Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

14/06/2016 - 10:10

LMS AGM & Mass in Westminster Cathedral: 9th July

The Latin Mass Society's Annual General Meeting (which is open all LMS members) is taking place as usual in Westminster Cathedral Hall, behind the Cathedral (entrance on Ambrosden Avenue), at 11am on Saturday 9th July. It will be addressed by Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Nuncio to Switzerland. Until recently he was Nuncio to the Ukraine, and will speak about the persecution of the Church today.
This will be followed, at 2pm, by High Mass in the Cathedral (open, obviously, to everyone). This will be celebrated by our National Chaplain, Mgr Gordon Read. We are offering this Mass for the good estate of the Queen, since we have just celebrated her 90th birthday.
We have some interesting music from British composers at this Mass: see the poster below.


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13/06/2016 - 10:35

Will gays be told not to provoke Muslims?

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it looked like the whole world--except Barak Obama--rallied to the cause of free speech.

Obama was already getting ready for the next stage in the process of adjustment to the atrocity, however. This is to say that, really, free speech shouldn't be used to criticise Islam. At any rate, he has never used his own right of free speech to do such a thing.

A number of Catholic commentators, including Pope Francis, were roundly criticised for taking a more nuanced view. While the massacre was a terrible crime, the things published by Charlie Hebdo should not be supported or encouraged, and countries which have restrictions on that kind of thing (including most western democracies) are not entirely wrong. On the other hand, it is a quite different question whether we should be free to criticse Islam as a religion.

The secularists seem to swing between saying that depicting Mohammed having unnatural sex is a good thing, to be protected at all costs, and saying that no-one should be allowed a rational discussion about the contents of the Koran. A sensible society would do the second but not the first. One reason why there is a market for the first is that the second is neglected.

How are reactions to the Orlando shootings going to play out? First, of course, a whole lot of people will double down in their support for gays and public displays of the gay lifestyle. But in a world where wearing Mexican hats is not allowed because of the offence which might be caused to entirely fictitious hyper-sensitive Mexicans concerned about 'cultural appropriation', how long is it going to be before gays are told not to kiss in public, to avoid the rather more real possibility of scandalising Muslims?

One -- not the only -- reason gays kiss in public is, of course, precisely to annoy people who don't approve of the gay lifesyle. Gay Pride events take this principle to extremes which would appear to infringe standard public decency laws. It is perfectly reasonable to ask that these laws be enforced, and if necessary strenghened, not as a response to terrorism, but just because it would be the right thing to do.

Are the secularists now going to join the dwindling band of Christians asking for this? It will take a little time for this to happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did in the end.

Just to be ready for this when it happens, please note: it is reasonable to restrict public displays of affection and nudity, because these (according to the gravity, the time and place, the context etc.) can be objectively offensive; it is not reasonable to restrict public symbols of the Christian religion, like crosses, because these are not objectively offensive. The problem with the secularists is that they don't want to appeal to this distinction.

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10/06/2016 - 10:00

'War on boys': people are starting to notice

Policy-makers have actually been worrying about 'failing boys' for a while. Pope St John Paul II noted the absence of men from church back in 1988 (Christifideles laici 52). But the debate and the facts are now becoming mainstream.

As I have noted before, the connection between what I've called the 'secular' man-crisis and the Church's 'man crisis' must be taken into account. It can hardly be a coincidence that boys and men are falling short in school, university, and marriage, and also in vocations and in church attendance.

This little video is about boys in school. It is welcome, and the remedies are welcome too. The more fundamental issue, however, is not addressed. What used to motivate young men and, by their influence, boys down the age-range, to put in the hard work at university and school was the prospect of being a bread-winner, and being respected for it. The very term 'bread-winner' is regarded as tantamount to a profanity today, but the incentive must be restored or replaced if men are going to pull their weight in society.

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09/06/2016 - 09:29

A Rabbit's Lament

Today I am reposting this response of mine from January 2015 to the Pope's notorious aeroplane quip that Catholics need not breed like rabbits. Since this is one of the few times (the only time?) that something looking a bit like a public peddling-back by the Holy Father followed such an airborne remark, I don't want to make a meal of it. But it does serve to illustrate an important point about the presentation of the Faith to outsiders.

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Update: at today's (Wednesday 21/1/15) Pope Francis said this at the General Audience: 'It gives comfort and hope to see many families that welcome children as a true gift of God. They know that every child is a blessing.' 

