted on staring for minutes on end at Raphael's Mond Crucifixion - I had to be dragged away, and with great distress, by my grandparents, who offered me a Milky Bar. The first thing I ever drew that was not a Crucifix was a small Aspen tree I saw in a book. Curiously I found out later that a cherished tradition has it that Our Lord was nailed to the wood of an Aspen tree.

Perugino's Triptych is my favourite depiction of the Crucifixion. Not accurate like Duccio, nor overly grisly. This painting gives me hope.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Lector, si monumentum requiris...

Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press has put up an interesting post today about the Assumption (and I am flattered by the link to this small blog), which I encourage you to read. I also encourage you to read The Tridentine Rite (which is not used by him so liberally as by everyone else - it really is the rite of the Liturgy as it was in 1570), which, after the manner of the St Lawrence Press, gives a detailed outline of the Liturgy as it was yesterday, Sunday 2nd August (the Catholic Church used the Julan Kalendar until 1582). He mentions the alternative Collect Veneranda nobis, which I neglected to mention in my previous post, and two Epistles - something wholly new to me - used on alternate days throughout the Octave. Very interesting.

As I lay in bed last night thinking about the damnable heresies of Signum Magnum, and the implications of these propers for the doctrine of the Assumption itself, something struck me. Do ''traditional'' Catholics who use these propers year after year, and will continue to use them until they see reason, care more about what the Pope said in 1950, in isolation from the ancient witness to this doctrine of the Sacred Liturgy, or what the Sacred Liturgy itself has said for centuries? It seems to me that the will and whim of the Pope, whether he be right or wrong, matters more to contemporary traditionalists than the Sacred Liturgy. It is for this reason (and others) that I am not a traditionalist. I think that it is more expressive of the catholicity of the Church to use the old propers than using ones put together by pen-pushers in the Vatican in the lifetime of my grandparents - what better way of expressing that unison of belief and liturgy throughout the Church of all ages and places in the West than by using Propers so ancient and so beautiful? By using the modern ones you merely make deference to the reversal of the Lex Orandi by Pius XII, and you are in danger of heresy.

Munificentissimus Deus is not only wrong (you cannot arrive at the right conclusions where you get the arguments wrong) it is superfluous to Catholic doctrine - just another way of enhancing beyond his person the role of the Pope in the Church. It is not even about the Assumption, which is an ancient liturgical feast, it is about Papal authority to do what he wants. I believe in the doctrine of the Assumption because the Liturgy has bore witness to this doctrine a lot longer than the last 60 years of Papal teaching which has replaced Liturgy. It is shameful that no traditional church used Gaudeamus (if any readers know of any church that did, please leave a comment), and an absolute scandal.

I am reminded of this quote from The Lord of the Rings:

''At last, on the fifth morning since they took the road with Gollum, they halted once more. Before them dark in the dawn the great mountains reached up to roofs of smoke and cloud. Out from their feet were flung huge buttresses and broken hills that were now at the nearest scarce a dozen miles away. Frodo looked round in horror. Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had been, and the arid moors of the Noman-lands, more loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. Even to the Mere of Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come; but here neither spring nor summer would ever come again. Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.

''They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor: the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased beyond all healing - unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion. 'I feel sick,' said Sam. Frodo did not speak.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter II).

Of course, like Wren's tomb in St Paul's Cathedral, if you seek the monument to Pius XII, you merely have to look about you...

Saturday, 14 August 2010


On 1st November 1950 Pius XII published the bull Munificentissimus Deus, solemnly proclaiming the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God to be a dogma of faith. Whatever you might think of the dogmatisation of mysteries of the faith not necessarily involved in the doctrine of the Incarnation is not important here. Newman's theory that all the doctrines of Catholic faith resonate one from the other, being co-dependant, and that if one falls, the rest fall with it, is a fond fancy, and theoretically attractive, but I think it's slightly more complicated than that. Who knows every reflection, every possibility, of every mystery of our faith? I just marvel that the Church would proclaim a dogma of faith so late as 1950 - effectively anathematising those who, in the past, did not hold to the Assumption as so great a matter as Munificentissimus Deus makes it out to be. The same thing happened almost a hundred years previous, in 1854, when Pius IX proclaimed the Immaculate Conception a dogma of faith (an ex cathedra infallible teaching, but only with the consent of the Church curiously), which had been disputed by even the most distinguished among the Catholic theologians of the past - most notably St Thomas Aquinas, and the greater part of the Dominican Order. I think that the Assumption is a good and holy doctrine, with ancient liturgical witness, but that it is incidental to the Incarnation rather than intimately connected with it (by the way, I do not hold to so-called ''hierarchy of truths'' envisaged by the Second Vatican Council - I consider this concept to be philosophical codswallop - something is either true or false).

