Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

06/01/2018 - 10:00

Vermeule's mistake about human traditions

Adrian Vermeule has written a very interesting and in some ways helpful article in the Catholic Herald about the the nostalgia felt by a number of conservative/ traditionalist-leaning Catholic writers for the apparant live-and-let-live harmony between the Church and the 'liberal' state in the USA and elsewhere in the past, recent or not quite so recent. (I'll come to my disagreement with him in a minute.)

His argument is simply that liberalism is an ideology inherently hostile to the Faith with which no long-term, stable compromise is possible. He is absolutely right. As he writes:

Put differently, as I have argued elsewhere, the main “tradition” of liberalism is in fact a liturgy, centred on a sacramental celebration of the progressive overcoming of the darkness of bigotry and unreason. To participate in that tradition, that liturgy, is necessarily and inescapably to commune with and be caught up into a particular substantive view of time, history, world and the sacred – the liberal view.

The same point can be expressed in a slightly different way, from a historical perspective, which was made clear to me by reading Edward Norman's Secularisation. Norman points out that the brief golden age in the UK with neither religious intolerance from the dominant religion, or secularist intolerance from a liberal state, was simply a momentary equalibrium of forces in the long decline of the influence of the formerly dominant religion (Anglicanism) and the long rise in the power and self-confidence of the liberal state. This golden age - more like a golden mini-second - has inspired absurd amounts of political theorising, but was simply a moment when Anglicanism was too weak to assert itself against others but still too strong to be pushed around.

Vermeule goes on to say that we should seek eternal habitations and not place our trust in princes, though he doesn't express it quite like that. Again, this is correct. But he draws a rather surprising conclusion from this. He writes:

The typical mistake is to conflate the traditions of the Church with the traditions of the broader society. These are very different things; the Church is an ark afloat on a dangerous sea, which preserves its own internal traditions in part with walls that prevent it from being deluged by secular practices and mores. 1 Peter thus connects Catholic rootlessness and homelessness with a rejection of human political traditions, enjoining Catholics to “live out the time of your exile here in reverent awe, for you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood …” Catholicism is not Burkeanism. Because Catholics are exiled in the world, they can ultimately have no attachment to man’s places and traditions, including political traditions.
I like the point that the Church has to protect itself from bad influences, but Vermeule makes a critical mistake in (apparantly) not considering the possibility that the political order be Christianised. Is this a possibility, he might ask? Well, Vatican II, in accordance with the whole tradition, demands that we at least try,

'to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the GospelApostolicam actuositatem 5

And it would be rather strange if a society made up almost exclusively of believing Catholics should not, over several centuries, make some progress in this direction. Such societies have, of course, existed, and a glance at their political institutions and human culture in general confirms that, yes, with all the imperfections inevitable to fallen nature, they had made at least some progress. When considering the traditions of such societies, and the continuence in politics and general culture of these traditions in other societies which are not blessed with the same ideal conditions, does one really want to say that a Burkean respect for tradition has no value? Does one really want to say that no human traditions should be preferred to any other?

Even if there had never been any truly Catholic societies, even if one were presented with a choice between human traditions formed by pagan or secular societies, does one really want to say that we should not bother to respect and uphold the better, and oppose the worse? Do we really not care if polygamy and human sacrifice become the settled cultural expressions of the society in which we find ourselves, when we could work to preserve those cultural aspects of, say, Roman paganism, or modern liberalism, such as contain at least a fumbling and imperfect respect for the family and for human life, and which genuinely intersect with the Natural Law?

Vermeule's mistake is to extrapolate from a rightly pessimistic view of fallen nature, which is found throughout the Catholic tradition, to an implicit rejection of the possibility that nature can be redeemed. For the story with human culture parallels the story of human nature itself, since culture is the result of many humans living together. Fallen human nature is dominated by sinful desires, but it is not wholly evil: it is still capable of perceiving the moral law to some extent. Among pagans we find pity, honour, an appreciation of beauty, artistic and intellectual acheivements, and sincere religious aspirations. These good aspects of pagan societies are manifested in their traditions - as well as bad things.

