28 June 2017

Whom to celebrate on June 28 ???????

Today, in the Roman Rite, is traditionally the Vigil of the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul.

Before the changes initiated under Pius XII began, S Irenaeus had been put onto this day. So, in the admirable ORDO published by the Saint Lawrence Press (giving the Roman Rite as it was circa 1939), Mass today is of that Saint, with commemorations of two octaves and of the Vigil. Or ad libitum, it is of the Vigil, with commemorations of the Saint and of the octaves.

In 1962, S Irenaeus was moved to July 3 so as to unclutter the observance of the Vigil (octaves had by now been abolished).

Less than a decade after this, the Novus Ordo Calendar put S Irenaeus back onto today.

Summary: (1) Today is the real festival of S Irenaeus (as well as the Vigil of the Apostles). He spent less than a decade (1962-1970) in exile on July 3. As it happens, the Novus Calendar agrees with the pre-Pius XII Calendar. What the 1962 calendar provides is both 'untraditional' AND out of sync with what the Novus part of the Roman Rite does. This is a matter of everybody in the regiment except my 1962 Johnny being out of step.
(2) Would it really be an act of base treachery to Tradition to correct the 1962 Calendar, at least in those places where the pre1962 Calendar and the Novus Calendar are in agreement with each other against 1962?
(3) The Roman Rite, like the Byzantine Rite, should be more welcoming to the custom of observing two commemorations on the same day. As it was before the 1960s.
(4) As happened before Pius XII and Bugnini, there should be more ad libitum in the 1962 missal.
(5) Would it be the ultimate crime to allow the use of Last Gospels of commemorated Sundays and Vigils, as used to happen before Pius XII let Mgr Bugnini loose on the Roman Rite?

But there is yet another Saint with a claim upon today!! We will consider him tomorrow, in connexion with the Apotles SS Peter and Paul.

27 June 2017

Mixed Metaphors and Intimidation

We all, I imagine, have our own networks of information; and a fair bit of the 'information' which has come my way over the last two or three of years has related to who is currently being persecuted by whom. Sometimes the intimidation is direct; sometimes it comes in the form of ueberpraelat X 'suggesting' to unterpraelat Y that Y should have a word with Z.

What intrigues me is this. The instances of intolerance that I hear all imply the dumping of the ton of bricks by a Bergoglian on a Wojtilan or Ratzingerian. Perhaps that merely says something about the sort of people I consort with. OK. Fair enough. Perhaps I should try to get out more.

But ... are there, in parallel, similar instances of intolerant intimidation currently being unloaded by Wojtilans and Ratzingerians upon Bergoglians?

Or do the Noxious Substances fly float or flow only in one direction?

I apologise if I have mixed my metaphors. I once worked under a head master who mixed his metaphors incessantly. It became a daily source of merriment in Common Room to collect ... and parody ... his rococo utterances.The genre can become quite an art form.

I only hope I don't get the Thin End of the Holy Father's Elbow.

26 June 2017

Aeschylus and Euripides and Junia and the Gestapo

As many readers will know, Adolf Hitler was unintentionally (and hideously) by far the most significant benefactor of the Oxford Classics Faculty (called Litterae Humaniores) in well over a century. In the 1930s, Oxford became the home to many of the finest Classicists from the German universities: such as Eduard Fraenkel, 'the World's greatest Latinist' who (not without some opposition) walked straight from his Freiburg Chair into the Corpus Professorship. It has been shown that in his monumental Commentary on the Agamemnon, especially in the figure of Cassandra and in the fate of Agamemnon, Fraenkel's 'strictly philological' treatment of the ancient text is in fact constantly marked by the Holocaust experiences of European Jewry (Fraenkel was a Jew). And, in Pfeiffer's History of Classical Scholarship, largely written during the War, Ptolemy VIII, under whom the great men of the Learned City of Alexandria fled in what came to be called the secessio doctorum, is clearly framed as a Type of Hitler.