Munificentissimus Deus reads just like any other Papal document, rather pompous, boring and long-winded (I have actually read few Papal documents in their entirety before - I get bored with them, the style is generally atrocious, even in Latin, and one often looses one's train of thought whilst searching for a point), but it's certainly very interesting from a liturgical perspective. It had been three years since Mediator Dei, but already its pernicious fruits can be discerned. For the most part what Munificentissimus Deus says is true, but the conclusions are right where the premises are quite wrong. For example, the bull says:

However, since the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree, it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ's faithful.

I'm sorry but this is downright false, and can indicate one of two things: either Pacelli was entirely ignorant of the mind of the Fathers, or he was trying to destroy the Patristic tradition and remould it according to his own fancy. I have often wondered what Pius XII was trying to do when he reversed the ancient liturgical maxim lex orandi lex credendi, but by doing so he proudly proclaimed his liturgical heresy in the eyes of the Catholic world of the time, and of posterity. By reversing the ancient maxim, as Aidan Kavanagh OSB wisely said, he made a shambles of the dialectic of revelation, and established a precedent that would render Liturgy superfluous and altogether unimportant. Nowadays doctrinal orthodoxy seems to matter more than liturgical orthodoxy - orthodoxy itself has been torn asunder, and rendered alien to the Liturgy (I don't by any means suggest that doctrinal orthodoxy is unimportant, but I do think that doctrinally orthodox people have no business subordinating the Sacred Liturgy to grave abuses such as versus turbam celebrations, and Joe the Worker). When I wrote my last essay on Church history at University, I chose to dedicate it to the history of the Immaculate Conception, and my strongest argument in favour of the ancientry of this feast was its liturgical witness at Rome and elsewhere (it was after all a contribution of the English church to the Liturgy). One looks in vain for justification of a mystery of the Faith to the teaching of the Fathers alone; it is the Sacred Liturgy that forms the Christian man.

Following Munificentissimus Deus Pius XII authorised new Propers for the feast of the Assumption. Whether this is a residue of the reversal of that ancient maxim or just indicative of the ''who caresies'' approach to Liturgy, or just a misguided way of appraising the dogmatisation of the mystery, the new Propers are crap. The Introit, Signum Magnum (that famous verse from the Apocalypse) is entirely irrelevant to the Feast, and was probably introduced for the sake of having a Scripture quote for the sake of Scripture (a very Protestant attitude I must say), and while Introits are the descendant of a once complete Psalm, I find no evidence in the history of the Church that Introits had to be direct quotes from the Bible - the older, far more worthy, Introit was common to other Marian feasts such as Our Lady of the Rosary, and reads:

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino diem festum celebrantes sub honore beatae Mariae Virginis de cuius Assumptione gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum; dico ego opera mea Regi. Gloria Patri. (Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a feast day in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary, of whose Assumption the angels rejoice and together give praise to the Son of God. My heart hath noised a good word; I speak my works to the King. Glory to the Father).

Ironically my own '62 Missal has this Introit as a compliment to the rather crude illustration adjacent to the Propers, ''first class, white vestments,'' etc. The new Collect is arguably worse than the irrelevant Introit (which in all fairness is a verse from the Scriptures), and is too much to do with the doctrine (the erudite Fr Hunwicke over at Liturgical Notes has picked up upon this too) - it seems a rather enforced doctrinal domination of the Collect; doctrine dictating what the Collect says rather than vice versa. It says:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui Immaculatam Virginem Mariam, Filii tui Genetricem, corpore et anima ad caelestem gloriam assumpsisti; concede quaesumus ut ad superna semper intenti, ipsius gloriae mereamur esse consortes. Per Dominum. (Almighty everlasting God, who hast taken body and soul into heaven the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Bearer of thy Son, grant, we beseech thee, that by steadfastly keeping heaven as our goal we may be counted worthy to join her in glory. Through the Lord).