The Pope's remarks on contraception on the aeroplane back from the Philippines were an extreme example of what has become a characteristic of this papacy. Without his words moving one iota from the teaching of the Church, and indeed reaffirming it, what came across was something appearing to undermine the actual living out of that teaching. Contraception is not just bad, it is - says the Holy Father - reminiscent of the ideological endeavours of the Hitler Youth. The example of a mother for whom some kind of ethical avoidance of pregnancy would be sensible is so extreme that it is impossible to argue with it. And yet somehow the take-home message is that large families are a bad thing. 'Catholics need not breed like rabbits.'

It is always good to put things in their context, so let me attempt to do so. For the last half a century or more the rhetoric of many of those charged with proclaiming the Gospel has been directed to the task of distancing the Church from the pious ideal, in order to make the Church more acceptable to those who reject the pious ideal. 'Oh, we don't spend all our time on our knees!' 'We don't believe all that nonsense any more!' You know the kind of thing. This strategy was based on two truths and one falsehood. The two truths are, first, that the pious ideal in the minds of those who reject the Church is generally an amalgam of misunderstandings and anti-Catholic propaganda, and second that the the pious ideal in the minds of those actually trying to lead good lives can itself be immature or unbalanced. The falsehood involved in this strategy is the idea that it is better to join in the attack on the ideal from an anti-Catholic perspective, than to correct, if necessary, and explain and defend the value of the ideal.

The theory is that by joining in the attack, one could wrong-foot the anti-Catholic attackers. Suppose a whole lot of people say that the Church's position on something - the use of lace surplices, Gregorian Chant, the condemnation of pre-marital sex -whatever you like - is silly, old-fashioned, and uncool. Instead of making himself a target of their barbs, a priest might say: 'Oh I agree! What a lot of silly nonsense.' The priest hopes to make the anti-Catholic mob to stop and think: 'Oh, perhaps we were attacking a straw man after all, perhaps the Church isn't so bad.'

They don't, however. They have the feeling that medieval armies must have had when their battering rams brought down a section of the enemy's defensive wall. The euphoric, energised feeling that the remaining defences just need a good bash to bring them down as well.

I remember a old monk talking to a group of adolescent boys about vocations to the religious life. 'It's not the pious ones, you know, the ones always popping in to church, who tend to end up joining the community.' The old monk thought he was opening up the possibility of a vocation to those in the group who didn't think of themselves as 'pious': oh how clever he thought he was being! But the implication was that there was something wrong with the pious ones. Anyone in that group who was in the habit of popping into church to pray or attend the Office was left feeling pretty foolish.

A contrasting case: a young monk, of a different community (in a different country), told me how he had dealt with a group of similar young men. They had told him that one of their number, who was evidently a bit embarrassed about it, might have a vocation. The young monk responded: 'Well, I'm not sure any of you have what it takes to be a monk.' They bridled at this. They immediately switched from regarding a vocation as something a bit sissy, something that one should be embarrassed about, to being something difficult, something one might be proud of.

Can you guess which community has had more vocations?

What the young monk was onto was the value of being counter-cultural. Instead of trying to fit in with a secular ethos which will never accept the Christian religion while it has anything recognisably Christian about it, you stand up against it and say: yes, what we are doing is difficult, it is demanding, and the only explanation for our doing it is that it has value. Those outside the Church may not understand its value - indeed, to a large extent those outside the Church can never understand its value - but our devotion to it is a witness to it. The outsider can, similarly, never feel the adrenaline rush of the extreme rock-climber or the satisfaction of a champion chess-player, but he can at least be intrigued, enough to want to know what the fuss is all about.

It may be that the Holy Father's choice of words should be explained by his Argentinian background or something like that, but the reason it has struck such a chord is that it fits right in with what many Catholics have been saying for 50 years, though less so Popes. The message is that you don't have to be mad to be a Catholic. You can still pretend to your secular friends that you are quite normal. One of the quickest ways to be thought abnormal is to have more than three children, but listen! that's not necessary, that's not even an ideal or an achievement we recognise any more.

This is a tempting approach but in the end it is part of the auto-demolition of the Church. It may be formally consistent with the teaching on contraception, but there is more to the Church's teaching than that, and the rejection of the good of children is in the end a rejection of life.

Of course you can limit your family size by abstinence if there is a serious reason, but what we desperately need as a nation and as a planet is an affirmation that children are not an expensive commodity, but a precious gift from God. If the secularists think we are mad to think that, then we need to show them by our devotion to this ideal, by the sacrifices we are prepared to make for it, that perhaps there is something of value here which they have missed out on.

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08/06/2016 - 10:31

Annoying arguments about the EU

For some reason I wanted a picture of Charlemagne to go with this post.

