Tuesday, September 30, 2014


If charm "kills love," then bitterness incapacitates it. I have two complimentary friends in my life with old world backgrounds: one is quite bitter and the other is not. One's father lost everything when his wealthy pro-Chiang family's assets were confiscated by the Communists and he was sent to a re-education camp, only to escape to Hong Kong while swimming shark-infested waters, planes firing overhead. The other comes from Armenia, a country crucified between the two thieves of Russia and Turkey. Her family suffered at the hands of the remnant of the Red Army and she endured dignities given to her by the Russian mafia. The former is quite bitter, even irrationally so, while the other remains quite chipper and indifferent to her past problems. What causes the disparate attitudes?

I cannot say why one suppresses reason for anger, while the other remains genuinely elated most of the day, rarely bothered even when her childhood issues do resurface. Bitterness has a way of weighing down the mind and soul coterminously, suppressing both perspective and insight. Modern man seems unable to balance the mind with emotions, but bitterness is an especially dangerous emotion because it is a drug. Bitterness begins in small doses, at first providing some excitement in the otherwise mundane plane of white collar human activity. Then it becomes part of daily life. At some point one no longer gets a "high" from bitterness, but one cannot imagine living without it, either. No, a bitter person is not bitter for the entirety of the day, but he or she will keep one bitter matter in a readily accessible desk drawing, waiting to pull it out at just the right trigger. 

Bitterness is the opposite of happiness in more ways than one. We Catholics should not be afraid of emotions simply because Evangelical protestants and modern secularists abuse their place. Emotions are an essential part of mental health and many aspects of our faith—formed in an active, rational mind—express themselves in emotion. Solemn high Mass appeals to the senses and emotions more immediately than to the brain, which is slow to digest what the ears and eyes themselves can barely grasp. While one can be bitter about something for a lifetime, one is only happy for a fleeting moment. I am happy when the priest begins Christos anesti ek nekron.... on Pascha. I am happy when I see a friend for the first time in a long while. The liturgy even commands us to be happy on occasion, such as the hymn for Ss. Peter & Paul, O felix Roma! Happiness is a momentary elation after a protracted expectation. On the contrary, bitterness easily dismantles happiness and sinks it to the bottom of the heart. 15,000 Irishmen spent three years building the Titanic; one giant block of ice spent three hours sinking it.

The power of emotions varies considerably from person to person, but our minds and hearts must be well formed in the faith, lest we too allow the down points of life to downtrod our impulses and our rationality. I imagine a few recusant Catholics were quite bitter during the Elizabethan days in England. One priest I know still is. When visiting Salisbury cathedral, I too found the temptation to dwell on the appropriation of these once Catholic temples for their current uses, but thought better of it and joked to myself, "They take our churches and then they charge us money to tour them!"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Top-Down Solution

A reader privately wrote to me generally in agreement with End of Illusions, but he also asked why the top-down solution, with a restoration accomplished through a proactive pope, was out of the question. The top-down solution is not so much impossible as much as it is improbable.

When one thinks of great reforming popes, the names Gregory and Pius come to mind. St. Gregory VII was not, contrary to common misconception, a monk. Hildebrand, as he was in those days, was a man of some influence in Rome during the dark years of "pornocracy" and his opposition to the wicked popes of his age earned him exile to France. In France he came under the tutelage and influence of Abbot Bruno of Cluny, where he lived for a year. He so impressed the abbot that when Bruno was, surprisingly elected to the Petrine chair, the now-Leo IX ordained Hildebrand to the diaconate and made him Archdeacon of the Church of Rome. Twenty years later, Hildebrand was elected pope himself, was consecrated bishop, vested with the red mantle, and began a sweeping series of reforms, expurgations, and re-orientations unrivaled until Trent. 

Michele Ghislieri was a Dominican friar, cardinal, and chief Inquisitor. As a prior of friaries during the decadent days of the Reformation, when clergy were living fat off the money of the faithful, he demanded a return to discipline. As bishop of Mondovi, he opposed Pope Pius IV's arrant nepotism and lost the privileges of his office. When the Church hit rock bottom, Paul III—the "petticoat pope" who rose in the Church through his relation to Alexander VI's younger strumpet—called the Council of Trent and began the process of genuine reform. Ghislieri was elected pope in 1566. As pope, he authorized universally usable editions of the Office and Mass. Above all, he began to implement the initiatives of the Tridentine Council, such as creation of seminaries and the permission for priests everywhere to preach. 

Two features were present in Hildebrand and Ghislieri's times that are not present in our own: an orthodox pro-reform faction in the Church and the probability of compliance from a large segment of the clergy.

Hildebrand was one of many in a series of reformers who came from the Cluniac system. Pope Benedict IX, a "demon from hell disguised as a priest," occupied the See of Peter three times. The first time, he rose at about age 18, his family having secured the Supreme Pontificate through politicking. He left the Apostolic See to pursue a woman's love. When she shunned him he, somehow, managed to depose Pope Sylvester III and re-assumed the pontificate. When the finances of the Church of Rome deteriorated, he looked for an escape and a profit. His pious uncle, Gratian, parish priest of St. John at the Latin Gate and a wealthy man on his own right, eagerly purchased the papacy from his despicable and odious nephew to get the little runt out of the City. A local synod headed by Emperor Henry III forced Gratian to resign his simoniac See and a German bishop succeeded him as Clement. Clement was poisoned and Benedict the Bum again resumed the papacy, storming the City with an army and taking the Lateran Cathedral by force! German troops deposed him and the new Pope Damasus excommunicated Benedict, who lived the rest of his life in penance at a monastery. Popes in the previous two centuries had been philanderers, murderers, or both (like Sergius III, who fathered a future pope through his mistress). The Latin Church generally accepted clerical celibacy as the norm, as is evident in the decrees of local synods. Celibacy was often disregarded and in places where is was out of practice or never practiced priests were leaving their progeny Church property for inheritance. Local princes "invested" bishops with authority, as though Church authority comes from the State and not from the Apostles, usurping the coherence of the Latin Church. The clergy were in disarray, the people of Rome were frustrated, the papacy was an embarrassment (probably a contribution factor to the Greek schism), and emperors were running amok with bishops. Yet, a surge in monasticism gave rise to a reformer agenda. Monasticism had prestige descending from Ss. Benedict and Gregory the Great, universally known monk-saints. Monks operated hubs of education and economic activity in whichever town where they were located. Monks, as celibates, were generally free of the problems of philandering clergy, too. The robust growth of Cluny forced the popes of the age to listen to the abbots and to give the Abbey special status, but Cluny's influence traveled beyond that. In the first millennium, most of the major basilicas of Rome had monasteries. St. Peter's had three. Cluny would have been the exemplar of monasticism for them to imitate, if not in model, then in ideas. Hildebrand was not the first Cluniac pope, nor the last. 

Ghislieri's accession came through the efforts of St. Charles Borromeo, leader of the pro-reform faction within the College of Cardinals. After Borgia's fetid scandals, the militarist papacy of Julius II, the indulgence debacle and sacking of Rome under two Medici popes, the rise of the Protestants with Germanic political protection, the sexual embarrassment of Julius III, and the unexpected death of Marcellus II, the Cardinals, even the worldly ones, were at least amenable to a reform. While the Cardinalate in during the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation was very much a place of status for Italian nobility, the Cardinals had the good sense to realize that their power and prestige depended on the practice and devotion of Catholic Europe. The question was no so much if there would be a reform so much as when. They were practical men who eventually listened to reason. St. Charles Borromeo was a tireless and vibrant reformer. His uncle, Pius IV, was so afraid of him that when his nephew visited unexpectedly while the Pope was luxuriating in a garden, he demanded his staff to get out books and maps and to appear busy! Reform was inevitable, albeit long overdue.

