Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

09/03/2019 - 10:00

Family Retreat: booking now


The St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat takes place at the Oratory School, Woodcote near Reading, Friday to Sunday 5-7th April this year.

Booking is open: go to the SCT website.

As the name implies, in organisation and pricing it is adapted for families, with children. Unaccompanied adults are very welcome as well.

This year it will be led by Fr Konrad Loewenstein and Fr Seth Phipps of the Fraternity of St Peter. The theme is the Angels.

Don't miss out on this unique event. The Gregorian Chant Network's Training Weekend runs alongside: see the same page for information and booking.


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28/02/2019 - 18:48

Felt banners and participation

My latest for LifeSiteNews.

The Christ-child with the Doctors of the Law: an elaborate, classical, and beautifully
executed sculpture in St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill, in London. The time, money, effort, and
sheer  competence represented by the sculptures for the fifteen altars corresponding to the
Mysteries of the Rosary is staggering.
An alien from outer space studying the Catholic Church of the last few decades might be puzzled at the frequency and apparent significance of the phrase ‘felt banners’ in Catholic discourse. It seems to sum up much of what is wrong with the Church, at least for many Catholics, but it is rarely explained. It doesn’t need to be, because we have all seen these objects, and we know the significance of the attitudes and processes which led to their production and display.
If I wanted to explain to Zog the Martian what is at issue when felt banners come up in conversations among Catholics, I might say that ugly and inappropriate items of church decoration exemplify and have come to symbolize an attitude of hostility towards objective standards of beauty, excellence, and truth. Zog, however, might find this explanation even more strange than the items themselves. How on earth did such an attitude come to be held by people in the Church, let alone by those with power over what gets hung on the walls of places of worship?
Familiar as the phenomenon is, it is useful to try to articulate what is at issue. The partisans of felt banners do not necessarily prefer ugliness over beauty. Their concern, rather, is to prioritize the contribution to church decoration of the artistically incompetent over that of the artistically competent. Because the latter might be paid, or might not be members of the parish, or might be long dead, their contribution has less value seen as a form of participation in community life. Indeed, the artists who beautified the Catholic churches of yesteryear, and the few who still place their expertise and judgment in the service of the Church, were and are not thinking of their work primarily in terms of community participation, but in terms of objective standards of devotional appropriateness and of artistic excellence.

Read it all there.

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27/02/2019 - 19:13

Survey of US Traditional Catholics

LMS Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the Church of St Joseph, Bedford

I have a piece in LifeSiteNews on this widely-reported survey, which says exactly what one would expect: Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass overwhelmingly believe the teachings of the Church and fulfill their obligations to attend Mass and go to confession.

I think the survey is a good effort, but I'd like to put its contrast with data from other surveys on the beliefs and practices of Catholics as a whole into some context, beyond what I wrote for LifeSite.

Conservative Catholics reading the period results of mainstream Catholic opinion and
practice may get the feeling that the findings exceed their most pessimistic estimate of their
co-religionists. Amazingly few Catholics appear to know, let alone confess, the teaching of the Church on the Real Presence; scarcely any actually follow the Church’s teaching on contraception

One reason for this is poor methodology in the surveys themselves. Notoriously, one survey
which claimed that almost no Catholics accepted the Church’s ban on contraception arrived at this conclusion by excluding from consideration various categories of women; with other flaws, this made the survey pretty worthless

Even the respected research institute attached to Georgetown University, CARA, tends to survey ‘self-identified’ Catholics instead of Church-going Catholics. But what does it mean to ‘identify’ as a Catholic while rejecting all her teachings and never going to Church? The results of surveys including this category will reflect how many such people there are; how many there are in turn depends not only on the rate of lapsation and poor formation, but in the strength of the idea that one can be a ‘Catholic’ in some tribal sense completely unconnected with belief and practice.

Interestingly, in Britain a recent academic study showed that Anglicans are very happy to keep calling themselves Anglicans when they have lapsed, while Baptists stop calling themselves Baptists if they aren’t fully committed. The attitude of Catholics falls between these extremes. A less complete study would have suggested that Baptists are far more committed than Anglicans, but also more likely to lapse, which would have been misleading: in effect it compared committed Baptists and uncommitted Anglicans.

What this survey of church-going Catholics, attached to the ancient Latin liturgy, shows is that, within the undifferentiated mass of ‘Catholics’ who have a confusingly wide range of views and religious practices, there is at least one sub-group which is genuinely faithful to the Church, her teachings and requirements, and who average a reasonable number of children to whom this Faith can be passed on.

