Sunday, 26 July 2009

False Compassion.

Who says that the media do not unduly influence and even decide the social and political agenda in modern Britain?
The Royal College of Nursing has reportly relaxed its attitude on the current media obsession, "assisted suicide," from opposition to taking a "neutral" stance. This shift seems to have occurred after a survey completed by only 1% of its membership, with only a minority who replied being in favour of change. How exactly that merited the radio and television coverage it in fact received, only the news editors can tell us.
But "assisted suicide" is the latest liberal cause and the pressure on those professional bodies and institutions which still hold to their principled opposition to it is building up quite a head of steam in this country. This story will run and run (with more and more sympathetic reporting of all the hard and tragic cases which make such bad law) until the proponents of this latest "human right" get their own way.
Once the law is changed there will be no going back and that will be a tragedy our descendants will come to regret.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

It's good to be vindicated!

The Church in Wales has now given the following updated guidance to parishes regarding the swine 'flu outbreak:

“Whilst communion in both kinds is the norm in the Church in Wales, when it is received in one kind the fullness of the sacrament is received none the less.
Some have suggested that intinction is an acceptable alternative to the common cup. Studies have suggested that intinction may in fact present a greater risk factor than the common cup. Fingers generally carry a higher level of contamination than lips, so consecrated bread handled by an infected person and then dipped into a common cup will carry a risk of contaminating the consecrated Wine. Similarly fingers may dip into the consecrated Wine. Where only celebrants or servers intinct the consecrated bread and then place it on a recipients tongue or hands, there is a risk of the servers fingers becoming contaminated if the recipient is carrying the virus.
For these reasons Communion in one kind (the consecrated Bread) only is recommended.”

I'm not sure about the practice alluded to of servers intincting hosts, surely they mean eucharistic ministers (not that anyone should be doing it at all, of course), but it is good to get some sensible advice from establishment sources which is at least compatible with Catholic theology! Credit where credit is due!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Strange advice indeed!

There has been some very confused and completely impractical advice about the reception of Holy Communion during the current swine flu epidemic from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and also the Diocesan in this neck of the woods (although do I detect a certain reservation and irony in what he says about communicants taking the intincted host between thumb and forefinger?)

I can do no better than reproduce the comments of Fr Giles Pinnock at onetimothyfour on the subject:

“The other part of this advice – perhaps trying to retain the Anglican practice of communion in both kinds as a sine qua non – is that the priest should ‘intinct’ – ie, dip the host into the wine in the manner of a ginger biscuit in one’s tea (so infra dig) – and place it in the communicant’s hand.

God in heaven! Have the ABs of C & Y never administered Holy Communion? Or is it simply, as I guess, that they have absolutely no problem with the blood of Christ dripping on the church floor or being left on people’s hands? Intinction is a bad and atheological practice of the first water – Christ is wholly present in both species of the Eucharist – you do not get half-measures by receiving the Host only and intinction is just asking for the Precious Blood to end up where it shouldn’t.”

Fr Pinnock also has some incisive things to say about the possibility of a priest ministering alone being able to juggle ciborium and chalice while attempting to administer Holy Communion by intinction even if such a thing were desirable. Pas possible, mon pere!
It would help us all considerably if we had bishops (the PEVs and some others excepted, of course) who gave the impression of actually having been to Church once in a while, but that is a perennial Anglican problem.

As to Holy Water stoups, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s tentative suggestion about the admixture of blessed salt certainly meets with favour here where we revived the practice a few years ago.

Reasonable, practical and sensible precautions are what we need to implement and nothing in the way of either confused theology, low church prelatical opportunism (the Bishop of Chelmsford?) or restrictions which smack of panic. Ultimately if things really are that bad we should be encouraging folk to stay at home and make a spiritual communion instead.
But are things that bad? Current advice seems to indicate that for those without serious underlying medical conditions this strain of influenza is rather mild; what is unusual is the rate of its spread.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Do we need a distinctive “Anglican” liturgy?

I don’t usually comment on matters liturgical as others do it so much better. However, the debate about whether in the (devoutly to be wished) eventuality of any kind of corporate reunion with the Holy See, reunited Anglicans should be able to use their own "anglican" liturgical variants is a very complex one. Obviously it is our liturgical life, giving expression to our theology, which has united us and made us a recognisable (if somewhat intermittently visible) strand within the English post-reformation settlement, but that liturgical practice itself, even whilst adhering to the form and language of the Prayer Book, has always essentially striven for a Catholic and patristic interpretation and, in the light of that, has over the centuries been very aware of the many shortcomings of the 16th Century Cranmerian liturgical reform.
My own view, for what it is worth, is that any contribution Anglican Catholics have made and can make to the life of the Universal Church is not primarily liturgical at all. Our contribution has been made simply by occupying space and by a constant refusal to accept in toto the the legitimacy of the English Reformation.
What I mean by that is that the fact of Catholic theology and practice having survived within the Church of England (or its offshoots) is both a witness to the essential unity of the Church of Christ and, by regarding “Anglicanism” as merely a small and provisional part of Christendom, a recognition that it is only by dying to what is distinctively Anglican that we will contribute to the unity of the whole Body. If that is true then the implications for our future are very clear; if we as Anglo-Catholics are first and foremost an ecumenical ecclesial venture then reaching what is the goal of that journey (the restoration of full and visible unity with the See of Peter) should be enough for us. It is a moot point as to whether those liturgical expressions which have fostered our Catholic identity in a largely or partially hostile and uncatholic environment should have a further role to play. Are linguistic resonance and literary distinction enough to justify their continuance, particularly in the light of the contemporary Benedictine “reform of the reform?”
As they say, discuss….

