23 February 2010


The act, not the gift.

I have resigned from every post I hold by virtue of my being a Catholic: diocesan this, parish that, school the other. I offered to remain in post to help break the law, assuming the Bill being debated today becomes law, but my generous offer has been politely declined.

Is this what Henry's time felt like?

21 February 2010

Some Good News

I'm not much of a joiner, mainly because joining something implies signing up to a checklist of things, and I often find that while I'm happy with some of them, I'm not with the rest; or it might be that the tone of the list is a bit too peremptory or too didactic. I blogged ages ago about looking for a successor to The Spectator and I've still not found one, because nothing really talks straight to me: I buy the Catholic Herald most weeks, but it's a mixture of duty and to read Stuart Reid, Mary Kenny and Dear Fr Tim; I buy The Oldie, but I end up wishing Alan Coren was still editing Punch.

This is a long-winded way of explaining why I'm considered a bit of a lukewarm Tridentinist, and why I've never joined, for example, the Latin Mass Society. I love the EF, and in particular I love serving it (something I do increasingly regularly as I seem to have become a "cotta for hire" locally, especially as the hire is free) but I'm not a proselytiser for it: my family have never attended an EF Mass and show no interest in ever doing so, and I can't get too bothered because they show a reciprocal interest in attending OF Mass. The LMS feels like an organisation that is after people a bit more militant than me: people who will take a stand, people who are prepared to be apologists and stand at some version of Speakers' Corner; that's not me.

The priests I serve for tend to come from a different starting place. There isn't one of them who will entertain a question like "Which form of Mass do you prefer?" if the question expects a binary OF versus EF answer. These are priests who say Mass reverently, in accordance with the rubrics, and whose job is to re-present God's Sacrifice of His Son at the Altar every day. Some masses are quieter, and verging on the silent; others are louder and verging on the completely sung. Some Masses have a choir and organ; others have a "music group" and an infinity of instruments. Some Masses have many people in the congregation; at others the priest might have nobody but his server. OF or EF just doubles the variety of possible answers (though to be fair, I've not yet attended EF Mass with a folk group). There are two forms of the Roman Rite, and they say them both, and ordinarily they use the OF, and extraordinarily they use the EF.

This, to me, seems like a healthy way of escaping from the prison of thinking that the "Spirit of Vatican II" is the way that VII has to be defined. This is Benedictine Catholicism (and might in fact, if I were to really study the matter, be a fruit of JPII Catholicsm which loosed off new movements left, right, and centre, in an apparent bow to the spirit of VII, but really in a way of guaranteeing a rainbow of orthodox and unliberal witnesses to the Catholic Faith, but let's save that for now) and the way ahead, in that we learn about how we have come to where we are, and understand what we have brought with us. It also removes the Mass from the battlefield of "liberal versus trad" dialogue, and moves the discussion towards the degree to which we have to engage with the modern world, based on a foundation of sound Liturgy in both forms.

So what is all this wittering about? Well, I was talking to a mate earlier, who asked me if I had seen this from Fr Michael Brown, or this from Fr Bede Rowe. It turns out that more than 5% of the active diocesan priests from the Clifton Diocese have just come back from an FSSP retreat, and that this number does not include all of the EF-celebrating priests from that Diocese. Every single one of these priests is like the ones I serve for: they say OF Masses in their parishes for OF-loving Catholics all the time; yet they have also understood that the Church in England and Wales has been heading further and further into a cul-de-sac in which social action has replaced worship as the shibboleth for Catholic identity.

Look at the picture accompanying both of these articles: the priests aren't all young; they aren't all dressed like nineteenth century French PPs: they are just priests, and magnificently so. But in one of the south coast Dioceses, the clergy are on the march.

The future's bright, and the future isn't orange.

18 February 2010

Why I Don't Subscribe To Sky

Yes, it's Joe Biden, but it's Sky I'm talking about. (Hint: the segment was from yesterday, Ash Wednesday.)

Imagine paying these people!


15 February 2010

A Cold Day Out

Goodness only knows what the temperature was, but the cold, damp, north-easterly tore into us as we walked up through the village towards the hill
Walking back down much later we noticed that we had changed quarter, but the wind hadn't.

A cup of tea in a cafe was very welcome.
What's this walking lark all about?

10 February 2010

The Long Arm Of The Pope

About a year and a half ago I posted here a YouTube video of a bunch of young men who defended by saying the Rosary and by not allowing themselves to be provoked the Cathedral of Neuquen in Argentina from a major demonstration of pro-abortion feminists. Their Bishop had shouted at them (the men, not the demonstrators) to go away, but they stood their ground heroicly.

It turns out that some time later the Bishop, Marcelo Melani, a Salesian who is not due to retire until 2013, was told that if he wanted to present his resignation early Rome would not stand in his way.

He didn't take the hint.