Both saintly popes' reforms also took longer to eventuate than the duration of their pontificates. Both papacies were points of great activity in the protracted effort for reform. The Council of Trent took a century to implement fully—although one could say that the Council, which asked for more people in the lower Orders, was not entirely implemented. Gregory's legal recognition of celibacy, his demand for a return of papal prestige, and his hostility towards secular influences on episcopal enthronement, far from bringing the Church triumph, sent the Pope into exile and accelerated his death. He did, however, provide sufficient impetus and momentum for reform for successive popes to follow. Both Ss. Gregory VII and Pius V lived in times needing reform and lived among large pro-reformation clerical factions willing to turn the popes' agendas into prolonged programs for the Church. Despite resistance from other bishops or princes, both popes had a high probability of eventual success. Neither of those factors are currently true.

We know that there are precious few cardinals who would dare speak of the need for a restorative reform, much less assemble others to their cause for fear of back lash. Benedict XVI tried to make his Continuity program permanent with Cardinals Scola and Bagnasco. It failed. 

Would any of these episcopal conferences be willing to preach openly about the Church's teachings on sexual and life issues? Would they remove priests who engaged in liturgical abuse to refused to do away with Communion in the hand or versus populum Masses? Unlike past times, a large clerical minority, at least at this stage, does not exist to give reform a foothold. Traditional Catholicism—Traddieland or followers of tradition—is primarily a lay movement. Lay people demanded the preservation of older liturgical usages, devotions, and prayers because they were the best ways of living Catholic lives. As a very small minority, those wanting, for example, the old liturgy to be restored cannot hostage Mass attendance or financial contributions to ambitious archbishops or cardinals. Even if those who want tradition were a sizable portion of the Church populace, how many bishops and cardinals would comply? What is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican? Not behavior, but outlook. Politicians behave the same regardless of party. Their affiliation stems from their understanding of which worldview will give them the most traction. Modern churchmen in Latin Christendom can see the Church only through the lens of the late 20th century. They truly believe what they offer is the only popular form of Catholicism and that their futures would be endangered should that model be discarded. Were a reform minded Pope to re-integrate ad orientem worship and threaten suspension upon any cleric unwilling to comply, how many bishops and priests would move their altars? Their bread is buttered by watered down American Catholicism or by secular-influenced European "Catholicism"—the sort of deviations and novelties that come out of Germany. They are protected by the self-selecting Vatican bureaucracy, which in turn would stonewall any major papal efforts for reform at this point. A reform would not only not occur during the hypothetical pontificate, it could not even take root. An ambitious reformer would have to fire most the Curia, replace most of the College of Cardinals, sack every major archbishop in the Latin Church, re-arrange most episcopal conferences, and prepare himself for a few major schisms, particularly in Europe and South America just to begin a program. 

"You vant Mass from ze
ozer side of ze
altar? Nicht!"
The "a future pope will fix it all" view was more tenable in the 1970s and 1980s when enough cardinals still haled from the "old days" and enough priests had a living memory of the old Mass. Even those with the fringe view that the Pauline Mass and ordinations are invalid, like sensationalist Malachi Martin, could still assume Paul VI and John Paul II could be succeeded by a "true pope" cut from the old cloth. Those days passed long ago. True reform and true restoration will have nothing to do with the good ol' days of the early to middle 20th century. For there to be a return to authentic Catholicism we must return to organic Catholicism. The setting for that is not, nor has it ever been, the halls of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. It is at Mass in one's own parish.

This will be my last post on modern Church politics for some time. The topic bothers me and our time would be better spent writing something inspiring about the writings of the saints, the liturgy, or the glorious history of the Church. Would anything else be as edifying?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

End of Illusions & New Beginnings

This is meant as something of a followup to our previous post on Neo-Calvinism in the Catholic Church

I missed the 1970s-2007 Traditionalist milieu. I have attended Mass in a FSSPX chapel once in my life, otherwise having gone entirely to diocesan "indult" and Summorum sponsored Masses, both in the old rite and 1962. I grew up in the Pauline Roman liturgy and found it utterly banal, unrepresentative of the powerful faith I was taught in elementary school and by the authors I read privately in high school. I did not grow up in Traddieland, nor did I know the "pre-Conciliar" Church aside from my father, who was born in 1941. Talk of "neo-Modernist Rome," "eternal Rome," the "true Mass," and Conciliar "errors" sail past me. I understand the objections and can lend my credulity to them in part, but the culture around them does nothing for me. Having never known Pius XII's Church nor the FSSPX, my integration into and practice of the faith was always more local than organizational.

The old guard of traditionalists were, as we will see in the upcoming series (still waiting for a book on Msgr. Gilbey before I can start it), not entirely comprised of FSSPX sympathizers and those of the old establishment, but that skeleton of the 19th and 20th century Ultramontane establishment did survive in the FSSPX. Many in those days seemed to think that at some point a good pope would finally be elected who would subdue the Modernists, consign the Pauline liturgy to the dust bin, condemn the world, and consecrate Russia to the Virgin of Fatima. That has not happened nor will it. This was an aspiration founded on the old pyramid framework of authority that Msgr. Lefebvre knew as a young man and which he inculcated into his seminarians (interestingly, Lefebvre also had enough French sensibility to ignore Rome at times). That outlook is either dying or dead.

Young people who involve themselves in older forms of the Roman liturgy never knew this milieu either and many do not seem terribly interested in carrying on the old Ultramontane framework, the late 20th century hopes for a restoration, or a return to the Prisoner in the Vatican outlook. This growing minority of traditionalists either grew up in older forms of liturgy or discovered it, all the while living in the modern Church. They are not ignorant of the problems of the episcopacy or the popes or the average parish, but having not know what things were like "in the old days", they are better equipped to remain level headed, to avoid excesses of emotion, and not put too much stock in a top-down restoration. They often know that the first place to begin any work is at the parish level, with Mass, the Office, traditional prayers, lectures, seminars (on something other than "John XXIII and Fatima" or "The Modernist Infiltration"), and by reaching out to other sympathetic groups. These people will not take over the Church, but, given their propensity for reproduction, they may well overtake the traditionalist movement and vocations both in traddie organizations and diocesan settings. It is in this capacity that they are best suited to influence the Church universal. Even a modicum of reasonable influence is two generations away, yet it is something. Then perhaps the conversation will be about teaching and passing on the faith and not about old memories of 1950. The end of old illusions may spell the beginning of new dreams.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Neo-Calvinism in the Catholic Church UPDATED

Surely you have noticed it. It entered some time in the wake of Cornelius Jansen, but was soon enough subdued by the baroque Vatican establishment. A few centuries later it insinuated the Church again, this time through Pope Paul's "fissure in the wall" of the "temple of God." What was the not great condescension, the reduction of the faith and the liturgy to a communitarian minimalism which obsessively compels all to be reduces to equal misery. It is Catholic neo-Calvinism and it is what has happened in the Church in the last few years.

When the liturgy began to change under the experimentation of the Liturgical Movement in the early 20th century and came to a head in the years after the Second Vatican Council, most Catholics understandably—but wrongly—assumed the impetus was an alignment with modern protestantism. FSSPX, independents, Michael Davies devotees, and sedevacantists will quickly adduce the old quote from Jean Guitton's radio interview in which he states Pope Paul's intention was to make the Catholic liturgy "almost coincide with the protestant liturgy." The more revealing line comes later, when Guitton specifies Papa Montini wanted to approximate the Roman rite with the "Calvinist Mass." 

The liturgical experience of the average Roman Catholic parishioner was reduced so that all might participate. The reformers assumed, in their pastoral concern, that only the absolute minimum would be suitable for congregational involvement and Pope Paul's Mass and Office reflect that concern precisely. The mere fact of a reform rather than a translation reveals the deeper concern: to participate fully, there must be reduction, trimming, and discarding of all that stands in the way of the few essentials. 

