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Tag Archives: Henry Sire

October 1, 2015

Cardinals in Masons’ Aprons

I note with considerable gratification that Fr John Hunwicke has started quoting from Henry Sire’s book Phoenix from the Ashes. And with even more gratification that  we got there first! Here Fr  H. ruminates on Mr Sire’s theory about why all those Cardinals allegedly joined the Freemasons: (and there seems little doubt that quite a few did):

Archbishop Lefebvre died while still the victim of a latae sententiae  excommunication. It would be one of Clio’s* more droll exercises of humour, wouldn’t it … go on, agree with me just this once … if the Cardinal Villot who so detested him, and who defamed him to Blessed Paul VI and poisoned the Pontiff’s mind against him, also died while … er … still the victim of a latae sententiae excommunication. But I never know what to think about these Freemasons. The English breed seems rather ridiculous than sinister. Can one really believe all the conspiracy-theory stuff? The stories about curial cardinals (in Masonic aprons) creeping around with phials of deadly poison on the night Papa Luciano died … well, I wouldn’t want to end up as a Bishop Williamson lookalike, explaining to people that the CIA blew up the twin towers. But, on the other hand, that banker chappie did end up pretty dead, didn’t he, dangling from Blackfriars Bridge. And they do say that the continental breed of Masons is deadlier than the English.

Why should a prelate, or even a priest, get kicks out of all that spurious history and daft adolescent ritual? Or did they simply believe that it might help one to get on? That is Mr Sire’s supposition: “one may suppose that the majority had joined the society from motives of self-advancement.” He surmises that “the disclosures seem to represent a leak of the confidential list of members that, under Italian law, secret societies are obliged to deposit with the government.”  The list included Villot, Suenens, Poletti, Baggio, Casaroli, Macchi, Marcinkus and … Bugnini. And the man who purveyed the list to Pope John Paul I was himself murdered a few months after handing it over … but, on the other hand, a really efficient gang of ruthless conspirators would, surely, have murdered him before he went touting his list around. Yes? No? But stay: there is the sudden sacking of Bugnini and his  reassignment to go and evangelise the Iranian Ayatollahs … that would be very well accounted for if B Paul VI had just been told of Hannibal’s naughty little secret … but then, there are other naughty little secrets as well as freemasonry … the world contains women … and boys … and money … or perhaps the Pontiff simply received proof of how Bugnini had duped him and manipulated the process of liturgical reform. Naughty, indeed.

You see how helpless a mass of indecision I am. Altogether useless. But read it all in Phoenix from the Ashes  and see what you think.

*Fr Hunwicke’s readers, I suspect, tend to be more classically educated than those who follow this blog—some of whom may not be quite sure who Clio was. Well, Clio is the muse of history, responsible for making people famous. And yes, I did have to look it up.

September 19, 2015

The Grace of God is in Courtesy

Hilaire Belloc

Henry Sire, in his  book Phoenix from the Ashes (see our post for September 10) points out that the achievements of the great religious foundresses  of the Middle Ages such as St Clare or St Bridget of Sweden are not to the liking of feminists, whose ambitions for their sex stop at the gates of heaven. Yet the fact remains that from the time when the literature of romance arose, the ethos of medieval Europe surrounded women with an idealism that no previous culture had known…

But the fuller signs of that idealism were to be seen as the spirit of chivalry and romance made its mark on Europe. It created relations of courtesy between the sexes that reversed everything that had been accepted in human history . The conventions emerged of behaving to a woman as to a person  of higher rank, of rising at her approach, of treating her in conversation as one deserving higher respect than a man, as one whose delicacy it was indecent to offend and whose virtue it was shameful to slight. By such manners Christianity taught brute strength  to defer to the more delicate human qualities and affirmed their value. These marks of homage , undreamt of by pagan societies and now disappearing as paganism returns, are the fruits of the Christian ideal of hierarchy, an ideal that depends not on material power but on moral respect, that asserts not equality but value. A culture that speaks of value engenders respect, courtesy and chivalrous devotion. One that speaks of equality has only the jostling of sow and boar for the trough.

For some reason that custom of standing up if a lady comes into the room reminds me of an incident when I worked in the RTE Newsroom. It was Christmas Day and the Head of News invited us all into his office for a drink. While we were there the (male) Director-General suddenly arrived. Immediately everyone obsequiously rose to their feet, except myself and one other man. He went by the unusual name of Rivers Carew, the deputy chief sub-editor of television  news. Rivers was a Protestant, a poet, and a gentleman in every sense of that word. If the DG had been a woman, Rivers would certainly have stood up, and I hope I would have, too.




September 10, 2015

The Feminist Assault on the Priesthood

Here’s a bit more from the thoughts of Henry Sire in his Phoenix from the Ashes. This time, in his chapter “ The Destruction of the Priesthood”  he is dealing with “The Assault of Feminism” which he believes has played a major role in sapping the Catholic understanding of the priestly office. It stems, believes Sire, from the surrender of the Catholic Church to the trends of modern ideology, in particular the rejection of chastity and the natural order of society.