Humans can, moreover, be redeemed, and this redemption has the effect of beginning a process of freeing them from error and confusion, allowing them to live better, if not perfect, lives consistently, allowing them to think more clearly, allowing them to undertake art and politics and everything else in ways less in slavery to sin. This has consequences for human traditions, for politics. The disappearance of redeemed humanity from the political and cultural scene has the contrary consequences. Listen to the popes:

…where religion has been removed from civil society, and the doctrine and authority of divine revelation repudiated, the genuine notion itself of justice and human right is darkened and lost… 
Pius IX Quanta Cura §4


Therefore the law of Christ ought to prevail in human society and be the guide and teacher of public as well as of private life. Since this is so by divine decree, and no man may with impunity contravene it, it is an evil thing for any state where Christianity does not hold the place that belongs to it. When Jesus Christ is absent, human reason fails, being bereft of its chief protection and light, and the very end is lost sight of, for which, under God's providence, human society has been built up. This end is the obtaining by the members of society of natural good through the aid of civil unity, though always in harmony with the perfect and eternal good which is above nature. But when men's minds are clouded, both rulers and ruled go astray, for they have no safe line to follow nor end to aim at. 

Leo XIII Tametsi Futura §8

Should we feel more at home in a society still visibly shaped by Christianity, with saints' names and religious holidays, with respect for property and some grasp of natural justice, than we would be under Nazism or Soviet Communism? Should we, finding ourselves in one of the latter societies, look back with nostalgia on the Christian past, and use the memories and traditions of that past, which still have resonance and force with our unbelieving compatriots, as part of a programme of resistance to evil and of restoration?

You bet we should.

By all means be pessimistic about the direction society is going in as Christ is rejected more and more completely. But don't repudiate your civic obligations, and don't repudiate those traditions and that past which are among our most effective means of evangelising those with whom we share, like it or not, a public culture. Neither of those repudiations are things we can 'afford', Mr Vermeule.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

05/01/2018 - 10:00

Prior of Norcia to celebrate Candlemas in London

Those interested in the Benedictines of Norcia will like to hear that Prior Benedict Nivakoff will celebrate a Sung Mass in Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, in London, at 6:30pm on Friday 2nd February, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady (Candlemas).

Prior Benedict succeeded the founder, Prior Cassian Folsom, in 2016, as I noted on this blog here.

More details about the Mass to follow.

Now-retired Prior Cassian Folsom celebrating Sung Mass in Our Lady of the Assumption in May 2016

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

04/01/2018 - 10:00

First Saturdays in the London Oratory

The Fathers of the London Oratory are extending the practice they adopted for the centenary year of the Fatima apparitions, of celebrating a Traditional Mass on the First Saturday of each month, at 11am, usually at the Lady Altar (on the right near the front). The first one of the New Year is on Saturday 6th January.

More information about the devotion, recommended by Our Lady at Fatima, below the fold.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

03/01/2018 - 10:00

Scottish Chartres Chapter

I'm delighted to pass this on from Una Voce Scotland. The Scots have had their own 'chapter', a segment of the huge column of pilgrims, on the Chartres Pilgrimage, for a few years now, often supported by the Sons of the Holy Redeemer (the Papa Stronsay Redemptorists), who created this 'Bonny Prince Jesus' image (and had it authorised for public use). This year they are joined by the indefatigable Fr Michael Rowe who was the Chaplain of the Latin Mass Society's Walsingham Pilgrimage in 2017.

The contact email address is

There is also a Facebook page.

The Chartres Pilgrimage (17th-21st May 2018) is something everyone attracted by the Traditional Mass should do - the younger the better, but if you are reasonably active, or can make yourself so by May, then you have no excuse not to. 

It is amazingly cheap, totally exhausting, and no less spiritually rewarding.
If you are based in Scotland, or would just like to hook up with the Scots for this event, this is the group for you. 
(The English contingent, with whom I've walked three times, can be found here. The Irish group is organised by the Latin Mass Society of Ireland, who can be found here.)
Here are some practical details.

The Bonnie Prince Chapter - Chartres 2018

with Chaplain Father Michael Rowe

Full programme
(as at 15th December 2018)

Thursday 17th May

1830 Depart Edinburgh airport (Easyjet flight) to Paris
2120 Arrive Paris Airport Charles de Gaulle
Stay in Hotel Gay-Lussac, Rue Gay-Lussac, Paris 75005

Friday 18th May

840 am Traditional Latin Mass at Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Rue du Bac, Paris
Visit to the Shrine of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Chapel of the Passion
Picnic lunch
Visit to Our Lady of Victories and Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacre Coeur) Early dinner in restaurant near hotel
Bed (10pm curfew!!)