I like the fact that the Traditional Catholic movement in the UK and the Latin Mass Society are politically (as well as geographically and socially) diverse, but I get the impression that it tends to swing towards 'Brexit' in the current referendum debate. This is not surprising, as being governed by the laws of our own nation-state (or four-nation state, depending on how you count) is in accord with the kind of human tradition which we Catholic traditionalists understand is important in maintaining stability, consent, and the kind of dense political culture which only stability and consent can bring, over centuries. What I mean is the kind of instinctive understanding of parliamentary democracy, and many other aspects of our political institutions, which come from it being part of the fabric of national life since, well, the Middle Ages.

Obviously human customs and customary ways of doing things can and should be changed for a sufficient reason. So there is a sensible debate about possibly sufficient reasons to consent to the progressive destruction of British political institutions as bearers of real power. The importance of environmental legislation covering the whole of the EU, the need for a common response to various other challenges - this is what we need to talk about. The difficulty many have with these arguments is that it is precisely the continent-wide problems that the EU seems too often to have made worse, or even created, the refugee crisis and the euro/financial crisis being Exhibits A and B.

On the other hand, I have been frustrated by the debate I've seen in the media, and above all the social media, by totally irrelevant, confused, or counter-productive arguments. Most of all is the argument constantly made that the UK government after Brexit will be bad: it won't do the good things the EU is currently doing for us with our own money which, obviously, a future UK government could do if it wished to do. This is suspicion of the political elite which seems to eating itself. Most people suspicious of the political elite want to have some way of holding them to account, and the best and, for practical purposes (at the current stage of the development of EU institutions) the only way of doing this is by national elections. What the anti-elite Remainers want to do is to override national elections, because they don't trust the results, and give power to much less accountable elites in the EU. Haven't they noticed that the elite in the UK which they don't trust is a paid-up component of the elite in the EU which they do trust? And what would happen if the EU elite's wishes began to diverge from their own preferences? The idea that we can trust the EU because we are 'progressive' and the EU elite is 'progressive' is not only anti-democratic, but treats a long-term question as if it were a short-term one. By all means vote in the government of your choice. But don't give them perpetual and unaccountable power: that's just a silly thing to do to any government, however enlightened.

Another strange argumnent is about the possible break-up of the UK. With the Scottish referendum we came very close to an independant Scotland. If the UK leaves the EU, the argument goes, Scotland and perhaps other parts of the UK will want to break up with the UK to re-join the EU. The problem with this argument is that it is precisely our membership of the EU which created the movement for Scottish independance in the first place. Yes, obviously: since the EU undermines the ability of national governments to govern as the population wishes, since it encourages regional autonomy as a matter of policy, and since leaving the UK is vastly less scary if an independant Scotland and the rest of the UK remain members of the EU guaranteeing free trade, free movement, and heaps of subsidies to poor regions.

The crucial argument of the Scottish independance campaign was whether Scotland would make a smooth transition to membership of the EU as a separate state. It was EU officials saying 'no' to that which proved decisive.

It may be that, as the UK negotiates withdrawal from the EU, the Scots may make a bolt for the door. If that's what they want to do, good luck to them. But the door for which they will be bolting is a door which would be closing. Leaving the UK in order to join the EU will become a very different prospect once the UK is established as a non-member. The possibility of border checks and taxes on cross-border transactions leaves the realm of fantasy at that point. To say that the Scottish economy and people are closely tied to England would, of course, be an understatement. Leaving an independant UK would be a very scary prospect indeed.

Something similar needs to be said about the UK's relationship with the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world. We are appreciated, the Remainers say, because we in the EU: we are their door into the EU. Some of these countries may see it that way. But the reason our ties with all these countries, ties of centuries of culture, language, and shared history, have been getting progressively weaker over the decades is precisely because of our membership of the EU. Above all, we have not been able to use trade policy to maintain and develop these ties. No wonder India and the US see us in many ways as an irrelevance. When they want to talk about trade, they don't talk to us, they talk to the EU. The EU of course is not very friendly, because it is dominated by people who don't have our ties to those countries. Today we have perhaps the last chance to revive our connection with this vast and rapidly growing region of the globe, before these connections wither away completely.

After Brexit, we will remain a part of Europe: obviously. Our geographical location is not going to change. Furthermore, we will remain the overwhelmingly largest English-speaking country in Europe, and the one with the biggest defence budget, as well as the one with by far the most open attitude to free trade. These characteristics mean that we will continue to be a bridge between many parts of the world with the European continent. Our trade with the EU, even in the least-rosy scenario, of 'WTO rules', will be generally and by historic standards pretty free.

