Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday 31 March 2014

Nine years peace and full communion

Nine years ago today I was received into full peace and communion with the Catholic Church in the Oxford Oratory. As is my habit on this significant personal anniversary I am re-posting my reasons for that decision and also some of my reflections on the subsequent years. I do not think I have anything to add to what I wrote last year, so to read something of my spiritual history - or to re-read it if you have done so before - follow the link to the post from twelve months ago Eight years in peace and full communion.

Saturday 29 March 2014

Victims of the Battle of Towton

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Towton in 1461, fought in a snow storm on Palm Sunday and reputedly the bloodiest battle fought in English history. I have posted about it previously in Palm Sunday Field 1461Towton links, The Battle of Towton - 550th anniversary and Towton - remembering the dead. I have a longstanding interest in the battle which was fought in my home area.

In recent years there have been several books about the battle, but so far I have not managed to read them. However one I would draw attention to is based on the detailed archaeological examination of skeletons of soldiers who died in the fighting and which were discovered in a mass burial at Towton in 1996.


Blood Red Roses is published by Oxbow Books, who are based very close to where I live in Oxford. the book is now in a second edition and is established as an exemplary case study of such battlefield archaeology.

In the years before I came to Oxford I used to organise a Requiem for the fallen of Towton in Saxton church, where many are buried in the churchyard, and in whose parish the battle sites lie. I always try to remember them in my prayers on this day and invite others of you as readers of this blog to do as well.

Friday 28 March 2014

Fr Longenecker on the Ordinariates

I saw on the Zenit website an interesting and forceful piece by Fr Dwight Longenecker about the place of the Anglican Ordinariates in the contect both of the ARCIC discussions and of the future of Ecumenical schemes. He sees the Ordinariates as a rather surprising fruit of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, and as offering real hope for drawing people into the Catholic Church. His article, which is trenchent and not afraid of being blunt about both communions,  can be read at A-new-ecumenism.


Wednesday 26 March 2014

What will Dame Edna say?

I saw in the Times today that Tony Abbott, the staunchly monarchist Prime Minister of Australia, has announced the reintroduction of the classes of Knight or Dame of the Order of Australia. These classes, added a year after its first foundation, were removed from the Order's ranks in 1986. The first appointments are those of the outgoing Governor General, Quentin Bryce, as a Dame, and of General Peter Cosgrove, her successor in office, as a Knight. The Governor General will act as senior Knight or Dame ex officio, as well as being Chancellor of the Order, and up to four appointments will be made each year. There is a further report, with more background and comment than the Times article, from the Guardian which can be read here.

There is an online account of the Order, first established in 1975, its structure and insignia, here. The statutes and history of the Order can be seen at Order of Australia, and the Australian Government website about the Order is here

Companion of the Order of Australia - front 

Companion of the Order of Australia
The design of the Companion of the Order of Australia is a badge with a gold insignia of the Order in the centre.
The central insignia is circled with blue enamel edged in gold with citrines and is inscribed with the word ‘Australia’ in gold capital letters. The circle also contains two gold sprigs of mimosa.
The insignia is ensigned with the Crown of St Edward in full colour.
The medal is hung from the ribbon of the Order. It is royal blue with a central band of mimosa blossoms.


The other classes of the Order - Officer and Member, and the Medal  - are similar in design.

This insignia will now be rejoined by that of Knights and Dames as appointed between 1976 and 1986:

Knight: Badge

Dame: Badge

Insignia of a Knight and of a Dame of the Order

Knight or Dame: Star

Star of the Order


Personally I think this is an excellent move, re-establishing a category to honour the most distinguished Australians in an appropriate and dignified way. Which brings me back to the title of this post - was Dame Edna self-promoted to an Imperial or an Australian honour?

Royal Consent

I see in today's Daily Telegraph that the Political and Constitional Reform committee of MP's have questioned the principle of the Royal consent to the introduction of prospective legislation which affects the Royal Prerogative or the rights of the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall. The report can be read here. There is an article commenting about the issue by Allan Massie, which can be read here.

Massie's article is basically sound, if a bit Whiggish for my taste or opinion. I would be very wary indeed of allowing restriction on such an exercise of the Royal Preogative as might possibly ensue from this report. Firstly it is a power already exercised in tune with Ministerial advice, and secondly it also respects the point that the Monarch and the Prince of Wales have legal rights - unique legal rights - that need to be safeguarded in an age of rapid and far reaching legislation. Despite what some writers in, or readers of, the Guardian or Independent might affect to believe, the system is n't bust, so don't mend it...  


