Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

26/10/2017 - 10:00

A renewed attack on celibacy?

Reposted from December 2015

The word is out that the next subject for discussion at a Synod of Bishops will be celibacy. I don't know if this is true, but it is worth reminding ourselves of exactly why the Latin Church (as opposed to the Byzantine, Maronite etc. churches) should not abandon celibacy.

A while ago I wrote a short series of posts on the topic:

The Crisis of Celibacy

The Attack on Celibacy is an Attack on the Priesthood

The Attack on Celibacy is an Attack on Marriage

Here are a few points from those posts.

First, we have come to this stage in the debate because, in a series of choices between strengthening or weakening celibacy, the Church's leadership has chosen to weaken it. These decisions have been understandable - it is important to stress that, taken individually, they may seem inevitable, or even laudable - but the cumulative effect has been to erode the principle of priestly celibacy. Examples of such decisions have been: the giving way to the massive departure of priests from their vows, and the moral support given by bishops to laicised priests, including groups calling openly for the end of celibacy; the promotion of married deacons, and the endemic confusion about deacons' obligations; the taking over of various liturgical functions by lay people, including women; and concessions made to former Anglican (and occasionally Lutheran) convert clergy.

If celibacy is of value, and St John Paul II liked to stress that it is, then we need to treat as being valuable. There is a price involved in maintaining the ideal of celibacy, and if we are not prepared to pay the price, then it will disapear. Tough decisions, perhaps harsh decisions, will be necessary from future Popes and from bishops who want to preserve and promote celibacy, and not just give it lip-service and take it for granted while it withers away.

Second, the priesthood is undermined by attempts to lower its costliness: the visible cost paid by those entering the priesthood, which demonstrates publicly their committment to the priestly ideal. The Eastern churches do not simply make do without celibacy: they have a disciplinary regime, of fasting, and an obligation to lengthy liturgies, which few Western priests would put up with for a minute. Well, our Western priests don't have to put up with it; it is not our tradition. Our priests' conforming to Christ is manifested in a different way. What this means is that the example of the Eastern churches does not make the liberal point that celibacy is unimportant; it does the opposite. A priesthood without any onerous obligations, a slack priesthood, has no historical precedent, and would have no future.

Third, the idea that priesthood can without further ado be combined with marriage undermines marriage, because it implies that marriage itself is not a serious committment with serious implications for one's way of life. In the liberals' conception, marriage is reduced to the status of an occasional sexual outlet for incontinent men. If that's what they think marriage is, it is no wonder that marriage is in trouble. And it is in trouble: it is in the most desperate trouble in the West, in no shape to shore up another crisis-ridden institution.

Liberals have a habit of taking for granted whatever they aren't currently attacking. When attacking celibacy, they take marriage, and the priesthood itself, for granted: they assume that if we carry on taking away the supporting attitudes and practices which surround these things, life will go on as before. It hasn't, and it won't.

See also my post on 'Part Time Priests'

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25/10/2017 - 17:36

LMS Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Fr Martin Edwards celebrating Mass in his church of St Mary Magdalen, Wandsworth

A 9-day pilgrimage with Traditional Masses at the Holy Sites

Fr Martin Edwards, Parish Priest of St Mary Magdalen’s Wandsworth, will be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land 10th-18th November 2017, with a daily Traditional Mass at the holy sites.

Flying from Heathrow on Friday 10th November, among the places pilgrims will visit during the eight day pilgrimage are Bethlehem, Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Jerusalem, Qumran, Dead Sea, Galilee, Acre, Cana and Nazareth.

Unlike other pilgrimages to the Holy Land, this pilgrimage will have a Traditional Latin Mass every day. The cost is £1,369.

The pilgrimage is organised by Pax Travel and a full itinerary can be downloaded here.

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25/10/2017 - 11:45

LMS Annual Requiem Sat 4th Nov

Bishop Jabale at the Cataphalque in 2016 (Photo: John Aron)

The Latin Mass Society's Annual Requiem Mass will take place in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 4th Nov at 2:30 pm

It will be Pontifical High Mass; the celebrant will be the Rt Rev. Mark Jabalé O.S.B., Emeritus Bishop of Menevia, with the assistance of priests from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

Before Mass, a wreath is laid at the tomb of Cardinal Heenan in grateful thanks for his role in helping to preserve the Traditional Mass in England and Wales.

