Hearts of Oak

I am sure I not alone in my simmering impotent rage at the abduction of 15 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel by Iranian forces. Of course Iran has form on this issue. My rage has been exacerbated by the parading of our sailors and marines on Iranian TV (especially by the interview of a female sailor, Leading Seaman Faye Turney in a headscarf).

What is to be done? Clearly backing down is not an option. What has become clear is that militant Islam in whatever guise responds to appeasement only by making more demands. The modern exemplar of Islamic terror (albeit Sunni rather than Shia), Osama Bin Laden, puts it succinctly:

 “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

My heart went out to the tars and their families when I saw them on the news last night. Both grandfathers and two uncles served in the senior service and I am the first generation (like many families) that have not had a member in the forces. Some opinion has been harsh about the name, rank and serial number issue – I am not sure what I would do in the same situation: I hope I would keep my mouth shut. Parading these servicemen in public is disgusting but no more than one would expect. The Iranians would do well to recall it was the British SAS that relieved the terrorist seige of their embassy. Ingrates.

What can we do personally? I would suggest two things. The first is to ensure that British opinion (and indeed opinion beyond these shores) is firmly against Iran and that Iran knows this. I have today sent the following letter to the Iranian Ambassador in London:

HE Rasoul Movahedian

Embassy of the Islamic
Republic of
16 Prince´s Gate
London SW7 1PT

29th March 2007

Your Excellency

Re: The illegal abduction of 15 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel 

I write to express my utter disgust at the illegal, immoral and unjustifiable actions of Iranian forces in abducting British service personnel in the
Shatt Al Arab waters. Further I write to express my contempt for the actions of the Iranian military which in contravention of the Geneva Conventions and indeed all civilised standards of behaviour deserve condemnation, namely:

  1. Threatening to try soldiers in uniform for espionage
  2. Interrogation of captured soldiers
  3. Public display of captured soldiers

Furthermore, there are points relating to the treatment of the only woman illegally held captive:

  • Leading Seaman Faye Turney has been forced to wear a humiliating Islamic veil in contravention of the rights of captured service personnel to wear regulation issue uniform: your insistence on the wearing of the veil is an offence against Western sensitivity– clearly not something your government is capable of understanding.

  • The letter she has been instructed to write has clearly been coerced from her. You can have very little idea in doing this how offensive this action is to British sentiment.

I would urge you to transmit to your government the strength of feeling against
Iran on this matter. We are not in the habit in this country of the kind of manufactured rage common in Islamic cultures. Please be aware however that there is a simmering anger in British patriotic feeling at the moment and as history show, you would do well to take heed and back down.

Yours faithfully

Dr Paulinus

You can email the Iranian Ambassador at this address:


The other weapon in our armoury is spiritual. The rosary was instrumental in the defeat of Islam at Lepanto and Vienna. Blessed Marco D’Aviano urged the Christian  forces at Vienna to fast and pray. Offer up your Friday penance tomorrow for our servicemen: fast and pray the rosary for their return and the defeat of militant Islam.


The first day of spring

wisden.jpg Spring can truly be said to arrive when the Book arrives.  Spring arrived this morning.  Archivist Minor is, it must be said, hogging it somewhat, but I go to bed later than him. 

 It’s not on sale until Wednesday, so too much comment is deprecated.  But Mike Atherton’s article on Shane Warne is exactly what one would look for, as is Gillian Reynolds’ on Test Match Special.  The Outgrounds section does not cover Portugal – again! – while redeeming itself by covering cricket in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries where cricket is needed.  The Netherlands gets a page to itself!

 There are a few pages about events in the southern hemisphere as one might expect – I have not yet checked to see whether Cardinal Pell’s comments and our Captain’s rejoinder have been included.  There is an article about the “Barmy Army” which is “well balanced”.

The first skim suggests that this Book can fittingly join its predessors on Recusant Minor’s shelves: but only after Senior has had a decent read.

Bob Woolmer


The death of Bob Woolmer, coach of the Pakistan Cricket team, brings into sharp focus the stresses and strains that coaches can find themselves under. I have heard is said that he was in poor health before the World Cup started, suffering from diabetes and needing oxygen, so the shock defeat to Ireland on Saturday may not be directly responsible for his apparent heart attack, however, it need hardly be said that it could hardly have helped matters.

