George Weigel makes helpful distinctions

DSC04342I have seen many Catholics drawn to a traditionalist critique not only of Pope Francis, but also of the Second Vatican Council.  Because of the confusion in the Catholic Church right now, many are looking for certainty, for a set of teachings that have stood the test of time; a pre-Conciliar approach that provides clear answers, especially on the church’s moral teachings.

I understand the draw, but I’m not comfortable with it.

As much as I love the Traditional Latin Mass and believe that Catholics need to be exposed to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and well-acquainted with natural law, I am leery of trying to roll the doctrine of the Catholic Church back to before the Council or to some point in history when presumably the teachings of the Church were more pure. We can see from descriptions in the Epistles that even in the Early Church there were divisions and heretical ideas manifesting.

At the same time, I’ve been dismayed by the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, what I call the small “s” spirit of Vatican II that pushed for the wreckovations of sanctuaries, removed altar rails, whitewashed or removed statues, and other revolutionary acts.  That was a progressivist “spirit of Vatican II” run amok.

DSC08600Of course, the Personal Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican tradition would not exist were it not for the Second Vatican Council.  We are what “realized ecumenism” looks like, as Msgr. Mark Langham told the Symposium in Rome on the 10th Anniversary of Anglicanorum coetibus.

George Weigel has a piece in The Catholic Herald that helps explain that we are not seeing a two-way divide in the Church, but a three-way one.

In The post-Vatican II Civil War, he writes:

Although the drama of Catholicism and modernity is often described in terms of a battle between traditionalists and modernisers, it is more accurate to think of it as a three-way contest between those committed to resisting modernity in all its forms, those seeking an accommodation with modernity because they believe it has made classic Christian truth claims and practices implausible if not false, and those seeking to convert modernity by placing its noblest aspirations on a firmer, Christ-centred foundation.”

This was one of the aims of some of the Council reformers—to refocus on Christ, on Scripture and on the Early Church Fathers.   While this change was not meant to abrogate natural law, or the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, it was meant to go back to the sources, the same sources that Aquinas relied upon.

Weigel continues:

De Lubac was not the only Council theologian who believed that other theologians, during and after Vatican II, were going so far in their embrace of intellectual modernity that they were emptying Catholicism of its doctrinal content and betraying John XXIII’s evangelical intention for the Council. Their opponents, of course, denied this charge and claimed they were the true heirs of the “spirit” of Vatican II, which they often defined by reference to a selective set of quotations from Gaudet Mater Ecclesia [the Council’s opening declaration].

In 1969, de Lubac, the French Oratorian Louis Bouyer, the Chilean Jorge Medina Estévez, and the German Joseph Ratzinger agreed to meet during the first session in Rome of the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as Paul VI had renamed the old Holy Office. At a meeting arranged and led by the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, they dis- cussed the possibility of a new theological journal that would challenge the intellectual hegemony enjoyed by Concilium and the theologians associated with it. They chose the name Communio, Ratzinger later recalled, because the Latin word for “communion” connoted a “harmonious coexistence of unity and difference” that stood in contrast to the ideologically straitened perspective of Concilium.

The name Communio would also challenge the appropriation of the term “communion” by Catholic progressives who were using it to de-emphasise the vertical or transcendent dimension of the Church in favour of a horizontal, populist Church that functioned more like a political party than a community of disciples in mission.

Go on over and read the whole article. There is a choice that is neither traditionalist, nor modernist and progressive, a choice that is dynamic and takes the whole of Catholic tradition into account, not restricted to one era or point in time.

Weigel describes it as [my emphases]: “neither a Catholic surrender to modernity nor a flat-out rejection of modernity, but the conversion of modernity, beginning with a critique from within modern intellectual premises.”

Maybe some of that critique from within modern intellectual premises didn’t work so well, or failed to convince, or has yet to be worked out.  But those who tried it should not be dismissed as modernists.



Rome Symposium written up in The Portal by Fr. Bernard Sixtus

DSC08515The November edition of The Portal Magazine has been out since All Saints Day, but I am only getting around to reading it now.  And how could I have put it off!  Especially since it has so much written about events in Rome in October, including the canonization of St. John Henry Newman.

I was delighted to see a write up on the Symposium on the 10th Anniversary of Anglicanorum coetibus organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the canon law faculty of the Pontifical Gregorian University.   The Anglicanorum Coetibus Society also helped with some aspects of registration and publicity on behalf of CDF.   I wrote about the Symposium here.  I focused mainly on covering Archbishop Di Noia’s talk on the history of the Apostolic Constitution.

DSC08506Fr. Bernard Sixtus, who serves on the board of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society,  (shown above on the left with Msgr. Robert Mercer, CR) provides a good synopsis of the gathering.  Which reminds me, I need to check on how and when the great talks at the Symposium will be published!

Fr. Sixtus writes:

The second address was by Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda SJ, a ‘Consultor’ at the CDF, and focussed on the Canonical Perspective. This was easily the most densely academic, ‘technical’ and complex of the days’ talks – and it was given in Italian to boot.


