Sunday, 23 February 2014

And a 'Russian' intervention in the West...

"...Many people in their everyday life ignore those values which form the basis of our civilization. It has been said: ‘Thou shalt not kill’, and yet people kill and even justify killing; it has been said: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, and yet society has created an entire industry of promiscuity.
Today on the continent of Europe there is taking place a conscious and consistent deconstruction of the system of values upon which for centuries the lives of our ancestors was built. If we turn not to public opinion and not to the position of believers but to the official documents of the European Union then we can find clear confirmation of this...."
"... When Christians are forbidden from openly confessing their faith, when Christian symbols are removed from the public arena, when even wearing a cross around the neck may be interpreted as an infringement of public order, images of the recent past are revived in our memory. I remember well how in a Soviet atheist school the teacher tore the cross from around my neck as she had accidentally noticed the chain beneath my shirt collar. And today we can hear of how in democratic Europe an airline employee was forced to remove her cross, supposedly in the name of tolerance, peace and harmony in society..."
"...A brief examination of European values which are developing within the framework of a global world leads us to the following conclusion. These values have been violently torn, often against the wishes of many, from their moral context which for centuries was formed in a Christian civilization. Values are meant to help build up a just world, but it is impossible to build this world on the basis of an ideology that views the world without God and without faith. A world without God, without absolute moral values rooted in divine revelation, irrevocably turns into the realm of the rule of slavery and lawlessness.
The Russian Church, which has paid in millions of lives for the godless Soviet experiment, can and must testify before the adherents of militant secularism to the fact that a society torn from its spiritual roots and faith has no future...."
Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev speaking  at a conference in London yesterday - full text, report and comment here

More 'fashionable' intervention

In pursuit of their 'forward' foreign policy, the nations of the West (the E.U. & U.S.A. particularly)  have chosen to intervene in the murky and complex geo-politics of Ukraine - a dangerous strategy for all kinds of reasons. 
Now, at least, our media has a photogenic, blonde, female candidate to promote (and, yes, I do think our broadcasting stations are that spectacularly superficial) ....

It's also instructive to see how much more anti-Russian our liberal mass media has become since the end of the Soviet era and the advent of President Vladimir Putin. Now, why would that be?

Contrast all that with the near silence on the the subject of recent events in Venezuela - another failed authoritarian neo-Marxist state heading for full-scale - and very 'socialist' - repression.

We never learn.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The risks of silence

In the Common Law tradition, silence implies consent. That's obviously not the case for Pope Francis who, hailing from a Latin culture, is seeking, it would seem,  to ration his pronouncements in order both to give a more 'positive' image to the Church and, one hopes,  to make a greater impact when he does speak out. 

But that is always a high risk strategy; the problem, as Pope Benedict (greatly missed by all of us) found out, in the West the largely liberal (and, dare one say, 'pro-death') media has a neck-lock on the news agenda... 
Sandro Magister comments here on the risks involved in a low-profile papal response to U.N. attacks and to the recent child euthanasia legislation in Belgium  (h/t WJT)

It matters to everyone what the Pope (whose office is a gift to us all) says - or doesn't say - on the issues of the day.

Friday, 21 February 2014

All about 'bishops' largely: news & comment round-up

After a blog-free week ....

The Church of England House of Bishops Statement on - yes, the inevitable subject of same sex marriage - has caused consternation on all fronts. 
However, the really disturbing news is not the theological double-speak and general incoherence of the pastoral guidelines themselves (we've grown used to these exercises in trying to reconcile the irreconcilable) but the seeming readiness of some of the 'inclusivists' - in public and in private - to appeal to the secular State (on the pretext of the C of E's 'establishment) to intervene in the business of the Church. 
They may live to regret that; although the potential areas of difference between the worldview of Anglican revisionists and that of secular modernism are admittedly becoming fewer and fewer .... 
We should anticipate - and prepare for - complete chaos .....
As one would expect, both Thinking Anglicans  and Anglican Mainstream have a comprehensive and regularly updated selection of news and comment on the subject.

Back to the bishops, this time on the subject of welfare reform. Of course, the usual theologically and politically naive questions start doing the rounds - can a Christian vote Conservative etc etc
For some of us the more interesting question is whether conservatives with a small 'c' (those who both value tradition and continuity and believe in the duty to look after the the least fortunate) can either vote for today's Conservative Party or feel very much at home in modern Anglicanism ....

The Church in Wales has now completed its round of consultation meetings as part of the process for determining the Bench of Bishops' Code of Practice. 
Having attended the meeting in the Monmouth Diocese, I can witness to the constructive and generous spirit of most of the comments made, and to the fairly wide consensus emerging in the Province that there is need for the restoration of episcopal provision for traditionalists - although I came away once again feeling more than a little out of place in today's Church where wearing one's heart very conspicuously on one's sleeve is de rigeur .... 
And there was one delicious moment when a female cleric stood up and told us all it was time to stop playing the victim card. Of course, she was right: it is ... but the sentiment was perhaps, as they say, a bit rich coming from that quarter ..... and at this time ... ?

Now, of course,  it's up to the bishops....