Saturday 19th May (vigil of Pentecost)

6 am walk to Notre Dame de Paris for start of Notre Dame de Chrétienté pilgrimage

Sunday 20th May (Pentecost Sunday)

6am Continue on Notre Dame de Chretiente pilgrimage

Monday 21st May (Pentecost Monday)

Arrive at Basilica Notre Dame de Chartres Dinner in restaurant in Chartres
Stay in Hotellerie Saint Yves, Chartres

Tuesday 22nd May (Pentecost Tuesday)

8am Traditional Latin Mass, Basilica Notre Dame de Chartres
Visit Basilica Notre Dame de Chartres
Return on train to Paris
1740 Depart Paris Easyjet
1825 Arrive Edinburgh

COST Flights

Each person books their own Easyjet return flight - prices change but at time of writing the price is

£69 return

Hotel costs

Hotel Gay-Lussac, Paris, for 2 nights - the price varies from £68 per person to £154 per person depending on the room type you choose.

Hotellerie Saint Yves, Chartres for 1 night the price is £30 per person for sharing a twin or triple room.

The cost of the Notre Dame de Chrétienté pilgrimage is approximately £40 which includes bread and soup and 2 nights accommodation (a communal tent)

BOOKINGS CONTACT : Mrs Julienne Thurrott
Bookings close 15th APRIL 2018


Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

02/01/2018 - 14:37

Statement on Amoris by Bishops of Kazakstan

This document speaks for itself; I post it here in full.


Profession of the immutable truths
about sacramental marriage

After the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation "Amoris laetitia" (2016) various bishops issued at local, regional, and national levels applicable norms regarding the sacramental discipline of those faithful, called "divorced and remarried," who having still a living spouse to whom they are united with a valid sacramental matrimonial bond, have nevertheless begun a stable cohabitation more uxorio with a person who is not their legitimate spouse.

The aforementioned rules provide inter alia that in individual cases the persons, called "divorced and remarried," may receive the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion, while continuing to live habitually and intentionally more uxorio with a person who is not their legitimate spouse. These pastoral norms have received approval from various hierarchical authorities. Some of these norms have received approval even from the supreme authority of the Church.

The spread of these ecclesiastically approved pastoral norms has caused a considerable and ever increasing confusion among the faithful and the clergy, a confusion that touches the central manifestations of the life of the Church, such as sacramental marriage with the family, the domestic church, and the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist.

According to the doctrine of the Church, only the sacramental matrimonial bond constitutes a domestic church (see Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 11). The admission of so-called "divorced and remarried" faithful to Holy Communion, which is the highest expression of the unity of Christ the Spouse with His Church, means in practice a way of approving or legitimizing divorce, and in this meaning a kind of introduction of divorce in the life of the Church.

The mentioned pastoral norms are revealed in practice and in time as a means of spreading the "plague of divorce" (an expression used by the Second Vatican Council, see Gaudium et spes, 47). It is a matter of spreading the "plague of divorce" even in the life of the Church, when the Church, instead, because of her unconditional fidelity to the doctrine of Christ, should be a bulwark and an unmistakable sign of contradiction against the plague of divorce which is every day more rampant in civil society.

Unequivocally and without admitting any exception Our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ solemnly reaffirmed God's will regarding the absolute prohibition of divorce. An approval or legitimation of the violation of the sacredness of the marriage bond, even indirectly through the mentioned new sacramental discipline, seriously contradicts God's express will and His commandment. This practice therefore represents a substantial alteration of the two thousand-year-old sacramental discipline of the Church. Furthermore, a substantially altered discipline will eventually lead to an alteration in the corresponding doctrine.

The constant Magisterium of the Church, beginning with the teachings of the Apostles and of all the Supreme Pontiffs, has preserved and faithfully transmitted both in the doctrine (in theory) and in the sacramental discipline (in practice) in an unequivocal way, without any shadow of doubt and always in the same sense and in the same meaning (eodem sensu eademque sententia), the crystalline teaching of Christ concerning the indissolubility of marriage.

Because of its Divinely established nature, the discipline of the sacraments must never contradict the revealed word of God and the faith of the Church in the absolute indissolubility of a ratified and consummated marriage. "The sacraments not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 59). "Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1125).

