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Remember how Blair mended the wicked undemocratic upper house of parliament by throwing out all those wicked hereditary peers and replacing them with his nice friends?

Read this little bit of journalistic provocation. I found this on the Devil’s Kitchen, but since not everyone’s muckymouth tolerance has been built up by going to a school that features by name as Not A Good School in Trainspotting, I have put it here without the completely gratuitous swearing and worse in which that otherwise funny, informative and endearing blogger indulges.

Here’s a wee excerpt of their conversation:

Baron Truscott of St James’s took a bite of his teacake before explaining to the two lobbyists in front of him just how much it would cost to hire a peer of the realm.

“Rates vary between £1,000 and £5,000 a day,” he said quietly, his voice almost drowned by the chatter in the House of the Lords dining room. It was a question, he agreed, of getting the right person rather than haggling over the money.

Truscott — a former Labour MEP who was a government minister until 18 months ago — made it clear he had exactly the right credentials.

In the course of their short tea-time conversation he agreed to help them amend a government bill that was harmful to their client, in return for cash. He said he had done similar work before. He said he had intervened on the Energy Bill — a piece of legislation he had been responsible for as a minister only months earlier.

However, he confided to the lobbyists, he had to be a “bit careful” and could not table the amendment himself. “There are ways to do these things, but there is a degree of subtlety . . . work behind the scenes,” he said.

Now I must try and remember where I put that grindstone before I began procrastinating.

See SPUC release and John Smeaton’s blog post. The HFE bill goes before the House of Lords tomorrow. I know it’s a massive pain, especially if you have not been following things all along – trying to work out exactly what horrors this particular bill legislates for, trying not to get anything mixed up, working out how you address whoever it is you are writing to, etc etc – but even if you can only cobble together some only-slightly-altered paraphrase of SPUC’s outline – SEND IT! Every email represents a voter. Or, for the Lords, moral support for their better inclinations. WRITE NOW!

Hail, light and model for all Carthusians, fruitful olive tree bursting forth from the cleft in the rock,

fragrant lily springing up in solitude, flowering and diffusing a life-giving perfume of sweetness.

May we exult for ever in the mercy of Him Whose glory fills you with joy.

V/. The just man shall blossom like the lily,

R/. He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar.

Deus, qui Sanctum Brunonem ad serviendum tibi in solitudine vocasti:

eius nobis intercessione concede, ut inter mundanas varietates,

tibi iugiter vacemus:

per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum,

qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti,


per omnia saecula saeculorum, amen.

The Latin phrase “vacare Deo” is hard to translate exactly in English. It has all the connotations of being vacant or empty, being at leisure, being free or unoccupied, being on holiday for God. It occurs in Psalm 45(46):10 “Vacate et videte quoniam ego sum Deus” – “Be still, and know that I am God”. St. Paul uses it in 1 Cor 7:5, about married couples being “free for prayer”. The idea is present also in the story of Mary the sister of Martha, who sat at the Lord’s feet, and was commended for having wisely chosen the one thing necessary (Lk 10:42).

(From the Pluscarden oblate newsletter. Translation of prayer in combox.)

Click to view full size image

To have known the things that from the weak are furled,
Perilous ancient passions, strange and high;
It is something to be wiser than the world,
It is something to be older than the sky.
I was chatting with an old friend yesterday (a priest) over a glass of brandy. We were discussing the strangeness of being a Catholic, of carrying an immortal fire in one’s breast in the midst of a perishing world, of belonging to ‘a high-born race of foreigners on earth’. Everything around us is marked for destruction. The rulers of the world sit complacently in their palaces and parliaments – the very elements of which will one day dissolve in fire – while the simplest slum dweller, upon whose poverty their seeming security is founded, participates in the divine nature and will pass unharmed through the flaming deluge. We got onto discussing marriage and its strange and ambiguous position as the quintessential this-worldly activity and yet the sacramentum magnum the only natural symbol of that union of divine and human natures which lies at the heart of the mystery which will destroy this world and create a new one. We had spent the entire weekend discussing metaphysics, the miracle of being and the purity and splendour of the divine being the abyss of all perfections. It is because the slaves of this world do not dare to look into that abyss that they cannot shake off their chains. It was no earthly courage which permitted any of us to gaze into its depths. Grace and providence seized us and turned our eyes into the face of its piercing light without any merit of our own. I was reminded of Chesterton’s incredible poem ‘The Great Minimum’ which seems to be a hymn to being, to his wife and to the Catholic Faith. It expresses with terrifying precision the strangeness of knowing everything, of knowing where we have come from and where we are going, the meaning and reason for the struggles that wrack the world, of the true war which the earthly ones disguise.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”
We must never forget these vertiginous facts, terrifying though they are. They are the only things which matter. The one thing necessary is to seek His face. We will not help our mortal friends and countrymen by living as if their predicament was any less terrible than it is. No earthly glory can be obtained from the quest for earthly glory that will not be tied around our necks and cast with us into the lake of fire. ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom and God and His justice and these other things will be added unto you.’ Only in the light of these truths is the sordidness and absurdity of sin exposed for what it is. The sheer pathetic indignity of voluntarily resuming one’s chains and seeking re-admittance to the flesh-pots of Egypt is unbearable. The one and only Ark is prepared and the deluge is coming. The earth is groaning for the revelation of the sons of God. Outside of the Ark everything which subsists upon the earth will be destroyed.

