Only once, I think, have I met a Catholic from Chaldea (may God have mercy on them and convert their murderers). It was about thirteen or fourteen years ago. He came from a town or village where they spoke Aramaic as their mother tongue. His English was stumbling. I do not now remember what turn of fortune or misfortune had brought him into Wessex, where I then lived. Some friends of mine and I entertained him; and as we sat down to dine, this stranger from that obscure Eastern province, heir to the tongue of the prophets and the apostles, looked at my companion opposite him; pointed; and said, ‘Mr Bean!’ And indeed, the resemblance was striking.

I hardly ever see the television or read a modern novel; I would struggle to name any painting or piece of classical music or sculpture in stone or bronze produced in these islands in the last five decades, so my opinion is probably worthless. But I sometimes think that Mr Bean will be the one work of art created among us in modern times that will last. Wordless, or nearly so, it can transcend not only the nations, as the visitor from Chaldea showed, but also the times. I can imagine men of a thousand years ago laughing at the sketch below. And should the world last, I think they would do the same a thousand years hence.

Scripture tells us that we must honour the physician, for we have need of him. But we have need also of the Clown. Indeed, is not the clown a kind of physician, purging men of an excess of melancholic humour, harmful both to body and  to soul? In any case, let him have his honour too.

I recently had occasion to read through the anathemas of the ecumenical councils. It struck me even more forcibly than it had before, that the forthcoming Roman Synod on the family could perform no more pastoral act than to anathematize in due form the principal errors on that topic. And since their Lordships are all busy men, I have made so bold as to compose some anathemas myself; and if anyone of Synodal Fathers should ever happen to see this posting, they would be very welcome to make any use of them that they might see fit.

1. On the indissolubility of marriage

Si quis dixerit, vinculum matrimonii rati et consummati inter baptizatos ob haeresim, adulterium, conhabitationem molestam, absentiam affectatam, sterilitatem aut quamcumque aliam causam, coniugibus ambobus viventibus, dirumpi posse, anathema sit.

{If anyone should say that the bond of a ratified and consummated marriage between baptized persons can be broken on account of heresy, adultery, irksome cohabitation, deliberate absence, sterility or of any other cause whatever while both spouses are still living, let him be anathema.}

2. Same sex ‘marriage’

Si quis eo versaniae pervenerit ut non erubescat affirmare legibus divinis aut humanis sanciri posse ut vir virum in matrimonium ducat vel mulier mulieri nubat, anathema sit.

{If anyone should reach such a degree of madness, that he is not ashamed to affirm that it can be sanctioned by divine or human laws that a man should marry a man, or a woman marry a woman, let him be anathema.}

3. Civil partnerships

Si quis dixerit, licere civitatibus illas coniunctiones seu pacta  viri ad virum aut mulieris ad mulierem legibus sancire, quae matrimonii formam et speciem prae se ferant, immo quae totam matrimonii rationem praeter solum nomen habere simulent, anathema sit.

{If anyone should say that States may establish by laws those partnerships or contracts of a man to a man or of a woman to a woman which have the form and appearance of matrimony, or rather which pretend to have the whole nature of matrimony apart from the name alone, let him be anathema.}

4. ‘Gender theory’

Si quis effutire praesumpserit, aliud esse sexum, aliud sexualitatis genus, sexum quidem singulis hominibus a Deo vel natura plerumque praestitum, sexualitatis vero genus ab ipsis hominibus libere delectum atque amplexum, ita ut civitatibus statuere liceat ut viri se femineos nominantes iurium et officiorum mulieris, mulieres vero se masculinas dicentes iurium et officiorum viri potiantur, anathema sit.

{If anyone should presume to babble about how sex is one thing and gender another, and about how each human being is generally endowed with their sex from God or from nature, whereas gender is freely chosen and embraced by human beings themselves, in such a way that a State may establish by law that a man who identifies himself as feminine may possess the rights and duties of a woman, and that a woman who calls herself masculine may possess the rights and duties of a man, let him be anathema}

I think that should wrap things up for now.

GordianKnotIt is widely held that UKIP’s performance in the recent European Elections is unlikely to be replicated on the same scale in the 2015 UK General Election and that Nigel Farage’s party will struggle to win not just an overall majority but a single seat in the House of Commons.

