Sunday, January 31, 2010

People Power

Now I have to admit I've watched the footage of the protest at Thiberville, Evreux, more than once. Oh, all right. I confess! I did it at least ten times - and I took certain pleasure in it. Indeed, it was not alone, but with others, that I indulged, joyfully and knowingly, in the vice of watching some of the faithful- finally having had enough of their bishop- absolutely hitting the roof. For those of you who haven't seen the footage the highlights include a general booing of the bishop, tugging at his vestments, face to face confrontations, and a general exodus. All this during the ceremony to farewell a long loved pastor and to instigate a new regime. You see the parish of Thiberville may have just been a teensy bit conservative for their ordinary. Whatever the reality of it all, and I'm sure there's fault on both sides (probably heresy for the bishop and some form of gallicanism for the laity) the question still remains; 'Should we publically protest against our bishops?' At the outset I have to say I find it slightly dubious that such a demonstrative protest should happen in front of the Tabernacle. One can only hope that the outgoing parish priest had the sense to remove the Blessed Sacrament from the church before it was used for profane purposes. Anyhow it does seem that it was 'tit for tat' (probably in multiple senses) as the bishop allegedly seems to have tried to interrupt a later celebration of Mass by the priest, in another Chapel, and had to be shown the door.

Two thoughts for the moment. The image of the Christ's cleansing of the temple comes to mind. Certainly the 'gentle Jesus meek and mild' 60s ideology doesn't fit well here. Surely the faithful need to be encouraged to deal with their leaders in a manner that it is likely to get results rather than a hurriedly word processed non committal acknowledgment via that faulty fax machine in the bishop's office. Quite obviously, in Evreux, enough was enough. May that lot of the faithful lead the way for others to dare to give some voice to their anger. Secondly the faithful do have a serious responsibility to protest against error and injustice not only in the world in general (and haven't we heard enough about that in the last 40 years) but also in 'localised' cases including bishops. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Perhaps indeed it is more than a simple responsibility for we find in the writings of St John Chrysostom an absolute gem of apposite wisdom. For he held that it was actually sin not to protest against unorthodoxy.
So when you find a dreary liberal berating you about respect for the episcopacy just remind them of what they thought of civil disobedience all those years ago. The strange look on their face may either mean it's either time for cocoa and 'beddy byes', or the pills haven't kicked in yet, or perhaps, and just perhaps, they might be beginning to realise that their whole new world order is perched to collapse and it's all that gorgeous 'people power' that is going to do it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A mighty fortress

I've recently made friends with a sturdy Latin Mass Community facing certain difficulties. It's a group which extends up to, say, 50 to 70 of the faithful, travelling considerable distances to get to a regional Mass centre several hundred miles from a major city. Yet this isolated group punches with some force. One member is highly prominent in Right to Life, another in local politics, and a third may well provide a very necessary boost to jobs available in the area. It looks like the supply of a priest for Mass even on a weekly basis is going to be difficult. It's pointless moaning about the local priests who could help them out- they're all too compromised by the herd mentality of the NO clergy. The one who could be targeted to some use seems to hide behind lock doors twitching the curtains and trembling whenever one of the LMS crowd come knocking at the Presbytery door. With their regular priest ailing at the moment they are forced to rely on a foreign priest to get the basics allowed them by Summorum Pontificum.
Well, of course, my first thought- skeptic as I am- is that perhaps one of the greater urban centres could forego a High Mass for a Sung Mass for the sake of their country cousins. Just a possibility there- this is what is happening. Secondly perhaps somebody reading this post will know of somebody who might be able to help out for a Sunday or two. Then they, like the visiting priest, can spend three working days of time organising the permissions needed to say one Mass. Finally, and here I really enter cloud cuckoo land, the diocesan bishop responsible for this group of the faithful could just arrange for Mass to be said. What a wicked thought! Apparently it might detract from the lay led Communion service available with ease in the same chapel.

