Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

21/03/2017 - 10:26

2017 Launching a new Confraternity in Scotland: May 13

Further details from

The event will take place in Bannockburn, Stirling, and the proposed format is as follows:

From 10am (TBC): Holy Hour concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament;
11am: Procession from Holy Spirit Church to Our Lady & St Ninian's Church with traditional devotions;
12 noon: Sung Mass;
2pm: Inaugural Meeting to formally establish the Archconfraternity.

13 May will be the 100th anniversary of Our Lady's 1st Apparition at Fatima so we will also incorporate the devotions necessary to obtain the plenary indulgence associated with the centenary.

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16/03/2017 - 09:39

The Government bans independent midwives: in the Catholic Herald

I've been trying (with some success) to get Catholic and pro-life news outlets to take an interest in the shocking story of the banning of 'independent' midwives in the UK: that is, midwives who are employed by individual women to assist them in giving birth, rather than the NHS or a private hospital or 'birth centre'. Independent midwives had a fantastic safety record, but the Government regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, has told them their insurance is 'inadequate': just not what 'adequate' actually means.

Why is this a Catholic story? Because the culture of the NHS is far from pro-life, and independent midwives offer a client-focused alternative. In the NHS women routinely face pressure to have abortions, pressure to limit family size after Caesarian sections (which is related to pressure not to have a natural birth after a section), pressure to limit family size for any and no reason, pressure to stop having children after a certain arbitrary age (you can be 'high risk' at 35), and a patronising and totally out of place pep-talk on contraception, which is apparantly a legal obligation following childbirth. Independent midwives are not as a group committed to any special pro-life principles, but they have the freedom to care about their clients and genuinely respect their choices and values. If you are having a tough time with the NHS on any of these issues, they are a safe harbour. But no longer.

If you want to protest, see the website 'Save Our Midwives' for suggestions. The story has also appeared in Church Militant.

From the Catholic Herald.

In preparing for the birth of our first child, we considered all the available options. Our research was not reassuring. Expectant mothers could talk to midwives, but it may not be the one who would assist at the birth. There was a birthing pool, but it might not be available when the moment came. Yes you can give birth at home, if a midwife was free. When it comes down to it, the mother’s preferences and plans for birth might, or might not, have some application when labour starts

Our friends’ experiences of the NHS didn’t reassure us either, and it seems they were not untypical. A recent study reported women feeling unsafe and frightened while in NHS facilities, describing their experience as being treated “like cattle” or being “on a conveyor belt”.
See the rest there.

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15/03/2017 - 10:27

Shaming men into virtue: a text-book case from Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh writes:

How can we expect our children to be righteous, to be generous and disciplined and faithful and godly, if their own father has not provided a demonstration of those traits? How can we demand virtue in others that we can hardly locate within ourselves? How can a real man rely on his wife to carry this burden alone or primarily? We, as men, are called to be the spiritual light to our family. When we engage in weak, shameful, selfish and childish behaviour, we dim the light. After a while, the light goes out altogether and our family is left to stumble around in the darkness. This is one of the many reasons why we need to reject porn and other vices, all which serve to lessen us, emasculate us and extinguish the light.
Well it is true, of course, but is this really the best way to inspire men to take up their role, as Walsh puts it, of 'leadership'? And what kind of 'leadership' does this, in fact, suggest? So far, it is just one of example. An example of suffering. Sounds a bit like a doormat, doesn't it?

Fathers and husbands should be sources of wisdom. But wisdom is the final product. The ingredients are knowledge, experience, and faith. Many of us have almost completely neglected two of those components and are just hoping that one day wisdom will miraculously sprout out of our heads like a magical beanstalk. I don’t think it works that way.
'Many of us' is an interesting phrase. The reader is invited to identify himself in it, but it is also a generalisation about men in general. Men combine ignorance with arrogance. Hang on a mo! Are these the people Walsh thinks have a divine mandate to the role of leadership in their families? Does that make sense?

CS Lewis says that Heaven is an acquired taste. I think something similar could be said of fatherhood and family life. The average 18-year-old, especially in today’s culture, has no taste for it because he simply cannot conceive of what it means to find actual joy in serving and leading others. He seeks only superficial pleasure and cannot comprehend any other kind. This is how most of us live until we have families.
At one level this is demeaning to the minority of men who do not live hedonistically and irresponsibly before marriage. They do exist. I know quite a few. What are they supposed to think when they read this? Which they are far more likely to do than the other kind. But don't worry: they are used, from the mainstream Church, to the patronising assumption that they are, nudge nudge, all deep sinners and have characters shaped by this reality.