It's not even great Latin. The old Collect was a simple supplication to the mercy of God, that we can by no means gain merit of our own accord but rely upon the constant intercession of the Mother of God. It reads:

Famulorum tuorum, quaesumus, Domine delictis ignosce, ut qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valeamus; Genetricis Filii tui Domini nostri intercessione salvemur. Qui tecum vivit. (Indulge, we beseech O Lord, the delicts of thy servants, that we who may not please thee by our actions may be saved by the intercession of the Bearer of thy Son, our Lord. Who lives with thee etc).

Much better. There is no overt preaching here, it is self-evident and simple. The Liturgy does not exist to preach, but to seduce people into particpating in common activity of the highest order, where one is freed to learn things which cannot be taught (as said Kavanagh, thanks to my friend Rubricarius for alerting me to this timeless quote). The same can be said of the Gradual, Secret and Postcommunion prayers in the Old Rite - all of these suffered under the acid pens of Pacelli's team of beurocrats.

The Lessons for the feast have been changed, once again without warrant. The Epistle is now taken from the Book of Judith, and to my knowledge Judith was never a type of Mary. The Fathers had encyclopedic knowledge of the Scriptures, which you can glean from the fact that the Propers for many ancient feasts have texts from the remotest corners of the Bible. For example the older Epistle for the Assumption, taken from Ecclesiasticus, makes explicit reference to repose in the Lord. It seems here that the pen-pushers who put together the new unimaginative Propers got bored (I can just imagine one of them saying: ''what shall we have for lunch today?'' as they're all sat around a table playing God) and settled upon a text remotely reminiscent of St Mary. The Gospel has been changed from the highly significant Luke 10:38-42 (if not readily so significant - Gueranger says that even he doesn't know why the Church in ancient days settled upon this Gospel, but made recourse to the wise words of St Bruno of Asti, that Mary is symbolised in both these women, since she was both an active and a passive agent in the ministry of Salvation) to Luke 1:41-50, which is a once again overly obvious text about the blessedness of St Mary.

I need say no more, you get the general gist of it. What I find most sad, indeed I almost cried over it last night, was that the Old Rite will be celebrated in so few churches around the world, a handful I would guess, and that use of the modern inferior Propers is justified by obedience to the will and whim of the Pope in his office as teacher of all Christians. I do not doubt that the Pope has the authority to teach, but his teaching must conform to the Sacred Liturgy and be informed and guided by it. Munificentissimus Deus was a triumph of Papal supremecy over the Liturgy, not a triumph of Tradition over novelty, or Truth over heresy. I do not see that use of the Old Rite compromises the ''dogma'' of the Assumption - I would say just the opposite, that it is the best possible expression of belief in this dogma. Use of the inferior Propers degrades this most ancient and blessed of feasts, in honour of the Mother of God, and is indicative of that most tragic reversal of Tradition by Pius XII in Mediator Dei, supplanting the Liturgy of the Church with the will of the Pope.

To paraphrase George Orwell - if you want a picture of the Catholic Church, imagine a Papal slipper stamping on Tradition forever...

The above painting by Sassoferrato depicts Our Lady in Sorrow, as she must surely be year after year since that most grievous pontificate.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Traditional Ordinariate?

Two things, two quotes in fact, from The Lord of the Rings (although they are obviously not verbatim - kudos to any reader who can tell me which character utters them, and give a reference):

''And you?'' she said, turning to Sam. ''For this is what your folk would call the Tridentine Rite, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same term of the deceits of the Enemy.''

''I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the Liturgy as I care for it...''

One is hard put to it to find decent Liturgy nowadays, and those who provide Liturgy of a more traditional countenance very often disappoint in some way (I am not talking here about lace cottas, which I am willing to overlook sometimes, but consistency and faithfulness to Tradition - for example, why do traditionalists insist on organising High Masses for modern feasts such as the Sacred Heart or the Precious Blood rather than an older, more liturgically proper, feast such as the Nativity of St John the Baptist?) - I went to a church this year for the traditional Feast of Sts Philip and James, a sung Mass in fact, and expecting Miranda I was greeted by Caliban. Someone else suggested once that I go to a training conference in ''traditional Liturgy'' under the auspices of the Latin Mass Society - again, why would anyone think I'd be impressed by any of this? The '62 Rite is not the Old Rite - as a certain character aptly describes it in The Lord of the Rings - it is a deceit of the Enemy. The '62 Missal is not the last ''unreformed'' Missal before the Missal of Paul VI, with a few unnoticeable reforms and curtailments here and there - it is an aberration. Certain traditionalist organisations, who sponsor the liturgical books of 1962 officially, are as far removed from Tradition as the tambourine-waving yokels in the nearest parish - and I am not niggling about minor points here but real ruptures in liturgical tradition, with pernicious consequences.