It is salutary sometimes to recollect upon ones good fortune; Fraenkel and Pfeiffer had been pupils of the 'legendary' Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf ... what an Apostolic Tradition we callow and naive undergraduates of the 1950s and 1960s were privileged to be admitted to!

And the paradosis continues. I once I went to an undergraduate performance of the Hippolytus in Oriel College (the quadrangle used was once the St Mary's Hall of which Cardinal Allen was Principal). Rather ... undergraduate; twenty minutes late starting because they couldn't get the patio heater to light up! But the Greek text was faultlessly learned (or should I mention that just occasionally the iambs sounded a trifle ... iambic) and vigorously delivered and the tragic conclusion really did grip the (albeit slightly chilled) audience. Oh, the charming, touching innocence of the young ... I bet none of them knew that Hippolytus was also the name of somebody who didn't write the text which Botte and Bouyer so lamentably adapted into that dreadful Eucharistic Prayer, their bibulous pencils dancing frantically as they drafted their opus on the terrace of a trattoria in the Trastevere while the Phaedras of the Night minced up and down before them. And I bet the young people also didn't know, when they got to the line describing Aphrodite as episemos en brotois, that this is a line detested by feminists because grammatically it subverts their daft claim that there ever was a 'Female Apostle' called Junia.

Good thing they didn't know ... the feminist Thought Police or the genderist Gestapo might have demanded its excision ... I wonder what Euripides would have thought of being No Platformed ... no ... Aristophanes would be the man to ask about that ... what a wonderful satire he could have written on No Platforming and Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings and Transphobia and (this is Pride Month in Not-terribly-great Britain) Hubris kai ta loipa. What would it have been called? Hoi Eunouchoi? Hoi Malakoi? Lyssanesos? Eschropolis? [I am indebted to Professor C S Lewis of this University for the last two suggestions.]

Quaeritur ... if anyone's interested ... after the Hippolytus I watched the old 1962 film version, entitled Phaedra, with the myth transposed to a modern Greek ship-owning family ... Melina Mercouri as Phaedra, score by Theodorakis, you name it. Beta question-mark plus, I thought. The Wikipedia entry said it was popular in Europe, but a box-office flop in the US of A. I wonder why?

25 June 2017

Sporting the Papal Oak*: the Vocabulary of Gesture

I am finding it difficult to elaborate a workable hermeneutic by which to understand the unwillingness of the Roman Pontiff to allow his door to be opened to the Four Cardinals.

It has been critically pointed out by others that he opens his door to some rather unusual applicants. This seems to me to be not at all a just object of criticism. I applaud him for it. How can anyone fail to notice that, in so doing, he is following the example of his Line Manager, the Second Person of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity? Whom did the Incarnate Word ever turn away?

But ... well, may I put it like this. If I ran a very welcoming household, admitting anyone who knocked, friends and foes, from tramps to parliamentary candidates, talking to all, hearing their troubles, struggling with their worries, and trying to resolve their uncertainties, but refused ever to find a moment to hear and talk with my wife, children, and grandchildren, what judgements ought to be made of me?

The Lord washed the feet of his most intimate friends, and that pedilavium was seen in the Church when Abbots washed the feet of their sons, Bishops the feet of their presbyters. But the present occupant of the Roman See refuses this service of humility to his associates and rigidly confines it to people whom he has, as far as we are informed, never met before. I am impressed by the symbolism of what he does do ... with its gracious imagery of openness to those on the social peripheries ... while being puzzled by the determined rigidity of his exclusions.

Perhaps ... who am I to speculate? ... our Holy Father feels impatient that Four Cardinals are unable to understand his recent document Amoris laetitia. Possibly he suspects that they fail to understand because they are determined not to understand. I know exactly the same feeling. Both in the parochial teaching ministry, and in a scholastic environment, I have sometimes had that very feeling. In my simplicity, however, I have usually tried to devise other strategies by which to make myself understood. Should I really have just refused to waste my time? Is that the message and example we lesser people are to infer from the conduct of the Vicar of Christ?