At another level, the tone Walsh has adopted is far more dangerous. It displays absolutely zero sympathy with or comprehension of the boys and young men who have fallen into the habits of the dominant culture of our time. They cannot comprehend the pleasures of family life? I confess this makes me angry. Walsh is talking about young men who have been deprived of family life in their own childhoods, who long for family life as adults, and who are prevented from establishing anything resembling traditional family life by economic and cultural conditions which they are powerless to change. Walsh's response is to blame them. Right, yes, those unemployed guys in the sink-estates, they are the ones who passed the Divorce Act in 1968, who destroyed blue-collar jobs in the 1970s, and taught women that to accept the authority of a husband is shameful. They did this somehow before they were even born. Yes, blame them, Matt, it seems to make you feel better. But it won't help them out of their problems, which are real problems, not just middle-class hang-ups you can snap out of.

So what has Walsh not said in this post?

He has said nothing about the nature or purpose of male leadership, or the (presumably, good) qualities of men which adapt them to take this role on. The suspicion of many readers, whether they articulate it this way or not, will be that he doesn't have a real conception of male leadership at all, but just thinks men ought to allow themselves to be exploited: this is, after all, the message of the majority culture. This is, of course, part of what has created the problem Walsh identifies with the hedonistic young men, because it makes family life unattractive.

Walsh sees at least the symptoms of the problem, and does his best to make it worse. Catholic apologists really should stop doing this.

See my post on The Economist on the 'man crisis', and the label 'Patriarchy'.

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14/03/2017 - 10:16

Pilgrimage to Caversham 2017: photos


Our Lady and St Anne, Caversham, houses the official Marian Shrine of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, crowned by Papal mandate: the shrine image is below.




It was the Ember Saturday of Lent, and we had five 'prophecies', Old Testament readings, before the Epistle and Gospel, rather like the Easter Vigil.





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11/03/2017 - 20:13

Me on Newsnight: last night

Last night I was, briefly, a talking head on Newsnight, talking about Pope Francis. The main problem was to get the presenter - and, I suppose, the audience - to have the smallest understanding of the concept of Catholic doctrine, what the Pope's function is, and what schism means. That didn't really leave much time for anything else.

In the UK you can see the whole programme online here, from 18:30 - 22:16 mins:
They've put a little clip on Twitter:
Maybe someone can let me know if the whole thing goes up on YouTube.

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10/03/2017 - 10:00

The empty Imperial throne

Over on Rorate Caeli I've posted an article by James Bogle, former FIUV President, LMS Committee member and author of a book on Bl Charles of Austria, on the role formerly played by the Holy Roman Emperors (and indeed by the Christian emperors of Rome) in Church affairs, and the consequences of the disappearance of the Emperor from Europe's life.

It is easy to point to periods of conflict between Pope and Emperor. Conflict is inevitable over time and itsn't always unhealthy. What is worse than the conflict between the two pillars of Christian society, the spiritual and the temporal, is the disappearance for practical purposes of one side of the conflict: the disappearance of lay leadership in the Church. This is a point discussed in the FIUV Position Paper on the Extraordinary Form and the Laity.

It is not that the Pope since 1918 has made himself the Emperor; it is that the Catholic Emperor's power has been taken by people outside the Church.

I was very struck recently reading Valentin Tomberg's discussion of the symbolic meaning of the figure of the Emperor. He wrote, in part:

Europe is haunted by the shadow of the Emperor. One senses his absence just as vividly as in former times one sensed his presence. Because the emptiness of the wound speaks, that which we miss knows how to make us sense it.

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08/03/2017 - 10:31

Pray for the Pope

Alwys a good idea, never more so than now. From my 'Chairman's Message' in the latest Mass of Ages, the quarterly magazine of the Latin Mass Society.


Pope Francis, like all Popes, faces great challenges and difficulties; at the current moment of crisis much depends on his words and actions. This seems a good time to renew the practice of regular prayer for the Pope. The prayer below, from the 1953 Manual of Prayers, approved by the Bishops of England and Wales, can also be used publicly after Prayers after Low Mass. (I have added the name of Pope Francis.)

For the Sovereign Pontiff

V. Let us pray for our holy Father the Pope.

R. The Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

Let us pray.

O Almighty and eternal God, have mercy on thy servant Francis, our Pope, and direct him according to thy clemency into the way of everlasting salvation; that he may desire by thy grace those things which are pleasing to thee, and perform them with all his strength. Through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

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06/03/2017 - 10:04

Declaration on Sacred Music

I'm a signatory of this declaration; I'm cross-posting the below from Rorate Caeli.


In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Instruction Musicam Sacram (promulgated March 5, 1967), a Declaration on Sacred Music Cantate Domino, signed by over 200 musicians, pastors, and scholars from around the world, is published today in six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German). This declaration argues for the continued relevance and importance of traditional sacred music, critiques the numerous serious deviations from it that have plagued the Catholic Church for the past half-century, and makes practical suggestions for improving the situation.

Readers are encouraged to read the text (reproduced below in full) and to disseminate it far and wide as a rallying-point for Roman Catholics who love their great heritage, and for all men and women who value high culture and the fine arts as expressions of the spiritual nobility of the human person made in God's image.


