Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

11/02/2020 - 13:01

Reply to Prof Healy in Homiletic and Pastoral Review

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Low Mass in the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham, England

Professor Mary Healy, a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, recently wrote a piece for the Homiletic and Pastoral Review on the 50th Anniversary of the Novus Ordo Missae: the 'Ordinary Form'. She wrote:

It has become common to blame today’s lack of Eucharistic faith and fervor on the revised rite. Critics rightly point to certain weaknesses such as collects that are less expressive of God’s majesty, and the omission of important biblical texts from the lectionary. Another unfortunate change is the elimination of the Octave of Pentecost, giving the impression of downgrading the great solemnity that culminates the Easter season. The primary problem, however, is not the reformed rite itself but its flawed implementation, due to poor — and, in some cases, catastrophically defective — theological and spiritual preparation among clergy and laity alike. Too often, the liturgical changes were accompanied by a downplaying of the notion of sacredness. A casual attitude toward the liturgy was fostered, and beautiful churches were “wreckovated.” Lukewarm liturgy has, tragically, obscured the authentic renewal called for by the Council itself.



I found this very encouraging, in the sense that it represents a big advance on the anti-Old Mass polemic one might have expected in a mainstream organ like the Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Official and establishment publications would until recently have thought unstinting praise for the reform would be compulsory, with just a nod towards the problem of liturgical abuses. Prof Healy agrees that criticisms of core aspects of the reform such as the collects are actually justified, and though this is not made explicit, the implication is that she also accepts that the liturgical reform has played a role in 'today's lack of Eucharistic faith and fervor', even if the 'primary' driver is the issue of implementation and abuses.

It is admittedly difficult to quantify the effect of different factors, but it seems to me that this is a defensible claim: that the abuses/ 'implementation' issues of ad-libbing, invalid matter, female altar servers, communion in the hand, the complete elimination of Latin and traditional sacred music, terrible English translations, and the wrecking of churches to make 'versus populum' celebration possible, had at least slightly more negative effect on the eucharistic faith of the people than the changes to the collects, lectionary, signs of reverence, and the loss of so many beautiful and expressive ceremonies.

Even if we disagree, this is a pretty interesting discussion to be having 50 years after Pope Paul VI promulgated the reformed missal. We have truly come a long way.

Healy goes on, nevertheless, to assert the superiority of the Ordinary Form in a number of respects, and I have responded to her points in a piece now also published in the Homelitic and Pastoral Review. I am delighted that they given house-room to a debate such as this, and I hope readers find it interesting.

You can read my article here.

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03/02/2020 - 17:59

The peoples of the Amazon need Christ

My latest on LifeSite, inspired by the cover article in the Catholic Herald by Dr Daniel Dolley the other week.
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The ancient Greek historian Herodotus records a story about a young man who caused the accidental death of his brother. Fleeing from home, he was taken in by a king who performed the necessary rite of purification and took him into his own household. One day, out hunting with the king’s son, the young man accidentally caused the prince’s death. In despair, he took his own life.

What is the moral of this story? The king’s act of kindness was misjudged; the rite of purification was not sufficiently powerful; those whom the gods have chosen to afflict cannot be helped. Perhaps the young man had inadvertently offended some deity, a common occurrence in Greek myth. You can’t be too careful: Works and Days by Hesiod attempts to summarize omens and auspicious and inauspicious days for everything from getting married to planting beans. The result is a mind-boggling collection of material that, if taken seriously, would control one’s every action, with no guarantee of success. This is what life under paganism was like in ancient Europe, and it was to this world that the Church’s sacraments and spirituality were first directed.

02/02/2020 - 10:00

Talk on consent and sex eduction

A talk from last December.

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01/02/2020 - 12:15

The vocation to have children

My latest on LifeSite.

The basic outlines of the Church’s teaching on family life, in terms of what we must on no account do, are clear, but we need to beware of the more subtle ways our thinking has been warped by our contraceptive culture. This is a hugely complex topic and I want to look at just one aspect of it: the attitude to large families.
It has become a joke, albeit a boring one, that many people can’t see a family of more than three children without having a dig at the parents. My lifestyle does not expose me to much of this but I did get a “You should get a TV” from a stranger recently, which was intended as light-hearted. (Actually, I’d rather have the children.) Such comments can be particularly upsetting when they come from fellow Catholics. No less annoying is the counter-pressure occasionally found in those pockets of Catholic society where larger families are more common. It is such a stupid thing to ask mothers if they are going to have another baby. Who knows what has been going on? Just don’t do it.
These opposing remarks have something in common, which is the odd way they hold parents to account for having or not having children, and see a certain family size as the right one for everyone: whether is it two children, six, or none. This is obviously absurd in ignoring the particular circumstances of different families, above all biological factors which are of no concern to complete strangers. But it also puts an artificial limit to family size, whether the limit small or large. 

Carry on reading.

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31/01/2020 - 12:13

Engaging with post-Brexit politics

I've written for LifeSite about the possibilities for Catholics to engage with the new generation of politicians who have emerged from Brexit: despite their greater distance from the practice of Christianity than their predecessors.