Papa Ratzinger once invited to tea a dissident theologian with a life's history of heresy and of malevolent and unpleasantly expressed antagonism towards himself: Hans Kueng. I thought that was a rather fine and lovely gesture. Or: perhaps not so much a mere gesture as a real and Christ-like openness to a brother in Christ. Was I merely naive to think this? Should Ratzinger simply have locked the door, eaten all the sandwiches himself, licked his lips, and had a nap?

I can understand it if the present occupant of the Roman See has a mental list of people he would rather not meet, which includes bishops whom he has just sacked as well as the Four Cardinals. That would be very humanly and endearingly understandable. Many pastors have, at least in petto, just such a list of parishioners. I once went along one particular street rather than another to avoid the risk of meeting such a person. But then, in my examination of conscience, it occurred to me: suppose Providence had disposed the likelihood of such a meeting with the intention that some particular good would result from it?

I am finding it quite a struggle to discover the truly Christian and pastoral meaning in locked doors, unanswered letters, and rigid exclusions.

*Male undergraduate sets of rooms in Oxford used to have an inner and an outer door. The latter was called the 'Oak' and it was said to be 'sported' when it was shut. 'Sporting one's Oak' occurred when, in some such emergency as an Essay Crisis or a woman, the undergraduate concerned had no time for socialising. Will Papa Bergoglio go down in the History books as the Papa Robustus, the Oaky Pope? Will the next step of the Four Cardinals be to compose in Greek elegiacs a paraklausithyron?

24 June 2017

Encaenia UPDATED

Wednesday,21 June, was the  University's annual celebration, Encaenia. Honorary degrees are conferred, and the Oratio Creweiana celebrates the magnificentia and praecellentia of Alma Mater Oxonia. The speeches presenting the graduands are in Latin; and this year we had a new Public Orator, Jonathan Katz, displaying to his public his Latinity for the first time. (He also teaches Greek and Sanskrit; he did not spring upon us the surprise of addressing us in the second of those tongues.) The temperatures here were pretty Texan, and Sir Christopher Wren forgot to install air conditioning in the Theatrum Sheldonianum ... 

The Creweian Oration, nowadays, is in English. Last year, when Mr Orator Jenkyns was doing his last stint of duty, he asked the Chancellor for the customary permission to use the vernacular for this Oration: Honoratissime et Insignissime Cancellarie, licetne Anglice loqui? And the Chancellor, with feigned irritation, and no small delay, eventually murmured Hoc ultimo tempore, licet. This year, back to just licet.

An Englishwoman; a Scotswoman; four American males; one American female. Such were our honorands this year. I am fearful that, in the years to come, outside Europe, we shall become more and more of an American dependancy, in cultural, academic, political, economic, trading, terms. I was never blind to the failings of the European project; I just hoped it might protect us from ...  alternatives ...

Shirley, Baroness Williams, was one of the Gang of Four who split the British Labour Party a generation ago. Since her gender is unambiguous, I wondered how apt was the Latin Societas Quattuorvirorum. Quaterna cohors? Quaternum Latrocinium? 

One of the things I dislike about the Vatican's Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis is its preference for circumlocutions. Machina quae facit x y z ... that sort of thing. Cumbersome. So I did not much like Mr Orator Katz's librorum per aethera legendorum saeculum for "the e-book era". I prefer coinages: Mr Orator Griffin very wittily did e-mail by e-pistula. I am sure readers will be able to contrive neologisms for e-book.

Caeliscalpium for Sky-scraper, I did rather like.

