Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

09/05/2016 - 10:47

Prior Cassian Folsom to say Mass in Warwick St Sat 14th

The anniversary Requiem for Michael Davies celebrated in Warwick Street by Fr Tim Finigan last year.

Prior Cassian Folsom is going to celebrate a Missa Cantata in Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, at 12 noon on Saturday 14th May. (Click for a map.)

The event is organised by the Latin Mass Society in association with the Friends of Norcia.

Prior Folsom was due to speak at the LMS Conference that day, which sadly has been cancelled.

He will also be celebrating a Sung Mass in Our Lady of Willesden on Sunday 15th, Whitsun (Pentecost), at 5.30pm (Click for a map.)

A Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Willesden.

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07/05/2016 - 12:52

Letter in the Catholic Times this weekend: English Martyrs' feast days

Grotesquely innappropriate memorial to the 'martyrs of the Reformation'
in the University Church, St Mary's, in Oxford.
Last weekend there was an interesting letter from Christopher Keefe lamenting the neglect of the English Martyrs, who are grouped together with a feast day on 4th May in the Ordinary Form calendar. I have a letter in this weekend to point out that it is still possible to celebrate the old, separate, feasts for many of these martyrs with the Latin Mass Society.

Christopher Keefe (Letters, 29th April) laments the decline of public commemoration of the the English and Welsh Martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries, assigned a single feast day on 4th May.

In the pre-1970 calendar, used for the Extraordinary Form (Traditional) Mass, there are many separate feast days, for individuals and groups, often specific to a diocese, and this helps the Latin Mass Society in the task of commemorating these great men and women around the country. We arrange annual Masses for the Padley Martyrs in June and for St Richard Gwyn in Wrexham in October. Last weekend we honoured St Anne Line with a procession in York, as well as a splendid Mass, and will be processing through the streets of Oxford similarly to remind residents of the Catholic martyrs of that city, in October. In the last case our efforts have been rewarded with permanent public memorials at the two places of martyrdom in Oxford, which were previously unmarked. All these events are open to all.

These saints and beati certainly should not be neglected: we need their prayers more than ever today.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, the Latin Mass Society

I managed to write 'St Anne Line' instead of 'St Margaret Clitherow': mea culpa. I was in too much of a hurry.

The Bishops of England and Wales only succeeded in having the English and Welsh additions to the liturgical calendar approved by Rome in 2010. An aspect of this which I hadn't realised, pointed out by Mr Keefe, is that the feast on 4th May coincides with the Church of England celebration of what they call the 'English saints and martyrs of the Reformation.' All sorts of ecumenical possibilities beckon. As does the sick bag.

Quite what the Anglicans imagine they mean by this I do not know. Their liturgical texts are here. An Anglican blogger exemplifies the confusion of mind necessary for this kind of thing.

What is significant about this day is that we are not simply remembering ‘our own’ martyrs, those like Cramner, Ridley and Latimer, who died for maintaining adherence to the Church of England in the face of Roman Catholic persecution. We are also remembering those Roman Catholics who died at the hands of Protestants for maintaining their Faith and allegiance. We are recognizing that there was true Godliness and great courage in martyrs on both sides of that divide, and therefore also recognizing that there was terrible error and great evil committed by those who ordered the martyrdoms on both sides!

Er, right. So when St Thomas More and Archbishop Cranmer ordered the execution of heretics and recusants they were 'evil', and when they died for the faith for which they had struggled in life, a faith which included the appropriatness of their actions towards their victims, they were Godly martyrs. Yeah, that really makes sense.

There are two issues here. One is a matter of good taste. It is not good taste to commemorate together those who would not wish to be commemorated together. It is a corralling of their historical memories for purposes to which they would have violented objected. It betrays monstrous arrogance to attempt this, and it is negates their historical importance and their heroism to say that the actions of all sides were just a hideous mistake.

The other issue is the question of what it means to be a martyr. I don't expect non-Catholics to understand this, but for Catholics the concept of martyrdom is a technical theological one with important implications. It washes away all sin, even Original Sin, and in this way acts as a sort of baptism, if the person involved in not already baptised. But to be martyred does not just mean 'to be unjustly killed': it means to be killed for the Faith, for the truth.
Here are the admirably clear words of Mgr Ronald Knox.
A martyr, in the essential signification of the term, means a man who dies, not merely to bear testimony, but to bear testimony to the truth. Edmund Campion died because he believed in the Pope and the Mass. Thomas Cranmer died because he disbelieved in the Pope and the Mass. It is an intelligible attitude to say that Crammer was a martyr and Campion was not. It is an intelligible attitude to say that neither Cranmer was a martyr nor Campion. But to say that both Crammer and Campion were martyrs is to say good-bye to all reason and all common-sense. Each of them died in the belief that he was bearing witness to the truth; and if you accept both testimonies indiscriminately, then you are making nonsense of them both. The only point in common between the two men is that both died for their religious opinions. It is ridiculous to suppose that either of them accepted death as a protest against the theory of religious persecution. On the contrary, Cranmer persecuted with the best of them. Neither of them minded being put to death for the sake of religion; but either protested that the religion which he died for was the true one. It is a poor compliment to such heroism to conclude that after all it does not much matter one way or the other!

