Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Information - only at a price

The news from Guido Fawkes today that the Daily Telegraph, head and shoulders above other British newspapers in so many ways, intends to charge (incrementally) for their online content is rather sad.  Here 
Is this a tacit admission that they consider the days of the physical, printed, newspaper to be numbered?
The Times, not a friend of orthodox Christianity and a positive enemy of Catholicism, has already made this decision and, personally speaking, I don't consider we are very much the worse for it, so long gone are the days when The Times was the newspaper of record in the U.K..
Of course, we are all aware that in the past newspapers had to be purchased, and that this new trend is only a return to the status quo ante. But the advent of the web was something new and different and potentially far more inclusive in terms of who was able to access information and comment upon it.
We will all suffer (and not only 'parasitic' bloggers like me) should the paywall (a kind of iron curtain to keep information in) comes down around The Daily Telegraph. Someone, an accountant, clearly,  has obviously made the calculation that even cutting their online readership by about 90% will still work out as a profitable trade-off. Advertisers are equally obviously reluctant to part with their money in sufficient numbers to keep the online versions of newspapers free to the reader. But what of the loss of goodwill and the denial of some of the best journalism around to the young and the less affluent? That's probably not something the average accountant can easily comprehend, but one would expect more from professional writers and journalists who stand to benefit from the mere fact that their work is 'out there' and being read, even if it's not directly making money for their employer. One of the most exciting aspects of the internet is its freedom (in all ways) of information, and the valuable contribution that makes to the diversity of society's conversation. It would be a great pity at a time of bewildering change if that social conversation and debate were to be carried on free of charge only by the wackos, the rank amateurs, The Guardian, and the BBC.
Having said that, I'm sure the vacuum will be filled by those who have the imagination and the will to keep online news and comment free.

Here we go again

A snowy St Andrew's Day, it was -6 C outside church after mass this morning. We had just a sprinkling of snow overnight. Compared to much of the rest of the country we have escaped lightly.

The most trying aspect of those who claim to be progressive (I deliberately won't use the somewhat more honourable  term 'reformers'), ecclesially, politically, ethically, is that they never give up, and they are none too scrupulous about their methods. 
In Britain a real head of steam is building behind the 'assisted suicide' campaign. Here is George Pitcher's take from the Daily Telegraph on Lord ('Charlie') Faulkner's not-at-all-Independent Commission on the subject, clearly bankrolled and staffed by those committed to a change in the law.

What is it about the great and the good of the contemporary British establishment  (or is this a more widespread western phenomenon?) that they seem to be at the same time so imaginatively illiterate and place such unshakeable trust and belief in human rationality? It's as if those horrifying tragedies of the twentieth century - which give the lie to those who question both original sin and the existence of evil - had never happened, and we are back in the late Victorian era when the god of progress was firmly enthroned in the minds and hearts of all right thinking people.
God so loved the world that he didn't send a committee.

However, I'm sure we can rely on churchmen of all traditions and ecclesiastical allegiances to stand up and be counted in defence of the law as it stands. Or should I start a book now on who will be the first to break ranks, and on those who will simply keep their heads down and remain silent for fear of appearing to be out of touch and, therefore, irrelevant in the eyes of those who 'matter?'

For St Andrew's Day:
[& please see the comments (below) for another significant anniversary (a cautionary tale from English history?) - thanks to Prof William Tighe]

The Divine Liturgy on the Feast Day of St. Andrew at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George, Istanbul, four years ago during the visit of Pope Benedict.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Advent begins

It looks like a cold beginning to Advent: the churchyard this morning after a dusting of snow...

I seem to have come to the point where in many ways I prefer the austere longing of the Church's Advent season to the celebrations of the Nativity itself. I suppose this could be a natural reaction to the commercial frenzy which surrounds the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the sentimental artificiality of so much of our extra-liturgical celebration of Christmas itself. On the other hand, the explanation could be that,  psychologically, my preference has been determined by the wilderness experience of ecclesial provisionality of many of us over the last few years. In the words of R. S. Thomas (a poet not entirely to my taste in some ways)  "the meaning is in the waiting."

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. AMEN

Friday, 26 November 2010

For the last time - this year

A worrying trend

The news that a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl has been arrested for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran (BBC report here) is deeply disturbing. Given that the Christian faith is regularly traduced and maligned by so-called 'satirists' on mainsteam, prime time television and radio, and that, to take an example, the Koran itself (outrageously, and in obedience to Muslim tradition) has to be placed on the top shelf in British public libraries, we seem to have reached a point of glaring inequality between the two faiths at least in the way in which they are treated in the media and in the public arena. There is developing a distinct inequality of respect.
This is not a racial issue; it's a matter of religion. It might even surprise some secularists that both Christianity and Islam originated in the Middle East; neither is indigenous, although one has been formative in the establishment and development of our common Western values and representative institutions, and the other has historically been regarded (perhaps with good reason) as inimical to both.

Left-Liberal secularism, enforced under the cloak of a tolerant multiculturalism, has to be one of the most cowardly ideologies ever developed by the human race. It will only confront those who will not fight back, and it cravenly submits to the blackmail of a very small and vocal minority of radicalised Muslims whose cultural and intellectual legacy of fundamentalism predisposes them to violence and the threat of using violence. 'Multiculturalism' (rather like our current crop of 'comedians') only respects what it fears.
Either there is equality in the way laws are enforced, or the law, as Mr Bumble said, is an ass.
It's time that all religions, and their more excitable adherents, learned to be more reasoned in their reaction to criticism. This is not Islamabad, Tehran or the Gaza Strip. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord, meaning just that - it's not ours.

