Eating dust and ashes

I have a certain admiration for the vigorous anti-Catholic one-liners of Edward Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury (1883-1896). Here is another one.

In 1887, Leo XIII celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood.  Archbishop Benson's friend, Canon Mason, suggested he might send the Pope a gift "in the hope that an act of personal kindness might smooth the way towards the healing of the schism ". Benson replied*:

It is the Pope's business to eat dust and ashes, not mine to decorate him. Therefore, my dear Mephibosheth†, hold thy peace.



*A. C. Benson, The Life of Edward White Benson, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury, 2 volumes, (London: Macmilan, 1899), vol. 2, ch.11, p.586, letter of 27th November 1887.

† Mephibosheth was the son of David's friend Jonathan who appears in 2 Samuel 4, 9, 16, 19 & 21 (those are all chapter numbers) - Benson quotes 2 Sam 14:19 at the beginning of his letter to Mason. As a grandson of Saul Mephibosheth might be thought to have been a threat to David's rule. In 2 Sam 16 his servant Ziba tells David that Mephibosheth remains in Jerusalem expecting to be given the throne of his grandfather. It turns out in chapter 19 that this was a lie. Benson gives that name to Mason to say "I know you are loyal but you appear to be disloyal".

On a related matter

Fr Gabriel de Chadarévian op provides an account of the requirements for a good preacher. In a footnote he offers a useful definition of kerygma, one of those words one often sees (in theology I mean) but are rarely explained: 

The name, life, the truth, the words and teachings, the signs (healings, exorcisms and miracles), the salvation of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man and Son of God, his passion, death on the cross and his bodily resurrection and his return in glory to judge the living and the dead, heaven and hell.

I was amused by the opening sentence.

As a Friar of the Order of Preachers founded in the 13th century, I like to think that I belong to a bloodline of famous preachers and teachers of the Catholic faith, starting with our founder St. Dominic, blessed Jordan of Saxony (his first successor), St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent Ferrer, and  Father Henri–Dominique Lacordaire, to name a few.

Unless those are all related to each other and Fr de Chadarévian, he cannot possibly belong to a bloodline of all of them.

Easier than 1-2-3

It is well known that people use stupid passwords on the internet. An alarming number use "Password" for every "secure" site they visit. The 1Password blog has an interesting post discussing the mathematics of a cartoon from xkcd.

But that is all by the way. Apparently until 1977 the launch code for American nuclear missiles was "00000000". That's a zero followed by seven other zeroes.

Naturally I remembered this scene from Spaceballs, where the villains are extorting the code to open the shield from King Roland:

Sing the right text, then the music will follow

Via the Chant Café, here is part two of the interview with Jeffrey Tucker published on the blog of the Sacred Music Programme at the University of Notre Dame. (Part one is here).

Tucker explains the origin of the Simple English Propers, an adaptation of traditional melodies of the Propers (chants which change with every Mass) to sing the English texts.

So then, I took the next question: “well if we’re going to sing them English, what’s the resource we should use?” Now up until that point in history, I was cutting and pasting things: I was using a little bit from the Anglican use gradual, there was some book published in 1965 that has some introits, and I found some scrappy little pieces here and there for communion. I was able to piece it together with a great deal of trouble and effort. Suddenly though, I found myself in the position of saying something along the lines of what I just said to you, to a group of 200 musicians, most of whom are volunteers, and I couldn’t just rattle off a bunch of internet links. Suddenly I felt discredited, I felt like everything I had said for the last hour had no action item at all. I stood there with my mouth open, staring at this person in silence for what seemed like ten minutes (it was probably 15 seconds). I turned white, and I said to the person: “you know, I’m going to get to work on that.” I left the room and I immediately called up my friend Adam Bartlett with whom I had been feuding with for two years over some idiotic, irrelevant problem concerning the rhythm of chant or something like that. I said Adam: “you and I have been at each others throats over this idiotic issue that, turns out, nobody cares about, why don’t we work together and finally do a book of English propers”, and he was happy to bury the hatchet and get to work on it. That was October and by March the book was in print. 