Conservative Euro-sceptics point out that David Cameron will go into the election pledged to hold an in/out referendum in 2017 if he wins an overall majority and that a vote for UKIP, by splitting the Euro-sceptic vote, may throw away the best chance in a generation for those who want Britain to leave the European Union to get their way. Cameron-sceptics argue the Prime Minister is actually pro-European and is offering the referendum out of terror of UKIP and will find a way to wriggle out if he wins in 2015.

No one, so far as I have seen, has suggested the obvious solution to the Euro-sceptic conundrum. UKIP could simply pledge that if they won an overall majority they would repeal the The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, call an immediate in/out referendum, negotiate the UK exit and then (or immediately in the event of a no vote) dissolve parliament. All Euro-sceptics could then safely vote UKIP in the knowledge that this would deliver a referendum while allowing them to return to their tradtional politial loyalties six months later. It is hard to imagine that, if they delivered,  UKIP would not retain some presence in the House of Commons in the ensuing General Election.

Is it really possible that a synod in October is going to repudiate the solemn teaching of the Church concerning the sanctity and indissolubility of Marriage? I don’t know. Perhaps there is a silent majority in the episcopate which will throw off the terror of dissenting from Papal policy that afflicted them at Vatican II. Perhaps there will be a great reaffirmation of the ancient and unchanging doctrine of the Saviour. Perhaps there will be a shameful fudge (e.g. delegating the power to make declarations of nullity to parish priests) that holds up the doctrine to contempt without technically surrendering it. But what if the synod simply violates the teaching (either indirectly, by saying that a pastoral solution should be found by each bishops’ conference, or directly by saying that civil cohabitees may receive communion)?

If the last and most terrible possibility is realised what should a faithful Catholic do? This prospect raises the question of what a faithful Catholic is to do when a non-ireformable teaching that demands obsequium religiosum issued by the organs of the supreme magisterium (but by definition not in the exercise of the supreme power of teaching) errs. This possibility is by definition possible. It is implied by the distinctions involved in the concept of  obsequium religiosum itself. Lumen Gentium 25 states:

Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

This seems to imply that the difference between the sermon of a bishop in communion with the Roman Pontiff and a papal or synodal teaching act (that does not define) requiring obsequium religiosum is one of degree not kind. In themseves these criteria are quite straight forward and helpful. Definitive doctrinal judgements of Popes and Ecumenical Councils are infalible and their contents irreformable. In contrast, the general teaching of Popes and Bishops is the normal way in which the faithful and converts will receive the faith it should be presumed to be correct with a presumption that varies in strength in accordance with the character of the documents, the frequent repetition of the same doctrine, and their manner of speaking. It is not infallible or irreformable it is reformable and fallible. The problem arises that the 1870 definition of papal infallibility lays down four criteria for an infallible act of the papal magisterium: a) that the Pope as pastor and teacher of all Christians b) teach the universal church c) in a matter of faith and morals d) defining. It is not possible by ecclesiastical positive law to lay down the manner in which d) is effected because the right is of divine law and the Pope can implicitly dispense himself from any limitations that he or his predecessors may seek to put upon its exercise. Consequently, criteria a)-c) can be fulfilled and a certain obscurity persist about whether d) has been fulfilled and thus an obscurity persist as to whether the text requires obsequium religiosum or the ascent of faith. Formerly this problem either did not occur or was much less acute because a Pope did not fulfil b) unless he was going to fulfil d). After all there is no point in a Pope fallibly teaching the universal church, this is what bishops are for. Since 1832, however, the Popes have taken to addressing the universal church non-definitively with texts of ever increasing frequency and volume. To make things worse, entirely non-magisterial agencies of the Holy See pump out documents constantly which are widely confused with this non-infalible church teaching but in fact do not even require obsequium religiosum.  In fact, the texts taken singly which do require the ascent of faith are usually quite obvious but since 1870 when they do occur they are usually buried and lost in the middle of book length encyclical letters. In the 1990 ‘Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian’ Donum Veritatis 24 the CDF grudgingly concedes:

The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the Magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule. It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions. Here the theologian will need, first of all, to assess accurately the authoritativeness of the interventions which becomes clear from the nature of the documents, the insistence with which a teaching is repeated, and the very way in which it is expressed. When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies.

