Monday, November 14, 2016

on impressions et.c.

The substance of my surprise, which was genuine if less accute than others', was that I couldn't quite believe that The Suit was in it to win; but indeed he looks happy to have won. At the same time, I couldn't tell from The Secretary's capaign whether she was really in it to win either.

Let that be a lesson to ... well... whenever I write blustery or hold forth with any sound of auctoritas.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Architectural Puzzling

I was singing at a wedding two weeks ago, and a delightful event it was! The Church was among the Farmland Villages (now more built up) somewhat North of Hometown Suburb, and must be at least a hundred years old. While its structure is mostly masonry, the ceiling and walls inside are finished with hard woods, so the whole space rings like a violin; and it was indeed a joy to sing in there!

Now, though being a Century Church, it has not entirely escaped the... excitments of the later half C., though to be sure it remains much better than many newer (and older!) buildings, and hasn't forgotten What It Is For... And One of the Strange Things about it was that graven on the Ambo were the words "Benedicere / Praedicare". Yes, that was all—I checked. For indeed this church began and actually remains in the care of the Dominican[s] (I only met one there)... And I knew there had once been a third infinitive there, which insisted on escaping me, and it took some time for me to get around to looking it up again.

The third — no! actually, the first infinitive of that trio is (as you can look up too!) Laudare. Now, why would that be cut out? Why would What That Church Is For be remembered in its form, but cut out of the Motto?

Of course, you all know from grammar that many verbs take objects. For a Dominican (or any other Catholic) the only proper object of "Laudare" is Divine; and that should, in fact, inform the principal sense of the other two verbs in the motto: "Laudare [Deum], Benedicere [Deum], Praedicare [Deum]". Yes, "praedicare" has also an indirect object ... ad albigenses (inter alia). More: while it is also part of the purpose of Dominicans, and indeed consonant with the motto ut benedicere fidelium, still the primary benedicere Deum can be forgotten if the keystone "Laudare" is omitted.

And that someone would make tangible that omission, by [not] carving it in wood on an Ambo to be seen by all the faithful, well, it puzzles me. It causes concern, if you will.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Just once, please...

Can we have, somewhere amongst the various democratic countries folk live in who used to visit here, just once, a national Election that turns out boring? An election without characters, or promises of revolution? An election that doesn't pretend to be a battle of good against evil, but just of genuinely different paths to genuine good? An election that people are happy to vote in, but in which the outcome isn't going to make anyone angry?

A temporae fascinans libera nos Domine

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's that day again!

Well, look at that: the calendar count is again a two-bit semiprime. That's two years in a row.

I wonder how often that happens...

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Samaritan et.c.

Our Lord does indeed say "Love your enemies"; and there is, of course, a resonance of the same in the Good Samaritan.

But in the context of the question
Who is my neighbour?
the particular answer given is a bit stranger even than that.

The further context behind the question, that being the Second Great Law: Love thy neighbour as thyself, puts what might be a judicial edge to it: who is my neighbour whom I am bound to love, and who is he I may hate?

I suggest that Jesus' answer, followed by the exhortation Go thou and do [as that Samaritan], means that the question is wrong. Jesus does indeed point out how (by the lawyer's own admission) one may be bound in Law to love an enemy, but more than that: Jesus is telling this Lawyer How To Find His Living Soul In The Law: make yourself a neighbour, and (a) you will have fulfilled the law, and (b) the Law Itself will find you lovable.

Who doesn't want to be loved?

Who, then, should not want to be lovable?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

St. Paul and Capille

Since the Pater Zeddissime is syndicating bits of one Fr. Scanlon OFM.Cap., on the subject of ladyfolk and liturgy and Ecclesiology, I thought I'd put in some 2mils on the topic of head-coverings...

It's perhaps becoming cliché that, in Liturgy, beautiful and distracting things are to be veiled. The chalice and patten, before they are put to work, the Tabernacle, the ministers themselves in their Sunday finery under chasuble/dalmatic/tunic... One priest at a wedding I went to affirmed that even the words we use are veiled in Latin and Chant --- not so that we might forget that they are there or what they mean, but to protect both us and them.

And something of this principle is already clear in the exegesis Paul himself gives for his direction on head coverings (and the particular difference between men and women in this wise):
15 But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.
which follows immediately after
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him?
(I should perhaps mention here that,... I do have long hair, and also am a "gent", or so I hope, but if you think what I do to my hair is nourishing, you've another think coming)

That is, a woman should tend her hair and keep it beautiful; and a man should not (not so much); and because a woman's hair should be beautiful the same should be covered for liturgy (and also there shall be Revolution). A man's hair, on the other hand, should not be distracting.

There are, of course, a couple of interesting points about hair in the Old Testament. On the one hand, Samson (poor fellow) was told never to cut his hair nor let blade touch his head. I kinda don't think we're supposed to take Samson as a good person (not untill, perhaps, the very end)... anyways, his hair shows forth his humiliation when it is eventually shorn off. On the other hand, Absalom... of him it is said
25 But in all Israel there was not a man so comely, and so exceedingly beautiful as Absalom: from the sole of the foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he polled his hair (now he was polled once a year, because his hair was burdensome to him) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred sicles, according to the common weight.
not just a looker but eager to quantify it... and which may be how he was finally caught after his last rebellion; the Vulgate says that in the oak he was caught by his caput while his mule kept going; but others interpret this as being caught by his considerable hair! Like... stranger things do happen in the bible, but it's still hard to imagine Absalom being caught by the head not by his hair, and surviving long enough to then be murdered by the general he's been fighting all the while.