G.K.Chesterton exhibition at the Oxford Oratory - this Sunday

The library at the Oxford Oratory holds a collection of memorabilia of G.K. Chesterton and these include personal possessions, including his hat, walking sticks, typewriter and chair as well as books and manuscript material.

This Sunday there is a rare opportunity to view some of this important collection:

The G.K.Chesterton Library at the Oxford Oratory

An Exhibition
Of Books, Drawings, Manuscripts and Assorted Articles


The Oxford Oratory Library
Sunday March 30th
12.00 to 13.00 and 14.30 to1700

Image:Oxford Oratory website

Usus Antiquior Mass for the Annunciation at the Oxford Oratory

Yesterday evening the 6pm Mass for the Annunciation at the Oxford Oratory was a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form. This has been established as the practice on this particular feast day at the Oratory in recent years. 

The congregation was a good one in numerical terms - not just those who particularly favour the Usus antiquior, but many others drawn from the regular congregation, and considerably more than would usually be present for either the usual 6pm Mass or a celebration in the EF at 12.15 on a feast day. 

This must be a good sign that people are once more getting used to the Extraordinary Form, and the argument that it "puts people off", if it ever had any validity, is shown to be more than ever invalid or a piece of special pleading.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

New website for St Mary Magdalen Brighton

The excellent Fr Blake in Brighton and his parishioners have launched their new website for their parish as can be seen in Fr Ray's recent post St Mary Magdalen's New Website.

I have always enjoyed my visits to the church and the welcome one receives there from priest and congregation. I also appreciate the range of things it does and offers - it is a church well worth going to find it if you are visiting Brighton, or indeed, a good reason in itself for going to Brighton.


St Leo the Great on the Incarnation

The Office of Readings for today's Solemnity of the Annunciation has a splendid passage from one of my favourite Patristic writers, St Leo the Great, who was Pope in the years 440-461. It comes from one of his letters, and combines clear and profound thought with great elegance of expression. In its reflection upon God taking Flesh it is not just immediately applicable to today's feast but to the seasons of Advent and Christmas and indeed to any point in the Christian year.

This is the online Universalis translation, which is slightly different from that version printed in the Divine Office.

The mystery of man's reconciliation with God
Lowliness is assured by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that was incapable of suffering was joined to one that could suffer. Thus, in keeping with the healing that we needed, one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.
He who is true God was therefore born in the complete and perfect nature of a true man, whole in his own nature, whole in ours. By our nature we mean what the Creator had fashioned in us from the beginning, and took to himself in order to restore it.
For in the Saviour there was no trace of what the deceiver introduced and man, being misled, allowed to enter. It does not follow that because he submitted to sharing in our human weakness he therefore shared in our sins.
He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.
Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.
He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.
He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the pre-eminence of God coexist in mutual relationship.
As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted. Each nature exercises its own activity, in communion with the other. The Word does what is proper to the Word, the flesh fulfils what is proper to the flesh.
One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries. As the Word does not lose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race.
One and the same person – this must be said over and over again – is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man. He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is man in virtue of the fact that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

The Virgin Annunciate at Howden

Today is the feast of the Annunciation and a good day on which to post a picture of a fourteenth century statue which survives in one of my favourite medeival churches, the little known but marvellous minster at Howden in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The statue is of the Virgin Annunciate, and Our Lady is shown holding the Dove of the Holy Spirit, which speaks into her ear. A rare and delightful representation.

The Virgin Annunciate at Howden


The photograph is not as clear as I would like, but the only other one I could find online had a reproduction fee.

Howden Minster has an Anglo-Catholic tradition, hence the modern damask hanging behind the statue.  

To whet your appetite for a visit to this great church the local council's tourist website about the Minster can be read here, and here is another view of the building. 

Howden - External View

Howden Minster from the east - the choir has been a ruin since 1696

Image: cornishchurches.com 


Monday 24 March 2014

Out and about in Buckinghamshire

Last Saturday the Clever Boy had a day out visiting Buckinghamshire - not a county he knows well - when he went to visit friends who have recently moved with their baby son to live in the Chilterns.