In Tucker's view the big hurdle is getting people to sing the Propers at all.

I want to mention one more thing before I close: I think it’s really urgent that we stop thinking about the problems of the music in the Mass as a war between styles. It’s not that styles don’t matter, but if that’s all you’re thinking about you’re really missing the point. To my mind, if you’re able to accomplish the propers of the Mass with a guitar then that’s a gigantic improvement. Even if it’s using pop styles, it’s a huge improvement. I don’t think that we’re on the right track if all we’re doing is arguing about why type of music needs to be played in Mass. What we need to be talking about is the texts and that’s where it has to begin.

No Newman scholar he.

Speaking of smug experts (see the end of the previous post) certain authors have a problem with "keepers of the flame" who seem to read no author other than – and who grandly assume that they are the only ones who can say anything sensible about –  their favourites. (This is a harsh interpretation, but you get the idea). In some cases, such as Ayn Rand, it is no better than the author deserved. Indeed, in Rand's case, it seems to be what she actually wanted. G. K. Chesterton's keeperitis appears terminal but, the infecting organisms seem to be fairly genial, so I may be wrong (about the terminality, of the infection there is no doubt).

John Henry Cardinal Newman is another example. In that case the sheer range of his knowledge makes it hard for keeperitis to take a firm hold. How many people are able to read and write English, French, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac?* And that is just for starters. Newman read pretty much all of the Fathers, the Anglican Divines as well as the Classics. He shows a detailed knowledge of, for example, the long and somewhat crabbed Theologia Moralis of St Alphonsus Liguori. His ideas are subtle and varied. It is probably too much even for bacillus keeperitiensis to conquer.

That is not to say people don't try. In 2002 Stanley Jaki OSB had the temerity to publish Newman to Converts: An Existential Ecclesiology. It received a favourable review in the Catholic Herald, in the course of which the reviewer passed some unfavourable comments about one of Newman's keepers, Fr Ian Ker. The next week there appeared a letter from Fr Ker, in reply:

I have not read Jaki’s book, nor do I intend to do so, having in his previous writings already sampled his ill-informed and tendentious approach to Newman.

Jaki at least read Fr Ker's books. Fr Ker has merely sampled Jaki's. Then comes the kicker:

Jaki is a recognised authority on religion and science; he is not by any stretch of the imagination a plausible guide to Newman.

How dare this man write about ("my!!!") Newman without a permit! One  might ask, if Jaki is not a plausible guide then what is the problem? If he is not plausible then nobody will believe him. Of course that is not what Fr Ker means. He means it is not plausible to think of Jaki in the club of Newman guides; one cannot believe it. For all the world as though Newman is a hidden mountain which only the experts may dare ascend alone.

As for myself. I have edited a book called Newman and Conversion (1997), papers delivered at a conference dedicated to this very theme.

Well that's alright then. We have the subject covered. Jaki can go back to his grubby laboratory.

Fr Ker's attitude even makes me sympathetic to John Cornwell, another one of those base slanderers of Pius XII. In 2010 Cornwell published an article in the New Statesman which was covered in the Catholic Herald. Cornwell put forward some silly ideas about Newman, opposing him to the asceticism of St John Vianney, and claiming Newman held that expansive meaning for "conscience" where, if it feels good, then it must be right.

The following week the Herald published an op-ed by Fr Ker which eviscerated Cornwell's article. But he could not stop himself from rebuking Cornwall for his presumption:

As the biographer of Newman and the author and editor of more than 20 books on Newman, I can claim to have consulted these “unexpurgated works” to which Cornwell (who is no Newman scholar) appeals in his attempt to present Newman as a dissident theologian of the “spirit of Vatican II” school.