We don't need protection from debate and robust comment, nor even from the unfair and sometimes vile comments of the satirists of the left. If that debate and comment were to overstep the mark and lead to violence or discrimination, there were, and are, adequate legal sanctions already available. Respect, and consideration for the deepest values, beliefs and opinions of others comes (or should come) from a quality of grace and restraint in our social and cultural life which cannot be enforced by heavy-handed legisation. The law against "incitement to religious hatred" (here) is undesirable in terms of political and legal theory and (because of our modern self-hating, inverse cultural cringe) is turning out to be discriminatory in practice. It is a bad law in principle, badly drafted and inconsistently applied. It was always going to be that way, and our legislators were warned.  It is an unnecessary piece of legislation which should be removed from the statute book as soon as possible. Now surely that should be something which all true Conservatives and Liberals ought to be in agreement. No, I won't watch this space.

Of course, this particular law is another product of the cynical and manipulative New Labour years, having more to do with the preservation of Labour majorities in certain parts of the country than with the tackling of any real social problem. As we know well, this was also a period when, despite the Christian credentials of Labour's two (warring) leaders, a concerted attempt was made to drive Christianity from the public square in the name of a radically redefined 'tolerance and equality.'
What better way to achieve that, coincidentally,  than to make all religions equal but, in the unbalanced way this unnecessary law would be enforced by police and prosecutors, through fear of social unrest, racial divisions or the alienation of 'minority' communities, to make one faith seem to be more equal than the others, and that not the 'established' or historic religion of the land?  An object lesson in how to bring the law into disrepute and how to make any inter-faith understanding much more difficult into the bargain.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Short on humour?

An organisation representing (or claiming to repesent) those suffering from dwarfism is extremely upset about  Prime Minister David Cameron repeating (a rather funny) story at Mr Speaker Bercow's expense. Here
Mr Cameron should have known better; someone was always going to take offence; we all have to be so careful in this very political and extremely humourless age.
In any case, I've always  naïvely assumed dwarves in fairy stories  folk tales to be mythical creatures rather than humans with a genetic condition or medical disorder.
Having said that, I'm sure there's an army of angry gnomes, goblins, trolls and ogres, not to mention unicorns, centaurs and dragons out there just waiting to complain should someone make a similar 'gaffe.'

St Catherine

The altar, St Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai - photo; The New Liturgical Movement

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr. Most of us of a certain age probably first heard her name in childhood in connection with the popular firework, the Catherine Wheel, although that is now, for some reason, almost universally sold and referred to as a pin-wheel: we seem to be doing our level best to lapse into a culturally suicidal collective amnesia about our history and the things which have formed us.

Tradition says that St Catherine was born in Alexandria, the daughter of a noble family. Having been converted to Christianity through a vision, she denounced the persecution of her fellow believers under the Emperor Maxentius. Offered an imperial marriage if she would deny her faith, she refused and was put to death on a spiked wheel, and when the wheel broke, she was beheaded. She is venerated as the patroness of philosophers and preachers.  Her Catholic Encyclopaedia entry is here
One of the most popular of saints in the medieval period, St. Catherine's was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.

Our French neighbours tell us that today, St Catherine's Day,  is the best time for planting new trees and shrubs. Not for us this year unfortunately; that will have to wait until early Spring, which will at least give the plants a fighting chance before the heat of the Summer.

 Here in our southeast corner of Monmouthshire this morning we have a heavy white frost, by far the worst of the season so far. Winter begins in earnest...

And for the U.S. A., it's the Thanksgiving holiday- so Happy Thanksgiving to any of you who may be reading this in between the turkey and the rest of the festivities!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Social media - for Pete's sake!

L'affaire Broadbent has presented us with the less edifyng side of internet social networking sites. We all have a tendency to shoot from the hip and make comments we may very well regret later on after a few hours' consideration. Facebook, Twitter and all the others, not to mention blogging itself, all tend to lead us into the dangerous area of instant comment with its concomitant lack of charity. It's always a good rule of thumb to say nothing online which we wouldn't be prepared say to a person face to face or which we would have to add to our list for the confessional. But having said that, isn't the heavy-handed suspension of  the Bishop of Willesden looking every bit as ill-considered as the comments which originally got him into such hot water?  It seems Anglican bishops can say what they like about Our Lord and get away with it, but ....... 
It just seems to be a interesting little illustration of the contemporary values and priorities of the Church of England.

My daughter's school seems to spend a great deal of time very sensibly and reasonably warning its teenage girls and boys about the dangers of  posting comments on Facebook and other social media, words which they may wish they hadn't written and which may come back to haunt them, not to mention the terrible damage done to interpersonal relationships within the confines of a relatively small community. Modern communications have made the whole world a smaller place; the 'global community' is increasingly interconnected. Comments made here can be read in the U.S. or Australia (or in bishops' palaces closer to home)  in just a few short seconds. So perhaps there should be similar advice given to mitred members of the (English) Establishment (particularly to those who think they're not really 'establishment' at all.) That's something for Diocesan CME directors to get their teeth into and attempt to justify their existence. 'Responsible Social Networking for Bishops and Clergy'  - should that be a day or a residential course?

