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February 25th, 2015

Today, Women Must Work AND Weep

For men must work, and women must weep…

Charles Kingsley

In my last  post I related how my long-held opinion, first inspired by an anarchist friend and colleague, that the fluoridation of water supplies amounted to compulsory mass medication and was a gross breach of individual rights, had recently been vindicated in a well-documented study by the University of Kent. This showed that fluoridation frequently causes underactive thyroid, leading to weight gain and other unpleasant consequences. It inhibits the production of iodine, essential to a healthy thyroid.

I’m also delighted to note that another of my prejudices—one shared by numerous Popes  including Pius XII, and by  Article 41.2 of Bunreacht na hEireann—that young children are best cared for in their own homes by their mothers—has been endorsed, at least in practice, by a committee of the British House of Lords, no less. Its report said there was an “inherent tension” between the aims of helping mothers in particular pursue a career, and improving their children’s development, adding somewhat acidly that ministers did not seem to recognise the problem. The peers called for more support to enable parents to bring up their children at home rather than relying on nurseries.

Just as I was about to post what I’ve written above, my eye fell on a piece in Fr Brian McKevitt’s consistently-professional freesheet Alive, headlined “Mothers Work While Children Reared by Paid Strangers”. This quoted the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens to the effect that taxpayers are subsidising “a network of  day orphanages where children are detained without trial for long hours, while their mothers are chained to desks miles away”.

Mr Hitchens—brother of the late militant atheist Christopher Hitchens and a devout Anglican—was commenting on a survey for the insurance company Aviva, showing that thousands of mothers who go out to work end up little or no better off financially:

A significant number  of homes, 4%, lose money by having both parents at work. Many, 10%, gain nothing from this arrangement. Yet they still do it. Many more gain so little that that it is barely worth the bother.  The cost of day orphanages, travel and other work expenses cancels out everything the mothers earn. One in four families has a parent who brings home less than £100 a month after all the costs of work have been met.

He blames this situation on “a near-totalitarian propaganda machine” which pushes its views in school classes, TV soap operas and countless advice columns, so that young mothers feel ashamed of being at home with their small children. Mr Hitchens says this campaign, waged by weirdo revolutionaries since the 1960s, succeeded only because big business realised that female staff were cheaper and more reliable than men.  He considers it would be much better for everyone involved—children, parents and neighbourhoods—if these mothers stayed with their children.

But because of a cynical alliance between Germaine Greer and the fatcats of the Corporations, and because almost all women in politics are furious believers in nationalised childhood, we spurn this wise policy, even if it costs us money.








February 24, 2015

Fluoride Makes You Fat, Sad and Tired

I met my first anarchist while working for the Western Morning News in Plymouth in the early 1960s.  David Baker was a features sub-editor, an incorrigible lefty (obviously) but one with a refreshingly independent mind.  He lived in a small remote  cottage near Saltash, on the Cornish side of the river Tamar, with  his wife and four young children, and always came to work on an old 500cc motorbike.

We disagreed strongly on most political and religious matters, as you would expect, but Dave once surprised me by stating that he thought Catholicism was at least  a logical and coherent faith, unlike what he called “the gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild religion” on which he had been reared. Unlike most lefties, he was a strong believer in lifelong fidelity to one spouse. He used to bequeath me back copies of an anarchist monthly, the front covers of which portrayed the British royal coat of arms being smashed to pieces. Some of the articles were quite thought-provoking.  A paradox of anarchism is the belief its adherents share with most proper conservatives—that the state should interfere as little as possible in the private lives of individuals.

David had the humility to be amused by the anecdote (I think a true one) that during the Spanish civil war one anarchist writer solemnly expressed the opinion that Spanish anarchy would never succeed until it was better organised. The anarchists did in fact run Barcelona for quite some time, by all accounts rather successfully—so much so that the communists found it necessary to massacre them.

Anyway, David did at least succeed in converting me to one of his opinions: a firm hostility to compulsory mass medication—in particular to the fluoridation of the public water supplies with the aim of combatting tooth decay. I remember him snorting contemptuously:  “You might as well put aspirin in the water to stop people getting headaches.”

Now it looks as though David’s scepticism and mine has been vindicated. Researchers from the University of Kent, in a study covering 98 per cent of General Practices in England have discovered that high rates of underactive thyroid were 30 per cent more likely in areas of the highest fluoridation. The difference between the West Midlands, which fluoridates, and Manchester, which doesn’t,  was particularly striking. In Manchester, there was nearly double the number of cases of  underactive thyroid per head of population.