Bishop John Arnold celebrating the Requiem in 2014

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23/10/2017 - 19:30

Seasonal offerings in the LMS Shop

Now available is the famous Latin Mass Society Ordo, which has all the feasts of England and Wales as well as the Universal Calendar;

Our indispensible Wall Calendar with its unique design to give you more space to write things into the dates and lots of photos;

Christmas cards with four different classical paintings of the Nativity and a proper seasonal greeting inside.

Get yours now!

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22/10/2017 - 10:00

The Dominican Rite for the Latin Mass Society in Oxford


Yesterday was the annual LMS Pilgrimage to Oxford in honour of the city's Catholic martyrs. This year we visited the site of the martyrdom of Bl George Napier, the Castle Gallows, where he had his eternal nativity in 1610, after many years of ministering as a priest in his native Oxford, and the surrounding area.


The LMS has for a number of years had this pilgrimage at the Oxford Blackfriars, celebrated by the friars in their own Rite, the ancient Dominican Rite. It is a lot like the ancient Roman Rite, but there are a number of differences which are interesting to see, and it has an austere elegance all of its own.


The Schola Abelis, Oxford Gregorian Chant choir which exists to support celebrations of the traditional liturgy, accompanied the Mass as usual, with Dominican Chant. Just as the rubrics of the Mass are a little (actually, quite a bit) different from the Roman ones, so the chant melodies and the whole feel of the chant is a bit different.


It was an entirely chant Mass, with a Dominican Chant Mass Ordinary to go with the propers.


The changable weather and 'storm Brian' may have contributed to a lower than usual turnout, but the Schola Abelis had the biggest group I think we have ever fielded at a service: fifteen.


A sudden downpour during the procession added to the interest of the occasion, as did our being joined by one of Oxford's ... characters. I'd not normally encourage someone to carry a processional statue while holding in one hand a half-drunk bottle of wine, but he was very attached to the idea and it seemed a pity to discourage him. He assisted at Benediction as well.


The public witness of the procession, and the liturgy, meant something to him. These things have a power which we cannot fully articulate or perceive. The saints in prison managed without the liturgy by a special grace but for the rest of us it is necessary. It is the normal and indispensible food for the soul, to sustain us and to help us grow in the faith.


I know for many Catholics for the last half-century the liturgy has been a trial, a source of suffering. It is no small thing to contribute to a liturgy which is an occasion of light and consolation. The value of the Traditional Mass, in whatever Rite it may be, and the other traditional liturgical acts and devotions, cannot be calculated. Don't allow yourself to miss out on what should be a Catholic's birthright.


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21/10/2017 - 09:16

More on Pope Francis and doctrinal development

I've been included in a panel of academics interviewed for LifeSiteNews on the subject of doctrinal development, in light of Pope Francis' remarks on the Death Penalty.

An extract:

Shaw said so-called “conservative” Catholics would be especially susceptible to a change in Catholic teaching on capital punishment.

“Pope St John Paul II was clearly personally opposed to capital punishment and campaigned for its abolition. While he was careful never to claim that the teaching of the Church ruled capital punishment out, his views have become strongly associated with the Catholic Church and have influenced many conservative Catholics,” he said.

“It may seem a relatively small step between what Pope St John Paul II claimed – that capital punishment was not wise or appropriate in the conditions of the modern world – and what Pope Francis is now claiming – that capital punishment is never ‘admissible,’ and that Catholics living in very different conditions from our own were wrong to make recourse to it.”

“However, it is obviously a huge step to say that the Church herself was wrong in her consistent teaching, which has always been that capital punishment can be legitimate,” he added.
Read the whole thing there.

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20/10/2017 - 10:00

A friendly warning to Opus Dei

I don't want to single out Opus Dei; what I have to say is applicable to a number of conservative Catholic organisations. But Opus Dei does rather single out itself.

We had the organisations 'number 2', the Vicar General, Mgr Mariano Fazio, criticising the Filial Correction for 'correcting a father in public':

Any faithful, bishop, cardinal, lay person has the right to tell the pope what he sees fit for the good of the Church. But it seems to me that he has no right to do so publicly and to scandalize the whole Church with these manifestations of disunity.

