Tuesday, December 23, 2008

O Emmanuel

The last of the O Antiphons is sung at vespers this evening, for tomorrow’s vespers will be the first of the Nativity:

O EMMANUEL, Rex et Legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.

O EMMANUEL, our King and Law-giver, the desire of the nations and the Saviour thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Another milestone in the annals of Infelix Ego, for today Melancholicus has been tagged, and that for the very first time.

The rules of this particular tag are as follows:

  • Link to the person who tagged you: The Bovina Bloviator.

  • Post the rules on your blog.

  • Write six random things about yourself.

  • Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.

  • Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.

  • Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Melancholicus shall refrain from tagging six others, for he moves in narrow and esoteric circles, and despite the length of his blogroll (see right) is not confident of finding six suitable fellow bloggers to tag. Many of his regular reads no doubt will have already been tagged in this wise by someone else. Instead he shall modify the rules on his own authority. Anyone reading this with a blog of their own may consider themselves tagged if they wish to play.

And now for six random pieces of trivia about Melancholicus:

  1. He was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived for extended periods in Utrecht (the Netherlands), Oslo (Norway) and Nebraska (USA).

  2. After lapsing from the Catholic faith in his teenage years, he was converted at the age of 24 by reading a book on Christianity—written by an Anglican!

  3. He has at least some knowledge of the Irish, French, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Russian and Arabic languages, but speaks none of them with any degree of fluency (and can not yet read Arabic script), so (with the possible exception of Germany and the Netherlands) he would be quite unable to function in any country in which these are spoken without having to resort finally to English. He also has a reading knowledge through his academic training of Early Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Gothic and Latin.

  4. As a boy, his ambition was to be a bus driver for CIÉ. This ambition was thwarted when the buses which inspired it were withdrawn from service at the end of their working lives while Melancholicus was still too young to hold a D-class driving licence, after which he lost all interest. He has no desire to be associated with these bland, characterless modern yokes.

  5. He is fascinated with the subject of nuclear weapons, loves looking at photographs and archive footage of nuclear tests and would love to have the opportunity to witness a real live atmospheric high-yield test at sufficiently close range to feel the heat on his face and the onrush of the shock front, but no so close as to risk serious injury or death, naturally.

  6. He really likes the interface presented by Safari browser, though for blogging purposes, Firefox is his clear favourite. Microsoft Internet Explorer he regards as the novus ordo of web browsers and hence not worth bothering with.

And that’s that.

O Rex Gentium

This evening’s vespers sees the chanting of the penultimate O Antiphon:

O REX GENTIUM, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O KING OF THE NATIONS and the desire thereof, Thou cornerstone that makest both one, come and deliver mankind, whom Thou didst form out of clay.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

O Oriens

The fifth of the Great O Antiphons will be sung at vespers this evening. The fourth Sunday of Advent has no proper Magnificat antiphon at either first or second vespers, since the occurring O Antiphons take liturgical precedence:

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O DAY-SPRING, Brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Clavis David

The fourth of the Great O Antiphons will be sung at vespers this evening:

O CLAVIS David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et in umbra mortis.

O Key of David, and Scepter of the house of Israel, that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: come and bring the prisoner forth from the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Friday, December 19, 2008

O Radix Jesse

The third of the Great O Antiphons will be sung at vespers this evening:

O RADIX JESSE, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

O ROOT OF JESSE, Which standest for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, Whom the Gentiles shall beseech: come and deliver us, and tarry not.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

O Adonai

The second of the Great O Antiphons will be sung at vespers this evening:

O ADONAI, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O ADONAI, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give him the law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O Sapientia

On 17 December, which is today, the Church enters upon the second and more solemn half of her Advent observance. The countdown to the appearance of the Divine Infant at Christmas has begun in earnest, and the first of the seven Great Antiphons chanted at the Magnificat in the office of vespers will be sung this evening.

O SAPIENTIA, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O WISDOM, Which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.

H/T to Rev. Giles Pinnock, on whose blog Melancholicus found the video.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What the devil...?

In September last Melancholicus installed on Infelix Ego a device called NeoCounter.

This device is one of many handy tools that measure and log internet traffic such that one has some idea where one’s visitors are from.

Noticing today that one of his most recent visitors pushed the number of countries from which his blog has been browsed since September up to the grand total of 60, Melancholicus waited eagerly to see the identity of the new country.

To say that it surprised him when he found it would be an understatement.

Which country would that be, then?

One that isn’t a country.

Look at the image to the left, paying particular attention to the spotlit area.

Just what is that, between Cameroon and the United Arab Emirates?

Since when, gentle reader, is Europe a country, any more than Africa or Asia or, for that matter, Antarctica are countries?

This is most sinister.

But wait, there’s more! The flag accompanying this ‘country’ is a circlet of twelve gold stars on a blue field. This is the flag of a political, economic and increasingly judicial entity known as the European Union.

So is this just an error on the part of NeoCounter? For the European Union is not itself a country. It is not a state, although the officials presiding over its institutions are tirelessly striving to elevate it to statehood. It is a legal construct composed of twenty-seven separate and independent member states. These twenty-seven states are the countries, and all except Luxembourg, Lithuania and Slovenia have registered hits on Melancholicus’ counter.

So what is this ‘Europe’? The EU has no right to statehood alongside its twenty-seven members, much less to statehood at their expense.

Melancholicus has not so far tracked down the origin of that (so far) isolated visit, but would not be surprised if it proceeded from an IP address in some bureaucratic office in Strasbourg or Brussels.

But if this is indeed an indication that the commissars are trawling the blogs and indentifying troublesome commentators advocating unwelcome right-wing views—as has been threatened—would they not do better to keep their surveillance secret?

They’ll catch more baddies that way.

The things one sees on the highway

Yesterday evening, after checking on his students in the exam hall at the RDS, Melancholicus was driving through Ballsbridge on his way back to the north side.

He stopped at traffic lights at the junction of Anglesey Road, and noticed that the vehicle in front of him—a silver 2008 Nissan Note with a Dublin registration—bore an Obama ’08 bumper sticker, obnoxiously displayed to the public view.

This is unusual in Ireland. It is uncommon to see vehicles on Irish roads registered in the state with bumper stickers of any sort, political or otherwise, never mind those to do with American presidential elections.

So it is typical that the very first one Melancholicus ever set eyes upon in this country should belong to a supporter of the Man of Sin, and he grunted to himself in sour disapproval behind the wheel.

When the lights turned green, the Obamobile moved into the lane to turn right onto Shelbourne Road, stopping at the junction thereto since the filter light had not yet appeared. Melancholicus remained in the northbound lane, since he was heading towards Morehampton Road, and as he passed the queue of traffic waiting for the Shelbourne filter light he turned his head to get a look at the driver.

The Obamobile was driven by a fat, dumpy-looking, middle-aged woman with an angry mien and a scowl that could crack a plate. Although Melancholicus cannot pretend to know this woman, or be privy to the secrets of her conscience, if appearance is anything to go by she looked every inch the radical feminist, and, if the truth be told, she looked more than a little like one of those ladies that prefers the bed-company of her own rather than the opposite sex. Melancholicus surmised that at the beginning of this year this woman must have been eagerly rooting for Hillary Clinton but, when the latter failed to win the Democratic nomination, decided to make the best of a bad job and root for the candidate otherwise most likely to deliver with respect to the feminist/abortionist/homosexualist agenda.

But why are liberals so angry? Why are they so eaten up with fury and hate? Are they not aware that all their cherished designs are, one by one, gradually being realised? Have they not copped themselves on to the fact that their side, at least at the present time, is winning? Have they not, after all, secured the election of the Chosen One, at least where the US presidency is concerned?

Can they not be gracious in victory?

Can they not even manage a smile?

No, because just like the islamists, each fresh victory does not abate their hatred, but increases it.

