Saturday, 27 February 2010


Damian Thompson has a curious post about the Church in Wales' jealous guarding of its official logo.
It's a storm in a teacup undoubtedly, but it is indicative of the kind of response the launch of the Ordinariates has triggered amongst Welsh Anglican officialdom. It would seem, unless this is simply an overzealous reaction from Cathedral Road's legal department (I thought at first it had to be a spoof - as you can see the logo is readily downloadable - should I now remove it from the top of this post?) that the Gamaliel principle is not for the Welsh Province; instead like their inclusive friends across the herring pond their first instinct seems to be to turn to the law. "If in doubt, stamp it out" would make a good alternative motto - what would it be in Welsh or Latin - answers anyone? As one commentator has said, they may have a narrow legal point about such "unauthorised" use of coats of arms, logos etc, but the real issue surely is that this kind of action, if true, suggests a certain lack of generosity and ecumenical spirit which could bode ill for the future. 
The crucial question is would the use of the C in W's logo in this context lead any reasonable person to think that the Province was among the official sponsors of the "Friends of the Ordinariate?" 
Perhaps - in a parallel universe.

How sad!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Another statement of the blindingly obvious

A new Home Office study says that children in Britain are being exposed to an increasing amount of "sexualised material" in the media which their parents do not always know about, and that boys and girls are feeling the pressure to become sexualised at a much earlier age than ever before.
The report calls for a much tougher regulation of sexual imagery in advertising and also recommends the selling of mobile phones and games consoles with parental controls automatically switched on.
The report's author, psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, said there was a clear link between sexualised imagery and violence towards females. According to the BBC she remarked that "unless sexualisation is accepted as harmful, we will miss an important opportunity… to broaden young people's beliefs about where their values lie."
 It wouldn't do, would it, for the Church to say "we told you so." The children of the 60s now have the society made in their own image they have campaigned for. No one else is now to blame. The widespread, unthinking and sneering prejudice, peddled assiduously for the last forty or fifty years by the media and most of the political / social left (including their fellow travellers in the Church itself )  that orthodox Christian belief and values (the only true "humanism" in fact) just cause psychological damage and harmful sexual repression is now so entrenched that it has become in some circles almost an article of faith in itself. It's interesting to see a recognition that our contemporary experiment of a values-free society is unravelling disastrously. So we need reports like this to re-invent the ethical wheel. Still, wheels are useful, even redesigned and repackaged ones; they enable us to travel in the right direction.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

A prediction: but no one can really know.