The possibility therefore of heretical statements coming out of the forthcoming synod turns our attention to the elephant in the room: the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.  This was, we were assured, a ‘pastoral council’ and, on 16th November 1964 just prior to the final vote on the text of Lumen Gentium, the following note was given to the council fathers.

A question has arisen regarding the precise theological note which should be attached to the doctrine that is set forth in the Schema de Ecclesia and is being put to a vote.

The Theological Commission has given the following response regarding the Modi that have to do with Chapter III of the de Ecclesia Schema: “As is self-evident, the Council’s text must always be interpreted in accordance with the general rules that are known to all.”

On this occasion the Theological Commission makes reference to its Declaration of March 6, 1964, the text of which we transcribe here:

“Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church’s supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ’s faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation.”

But Vatican II only openly declared to be binding four things:

Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven

- Dei Verbum 19

The Sacred Council, therefore, not only accords to this ecclesiastical and spiritual heritage the high regard which is its due and rightful praise, but also unhesitatingly looks on it as the heritage of the universal Church. For this reason it solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, have a full right and are in duty bound to rule themselves, each in accordance with its own established disciplines, since all these are praiseworthy by reason of their venerable antiquity, more harmonious with the character of their faithful and more suited to the promotion of the good of souls.

- Orientalium Ecclesiarum 5

Already from the earliest times the Eastern Churches followed their own forms of ecclesiastical law and custom, which were sanctioned by the approval of the Fathers of the Church, of synods, and even of ecumenical councils. Far from being an obstacle to the Church’s unity, a certain diversity of customs and observances only adds to her splendor, and is of great help in carrying out her mission, as has already been stated. To remove, then, all shadow of doubt, this holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls.

- Unitatis Redintegratio 16

First, the council professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men. Thus He spoke to the Apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you” (Matt. 28: 19-20). On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.

This Vatican Council likewise professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.

Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.

Over and above all this, the council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society.

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

- Dignitatis Humane 1-2

Does that mean that the remaining texts of Vatican II constitute, as the CDF puts it, merely ‘interventions in the prudential order’? Would that not mean that its documents, these four statements excluded, require a level of  obsequium religiosum lower than that of another Ecumenical Council or even than of the non-definitive elements of a Papal encyclical professedly dealing with faith and morals but not describing itself as ‘pastoral’. It would seem so.

One of the great problems in the Church since Vatican II (and during it) has been the fact a vast number of clergy and laity have abandoned Catholicism in favour various modern superstitions and yet chosen to remain within the structures of the church. This already became clear during the council but the shocked ranks of the faithful bishops were too dazed and fearful of scandal to declare it openly as they should have done. The reason for this is the confusion of orthodoxy and ultramontanism that has prevailed since the nineteenth century. If some catastrophic act of erroneous teaching is about to occur then if that leads to the exposure of the hidden schism within the visible structures of the church and the disentangling of  orthodoxy and ultramontanism that might end up being a necessary, even life saving, procedure.


“I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.”

As J. R. R. Tolkien correctly observed the ‘Church’ of ‘England’ is “a pathetic and shadowy medley of half-remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs”. A priest once told me that, when he had been serving as a University Chaplain some years before, he had arranged to be able to celebrate the Mass for the students in one of the side chapels of a stolen mediaeval cathedral. When the Catholic students and their chaplain emerged after Mass they found they had been forgotten about, the cathedral had been closed and there were men scurrying around covering up every Christian image in the building in black cloth. The cathedral officials were mortified when they found the Catholics seeking a way out. The building was being re-ordered in preparation for a masonic ceremony. I do not know how saturated in masonry the  ‘Church’ of ‘England’ still is. Perhaps it is no longer necessary as the open profession of Deism would be quite conservative in the ‘C’of’E’ today and agnosticism would probably put you on the centre ground. Today we have a splendidly timed intervention from former ‘Archbishop’ of ‘Canterbury’ Lord Carey in favour of assisted suicide. Lord Carey has been positioning himself as a touch more interested in Christianity than the rest of them for the last few years, so this will have that much more of an impact.