Everyone who knows an ideological liberal can testify to the horrifying depths of bitterness, rage and even malice that lie seething beneath the surface, ready to spill over at the slightest provocation. A feature common to all totalitarian ideologies is an absolute intolerance of the existence of persons whose views differ from the ideological orthodoxy. Liberalism is no exception. Make no mistake about it, Liberalism is every bit as totalitarian as Nazism and Communism; it differs from these only in that its proponents have not yet secured sufficient raw power to impose their will violently upon their opponents and upon society at large.

Let us suppose that the liberals achieved all their objectives: not some, not most—but all. This is impossible since the indefectibility of the Church is divinely guaranteed until the end of time, but let us imagine for argument’s sake that it were so. Having completely revolutionised the social order and imposed all their cherished inversions and perversions (it is surely unnecessary to list these); having attained such total control over education and the dissemination of information that every last member of society could not help but be thoroughly indoctrinated in their ideology, without any possibility of opting out (so no homeschooling or anything similar); having disposed of persons who somehow managed to evade this indoctrination or showed themselves capable of independent thought by the expedient of having them confined to psychiatric wards, lobotomised or ‘euthanised’, would they then, finally, be happy?

If traditional morality and the Christian religion were eradicated completely, would they then rest content, delighted with their achievements and with the heaven on earth they believe they can decree into being?

Or would they not rather find themselves bereft of all purpose and desire, since there would be no-one left to hate?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas stamps 2008

Last year Melancholicus was struck with wonderment at the fact that, even in this brave new age of cultural ‘sensitivity’, An Post was so coarse and majoritarian as to use the word Christmas openly and shamelessly on their website. As if such were not sufficiently offensive to the devotees of lesser gods, to ethnic ‘minorities’, to Irish Times readers and to the liberal intelligentsia generally, An Post did not even scruple to issue, even to the very public, a special set of seasonal stamps with an unmistakably Christian theme.

Well, those good fellows are at it again this year! For Melancholicus has today sent off his first batch of Christmas cards (with more to go out tomorrow), and in doing so discovered that last year’s themed stamps were not an isolated incident quickly corrected by the self-appointed watchdogs of p.c. orthodoxy, but an annual event which brings a timely reminder amidst the commercially-driven excess of materialistic spending sprees of what Christmas is really all about.

This year’s offerings lack the aesthetic quality of those from 2007 (at least in Melancholicus’ opinion), but for all that they are just as unmistakably Christian. They feature (right to left) the Annunciation, the journey of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph to Bethlehem, and the Divine Infant lying in the manger.

Once again, kudos to An Post for doing their bit to keep the religious tradition of this country alive in the face of the assaults it receives daily from ideologues who think they know better than the Holy Ghost.

And Christmas is still Christmas in Ireland; we do not (yet) address each other with banalities such as “happy holidays”, and the Angelus bell is still rung daily even on the mordantly anti-catholic media organ known as RTÉ.

But, the way things are going, for how much longer?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lisbon take two

Isn’t democracy beautiful?

Isn’t it wonderful when the people at large have the chance to determine their own future instead of having a cadre of politicians, businessmen and vested interests deciding it for them?

On 12 June last, the Irish electorate voted against the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. One would think that an institution such as the European Union, committed as it is to promoting the spread of western-style democracy throughout the globe, ought to respect that result. Was it not delivered by the democratic means so dear to the hearts of our European rulers, heirs as they are to the Revolutionaries of 1789, with their ideals of Liberté, Fraternité and Egalité?

Now it has been revealed that Taoiseach Brian Cowen is to offer the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty to the Irish electorate a second time, in exactly the same fashion as was done in 2002 with the Treaty of Nice.

What part of “No” do they not understand?

Melancholicus predicted as much last May, and he does not rejoice in the discovery that his prediction has been fulfilled.

What is the response of our European “brothers” to this travesty of the democratic process? Are concerned voices being raised in Brussels, opposing the Irish government’s decision to hold a second referendum since the voice of the Irish people has already been heard?

On the contrary, the EU commissars will offer the Irish government every assistance, every inducement, every warning and every threat in order to assure the correct result is obtained in the second Lisbon referendum, and that because the only thing that really matters is ratification, and the furtherance of the objectives of the Grand European Project. Democracy is allowed to be democracy only when the electorate deliver the desired outcome. That’s not really enfranchisement, is it?

So why not drop the pretence and just admit that the EU has designs on fashioning itself, by whatever means necessary, into a totalitarian state, whose executive, legislative and judicial powers shall in every conceivable instance trump those of its constituent nations provinces?

This scandalous repeat of the Lisbon referendum shall be held in October 2009, on a date yet to be appointed. Due to his forthcoming marriage, Melancholicus will by then be living in the People’s Republic of Obamaland, but he will make every arrangement necessary for being able to cast his vote in the re-run. He shall vote the same way he voted last June, for his mind has not changed in the interim. The result is a foregone conclusion in any case. Referenda shall continue to be put to the people until the people finally say what their betters want them to say. The final outcome is merely postponed, not averted. The game is rigged against us; we have to win every throw. The other side has to win but once.

This story courtesy of RTÉ:

Second Lisbon poll likely before October

Thursday, 11 December 2008 09:09

The Taoiseach is in Brussels today at an EU summit where he is set to agree to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty by next October.

A draft agreement, to be presented to the summit this evening, sets out a series of steps that the French presidency hopes will be enough to secure ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

'The Irish government is committed to seeking ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the term of the current commission,' the text said.

The Taoiseach will discuss the Irish view with EU colleagues today and tomorrow,' a spokesman for the Government said, declining to comment further.

All states would firstly agree that if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, they will use its provision to ensure every country keeps a permanent commissioner [dream on; there is no way of holding them to this promise. It can be revoked without a backward glance once the Irish electorate have accepted the Treaty].

The second step would see a series of legally binding guarantees being drafted over the next six months by the Czech presidency on issues of concern to Ireland [Melancholicus would tend to mistrust the Czechs less than he mistrusts the French, but there is no reason why 'legally binding guarantees' must always remain so. Laws often are, by force of events and circumstance, subject to constant revision].

If those guarantees are acceptable, then the Government promises to hold a referendum by the end of the term of this Commission, which would normally [be] the end of next October [the Irish government is going to do the bidding of its EU paymasters anyway, regardless of whether any 'guarantees' offered are acceptable or not].

The draft also sets out the areas of concern to Ireland, including military neutrality, tax sovereignty and the primacy of the Irish constitution on social issues, such as abortion and marriage laws [while it is heartening to see that social issues are addressed, at the very least by being mentioned, once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified it is very doubtful whether any of the 27 constituent nations will have the powers to retain their own laws on issues like marriage and abortion against the uniform social engineering desired by the European Commission].

It includes new language on the protection of workers rights, and the provision of public services like health and education by government and local authorities.

We knew this development must surely come, but for all that it is no less bitter to the taste, and no less hard to swallow.

We shall see if these promised ‘guarantees’ will actually come to anything. But Melancholicus shall not be holding his breath.

Friday, December 05, 2008

In memoriam A.H.M., part the third

Melancholicus has now finished reading Martyr of Ritualism, and is still infused with an after-glow of awe at the extraordinary life and labours of its protagonist.

If only a tenth part of our Roman clergy were as energetic, devoted and holy as Father Mackonochie, how different would the Church now be!

In any case, Melancholicus shall now surcease from comparing the Roman Catholic clergy unfavourably with Mackonochie, lest readers who disdain Anglo-Catholicism consider such talk impious and altogether without merit.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Melancholicus shall now conclude his reminiscences of Father A.H.M. with some photographs of the man and his companions so as to furnish his readers with some flavour of this martyr of ritualism even if they have not read his life.