Firstly, it's inevitable that the future Ordinariate will indeed, as some have forecasted, begin in a relatively small way. The first “wave,” led by several bishops, will consist of those priests who have fairly homogenous, united congregations, together with single clergy, the young, those whose circumstances are uncomplicated and unhindered by family or financial commitments, along with those who will immediately be able to earn a living in secular employment or those who will be able to withstand a period of unemployment and retraining; they will be joined by those steadfast and dedicated Anglo-Catholic laity who will not be held back by ties and affection to a particular building or failing ecclesial structure. These will be the enthusiastic and committed people who will determine the shape and future course of the new provision.
They will be joined in due course, over a period of time, and in whatever way they will be able to serve, by those who will need to honour their commitments: say, to their children’s continuing education, or responsibility towards elderly parents which they are morally bound to see through. They will be for a time, in the memorable phrase of one Bristol–based priest, be the buttresses, supporting the Anglican Ordinariates from the outside, not only spiritually but possibly also financially.
But I think that those who hope that the religious landscape will then become simpler and easier to negotiate may be in for something of a disappointment. In the short to medium term, things will become more complex, not less. There will inevitably be those who will stay put either out of duty to their people, through force of circumstances, or sheer Anglo-Catholic bloody mindedness. Their point of reference theologically and liturgically will be the Ordinariates they will one day hope to join, whatever the provision, or refusal of provision, (not) accorded them by establishment Anglicanism. There will, of course, also be those who have nowhere to go because of continuing and sincerely held theological disagreements with Rome; theirs is the more difficult situation and they will need to look for support to the East, the rump of the Continuing Anglican groups or, swallowing hard, towards the predominantly evangelical GAFCON grouping within (at least for the time being) the Anglican Communion itself.
Those who expect that either of these groups who remain behind will simply bow to the majority in terms of women’s ordination or departures from traditional moral theology will again be in for something of a shock.
It is at that point, when that realisation sinks in, that I would expect some real American-style persecution of the credally orthodox, particularly perhaps (unless I do them a massive injustice & I really do hope I'm proved wrong)  from those newly consecrated women who will have an “inclusive” point to prove and perhaps - as they may see it - the honour of their sex to uphold.
The Ordinariate itself will, despite beginning in a relatively small way, have a disproportionate influence compared to its size, not only with those who remain as “Canterbury” Anglicans, but – in conjunction with the effect of the new english translation of the Roman Missal - in terms of the “reform of the reform” within the Roman Catholic dioceses themselves. It may also act as a spur to doctrinally orthodox groups at present within other separated and increasingly heterodox ecclesial bodies to reconcile with the Holy See in a similar way. Ecumenism will take on a new form, alongside what has become the "traditional" approach of ongoing dialogue but which many fear has hit the buffers of "prophetic" theological experimentation and relativism.
I’m not a betting man and my crystal ball gazing is usually far from accurate. All this speculation may turn out to be just that - mere speculation, but it’s clear that we are in for a bumpy ride. This may not be the sixteenth century, thank God, but it will be as “interesting,” even if only in the sense of that probably apocryphal Chinese curse.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Lest it be thought that all my reading this Lent is concerned with the conveniently forgotten history of the sixteenth century (valuable exercise though that is), I’m also trying to reacquaint myself with some of the writings of the more recent Anglican patrimony.
The works of Austin Farrer are a great source of theological riches; he writes elegantly, persuasively and penetratingly and is invariably, if sometimes surprisingly, orthodox in his conclusions. Not for nothing does the Dominican scholar Fr Aidan Nichols include him in his list (‘The Panther & the Hind’ T&T Clark 1993)) of ‘separated doctors’ of the Catholic Church
But as we know, Farrer was no papalist, he reserves some of his most trenchant criticisms for what he regards as the illegitimate and even 'blasphemous' development of the papacy, and for the promulgation of the "modern" Marian dogmas of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (expressions such as the “papal fact-factory” are amongst the more acerbic he uses to describe what others would come to see, pace Newman, as simply the authoritative declaration of a legitimate development of Christian doctrine)
This not uncommon strain of anti-papalism might be thought to be a problem for those seeking to reintegrate the Anglo-Catholic patrimony into the mainstream of the Western Church, although in this respect the Orthodox would have very similar problems if ever the Church does, in the words of Pope John Paul II, breathe again with its two lungs, east and west.
Farrer, of course, did not live to see the modern disintegration of the concept and practice of authority in modern Anglicanism, seemingly convinced that the Church of England in its appeal to the apostolic tradition, particularly as seen through patristic antiquity, to Scripture and to reason (subtly defined) had sufficient authority in itself to withstand error.
The question we can legitimately ask is whether on the basis of his published writings Farrer would continue to hold that view or whether, like so many of us, he would be driven by events to seek a more enduring source of authority elsewhere. Ultimately that is an unanswerable question; Farrer was a man of his own times, not of ours, but this passage from the sermon ‘On being an Anglican,’ (printed in the collection ‘The End of Man’) may give us food for thought. For us, the reference to the Church in the United States (which Farrer knew well) is as sharp an irony as can be imagined.
“I cannot desert the apostolic ministry, I cannot submit to the Pope. And I was not born a Greek or Slavic Christian. I was born in the English-speaking world, where God’s merciful providence has preserved the form and substance of the Catholic Church, and freed it from papal usurpation. At first the Church, liberated from the pope, fell heavily under the hand of the king, but the bondage was not lasting. That royalism is an accident to our faith, is made evident by the healthy condition of the American Episcopal church, where prayers are not offered for Queen Elizabeth. The Crown is no part of our religion……”

We can with justice doubt whether he would say the same of a Communion which now so lightly sits to (or is in the process of rejecting) the apostolic traditions he held most dear.

“When reunion is discussed, it is a sentiment as inevitable as it is amiable on diplomatic lips, to say that all Churches have their peculiar riches; that we disvalue no one’s treasures by prizing our own, but hope that everything of worth may find its place in the final synthesis. “ (ibid p 51)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Amid the cold, cold winter

They are calling it the worst winter for thirty years and it is not over yet. This morning dawned cold and grey and then the snow started to descend furiously once again. Spring is by no means here yet. Daffodils, in recent years in flower well before St David’s Day, are keeping their heads down and only the snowdrops are braving the icy winds. In my, not very British, vicarage garden I’m beginning to see the casualties of the harsh winter – a few palm trees whose leaves are ringed and burnt by frost, some scorched myrtle bushes and a very forlorn-looking acacia – no yellow flowers against a blue February sky this year!

