Monday, 30 May 2011

"Get up" for Jesus!

An advertisement was posted on a "Catholic" blog... considered "our most important event" by the FSSP (Fraternity of SS Peter & Paul) concerning the "First Solemn High Mass in England" of a recently ordained priest of the Fraternity. An FSSP Parish was offering travel to the event being hosted at the Church of St James, Spanish Place and this was their itenerary...

9am: Departure from St William of York, Reading, in hired coach
10.15am: Arrival at
St James’ Church (‘Spanish Place’, 22 George Street, London W1U 3QY)
10.30am: optional art tour at the
Wallace Collection by Fr de Malleray (conveniently located across the street from St James’ Church) – or free time
12noon: prayer at the
Tyburn Tree near Marble Arch (12mn walk from St James’ Church) and visit of the Martyrs’ Crypt in nearby Tyburn Convent
12.30pm: community picnic lunch in Hyde Park (please bring packed lunch) and free time
2.30pm: Confessions at St James Church
3pm: Beginning of newly ordained English FSSP priest Rev Fr Matthew McCarthy’s First Solemn High Mass – ‘Mass for three voices’ by William Byrd
4.30pm: First Blessings and Refreshments offered in Basement

Many of those attending or who would support this event, which should be an occasion of joy naturally (and I do wish Father McCarthy all the very best in his ministry - ad multos annos), will also think themselves ardent "traditionalists" of a similar vein to the FSSPX except, of course, for being in regular canonical status with the Holy See. What they will fail to see is the irony of their claim to the maintenance of the "Tradition".

There are two particular clues highlighted in the above schedule that immediately alert a Traditionalist to the dangers of the "New Tradition"... Lunch preceding Mass at 3pm?!

Now I am fully aware that it was Pius XII who graciously acquiesced to the (then) Bishops to permit post-Midday Masses and a relaxation of the Eucharistic Fast [Motu Proprio, "Christus Dominus" 1953 extended in "Sacram Communionem" 1957] thus altering centuries of The Church's practice - but this can hardly be thought the behaviour of one supposed to be the "Guardian of Tradition"? Indeed, rather ironically, there are many so-called "Traditionalists" e.g. Sedevacantists, FSSPX etc, who look to this particular Pope as the last of the "true Popes"! But how can this be, since it is largely through his auspices that so much of holy Tradition has been tampered with ["Munificentissimus Deus" 1950 dogmatising the doctrine of the Assumption without Ecumenical Council and creating a new Mass for a feast that had long expressed the "lex orandi lex credendi" of the Church; the dramatic alteration of the rubrics and calendar of the Mass and Divine Office, "Cum hac nostra aetate" March 1955 losing nearly all of the Octaves (bar Christmass, Easter and Pentecost); and then drastically the Rites of Holy Week, "Maxima Redemptionis" November 1955]! Indeed, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the "arch-nemesis" of the "New Traditionalists" whom they accuse of hoodwinking poor Paul VI re the creation of the Novus Ordo Missae, in his book "The Reform of the Liturgy" makes it quite clear that his was a work begun under Pius XII, who in fact gave Bugnini his first appointment in the "Commission for Liturgical Reform" at its foundation in 1948! So, far from being simply adherers of that "New Tradition" of Roman Catholicism propounding the Ultramontanist dogma of Papal Infallibility, these "Novus Traddies" are supporters of one of the worst Liturgical anarchists since Thomas Cranmer fiddled about (rather artistically but with severe doctrinal consequences) with the old Use of Sarum. In all fairness, it wasn't Paul VI who began the process that has so severely distorted the understanding and practice of the Catholic Faith in our own time.

The Annexe, Brighton Congress Hall
at the junction of Union Road & Park Crescent Terrace
Buses to "The Level" or the "Open Market"

Fortunately here in Brighton & Hove (UK) the Traditional faithful are able to avail themselves of the Traditional Latin Mass everyday, offered at a traditional time of 8am Monday to Friday (9am on weekends), afterwhich they may "break-fast" and go about their usual business of work or recreation. Indeed, harnessing modern technology (but not the spirit of the age), those faithful unable to hear Mass in person will very soon be able to do so via the Internet (again, DV), either watching the live broadcast or a recording of the broadcast Mass at a time later in the day convenient to themselves. In fact, if they so wanted, they could even arrange with the priest to receive the Holy Communion later in the day... having duly fasted [a centuries old custom]. All of this, of course, requires a certain amount of sacrifice and self-discipline, but is that really so much to ask in return for the "new Manna from Heaven" and the "Bread of Life"?

