Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Visitation

The Visitation - Fra Angelico


In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears,the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;for he who is mighty has done great things for me,and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear himfrom generation to generation.He has shown strength with his arm,he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,he has put down the mighty from their thrones,and exalted those of low degree;he has filled the hungry with good things,and the rich he has sent empty away.He has helped his servant Israel,in remembrance of his mercy,as he spoke to our fathers,to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home. 


Ave Maria  - an early work by Edward Elgar (Op 2)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

At last someone has the courage to state the obvious

This is Education Secretary, Michael Gove today at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards

"There is a danger at the moment that what we may see are judges, celebrities, and the establishment, all of whom have an interest in taking over from the Press as arbiters of what a free Press should be, imposing either soft or hard regulation.
‘What we should be encouraging is the maximum amount of freedom of expression and the maximum amount of freedom of speech...’
... ‘Journalists should be more assertive in making the case for Press freedom, and politicians should recognise that we have nothing to gain and everything to lose from fettering a Press which has helped keep us honest in the past and ensured that the standard of debate in this country is higher than in other jurisdictions.
‘The big picture is that there is a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson...
'I think that there are laws already in place that we should respect and principles already in place that we should uphold that are central to ensuring that this country remains free...’
[He added that in his view previous inquiries into national scandals had produced reports which ‘give birth to quangos, commissions, and law-making creatures that actually generate over-regulation, over-prescription, and sometimes a cure that is worse than the original disease..."

Now wouldn't it be wonderful if, say, a bishop were to stand up in the teeth of hysterical opposition at some kind of synodical gathering and say something similar, and as informed, articulate and persuasive, about the need to defend theological diversity and freedom  - and the means to ensure them - in the Church of England (or - stretching credulity even further - the Church in Wales). 
It could be a long wait






Satan & cigarettes: one of my favourite quotations

Apropos of nothing, I was going to say - but, actually, I mean everything...


This is one of my favourite quotations from the American T.V. series from a few years ago, 'The West Wing' (essential - iintelligent, witty, superbly written - f you can navigate past the political bias and wishful thinking...) : 

Al:         Toby, you're smiling.
Toby:    I just figured out who you were.
Al:        He's going to say Satan.
Toby:   No. You're the guy who runs into the 7/11 to get Satan a pack of cigarettes
It pretty well sums up a lot of things at the moment

.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Congratulations

to our friends ordained as deacons to the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham today. It lessens our own despair to see the survival of our patrimony in what is now, amid the wreckage of our ecumenical hopes, arguably, its true and lasting home.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice"

'..the net is broken and we are delivered..'. 


Come Holy Ghost




Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.


Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our blinded sight.


Anoint and cheer our soiled face
with the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far from foes, give peace at home:
where thou art guide, no ill can come.


Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of both, to be but One,
that through the ages all along,
this may be our endless song:


Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Bishop John Cosin (1594 – 1672)

Friday, 25 May 2012

Egypt - a sense of foreboding

So this is the outcome of the so-called 'Arab Spring' - a run-off in Egypt's presidential election between an Islamist and a member of the former authoritarian  regime. Meanwhile, for Egypt's Christians the future looks increasingly uncertain [see here and here].
One wonders whether the West and its liberal media's quasi-mystical belief in the universal exportability of democracy is entirely justified. Elections and majority rule are one thing: it is far more difficult to establish a equally 'democratic' respect for the legal and social rights of minorities.
Report here  from The Telegraph 

St Bede


St Bede, among other things, the great historian of the formation of the English nation under the Christian faith, died on the evening of May 25th 735 after first vespers of the Ascension.
It should not be forgotten that Bede's Ecclesiastical History makes it very clear that the very existence of the English nation was brought about by the Catholic Christian faith. 


The following passage is part of his account of the letter giving advice to St Augustine of Canterbury by Pope St Gregory, who had sent his mission to England: 


"...Augustine's Second Question. ­ Whereas the faith is one and the same, why are there different customs in different churches? and why is one custom of masses observed in the holy Roman church, and another in the Gailican church?
Pope Gregory answers. ­ You know, my brother, the custom of the Roman church in which you remember you were bred up. But it pleases me, that if you have found anything, either in the Roman, or the Gallican, or any other church, which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the church of the English, which as yet is new in the faith, whatsoever you can gather from the several churches. For things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Choose, therefore, from every church those things that are pious, religious, and upright, and when you have, as it were, made them up into one body, let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto..."