I read Ker's biography of Newman once. He takes the narrative for the period 1833-1845 almost holus bolus from the Apologia. But one of the most interesting things about the Apologia is whether Newman's own recollection of the course of his development is in fact right. Did he forget things? Did he suppress them? Moreover Ker does not explain the puzzling aspects of historical matters such as what is the significance of the tutorships, or how Oxford in the early 19th century worked. The modern University is somewhat mysterious to outsiders.† Its 19th century predecessor is positively opaque.

But Cornwall is "no Newman scholar". Either Cornwall is right or he is wrong. If he is wrong then someone like Fr Ker should be able to point this out – particularly in the space afforded to an article as opposed to a letter to the editor. He does not need to pull rank. It is hard not to feel sympathy with Cornwall as he makes this reply.

Fr Ker well knows that Newman’s mode of “saying and unsaying” allows one to make all manner of conflicting claims about Newman’s viewpoints. While this means that familiarity with all of his writings is essential before making judgments, he surely cannot mean that his, Fr Ian’s, viewpoint alone must prevail in any disagreement with a lay writer. Yet his article implies that that because he is “Newman’s biographer” and that I am “no Newman scholar” I must hold my tongue. I may not be a Newman scholar, but I first began reading Newman in my junior seminary in the 1950s. I studied Newman for several years under the guidance of the late Mgr Henry Francis Davis, who initiated Newman’s Cause in 1958. For the rest of my life I have read and reflected on Newman’s work, I hope carefully and lovingly.

Fr Ker replied to this. But he did not press the point on "no Newman scholar". The debate continued with other writers (John Cornwell no longer appeared although I stopped looking after the issue of 21st May 2010) week after wearying week. You can follow it in the Herald's archive. Or not.



*(And probably a few others I haven't noticed: Newman translated some of St Ephraim's hymns from Syriac. I am not saying he had enough knowledge to translate Ulysses into that language).

†(I read an article recently, decrying the fact that C. S. Lewis did not get a professorship until late in life and attributing this to anti-Christian bigotry. The author seemed to be totally unaware that Oxford has very few real professorships (one or two per subject) and not that many titular professorships. The flip side is that Oxford graduates find other Universities rather puzzling. You mean to say you are allowed to determine the content of your course? How very revolutionary.)

The longer novitiate

Ed Peters discusses a proposal to increase the length of the novitiate in religious orders. (For those who do not know: when you enquire about joining a religious order, even if you are in residence for a while, you do so as a postulant; when you actually join – this is when you are "clothed" in the habit if there is one – you are a novice; when you reach the end of the novitiate you take temporary vows and become a junior. Up to this point leaving is fairly unproblematic and indeed foreseen, once you take final vows you are in for life.)

This two-year (and-a-half) year max applies only to novitiate, the completion of which period makes one eligible for temporary vows. Emphasis on temporary, meaning three to six years (per 1983 CIC 655), extendable to nine (per 1983 CIC 657 § 2). Now, one in temporary vows is a religious, and departures during temporary vows are distressing, but they are, in the final analysis, departures made during a period called temporary for a reason. At which point we may ask, is it probable that one, having gone through at least two years (maybe two-and-a-half) of novitiate, followed by at least three more years (possibly nine more!) in temporary vows, fails to perservere in religious life because of too-brief a formation period? It’s possible, I grant. But probable? Sufficiently probable to explain the tens of thousands of departures that the Church’s religious institutes have experienced over the last 40 years?

Peters refers to an essay from 1984 by the philosopher Paul Quay SJ, Renewal of Religious Orders, or Destruction? Fr Quay, writing in a journal of Canon Law, points out that given the procedures in place for dispensing people from their final vows, there is no longer any right, for those properly disposed and prepared, to take indispensable vows.

With the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1917, however, the Church ceased to recognize any totally indissoluble vows of religion. In virtue of the Pio-Benedictine Code, the religious order as spiritually, if not always juridically, understood for many centuries, was abrogated, at least in the Patriarchate of the West. 

(There you go again: St Pius X reformed the Breviary and made the Liturgy the plaything of the Papacy – with the consequences we all know – but not content with that he also abolished traditional religious orders. And he is supposed to be held up as the traditionalists' favourite Pope!)