The time of offering and liturgy can alter the essential elements and spirituality of the Mass - they can alter the spirit and intention, disposition and focus of the worshipper. What better way to consecrate the day - if... at all possible - with the offering of The Church's Prayer and of Christ Himself? To receive the "Bread of Life" [John vi] first, sustenance for our spiritual life both here and for the hereafter, before consuming that which is necessary only for our bodies but not our souls? Its about priorities. Not possible for all, true, but possible for many... "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also..." [Mtt vi:21] If God is not first in our life, than we do not love Him first as we are commanded to do [Mtt xxii:37-40]. It is possible for us to presume too much of His love and merciful disposition towards us, for it eventually breeds contempt and reduces our devotion to being cursory and perfunctory... "because I have to" rather than "because I want to". It should be the joy of the Christian to get up and praise God first... not an after-thought after wordly priorities and considerations... Similarly reception of the Eucharist, "our daily bread" [Mtt vi:11, Acts ii:46], if possible, should surely be enjoyed before any earthly repast? "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. ... So keep on watching, because you don't know the day or the hour." [Mtt xxv:13] Better then, having survived the night, to begin the day prepared for any eventuality... No?!

Often those devoted to Tradition bemoan the lack of available Masses. Yet, nothing can be achieved without some effort. In the States some traditionalists (admittedly Novus Traddies on the whole) will drive three hours each way to hear a "traditional" offering of the Mass. In our own Mission we have some attendees driving at least 40minutes to an hour on Sundays to hear Mass. Is it too much then to expect those faithful attached to Tradition to get up a little earlier to avail themselves of that "spiritual food" that gives Eternal Life?!

If you, reading this, are attached to true Tradition (i.e. that which has lasted 2'000 years, not 150), live locally and desire to assist in the offering of the most august and holy Sacrifice of the Mass... why not make a little sacrifice of your own time to come and hear Mass at 8am and begin your daily life having been united to God the Most High through His Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ, present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist of the Altar? "Get up" for Jesus!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Be Religious Or Be Damned!

By St. John Baptiste Marie Vianney

[There is very little here one can argue with even today...
he even addresses the tone of his remarks! FJ]

Generally speaking, one dies as one has lived. That is one of the great truths which Holy Scripture and the Fathers repeat in many different places. If you live as good Christians, you will be sure to die as good Christians, but if you live badly, you will be sure to die a bad death...It is true, however, that sometimes by a kind of miracle, one may begin badly and finish well, but that happens so rarely that, as St. Jerome puts it, death is generally the echo of life. You think that you will return then to God? No, you will perish in sin...

There is always the person who says to me: “What harm can there be in enjoying oneself for a while? I do no wrong to anyone; I do not want to be religious or to become a religious! If I do not go dances, I will be living in the world like someone dead!” My good friend, you are wrong. Either you will be religious or you will be damned. What is a religious person? This is nothing other than a person who fulfills his duties as a Christian.

You say that I shall achieve nothing by talking to you about dances and that you will indulge neither more nor less in them. You are wrong again. In ignoring or despising the instructions of your pastor, you draw down upon yourself fresh chastisements from God, and I, on my side, will achieve quite a lot by fulling my duties. At the hour of my death, God will ask me not if you have fulfilled your duties but if I have taught you what you must do in order to fulfill them. You say, too, that I shall never break down your resistance to the point of making you believe that there is harm in amusing yourself for a little while in dancing? You do not wish to believe that there is any harm in it? Well, that is your affair. As far as I am concerned, it is sufficient for me to tell you in such a way as will insure that you do understand, even if you want to do it all the same. By doing this I am doing all that I should do. That should not irritate you: your pastor is doing his duty. But, you will say, the Commandments of God do not forbid dancing, nor does Holy Scripture, either. Perhaps you have not examined them very closely.

Follow me for a moment and you will see that there is not a Commandment of God which dancing does not cause to transgressed, not a Sacrament which it does not cause to be profaned. You know as well as I do that these kinds of follies and wild extravagances are not ordinarily indulged in, but on Sundays and feast days. What, then, will a young girl or a body do who have decided to go to the dance? What love will they have for God? Their minds will be wholly occupied with their preparations to attract the people with whom they hope to be mixing. Let us suppose that they say their prayers-how will they say them? Alas, only God knows that! Besides, what love for God can be felt by anyone who is thinking and breathing nothing but the love of pleasures and of creatures? You will admit that it is impossible to please God and the world. That can never be.

