Audible hears the cry of the not so poor

I am addicted (is that too strong a word? probably) to audiobooks and have been using for a number of years. Occasionally I have badgered Audible to provide more content. There are a large number of audiobooks available in the U.S. but not in other territories.  All somebody had to do was check a box somewhere and hey presto more money. An early success was persuading them to make the complete (so far) Song of Ice and Fire series available worldwide, or at least in Australia. Fortunately other imperatives drove the copyright holder(s) to make it available.

Another absence is the Arkangel Shakespeare – studio recordings of all 38 plays – which appears to be an official production of the Royal Shakespeare Company. At any rate it uses RSC actors. Looking for a copy of Henry VI I had to get family in the UK to download it for me from  (Henry VI is similar to Song of Ice and Fire – some of the plot elements, e.g. Robb Stark's marriage, are derived from the Wars of the Roses via Shakespeare, don't be fooled by the fantasy armour in the TV series, Westeros is clearly based on late medieval western Europe). But now the Arkangel Shakespeare is completely available on Audible. There are no recordings of the narrative poems or the Sonnets but you can get those elsewhere.

Making a meal of it

A number of translations of the current version of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani – but not the Latin text – is available on the Vatican website. (I have no idea why they give the ungrammatical title "Institutio Generalis Missale Romanum" which means "general instruction the Roman Missal" perhaps somebody was spooked by the fact that the genitive of MissaleMissalis – has an identical ending to the nominative Generalis). This is known in English speaking circles by the acronym GIRM for General Instruction of the Roman Missal The almost twenty year old website Christus Rex provides the predecessor of the current GIRM, promulgated in 1975. Helpful, for reasons hinted in the title to this post.

I must have been in the dunny when they called

A headline from the (London) Daily Telegraph:

Bringing back knighthoods will create more republicans, Australians say ahead of Prince George visit

"Australians say"? Which Australians? Nobody asked me.

But read the first three paragraphs:

When Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, decided to reintroduce knighthoods and damehoods after a hiatus of 28 years, the country’s republicans should surely have been up in arms.
The tradition of honours being bestowed by the Queen had, after all, been abolished in 1986 after Australians rejected it as an antiquated link to the Mother Country.
But the Australian Republican Movement has welcomed the move, believing it will be so unpopular that it will turn ever greater numbers of people against the monarchy.

So it is the opinion of the ARM – the organisation that completely failed to achieve its aims back in 1999 and has completely failed since then ever to get any traction – it is their opinion that the restoration of Knighthoods will drive Australians into the arms of republicans. It is not actually the opinion of Australians as such, just the opinion of those opposed to the monarchy, that is: those who have failed so dismally in achieving their aims.

It is unfair to blame reporters for headlines. It is unusual for any heading they pick to be used on publication. But the author of this article is Gordon Rayner "Chief Reporter" who has form in writing stupid articles.

At least it was the right kind of Blair

The journalist Tim Blair used to work for one of Australia's oldest magazines, The Bulletin. It was founded in 1888 pushing republicanism against (British) Imperialism and "Australia for the White Man" (one of its straplines). In 2004 the Bulletin sent journalists to cover the trial of Schapelle Corby in Indonesia.

The Corby family were remarkably friendly and helpful to our people, giving the Bulletin more time and greater access than they gave reporters from most other outlets. As a result, despite the swarm of journalists in Bali – some waving cash – our weekly was able to grab a couple of fine exclusives.

Do read on to find out why.

Spectacular feat of diplomacy

My excuse for not replacing my glasses with contact lenses, or undergoing laser treatment, has always been some lame remark about needing the specs as a prop. Andrew Stuart, British Governor of Vanuatu in the early eighties, put his need for glasses to a different use:

Stuart wrought his final act of diplomacy, and triumph over his French rival, by removing his glasses when faced with a letter from Father Lini (also sent to Robert) which ordered the expulsion of both French and British forces. Stuart was thus able, while apparently still ignorant of the letter’s contents, later to offer the transitional services of the Marines to the new state, which Lini accepted.