St Bede: Ecclesiastical history of the English Nation I. 27. II




The Tomb of St Bede in Durham Cathedral

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A hilariously unedifying incident, and what this means for the future....

The Telegraph has this piece [here] about more less-than-balanced comment on what is rapidly becoming the women bishops' fiasco in the Church of England: 
 In an article on her blog titled “The Battered Bride of Christ”, The Rev Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, questioned why women should stay in an “abusive institution”.Her comments follow moves by bishops to alter proposals to allow the ordination of women bishops.The Church's House of Bishops met behind closed doors in York to finalise long – awaited legislation designed to clear the way for a vote at the General Synod in July enabling the ordination of women as bishops.But the bishops added an amendment that would allow traditionalist parishes that refused to accept the authority of a woman not only to opt out but also to have an alternative bishop chosen to be "consistent with the theological convictions".Following the move, Dr Threlfall-Holmes, acting principal of Ustinov College* at Durham University, wrote: "The question for women priests today is: do we stay with this abusive institution?“Do we stay, hoping it will get better? Do we stay, because we feel called by God to be in this marriage? Do we stay, thinking we can continue to try to change it from the inside? Or do we flee to the nearest refuge (let's ignore the fact for now that they rarely exist) — leaving home, family, community, and our dreams behind?"She later removed the post, which also compared the bishops to a man who gouged his wife's eyes out and then kept her in the house for 12 hours to stop her getting medical attention."


Well...... we all have a tendency to use intemperate language at times of stress and anxiety, so we shouldn't be too hypocritical in responding to her comments. But before we simply say yes, this was unhelpful but understandable, and try to move on as best we can, we should reflect on what this kind of outburst says about the future ecclesial structures under which we are meant to live, if we remain (in Newman's phrase - all too true for us) in "the city of confusion and the house of bondage."
 If this is the language which can be used about the Church  of England's House of Bishops, a body almost to a man committed to the episcopal ordination of women, what does it say about any chances for the survival of traditionalists, either catholic or evangelical after the first 'consecrations' take place? 
The Code of Practice, so say those intent on promoting it, is based on the idea of mutual respect and trust. That was never really going to be a runner, but this latest peek behind the scenes has, as they say, rather blown it. 


*Hilariously, the motto of 'Ustinov College' (formerly the Graduate Society of Durham University) appears to be "Diversitate Valemus?" [you really couldn't make this up - clear proof, if we needed it, that the Lord has a sense of humour]  
Perhaps in view of the motto under which she plies her trade, Dr Threlfall Holmes should consider her position, even as she does her best on behalf of the sisterhood to eradicate any remaining shreds of theological diversity from the Church of England. 

Postscript about synods

There has always been substantial, even essential, disagreement within Anglicanism among the three broad theological traditions which emerged in the Church of England as a result of the reformation settlement. It is extremely difficult to see how synodical government could ever have had much of a constructive role where there is such acknowledged doctrinal 'diversity.' 
However, a synodical constitution (where crucially the episcopate had far more of a determining and leading role than in the present Church of England structure) worked relatively well in the Church in Wales from the days of disestablishment in 1921 to the mid 1970s and beyond. 
Yet in the contemporary church  the corrosive role of secularism, the prevalence of rather simplistic views about the importance of 'democracy,' and the failure of catechesis to counter the powerful social influence of the mass media has certainly meant we have now a far less theologically, historically  and scripturally aware laity than ever before. 
And if we add to that the growing influence of theological radicalism among the clergy since the 1970s, and a highly efficient system of networking among those liberals and establishment figures who have subtly but effectively determined episcopal elections in Wales since the 1990s, we arrive at the present situation where there are now no effective brakes on the runaway expression of heterodox opinion which is our local version of synodical governance. 
The doctrinal and ecclesial checks and balances put in place by the main architect of the Constitution of the Church in Wales, Archbishop  C.A.H. Green, have entirely broken down as a result of conditions he and others could not have envisaged. Ironically, the very authority of the episcopate exercised in the constitution through powers of direction and patronage has worked, not in favour of the preservation of orthodoxy (nor even for the maintenance of a diversity of theological opinion) but for its exact opposite.
There is no authority save that of the majority vote.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