I hope the poor study is expanded. I would like to see information about those answering the questions - age, sex, marital status, and whether they are converts or cradle Catholics. And I would like to see a comparison with Catholics attending the Ordinary Form, as opposed to people saying they are Catholics and not attending anything. Another interesting comparison might be Catholics who are members of the ‘New Movements’ (Neo-Catechumenate, Focolare, Communion and Liberation, and so on).

In the meantime, we should be grateful that serious statistical study of Latin Mass-going Catholics has finally begun. 

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20/02/2019 - 10:00

Fr Andrew Pinsent to speak Friday 22nd in London

Fri 22 Iota Unam talk, Fr Andrew Pinsent: 'The Traditional Mass and the Formation of the Virtues' 7pm in the basement at Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street.
Doors open at 6:30pm
All welcome. £5 on the door.
Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory
Warwick Street
The talk will be preceded by drinks and followed by questions and a recitation of Compline of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fr Andrew Pinsent has doctorates in both Physics and in Philosophy, as well as theological training, and is Director of the Allan Ramsey Centre in Oxford University.
This is the second of the Iota Unum series of talks, which will focus on topics connected with the everyday life of traditionally-minded Catholics: the domestic church, homeschooling, traditional catechesis, moral instruction, culture (high, common, and religious), religious history etc..
The purpose of the talks is not only to inform but to help traditionally-minded Catholics from across London and beyond to meet, discuss matters of mutual concern, and form a greater sense of community.
There will be a charge of £5 on the door to cover refreshments and other expenses.

Other events coming up in London

Wed 6: Ash Wednesday
Mon 11: Houghton Schola at Maiden Lane, Feria of Lent
Sat 9: St Tarcisius server training Day/ Guild of St Clare Vestment Mending Day
Sat 16: LMS Pilgrimage to Caversham: Ember Day. Mass 11:30am with polyphony
Mon 18: Cantus Magnus Polyphonic Mass at Maiden Lane, St Cyril of Jerusalem
Fri 22: Juventutem Mass at St Mary Moorfields, 7:30pm
Tues 26: Iota Unam talk, Stuart & Clare McCullough ‘The liturgy and crisis pregnancy counselling’
Fri 5-7: St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat & Gregorian Chant Network Chant Course Fri-Sun at the Oratory School, Woodcote: see here.

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19/02/2019 - 10:20

Ivereigh: what makes you think Christ wasn't gay?

My latest on LifeSiteNews.
Having only just written for LifeSiteNews about the tweets of Austen Ivereigh, I would not wish to return to the subject but for the extraordinary nature of the latest. Bear in mind that this man has been the Director of Public Affairs for the late Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, was a founder of the Catholic media organization “Catholic Voices,” and has written a biography of Pope Francis: he is what you might call a “professional Catholic.”
Discussing the latest claims about priests working in the Vatican who are homosexual, Ivereigh suggests:
The issue, as the priests make clear, isn’t celibacy and chastity, but having to hide who they are. The denial makes it impossible to live the vow in freedom. That’s what they’re saying.
This is a convenient argument for someone who wants to say that the Church has made homosexuality into a problem by her negative teachings about it. Get rid of the teachings, and you’d get rid of the problem!
A Twitter user replied, in Spanish (this is the Google translation):
They must serve God and his people without the entanglement of manifesting or hiding a hidden tendency. The priests, I believe, must be heterosexual. They act in persona Christi. And I do not think our Lord had homosexual tendencies.

To this Ivereigh replied, in Spanish (again, this is the Google translation any Twitter user can access at the click of a button: it is perfectly accurate):

Why do you say that our Lord did not have homosexual tendencies? From what signs or sayings or gestures do you deduce this?
It is typical of Ivereigh to make a point with a question. It allows him some plausible deniability over whether he believes in the implications of his question.
So I am not going to claim that Ivereigh thinks that Christ had homosexual tendencies. The implication of his rhetorical question is rather that the conforming to Christ required of priests does not involve, even ideally, a sexual identity which is not disordered: or, rather, the claim that homosexuality is not a disordered sexuality.
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18/02/2019 - 11:05

Is Muller an anti-pope?

Silly question, of course, but that's what Austen Ivereigh suggested on Twitter.