He now has a Coadjutor.

How do we find out who was responsible and persuade him to look at some dioceses of the south of England?

09 February 2010

Usus Antiquior

I had decided that it was time to stop posting about matters liturgical or theological that I had thought about when I realised that whatever illumination I had just had was something Michael Davies had written about in 1986, and had expressed far better than I ever would. The other dawning realisation was that I was coming across what was wrong with the way the OF was being performed: all the negative reasons for believing that there are real problems with the way the OF is being celebrated.

And there was no alternative: I can read Fr Fortescue's "The Mass" and learn a lot, but he was writing in 1912 and a) our knowledge has moved on a lot since then, and b) it's not 1912 any more: it's 2010.

This b) is my beef not just with the SSPX but also with quite a few of the in-communion-trads one comes across: you can't turn the clock back and pretend it's 1962, or 1955, or 1911, or whenever. What has gone has gone for ever, and if you try to reconstitute it, you have to accept that what you have is something new, however much it looks like what was there before. (Pierre Menard, Autor del Quijote by Jorge Luis Borges says all of this much better in one of the best short stories of the twentieth century, by the way.)

So a subscription to Usus Antiquior was a bit of a gamble: would it have anything new to say, or would it be a rehash of the battles of the sixties and seventies? The answer, loud, triumphant, and clarion-like is"the former".

The articles are not for the faint-hearted: they take no prisoners. This is not "Noddy goes to Trent". They made me work hard to ensure that I understood what point they were trying to make. But what riches! Among the things I particularly valued were the slops that overflowed from the great depths of learning on display: things you all no doubt know, but that I didn't; why and how the binatarianism of the Roman Canon reflects its extreme antiquity, for example. But the depths are profound: learning what Octaves are for is a major piece of knowledge I now have which I never had before: a starting point for future journeys deeper into my Faith.

This journal will become an essential catechetical resource for anybody who wants to explore and learn about the traditional Roman Rite from a non-polemical 21st Century viewpoint. And, if you are like me, it will help you pray the Mass more, and better.

07 February 2010

Why SU4V2 Might Win

You'd think that a bunch of self-confessed wrinklies with heretical attitudes would be bound to fail, wouldn't you. This is what the Chair of the meeting has written as part of a discussion:

"The meeting looked and felt like an inclusive church. There were religious and priests, women with priestly vocations, gays, justice and peace activists, Catholic women activists and, most importantly, laity from the pews. Without rancour, without bitterness, without polemics, with wry humour, with committment to and love for their church, they spoke up about the way parishes are run by one man only; about the lack of adult formation in the faith; about the infantilisation of the laity, and about how that and other aspects of current catholic 'churchianity' affect the Church's apostolic mission to the world. "

It's not hard to deconstruct, especially as religious, priests, women with priestly vocations, gays, justice and peace activists and women activists are contrasted with laity from the pews. Their Church is divided into the "doing" class and the "done to" class, and from this point of view, their checklist of beliefs and aims becomes coherent.

Barking! Howling! Let's have a good laugh at them and then carry on regardless. Well, we can, but if we do, they'll win. "We" here means JPII and B16 Catholics: not Vatican I, but not Vatican III either. We are indefinable as a group, other than by some statement such as "Orthodox Catholic". (There's no such thing as "just Catholic" unless you want to pretend that the FSSP and SU4V2 are the same thing.) We are actually a vey loose coalition of separate groups.

What shall we call them? Inspired as they are by the spirit of Vatican II, can I call them Spiritualists? I doesn't matter: they have many names, many guises, but they are united. Disunited, they will perish, so they will stay united, for as long as they are allowed to do so.

They control the levers: the diocesan curias, Catholic education, Catholic charities, everything to do with the Bishops' Conference; they control the Catholic press, with the exception of the Herald (but they infest the Herald's letters page). All of this apparatus is aimed at furthering their spiritualist agenda; none of it is aimed at furthering the Pope's.

The only way that "orthodox Catholics" are going to win is if we can persuade our Bishops to take the lead and live and breathe the Pope's agenda and inspire us with it.

04 February 2010

Waiting For News

Until the Bishops start "writing their news" about what they did while they were in Rome, we won't have much of an idea about what happened or about how it happened. My guess is that the "narrative" still has not been agreed; that some faces might need more saving than was first thought.

Nevertheless, Archbishop Nichols' widely reported slapdown of The Tablet suggests that at the very least he is beginning to feel confident that he is in command, that he has a staff which will support him. Is that just in Westminster or is it throughout E&W? In a sense it's good news either way. Either the Hierarchy has seen the writing on the wall, and ++Vincent can lead them back together to where they should have always been; or we have a real split, and he can lead us out of it, showing up the stuck-in-the-seventies enemies of progress for the problems that they are.

So Pastoral Letters first, and then the arrangements for the Papal visit. Things are beginning to move.