But there is one more point about St. Paul and hair and glory et.c. ... St. Paul was the first Tonsured. That is, he was forcibly shaven by some unruly folk, in Damascus I think, so as to humiliate him (and very likely there was blood shed, too); but being a humorous lot, the church inverted this sign and proceeded in time to tonsure all its clergy, certainly in solidarity with Paul, but also as yet another sign of our awaiting and being prepared for martyrdom (though, of course, not trying to provoke it either).

We don't tonsure quite so much these days anymore, and similarly don't so much insist on capped womenfolk. Perhaps hair doesn't distract us so much anymore? But in any case, the two customs go together.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

An old classic.

And the goode wyf answerde that she coude speke no frenshe. And the merchaũt was angry. for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde have hadde egges; and she understode hym not
Circa 1490. Lower third of the image in this charming page. (I still wonder: why French?)

I'm pretty sure it was somewhere around St Pod's that I first heard this tale; it is a fun one!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Most Human Languages are not Associative.

(which I have also mentioned in the book of faces, today)

That is, semantics depends strongly on syntax, and especially on implicit bracketing.

Consider the two sentences, one of which will sound odd (almost as if it wasn't spoken in English!) and one of which will sound insane.

1) Because of this [wrong understanding], (most (sacramental marriages)) are (null).
2) Because of this [wrong understanding] most (sacramental marriages are null).

Note that most people can't reliably articulate or discern comma. Note that appart from parenthesis, the same words are present in both sentences. Try to find the main verb in the second sentence: it is actually absent; "sacramental marriages [ ] null" is a noun (an interrupted noun) in the second sentence.

What the first sentence suggests is that almost all the world is living a lie—and heaps of people have (reasonably-enough) asked things like "how would we know?". What the second sentence suggests is that there's a strong trend among those tribunals that find nullity. And... you know what, of course that's perfectly reasonable. And certainly the Pope, of all people, ought to know it.

Sentence 2, the one translated from what the Holy Father said in his Q-and-A, doesn't look like English because it wasn't spoken in English by an English speaker. To be sure it has been translated badly, perhaps because the translator thought he'd heard sentence 1. To be sure, His Holiness could have mentioned "tribunal" and "finding" and all that, (not to mention how a marriage cannot be null if it is sacramental, because if it is null, then also it is nothing else), ... but that's no reason to work your parsing of him (in translation!) on the assumption that he's off his rocker or any such.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", not "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen".

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Officers? or Gentlemen?

[Spoilers!] (image source)
Col. Marchpole's department was so secret that it communicated only with the War Cabinet and the chiefs of staff. Col. Marchpole kept his information until it was asked for. To date that had not occured, and he rejoiced under neglect. Premature examination of his files might ruin his private, undefined Plan. Somewhere in the ultimate curlicues of his mind, there was a Plan. Given time, given enough confidential material, he would succeed in knittng the entire quarrelsome world into a single net of conspiracy, in which there were no antagonists, merely millions of men working, unknown to one another, for the same end; and there would be no more war.1
This is what I think of when Soros Inan remarks that "national borders are the obstacle" as if that were a bad thing, and not actually the very purpose of national borders. Whether he is disingenuous or has quite lost all his faculties, I am not competent to judge; thank Heaven.

1) Officers and Gentlemen, by Evelyn Waugh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What IS ... mercy?

“The Girl who was Saturday” relayed
An additional thought from my father-in-law (a theologian who's given some time to this issue): Perhaps we are to understand the unbaptized infants who reach heaven (if they do--and I certainly hope they do) as signals of God's MERCY as opposed to of his JUSTICE or his covenant.
To the extent that mercy and justice are different (even "opposed") things, I suppose this must be right. (Indeed, I have at times voiced a thought that it were more befitting humility to implore God's mercy than His justice).

We are as it happens, in the middle of a Year of Mercy, and so I think it perhaps good to consider what mercy really is (and justice).

We have a tendency to think of law and judgment when "justice" is mentioned, but I'd like to share an aspect of justice (and justification) that I learned from French: justice is about harmony. That is, when a violin student misses his notes (violins have no frets, remember!) or when his strings are out of tune, if the lessons are conducted in French, the teacher may well admonish the student to "justifier ses cordes" (strings), or to "justifier ses accords" (chords, harmonies). Justification, like typographic justification, is about modifying tension (in strings, or between lettertype) to acheive harmony.

Now, some strings do become untuneable: when a string is overstretched more in one place than others, it no longer vibrates in a true tone — it looses harmony even with itself. Some strings outright break without much warning. These strings a violinist must throw away. But there are other ways for strings to loose their tuning: there is slackness, there is accretion of weight of dust and oil and rosin... and justice can in those cases be restored by purging the string of its burdens. Strings can also go funny when their instrument (like our fallen world) shifts under abuse or accident, and justice is then restored by caring for the instrument, more than the strings.