It begins:

There is a theory going around that Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is going to grasp a historic opportunity to realign his Conservative Party in relation to emerging voting patterns. It goes like this. Johnson’s predecessor-but-one, David Cameron, combined austerity and globalisation with social liberalism, notably by forcing “same-sex marriage” through Parliament, against great opposition from inside his own party. This did much to neutralise the opposition of the liberal media and arts establishment.

But things have moved on. The hyper-liberalism of the political left has cut them adrift from their traditional working-class supporters, who value family and country. Public finances don’t look quite as bad as before. The vote to leave the European Union and the ferocious opposition to this by the political and media establishment has crystalized the break between the left and its traditional base. Johnson’s strategy will be to pivot the Conservative Party into a more socially conservative, but less capitalist-friendly, party, to scoop up these newly available votes.

28/01/2020 - 10:00

Serving and Sewing for the Kingdom of God

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What can we do to advance God's reign on earth? What does it mean, today, to work in the Vineyard? If you are in despair about state of the Church and the state of society, what can you actually do about it?

It is far from the case that you can't do anything. The work of resistance to the chaos and of restoration is going on all around you. Here are two examples taking place in London: training on how to serve the Traditional Mass by highly experienced Masters of Ceremonies, and the mending of old vestments under expert guidance. Stop complaining, and come along! You don't need any qualifications, and there is no fee to pay.

Photos from last Saturday. The next dates are

March 14th (booking page for the serving), and May 9th (booking page for the serving). More info.

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26/01/2020 - 22:00

CMA Youth Retreat, 8th Feb, Haverstock Hill, London

The Third Annual Retreat
for young (18+) Catholics in healthcare
and young (18+) Catholic adults
Organised by the Catholic Medical Association's 
Youth Branch
Where? The Rosary Shrine
St Dominic's Priory
London NW5 4LB
When? Saturday 8th February 2020
11:30 Mass, followed by lunch, talks, and tour of the shrine. 
Day ends at 17:00
How much? £5 payable at the door (day includes lunch)
For more information and to register: 
- Registration essential as places limited -

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26/01/2020 - 14:42

Are Western Christians persecuted?

My latest on LifeSite.

Are Christians in the West being persecuted? To some, it seems ridiculous to say so, smacking of paranoia, and even an insult to those being genuinely persecuted in Africa and Asia. But persecution need not be equally serious everywhere. Persecution comes in relatively mild and relatively fierce forms. It also tends to come and go over time. Life under undeniable historic persecutions went on, sometimes to a surprising extent: a priest was ordained in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. Being persecuted is not the same as being killed.
If the term “persecution” is distracting us, think simply about what it means to suffer for the Faith, for the truth. Suffering for the Faith, or the prospect of suffering for it if one does certain things, shapes the lives of those living under persecution. They must choose whether and when to pay the price of suffering, or take the risk of suffering, in order to receive the sacraments or to speak the truth, or whether to hold back, to allow certain possibilities to be closed off, perhaps permanently.
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24/01/2020 - 10:31

Sex abuse clerical and lay

The second of a linked pair of LifeSite articles.

In my last article on LifeSiteNews, I explained how the reluctance of the U.K’.s police and social workers to apply the law on underage sex and on drugs created an environment in which girls, very often in the care of the state, could be targeted by gangs, who groomed, abused, and pimped them over years. There is an ever-lengthening list of places where well established networks of abusers operated with apparent impunity, with victims in the thousands.
This may sound familiar to readers who have been following clerical abuse cases.
I distinguished three layers to the problem: the cover-up; the refusal to face the sociological reality of the gangs; and, most fundamentally, the assumption that the crimes were not real, or not serious, because the victims must have consented. These three layers are also at issue in clerical abuse.
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23/01/2020 - 10:30

The latest Sex-abuse cover up: by Greater Manchest Police

The first of a pair of articles on LifeSite;

This week has seen the report of yet another UK “grooming gang” pimping and exploiting vulnerable underage girls, this time in Manchester. (There is a long newspaper report here.) 
The men targeted care homes. 
The victims repeatedly told those charged with their care that they were being raped and given hard drugs, but social services, medics, and police showed enormous reluctance to get involved, an attitude that seemed to be endorsed by the coroner investigating the 2003 death of Victoria Agoglia, a 15-year-old victim of a heroin overdose (her caregivers were not to blame, he found). This death did lead to a wider investigation, but it was starved of resources and then shut down. 
It has become a depressingly familiar pattern. The RochdaleBristol, and Oxford sex abuse gangs have gained the most attention, but there are now “case reviews” and public inquiry reports from an ever-lengthening list of locations. The victims number in the thousands. It is far from clear that the lessons of these cases have been learned: the Greater Manchester Police were hanging tough and refusing to reopen the investigation, which they had mysteriously shut down in 2005, as recently as 2018. What, one might ask, is going on? 

Continue reading.

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