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Monthly Archives: March 2016

March 29th, 2016

What to Do about Newchurch Horrors

Concerning that  last blogpost on my experiences during Holy Week—in particular that Horrendous Handwashing…

My  big brother, who keeps an eye on this blog, has pointed out that when St Peter wanted Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his hands and his head also, Our Lord definitively ruled that out, saying: “He that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly.”  Quite so: most of us wash our hands every time we go to what our American cousins call the bathroom. So ritual handwashing of the laity on Holy Thursday is not only liturgical nonsense, being connected  with Pontius Pilate’s futile and hypocritical gesture; it’s also contrary to  the express command of our Saviour.

On the whole business of exposure to Newchurch horrors, I think one may safely follow the advice of Fr John Hunwicke, in this as in so much else:

People sometimes do me the honour of asking for solutions to problems … which is one reason why I endlessly reprint my old articles on how the Novus Ordo may be (as it is commonly done) an unpleasant experience but no way is it invalid. Abuses do not make a Mass invalid. (I imagine these articles can easily be found via the search engine attached to the blog.) But I don’t think I’ve ever tried to offer an answer to what a devout Catholic might do if he/she has no choice but to fulfil the Sunday Obligation by his/her presence at a Mass which in important repects is contra mentem Ecclesiae (perhaps, for example, because of its disobedience to the rubrics and the GIRM).

I do have some experience of this unpleasant dilemma: I had to spend fifteen months ‘in lay communion’ after we joined the incipient Ordinariate. And in so many churches, the problems are considerable. I do know.

Even Bishop Richard Williamson is prepared to discern patches of sunshine in what he calls the Newchurch. I would advise everybody whose local church does the Novus Ordo decently to join their fellow-Catholics in praying that Mass devoutly. But there are very many churches in which (to give an important example) the First Eucharistic Prayer is never used; and, even worse, hundreds of churches in which, at Sunday Mass, the second Prayer is invariably used, despite the very clear language of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. This latter I would regard as a very serious abuse. In such circumstances, what is one to do?

It is, I think, advisable to consider the possibility of reverting to habits which sanctified Christians in many earlier centuries. If you foresee that, by Communion time, your mind is going to be full of irritated thoughts about the illegalities and irreverences you have experienced, it is probably best not to receive Holy Communion. Most people, through most of the Church’s history, have ‘received’ very rarely. This abstinence can have the effect of making your much rarer communions more significant. Old-fashioned books of devotion used to suggest forms of devotion on preparation for Communion to be said on the Friday and Saturday evenings beforehand.

Does the church have a quiet corner near the back, or behind a pillar, where you might be able, without being too conspicuous, to kneel quietly down and to pray the Rosary throughout Mass? Millions, over the years, have done that for centuries. But DON’T make a show of it.

Or might you prefer to take your Missal along and prayerfully go through the propers of the Day’s Mass? If you do that, I would recommend that you ‘labiate’; i.e. gently and inconspicuously move your lips silently as you read the words. (Clergy do this with regard to the Divine Office.) Otherwise, the risk is that your eye will just slide down the page without your really ‘inwardly digesting’ anything. Remember that the celebrant will probably be using the ultra-short pseudo-Hippolytan dewfall-in-the-Trattoria-in-the-Trastevere shall-we-order-another-bottle Eucharistic Prayer (or else something even iffier), so it might be best to start the Secret, Preface, and Canon in good time. Do not fail to break off and to worship most devoutly when the celebrant gets to the Consecrations. At Communion time, remember that the people moving around you have God Incarnate within them. Try not to feel superior to them, because there are rumours that God rather dislikes that sort of thing. And, in any case, you aren’t. Considering the graces that have been lavished on you, why are so much less holy than your fellow-worshippers to whom God has not given nearly as much?

Indeed, all through the Mass remember that (even if you are the only person there, possibly, who understands this) you are present at the Most Holy and Adorable Sacrifice, the Oblation of the Incarnate Word, the Immolation of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

This is what the Church means by Actuosa Participatio.

ON NO ACCOUNT start persuading yourself that, for some reason, you might be exempt from your Sunday Duty. You aren’t. Don’t go there.

I’m sure some readers will have other, far better, ideas.

March 25th, 2016

Had a Good Friday?

Yes, I know the above headline is flippant and irreverent. But this morning I actually heard an RTÉ presenter tell his listeners: “Have a happy Good Friday.” To me this just encapsulates what has happened to Irish cultural and religious attitudes over the past half century. A week  or two ago, in the depths of Lent, a wreath of little Easter eggs appeared on a neighbour’s door.