What will change is that UK policy will no longer be coordinated with those of the other EU states, in the detailed way it is today. Remainers should spare us the horror-stories, and tell us why that would be a bad thing.

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07/06/2016 - 10:00

Does the Church want Catholic men to be weeds?

This blog post purportedly about the 'traditional Catholic wife' quickly degenerates into 'man up' man bashing, and now I've started noticing this phenomenon I think I ought to attack it, especially since it creeps into traddy blogs and FB feeds.

My challenge to people who write like this is simple. Are you man enough to say what the Church atually teaches about the role of the father in the family? If you aren't, I suggest you stop writing on the subject.

Here's a post from my recent series of posts on the subject, in February this year. Click on the labels 'masculinity' and 'patriarchy' to see more.

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In some of the earlier posts of the series, I referred rather vaguely to things being said by Catholics about these matters which I thought unhelpful, so it behoves me to give some detail.

All kinds of things can be found in the more marginal sources (in which category I place this blog, for example). Looking at the more mainstream sources - blogs, bishops' statements, magisterial documents and the like - we find, in the more conservative ones, a pattern.

First, there is here and there a recognition that there is a problem of manhood. The Tablet had a minor breakdown when Cardinal Burke made his statement about the loss of men to the Church, and the underlying social causes, but the observation has been made before. The bare fact of male absence is lamented in Pope St John Paul II's 1988 Christifideles laici. In 2014 Mgr Charles Pope, in a much-linked to blog post, explicitly links the problem with feminism.

After years of radical feminism, men are shamed for seeking to take up leadership and authority in their families and in the Church. It starts early. Any normal boy is full of spit and vinegar, is aggressive, competitive, and anxious to test his wings. But many boys are scolded, punished, and even medicated for these normal tendencies. They are told to behave more like girls and to learn to be nicer and to get along, etc. It will be granted that limits are necessary, but the tendency for boys to roughhouse is normal. The scolding and “socializing” to more feminine traits continues apace into early adulthood. And then there are other cultural phenomena such as the slew of “Men are stupid” commercials, etc.

Last year Bishop Olmstead said something similar in a widely-publicised statement, and the 'New Emangelization' organisation has provided lots of statistics on the subject.

Naturally, Catholic schools and parishes are, with a few exceptions, a long way from taking any notice of these statements, but at least they are opening up a debate on the subject.

Second, we need of course a response: what should we do? What should men be like? It is here that these sources get rather hesitant and vague, if not completely silent.

In Christifideles laici, we hear of men that: 'some ... abdicate their proper Church responsibilities'. The implication that they shouldn't do so is, of course, correct, but not terribly helpful.

Cardinal Burke says lots of good things, but despite remarking 'First of all, the Church must make a concentrated effort to evangelize men by delivering a strong and consistent message about what it means to be a faithful Catholic man', he doesn't say anything about men having a leadership role in the family. To be fair, the interview was about the other side of the coin - feminisation.

Mgr Charles Pope tells us that Catholic men should be 'vigorous moral leaders and teachers in their families, parishes, and communities.' Not only does this statement obscure the teaching about male headship by linking it to areas of life in which men do not in fact have any special authority (eg teaching catechism in the parish), this is all the Mgr Pope says about it.

Bishop Olmstead says: 'A father’s role as spiritual head of the family must never be understood or undertaken as domination over others, but only as a loving leadership and a gentle guidance for those in your care.' Again, this is the only reference to headship or leadership in the document, and you can practically hear Bishop Olmstead's unease about the whole idea.

The New Emangelisation website has one article which uses the word 'complementarity': mirroring the case of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is wheeled out to condemn same-sex relationships, despite playing no role in any discussion of heterosexual relationships. Mentions of 'authority' and 'leadership' are limited to a page reproducing Pius XI's Quas Primas about the authority of Christ. There is one occurance of the phrase 'head of their family': amazingly, it is a quotation from a survey response.

So let me get this right: the Emangelization people think that it is grist to their mill that Catholic men responding to a survey say that priests should 'Start teaching men to start being men and the head of their family once again!', but don't have the cojones actually to talk about the concept themselves?

Maybe it is the leaders of the 'men's movement' who need to 'man up', before they invite anyone else to do so.

These are among the most conservative voices which can be regarded as other than completely marginal. Other currents of opinion in the Church are of course far more hostile to, or at least tellingly silent about, the traditional masculine ideal. We find, most notably, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1605) and the Novus Ordo Marriage Rite ('acknowledging her as his equal': Nuptial Blessing A) emphasising the equality of the sexes in exactly the places where you might expect some reference to their differences, and to male headship. In the context of this hostility, it is clearly essential that anyone wishing to defend that ideal should do so clearly, explaining in some detail what it means and defending it from objections, and not simply cower behind euphemisms.

