Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

20/04/2020 - 14:08

Fr Anthony Conlon, Requiescat in pace


Fr Anthony Conlon died last night after a long illness. He had been the National Chaplain of the Latin Mass Society for many years until 2009 and continued to celebrate Masses for us in many different places.

He was a priest of Westminster Archdiocese but became Chaplain to the Oratory School, and when he retired from that he became Parish Priest of nearby Goring. This was in my own area of local activity so I often asked him to celebrate the 'occasional' Masses I organise around Oxford in odd places.

He was also for many years a Chaplain of the British Association of the Order of Malta, and in this context could be addressed as 'Monsignor'.

These photographs show him celebrating the Traditional Mass in the chapel of Milton Manor; in Our Lady of Light, Long Crendon; Our Lady and St Anne, Caversham (at the LMS annual Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Caversham); in St Mary Moorfields (for the 10 Year annivesary Requiem Mass of Micahel Davies); and in St James', Spanish Place (for the Requiem of Prince Rupert Loewenstein).

Another image of him in Milton Manor adorns the front cover our our Ordinary Prayers booklet.

We will organise a splendid Requiem for him of course: as soon as we can. In the meantime he richly deserves our remembrance and prayers.





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19/04/2020 - 10:00

The Bishops and Sex Education

My latest on LifeSite.

A key quotation:

A stray item of good news, like an isolated beam of sunlight during a storm, emerges today on sex education in the U.K. Warwickshire County Council has withdrawn a particularly bad sex education program which it was imposing on its schools. Christian Today reports.

"Church leaders from across Warwickshire welcomed the move. They said, er, they said... sorry, actually they said nothing, at least not anything that has reached any public media outlet. Just as they apparently had nothing to say when the problems with the programme were first exposed."

Read the whole thing.

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18/04/2020 - 11:08

Bach's Passion: from isolation

The Oxford Bach Soloists have surpassed themselves with this performance of Bach's Passion. They are raising money for Help Musicians UK: donate here

There is more about this on their website here.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

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17/04/2020 - 10:00

Thoughts on the dating scene

My latest on LifeSite.

The world into which we send our young people is unlike our ancestors’ world in many ways. It is organized on principles of reward and punishment that combine in an incoherent way, and therefore send mixed signals. In certain respects, it has become difficult to combine virtue and natural happiness with worldly success, and this creates painful choices.
Modernity likes to claim that the opposite is true: that it was our ancestors who suffered this dilemma on account of their “artificial” social conventions. Notably, these made sexual activity outside marriage less attractive, and that is something many people in all ages have been tempted to do. So, the modern argument goes, that was artificial, and everyone is better off now that those conventions have, for nearly everyone and for practical purposes, disappeared. People can do what they like, and this is obviously a good thing, isn’t it? 
It is not, however, a foregone conclusion that satisfying our immediate, natural, sexual desires is compatible with our dearest long-term objectives. The question requires some serious thought.
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16/04/2020 - 12:46

On Criticising fellow Catholics

Cross posted from Rorate Caeli.

I spend more time on Twitter than perhaps I should, but even so I tend to miss some of the nuances of the increasingly rancorous internecine Twitter arguments taking place between people who, one might think, should be on the same side, and if follower numbers are a guide to moral seriousness (which they are not), should know better. I doubt I have anything very edifying to learn by scrolling back through all the accusations and replies, but one thing which is characteristic of the latest, as of many other, Twitter spats, is that it has come down to catty generalizations about the character of Catholics attending Mass in different liturgical forms, or offered by different categories of priests.

This reminds me of the claim once made by English Protestants, that one is more likely to find one’s umbrella has been stolen from the back of a Catholic church than from a Protestant one. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.”

It is alarming to see this prim, Pharisaical nonsense raise its head again in online debates among supposedly Catholic commentators seeking to do down those who attend the Traditional Mass, or Masses celebrated by priests of the SSPX, or anyone else. I have zero interest in denying such claims: they should not be answered, but treated with contempt.

It should be obvious that when it is a small group which is at issue, matters could go in two different directions. If it is a well-managed cult, potential recruits will be allowed to see only a carefully curated and thoroughly drilled selection of grinning devotees, who will be terribly friendly and nice. If it is not managed like that, then newcomers’ experiences will depend on who they happen to meet, and may well be dominated by people whose fondness for the sound of their own voice is not matched by intellectual or emotional maturity. Only when you get to know the regulars a bit, does it become clear to what extent the people you first met are, or are not, representative of the congregation as a whole.

This, I say, should be obvious. Casual experience of even a small congregation offers absolutely no guidance in making a fair evaluation of the group.

In larger groups, one can of course find every possible kind of person. I wish I could take some of these Twitter warriors on a tour of London’s great Catholic churches, where I could introduce them to some of the interesting people who attend perfectly normal and mainstream churches. Did I say, attend? Some of them more or less live there. The side chapels at Westminster Cathedral are regularly used by homeless people, sometimes with mental health issues, as a warm place to sleep. Others are there from pious motivations, and shamble up to Holy Communion at certain Masses as regular as clockwork. One individual always carries a large statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Another wears a plastic coat covered in writing about the imminence of the Great Chastisement. Another I know constantly holds in front of her face, while in church, a piece of paper, presumably with prayers written on it. As a priest friend of mine says, “All the crazies come to Jesus”. And you know what? Why shouldn’t they?