However, persisting with it and making an effort was certainly worthwhile: our speaker outlined for us in fascinating detail just how the Apostolic Constitution achieved its aim of providing a structure to ‘protect our patrimony’. This was done by carefully examining possible structures and ‘inventing’, in effect, something new: not a ‘Particular Church’ distinct from the Latin Church by Rite (because our patrimony is part of a broadly ‘Western’ or ‘Latin’ tradition), but much more than a ‘Personal Prelature’. Instead, the Ordinariates are a specific way of belonging to the Catholic Church similar to a Diocese – and he showed us just how this was expressed particularly in the way in which the judicial, administrative and legislative authority of the Ordinary is defined. Thus our Ordinaries possess ‘exclusive’ authority over those belonging to the ordinariates, which may be exercised in ‘coordination’ with the Bishop of the
Dioceses in which Ordinariate members live but is not ‘cumulative’ – hence the local Bishop does not possess any authority over Ordinariate Catholics living in
his Diocese in his own right. This – very unusual -arrangement is protected by the fact that the authority of the Ordinary is ‘vicarious’ of the Supreme Pontiff (the Pope), thus protecting (in Canonical terms) the Ordinary’s independence in order to make sure we are united but not absorbed.

I recall Fr. Ghirlanda described us as a “personal particular church.”

Fr. Sixtus writes about Archbishop Di Noia’s and Msgr. Mark Langham’s talks as well, and I encourage you to go on over to the Portal to read them.  Here’s what he had to say about Professor Hans-Jurgen Feulner’s talk on liturgy.

His address concentrated on showing how the principle of ‘unity of the Catholic Faith in the legitimate diversity of liturgical expressions’ is realised in the liturgies of ‘Divine Worship’ (both the Missal and the ‘Occasional Services’). He emphasised key elements of our liturgy, such as its ‘Sacral Language’ and the sources from which our Order of Mass derives, helpfully setting out the three main sources in a ‘table’. This made it easy to see how the different parts and elements of our Mass derive from three main sources, namely from the Roman Missal in its present edition, from sources in the Anglican
tradition (such as the Collect for Purity, Comfortable Words, Prayer of Humble Access, etc.) and from the Sarum Use by way of the Anglo-Catholic Missals (such as the ‘English Missal – the Embolism and the Prayer for Purification at the Ablution being cases in
point). The detail was fascinating, and in conclusion Professor Feulner stressed how the Ordinariate Mass is a ‘liturgical tradition’ within the Roman Rite (rather than a distinct Rite), but as such in his view the ‘prime bearer’ of our patrimony, clearly more so than, for example, Anglican synodical traditions. As such, his point was: we need to look after it and celebrate it. Even if and where this requires our communities to adapt (such as in places which became Catholic from so-called ‘Roman Rite’ Anglican parishes), we should
use ‘our Mass’ as a precious gift to be shared – for if we do not celebrate our proper liturgy, why have Ordinariates at all?

Conference offered chance for fellowship

20191117_125242Among the many highlights of the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church conference last weekend was the chance to meet people from ordinariate communities across the country.

20191117_140733What was especially delightful was how many stuck around through Sunday, so they could attend Mass at St. Thomas More, the ordinariate parish in Toronto.

There was both a professional photographer and videographer at the conference and audio recordings of the amazing liturgies, so I was a little lazy about taking my own photos on my phone.

But Sunday, after Mass, I thought I’d get a few shots of some of the folks who stuck around for the fellowship time in the parish hall.

20191117_140652 (1)Here are Pam and John Covert, who took the train from Boston.  John is the mastermind behind the Daily Morning and Evening Prayer site that I use every day.20191117_140613

Christopher Mahon, who organized the conference, is in the centre of this photo, probably  relieved it was over and a great success.  His grandfather, Albert Mahon, in the red sweater, was Healey Willan’s cantor. It was great to meet the Mahon patriarch.  What a font of interesting stories!


Heide Seward (left) flew up with her husband Bernie from Northern Virginia.  Here she is with Katie Bisson from our Ottawa parish.  We had a good contingent from Ottawa, but most left on Saturday.  I understand though that the two ladies who thought taking the train would be a less stressful alternative than driving didn’t make it back until 3 AM on Sunday due to some problem on the line!

20191117_140316 (1)Jackson Perry, one of the members of the Connecticut Ordinariate Group, is shown here with Peter Jesserer Smith who came with several members of the Rochester ordinariate parish.   Peter writes for the National Catholic Register and has written a series of Anglicanorum coetibus 10th Anniversary stories.   Here’s a link to a recent interview with Mons. Keith Newton:

Now, again, as I said, we’re a very small thing. So you can’t say of the Ordinariate, “Well, there’s the great hope for evangelization.” But one of the things it does do is say there’s an English form of Catholicism, which perhaps has been neglected in the past, for obvious reasons. When the [Catholic] hierarchy in England and Wales was restored in the 1850s, it was very much a sort of Italianate or Irish sort of tradition was brought into England, so that we almost forget the pre-Henry VIII Catholic Church in England, which was very vibrant, with lots of great saints who have almost been forgotten. It’s a reminder of all that, and all the great writings of “the Cloud of Unknowing” and Julian of Norwich, and all these great English spiritual writers. That is something I hope that we can remind the whole Catholic Church of, which is a sense that there is an English Catholicism.