There is an additional problem, which is the way a lot of secular discussions go. It is only a slight exageration to express the message found in a lot of books and in journalism like this: men are pathetic, men are lazy, men are committment shy, so they should be shamed (not incentivised in any other way) into 'manning up' and get married (/ hold down a demanding job etc.) despite the fact that the available women have spent the flower of their youths in promiscuity, have no intention of giving their husbands any respect or attending to their domestic comforts, and retain the right to end the marriage at a moment of their choosing, without giving up the family home, the custody of the children, or a slice of the husband's pay-packet. (I discussed a version of this found in The Economist here.) Without attributing this view to any of the Catholic sources quoted above, the pervasiveness of this narrative is bound to influence the way that their own statements are heard.

Thus, when Pope John Paul II says that men are not fulfilling their responsibilities, it is very easy to read that in light of the 'man up' narrative to mean that, first, men are to blame for the situation (and see here), and, second, they should go back to performing their traditional duties without any thought of challenging the withdrawal of their traditional prerogatives. In other words, they should allow themselves to be exploited.

If Mgr Pope, Bishop Olmstead or anyone else wants to avoid being understood in this way, they need to make it clear. Looking over the fence at the rather more explicit debate going on among the 'conservative Evangelicals', it turns out that the 'manning up' narrative is exactly what many people mean when they talk about complementarity, 'servant leadership' and the other contorted terms they have come up with in order to avoid saying that they are 'traditionalists' or in favour of 'patriarchy'. (The Evangelical blogger Dalrock gives all the links and analysis.) What it comes down to it, they do not want to roll back the 'gains of feminism'. They have made too much concession to the secular ideology of the moment to be able to offer men a convincing reason to bear the extremely heavy burdens of the traditional masculine ideal.

Those burdens, remember, were the hard work once characteristic of boys at school and young men at university and in their early careers; the taking on of the more demanding and highly paid subjects and careers; the shouldering of society's most physically demanding and dangerous jobs; and the willingness to suffer and if necessary die in defence of the family and the nation: all these things, without an expectation that women share in these burdens. In addition, men today have before their eyes the sacrifice of promiscuity in favour of marital fidelity.

The next question I suppose is whether Patriarchy is, for all this, oppressive to women, for that is the thought which is preventing a clear affirmation of the traditional masculine ideal within the Church.

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05/06/2016 - 10:00

Rogue bishops and Traditional Institutes: Letter in The Tablet

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Fr Magdala Maria and Fr Jean Marie of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (F.SS.R.) based in the Orkeneys.
It is an Institute of Diocesan Right in Aberdeen Diocese and also in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Last weekend The Tablet's man in Rome, Christopher Lamb, noted that Pope Francis was taking away the prerogative of bishops to found religious institutes, orders, and communities, or at least circumscribing it, by insisting that in each case they get permission from Rome.

It sadly reflects the intellectual and journa

listic standards of The Tablet the Lamb goes on to try to make this a stick to beat the Traditional Institutes and orders, and uses the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to do so.

This ruling is clearly targeted at the large number of traditionalist religious orders that have sprouted up in recent years, many of them exclusively celebrating the sacraments in the pre-Vatican II Old Rite. Many of them do good work but there are suspicions about others.  


Take the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a traditionalist offshoot of the Franciscans, founded in Italy in 1990. The order became embroiled in an internal row over the liturgy with concerns they were becoming too exclusively traditionalist and both Benedict XVI and Francis launched inquiries into them. This Pope was particularly tough and banned them from celebrating the Old Rite liturgies without special permission, a move which angered traditionalists. 

The train of thought is bizarre, because the FFI simply doesn't come into the category Lamb is trying to generalise about: it did not 'exclusively celebrate' the Traditional Mass, or even come close; it is not a foundation of 'recent years'; and it is not a diocesan institute: it was answerable directly to Rome and the Congregation for Religious, as anyone who has been following events has been all too aware.

They have, with a number of slightly irritating textual changes, published my response this weekend.

No wild growths

Christopher Lamb (View from Rome, 28 May ) notes that in future bishops will need to consult the Vatican before establishing new religious orders in their dioceses. He suggests that some problematic foundations of “recent years” have been exclusively committed to the Traditional Mass, and refers to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI). 