The findings of this survey could mean that up to 15,000 people have been suffering  needlessly from thyroid problems including weight gain, depression, fatigue and aching muscles. Rather more serious than treatable tooth decay, I’d have thought. Earlier studies have found that fluoride does help combat tooth decay by making enamel more resistant to bacteria, but that fluoride inhibits the production of iodine, essential for a healthy thyroid.


February 20th, 2015

 Sedevacantism is Not the Solution—Hang on in There

From time to time good  people send e-mails expressing deep concern about the desperate state of the Church during the present pontificate. Some are clearly tempted towards sedevacantism.  In my worst moments I feel the attraction of this temptation myself, but I am quite sure it is one that must be resisted—for many reasons. Chief among these is that sedevacantism is a false concept: but even if you are not sure about that, you mustn’t desert the ship: that’s exactly what the Modernists want you to do.

I am not a theologian—just an elderly retired hack journalist (what Belloc called “an unsuccessful literary man, with an indolent expression and an undulating throat”) so I am not qualified to give comfort to the perplexed. However, I have found, not for the first time, that Fr John Hunwicke has some very sound and reassuring  advice which I have taken to heart. Here it is:

I doubt whether acceptance of the authority of the Roman Pontiff has been in as weakened a state as it is now, at least since the Reformation. His authority is questioned on all sides.

During a recent Home Service Sunday programme, the BBC had a Tablet journalist for interview. She said very openly that St John Paul’s proscription of the idea that women could receive sacerdotal Ordination was a great shame, but that she had no doubt that, eventually, Women’s Ordination would come. She exhibited no nervousness that she was thereby contradicting, fully frontally, the requirement that this judgement, as an authoritative expression of the Church’s infallible Ordinary Universal Magisterium, must be seen as definitive tenendum. She did not sound like somebody speaking defiantly in the fear that she would be carpetted the next morning by Authority!

On the other wing, we have among many people a great fear that the Holy Father will oversee either a reversal of Christ’s and the Church’s teaching that Marriage is indissoluble, or else a relaxing of the principle that unrepented adultery, like any other unrepented grave sin, has to be seen as a factor excluding those concerned from the Lord’s Table.

I have read on the Internet an observation: ‘I would become sedevacantist and go off to the SSPX’.

This is an extraordinarily odd thing to say, because the SSPX has a wise long-term policy of excluding sedevacantists from its ranks. But, apart from that, there is here a bad misunderstanding of what Sedevacantism is. Catholic theologians are agreed that a heretic cannot be pope, but have differed about how this principle is to be given practical effect. Some have argued that a heretical pontiff ceases to be pope when he adopts his heresy, but that a direct intervention by the Church is needed to certify that the See of St Peter has thus become vacant. Others judge that the heretical pope does not ipso facto cease to be pope, but has to be deposed by a direct intervention by the Church. In either case, this is not an area for do-it-yourself experts on heresy. Sedevacantism is not an option. If you are the sort of person who can see no reason to accept my authority on this point … because, after all, I do talk a lot but how can anybody be sure my judgements aren’t dodgy? … this might mean that you are also the sort of person who would be more impressed by a series of posts on Bishop Richard Williamson’s blog a few weeks ago in which he exposed the complete inviability of Sedevacantism, its radically vitiating ecclesiological deficit.

Two points. Despite the anxieties entertained by the Intellectuals on both sides of this question … the Traditionalists and the Tablettentendenz … I see no grounds for panic. I see no practical likelihood whatsoever that anything will happen to put into doubt our duty, in our day-by-day Christian life, to adhere obediently to the judgements of the Roman Pontiff. But … let’s be honest … there have been in history occasions when Roman Pontiffs have wobbled in their adherence to orthodoxy …. Liberius and all that. In these circumstances, there does have to be a duty to resist that wobble and to decline to give effect to edicts purporting to enact the wobble. But here is the Red Line: at Vatican I, a great deal of historical work was done to ensure that the Decree on the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff was so worded as not to be vulnerable on such historical grounds. It is watertight. We can be sure that whatever a pope says ex cathedra is protected by the Holy Spirit from any error (but even here, we are not obliged to believe either that the decree concerned was necessary, or that it expressed things in the best of all possible ways). But it is not unknown for a papal decree which falls short of the ex cathedra status to be flawed. Of course, that cannot be a good position for the Church to be in. But it is not some sort of Ultimate Catastrophe! The Church survived Liberius! And so did the Papacy! And, to the end of time, both will survive!