23 June 2017

Printing and the Sacred Heart

Once when I was an Anglican, using the older of my two Latin Altar editions of Missale Romanum, I said the Mass of the Sacred Heart as it existed, firstly pro aliquibus locis and then for the Universal Church, before Pius XI provided a replacement in 1928. I rather liked the older mass. The psalmus in the Introit was Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, a haunting verse which has stuck in the minds of many. You find it in Pius IX's Mass of the Precious Blood; it occupied the same place in the Sarum Mass of the Five Wounds; I remember deciphering it, highly abbreviated, on a choir pew put in Lifton church in the late fourteen hundreds by Parson Halyborton, an adventurous Scotch cleric who came to Devon, became an archdeacon, went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I recall seeing it on a portrait, 1582, of S Teresa of Avila, once in the Carmel at Lanherne ... Why did this old Mass of the Sacred Heart have to be abolished? Its collect was to be resurrected by the post-conciliar 'reform', so it can't have carried the marks of being too dated. Why couldn't the mass have been kept as an alternative, or even just as a votive, somewhere in the Missal?

I have written before about the significance, understood by too few liturgical writers, of printing. This made it possible for legislators with liturgical bees in their bonnets to enforce, in a flash, liturgical revolutions. Before printing, we had a situation - I am thinking of the early history of Corpus Christi - in which a pope could mandate a feast for the Universal Church and it wasn't even observed in the papal capella until nearly two generations later. But printing made it possible for a Cranmer to overturn an entire liturgical culture overnight, and to replace his own liturgical innovations with a substantially different and yet more radical version of them a couple of years later.

This particular technological mechanism of Rupture came to town, I mean ad almam Urbem, after Vatican II. But there were earlier signs. I have just mentioned Pius XI and the liturgy of the Sacred Heart. Then there was Pius XII and the Assumption. Out went the old Mass and Office and in came radically new replacements. There was nothing wrong with the old euchological formulae; they made the point which was at the heart of the theology of the Assumption in both East and West in the first millennium and a half: that Mary was assumed so that she could intercede, be the Mediatrix of all graces. Granted that Pius XII desired in 1950 to imprint upon the liturgy his new dogmatic definition, he could have behaved in the organic, evolutionary way of earlier pontiffs - he might, for example, have left the texts which he inherited untouched but embodied his new precisions in an added word (corporea) in the Preface; or even have asked that fertile Fr Genovese to write a Sequence, ordering it to be printed in liturgical books after that date and to be be brought into use as the newer books gradually spread. (Something like that is what Papa Barberini did when he classicised the texts of the Office Hymns.)

Printing is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of liturgists.

22 June 2017

When the Patriarch was returning ...

Today, the old Octave Day of Corpus Christi, I remind readers of the Hymn Hoste dum victo triumphans, a superb hymn about the Lord's priesthood and the ministerial priesthood rooted in Him. Fr E Caswall - after he left the Church of England for the Birmingham Oratory - translated it as When the Patriarch was returning; you will find this version in the English Catholic Hymn Book. I would regard it as a prime piece of Patrimony although Fr Caswall was a Roman Catholic when he did his translation, since it was long popular as the Office Hymn of the Votive Vespers ("Guild Office") of the old Anglican GSS ("Guild of the Servants of the Sanctuary").

You will find much valuable and fascinating information in a comment which I have preserved from the thread originally attached to a 2010 blogpost on this hymn.

20 June 2017

Ordinations in the Ordinariate

What a superb occasion, last Saturday! As England enjoyed ... or endured ... a flow of very hot weather from Spain, the Ordinariate happily migrated to the cool spaces of the old Spanish Embassy Chapel: S James Spanish Place. The Sacrament of Order was solemnly administered by our dear friend Bishop Robert Byrne, who ordained Deacons for England, Scotland, and Wales (yes ... poor old Ireland is still inordinariate.). This seems to me a most welcome advance on the old practice of ordinands being 'done' by the geographical diocesan Bishop of their place of residence. That could appear to suggest that they are really clergy of the diocese and that the Ordinary is just a sort of Vicar General for iffy converts. The new arrangements make visible the fact that the Ordinariate is a totally separate jurisdiction, directly subject to the Holy See, distinct from and equal to the dioceses. The fact that Spanish Place as an old Embassy Chapel goes back to before the Restoration of the Hierarchy, makes the point even more crisply (the same is, of course, true of our Principal Church, the old Bavarian Embassy Chapel). And indeed, Bishop Robert's titular See, Cuncacestre, takes us right back to the glory days of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Proto-ordinariate! Memories of the sweet talent with which S Bede the Venerable married together Englishness and Romanita!