Lenten reading this year? I’m re-reading  von Balthasar’s Mysterium Pascale; one can’t do that often enough. Also, catching up with what is largely a hidden history even for Anglo-Catholics, something we have consciously or unconsciously preferred not to confront, by reading (unaccountably for the first time), Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Edmund Campion,’ the poems of St Robert Southwell, and Joseph Pierce’s intriguing ‘The Quest for Shakespeare.’

One of the most important aspects of Lent is the struggle against self-deception. We Anglicans are very good at self-deception, believing that to every theological problem there must exist a necessary compromise or synthesis which itself is capable of revealing more of the truth. Well, as the (very anti-Christian) Gershwin lyric says, “it ain’t necessarily so.”

I now, somewhat reluctantly I admit, see Anglo-Catholicism not, as some have argued persuasively, as the ultimate exercise in ecclesial self-deception, but as a necessary paradox, pointing out to history that the Church is God’s, and God’s alone, however man may purport to change it or “reform” it or use it as a mechanism for earthly power and control, and it is God’s will that his Church be one.

It’s for that reason, and now for that reason only, that I recognise the “validity” of what we do and the sacraments we celebrate. Corrupt monarchs, self-serving parliaments and heretical provincial synods can do nothing to challenge Christ’s ultimate ownership of his mystical body, and truth and grace will survive and burst into flower at a springtime of his own choosing. That seems to be the history of the broken fragment of western Christendom known as the Church of England or, if you must, “Anglicanism.” Andrewes and the Caroline Divines emerge from the prevailing Calvinism of Elizabethan England, and Newman and the Tractarians spring up from the unpromising soil poisoned by eighteenth century latitudinarianism.
What will history say of our own generation?

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Cost of Discipleship

A good day. As expected, given the weather (the day began with a snow storm and continued with a bitterly cold and "lazy" wind), we didn't attract large numbers, but all the offices were attended and we welcomed three visitors (two of whom were on their way back from Walsingham) to the evening mass.
At Night Prayer  we began with one of the suggested readings for today, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship." Never have these words had so much resonance for us:
 "The call of Jesus goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience. The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. But how could the call immediately evoke
obedience? The story of the call of the first disciples is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events. By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical
event. Thus we get the stupid question: Surely they must have known Jesus before and that previous acquaintance explains their readiness to hear the Master’s call. Unfortunately Scripture is ruthlessly silent on this point, and in fact it regards the immediate sequence of call and response as a matter of crucial importance. It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reasons for a person’s religious decisions. And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus
Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, they follow at once.
This encounter is a testimony to the absolute, direct, and unaccountable authority of Jesus. There is no need of any preliminaries, and no other consequence but obedience to the call. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus summons us to follow him not as a teacher or a pattern of the good life, but as the Christ, the Son of God. In this short episode Jesus Christ and his claim are proclaimed to the world. Not a word of praise is given to the disciple for his decision for Christ. We are not expected to contemplate the disciple, but only him who calls, and his absolute authority. There is no road to faith or discipleship, no other road – only obedience to the call of Jesus.
And what does Scripture inform us about the content of discipleship? Follow me, run along behind me! That is all. To follow in his steps is something which is void of all content. It gives us no intelligible programme for a way of  life, no goal or ideal to strive after. It is not a cause which human calculation might deem worthy of devotion, even the devotion of ourselves. At the call the disciples leave everything that they have – but not because they think that they might be doing something worthwhile, but simply for the sake of the call. Otherwise they cannot follow in the steps of Jesus. The disciples burn their boats and go ahead. They are dragged out of their relative security into a life of absolute insecurity. When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all the bonds of
legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. Christ calls; we are to follow."

The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. R. H. Fuller, © 1958, SCM Press.