It is very important to remember the limits of the Papal Magisterium. This is best done by a careful reading of the decree Pastor aeternus of Vatican I. That is the touchstone. Do not exaggerate, overestimate, what a pope can do, and then, when some pope or other goes a bit off the rails, or you think he has, start running around in a frantic fear that you have ‘lost your faith’. The pope is not an Absolute Monarch. Blessed Pius IX made this very explicitly clear. Benedict XVI taught this with determined vigour. This is serious! The Pope is not some God-on-Earth who can never make a mistake! Not a few of them have made quite a lot. There is no reason why the same should not be true in the future. Learn not to fret! Learn to live with it, as so many Catholics in previous generations have done! And if you’re the sort of person who can laugh at it, laugh. In any case, sit yourself down comfortably, pour yourself a drink … and learn the following off by heart:

‘The Holy Spirit was not promised to Peter’s successors so that they should, by His revelation, disclose new teaching, but so that, with His assistance, they should devoutly guard and faithfully set forth the revelation handed down through the apostles, the Deposit of Faith.’


February 19, 2015

Ave Flores Martyrum!

Here is another picture of some of the Coptic martyrs murdered by Moslem fanatics in Libya.  As Antonio Socci of  Rorate Caeli says, we need to look these young heroes in the face. 

How can the Church waste time with pseudo-questions, such as “communion for ‘remarried’ divorced”, when scores of Christians are being slaughtered every single day?
By Antonio Socci

We need to look at those 21 young Christians in the face. Rather than deny Christ they underwent martyrdom in Libya and before having their throat cut by ISIS… they were continuously pronouncing the name of Jesus. Like the martyrs of old.

Their Bishop says: ‘That name whispered at the last instant was akin to the sealing of their martyrdom.’ Coptic Christians are strong people, tempered by 1400 centuries of Islamic persecutions. They are heirs to that St. Athanasius of Alexandria, who saved the true Catholic Faith from the Arian heresy, held by most of the bishops at that time. They are tough Christians, not like the spineless, tepid Catholics we are here in the West.
Here’s what real strength is: it’s not what hates and kills the defenceless (even children) and crucifies those who have a different faith, rapes the women—waving a black flag, faces hidden.
The real strength is the one of the defenceless who accept even martyrdom rather than deny their own dignity—that is to say, their faith—giving witness to the wonders of
‘the Beautiful Love’ as an ancient definition of the Son of God names Him.
A wonderful testimony. These are the true martyrs: the Christians. Not those who go around slaughtering defenceless innocents.
This is the glory of Christians: to follow a God who saved the world by having Himself killed, not by killing others, like all the leaders, ringleaders and ideologues (or revolutionaries) of this world have done, and who are so exalted in history books.

February 17, 2015

A Catholic Vicar of Bray

The Vicar of Bray, lampooning the conformist, wind-trimming tendencies of many Anglican clergy, was one of the most incisive songs of the 18th century. It is ironic that many 21st century Catholic clergy qualify for similar satirical treatment.  An Australian priest of traditional leanings came up with The Parish Priest of Bray. It is interesting to compare the two songs.



In good King Charles’s golden days,

When loyalty no harm meant,

A zealous High Churchman was I,

And so I got preferment;

To teach my flock I never miss’d,

Kings were by God appointed,

And damn’d are those that do resist,

Or touch the Lord’s anointed.



And this is law, I will maintain,

Until my dying day, Sir,

That whatsoever King may reign,

Still I’ll be the Vicar of Bray, Sir.


When royal James obtain’d the crown,

And Pop’ry came in fashion,

The penal laws I hooted down,

And read the Declaration;

The Church of Rome I found would fit

Full well my constitution;

And I’d have been a Jesuit

But for the Revolution.


When William was our King declar’d,

To ease a nation’s grievance,

With this new wind about I stirr’d,

And swore to him allegiance;

Old principles I did revoke,

Set conscience at a distance;

Passive obedience as a joke,

A jest was non-resistance.


When gracious Anne became our Queen,

The Church of England’s glory,

Another face of things was seen,

And I became a Tory,

Occasional Conformists base,

I damn’d their moderation,

And thought the Church in danger was,

By such prevarication.


When George in pudding time came o’er,

And mod’rate men look’d big, Sir,

I turn’d a cat-in-pan once more,

And so became a Whig, Sir;

And thus preferment I procur’d,

From our new faith’s defender,

And almost ev’ry day abjur’d

The Pope and the Pretender.


