Lenten tips for choristers

  • Erdinger Weissbier is an acceptable 0% alcohol beer.
  • On Ash Wednesday, always wipe off ash before removing one’s surplice.
  • Performance time of Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus is 12 to 13 minutes, and if sung during the ashing might be tailored to the size of the congregation, cut from end of v8 to the start of v17, i.e. only 4 top Cs in total if sop’s solo is shaky.
  • Remember during Friday practice, there’ll be a choir Mass at half-time rather than “graveyard ghosts”.
  • Wash your feet on Maundy Thursday, it might be you. Continue reading

Church music, Vatican II and the Council of Trent

Does a recent recording’s release mark a change in the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude to music?

On 7 October, il Bollettino reported that the Holy See Press Office held a press conference to present “Palestrina. Missa Papæ Marcelli – Motets”, the latest CD of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir.  Reading the presentation of  Archbishop George Gänswein, prefect of the Papal Household, we wondered whether the sentiments expressed can be regarded as more than a mere marketing  statement for the new Deustche Grammophon product? Do they represent a change in attitude to music in the Church post-Vatican II, reflecting views such as those of Damian Thompson who in the Catholic Herald asked Can a great composer revive a tone-deaf Church? Continue reading

Hymns (and other things) to avoid?

The recent news that the Diocese of Chichester had settled a historic sexual abuse claim involving George Bell, bishop from 1929 until his death in October 1958, raises interesting questions about such matters as commemorating in the C of E Calendar someone who appears to have been a child abuser.

In this guest post, Michael Ainsworth muses on some of them…


The Diocese of Chichester’s settlement to an unnamed child abuse victim, over 60 years ago, of Bishop George Bell raises the question not only of whether he should retain his place in the Anglican calendar on 3 October – which the Church of England Liturgical Commission has ‘parked’ for future consideration, meanwhile pointing out that this is an optional commemoration which no-one is obliged to keep – but more immediately, whether we should sing his hymn Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice, which many churches will have chosen for Christ the King Sunday as well as for other occasions. The hymn is fine, and much-loved – as was George Bell himself, until (and even now perhaps despite) these revelations: politically he was progressive and courageous, probably forfeiting promotion to Canterbury because of his principled pacifist stance. Peter Hitchens (who has his own agenda) notes in “Shameful slur on a Christian hero” [scroll down] that because no allegations were made until 37 years after Bell’s death no trial was possible or details made public; and while he has no doubt that the C of E has a lot of apologising to do, queries whether George Bell’s reputation is being too readily sacrificed to save the skin of the Church of England today. Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 27th September

Faculties (& total ignorance), copyright, sharia, toe-curling church music – and that news story: a mixed week

Bishops in the House of Lords

House of Lords Business Papers for Thursday 17 September 2015 indicated that along with a the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE and Shaista Sheehan, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, will be introduced to the Upper House on Monday 26 October at 2.30 pm. Bishop Rachel’s details are here. The new Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, will take the place vacated by the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield, who retires next week after forty years of ministry.

Bishop Christine’s Confirmation of Election Service took place after Evensong at York Minster on 22 September; the Consecration Service will be held on 30 November at York Minster; and the Inauguration Service in the Diocese of Newcastle will be held at St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle on Saturday 12 December.

Further examples of clergy disregard for faculty jurisdiction

The cases reviewed in our September round-up of consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations all contained examples of clergy disregard for the faculty jurisdiction, to a greater or lesser degree, and all involved works under the provisions of an archdeacon’s licence. In Re St Peter & St Paul Bassingbourn [2015] Ely Const Ct, David Etherington Ch temporary changes under an archdeacon’s licence resulted in “Heath Robinson” arrangements for screen and projector, the latter “[sitting] on a dinner tray set on top of a temporary board placed on top of the pews”, and poor electrical installation for which “a hole cut in the Rood Screen with exposed cabling [was] but one example”.