The Catholic faith by its nature excludes a formal contradiction between the faith professed on the one hand and the life and practice of the sacraments on the other. In this sense we can also understand the following affirmation of the Magisterium: "This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age." (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 43) and "Accordingly, the concrete pedagogy of the Church must always remain linked with her doctrine and never be separated from it" (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 33).

In view of the vital importance that the doctrine and discipline of marriage and the Eucharist constitute, the Church is obliged to speak with the same voice. The pastoral norms regarding the indissolubility of marriage must not, therefore, be contradicted between one diocese and another, between one country and another. Since the time of the Apostles, the Church has observed this principle as St. Irenaeus of Lyons testifies: "The Church, though spread throughout the world to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the Apostles and their disciples, preserves this preaching and this faith with care and, as if she inhabits a single house, believes in the same identical way, as if she had only one soul and only one heart, and preaches the truth of the faith, teaches it and transmits it in a unanimous voice, as if she had only one mouth"(Adversus haereses, I, 10, 2). Saint Thomas Aquinas transmits to us the same perennial principle of the life of the Church: "There is one and the same faith of the ancients and the moderns, otherwise there would not be one and the same Church" (Questiones Disputatae de Veritate, q. 14, a. 12c).

The following warning from Pope John Paul II remains current and valid: "The confusion, created in the conscience of many faithful by the differences of opinions and teachings in theology, in preaching, in catechesis, in spiritual direction, about serious and delicate questions of Christian morals, ends up by diminishing the true sense of sin almost to the point of eliminating it" (Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitenia, 18).

The meaning of the following statements of the Magisterium of the Church is fully applicable to the doctrine and sacramental discipline concerning the indissolubility of a ratified and consummated marriage:

• "For the Church of Christ, watchful guardian that she is, and defender of the dogmas deposited with her, never changes anything, never diminishes anything, never adds anything to them; but with all diligence she treats the ancient doctrines faithfully and wisely, which the faith of the Fathers has transmitted. She strives to investigate and explain them in such a way that the ancient dogmas of heavenly doctrine will be made evident and clear, but will retain their full, integral, and proper nature, and will grow only within their own genus — that is, within the same dogma, in the same sense and the same meaning” (Pius IX, Dogmatic Bull Ineffabilis Deus)

• "With regard to the very substance of truth, the Church has before God and men the sacred duty to announce it, to teach it without any attenuation, as Christ revealed it, and there is no condition of time that can reduce the rigor of this obligation. It binds in conscience every priest who is entrusted with the care of teaching, admonishing, and guiding the faithful "(Pius XII, Discourse to parish priests and Lenten preachers, March 23, 1949).

• "The Church does not historicize, does not relativize to the metamorphoses of profane culture the nature of the Church that is always equal and faithful to itself, as Christ wanted it and authentic tradition perfected it" (Paul VI, Homily from October 28, 1965).

• "Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ" (Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae Vitae, 29).

• "Any conjugal difficulties are resolved without ever falsifying and compromising the truth" (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 33).

• "The Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this norm [of the Divine moral law]. In obedience to the truth which is Christ, whose image is reflected in the nature and dignity of the human person, the Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will, without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection" (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 33).

• “The other principle is that of truth and consistency, whereby the church does not agree to call good evil and evil good. Basing herself on these two complementary principles, the church can only invite her children who find themselves in these painful situations to approach the divine mercy by other ways, not however through the sacraments of penance and the eucharist until such time as they have attained the required dispositions” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34).

• "The Church's firmness in defending the universal and unchanging moral norms is not demeaning at all. Its only purpose is to serve man's true freedom. Because there can be no freedom apart from or in opposition to the truth"(John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 96).

• “When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone.It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the "poorest of the poor" on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal" (emphasis in original) (John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 96).

• "The obligation of reiterating this impossibility of admission to the Eucharist is required for genuine pastoral care and for an authentic concern for the well-being of these faithful and of the whole Church, as it indicates the conditions necessary for the fullness of that conversion to which all are always invited by the Lord“ (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration on the admissibility to the Holy Communion of the divorced and remarried, 24 June 2000, n. 5).