I travelled to Aylesbury by bus, passing on the way the ruined structure of Dinton Castle, a folly built by Sir John Vanhatten in 1769 as an eyecatcher from his home, Dinton Hall.He used it to display his collection of geological specimens and subsequently it is said to have been used by a local Nonconformst congregation for their meetings. It stands on what was a Saxon cemetary and local legend has it that it is haunted by the ghost of John Mayne, who live locally and was the reputed executioner of King Charles I.

Dinton Castle


In November 2012 it was bought for £56,000 by a local businessman who plans to restore it as a weekend retreat

Aylesbury struck me as being one of those old English towns like Doncaster and Chelmsford which with relatively modern expansion in the last 150 or so years plus recent redevelopment schemes have lost much of their former charm and offer little to catch the visitor's eye. However I met up with my host and we set off to his home, with a quick detour to look at Drayton Beauchamp church.

File:St. Mary the Virgin, Drayton Beauchamp - geograph.org.uk - 87564.jpg

DraytonBeauchamp Church


St Mary's is a fine late Perpendicular church, and apparently contains some good glass and a splendid eighteenth century tomb. There is a fine set of photographs of the church both inside and outside and of the furnishings on this Flickriver site which can be seen here. However it was locked, so we had to content ourselves with looking at the outside with its chequerboard masonry. The church's most famous incumbant was Richard Hooker, author of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, who was appointed to the parish in 1584. 

We travelled on through classic Chiltern valleys and hills, past a rather charming pumping station erected by the Rothschilds to serve their various houses in the area, to my friend's new home.

After catching up on our news and activities and eating lunch we walked up to the church of St Lawrence at Cholesbury. This small medieval church was rather heavily restored in 1872 by a Vicar who held the parish for 59 years - those were the days - and who early in his time as incumbant in 1832 had to face that fact that his poor parish was made bankrupt by the Poor Law. The few relatively wealthy parishioners could not afford the rates; partly as a result of his drawing attention to the case in 1834 the law was changed to set up parish unions for the Poor Law.

Cholesbury Church

Image; pete's-walks.co.uk

In the bell turret is a bell dated to 1620 with the inscription COM AND PRAY - which looks like an intersting bit of word play.

The church is situated just inside the banks and ditches of a late Iron age hillfort dating from 500 BC onwards, and thought to have been used mainly as a refuge in time of danger.

The ditch around Cholesbury Camp

Image: themodernantiquarian.com

On the journey back to get my bus to Oxford my friend drove us to Hartwell. Hartwell House, of which there is an online account here, is now an exclusive hotel run by the National Trust, and not visible from the entrance - casual visitors are rather clearly not welcome. From 1808 until 1814 it was the home of King Louis XVIII of France, his family and his court in exile. It was at Hartwell that his Queen Marie-Josephine died in 1810, and where he accepted the invitation to return to France as monarch in April 1814. There is a more detailed history of the house and its occupants from the National Trust Hotels website here.

Hartwell House
The statue is of Frederick Prince of Wales and was moved to this site in reent years


On the edge of the grounds of the House is the church of the Assumption of Our Lady - an interesting survival as a dedicatioon in itself. The medieval church was rebuilt in 1754-6 by the architect Henry Keene for Sir William Lee, the owner of Hartwell, in the Gothick style. I imagine the design was such as to make it an eye-catcher in the grounds of the estate. The octagonal plan is said to derive from the Chapter House of York Minster as, I suspect, do the two towers, one as the west end, the other over the chancel. The church had a black and white marble pavement and fan vaulting, but shortly after the second World war the lead was stolen from the roof and it fell into disrepair, and was declared redundant in 1973. It is a rather sad story of neglect - the shell may have survived but the interior largely gone and the building not accessible. This photograph shows what we could see from the path along the edge of the estate.

Hartwell Church


There is a picture of what remains of the interior and more details on the Churches Conservation Trust website here. There are pictures of the House, the Church and the grounds on aset by Mick Baker on Flickr which can be seen here

Just outside the perimeter of the estate is the Egyptian Spring, built in 1850 by the Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi the Younger. It is an alcove seat on the western side of Lower Hartwell opposite a small spring. Aa curious folly to find by the roadside:

The stone pylon bears the Greek inscription ΑΡΙΣΤοΝ ΜΕΝ ΥΔΩΡ, translated as "Water is Best", attributed to Thales.