My latest on LifeSiteNews:

Gerhard, Cardinal Müller, until recently the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)—the third most senior Prelate in the Church—recently published what he called a Manifesto of Faith. It consists of quotations and paraphrases of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and avoids the hot-button issues of the moment. There is nothing in it about divorce, about receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin, about homosexuality, or about Capital Punishment. Müller is well-known as a friend and collaborator with the liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez: he is not exactly a theological conservative from Central Casting. 
Reading this document I wondered why, if he didn’t want to say anything directly related to the current doctrinal crisis in the Church, he had bothered to pick up his pen. The reaction to his Manifesto, however, made me think again. 
Austen Ivereigh, Pope Francis’ biographer and a key member of “Team Francis”, the self-appointed interpreters and defenders of the Pope, was enraged. He condemned Müller's Manifesto in a tweet:
A naked power play. Declare a state of confusion, then promote yourself as the one to “resolve” it. In implying that a former Vatican bureaucrat needs to step in to fill a supposed vacuum, you delegitimise the papal magisterium. And confuse the faithful. 

Carry on reading.

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16/02/2019 - 10:00

Sung Dominican Rite Mass in St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill


I was privileged to sing at a beautiful Dominican Rite Mass in London last Saturday, which opened a 'Retreat' organised by the New Evangelisation Committee of the Catholic Medical Association: Joseph Nunan indefatigable team. The Mass was sponsored by the Latin Mass Society.


St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill, now a Shrine to the Rosary, is a magnificent church. Mass was celebrated by Fr Lawrence Lew OP. The Dominican chants were extremely interesting and not all that straightforward, despite their close relationship with those of the Roman Rite for the feast of the day: St Cyril of Alexandria. The Schola Abelis of Oxford (or small part thereof) was led by Dominic Bevan.


It is a very encouraging sign of the times that this event was organised and so well attended. One of the organising committee wrote on Facebook about the event as a whole:

Thank you to everyone who attended the CMA Youth Day-Retreat on Saturday 9th Feb at the Rosary Shine at St Dominic's Priory, Haverstock Hill, London.

About 100 young people attended. It was a prayer-filled day, starting with Mass celebrated in the traditional Dominican Rite. The Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life, and essential for those of us who work in healthcare.

Friar Philomeno, from the Franciscan Friars in Gosport, kicked off the talks with an inspirational introduction to the life and work of Fr Patrick Peyton and his Rosary Crusades. Then we heard a powerful story from one of our Catholic nurses, who, with her family, cared for and prayed for her dying father.

After processing round the beautiful Rosary Shrine side chapels reciting the Joyful Mysteries, we had some light refreshment, then went straight into the final two talks of the day: on what it is to be a Catholic man and a Catholic women.

Thank you to all who came and all who helped. Thanks be to God for His abundant blessings. We hope to put on a similar retreat-type day on a yearly basis for the youth of the CMA, for ongoing spiritual nourishment! Photos and talks hopefully to follow.

...Have you said your Rosary today?

The CMA's next 'New Evangelisation' event will be:

The CMA's 4th annual youth conference
Care of the Dying Patient
5th October 2019
St Aloysius Catholic Church, London

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15/02/2019 - 12:00

Voice of the Family Conference in Cardiff in September

I'm very happy to publicise this event.

You are warmly invited to a joint conference of Voice of the Family and University Catholic ChaplaincyCardiff that will be held on 6-8 September 2019.

This conference is open to all who are concerned with safeguarding the deposit of our faith in our families and in society. Apart from discussing the particular threats to the family and ways to counter these threats, it will be an opportunity to meet fellow Catholics and to forge a fellowship that will strengthen us as individuals and families at this turbulent time.

The conference will take place on the weekend when we celebrate the birthday of Our Lady, under whose motherly care we entrust this gathering and our families. Let us pray for the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart, while we endeavour to make an ever-stronger commitment to pass on the faith in our families and in the world today.
Among the speakers addressing the conference will be:
Fr Sebastian Jones, Cardiff Oratory in Formation, UK
Fr Linus Clovis, Family Life International, New Zealand
Prof. Roberto de Mattei, Lepanto Foundation, Italy
Maria Madise, Voice of the Family, UK
John Smeaton, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, UK
John-Henry Westen, LifeSiteNews, Canada
The conference will run from Friday afternoon until Sunday lunch time.
  • Friday: registration will be open from 3pm; Holy Mass, followed by a talk and social time;
  • Saturday: Holy Mass, talks and opportunities for Adoration and Confession;
  • Sunday: Solemn High Mass in honour of the Nativity of Our Lady, followed by brunch.

For further information, please contact:; +44 (0)20 7820 3148 

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14/02/2019 - 21:08

Proposed Regina Caeli Academy in Bedford: Open Day

I'm happy to pass on the news of this event to anyone who might be interested. You can sign up at their Eventbrite page.