More on the modern concept of synodical government

A comment on the Marylebone Ordinariate blog sums up what many of us have thought for a long time about the developed practice within modern Anglicanism of 'synodical government '


"I found myself agreeing with the comment from the Let Nothing You Dismay blog, but then I started to wonder if it really goes far enough. Doesn't the whole idea of Synod (with the power it claims for itself) go further than a mere focus group, and rather turn the faithful into an electorate voting for representatives who share their (no doubt sincerely held) beliefs in the way the Church of England should be organised and what its other members should be required to believe.  It actively encourages dissent from whatever teachings the Church of England might be said to have (whether or not these are still the same as claimed by Geoffrey Fisher), and inevitably creates parties lobbying for their different views.  The "catholic" party is as much a part of that system as the liberals and evangelicals, although to be fair they would no doubt say they are not arguing for a subjective position but for the Catholic faith (save for the bits they don't like such as the primacy of Rome). Is it really any wonder that such a system has led the Church of England to the point where so much depends upon the skill of lawyers in drafting a wording to which the majority (some no doubt through clenched teeth) can assent?..."


I should probably point out here that the reference to 'Church as focus group' was provoked by specific comments made by the Welsh Bench of Bishops. Of course, in relation to synods  we have to go further.
Although the idea of a synodical structure which would allow the laity, clergy and episcopate an opportunity to deliberate together on the issues facing the contemporary Church is (in theory) a laudable one, it has proved disastrous in practice. And this has been, not only because of the adoption of a quasi-parliamentary 'democratic model which has given the politicisation of church life a focus and an official platform, but because within Anglicanism there is no consensus as to what constitutes the authentic tradition. 
Archbishop Fisher's comments about the Church of England having no doctrine which is not that of the catholic church are often seized upon by people like me, but the truth is that, however authoritatively they were expressed, they remain just the views of one Archbishop of Canterbury among many; they may have been an accurate snapshot of the consensus at the time within the Church, but are they any more than that? It's instructive that his comment was made just before the then established consensus (perhaps the high water mark of Tractarian influence within Anglicanism, going far beyond those who would identify themselves as 'Catholics')  was about to fall apart. 
In order to succeed, the kind of  synodical structure we have would need to be part of an ecclesial community which had the same reverence for sacred tradition, and the same consensus fidelium as to what constitutes it, as have the Orthodox Churches. 
We don't need to be told that Anglicanism as an entirety has not nor has ever possessed either that deep reverence or that essential agreement.  
The success of the Tractarian / Anglo-Catholic project - to reconvert Anglicanism to the faith of the undivided Church - would have provided the basis for that. The historic failure of the 'catholic moment' within Anglicanism and the absorption of the Catholic Movement  into the chimera of a 'comprehensive church' has meant that everything can be regarded now as mere opinion.
It's not so much that Anglican synodical structures encourage dissent, but that we are lacking an authority against which we can even begin to define the idea of 'dissent.' Synods have merely filled that vacuum with majority voting on matters of revelation and doctrine and have taken us to places where 'catholics' should fear to tread. 
This may not be regarded as a particularly helpful observation, but it seems to be where we are...



Statement from Forward in Faith


Statement from Forward in Faith
May 23, 2012



Forward in Faith welcomes the amendments to the draft legislation on women bishops passed by the House of Bishops on Monday.
The first amendment secures the provision of bishops for traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals who are not simply male, but who share the theological convictions of those to whom they will minister. For traditional catholics, that means bishops ordained into the historic episcopate as we understand it. The draft Measure now recognises that our position is one of legitimate theological conviction for which the Church of England must provide. This principle will be enshrined in law.
The second amendment helpfully clarifies that the charism of episcopal ministry derives from the fact of a bishop’s ordination, and is not by delegation from another bishop.
It was disappointing that the amendment which would have implemented co-ordinate jurisdiction was not passed. The draft Measure stills fails, therefore, to address questions of jurisdiction and authority in the way we need.