Now, in many ways, people are not like strings (and in many ways people are not like programs); whether we finally break or irreversibly distort our natures, or allow ourselves to be cleaned and tuned to perfection in the venturus saeculi, is somehow within our own choosing.

But we cannot call this stew finished without some salt, without returning to the moral questions, to law and judgment. To attempt an answer to the title question, mercy is at the very least justice due to an injured person. And so a criminal (a sinner like me) may rightly be due some mercy when he becomes in spirit a victim of his own crime; but to do that, to own his misery as it were (help me at it O Lord!) he must repent, he must repudiate his former crime as wrong in itself. Contrariwise, to ultimately hold onto that which put discord between one and God is also to be out of harmony with oneself, to be unjustifiable.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Yesterday I sat down to listen to Sibelius' 5th Symphony; and what I heard reminded me so of Britten's Sea Interludes.

Today I'm listening to some Aaron Copland (you should certainly try his 3rd Symphony; it's called "Fanfare for the Common Man", but it could just as well be called "The Promise of Living"), currently, the "Billy the Kid" Suite... and what my brain thinks I'm hearing is Ottorino Respighi ("Pines of Rome" particularly).

Some have said that when you mix up people's names, it's because they're like family in your head. I don't want to mix up Respighi and Copland, but...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Adventures II

This shop is famous for its glazes; the α-ω above is in the architectural sample display room, and they proudly display pictures of other devotional works they have done. At the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in The District, is a crypt chapel roofed by Gustavino vaults1 constructed of this shop's tile.

Second visit (I wrote a little about the first a couple years back); this time with my whole family, to celebrate a cousin's wedding.

But, in short, Detroit is a nifty city, containing plenty of stuff well worth your praying for its preservation, not to mention the people living there.

1: Gustavino vaulting is assembled (unusual for masonry arches) unsuspended and without scaffolding. Instead it is constructed of units interlocking (a similar idea to Bruneleschi's dome) and self-supporting from the base up — something like the way igloos are built.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Type and Fulfilment

Today recall we when all first heard the Gospel in their own tongues.

It is an important point that this was in fact a miracle. In particular, there were different tongues and they were none of them universally intelligible. And that means it's well worth while to review the event from which several mutually unintelligible tongues have been spoken.
5 Descendit autem Dominus ut videret civitatem et turrem quam aedificabant filii Adam 6 et dixit “Ecce, unus est populus, et unum labium. Omnibus coeperuntque hoc facere, nec desistent a cogitationibus suis donec eas opere conpleant. 7 “Venite igitur, descendamus et confundamus ibi linguam eorum, ut non audiat unusquisque vocem proximi sui.” 8 Atque ita divisit eos Dominus ex illo loco in universas terras, et cessaverunt aedificare civitatem.
I have remarked before that the sin of Babel was not trying to reach Heaven, but to ecclipse God within it and over Creation. No good could come to men who sought to do this, and so the Lord God most mercifully prevented them, and set up a sign for a time to come.

What has happened, from Holy Week through Easter unto the Ascension, and finally made manifest, cum complerentur dies Pentecostes, is not the effacement of the curse of Babel, but its transformation into something still more wonderful. They who spoke different languages because Man sought to ecclipse the Divine, they have been enlightened by a Man Divine, and heard the Good News each in their own language; those who did not know the way to Heaven and thought to reach it with baked slime bricks (as was Adam formed of the slime of the Earth), they have been shown the Way to Heaven, and the keys to it are kept by Simon the Rock; and as God descended over Babel to prevent their perdition in vain follies, again God descended upon the Disciples who were gathered together with Mary, appearing as tongues of fire — the fire of Charity, fire to kindle the Light of the World, fire to bake firm the bricks of which the Church is built!

Happy and Holy Pentecost, everybody!

Saturday, May 14, 2016


In 1963, Barbara Wright and her fellow schoolmaster Ian... stepped into a rough imitation of a Police Telephone Box.

Before that, in 1956 or there-abouts, three of the Pevensies with their cousin Eustace and his one-time school mate Jill (and a host of others) ran up into Aslan's Country to find there ... Narnia again, only...

Before that (so I am informed from beyond the grave by Fr R. J. Neuhaus)
The Catholic Church, as Chesterton observed, is ever so much larger from the inside than from the outside.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Real Controversy that Needs Addressing

So, the commission given to Consilium II Vaticani, the "Pastoral Council", was to express in new words but eodem sensu eademque sententia What the Church has Always Taught. That might make it sound like a huge exercise in homiletics (which... wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...); but I think it was actually a sincere attempt to address sideways a real controversy, which we still have not yet shaken.

Now, just as to what that controversy was, and why Pope St. John might have thought sideways was the best ways to address the trouble... It is probably a child of modernism, but I don't know if it has itself a name yet. Whatever we shall call it, with a mix of just enough science-speak to get oneself into trouble, enough metaphysical scepticism to muddle one's thinking, enough historical scepticism to miss huge blocks of genuine history, ... the upshot of whatever unnamed heresy we mean is: to doubt tradition itself as a reliable guide to God's Will as expressed in the founding of His Church. That is, it is a protestantizing heresy, though it is not itself protestantism. It is a scepticalizing heresy, though it is not itself scepticism. It might be an "I know better than thou" heresy...