The first stage in the attack emerged at the time of the Second Vatican Council, when the demand appeared for the ending of clerical celibacy, on the plea that it was not the original discipline of the Church. Like other aspects of the Modernist appeal to antiquity, this one relied on a high degree of ignorance, including the appearance of the vulgar error that in the Orthodox churches priests are allowed to marry. In fact, there has never been any time or place in the history of the Church in which priests have been allowed to marry. The early practice of the Church, continued in the Eastern churches today, was that the priesthood was conferred on married men, but once they were ordained they were barred from matrimony. A church order allowing ordained ministers to marry was uncontemplated until the Protestant heresy arose, with its rejection of the traditional priesthood.

There is no question of the same being possible in the Catholic Church, or in any church that keeps a claim to orthodoxy and tradition. Yet that was the prospect that was broached as radicalism began its assaults on Catholic practice. Such was the ignorance with which candidates entered the seminaries that many believed that priests would soon be allowed to marry after ordination. Amongst other evils, it allowed them to disregard the vocation of celibacy, and thus led to the moral disorders that began to run riot in the priesthood.

We will continue  this theme in later posts.

August 28, 2015

The Liturgical Babel

I’m going to quote you a bit more from Phoenix from the Ashes, the book I discussed  on Tuesday. 

First, another passage regretting the wholesale abandonment of Latin:

It is ironical that in an age of unprecedented communications the Church has thrown away its great medium of union. Catholics who go to a foreign country nowadays often stop attending Mass because they do not understand it. In tourist places, the priests never considered preserving, and are now unable to use, Latin as the language that would unite all their worshippers; and the great pilgrimage centres , instead of displaying the unity of the Catholic world, are now paradigms of the Babel that has been created by the search for intelligibility.

 And here’s Henry Sire on “bourgeois”  liturgical vandalism:

The modern priest, lacking genuine liturgical knowledge, fills the bareness of the altar by putting on it anything that comes to mind; and what come to mind are the accessories of the modern living room. By these the whole character of the Catholic liturgy has been banalised. The arrangement of the modern altar displays the ideas of a middle-class hostess of what is appropriate to decorate the dinner table: some candles and a bowl of flowers. By cutting off the life of the Church from a timeless tradition, the Modernists have immersed it in a contemporary social setting.  The foible is especially noticeable in Germany,  where the radicalism of the reformers has produced a parish Mass of comically bourgeois style; but that is the tone of the modern  liturgy in all  the Western countries.  In an ordinary Mass today the sense one has is not the offering of an eternal sacrifice but a lecture conducted by the priest and two or three women of the public-librarian class, to whom the readings and other duties of the church are allocated. The verbosity and preachiness of the liturgy is itself a middle-class characteristic with which many ordinary parishioners feel little rapport; and the alienation of working-class worshippers, in a way that was never true of the old Mass in poor parishes, has become a peculiar feature of the liturgical reform.



August 25, 2015

A Survivor of the Jesuits

When I was at that Lake Garda symposium back in July I sat next to a man at dinner who turned out to be the official historian of the Knights of Malta. Henry Sire was a good ten years younger than I, but he reminded me strongly of the senior boys at Downside when  I was a junior kid of 13 or 14.  Without meaning to, he made me feel rather gauche.

Alumni of Balliol College, Oxford are said to exude an air of effortless superiority, and I’d say that description  suits Henry to a T, although he went to a different Oxford college.  It’s not  that he’s snobbish or arrogant—just  totally at ease with himself and his place in the world.

Henry was educated  at Stonyhurst, just at a time when the Jesuits were beginning their slide into self-destruction. The fact that he resisted the liberal pressures to which he must have been subjected as an adolescent is very much to his credit. Unlike most of his Jesuit-educated contemporaries he is neither lapsed nor modernist—a strongly Traditional Catholic, in fact.

When I returned to Ireland I saw that Angelico Press had just released a book by  by H.J.A. Sire entitled, most unpromisingly, Phoenix from the Ashes. (What a cliché! I hope Henry didn’t think it up himself.)  The sub-title,  The Making, Unmaking and Restoration of Catholic Tradition aroused my  interest at once, so I ordered it.

It’s a treat. In a style erudite but readable—indeed lively and sometimes caustic—Henry takes no prisoners as he outlines all the previous major crises in the Church,  explains how we  stumbled into the present ecclesiastical quagmire, and points to the only way out of it—the full restoration of Catholic tradition. Great value at £14.00 sterling.

I shall probably be quoting from Phoenix from the Ashes quite frequently over the next few months. Here is Henry Sire on the future of  the liturgy:

…one thing can be prophesied: when the Church recovers its true character, Latin will be restored to its central place in the liturgy. There are many, even of those who are faithful to orthodoxy, who say that Latin is a lost cause, that it is hopeless to expect modern people to re-learn Latin. Yet history has shown us the examples of nations that have revived an ancient language, and a difficult language, because of what it meant to them as patriots.  Two hundred years ago, who would have predicted that Hebrew and Gaelic would one day become living languages, and the official languages of sovereign states? They have done so because the Jews and the Irish have wanted to assert their national identity and the place of their ancestral language in it. When a loyal love of the Church hs been rediscovered by Catholics, we may expect Latin to be restored, to be studied devotedly, and to be cherished as the language of prayer that unites the faithful of today with the great ages of the Church.

Irish scholars will no doubt  say—correctly— that “Gaelic” never ceased to be a  living language. But that doesn’t detract from the point Henry is making.