Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pascal on Eloquence

16. Eloquence is the art of saying things in such a way (1) that those to whom we speak are able to hear them without pain and with pleasure; (2) that they feel their self-interest involved, so that self-love leads them the more willingly to think over what has been said.

It consists, then, in a correspondence which we try to establish, on the one hand, between the head and the heart of those to whom we speak and, on the other, between the thoughts and expressions that we use. This presupposes that we have studied the heart of man in order to know all its workings and that we find the right arrangement of the remarks that we wish to make suitable. We must put ourselves in the place of those who are to hear us, and try out on our own heart the appeal we make in what we say, so as to see whether the one is rightly made for the other, and whether we can feel confident that the hearer will be, as it were, forced to surrender. We ought to restrict ourselves, so far as possible, to the simple and natural, and not to magnify that which is small or diminish that which is great. It is not enough that a thing be beautiful; it must be suitable to the subject and there must be nothing excessive or lacking.

— trans. Jaques Barzun

88. L'éloquence est un art de dire les choses de telle façon, 1° que ceux à qui l'on parle puissent les entendre sans peine, et avec plaisir ; 2° qu'ils s'y sentent intéressés, en sorte que l'amour-propre les porte plus volontiers à y faire réflexion. Elle consiste donc dans une correspondance qu'on tâche d'établir entre l'esprit et le cœur de ceux à qui l'on parle d'un côté, et de l'autre les pensées et les expressions dont on se sert ; ce qui suppose qu'on aura bien étudié le cœur de l'homme pour en savoir tous les ressorts, et pour trouver ensuite les justes proportions du discours qu'on veut y assortir. Il faut se mettre à la place de ceux qui doivent nous entendre, et faire essai sur son propre cœur du tour qu'on donne à son discours, pour voir si l'un est fait pour l'autre, et si l'on peut assurer que l'auditeur sera comme forcé de se rendre. Il faut se renfermer, le plus qu'il est possible, dans le simple naturel ; ne pas faire grand ce qui est petit, ni petit ce qui est grand. Ce n'est pas assez qu'une chose soit belle, il faut qu'elle soit propre au sujet, qu'il n'y ait rien de trop ni rien de manque.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"I shall end on a personal note."

I shall end on a personal note. I have never said the New Mass. I resigned my parish rather than be under an obligation to do so. I have no intention of saying it. Neither will it be said over my dead body. Nevertheless, I should say Bishop Forester’s “Common Mass” tomorrow if I knew it would contribute to bringing peace to Holy Church.

Bryan Houghton
July 1st, 1985

— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, p. 219.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The embryo

The embryo carries the singularity, the uniqueness, the awe-inspiring ineffability of the individuum. — Erwin Chargaff, Serious Quesitons, 1986, p.65.

"Own your heresy."

Being called Satan did not disturb Simon Peter's career path.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

His schoolfellow and friend, Dr. Taylor, told me a pleasant anecdote of Johnson's triumphing over his pupil David Garrick. When that great actor had played some little time at Goodman's fields, Johnson and Taylor went to see him perform, and afterwards passed the evening at a tavern with him and old Giffard. Johnson, who was ever depreciating stage-players, after censuring some mistakes in emphasis which Garrick had committed in the course of that night's acting, said, 'The players, Sir, have got a kind of rant, with which they run on, without any regard either to accent or emphasis.' Both Garrick and Giffard were offended at this sarcasm, and endeavoured to refute it; upon which Johnson rejoined, 'Well now, I'll give you something to speak, with which you are little acquainted, and then we shall see how just my observation is. That shall be the criterion. Let me hear you repeat the ninth Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."' Both tried at it, said Dr. Taylor, and both mistook the emphasis, which should be upon not and false witness. Johnson put them right, and enjoyed his victory with great glee.

— Boswell's Johnson

"That's a wonderful pope you've got."

The old sectarian shrieks of "No Popery" had been turned into veneration of the Pope and admiration of the council. Now, it was precisely that – the very cause of his optimism – which had become the principle cause of his depression, along with Archbishop Roberts and episcopal porn. Every day he had to put up with well-intentioned compliments. "That's a wonderful pope you've got. Seen this article? He says we're all Christians together, be we Jews or Muslims. That what I've always believed." "By Jove, Rougham, you've got quite a bright boy in that Cardinal Suenens. He says we marry to have intercourse, nothing to do with bloody brats. Didn't know you Papists were so broad-minded." "Hello, Rougham! You're a Papist, aren't you? Congratulations! Your church has shed the blinkers. I married my daughter to one of yours last Saturday. No dam' nonsense about promises and so on. The vicar did it splendidly in the village church with your chap in attendance. Just right. That's Christian charity for you." "Went to one of your services the other day. A bit Low Church for my taste, but at least one knows what it's about." "Have you read what your pope said yesterday (December 7th, 1965)? 'The religion of God made man has met the religion of man made God…There is no opposition…We, more than anyone, favour the promotion of man.' That's what free-thinkers and humanists have said all along. Shake hands, Rougham, old boy!" "Good show, Edmund! I suppose that now you Catholics have become Protestants, we shall have to become R.C.'s to preserve our independence." And so on and on, day in, day out. It was a cross which the laity but not the clergy had to endure. Can there be a more painful predicament than to have to accept as a compliment what in all the world one most hates? Such was the situation in which the council placed millions of Catholics all over the world. Edmund stuck it until the audience with Paul VI and the disappearance of the crucifix. That was the end.

— Bryan Houghton, Judith's Marriage, 1987, pp. 192–193.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bishop Forester to Fr. Bryan Houghton, March 13, 1977