Reformers took the extant outline of the Mass (entrance, a confession of sins, the orations, readings, offertory, consecration, Communion, dismissal), concluded that "Word" and "Eucharist" are the only points of the Mass, and filled in between the lines with as few colors as possible. Reformers in previous eras like Rosmini had hoped for simplifications to make the Ordo more logical, like flipping the Last Gospel and dismissal. Jansenists, too, had hoped for reductions in the liturgy to aid communal involvement. The removal of side altars, many statues, the hope for only one Mass celebrated in a given church in a day (violation of many ancient practices), and a fascistic concern for what "the people" were doing all came after the private pietism of the Counter-Reformation, an understandable problem, but a problem none the less. This reduction and simplification can be quite expensive. One wonders how many hundreds of millions of dollars were spent smashing sanctuaries worldwide from the 1950s onward. How much money did St. Peter's Basilica spend on five dozen ugly polyester gothic chasubles in the 1970s, when the old vestments were sent to the basement?

Liturgical and pastoral reform did not succeed in re-invigorating the faithful. The coincidence of the Liturgical Movement with the ecumenical movement spelt disaster for the former. While the efforts of de-construction were doomed to fail, the new found friendliness to protestants and "the world" gave the ever decreasing number of faithful the impression that the Church was eliminating its beliefs and teachings, that she was adopting to the age and not taking her former self too seriously. 

Pope Paul may well have lived the rest of his life in regret for the irreparable damage that took place during his reign in the 1960s and for the part he played under Pius XII. What was banal under Paul became outright bad under John Paul II. Then came Benedict XVI and we thought we had a breath of fresh air. A new, vocal minority found interest in concepts like beauty and sacredness again. Msgr. Guido Marini made Papal Mass watchable on television again for the first time since 1964. With Benedict's favoritism towards Cardinal Scola, one had reason to assume tolerance for traditionalists would continue in the next pontificate. Then the College elected Pope Francis.

During the announcement, I mistook "Bergoglio" for "Bagnasco." "...sibi nomen imposuit Francescum" suppressed my short-lived elation and forebode a frustrating papacy. From the first Mass in the Sistine chapel until today, Pope Francis' liturgical [lack of] effort and administrative initiatives reflect a resurgence of the neo-Calvinism that swept the French Church during the Counter-Reformation and the Liturgical Movement in the 20th century. Jorge Bergoglio is the first pope since the fifth century not to celebrate some variation of the old Ordo Missae. He was ordained two weeks after the new Ordo superseded the modified 1965 Ordo. He was educated during the worst period in the history of the Society of Jesus. And among his predecessors, the one he most quotes is Paul VI. The current pontificate has become a parody of the worst of neo-Calvinism and the tragedy of Pope Hamlet.

The inevitable appointment of Msgr. Piero Marini to the Congregation for Divine Worship, the removal of Cardinals Burke and Llovera, the promotion of the Kasper doctrine, and the immunity of Cardinal Dolan in New York all converge into a strange neo-Calvinism, one far worse than the Jansenism of the 18th century. This reductionism removes all trappings, customs, images, and sounds of beauty and depth of the faith, again exposing the bear minimum. This time, the reduction is not part of a misguided pastoral attempt at getting the faithful to respond to Dominus vobiscum. This is a political attempt to remove anything in the Church bothersome to "the world" out there. It means the removal of laws, liturgical practices, vestments, discipline, and sensibility. We will be left with the Bible, the [ignored] Catechism, a reformed Missal, and a smile. We know what the Pope wants in the immediate run: Communion for those no longer living their proper marriages. It would not be wrong to ponder what he wants next, beyond this obstacle. What will be the next vestige of "self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianism" to be cast aside so as to show the world that we are not really that scary or serious after all?

Thus endeth the rant.

UPDATE: Our post has been picked up by genuine Calvinists: http://oldlife.org/2014/09/far-will-go-blame-kuyper/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=far-will-go-blame-kuyper

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sacred & Profane

The feast of St. Matthew, today in the Roman rite, always calls to mind memories of seeing Caravaggio's three paintings of the Evangelist in San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. The most famous of the three is the Calling of St. Matthew. The Inspiration of St. Matthew always stood out more to me, though. In it, an angel describes to the Saint what is to be contained in the Gospel, being to specific in the Lord's demands as to count them finger by finger. The painting brings to mind the eternal question of how God inspires the saints. Does He commune with them in direct words or in the shadows? The angels speaks to Matthew, but we are unsure Matthew is listening in an auditory sense. Indeed, only Caravaggio's tenebrous talents could cast doubt on whether or not an angel is acknowledged. Matthew's eyes are obscured in shadow and the direction of his pupils unclear. His facial expressions suggest attention, but not necessarily towards the angel. His legs are bent over a stool in an anxious posture, reflecting a pose common of impatient writers (Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, Ernest Hemingway, and Adrian Fortescue all wrote standing up, it may have been common during Caravaggio's time). The angel is speaking to Matthew without talking to him. The dramatic film moments such as the reception of the Decalogue in The Ten Commandments do not stand up to snuff in the Catholic tradition. God and the angels do speak vocally to men and women to direct them, but these recorded instances are generally the exception. Outside of revelation, God speaks and inspires men in more subtle ways, even to communicate the Gospel. This is a strong reflection of the Western tradition of art from the Renaissance onward.

Around the same time, 15th century and onward, the Byzantine tradition, under the influence of the Palamite and Hesychast resurgence, departed from the realism of the icon that existed in the first millennium and favored unrealistic icons with odd proportions that carried explicit symbolism. The Theophany icon is quite rich, quite mystical, and quite unambiguous. The two hills represent the Old and New Testaments, the Forerunner crouches before the Lord in his unworthiness, and the axe in the tree both recalls Christ's own words about reaping good fruit (Matthew Ch. 3) and the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Greek icon is ethereal and clear, while the Latin painting is real and subtle. Is one style sacred and the other profane?

The two traditions are in fact a reversal of previous trends. As mentioned, before the Hesychast rule of Constantinople during the Palaiologan disaster dynasty, the Greek mosaic and iconographic goal was to depict the mystery at hand as realistically as possible, a goal which continues in Russian iconography. St. Theodore the Studite wrote in his dialogue on icons that in the times before Christ, God could not be depicted because "no man has seen God at any time." The Incarnation changed that barrier. Good took material form and could be depicted according to that form. Many first millennium and medieval Greek icons were very realistic, given the artistic limitations of the time and the preference for two dimensional shape instead of statuary.

By contrast, the medieval West re-discovered statuary, but departed from the iconographic mosaics in favor of frescoes and reliefs that would underline the mystical and spiritual meanings of their depictions. In the above image from the western portal of Notre Dame de Paris reflects the Latin tendency. The figures are three dimensional, but do not "pop" out at the viewer. The statues have disproportionately large heads and semi-square features. Given the folds in Christ's robes and the detailing on the book in His arms, one cannot consign the proportions and boxed edges to artistic limitations. The sculptor wanted those entering the cathedral through the western doors, walking east, from the "world" toward the rising sun of Christ, to think about the spiritual meanings imbued in the imagery rather than the artistic details. 

Then came the re-discovery of Roman sculpture and the Renaissance preference for the most realistic depictions possible. The West embraced realism and the East embraced mysticism. The two artistic roles reversed. As the Greek liturgy became more narrative based and less mystical, art and icons became the center of mystery. In the West, centralization meant less popular involvement in the liturgy, rendering the Latin rite distant and celestial, something seen and untouched. The artist made God visually and pietistically accessible. Both traditions are sacred and neither are profane.