As Catholic bishops, who - according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council - must defend the unity of faith and the common discipline of the Church, and take care that the light of the full truth should arise for all men (see Lumen Gentium, 23 ) we are forced in conscience to profess in the face of the current rampant confusion the unchanging truth and the equally immutable sacramental discipline regarding the indissolubility of marriage according to the bimillennial and unaltered teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. In this spirit we reiterate:

• Sexual relationships between people who are not in the bond to one another of a valid marriage - which occurs in the case of the so-called "divorced and remarried" - are always contrary to God's will and constitute a grave offense against God.

• No circumstance or finality, not even a possible imputability or diminished guilt, can make such sexual relations a positive moral reality and pleasing to God. The same applies to the other negative precepts of the Ten Commandments of God. Since “there exist acts which, per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object" (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17).

• The Church does not possess the infallible charism of judging the internal state of grace of a member of the faithful (see Council of Trent, session 24, chapter 1). The non-admission to Holy Communion of the so-called "divorced and remarried" does not therefore mean a judgment on their state of grace before God, but a judgment on the visible, public, and objective character of their situation. Because of the visible nature of the sacraments and of the Church herself, the reception of the sacraments necessarily depends on the corresponding visible and objective situation of the faithful.

• It is not morally licit to engage in sexual relations with a person who is not one’s legitimate spouse supposedly to avoid another sin. Since the Word of God teaches us, it is not lawful "to do evil so that good may come" (Romans 3, 8).

• The admission of such persons to Holy Communion may be permitted only when they with the help of God's grace and a patient and individual pastoral accompaniment make a sincere intention to cease from now on the habit of such sexual relations and to avoid scandal. It is in this way that true discernment and authentic pastoral accompaniment were always expressed in the Church.

• People who have habitual non-marital sexual relations violate their indissoluble sacramental nuptial bond with their life style in relation to their legitimate spouse. For this reason they are not able to participate "in Spirit and in Truth" (see John 4, 23) at the Eucharistic wedding supper of Christ, also taking into account the words of the rite of Holy Communion: "Blessed are the guests at the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Revelation 19, 9).

• The fulfillment of God's will, revealed in His Ten Commandments and in His explicit and absolute prohibition of divorce, constitutes the true spiritual good of the people here on earth and will lead them to the true joy of love in the salvation of eternal life.

Being bishops in the pastoral office those, who promote the Catholic and Apostolic faith ("cultores catholicae et apostolicae fidei", see Missale Romanum, Canon Romanus), we are aware of this grave responsibility and our duty before the faithful who await from us a public and unequivocal profession of the truth and the immutable discipline of the Church regarding the indissolubility of marriage. For this reason we are not allowed to be silent.

We affirm therefore in the spirit of St. John the Baptist, of St. John Fisher, of St. Thomas More, of Blessed Laura Vicuña and of numerous known and unknown confessors and martyrs of the indissolubility of marriage:

It is not licit (non licet) to justify, approve, or legitimize either directly or indirectly divorce and a non-conjugal stable sexual relationship through the sacramental discipline of the admission of so-called "divorced and remarried" to Holy Communion, in this case a discipline alien to the entire Tradition of the Catholic and Apostolic faith.

By making this public profession before our conscience and before God who will judge us, we are sincerely convinced that we have provided a service of charity in truth to the Church of our day and to the Supreme Pontiff, Successor of Saint Peter and Vicar of Christ on earth .

31 December 2017, the Feast of the Holy Family, in the year of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima.

+ Tomash Peta, Archbishop Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana

+ Jan Pawel Lenga, Archbishop-Bishop of Karaganda

+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

01/01/2018 - 15:15

Unpublished letter to the Universe on Loftus

I sent this off long enough ago to give them plenty of time to find room for it if they wanted to publish it. However, I didn't seriously imagine that they would; it is more of a protest than anything else. Only a periodical with a much greater self-confidence than the Catholic Universe would publish a letter so critical of their editorial policy.
The letter I refer to by Miss Thomas was excellent, incidentally; some of my readers may have seen it on Facebook. The subject of the correspondence was Loftus' extraordinary (even for him) attack on Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, for being pro-life, which I discussed here.
I've pinched the image of the mythical Basiliscus Loftus from Bruvver Eccles.


Unlike Mgr Basil Loftus, I was unable to detect 'intemperate language' in the letter of Miss Rhoslyn Thomas (8th December 2017), which he 'regrets'.

It is clear, however, that I should defer to Mgr Loftus' judgement on this matter, because he is something of an expert on 'intemperate language', though he doesn't always 'regret' it.

Thus when he called Bishop Egan 'closed minded' (13/6/14), Bishop Hopes as 'deeply disturbing' (19/7/14), or that remarks of Bishop Davies 'called for anger' (16/6/13): I fancy this is the kind of intemperate language he likes.

Or when he called Cardinal Ranjith a 'fetishist' (17/11/2013), Cardinal Mueller 'not fit for purpose' (14/7/13), or Cardinal Burke a 'judgemental zealot' (19/1/14).

But he likes to paint with a broader brush too. He described those who receive Communion on the tongue as 'fundamentalist bigots' (29/8/14), a Pontifical Commission in Rome as 'arrogant and unjust' (24/11/13), and a Congregation 'the Gestapo' (20/3/15).

It is no surprise, then, to see Mgr Loftus call a respected American Archbishop a 'terrorist', and apply this description to the entire pro-life movement, and to liturgical conservatives as well for good measure.

What does seem surprising is that an otherwise respectable Catholic newspaper should continue to give this display of spleen space in its pages.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

29/12/2017 - 09:18

Can good Catholics criticise the Pope?

I'm reposting this from March 2014, inspired by seeing one of the arguments I address below used on social media somewhere. (By someone who apparently hadn't heard of Savoranola, Dante, or Robert Grosseteste.) 2014 seems like a lifetime ago, but although I have criticised Pope Francis since then I stand by the principles I set out back then, which explain the on-going policy of this blog about how to handle difficult issues surrounding Pope Francis.


Michael Voris thinks not. His arguments are interesting but don't work.

First, he says that to criticise the Pope causes scandal, sharply contrasting this with criticism of bishops and Cardinals. (First silly point: there is no sharp contrast. What is true of one is to a large extent true of the other.) That there is a danger of causing scandal is true, but it is also true that, in certain circumstances, not criticising the Pope causes scandal. It is lucky for us today that St Catherine of Siena and Savoranola and Dante and Robert Grossteste criticised the popes of their day, because they prove that not all Catholics are guilty of Papolatry: that it is not necessary to have your conscience surgically removed to become a member of the Mystical Body. They are our defence against some of the most insistent and damaging polemics, developed by Protestants and re-used by Secularists, against the Church. To use a phrase of Pope Francis, when I encounter a clericalist, it makes me feel anti-clerical.

Voris then turns to the counter-argument that saints have criticised Popes. In an astonishing inversion of logic, he says that they could legitimately criticise Popes because they were saints.

First, this misses the point, which was not that only saints are widely regarded as being justified in their criticisms of Popes (see my short list above: plenty of others have been too), but that this widespread judgement can't be too off the mark because even saints criticised popes.

Secondly, it would be strange to suggest that St Catherine and St Paul and the other saints had to ask themselves if they were holy enough to carry out their obligations. That way only egomaniacs will criticise the Pope, and that won't be progress.

The wider point is well made by no less that the Supreme Legislator himself, in Canon Law: even the laity can have the right and indeed the duty to voice their concerns about their pastors. The Pope is not excepted.

Canon 212 sec. 3, the laity has "the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons."

I don't say this because I am about to embark on a lot of blogging criticising the Holy Father. I just think it is important to oppose grossly distorted understandings of Catholic teaching wherever I see them, to the best of my ability, because, to coin a phrase, they cause scandal.

As far as criticising Popes is concerned, I would in practice urge great caution.

First, any criticism which comes across as personal, or as mocking or insulting, is inappropriate to a person holding his high office. That is because the office is holy, even if not all holders of the office are holy. The office is august, it commands our respect. The holder does not become impeccable - incapable of sin - but it does mean that any criticism is a serious matter, and should be undertaken, if at all, in a serious way. This of course is part of what the canon says.

I do, incidentally, think that mockery, ridicule and even invective can sometimes be appropriate: I'd be in trouble if I didn't, since Our Lord used them, and so did many prophets, Fathers of the Church, saints, and apologists down the ages. They are useful to take people worthy of ridicule down a peg or two. The Pope, however, is never ridiculous. When he is wrong, things are too serious for that.

Secondly, as with others in very exalted offices, but very much more so, it is difficult to separate what is personal to the Pope from what is the initiative of advisors and office-holders. He does have the fearful ultimate responsibility - true - but as initiatives and policies develop from day to day it is impossible, at least for those of us without inside information, to know what is the Pope's idea, what is his speechwriter, what comes from (good, bad, or indifferent) briefings given to the Pope, and what are the actions of his Cardinals and other ministers.