To the Reverend Bryan Houghton, Avignon, France.
Sunday, March 13th, 1977.
Dear Bryan,
I do not know if you read the copies of my correspondence or if you merely file them. If you read them, you will notice that yesterday I wrote to Klushko mentioning the Lefebvre affair. It really is a scandalous business. I have never met Lefebvre nor corresponded with him but I took copious notes of whatever was published. Upon re-reading these notes I am so shock that I intend to inflict the story on you. I hope it does not bore you stiff.
By no means does the scandal stop with the disappearance of the tapes. The Tribunal, you will remember, was composed of Cardinals Garrone, Wright and Tabera. I know nothing about Tabera but I met Garrone when he was Archbishop of Toulouse and from reliable sources have heard nothing but praise of Wright. These last two are quite certainly honourable men and it is out of keeping with their known character that they should deliberately have acted deceitfully. Thus when on January 25th Garrone invited Lefebvre to a chat, this is what he intended. Higher authority must have intervened to turn it into the grilling of February 13th and March 3rd.
Anyway, the Tribunal’s verdict is dated May 6th, 1975. It is not devoid of interest.
In the first place, the sentence was executed before judgment was given. I wonder if this is unique in the history of law. Moreover, it was executed on the authority of Tabera, a member of the Tribunal. Yes, on April 25th, eleven days before the verdict was signed, Tabera wrote to Bishop Mamie of Fribourg “calling upon you to proceed without delay” to the suppression of Lefebvre’s Confraternity of St Pius X. He give for this authority “the conclusions reached by the special Commsion of Cardinals—but they had reached no conclusions at that date. The only explanation I can think of is that he was forcing his colleagues’ hands, presumably on instructions from higher authority. Bishop Mamie obeyed. On May 6th, consequently on the very day that the verdict was signed and before he could conceivably have received a certified copy of it, he notified Archbishop Lefebvre that he and all his works ceased to exist: “This decision takes immediate effect.”
The verdict of May 6th is a surprising document. The three clauses of condemnation are preceded by a covering letter. This reads like an exercise of dry humour. Here is what it says about the grilling: “We remain most grateful for the friendly atmosphere in which our recent discussions took place, without our differing points of view ever impairing the serene and deep fellowship between us (communion profonde et sereine).” What a joke! The central argument is even more rum: “It is inadmissible that people should be called upon to pass their own personal judgement on orders emanating from the Pope, whether to submit or not: herein lies the traditional argument of the sects who appeal to yesterday’s Pope to avoid obeying today’s.” Surely the Cardinals have their tongues in their cheeks? Inevitably all heretics appeal to tomorrow’s Pope or the future Council, if not more radically to the Holy Ghost or the Second Coming—as do our Pentecostalists, Charismatics and Teilhardists today.
At last we come to the three clauses of the actual verdict. In each clause the operative words are in inverted commas. I need not expatiate on the significance of this astonishing fact. I quote them in full with the inverted commas:
1. “A letter shall be sent to Mgr Mamie by which is recognized his right to withdraw his predecessor’s approbation of the Confraternity and its Statutes.” The deed has been done by letter from His Eminence Cardinal Tabera, Prefect of the S. Congregation for Religious.
2. Once the Confraternity is suppressed, “no longer having any juridical basis, its offshoots, and notably the seminary at Ecône, cease by the same token to have the right to exist.”
3. It is evident—and we are called upon to give clear notice thereof—“that no support may be given to Mgr Lefebvre as long as the ideas contained in his Manifesto of November 21st, 1974 shall remain the rule governing his actions.”
Quite apart from the inverted commas, I love the insertion in clause 3: “and we are called upon to give clear notice thereof—nous sommes invités à le notifier clairement”! Has there ever been another judgement thus to proclaim itself a sham? I know that Cardinals Garrone and Wright have been criticized for signing the verdict. I disagree: honour must be given where it is due. They only signed to what had already been accomplished by Tabera and Mamie—and they say so. They also made it quite clear that the verdict was not theirs.
In view of the Cardinals’ verdict and the suppression of his Confraternity by the Bishop of Fribourg, on May 21st Lefebvre appealed to the Supreme Court of the Church, the Segnatura. Its Perfect is one Cardinal Staffa, reputedly a man of principle. Lefebvre’s grounds were threefold: 1. lack of legal form in the suppression of his Confraternity since, under Cn 493, only the Holy See, not the Bishop of Fribourg, could do so; 2. since he, Lefebvre, is condemned in matters of faith, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is alone competent and not Garrone’s Tribunal; 3. a condemnation of his Declaration of November 1974 affects none but himself; it affects neither his Confraternity nor his Seminary. These grounds seem perfectly reasonable.
Ah, the dear old Segnatura! If Rome is hailed as the Eternal City, the Segnatura exemplifies what is meant. No panic, no flap at the Segnatura, all is seemliness and due decorum. When Lefebvre posted his appeal that evening of May 21st, he must have felt that perfect peace was his for at east a twelve-month.
Not a bit of it! His appeal was duly registered at the Segnatura on June 5th; its rejection is dated June 10th. What, overtime at the Segnatura? Impossible! Lefebvre’s lawyer on the spot had a different explanation: Cardinal Villot sent a note in his own handwriting to Cardinal Staffa “directing him to prohibit the appeal.”
On the face of it, this does not look too good: the highest administrative officer in the Church giving directions to the highest judicial officer. This would be worse than Watergate. But, admitting the physical fact of Villot’s intervention, is this exactly what happened? In view of Staffa’s reputation, I suspect not. It is worth looking at the wording of Staffa’s rejection of the appeal. In the name of the Supreme Tribunal he declares himself “incompetent” under Canon 1556. And what says Cn 1556? “Prima Sedes a nemine judicatur—the Primatial See is judged by no one.” This implies rather a lot: that Tabera was right and prior to April 25th the Supreme Pontiff had by personal act condemned Lefebvre and all his works—presumably on the evidence of the vanished tapes; that the inverted commas in the Garrone verdict were quotations from this Papal condemnation and his tribunal was mere window-dressing; that Villot’s note to Staffa was to inform the latter of the Supreme Pontiff’s sentence; that Staffa did no more than record a fact. The trouble with all this is that the essential document is missing: the Papal decree condemning Lefebvre and all his works. One really cannot base public acts on private documents. The whole business is made to look shifty by the constant shifting between a judicial process and the appeal to a secret decree. Small wonder that Lefebvre should pay scant attention to his condemnation. Small wonder that I should lay down conditions to any interview with Klushko or his representative.
This is not quite the end of Act I in the Lefebvre tragedy. There are the two letters addressed to him by the Pope dated July 10th and September 10th, 1975. It is the first which needs to be examined, as the second is little more than a request for an answer. The Pope starts off by assuring Lefebvre that he is well informed of everything concerning his case and the seminary at Ecône. The tapes are not mentioned but I cannot help feeling that he is referring to them. He also shoulders full responsibility for ordering the immediate closure of Ecône—which ties in with Tabera’s letter to Bishop Mamie of April 25th. Then comes the operative sentence demanding of Lefebvre “a public act of submission to the Council, to the post-Conciliar reforms and to the ‘orientations’ to which the Pope himself is pledged (aux orientations qui engagent le Pape lui-même).” These three totally different things are all lumped together and Lefebvre is supposed to swallow the lot. Submission to the Council presents no difficulty. The documents are wordy and ambiguous but are probably all right as far as they go. A legitimate criticism is that they do not go far enough—but that is a different matter. Submission to the “post-Conciliar reforms” needs a lot of clarification. Everyone, including Lefebvre, is doubtless willing to submit to those reforms which have been duly promulgated as soon as we know which they are: the New Ordo, for instance, is certainly not among them. Is Lefebvre supposed to submit to administrative follies which are still to come, apart from those which already exist? But to submit to the “orientations” to which the Pope feels pledged is perfectly preposterous. What a wonderfully vague word is “orientations”: one’s bearings, outlook, point of view, direction, party line. Up to and including the Council, Catholics were bound to believe all defined doctrines and to obey the commands of the Church’s magisterium. Now, apparently, we are expected to submit to an “outlook.” We must all look in the same direction as the reigning Pontiff: “Company, eyes left!” This is giving us blinkers as never before. The new triumphalism is more exigent than the old. The trouble is that in a sense Paul VI is absolutely right: the new look in the Catholic Church is due precisely to the substitution of a human outlook for Divine Revelation. It is consequently largely sociological and political instead of dogmatic and spiritual. Heaven help us!
The end of the letter is no less curious. “You make yourself out to be a second Athanasius; but he was supporting the decrees of the Council of Nicaea whereas you are opposing Vatican II, which as not less authority than Nicaea and in many respects is more important.” Exactly: Nicaea merely defined the Divinity of Christ, whereas Vatican II has given rise to an “orientation,” an outlook. As a matter of fact, of course, Lefebvre is defending the decrees of all Councils, from Nicaea to Vatican II inclusive: he is defending decrees as against “orientations.”
Thus ends Act I. The plot is set. God alone can unravel it.
I hope I have not bored you with all this, but it has helped me a lot to put it down on paper. It was Klushko’s letter which reminded me of Lefebvre. I made some notes on the affair in December 1975. On looking through them now, it seems more important and far sadder than it did at the time.
Now for less lugubrious subjects. . . .
— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 193–197.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bishop to Archbishop

Second letter to Archbishop Klushko, Rome (The first letter is #35.)
Friday, March 11th, 1977.

Dear Archbishop Klushko,

First of all I must congratulate you on your new appointment. Not only does it immediately put you into a key position but, in view of your comparative youth, it means that with a modicum of care you can scarcely avoid becoming a Cardinal. This, I imagine could still be quite fun—although the renewal of the Church in implementing the spirit of Vatican II has abolished the principal attraction of that high office. I refer, of course, to the hat.

I am in receipt of your letter of February 28th and apologize for the delay in answering it. It is most kind of you to invite me to Rome and under normal circumstances I should be delighted to accept. As you know, however, I happen to be dying. It is an inconvenient occupation which makes it difficult for me to move from my base: numerous injections, an impossible diet and inconsiderate bowels.

However, I should not like you to imagine that I am using my imminent demise as an excuse. Were I in the pink of health I should require some assurances and clarifications before accepting your invitation. Your write: “The Cardinal Prefect and myself should now like to discuss with you odd points which cause us some embarrassment as a result of your Ad clerum of January 13th.” Apart from the reference to my Ad clerum, this is word for word the same as Cardinal Garrone’s letter to Archbishop Lefebvre of January 25th, 1975: “nous voudrions nous entretenir avec vous . . .” Diplomatic language, I suppose, follows well worn grooves. The point is, however, that when Lefebvre, all on his own without Canon Lawyer, theologian or secretary, arrived in Rome, he found himself confronted by Cardinals Garrone, Wright and Tabera sitting as a sort of People’s Court in which the accusation is the condemnation. The Court proceedings were duly taped.

Now, I am willing to chat with anyone—presumably Testastorta as I am unable to get to Rome. I am also willing to appear (inevitably by proxy) in front of any tribunal provided that the case against me is properly formulated and I am given due notice; that I am allowed Counsel as I think fit; that I may myself have the proceedings recorded and publish them at my discretion. What I am unwilling to do is to turn up for a chat and come in for a grilling.

I wish to explain why I insist on recording and publishing myself any discussion or proceedings which may take place. You will remember that in the case of Archbishop Lefebvre the discussion of January 25th was duly taped. This was probably less to hear what Lefebvre had to say for himself than to make sure that the Cardinals did the grilling properly. Apparently they did not, so the tough old bird was put under the grill again on March 3rd. This time the Cardinals doubtless said all they were supposed to. Lefebvre asked for a copy of the tape. Garrone had no hesitation: of course, it was his right. That evening Lefebvre sent a person round to the secretary with the necessary machinery to re-record the tape. It was refused. Next day he went himself to get it. No, he could only have a transcript, which would be ready the following evening. The following evening he was told that even the transcript was not forthcoming. It is reasonably obvious that neither Garrone nor the secretary had the tape. It must have been removed by higher authority who refused to part with it. So Lefebvre never got a copy. Then came the crowning insult. Months later—quite recently in fact—extracts appeared in an illustrated French weekly! I lack the humility to lay myself open to such treatment.

Do not tapes remind you of something, my dear Archbishop? I am not wildly interested in politics, but I seem to remember a scandal in the United States about a watergate [sic]. The upshot of it was that the then President was obliged to produce the tapes which condemned him. Surely this was splendid? It proved to the world that the U.S. is a great civilized country, governed in the long run by the Rule of Law no matter how much mud may collect in her watergates. I wish the Vatican had done likewise in the Lefebvre affair. As all agree, justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. Now that you are a distinguished member of the Church’s central administration, I trust that you will exert your utmost influence to secure the re-establishment of the Rule of Law. The sanctuary of the post-Conciliar Church is sufficiently cluttered with corpses without adding to the pile.

I am no less sincerely yours,
my dear Archbishop,
for remaining in indignant opposition,

— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 191–192.

Bishop to Bishop

Third letter to Henry Dobson, Bishop of Hunstanton. (The first is #6 and the second #36.)

Friday, March 11th, 1977

Dear Harry,

It was most kind of you to come and see me. I thoroughly enjoyed your visit. You are always so stimulating. Besides, you save me the trouble of wading through the latest nonsense: you expound it so succinctly and clearly yourself.

I am of course sorry that you will not promise to ordain my men in case of necessity. I suppose that I should not have hoped for more than your favourable prejudice. We humans have an itch to distrust God’s Providence. He will see to their ordination as He has to their vocation.

You know, during the course of conversation I think we touched on one of the basic problems in the Church today. I was holding forth on the fact that the Church is guardian of the Faith and the present crisis arose because what she enjoins and permits in practice is not readily recognizable as an expression of the Faith she guarantees. Hence we could arrive at the absurd situation in which practicers have lost the Faith whereas the faithful refuse to practice. It was your answer to this which seems to me so important. You said: “There is only one object of Faith: the Church. I am baptized into the Church and it is she who gives me Faith. On her authority I believe all other doctrines. She can deal with them as she likes, since she is the only constant. Christ revealed no doctrines but a praxis: His Kingdom of the Church.” We left it at that.