The S James's Choir and servers did splendidly by us. So did the blessed providers of the Repast which followed. But the biggest stars were our ten new clergy. As well as eight in Anglican Orders, two had discerned their priestly vocation as lay members of the Ordinariate ... the first such two.

I wonder how many dioceses in Northern Europe have ordained as many clerics this summer. Last Saturday offered the Catholic World a vivid picture of a Traditional jurisdiction which is really going places! Four cheers for Mgr Keith!!

All we need now is for diocesan bishops to 'think Ordinariate' when they wonder what to with their imminently redundant churches and presbyteries. And a relaxation of the rules confining membership of the Ordinariates to those with Anglican or Methodist connexions, would help us enormously. Is it really in accordance with the New Evangelisation for us to have to turn people away?

19 June 2017

Cardinals, Collegiality and Amoris Laetitia UPDATE.

This morning the Settimo cielo blog prints the text of the latest appeal by the Four Cardinals for an audience to discuss the Dubia which they raised earlier with the Sovereign Pontiff. I repeat, below, the piece I published yesterday, Monday.

Collegiality did not wait to be invented by Vatican II. In the 1950s, Papa Pacelli, Pius XII, wrote to each bishop of the Catholic Church to ask (1) whether he believed in the Corporal Assumption of the Mother of God; and (2) whether he considered it opportune for the dogma to be defined. The subsequent Solemn Definition followed upon the overwhelming consensus apparent in the replies of the world-wide episcopate.

More than a year has passed since the emergence of the divisive and poorly drafted document called Amoris laetitia. In this time, many Bishops and  episcopal conferences have issued guidelines making clear that nothing has changed since S John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, and Pope Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis, reemphasised the Church's immemorial discipline: 'remarried' divorcees who will not repent of their adultery and undertake either to separate or at least to try, with the help of God's grace, to cohabit chastely, exclude themselves from the Sacraments during the time of their impenitence.

A few conferences and Bishops have issued statements understood as meaning that the thusly impenitent may, by virtue of Amoris laetitia, receive the Sacraments. Yet other conferences, such as that in England and Wales, have been manifestly unable to agree among themselves. It is clear that the Universal Episcopate is not united behind a 'German' interpretation of Amoris laetitia. Very far from it.

In the context of the Unity of the Una Catholica and of the collegial nature of the Universal Episcopate, cum et sub Petro, the time has surely come for this 'dialogue' to be moved to a new stage. Manifestly, if we are to persist with the embarrassing notion that we belong to one Church with one Teaching about the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, steps must be taken to move in the direction of coherence, harmony, and united witness. The idea that someone who is excluded from the Sacraments by his own impenitent rejection of the Gospel needs only to walk across the border between Poland and Germany, or from one American diocese to another, to be welcomed enthusiastically as a communicant in good standing, is obviously a profoundly unCatholic absurdity which needs speedily to be resolved. Indeed, if one of Bishop Lopes's Ordinariate parishes in America were geographically within a 'liberal', Cupichoid, diocese, the dissonance between the two in doctrine and discipline would be even more ludicrous.

The time has surely come for the Four Cardinals who intervened last year with their Dubia to revisit the question. And the time for Bishops, Successors of the Apostles according to the teaching of Leo XIII and of Vatican II and not mere vicars of the Roman Pontiff, to speak with courage, clarity and unanimity. And for clergy, laity, and academics to do the same. Remember that, at the height of the Arian Crisis, it was not among the Bishops or even in Rome that the Faith was most conspicuously preserved and defended. Remember the careful and lucid teaching of Blessed John Henry Newman, beloved Patron of our English Ordinariate, on the Suspense of the Magisterium.