Please join us for an Open Day for the forthcoming Regina Caeli Academy, launching in September 2019.
This is a chance to experience RCA UK first hand - you can meet the RCA UK Tutors and Board, hear from two Directors from RCA in the US and a priest from our chaplaincy, the Fraternity of St. Peter, and see the layout, books and uniform.
There will also be a Q&A session and the chance to sign up for RCA in September 2019!
1:15 Welcome and Introductions.
1:30 Meet the tutors and directors, and see how RCA UK will operate.
2:30 pm Mrs. Kari Beckman and Mrs. Collette Balmer: Regina Caeli in the U.S. - Classical Education in a Hybrid Academy.
3:15pm Fr. Patrick O'Donohue, FSSP: RCA and the mission of Catholic Education in the U.K.
3:30pm Questions and Answers.
4:15pm Close, Next Steps and Enrollment Options
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12/02/2019 - 10:00

What are Side-Chapels for?

Our Lady of Sorrows, appearing to gesticulate in horror at the sculpture deposited in her chapel.

The famous Jesuit Church, the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, in London, is richly decorated, and boasts many exquisite side-chapels. One can imagine Lady Julia Flyte popping in to one of them to pray before her chat with her Jesuit spiritual director in Brideshead Revisited, as many Catholics must have done over the Church’s 150 years of use. In one of these, dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, I found, on a recent visit, a life-size park bench rendered in bronze, and on it, an equally brazen blanket covering a sleeping figure. This “Homeless Jesus” sculpture, of which there are copies in cities around the world, has found its way there because Westminster Council refused permission for it to be installed near London’s Houses of Parliament.

Whatever one thinks about this object as a sculpture, a striking fact about its current London home, where it has now been blessed by the Nuncio, is that it makes it impossible for Mass to be celebrated in this chapel. It suggests that the Jesuits of Farm Street have no idea what to do with their side chapels. They are not alone. If they are not simply neglected, one finds them in many churches cluttered with information displays or used for storage. Almost nowhere are they used for Mass.

Why, one might ask, were they built in the first place? To make possible the celebration of private Masses simultaneously by different priests. This would naturally happen in a church served by several priests, when two or more of them did not have a public Mass to say on a given day. They will, obviously, wish to celebrate Mass, and may well wish to do so at the same time, say before breakfast. That would be natural, wouldn’t it?

That was the old way, but priests’ attitudes to the celebration of Mass underwent a revolution after the Second Vatican Council. Since 1967, to be exact, priests living together have been encouraged to ‘concelebrate’: say Mass together. The practice of priests of ten centuries, during the time that private, ‘low’, Masses have existed, of celebrating their own Mass each day, was in this way set aside for something entirely new: of priests, not with their bishop but amongst themselves, acting as simultaneous celebrants of one celebration. This is an example, and sadly not the worst, of the liturgical rupture which followed the Second Vatican Council.

When several priests concelebrate Mass, only one Mass is celebrated; when we are told that this is officially preferable to three or more Masses being celebrated, it is not surprising that many priests have inferred that in the absence of pastoral need there is little to be lost by not celebrating Mass at all.

Pope Benedict XVI found it necessary, therefore, in his 2007 Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (80), to remind priests that daily celebration of Mass (to which they are not bound by the Church’s law), is a good idea, even in the absence of the Faithful, since “it fosters the priest’s configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation”. This would be the case with concelebration as well as with private Masses, but other points indicate the advantage of a priest celebrating on his own, notably ‘the objectively infinite value of every celebration’, and ‘the Mass’s unique spiritual fruitfulness’.

Mass is celebrated for the living and the dead, in union with the whole Church: it is not something of significance only for those who happen to be present. Two Masses for an intention are better than one, just as two Rosaries, said with equal fervor, are better than one. It is not just a matter of a Mass’s infinite intrinsic value as the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, but of its finite extrinsic value: the value contributed by the appropriateness of the prayers, the holiness of the priest, and so on.

Although these considerations apply to Masses celebrated without the Faithful, the traditional practice in reality had pastoral advantages as well, in creating a supply of short early morning Masses for those wishing to attend before the day’s work, and in creating a demand for altar servers which led to many vocations.

I have had the privilege of seeing multiple Masses in progress at side altars, at the Priest Training Conferences organized by the Latin Mass Society in England. It is a truly edifying sight, a glimpse of the reality of the ceaseless prayer rising up from Masses being celebrated all over the globe. Where priests live together, in larger parishes, in seminaries, clergy residences, and other institutions, it is time that the clutter was removed from side chapels for them to function once more as their builders intended, for the good of the priests, and for the living and the dead.

Low Masses at Prior Park during the Latin Mass Society's Priest Training Conference.

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