Anyways, that's the trouble: to doubt Tradition as Revelation; and I think I shall call this heresy Textualism. What modern philosophy, following the model of al Ghazali and then everyone who said he was too lenient on the Philosophers, there has arisen in various places a technique of reading words, chains of words with well-established historical meanings which any... honest high-school student... can grasp; the moderns have found ways of reading them and construing whatever meaning they please. (The "Living Constitution" faction of the Supreme Court do not even defer to texts, so let us never-mind them. Textualism is distinct from "Sola scriptura" in that it gives no special preference to sacred scripture either of reverence or disdain.)

There are, for instance, surprisingly many... phrases... not to say “sentences”... that, in their English forms, anyway, both orthodox Catholics and modern Muslims might casually assert; but we and they would not agree about them, for they would not mean the same thing (this is why I hesitate to say “sentences”). For instance, submission to the Divine Will is indeed a good and holy thing. Submission, on the other hand, to we cannot tell what, but they still call it God, well, it seems to have terrifying, inhuman corollaries — not often, perhaps, but often enough.

So, Textualism, the adherence to texts as primary over (or completely without) the traditions that have preserved the texts with their sound interpretations, lending itself to the scientists' instinct via “I can see the text, I cannot see its author entrusting it to his children”...; and again, lending itself to Sir Humphrey's dictum “Theology is a device for allowing agnostics to stay within the [Anglican] Church”. This is, I think, the heresy-as-such, that St. John apprehended, and decided to fight. After all, it's one thing for those outside the Church to oppose whatever they think the Church teaches, whether they understand her teaching or not — the Church has enemies, has always had, and always shall have; but to subvert the words the Church uses to unmean her teaching, and thus prevent Catholics as-such from understanding their Faith, that is diabolical.

And I think, (following the Hermeneutic of Surprise) that St. John's aim was two-fold: On the one hand to not capitulate: Church teaching means what it always has meant; on the other hand: to bolster the ancient meaning with an independent reference text. Whether that is what the Council acheived, ... I haven't read enough of it to say. I do know that even in this, there were many who fought against it. It may also be that St. John hoped that the new text might appeal to the opponents of the ancient content of Tradition; I am doubtful of whether it would, for one determined to not believe will find any excuse for not believing. But St. John did not ask his Council to define any new heresies and exclude them from Tradition. St. John did not ask his Council to uphold Tradition-itself as a principle of revelation, except insfoar as it is described as such already, and re-expressed now in new words.

It might have been a reasonable attempt! It might well have been a brave trial! To express one thing in two ways... that is a great part of the work of Mathematicians (we call them “equations”), and when we manage it, this really advances the understanding of both ways of speaking. But, again speaking as a Mathematician: it is a difficult task, even when there is no metaphysics, no ontology with which one must accord. And again: one who is determined against understanding will not be helped in this way.

As for the more direct approach, the never-pronounced “anathema sit”, as to why it was not sought, ... I cannot guess. I do not know why sideways was thought better. Neither am I sure that it was better (it's hard to tell, from History, what would have happened if it didn't). I do think that, eventually, someone shall have to try the direct approach. Happily, tradition is not dead!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Hermeneutic of I-can't-believe-you're-asking-that-question.

Here's an idea: if some text, construed as an answer to some given question, is ambiguous, maybe its actual purpose is not to address that question. Maybe that text is about something else altogether.

A cleric (with whom I have a silent disagreement on some points of recent-but-irrelevant history re Leo XIII his authority, but on the whole he's a fun and sharp fellow) has more than once remarked, of the Hymn to Charity in Paul's second (first surviving) letter to the church in Corinth: Paul iterates, Charity is such, and by insinuation you Corinth have not been such.

And so, with these notions in mind, why does Sacrosanctum Consilium have to say that Latin is the liturgical language for the Latin Church? Why does SC have to assert that "Gregorian Chant shall have pride of place" in the Latin liturgy? Were these things in doubt before? How grave a doubt? Is it then too difficult to believe that the fix revolt was in before Pope St. John had thought to convoke his bishops and re-affirm All that the Church Teaches?

But, in short, I think this idea of reasonably-inferred context might prove very fruitful in looking at all manner of official texts.

Monday, May 2, 2016

On the conditions of birth

I was born ignorant.
I was born inarticulate.
I was born inattentive.
I was born impatient.
I was born forgetful.
I was born without any great virtue.
I was born hungry.
I was born nearly blind.
I was born small.
I was born weak.
I was born prone to chills.
I was born without philosophy.
I was born without mathematics.
I was born without deportment.
I was born without politeness.
I was born all oblivious of being born.

None of these things would I want to remain forever.
I was born human; I was born a boy; what else of it matters?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I know it's not the Season...

I don't quite understand how, without meeting him, this young composer is among my facebook contacts. (He surely does not read this... rambling... ) Anyways, we all need something sublime now and then; and this surely ought to help with that!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Omissions from the Lectionary

In North America, at least, at least in the English-speaking part of it, among Catholics anyway, those who shall be fulfilling their obligations in the Ordinary Form, this Sunday... You are about to be scandalized by a glaring omission. There's been a lot of talk lately of Lectionary lacunae, mostly relating to Discipline of the Sacraments. Today's is ... different but not less strange.