Do you think that the Ordinariate also helps you make the case to people that Catholicism is not truly foreign to the United Kingdom?

Absolutely. That’s exactly the point, that it’s not. There has been the sense in England that [Catholicism] is exactly that. I think the Ordinariate should be reminding people that it’s not really [foreign]. That is to say, there is a long history of the Catholic Church in England. It’s almost as if, isn’t it, that the Catholic Church finished in England at Henry VIII, and then restarted in 1850. But that’s not really the case. I mean, certainly there was a whole Recusant witness throughout those years of many Catholic families and ordinary Catholic folk who were worshiping in difficult circumstances. But also there was a sort of reminder that there was an Englishness that was Catholic, and some of that was maintained in the Church of England. I think that’s what the Holy See was saying, that these were things which impelled us towards unity.

20191117_140725 (2)

I had the great pleasure of hanging out with Tony Clark from  Arlington, Texas.  Some of the Ottawa contingent gathered on Friday afternoon at a restaurant/bar before Mass, and Tony joined us.  For a while he was the only man among all the Ottawa ladies, until Michael and Rebecca Trolly arrived.

20191117_140627 (1)Here’s Father John Hodgins, the pastor of St. Thomas More in Toronto.  Great to see him and his lovely wife Jane.  I stayed with her twin sister Judy and her husband Colin.

20191117_140753And meet our Toronto seminarian Luke McDonald who is attending St. Philip’s, the Oratorians’ seminary.


Thanksgiving Mass gets a 10!

20191116_155910_HDR (2)The Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church Conference Nov. 15-16 was an extraordinary time of worship, excellent talks and great fellowship.

20191116_090905Kudos to Christopher Mahon and his conference committee for the great job they did in managing everything from amazing music, beautiful prayerful liturgies, the conference booklets, speakers, to the great food.

Thanks to Bishop Steven Lopes, David Warren, Fr. Derek Cross and Fr. Jack Barker for their most interesting talks at the conference.  Thanks to Fr. Lee Kenyon who celebrated Mass and Mattins and Evensong.   Thanks to organist Matthew Larkin and the excellent choir, and to Peter Mahon for all their hard work in the outstanding music.  Thanks to Cardinal Thomas Collins for his hospitality in letting us celebrate our liturgies in his magnificent cathedral.  And thanks to the cathedral’s sacristan who helped with all the details that made it wonderful.

We will have a lot more on this conference, the talks, the liturgies in days to come. But first, here’s a link to the Ship of Fool’s Mystery Worshipper’s description of Votive Mass to the Holy Spirit in thanksgiving for Anglicanorum coetibus’ 10th anniversary at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica on Friday evening.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

‘One Church, One Faith, One Lord.’ Ten years ago, the pastor was sitting in the rectory of St John’s Anglican Church in Calgary when the news of the promulgation of Anglicanorum Coetibus was announced. He leapt up and shouted at the top of his lungs to his wife upstairs, ‘He’s done it! He’s finally done it!’ The Monty Python movie Life of Brian asks the question, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ They have given us Anglicanorum Coetibus, inviting us to enter into the full communion of Holy Mother Church, bringing our liturgical and pastoral traditions with us – and, in the case of St John’s in Calgary, bringing an entire former parish and building of the Anglican Church of Canada. They have given us ‘realized ecumenism.’

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The music was heavenly, especially the descant by the choir on the closing hymn, ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’ (Hyfrydol).


What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

There was no opportunity to hang around looking lost. The announcement of the reception with Toronto’s cardinal archbishop had been made, and within seconds of the final chord of the organ postlude, Jean Langlais’ glorious Te Deum, the lights were dimmed and everyone was heading to the reception hall next door.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

This was an evening reception, and there was wine, sherry, gin and tonic, soft drinks, mixed nuts, chips and dip, and an hour or more of chatting with the bishop, the cardinal, and the members of the Ordinariate and other guests assembled from far and wide.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 — While the cathedral was the venue for this celebration, it was organized by the Toronto Ordinariate community of St Thomas More, which I will be visiting on Sunday, and which would certainly be my parish if I were to move to Toronto. Look for my next report!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes. The patrimony that developed in England during the 450 years of separation, which has found its true home in communion with Rome, draws people into the worship of God with all the senses: the sight of the beauty of the building, the sound of the glorious music, the smell of the incense, and the taste and touch of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days’ time ?

At the reception afterwards, raising a glass of sherry in the words of Healy Willan: To our gracious Lady, Queen of Heaven, and our gracious Sovereign, Queen of Canada.