A strong message was sent by Chancellor Mark Hill QC to the diocese in the judgment Re St Thomas Sutton-in-Craven [2015] West Yorkshire & The Dales Const Ct Mark Hill Ch, which concluded:

“This judgment is disproportionately lengthy for what is a relatively straightforward petition. It has thrown up several procedural matters, the exploration of which may not have been dispositive, but they have been addressed and explained as way marks in the legal landscape in which the consistory court of the newly-formed diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales must operate, in common with every other diocese in the Church of England.”

Complete disregard for the faculty jurisdiction resulted in a censure for the priest and PCC in Re St Bartholomew Kirby Muxloe [2015] Leicester Const Ct David Rees Dep Ch but as in the other cases, one wonders whether these situations would have arisen had there been the “rigorous enforcement … expected from archdeacons.”


Coincident with David handing over his PCC copyright responsibilities this week was the news from the US District Court in California in relation to the song frequently sung, impromptu, at the end of Mass and on all sorts of other ecclesiastical occasion, “Happy Birthday”: see Rupa Marya et al v Warner Chappell Music Inc, et al US Dist CV04460 (CD Cal) 2015. As Jack of Kent points out, Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 12th October

A very mixed bag: the US Supreme Court on same-sex marriage and prisoners’ beards (but not at the same time), abortion in NI, statistics on sexuality in the UK, the future of the C of E parish system, performing right…

Same-sex marriage and the US Supreme Court

We normally keep well away from US law because there are lots of US law & religion experts out there (which we are emphatically not) and even more US law & religion cases; but we can’t ignore Monday’s decision of the US Supreme Court.

In June 2013, in United States v Windsor 570 US (2013) (Docket No. 12-307) a divided Supreme Court struck down s 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act 1996, which defined “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman. Lower federal courts then started to rely on the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor to strike down five states’ bans on same-sex marriage – in Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin – and on Monday, again by five to four, the Court turned down seven petitions for certiorari seeking review of those decisions of the lower courts. Continue reading

Religion and law round up – 9th March

A fairly busy week: the Mormon temple in Preston, Welsh devolution, women in the C of E episcopate, selling “church treasures” – and more

Caste in Britain

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published two new research reports – Caste in Britain: Socio-legal Review and Caste in Britain: Experts’ Seminar and Stakeholders’ Workshop – as part of a project undertaken at the request of Government following the requirement in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 for the inclusion of a statutory prohibition on caste discrimination within the Equality Act 2010 .

Key findings include the following:

  • Caste is a form of identity that is used as a basis for social differentiation distinct from class, race or religion.
  • Discrimination against an individual because of caste, including perception of caste, in education, employment, housing, business or public services cannot be tolerated and should be included in the protections against discrimination and harassment provided in the Equality Act 2010.
  •  However, the State should not intervene in cultural or social usages which are a matter of private practice. Therefore, in regulating in this area particular regard should be given to individuals’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • The definition of caste should be neither too precise nor too broad.  A minimum definition of caste in terms of endogamy (marriage restricted within a specific group) inherited status and social stratification would be useful.
  • Businesses and public authorities will need clear and practical information about how the prohibition of caste discrimination will affect them. The Commission’s initial view is that the impact will be small, given that the straightforward message remains that employers and service providers must not make decisions on the basis of irrelevant considerations such as caste.

Mormon temples and “public religious worship”

On Monday the ECtHR handed down its judgment in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v United Kingdom [2014] ECHR 227, in which the Church had challenged the decision that its temple in Preston did not qualify for exemption from non-domestic rates as a “place of public religious worship”  because access to the temple was restricted only to those members of the Church in sufficiently good standing to have a “temple recommend” from their bishop.

In short, the LDS lost: the ECtHR held that the matter was within the UK Government’s margin of appreciation and that there had been no violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 9, nor was it necessary to examine the  complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. You can read our analysis here.