Few people, I think, could formulate the argument as honestly and clearly as you. Nevertheless, I believe it expresses the basic attitude of countless Catholics today, not of the “modernists” but of those who simple obey. It is a very ecclesiastical argument, akin to the patriotism in “My country right or wrong.” But is it true?

I suspect the it rests on two articles in the old catechism:

1. Faith is a supernatural gift of God enabling me to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed. 2. I am to know what God has revealed by the teaching, testimony and authority of the Catholic Church.

If one puts those two articles together, one gets the impression that Faith as a supernatural gift merely empowers a person to believe what the Church teaches and the objects of Faith are provided by the Church. It is therefore the Church which justifies the Faith and not the Faith which justifies the Church. Hence the Church must be obeyed in all things, even if she is quite clearly hiding her light under a bushel. It automatically becomes right and proper that the light should be shaded because legitimate authority in the Church has said so. I do not think that is an unfair or distorted presentation of the case, is it?

But surely it is evident that such an argument is tautological or a vicious circle? I am to know what God had revealed by the authority of the Church. And how am I to know that the Church has such authority? Because the Church says that God has revealed it. It is patently nonsense.

You will notice that you yourself admit it to be nonsense. You said: “Christ revealed no doctrines but a praxis: His Kingdom, His Church.” You thereby concede that there is at any rate one object of Faith logically prior to the Church: the authority of Christ. And once you admit that, all the rest follows. Is His authority divine? Is He God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity, born of the Virgin Mary, etc.? Indeed, one of the things which follows from your prior faith in the divine authority of Christ is the authority of the Church. It does not work the other way round: you do not believe that Christ receives His authority from the Church. The Church is the guardian of God’s revelation but not its source. She herself is one of the objects of Faith: I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Therein, it seems to me, lies the crux of the present crisis. I mean the crisis between honest Catholics, such as I believe both of us to be. I am not referring to heretics who have lost the Faith although the Church no longer excludes them. I mean you and me. Faced with the same crisis, we react in diametrically opposite ways. Your immediate reaction, along with the overwhelming majority of churchmen, is to save the Church and the Faith will look after itself. Mine, along with a heavy percentage of the laity, is to save the Faith and let the Church look after herself. We cannot both be right. Indeed, each day the gulf between us is growing wider. If we pursue our ways indefinitely we shall come to the point when the faithful are legal schismatics and the obedient factual heretics.

At this point I can hear you say: “Don’t talk rot, Edmund. It is your metaphor which deceives you. We are not going in opposite directions: we are merely looking at the opposite facets of the same coin. Even if I grant you the logical priority of Faith over the Church, in practice he who defends the Church defends the Faith and he who defends the Faith defends the Church.”

In normal times this would by and large be so. I say “by and large” because history provides plenty of examples of excessive use of ecclesiastical authority. Quite apart from mediaeval excommunications, in our own day some of your friends might feel that Pius XII went a bit far when he demanded internal assent to the Five Ways of proving the existence of God. But at the moment of time it is patently untrue to say that in defending the Church one is automatically defending the Faith and this for two reasons: a) the Faith is ambiguously formulated; b) heretics are no longer excluded from the Church. The fact is that the Faith is exclusive whereas the Church has become inclusive. She has changed Our Lord’s lapidary sentence, “He who is not with me is against me,” into the coward’s whine, “He is my friend who bullies me.”

We do not have to look very far for the result, my dear Harry. Concerning the defence of the Faith, over the past ten years have you promoted priests who refuse the term and doubtless the meaning of “Transubstantiation” and talk of “a Personal” instead of “The Real Presence”? I have. What have you done about clergy who openly preach contraception? A little more, I hope, than I—which is practically nothing. Has your natural chivalry, if not your conviction, led you to defend the Mother of God against those who who “put her in her place”? It has not me. Have you remonstrated with those who refuse to administer the Sacrament of Penance except by appointment but insist on Penitential Services? As a matter of fact I have, but I trust you have done it more firmly. Have you stamped on priests who refuse to give infant Baptism for a variety of specious reasons including the denial of Original Sin? I have done little more than wag a reproving finger accompanied by a rueful smile. Have you even defended the authority of the Papacy and your own against the democratic rights of the People of God? Curiously enough, you probably less than I, which is not saying much. I call a halt to this catalogue not from lack of ammunition but of patience. The fact is, and we know it, that in our own dioceses it is not we who defended the Faith: it has been left to pathetic little groups of layfolk, helped or hindered by a stray priest, to do so.

It is a very different matter when it comes to enforcing the New Outlook. Have you promoted a priest who has stuck to the Immemorial Mass? Of course not and, to my everlasting shame, neither have I. What has been your attitude to priests who mumble that Vatican II failed to face the facts and that post-Conciliar legislation has been disastrous; who refuse to be brainwashed by attending compulsory study-days; who jeer at Bishops’ Collegiality, the National Conference of Priests and the new structures generally; who will not give Communion standing and in the hand; who administer Extreme Unction as of yore; who will still say the Breviary, the Rosary and make their meditation; who . . . ? have you reserved key positions in your administration for such men of probity and principle? No more than I have, Harry. We have looked after the Church all right but not after the Faith.

The crowning example is Archbishop Lefebvre. He has been attacked from all sides, yet nobody has dared impugn his Faith and accuse him of being unorthodox. In fact, if only he would utter the tiniest, wee little heresy, authority could indulge in charity and all would be forgiven. The trouble is that the old devil won’t, so there is nothing to forgive. Thus he gets suspended and threatened with excommunication on the trumped up charge of disobeying ecclesiastical law.

My own case is not without its interest. I do nothing which I have not got a perfect right to do. I endeavour to mend the divisions of my diocese precisely by appealing to the unity of Faith against the “divisiveness” of praxis. This so horrifies authority that it first reveals the fact that I am dying and then will not let me die in peace. I have here on my desk a letter from Klushko summoning me to Rome. Perhaps he hopes that the voyage will kill me! Of course I shall not go. If he is all that keen on a chat, he can come to Stamford.

Somewhere towards the start of this epistle I said that we might end up in the absurd position where practicing Catholics had lost the Faith whereas the faithful refused to practice. We are there already. Although, as a bishop, I am rather cut off from intimacy with the laity, among my personal friends I know a surprising number of people in that position. I shall give you an example. It is one among many but it happened to hurt me quite particularly.

When I was a little boy the only other Catholics in our vicinity were the Fogartys, a very devout and respectable family from Galway. Mr. Forgarty was a cowman on a neighbouring estate. One of the children, Kate, was my age. I have known her all my life and love her dearly. She married an excellent Catholic fellow from Epping. Whenever I had to drive up to London, I tried to arrange to have lunch with Kate and her husband on the way. The last time I did so was in October. I was a bit early and Robert, the husband, had not returned from work. “Oh, Edmund! I am so glad to get you alone,” said Kate. “It’s about Robert. Can’t you say something to him? He refuses to go to Mass, he who was so regular. He slangs the priests for everything. It’s such a bad example for the grandchildren, etc.” Robert duly turned up. Kate retired to the kitchen to serve up lunch. “Glad to get you alone,” said Robert. “It’s about my wife. Can’t you put some sense into her? Madge, that’s my eldest granddaughter, is going out with a non-Catholic. She says he needn’t become a Catholic and they can get married in the Protestant church. She’s put her on the pill, too, getting my Madge into wicked ways. And she’s gone all politics. Communist, that’s what I calls it. She spends her time at meetings and comes home full of hate. There’s no more family Rosary. I say it by myself while they watch the telly. She’s a right pagan, she is. And she takes Our Blessed Lord in her hand as though He were a bit of chewing gum. I can’t watch her: it makes me sick. She says she’s not a Roman Catholic: ‘I’m an Adult Christian.’ is what she says. And it’s all the fault of those bloody priests. They’re not Catholic, they’re devils, breaking up happy homes, that’s what they are.” Etc. . . . At lunch all I was able to do was to verify that both had spoken the truth. Kate practiced but had lost the Faith. Robert was faithful, even devout, but nothing would induce him to practice. How sad! And this is quite common, as you know full well.

Well, I suppose I shall have to answer Klushko. Before I do so, however, I should like to make my position clear.

The visible Church, the Kingdom, the community of the People of God—whatever you like to call it—is not the source but one of the objects of Faith; neither is she the sole nor even the primary object thereof. What she is, on the other hand, the the guardian of Faith by divine authority. As such she is infallible in proclaiming what the Faith is. Being composed of mortal men, however, she is lamentably fallible in putting the Faith into practice. This capacity for practical error is just as present in the Church’s administration as in her individual members. The Church is infallible but not impeccable. Where there is conflict between her Faith and her practice, as is clearly the case today, the faithful have no alternative but to cling to her Faith and discard her practice. My position is surely as reasonable as it is clear: I judge the Church’s fallible practice in the light of her infallible Faith. In theory, my dear Harry, you are either maintaining that the Church is impeccable—which is nonsense—or that one should cling to her practice and abandon her Faith.

Fortunately, however, we none of us live by theories and I know that Harry Dobson is just as good a Catholic as he knows is

His devoted friend,
Edmund Forester.

— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 185–190.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bishop Forester's Meditation in front of the Blessed Sacrament

1. Here, O my God! Is Your most secret hiding-place.

2. In the creation You hide in life and being. Here You hide in death and destruction. This is the memorial of Your Passion.

3. What You left us by Your testament was Your Body and Blood, the physical evidence of the most impossible of all crimes: deicide, the killing of God.

4. And we, mankind, are the culprits.

5. We talk much in our days of communal activity and shared responsibility. Such talk contains this much truth: in front of You, truly present on the altar, we share in the community and responsibility of guilt.