Father Alexander Heriot Mackonochie at the height of his powers

Mackonochie as a young priest, probably in the St. George’s Mission days. (This profile looks to Melancholicus not unlike a certain Simon N. from Limerick—although perhaps mutual friends of ours would disagree)

Father Charles Fuge Lowder, founder of the Society of the Holy Cross (Societas Sanctae Crucis), to which Mackonochie belonged

Father Arthur Stanton as a young man. Stanton (with biretta!) was one of Mackonochie’s curates at St. Alban’s, ministering there for almost his whole priestly life. He died in 1913

The clergy of St. Alban’s, Holborn, in 1874, the same year in which parliament passed the notorious Public Worship Regulation Act—which, incidentally, is still on the statute books though honoured more in the breach than in the observance. Front row (from left): H. A. Walker, A.H.M., Arthur Stanton, H. E. Willington. Back row: H. G. Maxwell, E. F. Russell, G. R. Hogg. Note that nearly all the clergy are either wearing or holding birettas. Melancholicus can’t get over the birettas

Mackonochie’s cross marking the spot where he died in the Mamore Forest not far from Ballachulish, Scotland, on 15 December 1887

Footnote: astoundingly, Father Mackonochie is omitted from the liturgical calendar provided by Common Worship; despite the impact of his ministry on the Church of England and his legacy which survives to this day, he has no holy day of his own. Yet undeservers such as Martin Luther are commemorated—scroll down to October 31 (Luther is commemorated on Halloween—are we at liberty to take such tongue-in-cheek?)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The clarity of his teaching makes me glad to be a Dubliner...

... and even gladder to be a Catholic. Not.

This story courtesy of Novus Ordo Catholic World News, and is Melancholicus’ first hosting of a story from that source since it was ‘renewed’ by its owners back in August:

Irish archbishop denies disagreement within hierarchy on civil partnerships

December 01, 2008

After Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said that the Irish episcopal conference had not expressed an opinion on proposed legislation allowing civil partnerships for same-sex couples, the Irish Times saw "significant differences" between Ireland's two leading Catholic prelates on the issue. Archbishop Martin took issue with that analysis.

Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh had earlier delivered a stern warning against legislation that could undermine traditional marriage. Archbishop Martin said that other bishops agreed with the cardinal but "may have said it in different ways." The Dublin archbishop added that while opposing same-sex marriage, Church leaders were "not against other forms of intimacy." The Irish Times saw "significant differences of emphasis" in the archbishop's statement.

In a prompt reply to the Irish Times, Archbishop Martin decried what he said was "false interpretation" of his public remarks, and emphasized that he was "supportive of the basic content of Cardinal Brady's position." The archbishop went on to say that the relevant Christian teaching begins with an emphasis on the fundamental importance of marriage, but added: "I am fully aware of the need to protect the rights of a variety of people in caring and dependent relationships, different to marriage."

The offending article by Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs correspondent for the Irish Times:

Bishops differ over emphasis on civil unions

PATSY McGARRY Religious Affairs Correspondent

SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES of emphasis among Ireland's Catholic bishops on the Civil Partnership Bill have emerged.

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Dublin Most Rev Diarmuid Martin said that, while he didn't feel any of his fellow bishops were opposed to what Cardinal Seán Brady said about the Bill at the recent Céifin conference in Ennis, they might have said it differently.

"We haven't expressed an opinion as an Episcopal Conference (on the Bill)," he said. "I don't think anyone in the conference is against what Cardinal Brady said, but they may have said it in different ways."

The Archbishop also said that while the Catholic Church favoured marriage, "it is not against other forms of intimacy".

Catholic teaching "is linked to the complementarity of the sexes", he said, "and this was not something it was possible for any individual to change. It is part of the order of things since Creation." He noted that while "the Catholic Church is in favour of marriage, it is not against other forms of intimacy". He added that "consistently, all Christian churches emphasise the uniqueness of marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes", but they addressed other forms of intimacy on other bases.

Archbishop Martin was speaking at a press conference in Maynooth yesterday which was also attended by the Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Rev Noel Traenor. It took place as the three-day winter meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference was under way. It ends today.

In his address to the Céifin conference on November 4th, Cardinal Brady indicated that the Government could face a legal challenge if the Civil Partnership Bill became law. "Those who are committed to the probity of the Constitution, to the moral integrity of the word of God and to the precious human value of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of society may have to pursue all avenues of legal and democratic challenge to the published legislation if this is the case," he said.

The Bill was "perhaps the greatest revolution in the history of the Irish family" and the Government was obliged by the Constitution to guard the institution of marriage "with special care", he said.

The Civil Partnership Bill is expected to become law next year and will give greater protection to cohabiting and same-sex couples in areas such as pensions, inheritance and tax. Cardinal Brady said a complete assessment could not be made until the legislation was published, but that it appeared the Government was prepared to grant to cohabiting and same-sex couples the status of marriage in all but name. Apart from the restrictions on adoption by same-sex couples, "it is difficult to see how anything other than the introduction of de facto marriage for cohabiting and same-sex couples is envisaged", he said.

The cardinal said he found it "remarkable" that "Ireland looks set to repeat the mistakes of societies like Britain and the US by introducing legislation which will promote cohabitation, remove most incentives to marry and grant same-sex couples the same rights as marriage in all but adoption".

He said one in four children of cohabiting parents experienced family breakdown before they started school, compared to just one in 10 children of married parents. "Other studies in Britain and the US suggest that children born outside of marriage are more likely to do worse at school, suffer poorer health and are more likely to face problems of unemployment, drugs and crime," he said.

What was it Melancholicus said yesterday about his local ordinary? If memory serves me rightly, I believe it included the words ‘equivocating’, ‘double-tongued’, ‘politicised’ and ‘careerist’ among sundry other unflattering epithets. But whatever else might be said against Melancholicus on that account, he cannot be accused of having not given all sides in this instance a fair hearing. So he invites his readers to decide. Was Mr. McGarry, or was he not, justified in drawing the inferences he did after his Grace’s ambiguous ramblings on marriage and sexual intimacy at that press conference in Maynooth? The answer to this question hinges on whether his Grace of Dublin expressed himself and expounded Catholic teaching on the subject clearly and forthrightly; my lord archbishop’s words were obviously so clear and forthright as to necessitate the sending perforce to D’Olier street of a letter exculpating himself of any pastoral negligence in an attempt to explain his position.

His Grace of Dublin’s response, in the letters section of the same newspaper:

Archbishop and civil unions

Madam, - I have received a number of calls from people who feel that my remarks, as presented in your report of November 26th, "Bishops differ over emphasis on civil unions", seem to indicate that I do not accept Catholic teaching on marriage.

I was responding to a series of questions from journalists regarding a variety of aspects of the forthcoming Civil Partnership Bill. It is possible that the manner in which my different remarks appeared may have given rise to false interpretation.

While saying that I might have addressed the theme differently, I did clearly say that I was supportive of the basic content of Cardinal Brady's position on the Bill and of his comments at the recent Céifin conference.

Above all my remarks wished to stress that the Christian teaching on marriage, rather than starting out from negative criticisms, is a positive endorsement of the unique and irreplaceable contribution to society made by the family based on marriage, that is, on the mutual and exclusive love of husband and wife.

While stressing, as I have consistently done, the Christian teaching on the mutuality of the sexes as fundamental to the understanding of marriage, I am fully aware of the need to protect the rights of a variety of people in caring and dependent relationships, different to marriage.

Unfortunately, some members of the public and some public commentators seize on such comments and concern as an opportunity to say that I advocate positions in conflict with Catholic teaching. For my part, I regret if my comments may have appeared unclear. On the other hand, the contrived polemic of such commentators does little to promote marriage and its value to society.

- Yours, etc,

Archbishop DIARMUID MARTIN, Archbishop's House, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

His Grace’s statesmanlike composure slips in the closing sentence, his self-control having clearly been stretched to its absolute limit, enabling us to catch a quick glimpse of the fury beneath. He refers, scathingly, to ‘such commentators’, in the plural. Obviously his pique has been roused by others besides Mr. McGarry alone. Who are these others? Catholic bloggers and news agencies, both at home and abroad, most likely. At this stage this story has gone all around the world, and his Grace is clearly furious that he has been publicly exposed in an evasive and calculating dodge worthy of Rowan Williams so shamelessly misrepresented.

“For my part, I regret if my comments may have appeared unclear. On the other hand, the contrived polemic of such commentators does little to promote marriage and its value to society.”