More comment on HoB Statement

A report from John Bingham in The Telegraph [here]

A statement from the conservative evangelical group Reform [in full here]

"While we recognise that these small amendments could be helpful, we are dismayed that the assurance for our future ministry within the Church of England will rest on what a Code of Practice says. Not only have the provisions of this Code yet to be agreed, but also, as we all know, Codes of Practice are frequently changed over time. This means that we are being asked to base our futures on a shifting foundation. In particular we are concerned that those considering ordination in the future could be discriminated against because of their views on the difference between men's and women's ministries..."

A considered response from Forward in Faith will be issued soon.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring ...

because, on this warm and sunny May evening, I just have...

Composed by Frederick Delius in 1912 -  this recording from 1936 conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, the greatest champion of  his music:

Women bishops legislation

The Church of England House of Bishops has issued a statement about the draft legislation to go before the General Synod in July.
Read it here 
There's not much comment out there as yet. 
This interested observer from across the river (the Wye, that is!) will leave it for those directly involved to reflect on its possible implications. Links to any analysis etc. from Forward in Faith and other orthodox sources will be posted as and when it occurs.
"Thinking Anglicans"  already has this rather predictable response from WATCH 
"WATCH (Women and the Church) is deeply disappointed to hear that the all male House of Bishops has, in a closed meeting, decided to make two amendments to the draft legislation on women bishops that had been so carefully crafted after years of debate and scrutiny from all sides and had commanded the support of 42/44 dioceses across the Church of England.They have failed to listen to the voice of ordained women and those who support their ministry and been swayed by those who are opposed into making concessions that can only undermine the ministry of women in future years.Their decision to intervene in this way will significantly undermine the credibility of the House of Bishops both inside and outside the Church."
So, it may not be enough - no statutory provision -  although it does seem to provide for the continuation of the sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverley.


The WITCH WATCH response (I make no apology for repeating the rather ancient wittticism after this ghastly press release following the appointment of the new Bishop of Chichester - it suggests insanely that they have the support of St Richard of Chichester!) makes me think it can't all be bad news for those who, despite everything, are intending to stay and fight to the bitter end... 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Coelos ascendit hodie

Charles Villiers Stanford 





Coelos ascendit hodie Jesus Christus Rex gloriae,
Alleluia!
Gubernat coelum et sedet ad Patris dexteram,
Alleluia!
Jam finem habent omnia Patris Davidis carmina,
Alleluia!
Jam Dominus cum Domino sedet in Dei solio,
In hoc triumpho maximo,
Alleluia!
Benedicamus Domino, laudatur Sancta Trinitas,
Deo dicamus gratias,
Alleluia! Amen.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Flaming Torches & the State: weekend round up - or is it 'Highlights?'

Highlights (the report of the Church in Wales' Governing Body) arrived on my doormat today. We've pretty well exhausted, one way or another, the subject of Archbishop Barry's presidential address, but one thing particularly struck me - because it's where the shoe pinches - and that concerns the incompatibility of modern Anglican liberal and traditionalist views of what the Church is and in what way she can be said to represent Christ himself. This has little or nothing to do with arguments about human sexuality; yet again (as with the lost battles over ordination and apostolicity)  it's ultimately about the nature of the presence of the Lord with his Church:
"...This follows on from the Bench of Bishops’ Statement in 2005 which acknowledged the variety of viewpoints held by Christians within the Church in Wales, with integrity. These ranged from the view that the only proper context for sexual activity is marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, so that homosexual practice of any kind is rejected, to the view that, in the light of a developing understanding of the nature of humanity and sexuality, the time had arrived for the Church to affirm committed homosexual relationships..."  [Full text here]
Here we have it - Church as representative focus group of existing opinion or as the faithful teacher and guarantor of a revealed and authentic Christian tradition, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth?"  We all have to make a choice (personally, it would now seem) as to which 'model' we are theologically , philosophically, and ethically or morally able or willing to accept.
In itself, that says it all - iacta alea est

The SSPX (or at least the part of it represented by Bishop Fellay) appears to edging towards a welcome restoration of unity with Rome [here] There is one thing we all know - that moves towards unity sadly but inevitably tend to involve an element of fragmentation in the separated body. The alternative..? 
More on the divisions within the TAC here


LSP here reprints some words of Pope Benedict:
"...This kind of objectivity is quite simply denied to man. He cannot ask and exist as a mere observer. He who tries to be a mere observer experiences nothing. Even the reality “God” can only impinge on the vision of him who enters in the experiment with God – the experiment that we call faith. Only by entering does one experience; only by cooperating in the experiment does one ask at all; and only he who asks receives an answer...”