Specifically, the First Reading, from Acta Apostolorum, chapter 15, is going to skip over vv. 3-21. And what is in those verses?
  • That many Jews had already converted
  • That among them were some who had been Pharisees
  • That these same were furthermore docile to Ecclesial correction
  • That dealing with controversy in open honest debate is one of the things the Church does
  • The Primacy of Peter
  • True Episcopal Collegiality
  • The distinction between the moral and the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament
What is left in the Lectionary: There was controversy in Antioch; that Paul and Barnabas, along with a Silas and a Jude, received an anonymous-but-unanimous decision, by unspecified means, from "The Church", to bring back to Antioch to settle things down.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thoughts on...

... "Thoughts about the Church and the Place of the Society of Saint Pius X in it"

Fr. Schmidberger has courageously allowed an authorized translation of his leaked letter to be published, and it is available at the New Liturgical Movement.

Now, Fr. Schmidberger knows his audience (and mostly it's not us). So, it's possible that his main concern is to sway them. It is simultaneously possible that Fr. Schmidberger is entirely candid and genuinely puts forward his own opinions.

I really want the Society to become regularized, to enrich the Whole Church again and be not a sign of division or contradiction, except to the World. I really want the priests of the Society and their devoted flocks to have the full benefit of the Church's protection and solicitude. The few things I have heard from the Society hierarchs, and the definite echoes of them I find in this letter... they deeply unnerve me. I greatly fear for the Priests of the Society that their very touching loyalty is badly misplaced. I pray that it may not be (on this I so very much want to be proved wrong!); I pray that if it be, may it not persist longer; and I pray that Truth Resplendent may reign in time.

Following Further

There is at least one obvious pitfall near the (optimistic, possibly-pious, opinion) "Infantes in Limbus Patrum", and that is indifferentism: if "all" that is needed to be bound for Heaven is to live and die righteous, whether one has heard the Gospel or not... why risk preaching the Gospel at all?

Apart from the fact of being commissioned, there are at least two answers, closely related but different.

The first is: lacking the Gospel makes knowing true virtue (which finds fullness of expression in Our Lord himself) a difficult task. To be sure, there are plenty who do know the Gospel in some wise, who are even in the Sacraments, and nonetheless appear other than virtuous. People like me, for instance. But I should be still worse off without them! There are definitely things I wouldn't even know to fight if I hadn't been taught, though they still would not conduct happiness at all.

The second answer is: even within Heaven, while all in Heaven are holy, there are also better and still better. Or, as St. Therese "petite Fleur" imagined it: in Heaven all shall be as a glass that is filled; but some glasses hold more than others. Even those who find virtue by unaided reason can still be enlarged, enriched in holiness, by the help of the Gospel, and so be better saints in Heaven.

I really wanted to have a more-developed version of both these responses, but I seem not to be in an expansive frame of mind anymore; this will have to do.

Still hoping for thoughtful replies,
the usual batty fellow

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Long delayed following-up

A while back I mentioned that the worst entailed supernatural consequence of a miscarriage is a new, innocent, naturally happy soul in Limbus infantum, singing to the Glory of perhaps they know not what, but it is very good indeed.

I should have mentioned at the time, perhaps, exactly everything the Church definitively teaches about this Infants' Limbo:
Would you like me to repeat anything?

But perhaps I should expand: the Limbo of Infants was conjectured on account of the circumstances: De fide, Baptism is Necessary for Salvation; with: Observationally, some infants die, bearing Original Sin but personally innocent, before it is possible to baptise them; and: certainly The Just cannot find innocents damned. But the proposed solution is a pious opinion, which is to say it ranks a tadge below approved private revelation in terms of its seriousness, yet there are no obviously bad doctrinal consequences to it. None obvious yet, anyways.

Dante, I understand, likes some sort of Limbo; I find a keen beauty in the idea. But there are, of course, reasonable grounds to question the argument itself for Infants' Limbo. Principally, there is the difficult word, "Necessary".

Here is something the Catholic Church (together with sensible Stoics and Taoists and, I should hope, Republican Democrats) definitively teaches about Necessity:
The Impossible is not Necessary.
That's already a whole proposition more than is definitively taught about Infants' Limbo! What follows is: the necessity of baptism is not an argument that those we cannot reach to baptise are unsaved. The necessity of baptism instead means two things: we who know to baptise those well-disposed1 must do so0, and those who do hear the Gospel (really hear it, understand it2), they must seek3 baptism, as necessary for (respectively) our salvation and theirs.

Of course there is another Limbo, about which it is Definitively Taught that Christ appeared there, the Limbus Patrum, the resort, refuge, and refreshment of the Righteous Souls who died before His advent on Earth. There is also a Jewish tradition of recognizing righteous Gentiles, evident in the Old Testament itself. I did read somewhere a claim that this Limbo "doesn't exist anymore", whatever that might mean, but if that's so, Ludwig Ott seems not to know so, and I can't find other references. And so, unless some great patriarch tells me otherwise, it seems reasonable to hope that every righteous soul who really could not hear the Gospel in life still arrives there to hear Christ himself preaching, infants included. And what comes after that... of course I do not know. But, at least there may be an argument for a pious opinion that "Limbus infantum" makes a good name for the condition of infant souls in Limbus Patrum? Maybe??