The most unpleasant experience I have had at the hands of a fellow lay Catholic was in the middle of Mass at a church I then attended occasionally. A man crossed from one side to the other in order to tick me off at some length about the behavior of my small children. He wasn’t objecting to noise, but seems to have thought I should have had them all on their knees. The experience left me speechless, which is pretty unusual for me. However, because I knew the priest and some of the people there, I was afterwards given a bit of background on this fellow, and a few years later I heard of his death. He died fortified by the Sacraments, having been reconciled with long-estranged family members. It was certainly a bad thing that he’d taken out his frustrations on a young family he did not know, but I am glad that he was never driven away from attending Mass.

Suppose you show me a whole congregation of people like that. Such a thing is possible. Where should they go? What would you do with them? Should they be excommunicated for being annoying?

The best reply to the attitude that Catholic congregations should only be made up of nice people was made by Evelyn Waugh. When challenged for being the rather prickly character that he way, he replied, “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.” It is no small irony that Oscar Wilde himself ended his life, not at all respectable, a sinner and a broken man, in the arms of Holy Mother Church.

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15/04/2020 - 15:21

Some sanity breaks through on 'single sex spaces'

My latest on LifeSite

Two contrasting pieces of news crossed my path today. In the UK, the most liberal of the candidates for last year’s contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party, and now a non-party affiliated candidate for election and Mayor of London, Rory Stewart, recounted that when he had been a government minister with responsibility for prisons, there had been cases of (as he put it) “male prisoners self-identifying as females” raping members of staff. For this reason, he is not in favor of opening up “female spaces,” such a public lavatory, to all comers.

The other news item was that a women’s shelter in Canada, Vancouver Rape Relief, has been deprived of public funding for not letting in, well, all comers. Furthermore, it has been described in an article on Medium as a “neo-nazi style”, “cryptofacist” “hate group” for this stance. Even more intriguingly, when I clicked on the link to read the article making these claims, I was instead presented with an error message: “This post is under investigation or was found in violation of the Medium Rules.” So here’s a screenshot from Twitter.

13/04/2020 - 16:37

Reflections on Maundy Thursday

My latest on LifeSite

In the Gospel of St. John, the focus of the account of the Last Supper is not the Institution of the Mass, but the “Mandatum”: Jesus’s command to the twelve apostles to love and serve each other. Christ introduces the point by washing their feet, usually, in the ancient world, the job of a slave. He is not setting aside His authority in doing this, but demonstrating what it is to have authority. To have authority over others is to serve them.
In the changes to the Holy Week services that took place in 1955, the place of the Mandatum, and its ritual washing of feet, was emphasized, though it remained optional. However, its focus was subtly changed. Before 1955, bishops and priests washed the feet of the poor after Mass, thirteen of them, and they were then given clothing and money. After 1955, it became part of Mass, and the people having their feet washed were more closely identified with the apostles: their number was reduced to twelve, and the connection with almsgiving was lost. The pre-1955 ritual was not a specifically clerical thing, but a survival of the once widespread practice of kings and queens, lords and ladies, abbots and abbesses, of washing the feet of their inferiors and giving them alms. British monarchs still mint special coins to give out on this occasion, though, sadly, they no longer wash anyone’s feet.
In this way, Christ’s example was understood as a model not just for clerical leadership, or the relationship between bishop and his priests, but about the nature of Christian leadership in general, religious or secular. As He says in the Gospel of St Mark, “Whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (10:44).

Continue reading.

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10/04/2020 - 10:00

Music from the LMS recorded by locked-down musicians

The Latin Mass Society was due, as for many years past, to employ professional musicians to accompany not only the 'major' services of Holy Week but also Tenebrae in St Mary Moorfields, London. Since these celebrations cannot now take place, the musicians have recorded some pieces from their own homes and edited them together.

The group is Cantus Magnus, under the direction of Matthew Schellhorn.

These are being released primarily from the LMS Facebook page.  Here is a Vimeo version of the first one, a piece from the Tenebrae of Maundy Thursday set by Anerio.


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09/04/2020 - 12:37

Coronavirus and the Family

My latest on LifeSite.


The public health advice—and in some countries, command—to stay at home during the Coronavirus epidemic is forcing many people to spend the kind of continuous time with spouses and children which normally only happens on family holidays, though without the trips out. This is shining a light, and putting unaccustomed strain, on our household arrangements.

The number of people filing for divorce spikes after Christmas and after the summer holidays, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we see a similar spike when the lockdown is lifted. In the meantime, people who might have been planning to leave their spouses (or throw them out into the street) have had to put their plans on hold. There is nowhere for newly separated spouses to go.

The reaction of commentators hostile to the traditional family has been interesting to see. In this Guardian article the writer notes that the lockdown has forced people into a closer approximation of traditional family values, not least because opportunities for extra-marital affairs have dried up, apparently to her chagrin. Over at Soros-funded Open Democracy, a writer with an alarmingly tenuous connection with reality thinks that this is the moment to “abolish the family”, whatever that means, though she acknowledges that the actual effect of the lockdown has been to give it greater importance than ever.


Continue reading.

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08/04/2020 - 10:00

Cardinal Pell and Australia's anti-clericals

Captain Alfred Drefus

My latest on LifeSite, on Cardinal Pell, Dreyfus, and the liberal narrative on clerical sex abuse.


After 405 days in prison, Cardinal George Pell has finally been freed after the High Court of Australia overturned his convictions for sexual abuse of a minor.

The seven judges sitting on the High Court were, remarkably, unanimous, and delivered a single, two-page explanation of their decision. They pointed out that the jury and the Appeal Court had failed to acknowledge the force of the ‘opportunity witnesses’, who had testified that the abuse could not have taken place at the times and places alleged because, among other things, Pell would either have been elsewhere or surrounded by people. However convincing the testimony of the accuser, this other testimony introduced ‘reasonable doubt’, making conviction impossible.

There was, after all, no other evidence against Pell.


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