News from France [here] that the left's support for free speech doesn't extend to that of their (Christian) opponents. Of course, the bourgeois maoists on the barricades didn't change their minds; economic and political realities (mainly the ignominious collapse of the Soviet Union) merely forced them to become respectable. I've always thought that culturally and politically the two sides of the English Channel have more in common under the surface than what separates us - nothing bears this out more than the current views of the fashionable political elites. As we know, the politics of sexuality coupled with a managerial approach to welfarism are easier courses of action to pursue than doing something which will actually help society's poor and disadvantaged: notional 'rights' are a far easier thing for politicians to bestow than the realities of jobs and a decent education...
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali weighs in and asks the unaskable in the row over the HOB statement on civil partnerships and the episcopate:
"When the Civil Partnerships Act came into force, the Church of England, like other churches, had an opportunity, as far as its clergy were concerned, to opt out. It chose not to do so allowing, rather, the government of the day to change ecclesiastical law by Order.As an antidote to the endless ecclesial culture wars, here are two posts about prayer:
"When the House of Bishops Pastoral Letter was issued in 2005, I asked how clergy could be allowed to be in a relationship which, under the provisions of the Act, mimicked marriage, even if the relationship was ‘celibate’. Some of us had tried, in the House of Lords, to amend the Act in such a way that it did not mimic marriage but this was not acceptable to the government of the day. Since then public perception has increasingly seen such partnerships as equivalent to marriage. What I said then about the clergy applies even more to bishops.
"Given the confidentiality of relationships between bishops and clergy, how is the requirement of celibacy to be monitored and, if necessary, enforced?
"In the context of same-sex relationships, what exactly does ‘celibacy’ mean? Does the admission of those in civil partnerships to the episcopate, who state they are celibate, include those who were previously in actively homophile relationships including with their present partner? The House of Bishops statement does not elaborate on this point but it is crucial to an understanding of what celibacy might mean in this context".
Firstly from Fr Levi on the universal significance of the Rule of St Benedict [He's right: it's relevant to all of us not just those in living in community, but it's best to get hold of a copy which splits up the text into daily sections for reading and reflection] and from the Parish Priest: St. Francis, Dallas on the psalter as the heart of the daily office. He does, of course, hit the nail on the head when he writes about the various shortcomings of the conflated Prayer Book offices with their lengthy readings from Holy Scripture - what is the Office primarily for, after all? This discussion will outlast us all, but Archbishop Cranmer was nothing if not good at subverting the inner purpose of the tradition whilst keeping the outward appearance of continuity, and all in the most resonant language, the latter being his saving grace perhaps... at least whilst translating...
After the frenetic activity of Christmas this year, I'm looking forward next week to a few days away (without internet access - so no blogging either) to catch up on some reading as well as more healthy outdoor pursuits. I've not yet managed to find time to read more than a chapter of Pope Benedict's new brief volume on the Infancy Narratives. However, those who didn't undergo their theological education in the days when the various historical / critical methods (seven types of scepticism, to adapt a title from another discipline) were regarded as virtually infallible, have no idea how refreshing it is, even now, to read this in his foreword:
"..I am convinced that good exegesis involves two stages, Firstly one has to ask what the respective authors intended to convey through their text in their own day - the historical component of exegesis. But it is not sufficient to leave the text in the past and thus relegate it to history. The second question posed by good exegesis must be: is what I read here true? Does it concern me? If so, how? With a text like the Bible, whose ultimate and fundamental author, according to our faith, is God himself, the question regarding the here and now of things past is undeniably included in the task of exegesis. The seriousness of the historical quest is in no way diminished by this: on the contrary, it is enhanced..."