I've written more about this here.

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05/05/2016 - 09:42

Sorrow hath filled your heart

John 16:5-11
But I told you not these things from the beginning, because I was with you. And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 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.
Jesus leaves us, in one sense: his earthly ministry has come to an end. His continuing presence in the Church, in the Sacraments, and through the Holy Spirit, can seem difficult to discern. But the transition from one to the other is necessary for the Gospel to be preached universally, and for the glorification of our Lord: his final and permanent vindication by the Father in heaven, his taking up of his proper place of honour.

That vindication will be the Church's too: but not yet.

Happy feast of the Ascension.

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04/05/2016 - 10:13

Academic freedom and dissent: again

Jesus really should have made reasoned arguments which could have
been understood by those outside his faith tradition.

Back in 2012 I wrote about the argument made by Prof Tina Beattie that it was wrong for her invitations to speak at Catholic institutions (be they universities or parishes) to be withdrawn, on the basis of academic freedom.

Her argument was insane. The freedom of academics to speak and write as they wish does not imply an obligation on anyone to read or listen. It really is as simple as that. These institutions, or their leaders, are free to invite, not invite, or withdraw invitations, according to their own lights; to deny this would be to deny them freedom.

Chalcedon451, a Catholic blogger on All Along the Watchtower, has criticised Beattie's most recent critics, however. The post appears to make some concession to Beattie's claims to be using 'reason' in the service of the Church, but the central point would seem to be prudential.

This seems to me a real problem. I disagree with Professor Beattie’s views on abortion (and other matters), but to attack her in the way that has been done – as though no Catholic should ever dissent from the teaching of the Church on anything – and to make some of the comments I have seen on social media sites, is simply to turn her into the victim of what looks like a witch-hunt. If the aim is to get the Bishops to look at her activity, this seems not the way to achieve that objective. What Bishop wants to look as though he is trying to stifle the freedom of a woman academic to speak her mind?

'As though no Catholic should ever dissent from the teaching of the Church on anything': Eh? Obviously Catholics shouldn't dissent from the teaching of the Church. Even Beattie is not arguing in favour of dissent; she is arguing for a different understanding of the teaching of the Church.


I cannot imagine that those in positions of responsibility will feel inclined to act in a way which might produce allegations of bowing to mob pressure. The arguments against her position on this, as on other matters where she disagrees with the Catholic consensus are obvious and, as with Austen Ivereigh’s piece, should be deployed. But that should be done in a way which wins support from those who do not necessarily agree with the Catholic position – not one which confirms such people in their view that we are interested only in suppressing free speech and are uneasy with strong women. Own goals should be avoided.

Allow me to state the obvious. A number of bishops in England and Wales since the era of the Second Vatican Council have used official or unofficial means of reining in theologians or other Catholic commentators who were uncomfortably, for them, too conservative. But I challenge Chalcedon451 to give me any examples of bishops disciplining progressive dissenters other than after pressure from below. In the old days it was letter-writing campaigns; today it is social media. Such pressure has historically been most effective when it is mediated by Rome, but the only times Rome acts is following such local protests.

Certainly, bishops will invariably tell you that such pressure is counter-productive, that it makes things harder for them, that they don't want to be seen to be giving in to a lynch mob, etc.. Officials in Rome often say the same thing. I have written about this kind of argument, and why they make it, here. But just show me the cases in which they have acted without such pressure. The conservative 'mob', if that's how we want to look at it, doesn't catch every individual or every instance of dissent: far from it. Bishops have numerous opportunities to deal with problems without the mob getting in the way. And they do not.

Indeed, knowing a little about some of these cases, I can tell Chalcedon451 that it has frequently been the case that bishops have received detailed information about serious problems privately, and have done nothing about it for years and decades, unless and until the matter has either gone to Rome or gone public. It has worked in exactly the same way with theological dissent as it has with clerical child abuse: why would it work any differently? In these cases we know the bishops who needed to know, knew. Again and again, it is only pressure from outside which has stimulated action - in the relatively small number of cases where there has been action at all.

Going to Rome is, of course, almost a complete waste of time at the current moment in the history of the Church. It was pretty hopeless in previous decades, but sometimes something would happen, perhaps if Cardinal Ratzinger took an interest and the people causing the problem didn't have big backers in Rome itself. Today - forget it. So we are left with the social media on its own.