May have appeared unclear? There’s no may about it, dear Diarmuid. Your words were unclear, period. Stop trying to cover your arrogant arse and admit your fault. Had you the humility to do that, we would hold you in a new respect. But alas, one can’t teach old dogs...

And what about the contrived polemic? You have some cheek, dear Diarmuid. You tried to straddle both sides of the fence. You tried to please both parties—your flock and your secularist enemies—simultaneously. It didn’t work, and the fault is your own. In case it may have escaped your attention, permit me to remind you that your appointment to the See of Dublin makes you one of the two most senior leaders of the Catholic Church on this island. Do the words ‘Primate of Ireland’ hold any meaning for you? You have a great power to influence others, for good or for ill, and it is disgraceful—not to say demoralising—for Christ’s faithful to behold their bishop, their archbishop, the shepherd of their Church, playing games with semantics and dodging urgent questions of doctrine and morals with the brazen aplomb of a lying politician, all simply to avoid a few days’ critique at the hands of the outraged and anti-catholic press. I don’t know why you went to the effort; surely you knew it was inevitable you would have been criticised by someone. If you had taught forthrightly, we would not have lambasted you with our ‘contrived polemic’; the other side would have. But which is better? To please your flock and enrage the enemies of Jesus Christ, or vice versa? Personally, I think you made the wrong choice. I seem to remember something in the Gospels along the lines of “woe to you when the world shall speak well of you...”, and all that. But you might disagree; well, it’s your prerogative.

Furthermore, dear Diarmuid, since when is it up to ‘such commentators’ to ‘promote marriage and its value to society’? We do so when we can, certainly. In fact we are doing it now by offering you our criticism, since you are not doing it yourself. You are the archbishop. Is it not your job vigorously to promote Catholic morals, including the unpopular teaching on marriage and sexuality?

That having been said, I guess I just bagged myself 8,000 points. Cheers, Diarmuid.


Melancholicus is a perfectionist.

He is a perfectionist at least when it comes to himself; it takes him an unseemly length of time to finish works of intellectual or creative labour, since he expends so much time and care on trying to make the thing as perfect as possible; and of course it never is.

Composing a single short blog-post which would not take more than five minutes in the hands of a writer less fastidious might be for Melancholicus half a day’s labour or even more.

But when it comes to the works of others, Melancholicus does not demand the same level of punctiliousness; instead, he often marvels at how much more perspicacious, eloquent and witty are their efforts than his own.

There is no shortage of souls in our time scandalized by the breathtaking mediocrity of our fathers in God; there is among certain of the faithful a perfectionism which imagines that our clerical governors ought to be perfect, never putting a foot wrong, never saying or doing anything that might reflect badly on holy mother Church, or on the sanctity of their orders.

Melancholicus does not bracket himself with that cohort, scandalized though he certainly is by episcopal nonfeasance and sacerdotal turpitude. He is at least sufficiently familiar with both Church history and human nature to know that poor to middling bishops are a perennial fact of life, even in the good old days when the Mass was in Latin. It is natural that the members of the flock should desire their shepherds to be saints; but the fact that more often than not they are sinners instead does not make the Church founded by our Lord Christ any less the Church founded by our Lord Christ.

BUT, that having been said:

There is at least a minimum standard that the faithful are entitled to expect from those men in holy orders in positions of authority over them.

When one goes to church for the hearing of holy Mass, one has every right to expect that the celebrating priest will, as the adage has it, “do the red and say the black”; that he will be properly vested; that he will celebrate the liturgy given to us by the Church, and not substitute for it some banality of his own concoction; that he will treat the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus with due reverence, and that he will not preach in such manner as might cause doubt or confusion regarding any doctrine of faith or morals.

This much—or rather, this little—the faithful have every right to expect, and their anger when it is denied them (as it often is) is a just and righteous anger.

When the bishops speak, either as individuals or as a body, the faithful have every right to expect that they will set forth Catholic doctrine in such wise as cannot be misconstrued or misinterpreted, or leave in doubt on any point the teaching of holy mother Church thereon. The faithful have every right to a teaching that is not expressed ambiguously, so as to hide its real import from the enemies of the faith. For whom do the bishops serve when they speak in so cryptic a manner? Is it less important to them to teach forthrightly, than to be tolerated by the denizens of D’Olier street? On the contrary, let their yes be yes and their no, no; anything above that comes from the evil one.

As far as Melancholicus is concerned, it is not asking too much to expect a Catholic bishop to teach the Catholic faith, without any admixture of error, or doubt, or confusion. When the bishops fail in this essential duty, when they persist in an erroneous or ineffective policy despite the misguided nature of that policy having been pointed out to them time and time again, the anger of the faithful against such bishops is no sin, or disobedience, but a right and Godly anger.

For let us not forget that the architects of the Reformation, who led entire nations out of the Church and into heresy, were not private persons who dared to criticize their bishops, or who wrote articles against the misdeeds of priests for reactionary journals; those who initiated the Reformation were almost without exception priests, professed religious, and bishops—men with positions of spiritual and governmental authority within the Church.

It was not the lay persons who resisted their novelties that fell away into heresy; it was those who went with them who so did.

Is it really asking too much to expect our bishops to know the teaching of the Church? Have they not been through seminary? Are they not all, or nearly all, Doctors of Divinity? Indeed they are; but their minds seem to have been clouded by a false religion, namely conciliar religion; sufficient of the world’s bishops seem to believe that everything in their ministry refers back to Vatican II, which is taken as the starting-point for everything they do and say. Conciliar religion is a false religion because it disposes the minds of its devotees to accept as good and true and consonant with the Gospel the false maxims of the world. Hence the proliferation of anthropocentric and irreverent liturgies; the refusal of our shepherds to condemn the gross immorality of our age, except in the most indistinct and general terms, lest any practitioner of immorality be offended; the widespread and conveniently ecumenical attitude that one religion is as good as another, hence proselytism is now viewed as a embarrassing discourtesy; the human respect which places the opinions of sectaries and unbelievers above the teachings of the Church; the evil political correctness which has infected even those consecrated to God, such that they approve warmly of the falsest philosophies as well as the most execrable vice. In essence, the world is placed before the Church, and within the Church the so-called ‘rights’ of Man are placed before the honour and service due to almighty God.

Such is the conciliar church, this counterfeit institution conceived by periti in love with novel ideas, carried to term in the womb of the Second Vatican Council, and delivered by the midwifery of Pope Paul VI, without whose decisive aid the whole disastrous project would have been stillborn.

To which we might reply, in the words of one of Papa Montini’s illustrious predecessors, that we have heard enough about the ‘rights’ of Man; let us hear about the rights of God for a change.

A.H.M. reditus

Melancholicus is still racing through Martyr of Ritualism. He is right near the end of it now.

In his declining years, in the autumn of 1884, Father Mackonochie went so far ‘Romish’ as to preach, at the invitation of certain of his brother clergy, a retreat for priests.

The experience was not altogether a happy one for Mackonochie, for he was conscious of the failing of his intellect due to the fatigue of a life given to extraordinarily hard work among the urban poor, not to mention the seemingly endless prosecutions that placed so great a strain on the last twenty-five years of his life. His ability to preach and deliver conferences was not what it was, and as might be expected he was embarrassed by this deterioration, even if he took it in a spirit of Christian resignation. He was not an old man—he had not yet turned sixty—but he was worn out from his labours nonetheless, with the diminished vigour of a man at least twenty years older. His friend, bishop Chinnery-Haldane of Argyll and the Isles, recalled that there had been “a certain amount of hesitation and perhaps a little confusion at times, but what he said was always helpful and edifying”.

In any case, the retreat was judged a success by those who attended it, and would have been followed up with another that December had Mackonochie been both willing and able.

But reading this episode made Melancholicus realise what he probably needs most right now, namely a retreat.

It is a long time since he went on retreat. Retreats at the beginning of every semester were mandatory when Melancholicus was in seminary. These were week-long affairs, preached by a variety of persons, sometimes handled by more than one person simultaneously. Some of them were good, others mediocre. The last retreat he attended was in January 2005, at the commencement of his final semester in clericatu. But Melancholicus would now welcome the opportunity to go on retreat, with daily Mass (clean, please, or better still, Trad), silence, spiritual conferences (wholesome and solid, based on the writings of the saints, not on dubious fluff about “our brokenness” and “healing”), self-examination, and of course confession of sins.