But this whole story does raise the more serious question as to how a truly convinced republican could honestly take the oath of allegiance at all. For a Church of England bishop to disapprove of the concept of monarchy itself and (presumably) of the whole Crown/Church connection, could make one wonder what all the fuss has been about since the 1530s.
I've always thought that to believe in the disestablishment of the C of E without also legislating for its dissolution ( involving reunion with Rome for some, and with what used to be called 'Protestant Dissent' for others),  is something of a contradiction, unless one believes there is a coherent and cohesive body of specific Anglican doctrine and practice which is (now - in the contemporary situation) worth preserving in an independent ecclesial entity. No, please, speaking as a 'cleric' of the disestablished Church in Wales [and, remember, disestablished against its will by the State, thereby making us a branch broken from an already severed limb] let's not go there...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

More of the same

Thanks to the Ordinariate Portal for this excerpt from the Archbishop of Canterbury's presidential address to the new session of the General Synod of the Church of England:

"As we proceed towards a decision about the ordination of women as bishops, it is important that, here and in the dioceses, we should not be afraid of discussions that clarify the theological issues. It will be a great pity if we come to our final decision without having confidently articulated why women bishops would be theologically in tune with our deepest commitments. As I’ve said more than once before, I believe that the ARCIC Agreed Statement on ordained ministry offers a clear basis for argument and a clear common ground on which we can continue discussion with our ecumenical partners, whatever the tensions. Those like myself who believe women bishops to be a development both good and timely for the Church and wholly consistent with its mainstream understanding of ministry and sacraments should be ready to make the argument in the strong theological terms in which it can be made. And those who do not share these convictions have both the right and the responsibility to articulate the theology of the Church and its authority which makes them hesitate, because listening to these points is a necessary part of the whole body’s discernment.

Of course it is a matter of real sorrow that some have already decided that they cannot in conscience continue this discussion within the Church of England. They remain in our prayers and we continue to give thanks for the ministry they have offered all of us. And I must add that, despite continuing sensationalism about the effect of this on the main work of ecumenical relations, the planning of the next round of ARCIC has been developing constructively; and I was told last week in Rome at the highest level that the membership of the Commission is at last practically finalised. The remit of this next Commission is – appropriately – to look at exactly this question of the authority belonging to the local Church and its relation to the universal Church."
The whole address can be read here

Here's the rub: (the emphasis is mine) "it is a matter of real sorrow that some have already decided that they cannot in conscience continue this discussion within the Church of England."

For most of those who have made the decision to leave, now or at some point in the near future (and it has hardly been a precipitate decision),  "continuing the discussion" is precisely the problem. A "discussion" can only take place in any meaningful way when both sides are prepared to listen to the needs of the other. General Synod (not to mention the assemblies of other Anglican provinces) and its various committees and working groups have shown very few signs of a constructive engagement with the actual theological, ecclesiological and sacramental needs of those who "hestitate" (sic) to agree to this departure from apostolic order.
But for us, this is not a "discussion;" ecclesially, these are life and death issues, going to the very heart of the sacramental life itself, the nature of the Church, and the future of any ecumenical dialogue which could lead to full and visible unity, the unity for which the Lord prayed on the eve of his Passion. It cannot be a matter of "the whole body's discernment," because we, as Anglicans, are not the whole body.
It may also be reading too much into a general 'beginning of term' address, but these are the sort of diplomatic comments which are made when someone knows there is nothing more to offer, but is reluctant to admit it.
As in all of Dr Williams's addresses, there are several nuanced themes being enunciated at the same time. The encouragement  by the Archbishop of the proponents of women bishops "to make the argument in the strong theological terms in which it can be made" can very easily be read as an implicit recognition of the weakness of the case they have so far presented - strong on sociology, weak on theology.
But ultimately this does not bode well for those Anglo-Catholics who wish to remain at all costs within Anglican structures.
It should also make the next round of 'ARCIC'  rather interesting to say the least.

St Clement: Kindness

The Basilica of San Clemente in Rome

It was a great pleasure on Sunday (and indeed, an honour) between masses to meet Fr Seán Finnegan of the blog Valle Adurni and a fellow contributor to the Anglo-Catholic (and very much more besides.)
It's a difficult time for many Anglo-Catholics as we try to discern what it is God wants us to do. What has come as a revelation in the midst of this crisis is the kindness of strangers. Well, perhaps not now strangers exactly, but certainly those from whom we have been divided by centuries of misunderstanding, opposition and, in the early years of our enforced separation, violence and persecution. At times the realisation that we are surrounded by so much prayer is almost overwhelming, and it is certainly sobering to realise that many of us have received recently far more kindness and generosity from those from whom we are at present separated than from many of those (there are exceptions, I know) who form with us part of the same ecclesial community.
The Anglo-Catholic Movement, of which many of us are proud to be a part, even in its dying days, never quite fitted. I'm sure we all have personal anecdotes to substantiate that, in addition to our knowledge of Anglican history. There have always been those more than willing to make the accusation of disloyalty or of cypto-Romanism. We know of the ritualists who were imprisoned under Disraeli's PWR Act; a few centuries before openness to Catholic tradition cost Archbishop Laud his life.   But that was its major strength; it was the grit in the oyster (or the stone in the shoe, depending on your point of view.) I'm glad that after nearly five hundred years, at least part of that movement is being welcomed home with such generous consideration, sympathy and true liberality.