The Chair of Saint Peter; Day of Prayer

[The following was part of a leaflet handed out in the parish advertising today's Day of Prayer]

Where now for traditional Anglicans?
On 22nd February this year we are taking part in a nationwide Day of Prayer for the future of the Church.
This was prompted by, among other recent developments, the offer of Pope Benedict XVI of a place for Anglicans (throughout the world and not just in the United Kingdom) who will be increasingly unable to remain within the sadly divided Anglican family.
This is part of the continuing prayer, discussions and, indeed, heart-searching within both the Church of England and the Church in Wales as to what the future has in store for those who hold to traditional Anglican practice in the Church’s life and ministry.
The changes which have taken place and which will take place over the next few years will affect everyone, regardless of their own views on the rightness of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate and the continuing debate within Anglicanism on issues of human sexuality.
Realistically, parishes, families and friends will all continue to be divided in their response to the issues which face us. So whatever our own convictions may be, and we are all aware that these are issues of profound importance on which feelings run high, we must try especially hard during this period of significant change, upheaval, and religious realignment to behave courteously and with sympathy towards those with whom we may strongly disagree and to pray both for them and alongside them.
The remarkable and historic offer from Pope Benedict, made in response to approaches from Anglican groups throughout the world, consists of what is being referred to as an “Ordinariate,” which will be a permanent place within the Catholic Church where Anglicans, under their own leadership and church structures may keep many aspects of their liturgical inheritance and spirituality. Someone has described this as an important experiment in ecumenism whereby on the basis of a common faith traditional Anglicans will be enabled to enter into unity with Rome without losing their distinctiveness or having to renounce their past.
Nothing has yet taken place, and it seems that this process will take some years before we see how it will develop. No one has to make any decisions at present as to their future, but this may well prove to be a very significant moment in the history of our Church and one which, far from increasing our divisions in the long term, may prove a catalyst for greater unity and understanding among Christians who are now so fundamentally divided on such issues as the authority given to Scripture and tradition in the life of the Church.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favourably on your  whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery, and by the tranquil operation of your perpetual providence, carry out the work of salvation: that things which were cast down may be raised up, and that all things may return to unity through him by whom all things were made, even your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, reigning from your eucharistic throne, establish the throne of your vicar, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, in faithfulness, justice, truth, and peace. Uphold him, defend him, enlighten him, console him, enliven him with all graces to lead your Church boldly in your footsteps and to gather together into one flock those who look to you for salvation.

Lord Jesus Christ,

You said to your apostles,
'I leave you peace; my peace I give you.'
Look not on our sins,
but on the faith of your Church;
and grant her the peace and unity
which is according to your will;
who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Significant News today from Forward in Faith:
'Friends of the Ordinariate' launched in UK

Forward in Faith is happy to commend to its members a new initiative, Friends of the Ordinariate, which invites all who are interested in the possibilities raised by the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus to register their names and then receive occasional email updates as plans for the Ordinariate develop in the UK.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

What a bizarre country we live in!
 Where bankers (employed by companies more than half owned by the State) can, despite massive incompetence, be paid equally massive bonuses, yet we are unwilling to pay Members of Parliament to travel first class (we would call it business class if we weren't so preoccupied with inapproprate notions of status) or be paid a salary which would encourage the brightest and the best to aspire to their ranks because of  a strange and quixotic public meanspiritedness. In more senses than one, we get the politicians we pay for.
 Where ageing pop stars, out of an obvious vested interest, rather than any kind of evidence, can proclaim the homosexuality of the Incarnate Son of God, yet where the Prophet Mohammed ('peace and blessings upon him' - the italics indicate an element of irony) is accorded by a cowardly media an inviolability which forbids any kind of comment whatsoever.
 Where, for those born here, the birth rate plummets and the culture of death increasingly lays claim to the beginning and the end of human life.
 Where the Church has an honoured place for those who deny the articles of the creeds, yet marginalises and excludes those who uphold the historic faith.
 I'll stop before penitence turns to depression.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Day of Prayer

Here at St Arvans we will be observing the Day of Prayer for the Church in the light of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, on the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, Monday 22nd February.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 8 am
9:00 a.m. Morning Prayer
12:00 noon Angelus & Prayer during the Day
4:00 p.m. Evening Prayer
7:30 p.m. Mass:  [intention: the reunion of all Christians]
9 p.m.;  Night Prayer

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

More disinformation

To think I used to regard The Guardian as required reading!
and here

For those Anglican Catholics who have hitherto been sceptical about Anglicanorum Coetibus, please take a look at those who are now ranging themselves against it. That in itself would be enough to change my mind were it in need of being changed. But those within the Catholic Church who, to put it tactfully, remain to be convinced about the desirability of the Apostolic Constitution, should themselves pause and consider that The Guardian newspaper is traditionally not only no friend to Catholicism (actually to any form of orthodox Christianity, but its virulent anti-catholicism verges on the Kensitite - its writers are clearly "protestant secularists.") but increasingly and clearly an avowed enemy.
We need to pray particularly as this Lent begins for the Holy Father himself, who is the real target of these attacks, for those Anglican bishops (including the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough) who are courageously and honourably leading their people towards the long-desired goal of unity with the See of Peter, for the media's religious affairs correspondents themselves, and most particularly of all, perhaps, for the person or persons responsible for passing on  private emails (however innocently they may have been obtained) in the hope of causing mischief.