Another quote from The Lord of the Rings:

'''And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!' he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. 'I said we, for we it may be, if you will join me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.'

'''Saruman,' I said, 'I have heard speeches of this kind before, but only in the mouths of emissaries sent from Mordor to deceive the ignorant. I cannot think that you brought me so far only to weary my ears.''' (The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter II).

In other words, I am not prepared to go along with the '62 Rite with the ultimate goal of one day (in some far distant day) being free to have the real Old Rite unhindered by legal positivists and the '62 police, and people who counsel me otherwise are just as bad as emissaries sent out of Mordor to deceive the ignorant. If someone gets fed up with liturgical abuse and turns to a traditionalist organisation for decent Liturgy, and that ''traditionalist'' organisation provides them with the '62 Rite, which as readers are no doubt aware was only the middle-stage in a well-planned and thorough reform of the Roman Rite, that organisation is guilty of deception, hypocrisy and other grave sins. You cannot remedy faults and abuses in the New Rite by recourse to the liturgical books of 1962 - this is counterproductive; by this logic firemen would extinguish house-fires with more fire.

For all these reasons (and I have long ceased to communicate with traditionalists) what would my readers say to the idea of setting up a truly traditional Ordinariate? A society where one didn't have to put up with things like lace cottas, which make a travesty of Liturgy...We would try to have days devoted to the singing of the Office, we would use the Old Roman Rite (with Communion under both kinds), follow the Julian Kalendar, use the traditional surplice (and for great feasts have the Acolytes in tunicles and the cantors in copes)...but sadly this is not very realistic. Very few people think like me, and all these things cost money, and like so many other good things it would soon wane...

The above painting, by the Tolkien illustrator Ted Nasmith, depicts my escape from the LMS (although I never was a member)...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Tu es Petrus...

Summorum Pontificum famously says that you do not need permission, indeed you never needed permission (numquam abrogatam and all that nonsense - methinks that Pope Benedict needs revision), to use the liturgical books of 1962. Apart from the obvious shortcomings of just about everything about this utterance (the liturgical books of 1962 were juridically abrogated, successively, throughout the 1960s - apart from things like Sacram Liturgiam 1964, the New Order of Mass 1965 etc, one can just take for granted as a rule of thumb that a previous edition of the Roman Missal is replaced by a new one) it does shine light on this very modern Roman understanding of the Papacy, a residue (not cleaned up by Lumen Gentium) of the Ultramontane mentality of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Summorum Pontificum says ''no permission necessary'' - but by implication it says that you do need permission (that of the Pope), because it envisages a scenario of before and after; before being where the diocesan bishop had some semblance of his former dignity in his own diocese (a scenario denigrated by Traditionalists), and after where the authority of the diocesan bishop is compromised by the latest Papal decree. Are we beginning to see a reversal of the, in my opinion, healthy reaction against the centralized Papacy since the 1960s? It seems to me that Rome's typical response (I say typical because it has always had the same response, from St Leo's Tome to Nicholas' interference in the Ignatian scandal) to dissent is simply to reassert Papal authority, without really dealing with the issues. ''Obey Rome no matter what,'' seems to be the mentality here.

St Cyprian of Carthage took the famous Tu es Petrus verse in St Matthew's Gospel to mean the authority possessed in each see by the bishop of that see. In fact in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy the bishop (just like the Abbot in a monastery) represents Christ among us, hence the removal of the Blessed Sacrament whenever a bishop celebrates Liturgy, and the curious placement of the Bishop's throne in the apse of the Church, where he presides over the assembled faithful (this does not mean that Mass was ever celebrated facing the wrong way - and you either celebrate Mass facing the right way or you don't - a Crucifix and a row of candles mean nothing). If as Catholics we take the verse to refer to Christ's promise of unique authority on the Bishops of Rome we naturally read the verse in the light of this tradition, but it's certainly interesting if we consider Summorum Pontificum from an actual liturgical and scriptural perspective rather than an authoritative or bureaucratic one. Summorum Pontificum denigrates the authority of the Bishop in his own diocese (leaving aside for now what we might think of our own bishops), partly because the general thrust of SP is towards private celebrations of Mass. I may have become lost here but does not SP render Pontifical liturgy superfluous?