Since, as the article itself notes, the FFI was founded as long ago as [in] 1990, and was not, and never had been, and was never proposed to be exclusively committed to the Traditional Mass, it is hard to see why Lamb uses the FFI as an example of this alleged phenomenon. As a matter of fact, It was not an Institute of Diocesesan Right either; it gained “pontifical” status from the Vatican in 1998, and has operated since then in more than two dozen countries.  When it had been established at the diocesan level, this was done after careful consultation with Rome.

The Vatican’s involvement in the establishment of institutes and communities that really are committed to the Traditional Mass is usually even closer. The Fraternity of St Peter (founded in 1988) became a “pontifical” institute from its very foundation. It was not just with the good will, but at the direction, of the Holy See that the Apostolic Administration of St Jean Vianney was established in Campos, Brazil (2002), the Institute of St Philip Neri in Berlin (2003), the Institute of the Good Shepherd in Bordeaux (2006) and the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer in the Orkneys (2012).


The growth of religious institutes and communities using the Traditional Mass [Their growth] has been carefully cultivated over many years at the highest levels of the Church.

JOSEPH SHAW

CHAIRMAN, THE LATIN MASS SOCIETY

What I didn't mention is that the Vatican's involvement with the groups I listed was inevitable, because they all involved priests, and often seminarians or novices, who were previously not in good canonical standing with the Church. Suspensions had to be lifted, faculties granted, places of worship regularised. Other traditional institutes have been founded by priests from ordinary dioceses or existing communities, and that could be done without any heavy lifting from Rome. This is where Lamb has it so completely backwards: not only has the growth of traditional institutes not happened behind Rome's back, but in the very important cases I listed it would have been completely impossible without sometimes very generous and unusual acts, on Rome's part, to clear away obstacles, and indeed, in more than a few cases, to overcome the lack of enthusiasm of local bishops. If Lamb was a bit better informed, he might have put a very different spin on things.

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04/06/2016 - 10:00

Esperanto vs. Latin

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Last year's Summer School - a bit of Latin is included, naturally. Details for this year are here.

The weekend The Catholic Universe has printed quite a long letter of mine on the subject of Latin and Esperanto, in response to an equally long letter praising Esperanto in last week's Letters.
Last time I mentioned Esperanto on this blog - as an aside - I got some rather irate comments, so this time, well, come and get me! My sympathy with the idea of an artificial language of any kind is simply zero. If people want to learn Elvish, Klingon or Esperanto, they are, I suppose, no more wasting their time than if they were playing patience on their IPhones (which seems to be de rigour on the commuter trains out of London these days). I don't want to criticise such harmless recreations. But to propose it as an educational task for children is as insane as suggesting it as a substitute for Latin (or any other language) for comunication within the Church. Artificial languages are languages without a history, culture, or literature, or at least without one going back before (in the case of Esperanto) 1870.
I have far more time for the revival of dead languages, even if this seems equally Quixotic. People learning Cornish or Manx from books are putting themselves into contact with a culture which cannot easily be expressed in any other language. Great written (or indeed aural) works of art and science, which are among the most important aspects of a culture, can only fully be appreciated in the original. If the language dies, works written in it die as well, and the culture is mortally wounded. This is why anyone who takes Irish culture serious must be serious about the Irish language. Anyone who cares about the acheivments of Scots Gaelic poets must care about the preservation of Gaelic. Interestingly, one of the Latin Mass Society's early supporters was a proponent of the Welsh language.
As well as being the repository for a major part of the Church's thought and culture, Latin, of course, is not a dead language. It is not no-one's cradle language, but it is remains a working language. Things are composed in and translated into Latin, which isn't something which happens in dead languages.
If you want to learn Latin, come on the LMS' own summer training course in the last week of July.
To the Editor of the Catholic Universe.

Catherine Venture (Letters, 27th May 2016) writes to promote Esperanto as an international ‘bridge’ language.

Given its steep decline in popularity in the UK, I suppose it needs all the help it can get. But since it is based on the Romance languages—the European languages derived from Latin—with a bit of Yiddish thrown in, it would be more logical to suggest studying Latin as a ‘bridge’ language, a function it actually served for many centuries.

Ms Venture objects that ‘Latin is only ok for the Classical scholar’, inviting the obvious retort the Esperanto is only ok for the Esperanto scholar. Unlike Esperanto, in which there are no Government-recognised qualifications, Latin is taught in 600 state schools, up from 100 a decade ago. Esperanto is taught in four.

No doubt Esperanto is easy to learn—at least for speakers of major European languages—but Latin was described as the ‘language of the Church’ by Pope Benedict XVI. Pope St John Paul II said it was a ‘disgrace’ not to know Latin, and that the Church has an ‘obligation’ towards it. Bl. Pope Paul VI called it a ‘divine’ language, and Pope St John XXIII praised Latin, ‘full of majesty and dignity’, precisely because, as Ms Venture says of Esperanto, it is ‘equally friendly’ to native speakers of all languages.