Can the same be said of plaster statues? I really rather dislike plaster statues and cheap printed icons. Yes, both are cheaper than the real thing, but would it not be better for a church to have two or three genuinely beautiful paintings or reliefs than two dozen statuettes of 17th century saints and 19th century apparitions? Genuine beauty is so rare today that to encounter it in a real setting rather than in a museum is to lift the secular scales off the eyes of the soul of the believer and immerse him into the divine. The common plaster statue of St. James the Babysitter "St. Joseph the twenty-five year old" tends towards the profane. 

Another danger with statues is their imposing dimension and magnetism for attention. Unless one has a church the size of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, a full sized statue will become the center of focus and become an object of amusement rather than of devotion. One of the few places statuary works is in Chiesa del Gesu, the Jesuit church in Rome. Most of the statues are inlaid into the walls or side altars, uniting them to the holy themes of those places and not allowing them to become objects of devotion in their own right. 

Regardless of whether or not it is good art, a religious image is sacred if it deflects our attention from earth to heaven. In this, the parish icon writer can rival Caravaggio.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Fetish: Cluniac Edition

Elsewhere on this blog we have posted reconstructions of Cluny III and the original St. Peter's basilica. Here is the best video reconstruction of Cluny III that the Rad Trad has yet seen. As a note of interest, the image of Christ enthroned in the apse is very reliable. The same image graced the apse of the original St. Peter's and was copied by the pro-papacy Cluniac monks, who in turn copied the image in the apse of the chapel of the abbot's still extant retreat house. Cluny III was once the largest church in the world, larger than either the old St. Peter's or St. Paul outside the Wall. At one point Cluny housed over four hundred monks, but their rapid expansion during the reform papacies of the middle ages and the proliferation of more penitential monastic orders trimmed Cluny's numbers. When the church was destroyed during the time of the French Revolution, there were under a hundred monks in this impressive church.

The church itself was an interesting example of architecture in transition from the ancient Roman style into the medieval style. We see nascent arches, too round to be gothic, but too bold and dark to be Roman. There is a divider between the nave and choir, anticipating the Rood screen and succeeding the altar ciboria of the Roman basilicas. There is the long, narrow choir, clearly indicative of the emerging choir praxis that survived until the 1960s and which replaced the almost Byzantine existing praxis wherein the non-celebrating district subdeacons and deacons and full-time cantors would sing the proper chants from lecturns in the Roman churches. And above all, the Roman basilicas reflected the Roman approach to public gatherings: large, broad, and with an elevated place for those in authority—in this case, the Pope. In Cluny III, we instead find tall, narrow structure reflecting the dynamic between heaven and earth and a direct focus on the altar created by the preceding features and the small opening in the screen. Architecture was becoming more and more focused on the action of God.

What a place it must have been!

Speaking Against Bishops: You Could Go to Hell

Benedict IX: Popin' around for a while and then
flipping the Lateran house for a profit. It wasn't even
a fixer-upper!


If in the 11th century someone had called Benedict IX a philandering, murdering simoniac, who would have accused such a person of dividing the Church or paving the road to his own perdition? Ditto for Vigilius, Honorius, and John XXII.

At the very least, the blogger is adept enough to see the writing on the wall.

"Only the person who becomes irate without reason, sins. Whoever becomes irate for a just reason is not guilty. Because, if ire were lacking, the science of God would not progress, judgments would not be sound, and crimes would not be repressed.

"Further, the person who does not become irate when he has cause to be, sins. For an unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices: it fosters negligence, and stimulates not only the wicked, but above all the good, to do wrong."

-St. John Chrysostom, 11th sermon on Matthew

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Romantic Friendships

My life is in something of a nadir, which elicits an unoriginality in my interests, owing to a horrific development in the life of a friend of mine. Real friendship is something quite rare and very special. Frs. Chadwick and Hunwicke have already put in their two cents, so I thought I would share mine. 

The term "Romantic friendship" is largely forgotten today, or only recalled in a re-constructionist setting meant to justify modern homosexual relations. Historically it was not so much the opposite of that, but something entirely un-related. I have a few friendships that in past times, say a century or two centuries ago, would have been called "romantic." A romantic friend is someone who is a friend for the sake of the soul and not the setting. In our day, we often acquire friends because of common personalities, common activities, common workplaces, and the like. Once those circumstances tergiversate, the friendship fades to grey and blackens into a long lost memory. Romantic friendships are rare in history and even rarer today because they delve past the external shells of the person and enjoin people in a very personal way. Romantic friendships are not sexual precisely because they are experientially different from husband-wife love, which reflects the creative love of God and the practical need for friendship to maintain a family. These friendships are vital because they allow us to know other people and for them to know us at the same level of a spouse, but in a way which a spouse cannot. Indeed, the care for one another latent in deep friendship ought to prepare one for the greater, vocational love of marriage.

Romantic friendships usually develop during formative education years, or at least mine did, when people's souls are cracking the egg their parents laid over them. Friends who have little externally in common can become quite close and hew even closer as they share the same growth, ingraining one into another's essential memories of life. Even if that friend disappears, he will remain omnipresent in the survivor's mind, who still recalls the various parts of his life, his schooling, his trips, his triumphs, his defeats. Friendships like these do not require continuous presence, but can be resumed at differing stages of life. I rather think Orson Welles' friendship with Ernest Hemingway was like this, even if one would not call it "romantic" in my use of the term. In these friendships, I have often bought dinner or been given a cigar not because anyone owes the other anything, but rather because we view each other as extensions of parts of ourselves. One such friend furnished me with a very generous number of [real] Cohiba (Cuban, not the American) cigars!

These friendships are often mistaken for homosexual relations because modern society is thoroughly incapable of seeing the world through spiritual eyes instead of material eyes. American neo-puritans cringe at the sight of the human body. During the second Bush's administration the statue of the Spirit of Justice was curtained off because its exposed breast bothered Attorney General John Ashcroft. American liberals, like their European counterparts, cannot fathom friendships beyond in-the-moment encounters nor can they understand sex outside of a casual, existentialist expression. No wonder most modern readers think Charles and Sebastian from my favorite novel, Brideshead Revisited, were gay. Sebastian? Certainly. Charles? Certainly not! They were two people emerging from their molds and whose eyes were not yet stained with the dirt of worldly pursuits. Their friendship ended when Sebastian's mold threatened to re-encase him and Charles' artistic interests partitioned him from the Flytes (Lady Marchmain did not help). The sexual perceptions of this kind of friendship by modern[ist] eyes never fails to amaze me. It was not until I moved to Texas that I discovered that one man touching another (the sort of jovial arm-around-the-shoulder one used to see in photographs) was now perceived as lustful or queer. One wonders if this is because today one's friend from the office is primarily a friend because he works in the office? Or if one's friend from the golf course is primarily a friend because he plays the same eighteen? Is friendship in the more serious, penetrative expression of past times really so obliterated and buried?

My own experience with "romantic" friendships tells me otherwise. I am far from convinced that we live in any sort of renaissance of traditional relationships between persons—far from it. Yet, as the functional view of friendship and the hyper-sexual love relationships pervades, it will become a bore for a concentrate minority that includes myself and many of the people dearest to me, and perhaps even you!

photo credit: Michael Maher

Surge in Interest

In just a week's time our post on St. George's in Sudbury has become our second most viewed post ever, trailing only our exposĂ© on sedevacantism. It has been advertised on Fr. Chadwick and the "Young Fogey's" blogs, as well as numerous Facebook links I cannot trace. Why the interest? 