Since leaving seminary in 2005, he has neglected the practice of going on retreat very properly. This is due in large part to the non-availability of opportunities in Ireland to go on an authentically Catholic retreat. Just take a look at the website for this sty of heretical nonsense and the reader will have some idea of the kind of drivel on offer. Expensive drivel, too. Look at the prices they charge for a weekend of the spiritual equivalent of tinted steam, and from which one would not likely come away a better person, with grace in one’s soul, and with resolutions to acquire some lacking virtue, or conquer some besetting vice. This place might possibly be the worst stronghold of self-centred, pseudo-Christian New-Agery in the country, but it is probably mimicked to a greater or lesser degree by other establishments and religious houses who offer to the public such retreats and days of recollection.

Some rare trad retreats have occasionally been preached in Ireland over the last few years; one must keep one’s ears close to the ground to get wind of such in the secretive world in which trads are by force of circumstance compelled to operate. Happily, there are rumours of such a retreat being planned for next spring in a Cistercian monastery by a certain industrious young man whom Melancholicus shall not embarrass by divulging his name; but it will be an excellent opportunity for spiritual spring cleaning, especially in view of the fact that Melancholicus shall be entering the married state a couple of months later.

Should any of Melancholicus’ Irish readers be interested in attending such, he shall post the details as soon as they become available.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

In Memoriam A.H.M.

At present Melancholicus is reading a book.

This used to happen more regularly than it does at present owing to his unfortunate discovery last year of this wonderful piece of software—I say unfortunate because though an immensely enjoyable pastime, Rome: Total War has proved to be a tremendous thief of time and hence an occasion of sin.

But back to reading. The book in question is called Martyr of Ritualism, by Michael Reynolds, and was first published in 1965. It is a life of Father Alexander Heriot Mackonochie (1825-87), vicar of St. Alban’s, Holborn.

This book is absorbing reading. Melancholicus found it gathering dust in a little-visited corner of the university library, and when he went to borrow it he discovered with some satisfaction that he was the very first reader to do so. It has been in his possession for only two weeks, but he is already on the final chapter.

Martyr of Ritualism is in many ways a powerful and moving story. The ritualists, as they became known, were the immediate heirs of the Tractarian school of the Church of England in the middle years of the nineteenth century. If men like Keble, Pusey and Newman laid the foundations by setting forth the intellectual basis for the Catholicism of the English Church, it was left to those who followed after to implement the practical consequences of the Oxford Movement. The gradual Catholicising (some might—and did—say ‘Romanising’) of the English Church was a protracted and often painful affair; those whose pioneering labours in the liturgical and pastoral expression of rediscovered Catholic doctrines suffered much from the harrassment of protestant agitators such as the Church Association, as well as from unsympathetic bishops. Some prominent ritualists such as Mackonochie were prosecuted repeatedly for illegal liturgical acts and appurtenances, such as vestments, Confiteor and Last Gospel, ceremonial mixing of the chalice, wafers, the lavabo, hiding of the manual acts, the sign of the cross, the sanctus bell, incense, portable lights, lights upon the holy table, holy water, the blessing of palms, Tenebrae, the paschal candle, the stations of the cross, the observance of days not appointed to be observed by the Prayer Book, the eastward (ad orientem) position, the elevation of the host and chalice, and the recitation of the Canon of the Mass. Although Mackonochie was never actually imprisoned, other ritualists such as Arthur Tooth and Richard Enraght were sent to gaol for their liturgical defence of Catholic doctrine (at least as they understood it). They were also pilloried in the newspapers, often becoming the victims of caricatures and cartoons in such publications as Punch and Vanity Fair. But, in marked contrast to the lily-livered milquetoast prelates of the contemporary Roman and Anglican Churches, they held their ground, not allowing fear of persecution or media ridicule to budge them one inch from their principles. Mackonochie was prepared to suffer ceaseless litigation, suspension, deprivation and even imprisonment for those eucharistic ceremonies he recognised as integral to the liturgical expression of the Faith.

What a breathtaking contrast to the thoroughly secular, de-catholicised and effeminate clergy of our own day.

For all their portrayal in satirical cartoons as precious ‘lace and holy water priests’, the Anglo-Catholic ritualists of the 1860s and 1870s were tough guys. Heroes. They were men. Manly men. And they had a tremendous appetite for work and ministry in some of the poorest and most deprived slums in England.

What are we to think when so many of the ceremonial items, vestments, acts and gestures for which Father Mackonochie fought so hard and suffered so much, would just a hundred years later be jettisoned without so much as a backward glance by an entire generation of supposedly ‘Catholic’ priests and bishops drunk on the fanaticism of ‘aggiornamento’, and all that hated word connotes?

What would Father Mackonochie have had to say about the kind of Mass Melancholicus witnessed yesterday in the chapel of the university?

It is a scandal. Truly a scandal.

Ubi es, Domine?

Melancholicus is feeling rather well this Tuesday morning of the first week of Advent, notwithstanding his ugly encounter yesterday with the conciliar church openly playing with its own faeces even within sight of members of the public.

And no, he did not make it to Harrington Street today either, but this was due to reasons of charity rather than sloth, as he had arranged to give someone a lift to work this morning at the same time as Mass was beginning in St. Kevin’s.

He has since been reflecting on the frustratingly quixotic nature of the conciliar church. Sometimes it looks so much like the Catholic Church as to deceive (if it were possible) even the elect. At other times this synagogue of Satan flaunts its true colours in the faces of its few remaining faithful without the slightest shame.

Small wonder Catholics are confused, and why so many have long since ceased to have any contact with the Church or with churchmen. Apart from the occasional spirited defence of Catholic social or moral teaching which catches us all off guard, the public pronouncements of our hierarchs are mostly insubstantial and thoroughly secular ramblings about world peace, immigration, employment, welfare, equality and suchlike, and harmonize startlingly well with the views of the Labour party on the same subjects. And the state of the liturgy is absolutely atrocious.

When was the last time, gentle reader, you heard an Irish bishop (or indeed any bishop) talk about God, or the eternal destiny of the human soul? When was the last time you heard such a bishop talk about sin, and the need for repentance and conversion (in the Catholic sense, that is), never mind the need for the sacrament of penance? When was the last time you heard a bishop discourse on the joys of heaven or the pains of hell, or on the awesome beauty of the holy sacrifice of the Mass? Well, you won’t have heard a bishop discourse on this last unless he is given, unusually, to celebration of the immemorial rite for (let’s face it), the novus ordo just doesn’t have any beauty, awesome or otherwise, on which a bishop could discourse.

Can you think of any bishop who has publicly discoursed on these things? Please take as long as you need. And Archbishop Lefebvre doesn’t count.

What does it mean to be a member of the Catholic Church? Theologically, it means one is incorporated into the mystical body of the Lord. But in practical terms, how is this incorporation realized? Does my salvation depend on my being in communion with Father Jesuit, with Bishop Arthur Roche, and with Judas Priest? How about my local ordinary, “Dermot our archbishop” (as the text of the vernacular liturgy has it)? Since his installation in 2003 what, precisely, has he done to help the Church in this rapidly sinking diocese, where the continuing decline in the number of priests and the similar decline in the number of the church-going faithful are vying to outstrip one another? Does the salvation of my soul depend on my preserving communio in sacris with such a negligent, double-tongued, equivocating, politicised careerist as this? Sure, he has done good things, such as the erection (in response to Summorum Pontificum) of the so-called Latin Mass Chaplaincy, where traditional Catholics have at least some semblance of parish life, but even this grand gesture is not untainted with the self-interest of the conciliar church since it effectively corrals the Tradition onto the ecclesiastical equivalent of an Indian reservation.