God forbids swearing. Alas! What quarrels, what swearing, what blasphemies are uttered as a result of jealousy that arises between young people when they are at such gatherings! Have you not often had disputes or fights there? Who could count the crimes that are committed at these diabolical gatherings. The Third Commandment commands us to sanctify the holy day of Sunday. Can anyone really believe that a boy who has passed several hours with a girl, whose heart is like a furnace, is really thus satisfying this precept? St. Augustine has good reason to say that men would be better to work their land and girls to carry on with their spinning than to go dancing; the evil would be less. The Fourth Commandment of God commands children to honor their parents.

These young people who frequent the dances, do they have the respect and the submission to their parents wishes which they should have? No, they certainly do not; they cause them the utmost worry and distress between the way they disregard their parents' wishes and the way they put their money to bad use, while sometimes even taunting them with their old-fashioned outlook and ways. What sorrow should not such parents feel, that is, if their faith is not yet extinct, at seeing their children given over to such pleasures or, to speak more plainly, to such licentious ways? These children are no longer Heavenbent, but are fattening for Hell. Let us suppose that the parents have not yet lost Faith....Alas! I dare not go any further!...What blind parents!...What lost children!... Is there any place, any time, any occasion wherein so many sins of impurity are committed as the dancehalls and their sequels? Is it not in these gatherings that people are most violently prompted against the holy virtue of purity? Where else but there are the senses so strongly urged towards pleasurable excitement? If we go a little more closely into this, should we not almost die of horror at the sight of so many crimes which are committed? Is it not at these gatherings that the Devil so furiously kindles the fire of impurity in the hearts of the young people in order to annihilate in them the grace of Baptism? Is it not there that Hell enslaves as many souls as it wishes? If, in spite of the absence of occasions and the aids of prayer, a Christian has so much difficulty in preserving purity of heart, how could he possibly preserve that virtue in the midst of so many sources which are capable of breaking it down? “Look,” says St. John Chrysostom, “at this worldly and flighty young woman, or rather at this flaming brand of diabolical fire who by her beauty and her flamboyant attire lights in the heart of that young man the fire of concupiscence.” Do you not see them, one as much as the other, seeking to charm one another by their airs and graces and all sorts of tricks and wiles? Count up, unfortunate sinner, if you can, the number of your bad thoughts, of your evil desires and your sinful actions. Is it not there that you heard those airs that please the ears, that inflame and burn the hearts and make of these assemblies furnaces of shamelessness?

Is it not there, my dear brethren, that the boys and the girls drink at the fountain of crime, which very soon, like a torrent or a river bursting its banks, will inundate, ruin, and poison all its surroundings? Go on, shameless fathers and mothers, go on into Hell, where the fury of God awaits you, you and all the good actions you have done in letting your children run such risks. Go on, they will not be long in joining you, for you have outlined the road plainly for them. Go and count the number of years that you boys and girls have lost, go before you Judge to give an account of your lives, and you will see that your pastor had reason to forbid these kinds of diabolical pleasures!...Ah, you say, you are making more of it than there really is! I say too much about it? Very well, then. Listen. Did the Holy Fathers of the Church say too much about it?

St. Ephraim tell us that dancing is the perdition of girls and women, the blinding of men, the grief of angels, and the joy of the devils. Dear God, can anyone really have their eyes bewitched to such an extent that they will still want to believe that there is no harm in it, while all the time it is the rope by which the Devil pulls the most souls into Hell?...Go on, poor parents, blind and lost, go on and scorn what your pastor is telling you! Go on! Continue the way you are going! Listen to everything and profit nothing by it! There is no harm in it? Tell me, then, what did you renounce the day of your Baptism? Or on what conditions was Baptism given to you? Was it not on the condition of taking a vow in the face of heaven and earth, in the presence of Jesus Christ upon the altar, that you would renounce Satan and all his works that you would renounce sin and the pleasures and vanities of the world? Was it not because you promised that you would be willing to follow in the steps of a crucified God?

Well then, is this not truly to violate those promises made at your Baptism and to profane this Sacrament of mercy? Do you not also profane the Sacrament of Confirmation, in exchanging the Cross of Jesus Christ, which you have received, for vain and showy dress, in being ashamed of that Cross, which should be your glory and your happiness? St. Augustine tells us that those who go to dances truly renounce Jesus Christ in order to give themselves to the Devil. What a horrible thing that is! To drive out Jesus Christ after having received Him in your hearts! “Today,” says St. Ephraim, “they unite themselves to Jesus Christ and tomorrow to the Devil.” Alas! What a Judas is that person who, after receiving our Lord, goes then to sell Him to Satan in these gatherings, where he will be uniting himself with everything that is most vicious! And when it comes to the Sacrament of Penance, what a contradiction is such a life! A Christian, who after one single sin should spend the rest of his life in repentance, thinks only of giving himself up to all these worldly pleasures!