Twenty years or so ago I heard Frank Delaney (I wonder what happened to him?) explain to BBC listeners how, when he was a child, Catholicism exercised a total grip on Irish life during Holy Week, making everything dark and depressing.  In particular he quoted the introduction to each Station of the Cross: “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by the Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” I don’t think it occurred to Mr Delaney that although of course the events of the Crucifixion are extremely sad,  they used to evoke immense gratitude and hope among most Irish people.

Stramentaria and I prefer not to drive at night, but on Wednesday evening we drove to the Latin Mass chaplaincy in Harrington Street to attend Tenebrae. The Church was a bit cold, and the ceremony lasted over two hours, but Tenebrae is  so beautiful that we hardly noticed the discomfort. Quomodo sedet sola civitas—how lonely the city stands—is from the beginning of Lamentations where the prophet Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem. The Church uses it as a type of the death of Our Lord.  As Cordelia Flyte says to Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, you should go at least once, just to hear it.

Cordelia says that  Tenebrae will teach you how  the Jews felt about their temple.  And it struck me yes indeed, and you will also understand why traditional Catholics lament the destruction of so much of value and beauty in the post  Vatican II Church.

From the sublime to the totally ridiculous and thoroughly annoying.  Yesterday, Holy Thursday, we decided we’d rather not brave the Dublin traffic in the dark, and so we went to a local liturgy instead. The PP announced that in accordance with parish custom, we wouldn’t be having  Foot Washing, but there’d be Hand Washing instead. And everyone could  have their hands washed and dried.  Are you going up? whispered Stramentaria? Not if I can help it, I replied. So the only people who didn’t troop forward were Stramentarius, Stramentaria and a sensible Nigerian lady just in front of us.

I ask  you! The only Hand Washing ceremony I can recall in the story of the Passion involved a gentleman  called Pontius Pilate. Not really an example to be followed.

There was noise and activity all the way through the liturgy, and lots of Novus Ordo hymns. At the end Father announced that Exposition was to follow, and there’d be an hour or so of quiet and reflection. The Pange Lingua was sung, rather to our surprise. An all-too-brief interval of blessed calm ensued. Two minutes after the start of Exposition, a gentleman began reflecting out loud.  It was quite a worthy reflection, but inappropriate, so we genuflected and fled.

I see Pope Francis included Moslems and Hindus in his foot-washing ceremony this year. It’s rather puzzling, because his own decree on the subject makes it clear that those having their feet washed should be part of  “the People of God”. Are we to understand that Hindus and Moslems have suddenly become part of the People of God? Or that the Holy Father’s document was carelessly drafted? Or that he didn’t really mean to draw the boundaries so narrowly?  Or that he thinks every human being is a part of the People of God?

The interpreters of Vatican II usually tell us that the People of God consists of those in some way or another connected to the Body of Christ: the Catholic Church. Perhaps Fr Lombardi will let us know, once again, what the Pope was really trying to say. I just hope he doesn’t preface his remarks with “The Church has always taught that…”



March 20th, 2016

Abortion and Sodomy Solemnisation

Yesterday I received the following from Anthony Grealish of Glen o’ the Downs, whom I have known since the pro-life campaign of the 1980s. It was intended as a Comment, but as I lack the energy and initiative to transfer it to that category I’m making it into a blog post. Tony is right: today all right (left?) thinking people are both pro-abort and pro-sodomy.

Please forgive my  congratulations  on continuing to write your pieces after the passing of Joanna which must have been heartbreaking.

Thirty years ago Libel laws prevented my mentioning pro-aborts when I was on the radio with Loretto Browne of SPUC. The only one “out” was Dr Noel Browne, a rather embittered man. Now, to suggest someone was in favour of the 8th and opposed to Sodomy Solemnisation could be libellous. To suggest that someone in public life was posing as a sodomite rather than a posing sodomite (in the Oscar Wilde case)  could be libellous I suspect. “The only gay in the College” comes to mind.

I do hope it is not disrespectful to suggest that Pope Francis gives great glory to St. Ignatius of Loyola’s wisdom. Ignatius did not wish Jesuits  to have ecclesiastical preferment…..

March 18th, 2016

Screwtape Assesses Francis

Fans of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis will, I think, l appreciate this letter from a senior devil to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. I got it from the blog “Ignatius His Conclave” of  ex-Anglican Dr Geoffrey Kirk of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

 Dear Wormwood,

Congratulations ! I thought you had bitten off more than you could chew this time, but I am delighted to be proved wrong. You are making remarkable progress with Francis – who is not the easiest Patient, in more ways than one. But you have got it absolutely right: spontaneity is the key! Humans invariably confuse the extempore with the sincere. Soundbites on aeroplanes. A masterly ploy!