from the Letter of Pope St Clement I to the Corinthians

"Let us, therefore, brethren, be of a humble frame of mind, ridding ourselves of all arrogance and haughtiness and foolishness and passion, and do what the Scripture says; for the Holy Spirit declares: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man of his strength, or the rich man of his riches; but, if anyone boasts, let his boast be in the Lord; thus he will seek and do what is right and just. Especially let us be mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spoke when inculcating gentleness and long-suffering. This is what He said: Show mercy, that you may be shown mercy; forgive, that you may be forgiven; as you treat others, so you shall be treated; as you give, so you shall receive; as you judge, so you shall be judged; as you show kindness, so kindness shall be shown to you; the measure you use in measuring shall be used in measuring out your share. With this commandment and these precepts let us strengthen ourselves, that we may live in obedience to His holy words, with humility in our hearts; for the Holy Scripture says: On whom shall I look but on him who is gentle and meek and trembles at hearing my words? "
And, to end, this strange (but topical) reference to the Phoenix, the mythical bird born again from the ashes of its old existence and, clearly,  an ancient Christian symbol of the resurrection (long before it was appropriated by J.K. Rowling!)
"Let us consider the strange and striking phenomenon which takes place in the East, that is, in the regions of Arabia. There is a bird which is called the phoenix. It is the only individual of its kind, and it lives five hundred years; and when it approaches dissolution and its death is imminent, it makes itself a nest out of frankincense and myrrh and the other spices; this it enters when the time is fulfilled, and dies. But out of the decaying flesh a sort of worm is born, which feeds on the juices of the dead animal until it grows wings; then, upon growing strong, it takes up that nest in which the bones of the former bird are, and these it carries all the way from Arabia to the Egyptian city called Heliopolis; and there, in daytime, in the sight of all, it lights upon the altar of the Sun and deposits them there, and then departs to its former home. The priests then examine the public records, and find that it has come after the lapse of five hundred years."
Do we, then, consider it a great and remarkable thing if the Creator of the universe will bring about a resurrection of those who have piously served Him in the assurance engendered by honest faith, when He uses even a bird to illustrate the sublime nature of His promise? For somewhere it is said: And Thou wilt raise me, and I will give Thee praise: and, I lay down to sleep, and I slept; and I awoke again, for Thou art with me. And, again, Job says: Thou wilt raise up this body of mine, which has patiently endured all these things."

Monday, 22 November 2010

Excerpts from that interview

Sandro Magister  here reproduces some excerpts from the forthcoming book length interview with Pope Benedict entitled "Light of the World."

I'm only going to copy two (and no, not on the issue which is whipping everyone into an unnecessary media-feeding frenzy at the moment). The first is on the nature of priesthood and the ordination of women, perhaps an understandable preoccupation of some of us at present:

"The formulation of John Paul II is very important: "The Church does not have in any way the faculty to confer priestly ordination on women." It is not a matter of not wanting, but of not being able. The Lord has given a form to the Church with the Twelve and then with their succession, with the bishops and the presbyters (the priests). We were not the ones who created this form of the Church, but rather its essentiality comes from him. Following it is an act of obedience, and in the contemporary situation perhaps one of the most burdensome acts of obedience. But precisely this is important, that the Church show that it is not an arbitrary regime. We cannot do what we want. There is instead the Lord's will for us, to which we adhere, even if this is wearisome and difficult in the culture and civilization of today. Besides, the functions entrusted to women in the Church are so great and significant that one cannot speak of discrimination. This would be the case if the priesthood were a sort of dominion, while on the contrary it must be complete service. If one looks at the history of the Church, one realizes that the significance of women – from Mary to Monica all the way to Mother Teresa – is so eminent that in many ways women define the face of the Church more than men do."
As we would expect from this Pope, this is a reflective and thoughtful restatement of the tradition, giving the lie to claims that those who oppose women's ordination on traditional grounds are motivated by prejudice and fear of the feminine. Still, as we know from the Anglo-Catholic perspective in the wake of all the debates and particularly the publication of  'Consecrated Women?',  it won't stop the accusations coming thick and fast. Modern secular understandings of progress and of human nature brook no opposition.
And the second excerpt is in direct relation to that:
"The real threat that we are facing is that tolerance may be abolished in the name of tolerance itself. There is the danger that reason, so-called Western reason, may maintain that it has finally recognized what is right, and in this way make a claim of totality that is the enemy of freedom. I believe that it is necessary to denounce this threat forcefully. No one is forced to be Christian. But no one must be forced to live according to the "new religion," as if it were the only and true religion binding for all humanity."
We should read it all - one for the Christmas list!

Friday, 19 November 2010

An outbreak of realism? Perhaps...

The reality of the situation seems to be striking various actors in the drama unfolding in front of us. The Ordinariate will begin on a relatively small scale, but will gain momentum as the truth of the situation dawns on those at present reluctant to accept it. There will be no stampede and no panic; in fact, it's far better that there shouldn't be. A gradual process of disengagement (as provided for - and envisaged - by Anglicanorum Coetibus itself) seems most likely for sympathetic Anglo-Catholics unable to remain and continue the attempt to square the theological circle. Surely the welcome mat will be left out for as long as it is needed.

Update: The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales issued this statement today setting out the approximate timetable for the establishment of the Ordinariate. There are no surprises contained in it as far as I can see.
Here are links to the Ordinariate Portal and the Catholic Herald which are both running with the breaking news. No doubt comment from all quarters will be forthcoming.

And the 'Anglican crisis' is as far from being resolved as ever it has been.
No surprises there, given that those on opposing sides increasingly seem to believe in radically different deities; a 'common language' increasingly divides them - the words are the same, the meanings attached to them diverge wildly.
I feel most sorry - in some ways - for those theologically 'in the middle' and the wilfully unobservant who think things will stay very much the same. But, then, it's a misty morning and the streets here are thronged with old maids bicycling their way to Holy Communion.......