The complications of the conflict in Syria - not always as it's portrayed in the Western media. If the Assad regime falls the main casualties of 'democracy' could end up being the - until now in Syria - tolerated and protected Christian minority.
Thanks to Fr Smuts - here


Fr Hans Kung won't be celebrating Vatican II's fiftieth anniversary: [from Father Z]
 “In my opinion there is no reason for a festive Council Gala but rather for an honest service of penance or a funeral service...” 
So It's not all bad news out there.. something has to be going right...


The "Olympic flame" arrives in Britain [here]  - by plane.
Let's just shut up about its somewhat less than classically ancient origins in equally pagan1936 Berlin, shall we? [here]  All right, the Nazi's didn't invent it exactly, but they certainly excavated the 'tradition' and gave it an interesting make-over it for the modern world. And that is what is still with us in post-Christian London 2012. 
Some archive footage:

At least it may be possible to leave the country before it's over!


And for those who want the State even more involved than it already is in regulating the detail of our lives and our thoughts, here's food for reflection : 














  
















Thanks to A Conservative Blog for Peace for the photo

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Enduring Legacy of T.S. Eliot


from the Imaginative Conservative [full article here]

"...It is not simply that Eliot understood the practical imperative of what Simone Weil calledl’enracinement, the need for roots—he wrote an appreciative preface to the English translation of her book of that title—but he also had a vital sense of what we might call the metaphysics of tradition. The variety of his writings, in poetry, drama, literary criticism, and cultural theory, all attests that tradition, rightly conceived, offers neither a refuge of security nor mastery of time but rather constitutes, with and through language, the very medium of our participation in the shared human enterprise, the ground of genuine self-knowledge, the pre-condition for the perception of order and for the possibility of authentic development.
Yet he knew as much without hypostasizing or deifying tradition or history as a monolithic entity; he had a keen sense of time as a dynamic field of tensions and of the fragmentary quality of our fitful resistance to both willed and unconscious uprootedness. He understood, as well, that tradition is no substitute for deeper forms of transcendence, that tradition can only point toward the discovery and the gift of the dispensation of faith handed down for our health. Though he never developed this understanding explicitly in one place, such is the persistent, unifying concern of all his work, from its first articulation as a dimension of literary experience in “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919) through his musings on time, memory, history, and transcendence in Four Quartets (1943). The same concern is not only explored but embodied and enacted in the sequence of his major poems, in his plays, essays, and lectures, branching out from specifically literary questions to encompass and characterize Eliot’s approach to society, culture, politics, and religion. Eliot sought to see the whole, yet he also accepted and embraced the particular limitations of his own (partially willed) rootedness in time and place and in the various traditions (some chosen) that composed his self-understanding: “Home is where one starts from,” but “History is now and England...”
"...For latter-day “pilgrims in the waste land,” T. S. Eliot offers neither a program for success nor a recipe of happiness, no remedy, nostrum or elixir, but simply the counsel of hope, the example of his prudence, play, and compassion, all as part of the imperative of the unremitting spiritual discipline of tradition. Tradition is a hard and rugged way—not without its consolations, but daunting nonetheless. Yet nothing else will do, arrayed as we are against the powers of darkness and the forces of forgetfulness, “But fare forward, voyagers.”[39] By his labor and in his words, Eliot modified the contours and contents of tradition with his particular fusion of horizons. He is now part of the tradition in which we find ourselves, and his are the tradita handed down to us by which we must take our own bearings and respond anew to “the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling.” The rest, Eliot enjoins us, “Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.”[40]..."