I can somewhat see why there was interest in the sedevacantism post: many people were flummoxed by the election of the current pope and needed the historical version of a stiff drink to calm down. Why the search into "high" church Catholicism though? Perhaps his Traddiness is being optimistic, but he hopes that it reflects an interest in more than fine photography. Perhaps some Catholics have scratched the surface of "tradition" and find the myriad things underneath—the liturgy, the Fathers, the history—more fulfilling than what is at the top. Perhaps some wish to be reminded of the spiritual depth of the worship of God that we can aspire to supply, yes, even in regular parishes. Perhaps, frustrated by bureaucracy and papal headlines, Catholics want to think about an organic, locally rooted practice of faith that the Norman tradition once provided. Or perhaps Catholics just want to look at pretty pictures.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Holy Cross & the Physician of Souls

The multiple layers of history around the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross makes it one of the most enduring days in the Christian kalendar. It is an important day in both the Roman and Byzantine rites, enjoying the equivalent of a lesser octave in the Greek liturgy, complete with a "pre-feast" and a "leave taking" on the 21st of the month. As the story goes, Constantine's pious mother, St. Helena, found the Cross in Jerusalem and the locals celebrated by lighting a bonfire. The people in the next town saw the fire and lit their own, with contiguous towns imitating the pyrotechnics until flames reached the Eternal City. Constantine encased the Lord's Cross in silver, gold, and precious gems and build the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (or Resurrection), which was dedicated on September 13th. At a later time Persians captured the True Cross, which was only returned because of the guile of Heraclius. Heraclius returned the Cross to Jerusalem on September 14th, the feast we observe today. In the Roman rite the "Invention", or finding, of the Holy Cross is observed as a Double of II Class on May 3rd. So much for the history.

When Constantine encased the Cross in precious metals and gems, the Romans still used crucifixion as a means of capital punishment for the most despicable of persons. Romans held crucifixion to be such a horrible means of death that the laws of the Empire exempted condemned citizens from its cruelty, as was the case of Saint Paul. To exalt a cross would be like to exalt hanging, drawing, and quartering in Tudor England. Perhaps the emperor did not encrust the tool of the Lord's Passion only to glorify it, but also to sanitize it, to make it less a scandal to the people of the Empire. The Cross is a triumph, a triumph over death accomplished by a very gruesome death. 

On the Cross our Lord saved us from death and explained suffering to us. When He began His earthly ministry He told a Pharisee, "They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick do. I came not to call the just, but sinners" (Mark 2:17). To modern minds chapter 21 of the Book of Numbers has the overtly medicinal imagery. Medicine has adapted the caduceus, the image of a staff entwined with two serpents used by the Greeks in antiquity. It is not directly related to the staff mentioned in Scripture, but the use of the caduceus in a Christian-influenced society cannot be discarded. The Israelites spoke against God, Who in turned unleashed punishing serpents upon them. In a seemingly pointless change of course, God told Moses to fashion a "brazen serpent" and raise it on a rod. All who looked upon the rod, regardless of the infirmities brought by the snakes which punished them for their disbelief, lived. The Cross brought meaning and fulfillment to this symbol, which is empty of any value without the Cross. On the Cross, Christ did for men's souls what a doctor does for men's bodies. How many are potentially lost because they refuse the difficulties of spiritual treatment?

The Cross is the Body of Christ's vaccination against death. Vaccines traditionally inoculate recipients from diseases and other harmful influences by introducing a small amount of that danger into the body and allowing the immune system to become familiar with it, fight it, and defeat it. The disease can no longer harm the vaccinated person. The same is true of mankind, death, and the Body of Christ. Our Lord did not vaccinate Himself from death, from which He rose on His own, but those who would eventually be joined to His Body through Baptism and Communion. The third responsory at Mattins today says, "Wherein the Author of salvation triumphed over death by His own death," echoing the Paschal troparion in the Greek liturgy, "Christ is risen from the dead and by His death He has trampled upon death...." 

Our vaccination is quite a scandal in the Greek sense of the word, scandolos, a barrier or stumbling block. Death frightens man. It is uncertainty, loss, despair, and the result of our sins, yet through it eternal happiness comes. The same is true of suffering. A little suffering borne in the Sacraments and the protection of the Saints, although it can last a lifetime, protects us from an eternity of unhappiness.

Perhaps with the loss of Christian culture and society we can strip away the silver, gold, and diamonds that have encrusted the Cross over time and look upon it for what it actually is: our vaccination from suffering, death, and Hell, our treatment from the "Physician of our souls and bodies" that will lead us to life everlasting.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Anglican Orders?

In 1896 Leo XIII, the best pope since Benedict XIV in his Traddiness's opinion, issued Apostolicae Curae, which surmises that owing to a historic defect of form and a congruous defect of intent—the second following the first—Anglican Holy Orders are to be considered "absolutely null and utterly void." Does this still hold?

I have no opinion on the matter and it does not impact many of us necessarily, but it could be an important question in the future. Some things have changed since the days of Papa Pecci. AC notes that the Anglican ordination rite was improved to say something about what is meant by "Receive the Holy Ghost" at ordination and concedes that "this addition could give the form its due signification," albeit too late given that succession had been broken by over a century's use of the invalid Edwardian rites (AC 26). What may have changed things was the introduction of the "Dutch touch" in the 1930s or there about. Anglican clergy would often ask schismatic "Old Catholics" from continental Europe to "confirm" their orders using the Roman ordination and consecration rites.

Fr. Hunwicke has written about the concept of intention and its implication for the "invalidators" of Sacraments quite a bit in the last year or so. What is to be done if the Church of England has indeed undergone the "infection" (Hunwicke's wording) of the Dutch touch? Then again, we may be presuming too much. Papa Pecci in AC 28 states that the context of the episcopal consecration rites defects the intention regardless of the improved form. Michael Davies used to like to quote a 19th century case of a Methodist minister in Oceania who said something to the effect of "Baptism is only a symbol, it does not do anything at all" and then proceeded to pour water over the inhabitants' heads, saying, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Office determined that regardless of the minister's disbelief, he had enough belief that there was such a thing as Baptism that his intention was sufficient for the Sacrament to be valid. Is there a distinction to be made between the two cases that might shed more limpid light on the matter?

And of course there is the curious case of the Anglican bishop of London, Graham Leonard, who converted to Catholicism after having had his orders "confirmed" by Old Catholics in Utrecht. Cardinal Hume wrote "prudent doubt" about the invalidity of Leonard's orders existed. Consequently Leonard was conditionally ordained a priest. Personally, I think he should have been conditionally ordained a bishop in order to respect the possibility that he really was a successor to the Apostles, but I suspect Rome wanted to avoid the question of a married bishop (the Rad Trad has not heard of a married bishop since Pope Hadrian II). 

None of these questions amount to an opinion. They really are just questions and points of discussion. Perhaps some of our Thomistic readers and Anglophiles would be kind enough to join in the comment box and share their wealth of knowledge with the rest of us. Are there any recent studied on this subject?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Did Anyone Notice?

John Paul II is listed not once, but twice in the Rorate-Caeli purgatorial posting. Perhaps they have adapted to the Byzantine view that the saints become greater in heaven?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Major Fetish in the Boutique: Sarum in the 20th Century UPDATED

Tip of the biretta to Mr. Alan Robinson for directing me to the photo gallery for St. George's church in Sudbury (London). Many will know that in the early to mid-20th century the pastor of St. George was Fr. Clement L. Russell, a priest who, much like Quintin Montgomery-Wright decades later, imported the Sarum rituals and aesthetics into the existing Roman praxis.

The church of St. George was built in a truly gothic style, albeit it with the inclusion of many features popular in England at the time: devotion to St. Joseph and Ss. Thomas More & John Fisher. St. Geroge was also the first post-Reformation (Deformation would be more accurate) church in England with a shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham. Russell managed an enormous boys choir and army of altar servers. He used his services as a way of giving young men something to do and a diversion to keep out of trouble. He had first and second Vespers for all feasts Double of the II Class or higher, as well as Mattins and Lauds for the great feasts. Quite the Englishman, he usually kept two candlesticks on his altar, per Sarum, and quibbled over the matter with the vicar general of Westminster. Russell told the vicar general that St. George's would sport six candlesticks when the rest of the parishes in the archdiocese finally started using two on ferial days and four on vigils and ember days.