Parrhesia, boldness in witnessing to the Truth, a virtue which was once (only a couple of years ago ... it seems like an eternity, doesn't it?) so very incessantly on the lips of the current occupant of the Roman See, is surely still an obligation for all faithful Catholics.

The more who speak boldly, the more difficult it will be for individuals to be put under unsympathetic pressure.

18 June 2017

A little elementary ... no; intermediate ... Latin

In his great hymn Pange lingua for Vespers at Corpus Christi, S Thomas writes:
Verbum caro panem verum
    verbo carnem efficit ...

We are going to translate it together. Are you sitting comfortably?

You will only be able to translate it by first asking and answering certain questions. Such as these.

Here we go.

What is the subject? That is, what is in the nominative? Verbum ... but caro as well. They are in what is often called 'apposition'. They stick together. Verbum means the Word in the sense of the Second Person of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity. Caro means flesh; so Verbum caro means the Word [who had become] flesh ... i.e. the Incarnate Word.

What is the verb? efficit, meaning makes.

What is the object? That is, what is in the accusative? panem, verum, and carnem. Let me persuade you to put carnem in the fridge for a moment and to deal first with panem verum. That means true bread.

So far, we have "The Word [made] flesh makes true bread ...."

Time to polish off carnem. Let's pause for a moment. Consider (1)"He beat the boy black and blue"; (2). "He beat the black and blue boy". In each of these English sentences, 'black and blue' is in grammatical agreement with (i.e. it tells us more about) the boy. But they are different. (2) means that the boy was black and blue before the beating. (1) means that the blackness and blueness was the result of the beating ... i.e. the end, purpose, result, of the verbal action.

Carnem is like (1). It is the result of the verbal action.

"The Word [made] flesh makes true bread [to be] flesh".

Oops ... we've left out verbo, which, incidentally, has a lower-case v. Its ending makes clear that it is either dative or ablative. I will tell you for free that it is ablative.

"The Word [made] flesh by a word makes true bread [to be] flesh".

You can't translate Latin, as you can a lot of modern languages, by attacking each word in the order in which it comes in the sentence. You have to work out grammatical things like what is the subject, what is the verb, what is the object etc. etc.. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time.

By 'wasting', I mean wasting.

Because the sense in Latin depends on the inflexions (i.e. the syllable at the end of a word which changes, as with verbum ... verbo; caro ... carnem), a poet is able to group the words in a beautiful or pointed way. The patterning of this couple of lines is, in my view, perfectly exquisite.

The great Anglican scholar John Mason Neale translated these lines, very simply, very finely,
Word made Flesh, by word he maketh
       Very bread his Flesh to be. 

Have you booked yet to attend the Latin Mass Society Latin course this summer in Pantasaph?


17 June 2017


A big Thank You to Pope John XXII for this great feast!

'Really?' you cry, 'surely everybody knows it was ordered to be observed by Urban IV in 1264, through the bull Transiturus'. Well, yes, up to a point, Lord Copper. But the strange thing is that this bull had no ... or very little ... actual effect. It even appears (a strange crowd, the medievals) that the observance was not even kept in the papal court itself!!!. It was not until John XXII sent to the entire Western hierarchy, in 1317, a collection of decretals called the Clementines that it began to be universally observed. And Transiturus had not mentioned such things as Exposition and Processions of the Sacrament. Although there may be a very few refences to such activities between 1264 and 1317, it was after that date that a great wave of enthusiasm for the cultus of the Blessed Sacrament swept the Church.

Corpus Christi as you know it and love it results from John XXII seizing the moment when the devotional mood of the faithful was exactly ready for it.