6. There is the victim; here is the culprit. What further evidence is there required for our condemnation?

7. But it is here, where You are most hidden, that You most reveal Yourself: “omnipotentiam tuam parcendo maxime et miserando manifestas” (X p. Pent.). It is in sparing and pitying that Your omnipotence is supremely evident. In comparison to this, the creation is an insignificant bauble.

8. In Your hands the evidence of the most inconceivable crime becomes the guarantee of the criminal’s forgiveness.

9. Because You are almighty, to you “all things work to a good end”—even the greatest possible crime. This is the act of the transcendent God, living and true.

10. Such is the luminous cloud in which is hidden and revealed the God of Christians—and there is none other.

11. Let us adore in silence lest the spoken word create an idol and shatter reality.

— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, p. 180.

A politically incorrect talk by Bishop Forester

A “Second” Talk

(It has been very difficult to decipher as it was clearly written in great haste in a sort of shorthand. BH)

It is a very different matter to know something in the abstract and to experience its reality. I was well aware that your Congregation was among the most progressive in the country but I had no means of picturing what this really meant. Now I can see you in front of me, all forty-two ladies from your three establishments in this diocese.

The first thing to strike me is, obviously, your appearance. How I admire the ingenuity with which you manage to vary it. Of old, your were in habit, coif and veil. One saw nothing more than your eyes, nose, mouth and hands. How simple it was! Now it has become very complicated. I have not taken an exact count, but you have over twenty different hairstyles. Deep meditation must have gone into such a result. I admire each, although three of you spoil the effect by wearing mantillas here in the chapel. And what a variety of suits, jumpers, frocks! Not two alike. But what I admire most—being a man although a Bishop—is your forty-two varieties of shoes. I have not noticed one pair the same. This is astounding. It must be the result of much prayerful thought.

We are all well aware that the modern world is deeply concerned about pollution and the environment. You look wonderfully clean, so physical pollution is no problem. But has it never struck you that your clothes are your immediate environment? They both condition and express you. Of old your habit expressed your vows and your Congregation. They also conditioned your reaction to people and—more important—their reaction to you. Now they express no more than yourselves. How they condition your reaction to people, I can only guess. How they condition people’s reaction to you is clear. You are females. The members of your own sex will show you little mercy. As for men, were I not a Bishop, I might easily pinch some of the more rotund bottoms. Is that what you want?

Hair-dos, shoe cleaning, clothes cleaning, washing and ironing—it must all take a considerable time. I am not in the least surprised that the half-hour meditation before Mass should no longer be compulsory. What does seem to me odd is that Mass itself has become optional. But so has everything else. As several of you put it to me during interviews: “We now do freely what we did under compulsion.” This you consider to be a great improvement. I have two observations to make.

1.
I grant it to be true that you now do freely what you did by force. The distinction is important. You are the dedicated Spouses of Christ to whom, consequently, you have obligations. You are not His mistresses, whom you are willing to oblige. You must have been told a hundred times that the supreme act of liberty lies in its surrender, be it in marriage, be it to God. That is what is meant by love: the will of the lover surrenders to the Beloved. Since when have you decided that your freedom is worth more than your vows and that your independence is a greater virtue than your obedience to the Rule?
2.
But in fact it is quite untrue that you now do freely what you did by force. You have a rota for your Office. There are no longer community devotions. At meals, you come in when you like, you sit where you like, there is no reading and you talk as you please. This afternoon during interviews I was not impressed by the silence of your house. But what strikes me most strange is your freedom in spiritual reading. I ask each of you what you read. Out of the forty-two only four were reading recognized spiritual books. Most of you admitted to reading nothing spiritual at all. Five of you drew you spirituality from a couple of curious Karls—Marx and Rahner.

My dear ladies, you live in a community but you no longer belong to one. You are a group of independent spinsters held together, presumably, by habit and self-interest.

How have the Old Men crept into the walled garden where chaste Susanna once bathed so gaily in the fountain of eternal life? They have unbolted the door from within. The crowd has surged forward and trampled the flowers underfoot. The garden is a sea of mud. And where is Susanna? She has vanished in the crowd. But how have the Old Men got there?

I suppose the mass media play their part. As the taxi turned into your drive, I could see the horns of your aerial standing proudly above your convent. In your parlour I noticed a fairly wide selection of newspapers. I wonder how much peace of mind you reap from the mass media? Are journalists so incompetent that they never succeed in influencing your outlook? The mass media carry you to the summit of that exceeding high mountain whence you can see all the kingdoms of the world and the glory and shame thereof. What was a temptation to Jesus, is it none to you?

But the mass media alone would not account for the presence of the Old Men. They might make you less vigilant to guard the gate but would not let them in. However, both in your parlour and in your library I noticed a crowd of books and trendy reviews of theological fiction. How easy it is for the Old Men to slip in between the pages!

Fashionable theology, my dear ladies, is the worst conceivable guide to eternal life. Instead of stooping to scour that intellectual dustbin, why do you not stretch your souls to breaking point in the contemplation of God? You will learn more theology by adoring the Divine Reality than by absorbing men’s imaginings. Besides, prayer is an exercise at which you sex excels because it is an activity of the will. Although I have met some singularly stupid women, rarely have I met one who lacks courage and will-power. God has made you that way.

Why do you not steep your minds in the spiritual writers of your own sex? The great St Teresa is no more to be feared than the Little Flower is to be despised. There are Saints Catherine of Genoa and Siena as well as Catherine Labouré; Gertrude and Mechtchild of Helfta; Bridget of Sweden, Angela of Foligno, Colomba of Rieti, Juliana of Norwich, Jeanne de Chantal, Margaret Mary; and among lesser starts Lady Lucy Herbert and Cécile Bruyère—the list is endless. Myself, I have been more influenced by such women than by any man with the exception of St Francis de Sales, whose Treatise on the Love of God was written for a woman, Saint Chantal. Merely to see how these women prayed stretches the soul. We become capable in our little way of imitating the Mother of God: our sou too “magnifies the Lord” and our spirit too “exults in God our Saviour.” The world shrivels and depresses, the spirit exalts and expands. A little more spirituality may give you the energy to repair the garden wall, so that once more chaste Susanna can bathe gaily in the fountain of eternal life.

But I have no illusions, my dear ladies. What I say must seem to you as meaningless as the braying of Balaam’s ass. Like Balaam, it would require an angel to stand here with a drawn sword to you “to fall to the ground in worship” (Nbs 22-31).

— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Cloak, 1979, pp. 173–176.

From a Longer Letter on Prayer

Certainly mental prayer and physical attitudes help or hinder prayer. We are trying to make love to God. The suitor who does nothing but moan, cadge and talk about himself is unlikely to be successful. “O my God! O my gout!” is not the best mental attitude in which to pray. The mind must be alert and fixed on the Beloved. Incidentally, “recollection” is not synonymous with “depression.” On the contrary, the more alert the mind the quicker it will become recollected. And this alertness and attention to the Beloved should find physical expression. Hence one should smile but keep one’s eyes shut.

Clearly the best positions for the body are to kneel or sit. Walter Hilton, if I remember correctly, was a great believer in sitting. Standing is a different matter. Not only is it uncomfortable after a little while but it is difficult to know what to do with the hands—the most expressive members of our body. To hold the arms out cruciform is one solution. To hold them out in front of one with elbows slightly bent and palms upwards, shoulder-high, in the attitude of begging, is another. These positions, however, require space and are blush-making in public. You will notice, incidentally, that the priest in the old Mass stood most of the time. Yes, but the movements of his hands were very carefully regulated. This was completely right. Also, he had his back to the congregation so as to allow him liberty in his facial expression.

It is obviously a minor point, but this is one of the details which make the New Ordo unprayable. The faithful are supposed to stand in a circle or semicircle around the Table. They are obliged to cling, as though drowning, to the chair in front or their arms droop at their sides or are crossed belligerently on their chest. Neither they nor the priest have liberty of facial expression. Since they are all staring at each other, only one expression is possible: that of total boredom. It proves beyond doubt that the authors of the New Order were liturgists but not men of prayer.

Concerning prayers of petition, it is quite easy to see the spirit in which they should be made. How horrid are children who always say “giv’me”; how charming are those who ask, “May I leave the table?” You can analyse the difference yourself.

— Byran Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 171–172.

Four short extracts from Bishop Forester's Letters on the Subject of Prayer

A.
I am so glad you found my talk a help rather than a hindrance. What you say is absolutely true: “Adoration is not our love of God but God’s love in us. Our prayer is real not because we say ‘Lord, Lord’, but because the Holy Ghost cries ‘Abba, Father.’” That is why there must be a process of self-emptying: our acts, even of love, must give way to, make room for the divine act. We can only experience the Infinite when we have ceased to experience the finite. ¶This is true. But to empty ourselves is not to despise ourselves. On the contrary, we must exult in this strange creature which God has created with the capacity to reach up to its Creator. Even fallen nature is a wonderful thing since we can conceive God; redeemed nature is still more wonderful since we can possess Him—or, to speak more accurately, we can know that He possesses us. I doubt if there can be true devotion without a sense of awe and marvel at all creation, including ourselves. I mention this because you seem to be tempted in that direction. You should not have a low opinion of yourself for the simple reason that you should not have an opinion of yourself at all. . . .
B.
Please do not ask me about “states of prayer.” Just as you commit a sin of pride moment you think how humble you are, so prayer ceases the moment you becomes self-conscious about it. That “states of prayer” exist objectively I have not the least doubt, but the person who prays can never know his own state. The moment he thinks he does he has gone done to the bottom of the ladder and will probably stay there. We adore; but woe betide him who picks up a mirror to see himself at it! All he will see is his own void.
C.
No, of course the theocentricity of prayer does not make it anti-social. On the contrary. All our pious self-exhortations and resolutions to love our neighbour might help us to be reasonably polite to him and exercise well-intentioned hyprocrisy, but they cannot make us love him because they remain mere human acts. But real prayer, in which we forget our neighbor as ourselves in order to adhere to God, will so perfect us that, to our own surprise, we shall suddenly distinguish in that neighbour something lovable and before unseen. This is the operation of grace.
D.
I must have expressed myself badly. I regard meditation as highly important, particularly in the form of spiritual reading—in which it is not our own thoughts we think. There is no sanctity without ascetics, that is to say without disciplining the body and senses by mortification and disciplining the mind and imagination by meditation. But meditation is not prayer. It is directed towards self-perfection, whereas prayer is directed towards the adoration of God. Moreover, it not properly handled, meditation can become the most insidious of all distractions: we can become self-satisfied with the piety of our own thoughts. On the whole, meditation should be in depth, fathoming a very simple thought. One should avoid flitting from one pious thought to another. Take St Thais, for example. Upon her conversion this holy penitent went to Abbot Paphnutius for spiritual guidance. “Just sit facing East,” said he, “and repeat nothing but the words “Thou who hast made me have mercy on me—Qui plasmasti me, miserere mei.’” This she did for three years until she became a paragon of prayer. A trifle austere, perhaps, but the nature of the advice is sound.

—Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 170–172.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Extracts from Bishop Forester's First Talk on Prayer: Nuns and Prayer

One of the most astonishing social phenomena in the first half of this century was the spread of convents. Sociologists, of course, have never noticed it. The immediate reaction to women’s emancipation was for them to rush into convents. Admittedly we received the overflow from Ireland and France, but the fact remains that even in Protestant England there is scarcely a township of ten thousand inhabitants without its convent. There are now twice as many nuns in the country as there are priests, whereas in the Age of Faith, in the 15th century, priests outnumbered nuns by about ten to one. My miserable little parish of Grumby, with some five thousand inhabitants of whom about seven hundred were Catholics, could boast two convents with over twenty nuns. And they were my boast, too. I was no more devout than the Methodist Minister and less respected than the Rector, but I could show what they could not: dedicated virgins whose integrity of body expressed their integrity of soul. . . .
The difference between contemplative and active nuns is not as great in reality as appears to outsiders. For both the prime object is the adoration of God. It is only your work which differs. Contemplatives, apart from the liturgy, dig their gardens, print, concoct elixirs or make toothpicks, whereas the active educate children, nurse and care for a thousand human needs. In fact, the work of contemplatives is with things and the work of active nuns with people. Admittedly people are desperately distracting while things are conducive to concentration; nevertheless the object of both is the same: union with God through prayer. . . .
It is nonsense to ascribe the astonishing spread of Catholicism between 1850 and 1960, on the human side, to the clergy. It is due to the nuns. It is you who broke down anti-Catholic prejudice by educating a notable percentage of non-Catholics. It is you who stormed heaven with your prayers and showed men the reality of sanctity. That, indeed, is why you were the revolution’s first target: you prayed and educated the future generation of mothers. . . .
In the assault on the institutional Church, her dogmas, the Mass and the sacraments could all be undermined by attacking her priests, questioning her certainties, their function, their authority. Yet that was not enough. It was imperative to dry up her source of prayer. Now, just as priests are the ministers of the Mass so are you nuns the ministers of prayer. And how wonderfully you did it! Well, you must stop immediately. You must get out into the world to “do good” or attend a conference. . . .
It is high time that I said something about prayer. St Thomas places it under the general heading of justice: “to render to God the honour which is his due (S.T. 2-2, 81-2).” Prayer is therefore a “natural” virtue and not a specific gift of the Holy Ghost. But Aquinas is talking about prayer in general, the prayer of Jew, Muslim, Hindu, pagan. He is not dealing with the mechanism by which we pray nor with the specific nature of Christian prayer.
Grace, as you know, perfects nature. Thus the natural act of justice in the pagan’s prayer is lifted by grace to become a supernatural act of piety by the operation of the Holy Ghost. That is to say that the prayer of a Christian differs from the equivalent act in a pagan not merely by its content or object but in its essence. Whereas the pagan is performing a natural act, aided and abetted by actual grace, the Christian is aiding and abetting a supernatural act performed by the Holy Ghost. The two processes are in fact contrary: the former is a human act sanctified, the latter a divine act humanized.
It is of course true that the Christian must do all in his power to be in a state of grace. Hence the importance attached to what the ancients called “temperance,” later writers “mortification” and the moderns “ascetics”; that is, the practice of the virtues and purification of the mind by pious meditation. But the practice of ascetics is not of itself formally prayer. What it does is to provide the circumstance in which prayer is normally possible. It is true that a meditation may be a prayer, but it will be so not by the thing thought but by the intention, since human cooperation with the Holy Ghost is not an act of the intelligence but an act of the will.
Thus the thoughts which a priest expresses in a sermon or a professor of theology in a lecture are not prayers. They remain exactly what they pretend to be: true and pious thoughts. A preacher may indeed move himself to prayer by his own sermon, but as soon as he does so the sermon will grind to a halt. The activity of the human being in prayer is something quite different: it is adherence to grace and the less he impinges on the Holy Ghost the better. This we do not by pious thoughts and good resolutions, which would remain “our” thoughts and “our” resolutions—all forms of self-centeredness—but by here and now being self-effacing, abandoning all that is “ours” to become as theocentric as grace permits. We should become recollected and empty ourselves so as to leave room for the divine operation of the Holy Ghost.
This does not mean that all interior acts of petition, repentance, hope and gratitude will, or even should, cease. What it does mean is that such acts will be infused with adoration. Petition will tend towards joyous submission to Divine Providence; repentance to acknowledgement of the gulf between our void and God’s Being; hope to the fulfillment, in the love of possession, of our present love of desire of God through faith; gratitude, as in the Gloria, to giving God thanks “for His great glory.” This is what adoration is: divine love returning to the Father through the medium of us creatures. It is the ultimate object of all prayer.
It must not be imagined that such a view of prayer may be descriptive of high contemplatives in the unitive way but cannot be applied to the simple faithful. Yes it can. All the forms of prayer peculiar to and encouraged by the Church imply and require a state of recollection and adherence, not of meaningful commitment and activity. The Rosary, the Litanies, the Stations, the Divine Praises, indulgenced ejaculations—in what possible way are such repetitions “meaningful”? Their use is to reduce the activity of the human mind to a minimum in order to liberate the soul for adherence to God in prayer. But far more important than in any devotion, this same state of recollection and adherence was required in the supreme act of worship: the Mass.
I learned to say my prayers at my mother's knee—and I still say the same ones each night. But I learned to pray when I was dragged off to Mass on Sundays. Something was altered with Mummy and Daddy. They did not talk to each other or look at each other. Mummy usually fiddled with a Rosary. Daddy thumbed intermittently a Garden of the Soul which one of my nephews still uses. My eldest sister, Gertrude, who became a Benedictine nun, knelt bolt upright with her eyes usually shut. As I looked round it was the same with all our other relatives and neighbors. What was most unusual is that nobody paid the slightest attention to me. Even if I pulled Mummy's skirt, she just gently pushed me away. I once tried to climb on Daddy's back; he lifted me off and put me under the seat. That, too, was strange: although I was in my Sunday best, I was allowed to crawl about the floor provided I did not make a noise. Funny little boy that I was, I realized perfectly well that something was up.
I do not think that I was a particularly precocious child but I was certainly very young when I tumbled to the fact that all these people were praying without saying prayers, as I did. Children are imitative: I too wanted to pray without saying prayers. I opened up to my sister Gertrude. Just sit quite still, like a good boy, she said. You are too small to kneel. Keep your hands still as well, on your thighs. Try not to look round and keep your eyes shut if you can. Then just say 'Jesus' under your breath, slowly but constantly. I'll prod you when you say 'Thou art my Lord and my God' and you can say it with me.
That, mutatis mutandis, is I suppose how we all learned to pray. The point I am getting at is that the Mass itself was our school of prayer. It was there that we learned to be self-effacing, detached, recollected and to adhere to the Divine Presence. It was also at Mass that the simple faithful practiced prayer throughout their lives. They may have known little theology but they prayed as theologians often do not. Moreover, the simplest of them attained to heights of prayer and sanctity far beyond me.
There lies the tragedy of the New Ordo. Although its theology is ambiguous and its liturgical theory abysmal, those are not what I hold principally against it. The real trouble is that the New Ordo is unprayable. For seven long years I have both celebrated and attended it. It presents itself as a human action, an event, requiring participation; instead of a divine action, The Event of the Sacrifice of God Incarnate, requiring adherence. On the one side you have self-effacement, recollection and adherence, on the other self-expression, self-commitment and participation; these are irreconcilable. And the New Ordo does not merely call for its specific attitudes, it enforces them. You cannot be recollected with a microphone blaring at you in your native tongue which you cannot help but understand. You cannot be self-effacing if you have got to stand up and answer up. You cannot adhere to God if you are busy shaking hands all round. I shall not go into details, illuminating though they be.
Yes, that is the tragic triumph of the renewal; it has destroyed the source, the school and the practice of prayer. . . .
— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 166–170.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bishop Forester's Pastoral Letter on Penance

A Pastoral Letter.
Monday, February 4th, 1977.

Edmund, by the Grace of God and favour of the Apostolic See, Bishop of Stamford to the Clergy secular and regular and to the Faithful of the said Diocese, health and benediction in the Lord.

Dearly beloved Brethren in Jesus Christ,

Fortunately there are few people in the world who believe that they alone are always right and everyone else always wrong, that they alone are always good and everyone else invariably wicked. We know exactly where they are, these unfortunate people who think themselves perfect: they are in lunatic asylums. It is a strange phenomenon that the human being, the summit of human creation, should be universally conscious of his own imperfection. Indeed, the saner he is the more he is aware of his liability to err; the better he is the more he is aware of his liability to sin. If you think that you are sometimes wrong it is a proof that you have right judgement. If you think that you sometimes sin it is proof that you have a sound conscience. It is precisely to remedy this state of affairs that God has revealed what we must believe for our salvation, so that we may have certainty in so vital a matter. As for what we must do for our salvation, He has not only revealed how we should act but has given us a means by which we are put right when we go wrong. This is the subject on my Pastoral Letter: Confession and the forgiveness of sin.

