Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

15/03/2016 - 12:24

Prayer for the Jews: what about Medieval anti-Semitism?

IMG_0375Another photo of Mass for the Feast of St Gregory the Great. The Position Paper on the Prayer for the Jews goes into the question of Medieval anti-Semitism, because of the association between the Traditional Mass and the medieval period. The Middle Ages is when the Traditional Mass assumed its current form in a number of ways. Should we not expect to find in its texts a reflection of Medieval attitudes?

Certainly not in this case, because the Orationes sollemnes, of which the Prayer for the Jews is a part, derive not from the Middle Ages at all, but from Antiquity: probably the 3rd century, with links back to even earlier times. This is the scholarly consensus; the references are in the Position Paper. There is such a thing as Medieval anti-Semitism, and it is a phenomenon which got going in a big way in the 13th century. The Prayer for the Jews of the ancient liturgical tradition was composed a thousand years earlier. That really is rather a long gap.

Relations between Christians and Jews in the Roman Empire were not necessarily very chummy, but when we think of Medieval anti-Semitism there are a number of factors which, obviously, didn't apply in the earlier period. The whole business of European Jews being forced into banking, because there were not allowed to own land, and the subsequent resentment of their usury, for example. The effects of the Crusading movement, which focused attention on 'the infidel' and the betrayal of Christ, which set off anti-Jewish riots. The consequences of the Christian reconquest of Spain, and the problem of integrating large numbers of Muslims and Jews living there into a Christian state. And the theological development which had such bad consequences in the 13th century and later: the Talmud controversy.

Understanding the Talmud controversy gives an important insight into the relationship between the theological milieau of the Prayer for the Jews, and the theological milieu of Medieval anti-Semitism. Up to the time of the controversy there was a theological consensus based on St Paul and on the Fathers, which had three parts. First, the Jewish rejection of Christ was connected with the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles; they were destined to accept the Gospel as a corporate body in the last times. This is found in St Paul and numerous Fathers of the Church. Second, in the meantime the Jews gave witness to the truth, by preserving the Old Testament, which confirmed an important part of the Christian revelation. This is the position of St Augustine, and many others. Third, on a practical level they should be allowed to practice their religion in peace. This was the policy of St Gregory the Great, a policy reiterated in the bull of Pope Callixtus III, Sicut Iudeis, in 1120, which was reissued a number of times thereafter. This legislation attests to the difficulties the Jews were experiencing at the hands of Christians, but there was at least an official theological and legislative effort to oppose the persecution of the Jews.

Then the Talmud Controversy came along. This was the claim, made by a convert Jew, Nicholas Donin, that because they accepted the Talmud, Jews could not be considered as giving witness to the truth. This claim struck at the heart of the former consensus. Another claim of this era was that the Jews who sought Jesus' execution knew he was God, and so were guilty of Deicide, and their descendants with them.

I have neither the space nor the expertise to go into all the details of these controversies. It must suffice to say that that both claims were eventually shown - theologically - to be false, but a great deal of Jewish suffering took place in the meantime. It is during the time of the controvery that we find the most disturbing events, not (or not only) for their level of violence, but for the degree of official Church involvement. Anti-Semitic violence, against persons and property, ceased to be limited to the actions of a mindless mob. The great Orders of Friars were involved; so was the Papacy, as well as secular authorities.

The Postion Paper argues that what this dark period of the Church's history shows is not that there is a problem with what St Paul, the Fathers, and the earliest texts of the liturgy, have to say about the Jews, but that things went wrong when those things were rejected. It was the attack on the Patristic view of the Jews which justified the violence of the 13th and 14th centuries. It was the vindication of the Patristic position, by St Thomas Aquinas, by the Council of Trent, and in other ways, that eventually underpinned the re-establishment of a practical policy of toleration.

There is much which can be said about anti-Semitism in later centuries: about the attitude of Martin Luther, for example; about the conequences of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution; and the rise of nationalism and the Nazis. Catholic involvement in these movements is more complex. But it is obvious, at any rate that the Good Friday Liturgy doesn't reflect the views of, say, the obnoxious anti-Semite Voltaire, or the 'scientific racist' and modernist Renan, let alone the Nazis themselves. Catholics have multiple reasons for rejecting such thinkers, and for their part they are not exactly friendly towards the Church. Catholics did play a part in anti-Semitic movements - a recent article by Francis Philips discusses the role of lapsed Catholics in Hitler's inner circle. But Catholics were also involved prominently in the opposition to them. The 'White Rose' resistance to the Nazis in Munich was formed after Sophie Scholl distributed an anti-Nazi sermon of Cardinal von Galen.

As for the movement for the traditional Mass, Dietrich von Hildebrand and Eric de Savantham, two of the founding fathers of the lay movement, were prominent anti-Nazis. Hildebrand had to flee Germany, and then Austria, to escape the Nazis; de Savantham defected during the war.