A great many profane the Sacrament of Extreme Unction by making indecent movements with the feet, the hands and the whole body, which one day must be sanctified by the holy oils. Is not the Sacrament of Holy Order insulted by the contempt with which the instructions of the pastor are considered? But when we come to the Sacrament of Matrimony, alas! What infidelities are not contemplated in these assemblies? It seems then that everything is admissible. How blind must anyone be who thinks there is no harm in it!... The Council of Aix-la-Chapelle forbids dancing, even at weddings. And St. Charles Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, says that three years of penance were given to someone who had danced and that if he went back to it, he was threatened with excommunication. If there were no harm in it, then were the Holy Fathers and the Church mistaken? But who tells you that there is no harm in it? It can only be a libertine, or a flighty and worldly girl, who are trying to smother their remorse of conscience as best they can.

Well, there are priests, you say, who do not speak about it in Confession or who, without permitting it, do not refuse absolution for it. Ah! I do not know whether there are priests who are so blind, but I am sure that those who go looking for easy going priests are looking for a passport which will lead them to Hell. For my own part, if I went dancing, I should not want to receive absolution not having a real determination not to go back dancing. Listen to St. Augustine and you will see if dancing is a good action. He tells us that “dancing is the ruin of souls, a reversal of all decency, a shameful spectacle, a public profession of crime.” St. Ephraim calls it “the ruin of good morals and the nourishment of vice.” St. John Chrysostom: “A school of public unchastity. Tertullian: “The temple of Venus, the consistory of shamelessness, and the citadel of all the depravities.” “Here is a girl who dances,” says St. Ambrose, “but she is the daughter of an adulteress because a Christian woman would teacher her daughter modesty, a proper sense of shame, and not dancing!” Alas! How many young people are there who since they have been going to dances do not frequent the Sacraments, or do so only to profane them! How many poor souls there are who have lost therein their religion and their faith! How many will never open their eyes to their unhappy state except when they are falling into Hell!...”

“We shall never return to God if we do not have recourse to prayer. Yes, my dear children, with a prayer well said, we can command Heaven and earth, and all will obey us.”

While he was alive, the Curé d’Ars (St John Vianney 1786 – 1859) always refused to allow himself to be photographed. On the centenary of his death in 1959, there was commissioned a « Photo-robot » derived from various documents, especially the death photographs, a true likeness of the Saint.

Our May Devotion

Saving lives...?

Outside the "Wistons Clinic" just across the road
from Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College
I accompanied two congregants from Wednesday morning's Mass this week, one of whom's brother is a co-organiser of the ABORT67 campaign, to engage in a very important and sadly neglected apostolate in our City; the saving not just of souls, but indeed of lives.

ABORT67 was the focus of our Mission's Lenten Giving this year. ABORT67 is partnered with The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) and CBR UK. ABORT67 is a non-religious organisation though many of its supporters and volunteers belong to various faith groups. Abortion is not just a "religious" issue, it is a matter of human rights that all should be concerned about. ABORT67 hopes to put an end to abortion by informing people about what abortion is, by showing them what it looks like. Using graphic photographs of certified actual abortions, ABORT67 hopes to bring to reality the murder that abortion is. It is not a popular tactic.

Every successful movement of social reform in the past has involved activists dramatising an injustice to a culture that doesn’t want to know more about that injustice. In our culture the word “abortion” has lost nearly all its meaning. We need to awaken people’s consciences in order for them to know that abortion is an act of violence that kills a baby.

It's incredible how desensitised we have become in the West, how generally apathetic we are, complacent even dismissive of anything that is not immediately related to us, or rather "me, myself and I". Yet this apathy and complacency breeds such a contempt for "life" that we refuse even to acknowledge the savage taking of life that goes on everyday around us. Just because "The Argus" (our local rag) doesn't name and shame the perpetrators or the victims (the victims often aren't even given a name) our society, our community, is oblivious to the daily tragic loss of young lives in the City in which we live. Just a stone's throw away from one of our largest centres of Tertiary education, where children who have been permitted to live study, there exists a place where the most henious of crimes is practised. Infanticide.

Just consider the awful irony of that for a moment. Just over the road from where we educate tomorrow's future, we allow the the exstinguishing of today's potential joy...

Statistics released this week were...

  • In total, there were 196,109 abortions notified as taking place in England and Wales in 2010.

  • 34% of women had one or more previous abortions with Black or Black British having the highest repeat abortions at 48%

  • The abortion rate was highest at 33 per 1,000 for women aged 19 and 20.

  • 96% of abortions were funded by the NHS.