So a first point, Chalcedon, is that the kind of fuss being created over Tina Beattie, her petition in support of legal abortion, and CAFOD, is not counter-productive or an 'own goal'. It is the only means available to Catholics to address the problem, and it is a means which has some, albeit small, prospect of success.

A second point is that, while naturally we can all deprecate some of the things said on Twitter and Facebook on this topic, this is true of any topic which is discussed publicly, so doesn't serve as any guide to our actions, unless the suggestion is that we should simply ignore what Beattie says. That would hardly be engaging in reason for the good of the Church, now, would it? The only relevant question is whether what Austen Ivereigh, who is discussed in the post, or I, or Caroline Farrow, or anyone else making a serious, more-than-140-character comment on the subject, have done so in a way which is open to criticism, and what that criticism is.

The criticism these kinds of contributions make seems to be this. We should be making our arguments
in a way which wins support from those who do not necessarily agree with the Catholic position – not one which confirms such people in their view that we are interested only in suppressing free speech and are uneasy with strong women.

The point about 'strong women' is a bit strange; I really don't see what Beattie's sex has got to do with it. I fancy rather that Chalcedon451 may be 'uneasy with strong women' if they take the form of critics of Beattie like Caroline Farrow or Claire Short; would it help if I made a list of female Catholic conservatives? This is a profoundly silly game to play.

But why are we supposed to be concerned with gaining the support of non-Catholics in our opposition to Tina Beattie's role in the Catholic community? I am quite sure there are serious issues at stake when Jews or Muslims or Anglicans criticise each other theologically, accuse each other of inauthentic understandings of their shared tradition, and so forth, but I am equally sure that it is no business of mine to get involved. The suggestion is preposterous. Were anyone from those communities to appeal to outsiders to judge between them, everyone would recognise how innappropriate it would be. The question of whether Tina Beattie should be regarded as an authentic Catholic theologian is a question for the Catholic community - ultimately, for those who wield authority within the community, but in the first instance it is a matter for exploration by reasoned discussion in the ordinary way.

The last quotation from Chalcedon451's post also raises the question of 'free speech'. Who, pray, is going to take away Beattie's right to speak and write? Is she in imminent danger of being thrown into a dungeon in the Castel San Angelo? Is she going to be sent to a penal convent in Antarctica? I hardly think so. The most serious consequence she faces is that certain Catholic institutions which might otherwise listen to her, decide they can do without her pearls of wisdom after all. Possibly, just possibly, CAFOD will decide she is no longer needed on its 'Theological Reference Group'. I strongly suspect the position is unpaid. Even if it were paid, it must be insignificant in terms of Beattie's income or time, or come to that her theological influence. Its importance, such as it is, is as a way for CAFOD to signal its critical distance from Catholic teaching. Catholics who are asked, as Catholics, to support CAFOD, Catholics who are obliged, indeed, whether they like it or not, to support CAFOD, since it receives a grant from the Bishops ultimately supported by pennies in the collection plate, have a right to make their concerns known. Sensible ones will do so sensibly; the less mature denizens of social media will do so in the only way they know how. Unlike Tina Beattie, who can only appeal to a secular conception of free speech which is itself contrary to the teaching of the Church, we can appeal to our right and obligation to oppose the misrepresentation of Church teaching and to protect the innocent.

Objections like Chalcedon451's are not going to stop us doing that.

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02/05/2016 - 10:00

The Beattie petition pro-abortion fringe

One of the most striking things about the Open Letter calling for continued legal abortion in Poland is the list of signatures. The petition has been promoted by some of the most well-connected people on the liberal Catholic scene, and yet the list of signatories they came up with is derisory.

Tina Beattie is ubiquitous on the liberal Catholic scene. She holds a professorial chair in Roehampton University, she sits on the Tablet's board, she is on CAFOD's  'Theological Reference Group', and she has been around a fair while - she must know everyone who matters. To promote this petition, she's been assisted by such liberal luminaries as Elriede Harth, the European representative of Catholics for Choice. And what have they come up with?

From the list it looks as though they started out with the idea that it should include only female Catholic academics, but gave up on this when they realised they were only going to get a tiny number. So they've puffed out the list with people with no academic credentials. A bunch of these are teachers, some retired; others are simply students, and others again have nothing to say about themselves at all. The notorious Twitter troll Maureen Clarke (@retrochbabe, down simply as 'UK') would probably prefer as little said about her as possible.

They've filled some corners with a few men too, like the gay activist Martin Pendergast, who describes himself as a 'Pastoral worker'.