Ash Wednesday: Remember, man, that you are dust....

Lent begins today with the traditional ceremonies of ashing during mass.
Perhaps this Lent as part of our process of discernment we may be able to reflect on the "Babylonian captivity" of our part of the Church in relation both to the secular culture and the secularists within. By God's grace, we should repent of our own complicity in that process and, in love, do what we can, where we can, to make amends. Lent is a strongly corporate experience as well as an intensely personal one.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

News round up

Jesu Mercy, Mary Pray.
Fr Charles Smith R.I.P.
Very much the end of an era for those of us who knew, admired and respected him as parish priest of St Mary Mags at Oxford. After his time we witnessed the sad decline of a once famous "shrine parish." From the sublime to the ridiculous, one might say.

 Lenten reading here:
Riches indeed! Choose from readings from the Church Fathers, the lives of the medieval saints as related by Pope Benedict, Fr Faber and Cardinal Newman, and selections from the writings of St John Vianney.

 It doesn't get more positive than this. Mgr Peter Elliott on the Anglican Ordinariates

More Anglican patrimony - a candidate for canonisation?
A reflection on the Anglo-Catholic Thomist Fr Eric Mascall by Prof William Tighe

Saint-Pierre-du-Chemin, capitale des amoureux!
On a lighter note, here's a link to the village and church of St Pierre du Chemin which boasts possession of the relics of St Valentine. It's just a few kilometers up the road from our farmhouse in the Vendee.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Realignment - all round

For observers of the contemporary religious scene there are some fascinating possibilities being floated. The issue of Anglican - Methodist unity has resurfaced at the very time when the Church of England is moving inexorably towards the ordination of women to the episcopate and the expulsion of its Anglo-Catholic remnant.
Putting the Apostolic Constitution on one side for a moment, this time around, unlike the previous attempt at Anglican / Methodist unity in the early 1970s, the "blocking power" of a large Catholic group in General Synod no longer exists and, given the probability of the Methodists' acceptance of a form of episcopal government (episcopal authority in modern Anglicanism is in any case severely constrained by the synodical system: Anglican bishops are to a large extent, in terms of their powers if not the deference accorded them, already superintendent ministers in fancy dress) the way would seem to be clear for a successful reunion of the two "denominations."
The beneficaries of this would not be, as in the past, Anglican evangelicals, but the liberal / broad church establishment: Methodism has moved a long way from the theology of John Wesley and his successors with its stress on sola fideism, the primacy of scripture and a passionate belief in the power of preaching. The coming together of two now largely theologically liberal ecclesial bodies, freed from the constraints of traditional protestantism on the one hand and the Anglo-Catholic adherence to apostolic succession on the other, would seem in ecumenical terms to be  a welcome and logical development.
And for those who will over the next few years form the Anglican ordinariates in the Catholic Church, this new Methodist Anglican development will have the added advantage of them being able to say to their fellow Anglican Catholics who are at present reluctant to join them that the Church of their baptism will, as a matter of fact as well as theological direction, no longer exist; it will be a case of two novel developments (experiments?) in ecclesial organisation, and a question of choice as to where they think the Anglican patrimony really belongs. Staying where one is can no longer be an option.

Snow in Rome!
Is there no end to the effort to make Anglicans feel welcome?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Stones instead of bread indeed!

Both Ruth Gledhill  and Damian Thompson report today that the Church of England's General Synod revision committee chaired by the Bishop of Manchester has rejected any possible legislative arrangements which will enable catholic traditionalists to remain within the Anglican fold whilst clinging to any last vestiges of ecclesiological coherence. This is surely the long predicted endgame for catholic-minded Anglicans, although there never has been a shortage in our ranks of the kind of incurable "optimists" who will try to draw new lines in the sand even when the incoming tide is threatening to sweep them off their feet. It's intensely frustrating until you realise it's not a love of compromise which leads to this almost desperate search for a silver lining in any dark cloud which may come along, but such a deep and sincere love for their corner of the "church catholic" that  it is almost impossible even to consider leaving it behind for another ecclesial home.
But this latest news is not exactly a bombshell for those of us already suffering at the hands of the  "exclusive inclusive" majority within contemporary western Anglicanism. Coupled with the rather silly (and subjunctive-free) comments of the Archbishop of York over the weekend about the Apostolic Constitution, this does nothing to change my own view that what seems now the almost miraculous offer contained in Anglicanorum Coetibus (however it becomes possible for us to avail ourselves of it) is itself the only option for the Anglo-Catholic Movement and, in reality, always has been.
The Anglican establishment has always dealt in kind words towards us but without the slightest will to do anything constructive to back up its generous sentiments - a little like its attitude to wider ecumenism in fact. We are clearly not wanted within our own ecclesial body and it will now, in various ways, be made impossible for us to stay, even if that were still our wish. The once familiar landscape will be become completely unrecognisable; those of us ordained to the priesthood before the 1990s experience that to a large extent already.
Perhaps this latest news may concentrate  minds a little?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