  • 91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation.

  • 98% were under Category C (which is basically for social reasons)

  • 2,290 abortions (1%) were carried out under ground E (risk that the child would be born handicapped).

  • ABORT67 estimate that "Wistons Clinic" performs approximately 4'000 of these abortions per annum. You can see photographs and descriptions of these different methods on the ABORT67 website here and here. Not for the fainthearted, but the only way that some will actually understand what is involved. If you can stand a bit of blood and gore in most 15+ rated movies, you can spare a couple of minutes appreciating the brutality inflicted on the innocent everyday around the world and in our City.
    Method of abortion as described in the above report...

    2.16 Different methods may be used to terminate a pregnancy, depending on the duration of gestation and other circumstances relating to the individual woman. There is one principal medical method, involving the use of the abortifacient drug Mifegyne (mifepristone, also known as RU486). The main surgical methods are vacuum aspiration, recommended at up to 15 weeks gestation, and dilatation and evacuation (D&E) recommended where gestation is greater than 15 weeks. D&E may be used in combination with vacuum aspiration; such cases are recorded in the statistics as D&E.

    2.17 Medical abortions accounted for 43% of the total in 2010. The proportion of medical abortions has more than trebled in the last ten years, from 12% in 2000. There has been a continuing upward trend in medical abortions since 1991 when Mifegyne was licensed for use in the UK, when only 4% of abortions were undertaken using a medical procedure (Table 3a.iv and Table 5.) In 2010, 55% of abortions under 9 weeks were medical abortions compared with 18% in 2000.

    2.18 The surgical procedure vacuum aspiration was used for 52% of all abortions in 2010; and Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E) alone in about 5% (Table 3a.iv.)

    2.19 For abortions at 22 weeks or beyond, feticide is recommended prior to the evacuation of the uterus to stop the fetal heart. In 2010, of the 1,173 abortions performed at 22 weeks and over, 70% were reported as preceded by a feticide and a further 25% were performed by a method whereby the fetal heart is stopped as part of the procedure. 2% of abortions at 22 weeks or beyond were confirmed as having no feticide. For the remaining 3%, at the time of publication, we had not been able to confirm whether feticide had been performed.

    The following is an account of Wednesday's display...

    "We spent Wednesday morning at Wistons abortion kill-inic. We had some amazing conversations with some passers-by but something disturbed me again during our time there.

    Hope for a pro-life youth

    We were pleased to meet several students from the college opposite us who, had concluded abortion is the biggest injustice facing our society and passionately discussed with us how they were stirred to do something about it. This attitude is what we are missing in the younger generation. We need passionate pro-life youth to stand up confident in their conviction and appeal to one of the largest age groups aborting babies in the UK; to stand in favour of life and to fight against the culture of death. We hope they will join us in our upcoming display at Hyde Park Speakers Corner on the 10th July.

    One young man when asked what he thought about abortion said he didn’t really have an opinion but within a few minutes of conversation and seeing the reality of abortion he left clearly pro-life.

    Another guy who was pro-life but not particularly doing anything was hopefully persuaded to get involved with Abort67. We need young people at these colleges who can be trained up to lead their generation. We are getting there slowly.

    By the entrance
    The more difficult part of the morning was the girl visiting Wistons with two of her friends. She just found out she was pregnant – 5 months pregnant – and was returning to the clinic for an abortion. The girl didn’t want to see anything or engage in conversation. The two volunteers spoke to her friends and showed them what abortion really was and gave them some education on pre-natal development. This then compelled to inform their friend of all they had just seen and heard though we do not know for sure how this ended.

    Whilst we were able to persuade her friends to look at our information the mother of this unsuspecting child refused to look at anything we had no matter how innocuous. Sometimes it seems in order to go through with killing their unborn children, people must shut down certain normal functions of compassion, logic and reason. They must shut out everything else and focus their attention on the decision they have made. For this girl with two very young children already it seemed to be the best thing to do. For us it seemed too late to be able to persuade her when her mind was so rigidly set.

    This is where I am disturbed. How can we live in a society where a girl can come to the conclusion that killing her unborn child is the best decision for her? How can this thinking go unchecked? I understand that abortion providers aren’t going to tell her that her baby is a baby. I can understand her wanting to think that her baby isn’t really alive and just a “foetus.” What is giving me great cause for concern right now is that much of the pro-life movement and the Church are culpable in the tragedy of this child as well as the other 199,999 that will be killed this year as they are working harder to cover up the horror that abortion represents than they are to end it.