The Church desperately needs a common language, for communication between her children who come from every nation, culture, and language on earth. What Catholic Esperantists miss, of even greater importance, is the need for a common language of communication between the generations. It is essential for serious students of the Church’s theology, law, history, and literature, to be able to read what their predecessors wrote, in the original.

For the Church, the only possible ‘bridge language’ is Latin. It is time all Catholic schools recognised their obligation to open the door to the treasures of Catholic culture and thought to their pupils, by equipping them with Latin.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, The Latin Mass Society
For more on the study of Latin in the Church, see the Position Paper on Latin in Seminaries.

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03/06/2016 - 10:00

Church statistics: what happened to the young men?

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A break on the LMS Walsingham Pilgrimage last year.

In my last post I noted that the figures for lapsation from the Church given by Stephen Bullivant, which originated with the British Attitudes Survey, are systematically distorted by attitudes to Church membership and motives for getting babied baptised, which themselves vary over time and between regions. The inclusion of people in the category of 'self-identified Catholic' who have only a nominal or tribal affiliation increases the number of 'Catholics', but not the number of church-goers. If they felt that they shouldn't call themselves Catholics, the rate of practice would increase without any increase in the numbers of bums on pews. For this reason, I think that saying that 39.2% of 'Catholics' never or practically never go to Church is pretty meaningless.

More helpful is the analysis of church-goers. The age profile is one interesting thing. The small number of the youngest group, and the large number of the oldest group, is perhaps not surprising. What is a little odd is that of the four remaining age-segments, the younger two practice more than the older two. This graph is still about proportions of self-identified Catholics, but this trend is reflected in the graph (below) which zeroes in on weekly-or-more attenders. What is going on?

People who were 65 or more in 2014 (the vintage of the data) were 21 or more in 1970. The next two younger age groups were young adults or children at the time of the liturgical reform. Once we get back to people of 34 or younger, we are dealing with people who didn't experience the reform at first hand at all: they hadn't been born. Bearing in mind the liturgical and catechetical anarchy of the period between about 1965 and 1978 (the election of Pope John Paul II), I don't think it is very surprising that people who experienced this as children or very young adults were traumatised. These statistics, at any rate, show that the 'springtime of Vatican II' did nothing to draw more people into to the practice of the Faith.

Even more intriguing are the figures for sexes. I've written a lot on this blog about the lack of men in our churches, but I've been quoting statistics from the USA. Here we can see exactly what the situation is here in England and Wales.

Before anything else, we can be confident that Catholic families, on average, have as many boys as girls. If there are differences between the number of men and women among adult Catholics, it is because there is a differential lapsation rate, and to a smaller extent perhaps a different rate of conversion. (Converts account for 8% of self-described Catholics.)

First, we find that more women than men identify as Catholic: of those who call themselves Catholic, 40.9% are men and 59.1% are women.

Second, of those, the women practice more: 30.7% weekly or more, 36.1% never, the rest in between. For men it is 22.8% weekly, and 43.8% never.

Third, looking at who is actually at Mass on a weekly or more basis, fully two thirds are women, and one third are men.

Finally, look at this
graph of the sex ratio of weekly-or-more attenders, which is also broken down by age. Notice something odd about it? Not only is it skewed towards women, whose column is twice the size of men; not only does it demonstrate the large number of older women in our congregation: women over 65 make up a quarter of the typical congregation. But something else. The bottom category of the male column is missing. What happened to men aged 18-24?

The BSA survey is based on responses from 3,000 people; half of them actually took part in the survey. In this impressive sample, they found no men aged 18 to 25 who went to Catholic church once a week or more. Not one. Their set of men at that age going to church every week is empty.

Don't imagine that lots of young men are going to church slightly less frequently: as the first table above shows, whereas 14% of nominal Catholics aged 18-24 go to church weekly (presumably, these are females), only 5.3% go 'at least monthly', and if that number includes men, there aren't many of them. Obviously there are some young Catholic men who go to church. But they are statistically negligable.

At this point I need to refer back to the Position Paper I published about the Traditional Mass and men, and to my other discussions of related issues. It is demonstrable that men are turned off the liturgy and general atmosphere of the Church, but come in large numbers to the Traditional Mass and traditional devotions; traditional Catholic congregations, again, are astonishingly fertile in terms of vocations to the priesthood, and harbour large numbers of children. Come to the Chartres Pilgrimage, and you will realise that suggestions that men are simply less religious than women, or that Catholicism is intrinsically feminine, are just nonsense. It is the way the Faith is presented to young men which is the problem.