It is a matter of faith that the Church is a visible and hierarchical society. Catholics must believe this. It is also a matter of faith that the Church is a perfect society, and is sinless, without spot or wrinkle, the immaculate bride of the Lamb. This last stands to reason, since the Church is the mystical body of the Lord Jesus, and how could there be any trace of imperfection—never mind sin—in the Lord Jesus? I understand full well the distinction between the sinlessness of the Church and the sins of churchmen. But the sheer scale of the negligence and turpitude among churchmen of the present time, not to mention the fanaticism wherewith they have pursued a gospel other than that which they had received, has the effect (at least to me) of clouding the visible nature of Holy Church, at least from time to time, as though I were trying desperately to glimpse the face of the Lord Jesus under ruffled water. Frighteningly, when the water calms enough for me to see through it, it is often not the face of Jesus that I glimpse, but something quite other, ugly and horrifying. Some might say this is the disfigured, bruised and bloodstained face of the Lord crowned with thorns and crucified, and that is the reason for my horror. I say no; the crucified does not leer with the malevolence I see on this face.

And so I ask: Ubi es, Domine? Where art thou, O Lord? I feel like a man stumbling along an uneven road, soaked through with the heavy rain that has reduced visibility ahead to only the few yards in front of his face. The night is dark and I am far from home. Among the stark limbs of trees denuded by winter frosts on either side of the road I glimpse sinister crozier-wielding impostures, talking out of both sides of their mouths, contradicting themselves and each other, and beckoning me to hear them and to participate in their ghastly idolatry. One does oneself more harm than good by listening to such, and I leave them well alone, and press on through the darkness and the rain.

How does one preserve one’s membership of the Catholic Church in these trying times, when, entering a church or even simply talking to a priest, one is in constant doubt about whether one is about to have an encounter with the Catholic Church or with the synagogue of Satan? Holy Mother Church now shows herself, and now hides, and it is often not easy to find her. Her state—now open, now hidden—has become uncannily similar to that of a possessed girl—the personality of the girl herself is still in there somewhere, but the baleful influence of the demon, with its malice, keeps inexorably coming through.

Do not, gentle reader, misunderstand me. I’m not thinking of going anywhere. I’m simply trying to find the Catholic Church, still buried as she must be under tons of rubble since that devastating earthquake of 1962-65 in which countless parishes, dioceses, religious orders, schools and beautiful churches were wrecked, and in which millions of souls perished. A few years ago, galled beyond endurance by the sheer unreliability of the conciliar church with its relentless perfidy and abuses (and, it must be admitted, in the grip of a rather severe depression), I considered abandoning the Roman communion entirely for that of Anglicanism, and even had a few exploratory meetings with a rector of the Church of Ireland to that effect. But I could not bring myself to doubt (never mind disbelieve) the doctrine of transubstantiation, upon which all my adherence to the Catholic Church turns. It was the Mass and the Eucharist, far more than abstract things like papal primacy and apostolic succession, which kept me within the Church; and as the Mass is so vitally important to my life as a Christian—a Catholic Christian—I cannot bear to see it abused and trampled on with the casual off-handedness I see in so many churches in this diocese and elsewhere.

One last remark before I close this already overlong and personal post. If any bright spark reading this feels driven to leave a comment exhorting me to cleave to the SSPX as though such would solve all my problems, I have just one word of advice: don’t. Save your time, and my own. I am not under any illusions regarding that sect, or regarding those who hold authority within it.

Nor am I at all interested in sedevacantism. I recognize Pope Benedict XVI, and his office. I pray for him daily. It is true that he is, like his immediate predecessors, a conciliar pope, and that he says—and sometimes does—some disappointing things. But he is such an immense improvement over John Paul II that I cannot express how thankful I am for his election.

Herein, incidentally, we find a possible reason why our holy mother the Church sometimes appears possessed by an alien spirit. The conciliar popes have tried—without much success, in my opinion—to be pope of two mutually-antagonistic churches at the same time. Paul VI most fully embodied this unstable and precarious position—it was he, in fact, who acted as midwife at the birth of the conciliar church—but John Paul II likewise tried to be pope of two churches at once, and to serve the cult of God alongside the cult of Man, picking up the cudgels where his predecessor had left them, and with similar contradictory and chaotic results. Thankfully, I believe the tendency of the Vicars of Peter to ape the double-minded attitude of Paul VI is waning. At least let us hope so; a great deal of damage might be done at the next conclave, whereafter we might see all the careful and patient restoration work of Benedict XVI undone in a trice.

But one day at a time; right now I can’t begin to imagine such a scenario. Now it is time for me to go to chapel for my midday prayers.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Missa Bizarra

I blame Paul VI. It’s all his fault.

The words echo in my head still; should’ve gone to Harrington Street... should’ve gone to Harrington Street... ah, hindsight is such a wonderful thing!

But Melancholicus was still lying abed when the holy sacrifice was offered today at 8am in Harrington Street, so if he desired to hear Mass today, it would by force of necessity have to be according to the rich and lovely rite of Pope Paul VI.

It now being a new ecclesiastical year, and inspired by Pius Parsch’s recommendation of sanctifying this season of Advent with earlier rising and daily Mass, Melancholicus decided that even if the earlier rising were not much in evidence today, he would at least hear Mass in the university chapel before taking his lunch.

The “daily Mass” extolled by Pius Parsch was of course the traditional Latin Mass, the clown-ridden, de-sacralized monkey-fest of the novus ordo being unknown in his day. Melancholicus ought to have remembered that.

But, like a battered wife who keeps returning to the relentless beatings meted out by a violent husband in the deluded expectation that he must eventually change, or that the fault lies not with the abuser but with herself, Melancholicus persists in going to the novus ordo in the naive belief that “it will surely be different next time!”, and that his judgements on contemporary liturgical craziness are too harsh and hence he must reform himself.

Am I a masochist, or am I only stupid?

UCD Belfield campus churchA number of chaplains serve this church at the university. Most are priests of the Dublin diocese, but at least two are Jesuits. One of these Jesuits devoutly says a clean Mass, without any egregious abuses, and he refrains from polluting his celebration of the holy sacrifice with extraneous matter that doesn’t belong there in the first place. Melancholicus is quite impressed with him, even to the extent of sometimes going to this priest for confession.

But the other Jesuit is not cut from anything like the same cloth. This one has drained to the very dregs the chalice of liturgical anarchy poured for the Church by the spirit of Vatican II. Melancholicus has on a few occasions had the misfortune to be present when this fellow has celebrated Mass in the university chapel, and the effect is always such as to reduce him to horrified stupefaction. Melancholicus is not aware of any occasion on which the fellow has publicly taught formal heresy, but as far as his celebration of the liturgy is concerned he proves in his person the verity of the old Dominican maxim Si cum Jesuitis itis, non cum Jesu itis—which, being interpreted, means that if one goes with the Jesuits one does not go with Jesus.

As ill-luck would have it, the celebrant appointed for today’s Mass was that very priest Melancholicus most hoped he would not see. As soon as the fellow entered the church, Melancholicus ought to have departed forthwith but, in much the same fashion as one finds one’s eyes irresistibly drawn to the carnage of a train wreck or a traffic accident, he remained in his seat for the circus-freakery he knew must surely come.

Mercifully there are no musicians at Father Jesuit’s disposal, for I shudder to think of what sort of happy-clappery he would inflict on us if he were able to call upon the services of a coterie of hip-swaying, gospel-crooning, tambourine-thumping, taizé-loving youth-two-thousanders. This was the novus ordo equivalent of a Low Mass, celebrated without frills and trimmings, yet packed with abuses from beginning to end; Father Jesuit has turned gratuitous departures from both text and rubrics into such a fine art that if only something as serious as the integrity of the sacred liturgy were not at stake, one could only marvel in appreciation at his skill.

It was at least a valid Mass, insofar as the proper matter and form were used, and Melancholicus has no reason to doubt either the fellow’s intention, or his orders. There may not have been any liturgical felonies, but I lost count of the number of misdemeanours. These are in turn rehearsed below.