Silk Commission on Devolution in Wales

The Commission on Devolution in Wales chaired by Paul Silk delivered its second and final Report on Monday. The issue of legislating for the Church in Wales was not mentioned [1] – though it might get swept up in a general transfer of powers should the Government accept the Commission’s principal recommendation. The Commission wishes to see a move from the present conferred powers model of devolution, under which the National Assembly has specific powers expressly granted to it by the UK Parliament, to a reserved powers model under which anything not specifically reserved to Westminster is devolved. All that is a long way in the future; but if it were to happen one cannot imagine Westminster wanting to reserve the power to legislate for the C in W.

Perhaps the oddest recommendation was that “There should be at least one judge on the United Kingdom Supreme Court with particular knowledge and understanding of the distinct requirements of Wales”. National pride apart, why exactly? By the time a case gets to the SC the facts have been crawled over endlessly and what is usually at stake is a very precise and complex set of arguments as to the law. Proprieties and sensitivities apart, is there any reason in principal why an English case could not perfectly properly be decided by Lord Kerr, Lord Reed and Lord Hodge or a Scots one by Lady Hale, Lord Sumption and Lord Toulson (apart from the obvious one that the SC does not normally sit in panels of three)? Pure idle speculation, obviously: but one cannot help wondering whether, at the SC’s level of operation, it would make any great difference to the outcome.

29 March 2014 and the CofE

This year, 29 March could be an important day for the Church of England. Following General Synod’s vote on 11 February in favour of women in the episcopate, the legislative process moves to the Diocesan Synods which will vote on the motion

“That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.”

For the motion to be carried within a Diocese, the Houses of Clergy and Laity must each vote, by a simple majority, in favour. Within the Church as a whole, a simple majority of Dioceses is required to carry the motion.  The voting of each Diocese and the date on which these votes are taken is being followed by Peter Owen on Thinking Anglicans, and from these it appears that 29 March is the earliest on which a simple majority within the Dioceses could be achieved.  A deadline of 22 May has been set for these votes to take place and all nine Dioceses that have voted to date have approved the motion.  The Diocese of Europe has indicated that it is unable to meet this timetable.

29 March is also the earliest date upon which the same sex marriage of CofE clergy might take place, contrary to the position outlined in the House of Bishops’ Statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage.  Secular legislation requires notice of any marriage on this day to be displayed on the public notice board of the appropriate register office on 13 March. However, on today’s Sunday programme on Radio 4, one priest who has announced his intention to marry indicated that this was planned for three months’ time, prior to which he would be having a meeting with his bishop.

Church and cathedral music

Our post on Friday commented on the problems facing many English cathedral choirs, whose costs represent a significant proportion of the overall operating costs of the cathedral. Nevertheless, there was a more upbeat message in the Prospero blog of the Economist,  Cathedral choirs – Sing and they will come, which commented on the growing popularity of Choral EvensongThe blog cites From Anecdote to Evidence, Findings from the Church Growth Research Programme 2011-2013, a recent report from the theological college Cranmer Hall, which found that attendance at services in British cathedrals rose by 35% between 2000 and 2012, resulting chiefly from an increase in worshippers at weekday services, i.e. Choral Evensong, a service which follows the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, although the musical settings are often more modern.

However, the popularity of the service does not have a direct impact on cathedral finances; and the Dean of Durham Cathedral, Michael Sadgrove, puts this into perspective in his comment “[t]o put it bluntly, Evensong across the country offers a free daily recital. It’s a wonderful cultural offering.”

It’s the ECtHR, stupid

Ms Jacqueline Minor, of the EC’s Representation to the UK, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that The Sun had inaccurately conflated the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights in a headline to an article on a decision by the ECtHR about whole-life sentences. She was particularly concerned that the inaccurate headline had been published only two weeks after the PCC had established another breach of the Code in a complaint by the European Commission on the same issue.

The PCC resolved the matter by facilitating a meeting between representatives of the EC and representatives of The Sun to discuss the error and broader concerns about the paper’s reporting of European human rights law and the EU. It was agreed that The Sun would devise and circulate a memo and graphic to staff, the terms of which were agreed with the complainant, explaining the differences between the two and emphasising that the inaccuracy should not be repeated.