Here is a report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's latest interview in Rome. And here is Vatican Radio's Report with a audio link of the whole interview
And some widely reported comments from the Bishop of Beverley, an honourable man and admittedly in a very different situation to that of the southern flying bishops about whom he had some very warm things to say: 'Not yet, until it's clear the ship is really going down,' he seems to be saying.
I have resolutely no comment to make, only that the water has been lapping our ankles for a while now and shows no sign of receding. Perhaps we notice these things sooner down in third class.

Meanwhile, debate on the Anglican Covenant (a toothless tiger 'by design' if ever there was one) rumbles on and TEC's worshipper figures seem to confirm that the Anglican ship is indeed holed beneath the  waterline. This from the Church of England Newspaper:
"The Episcopal Church continues in its course of a steep decline in the wake of its divisions over doctrine and discipline, with the national office reporting that in 2009 average Sunday attendance (ASA) fell by three per cent to 682,963. As of the end of 2009, the Episcopal Church reported having 2,006,343 active members—at its peak in the 1960s the Church counted over 3.5 million members."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Spots and measles

In a deeply unpleasant piece in The Guardian,  Stephen Bates (self-confessedly, "someone who is pretty lapsed these days"- so yet another 'candid friend' of Christianity a la MacCulloch) raises the old canard about potential recruits to the Ordinariate being little better than misogynists, and repeats that tired liberal prediction about the next- Pope-but-one who will be shocked into WO and any other fashionable nostrums by falling priestly vocations.
Well, speaking personally, if in the more than highly unlikely event of that happening (impossible, given the statements of successive Popes? [see comments]), questions of the validity of WO would then, for me, resolve themselves - at least ex post facto - but not, of course, in any sense as regards the actions of the adherents of the 'new religion' (pace C.S. Lewis) which Anglicans in the west appear to be begetting - or perhaps 'giving birth to' is the better analogy.
But when will these people realise that the issue of authority looms larger and larger for all of us, and has to a great extent changed our view of the Anglican Communion to which we now belong? I'm afraid, such is our disillusionment, that Fr David Houlding's recent re-statement in an interview with Ruth Gledhill here of the C of E as being "the ancient Catholic Church of this land" isn't one which many of us would now be able to recognise as bearing much relationship to reality. Such claims now tend to elicit hollow laughter rather than even emotional agreement.
But 'Factionalism' is something most of us long to be able to leave behind: it doesn't come naturally and, as we know well, one Anglican's 'factionalism' is another's sturdy defence of the Catholic Faith. Accusations of factionalism (even if here they were aimed at us - they're not: I suspect Mr Bates & co have one far more highly placed - and very Catholic - target in mind) only arise out of the utter impossibility of 'Catholics' ever being merely one party in an ecclesial polity which pretends to transcend differences in churchmanship and theology. But in some ways it's hardly an exaggeration to say that factionalism is what Anglicanism is about - it's built into the fabric. There is within contemporary Anglicanism no universally acknowledged source of authority to which one can refer, unless we can bring ourselves to accept the malign and often theologically ignorant and self-contradictory decisions of synodical majorities.  Anglican factionalism goes with the territory and is not the same thing at all as "dissent," in the Catholic sense, from a clearly identifiable magisterium.
As to misogyny, it's an article of faith with them; they simply cannot accept that for us the ordination of women and ethical revisionism are rather like the spots which herald an attack of a contagious disease - not at all the most significant issue for the sufferer.

Bax Symphony No 6 : last movement

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A new Ordinariate site and a few other links

Our Requiem Mass for Remembrance Sunday this morning (I hope some photos will apear here or on Fr Mark's blog in due course) took place at St Deiniol's. I was glad not to know until after the homily that we had a retired Air Chief Marshal in the congregation.

There is a new Ordinariate site ( a noticeboard for news and information in what is a developing situation):
http://ordinariateportal.wordpress.com/  It comes highly commended.
You will now be able to find a more permanent link on the right of this blog

Fr Hunwicke has a splendid post on the subject of Remembrance Sunday and the Mass.
"The Mass is just as subversive of our modern tyrannies as it was of the horrible nationalisms of the twentieth century. It subverts now- fashionable assumptions of roles and genders. As a communal and hierarchical act with a formal and inherited structure, it subverts the cultures of choice, of spontaneity, of individual autonomy, of each man constructing her own identity"
Read it all here

I really like this newspaper more and more. Where else in the British press but at the Daily Telegraph website could we read this?
"Vincent Nichols shows his impeccable orthodoxy
A.N. Wilson interviews Archbishop Vincent Nichols in this weekend’s Financial Times. Vincent Nichols, writes Wilson, is “a very amiable, modest, smiling priest”, with no side. Wilson is very good, he’s an observant interviewer. It is worth reading the whole piece. Sceptics, those who suspect Vincent Nichols of being a covert liberal, will be pleased to see how robust his answers are, for example, on the subject of women priests."
Our thanks to  Andrew M Brown and for the link to A.N. Wilson's full article in the FT here

Also from the Telegraph comes this offering from the Revd George Pitcher, not even 'a candid friend' of the Catholic Movement. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/georgepitcher/100063584/are-church-of-england-liberals-really-nazis/
Well, George, no one really thinks that you theological liberals are actually Nazis - only that they seem to have borrowed a few of their underhand methods and their propaganda skills. Get it now? One wouldn't normally expect liberals to be so, well, literal.