The attempt to associate the Traditional Mass with extremist politics and anti-Semitism, like the attempt to associate it with clerical child-abuse (and here), says a lot about the ancient liturgy's opponents. To reiterate an earlier post in this series, the narrative here is not just about the Traditional Mass, but about the Church's whole past: and that includes the Church's teaching. The Church's teaching on sexuality is the real target; I don't think the liberals would care how we worshipped if there was not this important connection between the prestige of the ancient liturgy with the respect due to the Church's ancient teachings.

You can sign up for the annual symposium of the Roman Forum on Italy's Gardone Riviera here. The Roman Forum was founded by Dietrich von Hildebrand, and two places for students from England and Wales - now filled - are sponsored by the Latin Mass Society.

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14/03/2016 - 13:08

The English Bishops, the Prayer for the Jews, and bad PR

IMG_0369An image from the Mass of the feast of St Gregory the Great, who threatened
excommunication for anyone attempting to force Jews to convert to Christianity.I explained in the last post in this series that there are, in the reformed Liturgy of the Hours, numerous prayers for the conversion of the Jews: specifically, the conversion of Jews to Christianity, by accepting Christ as the Messiah, as in:

Let Israel recognise in you the Messiah it has longed for; 

may the Jewish people accept you [sc. Christ] as their awaited Deliverer [Latin: 'Messiah']

In the Bishops' Conference press release about the need to change the Extraordinary Form Prayer for the Jews in the Good Friday Liturgy, Archbishop MacDonald complained that by comparison with the 1970 Novus Ordo equivalent, the 2008 version 'reverted to being a prayer for the conversion of Jews to Christianity'. Other have noted, as problematic, that the title of the prayer in the Missal is 'pro conversione Iudaiorum' instead of, as in the Novus Ordo, simply, 'For the Jews'.

How are we to understand these complaints? Naturally, we must assume that spokesmen are being honest and are reasonably well-informed. What this is about, on those assumptions, is presentation, of controlling perceptions, above all by Jews. As I noted in the last post, the suppression of the more explicit language of conversion in the Novus Ordo cannot be explained theologically, since the explict language was retained in the Liturgy of the Hours published the year after the reformed Missal: 1971. Nevertheless, the Good Friday prayers have come to Jews' attention (why? as a result of briefing by whom?), the Liturgy of the Hours prayers have not, so - the argument must be - it will be possible to make progress in terms of Catholic-Jewish relations if we talk about changing the Good Friday Prayer and ignore the Liturgy of the Hours.

So the question arises: the Bishops of England and Wales made their move - how did it go down? This question of public relations, from its normally peripheral importance in theological and liturgical matters, becomes central: this was the whole object of the exercise. It is of course easy to answer. England is a small place, and the Jewish community has a long-established and widely respected newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, which covers all things of interest to the Jewish community, and is available online without a paywall. So what do we find?

The Catholic press had a smattering of coverage of the issue. The Catholic Herald had an analytical piece with quotes from me and others, and the other Catholic papers just had little news items. But to repeat, this is not about perceptions by Catholics, it is about perceptions by Jews. What did the Jewish Chronicle (JC) have to say?

As far as news is concerned, there was nothing. Despite the involvement of the Chief Rabbi in the dialogue leading up to the announcement, and his willingness to give quotes to the Catholic Universe and so forth, the JC did not think the think the event was worth reporting. Most unfortunately, however, it was noticed by its leading op-ed columnist, an academic historian called Geoffrey Aldermann.

Now, to understand his angle on it, you have to remember how the whole issue has been spun in recent years. As we all know, John Cornwell published his book Hitler's Pope in 1999. The massive publicity given to this book has established a media narrative that, never mind Medieval anti-Semitism, the actions of a recent Pope, Pius XII, should be explained in terms of sympathy for Nazism, and contemptuous indifference, if not hatred, towards the Jews. The dark past of the Catholic Church, on this issue, sweeps up through Medieval anti-Jewish riots, through French anti-Drefus activism, and into support for Hitler, not just by German Catholics but by an Italian Pope. It was opposed by the progressive faction at Vatican II, because that was about a break with the past, and the past is bad. Any move towards theological conservatism, any move towards making use of the Church's past, is tarred by the anti-Semitic brush.

Cornwell's followers might express it like this: don't tell us about the good points of the Catholic past, any more than you should tell us about the good points of Hitler's economic policy. It is all tainted. It must all be rejected. In this way, Cornwell's book might be said to be more about the ailing Pope John Paul II, and the question of who would succeed him, than about the events of the 1930s and 1940s.