Through most of the first 1200 years of the Church's history, there was no 'devotion to the Blessed Sacrament' as we know it. The Sacrament was indeed known to be truly the Body if the Lord and was reserved so that it could be administered to the sick. But there was no sense that it also afforded a focus for adoration and for a direct relationship with our Lord verily present. That was a precious gift of which the faithful became aware in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. And it was the example of what John XXII did when he had the Host carried in glorious rite through the streets of the papal city, Avignon, that was emulated throughout the Catholic world and which provided the pattern for what you are doing this Corpus-Christi-tide.

Three cheers for the Avignon papacy and for the greatest of the Avignon popes, John XXII!

16 June 2017

Idolatry?? (2)

Sometimes one hears it suggested that pagan deities are simply the "God whom we all worship" in a different garb and cultural context. So that, however convinced we are that our inherited perception of God is divinely revealed to us, we might licitly respect other, albeit imperfect, manifestations of God. Perhaps all the "gods" are simply masks behind which lies "the same one God".

Such an attitude is not irrational. In fact, is was widely held in the early centuries of the Christian era. I am not an expert on Hinduism, but I think it is today the belief of educated Hindus. It deserves the respect we owe to all good people who hold to an erroneous religious faith.

The good people who held it 2,000 years ago were those who worshipped the goddess Isis; an ancient Egyptian deity hellenised and much promoted by the Ptolemaic (Macedonian Greek) rulers of Egypt in the centuries between Alexander the Great and the the absorption of Egypt into the Roman Empire. Cleopatra VII herself was, indeed, the father-loving goddess the new [i.e. Incarnate] Isis.

You can explore Isiacism in Book 11 of the Metamorphosis of Apuleius ... a work available in paperback translation. Or, if you have access to an academic library, in Plutarch; or in P. Oxy 1380 of the Oxyrrhynchus papyri (modern books about the cult are often unreliable and are not recommended).

Cult members believed that Isis was the proper name of the deity, and that the cult as propagated by the Ptolemies was her authentic cult. But they believed that she was in fact the same deity that was worshipped in every place under a variety of names and by different cults. So, if you woshipped her in one place as Hera, in another as Athene, in another as Diana, you were worshipping the same divinity. Behind all these different external formats, the deity was One. Accordingly, if you had been initiated into the Mysteries of Isis, there was no reason why you could not also be initiated into other cults, such as the associated cult of Osiris, or that of Mithras ... In Apuleius, indeed, the subject of the narrative seems to be rather keen on 'collecting' such initiations. Quite prbably, some of his Christian converts at Corinth whom S Paul warned against idolatry had been people of such a type ... which is why such vigilant pastoral care needed to be taken of them and their religious activities.

This is one form of a religious culture sometimes known as 'syncretism'.

In the time of S Paul, Isiacism was extremely popular (particularly among women, as Mithraism was among soldiers). Had you asked a contemporary of S Paul "What is the Future of Religion?", you would probably have been told 'Isis' or 'Mithras'. In a cosmopolitan and mobile world, these sophisticated and personal international 'mystery' cults from the Orient had an appeal which the old, rather distant classical tutelary gods of the polis did not have.

Christianity stood out against such syncretisms. Pagan gods, S Paul taught, were either non-existent; or were demons. In either case, they needed to be very firmly shunned. The advice available to us in Scripture affords no support for a policy of respecting Isiac or Mithraic or Hindu cult objects as a way of demonstrating polite respect for the persons of Partners in Interfaith Dialogue (otherwise known as Idolaters). And I can find nothing in the advice of Vatican II which in this matter contradicts Scripture. If I did, it might not be Scripture that I would downplay.

This is the historical background against which we have to understand the firm formulation in Acts: "There is no other name under heaven by which a man may be saved except that of Jesus".

One of the reasons why Christians have always spurned 'Freemasonry' is that its ritual, so it is reported, combine and mingle together the One True God with the names of heathen so-called divinities ... in other words, the very essence of syncretism.

Even very Eminent people need to be warned: "Shun Idolatry!"