Thursday, 17 May 2012

The French Catholic Vote and Gay Marriage

George Conger writes about the recent French Presidential Election: 

"...Roman Catholics who “go to mass as least once a month” voted 4 to 1 in favor of Sarkozy: 79 per cent to 21 per cent, according to a poll commissioned by Le Vie and conducted by the Harris Institute. Catholics who went to Mass less than once a month, voted 62 per cent to 38 per cent for Sarkozy. Those who self-identified as Catholics but who did not attend mass showed the same voting patters as the French population at large. Those who identified themselves as atheists voted 70 per cent to 30 per cent in favor of Hollande.In an odd twist to the conventional media wisdom, Sarkozy increased his margins among mass-going Catholics in this election form 70 per cent in 2005 to 79 per cent this month. What was odd about this increase was that Hollande campaigned on a theme of personal probity — fostering a dour frugal image in contrast to the flamboyant Sarkozy.Gay marriage was one of the reasons for the Catholic rejection of Hollande, the survey found. In an interview with the French gay-oriented glossy magazineTÊTU Hollande stated he would honor the PS’s campaign promise to legalize gay marriage and gay adoption — measures rejected by the UMP-dominated French parliament in 2011. The Harris survey found that mass-going Catholics were not keen on France’s new Socialist President because he was “in favor of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples...”
The full report is here 

It's not a subject which has come up with our neighbours in the Vendée, so the views of any French readers would be instructive.
However, it's important to note that despite the "Catholic vote" and its overwhelming antipathy to proposed changes in the legal definition of marriage, it wasn't enough to prevent the election of an austerity-sceptical and socially liberal President. 


In Britain, the Government seems divided over the necessity to press for change in the marriage law with various ministers giving out different signals (see here for Defence Secretary Philip Hammond's recent comments. Yet despite it's non-inclusion in the recent Queen's Speech,   it would seem that the junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, are as committed as ever to the introduction of legislation to permit same-sex marriage before the next election [here
The Labour Party, in opposition but ahead in the opinion polls, is firmly committed to change, as Angela Eagle, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and herself in a civil partnership, confirmed yesterday [here]
The obvious danger for those opposed to a change in the law is, of course, that, as in France, change will be introduced on the back of a general clamour for change and opposition to austerity measures. Despite the election being probably three years away (and economic conditions may change substantially by that point), social and constitutional issues don't historically play a major role in determining voting intentions at general elections - either here or across the Channel.
The important debate about the marriage issue is the one now taking place within the Conservative Party and that is where pressure and persuasion by the Church and all those in favour of the status quo should be directed.






.


I

God is gone up!

Whether you are celebrating the Lord's Ascension today or on Sunday, some music to lift the spirits
Gerald Finzi's God is Gone Up, sung by the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge  - on the video it begins after Stanford's Justorum Animae at 3 munites 22 seconds.







Ancient Briton reminds us that today is the start of the Novena for the Church of England [here]
[And Fr Christopher Phillips of the Anglican Use Provision of the Roman Catholic Church reminds us of the apostolic origins of the Novena to the Holy Ghost -  herat The Anglo-Catholic ]


In the second lection at the Office of Readings today, St Leo the Great reminds us of what is at stake:


"...And so our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high. This faith was increased by the Lord’s ascension and strengthened by the gift of the Spirit; it would remain unshaken by fetters and imprisonment, exile and hunger, fire and ravening beasts, and the most refined tortures ever devised by brutal persecutors. Throughout the world women no less than men, tender girls as well as boys, have given their life’s blood in the struggle for this faith. It is a faith that has driven out devils, healed the sick and raised the dead..."


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Modern Anglicanism: an exercise in achieving internal cultural hegemony


Every day the depressing similarities between the worlds of politics and the Church become more and more observable.
Much as the right won the philosophical argument over socialism, those who stood for the tradition have run intellectual rings around the doctrinal revisionists (in Anglicanism) and those who have argued for ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ in the Roman Catholic Church.
To take one example, one only has to consider the contribution made by the book ‘Consecrated Women’  in the Church of England's ongoing struggle over the nature of the apostolic ministry to realise that its opponents had nothing to fall back on except a uninspiring mélange of largely irrelevant arguments from the secular world and the quasi-Marxist (or perhaps Gramschian) rights agenda which, despite its lack of intellectual credibility, seems to be carrying all before it in Church and State.