And from the ridiculous to the sublime. Very belatedly, Bishop Andrew Burnham's important discussion of  liturgical patrimony here

We will remember them

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Crucifix at 'High Wood' near Bazentin-le-Petit on the Somme

Friday, 12 November 2010

Holy Souls & Churchyards

Here are a few parish photos of  last week's blessing of our new churchyard extension - white vestments were worn as, for various reasons, the consecration took place after the Sunday mass for All Saints. A few more hardy souls from the congregation came out into the churchyard with us.

The parish churchyard is precisely that - the burial ground of the whole parish, regardless of religious tradition. It's maintenance falls to the worshipping community with, it has to be said, very little or no contribution from civic authorities. It is one of the ways the Church still serves the whole village - a piece of Anglican patrimony in practice, we could say.

... May the bodies buried here sleep in your peace,
to rise immortal at the coming of your Son.
May this place be a comfort to the living,
a sign of their hope for unending life.
May prayers be offered here continually
in supplication for those who sleep in Christ
and in constant praise of your mercy..........

Thursday, 11 November 2010


As one correspondent has said, in Britain it's easy to overlook the fact that November 11th is the Feast of St Martin of Tours. For most people, today is Armistice Day, marked again publicly with a two minute silence at 11 a.m. , although it is  perhaps appropriate, given St Martin's own history, that the Great War should have ended on his feast day in 1918.

Traditionally, goose is eaten today. In the middle ages in northern Europe Martinmas was the time of year at which livestock was killed and salted to last over the winter. Oddly, that aspect of Martinmas has a reference in Daphne du Maurier's extraordinary 'Jungian' novel 'The House on the Strand,' which manages to combine hallucinogenic time travel and drug addiction with descriptions of medieval customs, Cornish local history and even a visitation by Bishop Grandisson of Exeter.

In Britain St Martin's name lived on, long after popular devotion to him had been done to death at the reformation, in  the 'St Martin's Summer,' that short period of relatively warm, calm weather we sometimes see here at the end of autumn and, regrettably, now usually referred to by the nonsensical name (for the British anyway) of  'Indian Summer,' which is just about acceptable if you live in New England, I suppose.
But there's no St Martin's Summer for us this year - winds, rain, the whole miserable package - although it is considerably milder than it was yesterday, and is that a patch of blue sky I can see?

Wall relief in  the Church of Saint Martin des Tilleuls, in the Vendee

O God, who seest that by reason of our weakness
we cannot but fall:
mercifully grant; that by the intercession of blessed Martin,
thy Confessor and Bishop,
we may be defended againat all adversities.
Through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
 ever one God world without end.
        The English Missal

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


On my study calendar for November is a picture of a rowing boat with this quotation underneath:

"What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn't have any doubt - it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn't want to go anywhere else."

We could say the same about the Saints.

Anyway, it's an excuse for an autumnal picture of two of our local rivers - in the middle distance below the woods, the Wye at low tide and on the horizon, the Severn, leading to the sea  The photo was taken from a local parish beauty spot, the Eagle's Nest.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Trolls and chimney sweeps

A few reactions on recent events from GRAS (given the organisation's acronym one can guess the content) here and from the distinguished historian Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch writing in The Times. This is a link to Damian Thompson's blog in the Telegraph, as 'The Times' now lurks behind a pay wall and I haven't the energy to type the article out myself. The Professor is becoming well-known for his less than temperate interventions on contemporary religious issues despite being on record as being now not so much a believer as "a candid friend of Christianity." Hmm.......now what does that actually mean? A liberal / low church Anglican agnostic?

But, say it as shouldn't, you might think, one of the dangers of modern forms of communication is the temptation to make instant comment (and the temptation is probably even greater if one is paid for the privilege) and engage in pointless arguments with those who have absolutely no interest in really engaging at all  (other than over-emotionally) with what is being said to them. Their blogs or comments are there simply to make crude propaganda points and nothing else. Very often anonymity is used as a cloak for simple rudeness and a startling lack of charity.

I know there's a tendency for all of us to fall into the trap of being at times negative, overcritical and obsessed with present and past injuries. On this blog I've not been exactly known as a member of the current Welsh Bench's official fan club, and I hold to the view that in our present Anglican difficulties we have from time to time needed to be reminded of broken promises, attempts to stifle legitimate debate and glaring inconsistencies in public utterances.  Sometimes, though,  this is best done by means of  satire (as in a famous and now, alas, 'suppressed' example of the genre) - designed to puncture pomposity or expose hypocrisy, but not to wound or destroy - and, of course,  particularly when it's funny, but ......'you say tomato........'  

But, as we know, times move on, and as our sixteenth century ancestors knew well, theological and ecclesial battles are won or lost, and maybe on all sides we now need to adopt a more constructive approach to the issues which face us and renew attempts to convince rather than anathematise or, at the very least, to agree to disagree - whatever that entails for each one of us.

As regards the 'blogosphere,' we all recognise the 'trolls' when they try to comment, or the bloggers who make rudeness a virtue and confuse it with charity. Hurling the truth in one's face isn't the same as speaking it in love, and when St Paul writes about heaping burning coals on the heads of our enemies his meaning is metaphorical - by means of charitable actions - rather than encouraging literal attempts at assassination. I suspect more people have had their minds changed by the force of gentle and prayerful persuasion and reasoned argument than by attempts to browbeat them into submission.
My father, a life-long and loyal churchman, used to say "never wrestle with a chimney sweep."  He was right, of course.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Today's news

No comments from me, only prayers, but today we had confirmation of  the resignations of the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough and of the Bishop of Fulham. Bishops Edwin Barnes and David Silk are also to join the Ordinariate. Here is their statement, courtesy of Damian Thompson at the Daily Telegraph.
Bishop Broadhurst's statement to the London clergy is here
Reports from The Guardian  and the BBC
News and comment also on The Anglo-Catholic

Sagrada Familia

Many who have visited Antonio Gaudi's fantastic and bewildering (and still unfinished) masterpiece of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona will be pleased to hear that it has finally been consecrated as a basilica. When I last went there some years ago it was still largely open to the elements. Not so now.
This is video footage of the mass at which Pope Benedict consecrated the building.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Gone fishin

Just a little tribute to Fr Mark, my colleague & fellow blogger at All Gas & Gaiters, who not only went fishing but actually caught some fish (and, it seems, in the mail some other things besides.) See here
And to anyone else we can think of who might be continuing their vocation as fishers of men, but in a rather bigger pond.