When Pope Benedict liberated the Traditional Mass in 2007, the narrative swung into action. It was very handy that a contrast could be drawn between the traditional and the new Prayer for the Jews on Good Friday. Bishop Williamson's remarks on the Holocaust were a stunning boon to the narrative. The fact that Pope Benedict XVI was German also helped. Plenty of people in the Church who hated Pope Benedict and also hated the Traditional Mass were on hand to push things along. The whole thing gained, in media terms, a 'new pair of legs'.

This is a powerful media narrative, but it is not a universal one. It can be undermined and confronted. Great work has been done on this from all sorts of angles, and it is worth stressing that, motivated by a love of the truth, many Jews have played an important part in this: see Rabbi Neusner on the Prayer for the Jews, Rabbi Dalin on Pius XII, and a columnist in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle, on Pius XII here. But it remains a safe and lazy option for many liberal Catholics and secular commentators.

So here is what Geoffrey Alderamann wrote. Those of a sensitive dispostion, look away now.

In the matter of Jews, the Second Vatican Council reached some brave conclusions. It stressed the Jewish roots of Christianity and God's love for the Jewish people. It declared that "although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God". These bold statements appear to have angered many of the Catholic faithful, and the demotion of the Tridentine Mass appears to have angered many more. Benedict XVI - formerly Joseph Ratzinger, one-time member of the Hitler Youth who, as the Vatican website calmly put it, "enrolled in the auxiliary anti-aircraft service" of Nazi Germany - was determined to make amends. He revived the Tridentine Mass, with the result that each year, on Good Friday (commemorating the execution of Jesus), the Roman Catholic faithful are once more enjoined to pray "for the conversion of the Jews". Where the faithful were once expected to "pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant," they are now enjoined to cry out "Let us pray also for the Jews, that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they may also acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ."

(The Jewish Chronicle declined to print my or any other letter responding to this article.)

Having read this, my readers will be able to answer the following question. Has the decision by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales played well, from a PR point of view?

Instead of confronting the negative media narrative about Catholic anti-Semitism, instead of supporting brave authors like Rabbi Neusner who stuck his neck out for the truth, they have chosen a different approach. To concede, at least by implication, that there is truth in the narrative, but it is ok because we are making that break with the past which the narrative demands.

The degree to which such a move strengthens the narrative can be seen in technicolour in the passage from Dr Aldermann. He ends on a positive note: that Pope Francis looks like a man who is going to make a really big break with the past, and isn't that great? But in the meantime, the problem remains that celebrations of the Traditional Mass continue, and accordint to the narrative the problem with the Traditional Mass is far from being just about this one prayer. Furthermore, the whole thing is going blow up in the bishops' faces when, as seems overwhelmingly likely, Rome declines to change the prayer.

At least, it will blow up in their faces if anyone notices. Dr Aldermann may not find out. The bishops had better hope he doesn't find out, either, about their tolerance and in many cases support for the Traditional Mass, their work of architectural and spiritual restoration, and their use of those prayers for the conversion of the Jews of the Liturgy of the Hours. The great thing about a lazy media narrative is that the kind of people who use it tend not to be the kind of people who'd spend even a few minutes on Google exploring its implications, and aren't the kind of people who revisit their old articles when they are proved wrong. But you never know. What would Dr Aldermann make of the fact that Archbishop MacDonald himself created an official Chaplaincy for the Traditional Mass when he was Archbishop of Southwark?

We will probably never know. But a note to my readers: don't tell anyone.

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12/03/2016 - 10:48

The other Prayers for the Jews

IMG_0362'But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil 
remains when the old covenant is read.
It has not been removed, because only in Christ
 is it taken away.' 2 Cor 3:14
Over on Rorate Caeli I am today publishing a Position Paper on the Prayer for the Jews said during the Good Friday Liturgy in the Extraordinary Form. Go over there to read it.

Here I am going to add some additional commentary, in a hope a digestible form. The first thing I want to tackle is the other Prayers for the Jews: the ones the English bishops don't want to change, at least not at the moment, or at least aren't petitioning Rome about.

So here's a little competition. Which of the following prayers is a serious threat to peaceful and productive dialogue between Catholics and Jews?

A. Let Israel recognise in you the Messiah it has longed for; fill all men with the knowledge of your glory.

B. Let us pray also for the Jews: that our God and Lord may be pleased to shine the light of his face over them; that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord as the Redeemer of all.

C. Let us pray also for the Jews: that Almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.

D. Christ, Son of David, fulfilment of the prophecies, may the Jewish people accept you as their awaited Deliverer [Messiah].

E. Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ the Saviour of all men. 

The answer, according to the English Bishops, is E. C is the version found in the 1962 Missal. If it were in use, no dount the Bishops would object even more strongly to that.