Whatever the situation now prevailing in the Catholic Church (and there are many encouraging signs of the progress of the hermeneutic of continuity), Anglicans have largely fallen under the spell of  the advocates of rupture and discontinuity, not because they have won the intellectual argument but because they were better at counting heads. 
Those who, for good or ill, having captured the citadels, are now running the show have simply ignored the arguments, confident that, in a synodically governed community, arguments don’t matter, only votes and the patronage to achieve and maintain their own version of  ‘cultural hegemony.’  And they have relied on the support of a clergy steeped in the nostrums of the radical theological schools through which either they or their teachers have passed, and of laity so thoroughly secularised and oblivious to the history and traditions of their own Communion they simply cannot recognise the force of theological arguments when they - fleetingly - encounter them. In modern synodical structures, ‘debates’ are purely cosmetic, the flexing of the muscles of those who have already made up their minds. As we observe them now, ‘synods’ are an alien intrusion from the world of democratic politics into what should be the theologically consensual and collegial traditions of Christian decision-making.

In the political world, those who sought to lead were always anxious to attain office, now they mostly speak of being in power. Ecclesiastically, in the recent past the orthodox who were in positions of authority in Anglicanism were (consistent with their understanding of the breadth of the Anglican tradition) far less interested in promoting those who agreed with them to positions of influence than our present leaders who have consistently excluded theological difference with an unparallelled ruthlessness. 
We don’t need to be reminded that the  english word ‘office’ derives from the latin for service, 'officium.'  Now,‘potestas’ is something very different…..




More on women bishops for Wales


George Conger writes:
"...In a paper given to last month’s meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, the bishops said that while they wish to “uphold the principle of respect for those, who in conscience, cannot accept that women can be ordained to holy orders,” they would not permit the creation of any legal structures to safeguard these principles. The paper stated the bishops “do not feel able to support any scheme for the reintroduction of alternative episcopal oversight, such as the appointment of a Provincial Assistant Bishop...”
So - the bishops (collectively they are a very different animal)  "uphold the principle of respect," but refuse to enshrine this principle constitutionally. Now, if one were inclined to be suspicious (heaven forbid that traditionalists might believe they have reason to be) one might think they have no intention of honouring it in practice. Or perhaps they simply feel it unjust to bind their successors to acting honourably.
Full report here Thanks to Anglican Ink




On the subject of smoke and mirrors and the absence of a sense of natural justice, Cranmer [here - ASA Semantics and Lies] has some more information about the workings of the ASA's complaints inverstigations. This is how our country is now run?


Peter Tatchell, however, for once agrees with his opponents and wishes to amend section 5 of the Public Order Act to remove the highly subjective and, in practice, repressive phrase "insulting words or behaviour" [here]


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Hell - in Lego

Brick by brick?
For all those whose idea of Hell is a trip to Legoland, here is something right up your street.
Romanian Mihai Marius Mihu has spent seven months recreating the nine circles of hell described in Dante's Divine Comedy, using nearly 40,000 Lego bricks - a purgatorial experience, if not actually hellish.


This is the Lego depiction of 'Heresy:' 




Report and more photos here

Whatever next? Any suggestions....?





News updates

Catching up with news of the developing Ordinariate  from around the world.
Some news from the United States [here]  via The Anglo-Catholic.
And, of course, the announcement of the new Australian Ordinariate  [here


The Church of Ireland votes to uphold Christian marriage [here] but with dissenting episcopal voices [here] 

On the same subject , The National Secular Society supports the Archbishop Cranmer blog's right to free speech [here]. But Ed West in The Telegraph [here] has doubts about their use of language: 


"But such attacks on political and religious freedom would not have been possible if people had not created the atmosphere by the promotion of hate words: calling your opponent a racist, a bigot, a homophobe, an Islamophobe or any of the other phobias that have sprung up in recent years sends a message that, whatever their argument, they have been corrupted by some hateful mental defect, and can therefore be discounted. And if they are motivated by hate, and their opinions are worthless, then isn’t the next logical step that the law should protect people from their bile?"


