Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

31/07/2020 - 10:00

One problem with infallible canonisations

Dr John Lamont made the theological case against the infallible nature of decrees of canonisation on Rorate Caeli a couple of years ago: here's the first post, and here is a follow-up. The other day I stirred up Twitter by repeating some of his arguments and it didn't surprise me at all to see a fair amount of resistence to this idea from traditionally-inclined Catholics.

This follows very naturally from the fact that a lot of old books and old authorities say that canonisations are infallible. What one has to remember is that St Alphonsus and the rest used the term 'infallible' in a far looser way than Vatican I's definition, and when the term is used today it is that definition which tends to uppermost in our minds. Again, the process of determining the sanctity of individuals has been vastly, well, 'speeded up' would be a polite term. Saints generally needed four miracles to be canonised in the past, now they need two. And so on.

But I'm not going into all that again: Dr Lamont lays it all out. No one outside Twitter has ever seriously suggested that the infallibility of canonisations was itself a doctrine of the Church which requires the assent of Catholics. So we can agree to differ, as theologians in fact always have.

I want to point out something else which is of huge importance. The process of canonisation has always required money - the researchers have to be paid - and many of those canonised have well-funded supporters. Having rich chums does not in itself show that a person is not holy - even Christ had some rich friends, after all. But joined to a, ahem, streamlined process, there is a potential problem.

Among those being touted for canonisations there are bound to be celebrity Catholics backed by rich and powerful institutions associated with them which are determined to gain the prestige of having a founder or member canonised, and who fall below the moral standards of sanctity. We have seen how some of these institutions operate. The Legionaires of Christ were able to gain presigious endorsements not for a few years after concerns were raised, but for decades. They paid off some witnesses and denounced others. I think we are fortunate that the monster Macial died after being exposed.

It says something about the capacity of ecclesial institutions to discern who is holy and who is a career criminal that one after another of the founders of successful religious orders and institutions are found, often after their deaths, to have been evil men. The latest is Jean Vanier. A few years ago the suggestion that Vanier was anything other than a saint would have been shouted down by thousands of people genuinely moved and influenced by his work and writings. I don't blame them. Vanier was clever and he was careful. Are we quite sure that no one has been more careful?

At some point one of these individuals is going to be canonised. In fact, I would be very surprised if that hasn't already happened. Who could even read a short account of the life and work of all the people canonised since the system was, er, 'reformed' in 1983? There are thousands of them. But plenty of well-resourced people in the secular media will be happy to make it their business to find some dodgy ones.

One fine day in the next ten years credible allegations will be made against a beatus or canonised saint. Remember, you read it here first. And if we are not careful, the people defending the indefensible will be the conservative and traditional Catholics, the ones who want to defend the whole system and the very concept of heroic virtue and sanctity.

The liberals will just walk away from the shambles. Heck, they don't even believe in supernatural virtue, let alone miracles. 

Those Catholics most queasy about the accelerated canonisation process, the ones most leery about canonising every Pope since Vatican II, the ones least comfortable about the scramble to find people to canonise who tick various ethnic and ideological boxes: these are the people who are going to be left to defend the 'St Jean Vanier' or the 'St Marcial Maciel' to be revealed in the future. As the details gradually emerge, as they tend to do, they will be utterly humiliated, and forever associated with the crimes of the accused.

My friends, you are walking into a trap.

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30/07/2020 - 17:49

Guild of St Clare sponsorship awarded

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A Guild of St Clare Vestment Mending Day before the Coronavirus
This is the second year we have awarded sponsorship to assist a student undertake the Royal School of Needlework Certificate Course. The RSN is planning to restart teaching, with various safeguards, so our sponsored student will be able to start in August.

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The Guild of St Clare and the Latin Mass Society are pleased to announce that an award has been made for their Sponsorship Scheme which assists students in doing the Certificate in Hand Embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework. 

The recipient is a religious who prefers to remain anonymous. We are delighted that the skills offered by the Royal School of Needlework will be joined to a vocation of hidden prayer and service to the Church.

The Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace

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23/07/2020 - 10:00

Communion on the tongue is an ancient practice

My latest on LifeSite.
I was honoured to be included in one of the videos created by LifeSite of people affirming their intention to receive the Holy Eucharist only kneeling and on the tongue. There are many ways of approaching the issue. John Henry Westen has approached it with a piece titled 5 reasons why Catholics should only receive Holy Communion on the tongue; also worth reading on this website is Peter Kwasniewski’s response to the suggestion by Fr Dwight Longenecker that reception on the tongue is somehow indicative of self-righteousness. 
I would like to open up another avenue, a historical one. It is constantly reiterated by the proponents of reception in the hand that this is what the early Christians did. This is often put forward as part of a historical narrative that goes like this. As with many doctrines, the early Church had a very basic and common-sense understanding of the Blessed Sacrament, which was turned into something much more elaborate and extreme by the theology and devotional practices of the Middle Ages, which established the term ‘transubstantiation’ and the practice of Eucharistic reservation and adoration. The Protestants reacted against these extreme ideas with some justification, and Vatican II rowed back from them as well in the interests of getting back to the pure doctrine of the earliest Christians.
While it is true that theological terms became more precise, and devotional practice did develop, it is demonstrably false to suggest that Christian authenticity requires us to repudiate the more developed teaching and practice of the Church. 
Read the whole thing.
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21/07/2020 - 22:45

Liturgy should be beautiful

My latest on LifeSite

What is one to make of the claim, apparently made in all seriousness, by Jesuit David Inczauskis, who rejoices in the Twitter handle @LibTheoJesuit?
Liturgy should not be beautiful.
At the Last Supper, Jesus washed stinky feet.
In the Garden, Jesus sweat blood.
At the cross, Jesus was violently murdered.
Upon rising, Jesus still had open wounds.
No, liturgy should not be beautiful. It should be ugly & scandalous.
I should like to engage with this tweet, which is of course a public statement intended to stimulate reflection and debate, with seriousness and charity. It is, nevertheless, presumably intended to shock. 
I had imagined, naively perhaps, that when we see ugly vestments and church decorations, or hear hideous liturgical music, it was the result of well-intentioned efforts which had failed somehow—or that perhaps others’ tastes just differ from mine. 
Was I wrong? Do some liturgists actually want to make the Mass repugnant, horrible, and off-putting? 

Read the whole thing.

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16/07/2020 - 10:54

LMS Online Conference on Saturday

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A real-world conference organised by the LMS in pre-covid days

An online conference “Catholicism in a Covid-19 World” will be hosted by the Latin Mass Society this Saturday, 18th July, from 12 noon (GMT + 1) until 4.45 pm (GMT + 1) featuring speakers Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Fr Tim Finigan, Fr John Zuhlsdorf, Dr Joseph Shaw, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson and Mgr Gordon Read. The event will be hosted by Dr Shaw and Sebastian Morello and will begin with Live High Mass in the Traditional Rite from St Mary’s Warrington.
Joseph Shaw writes “I am delighted to be taking part in the Latin Mass Society’s first online conference with a wonderful selection of speakers. I hope that many people will be able to join us on the day.”
This event is being held online for free and can be viewed on the Latin Mass Society’s new YouTube channel. To bookmark the LMS YouTube channel go HERE.
The direct link for the Conference is HERE.
No registration is necessary, although to sign up for updates before and during the event, go to HERE.
A recording of the day will remain on our YouTube channel.
Itinerary (Subject to change)
12 noon Introduction from Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society and Sebastian Morello, Formation Adviser for the Archdiocese of Southwark.
12.10pm High Mass Live from St Mary’s Warrington. Celebrant Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP
13.25 Archbishop Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio to Switzerland and Liechtenstein and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan
13.45 Fr Tim Finigan, Priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark
14.15 Mgr Gordon Read, National Chaplain to the LMS
14.45 Fr John Zuhlsdorf, President of the Tridentine Mass Society of Madison and Blogger: Covid-19 : What are the implications for Tradition?
15.45 Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the LMS: After the Plague
16.15 Live Q & A with Dr Shaw, Fr Tim Finigan and Sebastian Morello
16.45 End
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22/06/2020 - 11:11

Online Latin Course in August and September

I'm delighted to announce that although our annual, residential Latin Course has had to be cancelled for 2020, another option for learning Latin has emerged. I can't take any credit for this, but am happy to advertise it: an online course using Christian Latin run by an experienced teacher of ancient languages, Matthew Spenser.
One reason for optimism about Latin is the continuing enthusiasm of teachers and students, and their continuing willingness to experiment with different approaches to language learning and the delivery of lessons, to reach new people, both beginners and those wishing to improve their Latin.
These won't take over your life: they will be 2 hours of online tuition a week, and homework between sessions is optional.
I am myself planning to do this course: join me and Mr Spencer in the adventure of Christian Latin!
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This year the Latin Mass Society's long-standing annual residential Latin Course has had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus epidemic. We are delighted therefore to be able to announce a new initiative by an independent language teacher, Matthew Spencer, for the online teaching of Christian Latin over August and September.