What do you all think? I already anticipate an objection or two, and am still considering, but external advice is even better.

0 : respecting the proper authority, of course: if the one asking is near death, you are the proper authority.
1 : infants in our care, and the unbaptised who ask for it.
2 : like... I expect there are lots of muslims who will never be able to hear the Gospel; I rather expect "Dalai Lama" Kundun has heard the Gospel by now, but again he still seems to be breathing, so there is yet hope.
3 : Again, seek: if it's impossible (no-one can reach you, or there's no water...), then it's not necessary

Monday, April 25, 2016

Puzzling over the acient Hebrew inner sense

Spurred on by something, I began simply praying through the Psalms, from beginning to end, last week; and it has been good. Some things are strange, though, and by far the strangest thing in them (though it's hardly the first time I've been struck by this strangeness since diving into the deep end of Catholic Tradition) ... an intermittent expression,
Enflame [our] heart and [our] reins
The heart I understand. I can feel my heart doing all sorts of weird things, reflecting bits of mood that aren't in the top of my head, from affection to choler. Dread sits somewhere else (but, again, is reflected in the heart in a way I notice quicker) But... those "reins"... I'm pretty sure that word is "kidneys". But I can't recall my kidneys ever telling me anything except (sometimes) to wake up. Is... is there more? Certainly, knowing when to wake up is handy, but... and "viscera misericordiae" is... again, frankly, weird, but does certainly express depth and thoroughness anyways.

To be sure, there are ancient traditions situating courage in the Liver, of all things, which again puzzles me (I've never felt my liver do anything at all, and I think we prefer it that way), except that brandy is known to act on both.

Can any of you good folks enlighten me?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A little mystery

You may remember this meditation on the tunic that Our Lord wore, walking from Gabbatha to Golgotha; and still more recently in thinking about vines (and vineyards) found this prophecy about Juda:
By none shall scepter be taken away from Juda nor rule from his lap, until He shall come Who Is sent; And that shall be the expectation of nations: tying to the vineyard his colt, and to the vine, O my son, his ass, he shall wash in wine his cloak, and in the blood of grapes his tunic. ...
(my own translation, leaning heavily upon Douay) ... for it seems in the fulfillment (cf. also what is not too silly in this note) that the figure was inverted: Christ's tunic was washed in his own blood, which he has also given his Church to drink under the appearances of wine.

This... point, that Jesus after being flogged was dressed again in his tunic, left me wondering why the soldiers who nailed him up were so eager to keep the cloth; in many paintings of the subject, Jesus' clothing appears all to be white, which may be symbol of his Divine purity, but they would not remain so, after he had borne the cross and fallen several times. To be sure, soldiers of any sort must know something about laundering out blood stains, but now I think either it was a miracle that Jesus was naturally able to walk to Golgotha at all, or the colour of the tunic was one in which a faded blood stain would not too much obtrude. Perhaps a deep purple, or violet, as Exodus prescribes for the priest's tunic?

Sanguis Christi, inebria me

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Capite nobis vulpes, vulpes parvulas, quae demoliuntur vineas, nam vinea nostra floruit...

1 Cantabo dilecto meo canticum patruelis mei, vineae suae; vinea facta est dilecto meo in cornu filio olei, 2 et sepivit eam, et lapides elegit ex illa, et plantavit eam electam, et aedificavit turrem in medio eius, et torcular extruxit in ea, et expectavit ut faceret uvas: et fecit labruscas. 3 Nunc ergo, habitator Hierusalem et vir Iuda, iudicate inter me et inter vineam meam: 4 quid est quod debui ultra facere vineae meae, et non feci ei? An quod expectavi ut faceret uvas, et fecit labruscas? ...

Non auferetur sceptrum de Iuda et dux de femoribus eius, donec veniat qui mittendus est et ipse erit expectatio gentium; 11 Ligans ad vineam pullum suum et ad vitem, o fili mi, asinam suam, lavabit vino stolam suam et sanguine uvae pallium suum; 12 Pulchriores oculi eius vino et dentes lacte candidiores.

Ego sum vitis vera et Pater meus agricola est ...

Friday, April 15, 2016

Loosely connected thoughts

I have never heard anyone boast of “living as brother and sister”. Never. I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm saying I've never heard such a thing.

And my point is: the public appearances of things are how scandal is given (or taken) more than the facts in private life. And the CIC 915 is about The Public Appearances of Things. Ed Peters recently expresses it: "Canon 915 [...] does not require Catholic ministers to read the souls of [...]", well, the souls of anyone.

Of course, there are also canons about who may approach our Eucharistic Lord, and there is Scripture about not giving scandal, and so — perhaps, not that anyone else should be watching who approaches the altar, nor that writing More Canons is going to help anyone, but perhaps — it might be a fruitful clarification of the law that knowing that public Communion might scandalize, even being certain with well-formed conscience that one has confessed and repented of all known mortal sins, one should not approach for public Communion.