Friday, 17 July 2009

The ugliness of the totalitarian spirit.

If anyone were in any doubt as to the intolerant spirit abroad in the Welsh Province at present, here is a little story, told to me recently.
A female cleric who ministers in a group of parishes, not in this deanery, was approached about using one of her (not in regular use) churches for a possible charitable fundraising concert. When she was informed that one of the participants would be my wife, a professional musician of some note, the enquirer, not a Christian believer of any kind and who has no axe to grind in these matters, was told, “No, she is married to that man. Considering his views on the ordination of women, it would be inappropriate for her to play here.”
I can understand the following through of a deeply held conviction (although I haven’t encountered the person in question for some years and have never, to my knowledge, crossed swords with her) and I have no complaints about the personal consequences of being out of step with an increasingly heterodox and intolerant majority, but when this is extended in a completely unconnected context to members of one’s family, one comes away aghast at the sheer petty vindictiveness of the mindset which is capable of this kind of behaviour.
What next?
One wonders whether Stalin will be included in our new “inclusive” Church’s calendar of saints – he was once a seminarian after all.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bastille day? No, thank you!

Several posts have appeared on the blogosphere about this in the last few days, but the impact of the Vendee Rising, which resulted in the genocide of the largely catholic and monarchist population of Bas Poitou at the hands of the French revolutionary army, was such that, even until relatively recently, July 14th was a very low key event indeed in the region.
It is said, too, that in parts of the department there are very few houses with a second storey which predates the late 18th Century. In fact, the evidence is all around if one cares to look.
Revolutions, particularly those which parade “the rights of man,” always deserve a large degree of Burkean caution, as they invariably end in persecution of one form or another and with a denial of the very human dignity they purport to uphold, a dignity which is in the end only preserved by the faith once delivered to the Saints.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Suicide & the death wish of a civilisation

Those who feel they have no choice but to seek to end their lives in Swiss death clinics deserve our prayers and our sympathy rather than our condemnation; those who encourage them along the path to that course of action are the ones who are most culpable, and those who violate the Hippocratic oath and administer the lethal injection are quite simply guilty of murder. However, those who provide sympathetic coverage and those who campaign for a “Dignitas” style clinic in every town are those who are guilty of the assisted suicide of a entire civilisation.
I’m afraid the latest reports concerning the deaths of the eminent conductor and his wife, Sir Edward and Lady Downes, while evoking a deep sympathy for the physical and mental anguish they must have endured, chill me to the bone. This is not merely the latest sign of the end of the universal Judeao-Christian horror at the act of suicide, but it seems to be the incarnation and exaltation of that philosophical death wish which has come back from the ancient world to haunt western civilisation.

In nineteenth century India the British authorities took steps to outlaw Suttee, a tradition where a widow would immolate herself upon her husband’s funeral pyre. A question: should this practice have been permissible if the action were undertaken voluntarily or, as the more sentimental would say, out of love? Our nineteenth century forbears apparently thought not. This was not only because they were well aware that there are more subtle forms of coercion than the mere use of physical force (as the House of Lords also recognised last week in its debate on Lord Falconer’s deeply disturbing Assisted Suicide Bill) but also because they believed that human beings are not disposable commodities and that our lives are not ours to end at will.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Retreats and hornets’ nests

There have been no posts for a month due to a really valuable week’s retreat in Worcestershire, an emergency trip across the channel to the Vendee to deal with a hornets’ nest (for once literal and not metaphorical) and family health problems.
Meanwhile back in the Church in Wales, rumours abound as to differences of opinion among the bishops as to how best to deal with traditionalists – the consensus among them, though, would seem to be: do nothing and traditionalists will just fail to agree amongst themselves and just fade way - it's been a remarkably sucessful strategy up to now. Most alarming by far, though, are the reports that the Archbishop is to consider deferring his retirement in order to shepherd through (perhaps that’s the wrong expression) a new bill to permit the ordination of women as bishops – the final nail in the coffin as far as Anglo-Catholics in Wales are concerned, and another step in cementing the Archbishop’s own special relationship with the U.S.A., or at least with his soulmates in the TEC (prop. Mrs K Schori.)

Blogging is perhaps the ultimate expression of 21st Century cultural ephemera; it’s meant to be instant, up to the mark and essentially disposable. Blogs of all kinds tend to come and go, largely unmourned, although many of us will very much miss Anglican Wanderings, the latest Anglican Catholic blog to shut up shop. It always had something valid to say, even if we disagreed with it on some points and it provided a valuable record of the historical riches of Anglo–Catholic parish life, destined all too soon, I fear, to become just a footnote in our country’s religious history.

But blogging has its hazards, too, and we are all aware of them. The internet, apart from being a incredibly useful means of communication and research, is also the easiest way ever invented of wasting time. More seriously, it can also be highly dangerous to our spiritual health. Sometimes, reading the religious news and comment on the web puts me in mind of Denethor in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, looking into his palantir and seeing only evidence of the overwhelming forces of the enemy. Readers of Tolkien know what happened to Denethor; we should be constantly on our guard lest our own Enemy, "the prince of this world," leads us into a similar despair.