Should’ve gone to Specsavers. Or maybe read our idiot’s guide part III.

And finally…

The Times reported (£) that

“[t]he right [sic] of hundreds of churches to sell their historic treasures to repair leaky roofs hangs on a landmark appeal over a 16th-century helmet. The Flemish helmet dating from 1500 had been in a village church in Hampshire but was sold at auction for £45,000 to a private buyer, to finance running costs and repairs.”

The proposed sale by the PCC of Wootton St Lawrence was deferred after the Church of England’s Church Buildings Council challenged it and it is currently the subject of an appeal to the Court of Arches. The complicating factor is that the helmet is no longer in the church: some 40 years ago it was removed from the tomb with which it was associated and taken to the Royal Armouries for safe-keeping.

But with great (well, a certain amount of) respect to The Times, Church of England congregations  do not have a “right … to sell their historic treasures”. They have a right to petition for a faculty to allow them to do so – which is a very different matter from a “right to sell”. Every faculty application is considered case by case: some are granted, some are rejected. That’s why there’s a system at all: on the one hand to prevent PCCs from treating as their own property the buildings and contents of which they are merely the temporary trustees and, on the other, to make sure that any central policy on disposals is operated in a way that is sensitive to local needs and conditions.


[1] The Church in Wales’s submission to the Silk Commission is available here.

Religion and law round up – 6th October

A week of events and announcements but few legal developments

IPPC Climate Change Report

Readers of this blog and David’s column in Environmental Law and Management will be aware of  a continuing theme expressing concern at the inaction on global warming.  On Monday this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC), released its new report “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis”, the work of “209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries, and more than 600 Contributing Authors from 32 countries”.  The 36-page Summary for Policy Makers has been condensed to a 2-page Headline from Summary for Policy Makers.  The main message from the report is summarized in the unambiguous statement in the Press Release:

“Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe … It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.”

The chairman of the Mission and Public Affairs Council, Philip Fletcher, is quoted as saying that the report made it “clearer than ever that climate change is happening; that we, the human race, are largely or completely responsible for that; and that we really ought to proceed on that basis rather than just hoping that it will all turn out to be wrong.”  Commenting on the performance of the Church of England, he continued:

“[t[here are things we do well, and things we do badly, but we have been seeking to work at shrinking our own footprint for some time. We know that we should be doing more … We are taking it seriously, and we know we are part of the problem.”

Religious circumcision – yet again

On Tuesday the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 1952 (2013) which expressed the Assembly’s concern about

“… a category of violation of the physical integrity of children, which supporters of the procedures tend to present as beneficial to the children themselves despite clear evidence to the contrary. This includes, amongst others, female genital mutilation, the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons…”.

Paragraph 7.5.2. of the Resolution calls upon member states, inter alia, to

“… clearly define the medical, sanitary and other conditions to be ensured for practices which are today widely carried out in certain religious communities, such as the non-medically justified circumcision of young boys…”.

We have been here before: readers may remember the court decision in Germany that caused so much embarrassment to Angela Merkel’s Government; and only last week the Swedish Children’s Ombudsman [Barnombudsman], Fredrik Malmberg, co-signed a piece in Dagens Nyheter which stated that “Circumcising a child without medical justification nor his consent contravenes this child’s human rights”.

Needless to say, the wording of the Resolution has caused considerable consternation in the Jewish community; and JTA (from which Frank picked up the lead) reported that

“Large majorities rejected five amendments that sought to remove or alter references to the circumcision of boys. An amendment that removed a reference to the ‘religious rights of parents and families’ was supported by a large majority of members”.

Our suspicion is that the Council of Ministers will simply duck the issue on the grounds that it is too hot a potato.