Oxford's only Classical College

Gothic, in Headington Stone, is the preferred architectural mode at Oxford. Preferred, that is, by the general run of members of the University. It was rare to hear a good word for the modernism of St Catherine's College. I never heard anyone express admiration for the nineteenth and twentieth century farragos in the younger colleges. (People liked farragos to be medieval, in appearance if not in fact). Keble's brick was universally despised. There was a special horror reserved for the Queen's College, Oxford's only college built (all its older buildings being demolished) in the classical style. Here is a video about its architecture. Note that, despite his enthusiasm, the presenter still feels it necessary to say (at 3:42) that "it is a pity we no longer have the medieval buildings of Queen's". What were the fellows to do? build an entirely new structure alongside the old?

A spotter's guide to Monsignors

Prompted by Pope Francis' pruning of the Monsignori, Fr Christopher Smith at the Chant Café links to a series of articles from the 90s on the history of the rank by Duane L. C. M. Galles. They were published in Sacred Music, the journal of the Church Music Association of America.

Fall 1995 (pp. 16-21) Part I  [pdf]; Winter 1995 (pp.27-35) Part II [pdf]; Spring 1996 (pp. 13-17) Part III  [pdf].

Alas there are no pictures to explain the different forms of dress.

Galles concludes:

It remains to be seen if bishops will exercise their faculty to erect collegiate churches and create canons (and canonesses) to encourage the cultivation and preservation of the solemn liturgy and the treasury of sacred music. These have now languished for three decades in the American Catholic Church, but with encouragement they may once again be cultivated, preserved and honored in a manner hallowed — as we have seen — by the most venerable traditions of the local Church.

Fr. Smith remarks:

If the present desire for decentralization is real, then what is to prevent diocesan ordinaries from establishing their own forms of clerical honorifics?  What would prevent them from breathing life into an often defunct, but ancient, tradition of collegiate chapters of canons, which would lead an exemplary liturgical and common life, and also bring back some of the color and diversity of the Roman Church? 

To be and know oneself

When the Vatican revamped its Latin journal, the Catholic Herald published a story about it in Latin.

Mirabile dictu! Latinitas redit

Civitas Vaticana editionem primam actorum diurnorum Latinorum recreatorum, Latinitatem, aperuit. Editio nova praefationem a Francisco Papa adscribit, qui 180,000 sectatores eius tabularii Latini, Strepitus, habet.

Latinitas quater quotannis vulgatur et litteras de historia, libris, lingua et scientiis continet. Acta diurna in parte, Diarium Latinum, quoque continet. Ad ecclesiae linguam publicam promendam in MCMLIII fundata est. Editio nova litteras in lingua Italica Anglicaque primum habebit.

Editionem novam nuntians, Cardinalis Gianfrancus Ravasius Italicum Communem, Antonium Gramscium, interpretatus est, dicens, “Linguam Latinam aut Graecam non studes ut eas dicas. Id facis ut cum populorum duorum, qui societatis novae fundamenta erant, humanitate convenias; id est, eas studes ut tu sis et te cognoscas.”

They invited people to offer translations in the comments. Most of them are fairly literal. This is an attempt in the journalistic mode.

Latin makes a stunning comeback!

The Vatican has unveiled the first edition of a journal for Latinists – Latinitas. The new edition includes a preface by Pope Francis, who has 180,000 followers of his Latin Twitter feed.

Latinitas is published four times a year and contains articles on history, literature and science. It also contains a day by day news section "Diarium Latinum" (Latin Diary). Latinitas was founded in 1953  to promote the universal language of the Church. For the first time the new edition will have articles in Italian and English.

Announcing the new edition, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi cited the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. "You do not study Latin or Greek to speak them. You do it to meet the humanity of those peoples, that is, you study them to be and know yourself."


sectatores eius tabularii Latini, Strepitūs. Strepitus ("noise, din") is the Latin word for Twitter. It is fourth declension and the sentence only makes sense if it is in the genitive. Literally the phrase means "followers of his Latin archive of Twitter".