They clearly wanted to get signatures from Poland, and around the world, so they've ended up with a Polish icon painter, an art historian, and a choir director, and a handful of people from outside Europe with only a place of residence as their claim to fame:

  1. Verónica Díaz Ramos, Valparaíso, Chile
  2. Betty C. Dudney, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  3. Gladys Via Huerta, Perú

Oh yes, very impressive: I'm sure the Polish Bishops will sit up and take notice when they see those names. They are 'prominent theologians' all right.

The purpose of the petition is not really to influence the Polish Bishops. It is to create headlines of a certain kind, and it succeeded in this up to a point: see the National Catholic Reporter headline screenshot above. It would have gone  lot further into the non-Catholic media if the names had been more impressive, so this must be a frustration for Prof Beattie. Why did she do so badly?

One can't rule out simple incompetence, of course, but her basic problem was that you have to be very far gone as a Catholic liberal actually to support 'safe, legal' abortion, as the petition does (while the signatories are 'personally opposed' to abortion, naturally). Like the promotion of women's ordination, it is a fringe view. Not that we can expect liberal Catholics to lift a finger, generally speaking, to oppose abortion actively, but their support for it takes the form of criticising orthodox Catholics for being 'obsessed' by the subject, rather than actually signing petitions in favour of legalisation. As you move away from the full possession of the Faith, as you become more and more liberal, there is a very narrow area of intellectual territory in which anyone is likely to say 'I'm a fervent Catholic but I believe abortion should be legal'.

Indeed, most people, on their way out of the Church, would give up being a self-identifying supporter of Church teaching, even 'as they understand it', before they start advocating for legal abortion. Catholics For Choice has always struggled to present more than a handful of non-lapsed Catholics in leadership positions. Those who do hang in there as nominal Catholics are either under some unusual intellectual delusion, or are motivated by the influence or paid positions which go with being a Catholic. In either case, there is a strong whiff of cognitive dissonance about the whole enterprise.

And that, in fact, is something the Church can be proud of. Abortion is perhaps the only major issue on which a person being a Catholic (of some degree of seriousness) is a strong indicator that he or she will not agree with the secular consensus. When this stops being the case, we'll know the decline has plumbed new depths.

Where does that leave Tina Beattie? She is out on a limb even compared with her fellow Tablet trustees. I don't suppose they'd criticise her, but they've not followed her lead. She puts the bishops in an awkward postion, and her role at CAFOD looks anomalous. I don't expect anything bad to happen to her, but she's making things harder for her friends.

A lot of good stuff has been written about the contents of the petition (and I don't just mean by me!) You can see my analysis here; Caroline Farrow here, and Mark Lambert here; there's more about Prof Beattie on Cranmer's blog here.

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01/05/2016 - 10:00

Two insights into Latin from non-Catholic sources

Sign up for the LMS Latin Course with Fr John Hunwicke
and Fr Richard Bailey here.

Two recent news stories stuck me for their relevance to the debate about the use of Latin in the Church.

First, the Victoria and Albert Museum are putting on an exhibition of English needlework from the Middle Ages, called 'Opus Anglicanum', The Guardian carried a story about it, noting

'for the first time in decades, the museum has dared to use Latin in an exhibition title.'
It explained:

“We were a bit worried that people would find the title baffling,” said co-curator and textile expert Clare Browne. “Older people thought that younger people would find it off-putting – but in fact younger people thought it was mysterious and exciting.”

This is a startling assertion, but only because it is so exactly what we have found in the movement for the Traditional Latin Mass. I could have said it myself.

The second is a report in The Economist about whether being a native English-speaker is an advantage in a world where English is increasingly the language of business. It reported some interesting and surprising advantages enjoyed by those working in English for whom English is not their cradle language.

Ingenious researchers have found that sometimes decision-making in a foreign language is actually better. Researchers at the University of Chicago gave subjects a test with certain traps—easy-looking “right” answers that turned out to be wrong. Those taking it in a second language were more likely to avoid the trap and choose the right answer. Fluid thinking, in other words, has its down-side, and deliberateness an advantage.

(I've found an article about this research here; the reseach paper itself is here.)

From about the 8th until well into the 17th century, almost all theology and philosophy in the West was done in a language at some distance, at least, from the cradle language of those involved: Latin. In theology, a great deal of work continued to be done in such a language into the 20th century. This had so many advantages that it is hard to know where to begin: the ability of people to discuss ideas in the same language across the many linguistic barriers of Europe; the ability of people to engage directly with writers from the distant past in a language equipped with all the necessary technical terms; the levelling of the playing-field between linguistic groups; all the educational advantages ascribed to bi-lingualism, plus the special advantages of learning an inflected, and linguistically influential language like Latin.
But in addition to these manifold advantages, it would seem that people doing their philosophy and theology in Latin would actually have been doing better academic work because of the dispassionate 'deliberatness' involved in talking and writing in a second language. 
No wonder things went downhill after the loss of Latin as a working language for academics.