I

Before embarking on forgiveness I should like to say a few words about sin. Sin, as you remember from your catechism, is the deliberate disobedience of the known commandments of God. These commandments, summed up in the Ten Commandments and interpreted by Holy Church, constitute the Natural Law. The Natural Law is not what human beings happen to do but what God requires them to do. A sin, therefore, an an objective act which a human performs, be it interiorly in his mind or exteriorly in his deeds. Our subjective conscience, in fact, has little or nothing to do with sin. If we are lucky it may tell us that we have sinned but it does not necessarily tell us what is sinful. The people who obey most perfectly their consciences are clearly those who have none; people with delicate conscience are constantly disobeying it. Thus it comes about that saints think of themselves as sinners whereas crooks think of themselves as saints. This we know from our own experience. Have you ever met a rogue who is not self-satisfied or a noble character who is?

If sin has little to do with our conscience, it has even less to do with the feeling of shame. We may be delighted at getting away with a thumping lie and thoroughly ashamed at being incorrectly dressed. We may feel no shame at stealing an article from a self-service store but overwhelmed with it when we are caught. Besides, shame is not equally attached to all sins. Nobody feels ashamed at not saying his prayers but may be desperately so for a sexual act done scarcely deliberately and with doubtful consent.

Then again, sin is an offence against God. It must not be confused with crime, which is an offence against the State or community. Crime and sin may coincide, as is the case in certain forms of murder, but not always. Thus the State encourages and pays for abortion, the murder of the totally innocent and totally defenceless: the most sinful form of murder is counted a social virtue. Adultery is a sin but not a crime. On the other hand, avoiding certain forms of taxation, notably death duties, may be a crime but is not a sin. You can get into endless trouble for breaking a traffic regulation without any spot on your soul. This is more important than it seems for two reasons. Firstly, Catholics can be tempted to fall in with the standards of the society around them. They may be led to believe that what is not a crime cannot be a very grave sin. Oh yes it can! Secondly, some Catholics today seem to imagine that sin is an offence against the community. It is true that we act wrongly rather often against our neighbour, but our neighbour is a person, not a community, and the sinfulness of the action comes about because it offends God. Moreover such grave sins as the hatred of God, internal pride and envy may not affect the community in any way. In fact, Catholics must maintain at all costs the supremacy and independence of God’s moral law as against the penal law of the State and the conventions of the community.

So much for the nature of sin.

II

Since all human beings realize that they are imperfect and all good ones know they sin, what can they do about it? The situation of upright, holy people outside the Church is very sad: they know they sin and are too honest to imagine that they can forgive themselves. No matter how hopefully they may trust in God’s mercy, they are obliged to carry the burden of their sins around with them for as long as they live. I have often wondered if this is not why some of the finest non-Catholics I have met tended to be rather sad and serious. Anyway, beyond a doubt, it is to have the certainty of forgiveness that a number of splendid converts have come into the Church.

But the majority of human beings are not as heroic as all that. So what do they do? They can deny that sin exists, with what dire consequences we know only too well. They can attempt to bury their sins by forgetting them; but it does not always work. The overwhelming majority simply justify themselves, as did our First Parents. You remember the account of the Fall and how Adam reacted when faced with the first sin: “The woman whom thou gavest me to be my companion, she it was who offered me fruit from the tree.” Eve likewise: “The serpent,” she said, “beguiled me.” It is exactly the same today, in spite of the vaunted change in the modern world. Clearly the easiest way to justify oneself is to blame somebody else. Adam had no choice: it was Eve’s fault. Eve at least had the decency not to accuse Adam and so start the first family row. You will notice, too, how Adam indirectly blames God: “the woman whom thou gavest me,” so it is really God’s fault. How typical! As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.

Just think for a moment of the hundreds of millions of people around us. They are not all wicked by any means, yet all sin, and the overwhelming majority promptly justify themselves. It is a this point that the sublimity of our holy religion becomes manifest:

Instead of denying the existence of sin, we define it most carefully;
Instead of burying the memory of sin, we recall it to mind by examining our conscience;
Instead of justifying ourselves, we accuse ourselves;
Instead of carrying the burden of sin around with us, we have the certainty of forgiveness.

This is all so wonderful, so splendid and so unnatural that it is clearly divine.

Dearly beloved Brethren, we Catholics are no better than our neighbors, indeed we are often much worse, but we are different. In the whole wide world we are the only group of people who deliberately set out to accuse ourselves. It is neither an agreeable nor an easy process. We do it as best we can, which is usually rather badly. That does not matter. God clearly knows our sins infinitely better than we do and we do not pretend to supply Him with news. What He wants from us is the humility to attempt self-accusation. And it must be real, not just in our minds: that is why He demands that it be made with the representative of His Church, the priest, as judge and witness. If we have the humility to accuse ourselves, He will not accuse us at the Judgement. Yes, it is for humility that God searches our hearts and He will not look in vain in the hearts of those who confess, whereas the upright who do not are so often kept erect by pride.

III

Now, in the revolution through which the Church is passing there is a victim which has suffered even more than the Mass. It is Confession, the Sacrament of Penance. The revolution claims to be a “renewal.” From the dawn of history there have been renewals and revivals. All have had the same message in a thousand forms: “Repent and do penance! God may yet relent and forgive.” The present renewal is unique; instead of penance, permissiveness is preached, the Sacrament of Penance is neglected and the confessionals abandoned. When doom is threatening the Western world more surely than it did Ninevah in the days of Jonas, there is none to cry out “Repent and do penance! God may yet relent and forgive!”

This is an unmitigated disaster. Even in our diocese the decline in Easter confessions has far outstripped the fall in Mass attendance. Have you lost the notion of sin as an offence against God? Do you believe it to be a matter of your own conscience? Are you incapable of the humility needed for self-accusation? Do you imagine that you can forgive yourselves? No, probably not. You have merely allowed yourselves to be carried along by the revolutionary process. You have strayed like sheep without a shepherd. Alas! It is I, under Christ, who am your shepherd. Too late, perhaps, when my voice is feeble and the sheep beyond recall, too late I cry: “Repent and do penance! God may yet relent and forgive!”

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Easter Duties must be fulfilled between then and Trinity Sunday, June 5th. The obligation is to Holy Communion. But what about confession? Dare I admit that I am terrified of sacrilegious Communions? In this diocese I have seen large numbers of communicants in parishes where the priests assure me that confessions are few. I am forced to believe that your consciences are clear but is it because you have ceased to examine them? I wish to remind you that Our Lord is more concerned over His sacramental than His physical body. He prayed for those who crucified Him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Of Judas He said: “It were better had he never been born.” And what had Judas done? hat they do.” Of Judas He said: “It were better had he never been born.” And what had Judas done? At the Last Supper he had received Communion unworthily: “The morsel once given, Satan entered unto him.” The difference is that Judas, unlike the soldiers but like us, knew what he was doing. Thus, the more frequent your Communions, the more frequent should be your confessions.

It is clear enough that one of the reasons for the sharp rise in the number of communicants is the abolition of the Eucharistic fast. There is now no barrier other than sin to receiving Our Lord. Hence there is automatic social pressure in favour of receiving. The person who does not either lacks piety or is in a state of sin. No such presumption was possible when there was the barrier of fasting: those who did not receive had merely broken their fast and those who received had prepared themselves by keeping it. In fact the abolition of the Eucharistic fast, especially for children and youths, can be the source of exerting unbearable pressure in favour of sacrilegious Communion. And the habit once contracted will not be easily broken. One is sometimes forced to wonder whether those who stay in their pews are not more devout than those who approach the altar. I think people would be well advised this Lent to make a private resolution to Our Lord to keep a three hour Eucharistic fast. It might help you and your children to resist the social pressure in favour of unworthy Communions.

Alas! The pressure had not only been social but also religious. If the Mass is a meal and not a sacrifice, there is no point in going unless you eat; and those who do turn up are expect to share the meal. No attention is paid to the terrible parable of the wedding feast in which the guest improperly prepared, without a wedding garment, is damned: “Bind him hand and foot and cast him out into the darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” However, our obligation is to attend the Sacrifice of God Incarnate in the Mass. Apart from Easter Duties, you are under no obligation to partake in any sacred meal.

Lent is now upon you. “Here is the time of pardon; here is the day of salvation.” Without the Sacrament of Penance your penances are worthless. Your sacrifices will be useless if offered with unclean hands. Your Communions will be sacrilegious without pure hearts. “Turn the whole bent of your hearts back to God. It is your hearts that must be torn asunder. Come back to Him for He is ever gracious and merciful, ever patient and rich in pardon.”

Repent and do penance! God may yet relent and forgive. Given at Stamford etc.

—Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 151–156.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Sensible Bond: Bernanos reblog

The Sensible Bond: Bernanos reblog: In these desperate days, I republish here a few lines of French novelist Georges Bernanos from his initial biographical sketches of Martin L...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bishop Forester to the Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain, February 7, 1977

35. To Archbishop Josef Klushko, Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain, c/o Palazzo delle Congregazioni, Rome.
Monday, February 17th, 1977

Dear Archbishop Klushko,

I am deeply moved to learn that His Holiness should take a personal interest in the state of my health. It is true that I am not expected to live very long but my condition is more inconvenient than painful and my mind is in no way affected.

It is very kind of His Holiness to suggest that I should unburden myself of the care of my diocese. Please assure His Holiness that it the inspiration of his example which gives me the courage to labour in the Lord’s vineyard to the bitter end.

Believe me, my dear Archbishop,
Your Grace’s obedient servant in Dmno,
+Edmund

P.S. To your official letter you were kind enough to add a personal postscript. I follow your example.