Today is a feria of Advent. Melancholicus surely does not have to inform his readers of the liturgical colour proper to this day. Surely even a Jesuit must know that vestments of a violet or purple hue ought to have been used? Yet, without explanation, the fellow wore white (or rather off-white; they just can’t make white chasubles like they used to, can they?). Why? At first Melancholicus thought it must have been the feast of a saint today—perhaps St. Andrew, having been eclipsed this year by Advent Sunday, was being transferred, after the manner of the Anglicans, to the nearest available feria—but after Mass was over, he consulted calendars for both the traditional and modern rites and could discover therein no rationale why white vestments ought to have been used at all. If a saint’s Mass or a votive Mass were being celebrated, one would expect to hear mention of such in the collect and perhaps the postcommunion also. But there was no mention of the apostle Andrew or of any other saint in the orisons recited at this Mass—and in any case if Andrew’s Mass were celebrated, Father Jesuit ought to have been wearing not white, but red.

The readings, incidentally, were those of the feria.

As Melancholicus knows from unhappy experience, this Jesuit has a peculiar attachment to making up his own collects. He does not even take the trouble to compose these prayers in advance, but extemporises them on the spot according, as I guess, to how he feels himself moved by “the spirit”. This abuse, having been allowed to persist unchecked for several years, has now spread itself to other parts of the Mass. Today not only the collect, but also the postcommunion and (perhaps) the prayer over the gifts were unique compositions that no-one else at Mass in any other church on earth will have heard today. I guess on that account I should feel privileged.

But I don’t.

Now while Melancholicus deplores the vacuous piffle that passes for the collect in the current edition of the ICEL missal, the state of the liturgy is not improved by the antics of such as Father Jesuit, whose extempore ramblings do not rise to anything like the elevated standard of mediocrity already achieved by ICEL.

Father Jesuit’s reading of the Gospel was unremarkable until he reached the very end, whereat he took it upon himself to censor the words of the evangelist with a clanger that was so obvious it made Melancholicus cringe. Today’s Gospel was the story (from St. Matthew, 8:5-11) of the centurion with the sick servant, whose faith so impressed the Lord Jesus that He said to His disciples, “I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this”. Father Jesuit mutilated the Lord’s words into something along the lines of “Truly, I have found great faith here”, in which the comparison with Israel was glaringly omitted. Why? Melancholicus can think of no reason apart from a fear that the words of the Gospel might be construed as anti-semitic, or otherwise politically incorrect.

Then Melancholicus sat with a sigh, waiting to hear what words of wisdom would be preached in the fellow’s homily, for he always gives one, even on weekdays. Father Jesuit invariably descends into the midst of the congregation to preach—wonder where he picked up that habit?—and today’s behaviour was no different. Aside from being delivered among the pews in the midst of handful of people attending, the homily and the inevitable bidding prayers were tedious but otherwise unremarkable, whereafter Father Jesuit returned to the table altar for the liturgy of the eucharist.

From this point, Melancholicus could see very little owing to the winter sun, low in the sky, shining through a window directly into his eyes, but as Father Jesuit made sure throughout to speak into the sacred microphone, Melancholicus could at least hear everything loud and clear. Father recited the prayers of the offertory, which were recognizable even if their phrasing was irritatingly modified for no discernible reason. But at the lavabo, things started to take a different turn. Here he did something so subtle that I am sure it escaped the notice of most persons present, but it nonetheless carried some quite serious doctrinal implications. Father Jesuit modified the prayer recited at the lavabo such that it became “Lord, wash away our iniquities, and cleanse us from our sins”.

This was his first fudge of what little distinction is left in the novus ordo between the priest and the laity, and he persevered in this fudge throughout the remainder of the Mass, right to the very end. In his liturgical language he never once let slip the possibility that he was playing a unique and inimitable role different from that of the members of the congregation. At the orate fratres, the priest is not supposed to recite the response, but the fellow nonetheless did so in the words “may the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands...” etc., as though the sacrifice of the priest and the people were one and the same, as though the congregation offered the sacrifice on an equal footing along with the priest.

Then came the preface dialogue, whereat a most curious incident occurred. Once the final congregational response “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” had been delivered we expected him to begin the preface, but instead he startled the congregation by suddenly announcing “I think we need a bit more wine,” and just as suddenly hurrying back into the sacristy with the chalice. WTF?? This was most irregular, whereat he added to the contents of the chalice after the chalice had already been offered on the altar of God. This would not affect the validity of the consecration, but was nevertheless a profoundly iffy act, contrary to the spirit of the sacred liturgy. After he returned from the sacristy he recited the standard preface to—you’ve guessed it—prex II, which left us in no doubt as to which eucharistic prayer he intended to use.

Why is it always prex II? Melancholicus cannot remember the last time he heard one of the others. Come rain, hail, snow or shine, winter, summer, spring or autumn, feasts of our Lord, our Lady, the saints, or of the season—it’s always prex II. The shortest eucharistic prayer. The least identifiably Catholic eucharistic prayer. Nor was it even prex II as printed in the missal, for Father Jesuit’s recitation was replete with random slight adjustments to the text for which there was no good reason, and sometimes adjustments that were somewhat more than slight—most notably in the form of consecration of the chalice, in which he said “... it will be shed for you and for all men and women, showing that he did not scruple to pollute with a political agenda even what is holiest in the rite of Mass, namely the words of consecration.

Then there was the wretched peace. To Melancholicus’ immense relief the fellow simply suggested we pray for peace in one another’s lives, so, contrary to expectation he didn’t descend from the sanctuary to start pumping hands all over the nave like a jack-in-the-box, leaving our Lord’s sacred body and precious blood unattended on the altar. For this much at least, Melancholicus was thankful.

It was not until holy communion that Melancholicus finally realized why the fellow had been so anxious to top up the chalice before beginning the eucharistic prayer, for the chalice was then offered to the laity so they could communicate under both species. This is a novelty in the Dublin diocese generally, but is practiced with depressing regularity by the chaplains of the university. Do they think it’s trendy, or something? Do they imagine that communion under both kinds will make the unchurched, secularized, anti-catholic, left-wing radicals among the student body pause and think “wow, man, that’s so groovy!” and so start attending church?

Communion under both kinds is (unfortunately) licit, but as Father Jesuit lacked the assistance of one of those eucharistic dinner ladies, he left the chalice—brimming with our Lord’s precious blood—perched rather precariously on the edge of the Cranmer table altar and invited those members of the congregation who so desired to help themselves—in effect self-communicating, an abuse condemned in no uncertain terms in the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (§94) as well as in the Institutio Generalis (§118) of the Roman Missal.

After the distribution of holy communion had ended, Father Jesuit launched immediately into the concluding rites of the Mass. Melancholicus was alarmed to notice that the chalice remained perched on the edge of the Lord’s board, unpurified and ignored. An extempore postcommunion prayer was recited, and the final blessing was given in the words “May almighty God bless us...” another fudge in the distinction between priest and laity, and words any protestant could in good conscience utter. The priest, in persona Christi, is at this point supposed to impart God’s blessing to the congregation with the words “May almighty God bless you...” Then Father Jesuit left the altar with indecent haste and returned to the sacristy, with the vessels remaining on the altar table and the chalice still threatening to fall to the floor whence it was precariously balanced.

To be fair, he did return to the altar after de-vesting, at which point he purified the chalice, thank God. But why was this not done after communion, when it ought to have been?

Melancholicus was left with the distinct impression that he ought not to have attended that Mass. Let us hope the foolish boy has learned his lesson, and will not see fit to expose himself to such travesties in future. So much for Pius Parsch’s “daily Mass”, unless he makes the sacrifice of rising early enough to get to Harrington Street in time for 8am, which, it being Advent, he ought to make with good grace. Dr. Parsch also said something about “early rising”.

So let us do so!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The hypocrites

This adorable little boy, an innocent just 17 months old, died in north London in August 2007 after horrendous abuse amounting to torture inflicted by his mother and two men. His case has only recently hit the headlines.

Questions are being asked about why child protection services failed to prevent Baby P’s death even though he had received 60 visits from the authorities over eight months of his short little life and was known to be at risk.