    A girl can come to this decision because the Church has been silent for YEARS, way before the abortion act. The pro-life movement for YEARS has been more concerned with projects that make US feel better about the problem than accepting the persecution that inevitably comes with exposing injustice. There has been little to no voice for people by which to gauge their moral framework."

    I spent some considerable time myself talking to the Police constables stationed by us basically to make sure that reasonable discussion was had rather than hurled abuse or shouting. I've seen myself people walk past the blown-up images and their reactions, some disturbed, some outraged. Those who stop however, would be able to talk to a woman happy to share her own experience of having had an abortion. Or perhaps a young man who was told by a passing Social Worker on Wednesday that abortion prevented children from being "unwanted"... he knows all about unwanted childhood having endured one, but he is grateful at least to have experienced it and to be alive!

    Tuesday, 24 May 2011


    L-R: Cistercian, Dominican, OSJV [summer]
    Apologies again for having not posted in eons, but as I and this blog have been referred to... Having yesterday just spent lunch and the early afternoon with a senior Anglican colleague discussing ecumenical matters like Churches Together and the Ordinariate, I was stopped by a young man with a bicycle enquiring if I was a Dominican! I was in my "summer" habit of white tunic and black scapula and I suppose to the uninformed, I might have passed for something Dominican. Of course, Catholics fully informed of their culture and tradition know that the Dominican habit is completely white, except for the Cappa (cloak), if he'd suggested Cistercian, I might have forgiven him, though not being monks, the Oratorians of St John Vianney do not have hoods on their scapulas. To be fair, our habit doesn't look like that of any other Order, as is proper, it is not our desire to confuse the Catholic faithful and our Order has its own distinct charism and apostolate.

    The young man, Laurence, has informed me that he has written about our encounter on his blog here though a good friend had already contacted me and informed me about it via email. Sadly, despite the charitable and candid nature of our conversation, Laurence has a somewhat confused recollection of our discussion. So, I feel honour bound to post here and make a few observations of my own about our encounter and to answer some of his further questions.

    First of all, as I have already described at the beginning of this post, I had not "been just celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass at the Young People's Hall of the Salvation Army" as he asserts. In fact, Mass had been offered, as is traditional, in the morning, 8am in the Annexe of the Brighton Congress Hall, almost three miles away in fact - not at some strange time midafternoon nor at the place he suggests. The confusion here is simply that I said that our community used the Salvation Army, Annexe for our Masses, stating that this was just north of The Level (a park in central Brighton). As this conversation was taking place just around the corner from the Young People's Hall of the Salvation Army on Sackville Rd (in Hove), clearly Laurence must have misunderstood or misremembered our conversation when he wrote his post.

    He fairly accurately describes the nature of our conversation thereafter, except that he refers to Old Catholicism - as I hope my readers here will know, I am an Old Roman Catholic, quite a different breed of ecclesial person from that of the apostate Union of Utrecht! I expect Laurence did a bit of a Google search and came across a Wiki article on Old Catholicism and put two and two together but ended up with five rather than four! Although Old Catholicism and Old Roman Catholicism share a common history, both being continuations of the original metropolitical See of Utrecht, Old Catholicism is that part which (as is often the way) apostised from the Faith but retained the material trappings and vestiges; Old Roman Catholicism is the poorer sibling who resolutely continued in the Faith of our Fathers, forsaking the material comforts and trappings of temporal power.

    Now I do appreciate that some find ecclesiastical history a little difficult to follow, and I am sure that for someone who's appreciation of Catholic "Faith" and "Tradition" only goes back some one hundred and fifty years or so to a peasant girl in France and a desperate despot of a Pope, it can perhaps be difficult to appreciate that actually the Catholic Faith and true Tradition existed for some one thousand eight hundred and fifty (1'850) years prior without the later dogmatic "definitions" that have proved so unhelpful to the salvation of souls since. Such as these I refer to affectionately as "Novus Traddies", i.e. members of the New Tradition, that which has existed only relatively recently. To put it simply then, Old Roman Catholicism is the continuation of that same ancient Faith and Tradition "once delivered to the saints" [Jude 1:3], that (as today's saint, Vincent of Lerins once put it so eloquently) "Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus" [that which has been believed always, everywhere and by all] and was so for 1'850 years prior to Bl. Pius IX's additions. For greater clarification of the principles of Old Roman Catholicism see here.