Our parishes and schools are failing Catholic boys.

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Pilgrims about to enter the Shrine at Walsingham.

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02/06/2016 - 11:30

Stephen Bullivant's lapsation statistics: methodological problems

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A window into what is going on in the Church.

Stephen Bullivant of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society has produced a study based on the British Social Attitudes Survey, focusing on the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

It is marred by some typographical errors, for example referring back to the wrong diagramme at one point, and saying 'somewhat under two in five [cradle Catholics] attends religious services once a week or more' (p14) when the figure is 17.1%. Thelittle video they've produced to go with it fails to explain what the percentages they are quoting are percentages of.

A general methodological point is we get individuals' views of whether they are Catholic, Anglican, or whatever, rather than any objective judgment based on belief and practice. An interesting result of this comes out with Baptists. For some reason Baptists are much less likely than Catholics and Methodists to say that they are Baptists if they aren't practicing. This means that the lapsation rate for Baptists is the highest of the groups identified: only 28.9% of cradle Baptists identify as Baptists. Conversly, the percentage of nominal Baptists who practice is also high: 58% go to church at least weekly, another 6% at least monthly. We've all met people who think of themselves as Anglicans, by contrast, even if their family has hardly set foot in church for generations. Accordingly, 51.7% of cradle Anglicans identify as Anglicans, but only 8.9% of self-identified Anglicans actually get themselves to a service once a week, with another 10% going at least once a month.

What this means--and this is something Bullivant appears not to have noticed--is that these figures are hugely influenced by attitudes to church membership: what people think it means to be an Anglican or a Baptist. The reality of how Baptists and Anglicans compare at retaining their young people is obscured by this. If Baptists suddenly decided that having a vague tribal loyalty to the Baptist milieu was enough for them to identity as Baptist, then their retention rate would shoot up and their rate of practicing would plummet. But these changes wouldn't reflect any changes in either belief or practice - except beliefs about church membership.


More helpful, then, are the figures for the church attendance of cradle Catholics. Here we find that 17.1% of cradle Catholics go to church once a week, and another 9.8% at least once a month. (56.8% of cradle Catholics identify as Catholics.) Unfortunately, this includes attendance at non-Catholic places of worship of the 6.1% cradle Catholics who have not just lapsed, but apostacised. Bullivant doesn't include comparable figures for Anglicans and others.

The trouble is, these figures are still affected by attitudes to church membership, just at one remove. What does it mean to be a 'cradle Catholic'? Baptism? Well, what does it take to get a couple to have their child baptised, and what does it take for a priest to carry out the baptism? The number of cradle Catholics who go on to lapse include those who were themselves brought up as only nomically Catholic. Children who go to a Catholic school on the basis of parents' wholly theoretical affiliation to the Church will often, presumably, say they were cradle Catholics: they were, at any rate, baptised, and probably confirmed. But you can hardly be said to lapse from the practice of the Faith if you never practiced in the first place.

Consider the debate about whether the babies of lapsed Catholics should be baptised. Parents (or godparents) have to say that the child will be brought up in the Faith. For a priest to baptise a child solely because his parents want him to go to a good school, or to please granny, is sacrilege. But how are priests to determine the good will of parents? Naturally, a range of pastoral responses are possible, and there is variation by region and over time. These variations are going to feed through into the figures for lapsation twenty years later. Laxer policies will lead to higher lapsation rates; a region of the country or period of time characterised by a stricter policy will have a lower lapsation rate. That isn't to say that a laxer policy is a bad thing: personally I agree with the Pope that priests must take parental professions of their intentions at face value, unless there are strong reasons not to do so. More nominal Catholics may, if carefully handled, lead to more real Catholics. My point is simply that the lapsation figures are being distorted by factors which have got nothing to do with how effective catechesis is, how attractive the liturgy, the social standing of the Church, and so on: the things which we may have thought we were measuring when measuring the rate of lapsation.

The baptism of children to get them into Catholic schools (or to please granny) is no marginal phenomenon in the Church in England and Wales, but of course it is impossible to estimate an accurate figure for it. What we do know is that it artificially inflates the number of nominal Catholics and the lapsation rate alike. What we really need are figures for those brought up as practicing their religion (at least, going to church), who continue to practice as adults. For this we'd need to a new study.

We do get some hints about this, however, from Bullivant's figures, and tomorrow I will address them, by looking at age and gender profiles of practicing Catholics.

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