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30/04/2016 - 10:00

The Prayer for the Queen in The Tablet

Last weekend a certain Fr David Clemens criticised the Bishops of England and Wales over their mandating a prayer for the Queen to mark he 90th Birthday in a letter to The Tablet. This weekend The Tablet published a whole sheaf of responses, including one from me. The other published letters focused on the importance of praying for the head of state; my interest was with the liturgical aspect of the question. Here is my letter.

I was amused by Fr David Clemens' description (Letters, 23rd April) of the 'Prayer for the Queen' mandated by the Bishops' Conference for Masses taking place on 11-12th June, as 'a quasi-Protestant prayer for the Queen that would not be unfamiliar to Edward or Elizabeth Tudor.'

The prayer the Bishops are asking parishes to use is a translation of the 'Domine salvum fac' ('salvam fac' for a female monarch), which originated in medieval France. It was used in the coronation of King Francis I in 1515, and in time gained a stable place at the end of the 'principal Mass on a Sunday' in countries with Catholic monarchs, but it has also been adapted to petition for the good estate of republics ('Domine salvum fac rem publicam'). It has been set to music by many Catholic composers, such as Lully, Charpentier, and Gounod.

In an interesting assertion of Catholic loyalty to the crown, it has been in use in post-Reformation England (but not Scotland) for more than two centuries, and is sung and said today at the end of Sunday Masses celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. For other Masses it stopped in 1964.
It is good to see this monument of Catholic tradition return to our parishes, if only briefly. 'Quasi-Protestant' it certainly is not.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, the Latin Mass Society

I can only imagine that Fr Clemens thinks that the very idea of a prayer for the Sovereign is a Protestant, Erastian notion. If so, I certainly share with him some discomfort over the enormous Royal Coats of Arms seen in some Anglican churches, from the Protestant Tudors. Henry VIII and his immediate Protestant successors treated the Anglican Church at times as a sort of cult of the monarchy, removing references to unjust kings, and the saints who opposed them, from the liturgy. But it is quite another thing to object to prayers for the public good, and in a kingdom that means praying for the king, or queen.

While on the subject, it is worth noting something a little odd about the Bishops' translation of the Prayer for the Queen, which quite naturally differs a bit from the one you'll find in the Latin Mass Society's Ordinary Booklet, is that they have changed the ending of the collect. Collects have different endings depending on whether they are addressed to the Father, or the Son, and whether they address the Holy Ghost directly in the main text. The traditional prayer is addressed to the Son, since it includes the petition

'to come unto thee who art the way, the truth, and the life.'

'ad te qui via, véritas, et vita es,'

The 1960s fashion was to want all collects to address the Father through the Son and in the Holy Ghost, and the Prayer for the Queen has had the same treatment as that meted out to a number of other collects in the 1970 Missal. The Bishops' version turns this last petition into part of the final doxology, so the whole prayer is made

through Christ who is the way, the truth and the life...

The implication of the 1960s theology is that we shouldn't pray to Jesus, or the Holy Ghost, in the liturgy at all, a rule so often broken in the Roman liturgical tradition that one feels like asking 'who sets the rules here, the Church in her liturgy or a bunch of theologians?' I don't know how many would seriously defend that rule today, and it seems curious that the Bishops have promulgated a prayer which had been changed to follow it.

For the sake of comparison, the translation in the LMS booklet is as follows.

O Lord, save Elizabeth our Queen. And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
P: Let us pray.

We beseech thee, almighty God, that thy servant Elizabeth our Queen, who through thy mercy has undertaken the government of this realm, may also receive an increase of all virtues. Fittingly adorned with these, may she be able to shun all evildoing, [in time of war: to vanquish her enemies,] and, together with the Prince her consort and the royal family, being in thy grace, to come unto thee who art the way, the truth, and the life. Through Christ our Lord.

R: Amen.

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29/04/2016 - 10:00

Is Patrarchy a punishment for sin?

Chaucer's Wife of Bath. What is it
all women desire?

In my last post I considered the claim that all the many Scriptural texts saying that wives should be subordinate to their husbands should be read in light of Ephesians 5:21's reference to the 'mutual submission' of Christians. Here I want to address another argument, based on Genesis 3:16, or rather the second half of it. It is part of the curse of God on Eve after the Fall (King James Version):

your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.

The curse implies that the harmonious relationship between husband and wife, which was Adam and Eve's in Eden, will be disrupted by sin.

Pope St John Paul II suggests, or perhaps 'hints' would be a better word, that the ruling of the husband over the wife which this verse speaks of, can be seen as a part of the consequences of the Fall which can be seen as reversed in the Christian dispensation. Mulieres dignitatem 11:

Mary means, in a sense, a going beyond the limit spoken of in the Book of Genesis (3: 16) and a return to that "beginning" in which one finds the "woman" as she was intended to be in creation, and therefore in the eternal mind of God: in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary is "the new beginning" of the dignity and vocation of women, of each and every woman.