    So it was then that I tried in our conversation to explain, in simple terms, the history of Old Roman Catholicism and our historic stance against the rise of Ultramontanism in the Catholic Church. I explained that although it may be argued that the doctrines of the "Immaculate Conception" and the "Assumption of the BVM" had been generally believed in The Church, they did not require defining as dogma, and that if they did, that would best be served in the ancient Tradition of the The Church by the bishops exercising their universal magisterium, i.e. not by one bishop alone, even if he is the "Successor of Peter" at Rome. I didn't bother to go on and explain that the universal magisterium would mean bishops of both the East and West, as I could tell and know from experience  that Novus Traddies find the concept of the "one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" subsisting in both East and West, difficult to grasp (despite the teaching of Vatican II and both Blessed John Paul and Benedict XVI concerning our Eastern brethren).

    True to form and as he writes, the young Novus Traddie and I went on to discuss the SSPX. I confess to only half-heartedly explaining to Laurence that Old Roman Catholicism may be considered the "original" SSPX in terms of our doctrinal stance and canonical situation. Like the SSPX, we were a canonically regular part of the Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See, but due to the errant actions of the then Pope, we were not now considered to be so [in 1853 Bl. Pius IX instituted a new heirarchy in Holland ignoring the due canonical process extant at the time]; the SSPX had their canonical status revoked in 1975 and we know well how they are generally regarded. Like the SSPX claim to do now following VC II, the Old Roman Catholic See of Utrecht maintained the true Tradition of The Church despite the definitions as dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and Papal Infallibility in 1870; we just kept on believing what was always believed before. Together with our maintenance of the Traditional Latin Mass, traditional culture and devotions, the ORC's may be compared to the SSPX. However, as I did explain, Old Roman Catholicism takes a greater application of charity to pastoralia and in general ethos and attitude than perhaps the SSPX do. "Tradition with Charity" is very much our modus vivendi and modus operandi, though this should not be confused with "liberalism" of the kind that has led our former brethren to apostasy in the Union of Utrecht.

    Easter Mass 2011
    The Annexe, Brighton Congress Hall

    Laurence then wondered "what if" we and the SSPX were to be reconciled with Rome? How the Catholic Church might be revitalised! Initially enthused I began of course to demur, pointing out the obvious problems within the Roman Communion. He suggested that Rome had offered the SSPX a "life-line", I on the other hand pointed out that the SSPX had done very well without such and hardly needed "help", their having no obvious difficulty in attracting vocations or the support both spiritual and material of the Faithful. We discussed the various problems extant within Roman Catholicism, even touching on issues locally - the Bishop here not being exactly "orthodox" (a common fault with some). Laurence himself expressed his inability to attend the local Novus Ordo Masses, there being such variance in the manner of their offering. He stated that he went to a well-known local blogger's church for Mass, the priest there being full of zeal for the "Benedictine Reform" regarding the manner of celebrating the Novus Ordo and that he offers the Latin Mass on Friday and Sunday evenings. He even invited me to attend. Again I demured. Afterall, being able to offer the Traditional Latin Mass on a daily basis, publicly, why would I want to attend an untraditional evening celebration of the 1962 "revision" once or twice a week?

    [Regarding a comment made by one of Laurence's readers, my dislike for a certain priest-blogger is about a falsehood he made about me and the uncharitable behaviour he exhibited towards me when I sought a deserved apology. For that reason I have as much regard for him as he does for me.]

    Laurence on his blog asks if Old Roman Catholic Orders are recognised and valid. Here one could go into great detail and quote the numerous citations from Roman Catholic Catechisms, commentaries on Canon Law, various Catholic dictionaries etc demonstrating that ORC sacraments are indeed regarded as "valid" if "irregular" and that the Roman Catholic Faithful may avail themselves in extremis of our ministrations. If it weren't being indiscrete, I would give several recent examples of ORC priests who have individually sought or been reconciled to the Holy See and "regularised" without another ordination of any kind, just as some individual SSPX priests have. That would be indiscrete. I can, for what it's worth, assure Laurence and anyone that the Apostolic Succession into which I have been ordained has, several times been investigated by the Holy See and declared "valid". So, to answer his other question, "yes, I am a real priest" and my life and ministry reflects that. It is for that reason that I am "not just 'dressing up' as a priest" - as any cleric knows who feels honour bound to wear clerical garb in the street, its no easy thing being an obvious "religious" person and a target for abuse as well as friendly greeting. Certainly in this day and age and particularly in this city of Brighton & Hove, there is a shortage of respect or reverence for anyone and anything and most particularly a priest! As I had written before in another blog some years ago, being easily identified as a priest brings with it a share of the ignominy and justified hatred of the crimes of others and no-one in their right mind in the present climate of child-abuse scandals would 'dress up' as a priest for the sake of it! Being dressed recognisably expressing one's vocation also actually helps one to maintain the decorum and the dignity it necessitates when out in public, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking sometimes, that if I wasn't so dressed, it'd be much easier to be "myself" instead of having always to be the saint one is striving to be for salvation... its tough being a priest and being human!