You write: “I am sorry to learn that your distinguished and fruitful career as bishop should end on a tragic note of defiance and rebellion.”

“Defiance and rebellion” are not the right words. “Indignant opposition” would be near the mark. My attitude is summed up in Psalm XXXIX:

It was my resolve to live watchfully, and never use my tongue amiss;
Still while I was in the presence of sinners,
I kept my mouth gagged, dumb and patient, impotent for good.
   But indignation came back
And my heart burned within me, the fire kindled by my thoughts.
   So that at last I kept silence no longer.

Yes, indignant I am at the ruin of the Church around me. The Immaculate Spouse had been deserted while her votaries fondle the Harlot of the World. Our altars are gone and sacrifice is banished. No longer do the priests cry “Spare, O Lord, spare thy people.” The child knows no prayers and the youth no doctrine. Young men and virgins are deaf to God’s calling. Old men and widows are bereft of consolation. Who would not be indignant at such desolation?

And all this in little more than a decade. And what does the Administration do about it? With what little authority it has left it hastens the decomposition. It is wreathed in smiles to those who destroy. It accuses of rebellion those who try to preserve. It beats every breast but its own when faced with calamity. Of course I am in opposition.

You know, my dear Archbishop, I fully accept that Holy Church is the guarantor of the Faith. God will honour His Spouse’s cheques no matter how badly written or misspelt. Thus the new rites of the Sacraments are valid, although one and all lamentable productions. They remain cheques drawn by the Church on God’s inexhaustible account, in spite of the smudges and blots.

But the Church is not only the guarantor of the Faith, she is also Faith’s guardian, and guardian of the faithful. It is in these fields that the present Administration has such a bad record. Has the Faith been guarded? Yes, twice in words: Humanae Vitae and the Credo of the People of God. But by deeds? What heresy has been condemned? Which heretic excommunicated? Why have sound catechisms been withdrawn and unsound ones propagated? How is it that any Eucharist is permitted and alone the Immemorial Mass excluded? One could go on indefinitely.

As for the wretched faithful, far from being protected, they have been trampled under foot. Their faith has been derided as totem-worship, their religious practice as tribal custom, their devotions as superstition, their innermost convictions as sentimentality. Only one item in their religion remains unchanged: the collection is still passed round.

It is not unlikely that in your career as a diplomat you have never had cure of souls. If you had, you might be prepared to take more seriously the Church’s role as guardian of the faithful. You would not have allowed God’s little ones to be scandalized as they have been. It is for God’s sake and theirs, not mine, that

I remain,
       In indignant opposition,
             E.F.

— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 137–139.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Fundamental Difference of Attitude, in the Moral Field, Between the Old and the New Religion

Sanctity, not participational aptitude, is the only elitism known to Christianity.

You also ask me about “caring communities.” I must frankly admit that I know nothing about them. I took it for granted that they were the folk who insisted on house Masses. Are they a separate entity? How little a bishop knows of what goes on in his diocese! Last November I was invited to attend a jamboree of “caring communities” in London. It was all about South Africa and apartheid. I presumed that was because the Soweto riots were still news. At the end I was asked to say a few words. I said that I had expect to attend a conference of Religious Communities caring for the aged and handicapped, not a conference of experts on South Africa. I wondered if there was a “caring community” in Soweto discussing the mugging, thugging and drugging in London. I also suggested that they might care for the souls of the couple of million non-Christian coloured immigrants in our midst, etc. This was apparently quite the wrong thing to say and the situation was only saved by the chairman assuring the carers that I had an inverted sense of humour.

Anyway, from that one experience I gained the impression that they were not caring for anybody but about something, which is a very different proposition, no matter how laudable. To “care for” means to do something or to love somebody; to “care about” implies no more than talk seasoned with moral indignation. The former always has as its object a reality, later always an abstract idea—usually Justice or Peace.

Curiously enough, I think that we are here in the presence of the fundamental difference of attitude, in the moral field, between the Old and the New religion. By replacing “caring for” with “caring about,” one has substituted moral indignation for charity. This in turn implies the substitution of politics for morality. Penal or political law takes the place of moral law. Crime against the community replaces sin against God. I have no intention of lecturing you on so vast a subject. I merely want to point out the difference in the personal attitude which the change implies.

In the Old religion, we spent our time beating our own breasts, mea maxima culpa. We were terribly conscious of our own basic imperfection, of Original Sin in fact. And how deeply felt was our need for a Redeemer! It was neither God’s creation nor His Church which needed reforming, it was I. I had no pretension to “do good” because to do good is a prerogative of God. Sufficient for me to avoid evil, of which I am perfectly capable but, by His grace, can overcome. I even lack the ambition to convert the world: God would see to that, although I could help in some mysterious way by first converting myself. Etc. . . . Such was my attitude on the day of my ordination. Was yours, Nial McCarthy, much different?

What is the attitude now? The first requisite of moral indignation is to accuse your neighbor: tua culpa—it is all your fault, your most grievous fault. Original Sin has vanished: it is I who am the Immaculate Conception and Jesus is not my Redeemer but my friend. Everything needs reforming because there is no natural Law in nature; I introduce the Law by the way I use it. My conscience makes the Law, which is as constantly evolving as is nature itself. In the same way, everything in the Church needs reforming, sacraments, structures, the lot, because in my experience the only constant factor is I. It is even I who am the Real Presence since it is I who invoke His name. To avoid evil is nonsense; on the contrary, I “do good” by the mere process of fulfilling my personality. The conversion of the world is a simple, technical process: the reign of Justice and Peace. Etc. . . .

Have I overdrawn the attitude? Look carefully. I think not. All I have done is to give it precision.

—Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, p. 127–128.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

On the Holy Family


Reflection shared on February 14, 2000, at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish Center in Delmar, NY, during a Renew 2000 Mission. The reflection and Mary Murphy’s story “The Little Mermaid” were responses to the theme “Strengthening Family Life and Supportive Relationships.”

I am so glad that Jesus’ public ministry did not involve his family—that he did not require his followers to say good things about Joseph and to recognize Mary as the Mother of God, that he did not establish a Holy Family website, jmj.com.

Jesus’ family and background did not recommend him to his hearers. A son of a carpenter? From Nazareth? And his mother—weren’t the circumstances of her pregnancy and marriage rather suspect?

Of course, we believe that Joseph was a saint to whom angels spoke, that Mary was the immaculately conceived Virgin Mother of God, and that Jesus was God’s son, a descendant of David born in Bethlehem as the Scriptures foretold.
What is the connection between Jesus’ family in his lifetime and the Holy Family that we have been learning to know for two millennia and will continue to learn to know in the next millennium?

The most important connection is: it’s the same family. The Joseph who heard the angel also worked for a living, paid taxes, and registered in the census. When the Blessed Virgin was found to be pregnant before marriage, others besides Joseph knew it, and not everyone had Gabriel’s insider information. Jesus, God’s Son, would not have been born if Mary had not accepted the angel’s word and would have been killed by Herod’s troops if Joseph had not obeyed the angel’s command.

There were indeed perks for being the parents of God. We know of a few: messages from angels early on, visits from shepherds and astrologers, good wine at a wedding—once. But however many of these there may have been, great experiences recede, and life—so difficult and unsatisfactory for me and so easy for everybody else; or perhaps so sweet to me, but with a precarious sweetness—comes back. The angel spoke to Joseph in dreams, and Simeon had told Mary: “A sword shall pierce through thy own soul.” And Jesus was forsaken by God.
When Joseph and Mary’s twelve-year-old son was missing after the feast, his parents really didn’t know where he was, did search for him sorrowing, did receive from him a rather smart remark about “Why did you search? Didn’t you know I had to be here in my Father’s house?”—and it certainly wasn’t Joseph and Mary’s house in Nazareth—and they really didn’t understand what he was saying. And: how would you have felt?

Much of the Holy Family’s life was like our life: eating and drinking, earning a living, cooking and cleaning, being tired, sleeping, being faithful to our spouse, raising and protecting our children, visiting relatives, partying with friends, praying in a group, dancing; and whatever may have been the state of their souls and spirit, their bodies and perceptions and emotions and joys and sufferings and fears were like ours. And we know from the Gospels that Mary and Jesus did not always agree.

This life with family and friends and coworkers is the life that God asked the Holy Family to live and asks most of us to live, and it affords plenty of opportunity to learn to love God and learn to love our neighbor—to learn to love God by learning to love our neighbor.

And that neighbor includes our family. In some ways, it is harder to act with charity towards those we love than towards a friend or a stranger. We want more for our loved ones and expect more, and we expect them to agree with us about the what, the how, and the when even before we tell them. A long day of working, homemaking, and schooling shortens fuses, and we face, yet again, other wills, when we want our will be done.

It is at home when I most feel Our Lady’s admonition at Medjugorje: “You cannot say you are converted because your life must become an every day conversion.”
I used to regret that I did not do great things. I know now that the great thing always available to me is to do from obedience and love what I am doing. For most of us, it is our vocation to live in a family, and it is our path to glory. For myself, I don’t tell Mary and Olivia often enough how much happiness I have experienced in this path.

The opportunities for learning to love that God’s love gives us are abundant. They come our way much more frequently and inconveniently than we want them to come. Every moment—this moment—is a calling from God. Often we do not listen, and God accepts this. It has taken me years to hear some things, and I still miss a lot; and too often when I do hear, I still disobey.

Every moment is a calling from God. And we may also say: a calling from Mary, who is our Mother. On the cross, Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved, and he said to his mother, “Woman, behold thy son!” And to the disciple, “Behold thy mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (John 19:26–27).

As we have taken her into our own homes with devotions, images, and the Rosary. We know that Mary considers us her children: she has told us. We in our homes, our friends in their homes, and strangers, some of whom have no homes, are brothers and sisters in her holy family, now and forever.