Acta diurna in parte…quoque continet. Acta is plural. It is possible that the draftsman thinks it can take a singular verb. This would give a much smoother rendering "The journal (acta diurna) also contains a "Latin Diary" in one section." According to Kennedy (§199) where two nouns making up a composite subject form a single notion, then they can take a singular verb, e.g. Senatus populusque Romanus. Nevertheless, from a cursory glance over Perseus it seems that the Acta Diurna (an official publication in Ancient Rome) always take a plural verb.

Italicum communem. Catholic condemnations of communism (often by means of a condemnation of the teachings of communists) use the coinages communismus and communista. For the former this goes back at least as far as the encyclical of Pius IX Qui pluribus of 1st November 1846 (DS 2786). For the latter, Leo XIII warns the audience of his encyclical [English] Quod Apostolici muneris (18th December 1878, ASS 11 (1878) [pdf] p.372) against the doctrine of those "qui diversis ac pene barbaris nominibus Socialistae, Communistae vel Nihilistae appellantur"  – "who are known by diverse and almost barbarous names, as Socialists etc." Pius XI points out that the "communistarum effata" – literally "axioms of the communists" – impoverish the human person in his encyclical Divini Redemptoris of 19th March 1937 (DS 3773). In both those instances note the use of italics to show that the word itself is not Classical. The Holy Office  issued a decree on 1st July 1949, DS 3865, in answer to a question whether it is permitted to join a communist party – "partibus communistarum nomen dare" (answer in the negative). On that occasion the questioner apparently chose the term communista without the "scare italics". For what it is worth, in the OCR scan of AAS 41 (1949), p.334 [pdf] no italics appear at that point. Finally, John XXIII in his encyclical Mater et magistra of 15th May 1961, talks of "communistarum, qui dicuntur" (as per the OCR AAS 53 (1961) p.408 [pdf], cf. DS 3939). Without going into the thorny grammar of that sentence, it is clear that there the word communista is held at a certain stylistic arm's length "those who are called "communists"" – just as Leo XIII referrred to it as a pene barbarum nomen. In fact one could avoid translating "qui dicuntur" altogether and just use quotation marks. Latin, like Greek, prefers to allow the grammar to govern the sense. For one thing the ancients did not have any full blown system of punctuation. In any case communis cannot mean "communist". It is an adjective and per Lewis & Short (s.v. I B) it is used substantively for nothing more specific than "that which is common".

interpretatus est. A number of the commenters at the Catholic Herald render this "he quoted". This is clearly wrong. It would be protulit, possibly making verba the object and putting Gramsci in the genitive. Interpretor means "I translate". There is a sense of the speaker providing some kind of explanation or exegesis of his source. Cito, unlike English "cited" has a more strictly legal, and legal-like meaning.

The passage cited by Cardinal Ravasi is derived from Gramsci's notebooks as given by Stanley Aronowitz in "Gramsci's Theory of Education: Schooling and Beyond"*

Pupils did not learn Latin and Greek in order to speak them, to become waiters, interpreters or commercial letter-writers. They learnt in order to know at first hand the civilization of Greece and of Rome—a civilization that was a necessary precondition of our modern civilization; in other words, they learnt them in order to be themselves and know themselves consciously.

It appears that Cardinal Ravasi was speaking in Italian. What he said is quoted in Zenit's report of the press conference (the English version of that bulletin includes no reference to Gramsci):

Non si impara il latino e il greco per parlarli, per fare i camerieri, gli interpreti, i corrispondenti commerciali: si impara per conoscere direttamente la civiltà dei due popoli, quindi il passato, ma presupposto necessario della civiltà moderna, cioè per essere se stessi e conoscere se stessi, consapevolmente.

The Italian website provides the complete works of Gramsci, or perhaps only his obiter dicta. (He seems to have been a great filler of notebooks). This passage, I think is the source of Cardinal Ravasi's citation, from (so far as I can judge) notebook 12, § 2:

Non si imparava il latino e il greco per parlarli, per fare i camerieri, gli interpreti, i corrispondenti commerciali. Si imparava per conoscere direttamente la civiltà dei due popoli, presupposto necessario della civiltà moderna, cioè per essere se stessi e conoscere se stessi consapevolmente. 

* Carmel Borg, Joseph A. Buttigieg, Peter Mayo (edd.) Gramsci and Education (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), ch.5, pp.109-120, at p.114.