But what of B? This was composed by Annibale Bugnini and his collaborators, and promulgated in March 1965. Nostra aetate was promulgated by Pope Paul VI that October, but it had been debated and approved by the Second Vatican Council in the course of 1964. The debate would have been ringing in Archbishop Bugnini's ears, and that is presumably precisely why he wanted to substitute a new Prayer for the Jews. The old one, in a phrase used in the 1940s and 1950s on the subject, 'sounds bad'. So out goes the reference to the 'veil' over their hearts, for all its Pauline origin (the image is used in 2 Cor 3:15). Does Bugnini also remove the reference to the Jews being converted? No.

And nor does his team have any qualms about having prayers for the conversion of the Jews again and again in the Liturgy of the Hours. For that is where A and D come from, and they are used, not just annually, but over and over again. (Full details in Appendix B of the Position Paper.)

In that case why, you may ask, is the Prayer for the Jews in the Novus Ordo Good Friday Liturgy so vague? The most this says is that the Jewish people 'may continue to grow in the love of his [sc. God's] name and in faithfulness to his covenant.' and 'may arrive at the fullness of redemption.'

First off, it should be noted that this prayer is not quite as vague as all that. Asking that the Jews arrive at the 'fullness of redemption' (a perfectly literal translation of the Latin, if you were wondering), implies that they do not have the 'fullness of redemption' at the moment. It is obvious that redemption, properly speaking, is like pregnancy: either you have it, or you don't. The non-full redemption currently enjoyed by the Jews must refer to the promise of redemption, which is not, for them, yet fulfilled. That is the only possible meaning the idea of 'fulfilling redemption' could have.

Admittedly the wording is extraordinarily convoluted, in a way which seems designed to cause confusion, which is exactly what it has done. Why did Bugnini and co. do this to the 1970 Missal and not to the Liturgy of the Hours in 1971? 

The answer can be found by looking at the other petitions of the series in the Good Friday Liturgy. These 'Orationes sollemnes' are, in the Old Mass, really fantastic prayers. They go back to the third century, when they were said throughout the year. Their preservation in the Good Friday service gives us a glimpse of the atmosphere of the early centuries. And they are wonderfully robust.

The Prayer for the Unity of the Church (for heretics and schismatics), which immediately precedes the Prayer for the Jews, calls on God to 
'look upon the souls deceived by diabolical fraud, that abandoning all heretical depravity, the hearts of the erring may regain sanity and return to the unity of truth.'

The Prayer for the Conversion of Pagans, which immediately follows the Prayer for the Jews, calls upon God to ‘remove iniquity from their hearts’ and ‘deliver them from the worship of idols’.
It is clear from these prayers that it is the objective state of those referred to which is addressed, and not their subjective blameworthiness for being in that state. Nevertheless, they are hard-hitting. Clearly the Catholics of the heroic age of the Church knew that they had the True Faith, and others did not. 
What happened to these in the Novus Ordo? Well, they are, ahem, phrased rather more diplmatically. Of heretics and schismatics (the 'Unity of the Church' has become 'the Unity of Christians') we ask God to 'keep us one in the fellowship of love'. For pagans ('Those who do not believe in Christ') we ask that they may 'grasp more fully the mystery of your [God's] godhead, and to become more perfect witnesses of your love'.
In the context of these prayers, the Prayer for the Jews in the 1970 Missal seems rather emphatic. There certainly isn't any suggestion that the Jews have their own, unique, path to salvation, which does not involved Christ, any more than pagans do. The reason Bugnini left in a more explicit reference to conversion in 1965, and then took it out in 1970, was not a change of theology, but the application of a consistent policy covering the whole series of prayers, which was, for the first time, being re-written from top to bottom. The new prayers were to be totally anondyne.
In short, there is no justification in the 1970 Missal, any more than in the 1971 Liturgy of the Hours, for the view that the Jews have a separate path of salvation: the 'Dual Covenant' view condemned in a series of recent official documents. This fantasy theology was dreamt up since then. 
Not for the first time, here I am defending the orthodoxy of the Novus Ordo. What surprises me this time is that those impugning it, at least by implication, are not the usual foam-flecked letter-writers to The Tablet, but our revered Bishops of England and Wales. I can only say: they have not been well advised.
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10/03/2016 - 15:00

LMS Sponsored places for the Roman Forum 2016

The unique and wonderful annual Roman Forum conference on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy is taking bookings: the dates are

June 27th-July 8th 2016

The conference is ten days of talks from some of the best-known figures on the Traditional Catholic scene, including Fr John Hunwicke from England, accompanied by the Traditional Mass, good food, and beautiful surroundings. The President of the Roman Forum is Dr John Rao, who gave a talk to the LMS One Day Conference in 2012.