All the photographs below come from this page and belong entirely to St. George's Catholic Church. The images are British Catholicism at its finest. Pure liturgical fetish eye candy! Yum yum yum!

The Baptistry

The shrine and altar of Our Lady of Walsingham. Note the
very English, very sumptuous frontal. Much of the statuary
was carved from single pieces of wood on St. George's grounds.

Some fool wreckovated the sanctuary, but fear not!—we have images below of
liturgies during the Clementine years. Judging by the altar arrangement, I would
hypothesize that St. George is now in the hands of a "hermeneutic of continuity" priest.

The original sanctuary. Note the curtains around the altar, something still seen in medieval
English churches. Above the altar is a Rood, seen in other images below. The Rood
was not a proper screen, but the effort was admirable given the times.

Solemn high Mass. The choir sits—gasp!—in the Choir. Judging by where the ministers
are situated and the sitting posture of the congregation, I would hazard a guess that this
is the Gradual and that the celebrant and subdeacon are reading the Gospel while the deacon
prepares to proclaim the Word. Note the two lead cantors singing ("ruling"?) from the
lecturn in medio choro.

A nuptial Mass, again with full choir and lead cantors. Again, probably
the Gradual.

The annual procession with relics on St. George's day. Cardinal Griffin, archbishop of
Westminster, visited on this occasion.

This picture is, for some reason, my favorite of the lot. The tall candles at the corners of
the steps leading to the altar are an English tradition. The Missal appears to be resting on
a cushion rather than a stand. Don Quoex did this, too.

A Requiem Mass

A Byzantine priest of some stripe offers the Divine Liturgy at St. George's.
From his facial features, seen in other pictures, and the cut of his vestments I would
guess that he is either Arab (Melkite) or Greek rather than Slavic. At first I was
surprised to see this picture, but then again Dr. Adrian Fortescue also imported native English
elements into the Roman rite during his life time and held the Byzantine tradition in high esteem,
almost joining the Melkite Church in Lebanon.

St. George's must have been quite spectacular until Fr. Russell's death in 1965 following an accident.

Here is an article on St. George's and Fr. Russell from the Anglo-Catholic
Historical Society:


By John Martyn Harwood
I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy House; and the place where Thy Glory dwelleth.
[Psalm 25, Douai version]
If any church’s tradition could be said to be sui generis, St George’s could and this was because of the vision of one man, its founder and priest for nearly forty years. Clement Lloyd Russell was born in 1884, the son of Henry Lloyd Russell, vicar of the Church of The Annunciation, Chislehurst and a prominent Tractarian. There is an early and amusing mention of him in the infamous report of the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline (1906) which was established to put an end to “illegal” ritual practices in the Church of England. Among the hundreds of pages of evidence is an entry about The Annunciation, Chislehurst, on 18th September 1904. The vicar strongly refutes any charge of lawlessness, taking a traditional Tractarian position and mentioning examples of past episcopal approval. He does however become a little defensive when replying to the report of a “visitor” that the festival of Corpus Christi was solemnly kept. The notice in the church porch announcing this, he maintains, was “placed there by my son, and I told him, after I became aware of it, of my disapproval”.
This indicates that Clement’s position was a good deal more advanced than the respectable High Church ritualism of his father. However, the son never experienced or embraced anything resembling “baroque” Anglo-Catholicism but remained an Edwardian High Churchman and medievalist to the end.
The younger Russell was ordained a priest of the Church of England in 1908 and for a short time was one of a tribe of curates at St Andrew’s, Willesden Green. In 1910 he experienced a crisis of conscience and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. After almost no formal training (he always maintained that he knew practically nothing about Roman Moral Theology or Canon Law) he was ordained deacon in 1914 and priest in 1915. He was sent as curate to work under a tyrannical parish priest at the Holy Rosary Church in Marylebone, London.



This was a low point in Father Russell’s life but in the early 1920s he received an offer, which had the approval of Cardinal Bourne, from a very wealthy lady who wished to fund the building of a new church in one of London’s growing suburbs. He found himself in the happy position of being able to choose the site, architect, style of building, furnishings and dedication of the new church and parish. The foundation stone was laid in November 1925 and Father Russell moved into the newly built presbytery a few months later. He remained there, never taking a holiday, until his death in 1965.
Saint George’s church, in the non-descript district of Sudbury, near Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, was completed in 1927 and solemnly consecrated (a rare occurrence in those days) on the 18th April 1928. Its architect was the almost forgotten Leonard Williams, a modest church builder who died before this, his last work, was completed. Again unusually, it was entirely free from debt. At a time when “side altars” were usually wooden stands for holding statues and flowerpots, St George’s possessed four properly consecrated stone altars, designed on English medieval lines, dedicated to St George (the high altar), Our Ladye (Fr Russell’s invariable spelling), the Archangel Michael, and St Thomas of Canterbury.



He that hewed timber afore out of the thick trees: was known to bring it to an excellent work.[Psalm 74, Prayer Book version]
The church from the outside still looks much as it did in 1927 and can be seen on its current website. It is a dignified perpendicular gothic building of warm stock brick and much stone dressing. The clergy house is joined to the church which can be accessed from it. The whole composition is very charming and romantic despite the clearing of many trees which used to surround it. There are two large bells, also properly consecrated and anointed.
But it was chiefly for its furnishings that St George’s was famous. Over many years Fr Russell acquired or had made innumerable objects of piety to adorn his new creation. Slowly the altars were all vested with rich frontals in all the liturgical colours – this meant at least six or seven sets for each of the four altars. Each also had the inevitable riddle posts with angels holding candles. Between these, curtains of the highest quality hung, again in the different colours. Canopied images of the dedicated saints stood above. All the woodwork was carved and nothing of plaster was allowed in the church even temporarily.
The rector, as Fr Russell was often called, had no objection to popular devotions and was not of the austere “Benedictine” school; however the devotions had to have medieval precedents. No images of the Sacred Heart or Our Lady of Lourdes were permitted but near the back of the church, opposite the main door, was a large oak “tableau” depicting the Five Wounds of Christ and with a carved statue of the Lord at its centre. This was of course a very popular cult in late medieval England. Above were emblazoned the words (and I quote from memory for the entire shrine has since disappeared): JHESU BY THYE WOUNDES FYVE: SHEWE ME THE WAYE TO VERTUYOUS LYFE.
For many years it remained a puzzle to new parishioners especially those of simple faith but eventually the shrine acquired its devotees.
Above the Lady altar, was enthroned, in September 1928, a beautiful carved image of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was the first one based on the ancient seal to be erected in a Roman Catholic church. It was only six years after Fr Hope Patten had placed his Walsingham statue in the parish church there. Of course Fr Russell knew of all that had been achieved by the Anglicans at Walsingham and was anxious to spread the devotion in his own Communion. Thereafter the appropriate Marian Antiphon was always sung after all evening services in front of her image. In 1933 a second statue of the Blessed Virgin was unveiled in the Lady Chapel: this was a magnificent alabaster carving of medieval origin, showing her standing and holding her Son and, in the other hand, a sceptre. It had been found in Devon, restored and presented to Fr Russell. Several experts claimed that it had originally formed part of the reredos behind the high altar of Exeter cathedral, and it still retained traces of colouring. A beautiful carved wooden screen enclosed the Lady chapel, decorated with images of Saints Lawrence and Katherine in memory of the last two chapels on the ancient pilgrims’ “Walsingham Way.”
This is only a partial description of the church’s contents; there were also two carved eagle lecterns, one of which stood in the centre of the choir for use by the cantors, and additions were still being made right up to the rector’s death. In 1962, for example, the huge rood beam, rood, statues of Saints Mary and John and attendant cherubim on “wheels” were re-gilded and in the same year expensive iron gates and a fine image of St John the Baptist were added to the Baptistery.



