We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gone with the Wind

CWR: You’ve spent half your life as a Roman Catholic and half in the Episcopalian church. The Church of England—of which the Episcopalian church is an outgrowth—recently made the news by naming its first female bishop, Libby Lane. How has the Episcopalian church changed over your lifetime?

Fr. Rutler: It’s changed very significantly. It is vanishing. A few generations ago, it was the unofficial official church of the United States. It was a visible presence in the national order. It was prosperous and effective in many ways.

That’s all gone now. It doesn’t exist anymore. The remnant you see is post-Christian. It is a vivid but tragic example of what happens when you abandon a serious commitment to the teachings of Christ. Demographically, the Church of England will not exist in 20 years. Other Anglican groups outside England have been ordaining women as priests and bishops in recent years, and the result has not only been theologically chaotic but a demographic catastrophe.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Pope Benedict’s “long-term aim is not simply to allow the old and new rites to coexist,
but to move toward a ‘common rite’
that is shaped by the mutual enrichment of the two Mass forms...” – Cardinal Koch

A few years ago, those in the "know" feared the emergence of a hybrid mass (the link providing just one example). Of course, nothing along these lines came to pass. Nor is there much evidence of "mutual enrichment."

Presumably what was wanted was a simplified Roman rite, with more scripture and more vernacular components. As to the simplification part, I here jested that it already existed. But the more I thought about it ....

So, here is the Carthusian rite, Knott missalized, with extended rubrics. Much is in English, but with the Propers, Ordinary mass parts, and the Canon in Latin (or Greek). It has a simplified entrance and exit, alongside a purified offertory. Not one word was altered by me: the only change I made was the proposed inclusion of a Prophecy amongst the readings, in the rubrics.

It seems to me to meet at least some of the desiderata:

50. The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.

For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance ...

51. The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word ...

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

To dream the impossible dream

I asked for this book for Christmas, received it, and immediately read straight through the first few chapters.

As usual, the only one to have truly misled me is myself. I had hoped that the analysis -- with which, in the broadest outlines, I agree -- would point the way towards some solutions. But, skimming through the remainder, I see little prospect of that. Instead the work ends only with an "impossible dream": "the complete recovery of orthodoxy and orthopraxis in Catholic life" as a mere article of faith (to be held, stoutly, in the face of all available evidence).

More correctly, I believe, the Church of Rome is now headed for actual schism: there are now (at least) two separate communities (probably three) co-existing under one, highly ignored head. In this state of affairs, there is absolutely no advantage over the old Church of England, which was an arrangement, as we know, containing three separate ecclesia (giving dominance to either tradition, scripture, or reason). Of course, neither names any circumstance that I had a hand in creating.

Instead, we remain with just three possible "solutions": (1) a traditionalism verging on apostasy; (2) the very broad tent of "reforming the reform" (whatever that means); or, finally, (3) the "re-catholicizing" side, that thinks better buildings and better music alone will perform the required trick. The first is auto-negating, the second too diffuse, and the third too optimistic.

The one redeeming feature of my reading so far is that the real problem this work locates is the disruption of extra-liturgical praxis: once Catholics no longer believed in necessary abstinence on Friday, the ultimate incompatibility of suicide and cremation, or the requirement to delay marriage until after Lent, all things became possible. The mass was, in the end, no more than an afterthought.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Old Roman

Paradox dissolved

"Mosebach's Paradox," that is.

The liturgy traditional and purified: the Carthusian Mass, with the venerable one-year lectionary, as supplemented, perhaps, with an additional Prophetical lesson.

Simplified offertory and final prayer, not by bad-ol' Archbishop Cranmer.

Placeat tibi, sancta Trinitas unus Deus, obsequium servitutis meae: et praesta ut hoc sacrificium laudis, quod indignus in conspectu divinae majestatis tuae obtuli, tibi sit placens: mihique et omnibus, pro quibus illus obtuli, sit te miserante propitabile in vitam aeternam. Amen.


This will be the tenth Christmas since my father passed away. I suppose everyone misses deceased family members most this time of year; I know I do. My father loved Christmas! I sometimes wonder, in fact, what impact his larger-than-life celebrations of the birth of Christ had on the faith of his nine children, each of whom continues to practice the old Faith to this day. He believed that, just as Advent—the “mini-Lent”—was to be kept well, with plenty of spiritual and corporal works of mercy, so too should Christmas be fêted with all the merrymaking and gusto a Catholic family can muster

He knew that children are not born theologians who can grasp the intricacies of the great mysteries of Faith at an early age. The Faith needed to be lovingly spoon-fed to them, and so the childlike customs of Christmas were for him tailor-made to instill love for the Faith before children were old enough to begin to understand it.