Mr Spencer has previously been teaching ancient languages to university students preparing for further studies, and he would now like to apply his skills to teaching Latin. The course’s focus on the distinctive, later period of Latin of writers such as Augustine and Boethius will make this course of particular interest and usefulness to Catholics and all those interested in discovering the rich world of Christian Latin.

He plans to teach very small groups once or twice a week, some aimed at 'Beginners' and others at those with some previous experience of Latin.

18/06/2020 - 18:33

Conservatism after Bostock

The recent Supreme Court decision, penned by Neil Gorsuch, has knocked the wind out of a lot of Americans on the right. The central claim, that an Act of Congress in 1964 intended to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the word “sex”, as a characteristic to be protected against discrimination, is so evidently insane surely—one might think—no person of intellectual integrity could affirm it. If we view it as not, strictly and literally true, but as a necessary legal fiction, then the question becomes one of policy. What urgent issue of natural justice is served by erasing the distinction between biological sex, erotic preferences, and feelings-about-what-one-is?

The answer is protecting people from discrimination on the basis of those two other things. I can understand why the liberal Justices on the Supreme Court should think this. In UK law “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment” are both “protected characteristics” which must not motivate discrimination. So is “sex”. The Bostock decision goes much further than the UK law, however, in bypassing the need for any formal “gender reassignment” (the very concept seems old-fashioned today: the UK law dates from 2011), and also by rolling the three characteristics into one. Gorsuch’s remarkable reasoning is that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation just isdiscrimination on the basis of sex.

The precise legal consequences of the decision will emerge over time. The most astonishing aspect of it is that this decision was approved not only by liberal judges, but by two supposedly conservative ones: John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch. Republican-nominated Supreme Court Justices turning into liberals in office is nothing new, and it is part of a wider pattern of conservatives in positions of power and influence not wanting to stand up for conservative causes. At the individual level this is easy to understand: if you want to preserve your ability to earn a living, you have to watch what you say. But collectively, it is incomprehensible. On many occasions, liberal views have triumphed despite lacking popular support. If the conservative opposition to the latest progressive cause simply stood up for itself, in many cases the issue would not be in doubt. But not only does this not happen, but people tend to accept each step of the progressive revolution after it has happened.


Social conservatives appear to have accepted that they are on the “wrong side of history”. There are a number of possible explanations for this. One is that they are endlessly betrayed by the legislators, judges, media, and entertainers whose success depended on their support. However, this would not happen if the social conservatives were more discerning and less forgiving. In any case, why are these elites so much more inclined to abandon conservative supporters than liberal ones?

It might be suggested that social conservatives lack unity, but progressives are also deeply divided among themselves. However, as I have discussed elsewhere, there is a related disadvantage which social conservatives have. This is that their ideas are essentially constructive, not destructive. They aren’t simply about tearing things down, but about building things up. It is easier to build a coalition of demolition, even among people who detest each other, than a coalition of builders with competing blue-prints. This is one reason why conservative mass-movements are difficult to maintain, beyond single issues. Progressive coalitions work by mutual assistance: you help me destroy marriage, and I'll help you destroy education, and so on.
There is something else, however, which is that progressives have managed to establish a stranglehold on culture and opinion: the arts, the universities, the media, the political class. It is sometimes said that conservatives are more drawn to business as a career choice. However, it is also the case that the liberal ascendency has silenced conservative voices in those fields with a singlemindedness and ruthlessness that conservatives have no wish to imitate. The consequence, in any case, is something one can only describe as cultural hegemony. Conservatives have to bend themselves out of shape to be heard at all, and however much real popular support they have, they can expect to be shouted down by the gate-keepers of polite opinion.

This has been going on for many decades, and conservative governments can often seem to be 'in office, but not in power', particularly on questions of culture. Their lack of effectiveness unsurprisingly undermines the motivation of their supporters.

Looking ahead, it seems increasingly possible that the conservative side of the conversation could be silenced by the manipulation of online advertising revenue: this will do irreparable harm to conservative political causes, but will conservative politicians do anything about it?

Or consider a well-established process, how fatherless families is doing irreparable damage to generations of poor children, morally, culturally, and financially. If social conservativism means anything, it means opposing this, but will conservative politicians do anything about it?

It would seem that they will act only if they value their political ideals over not being called rude names by liberal commentators: and so the answer is “no”.