It is a fact that most of Christianity has some objection to the Papacy, to one degree or another. My chief objection is to Papal mutilation of Liturgy, which is blindly accepted by most Catholics woefully ignorant of Liturgy. If you're of Ian Paisley's persuasion (not necessarily Protestant though) you think that all popes are Antichrists, exalting themselves in the Church of Christ and perverting the Christian doctrine. If you're a mainstream Protestant you may just have reservations about confessing that your identity as a Christan is mediated by the Pope (especially since Roman Canon Law states that the definition of schism is refusal of submission to the Roman pontiff). If you're some form of ''heretical'' Catholic in communion with Rome (the ''spirit of Vatican II'' type) you may just quietly (or not) repudiate the contents of Pastor Aeternus, Munificentissimus Deus etc as superfluous to the Gospel. If you're a moderate Orthodox you cling to the age-old Orthodox perception of the Bishop of Rome as the primus inter pares of the Bishops, speaking on matters of faith and morals with the consent of the Tradition of the Church and the collegial ratification of the rest of the episcopate (some Orthodox fall into the Ian Paisley category though). My view is that this is an unrealistic and underdeveloped understanding of primacy, but my personal relationship with the Bishop of Rome is more enhanced.

One of Fr Z's famous quips is that Pope Benedict XVI is the ''pope of Christian unity.'' I understand that there was a discussion on his blog recently about the exercise of the Petrine ministry in the Church, and different hermeneutics of primacy (I never read it, but it's interesting that his latest podcast disappeared). I would beg to differ on this point. My view is that while the intentions of the Pope are well his approach to the Ecumenical movement has been misguided at best. The decision to drop the title Patriarch of the West (whilst retaining such titles as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff) was a mistake in my opinion, since this title is especially relevant theologically to Western-rite Catholics. We all have a different relationship with the Pope. If you live in Rome he is local bishop, Metropolitan, Archbishop, Patriarch and Pope all at once. If you're an English Catholic he is neither local bishop nor Metropolitan, but merely Pope and Patriarch. If you are an Eastern-Rite Catholic he is merely Pope. So is there a Western Patriarchate anymore? The loss of the title seems to have enhanced his other titles beyond their respective proportions - it seems that the Pope thinks that he is Patriarch not only of the Western provinces, but of the Universal Church. No wonder the Orthodox objected to this move (as I did at the time, and still do).

To heal an internal schism Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications on the Lefebvrists, and no doubt one of the aims of Summorum Pontificum was the healing of this schism. Again I think this was a bad move, and it was certainly unfortunate that the Williamson (whom we all knew was a nutcase even before his latest controversy) affair happened in the immediate aftermath. I have a very low opinion of the Lefebvrists - because I think they are liturgically inept, I cannot understand a mentality that would prefer schism to unity of the Church, and most Lefebvrists espouse a pseudo-Sedevacantist mentality. I do not want communion with them, and would certainly never communicate in their churches. They seem more interested in reviving untraditional and prejudiced understandings of Ecumenism than the Sacred Liturgy, which for me is the flash-point in the modern crisis in the Church. The celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is as much a summons to unity of the Church as it is to unity with the Risen Christ. Sadly the Lefebvrists use the liturgical books of 1962, which can only work greater evil in the Church. I do not think that the Holy Father will ever be reconciled with them, and this is something I do not lament.

Then we have the Ordinariates. I know one or two Anglo-Catholics (close friends of mine) who have expressed little interest in this Ordinariates scheme. I sympathise with them, really. I have counselled them that the grass is no greener on this side of the Tiber, and certainly coming over to Rome entails picking up a lot of baggage (acceptance that the Pope can do whatever he wants for instance), and why bother with that when you can have traditional Catholic Liturgy without having to worry about what the Pope says? Leaving these questions aside for the moment, let us consider conversion. Conversion is a highly personal matter, and entails serious prayer, meditation and thought. The Ordinariates scheme seems to compromise this, and seems to be a way of annexing the Church rather than coming into communion completely - being theologically and liturgically Anglican, but in communion with Rome. I am highly suspicious of mass-conversions like this. At least in 1994, when there was a huge influx of Anglicans into the Catholic Church because of the ordination of women, these were more ''personal'', although lots of them later went back. Again this seems to be a serious modern fault with Rome. I have puzzled many Traditionalists by going off recently to various churches for decent Liturgy, churches that are not in communion with Rome. Why does it matter more who you are in communion with than what you believe? If a church not in communion with Rome can manage to get the Lex Orandi right, then I see no problem in participation in their Liturgy. I personally think that the Ordinariates will fail. I think this because liturgically-minded Anglicans coming into the Church will be highly disgusted by most Catholic clergy and their parishes.