Quay's essay as published, and as reproduced by Peters, included a brief commentary by a Canon lawyer, Dominic Andres CMF. Quay concluded as follows:

As has doubtless been apparent throughout this article, I am not a canonist. The problem raised here may well have, for a canonist, an obvious and simple resolution; it may be no problem at all, but only a misconstrual on my part. Yet, having talked to many on this topic, I can attest that many so construe the law. It would, therefore, be of help to many if those more competent than I would address this matter. 

The commentary provides a magnificent hand wave, wafting all the problems away. Andres seizes on that final paragraph with the following smug observation (emphasis added).

The author, while a religious, is not trained in canon law, but in philosophy, and perhaps his acute observations are better understood under this light, for they are not groundless nor lacking in psychological and spiritual importance. Another step toward understanding this matter lies in the final paragraph of the study.

Well, Quay asked for a concrete proposal to resolve this problem. And what does this canon lawyer propose? Absolutely nothing. Literally. That was the end of his reply.

See also Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith The disappearance of traditional religious orders is changing the landscape of the Church.

Shakespeare as he is spoke

At some point in my Oxford career I latched on to the notion of the great vowel shift , that is the change in pronunciation of the long vowel sounds in English, sometime between Shakespeare's day and ours. I got the idea that the Birmingham accent still used the old pronunciations. So I would regale my colleagues with Hamlet's "To, be or not to be" as pronounced by the members of Slade. How we laughed. The Brummie accent (like American southern accent or the Australian ocker accent) is commonly parodied badly and my attempt – "tu bay oor nat tu bay" – was no better.

A father (linguist) and son (actor) present an attempt to reconstruct the pronunciation (pronun-tsee-ay-tsee-on) of Shakespeare's period.

It cannot begin with Latin

Via Chant Café, the blog of the Sacred Music Programme (oh, all right, Program) at the University of Notre Dame has published the first part of an interview with Jeffrey Tucker. Much as we might regret it, we cannot just launch straight back into Latin everywhere, more's the pity:

JJ: One of the things that we are constantly asking ourselves at Notre Dame is how to take the repertoire that Catholics have grown up with since Vatican II and use what’s already there to build off of towards a full experience of the Church’s musical tradition. Where do you think the inroads are?

JT: I think what we are doing has to build off of the current experience and repertoire. I can tell you from long experience, because the question you are asking right now has been at the core of my strategic and theoretical thinking for the last ten years. It cannot begin with Latin; it has to begin with English. The reason is that language is absolutely essential to the way we think, who we are, and how we regard ourselves as a people. It’s so closely tied to our identity that it’s non-negotiable at this point in history. The church gave us the gift of vernacular with the Second Vatican Council, and it’s not a point to regret, but something we have to deal with. For me, the ideal is always Latin, but it’s ridiculous to think you could start there. You can try to implement the singing of the Mass in Latin and there will be a core of people that will love everything you’re doing, but it will not last because there will be a different core of people that will be deeply offended because they just aren’t ready for it. This is the great mistake, I would say, that was made in the years following the council. There’s a reason why this didn’t happen, but there’s also a tremendous confusion about how the vernacular applies in the liturgy. On one hand you had Vatican II clearly elevate the role of Gregorian chant above which it had ever been elevated in the history of the Church. On the other hand, you had the council give permission for the vernacular, but it was left open exactly how this was to be applied. It is obvious to me that the tension between these two things was not fully anticipated and the Council Fathers were not aware of the tremendous difficulties this would create. Suddenly all the Gregorian chant seemed irrelevant, mainly on the grounds of language.

With all our heart, we deplore what has happened…

From all the 50th anniversary blither, the most interesting thing that I have seen has been this video of Pope Paul VI making a statement (note the Royal "we"!) on the death President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I found it at New Advent but there is a better transcript at This Week at Vatican II

The 450th Anniversary of the end of the Council of Trent is next month, but I haven't found the "This Week at Trent" site yet. The content of "This Week at Constance" has not all been ratified by the Pope. (That's the best Conciliarist joke you are going to read all year).