John Lee, the then owner of Hartwell, was a teetotaller


From Hartwell we went on to look at Nether Winchendon. Here there are some fine timber-framed buildings, suggesting the woodland economy of past centuries in the area. The church of St Nicholas has a typical Buckinghamshire style stubby tower with a stair turret, and the interior is full of box pews dating from about 1815, including that for the manor house which is painted and decorated with gothic carvings. The three-decker pulpit dates from 1613, there are some nice fragments of glass in the otherwise clear windows and several brasses, one on a miniature table tomb of a lord of the manor from the Bernard family who died in 1935.

Nether Winchendon Church

Image: pete's-walks.co.uk

We passed the site of the medieval Augustinian Notley Abbey and passed through Long Crendon, over the county boundary and back into Oxfordshire at Thame. The great similarity of the church towers and apparently other features in both these places is, I think, worth noting. This clearly suggests the same master mason and evidence of local schools of design. I am rather inclined to think this is a topic which has not been sufficiently explored by historians of medieval church building.


Long Crendon Church

Image:Phil Draper Church Crawler on Flickr

Thame Church


In Thame - an attractive market town which once formed part of the estates of the Bishops of Lincoln (so Bishop Fleming was with me again) - I bade farewell to my friend and got the bus back to Oxford. A thoroughly enjoyable day out with good friends and conversation, and also plenty of history and architecture to enjoy.


More on the new Archbishop of Liverpool

Following on from what I posted in New Archbishop of Liverpool I see that the online Catholic news agency Zenit has a post about the translation of Bishop McMahon to the Archdiocese of Liverpool which can be viewed here.

In addition there is also from Fr Tim Finigan this post Greg Murphy interviews Bishop McMahon on usus antiquior in which the Bishop talks positively about his attitude to celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Saturday 22 March 2014

The beheading of Thomas of Lancaster in 1322

I have posted before on this anniversary day of his death by beheading at Pontefract in 1322 about Thomas  Earl of Lancaster - or as some came to regard him, St Thomas of Pontefract - and these previous posts can be seen at St Thomas of Pontefract from 2011, and there are three posts from 2012, St Thomas of Pontefract at South NewingtonSt Thomas of Pontefract in the British Museum and St Thomas of Pontefract in the Sellers Hours.

This year I have found another nearly contemporary depiction of his death. It is from Villani's Cronica Nuova and must date from only a generation or so after the event. As such it indicates interest in English political events in Florence at the time - but the downfall of Earl Thomas would have been a major news story given his prominence in English life and his family connections to both the English and French royal houses.

Unfortunately the photograph is in black and white rather than colour. The miniature is in no way, both in its Florentine provenence and its detail, an eye- witness record. King Edward II can be seen observing the execution of his cousin from within Pontefract castle - in reality the execution took place almost a mile away on what became known as St Thomas' Hill and became a place of pilgrimage as the cult of St Thomas of Pontefract developed in the following years. Nonetheless this is an interesting depiction of an event that clearly attracted wide attention in what happened to become my home town.

File:Eduard II mort Tomas Lancaster.jpg

Image: Wikimedia

Friday 21 March 2014

New Archbishop of Liverpool

I have just read this post from Fr Tim Finigan about the appointment of the Bishop of Nottingham as the new Archbishop of Liverpool: Congratulations to Bishop McMahon.

Bishop McMahon presides at Solemn Vespers in Merton Chapel in 2007

Image: blogs.telegraph.co.uk

I have not actually met Bishop Malcolm, but I have attended EF Masses he has celebrated at St James Spanish Place and at St Etheldreda's Holborn in London and was at the Merton conference to which Fr Tim refers in his post with its Solemn Pontifical Vespers at which he presided. This appointment should be seen as reassuring to those interested in traditional liturgical practice in the life of the Church. 

I know the Bishiop's name was one that was suggested by some commentators as a possible candidate for Westmisnter at the last vacancy, but that proved not to be the case. Given his known concern for matters of social policy Liverpool may well be the ideal place for him to serve as diocesan and metropolitan.

Metropolitan Kallistos on the Catholic - Orthodox dialogue

Last Tuesday evening I attended another of the public meetings organised by the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius and held at Pusey House to hear Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia deliver the Nicholas Zhernov Memorial Lecture about the continuing Catholic - Orthodox dialogue under the title "Orthodox and Catholic Relations: Then and Now." There is a biography of the Metropolitan here, and a bibliography of his numerous writings here.