Those calling for a new conservative coalition are right, but the task will not be an easy one.


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17/06/2020 - 10:00

Pagans attack Statue of St Boniface in Devon

As regular readers know I have an interest in neo-paganism and the related New Age movement. There is a FIUV Position Paper on these phenomena here.
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When St. Boniface traveled from Devon in England to convert the pagans of Germany in the 8th century, he did so with supernatural courage. The Germans’ savagery had been notorious for centuries, and they did, indeed, eventually martyr him, while he was traveling in Frisia (now the Netherlands) in the year 754. Fourteen centuries on, it seems that the pagans have returned to Devon. A stone statue of him in the small town of Crediton has had sprayed onto its pedestal the words “God is dead” and “Pagan justice,” the latter accompanied by a pentangle, the symbol of Satanism.
There is a lot of neo-paganism in England’s bucolic southwest. Glastonbury, some way to the north and east of Crediton, is a particular center. The incongruous combination of messages — suggesting atheism, paganism, and Satanism — is characteristic of the more militant varieties. The local newspaper describes the attackers as “anarchists,” which may be a fair description but seems intended to distract attention from the central point: that this vandalism has got nothing to do with the riots in the United States or London but is the manifestation of local anti-Christian hatred.
Pagan attacks on Christian and above all Catholic symbols and churches are nothing new. What the secular press would rather not say is that Christians are the targets of a sustained, if low-level, campaign of physical and spiritual violence: thefts, vandalism, and sacrilege. That this is so is very clear, talking to Catholics in this part of England, and also to pagan converts to the Faith. Neo-pagans are not all dreamy nature-lovers. It is common for them to harbor a deep antipathy to Christianity.

Read the whole thing.

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16/06/2020 - 13:47

Archdiocese of Munich in bizarre stunt with monstrance

My latest on LifeSite. 

When I first composed this it wasn't clear whether the host in the monstrance being placed in different locations for photographs was consecrated. Apparently it was not. This is a good, but the stunt is still outrageous. As something which holds the Blessed Sacrament, under the old rules the monstrance should not even be touched by a layman. Under the new ones, it should at least be treated with respect (Canon 1171; GIRM 327). In the FIUV Position Paper on Reception under the Form of Bread Alone, Appendix A is devoted to the subject of the handling of sacred vessels. It was forbidden for laymen to touch them in the very earliest sources of Canon law which we have, and is taken for granted by Gregory of Nazianzen, who died before the end of the 4th century. The Munich website would have shocked the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
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The Archdiocese of Munich has endorsed a bizarre and sacrilegious website that supposedly celebrates and elaborates the message of Corpus Christi. The creators, two “pastoral advisers,” Michael Raz and Johannes van Kruijsbergen, explain (translated from German by Google):
This festival is about showing people on the spot that God is in the middle of us, in the middle of the world, at all times. The idea arose to photograph the monstrance, i.e. this vessel for showing the body of Christ, in different places of everyday life. The oral project received broad approval from the other sixty or so pastors.
And so we have photographs of a monstrance in a playground, on a roadside bench, on a pedestrian crossing, in a car, next to a building site, on a water feature in a park, and so on, with supremely un-memorable little texts to accompany each one: how our lives are bit like a building site or whatever.
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13/06/2020 - 10:03

Western Civilisation has got to go!

My latest on LifeSite.

A lot of academic subjects have been infected with political correctness. Today, we are seeing on the streets and in the newsrooms some of the consequences. 
Not only are activists defacing and toppling statues of the kinds of people their university lecturers dismissed as “dead white males,” but they are being defended by journalists and politicians. 
The defacement of the statue of the man who, more than anyone else in Europe, opposed Fascism, Winston Churchill, and the memorial of the men and women who died in their tens of thousands for this cause, the Cenotaph in London, is not about opposing “racism” and “fascism.” It is about denigrating and removing from public view manifestations of the “Western Civilisation” that has been denigrated and reviled, especially in second-rate academic institutions, for the last 30 years.
Some academic disciplines have fared better than others. One of the least affected, Classics, is now under sustained attack by people who regard the whole idea of the study of ancient Greece and Rome as intrinsically problematic. I don’t think this is primarily about the colour of ancient Romans’ skins, and efforts by trendy Classicists like Dr. Mary Beard to point out (correctly) that ancient Rome was ethnically diverse, and that a black officer in Roman Britain was perfectly possible, will not be enough to get the activists off their backs. 

Read the whole thing.

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