The replacement in-laws

The Catholic World Report publishes a depressing interview with Mary Eberstadt, author of How the West Really Lost God.

For one, changing Western legal codes have made it easier for people to view “family” as an optional arrangement based on voluntary association, rather than as a permanent institution formed by elemental biological ties. Once upon a time, whoever was your sister-in-law remained your sister-in-law for life. Today she might be replaced at any time by other sisters-in-law or sister-in-law-type people, depending on her and your brother’s intentions. That’s a new and potent social fact. … From the very beginning, after all, the Church has stood as a sign of contradiction for so many things that pagans could have and Christians couldn’t: infanticide, artificial contraception, abortion, and the rest. And from the very beginning, insistence on that strict code has not only made some people hate the Church (though of course it has). It’s also made other people love the thing, including some of the finest converts in history. … We modern people have less familial experience than those who came before us. We have institutional substitutes for the family from cradle to grave, daycare to nursing homes. That’s part of why Western society is less religious than it used to be, I believe—because if it’s hard to be an atheist in a foxhole, it’s also hard to be one in the nursery, say, or when contemplating an open grave. The fact that so many Western people are alienated in different ways from these primal experiences is part of what’s going on in so-called secularization.

Everybody thinks, nobody says it

It’s no coincidence the MPs found guilty of fiddling are all Labour

By contrast, progressives view social conventions and restraints as the crucial impediment to human fulfilment. As far as Karl Marx was concerned, law, morality and religion were simply mechanisms for maintaining bourgeois dominance. Indeed Marx’s followers explicitly licensed falsehood and deceit as instruments of revolutionary change. As J A Schumpeter observed: “The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.” I suggest, therefore, that the readiness of Labour MPs to fabricate their expenses is symbolic of a wider philosophical disposition: a structural tolerance of lying and cheating as a justification for political action.

I am never eating on an aeroplane again

6 places germs breed in a plane

Flight attendants have witnessed many repulsive misuses of the tray table, from parents changing dirty diapers to kids sticking their boogers underneath. Research confirms that the handy tray table is a petri dish for all kinds of health hazards, including the superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), which is often fatal once contracted. It kills an estimated 20,000 Americans annually. In 2007, University of Arizona researcher Jonathan Sexton tested tray tables from three major airliners, and an alarming 60 percent tested positive for the superbug. That's quite a revelation considering only 11 percent of his samples from the New York subway found traces of the bug.

Via b2w.

The architecture of Keble

When I was at Oxford I encountered two ideas which startled me (alright, I am sure I encountered more than two, I was never that jaded). The first was High Anglicanism; here were these Protestants, begorrah, and adherents of the 39 Articles:

Article 19: …  As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith. … Article 22:  THE Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. … Article 28:  … Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

And yet they artlessly claimed "but we are Catholic". At school I had had a through history of the Reformation (and yes we had read the 39 Articles)  but, as I complained later to my headmaster, "you did nothing to prepare us for High Anglicans!" "Harry," he replied, "nothing would prepare you for High Anglicans." (This post is not going finally to explain the Church of England, I am sure that would overflow allotted bandwidth, but you can try Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction by Mark Chapman, if you are interested).

The second idea, possessed by almost everyone, was this visceral and unreasoning loathing of brick, specifically the college built of brick, Keble. This loathing extended even to one friend, who should have been proud of her membership of such an institution, but was embarrassed by the brick of the Great Gate (1530) of Trinity College, Cambridge.

These ideas combine in this video from Oxford Today about the architecture of Keble College. Keble, you see, was made of brick and for reasons I never understood, it was a standing joke. There is a story that a French visitor remarked "C'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas la gare,"* thinking perhaps of St Pancras Railway Station.