Metropolitan Kallistos

Image: penandpalette.blogspot

I have heard the Metropolitan speak previously and he is always exceptionally good value as a speaker. He is has been a member of the joint commission since 2007 and is also Co-Chairman of the Anglican-Orthodox commission.

Just over fifty years ago, on January 5th 1964, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem, the first such meeting since the Council of Florence in 1438-9.

The meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI in 1964

At that time there was great optimism as to the possibilities for ecumenism. On December 7th 1965 there was by Pope and Patriarch a mutual revocation of the anathemas issued by their predecessors in  1054  - a striking symbolic gesture.

This year  from  May 24th-26th Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew will mark the anniversary by meeting in Jerusalem. What will follow in term sof the official dialogue which has been pursued since 1980 is not yet clear

At the Council of Florence in 1438-9 ten months was spent on the discussion of the Procession of the Holy Spirit and the  Filioque, and four months on Purgatory and the cult of saints, but only ten days on the issue of Papal Primacy at the very end before the issue of the decree of Union Laetentur caeli.There is an introduction the the Council of Florence here.

The Council of Florence
Emperor John VIII and the Ecumenical Patriarch Joseph II face Pope Eugenius IV, with delegates of East and West sitting between them

In the 21st century there are different perspectives, and the crucial point of discussion is the Papal position in the Church - as Patriarch Bartholomew has said the two communions have a different ecclesiology

The dialogue since 1980 did not look at the Papal role first - it would not have been fruitful to do so. Instead there were three conferences producing papers on Christ, the Eucharist and Ministry. There has also been discussion of the place of the Eastern rite Catholic Churches.

Only since after 2007 and the Ravenna agreement have discussions moved to look at the position of the Pope. The largest Orthodox Church, that of Russa was not present at Ravenna, and that has had significant consequences. The Ravenna statement recognises three levels of primacy:
1. The local level - that of the diocesan bishop
2. Regional patriachates, metropolitans etc
3. Universal primacy of the Pope

In the Catholic tradition it is possible to view the Pope as bishop of his diocese, as a patriarchal, and as having a Universal primacy that is a mark of unity

For the Orthodox there is no problem in him being Bishop of Rome, or in possessing a regional primacy as head of the Church in the West. There are however difficulties at a Universal level.

However the fact of Primacy was accepted by both East and West, but there was not discussion of  what that actually involves, of what is the power vested in the Pope. In the past the Orthodox denied any Papal primacy, whilst accepting him as bishop and patriarch only, and indeed that the Pope is the most senior patriarch.

The Ravenna accord moved the discussion forward, and saw recognition of the fact that the Pope was different, but the absence of the Russian Church meant this was a lessthan complete acceptance.

The next question to be answered was: What was the position within the Church of the Pope in first millenium?

In  Ut Unum sint Pope John Paul II recognised that the Papacy could claim no more than what had been established as apapal power  before 1054, but also that it could claim no less.

There have been two meetings on what was the view in the first millenium at Paphos in 2009 and in Vienna in 2010. Much of the discussion was tortuous and it was not clear what could be established. The leading Orthodox theologian, Metropolitan John, expressed the view that the appeal to history would not resolve the problem - a point which worried Metropolitan Kallistos.

The discussion had moved forward on Synodality and Primacy, which is to be discussed further in September this year.

By this time a division had appeared in the Orthodox ranks, with the Moscow Patriarchate ranged  against the rest.

For the leading Orthodox theologian Metropolitan John - Primacy was of the essence of the Church, but for Metropolitan Hilarion of Russia Primacy is not of Divine origin, but is something which emerged in the practice of the churches.

Attention had been paid to Apostolic Canon 34, traditionally ascribed as agroup to the Apostles, but now dated to the late 4th century prescribes that bishop must recognise the Bishop who is first, and he, in turn, must consult with the others - there is mutuality in the relationship. Apostolic Canon 34 refers to regional primacy. The Ravenna agreement applies this to the Universal Primacy and the model stemming from Vatican II and the concept of collegiality. In contrast the Moscow Patriarchate says this only applies at the regional level. Similarly Moscow regects an analogy advanced by some of the Church to the relationships within the HolyTrinity.