The picture, by the way, is 'symbolic' and is several hundred miles away from the valiant group. Entries on a postcard.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sage words

Fr Ray Blake ( My advice to the Pope's MC ), in his wise and timely manner, opens up the question of reverence for the presence of Our Lord during Holy Mass. There is a total non sequitur between what we as Latin Catholics believe and what has become, as he points out almost with a sigh, the norm. Now here I could speculate about the coming together of Western and Eastern ideals into some sort of warm and fuzzy oecumania but we just know that this whole business of standing for holy communion in the West has got nothing to do with the unity of the body of Christ but rather the bitter attempt of the modernist wing to steer belief away from the eucharistic species and diffuse it around some sort of circular hierarchy of presences during Mass. This defective notion existed before Vatican II, is reflected within the documents immediately infected by Vatican II, and has been repeated so many times since that it seems even the most 'sound' of theologians will just presume it has some sort of basis in historical Church belief.
Unfortunately to not receive the sacred species at Mass has become some sort of embarassing ecclesiastical social faux pas in much of the West. Good Heavens! Somebody might actually think we've sinned if we don't follow the rest of the sheep and join the line! How absolutely shymaking! I just don't dare to refrain no matter what profanity, or scandal, might be caused. Ecclesiastical whitewashing in other words. It's on this point that I love the traddies- it's straight forward- sin on the soul means no communion. They're not big whatever's blouses- they are prepared to admit that they muck up and sin and fall short of the glory of God.
There is certainly a problem and 'practical liturgists' (and other terrorists) will continue to point out the difficulties in giving holy communion to large numbers. Well there's a simple solution; stop general communion. We lived without it for a millenia or so before. I'm sure Papal Masses could cope with it now.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A voice in the wilderness

Now I've been privileged (or otherwise) to exercise my priestly faculties on three continents. This means I've been exposed to the foibles of three quite distinct breeds of clergy. All of them, of course have sub species, and a few mutations to boot. The clergy of the Far East generally display a gentle reserve and respect their superiors whilst quietly planning their downfall. The clergy of the United States probably can be typified by saying what they mean but not getting what they want. Largely the bishop is an anachronistic nuisance to be agreed with when necessary. In Australia the distances mean that bishops can be rather, shall we say, transcendent. There's a saying out there that the best parish is 200 miles from the nearest bishop and 400 from the nearest female religious. Despite the safety of distance the Australian clergy tend to fume in silence about their episcopacy.

In the United Kingdom the clergy show the greatest reserve. Appearances in the street are not frequent and their natural habitat (at least the urban sub species) is more likely to be in the sitting room with a glass of sherry. It's rare to get them saying anything that would actually commit themselves in the public forum to a credal formula let alone criticise somebody higher up the ecclesiastical food chain. And yet just for a moment yesterday something flashed its way across cyberspace that suggested a thaw in the impassivity of those interminable clerical facebook cam shots was about to happen.

'It's been 40 years without a decent bishop's appointment' (or words to that effect) came the wail from a man who is not known for histrionic outbursts. Fr X, for he must remain that (and the outburst seems to have been pulled), is a hard working type ministering in not the most salubrious part of London and quietly supporting the generation of clergy yet to come by his wisdom, kindness and generosity. It's the sort of priest I'd like to be if I could ever muster the patience.

Be it or not a momentary outburst he does have a point. If there were league tables the English bishops would rather lag in the international league. I guess the kindest thing to say is that England has not yet escaped the monopoly of 'pastoral' appointments favored by a desperately ineffective nunciature. The verdant leafiness of Wimbledon is a far cry from harsh practical reality of the Norfolk Broads. Higher degrees are rather rare and certainly Roman studies almost unheard of among their ranks. The forthcoming ad limina visit has become viewed as an inevitable oncoming collision where the petty politics of the alumni of the Venerabile will pit their wilting wits against the much greater intellects lining up to face them in Rome.

Fr X's plea for a decent bishop is a simple request. All England needs at the moment is one decent episcopal appointment. The wise placing of a man who can pray and read and look after his people and stand up to his brethren. All it will take is one man's appointment to break the strangle hold of the insidious Magic Circle Club (otherwise known as the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales) and the light may begin to shine again. Now I'm just as much a coward in all this business so I think it's just as well Fr X, bless him, pulled his little outburst. He may not only herald a crack in the ecclesiastical detente in England but I suspect he may be the best man for the job that needs to be done.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Now remind me. Where did I leave it?

You might remember that it's sometime around this time of year that the first issue of the new journal Usus Antiquior is due to sneak it's way through our snail encrusted slots (courtesy of Royal Mail or whoever) and into our collective traditionalist bosom. Don't hold your breath. I suspect there may be some delay before the editor sole, Dr Hemming, manages to put together enough material of academic credibility to pad it out. I'm afraid blow-ups between traddies and their petty jealousies have undermined what could have been quite a good independent journal of scholarly work on the rites we love. Instead those of us who subscribed in advance find ourselves potentially chained to what now proclaims itself 'a journal of the Society of Saint Catherine of Siena.' (see This shouldn't be confused with the excellent Saint Catherine's Educational Trust (see which works hard to provide traditional Catholic educational opportunities in Britain. The Society of Saint Catherine, rather, is a Dominican sponsored group centering on the work of Dr Hemming and his friends. Dr Alcuin Reid, who thought the whole idea of the journal up in the first place, does not seem to be counted amongst these friends any more (nor are several important board members and contributors). Perhaps it's time for those who have already forked out good cash to the publisher, Maney (see, to seek a clarification on whether their hard earned traditional cash is actually going towards traditional purposes or being redirected into the hands of yet another dreary liturgy magazine perched, philosophically, astride Ockam's razor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Railing for tradition

Well today's thought does have some theological significance. Once we've reclaimed the building just how far shall we go? At what speed should we travel, to put the place back into some decent Christian order. (At this point feel free to mentally insert your favourite before and after shots). In particular how quickly can the altar rails return?

Now, of course, the weeping neo-cons will want us to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of whatever remnant of the nervous ordo faithful are still dragging their zimmer frames down the nave (and presumably around the altar). The Diocesan buildings commitee will, no doubt, want to do some 'inputting' on appropriate restoration, i.e. making sure that things are made as difficult as possible for the celebration of the traditional rites whilst still staying within the letter of the liturgical law. But the traddies? Well, no surprises, it seems that even on this point we can offer an opportunity for playing 'Who's got the biggest cheque book?'

Expect to be frisked from several sides.
Admire and listen to: (1) The DIY traddy brigade (salt of the earth type-forever with a hammer to hand). Fresh from whipping up the new confessionals they see no reason to break the bank on this one. Fair enough and some sympathy from me.
Beware of : (2) The aesthete traddy brigade (men, probably of a certain age, and with a nasty experience at the seminary). There can be no alternative to a complete reconstruction of what used to be there. The fact that your 'worship centre' was built after 1970 should not be considered a problem.
Dont forget: (3) The timid traddy brigade (the vast majority). They don't give a hoot what's there as long as their poor knees get some support as they kneel to receive our Lord. They're just glad to get a Mass at last and I suspect their's is the Kingdom of Heaven.

A Mouse roaring over Melbourne.

It seems like I'm not the only one suffering from musical opinions. Even in that general ecclesiastical musical wasteland called Australia the fur on the feriolas (or perhaps should that be ferulas?) is flying. For the latest exciting hissy fit see Yet another example of wasted talents bleating and fretting about something that is unlikely to increase the flow of traffic through the pearly gates! Bah and humbug!


I've just got caught up, by accident, in a little skirmish over Church Music. It's rather ironic as I'm rather well known for not liking music at Mass. Call me old fashioned but 'I just want an old fashioned Mass with an old fashioned priest and an old fashioned Sanctus Bell.' (pace Miss Kitt et. al.). If you have been following the postings on various liturgies offered around Rome this week you can certainly be impressed by the clerical presence and the size and beauty of the orchestras and choirs but all these wonderful pics and youtube melting moments curiously seem to shy away from revealing exactly how many of the faithful were present for such 'embarassments of riches' in the mid afternoon.

It's about time the question be asked. Are we spending too much time on the peripherals of the form of the Mass we love? Surely there are more important things to be dealt with- like a traditional concern for Church teaching, or a traditional concern for the poor, or a traditional concern for decent education? Is the traditional 'machine', dare I say the growing Usus Antiquior Industry, been hijacked to supply a living to yet another generation of ecclesiastical artisans who wouldn't darken the door of a weekday low Mass at 7 am?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Coming down from the altar of God

This blog starts after a particularly gruelling weekend slaving over a hot altar. You would think that gaining access to the Usus Antiquior would be considered a major plus in a very average parish but, no, the traddies have got so used to complaining, that they just have to find something, or somebody, to pick on. By Sunday evening the sentiments of the Reverend Frederick Rose (vide Rolfe's Hadrian VII) were resounding around what was left of my rationality; 'loving the faith' and 'hating the faithful' seemed quite a reasonable proposition.

Well you can pick your cause; Gothic versus Roman, Polyphony versus Plainchant, High versus Low. It seems some traddies are just not happy unless they're miserable. Just as well. They've got a lot of purgatory to look forward to. So will I for that matter for my own lack of charity.