I've responded to that in the linked LifeSite article.
Mgr Fazio is simply following, however, the line of the head of Opus Dei himself, Mgr Fernando Ocariz, who wrote an article for L'Osservatore Romano on December 2, 2011, indicating the kind of obedience which the documents of the Second Vatican Council have: remarks which presumably cover any reasonably high-level official documents of the Church.

A number of innovations of a doctrinal nature are to be found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council: on the sacramental nature of the episcopate, on episcopal collegiality, on religious freedom, etc. These innovations in matters concerning faith or morals, not proposed with a definitive act, still require religious submission of intellect and will, even though some of them were and still are the object of controversy with regard to their continuity with earlier magisterial teaching, or their compatibility with the tradition. In the face of such difficulties in understanding the continuity of certain Conciliar Teachings with the tradition, the Catholic attitude, having taken into account the unity of the Magisterium, is to seek a unitive interpretation in which the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the preceding Magisterial documents illuminate each other. Not only should the Second Vatican Council be interpreted in the light of previous Magisterial documents, but also some of these earlier magisterial documents can be understood better in the light of the Second Vatican Council. This is nothing new in the history of the Church. It should be remembered, for example, that the meaning of important concepts adopted in the First Council of Nicaea in the formulation of the Trinitarian and Christological faith (hypóstasis, ousía), were greatly clarified by later Councils.

The problems with this paragraph are many, and I don't want to give his article a detailed critique, so to keep it brief I invite the reader to answer for him or herself the following two questions:

1. Given that Council documents and other official documents contain both statements of the Ordinary Magisterium and other kinds of proposition, such as historical and scientific claims (such as are not inseparably connected with teaching), prudential judgements, and theological speculations, would the loyal Catholic not need to apply his mind first to determining what was actually magisterial in a document before submitting intellect and will to it?

Anyone who thinks that the non-magisterial content of one official document cannot contradict that of another simply needs to read a few. The mutually-contradictory Papal Bulls of the Franciscan property debate would be one place to start.

2. When the meaning of putatively magisterial statements in Council or other official documents are disputed, and where such disputes are themselves legitimate, how is it possible to submit one's intellect and will to them? How can one submit one's intellect to a statement whose meaning one cannot determine?

What seems reasonably clear is that the top two officials of Opus Dei are inviting Catholics to adopt an attitude of pre-emptive intellectual submission towards anything emanating from Rome, without making use of the right - which can also be a duty - to inform our fellow Catholics of their concerns about such emanations. Yes, they say, there can be ambiguities and problems, but obedience of the intellect comes first, acceptance come first, and attempts to smooth over the problems can follow later.

I've been told in comments on this blog, what I already knew, which is that Opus Dei contains many Good People. Of course it does. These are, in fact, among the most good-hearted and faithful Catholics whom one could hope to meet. It is through no lack of charity towards them that I write as a I do: quite the contrary. While I know that what I write will have no effect at all on the leadership of the organisation, I want to warn those who are members, and those associated with the many other organisations which include what we call 'conservative' Catholics, of the dangers of the road you are going down, when you start thinking of obedience as the chief or even the only virtue, instead of humility, justice, courage, charity, and the virtue of faith itself.

One danger, which follows obviously from what I have just said, is a spiritual distortion arising from a failure to recognise and cultivate the full set of virtues. That is something readers will just have to meditate upon. I want to focus on two other dangers.

The first is that it leads into anti-intellectualism. Perhaps this doesn't look like a big deal, but it will destroy the intellectual prestige of your communities and drive out those of your members of an intellectual bent. People with an intellectual formation who are honest will not be able to stick it: it will drive them nuts.

The second problem derives from the fact that when the wind changes direction, the internal policy will follow also. This isn't some uncharitable speculation on my part, it is exactly what Mgr Ocariz is saying. A new Pope, a new policy, and a new document, and all the 'faithful Catholics' who follow his advice will be reading the 'innovation' back into previous documents, submitting their intellects, and tying themselves into knots to say that what they'd previously said was black is actually, now you come to look at it, white. You may think we'll have to wait for a new Pope to see this happening, but no, we can see it happening with the current Pope.