Rumours confirmed?

According to many sources, the resignations of the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough will be announced tomorrow, confirming (not unexpectedly) rumours circulating over the last few days.
I ask the readers of this blog to pray for Bishops Andrew and Keith as they take the next step in preparing to join the Ordinariate, and also to pray for those who will go with them either now or in due course.

There's 'friendly' and there's friendly...

I heard a bishop of the Church in Wales this morning (during a discussion on the Anglican Covenant on the Radio 4 Sunday progamme) contrast the 'friendly' Welsh Province with the poor, sadly divided Church of England.
I felt particularly befriended during mass this morning at the point where we used to pray for the Provincial Assistant Bishop.
"Friendly' in the military sense of being hit by 'friendly fire,' perhaps.

Tu vero homo unanimis: dux meus, et notus meus:
Qui simul mecum dulces capiebas cibos: in domo Dei ambulavimus cum consensu.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Our true home?

These comments were made in reponse to my last post. I think they are important enough (at least in the sense of being commonly put to Anglo-Catholics who are considering the Ordinariates) to warrant a fairly full reply.
"I find myself wondering what reasons Anglo-Catholics have for remaining in Anglicanism and not going over to Rome. Obviously, some people can be convinced of Catholic doctrines on soteriology but not agree with Catholic teaching on WO or sexuality or Papal authority, but for those who do agree with Rome on those things (and are thus comfortable with the Ordinariate), what kept you within the Anglican church until now? Or did you simply find yourselves there almost by accident of birth and upbringing, and only later realised that actually your true home was the RC Church?"
The arguments would have far greater force if Anglicanorum Coetibus were simply a matter of
"going over to Rome."  Clearly, the Ordinariates are about being in communion with the See of Peter (a long-standing goal of the Catholic movement within Anglicanism, a stated aim of SSC, the Church Union and much more recently of Forward in Faith), but they are far more than that; they are a way of continuing the Anglican tradition in unity with Rome herself.
This is what the Apostolic Constitution actually says:
"...the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared."
So it's not just a matter of 'going over to Rome;' this is far more significant ecclesiologically and ecumenically than a series of individual or group conversions, explicitly giving the opportunity "to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church."
So the answer to the perhaps rather barbed question: 'what kept you within the Anglican church until now?' is a very straightforward one : this prospect was simply not available until now.

As to the issues of women's ordination and human sexuality, these are innovations within Anglicanism and, moreover, very recent innovations. I was ordained twenty-four years ago to serve in a Church which did not ordain women to the priesthood and was not bitterly divided on the subject of "gay rights." I was ordained in the aftermath of the visit to Britain of Pope John Paul II, and at the height of the ARCIC process which many of us hoped would lead to theological convergence and corporate reunion between Canterbury and Rome. However realistic in hindsight these hopes were, it was not traditional Anglo-Catholics who sabotaged that prospect of agreement by the introduction of new causes of bitter controversy.
So am I being told here that my conscience and my sense of what is proper to the Anglican tradition, and what is not, can be directed and determined (and presumably "undetermined" also)  by majority votes in, again, relatively recently constructed, quasi-parliamentary structures?
It is precisely WO, the departures from accepted Christian norms of moral theology, the experience of majoritarian forms of synodical government which have made these innovations possible, and the crisis of authority thereby caused within Anglicanism itself, which have led many of us to reconsider seriously the claims of the papacy and have given greater impetus to the search for union with the Successor of Peter. Essentially, these issues have re-opened the question as to the locus of authority within Anglicanism and have failed to produce a satisfactory answer that does justice to the Christian centuries.
I very much resent the implication (if there is one, that is) that I am not a true Anglican. I have never been an uncritical Anglican, but I suspect that would be true of many people from each of our diverse traditions, catholic, evangelical or liberal.  But "my true home," or whichever way it is expressed, has always been in the Roman Catholic Church only in the sense that up to now I have always believed it to be ultimately the true home of Anglicanism itself.

But I think the onus is not on Anglo-Catholics to prove their loyalty to Anglicanism, but those who now support innovation in apostolic order and moral theology. How can they square their present view with the following statement of the Anglican position made by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Geoffrey Fisher?

“The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.”

Perhaps it's not as easy as some think to accuse others, particularly the credally or ethically orthodox, either explicitly or implicitly, of being un-Anglican.

And if the argument is shifted to say that no Church's belief can be entirely static and that we have to make  allowance for 'development,' please tell me why an acceptance of women's ordination and the LGBT agenda is somehow legitimately "Anglican," and a growing acceptance of the need for papal authority is not. I'd love to hear the answer.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

"If the Church of England were to fail........."