The oft-mentioned Fahrenheit 351, plainly, talks of sacraments, in the plural, and the usually-reasonable folk I read do express a supposition that this means, even in Francis' mind 1) Confession and 2) possibly Communion. And the patently obvious solution to everyone's troubles on this point is: if there's some situation that, on the Outside looks like Obstinate Grave Sin, but after careful well-informed examination cum sentire Ecclesiae it isn't ObsGrS., Then Private Communion, continuo post confessionem is a fine thing indeed. A very old, well-known, fine thing. Some Copts explained to me, once, that in their understanding of the sacraments, Communion is the consummation of Confession. As in: genuinely a distinct Sacrament, but manifesting in particular the penitent's Reconciliation to the Lord.

A very old solution to a very old problem. I mean... It's not as if any of our problems these days are new! Even ill-formed consciences are not new.

What may be new is the Frequency and Immediacy of Noise About Them. Electronic communications being so new, we don't yet know how to deal with it, really, but ... This shall pass, or the World shall pass first. But even then. Hardly the most important thing.

Be cool, O My Neighbors, and God be with ye.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Long game

So. Something less than two years since the first meeting; something more than two years since the Surveys went out. Two sessions of Extraordinary Synod. Hijinks, hijacks, stolen mail, et.c., and Fr. Hunwicke's favourite parrhesia.

Indeed, no, you don't have to worry about Müller coming after you. It is Pope Francis himself who will "come after" you. It might be Pope Francis who haunts your nightmares!

Now, as much as I might like (from my quiet backwater armchair, my complete lack of orders or orderly vocation, my simple responsibility not to write carelessly nor to promote error) the idea that not bishops nor cardinals nor popes are immune to excommunication, and the invited bishops having been encouraged to deliver themselves of what they really believe as sincerely as they might, Inquisition Paused, and their having (we may suppose) actually done so;... but of course, how else might the Pope the Shepherd of Shepherds, know whither to call his wandering sheep if he doesn't know what hedges they've got tangled in? (Actually, I can think of a few ways, but maybe they Just Wouldn't Work. I don't even know that they haven't been tried!)

Some folk are particularly needled by the exclamation "no-one can be condemned forever". Jesus himself says, they remind, that the alternative to salvation is eternal fire and "the worm that dieth not"; but whom is Francis exhorting in this Apostolic Exhortation? Context, remember! If context (including Tradition) is needed for understanding Scripture, how much more for understanding the Pope from Argentina? Nay, every word of this particular letter is addressed to some living human person, some cleric or fonctionaire or journalist... Can you, reader, condemn forever anyone living but yourself? Did Jesus not also say to us "seventy times seventy times forgive", which is to say "absolutely every every time your brother apologizes"?

None of this is to suggest that I particularly like the Hortative, its thinking-out-loud style, the deliberately-informal. BUT. If we are to lament that informality, that frequent shift of human addressee, that style, as lending itself to confused interpretation, how much more we ought to parse clearly, and make sure we really do understand what we criticise, and make ourselves plainly spoken, unambiguous, and clearly addressed.

(On which score I myself frequently fail, I know it well.)

God Bless The Pope, quem unus cum Ecclesiam Suam pacificare, custodire, adunare, et regere dignetur toto orbe terrarum...

Friday, April 1, 2016

Silence need not betoken ignorance

I haven't done a gratitude post for some while (or so it seems), though not for any shortage of blessings. Goodness, it's embarassing, this heap of graces under which I don't know what to do but flounder a little. It's just they don't lend themselves even to enigmatic enumeration, of late.

Nonetheless, let us give thanks for all manner of good things!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Words are funny critters

"Pawn", for instance. We don't want to be "treated like pawns"; it has the feel of someone else setting themselves up as queen (or bishop) over us, or worse (as much for the bishop as for the pawn) The Chess Master.

The English "pawn", of course, is related to the French word for the same chess piece, "pion". The funny thing, however, is that the French "pion" also shares the root of the English "pioneer". And, now and then, some of us might like to be pioneers.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Gussied-up Paschal Sequence.

I got this via Matthew Alderman over at Shrine of the Holy Whapping, six years ago it seems. I was already at Urban Metropolis at the time! How's-about that? Not so long ago, really... but youtube has since changed its embedding API so you have to dig in the page source for the link... So I'll just link directly to the video.

And that link may also go stale eventually; you never can tell, with the Internet.

Happy Happy Easter! Some things are Eternal, and we are meant for Communion with the Best of them, if only we can get there. Easter promises it can be done.

Friday, March 18, 2016


I hope Dr. Thursday might be amused (not that I imagine he ever visits) that "Something of an else" has become a (rare but) recurring expression of delight in my private idiom. And so, thank him for having taken time, sometimes, to share these fun little things.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Some Recent History of The Heresy Inclination-as-Identity

It is interesting to look at the novel Brideshead Revisited for some "Interwar" (as it is later called) currency about various ... well, as Catholics, we should say, various disorders of the will.