The suggestion, if that is what it is, seems to be one of a parallel with the abolition of divorce by Our Lord, by reference to the original intention of God in creation before the Fall. Another partial parallel would seem to be the Augustinian view of political authority, which has it that it is necessary because of sin. Like death, authority, then, comes into the world at the Fall; like divorce, perhaps at least this kind of authority can be abolished with the help of grace and the sacraments.

But what does the verse of Genesis actually mean? On the face of it, it is very puzzling to connect the idea of 'desire for the husband' and his rule over the wife.

One interesting thing is that the Vulgate gives a different reading, leading to the Douay translation: 'thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee.' This has always been used as a text supporting the authority of the husband in marriage, but it doesn't help determine whether the power was new, after the Fall, or simply newly irksome.

Looking at the long list of Bible translations given by BibleHub, although something like the KJV wording dominates, a couple translate 'desire' in a quite different way again:

You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.

And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.

The reason for this is an intriguing link with a later verse of Genesis, 4:7, when again God is speaking, this time to Cain. All translations (except the Vulgate / Douai) concur this time, with something like this:

If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door and its desire is toward you, but you shall rule over it.

(The Vulgate again treats the two phrases as reiterating each other, not contrasting with each other, giving 'if ill, shall not sin forthwith be present at the door? but the lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it.')

It is, in fact, the same Hebrew phrase (as Robert Sungenis explains in more detail). The 'desire' of the sin, and the desire of the woman, is for domination, and contrasted with that is the possibility, or probability, that this desire will be frustrated by the assertion of authority by the other party. It is not Adam's authority, any more than Cain's inclination to upright action, which is new; it is the temptation to kick against it.

Authority is a remedy for sin, but that is not all it is. St Augustine is the classic exponent of the view that the authority of the state is a remedy for sin, but he did not regard the authority of Adam over Eve as starting with the Fall. In St Thomas Aquinas the connection between Adam's patriarchal authority and political authority is brought out. Without the Fall, Adam would have ruled his extended family; without sin, that would have been a matter of guiding cooperative action and the nurturing of civic friendship, which look very much like political aims. It is true that Christ is able to roll back some of the consequences of sin, and render some of the remedies for sin mandated in the Mosaic Law unnecessary, but there is no support in the tradition for the view that God's creative intention was for some kind of non-hierarchical, anarchist commune.

That, at any rate, is clearly the view of the New Testament authors, who show zero awareness of any new dispensation in light of the Gospel to abolish the authority of husbands over wives. On the contrary, there are more explicit references to this authority in the New Testament than there are in the Old. To interpret Genesis 3:16 as implying that the authority of husbands is a temporary expedient to deal with sin until the New Covenant, like divorce or circumcision, one needs to ignore the revealed testimony of the New Covenant itself.

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28/04/2016 - 10:30

Mutual submission of spouses: coherent, Pauline, true?


Among other issues raised by Pope Francis' Exhortation Amoris laetitia is the question of family life and the complementarity of the sexes. As I have pointed out on this blog, Pope Francis seems to have a relatively robust notion of the specialisation of gender roles, a subject Pope St John Paul II was less willing to broach. I have noted on this blog the strange position of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which brings up complementarity when discussing homosexual relationships. These lack 'genuine complementarity', the Catechism tells us, and therefore lack something essential to marriage. Something so essential, in fact, that its own discussion of marriage doesn't even mention it. D'oh.

Pope Francis nevertheless pays lip-service to feminism, and says that 'patriarchy', whatever he means by that, is wrong. More substantially, in section 154 he repeats in summary form the argument made by Pope St John Paul II in his 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieres dignitatem 24, that St Paul in Ephesians wants each spouse to submit to the other (Pope Francis refers in fact to a 'Catechesis' John Paul II gave in 1982, but the argument is the same). This is something, on the face of it, which is problematic in Amoris laetitia, not because it contradicts Pope St John Paul II, but because it agrees with him.

Pope St John Paul II says very little about what 'mutual submission' actually means. There may be a 'pious reading' which would allow us to say that it says nothing in tension with previous treatments, but I want to explore the theory as standardly elaborated and understood by neo-conservative Catholic writers, of whom there are a great many. The problems with their notion of 'mutual submission' can be divided into three categories. Does it make sense? Is it the teaching of St Paul? And, Is it the teaching of the Church?