Who would be a coach (or manager)? Once upon a time, political leaders resigned for the shortcomings of their departments, now only coaches do. If they are given the chance, that is, for it is more often the case that they are simply sacked. If a Government minister is sacked, he still has his job as M. P. to fall back on. A coach has nothing. I do not know what the average wage for a coach or manager is, I expect it is quite good; I certainly hope so, because once they are shown the door there can be no certainty of where the next job will come from.

That coaches can be sacked for other people’s failings seems terribly unfair. Perhaps they were no good at their job; on the other hand, what if the fault lies with the players? Unfortunately for the coach, however, sacking the players would be unimaginable. Whether it is fair or not, the buck stops with them.

All that can be done is that even when they are down the players continue to fight for their coach’s honour. By-the-by, this is what makes the escapades of England’s players over the weekend so disappointing. Messing around after a defeat and less than two days before the next match indicates not only a stupid short sightedness but great lack of respect for their leaders.

As for Woolmer, I am heartened to read of the tributes that have been paid to him. Pakistan’s unexpected exit from the World Cup meant that he would probably have been sacked before too long by the Pakistani cricket board. Be that as it may, I hope that his death means that they remember him well in the future. I am sure that it will.

Bob Woolmer – Requiescat in pace.

The Holy Kiss

Yesterday, the Pope announced that an ‘investigation’ is underway into ‘the possibility of moving the sign of peace to another place, such as before the presentation of the gifts at the altar.’

This ‘investigation’ had been asked for by the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Ratzinger had made the same suggestion a dozen or so years earlier in his book Spirit of the Liturgy, basing his suggestion, as he does in Sacramentum Caritatis, on the Lord’s command : ‘leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.’ (Matt 5:24)

In the eastern rites,  the Kiss of Peace is generally exchanged slightly later than the Pope has suggested, after the bread and wine have been brought to the altar but before the canon has begun.

In the early Church, the ‘Holy Kiss’ existed not just as part of the liturgy but as something which permeated the Christian life. For example, the contemporary account of the martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicity recalls that they and their companions, at the last moment possible, embraced each other with a kiss ‘that they might accomplish their martyrdom with the rites of peace.’

Thus it was important to them not so much as an expression of reconciliation between each other, but more as an expression of the peace of Jesus Christ, ‘a peace the World cannot give’ (Jn 14:27).  But what does it mean to have a peace the world cannot give? For the Early Church, the Peace of Jesus Christ is expressed in the loving unity of the christian community. Thus St Augustine says:  ‘Peace He leaves with us, that here also we may love one another: His own peace He gives us, where we shall be beyond the possibility of dissension.’

This is not an early example of what is referred to as ‘horizontalism’ or ‘man-centred liturgy’ – for they carried ‘this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us’ (2 cor 4:7) It is this ‘transcendent power’, above anything else, which bewildered and infuriated their persecutors. Hence Tertullian says: ‘But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. “See”, they say, “how they love one another”, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred; “see how they are ready even to die for one another”, for they themselves will sooner put to death.’

The first specifically liturgical reference to the Kiss of Peace is from the Apology of St Justin Martyr halfway through the second century. After the liturgy of the word ‘we salute one another with a kiss, whereupon there is brought to the president bread and a cup of wine’. Significantly, Josef Jungmann explains that the kiss does not precede the Liturgy of the Eucharist so much as it concludes the Liturgy of the Word. The two were, perhaps, seperate celebrations originally, and it may have been the joining together of the two liturgies which led to the practice of delaying the Kiss of Peace until after the anaphora.

This makes  sense: whereas originally the community would ratify the intercessions which closed the Liturgy of the Word (our modern day Prayers of the Faithful) by exchanging the Kiss, sign of the fraternal communion which binds them together as the body of Christ,  now their kiss expressed not only their unity in these intercessions but also their unity in the greatest prayer of the Christian Church, the prayer, in fact, through which this unity was built.

Cricket and Portugal

sar0001.jpgAs an impoverished student in Oporto in 1976, I had two priceless letters of introduction: one to the Sandeman company, and one to the British Consul.  The former led to a series of visits to each of the major port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia; the latter led to an afternoon at the Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.  We spent no time watching tennis.