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Your altar. We are Yours, and Yours we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with You, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known You; many too, despising Your precepts, have rejected You. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Your Sacred Heart.

You are King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken You, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned You; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

You are King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof; call them back to the harbour of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.

You are King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism; refuse not to draw them all into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Your eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, once Your chosen people. Of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Saviour; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.

Grant, O Lord, to Your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be glory and Honour forever. Amen.

Blair loads Lords with new peers

LABOUR will become the dominant political force in the House of Lords in the next parliament when Tony Blair creates 16 new Labour peers.

The Prime Minister’s ennoblement of retiring MPs will end the Conservative’s historic dominance in the upper house and potentially embroil Labour in a row about “Tony’s cronies”.

The Scotsman

Blair loads Lords with new peers

LABOUR will become the dominant political force in the House of Lords in the next parliament when Tony Blair creates 16 new Labour peers.

The Prime Minister’s ennoblement of retiring MPs will end the Conservative’s historic dominance in the upper house and potentially embroil Labour in a row about “Tony’s cronies”.

The Scotsman

At last! A modern theologian who supports Exsurge Domine 33

“If in order to save an earthly life it is praiseworthy to use force to stop a man from committing suicide, are we not to be allowed use the same force — holy coercion — to save the Life (with a capital) of many who are stupidly bent on killing their souls?”

– Jose Maria Escrivá, The Way: 399

At last! A modern theologian who supports Exsurge Domine 33

“If in order to save an earthly life it is praiseworthy to use force to stop a man from committing suicide, are we not to be allowed use the same force — holy coercion — to save the Life (with a capital) of many who are stupidly bent on killing their souls?”

– Jose Maria Escrivá, The Way: 399

The Council of Trent anathematizes those who say that any pastor of the churches whatsoever may transform the rites wont to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments into ‘other new rites’. This has been interpreted in two different ways. Some read it as a very weak condemnation which rejects only the idea that any person exercising pastoral ministry may alter the Church’s rites. On this reading a bishop or an archdeacon or a liturgist might do so, just not anybody. This is certainly a possible reading but it is very weak and would render the definition virtually pointless. It would be a bit like a slippery politician condemning those who support abortion on demand up to birth and then presenting himself as pro-life even though he actually supported abortion in almost all circumstances. the other reading is that this is quite a ferocious canon defining that no cleric whatever may create new rites. This interpretation is supported by paragraphs 1124-1125 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which read:

“The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition. For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.”

Often this interpretation of Trent is rejected because of the Council’s words elsewhere in the Decree on Communion Under Both Species, and the Communion of Infants,

“It furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that, in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, it may ordain, or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places.”

this objection assumes that the ‘substance’ of the sacraments means only the matter, form and intention. This would be rather like saying that a man who had had his arms, legs and nose cut off was ‘substantially unharmed’. It is a sort of absurd reductionism which assumes that all sorts of sinful practices (such as consecrating under only one species, not consuming the consecrated elements, baptising a healthy child against its parents wishes, suppressing the sign of the cross) which the pope certainly has no power to authorize, because they would not compromise the validity of the the sacrament, do not pertain its ‘substance’.

In this context, Joseph Ratzinger, made some uncharacteristically severe remarks in 2004 on this very point which are very well worth reading.

“It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and is thereby able to oppose those people who for their part want to do what has come into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The ‘rite’, that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living tradition in which the sphere which uses that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit which is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis — the handing-on of tradition.

It is important, in this connection, to interpret the ‘substantial continuity’ correctly. The author expressly warns us against the wrong path up which we might be led by a neo-scholastic sacramental theology which is disconnected from the living form of the Liturgy. On that basis, people might reduce the ‘substance’ to the material and form of the sacrament, and say: Bread and wine are the material of the sacrament, the words of institution are its form. Only these two things are really necessary, everything else is changeable.

At this point Modernists and Traditionalists are in agreement: As long as the material gifts are there, and the words of institution are spoken, then everything else is freely disposable. Many priests today, unfortunately, act in accordance with this motto; and the theories of many liturgists are unfortunately moving in the same direction. They want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly ‘pastoral’, around this remnant, this core which has been spared, and which is thus either relegated to the realm of magic, or loses any meaning whatever. The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to overcome this reductionism, the product of an abstract sacramental theology, and to teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of tradition which had taken concrete form, which cannot be torn apart into little pieces, but has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone like myself, who was moved by this perception in the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.”

In Chapter 43 of the Holy Rule St Benedict famously admonishes his monks “nothing is to be preferred to the Opus Dei” meaning thereby the Sacred Liturgy and the Divine Office. And yet, in Chapter 6 of the Gospel according to St John Our Lord himself tells us “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He hath sent.” There is no contradiction here, the liturgy is the deposit of faith, the celebration of the liturgy is the tradition. “As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.”