Mutual submission is a theological riposte to traditional views of male headship of the family. There are good, bad, and indifferent versions of such views, but what they have in common is that according to them the husband has some form of authority over the wife, which the wife does not have over him. There is an asymmetry in the relationship, and the family has a hierarchical structure. Instead of clarifying the nature, the limits, the purpose, or the motivation of this authority, or investigating the corresponding expectations and rights of the wife vis a vis the husband, the 'mutual submission' approach to this question is to deny the asymmetry. The most natural way to do this would be simply to say that there is no submission of the wife to the husband: there is no relationship of power or authority, and no hierarchy, within marriage. This would be the view, I suppose, of most secular people. Instead, the 'mutual submission' suggestion is that there is a relationship of power or authority, but that it goes both ways. The wife submits to the husband, and the husband submits to the wife.

At any rate, this is the language which is used, on the basis of Ephesians 1:21, where St Paul writes 'And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ', which is used by the partisans of this view as an interpretive key to understand the numerous passages in the New Testament which urge wives to submit to their husbands. Yes!, people say, wives should submit to their husbands, but look at Eph 1:21: husbands should submit to their wives too!

It may be objected, however, that the attempt to establish a position on authority within the family which is different from the secular view that there is no authority in the family, at any rate between husband and wife, fails, because it is impossible to give coherent substance to such a position. What does it mean to submit to the authority of a person who, in exactly the same way, is submitted to your own authority? I might have authority over you as the Secretary of a club you have joined, and you may have authority over me as a traffic warden over the driver of a car, but we can't have authority over each other of exactly the same kind.  It just doesn't make sense. Or rather: the only sense which can be made is that the clashing authorities cancel each other out.

The proponents of this view might reply that it means that the two people locked in this Escher-like paradox of mutual subordination should always be ready to give way to the other's desires, as opposed to working out their differences by some form of bargaining. The two little love-birds, trapped forever in the closing pages of a sentimental novel, should, on this view, be constantly saying to each other 'no, dearest, we must do what you want!' Whenever they have divergent desires or opinions, which will be a lot of the time if they are rational, if they are to come to any decisions at all, they must do so in favour of whichever has best mastered the art of emotional manipulation: of conveying a desire without appearing to insist upon it. If that's not what the proponents of this view have in mind, then what it really comes down to is saying that the bargaining of the secular model should be tempered by charity and self-restraint, which may be an improvement upon secular practice but does not restore to it any kind of legitimate authority. If Scripture tells us that there is legitimate authority within marriage, then, on this view, Scripture is wrong.

So the next question is, does Scripture, and specifically St Paul in Ephesians, tell us that there is legitimate authority within marriage, of one spouse over the other? The answer of course is that this message is conveyed emphatically over and over again, not only in Ephesians, but in Colossians, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, 1 Peter, and the Letter to Titus: I've listed the passages here. Ephesians 1:21 is the only apparent qualification to the principle that husbands have authority over wives and wives should be subordinate to husbands, and not the other way round. So what does Eph 1:21 mean?

A comment on a recent post this blog suggested that it is a general remark to the effect that some Christians be subject to other Christians, not only within marriage but in the household (children to parents and slaves to masters) and in society (everyone else to the Emperor). Given the structure of the letter, this suggestion makes sense.

An alternative view, which is somewhat closer to the exegesis of Mulieres dignitatem, and has the support of some Fathers of the Church, is that it is not legal submission which is at issue here, but the kind of submission made by Christ when he washed the disciples' feet. Christ did not give up his authority in this action, but illustrated the spirit which should animate it, a spirit of service. This service is proper to all Christians, who should seek to serve all, whether they have legal authority or not. So, far from being incompatible with authority, such service may be performed through the exercise of authority. So St Jerome tells us, of this verse:

Let bishops hear this, let priests hear, let every rank of learning get this clear: In the church, leaders are servants. Let them imitate the apostle...The difference between secular rulers and Christian leaders is that the former love to boss their subordinates whereas the latter serve them. We are that much greater if we are considered least of all.” (Migne PL 26:530A, C 653-654).

(I owe this quotation to a short book on this subject by Robert Sungenis, Does St. Paul Teach Mutual Submission of Spouses?, which can be bought here and is online here. He puts a number of handy quotations together, particularly from the Fathers.)

Both interpretations make sense, and it isn't necessary to decide between them here, since both messages are implicit and explicit in Scripture in other passages. It is clearly the teaching of St Paul that Christians should submit to legitimate authority, and it is clearly also his teaching that leaders should exercise authority in the interests of the community they are leading, and not for their own benefit alone. It is on the basis of the second reading, perhaps, that a 'pious reading' of Mulieres dignitatem could be constructed, to the effect that all St John Paul II really meant (when read in light of the tradition) is that, like all Christian rulers, husbands should use their authority in service to the community they govern. In any case, what is not the teaching of St Paul is the idea that wives in some sense have an authority over their husbands, such as rivals or cancels out the authority of the husband over the wife. 