I mention Freemasonry because it is really hard to explain the behaviour of the Anglicans except as an attempt to pose as a national Christian organisation in order to sell out on every important point at just the right moment  salving consciences and easing the path to national apostasy and ruin. Some Anglican bishop was once asked about his position on abortion and he replied “one must never do evil that good may come of it apart from in exceptional circumstances”. Perhaps the ‘C’ of ‘E’ could adopt that as a sort of motto. Carey has apparently remarked in explanation of his new enthusiasm for the cause of death “Today we face a central paradox. In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope.” Gosh what an insight. Although I seem to remember anguish and pain being tied up with the human condition in some way and even the founder of Christianity finding some use for them but I am not sure about the details. I think I read it in book somewhere.

Lord Carey also remarks that the law as it stands risks “undermining the principle of human concern which should lie at the heart of our society”. “Our society” there is the problem. Christians do not belong to this society. Friendship with it is enmity with God. Anglicanism is a chaplaincy to the City of World but the Catholic priest as he kneels before the altar every day beseeches his Lord “Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta”. “The fact is that I have changed my mind” Lord Carey goes on “The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.” The old philosophical certainties never collapse Lord Carey that is why they are old, that is why they are certainties. “If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of science, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.” This is why the rejection of Scholasticism in general and Thomism in particular is so important to the strategy of modernists working ‘within’ the visible Catholic Church.

In some ways one imagines the establishment of the Anglican pagan civic cult shields religiosity from the more ferocious attacks of the  nineteenth-century-continental style secularism of Dawkins and co. Even if that is true I am not sure any more it is a price worth paying. Perhaps a straight fight would be better for souls. I once had an argument with another of the Laodiceans about St Mary’s ‘Episcopalian’ ‘Cathedral’ in Edinburgh. My general programme for when the King comes back over the water is for all the property of the Anglican conventicle to be seized and handed over to the Church and then the remaining adherents of Anglicanism to be reduced to servitude until they have paid of the difference between the proportion of national wealth possessed by the Dioceses and Religious Orders in 1560 or 1532 and the proportion they will yield upon the restoration. As a result I was rather looking forward to taking over St Mary’s ‘Cathedral’. I thought of it rather as of a brand new church building that had never been used for Christian worship but had been used as a wine bar or brothel for a number of years.  Some exorcisms and blessings, perhaps a hose down with holy water, and it should be ready for service. My fellow Laodicean was horrified at this suggestion. She insisted that the structure must be torn down stone by stone, the rafters incinerated and cast to the winds, the stones ground into dust and thrown into the Atlantic, the foundations raised and burned, and salt sown into the earth where once it stood so that nothing might grow on that accursed spot ever again. I am beginning to think she was right.

Napoleon Bonaparte is the great tragedy of Arthurian Republicanism. The French Revolution overthrew the useless Teutonic parasite that was the Second Estate of the Ancien Regime. Alas for Henry IV! If the heretic king of Navarre had not decided to accept the Mass in exchange for Paris, if Philip II had not insisted that his daughter – the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia – marry a Habsburg, the French Republic might have been founded in 1589 on the basis of the Holy Catholic Faith instead of the pestilential errors of the ‘Enlightenment’. And yet, a wonderful opportunity presented itself when the Corsican general sought to make peace with Pius VII and to restore the meritocratic monarchy swept away by the Sicambrians, Welches and other savages from the woods and swamps of ancient Germany. The foul Talleyrand persuaded the First Consul to recognise Catholicism not as the one true religion but merely as that of the Consul himself and that of the greater number of the French people. A still more wonderful opportunity presented itself when Bonaparte sought the purple and the blessing of the Pope to do so. Napoleon then committed two further terrible errors: he took the title ‘French’ and not ‘Roman’ Emperor and he made his office hereditary. Thus, he tied his laurels to a mere nation and fell back into the blood superstition of the barbarians.