Deep down I think that Summorum Pontificum will eventually render the union of the churches impossible, as if it wasn't bad enough before that. It clings to a false understanding both of Liturgy and Papal primacy. The liturgical books of 1962 are pernicious and divisive, and the primacy exercised in its promulgation renders the authority of the local bishop naught; what more sublime expression of the catholicity of the Church was there than in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy with the Bishop? I could have said more but I am already late for work...perhaps more in the comment box!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Bagme Bloma...

According to Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R Tolkien contributed some thirteen poems to the collection Songs of the Philologists. Some are mildly satirical, whilst others (such as this one) display Tolkien's remarkable linguistic erudition. The poem, called Bagme Bloma (a birch poem, meaning ''Flower of the Trees''), is in the Gothic language (once a Western liturgical language), especially beloved of Tolkien, and which is known chiefly through a fragmentary translation of the New Testament (perhaps an erudite reader might tell me: who was the only Gothic Bishop at the Council of Nicaea, 325?). Of the 54 words of this poem, 35 are actual Gothic words. The rest are based on erudite ''guess-work'', based on comparative philology and common root-forms in Old English and related Germanic languages. Wasn't it Robert Taft who said that like philology, Liturgy is a comparative study, and one can scarcely claim to be a ''liturgist'' knowing only one tradition as one can claim to be a philologist knowing only one language. At the end of his life Tolkien had mastered 28 languages. That gives you a measure of the man who is, I may say, dishonoured by the film ''trilogy''...

I digress. Here is the poem:

Brunaim bairiþ Bairka bogum
laubans liubans liudandei,
gilwagroni, glitmunjandei,
bagme bloma, blauandei,
fagrafahsa, liþulinþi,
fraujinondei fairguni.

Wopjand windos, wagjand lindos,
lutiþ limam laikandei;
slaihta, raihta, hweitarinda,
razda rodeiþ reirandei,
bandwa bairhta, runa goda,
þiuda meina þiuþjandei.

Andanahti milhmam neipiþ,
liuhteiþ liuhmam lauhmuni;
laubos liubai fliugand lausai,
tulgus, triggwa, standandei.
Bairka baza beidiþ blaika
fraujinondei fairguni.

The birch bears fine leaves on shining boughs, it grows pale green and glittering, the flower of the trees in bloom, fair-haired and supple-limbed, the ruler of the mountain.

The winds call, they shake gently, she bends her boughs low in sport; smooth, straight and white-barked, trembling she speaks a language, a bright token, a good mystery, blessing my people.

Evening grows dark with clouds, the lightning flashes, the fine leaves fly free, but firm and faithful the white birch stands bare and waits, ruling the mountain.

This translation is by Tom Shippey, the erudite (albeit atheist) Tolkien scholar. I am of the (unpopular) opinion that you cannot really understand Tolkien unless you think like a Catholic - that is a Catholic of Tolkien's disposition. Tolkien was no Ultramontanist (he was vastly more intelligent than that), although during the dread years of his life's end he could think of nothing better than to pray for the Pope. I wonder what went through his mind as he saw the rapid collapse of traditional Liturgy. Sometimes when I think of those years I am more angry for proto-Traditionalists like Tolkien than anything else. Imagine Tolkien's experience of Palm Sunday, 1956...

Saturday, 7 August 2010


''Gay'' is a word that gets bandied about so much that I consider the term entirely meaningless. In the playground it seems to mean all manner of things - stupid, geek, even homosexual(!). The Oxford English Dictionary (alas I do not in fact own a copy) lists a plethora of meanings. I was often called ''gay'' at school, in the land of Philistia - usually by ignorant gargoyles when they had lost an argument with me. It is so often the case with people (and this mentality is not solely limited to school children) - someone is different in some way (in my case, in many ways) and they are demonized. But what is it about ''homosexuality'' that people are so reviled by it? I have met many morally disgraceful people - liars, cheaters, thieves, people who fornicate and masturbate wantonly, people who are generally dim-witted (you'll find this class of people around football stadiums and a lot of pubs - I also, to my sorrow, happen to work with a lot of them), who froth at the mouth at homosexuality as though such men are afflicted with some grievous and hideous malady, and which is contagious in some way. I would like to know exactly how lying is any different, or masturbation...