Speaking from long experience, if you want to be thoroughly successful in undermining the teachings of the Enemy, I suggest you encourage your Patient in a threefold approach:

First he must be seen to affirm the Enemy’s teaching  in all its clarity and rigour: No abortion! No divorce! No gay marriage! It is essential that he is to be seen as thoroughly orthodox (perhaps even a little bit ‘old-fashioned’).

Next he should compassionately embrace the difficulties and complexities involved. How hard to follow such precepts in a world which has changed so much! How can one know what it is like until one has experienced the pain? ‘Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.’ (A particular useful saying of the Enemy, now that we have succeeded in virtually eliminating the concept of ‘sin’)

Thirdly, your Patient must appeal to the individual conscience. Humans nowadays (thanks to hard work on the part of our colleagues) think almost exclusively  in terms of autonomous individual choices (which are all equally valid). One size does not fit all! The key themes here should be Mercy and Tolerance, not Righteousness and Justice. The media, of course, will lap it up.

If you can get your Patient to follow this simple ‘one-two-three’ paradigm, the original teaching, which was so roundly affirmed to begin with, will, almost imperceptibly but very effectively, have been undermined. And our job will be done.

Collaterally, the Patient will have gained in general popularity (a thing we should always encourage wherever possible), and so be well positioned for the next attack on the Enemy.

Yours in Diabolo,

Fr Hunwicke wonders if  the Holy Father  will  respond by sending a crack hit-squad of aged Jesuits to attack Fr  Kirk with their zimmer frames. Which prompts the question: how many any Jesuits  are now left who don’t  need zimmer frames.

Vatican spokesperson Fr Frederico Lombardi may be a bit cross too.  Fr Kirk  quotes him as saying:

Not all pronouncements of His Holiness are binding upon the faithful. There are three kinds of pronouncement: those which are ex cathedra (as defined by Vatican I – andpope_plane_3574057k personally I don’t think this fellow is going to risk that sort of thing); solemn pronouncements in Encyclicals (like Laudato Sithough the faithful were somewhat puzzled over what actually to do about it); and declarations ex aeroplano which (in Church parlance) can be taken cum grano salispope_plane_3574057k


March 16th, 2016

Chartres sonne, Chartres t’appelle!

The three-day walking pilgrimage from Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres takes place over the Pentecost weekend, that’s May 13-17.
If you would like to know more, or think you might like to join the Irish chapter, contact Katie O’Driscoll at oopseywoopsey@gmail.com.
To whet your appetite, here is a short promotional video, in French, which will give you an excellent idea of what the pilgrimage is like:

I did the Chartres pilgrimage about a dozen times: if I were younger and fitter I would be doing it again this year. You walk about 70 miles in three days, and sleep under canvas. The French organisers handle the logistical side very well, but arrangements for washing, etc., are inevitably somewhat primitive.

March 7th, 2016

Je Suis Irish Catholic—et Juif Aussi

During the past 40 years or so it has become “totally unacceptable” to our cultural dictators to  criticise any religion or belief system—with one notable exception, which is always fair game. This is well illustrated by a recent blog post by Fr Hunwicke:

 I think I heard yesterday some woman called Libby Purves, on the Home Service [he means BBC Radio 4], utter the phrase “the clammy hand of Irish Catholicism was on her shoulder”.

“The clammy hand of Pakistani Islam was on her shoulder”.
“The clammy hand of Tibetan Buddhism was on his shoulder”.
“The clammy hand of Hampstead Agnosticism was on her shoulder”.
“The clammy hand of Grauniad Liberalism was on his shoulder”.
“The clammy hand of pacifist Quakerism was on her shoulder.”
“The clammy hand of Media Homosexualism was on his shoulder”.
“The clammy hand of the Russian ghettoes was on her shoulder”.
“The clammy hand of a dim BBC chat-show hostess who had come to hate the Catholicism in which she was brought up was on his shoulder”.

I wonder how many of these delightfully flippant formulae would be considered acceptable as obiter dicta on the modern Beeb. Or is there now just one single “identity” which all Sensible People can join in slagging off to their hearts’ content?

If so, then, in the modern fashion, I proclaim Je suis Irish Catholic.

Now I come to think of it, Father is slightly out of date. If you are a lefty university student, it’s recently  become OK to have a go at the Jews. Socialist undergraduates at Oxford, of all  places, now think it’s funny to sing  anti-Semitic  songs. One of their favourites, I understand,  is “Rockets Over Tel-Aviv”. Just like the British Union of Fascists  who used to paint  the sign PJ (Perish Judah) on walls.

Well, the Church is the new Israel, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing for us to suffer humiliation along with our elder brothers, as I believe Pope St John Paul called them.