It is a fact, and not a particularly disturbing one in itself, that Papal policy changes. Again, anyone doubting this just needs to do some reading, but a nice example is the maddening succession of policy reversals the Popes made towards the 'Chinese Rites'. Now it may be that such changes of policy require obedience on the basis of the disciplinary authority of the Pope, but anyone living through a period such as that who tries to justify each policy as correct, as in continuity with previous rules, and as based on fundamental magisterial principles, because he does not want to admit that official documents should ever be disagreed with, has got a problem.

He has got, in fact, the problem that the British Communist Party had in and just before the the Second World War. First the Party Line was that the Nazis were evil, as they were persecuting communists in Germany. Then the Party Line was to be neutral in the war against Germany, since the Soviet Union was allied to the Nazis. And then the Party Line was to support the war with Germany, since the Soviet Union was at war with them itself. Each had to be passed off as eternally true for fundamental ideological reasons.

Although in France and Italy the Communists were able to retrieve some self-respect by their resistence to occupation, in Britain the flip-flopping did irreparable damage to the Party's credibility. The same thing is going to happen to any organisation which claims to base itself on objective principles which does repeated 'backflips', to use Cardinal Pell's phrase. To put it bluntly, this will destroy your community.

Am I applying this to Opus Dei? Let me correct that impression. Really, what I have been saying applies to the Catholic Church as a whole over the last half-century. We have all seen it: good-hearted and loyal people twisting themselves into pretzels to make everything seem ok, but other Catholic intellectuals just dropping out of the whole game because it looks incompatible with intellectual self-respect. And yet others, observing all this, concluding that the Church doesn't really stand for anything much any more.

That's a lesson we should learn from. If we don't, we are going to repeat it till we do.

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19/10/2017 - 12:53

‘Pro-Pope Francis’ petition launched

A German-based petition praising Pope Francis has been launched, signed by a handful of bishops and about 100 theologians and others.
The text of the petition itself is vague: it simply expresses support for Pope Francis' ‘initiatives’ and ‘leadership’. It is interesting, therefore, that despite appearing first on the website of the German Bishops’ Conference — which suggests some kind of official endorsement — so few German bishops have added their names. Indeed, the episcopal signatories one does find are either retired or are auxiliary bishops. It adds to the sense that even quite liberal bishops, who have dioceses to consider, are a bit concerned about the crisis, and are wary of simply throwing themselves into battle on the liberalising side. Every now and then a bishop makes a statement of enthusiasm for a liberal interpretation of Amoris laetitia — the other day it was Cardinal Barbarin’s turn — but these remain very much the exception, not the rule.

The signatories are, indeed, obscure and marginal figures. Cynics might say: just like the signatories of the Filial Correction. If so, this is a remarkably poor showing for something supported by the German Bishops’ Conference machinery, ostensibly in support of the Pope. It is obvious what limits the ability of the organisers of the Filial Correction to get big names: the very real danger of losing one's job. What is their excuse? Where are all those hundreds of theology professors in Church-supported institutions? Is it too much to ask them simply to ‘support the Pope’?

Instead we find figures who are notorious for their dissent against Papal teaching, who presumably look at Pope Francis’ pontificate a purely tactical light. This isn’t an upsurge of Ultramontanism; as soon as there’s another pope they’ll be back to demanding an independent Church in Germany, as they did under Pope Benedict.

One of the signatories has actually been excommunicated, and by Pope Francis himself, as recently as 2014. As 1Peter5 notes:

Martha Heizer — the Presidentof the Austrian grass-root organization “We Are Church” (Wir sind Kirche) — was excommunicated by Pope Francis in May of 2014 for having, together with her husband, “celebrated” repeatedly Holy Mass in their private home and in the presence of guests.

This makes a mockery of the criticism of the Filial Correction for being signed by Bishop Fellay, Superior of the SSPX. Bishop Fellay's big crime, in canonical terms, was being consecrated bishop without the mandate of the Holy See, back in 1988, for which the penalty is excommunication. But Pope Benedict lifted that excommunication in 2009. Fellay and Heizer are clearly moving in very different directions, vis-a-vis canonical regularity.
We should, of course, support the Pope. I commend to readers the prayer recommended by the Bishops of England and Wales, in the official book of authorised devotions, the Manual of Prayers, last revised in 1953. In England and Wales it can be added to the Prayers After Low Mass in celebrations of the Extraordinary Form. (I have added the current Pope’s name, obviously.)

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.

See also the LifeSiteNews report.