Those who still remember St George’s before 1965 will recall its liturgical life even more than the beauty of its furnishings. Starting from modest beginnings, Fr Russell gathered around him a team of enthusiastic helpers to form choir and servers to assist him in the offering of the rich round of services he desired. By the early 1950s he had established Sung Masses and Solemn Vespers on all Sundays and great festivals, with vespers being sung even on “Days of Devotion”, including all the feasts of the Apostles. Christmas was particularly well served with solemn first vespers; solemn matins and midnight mass; sung masses of the dawn and day (celebrated at9.30 and 10.30am respectively); solemn second vespers, procession and benediction and solemn vespers with procession on each of the following four days (they were all Days of Devotion!) The grandest and most fashionable Anglo-Catholic church in Edwardian days could not have done more.
The number of singers and servers, who were all housed in the sanctuary, rarely exceeded thirty-five which the rector considered a rather inadequate figure though most clerical visitors viewed it with envy. Needless to say those who served at the high altar were not only rigorously trained but were richly attired. The cantors wore copes, the rest of the choir and most servers, full gathered surplices, like those shown on portraits of Tudor bishops, with enormous sleeves and in length reaching below the knee. Famous (or notorious) were the apparelled albs and amices worn by the acolytes and thurifer (even the apparels came in complete sets of liturgical colours) and the alb and tunicle of the crucifer. Fresh chasubles and copes for the celebrant were often added when Fr Russell heard of Anglo-Catholic churches which had abandoned “gothic” styles. He had some kind of source of secret information about such matters. Everything used in the worship of God was of the highest quality down to the candles, incense, altar breads and wine. The music of course was strictly plainsong and under the direction of men who had Benedictine monastic training.
The number of sung services was actually increasing in the years just before Fr Russell’s death whereas elsewhere, both in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Church of England, they were in steep decline. I can remember when matins on Pentecost Eve was introduced for the first time, in 1959. However, it cannot be said that any services at St George’s other than low masses were ever very well attended. This worried Fr Russell not at all. When the church was first opened only twenty Roman Catholics lived in the area and there was no real need for a new parish at all. In 1962 mass attendance was found to be 1,175 souls. The rector arranged worship in the same way for both numbers. On one dark evening, a server nervously told him, before vespers began, that there was no one in the church at all. “Nonsense” he replied, “the nave is full of angels”.



As can be guessed, Fr Russell was not free of eccentricities. Life in his clergy house was a strain for most curates, who did not tend to stay long. First there was the Dickensian clutter of vestment presses, cuckoo clocks (all set at slightly different times, though never British summer time), large cats as eccentric as their master, books and antique silver. Then there was the conceit that he was a beleaguered Anglo-Catholic vicar liable to be disciplined by his diocesan, though successive Cardinals actually showed astonishing indulgence towards him (it should be remembered that before the Second Vatican Council the overriding priority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England was the establishment of a RC school in every parish; Fr Russell never attempted to do this and never even mentioned the need for one.) “The Archbishop is coming” he would say, “We must hide the acolytes’ albs” or: “When I am dead they will come and turn all my vestments into bed covers just as the Reformers did”. Actually, in a sense, this prophecy was fulfilled. Some wag had once called St George’s “The only Anglican church in communion with Rome”. This was probably intended as a taunt but Fr Russell wore the label with great pride (perhaps he remembered his father’s church at the start of the Twentieth Century) and would often quote it to startled new-comers.
Fr Russell wrote everything by hand using the most extraordinary late medieval Gothic script. Many parishioners claimed they could not read the notices in the church porch at all. The local postman was made of sterner stuff and took great pride in being able to deliver all the rector’s letters without difficulty. He especially approved of the priest’s complete non-use of abbreviations – Saint not St or London North West rather than NW. How Father would have hated (it still makes me feel slightly guilty) my use of “Fr” in this article.
Often such highly motivated men can be ill-mannered or off-hand; Fr Russell by contrast was the mildest and most easy-going of souls, other-worldly and quite without authoritarianism. Servers and young choir members would sometimes ask him to inscribe their missals. He always used the same text for this, taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Authorized Version: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them”. In his later years he allowed a poor Irishman who drank rather too much to live permanently in the clergy house and provided for him generously in his will.
Much was rumoured about Fr Russell’s supposed fascist leanings. I believe them greatly exaggerated. He certainly supported Mussolini in the 1930s but so did many others, and he admired General Franco all his life. Hitler he wrote openly against in the parish magazine after the war started. I believe that the fascist rumours were partly based on the certain fact that two members of his choir were prominent members of Mosley’s Party and later were conscientious objectors. In truth Father was not much interested in events that took place after 1530.


But now they break down all the carved work thereof: with axes and hammers.
[Psalm 74, Prayer Book version]
Clement Lloyd Russell was hit by a car, crossing the road outside his church, and died soon afterwards, on 11th January 1965. He was 80 but in good health and still running St George’s along usual lines. His death at least saved him from having to make inevitable and difficult choices, for the Second Vatican Council was in full swing. Already low masses at St George’s were being said in English. Fr Russell’s tradition would have received little sympathy from the new sort of Roman Catholic who regarded the Council documents as on par with the Four Gospels, nor from their conservative opponents, Anglo-Irish and stubbornly philistine, nor even from modern Anglo-Catholics eagerly following every trend of the Liturgical Movement. In the mid Sixties his ideals of liturgical worship could not have been more unfashionable. This needs to be clearly stated. It should also be added that he had almost no sympathy with the budding ecumenical movement. Without of course realising it, he was in his spirituality and his priorities, extremely close to Eastern Orthodoxy. If any reader thinks this far-fetched, read Russell’s own summary of his aims, which concludes this article.
The priest appointed as his successor, Wilfrid Purney, tried to maintain some continuity but the looming liturgical changes from above demoralised Fr Russell’s old supporters. The men’s choir was disbanded in June 1966 and most of the servers ceased to attend about the same time. Services began to resemble those elsewhere in the archdiocese. Fr Purney however, always kept the church looking as it had always done and no “re-ordering” was permitted. After his death the long-delayed deluge came with the arrival of those “who knew not Joseph”. Because of the late date of the building and its furnishings, those opposed to major change could not appeal to the law or preservation societies. Between 1990 and 1996 St George’s interior was completely gutted. Most of the furnishings and hangings disappeared, the consecrated stone altars were desecrated and destroyed and an extraordinary octagonal-shaped altar was placed in the centre of the church. But it would be fruitless, and perhaps libellous, to continue. Fr Russell would perhaps have simply remarked that King Edward VI’s visitors had returned to earth.


I want to conclude by quoting from Fr Russell’s own words because it is important to understand that he was much more than just a “character”. Here he is writing in the parish magazine in the 1940s, but he very often expressed himself in similar terms, as I heard him do so several times:
And beyond all, I want the sanctuary, especially at sung mass and at vespers and benediction, to speak to people of the glories of Heaven, and that, as far as is humanly possible, there shall be gathered there a splendour of colour and light, beauty of vesture, and ordered movement that compels the most wandering and distracted of undisciplined minds to realise that something far, far more than the satisfaction of human devotion is being accomplished – that the eternal and invisible GOD is being worshipped, and that all that is being done, is performed to render the easier, a response to the invitation “Sursum Corda!” There, at all events, is and has been my great endeavour.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Memories of Don Franck Quoex (Guest Post)

source: orbiscatholicussecundus.blogspot.com
For a brief time, in the early 1990’s, I had the privilege of knowing Fr. Franck Quoex and being counted among his many friends. We met at the “Angelicum” University (Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in the City) in 1995 when we both began work on the Theology License in the so-called Thomistic Section. It was understood in those days—before anything like a traditional Catholic revival had even begun—that the only course of studies deserving of the name “Thomist” was to be found in this Section. Naturally, Don Quoex (as we always called him) sought out the true Thomistic scholars (the few that remained at that point), as did I, and we found ourselves in almost all the same classes and seminars. It seemed clear that he revered the doctrine of the Angelic Doctor and its fine academic tradition in Rome, most notably in the Scuola Romana of the Lateran University and at the Angelicum of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.