A Statement on the Current Situation of Sacred Music

We, the undersigned — musicians, pastors, teachers, scholars, and lovers of sacred music — humbly offer this statement to the Catholic community around the world, expressing our great love for the Church’s treasury of sacred music and our deep concerns about its current plight.
Cantate Domino canticum novum, cantate Domino omnis terra (Psalm 96): this singing to God’s glory has resonated for the whole history of Christianity, from the very beginning to the present day. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition alike bear witness to a great love for the beauty and power of music in the worship of Almighty God. The treasury of sacred music has always been cherished in the Catholic Church by her saints, theologians, popes, and laypeople.
Such love and practice of music is witnessed to throughout Christian literature and in the many documents that the Popes have devoted to sacred music, from John XXII’s Docta Sanctorum Patrum (1324) and Benedict XIV’s Annus Qui (1749) down to Saint Pius X’s Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), Pius XII’s Musicae Sacrae Disciplina (1955), Saint John Paul II’s Chirograph on Sacred Music (2003), and so on. This vast amount of documentation impels us to take with utter seriousness the importance and the role of music in the liturgy. This importance is related to the deep connection between the liturgy and its music, a connection that goes two ways: a good liturgy allows for splendid music, but a low standard of liturgical music also tremendously affects the liturgy. Nor can the ecumenical importance of music be forgotten, when we know that other Christian traditions — such as Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Eastern Orthodox — have high esteem for the importance and dignity of sacred music, as witnessed by their own jealously-guarded “treasuries.”
We are observing an important milestone, the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, Musicam Sacram, on March 5, 1967, under the pontificate of Blessed Paul VI. Re-reading the document today, we cannot avoid thinking of the via dolorosa of sacred music in the decades following Sacrosanctum Concilium. Indeed, what was happening in some factions of the Church at that time (1967) was not at all in line with Sacrosantum Concilium or with Musicam Sacram. Certain ideas that were never present in the Council’s documents were forced into practice, sometimes with a lack of vigilance from clergy and ecclesiastical hierarchy. In some countries the treasury of sacred music that the Council asked to be preserved was not only not preserved, but even opposed. And this quite against the Council, which clearly stated:
The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song, and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord. Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship. (SC 112)

The Current Situation

In light of the mind of the Church so frequently expressed, we cannot avoid being concerned about the current situation of sacred music, which is nothing short of desperate, with abuses in the area of sacred music now almost the norm rather than the exception. We shall summarize here some of the elements that contribute to the present deplorable situation of sacred music and of the liturgy.
1. There has been a loss of understanding of the “musical shape of the liturgy,” that is, that music is an inherent part of the very essence of liturgy as public, formal, solemn worship of God. We are not merely to sing at Mass, but to sing the Mass. Hence, as Musicam Sacram itself reminded us, the priest’s parts should be chanted to the tones given in the Missal, with the people making the responses; the singing of the Ordinary of the Mass in Gregorian chant or music inspired by it should be encouraged; and the Propers of the Mass, too, should be given the pride of place that befits their historical prominence, their liturgical function, and their theological depth. Similar points apply to the singing of the Divine Office. It is an exhibition of the vice of “liturgical sloth” to refuse to sing the liturgy, to use “utility music” rather than sacred music, to refuse to educate oneself or others about the Church’s tradition and wishes, and to put little or no effort and resources into the building up of a sacred music program.
2. This loss of liturgical and theological understanding goes hand-in-hand with an embrace of secularism. The secularism of popular musical styles has contributed to a desacralization of the liturgy, while the secularism of profit-based commercialism has reinforced the imposition of mediocre collections of music upon parishes. It has encouraged an anthropocentrism in the liturgy that undermines its very nature. In vast sectors of the Church nowadays there is an incorrect relationship with culture, which can be seen as a “web of connections.” With the actual situation of our liturgical music (and of the liturgy itself, because the two are intertwined), we have broken this web of connection with our past and tried to connect with a future that has no meaning without its past. Today, the Church is not actively using her cultural riches to evangelize, but is mostly used by a prevalent secular culture, born in opposition to Christianity, which destabilizes the sense of adoration that is at the heart of the Christian faith.
In his homily for the feast of Corpus Christi on June 4, 2015, Pope Francis has spoken of “the Church’s amazement at this reality [of the Most Holy Eucharist]. . . An astonishment which always feeds contemplation, adoration, and memory.” In many of our Churches around the world, where is this sense of contemplation, this adoration, this astonishment for the mystery of the Eucharist? It is lost because we are living a sort of spiritual Alzheimer’s, a disease that is taking our spiritual, theological, artistic, musical and cultural memories away from us. It has been said that we need to bring the culture of every people into the liturgy. This may be right if correctly understood, but not in the sense that the liturgy (and the music) becomes the place where we have to exalt a secular culture. It is the place where the culture, every culture, is brought to another level and purified.
3. There are groups in the Church that push for a “renewal” that does not reflect Church teaching but rather serves their own agenda, worldview, and interests. These groups have members in key leadership positions from which they put into practice their plans, their idea of culture, and the way we have to deal with contemporary issues. In some countries powerful lobbies have contributed to the de facto replacement of liturgical repertoires faithful to the directives of Vatican II with low-quality repertoires. Thus, we end up with repertoires of new liturgical music of very low standards as regards both the text and the music. This is understandable when we reflect that nothing of lasting worth can come from a lack of training and expertise, especially when people neglect the wise precepts of Church tradition:
On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple. (St. Pius X, Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini)
Today this “supreme model” is often discarded, if not despised. The entire Magisterium of the Church has reminded us of the importance of adhering to this important model, not as way of limiting creativity but as a foundation on which inspiration can flourish. If we desire that people look for Jesus, we need to prepare the house with the best that the Church can offer. We will not invite people to our house, the Church, to give them a by-product of music and art, when they can find a much better pop music style outside the Church. Liturgy is a limen, a threshold that allows us to step from our daily existence to the worship of the angels: Et ídeo cum Angelis et Archángelis, cum Thronis et Dominatiónibus, cumque omni milítia cæléstis exércitus, hymnum glóriæ tuæ cánimus, sine fine dicéntes...
4. This disdain for Gregorian chant and traditional repertoires is one sign of a much bigger problem, that of disdain for Tradition. Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches that the musical and artistic heritage of the Church should be respected and cherished, because it is the embodiment of centuries of worship and prayer, and an expression of the highest peak of human creativity and spirituality. There was a time when the Church did not run after the latest fashion, but was the maker and arbiter of culture. The lack of commitment to tradition has put the Church and her liturgy on an uncertain and meandering path. The attempted separation of the teaching of Vatican II from previous Church teachings is a dead end, and the only way forward is the hermeneutic of continuity endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI. Recovering the unity, integrity, and harmony of Catholic teaching is the condition for restoring both the liturgy and its music to a noble condition. As Pope Francis taught us in his first encyclical: “Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory” (Lumen Fidei 38).
5. Another cause of the decadence of sacred music is clericalism, the abuse of clerical position and status. Clergy who are often poorly educated in the great tradition of sacred music continue to make decisions about personnel and policies that contravene the authentic spirit of the liturgy and the renewal of sacred music repeatedly called for in our times. Often they contradict Vatican II teachings in the name of a supposed “spirit of the Council.” Moreover, especially in countries of ancient Christian heritage, members of the clergy have access to positions that are not available to laity, when there are lay musicians fully capable of offering an equal or superior professional service to the Church.
6. We also see the problem of inadequate (at times, unjust) remuneration of lay musicians. The importance of sacred music in the Catholic liturgy requires that at least some members of the Church in every place be well-educated, well-equipped, and dedicated to serve the People of God in this capacity. Is it not true that we should give to God our best? No one would be surprised or disturbed knowing that doctors need a salary to survive, no one would accept medical treatment from untrained volunteers; priests have their salaries, because they cannot live if they do not eat, and if they do not eat, they will not be able to prepare themselves in theological sciences or to say the Mass with dignity. If we pay florists and cooks who help at parishes, why does it seem so strange that those performing musical activities for the Church would have a right to fair compensation (see Code of Canon Law, can. 231)?
Positive Proposals
It may seem that what we have said is pessimistic, but we maintain the hope that there is a way out of this winter. The following proposals are offered in spiritu humilitatis, with the intention of restoring the dignity of the liturgy and of its music in the Church.
1. As musicians, pastors, scholars, and Catholics who love Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, so frequently praised and recommended by the Magisterium, we ask for a re-affirmation of this heritage alongside modern sacred compositions in Latin or vernacular languages that take their inspiration from this great tradition; and we ask for concrete steps to promote it everywhere, in every church across the globe, so that all Catholics can sing the praises of God with one voice, one mind and heart, one common culture that transcends all their differences. We also ask for a re-affirmation of the unique importance of the pipe organ for the sacred liturgy, because of its singular capacity to elevate hearts to the Lord and its perfect suitability for supporting the singing of choirs and congregations.
2. It is necessary that the education to good taste in music and liturgy start with children. Often educators without musical training believe that children cannot appreciate the beauty of true art. This is far from the truth. Using a pedagogy that will help them approach the beauty of the liturgy, children will be formed in a way that will fortify their strength, because they will be offered nourishing spiritual bread and not the apparently tasty but unhealthy food of industrial origin (as when “Masses for children” feature pop-inspired music). We notice through personal experience that when children are exposed to these repertoires they come to appreciate them and develop a deeper connection with the Church.
3. If children are to appreciate the beauty of music and art, if they are to understand the importance of the liturgy as fons et culmen [source and apex] of the life of the Church, we must have a strong laity who will follow the Magisterium. We need to give space to well-trained laity in areas that have to do with art and with music.  To be able to serve as a competent liturgical musician or educator requires years of study. This “professional” status must be recognized, respected, and promoted in practical ways. In connection with this point, we sincerely hope that the Church will continue to work against obvious and subtle forms of clericalism, so that laity can make their full contribution in areas where ordination is not a requirement.
4. Higher standards for musical repertoire and skill should be insisted on for cathedrals and basilicas. Bishops in every diocese should hire at least a professional music director and/or an organist who would follow clear directions on how to foster excellent liturgical music in that cathedral or basilica and who would offer a shining example of combining works of the great tradition with appropriate new compositions. We think that a sound principle for this is contained in Sacrosanctum Concilium 23: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”
5. We suggest that in every basilica and cathedral there be the encouragement of a weekly Mass celebrated in Latin (in either Form of the Roman Rite) so as to maintain the link we have with our liturgical, cultural, artistic, and theological heritage. The fact that many young people today are rediscovering the beauty of Latin in the liturgy is surely a sign of the times, and prompts us to bury the battles of the past and seek a more “catholic” approach that draws upon all the centuries of Catholic worship. With the easy availability of books, booklets, and online resources, it will not be difficult to facilitate the active participation of those who wish to attend liturgies in Latin. Moreover, each parish should be encouraged to have one fully-sung Mass each Sunday.
6. Liturgical and musical training of clergy should be a priority for the Bishops. Clergy have a responsibility to learn and practice their liturgical melodies, since, according to Musicam Sacram and other documents, they should be able to chant the prayers of the liturgy, not merely say the words. In seminaries and at the university, they should come to be familiar with and appreciate the great tradition of sacred music in the Church, in harmony with the Magisterium, and following the sound principle of Matthew 13:52: “Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
7. In the past, Catholic publishers played a great role in spreading good examples of sacred music, old and new. Today, the same publishers, even if they belong to dioceses or religious institutions, often spread music that is not right for the liturgy, following only commercial considerations. Many faithful Catholics think that what mainstream publishers offer is in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding liturgy and music, when it is frequently not so. Catholic publishers should have as their first aim that of educating the faithful in sane Catholic doctrine and good liturgical practices, not that of making money.
8. The formation of liturgists is also fundamental. Just as musicians need to understand the essentials of liturgical history and theology, so too must liturgists be educated in Gregorian chant, polyphony, and the entire musical tradition of the Church, so that they may discern between what is good and what is bad.
In his encyclical Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis reminded us of the way faith binds together past and future:
As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance. Yet this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken. We see how faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope. (LF 9)
This remembrance, this memory, this treasure that is our Catholic tradition is not something of the past alone. It is still a vital force in the present, and will always be a gift of beauty to future generations.  “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Is 12:5–6).

Signed (partial list)

Mº Aurelio Porfiri
Honorary Master and Organist for the Church of Santa Maria dell’Orto, Rome
Publisher of Choralife and Chorabooks, Editor of Altare Dei

Peter A. Kwasniewski, Ph.D.
Professor & Choirmaster
Wyoming Catholic College, WY, USA

Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider
Auxiliary Bishop of Astana
President of the Liturgical Commission of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of Kazakhstan

The Most Reverend Rene Henry Gracida, D.D.
Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi

Abbot Philip Anderson 
Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey
Hulbert, Oklahoma, USA

Rev. Prof. Nicola Bux
Priest, Archdiocese of Bari
Professor of Eastern Liturgy and Sacramental Theology

Sir James MacMillan C.B.E.
Composer and conductor

Peter Phillips
Founder and Director of the Tallis Scholars
Publisher of the Musical Times
Bodley Fellow, Merton College, Oxford
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

Colin Mawby, K.S.G.    
Liturgical Composer and Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral 1961–1977

Kevin Allen
Chicago, IL, USA

Frank J. La Rocca, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Music, Oakland, California, USA

M° Giorgio Carnini 
Organista, compositore e direttore d’orchestra
Presidente Associazione Camerata Italica
Direttore artistico del festival e progetto “Un organo per Roma”
Buenos Aires; Roma

Prof. Giancarlo Rostirolla
Musicologo, Ricercatore, Accademico
Presidente dell’Istituto di Bibliografia Musicale
Direttore Artistico della Fondazione Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

William Peter Mahrt, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Music, Stanford University, Stanford, California
President, Church Music Association of America

David W. Fagerberg
Professor, Department of Theology
University of Notre Dame

Dr. Joseph Shaw
Senior Research Fellow, St Benet’s Hall, Oxford University
President of the Latin Mass Society of England & Wales

Martin Mosebach
German novelist & essayist
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Roberto Spataro
Docente ordinario Università Pontificia Salesiana
Segretario della Pontificia Academia Latinitatis

Dottor Ettore Gotti Tedeschi
Economista e banchiere

Prof. Dr. Massimo de Leonardis
Ordinario di Storia delle relazioni internazionali
Direttore del Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Milano – Italia

Rev. George William Rutler, M. St. (Oxon.), S.T.D., LL.D.
Pastor, Church of Saint Michael
New York City, New York

Rev. Brian W. Harrison, OS, MA, STD
Associate Professor of Theology (retired), Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
Chaplain, St. Mary of Victories Chapel,
St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Rev. Thomas M. Kocik
Parish Priest, Fall River, Mass., USA
Past Editor, Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal

Rev. Richard G. Cipolla
Pastor, St. Mary’s Church
Norwalk, CT

Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.
Professor Emeritus
Georgetown University
Washington, DC, USA

Prof. Pier Paolo Donati
Direttore di “Informazione Organistica”
Già docente di Storia della Musica all’Università di Firenze

Rev. John Zuhlsdorf
Madison, WI, USA

Vytautas Miskinis
Composer, Conductor, Professor
Artistic Director of Boy’s and Male Choir AZUOLIUKAS
Professor of Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre
President of Lithuanian Choral Union

Wilko Brouwers
Utrecht Center for the Arts
Gregorian Circle Utrecht

Scott Turkington
Director of Sacred Music
Holy Family Church & Holy Family Academy
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Jeffrey Morse
Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge

Rev. J. W. Hunwicke
Priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
sometime Head of Theology, Lancing College
formerly Senior Research Fellow, Pusey House, Oxford

Right Reverend Archimandrite John A. Mangels
St. Augustine Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, Denver CO, USA
Founder of the Ambrosian Choristers

Christopher Mueller
Founder & President
Christopher Mueller Foundation for Polyphony & Chant

Massimo Lapponi O.S.B.
Monaco sacerdote professo dell’Abbazia Benedettina di Farfa
già docente di Etica e Filosofia della Religione presso il Pont. Ateneo di Sant’Anselmo

Patrick Banken
President of Una Voce France
Vice President of the International Federation Una Voce

(The full list of over 200 signatories is available here.)

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04/03/2017 - 10:00

What exactly is wrong with sex ed for four-year olds?

There is a lot this weekend in the Catholic press and online about a proposal to establish mandatory sex education in schools for children from the age of four. Since the reasons Catholics and others are worried about this are not always articulated very clearly, I thought I would try to set at least some of them out.

The problems can be summarised under three headings: the content of typical sex education; the classroom context in which this education is delivered; and the role of the state vis-a-vis parents. In this post I'm only going to talk about the first of these, the content, although the others are important as well.

Interviewed alongside SPUC's excellent Antonia Tully, a certain Lucy Russel (sp?) on BBC Radio Cardiff (listen here), who campaigns for sex education (sounds an interesting job), tried to reassure listeners about the proposal by saying that, of course, it would be 'age appropriate'. Four-year-olds would not be told about sex positions, but about 'holding hands', and asked about whether they were comfortable with people holding their hands and so on.

This is helpful because it reminds us that, contrary to many claims made about sex ed, it is not primarily about giving young people necessary information. No useful biological information is going to be imparted to four-year-olds. With older children the sex ed programme competes with an avalanche of information available off the internet. (There are ways of stopping this flow of information, at the level of the state and of the family, but the sex ed people show little interest in doing this.) No doubt there are gaps in information gleaned at random from Google, but the educators' most urgent task, as they see it, is to set the information children are getting anyway into some kind of moral or ideological context. The reason the sex ed industry wants to get their hands on children as young as this is to lay the foundations for their favoured ideology of relationships.

I want to make as clear as possible that the educators' concern is a comprehensible one, before I show what the problem is with their response. The problem which is emerging among young adults is a sexual culture which is totally amoral, in which people seek to satisfy desires fuelled by pornography, with the help of dating aps like Tindr, without any regard for the harm which may be done to their partners or offspring. The task set by the Government for sex education is to place some kind of moral restraint on this culture, by insisting on 'responsible parenting' (i.e. contraception), and a concern for consent in sexual relations.

It should be noted that the common criticism that state-sponsored sex ed is 'values free' is the reverse of the truth. It is of course impossible to give values-free education: even the choice of what information to impart reflects and fosters certain values, namely judgements about what is important--that is, valuable--and what is not. Sex ed, indeed, is as much as possible a purely values-focused education. You can see why they don't shout this from the housetops, however, since if you admit that what you are going to do is to inculcate a carefully-engineered set of values to children as young as four, who clearly have few resources to assess or reject what is offered or decide for themselves, then it inevitably raises the question, from parents, of whether these values correspond to their own.

So let's take a closer look at the values, which can best be described as an ideology of relationships. What the Government wants is fewer 'unwanted pregnancies' and fewer rapes. Admirable aims, one might think, in themselves, but in the interests, I suppose, of efficiency, they try to take the shortest possible short-cut to achieve this. The problems with promoting contraception should be obvious to the readers of this blog, so I'll focus on the question of rape, which is what is ultimately at issue with the education in hand-holding to be given to four-year-olds.

The way to combat rape, the reasoning goes, is to emphasise the importance of consent. But in order to make the message more palatable, and not look like an old-fashioned taboo (which, of course, it is), this message is accompanied by the constant reiteration of the idea that, given consent, everything is ok. The need for consent is the only limit on the morality of sexual acts, or, to express this in a different way, you can do whatever you (and the other people involved) are 'comfortable' with. If you don't feel comfortable with a particular proposal, you can and should say 'no'. If you do feel comfortable, then go ahead, that's fine (with the appropriate contraception in place, naturally).

One problem with this, which could easily be missed, is that it is unlikely that either the people who created this ideology or those who deliver it in classrooms actually believe it. It is in fact only believed by sexual libertines of an almost sociopathic extreme; ordinary men and women have at least a troubled conscience about sexual infidelity, for example, and promiscuity, and much more than that about incest, bestiality, and a few other things which I hardly need to mention.

If you don't believe me, just consider what reaction you would get if you called the average 25-year old woman a slut. She will reveal a certain moral sensitivity to that accusation: she cares about whether her sexual standards are perceived as too low. For it is not just a personal thing, a matter of taste, how many people you choose to sleep with: it is something which has a social importance, which is reflected in the way that others view you. Or so your 25 year-old friend will explain, a little breathlessly, when she has finished crushing your skull with the nearest blunt instrument.

It is a problem that the teachers delivering the message do not believe the message, both because it is an indication that the message is not readily believable, and because they will not make good advocates for it. The core message of sex ed is actually make-believe, which is part of the reason it does not have the effect on children that its designers hoped it would have. It is a sort of official ideology to which everyone must pay lip-service, but which everyone snaps out of as soon as they are off-duty.

Another problem with the ideology is that it is undermining of many legal limitations on sexual freedom, particularly the age of consent. When footballers go to bed with 15-year-olds they do so after more than a decade of education in the maxim: 'if there is consent, then it is ok'. Internalising this message can land you in prison for a long time.

Another problem is raised by domestic abuse. Thanks to the 'Fifty Shades' books and films, sado-masochism must be officially ok: it's just a matter of consent, isn't it? Whatever kind of brutalisation or humiliation is involved, it is all empowering and feminist-approved if there is consent. The problem is that within an abusive relationship the concept of consent can get a little over-stretched. Did I just write 'abusive relationship'? The sex ed ideology wants to replace any objective notion of an abusive relationship with a subjective understanding: it is ok if both parties consent. If everything comes down to consent, if there are no objective criteria (clinical depression? bruises?), you are literally handing a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card to a sufficiently manipulative abuser. The use of psychological pressure to establish and maintain some kind of 'consent' is the very first thing that happens in abusive relationships.

Even worse is the related problem of child abuse. As Caroline Farrow puts it at the end of her post on the subject, sex ed as we know it is a 'groomers’ charter', because it undermines children's natural sexual reserve. The idea is that the best way to protect children from abusers is to emphasise to the children that they have the right to say 'no'. This plays into the hands of the abusers, however, who want nothing better than an opening for conversations with their targets in which these intimate matters can be frankly discussed, and their 'consent' winkled out. It isn't real consent, of course, because, as the law correctly says, young children are incapable of giving consent to sexual acts. You'd think that this would be enough to throw doubt on the idea that they need to hear about nothing but consent, consent, consent, all the time in sex ed. In any case, what the abuser of children, like that of adults, typically wants is some form of guilty acquiescence, and he (or she) is going to have the best chance of getting it if the child thinks that the only thing wrong with a proposed act is his or her own feelings of discomfort, which may be alleviated by familiarity.

What the child needs to know is that the paedophile's proposals are wrong and that people who make those proposals are bad people. What an adult in an abusive relationship needs to know is that a partner's cutting them off from their family and friends, psychological degradation, and physical assaults, are wrong and the person who is doing does not, really, love them. You might assume that our modern sex educators would be keen to tackle these problems, but what they are doing is handing the keys to the trust and intimacy of the most vulnerable over to manipulative abusers.

Riddle me this, you sex ed campaigners. If a young woman does not feel comfortable about performing a sex act, but feels even more uncomfortable about enduring peer pressure, bullying, and ostracism, if she does not perform it, and accordingly, after considering the matter, performs the act: what sort of consent was that? Sex education, by robbing her of any objective moral compass apart from her own decision to do it or not do it, has opened her up to blackmail and manipulation like an oyster. And the reality is that performing sexual acts on demand for the school bullies is not good for young people's self esteem, personal development, or mental health. I want to say to these sex ed people: you idiots, can't you see what you are doing?

It is a sad day for education when proposals like this are taken seriously, but the current situation has been a long time in development. Parents need to find out exactly what their children are being exposed to in sex education in school, and take responsibility for protecting their children.

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03/03/2017 - 10:00

How not to treat a lady

So what's the quid pro quo?

Over on Catholic Gentleman, Sam Guzman has re-posted a discussion of 'How to treat a lady' written by  John Cuddeback, a Philosophy prof at Christendom College. On Cuddeback's own blog it is part of a series. It doesn't say a great deal of substance, but here is its conclusion.

Women are deserving of special reverence not because of weakness, but because of strength. In women, a man can intuit the presence of something that transcends his comprehension. It is in reality something of the divine, something that is somehow his to cherish, to serve, and to protect. Just what it is, and how best to respond to it, he will need to spend a lifetime trying to discover.

I've discussed this kind of thing before, but I'll go over it again because clearly this needs repeating.

What Cuddeback is presenting is described by bloggers of the 'Manosphere' as the view of a 'White Knight' or 'trad con' (at least, those are among the more polite terms they use). They regard this kind of sentiment as indicative of an attitude of servility on the part of men, enabling and sustaining the peculiar position taken by women in today's West: a position which one might call privileged, except that it doesn't reliably contribute to their happiness. I'm not going to defend this view in this post, but Cuddeback ought to be aware that he is wandering into a minefield. In certain circles soupy stuff about girls being made of sugar and spice and all things still seems pleasant old-fashioned gallantry, and emphasising it may appear to be an obvious way to get men to behave better. In other circles it can get you burnt at the stake. If Cuddeback realises this, he gives no indication of it.

The Manosphere arguments should at least be addressed. I've posted about the 'man crisis' a few times. The idea that men are indelibly privileged, and need to be taken down a peg or two, looks a lot less convincing from the wrong side of a University degree or a divorce court. What I want to point out here, however, is how un-Catholic Cuddeback's position is.

It should be obvious that the notion that women are superior to men in some moral or spiritual sense, that they have more of the 'divine' in them, is theologically insane, and finds no place in Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors, or the Magisterium. All these sources, in fact, are refreshingly candid about women's faults, just as they are about men's. Cuddeback's effusion has no connection with the Catholic tradition, but it isn't difficult to identify its source: it is the Romantic movement of the 19th century. It is this movement, reacting against the exaggerated rationalism of the Enlightenment, which created the angelic feminine ideal, against which Feminism reacted in turn.

Feminists will tell you that the idea that women are, as the Romantics implied, incapable of violence, immune to sexual temptation, pre-disposed to self-sacrifice, and marvellously intuitive, is actually oppressive to women. They have a point. The Romantic ideal holds women to an unrealistic and higher standard of behaviour, and tells them that a range of options which have been arbitrarily defined as masculine, such as the intellectual life, business, and politics, are incompatible with being a proper, feminine, woman.

If you need convincing on this point, consider this. In order to engage in a masculine profession, of the law, Portia in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice has, in a certain sense, temporarily, to repudiate her femininity: she dresses up as a man. St Joan of Arc does the same thing to be a soldier. The women of the late 20th century who went to work in the financial industry have done something pretty similar. To be taken seriously, they generally felt (and still feel) they needed to avoid dressing in a feminine way. The early 20th century 'blue stockings' of acedemia felt, in a slightly different way, that because what they were doing was considered unfeminine, they would make a virtue of it and make it clear, by the unfeminine way they dressed, that they didn't care. Now, I don't think either gender-specific vocations, nor people transgressing those boundaries, are necessarily unhealthy; it may simply be part of life's rich tapestry. What I'd draw attention to is the far narrower limits of femininity at the start of the 20th century compared to the start, say, of the 16th century. The influential 15th century scholar Christina de Pizan, or the 15th century painter St Catherine of Bologna, or indeed Portia when running her considerable household, did not feel it necessary to de-feminise themselves. The change of attitude had more than one cause, but it was crystallised by Romanticism.

A reassertion of the classic Romantic ideal of womanhood would, therefore, land Cruddeback in a lot of trouble with feminists, but he doesn't appear to be doing that exactly. What often happens with 'trad cons' like him is that their Romanticism has been through a feminist, politically correct filter. They want to give women all the good qualities without implying that the flip side of those very qualities also applies. Cruddeback's espousal of this approach is suggested by his claim that men should protect women, but not because women are weak. How does that work? Why could there be a special obligation to protect these feisty, gun-toting, modern females? Oh, because under all that bravado they are divine and good, and not bass-asses at all. This really doesn't make any sense.

The key word in the paragraph I quote above, however, is 'serve'. Men should 'serve' women, not (of course not!) because they are weak, but because they are superior. Now this is actually quite scary. Cruddeback thinks that men are by nature the slaves of the superior sex, just as some have held that certain races are by nature the slaves of a superior race.

What this is, I suppose, is an echo of the idea that men serve women as part of their leadership of the family, since in the Christian conception the leader serves the community he governs. Indeed, it is in this context, and only in this context, that the protection (etc.) of women by men makes sense. The problem is that Cruddeback makes no mention of male leadership. You might think that in a post about 'how to treat a lady' the potential or reality within marriage that, according to the Christian tradition, women are to obey and men to govern, would merit a mention. But not only does Cruddeback not mention it in this post, but a search of his blog, 'Bacon from Acorns', doesn't throw up any hits either. It has been airbrushed out of his view of male-female relations.

Fine, Prof Cruddeback, indulge your dark fantasies of female domination. But please don't associate them with the Catholic tradition. And, Sam Guzman, don't imagine they have anything to do with being a 'Catholic Gentleman.'

Related: Alice von Hildebrand on women's moral superiority to men.
Label: Patriarchy.

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