The theme of the conference this year is:

Half a Millennium of Total Depravity (1517-2017): A Critique of Luther’s Impact on the Eve of His “Catholic” Apotheosis

From the LMS website:

The LMS is offering two bursaries of £500 Sterling each towards the cost of attending the Summer Symposium in 2015 (the full price is $2,900). Our bursary, together with a further concession from the organisers of the Symposium, will reduce the total amount payable by each of these two participants to £500 each (based upon shared accommodation). The bursaries are for young adults up to 35 years. This offer is not limited to members of the LMS but is available to anyone from England and Wales.

Click here for more details.

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09/03/2016 - 13:26

New Prayer to St Joseph

The Friars at Gosport are promoting a prayer card with the image of St Joseph from the National Shrine to St Joseph now at Farnbrough Abbey. St Joseph is crowned: he is of the royal house of David. The prayer has been approved by Bishop Egan of Portsmouth.

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07/03/2016 - 16:52

Hear Prior Cassion Folsom, John Smeaton, Fr Serafino Lanzetta and others at the LMS Conference, May 14th

LMS One-Day Conference - Saturday, 14 May 2016

Edmund AdamusFr Serafino
Lanzetta FI
John SmeatonPrior Cassian
Folsom of NorciaDr Joseph Shaw

This is the third bi-ennial One-Day Conference organised by the Latin Mass Society, the theme of which is 'The Family'.

VENUE: Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, London W1C 2DJ [map]
(opposite BHS, less than 5 minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus)
Doors open at 10.30am and the conference is expected to end around 5.00pm

The speakers will be:
Mr Edmund Adamus, Director for Marriage & Family Life Archdiocese of Westminster.
Father Serafino Lanzetta, of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and parish priest of Saint Mary's, Gosport.Fr Lanzetta's book Il Vatican II: Un Concilio Pastorale is being translated into English and we hope to have copies on sale during the Conference.
Mr John Smeaton, Director of The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Vice-President of International Right to Life Federation.Prior Cassian Folsom O.S.B., founding Prior of The Benedictine Monks of Norcia.Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, a Research Fellow at St Benet's Hall (a Permanent Private Hall of Oxford University) and St Benet's Dean of Degrees.

9.00am at Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, London W1B 5NA, which is about 10 minutes' walk from the conference hall. For a map to the church click on this link. Many thanks to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for hosting the Mass.
Come along and listen to the excellent range of speakers we have lined up for you.

11 am: Mr Edmund Adamus "Truth and Freedom - Twin Pillars of the Domestic Church."
12 noon: Fr Serafino Lanzetta "The sacrament of Marriage as spousal love of Christ for his Church."
2pm Mr John Smeaton: "Building a pro-life resistance movement."
3pm Prior Cassian Folsom:  "Pius Pater: Insights into family living from the Rule of St. Benedict."
4pm Dr Joseph Shaw: "Marriage and the Complementarity of the Sexes."
5pm Prior Cassian will give a blessing and Conference ends.

A buffet lunch will be provided for those who book this in advance. A vegetarian option will be available, and this should be noted on the Registration Form. You are free, of course, to make your own arrangements for lunch.

Delegates MUST book in advance, by completing the Registration Form found here. The closing date for bookings isFRIDAY 30 APRIL 2016.
LMS Member £15 + £10 for lunch
Non-member £20 + £10 for lunch
Payment can be made using the PayPal facility at the bottom of the Registration Form.

If sufficient interest is shown, we shall organise a post-Conference dinner in the evening. The cost of this is expected to be in the region of £70. If you are interested in this please indicate such on the Registration Form.

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04/03/2016 - 10:22

Family Retreat and Gregorian Chant weekend: 1-3 April, Ratcliffe

Right after Easter the St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat will take place: from the afternoon of Friday 1st to lunch on Sunday 3rd, at Ratcliffe College near Leicester. It will be led by Fr Magdala F.SS.R and Fr Jean F.SS.R from Papa Stronsay; there will be High Mass and other liturgies (Benediction, Vespers etc.) in the Extraordinary Form; as always there will be a Marian procession through the lovely grounds of the Oratory School; the priests will give spiritual conferences; there will be activities for children.

The theme of the conferences will be 'Eternal Truths'.

Don't get left out! Discounts available if the headline price is a problem.

Everyone is welcome; we call it a 'family retreat' because we make special provision for families, but no one is excluded! More details; online Retreat booking form; online Chant Course booking form.

IMG_9813A past Family Retreat in the Oratory School
Alongside it is the Gregorian Chant Network's annual Weekend Chant Course - a chance for something more than a day-long training session, with a bit of theory with the practice, and plenty of opportunity to sing 'for real', in the liturgy. Led by Colin Mawby and Dr Christopher Hodkinson.

All levels of experience, men and women, everyone is welcome! There are special discounts for groups coming from the same schola. All the details are here.

Bring your choir! Get up to speed together, and you'll be able to put it into practice right away when you get home. And it will be very cheap per head.