Under the ideas being drafted the Pope would convoke an Ecumenical Council. This, hoewever, was not the case in the undivided early Church. All seven Councils recognised by both communions were called by the Emperor - unfortunately, as Metropolitan Kallistos said, there is currently no Emperor. No Popes attended any of these seven Councils. Today the Pope summons and presides as at Vatican I and II. Moscow says there is no precedent for this, but suggets no alternative. Most Orthodox are willing to give the Pope a specific role, but this is denied by the Russians. Mutual communion would be the measure of unity.

Why is this the Russian attituide.  Metropolitan Kallistos opined that there is a hidden agenda - the Russians  recognise the Ecumenical patriarchate in Constantinople, but are reluctant to give its occupant Primacy. When he describes himself as "First among equals " it is to use a term not liked by the Russians. As a consequence they are reluctant to concede to Rome  that which they deny Constantinople when it takes it to itself. This is not stated policy but Metropolitan Kallistos thinks it is the cause.

If the question is posed as to what do Orthodox seek in this quest for union Metropolitan Kallistos quoted a piece written in 1947 by Fr Lev. This envisaged a Primacy of " humility, service and love" not just one of honour, a unique pastoral mission. Metropolitan Kallistos would happily accept that.

What the Orthodox term freedom in the Holy Spirit for the Paraclete to speak to the individual conscience is comparable to the "Sensus fidelium" in the West. The Catholic and Apostolic tradition of seven accepted Ecumenical Councils links both traditions. The Chair of Peter conveys the unique position of Rome. However many Orthodox see all bishops as successors of Peter - as St.Cyprian said in the 3rd century. Most Orthodox would, he believed, accept the unique role of the Pope. The concept of "the care of all the churches" articulated by Popes Siriacus and Innocent I, that is not a newly invented jurisdiction but concern for the total Church and it would be for the Pope to take the initiative if unity was in danger. Another phrase of importance was the Papal title of "Servus servorum Dei" first used by Pope Gregory I.

This left the question as to whether such would this do for Catholics?

Patriarch Athenagoras in 1968 spoke of unity as a necessity, as our destiny, and also that unity will be a miracle, but a miracle in history. Unity will be a gift from God, and so we should ask for it. This was the Metropolitan's conclusion.

In answer to a short series of questions he said that PopeBenedict XVI's dropping of the use of the title  Patriarch of the West, which was said to be in consequence of ambiguity as to its meaning led him to ask why it was not better to clarify rather than discard it ; the Orthodox had no problem with it, and see the Western Patriarch as historically possessing more poewer than the Eastern ones. He would like to see the title taken back into use.

During Vatican II Pope Paul VI had developed the concept of collegiality, but with Humane Vitae in 1968 appeared to go against that principle. Under both Pope John Paul II and PopeBenedict XVI there seemed little of collegiality in the Roman structures. The question is what will Pope Francis do?

The role of Roman Curia, which has taken on a life of its own would need to be examined,  and also the appointment of bishops in the 19th century most were appointed by monarchs under concordat sor other than by the Popes; only in the 1917 Code of canon law was this reserved to the Holy See.

This was fascinating and insightful lecture, which, as with the one last week on Anglican- Oriental Orthodox dialogue, spoke in centuries and millenia rather than merely decades. One was aware one was watching a stage in great historical process. What its outcome will be is far from clear. I think people will be watching for many many years to come...

Thursday 20 March 2014

Fr Blake on Fr Byrne's appointment

There are further comments on the blogosphere about Fr Robert Byrne's appointment to the episcopate - in this case from Fr Blake in Brighton. His post can be read at Congratulations to Bishop Robert Byrne.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Damian Thompson on Fr Byrne's appointment as a bishop

Further to my post The new Bishop of Cuncacestre about the appointment of the new auxiliary bishop for the diocese of Birmingham the other day, and in case readers have not seen it, or are not regular readers of his Telegraph blog, here is the link to Damian Thompson's recent post about Fr Robert Byrne's impending elevation to the episcopate: A miracle! Oxford Oratorian who celebrates the Old Mass is to be made a bishop.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

The deaths of Jacques de Molay and Geoffrey de Charnay in 1314

This evening is the 700th anniversary of the burning at the stake of Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Order of the Temple, and Geoffrey de Charnay, the Master of the Order in Normandy in Paris. There is an online life of the Grand Master here, and there is one of Geoffrey de Charnay here. The Charnay family in later generations had custody of the Shroud of Turin as set out in Ian Wilson's book The Holy Shroud, which links its transmission to the west to the Templars.