Becoming Tradition

Tradition and Ideals by Adam Wood

Think about this in any other context. You can’t (reasonably) say that pasta isn’t authentically Italian just because it was invented in China and didn’t get there until the Rennaisance. It makes no sense to champion cabbage as the ideal Irish cuisine and dismiss potatoes as an innovation from the New World. How would somebody even try to make rules about this sort of thing? “All cultural cuisine in use as of April 15, 1875 is to be considered the ideal representation of each country’s national gastronomic habits.”

If God the Son became a real human being in a real culture, and institued a Church which was to be guided by real human beings through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and revelation provided by Scripture and Tradition, I would suggest that we can’t simply ignore what “tradition” is like everywhere else that real human beings are involved. (Not to mention the fact that the history of liturgical practice is similarly messy and varied.)

When will Gospel music, or Praise and Worship pop styles, or anything else become a legitimate part of the musical tradition of the Church? It will not be when some professional thinker finds a convincing argument for its inclusion, or when some piece of written legislation appears to allow it. It will only be when musicians who are deeply connected with the existing tradition of liturgical practice, who understand it in a way that cannot be set down in legislation or academic papers, find a place for it.

Wood summarises his essay at the Chant Café in this way:

There is no such thing as ideal liturgical praxis, only a lived tradition. This means that rather then theorizing about what is the essential aspect of the ideal (the Proper texts, the original melodies, the Latin language), we rather must live with and live into the received tradition (Gregorian Chant, the Graduale Propers, Sacred Polyphony, etc) before we can even begin to think about what new treasures should find a place in the storehouse.

He dispensed himself from Mods

In 1414 the Emperor Sigismund convened an Ecumenical Council at Constance, with Pope John XXIII presiding. This of course was the anti-Pope. Baldassare Cossa not Angelo Roncalli who convened the Second Vatican Council. Constance is famous for the resolution it brought to the problem of three men simultaneously claiming to be Pope. (Until 2013 it was the most recent example of a Pope resigning). However Sigismund also sought condemnation of the teaching of Jan Hus. He asked the Fathers of the Council date operam ut illa nefanda schisma eradicetur – "take care that that unspeakable schism be uprooted". He assumed from its termination that schisma is feminine. In fact it is neuter since it is a Greek word belonging to the Greek third declension. It goes like σῶμα body. One of the Cardinals pointed this out and Sigismund replied:

Ego sum Rex Romanus et super grammaticam.

"I am the King of the Romans and above grammar." Thomas Carlyle tells the story in his History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 1, book ii, ch. xiv, p.153 (Boston, Mass.: Dana Estes & Charles E. Lauriat, 1884). He cites Wolfgang Menzel's Geschichte der Deutschen which can be found on Google books here (scroll to p.477, footnote) and in translation here. Menzel does not provide a source.

From Carlyle it appears that this speech was delivered on 25th December 1414, which means this Christmas will be the 600th anniversary.

A den of zingers

A couple of months ago I mentioned my chance discovery of the marvellous French website which contains numerous primary sources for the study of the Catholic French including the Latin text of the 1917 Code of Canon Law and the 1996 edition of Denzinger's Dogma.

The entire site – design and content – seems to have been adopted by the Congregation for the Clergy for their site On their Magisterium page, they offer Denzinger in English. The text is somewhat older. It stops at what is now DS 3904 (2333 in that edition), the ruling that all must believe in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Munificentissimus Deus, 1st November 1950 (n.45 in the English translation at the Vatican website). Much better than nothing.

(The title is a reference to a remark by Ralph McInerny.)

Many gods, no life after death, murder your enemies: welcome to the Old Testament

Brandon Vogt, once again, discusses a new book on the paginæ obscuræ of sacred scripture. He publishes an interview with Matthew Ramage of Benedictine College in Kansas.