It just so happens that many of the greatest men who ever lived would now be considered homosexual. Socrates was a deeply pious man, the archetypal philosopher; Michelangelo is the greatest of all artists; Oscar Wilde, a very witty and urbane man (with a double first in Literae Humaniores from Oxford) - although such men as these belonged to a superior Classical pederastic tradition. I think that their peculiar inclination, this Mos Graecorum, strongly influenced their art and philosophy. Could Michelangelo have made so wonderful a David were he not so inclined? Try explaining this to the Philistines though...

Nunc scio quid sit Amor...

Begin with me, my flute, a song of Maenalus!
Within our garden hedge I saw you - I was guide for both - a little child with your mother, gathering dewy apples. My eleventh year ended, the next had just greeted me; from the ground I could now reach the frail boughs. In the moment I saw you I lost my heart, and a fatal frenzy swept me away.
Begin with me, my flute, a song of Maenalus!
Now I know what Love is; on naked rock Tmarus bore him - or Rhodope, or the farthest Garamantes - a child not of our race or blood!
(Virgil, Eclogues VIII).

Friday, 6 August 2010

Fancy dress...

Yesterday I went to see an old friend in Middlesex and we had a great time - we had a few Gin & Tonics, Chinese food, beer, and played fancy dress. The above photo is of me wearing my friend's polyester cassock-alb thingy. I later remarked that it was almost as traditional as wearing a lace cotta (he, too, despises lace ornamentation)...

Now this photo depicts the celebrated liturgist and Church historian Adrian Fortescue with his retinue of (mostly adult) Servers. Notice that they're all wearing the traditional Surplice (although some of them are quite short). Fortescue derides Dale for constantly using Italianisms such as predella, cotta, bugia etc. Similarly O'Connell says that if lace is to be used at all it is to be used with the greatest restraint. How many traditional parishes follow their advice I wonder?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A Gnome...

...in the proper sense of that term. I find it interesting that there is nearly always something ''wrong'' with a genius - Mozart probably had Asperger Syndrome, Socrates was a pederast (like Michelangelo), Cellini, the greatest goldsmith who ever lived, experimented with every possible vice, Milton suffered with an extreme kind of puritanism, the mathematician John Nash has schizophrenia. As Wilde himself famously said: ''Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.''

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Gandalf the umpire?

''Well, here we are at last!'' said Gandalf. ''Here the Elven-way from Hollin ended. Holly was the token of the people of that land, and they planted it here to mark the end of their domain; for the West-door was made chiefly for their use in their traffic with the Lords of Moria. Those were happier days, when there was still close friendship at times between folk of different race, even between Dwarves and Elves.''

''It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned,'' said Gimli.

''I have not heard that it was the fault of the Elves,'' said Legolas.

''I have heard both,'' said Gandalf; ''and I will not give judgement now. But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me. I need you both. The doors are shut and hidden, and the sooner we find them the better. Night is at hand!'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter IV).

St Ethelwold of Winchester...

Leaving aside the question of the Julian Kalendar for the time being, today is the feast of St Ethelwold of Winchester, who was a friend and contemporary of St Dunstan, and one of his disciples at Glastonbury. Around A.D 950 he founded a strict Benedictine monastery at Abingdon and in 963 St Dunstan consecrated him Bishop of Winchester. He went on to found many monasteries throughout England, notably Ely and Peterborough. He died in 984.

He is not celebrated in the Universal Church, so you will look in vain for him in the Ordo, but I am very much in favour of local kalendars personally, even local liturgical books. In my opinion, not every saint in the Universal Kalendar is worthy of universal veneration, and many saints of local status are even holier, wiser and more heroic than many of these (not that I am any judge of personal holiness). St Ethelwold's Collect, very fine in my estimation, runs as follows:

O God, on this day You caused new light to shine forth among the glorious stars of heaven for the English people in the brilliance of Your holy bishop Ethelwold. Humbly we beseech Your mercy that as we recognise his teaching and authority throughout our land, so may we be formed by his example and protection. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Ghost, unto the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Portiforium of St Wulfstan).

The above photo is of the old arches of Abingdon Abbey, a disheveled vision of that which has been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time. I wonder what Liturgy was like there?