For example, I was astonished to read that Pope Paul VI approved the new Lectionary without giving it prolonged attention, and actually said so. He trusted his advisers. If this was an error, it was not the same error as the error (say) of deliberately excluding 1 Corinthians 11:29 (about the sin of receiving Communion unworthily) from the Lectionary, when it had previously been read on Maundy Thursday and Corpus Christi. Being too trusting is not the same fault as not taking seriously the importance of being well prepared for Holy Communion. If people had laid into Pope Paul for the second thing in 1970, they would have been barking up the wrong tree.

Far better, therefore, to voice concerns, if there are legitimate concerns, about policies, about new regulations or liturgical texts or other documents, but without turning it into a personal attack on the Holy Father.

We are sometimes told that being 'over critical' of the Pope or bishops is the besetting sin of traditionalists. As a matter of fact, this is not true. Not only do liberal Catholic publications like The Tablet attack the pope all the time (yes, including Pope Francis), but many Catholic organisations down the years who had no particular connection with the Traditional Mass have, for one reason or another, ended up associated with criticisms of the hierarchy.

The classic example is Aid to the Church in Need, which used to criticise the appeasement of Communism which was the official Vatican policy under Pope Paul VI. More recently, the headline cases have been Pro Ecclesia and SPUC. Now we have Deacon Nick Donnelly being hauled over the coals, for what we can assume is the same thing. I don't say these criticisms were not justified, or that they were not expressed in the best ways: that would be a long discussion. I've just said that criticism isn't ruled out in principle, so the matter is an open one. My point is simply that the Traditional Mass was nothing to do with it.

Critics of traditionalists have become confused by the fact that until Summorum Pontifcum it was such open season on trads and any old stick was good enough to beat them. But once you take away the assumption that support for the Traditional Mass is itself an act of personal disloyalty to the Pope, then you can allow yourself to notice that established traditionalist organisations like the Latin Mass Society and the Una Voce Federation are, and always have been, models of diplomacy and restraint.

They combine this respect for the hierarchy with a complete adherence to the unchanging teaching of the Church, not out of any superficial ultramontanism (whatever the Pope said about his breakfast is the latest infallible doctrine), but because of their attachment to Tradition. This is something I want to develop in future posts.

26/12/2017 - 12:47

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

Puer natus est nobis.

And a reminder that the Christmas season goes on till... 2nd February, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady (Candlemas). If you follow the Traditional calendar.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

19/12/2017 - 10:00

Islam and the Extraordinary Form

A glimpse of a transcendant mystery.

Today I am publishing a new Position Paper from FIUV, on the subject of Islam, on Rorate Caeli. Go over there to read it in full.

It sets out a very simple argument which seems difficult to deny. It goes like this.

1. Engagement with Islam (whether with a view to mutual understanding or evangelisation) is facilitated by common ground with Islam. The more common ground one has, whether cultural or theological, the better one can talk productively with people of other religions.

2. There is a great deal more common ground between Islam and that aspect of Catholicism exemplified by the Traditional liturgy, than there is between Islam and what is manifested by the reformed liturgy. In this, the Traditional Catholics are close to the situation of the ancient Christian churches in majority-Muslim countries.

What do I have in mind? Well, the ancient liturgy, and to a large extent the people who attend it, like the ancient churches of the Middle East, take (more) seriously the differences between the sexes; they use a sacred language, chant, and ritual; and they have more to say about fasting. The Novus Ordo has, from a strictly liturgical and also from a cultural standpoint, systematically eroded this common ground with Islam, just as it has eroded the common ground with the Oriental Churches.

Another point the paper makes is that Evangelical Christianity has its own approach to engaging with Islam which takes the opposite tack. They have common ground with Islam in placing great emphasis on a holy book, and in downplaying sacramental and incarnational theology and practice. They have an interesting, if adversarial, dialogue with Muslim apologists, in which the Muslims criticise Evangelical Christianity for giving God a super-human 'partner' and mediator, Jesus Christ, and the Evangelicals criticise Islam for giving a role in religious practice to a holy place (Mecca), and for an attitude to the Qu'ran which places its sacredness as a text (for example, in ritual proclamation) above its comprehension.