First, I think we have to admit that the Bible really does say what it seems to be saying. It says God did some violent things. And these things seem to conflict with the nature of God such as we understand it through reason. In other words, I am acknowledging that Dawkins and people like him—though by no means competent philosophers or theologians—may be onto something.…

Second, I think we need to be up front about our presuppositions or first principles. We are going into our interpretations already convicted that the Bible is God’s word. … In interpreting a given text, our job is not to prove to our atheist interlocutors that God exists, that Jesus is God, or that the Bible is God’s word. These are all discussions that should be had, but you and your partner in dialogue have to be very clear about your respective principles. Don’t expect to convince Richard Dawkins that you have vindicated the presence of dark passages in the Bible… In defending a particular dark passage, the Christian’s job is to do just that: defend the passage against objections—not definitively prove its truth—as Aquinas says. As I see it, our job is to provide answers to objections from unbelievers so that they might see what a reasonable way to deal with dark biblical passages might look like if faith in Christ and his revealed word is granted.

A lie, a rotten lie

It is possible, perhaps, to agree that homosexual activity is wicked, that it is one of the four sins which cry out to Heaven for vengeance (CCC 1867) , while still thinking there must be something healthy in the stable relationships between two men one encounters from time to time. Ronald G. Lee, a homosexual man who has returned to the Catholic faith is anxious to disabuse us.

I met Wyatt (not his real name) online. For five years he was in a disastrous same-sex relationship. His partner was unfaithful, and an alcoholic with drug problems. The relationship was something that would give Strindberg nightmares. When Vermont legalized same-sex "marriage," Wyatt saw it as one last chance to make their relationship work. He and his partner would fly to Vermont to get "married." This came to the attention of the local newspaper in his area, which did a story with photos of the wedding reception. In it, Wyatt and his partner were depicted as a loving couple who finally had a chance to celebrate their commitment publicly. Nothing was said about the drugs or the alcoholism or the infidelity. But the marriage was a failure and ended in flames a few months later. And the newspaper did not do a follow-up. In other words, the leading daily of one of America's largest cities printed a misleading story about a bad relationship, a story that probably persuaded more than one young man that someday he could be just as happy as Wyatt and his "partner." And that is the sad part.

But one very seldom reads about people like my friend Harry. Harry (not his real name) was a balding, middle-aged man with a potbelly. He was married, and had a couple of grown daughters. And he was unhappy. Harry persuaded himself that he was unhappy because he was gay. He divorced his wife, who is now married to someone else, his daughters are not speaking to him, and he is discovering that pudgy, bald, middle-aged men are not all that popular in gay bars. Somehow, Oprah forgot to mention that. Now Harry is taking anti-depressants in order to keep from killing himself.

If it disappears from, the article was first published by the New Oxford Review in February 2006 and may still be available to purchase there.

Twerketai he Kyros.

Fr John Hunwicke, formerly an Anglican, now an Ordinariate priest, considers the task of Latinists turning Pope Francis' homilies into Latin for the Acta. It is just a fantasy. The Holy See has been happy for a while now to produce official documents in languages other than Latin.  St Pius X's Instruction on Sacred Music, Tra le Sollecitudini, was addressed to the Cardinal Vicar of the Diocese of Rome and so written in Italian. The current norms on translation of liturgical texts into the vernacular are contained in Liturgiam Authenticam, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in 2001. This replaced the decree of the Consilium for Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (which put together the new Liturgical books), Comme le Prévoit (1969) issued in French.

So it does not seem likely that gangs of Latinists are occupying the empty Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace. But I was struck by Fr Hunwicke's suggestion of a Greek, and therefore Latin — the Romans often adopted Greek words — translation of "twerking" . (If you do not know what Twerking is, lucky you).

Fr. Hunwicke suggests the name of a salacious dance mentioned in various comedies: the kordax. It is mentioned in many places. Aristophanes has the chorus refer to it in Nubes 540 (English translation here). A scholiast says ἡ κόρδαξ δὲ κωμικὴ αἰσχρῶς περιδινοῦσα τὴν ὀσφῦν  the kordax is a comic dance of shamefully twirling the loins around. The New Pauly suggests (how astonishing that one can get such a book for free on the internet) that the Kordax might have been a solo dance. Twerking by definition requires a partner. Also the word twerking is a participle but κόρδαξ a noun. So a certain amount of, er, tweaking, is required.