Antony Blanch says of himself "I may be inverted...", and you can translate that into the terms now in fashion as you like, the narrator Charles Ryder calls himself "agnostic", and ... Sebastian Flyte doesn't deign to describe himself at all, that I recall. Others lament "something chemical in him", and the French Doctor "diagnoses" him as "alcoolique"—and even Charles finds this a bit too noncommital. I had a similar experience the last time I consulted a physician about a complaint: I was having chronic tiny blisters on my hands, associated with various discomforts, and the "diagnosis" was "palmo-plantar pustulosis", which is to say "you have tiny blisters on your soles and hands" only in Latin — though, no, they never appeared on my feet at all. But I digress. (and they seem to be all better, now!)

Contemporaries might have described Sebastian as "a dypsomaniac", but this is simply an individualized way of saying "he suffers dypsomania". Similarly, a leper is one who suffers leprosy. My point is that these are all descriptions, descriptions of accidents, and not necessarily intended as categories of persons. Now, this is not to say that society at large has ever been reticent of identifying the patient with his disease, but it was usually unusual (I think) in patients themselves. Neither has society's simplifying instinct been always a bad thing: it is an instinct towards quarantine, which often enough has been the best option for preserving the City. (Even at the same time: to comfort the sick and the prisoner is also a good thing, a work of Mercy).

Curiously, about the time Sebastian was getting lost in Tunisia, over in the United States was developing a fledgling Movement, whose Creed begins, "My name is N., and I am an alcoholic". And the fact that the patient is called by this Creed to actively identify with that he suffers seems to be an important feature of how AA-taught sobriety works. As Catholics, we might say that what AA-faithful do is "avoid the Near Occasion of Sin" (which is to say, always decline the First Drink), itself a good practise, but the way they are usually meant to manage that avoidance is to always remember "I am an alcoholic".

True: I am a sinner; but it is frightfully important that I be not my sins, for they can have no place in Heaven.

And so, I wonder if this apparently successful movement (AA), whose apparent success seems to hinge on radical identification of persons with particular passions (sensu lato) inspired today's radical identification of persons with various other particular passions — all of them, incidentally, inducing altered brain states when indulged, far more profoundly than does alcohol. The way Satan has some power to work prodigies by which he convinces some of lies, a heresy begins by seeming to work some good in a small way, and the less one questions it, the easier for that heresy to open more cracks in dark corners. Some folk suffering dypsomania find the discipline to remain sober, so last century; now "it's 2016", and one can argue morals from the Nature of Things only out of "animus" or "mean-spiritedness", saith the Associate Justice. Because now, one is not allowed to "suffer" fruitless attractions, but only to "be X.".

Monday, March 7, 2016

what to do, what to do...

I used to know this nice family, husband and wife had in their youth wandered through Unbelief to some kind of Baptistism, and when I knew them they had arrived in Catholicism. Another dear friend of mine had introduced me to the idea of what were then still Indult parishes; but these two, they Knew People, and they FOUND it. (The community were at the time quite lacadaisical about announcing themselves).

We mourned John Paul; Benedict was elected, and we rejoiced; he issued Summorum Pontificum, and we rejoiced. I went to Urban Metropolis to try for a PhD, they got married, we rejoiced iterum iterum...

It seems, in the running of time, they both of them know more about becoming converts than they do about seeking Truth, because where they are now... If anyone still said that sort of thing, and if they were more visible figures somehow, a Bishop Somewhere would have to say anathema sit, the things those two publish these days.

But what, if anything, can one do? I suppose one might hope that they are, indeed, so willing to keep changing their minds that we might hope and (as Robert Bolt thought Thomas More might have said) pray that when their heads have stopped spinning their faces are to the front again.

God? Please send help!

Friday, March 4, 2016


I can't bear to read the blog/website taking its name from the Advent Marian Votive Mass, nor the Remnant or any of the rest of those self-segregated circles; but I am curious, if anyone who can pull it off without sinking into a pool of despond can tell me:
Does Bernard Fellay still write to his following in the same style as he did when our beloved Benedictus XVI PP so mercifully re-admitted him and his three brothers to Roman Confessionals?
I remember reading, that one time, Fellay's letter proclaiming "Tradition is no longer excommunicate". Because it made me really mad.

I can only hope that Benedict didn't have to read that, that Fellay had better tact in person, that he was better in person. That is (it seems) I hope it was just a stupid bit of crowing, and neither a gap in the veil nor an extra layer of veil.

That is, I really hope Fellay doesn't (if he ever did) think himself somehow uniquely in the Church to Personify Tradition. And it would be much worse if he wrote that way deliberately, whether because he does believe it or because he doesn't believe it but his following do.

Anyways, is it too much to hope that, when he writes, he does so more sensibly, these days? Is there hope that, when he isn't hashing things out with ☨Müller, that he also isn't murmuring up his sleeve?

Because I want him to finally really come home, and bring his priests with him. And then they can clear up all those weddings with a general proclamation of sanatio in radice, and deal with the paperwork later.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

why stats, anyways?

Loading this blog just might have a browser load an awful lot of stuff that isn't really This Page. A couple of web-fonts, for instance, some lumps of javascript for parsing and displaying maths "beautifully typset"... and when was the last time I wrote any math, here? But never mind that.

There was a stat-counter thing included here; but I don't really do anything with those stats. It merely amused my own vanity (for a little while). So, never mind. One less external script to load, and one less distraction.

And eventually this very post will disappear, too.