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18/10/2017 - 11:49

Oxford Pilgrimage this Saturday


This Saturday, 21st October, the annual Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Oxford will take place.

11am High Mass in the Dominican Rite, Blackfriars, in St Giles, Oxford

2pm Procession to the Castle Gallows, site of the martyrdom of Bl George Napier in 1610

3pm Benediction in Blackfriars


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15/10/2017 - 10:00

Ultramontanism's Death Sentence

Pope Pius XII
In 1952 Pope Pius XII said the following, in a public address recorded among his official acts:
Even when it is a question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual's right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already disposed himself of his right to live.

In 2017 Pope Francis spoke, in a not dissimilar context:

It must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity. It is per se contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor. 


It is necessary, therefore, to reaffirm that no matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.

What can the Ultramontanists, those with an exaggerated view of papal authority so prominent in the debate over Amoris laetitia, make of this situation?

Presumably, in 1952 all good Ultramontanists said that, because the Pope had said so, it follows that it is true that the death penalty is not only permissible, but for sufficiently serious crimes, uniquely appropriate. (What else does it mean, to say that a criminal has 'disposed' of his 'right to life'?)

Today, in 2017, all good Ultramontanists are saying that, because the Pope has said so, it follows that it is false that the the death penalty is ever permissible.
Now, the official Ultramontanist line is that Papal authority, being supreme and (for practical purposes, always) infallible, can never be self contradictory. But between these two papal statements there is a contradiction as plain as the nose on your face. The suggestion that the 2017 statement is a 'development' or 'clarification' of what was said in 1952, or that is draws out implications of this and other expressions of the Church's teaching on capital punishment over the centuries, is not something one needs to haggle over. It is simply insane.
But for those who wish to haggle, a simple test of the development of doctrine is to ask if later authors can continue to accept earlier expressions of a doctrine as being true. Thus, we find the discussion of grace in Augustine lacking some distinctions developed by later authors and used in dogmatic statements, but Augustine is not for that reason wrong, and what he writes is not, with hindsight, heresy. It might on occasion be misleading to quote Augustine on grace, but one need not disavow him. In this case, by contrast, it is evident that Pope Francis disagrees with Pope Pius XII: they can't both be right.
Today's Ultramontanists are in a bind, therefore. In order to uphold the supreme and (for practical purposes, always) infallible authority of Pope Francis, they are going to have to admit that the authority of Pope Pius XII was not so supreme or infallible after all.
But if people would have been wrong in 1952 to throw themselves on their faces before Pius XII and agree with what he said about capital punishment, just because he'd said it, then the hideous possibility must exist that people may be wrong to agree with everything that Pope Francis says in 2017, just because he's said it.
Pope Francis' statement, by so simply and so clearly contradicting his predecessor of 65 years ago, demonstrates the falsity of Ultramontanism in a way I would never have thought possible. We may point out to the Ultramontanists that the contradiction of one Pope by another on a matter of faith and morals is possible, given the fallibility of most of their pronouncements, even when they are giving every appearance of exercising their teaching office (let alone when they are talking off the cuff on aeroplanes, or writing private letters), but usually Popes are far too careful in preparing their public remarks to allow this to happen, except in the most subtle and tacit way. But Pope Francis has done it. The game is up.
Ultramontanism as a practical guide for Catholics only works, insofar as it can work at all, in times of great stability. At times like the present, it is self-contradictory and absurd. After Pope Francis' statement on the death penalty, no Catholic with intellectual integrity can continue to hold it.
Where does this leave the ordinary Catholic? The ordinary Catholic is obliged to believe what the Church teaches. The Church hands on faithfully what she has received from her Lord. We can see Pope Pius XII doing that in the quoted passage: using the language of his time, certainly, but in its content faithful to the Popes, the Fathers and Doctors, and Scripture (see Gen. 9:6; Lev. 20-1; Deut. 13; Deut. 21:22; Matt. 15:4; Mk. 7:10; Jn. 19:11; Rom. 13:4; Heb. 10:28).

Of Pope Francis' statement, to put it mildly, this cannot be said.

Note: the liceity of capital punishment is the first of the propositions discussed in the Appeal to Cardinals of the 45 Theologians, which gives more references.

Cardinal Dulles gives a thorough account of the teaching of the Church on First Things here.

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