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01/03/2016 - 10:00

LMS Mass in Milton Manor


Last Saturday I had organised a Sung Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady in Milton Manor House. This was consecrated by Bishop Richard Challoner in penal times, and continues in the owership of the family who built it.


Mass was accompanied by the Schola Abelis, and celebrated by Fr Daniel Lloyd of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.


It was the Mass of the day - a Lenten Feria - with rather long readings, which Fr Daniel chanted with great skill. The Prophecy (Old Testament reading) was of Jacob sneakily getting Isaac's blessing instead of Esau; the Gospel, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Two stories of older and younger brothers.


Fr Lloyd reminded us to pray for the victims of the disaster which took place at Didcot power station, which is being demolished only a short distance away from the house.

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28/02/2016 - 15:57

In favour of liturgy shaming

IMG_0337View from the choir loft: LMS Mass at Milton Manor, a historic Catholic house where Mass was said in secret.I was struck reading this, from my old friend William Bornhoft (linked to by the normally sensible Deacon Greg Kandra), about people who posted negative comments on a parish's Facebook photo album of grotesquely innapropriate and mostly illict liturgical frolickings.

Parish problems should be dealt with on the parish level, when possible. If that fails, they should be dealt with on the diocesan level, and so on.

Excuse me, but have you tried it?

Bornhoft is a young man, and doesn't know any better. Indeed, his naivety on this subject might even be said to do him credit, insofar as it is not a matter of wilful refusal to face the facts. The reality is, however, the course of action he recommends will very rarely have any tangible positive effect, but unless handled very carefully can easily do harm.

As Chairman of the Latin Mass Society I know a thing or two about appealing to the proper authorities, and I have heard the stories of people who have been in this game since the 1970s. Whether it is liturgical abuses, heretical school textbooks, or refusals to allow the Traditional Mass, the pattern is the same. Yes, we have had our successes, but success requires a combination of factors which rarely occur.

1. An exceptionally clear-minded and brave parish priest, bishop, or Roman curial official, who must be prepared to suffer the consequences, including removal from office, of enforcing the law once too often. Naturally, such men pick their battles, so there are further conditions.
2. It must be a really extreme and clear-cut violation of norms.
3. You must be able to provide totally irrefutable evidence that the violation took place.

I have written to Rome on a number of occasions, having gone through all the proper channels, with full documentation, and expert canonical advice. It hasn't been a complete waste of time, but getting an acknowledgement is not to be taken for granted. And I am writing on behalf of a lay association in good standing with the Church, with 2,000 members.

I think it is worth doing this because it leaves a paper-trail and goes into files. When history comes to be written, no one will be able to say that the laity acquiesced in what is going on. Historians with access to the files will be able to see that we constantly tested the system, and were constantly, with rare exceptions, rebuffed.

But we pay a price for this activity. Mr Bornhoft will be mortified to learn that this kind of thing is regarded, and denounced, by many of the people who hear our complaints or see our letters as aggressive, uncharitable, and contrary to a proper Catholic attitude. The accusations he makes of those posting comments on Facebook are exactly those made of those who are doing what he thinks they should be doing. It has happened to me, it has happened to peoople with far more native tact and personal skills than I can lay claim to. When push comes to shove, these accusations against whistleblowers and 'delators' (those who 'delate', denounce, to Rome) can be made public. There can be public scandal, division, and bitterness; the whistleblower can find himself persona non grata in the parish and diocese; he can lose friends, be excluded from activities and ministries, and be ostracised.

This of course is exactly what happened to those complaining about clerical sex abuse. For while the Church has gone a long way to institute procedures and change attitudes about sex abuse, few people have noticed the parallel. In abusive liturgy, the laity, seminarians above all, but often ordained clerics as well, are treated unjustly by those with power over them. They are humiliated and made to suffer. They are forced to act against their conscience. They are persecuted in subtle ways if they do not aquiesce, or at least stay silent. And many, sadly, are driven from their vocations, from the practice of the Faith, and even from the Church, by this injustice. And there is nothing they can do: the 'proper procedures' and 'proper authorities' do not want to know.

Now we have a new situation, with social media. It is possible to use ridicule, larded with references to Canon law and other authoritative documents, to raise the issue of liturgical abuse, not personally, in a parish where one can be punished for it, but with a degree of anonymity, about parishes the other side of the world. Parishes which, in the example Bornhoft raises, glory in their abuse, boast about the injustice which they visit on the wounded body of the Church, and plaster their Facebook pages with photographs to leave us in no doubt about what they have been up to. Should good Catholics stop themselves responding to this kind of thing? Out of charity?