 The last reference to cricket in Portugal in Wisden dates back to the 2003 edition.  Cricket was in a parlous state in Lisbon, with one ground, which had hosted eight clubs, now seeing only four playing regularly.  “My” club, in Oporto, was far too expensive for most cricketers to join, stifling the game in the north of the country and contributing to its national decline.

 It would be nice to think that HRH Dom Duarte Pio João Miguel Gabriel Rafael, Duke of Bragança, Grand Master of the Order of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa and Grand Master of the Royal Order of St Michael, the rightful King of Portugal, might show some interest in this deplorable state of affairs.  Cricket, like monarchy, is a unifying force.  Come on, Sir!

Shocking news: Long-awaited Exhortation actually out next week!

After a year and a half of waiting, the Vatican announced yesterday that the much-anticipated Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist will be released next Tuesday (13 March) – at last!!

The document, entitled Sacramentum Caritatis, is intended to summarise and conclude the deliberations of the 256 bishops from 118 countries who met in October 2005 to discuss the theme ‘The Eucharist: Living Bread for Peace in the World the Eucharist’. It will be introduced to the press at a briefing hosted by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, who was the relator general for the Synod assembly, and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops.

In a break from the usual practice, the Synod fathers made public an ‘unofficial’ list of the 50 propositions approved at the conclusion of their deliberations. These included encouragements to foster Eucharistic adoration, regular confession and a cycle of thematic homilies, as well as other more concrete steps such as moving the Sign of the Peace from after to before the Eucharistic Prayer.

However, it is reported that Pope Benedict XVI may go beyond these proposals and call for greater use of Latin in the liturgy of the Western Church, especially in the Eucharistic Prayer, and even an encouragement to celebrate the Mass Ad Orientem, or facing the same way as the people. This, of course, was the near-universal practice of the Church for 1,900 years until the time of the Second Vatican Council – even though the Council itself did not call for the change in any of its documents. If only we could also expect a reversal of other corruptions of the true intentions of the Council, such as the ripping up of altar rails, widespread rejection of the use of incense and the excesses of ecumenism.

The Vatican’s announcement made no mention of the other eagerly-awaited liturgical document allegedly on the Pope’s desk – that is the Motu Proprio on liberalising permission to celebrate the Tridentine Mass in public. As soon as Our Man inside the Apostolic Palace’s broom cupboard hears anything more about that, we’ll be sure to let you know.

The Prime Minister and Authority

From  the time he came to office there has been a constant buzz of gossip around whether or not the Prime Minster will become a Catholic. That gossip has become rather muted in recent months – not helped of course by his government’s rather vindictive treatment of the Catholic Church over the gay adoption issue. Could one trust Mr B to become a Catholic in good faith?  The Prime Minister understands authority: he has at times been pretty ruthless in its exercise and he could say along with the centurion:

“For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers: and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes; and to another, “Come”, and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this”, and he does it.”

Luke 7:8

Since he appears to have a rather cavalier attitude to discipline and authority within the Church then both he and the Church would do well to think very carefully were Anthony Charles Linton Blair to consider crossing the Tiber.

When the late Cardinal Hume asked him to stop taking communion at his wife’s parish in Islington, Mr Blair promised to stop receiving Communion at  St Joan of Arc Catholic Church if his presence there caused a problem for the Catholic authorities. But he made clear that he did not agree with the decision in a pointed letter to Cardinal Hume which said: “I wonder what Jesus would have made of it?”. This is quite stunning insolence: backchat to a Prince of the Church about matters directly of pastoral concern to him in his own diocese. I’ve had a good look through the Gospels and rather surprisingly Our Blessed Lord is not reported to have made any specific comment on his, Tony Blair’s, reception of Holy Communion, but there is one relevant thing he did say: 

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 16:18-19

What that means, Prime Minister, is that if the Church makes a rule relating to matters of faith and morals, it has the authority of Jesus Christ and the assurance of the Holy Spirit that it is right in doing so. It is the Body of Jesus Christ saying it, and until you grasp that, you will not be a Catholic.