There is an illustrated online blog post today on the Daily Telegraph website by Dominic Selwood about the events in the years 1307-1314 that occurred leading to the suppression of the Order of the Temple and the deaths of Molay and Charnay. It can be viewed here.

Malcolm Barber has written what is, I suppose, now the standard book on the topic in The Trial of the Templars.  The executions of 1314 also appear in the first part of Maurice Druon's splendid series of novels The Accursed Kings - the first of these The Iron King begins with the burnings of the Templars and ends with the death of the King in November that same year, and covers the intervening crises which in Druon's interpretaion led to the Hundred Year War. A really splendid series of novels and wonderful televison in the original 1973-4 version - but do ignore the remake!

These days I tend to ignore anything about the Knights Templar that is not solid history like the work of historians like Barber, or clear dramatic recounting of specific events such as in Druon's books. Whatever the Templars did do - and they did much that was certainly good - or did not do - the allegations against them appear to be a mixture of some truth, falsehood, misunderstanding and very serious political manipulation - they do not deserve their continuing current fate of attracting so many loopy theories and associations.

The downfall of the Templars is a far from edifying episode - and really is so for all concerned. The Papacy was weak and vacillating, the French Crown cynical and mercenary, the Templars had perhaps lost something of their origibal vision as well as purpose - possible or actual abuses by a few of them could be made to besmirch the whole Order, which seems a rather contemporary point.  

Fr Hunwicke's reflections upon Archbishop Lefebvre

On his Mutual Enrichment blog my friend Fr Hunwicke has been posting his reflections upon key passages in Archbishop Lefebvre's book They have Uncrowned Him following on from his reading of the Archbishop's reasons for his rejection of so much of what the Second Vatican Council did, or what was done in its name in subsequent years.

His first four posts can be read at "They have uncrowned Him" (1) which is an introduction,"They have uncrowned Him" (2) False Religions?. which is also rather general in its concerns, "They have uncrowned Him" (3) which begins a more detailed approach to the issues of freedom of religion, and
"They have uncrowned Him" (4) which considers further aspects of this question. The most recent is on the key question for many SSPX members and sympathizers, the interpretation and indeed purpose of Dignitatis humanae, and it can be read at "They have uncrowned Him" (5).

In these pieces Fr Hunwicke is not going Lefebvrist and neither is he attacking the Archbishop. What he is seeking to do is understand what Archbishop Marcel said - and why he said it - and seeking to show that there is perhaps more common ground with others than is often thought, or that the Conciliar statements allow of a breadth of interpretation that can be seen as enabling co-existence in communion. As always, a useful and helpful series from Fr John.

Our Lady of Montserrat

At the back of the church at the Oxford Oratory is a box in which discarded books, magazines and objects of devotion can be recycled to other members of the congregation who might have use for them. Yesterday morning I found a slightly damaged and dusty but otherwise attractive painted plaster copy of the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat sitting in the box and thought I would offer it a home. I already have a small metal version of the statue which I found in the local fleamarket some years ago but thought this new one could also come home with me.

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Our Lady of Montserrat


The original statue, one of the patrons of Catalonia, is one of the most famous Black Madonnas. It is preserved as acentre of devotion in the great Benedictine monastery at Montserrat near Barcelona. Legends claim that it was carved in the ealry years of the Church in Jerusalem, or that it was found in 718 and moved to Montserrat to safeguard it during the Moorish invasion of Spain. Contemporary scholarly opinion suggests it is late twelfth century, and indeed that originally it was not black - candle smoke and later layers of paint have given the figures a dark hue they did not have originally. Popularly it is known as La Moreneta - the little black one - by the Catalans.

There are online articles about the statue at Virgin of Montserrat which gives a general account, at Our Lady of Monserrat which gives more detail of the history and traditions, and from a site concerned with the tradition of black statues of the Virgin from the University of Dayton at Black Madonnas--Our Lady of Montserrat. A report from 2001 that it has been shown originally not to have been black can be seen at Montserrat Black Virgin 'was white originally'


The original statue in its setting at Montserrat

Image: Wikipedia
May Our Lady of Montserrat continue to pray for the people of Catalonia, and also for me.