What a shame it is, then, to see well-meaning traditional Catholic parents discarding those customs altogether in a misguided effort to counter the commercialization of Christmas. No gift giving, no merry making, no feasting on Christmas. Alas, the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater.

In a dreary world where pessimism and cynicism—rather than righteousness and peace—have kissed each other, we must guard against robbing our children of the wonder and joy of Christmas—the seedbed for a child’s Faith.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Purple Wig

"I ceased in the year 1764 to believe that one can convince one’s opponents with arguments printed in books. It is not to do that, therefore, that I have taken up my pen, but merely so as to annoy them, and to bestow strength and courage on those on our own side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us."

― Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books

What was the point of the last two posts? You tell me. The singular thread was self-delusion. Well, here is some more on that topic, but with words by others (with the usual reference in the hyperlink). It's just the usual mashup of what others have put more precisely.

Self-delusion writ small:

But the man--tragically--had lived so long in an ivory tower that I think he both lives in a world of unattainable ideals and has failed to appreciate where most of the Church was regarding the Liturgy, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, role of the laity etc. Especially when it comes to Liturgy, Benedict's German bourgeois background comes to the fore. His style is that of an affected aristocrat wanna-be and so the faux elegance of a world of papier-mâché recreation of an ancien regime Catholicism with its eighteenth-century furnishings and pomp appeal to him. For a clue to who he is, look at his refurbishing of the papal apartments from the modern elegance of Paul VI's redecoration (which the John Paul's had retained) to the baroque decor with which Benedict surrounded himself. It is the fantasy world of the younger son of a civil servant in Weimar Germany. Now, Cardinal Burke’s affinity for dressing up like the Queen Mother betrays the fantasy world of a lonely and fatherless boy from rural Wisconsin whose mother should have taken a cue from Sheldon Cooper’s mother and “had him tested.”

Self-delusion writ large:

It does little use arguing against the liturgy of Paul VI. Rome rarely changes its mind, especially on matters that could cause it to lose face. Additionally, there is the simple matter of historical precedent. Pius X, not Paul VI, got the ball rolling on the deconstruction of the historic liturgy of Latin Christianity. This is the paradox of the current liturgical climate in the Roman Church; the debate centers around 20th century mutations of the Latin tradition that progressively divorced the Roman liturgy from the Latin tradition, the Missal of 1962 included ...

Those fixated on the Missal of 1962 often do not see how it was, in its own time, a considerable departure from the Latin liturgical tradition, nor how the 20th century reforms, beginning with Pius X, were all steps in a thoroughly accepted thesis (even within the papacy) that a comprehensive liturgical reform was desirable. Indeed, the Concilium understandably viewed itself as brining [sic] the work of Pius X to completion, so long had the discussion of a comprehensive liturgical reform floated around the halls of the Vatican. Thus, for anyone "in the know", anyone who has access to the streams of historical data or thoroughly lives in the internal Vatican culture that cultivated the prospect of liturgical reform in the 20th century, the liturgy of Paul VI is the consummation of a long process, the end point of a trajectory begun by the first "mega pope" of modern history.

Of course, a constant in this trajectory is the authority of the Roman pontiff in the context of Roman Catholic ecclesiology. The concept of the papacy that emerged in the post-Tridentine period created a figure who was scarcely answerable to anyone; in all matters, the Roman pontiff became the law himself. How the eventual definition of papal infallibility led to such a thorough disregard of the ancient Latin law of prayer remains a scarcely tapped area of research. To my knowledge, only Gregory [sic] Hull has really made any efforts in the area, although one may argue Alcuin Reid has alluded to it. Yet, this remains a serious question that Roman Catholics (responsible ones at least) and all persons concerned with the survival of the Latin tradition (or Traditional Catholicism) ought to concern themselves. The answers may well be more difficult than the question, depending upon the role the cultus of the papacy has in one's concept of the Church. 

Some people have gone stark raving mad.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sedevacantism for Anglicans

In light of the previous post, I offer the following 'fictional' account, for my fellow delusionists.

The true Cantuar performing the antient Sarum ritual
of Circumambulation of the Holy Horologium,
in better days.

After the Archbishop of Canterbury, blessed William Temple, stood in the House of Lords (on 23 March 1943), and pleaded for, of all things, the Jews of Europe, the decision was taken, at the highest levels, to eliminate him. In October of 1944, his tea was poisoned by special operatives, posing as newly installed Archdeacons, and the body swiftly cremated, to preclude the findings of an autopsy. Later, what little remained was mixed into an imposing concrete block, to prevent all future efforts at recovering DNA. Note that neither Roosevelt nor Stalin were consulted regarding these undisclosed events (despite being card-carrying members of PECUSA and PECUSSR, respectively).

The arch-Mason, Geoffrey Fisher, was duly installed and, for services rendered, eventually created a Life Peer. He published many heretical tracts, shrewdly posing as though a Catholic primate. The undoing of the true church was now well under way, commencing with the deformation of canon law (including the infamous regularizings of the unspeakable irregularities of the combined Synod of Hong Kong and Macao).

Unbeknownst to the general un-reading public,
all the pages of this tome were purposefully blank!

Well-known for his popular ecumenical pronouncements -- such as "The very worst the Bomb can do is to sweep a vast number of People from this world into the next into which they must all go anyway" -- Fisher oversaw the greatest treachery known to man, from within. Indeed, thanks to Freemasons in MI5 and the CIA, during his visit to Pope John XXIII in 1960, he was instructed to inject a weaponized form of LSD into the skin of the reigning pontiff, through his specially designed finger ring. This, it seems, resulted in the Second Vatican Council (a dissembling subterfuge, designed to convince loyal Englishmen that the Romans were, in reality, now just like us).

Since October 1944, the seat has been vacant and Lambeth Palace, formerly of the Collis Quirinalis, inhabited by many false pretenders. Therefore, you should consider worshipping exclusively at parishes staffed by faithful priests of the Society of Blessed William Laud (SBWL), the only true inheritors (and conservators) of Anglican tradition.

You know it well enough, where it doth seem
A mossy place, a Merlin's Hall, a dream;

P. S. Thanks to an Enigma machine, recently purloined from Bletchley Park, newly decoded teletypes, alongside other messages secreted in various gourds, passed between the dastardly Fisher and a special agent known only as 'A. Bugnini', will be made available -- should I live so long, Deus volens! -- in a future series of postings.

P. P. S. Eventually I hope to produce a full-fledged documentary, composed of numerous episodes, which are as stirring and compelling as, for instance, this one is.

S.O.S. Titanic

William Tighe, an inveterate and uncompromising critic of all things Anglican, has anatomized as follows:

All this twaddle about Canterbury, Canterbury, Canterbury is just evidence how, among all the “denominational” traditions of Christianity, Anglicanism is the one that most remarkably fails at the Socratic maxim of “Gnothi seauton/Know thyself” ...

The success which a small group of anti-Calvinist divines, which formed around Lancelot Andrewes at the very end of Elizabeth’s reign, and which for a long time consisted of his friends (Overall, Buckeridge), admirers (Laud, Neill) and disciples (Montague, Wrenn, Duppa) had in transforming the understanding of many “Anglicans” about the nature of the Church of England, as well as inventing the very concept of “Anglicanism” as both, and in some unique way, “Catholic and Reformed,” “Reformed” in this context meaning simply “generically Protestant, as opposed to RC,” is little short of astonishing. From being anti-Calvinist on the subjects of double predestination and church polity they went on to being anti-Reformed generally (and managed the great trick of convincing the young Prince Charles in the early 1620s that Calvinist = Puritan and Puritan = Calvinist without exception), invoking Dutch Arminians (who were in most respects, however, simnply anti-Calvinist Reformed Christians) and Lutheran theologians, before eventually finding their ground in the “consensus quinquesecularis,” the “Vincentian Canon” and the Church Fathers (the latter two always embraced rather selectively).

On this view, Anglicanism is a (long-standing, historical) delusion. To which I would respond, reject the reality, embrace the delusion. Anglicanism never was: but it ought to have been.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


As we all know, many of the untoward "innovations" of the BCP came from naughty Calvinists. Such as the Ten Commandments. But where did they garner such notions? Could it have been derived from actual catholic practice?

Vested only in surplice and stole, the priest addresses the congregation directly, in the vernacular.

Who knows? Who cares?

Sunday, December 7, 2014


The reason why Anglo-catholics in 1970 went for modern language was quite simple. The moderates saw in the new Order (Series III then Rite A) an ecumenical consensus emerging, aided by the ICET/ELLC texts. The papalists saw in the new Order sufficient similarity to the Novus Ordo for them to proceed with a more extreme (but arguably no less ecumenical) agenda. Some presented their congregations with the Roman Mass but with an Anglican Eucharistic Prayer (usually the crypto-Hippolytan but sometimes the Interim Rite version). Others presented their congregations with the Anglican liturgy but with a Roman Eucharistic Prayer (usually II or III). There were reasons for both policies. The extremists (forgive the lingo) simply moved lock, stock, and smoking barrel to Roman liturgy.

In Chicago, in the 1970s and 80s, the Church of the Ascension

used "Rite II" (contemporary language) exclusively at high mass

and was more than happy to throw in versus populum, when needed.

At that time, I loved that dark little church. But I was informed that, even with these accommodations to modernity, they were still doing it all wrong by the first real Anglo-Papalist priest I ever met. Assigned to a small parish in the western suburbs, between 1972 and 1982, he convinced the Bishop of Chicago to allow him to use "the Western Rite," which meant full-blown Novus Ordo. So here was one of the "extremists" alluded to above. (None of this seems to have survived his tenure and I am led to believe that he eventually became a RC layman.)

That was more than thirty years ago. Ascension is now "AffCath" and the small suburban parish (that I am not naming) now looks like this.

The Ordinariate has rightly left all this behind. Today, it's all "mixed nuts" for the remainder of the Communion.

The rest of us? Out in the cold. For good, it seems. And so, back to basics.

I'm now only interested in what no modern church wants.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Iron uniformity

LC has some good posts (here and there). The first quotes from Wickham-Legg and this inspires me to reproduce another, extended excerpt from its conclusion:

The practical lesson which the study of these ancient customs teaches us is the caution which we should use in forming a judgment as to the source of the practices which some of us are old enough to remember in our youth. They are not all due to Puritan neglect, "the soft, easy, and comfortable pillow which ignorance and indifference make for a well-disposed head"; but many of them are part of the inheritance which has come down to us from our medieval forefathers. Sometimes we have suffered reproaches for belonging to a communion in which such slovenly practices could be found; just as we have been told that the Sundays after Trinity were brought in by Queen Elizabeth, instead of Sundays after Pentecost; whereas Trinity comes straight from the Sarum Missal, and may be found in many medieval German and French missals ; and even to this day in the Dominican Breviary. Now the Middle Ages are thought to have been unrivalled in the dignity of their worship, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in customs which trace their lineage back to so noble a time. Indeed it is to the middle ages that the Prayer Book bids us look for our ecclesiology. It declares that "the chancels shall remain as they have done in times past," that is, in the times which went before the edition of 1552. So that as a general rule we may take as safe guides medieval customs in ecclesiology, and also in ritual when not opposed to the present rubrics of the Prayer Book. Now the earlier ecclesiologists thought they might gain some knowledge of the customs of the middle ages by a study of modern Roman practices, receiving the assertion that Rome never alters with a too confiding generosity; and accordingly they proceeded to change some of the inherited medieval customs in accordance with the dictates of modern Rome. But from modern Rome we can learn next to nothing of the practices of the middle ages. A very little study soon convinces us of the deep division there is between the practice of modern Rome and of medieval England, and that modern Rome will only lead us astray if we trust to its liturgical decisions. Because a practice is Roman, it is not therefore of necessity good, or ancient, or Catholic. In the first place, the liturgy of modern Rome is the liturgy of the Franciscan Friars, while that of the national medieval Churches is the old Liturgy which was used in the parish churches of Rome before the days of Nicholas III. Theologians often tell us of the mischief which these Friars have caused in their science, and to philosophy; and the harm they have done in ecclesiology is certain. They are credited with the introduction of the Stations of the Cross, which even Mrs. Jameson can see set forth unworthy ideas. Further, how little of antiquity remains in practice in the Roman Communion may soon be gathered by those who will attend a few popular functions. Liturgical services, with the exception of the Mass, have well-nigh disappeared; and the seasons of the Christian Year, which we prize so much, are but little thought of. Lent has given way to the month of Joseph; Easter and Whitsuntide are swallowed up in the month of Mary and the Sacred Heart. A distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society told me that the only sign by which he now knew of the presence of Whitsuntide was the red colour of the vestments. If then the more conservative in the Roman Communion have been unable to save from the wreck the Breviary services and the Christian seasons, are they likely to have kept anything ancient in such comparatively unimportant things as the details of the ornamentation of the altar? They are rather likely to have been overwhelmed by the Oratorianism which, in the early days of the ecclesiological movement, was shown to be destructive of a scientific ecclesiology. As in Germany, in philosophy, the cry has been of late years Back to Kant, so in ecclesiology I am sure we must raise the cry of Back to Pugin, to the principles which Pugin advocated; we must throw away the worldly spirit of the Renaissance, and take our inspiration from the Middle Ages, remembering the direction of the Prayer Book that the chancels shall remain as in times past, and holding fast to a medieval liberty of practice as contrasted with the attempts of the Congregation of Rites to establish all over the world the iron uniformity which is the aspiration in most things of the nineteenth century. The end of this paper will have been attained if I should succeed in persuading some ecclesiologists that all that is Roman is not ancient, and all that is English is not Puritan.

As he proclaims earlier in the same piece, we do not want our sanctuaries "decorated" by the soft-hearted:

A dislike of the excessive ornamentation of the altar is not peculiar to Protestants. "How far the altar ought to be ornamented is a question which has been debated with much warmth since the reformation ... The Church of England, when not overawed by the clamors of the sectaries that assail her on all sides, is inclined to favour the practice," says a learned Roman Catholic clergyman, well known in his own day, and he adds that "the Roman Basilican altars, unencumbered with tabernacles, reliquaries, statues, or flower pots, support a cross and six candlesticks; furniture which is sufficient without doubt for all purposes of solemnity, and yet may be endured even by a Puritan. The other ornaments, or rather superfluities, which are too often observed to load the altars of Catholic Churches, owe their introduction to the fond devotion of nuns or nun-like friars, and may be tolerated in their conventual oratories as the toys and playthings of that harmless race, but never allowed to disfigure the simplicity of parochial churches and cathedrals." And in almost the same words, Bocquillot denounces the presence of images, relics, gradins, candlesticks, and flowers on the table of the altar: "Since the nuns, with a piety more worthy of their sex than of the solemnity of our mysteries, have begun to set pots of natural and artificial flowers on the altar, their example has been followed in the churches of the Mendicant Friars, and in country parish churches, where usually devout women tend the altars. This new usage, which I should call scandalous if the Church did not suffer it, has not yet been introduced into cathedral and collegiate churches, nor into those of the monks, at least of those who have any care to keep up old customs. The old customs should be preserved wherever the new have not yet been introduced, determined with the Holy Fathers, that the Holy Table is consecrated solely for the sacrifice, and that nothing superfluous should be set on it."

The old customs.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Norse logic

A possible answer to the question: Why St. Clement?

23 November is the feast of St Clement, the first-century pope and martyr who was, rather incongruously, a favourite saint with Vikings. (He was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea, therefore he is often shown with an anchor, therefore he is the patron of seafarers, and therefore of Vikings. Impeccable logic!) This is only tangentially related to the subject of today's post, but it is one of my favourite Viking facts; it probably accounts for the dedication of St Clement Danes in London, St Clement's here in Oxford, and many churches dedicated to St Clement in the former Danelaw.

So much to know and so little time.


It is of the essence of reading that one proceed in such a way as to be really open to not finding there what one expects to find, what one has in fact surreptitiously substituted for what was actually there, to be discovered, had one been properly receptive. As Heidegger phrases it, one should be open to undergoing an experience with the unexpected.

Of course, a word must also be said for not wasting one's time reading what is not worth reading. So when the NLM tells me about a book which avows

For most of the early Christians it was a given: the Book of Revelation was incomprehensible apart from the liturgy ... It was only when I began attending Mass that the many parts of this puzzling book suddenly began to fall into place. Before long, I could see the sense in ... the prominence it gives to the Blessed Virgin Mary (12:1-6) ....

I say to myself: not to be perused.

Where did this idea come from? Could it be bad liturgical revision?

I heard Signum Magnum sung for five years in a row, to my sorrow. The new Introit is taken from the Apocalypse of St John and is entirely irrelevant to the feast. What does a woman clothed with the sun have to do with Our Lady's death?

What indeed? Even the USCCB avers, in its commentary, that

* [12:1] The woman adorned with the sun, the moon, and the stars (images taken from Gn 37:9–10) symbolizes God’s people in the Old and the New Testament. The Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah (Rev 12:5) and then became the new Israel, the church, which suffers persecution by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 13–17); cf. Is 50:1; 66:7; Jer 50:12.

Now, of course, a good image is simply not accessible by one, simplistic metaphoric gloss. It must have many, possibly contradictory, meanings. But, on the other hand, not all things are possible.