The final question is of the teaching of the Church. Naturally the Church does not have the authority to overturn Scripture, and we find the teaching of Scripure accepted very clearly, and applied to modern conditions, in the Papal Magisterium.

The locus classicus on this subject is Pope Pius XI's 1930 Encyclical Casti conubii, but Leo XIII (in his 1890 Encylcical Arcanumwrote in the same vein on the subject, as did the darling of the liberals, Pope John XXIII, in his 1959 Encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram, which was written after Vatican II had been summoned. Bl. John XXIII wrote:

53. Within the family, the father stands in God's place. He must lead and guide the rest by his authority and the example of his good life.
54. The mother, on the other hand, should form her children firmly and graciously by the mildness of her manner and by her virtue.
55. Together the parents should carefully rear their children, God's most precious gift, to an upright and religious life.
56. Children must honour, obey, and love their parents. They must give their parents not only solace but also concrete assistance if it is needed.

This nicely illustrates the point I have made on this blog before, that the doctrine of male headship does not deprive the wife of authority: her authority over the household, rather, derives from the authority of the husband, even when, as may commonly be the case in practice, it is has more frequent practical application.

What can be said about the rejection of the authority of the husband over the wife in Mulieres dignitatem and Amoris laetitia? I have noted the direction a 'pious reading' might come from, but I do not want to say that the neo-conservative reading of Mulieres dignitatem is unreasonable in itself: it is, for example, consistent with what St John Paul II said in various sermons and speeches. What is unreasonable, for a Catholic, is the acceptance of a teaching at variance with the teaching of the whole Church. My question for the neo-cons at this point is simply this: can you explain why it is more scandalous, more disloyal to the Papacy, or in any way more theologically problematic, to question the teaching of an Apostolic Letter and an Apostolic Exhortation, one by a canonised Pope, rather than of three Encyclicals, one by a beatified Pope?

Encyclicals carry more magisterial authority, but this is far less important than the fact that Leo XIII, Pius XI and Bl. John XXIII are reiterating the constant teaching of the Church, the consensus of the Fathers, and the teaching of Scripture, this last both according to its most obvious meaning (a meaning to which feminists ferociously object), and its meaning according to the interpretation given by the tradition of the Church.

The stability of the Ordinary Magisterium on this can be illustrated from the liturgy, itself a 'theological source'. The traditional Nuptial Mass has as its Epistle Ephesians, 5:22-33, missing out 5:21 on 'mutual submission'. Why does it do that? Well, 5:21 has traditionally been seen as the conclusion of the previous section of the letter, a point Robert Sungenis illustrates by reference to St John Chrysostom's Homilies, so it is logical to start the lection with v.22. Accordingly, and without any qualification in terms of 'mutual submission', the lection sets out the teaching of headship as a matter of authority of husband over wife being complemented, not with more authority of the wife over the husband, but by the husband's obligation of love and self-sacrifice to his wife. It begins:

Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of his body.

Tomorrow I'm going to address another aspect of the neo-conservative reading of Scripture, Genesis 3:16.

I have addressed the question of whether Patriarchy, as understood in Catholic teaching, is oppressive, here.

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27/04/2016 - 12:00

That Beattie petition

Prof Tina Beattie and some rather obscure others have called on the Polish Bishops to rethink their support for a blanket ban on abortion in Poland.

It raises the question of whether a blanket ban on abortion really is the goal of Catholic political advocacy. After all, it is not necessarily wise to seek the sanction of the civil law against all immoral actions: St Augustine famously argued for the toleration of prostitution.

However, in this case, while the question of when and in exactly what form it should be proposed practically to ban abortion, there is no real question that the civil law should fail to protect the innocent. If the law does not protect the lives of children, then what is it for?

I have written something at greater length on this on my Philosophy blog; here is an 'executive summary'.

The ‘Open Letter from Concerned Catholics’ (the ‘Beattie Petition’) directed to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Poland attempts to discourage the Polish Bishops in their support for the full criminalisation of abortion in their country. It claims that, since in particular hard cases women are faced with ‘agonizing decisions’ about abortion, its criminalisation is contrary to a ‘woman’s freedom of conscience’. It is a principle of Catholic teaching, and of common sense, however, that freedom of conscience does not imply a freedom to inflict injustice on others, and that the State is obliged to protect the innocent. The Beattie Petition attempts to confuse matters by the selective quotation of Vatican II’s Dignitatis humanae, ignoring this limitation on freedom of conscience, and ignoring the condemnation of abortion by Vatican II in Gaudium et spes, not only as a sin on the conscience of the individual, but as a crime to be ‘guarded against’. Finally, the Beattie Petition fails to acknowledge the good consequences of the criminalisation, even if the law is only imperfectly enforced, notably in reducing the number of abortions, and freeing the medical profession from official involvement in a procedure contrary to the very nature of the medical vocation.

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