            Don Quoex was quiet and attentive in the classes of the Dominicans of the “old school,” such as Fr. Benoit Duroux, O. P., and Fr. Vittorio Lagoutaine, O. P. (r.i.p.), those professors in other words who were deeply imbued with a knowledge of the Common Doctor and a true love for the Catholic intellectual life. And of course Don Quoex himself proved to be no mean Thomist in exploring the Saint’s understanding of the sacred liturgy. At the same time, he was prepared to question some of those younger, less reliable instructors, or even professors, whose courses or seminars were unavoidable even in the Thomistic Section. During one such seminar, the young lady leading it (a kind of adjunct professor), who was very much of an historicist bent, gently reproved our little group of die-hard Thomists saying, in so many words, that we shouldn’t equate him with the Magisterium or dogma. Don Quoex joined the others in correcting this inadequate assertion, citing the papal magisterium, the Council of Florence, and so forth. But, as always, he did so without acrimony or unpleasantness, and in fact he remained in the good graces of this particular professor. (During her course on scholastic history, when she for some reason showed us the first-known illustration of eyeglasses—a Dominican friar was wearing them—and mentioned playfully that the bespectacled Dominican looked like Don Quoex, he laughingly agreed.)

            We consoled each other about the abysmal state of the Angelicum in general, in those days more or less overrun with the “Polish mafia,” who rode in on the train of John Paul II. The Rector Magnificus himself was a Pole, and his seminar—what little I can remember of it—was pedestrian in the extreme, memorable mainly for the vapid exchanges between the Rector and his favorite, a particularly dense Polish seminarian. “Abyssus abyssum invocat,” I once remarked after an especially cloying episode between the two Poles; Don Quoex, typically, laughed and signaled me to be discreet at the same time, like the gentleman he was.

            He was always very correct in appearance, his hair neatly brillantined and combed down, a pair of old-fashioned spectacles (remarkable in those days) gracing his refined features, and wearing as much of the traditional vesture of Roman clergy as one could get away with in the 1990’s: the soutane, the greca (long, double-breasted black coat), and shoes with buckles on them, although not proper buckle-shoes (which he only wore for Mass or in choir). No one, sadly, could wear the capello Romano with impunity back then, and Don Quoex was prudent enough to understand that the gain did not outweigh the backlash in those pre-Summorum Pontificum times.

            Don Quoex, though, was perhaps most memorable for his love and celebration of the traditional Mass. On a few occasions, I served his private Mass and was impressed by his deep concentration and reverence. He was always very “classical” in performing the rubrics: nothing was ever prolonged for the sake of “devotion” but done in an expeditious, “Roman” manner. There were a couple of practices of his (not really directed to be done one way or another by the rubricists) that stood out for me: for instance, he held the host vertically, rather than parallel to the mensa of the altar, when making the Sign of the Cross over it immediately before the consecration; and he traced the two crosses at the Minor Elevation from the chalice downward to where the Host had rested on the corporal, rather than parallel to the altar. At the time, and even now, I thought to myself that if Don Quoex does it in this manner, that must be the preferred way, because there was no doubt in my mind then or now that few if any surpassed his knowledge of the Roman rite.

            After I was ordained a priest, I assisted Don Quoex in the celebration of the Sacred Triduum at San Giorgio in Velabro, acting as deacon for Holy Thursday, celebrant for Good Friday (according to the pre-1955 rite of the Presanctified), and subdeacon for Holy Saturday. The animating spirit behind all this—including Tenebrae of Good Friday—was of course Don Quoex, although several of us “unreformed” clergy helped out. He never let himself be distracted or entangled in the kind of deficiencies or make-do substitutions that plagued organizing solemn Mass in those days: if there weren’t proper Lectors, for example, to sing the Lessons on Holy Saturday, the acolyte and subdeacon could simply take turns, one after the other. Nor was he too concerned that everything be thoroughly rehearsed; in true Roman style, the Master of Ceremonies (more often than not Don Quoex himself served in this capacity) could direct the sacred ministers during the Mass. And he certainly kept uppermost the truly important elements of each of these wonderful Masses of the Triduum: he was, for example, very solicitous to make sure that the Adoration of the Cross by the clergy take place exactly as it was laid down in the books.

            As anyone who knew him could affirm, he had a beautiful singing voice and knew how to make the text come alive and ring throughout the basilica. He himself, for the Tenebrae of Good Friday, sang the second nocturn Lessons (from St. Augustine) and with such well-regulated fervor and intensity that it seemed almost as though St. Augustine himself were calling down through the ages as Don Quoex sang those stirring words: “Et vos, O Judaei, occidistis.

            I also had the good fortune to be his guest at Gricigliano (the mother house and novitiate of the Institute of Christ the King, to which he belonged at the time) for Holy Week and Easter. I remember being amazed at how many beautiful, old editions of the Missal and the Breviary he possessed. He was very busy, of course, arranging all the ceremonies, but still he made time to see that I was being taken care of. At the time (1996), I didn’t detect any disaffection with the Institute, although in retrospect perhaps he was less than enthusiastic organizing the Pius XII Holy Week (and who could blame him?) at Gricigliano, unlike his cheerful efforts for our San Giorgio ceremonies. He also had a good-natured impatience with some of the more scrupulous candidates (i. e., postulants) at the seminary. He related to me how he was once asked by one such—as a kind of casus conscientiae—what he ought to do if he couldn’t finish saying the Apostles’ Creed secretly during the Office before the Hebdomadarius intoned “Carnis resurrectionem.” Don Quoex, laughing, told me that he replied to this seminarian: “You don’t have to do anything!

            After I began work on my doctorate later that same year, I was unfortunately not able to see Don Quoex as often as before. He, also working on his doctorate, became more and more involved with “Tradition, Family, Property,” the movement launched, of course, by Don Plinio CorrĂȘa de Oliveira. As much as I can recollect—and I should add that I couldn’t attend any of the meetings as Don Quoex urged me to—this work, or movement, seemed to him to be sound, truly Catholic, and seriously engaged in the work of Catholic restoration. I realize that in the U.S. there has been some controversy over this movement, but I have no doubt that if Don Quoex approved the Italian version of this organization, it was a worthwhile endeavor. He had, in addition, friendly relations with the “Black” Roman nobility, who seemed to hold him in high regard, for instance the Massimo family (at whose palace, for the annual celebration of St. Philip Neri’s miracle, Don Quoex and I would cross paths).

            To my regret, I wasn’t able to keep up my acquaintance with this fine priest after I left Rome to return to the States to work on my dissertation. Like many others, I was shocked to hear how very ill he became and how suddenly. I can say without affectation that at the news of his death, I was mortified to think that such a good, young priest should be taken from us when so many less deserving clergy (among them myself) continue to enjoy good health. At the same time, it seemed to me that there was a certain distinction—if that’s the right word—in his suffering and early demise, as though he were to be counted somehow among that great, long-suffering yet persevering generation of Romans—Don Antonio Piolanti, Cardinal Siri, and his beloved Cardinal Stickler, to name a few—who were even then passing away or already deceased. My last memory of Don Quoex, accordingly, is that which I make at the Memento mortuorum at Mass, when I commend to Christ the soul of one whom I was fortunate enough to know as a friend.

-Fr. Capreolus