Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

31/05/2020 - 10:00

Marriage to end in the UK: with a wimper

My latest on LifeSite.
The weakening of the UK’s divorce law is reaching its final stages. 
It is currently possible to end a marriage for almost any reason, or if you prefer to divorce for no reason at all, after a period of separation (two years with the agreement of the other party; five years without). It is almost impossible for a spouse to defend himself or herself against an application for divorce. For the Conservative Party Government in the UK, this isn’t good enough. They want to abolish the requirement to give any reasons (such as that old standby, “unreasonable behaviour”), and reduce the separation period to six months, or, if they feel like changing it again later, to nothing.
The justification being used by the government and repeated across the liberal media is that the current system forces couples to assign blame, unless they want to use the separation-period approach, which is presented as an intolerable burden. Giving reasons for wanting to end a supposedly life-long union, or creating a short time in which reconciliation might be attempted, doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable. Did I say “lifelong?” Well, that is how marriage is legally defined, with the proviso “unless legally terminated.”
In truth, the phrase is the pathetic remnant of a conception of marriage that is no longer given legal recognition.
29/05/2020 - 10:00

Cardinal Koch and the amalgamation of rites

An Altar Missal defaced to keep it up to date with the
liturgical changes of the 1960s

Cardinal Kurt Koch has taken up an idea which floats into the Catholic press every now and then, that the Extraordinary Form should be merged somehow with the Ordinary Form. Here in German, quoting the Cardinal at the end. The money quote (thanks to Google Translate) is

'The Eucharist is the central celebration of the unity of the church. It cannot have this meaning
when there is argument and confrontation around them.'

In that case, perhaps the extremists among the liturgical progressives should stop attacking the EF's right to exist. If they can't do that, I can't see them rallying around a rite which is a 'synthesis' of the two, and the conflict would continue: as it does, indeed, in practically every diocese and religious community where only the Ordinary Form is celebrated.

The argument is particularly puzzling, as there are far more than two liturgical forms in the Church. In major European and Middle Eastern cities alike one can find the Latin Rite liturgy celebrated in one church and a variety of Eastern Rites celebrated down the road. Cardinal Koch is in charge of ecumenism at the Vatican, and he cannot have forgotten the role of liturgical diversity in fostering unity, not impeding it, in the reconciliation of Anglicans to the Holy See. The same thing has long been the policy of the Vatican towards our separated brethren in the East. Imposing liturgical uniformity on the Church would be an ecumenical disaster.
I paste in below an article I wrote for the Catholic Herald online in July 2017, which is no longer available on their website, which addresses the version of this idea floated by Cardinal Sarah. It is interesting to see Cardinal Koch taking up the same term, 'reconciliation', as if it were the Forms which were in conflict, rather than Catholics with different views.

I followed this up with another piece on this blog which can be found here.

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Can the Old and New Masses be ‘reconciled’?

Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society

As Fr Raymond de Souza reports, Cardinal Sarah has called for the two ‘Forms’ of the Roman Rite, the 1970 ‘Ordinary’ Form (OF) and the more ancient Extraordinary Form (EF), to be ‘reconciled’. His reasons are confusing, but his proposals are unworkable.


Writing in a French publication, La Nef, Cardinal Sarah explains: ‘ “Reform of the reform” has become synonymous with dominance of one clan over the other.’ He prefers the phrase ‘liturgical reconciliation’.


The ‘Reform of the Reform’ is a movement among practitioners of the Ordinary Form, who argue over Latin, chant, the direction of worship, altar girls, and so on. It is one of the advantages of the Extraordinary Form that we don’t have to get into these battles. Cardinal Sarah, however, seems to want to solve the endless squabbling by bringing the older Mass into the equation as well.


First, he would like to impose some reform of the reform himself(according to The Tablet, reception of Communionkneeling and on the tongue, the ‘Prayers at the Foot of the Altar’, and the ‘canonical fingers’). Secondly, he wants concessions from the other side: but it turns out these are not concessions from advocates of the Reform of the Reform, but changes to the EF. It should adopt the Lectionary of the OF, and its calendar should align more closely with that of the OF.


The new lectionary is sometimes held up as obviously superior to the old, but not everyone committed to the reformed Mass agrees. The Toronto Oratorian Fr Jonathan Robinson, wrote (The Mass and Modernity, 2005, p332):


I think the diversity, rather than enriching people, tends to confuse them… This may be because the selections, as has been noted by others, were drawn up more to satisfy the sensibilities of liturgical scholars than on traditional liturgical principles.


However, another question is raised by Cardinal Sarah’s proposal: can the lectionaries of the two Forms simply by swapped over?


The short answer is ‘no’. To take the most obvious problem, the 1969 Lectionary has no readings for the season of Septuagesima, because that season does not exist in the 1969 calendar. Were the ‘Ordinary Time’ cycle simply extended to this period of three Sundays before Lent, its penitential orations would conflict with readings which can be used after Pentecost as well as before Lent.

Variations on this problem arise throughout the Church’s year. Many of the EF’s proper texts of feast days, and a good many Sundays, refer to the readings. The choice of readings in the Ordinary Form is so different from those in the Extraordinary Form that the discordance would be particularly jarring.

Thus, on Corpus Christi, the ancient Mass gives us a reading from on the danger of the unworthy reception of Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 11:27-9). St Paul’s message was excluded completely from the new Lectionary: it is not found even on a weekday. It was felt to be so important by the liturgical tradition, by contrast, that it is repeated emphatically by the wonderful Corpus Christi Sequence Lauda Sion, and again in the Communion antiphon.


A similar story could be told of all days of a penitential character, and to a greater or lesser extent of many other feasts and Sundays. It would be fair to say that a Mass with the new lectionary and the old prayers and chants would fulfil the intentions of neither the reformers nor of the liturgical tradition. This would have implications also for the Office, where the readings of Sunday Matins, for example, comment on the readings of the Sunday Mass.


It seems unlikely that Cardinal Sarah’s advisors have thought these issues through. Something else they might like to consider is the very different role of feastdays in the Extraordinary Form. Moving some to the same date as the OF might sound innocuous enough, but a wholesale revision would endanger the distinctive character of this Form, whose weekday celebrations are not distinguished by a daily Scripture-reading cycle, but by large numbers of often very ancient feast days. Many of the saints commemorated are invoked in the liturgy itself, in the Canon or in the Litany of the Saints. Removing them from the calendar, but not from the liturgical texts, would not strengthen the Extraordinary Form, but simply make its message—about the communion of saints, intercession, and continuity—harder to discern.


Above all I would like to suggest that the Church has nothing to fear from a varied liturgical landscape: a landscape becoming more varied as Eastern Rite Catholics flee to the West. Vatican II reassured us on this point (Unitatis redintegratio 17):


…from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting.


This, surely, is the direction from which ‘liturgical reconciliation’ should come. 


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28/05/2020 - 09:56

Remembering the Chartres Pilgrimage

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The British Chapter in sight of Chartres Cathedral, in 2014

The Chartres Pilgrimage would in normal circumstances have taken place this weekend. I should be able to make it next year. We must make it a year to remember!

And don't forget: with a bit of luck we should be able to have the Walsingham Pilgrimage this year. Book here.

My latest on LifeSite.

I have been four times on the Chartres Pilgrimage. It’s not a competitive sport, but I should add that only on two of these occasions did I manage to complete it — that is, to walk the entire distance from Notre Dame in Paris to the mighty Chartres Cathedral, more than 60 miles, in two and a half days.
It takes place over the weekend of Pentecost Sunday — Whitsun — with sometimes more than ten thousand pilgrims. Last year, for the first time for many years, it was not able to use Notre Dame because of the terrible fire there in April 2019. In 2020, it will be taking place only “virtually,” due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The participants are mostly young people, and many pilgrims come every year. Its cancelation is a great blow to them and to those hoping to experience it for the first time. Serious pilgrims are used to setbacks, however, and they will be back.

Read the whole thing.

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27/05/2020 - 10:44

Even fake 'water pistol baptisms' are disedifying

IMG_0001
A very un-socially-distanced baptism, back in the days of innocence.
The priest annoints the candidate.

My latest on LifeSite.

 Photographs have been proliferating of clerics of some kind aiming water pistols at babies in order to baptize them. Some of these seem to be fake news, inasmuch as they did the baptisms in the ordinary way but then staged the photo afterward. This makes a difference, but I’m not sure how much. Should clerics be clowning around in church after baptizing a baby? Again, there’s the photo of a priest wearing vestments using a water pistol to bless adults with holy water. If that was staged, it almost makes it worse.
Sometimes it is said that the era of the “clown mass” and other extreme examples of disrespect for the liturgy is over, but it would appear that its spirit lives on, among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Those who published these photographs, and the people in them, clearly think this is all terribly funny, and that that is fine.
Before anyone suggests that the use of water pistols is a serious response to the coronavirus, let me be the thousandth person to point out this is not so. At the “asperges” before Mass people have been blessed at a distance for centuries, with a liturgical implement called an aspergillum; as for baptisms, it doesn’t need to be the priest doing it anyway. 

Read the whole thing.

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26/05/2020 - 09:23

The Anglican Bishops aren't having a good crisis

My latest on LifeSite.

There has been a fair amount of criticism of Catholic bishops over the period of the coronavirus epidemic, but if you want to put things in perspective, you only have to look at the bishops of the Church of England (Episcopalians). While Catholic priests up and down the land were optimising their churches’ live-streaming technology, Anglican clergy were forbidden to enter their own places of worship, even if these actually adjoined their homes. Their flocks have been treated to the sight of services celebrated in kitchens and living rooms instead. This utterly pointless ruling was roundly criticised, but the bishops stuck to it even over Easter, only finally succumbing to the pressure of common sense on May 5. What possible motivation could they have had for insisting that their clergy not go through the sacristy door into their empty and locked churches to celebrate the liturgy? 
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks of himself as the successor of St. Augustine of Canterbury, who brought the Christian faith to England directly from Pope St. Gregory the Great, told us that it was to set an example. Referring to the government’s message about public health, he told the press that “by closing the churches, we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message.”
I’m not someone who has called for people to flout the government’s guidelines, but going beyond them in this extraordinary way seems to me a powerful symbol of the Church of England’s worship of the idol of “health and safety.”
This isn’t the first time Welby has jumped on a bandwagon without engaging his brain.

Read the whole thing.

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20/05/2020 - 10:00

The mysterious teaching union that doesn't want to teach

My latest on LifeSite.

Britain’s teaching unions are decidedly unenthusiastic about the re-opening of schools as the coronavirus lockdown eases. Surprisingly, they aren’t keen on online learning, either. The National Education Union (NEU) has told its members not to live-stream lessons from their homes, engage one-to-one with pupils, or expect any input from parents. Their bald statement, directed to primary (junior) school pupils, “Teachers cannot be expected to mark work,” sounds like a parody of obstructive trade unionism from the 1970s.
It is a particularly puzzling attitude in the context of education. There has been a lot of talk of the harm done to the education of children by the closure of schools and how this will widen the gap between the educationally privileged and the educationally deprived. There has also been a lot of talk about the non-educational functions of schools. Apparently the role of schools is not just education, but the provision of childcare, especially for “key workers”; the surveillance of children in danger of domestic abuse; and the provision of nutritious meals. Given what is said about the nutritional value of much school catering, I can only assume that this last claim is made against a very low baseline.
19/05/2020 - 14:00

Another chat with Fr McTeague: On Criticising Fellow Catholics

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Spot the sinner! Can you see him? If there is one there, clearly this is no place for
respectable Catholics. Cardinal Burke celebrates Mass in Corpus Christi Maiden Lane, London.

Last evening I was interviewed again for The Catholic Current, a radio show hosted by Fr Robert McTeague SJ (a good one).

Our theme was an article I posted on Rorate Caeli and here, 'On Criticising Fellow Catholics'.

As regular readers will know I'm not against criticising people. My specific concern was the tendency on social media to divide Catholics into segments according to their views or preferred liturgy, and to make catty generalisations about them on the basis of isolated personal experiences: most often taking the form 'I went to that Mass once, and I felt uncomfortable because of what someone said to me afterwards'.

An important point here is that obviously there are sinners in the congregation and obviously the clergy and others should not chuck them into the street for breaking 'message discipline': nor yet lock them in the broom cupboard whenever a potential new recruit hoves into view.

You can listen to our chat here:

Episode Page:
Direct Audio Link:

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19/05/2020 - 09:35

Spare a thought for Church musicians

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A professional singer, Dominic Bevan (facing right), leading a training choir during the
Latin Mass Society's Chant Training Weekend in 2019.

The excellent article on church music by Matthew Schellhorn in the new Catholic Herald, who among other things is the Latin Mass Society's London Director of Music, prompted me to write on a related subject for LifeSite.

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Church employees have been badly affected by the coronavirus epidemic and the subsequent cessation of public services. Particularly hard hit are those who did not have formal contracts, or who were paid service-by-service. This includes many musicians.
There is a strand of thinking in the Church that says that the liturgy should be served by musicians who appear spontaneously from the congregation and offer their skills for free. Sometimes this is possible, and in particular circumstances it may be the best solution, or the only one. Indeed, I am an amateur singer myself. The worrying thing about this claim, however, is the word “should” which appears in it: the idea that it is somehow less authentic, or appropriate, or worthy of the liturgy, to pay musicians. 
Occasionally a parish may find that a member of the congregation has the skills to help fix the heating; quite often parishioners help with the accounts. But generally, people with professional qualifications need to be paid for their services. This extends to things intimately connected with the liturgy, such as vestments and sacred vessels. The more important something is for the liturgy, the more willing a parish should be to part with cash to get the best possible results.

Read the whole thing.

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18/05/2020 - 17:00

DIY First Holy Communion in Ireland

My latest for LifeSite.
The Irish broadcaster RTE’s website posted a strange story on Saturday: “Children celebrate a virtual First Communion via video link.”
At first I couldn’t understand the headline. How can you receive Holy Communion via a video link? Did RTE mean that the children made a Spiritual Communion?
But no. It turns out that, since the children had been due to make their First Holy Communion, their parish priest decided to allow them to do this at home. “Fr George consecrated the hosts at an earlier mass today and then families were given different time slots to collect them.”
They received Holy Communion in the course of watching a live-streamed Mass. The priest commented:
The parents of ten pupils took up the offer of a virtual Communion. It gave me a real sense of what the early Catholic church must have been like, when people gathered for mass in each other’s homes.
Except, of course, that it has nothing to do with having Mass in a private home. Mass took place in church, without the people. The only thing that happened in their homes was the reception of Holy Communion.
13/05/2020 - 10:00

Prepare carefully for post-lockdown Holy Communion

My latest on LifeSite.

As the Easter season proceeds, the liturgy begins to prepare us for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Last Sunday, the fourth after Easter, in the Extraordinary Form lectionary that I follow, the Gospel contains Christ’s promise to send the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, to the Apostles after he is finally taken from them at the Ascension. 
And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin and of justice and of judgment. Of sin: because they believed not in me. And of justice: because I go to the Father: and you shall see me no longer. And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged. (John 16:8-11)
Public Masses are still impossible in England and I have been reading liturgical commentaries with particular attention during this time. Dom Proper Guéranger comments on this passage, in his monumental The Liturgical Year (which is available online):
By these words, which were spoken shortly before his passion, our Savior does more than tell us of the coming of the Holy Ghost; he also shows us how terrible this coming will be to them that have rejected the Messias.
The coming of the Holy Ghost will be a bad thing, for some? We are more used to stressing the gifts and graces He will bring on the nascent Church, which are passed on to all members throughout the ages, particularly in the Sacrament of Confirmation. But as our Lord emphasizes, the Holy Spirit’s arrival will be a moment of vindication for the Apostles, and by that very fact it will be a moment of condemnation for their opponents. You can’t have one without the other.

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