St. Valentine’s Day 2000 +


Friday, October 2, 2015

Another Unreal Audience with a Pope

Edmund and Judith were thrilled. They would see Pope Paul VI on their second honeymoon as they had Pope Pius XII on their first.

On Saturday morning they duly appeared at Msgr. Testastorta's office. He rose from his desk and came towards them with both hands extended: "What an honour to meet the heir of the great Ruffamo family! I wrote my thesis for my degree in diplomacy on the foreign policy of Innocento XI Odescalchi, in which Cardinal Ruffamo played so important a part. And what an able diplomat is your cousin Lord Stanningfield! He showed me a photograph of your castello in England. It is truly magnificent.

"Now, on Tuesday you are to have an audience with His Holiness. No, you need not come in evening dress; just a dark suit for the gentlemen and long sleeves and skirts below the knees for ladies. Ah! So you had an audience with Pius XII. We have simplified and humanized things a lot since them. And in what language would you like the audience to be conducted? His Holiness's English is not very fluent but I could act as interpreter. Ah! You both speak French. That is good. His Holiness speaks French perfectly."

Judith did not mention that she spoke Italian as well because Edmund did not.

Testastorta continued. "Is there any subject which you wish to bring particularly to His Holiness's attention? Do you wish to express the feelings of English Catholics on any particular problem facing the Holy Father and the council?"

Neither of them was prepared for this question. Judith was the first off the mark. "Yes, I wish to appeal to His Holiness for the retention in England of the immemorial Latin Mass in the name of our martyrs and, in the particular instance, of the Blessed Gregory Rougham. You see, in England we Catholics are a minority and it is in no small measure the traditional Latin Mass which gives that minority its cohesion."

"Exactly, Mrs. Rougham," said the monsignor. "I understand you perfectly. You feel that the council's objective in creating the necessary atmosphere for ecumenicity would be best fostered by preserving the Catholic minority's rite and rights."

"No, Monsignor," said Judith, "I was not thinking of ecumenicity and our separated brethren. You see, I am a convert and am consequently in a positon to feel, quite disinterestedly, that even cradle Catholics have rights."

"Ah! You are a convert, Mrs. Ruffamo. How wonderful! Of course it is so difficult for you to see that what you have rejected has rights as well."

"Don't talk nonsense, Monsignor. Of course Protestants have rights, but it does not prevent them from being wrong."

It may be remembered from her first meeting with Miss Portia Sowerby that Judith was not the easiest person in the world to interview.

"You are the reincarnation of Santa Caterina, Mrs. Ruffamo. And you, Don Edmundo, is there anything you wish to bring to the Holy Father's special attention?"

Edmund had had time to collect his thoughts. "Yes, in the first place I should like to appeal for the canonization of the English Martyrs and in particular for that of Blessed Gregory Rougham."

"I feel sure the Holy Father would welcome such an appeal – especially if you reminded him that in the final analysis they died for liberty of conscience."

"But they didn't!"

The monsignor just shrugged his shoulders.

Edmund continued. "Then, for the last two years we have constantly heard the Church's laws on contraception derided by eminent ecclesiastics. I should like to express my gratitude to the Holy Father for having excluded the subject from the council's deliberations. However, I fail to see why he should set up a special commission to study the matter. I, as a married man, must make my decision tonight. I cannot set up a special commission of aunts and uncles to decide what I am going to do here and now. We all know what the Church has always thought. Even a moment's hesitation makes it appear that the Church can be in error."

"Thank you so much," said Testastorta, "for expressing so clearly the problems which you wish to bring to the Holy Father's attention. They are of great importance. I just make a note so that the Holy Father may be prepared to answer you. Yes, in French. Here is your biglietto. Be sure that you are in the vestibule by 10:30 a.m. in case His Holiness is on the early side. I shall see you on Tuesday as I shall be accompanying His Holiness during the audiences. It has been a great honour to meet you, Mrs. and Mrs. Ruffamo, and I hope that when I next come to England I shall be able to see the great castello."

So that was all in order. Edmund and Judith had less free time in Rome than they had expected. There was so much they wanted to see again but too little time to see it. Try as she would, Judith could not recapture the emotions of her honeymoon. She no longer felt that Rome belonged to her and she to it, that it was the expression of her faith. Something had changed. Its monuments were no longer throbbing with joy and life. They formed the sad – almost to the point of being painful – mausoleum to Rome's departed glory.

Tuesday soon arrived. Judith and Edmund were duly in the vestibule by 10:30 a.m. His Holiness was not on the early side. It was well past eleven when they were shown into a large antechamber. It was not the one in which they had seen Pius XII. Although not dissimilar it was considerably bigger. It had two doors opposite each other at the far end of the room from the windows. It was not going to be a private audience after all but a semi-private one. Three other groups besides the Roughams were ushered in as well. Three Italian priests were placed halfway along the wall immediately to the left of the door by which all had entered. A couple of American women were placed between the windows. Two aged and one young Far Easterners, Indo-Chinese perhaps, were opposite the Italian priests. The Roughams were placed opposite the Americans and between the two doors. They waited another half-hour before the Pope entered by the door to the Roughams' left, accompanied by Msgr. Testastorta and a security man dressed as a flunky. Testastorta guided the Pope straight to the Italian priests. The Roughams therefore knew that they would be last on the list.

Judith understood Italian perfectly well but she could not quite hear. It was clear that the priests had come to thank the Holy Father for some benefit received by their congregation. They presented him with a beautifully bound book and a little statue carved in amber which Judith would have liked to have seen at close quarters. Testastorta took the gifts. The conversation between the priests and Pope was animated and pleasant. Although she could not distinguish the words, the Pope's tone of voice was very affable, as of a man who wished to please. The interview might have dragged on for quite a long time had Testastorta not put an end to it. Judith felt that she had judged Paul VI too harshly on the strength of his photographs.

His Holiness then moved on to the American ladies. They were both good-looking women of about forty but too well-groomed – mechanically, impersonally. Judith had no difficulty understanding. One of the ladies spoke fluent Italian at the top of her voice. They represented CWAC. They had brought a petition signed by a quarter of a million free American Catholic women begging the Holy Father to bless their association and urging him to make sure that this wonderful, world-renewing council did not close without passing pastoral legislation in line with its objective. Judith could not hear the Pope say a word. It was Testastorta who was affable and encouraging. This interview too might have lasted longer but this time it was Pope Paul who put a sudden end to it. Later, on the way out, Judith learned that CWAC stood for Catholic Women's Association for Contraception.

His Holiness then moved on to the Far Easterners. One of the two old men did the talking, the other nodding assent. The young man was the interpreter. Judith was deeply struck by both of the old gentlemen. Refinement and dignity must still exist in the East although difficult to locate in the West. Unfortunately, she could not hear. The translator spoke very quickly in a soft as well as a low-pitched voice. It was clear that things were not going too well. She could hear odd words of Paul VI: trust, obedience, peace. The nodder started to cry. The nodder fell on his knees and gesticulated with his wonderfully neat oriental hands. The translator gave up. Testastorta pulled the Pope's elbow. The orientals knelt as he gave them his blessing but the nodder was up like a bullet and said in broken French: "Take this! At least take this!" He produced a document. It was too late; the Pope and Testastorta had already turned to the Roughams. But the flunky took the document.

The Pope and the monsignor came forward to about halfway between the easterners and the Roughams. They stopped and Judith could hear Testastorta say to the Pope: "They are of no interest – sono degli integristis inglesi – they are English traditionalists." The Pope took another step forward but Testastorta was too quick for him. He left the Pope and came straight at Edmund: "The Holy Father is behind schedule, but I shall see to it that he is made acquainted with your observations. Please kneel for the papal blessing." They obeyed. He waved to the Pope to give his blessing. He obeyed. Pope, monsignor and flunky disappeared through the door to the Rougham's right.

So that was that.

It was 12:30 before Judith and Edmund emerged from the Vatican. They found a congenial trattoria for lunch. Judith told Edmund what she understood of the conversations, ending up with: "They are of no interest – just English traditionalists." Edmund was obviously deeply upset. Something had snapped in his makeup.

Judith did not react in the same way at all. The audience – or lack of it – did not worry her. What puzzled her was Pope Paul's eyes. She had seen from photographs that he had weak hands and no lips, but she had thought that his eyes looked human enough. Although quite humourless, she imagined that they craved for understanding, even affection. She had seen his eyes very clearly when he had turned from the easterners to Edmund and herself. Indeed, while Testastorta had spoken to Edmund, the Pope's eyes and hers had met. For an appreciable time, for something like twenty seconds, they had stared at each other.

No, there was no affection there nor the craving for it. Those large brown eyes hypnotized her. Less expressive only than the hands, eyes can radiate so much: joy or sorrow, openness or cunning; generosity or meanness – the whole gamut of human attitudes. What was it exactly that the Pope's eyes radiated? That was the wrong word: they expressed something but radiated nothing. Somehow they were negative. It was not suffering they expressed nor sorrow. Melancholy was nearer to the mark but the term was too poetic and too weak. They were wells of loneliness dropping into an abyss of sadness, a sort of primeval sadness before the first day dawned. Neither did they evoke pity and compassion. To Judith they seemed terrifying. She dared not mention her reaction ot Edmund. He was bad enough as it was.

They saw Ronnie that evening. He merely burst into laughter. "It's all my fault, entirely my fault! You see, one gets so used to Roman ways that one forgets to warn people. I ought to have primed you to tell Testastorta that you had come to Rome on purpose to inform the Holy Father of the enthusiastic reception among English Catholics of the decrees on the mass media, the reform of the liturgy and above all Lumen Gentium. You would then have had a pucka private audience in which you could have said what you liked. My dear, innocent cousins, what a bloomer! Thank God I'm not a Papist or I should have had to resign my post as being tarred with the integriste brush. As a respectable Protestant I am fortunately above suspicion…"

— Bryan Houghton, Judith's Marriage, 1987, pp. 165–170.