In defence of liturgical pluralism [here] (thanks to Fr Chadwick for the link)



Neuhaus on 'Moral progress'

"Recall the concluding passage of After Virtue. [Alasdair] MacIntyre draws the parallel between our time and the collapse of the Roman Empire when St. Benedict's monastic movement provided a refuge for civilization. “What matters [now] is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

We may think that picture somewhat overdrawn. After all, those who are called barbarians are not primitives, they are not neanderthals; they are frequently those thought to be the “brightest and best” among us. But that is to miss the point. The new barbarians are barbarians not because they are unsophisticated but precisely because of the hyper-sophistication with which they have removed themselves from what I have called the civilizational circle of moral conversation. In simpler terms, that is called “traditional values.” The barbarians refuse to be limited by what we know, by the wisdom we have received, about good and evil, right and wrong. For them, the past is merely prelude.
What, then, can we say about the future of moral progress? Within the civilizational circle, there is moral progress (and regress!) in how we live, but there is no progress in the sense of moving beyond the moral truths that constitute the circle itself. We can develop the further implications of those truths, or we can step outside the circle by denying that there is such a thing as moral truth. It has become the mark of hyper-sophistication in our time to echo the question of Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” Pontius Pilate, an urbane Roman ever so much more sophisticated by worldly standards than the prisoner who stood before him, was a forerunner of the barbarians now in power.


Those permanent truths are sometimes called natural law. In the Declaration of Independence they are called the laws of nature and nature's God. Or they are called the first principles of ethics. First principles are, by definition, always first. Moral analysis cannot go beyond or behind them any more than human consciousness can go beyond or behind human consciousness. Fifty years ago, C. S. Lewis, borrowing from Confucianism, called these first principles the Tao. In The Abolition of Man, he anticipated with great prescience today's debates in biomedical ethics about reproductive technologies, genetic engineering, and eugenic progress. The Tao, Lewis said, draws support from all religious and moral traditions in inculcating certain rules such as: general beneficence toward others, special beneficence toward one's own community, duties to parents and ancestors, duties to children and posterity, the laws of justice, honesty, mercy, and magnanimity. Whether drawn from the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, ChineseAnalects, Cicero, or the Bhagavad Gita, these are the truths that constitute the civilizational circle.



......The answer to the question of whether the barbarians will rule us in the future depends upon parents, religious leaders, educators, scientists, politicians, artists, and writers who are not embarrassed to give public expression to what they know about right and wrong, good and evil. The first proponents of the idea of progress, including moral progress, were right to believe that knowledge and progress are inseparable. There can be no progress beyond but only within the civilizational circle of the moral truths into which we were born, by which we are tested, and to which we are duty bound, in the hope of sustaining the circle for those who come after us. The alternative is the willed ignorance of nihilism..."


Fr Richard John Neuhaus  (1999)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Not for respectable people...?

So the novelist Hilary Mantel thinks the Catholic Church is not for 'respectable people.' [here citing, quite predictably but a little naively, the horrific incidence of clerical child abuse, and institutional cruelties of other kinds. Yet  the fact that these sins are so glaringly opposed to the Church's own teachings to a certain extent disproves her argument even if it doesn't overcome her rightful but misdirected sense of repugnance. We all suffer because of the flaws of a fallen human nature, our own and those of others: it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to learn that the Church herself is not immune even from the most grievous of them. The devil himself often comes in the guise of an angel of light. But the 'holiness' of the Church derives not from the purity of its earthly members but from its union with Him who is without sin and now sits at the right hand of the Father.
I  know this is not what she has in mind, but her choice of words is rather unfortunate. No, the church isn't for the respectable, the bien-pensant, the fashionable and those who wish to run with the herd - or the wolf-pack. When any Christian community, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant or Orthodox, appeals to such, then it is a clear sign that it has lost its way and needs to pay greater attention to the voice of the Lord, who induced a similar aversion, the Gospels tell us, among 'respectable people'..
And didn't St Paul say something very similar about the first Christians.....

"For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord." 
(1 Corinthians 1. 26-31)


It's so easy to attack the Christian faith for those in its ranks who number among  the evil, and the bad, not to mention the downright mediocre and hypocritical (although it is more than somewhat pharisaical to suppose we - sinners that we are - might not be among that number ourselves) and ignore the good, the joyfully self-sacrificing and the utterly saintly. And they are out there - we know some of them.



Greater love hath no man

Music by John Ireland, sung by the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral



Today's Gospel:


"As the Father hath loved me, 
so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; 
even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you,  
and that your joy might be full . 
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth : 
but I have called you friends; 
for all things that I haveheard of my Father I have made known unto you. 
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, 
that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain :
 that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 
These things command you, that ye love one another. "