Well here's a thing. I too have qualms about the kinds of things which can be said by social-media lynch-mobs. I too have concerns about the deformation of soul which can result from endlessly using vituperation to attack easy targets like liturgical dancing. As Bornhoft says, people can be too quick to attribute base motives for what they see, and don't always understand the niceties of liturgical law. I myself gave up banging on about liturgical abuses - I had got to the 'letter to the parish priest' stage of irritation - when I started making the Traditional Mass my habitual form of worship. Thereafter, forays into the Novus Ordo simply confirmed me in my decision: it wasn't very prayerful to see abuses, but it no longer drove me to despair. I think it would be better for the souls of those unhappy folk who don't like liturgical abuses to make the switch, if it is physically possible for them, to regular attendance at the Traditional Mass. We sometimes disagree about specific liturgical practices, but it is vanishingly rare to see anything which is actually sacrilegious. Come over, calm down, and say some prayers.

But I know not everyone is ready to do that. And as one priest said to me, about his own celebration of both Forms, you can't just let the Novus Ordo 'collapse like a soufflé'. And I will not condemn those who take the only means available to express their entirely justified anger and to oppose liturgical abuses.

What is more, contrary to Mr Bornhoft, this method works. Yes, it has worked, not every time, but again and again. The priest with the hoverboard in the Phillipines: suspended. The Australian priest allowing 'help yourself' Communion, leading to Communion being given to a dog: excommunicated. Even in the weird and wonderful diocese of Linz in Austria, they aren't still having the Blessed Sacrament procession with a foccacia in a huge pair of tongs. It is almost inconceivable that a written complaint to a bishop would have resulted in action in cases such as these, had not the incident gone around the world's media. In the case Bornhoft mentions, the parish took the FB page down. The deacon whose preaching implied Pope Benedict was a show-off for wearing red shoes took his sermon off YouTube. Again, the Gay activists who used to gather in Our Lady of the Annunciation, Warwick Street, in London, learned eventually that they could not put their Bidding Prayers of thanksgiving for Civil Partnerships online, without generating the wrong kind of publicity. Small victories, you may think, but significant ones, because it means that they will never again gloat over their implied heresy or their liturgical abuses, and say to each other: well, no one cares about the rules any more, we can be as open as we like about what we do.

There is an enormous difference between doing these hideous things in secret, worrying that there might be someone in the congregation with a hidden camera in his lapel or a microphone in his pocket, and bragging about them online. Can Mr Bornhoft not see it? The latter is vastly more scandalous, vastly more dangerous to souls, vastly more undermining of the Faith, to a potentially vastly larger audience. Feeling able to do these things openly gives them far more confidence, it emboldens them in going further and doing more. If only the social media had been around in the 1970s, when parishes in the USA were encouraging people to bring honey cookies they had made to be used in Mass - despite their being invalid matter. This scandal, public in the sense that the recipies were in parish newsletters, went on for years and years before pressure from Rome finally suppressed the sacrilege, which actually involved not only depriving the Faithful of Holy Communion but idolatry: the worship of biscuits. Social media would have blown it open in a matter of weeks, and the ridicule and outrage would have made it unsustainable, at least in months.

Conservative prelates and indeed Curial officials hate this kind of pressure. But if they had been doing their jobs, it wouldn't happen. As it is, it is the Savoranola, the St Catherine of Siena, the Erasmus, the Robert Grossteste, of our times. It should be done with care, with charity, dispassionately, with reference to authoritative documents, but it would be completely wrong to say that it should not be done at all. And it can be done with humour, and it can be done, with persistant offenders, with the kinds of measured mockery used by so many saints and great men in the Church, and by the Prophets and by Our Lord himself, when faced with a situation in which appeal to the 'proper authorities' gets you nowhere.

So no, Deacon Kandra, it is not a Lenten good work to allow Our Blessed Lord to be trampled underfoot, sometimes literally, and turn a blind eye to it. It is not something to be recommended to those outraged by abuses, as a good action, that they should see their fellow Catholics spiritually abused over and over again, and give it tacit consent. And unless you are doing it just to prove a point, and know how to write a letter, and have a good canon lawyer, a liturgical expert, and a Latinist, to help you, and (above all) can't be harmed by the reaction of those who could see your letter, then you'd better think twice about using the 'proper procedures'. You will be doing far more good, dear reader, sharing the latest scandal with your Facebook friends. It might even make a difference.

But don't forget to feed your own soul with the liturgy and the sacraments. Don't only go to Mass to make a list of abuses. Don't only go online to vent your fury. Come to the Traditional Mass. Calm down. And say some prayers.

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27/02/2016 - 10:00

The Pope and Nuns in the Congo

IMG_0268The Annunciation. From the Rosary Walk at Aylesford Priory.Here is a post of some rather technical ethical reasoning. But if you want to understand the debate on the 'Nuns in the Congo' case, read on.