The good people of modern British society are appalled and angry, and rightly so; Melancholicus shares their outrage.

Honourable Members are likewise expostulating, and stamping their feet. Melancholicus wonders why they bother. Are they blind, or merely stupid?

Because two years before August 2007, Baby P was alive, though not yet born. His mother could at that time have killed him—in a procedure amounting to torture—with the full backing of the law.

Had she chosen to do so, Baby P’s violent death would not have been a matter for the newspapers and for the good people of modern British society to wag their tongues in disapproval. Instead, he would have been a statistic unnoticed save by those who strive to defend the unborn from a brutal fate in the local abortuary.

Some of the more intemperate and less restrained members of the public have issued threats of violence against Baby P’s mother. Yet, had she killed her son two years before, it is likely that the same persons now calling for her head would have defended to the utmost her “right” to “choose”.

A sense of perspective is in order.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The German side

German soldiers of the Great War pay their last respects to a fallen comrade

German cemetary on the Somme at Fricourt

This story from today’s Irish Times is pathetic in its poignancy:

German Great War dead lack any official commemoration


TOWARDS THE end of January, German newspapers reported, three weeks late, the death on January 1st of the last German veteran of the Great War.

Erich Kästner, who died aged 108, was just 18 when he joined the Imperial Army in July 1918, four months before the end of the war.

He served on the Western Front but the only way anyone knew a veteran had died was through the family's newspaper death notice.

While Britain, France and now even Ireland will today remember those who fought and died in the Great War, 90 years on, the men who fought in Kaiser Wilhelm's Imperial Army remain trapped in a memory hole.

There is no central record of veterans, no German equivalent of the Cenotaph - and no poppies.

There will be no official remembrance ceremony today, nor is there a plan to initiate one.

"The first war lies buried under the ruins left by the second," said Fritz Kirchmeier of the German War Graves Association.

The sheer scale of the destruction and suffering caused by the second World War has coloured German attitudes to the Great War. For many, it toppled a few monarchies, including in Germany, but had far fewer visible consequences than Hitler's war.

It is down to a series of vicious circles. The short, dramatic life of the Weimar Republic left little time for discussion of the consequences of the Great War before the country plunged into the Third Reich.

Today, the lack of public interest in the Great War means there is no official impulse to change the situation. Not remembering the war and its veterans has created a nervousness about how and where to start.

"And there's the far-right groups who come out and say the second World War was the result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles," said Dr Bernhard Chiari of the Military History Research Institute. "That creates an uneasy connection between the two conflicts and leaves people unwilling to touch the Great War."

There are an estimated 400 German military graveyards from the Great War. Half of them are in France, with others as far away as Turkey and Israel. Six veterans are buried in a cemetery in Glencree, along with 128 other Germans who died in the second World War.

The German War Graves Association says it has taken a record number of orders from families for wreaths to be laid on graves today: 300 out of an estimated 1.8 million dead.

"I was amazed to have so many," said Mr Kirchmeier.

"Regardless of the official view here, for many German families there is still a connection."

© 2008 The Irish Times

Marshal Foch on the Irish soldiers of the Great War

PARIS, FRIDAY, Nov. 9th, 1928

“THE Heroic Dead of Ireland have every right to the homage of the living for they proved in some of the heaviest fighting of the world war that the unconquerable spirit of the Irish race—the spirit that has placed them among the world’s greatest soldiers—still lives and is stronger than ever it was.

I had occasions to put to the test the valour of the Irishmen serving in France, and, whether they were Irishmen from the North or the South, or from one party or another, they did not fail me.

Some of the hardest fighting in the terrible days that followed the last offensive of the Germans fell to the Irishmen, and some of their splendid regiments had to endure ordeals that might justly have taxed to breaking-point the capacity of the finest troops in the world.


Never once did the Irish fail me in those terrible days. On the Somme, in 1916, I saw the heroism of the Irishmen of the North and South, I arrived on the scene shortly after the death of that very gallant Irish gentleman, Major William Redmond. I saw Irishmen of the North and. the South forget their age-long differences, and fight side by side, giving their lives freely for the common cause.

In war there are times when the necessity for yielding up one’s life is the most urgent duty of the moment, and there were many such moments in our long drawn-out struggle. Those Irish heroes gave their lives freely, and, in honouring then I hope we shall not allow our grief to let us forgot our pride in the glorious heroism of these men.

They have left to those who come after a glorious heritage and an inspiration to duty that will live long after their names are forgotten. France will never forget her debt to the heroic Irish dead, and in the hearts of the French people to-day their memory lives as that of the memory of the heroes of old, preserved in the tales that the old people tell to their children and their children’s children.


I know of no better tribute to Irish valour than that paid after the armistice by one of the German High Command, whom I had known in happier days. I asked him if he could tell me when he had first noted the declining morale of his own troops, and he replied that it was after the picked troops under his command had had repeated experience of meeting the dauntless Irish troops who opposed them in the last great push that was expected to separate the British and French armies, and give the enemy their long-sought victory.

The Irishmen had endured such constant attacks that it was thought that they must be utterly demoralised, but always they seemed to find new energy with which to attack their assailants, and in the end the flower of the German Army withered and faded away as an effective force.


When the moment came for taking the offensive all along our line, it was these same worn Irish troops that we placed in the van, making call after call on their devotion, but never finding them fail us. In the critical days of the German offensive, when it was necessary that lives should be sacrificed by the thousand to slow down the rush of the enemy, in order that our harassed forces should have time to reform, it was on the Irish that we relied repeatedly to make these desperate stands, and we found them responding always.

Again and again, when the bravest were necessary to delay the enemy’s advance, it was the Irish who were ready and at all times the soldiers of Ireland fought with the rare courage and determination that has always characterised the race on the battlefield.


Some of the flower of Irish chivalry rests in the cemeteries that have been reserved in France, and the French people will always have these reminders of the debt that France owes to Irish valour. We shall always see that the graves of these heroes from across the sea are lovingly tended, and we shall try to ensure that the generations that come after us shall never forget the heroic dead of Ireland.”

Quoted from the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme (pp 23-24) at the Department of the Taoiseach.


The eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month saw the 90th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Great War pass by.

For (now somewhat irrelevant) historical reasons, it is not usual in Ireland to commemorate the Great War or to remember the fallen, even though around 140,000 Irishmen enlisted for service in the British armed forces between 1914 and 1918, at least 35,000 of whom lost their lives.

There is still no shortage of angry republicans who bitterly oppose the notion of honouring the dead of the World Wars in this country lest honour be inadvertently given to things or persons British—witness some of the savage and small-souled responses to this perfectly reasonable suggestion; alas that we must still deal with that mentality, the same irrational loathing of Britain which made Ireland a haven for fleeing axis henchmen in the aftermath of World War II and led then Taoiseach Éamonn De Valera to sign a book of condolences for the death of Adolf Hitler.

But I am not of that ilk, for every day this week I am proudly wearing a poppy in the breast pocket of my jacket.

Today I remember one young man in particular, for he was of my mother’s family, and is to my knowledge our only relation who was slain in the carnage of a World War.

My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Roche. She came from Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland and was born in December 1910. I never knew her, for she died in 1970, before I was born. In 1995 I was clearing out the basement of my parents’ family home in Greystones and in the process discovered several interesting artefacts, one of which was a prayer book once owned by my grandmother and which, after the custom of her time, was bursting at the seams with holy cards and prayer cards commemorating deceased friends and members of the family. Among these commemorations was a card for a Private William Roche, of the 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. He was killed in action in France on 24 May 1915. Pt. Roche was 26 years old when he fell. I succeeded in tracking him down on the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (certificate here), and I will not have his memory dishonoured by uncivilised, foul-mouthed, far-left, Republican Sinn Féin types. His name is on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres; sadly, there is no cemetery information provided, hence I conclude the location of his grave must be unknown. He is probably buried under one of the many headstones inscribed with the tragic legend “A Soldier of the Great War / Known Unto God”.

May his soul, and the souls of all who fell in the carnage of two World Wars, find rest, consolation and peace at the right hand of almighty God.