Th’ illustrious house of Hanover,

And Protestant succession,

To these I do allegiance swear,

While they can keep possession;

For in my faith and loyalty

I never more will falter

And George my lawful King shall be,

Until the times do alter.




In great Pope Pius’ golden days

Before the revolution

I swung my censer every week

I gave swift absolution.

My music was Gregorian,

On Holy day and High day.

I knew my rubrics inside out,

I ate no meat on Friday.


REFRAIN: (between each verse)

And this is law, I will maintain,

Until my dying day, Sir,

That whatsoever pope may reign,

I still shall lead the way, Sir!


When good Pope John assumed the throne

And called his famous Council,

As wise peritus I did serve,

But took the middle ground, Sir.

Old principles I would uphold

But change their application

And thus acquire a much desired

But fleeting reputation.


I took the lone heroic path

That all the world was taking.

For mediaeval night was done,

Enlightened dawn was breaking.

Denunciations old and stale,

I said we should withdraw ’em

Of Rousseau, Marx and those who fill

the Syllabus Errorum


In the Paul the Sixth’s betroubled  reign,

An Age of  Contradiction,

The all-renewing Council was

A cause of constant friction.

All its decrees were pastoral,

it made no definition:

But he who dared to question it

was fated to perdition.


And now that all in chaos lies

And churches are forsaken,

My curate is to Cuba gone,

And I a wife have taken.

I deck my flat with disused tat,

By way of quaint memento.

And trust the reigning pontiff won’t

Reverse aggiornamento!




February 12, 2015

John Senior and ‘The Sacrifice of Fools’

(I originally wrote this piece for  issue 43 of the Brandsma Review)  

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools.

Ecclesiastes, 5:1.(KJV)

John Senior, who died on April 8, 1999, was a real campus radical. During the 1970s, with two other academics, he appalled the liberal establishment by setting up a hugely successful Integrated Humanities Programme in the University of Kansas. Senior, a classicist, with English specialists Dennis Quinn and Frank Nelick were regarded as heretics by their colleagues because they taught that the great books of Western civilisation were of permanent value—not just culturally-conditioned artefacts. Their reading lists began with the Greek and Roman classics and went on to cover modern American literature. Although all three were Catholics, only a handful of their set books were specifically Christian.

Nevertheless, totally against the tide, their course resulted in hundreds of conversions to the Church, without any proselytism on their part. This was partly because, in Quinn’s words, the three began their courses by restoring their pupils’ faith in reason. One of these converts, Fr James Conley, explained:

What the programme did was to introduce me to goodness, truth and beauty for the very first time—through literature, music, the classic authors—and it was presented in such a way that if you had an open heart, you couldn’t help falling in love…And as I pursued this love, it led me into the Roman Catholic Church, which is where I found the fulfilment of goodness, truth and beauty.

The success of Senior, Quinn and Nelick infuriated the establishment, who hurled wild accusations of brainwashing and cult activities. Some parents of converted students complained to the university, and a local Unitarian minister formed an organisation with the bizarrely Orwellian title, “Committee for Academic and Religious Freedom”, with the aim of abolishing the course. To its shame, the Kansas archdiocese, embarrassed by the controversy, opposed the programme. Although an investigation cleared the three of any wrongdoing, the faculty assembly abolished it all the same. As for the allegations of cult activities, the three professors brought a libel suit which was settled out of court in their favour.

John Senior’s influence has extended far beyond the Kansas campus. In his books The Death of Christian Culture and The Restoration of Christian Culture he expounds his theory of Western culture—a theory anathema both to secularist multiculturalists and to those Catholics who believe in “adapting” the faith to different peoples:

Culture, as in ‘agriculture’ is the cultivation of the soil from which men grow. To determine proper methods, we must have a clear idea of the crop. ‘What is man?’ the Penny Catechism asks, and answers: ‘A creature made in the image and likeness of God, to know, love and serve Him.’ Culture, therefore, clearly has this simple end, no matter how complex or difficult the means. Our happiness consists in a perfection that is no mere endless hedonistic whoosh through space and time, but the achievement of that definite love and knowledge which is final and complete. All the paraphernalia, intellectual, moral, social, psychological and physical, has this end: Christian culture is the cultivation of saints.

So, he argued, culture in the strict sense of the word is Christian culture.; and Christianity and Christian culture are inextricably one. As for the classical culture of Greece and Rome—the soil from which Christian culture grew—that too is unique:

Christ was born in the fullness of time into a definite place. Classical culture was and is the praeparatio fidei, its philosophy and literature the Egyptian gold and silver Christendom has taken on its pilgrimage. The Church has grown in a particular way and has always brought its habits with it so that wherever it has gone it has been a European thing—stretched, adapted, but essentially a European thing.

Senior argues that the concept of being—the realness of the real—is crucial to the Faith and informs the very language of Scripture. Without it, God, Creation and the Incarnation make no sense, and morality is meaningless. Opposed to it is the devil’s doctrine which takes many forms: the denial of any reality that exists independently of our perception. ‘The devil’s name is legion and his doctrine pluralism,’ according to Senior.

But now, he says, the devil’s doctrine has become the faith of the age, proclaimed in the media, in schools, in government—even in Catholic universities. Moreover, he maintains, it is

 …imposed on everyone with all the inquisitorial force of a fanatical self-righteousness which, contradicting the major articles of its own creed, such as ‘academic freedom’ and ‘freedom of religion’ or ‘separation of church and state’, definitively excludes the realist view and especially its Christian expression which has been dominant in Western civilisation since the conversion of Constantine.

The extreme expression of this denial of reality, according to Senior, is maya, the dangerous oriental falsehood that the world itself is an illusion. The whole thrust of Hinduism and Buddhism, he maintains, is to deny what Christianity radically affirms—Being—and ultimately everything that follows from it, including the self, truth and falsehood, and good and evil. Ironically,he adds, oriental thought has made inroads into Western culture partly because of the appeal of its monastic ideal, which has been repressed in our own culture.

In The Restoration of Christian Culture, Senior admits that his title is misleading, as he is ‘pessimistic but not gloomy’ about its chances in the foreseeable future:

I should rather cheer us up with the neat old truth that we are not meant to succeed in this world anyway but rather to do the job in front of us as best we can, because our hope is in the next. The twentieth is not a convenient century for Catholic triumphalism. There is no possibility in the general loss of Christian Culture that we could build a cathedral like Chartres or write a text like the Summa Theologica—or even, except for a few, understand them. St Thomas is still the Common Doctor of the Church but there aren’t many common Catholics. The whole of Christian culture, the seedbed of scholastic art and science, is depleted. We are in a dustbowl, as the Kansans used to say, and if you plant wheat, though it may sprout up, it will almost instantly wither in the drouth. There are many times in history, as in life, when the most difficult virtue of patience must be practised with a cheerful heart; we must even, as Chaucer says, ‘counterfeit cheere’, sure as we are in the knowledge that , as Milton put it, in the sonnet on his blindness, ‘They also serve who only stand and wait’.

Our task, says Senior, is primarily spiritual, and in a sublime passage he explains why it must therefore be centred on the Mass:

Whatever we do in the political and social order, the indispensable foundation is prayer, the heart of which is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the perfect prayer of Christ Himself, Priest and Victim, recreating in an unbloody manner the bloody, selfsame Sacrifice of Calvary. What is Christian culture? It is essentially the Mass. That is not my or anyone’s opinion or theory or wish but the central fact of two thousand years of history. Christendom, what secularists call Western Civilisation, is the Mass and the paraphernalia which protect and facilitate it. All architecture, art, political and social forms, economics, the way people live and feel and think, music, literature—all these things when they are right, are ways of fostering and protecting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To enact a sacrifice, there must be an altar; an altar has to have a roof over it in case it rains; to reserve the Blessed Sacrament, we build a little House of Gold and over it a Tower of Ivory with a bell and a garden round about it with the roses and lilies of purity, emblems of the Virgin Mary—Rosa Mystica, Turris Davidica, Turris Eburnea, Domus Aurea, who carried his Body and Blood in her womb, Body of her body, Blood of her blood. And around the church and garden, where we bury the faithful dead, the caretakers live, the priests and religious whose work is prayer, who keep the Mystery of Faith in its tabernacle of music and words in the Office of the Church; and around them, the faithful who gather to worship and divide the other work that must be done in order to make the perpetuation of the Sacrifice possible—to raise the food and make the clothes and build and keep the peace so that generations to come may live for Him, so that the Sacrifice goes on even until the consummation of the world.

Thus far, all traditional Catholics—and even many conservatives who prefer the New Mass—would agree with him. But Senior would accept nothing less than the restoration of the old Mass, describing the new rite as a disaster—even while recognising its validity. He used to attend Masses of the Society of St Pius X (for lack of anything better) even though he disagreed with some of their attitudes and always worked to unite them with other Catholic traditionalists. He explained:

I don’t feel any danger of schism or any of those things. I think the Church is in such a bad way that—well, as Michael Davies puts it, if Weakland is in, who the hell is going to say the Society is out? You don’t have to be a canon lawyer to answer questions like that. When the ship goes down, there’s a point at which the captain says, Every man for himself. You grab what you can get. So I’ve been very grateful to them for this. Sure, they have their problems—any splinter group does. When you lose the pope, you lost the principle of unity.

His very close relationship with the Society of St Pius X would make many traditional Catholics (including this editor) somewhat uneasy. But those of us who have endured the farcical celebrations imposed in so many Irish parishes will understand the frustration expressed in his poem, The Sacrifice of Fools (though we don’t yet have the cavorting girls in leotards):

Et tu, Ecclesia? O Lord

Avenge thy mutilated Word,

This slaughtered liturgy whose bones

Lie scattered on the altar stones!

The possibility of prayer

Persists upon the dentist’s chair;

Not even instruments that drill

Banish all that’s beautiful.

God is everywhere we seek,

Save this Hour every week,

When all that’s crackpot, cruel and crass

Celebrates itself at Mass—

That smiler conjuring his gods,

Cavorting girls in leotards!

O Peter raise thy two-edged sword

and send them to their just reward,

Just one terrible swift slice

To restore the Sacrifice!

Holy Father, knees are bent:

Rome is not so far from Trent.

Even in the summer slum,

Angels of the night are near,

And mothers to the rooftops come

To kiss away a childish tear.

Across the scarlet battlefield,

come to those who are afraid,

Jesus, once a little child,

Mary, mother mild and maid.

Or is it now impossible

Because “the Sacrifice shall fail”

(See Chapter Nine in Daniel)?

Senior was an early advocate of orthodox Catholic ghettos, where parents would set up genuine Catholic schools and give their children a proper upbringing protected, as far as possible, from the destructive secular culture. He said we must consecrate hearts, homes, schools and parishes to Mary—because Christian culture had been “founded in the humus of her humility assumed into Heaven, drawing us up”.

In spite of his pessimism, Senior insisted that these were wonderful times to be alive, precisely because we had nothing left to rely on but God. One of our problems was that we had “blurred the distinction between being happy and being blessed, confusing the strong and sometimes bitter Catholic wine with the juice of the Liberal Protestant grape”:

Anyone who says that Christ will make you happy hasn’t tried Him much, hasn’t even got on to the Camino Real, let alone very far along it, because the Royal Way is the Way of the Cross.

But he certainly knew the meaning of real Christian hope, as summed up in this little poem whose irony may be grasped more readily by evangelical Protestants, well steeped in the Old and New Testaments, than by many Catholics:

Praise death, that Sahara

Barren as Sarah, or Elizabeth.

Yes, if there is to be a restoration of Catholic tradition, then John Senior was its John the Baptist—a voice crying in the wilderness, making straight the way of the Lord. After his funeral his son Andrew pointed out that thousands of people had been praying over the past year for John’s recovery:

I firmly believe that no prayer goes unanswered; when it seems so, as now, God has even greater blessings in store. I believe that all those prayers will be answered, in ways we haven’t even imagined. If I could have one wish as to how, it would be what he himself laboured and prayed for, what Our Lord Himself prayed forut unum sint…If all traditionalists were united, Rome would be inundated, and the tide might begin to turn in earnest.

Much of the material in this article is based on a piece on John Senior by Jeffrey Rubin in the July-August 1993 issue.of Latin Mass magazine, 1331 Red Cedar Circle, Ft. Collins, CO 80524, USA.

February 10, 2015

You Don’t Have to Have a Bit of the Other

When I was in the East Surrey Regiment back in the mid-1950s, the two main topics of conversation among my comrades were football and what they delicately referred to as The Other. (When they were being somewhat  less delicate it was known as Your Oggins.)  It was regarded as beyond debate that a regular Bit of The Other was absolutely essential to a man’s general well-being.

During the next decade this view  came to prevail among most Catholics: hence the wails of distress when Pope Paul VI overruled the majority report of the Papal Commission on Birth Control and produced the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which basically confirmed the provisions of Pius XI’s Casti Connubii, only in somewhat less forceful terms. I seem to recall that  one progressive book entitled Contraception and Holiness (which my friend Fr Brendan Purcell later dubbed  “Fornication and Mental Prayer”)  maintained that married couples had an absolute  right to a Bit of the Other several times a week, and if they wished to be sure of avoiding pregnancy this would only be possible if contraceptives were used. It was all put in the most delicate language; lots of references to love, responsible parenthood and “the totality of marriage”.

It was just special pleading; self serving nonsense.  Pope Paul’s  prophecies about the woeful effects of the widespread  use of contraceptives have been more than vindicated.

I am sorry I may have offended some readers by expressing myself so crudely.   Of course sex is a most vital component of marriage, for reasons spelled out in detail by the Church’s magisterium over the centuries. One of these reasons is the fact that it nurtures and sustains the mutual love of  spouses (or it should do, anyway). But the point I’m labouring is that today it has come to be worshipped as a false god—perhaps particularly by  the thousands of priests who have jettisoned celibacy. Some of these have tried to use the existence of married Anglican Ordinariate Catholic clergy to justify their own betrayal.

Fr John Hunwicke, himself a married Anglican convert, has no time for  this sleight of  hand:

I suspect that few of us would want the tradition we have inherited to be used as, or in some way become, an engine for the demolition of the Western norm. In this sexually obsessed world, there has never been a greater need for the bright light of Celibacy as a Sign that Sex is not inevitable; not dominant.

And we must not over-romanticise the Married Priesthood. Somebody once sent me a page or two of the American Clergy List, which detailed the matrimonial history of PECUSA [Episcopalian] clergy … and how very common divorce seemed to be; often, multiple divorce. Nor does a permission for clerical marriage guarantee that there will be no sexual hanky panky. On the contrary: priests’ wives themselves are not ring-fenced from the snares of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil! And husbands, even clerical ones, can do wicked things in frustration because of problems in their marriages. We all need to be very careful indeed, and not clutch at facile ‘solutions’.



February 7, 2015

The Little Egret: Our Part in its Downfall

On my way to Mass yesterday at Dunnes stores, Cornelscourt, I was walking through the Marlfield estate in Cabinteely when a largish white bird  flew close overhead,  black legs and yellow feet stretched out behind. It was a Little Egret,  a kind of heron which was common in these islands during the Middle Ages, but became almost extinct  until the late 20th century. Of which more anon.

You might well ask what  the decline of  the Little Egret has to do with my last blog entry in which I speculated that my mother’s family may have been descended from a 10th-century Viking warlord called Rollo?  Quite a lot, as you will see..

The family tree kindly sent by my cousin Malcolm indicates  that after four  centuries a family called Neville were  descended through the line of Rollo. They became Earls of Westmoreland, and  I discovered that one younger son, George, was made Archbishop of York.  After  his enthronement in 1465, in a series of feasts the 2,500 guests consumed  4,000 pigeons and 4,000 crays, 2,000 chickens, 204 cranes, 104 peacocks, 100 dozen quails, 400 swans, 400 herons, 113 oxen, six wild bulls, 608 pikes and bream, 12 porpoises and seals, 1,000 sheep, 304 calves, 2,000 pigs, 1,000 capons, 400 plovers, 200 dozen  ruffs, 4,000 mallard and teals, 204 kids, 204 bitterns, 200 pheasants, 500 partridges, 400 woodcocks, 100 curlews, over 500 stags, bucks and roes—and 1,000 little egrets. They also had 1,500 hot venison pies, 4,000 dishes of jelly, 4,000 baked tarts, 2,000 hot custards with a proportionate quantity of bread, sugared delicacies and cakes, and 300 tuns of ale and 100 tuns of wine.  So you will see 1) that the Nevilles were a formidably wealthy family and 2) there must have been quite a lot of egrets in Northern England at that time. There were much fewer by the mid-16th century, when William Gowreley, “yeoman purveyor to the Kinges mowthe”, “had to send further south” for egrets.

The decline in numbers set in throughout Europe as the plumes of the little egret were in demand for decorating hats. By the  19th century this became a major craze and the number of egret skins passing through dealers reached into the millions. Egret farms were set up where the birds could be plucked without being killed but most of the supply was obtained by hunting, which reduced the population of the species to dangerously low levels and stimulated the establishment of Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1889.

My copy of T.A. Coward’s The Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs,  published early in the 20th century, describes it as an occasional visitor.   In Ireland as well as Britain, I am glad to say, the egret population has increased rapidly in the last 20 years, and it now breeds in most Irish counties. So this is a complicated story with a happy ending.



February 5, 2015


 Was a Fat Viking Thug My Ancestor?

A 10th-century Viking thug  named Rollo was one of the power brokers of the so-called Dark Ages. He was known as Rollo the Ganger (Walker), because he was so gigantic and heavy that no horse could carry him. Having ravaged much of Northern France, Rollo  forced the French King Charles the Simple to make him  Duke of Normandy.  According to my cousin Malcolm Lukey who has done a lot of genealogical research into the matter, we are descended from Rollo  on my mother’s side.  I had a nice surprise recently when an unexpected package arrived—a long cardboard tube containing a copy of  a family tree with Rollo at the top and my mother near the bottom. I can’t spot any gaps, so it may possibly be true that Rollo is my ancestor.

There is quite a lot about Rollo at the start of this pedigree, written in a rather archaic style (probably about 250 years ago):

911., Rollo, 1st Duke of Normandy, given unto him by Charles the Simple, King of France, with his Daughter in Marriage , as is recorded in an old manuscript belonging to the monastery of Angiers. When Rollo was baptised, Charles receiving him at the font, he was required to do homage for the Dukedom, and enjoined to kiss the King’s foot—which he did; but with some disgrace to Charles—for he overset him, and bound it with an oath that he did not receive it from courtesy.

I find the meaning of this passage more than a  little obscure. For instance, what does “overset” mean? It’s not in the Concise Oxford Dictionary. So I did a little research on my own behalf and found the following in Wikipedia:

According to legend, when required to kiss the foot of King Charles, as a condition of the Treaty,  he [Rollo] refused too perform so great a humiliation., and when Charles extended his foot to Rollo, Rollo ordered one of his warriors to do so in his place. His warrior then lifted Charles’s foot up to his mouth, causing the king to fall to the ground.

Rollo was the great, great, great grandfather of William the Conqueror, seventh Duke of Normandy who became King of England in 1066. I can’t claim royal descent because (if the pedigree is accurate), our ancestry goes down through the female side. The third  Duke, Richard, had a daughter named Rowisa who married Geoffrey Earl of Bretaigne (presumably Brittany) and so the line continues.  I haven’t studied the rest of it really closely, but if I discover anything that I think might interest you (obviously it’s  all quite fascinating to me) I’ll tell you about it.


February 3, 2015

Demeaning to Women?

When I went to a Novus Ordo Mass on Candlemas  Day,  the feast was announced as that of  the  Presentation of Our Lord. Father was at pains to point out that until  “the Reforms of the Second Vatican Council” it had been known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (To us Trads, of course, it still is.)  He thought the change was a Very Good Thing, mainly because it placed the emphasis on Our Lord rather than Our Lady. That is a dubious point, as one does not dishonour Our Lord by honouring Our Lady.

Father  asserted  that the Purification was based on the idea, shared  by Jews and Moslems as well, that  bloodshed—inevitably an accompaniment to childbirth—was somehow unclean. That, he said, was why Catholic mothers used to go through the ceremony of churching, six weeks after the birth, a practice which he clearly regarded as demeaning to the female sex.  There was in fact a very sound reason for the ceremony, which Father didn’t mention: in addition to giving thanks for a safe delivery, it meant that pregnancies would not occur too dangerously close together, as marital relations should not be resumed until churching had taken place.

The priest linked the ceremony  of churching with other  Old Testament practices. For instance, he thought that the ban on eating pork was imposed because in those days there were no fridges and so meat went off comparatively quickly, particularly in hot weather. Then why just pork? There is no evidence that pigmeat decomposes any sooner than beef or mutton. He didn’t mention the incident in Acts 10 and 11 where St Peter, as a result of a dream, declares that from now on  all meats are to be regarded as ceremonially pure, and links the lifting of this ban with the admission of Gentiles to the Church.

Father didn’t describe the ceremony. It was rather beautiful, and I wish we still had it:

The mother kneels in the vestibule, or within the church, carrying a lighted candle. The priest, vested in surplice and white stole, sprinkles her with holy water in the form of a cross. Having recited Psalm 23, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’, he offers her the left extremity of the stole and leads her into the church, saying: ‘Enter thou into the temple of God, adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary who has given thee fruitfulness of offspring.’ She advances to one of the altars and kneels before it, whilst the priest, turned towards her, recites the appropriate blessing, and then, having sprinkled her again with holy water in the form of the cross, dismisses her, saying: ‘The peace and blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, descend upon thee, and remain forever. Amen.’

And here is one of the prayers that may be said during the ceremony:

Almighty, everlasting God, who through the delivery of the Blessed Virgin Mary hast changed the pains of childbirth into joy, look mercifully on this Thy handmaid, who comes in gladness to Thy temple to offer thanksgiving; and grant that, after this life, through the merits and intercession of the same Blessed Mary, she may be found worthy to attain, together with her offspring, to the joys of everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Nothing about bloodshed or uncleanness there. And nothing demeaning to women.