The Pope referred to the famous case of the 'Nuns in the Congo' in the latest aeroplane interview. The case is about nuns who, fearing rape, take some kind of contraceptive pill. Pope Francis' exact purpose in making the reference was unclear, but not nearly unclear enough for the Vatican spokesman Fr Lombardi, who relived his triumphs in obscuring the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI on the dangers of condoms for people with AIDS, and in throwing sand into the eyes of everyone trying to make sense of Pope Benedict's remarks about male prostitutes using condoms.

In the meantime, Sandro Magister seems to have uncovered the history of the 'Nuns in the Congo' discussion, which wasn't what pretty well everyone had assumed up to now, claiming that Pope Paul VI said nothing on the subject. Rahter, it had simply been discussed by some theologians under Pope John XXIII.

Being a moral philosopher rather than a historian or, for that matter, a mind-reader, I think the contribution I can best make here is to explain why the Nuns in the Congo case is important, regardless of whether Pope Paul VI or any other pope authorised any ruling about it.

It should be obvious that the non-contraceptive use of devices or chemicals designed with contraception in mind is not necessarily wrong. Blowing condoms into balloons; using the Pill to control menstruation, and so on. Condoms are not intrinsically evil; it depends on what you do with them. What the Magisterium has also taught, for a long time, is that doing or omitting certain actions with the intention that conception will not take place, is not necessarily wrong either. If a couple don't think it prudent to conceive at a given moment, and choose accordingly to abstain from the marital act, this is permissible (assuming they have good reasons for doing this: I'm going to ignore this issue from here on, but have discussed it here).

What is wrong is (Pius XI) is the 'frustration of the natural act' with regard to its procreative potential, or to 'deprive it [sc. the marriage act] of its natural force and power'. (Casti conubii 1930)

Paul VI needed to emphasise that a pill taken hours or days before or after the sexual act was still wrong: it didn't need to make a difference, like a condom, to the act considered as physical behaviour. So he put it slightly differently: he condemned 'any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.' (Humane vitae (1968) 14)

Both encyclicals make it clear that abstinence with the intention of not begetting children, even when the abstinence is targetted at moments when the woman is fertile, does not necessarily contravene the moral law. This of course is what has led to the development of more accurate methods of determining fertility with a view to 'Natural Family Planning' (NFP). You don't have to be an enthusiast for NFP, however, to see that any other ruling by these Popes would have been impossible. It would be absurd to say that couples are obliged to engage in the marital act when there is a war, plague, or famine raging and they are concerned about what will happen to the baby.

This means that an intention not to have a baby is not intrinsically immoral. What is intrinsically immoral is this intention coupled with the intention to engage in a sexual act (as opposed to not engage in such an act). To clarify, a couple using NFP will not engage in the marital act with the intention of not conceiving. That intention wouldn't make sense, because they have not done anything in relation to that act which will impede its leading to conception. Rather, the acts which they perform with an intention not to conceive are, in fact, ommissions to engage in the marital act at this or that time. There is no marital act whose 'natural force and power' towards procreation has been deliberatly frustrated by the couple; it is just that the potential marital acts which would have the most efficacious 'force and power' don't take place at all.

But if what is intrinsically wrong is the combination of these two intentions, or, as Pius XI describes it, to 'frustrate the natural act', then not only is abstinence permissible, but so is the use of contraception, even with the intention that it prevent conception, if there is no intention to engage in a sexual act. This would normally be nonsensical, but it could be at issue with cases of rape.

A big caveat is needed at this point, that the contraceptive method at issue must be contraceptive in the strict sense. If there is a danger that it will prevent the development or implantation of a fertilised ovum then it is a very different story, so I don't think this reasoning can be applied to the 'Morning After Pill,' and it doesn't look like it could be applied to the conventional Pill either. But there are many ways one can try to frustrate conception, and in principle this would be morally licit other things being equal.

In fact this conclusion was reached by Catholic ethicists long before Humanae vitae, and even before John XXIII. It is a commonplace of the old theological manuals that a victim of rape could, with the intention of frustrating conception, wash out the rapist's seed. This would not be permissible (at least, not with that intention), where the sexual act had been consensual, that is, intended by the woman.

This is all very technical stuff. I put it out here not because it sheds any light on what Pope Francis said on that aeroplane (long may it rust), but because in their frustration many Catholic commentators are making a great deal out of the fact that the 'Nuns in the Congo' case has never been authoritatively taught. This may well be true, but the theological consensus about the case is not a reflection of modernist corruption; nor yet is it an opening towards more exceptions and a hollowing out of the teaching on contraception. It follows from the moral principles which make up the teaching on contraception. The denial of the need for there to be an intention to engage in a sexual act, as well as an intention to prevent conception, to make up the intrinsically immoral 'contraceptive intention', would lead not just to pastorally inconvenient consequences, but morally absurd ones.

Related posts: questions about NFP here and here; on Pope Benedict's views on the use of condoms by (male?) prostitutes, here; on whether condomistic intercourse is always wrong here, and here.

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