This approach is obviously not available to Catholics, and it is apparant that the general atmosphere and attitude to be found in the Church today falls between the two stools. It neither engages effectively with the ritual, aesetic, and 'family values' side of Islam, nor with what we might call the 'Low Church' side of Islam. Even the common ground the Holy See finds with Muslim countries in debates in the United Nations, notably about 'reproductive rights', is undermined by liberal Catholic attitudes to moral questions.

Since Islam is clearly going to be of major importance in the West as well as in traditionally-Muslim countries for the forseeable future, this is of no small importance.

A historical issue which is worth noting along the way is the retreat of Sufism and the advance of Salafism and Wahhabism in Sunni Islam in the 20th century. Until the early 20th century Sufism was a major and normal part of Muslim life in the Sunni world. Like Shia Islam, Sufism acknowledges 'saints' and encourages pilgrimages to their shrines. It elaborates Muslim ritual, most famously with the 'whirling' dances of the Dervishes. And its mystical theology emphasises a disinterested love of God, and the possibility of union with God, which contrasts with a literal-minded reading of the paradise offered to good Muslims in the Qu'ran. Like syncretistic 'folk' Islam in Africa and Asia, this is opposed by, and to an extent, has been successfully cleared away by, the purifying, reformist project represented by Salafism and Wahhabism.

It would be simplistic to look at this through the lens of Catholic and Protestant conflict within Christianity, but the net result is a form of Islam where the common ground with Evangelical Protestantism has been somewhat expanded, and the common ground with Catholicism somewhat contracted. In engaging with Islam, it is worth bearing in mind that some of the things Muslim apologists criticise in Christianity, and particularly in Catholicism, can be found in widespread Muslim practice of the recent past.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

16/12/2017 - 18:12

Shakespeare on the Traditional Mass


The idea that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic, and put coded messages into his plays about the Faith, is so attractive to me as a Catholic and a lover of Shakespeare that I have to be careful about confirmation bias. However, as I've noted before on this blog, Clare Asquith (in Shadowplay) and others have made a very serious historical case for it. Once you see it, you can't look at the plays in quite the same way again.


Shakespeare was writing at a time when pomp and ceremony in the liturgy were under intense attack. It had been stripped down to the bare minimum in the Anglican liturgy, and even that was too much for the Puritans. Yet this is what he wrote about a fantasy, ideal liturgy, in Ancient Delphi. The ambassador Dion speaks, in A Winter's Tale.

I shall report,
For most it caught me, the celestial habits,
Methinks I so should term them, and the reverence
Of the grave wearers. O, the sacrifice!
How ceremonious, solemn and unearthly
It was i' the offering!

A common theme in the plays is the murder near or before the beginning of an old king, in the course of some kind of revolution. What kind of revolution had turned Shakespeare's world upside down within living memory? Well, what sort of king was it? What attitude does the ghost of 'Old Hamlet' evoke in his viewers?

We do it wrong, being so majestical, to offer it the show of violence.


The doomed King Duncan in Macbeth combines humility with angelic power:

Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind.

What has been kept safe in a private chapel for twenty years, in A Winter's Tale? Something to look at: a holy statue, which comes to life.


Let no man mock me,
For I will kiss her.

... Shall I draw the curtain?

No, not these twenty years.

So long could I
Stand by, a looker on.

Again: 'It is required
You do awake your faith'


Shakespeare, like all of his contemporaries, lived surrounded by the imposing ruins of Catholic religious houses. He did not view them with triumph or contempt. They suggested to him, rather, what would once have taken place within them. (Sonnet 73):

Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

What we have in the Traditional liturgy of the Church is something we can see and, particularly when sung, hear. It is above all majestic, it fills us with awe, but it is something also gentle, comforting, and sustaining. It compels us to look within ourselves and repent of our sins, with a combination of fearfulness, piteousness, and confidence in God's mercy, which can more easily be experienced than described: though Shakespeare does a pretty good job.


And we have that liturgy still, in spite of all revolutions: still largely hidden, but there for those who seek it out.

(Photos: High Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford.)

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Web design by Turtlereality

© LMS 2016 | Registered Charity Number: 248388 | Terms & Conditions

Latin Mass Society, 11 - 13 Macklin Street, London, WC2B 5NH | 020 7404 7284 |