Keble's Church at Hursley

I came across this passage from Owen Chadwick, the distinguished historian of the nineteenth century Church, who had a prose style which is surely the equal of R.W. Church and even Newman himself. It is in a essay "The limitations of Keble" reprinted in The Spirit of the Oxford Movement (CUP 1990):
".......A child may have ideals the easier because he or she knows not the human compromises necessary to embody those ideals in act. Keble's nobility was partly of this kind. The most characteristic of all his sayings is the dictum at the time of the Gorham case,
If the Church of England were to fail, it should be found in my parish
The stance is so squared and so real that it takes a moment to see how cloud-capped are the towers so defended.........."
Yet it is precisely this view which seems to be the fall-back position of many today standing in the ruins amidst the settling dust of the collapse of the Anglo-Catholic Movement. This is not to criticise John Keble unduly; it was precisely his lack of what many at the time would have called realism, and his refusal to admit defeat which led to the continued existence of Anglo-Catholicism itself after the crises of the 1840s and 50s.
But no one needs to have the limitations of his view spelled out to them. It was a paradoxical comment in 1850, if highly poetical and almost convincing; today it lacks even that partially saving grace. Now it can only mean a kind of 'catholic' congregationalism (see the comments of Bishop Peter Elliott here)  for one generation before the waters close over our heads.

There are some whose theology (anglo-catholic but anti-papal) leaves them little choice but to dig in, pull up the drawbridge of their parishes and try to survive as best they can, for as long as they can; but this is a desperate last ditch survival tactic not an ecclesiology (the opposite of any Catholic theology of communion), and for many of us would seem to lack the essential element of hope which alone would justify struggling on in increasing isolation in the gathering darkness. It is undoubtedly a witness, and one worthy of a certain amount of respect, and even greater sympathy, but nevertheless a somewhat nihilistic vision to have to teach to one's flock for a limited period until one's retirement, and totally devoid of any evangelistic purpose.
But the temptation now (one we should firmly resist) is for those who are able to see their path more clearly to pass judgement on those who, as yet, can't see a future at all. What one man will see as the fulfilment and consummation of a life's work and of a centuries-old tradition may be seen by another as denial and betrayal. That's simply how it is.

To me at least, one of the most fascinating aspects of Anglicanorum Coetibus is the way it has shone a searchlight on the Catholic Movement in Anglicanism and revealed just how theologically diverse a group we are, even among the 'orthodox' and (dare I say it) those societies and organisations committed to reunion with Peter, but which have also attracted members due to their prominence in the fight against women's ordination. What were once smaller and fairly cohesive groups have become wide coalitions of interest. Adversity makes strange bedfellows; that has never been more evident than at the present time. That being the case, it is not at all surprising that we have been simply incapable of a truly corporate response to a prophetic gesture such as the one which has been held out to us.

But it is the impossibility of corporate reunion which has left not a few feeling vulnerable, isolated and exposed, wondering who will decide their future and on what basis, and pondering, either aloud or to themselves, whether their useful lives are now over.
What gives me hope? Firstly, (to quote a highly distinguished blogger) that an 'elderly Bavarian gentleman' who happens both to be the most eminent living theologian, and (providentially for us) Supreme Pontiff,  has seen something in our tradition which is worthy of preservation and renewal in the service of the Universal Church.  And secondly, that he has a habit of getting his way.
We don't have many details as yet about the Ordinariates, but we are able to pray. However great has been  our disillusionment with authority in our present situations, often with very good reason, we shouldn't let that colour our view of the future as it unfolds. Christ will not abandon us.

Austin Farrer on 'purgatory'

".....But looking to myself, and the hopes a Christian dares to entertain, I find conscience and moral reason join forces with Catholic teaching, and forbid me to to claim exemption from the burning of that flame. If Dives needed to be stripped, and to suffer the truth of his condition, do not we also?
Perhaps before we suffer it, we may be assured of mercy; perhaps the sight of mercy will make the torment, when we see what a God we have, and how we have served him; what wounds we have inflicted on the souls of our fellows by our egotism and neglect.
Purgatory was rejected by our Reformers, as undermining the sufficiency of Christ's atonement; for it was taken to be the serving of a sentence by which the guilt of Christians was in some way worked off.
Such an objection has no force against the teaching, that we have a pain to pass through, in being reconciled to truth and love. And we may as well call this pain purgatorial, having no other name to call it. It seems strange, indeed, that so practical and pressing a truth as that of purgatory should be dismissed, while so remote and impractical a doctrine as the absolute everlastingness of hell should be insisted on. Nor is it that ultimate fire is scriptural, while remedial fire is not. Remedial fire was taught plainly enough by St Paul to his Corinthians...."    Austin Farrer: Saving Belief (1964)
November trees in the Vicarage garden

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

All Souls

Remember, O Lord, all your servants
who have departed this life,
and all others to whom remembrance is due.
Give them eternal rest and peace in your heavenly kingdom
and to each of us such measure of communion with them
as you know to be best for us,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O eternal God, whose mercies cannot be numbered,
accept our prayers for your servants
and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy,
in the fellowship of your saints,
through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Rest eternal grant to them O Lord,
and let light perpetual shine upon them:
May their souls, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Mass of All Souls Day 
from the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Monday, 1 November 2010

All Saints

                                                                      Fra Angelico
"The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because  the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else. It gives them a clarity of compassion that can find good in the most terrible criminals. It delivers them from the burden of judging others, condemning other men. It teaches them to bring the good out of others by compassion, mercy and pardon. A man becomes a saint not by conviction that he is better than sinners but by the realization that he is one of them, and that all together need the mercy of God!"  (Thomas Merton: Seeds of Contemplation  8)