As Beethoven declared “He, too, then, is nothing better than an ordinary man! Now he will trample on all human rights only to humour his ambition; he will place himself above all others,–become a tyrant!” If only Napoleon had restrained himself then the Church might have been forever liberated from the dead weight of the deposed ‘aristocracy’ endlessly demanding that the Lay faithful waste their energies labouring to restore the Ancien Regime instead of the Kingship of Christ, the privileges of the descendants of Alaric and Attila instead of those of Holy Mother Church. If only Napoleon had remained faithful to the Republic then Leo XIII might not have had to expend himself trying to get the obstinate French royalists to rally to it. As Belloc saw “When you have reconciled these two things – I mean the high Stoicism of the Republic and the humility of the Church (for they can co-exist) – then you will have the perfect state.” Of course, St Hippolytus foresaw that the Antichrist would restore the Roman Empire to the government it enjoyed at the time of Augustus, so if Napoleon had done all these things he would no doubt have proved to be the Antichrist in person and not merely a warm-up act. But this does not mean that these priceless acts would not have been in themselves the right things to do. As Pius VII taught as bishop of Imola,

“Strive to attain to the full height of virtue and you will be true democrats. Fulfill faithfully the precepts of the Gospel and you will be the joy of the Republic.”


In orthodox circles there is lot of concern (though perhaps more in the USA than here) about modesty. My attention was drawn to the subject today by this parody of conservative Christian concerns about female modesty. I recommend you read it. It is very amusing. The implication is that conservative Christian male critiques of female modesty are irrational projections onto women of their own suppressed guilt concerning their impurity and lust. Surely there is a great deal of truth to this. However, one must accept that men have a different psychology of bodily attraction to women independently of their personal moral responsibility. This male psychology is certainly an occasion of sin but it is a reality.

I suspect that standards of modesty are essentially relative. On a Polynesian island climate dictates that people wear very few, if any, clothes. Because this is obviously rational and necessary this is not a moral problem for the inhabitants.  In temperate or colder regions a much heftier weight of clothing is required. Conventions and assumptions and a body-language of clothing develop from this physical necessity. Consequently when a (male) inhabitant of a temperate zone visits a tropical island it has historically been a problem. It is said that when Franco’s Spain sought revenues from tourism and its beaches became populated by scantily clad foreign females, Spanish young men (used to a society of comparatively austere modesty) suffered real psychological difficulties. My great grandfather found the sight of ladies’ ankles (not seen in his youth) very difficult.

In this light it must be recognised that it is possible and not uncommon for a woman to reduce the total area of her body covered by clothing to significantly below the social norm so as to arouse male interest. This is not to say there are objective standards of modest clothing but rather the subjective standards may be used to achieve this effect. Perhaps it is even legitimate to a limited degree in certain formalised ‘courtship’ contexts like balls. The manipulation of the immoral sort assumes the concupiscence of the men in question but it is a reality. That the male concupiscence in question can be and is awakened without any such manipulation does not abolish the possibility and reality of manipulation.

The question arises of whether, as a consequence of the sexualisation of western culture, the form of manipulation mentioned above has become normalised and that consequently standards of modesty in clothing are in perpetual decline. Because modesty is relative, the effect of this would be that clothing considered immodest a generation earlier will become modest (because of the decline in general morals) without any immodesty necessarily implied on the part of those wearing them.

It is hard to see any appreciable decline in the modesty of clothing in Britain between the ‘seventies and the present day, despite the undoubted general decline in public morals. I suspect that this is because the transformation was so radical between the ‘fifties and the ‘seventies that we crashed into the objective factor of climate. Wear less than a certain amount in Britain and the manipulation becomes patent because you must be freezing. Conversely, one suspects the stuffiness of Victorian modesty was a reaction to a similar decline in the eighteenth century and to the ensuing political upheavals on the continent.

Perhaps this is one reason why the concern about modesty among conservative Christians is so much greater in the USA than in the UK. The USA is a vast country with every imaginable climate and yet it is one country and so it has to some extent one culture. Thus the subjective cultural factor is more in tension with the objective climatic consideration than in a smaller state. The other reason of course is that there are a lot more conservative Christians in the USA than in Britain.

What should one do then? Men should practice custody of the eyes and get over themselves. On the other hand, given that there are no objective standards of modest clothing and that men will succumb to lust whatever women do, women who are not intending to manipulate male concupiscence have already done enough and ought not to be subjected to transferred scruples by men. The only person in a position to warn an adult woman that she may (in some particular culture) cause a reasonable chap some difficulties by her outfit is another woman (or perhaps a foolhardy husband) when invited to do so by the woman in question.


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