Anglican Liturgy for the Ordinariate

A new text of the Mass has been devised for use by Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world “as a way of putting into practice Pope Benedict XVI’s vision of allowing former Anglicans who wish to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church to do so whilst retaining aspects of their spiritual and liturgical traditions”.  The Ordinariate explains:

“[t]he Roman Rite in both its ordinary and extraordinary forms remains available for use by Ordinariate priests and there will be no requirement for them to adopt the Ordinariate Use. However, all Ordinariate clergy will be expected to familiarise themselves with it. Some priests are expected to use it regularly, while others – especially in parishes with a large concentration of “cradle” Catholics in the congregation – may only wish to use it from time to time.”

The new liturgy, the work of a special commission established by Rome and approved by the Holy See, includes text from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1662) as well as the Roman Rite. It will be first celebrated on Wednesday 10 October as a Votive Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman, and followed by a media launch at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, Soho.

The Mass will be celebrated by the Ordinary Ordinariate, Monsignor Keith Newton, and the preacher will be Monsignor Andrew Burnham, who was a member of the commission which devised the liturgy, known as the Ordinariate Use.  The music used will be drawn from the English tradition with Howells’ Collegium Regale as the ordinary, and other music by Elgar and Bairstow.

This is significant, given the general discontent with the standard of post-Vatican II music that is periodically aired in the Roman Catholic press and blogs.  A recent feature in the Catholic Herald stating:

“Music in the Catholic Church in Britain is in a serious and difficult situation. The origins of many of the problems stem from the varied interpretations of the decision of the Second Vatican Council (now fifty years ago), to permit the use of the vernacular in the liturgy”.

We will explore this theme further in a subsequent post.

John Paul II and John XXIII to be proclaimed saints next year

This week Pope Francis announced that Karol Wojtyła and Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli – the former popes Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII – would be proclaimed saints on the same day – Divine Mercy Sunday, 27 April 2014, a worldwide celebration that was instituted by Pope John Paul.  Pope Francis held the Ordinary Public Consistory for the canonization during the course of an Ordinary Public Consistory on 30 September.  As is traditional, the announcement was made in Latin.

Of blogging

There was a thought-provoking piece from Dame Catherine Wybourne entitled “What we don’t blog about, and what it says about us” with which to start the month.  An indication of our current thinking regarding this blog may be deduced from our recent “100,000 page view” post, but comparing this with earlier “landmark” posts – at 50,000 page views/250 posts, here,  and at a mere 3 months/100 posts, here – suggests that this is changing as the blog develops.  In common with ibenedictines, we rarely comment on what is going on in other Churches, although we certainly discuss current legal issues as objectively as possible, or at least try to make it clear to readers when we are being opinionated.  We also stray beyond what we euphemistically refer to as our “comfort zone”, i.e. our current knowledge/experience, in the knowledge/hope that there will be someone “out there” to put the record straight.

We estimate that at present rates of publication and readership, the “next milestone” at which we might again review the blog will be in ~12 months’ time, when we expect to have published over 750 posts in total, and achieved 200,000 page views.

And finally . . . . . . . . .

The Church Times reports that to mark his 50th birthday, Stuart Whatton, whom it describes as “a church musician”, made a bid for entry into Guinness World Records after “taking just 22 days to complete a pilgrimage around all 61 Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals in England, “attending a service in each of the 42 Anglican and lighting a candle in all 19 Roman Catholic ones.  Ironically, it will take significantly longer to have his attempt verified, or not: using the free record application service takes up to 6 weeks to process applications for existing records and up to 12 weeks to assess proposals for new record categories, although the Fast Track service guarantees a response to an application in three working days, but costs £450/$700.

Very much like the setting of “SMART targets” in the business world, a Guinness World Record must satisfy the criteria of being: measurable; based on a single variable; verifiable; and breakable.  Perhaps as a musician Mr Whatton gained some insights into the choral traditions at each venue.  When David’s choir sang in all of the Oxford college chapels in a single day, as well as being fund-raising event, it provided a good comparison of their acoustics. Any guesses for which came out best?