I thank you God

Every now and again, at this time of year, we get a brilliantly sunny and mild day which seems to defy the seasons and is filled with light and warmth, giving us a foretaste of the spring and summer to come and even, if you are so minded, of the glory of God and the world He created and holds in being.
Below is the composer Eric Whitacre's setting of this poem by e e cummings, not normally one of my favourite poets but here he gets it just right.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A well deserved rebuke

"Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth. Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s right to be heard?"     Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales

Pope Benedict's words have caused a preditable outcry among the liberal "intelligensia" and those who, in reckless and doctrinaire pursuit of the chimera of "equality," have little understanding of the checks and balances and, indeed, compromises necessary to the existence of a free society. The left (the silly, adolescent, post 60s British left) regard the practice of "religion" as a problem to be managed and made to conform to their own preconceptions rather than as a fundamental freedom to be cherished. It was not long ago that the British Labour Party's boast was that it owed more to Methodism (and, it may be added, the votes of working class Catholics) than to Marxism - not so now. "Cultural Marxism" has captured the citadel.
But what they forget is that Pope Benedict speaks for many who have been disenfranchised by current socio-political trends. The Church of England, (and even more so the Church in Wales, not that its voice counts very much) whether it yet realises it or not, because of its seeming inability to make continuing provision for its own traditionalists, is now fatally compromised philosophically and theologically in its opposition to repressive equality legislation, despite the opposition to government legislation of some of its bishops in the House of Lords, and there are almost no politicians of any party who are prepared to speak up in support of the very foundations upon which our freedom rests. It seems to be left to the Holy Father both to rescue credally orthodox Anglicans and to seek to protect the traditional liberties of British subjects.
Given the historic propaganda of the British State, is it possible for contemporary events to take a more ironic turn?


Yes, comments on this issue become more and more bizarre. On BBC's The World at One an M.P. describing himself as a "practising Catholic" (but one whose loyalties to his faith and his politics evidently are not at all divided) characterised the Pope's words as "outside interference" (this from a Catholic - words completely fail me!), and the Daily Telegraph's George Pitcher has a predictably malicious and poisonous post which manages to defame Pope Benedict and Anglo-Catholics in equal measure, seemingly on the basis that if one isn't capable of  marshalling a reasoned argument then one should resort to sexual innuendo and misinformation. As we saw last October, there's nothing like a Roman intervention for getting traditional British prejudices flowing - like a river!

Monday, 1 February 2010

"Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang"

Some photos today of the ruins of nearby Tintern Abbey, a few miles up the road from here. I’ve always found it a melancholy place, haunted by its past glories, but it was good to spend an hour or so there on a recent cold and sunny late January afternoon before adjourning for coffee and then on to a local bookshop.

The otherwise rather good guide book to the Abbey (published by CADW, the body responsible for Welsh “historic monuments”) repeats the now rather exploded mythology about the spiritual exhaustion of the monasteries in the early Tudor period, yet does admit that Cistercian spirituality was still very much alive and even thriving at Tintern itself.
 The abbey was handed over to Henry VIII’s commissioners on 3rd September 1536. Its still impressive ruins stand not only as a witness to the ages of faith and their enduring legacy but also to the greed and cruelty of those, in tune with the spirit of the age, who seek to destroy and tear down for their own material profit. It is an uncomfortable feeling, but perhaps at this juncture a salutary exercise - something necessary, to confront one’s own historic complicity (even if only by default after nearly five hundred years) in such an act of barbarism.
Ut unum sint.

“Draw near and behold how all is made desolate: and how the enemy hath destroyed all that is in thy sanctuary.”

The modern statue of Our Lady of Tintern by Philip Chatfield