    Laurence postulates whether I would be better off "in the Church" of Rome for my salvation rather than "outside" of it. I, of course, would say that I am not "outside" of the "one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" even though I may not be recognisably in the Church of Rome! It's always important to remember, I feel, that Rome says of herself that The Church subsists in her. Dominus Iesus makes it quite clear that The Church exists outside the communion of Rome too, in carefully defined ecclesial communities possessing a "valid Eucharist" of which the Old Roman Catholic Church has severally been recognised as one together with the Eastern Orthodox. I may not be in direct communion and jurisdiction with the Bishop of Rome, but I'm not the one who altered the Faith and changed the goalposts for salvation by issuing new dogma "necessary for salvation" that it wasn't necessary for all to believe for 1'850 years previously! We do offer our Masses "una cum famulo" and we sincerely mean it, afterall, the Pope is the historical Patriarch of the West even if the present office-holder has chosen to "drop" that title. I personally have a great affection for Benedict XVI and hope he lives long enough to solidify all that he has been working towards re the restoration of the Mass. But I am all too aware that bishops like William Morris (Toowoomba) are many in the Church of Rome and the variety of standards both liturgical and doctrinal within the Roman Communion are not better and are as fractious as those in say, the Anglican Communion. Whilst in theory the Holy Father may be "in charge" he is not actually the local Ordinary even with his "universal jurisdiction" and it is in the local and particular Church, i.e. the local dioceses, that I/we would have to practice in. Not at the moment, thank you!

    Now, as many of you know, I have occasionally performed as a character called "Dame Margot" fundraising for charities. Its easy for detractors of course to use this polemically as some kind of angle to heap question marks about the reality or validity of my ministry. I don't see a confusion. I'm not a crossdresser and I don't have an inner confusion about my gender status, I'm an actor playing a role. I am simply a talented individual (so I've been told) who's prepared to make people laugh at/with me and raise money for worthwhile causes. I should add that most of my performances have been in churches and for churches! It always amuses me, slightly, this notion that priests can't be real people able to have a laugh at their own expense. What a ridiculous notion! Locally here, I am not the only priest who has no qualms being a "fool" for the sake of charitable fundraising, there is another very respectable ecumenical colleague who dresses up as Agnetha or Frida (I forget which) from ABBA! He's done that in front of his Church School children too! There are other priests similarly, Catholic, Anglican etc who regularly play the Dame in a Church hall pantomime, who do impressions of Elvis at the drop of a hat and one I remember well, did a brilliant impression of Liberace (he too was a senior cleric)! The very idea that in some way these venerable colleagues and I, "embarass" the priesthood or even The Church is itself, frankly, laughable! Countless are the times my performances and status off-stage have introduced conversations about the Faith from those pleased to see that 'we're not all stuffy'. I'd worry a lot more about those priests who keep themselves aloof and their lives "private", for they are more than likely to be the ones with poor judgement and personal habits that when exposed cause greater scandal to The Church than anything I or my more flamboyant colleagues do.

    So, would I not rather offer Mass in communion with Rome? Of course I would. Why don't I? For a variety of reasons but chiefly probably, for the sake of my soul. No, I don't particularly enjoy being in an ecclesial minority, but at least I know that my colleagues and I believe the same thing, have the same intentions, that there is no question of anyone adopting heretical ideas or offering Mass another way! That counts for a lot in my opinion especially when the struggle for salvation is so tough anyway, why make it tougher?! I realise that "perfection" will not be found here on earth and I am the first to say that the Church exists for sinners not saints! I agree with Laurance on that point, but like I say, why make it tougher? My search for the Truth led me to where I am. I have sacrificed much to accomplish that. One is not saved by simply being in communion with the Bishop of Rome, but by conversion of life, of mind, of heart, of the soul to the will of God and the sustenance of the Sacraments, Christ's own abiding presence with and through His Church; that is not confined alone to the Roman Communion. It is Christ, not Peter, who saves.

    I enjoyed our conversation and I'm pleased to read Laurence did too. I shall add him to my list of blogs that I read and perhaps we'll meet again. Its all too easy for folk to behave as if they're way is the only way, that is not my way. Certainly Catholics of whatever stripe - Eastern, Roman, Oriental etc have much more in common than separates us and we would all do well to focus on that commonality than on what prevents us from yet realising that perfection in unity that Christ prayed for His Church. But we can pray, we can talk, we can learn and we can love each other as brethren should I'm sure if we concentrated on that we might yet enable the world to recognise us as His disciples [John 13:35].