It was John Keble who, on 14th July 1833, had preached the sermon which, so far as Newman was concerned, kicked off the Oxford Movement (last paragraph). And it was thanks to the Oxford Movement that all these Anglicans were saying (39 Articles notwithstanding) "but we are Catholic."

(Look, I know what the Anglican claims are. The current project means I have to make myself intimately acquainted with them. But you have to understand it from the point of view of a young man fresh out of Shack. The idea was not so much blasphemous as hilarious. It was as though the graduate student, Fritz Helmutkohlenberger, had announced at breakfast "but we are Englisch, ja!")

Note the quotation from the College's architect William Butterfield at 1:20, and the presenter's gloss on it. "Not the Roman Catholic Church, but a Catholic Church that they believed the Church of England to have been part of – to still be part of – but the Catholic Church which had lost something at the Reformation." Hmmm, yes.

Keble was also the location of a famous graffito "Hands off Vietnam" still clearly visible, more than twenty years after the Fall of Saigon, when I was up. It seems to have faded almost to invisibility since then.

*h/t Ceridwen.

A cornucopia for copy and paste

My current project requires the transcription of large slabs of text, specifically Magisterial documents of the Catholic Church. I recently discovered a French website, which has the 1917 Code of Canon Law in Latin and French as well as the 1996 edition of Denzinger's Dogma. So I was able to save myself typing out DS 1247-1279 (the questions to be posed to those accused of the Hussite or Wycliffite heresies, decreed by the Council Of Constance 22nd February 1418). Also gives the older paragraph numbers of Denzinger right next to the current number. This is useful for using pre-1963 works of theology. From the home page you navigate to the French versions but there is a little button ("Latin" hand written with a mouse it looks like) to switch to the original. It does not provide the Greek texts of the early councils. Also it only provides French texts of the Fathers. Clicking on the pair of blue semi-circular arrows (looks like a refresh button) within a given text takes you to citations of the passage which you are reading. As they say on the home page:

Un système UNIQUE AU MONDE, issu de la technologie exclusive du logiciel Ictus, permet de savoir immédiatement où un document est cité. Ainsi, vous découvrirez comment les Pères de l'Église commentent un passage des Saintes Écritures, ou bien comment un texte du Magistère (concile, encyclique) est utilisé par un autre document. … Grâce à Internet et aux techniques les plus modernes appliquées à ce trésor de textes, ayez l'érudition d'un vrai moine!

Quite so.

Meanwhile I am agog at developments on Newman Reader. Although they have adopted a rather odd looking font (looks like Papyrus) for the front page we can forgive all that because they have put PDF scans of all 32 volumes of Newman's Letters and Diaries (it would cost thousands to assemble a collection of printed copies) as well as of modern collections of Newman's miscellaneous papers. They seem to have done an OCR job on it so the text is searchable, at any rate it is as searchable as something on Google books (presumably Google did the work, since "snippet view" and "preview" versions of L&D are available on Google books). I cannot find Newman's preface to Hutton's Anglican Ministry, but I just gave you that. Nor is there the full version of his ejaculation in favour of the Papacy beginning "Deeply do I feel…"

Last, but not least, (via Chant Café) the complete four volume Missale Romanum cum lectionibus is now online.  Each volume is split into four files. They take an age to download. They have been gone through a first run with optical character recognition so you can copy and paste up to a point. It is not very accurate however. But it is better than nothing. Much better.

The political catwalk

Ed Milband, the leader of the British Labour Party, recently got into a tizzy (rather in the manner of a certain on-again, off-again Australian Prime Minister on the subject of misogyny) because the Daily Mail pointed out his father was a Marxist. (By the way, has anyone else noticed the resemblance between Miliband fils and the Cbeebies star Mister Maker?)

Further or Alternatively reveals a further development. Not only was Ralph Miliband a Communist, but he was also a cat killer. In Australia we like to recruit the slayers of moggies for high political office themselves, not just their sons. Malcolm Turnbull sued and won when that story was first published. Ed Miliband seems to take it in better part: