Wednesday 22 March 2023


 I strongly resent being lectured that I must 'accept Vatican II' by people who believe less of what that council teaches than I do. They don't, of course, mean that I must give assent of the mind and heart to the many doctrinal and disciplinary teachings of the council. They do not, for instance, think that Latin must be maintained in the liturgical rites; they don't think that the Church is of its nature hierarchical, many would not accept that abortion is an abominable crime, nor much else. What they really mean is that I must 'get with the programme' and sign up to what Pope Benedict called the hermeneutic of discontinuity. I must disavow the past and embrace the Brave New Church about which the Second Vatican Council said little or nothing, but which emerged in its shadow. Vatican II itself is not for these people a test of the new orthodoxy (for the council expresses more or less—though not entirely— the old, or timeless orthodoxy), but rather a shibboleth, a password for Those Who Are Acceptable to flash at one another.

I knew a priest whose literal password on the computer was VATICAN 2!!! and another was PEOPLE POWER!!! And never was there such a tyrant, who did bestride the narrow parish like a Colossus, governing it in splendid isolation and caring not a jot for what others thought.

Part of the point of being a Catholic is that Sacred Tradition is a law to which all, from Pope to Catechumen, must bend. Once you sever the link with Tradition, then all you have is power. Those in power can do what they like. Popes, bishops, parish priests, lay men and women who have read a book once can set themselves up and govern by decree, moderated by nothing by the latest trend or their latest notion and claiming 'the Council' as their mandate. That is tyranny. Vatican II means as little to these people as Trent. What they want is their own opinion to be enforced on others and taught as divine law.

For them, Vatican II means women priests, gay marriage and number of other things that would have amazed the fathers of the Council. But then, the Council is only a shibboleth to them.

Some of these people would not know the smell of the sheep if it came in a bottle marked 'Sheep Stink'. In my thirty years as a priest, my experience is that people simply want to be left to pray in the way that they are used to. If Father insists, they won't protest when he mixes things up, but when things are made more Catholic, there seems to be a sort of collective sigh of relief, of the sort that many of us experienced during the reign of Pope Benedict.

In the 1980s, with a friend I visited a little hamlet in the Black Forest, called Sägendobel I think. Each evening almost the entire population gathered in their little church to say the Rosary together. It was so beautiful, and no doubt they had done this for years, if not centuries. But on our second evening, a lady with a guitar announced that this was all to change. There was Mass instead, celebrated by a Monsignor from Cologne; they—or rather the lady with a few disconsolate children—sang hymns accompanied by the guitar to tunes that were all too familiar to me from the 1960s but set to German words. Nobody but they joined in; there was a sort of stunned silence. Returning the following year, there was no Rosary, and there was no Mass either. 

Do I think that if the Latin Mass were imposed once more on the Church that everyone would welcome it? No, of course not. People have got used to the English Mass, and broadly have come to like it. Any priest who knows the smell of his sheep knows that. And I think that this is a subject to which I should return.

Sunday 12 March 2023

La Suprema

 This German Synodaler Weg stuff is, I suspect, the result of Paul VIs shake-up of the Roman Curia in the sixties and seventies, something earnestly desired by almost everybody in those days. The Curia was perceived by many as being responsible for most of the Church's woes (they really had no idea what woe was, did they?) and it was felt that instead of being legalistic and hidebound, it should be 'pastoral'. The particular change that worked the most mischief, I think, was the downgrading of La Suprema, the then Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Holy Office, now the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and what it is to be in the future, we must wait and see). Or rather the removal of one of its functions. It is my understanding that in the past, the Holy Office, La Suprema, would give the final stamp of approval to the appointments of new bishops. Now that job was to pass to the Secretariate for State, who would give the nihil obstat to whomever they thought sufficiently one of themselves. Diplomats, nice guys, men who wouldn't rock the boat. Think the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, an extraordinary charming man (as the bishop who ordained me, I knew him quite well). Ostpolitik needed such men, not pugnacious Lions of Münster or Mindszentys whose evangelical intransigence was seen as an obstacle to what diplomacy might achieve.

And so here we are. A church of charming diplomatic bishops who want to get a) on with everybody and b) ahead.

One thinks of Knox's (Ronald, that is, not John) Absolute and Abitofhell (quoted from memory; I don't have the text here):

When suave politeness, temp'ring bigot zeal

Corrected 'I believe' to 'One does feel'

So we have a Church of bishops who for the last fifty years have thought that stoutly defending the faith is not quite gentlemanly; even though they might privately believe the faith, they wouldn't want to be seen to ram it down anyone else's throat. And this has encouraged others to think the same way. Diplomats promoted, believers sidelined. Do they ever wonder what our Lord might make of this?

And so here we are. Germany again leading the Church into schism. 

Sunday 5 March 2023

Tempus adest

 Nearly four years! I do not think that anyone can accuse me of logorrhrea! But with Traditiones Custodes, and still more with the recent Rescript, things have to change. I retain all my reverence for the Petrine office, but its present unworthy occupant is a different matter. Dear God, I have tried to defend him! But no longer.