KJS in the news again as, astonishingly, institutions fall over themselves to invite her [here and here]

Some may think this unfair, despite the lady's unfortunate habit of litigating the orthodox out of existence, but I was sent this ...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Western Wind

Appropriately, given the weather, the 'Western Wynde Mass' by John Taverner (c1490 - 1545)  - based on the early sixteenth century popular song 'The Westron Wynde' - sung here by Ars Nova of Copenhagen directed by Paul Hillier

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Welfare cuts

Many of us have a great deal of sympathy both with Cardinal Vincent Nichols' recent comments (and similar remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year) on the effect of welfare cuts upon the most vulnerable in society and, at the same time, with the view which says that Churchmen should rightly seek to act as the nation's conscience rather than trying to promote specific and detailed policy recommendations, something which is, after all, the proper role of politicians, government ministers and lawmakers. 
As the Cardinal points out, the need for the provision of food banks (something promoted and supported materially by the churches)  in an affluent society such as ours is a sure sign that something is very wrong with our sense of priorities. 

However, while seeking to safeguard 'the basic safety net' designed to protect people from hunger, destitution and homelessness, we also have to address the problems caused by the dependence in effect imposed upon the poor and the vulnerable by the present chaotic and confusing benefits system with its disincentives to work or to form permanent family units capable of caring for children and  contributing to the existence of stable communities. 

How, then, do we reconcile society's and our own personal duty towards those in real need with the necessity to protect everyone from the effects of damagingly over-prescriptive and potentially oppressive government - a theological issue as well as a political one ....

"But at last came a King who had greed in his eyes ..."

"... Why can't you do as I did, and come with us - for fellowship?
 And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience ... and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me - for fellowship?"

There's a record here of a telling exchange between Joseph Shaw, the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society (and, as one would expect, a ' traditional Roman Catholic' - although possibly he would object to the qualifying adjective - nevertheless meant here to be descriptive of latinity of rite and not geographical presence) and Adrian Hilton aka 'Archbishop Cranmer' who Dr Shaw describes  uncontentiously as a "conservative but also rather establishment Anglican blogger,"

It's all very predictable, if entertaining, but as one of a vanishing few who were taught that words mean something, I am enough of an unrepentantly disobedient Anglo-Catholic to believe that the survival of catholicity within the 'ecclesia anglicana' has been despite the depredations of Tudor monarchs and the prescriptions of puritan parliaments and their willing ecclesiastical stooges and not because of them.

There are, of course, much better and more reasoned defences of 'Anglicanism' than that represented in the above rather one-sided exchange (it wouldn't be difficult - what about this as a half-way decent attempt?) but one can't help thinking that Dr Shaw has the better of the argument. 
And, of course, we don't have to search high and low (as it were) for the reason: whatever may have been or not been the case during the period of the English Reformation and subsequent heroic attempts over the centuries to escape from its deadening clutches, we have now sawn off the branch upon which (we thought?) we were sitting by our recent abandonment (actual or imminent) of apostolic order and our impending unconditional surrender to the cultural zeitgeist - the wholesale and uncritical embrace of innovation even if, in a curious perversion of thought and language, they are regarded as 'consonant with tradition.' 

Words mean something, not, as now thought in establishment circles, simply whatever we choose them to mean, and no monarch from the past, no 'representative parliament, no elected synod, nor, indeed, the accepted consensus of the contemporary world can alter that.

This is part of the Anglican Walsingham Pilgrim Hymn, familiar to many of us from youthit's admittedly not great verse, but it's fun and undoubtedly bears witness to a particular and not wholly discredited reading of history .... if now almost unbearably poignant as pointing to what might have been .... 

".....But at last came a King who had greed in his eyes
And he lusted for treasure with fraud and with lies.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

The order went forth; and with horror ’twas learned
That the Shrine was destroyed and the Image was burned.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

And here where God’s Mother had once been enthroned
The souls that stayed faithful ‘neath tyranny groaned.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

And this realm which had once been Our Lady’s own Dower
Had its Church now enslaved by the secular power.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

And so dark night fell on this glorious place
Where of all former glories there hardly was trace.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

Yet a thin stream of pilgrims still walked the old way
And hearts longed to see this night turned into day.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

Till at last, when full measure of penance was poured,
In her Shrine see the honour of Mary restored:
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

Again ‘neath her Image the tapers shine fair,
In her children’s endeavours past wrongs to repair.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

Again in her House her due honour is taught:
Her name is invoked, her fair graces besought: ..."
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria ! Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria !

[This is the version I've always known (largely rewritten by Fr Colin Stephenson) but you can find Sir William Milner's original words here ] 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

When revisionism really bites ...

Bishop Daniel Martins of Springfield, Illinois has this interesting post on his blog about the revision of  TEC's calendar of 'saints.'  These are his critical comments on the process:
"...1) do not include non-Christians or Christians whose ecclesial tradition rejects or knows nothing of the idea of a sanctoral calendar; 2) hold fast to the local observance criterion; 3) reinstate and strictly observe the 50-year post-mortem criterion; 4) simply call the volume what it is--"Propers for Optional Observances" is fine, though I personally prefer just keeping LF&F; 5) eliminate "category satisfying" nominations for inclusion--this is not a "Who's Who."  All this said, I find myself disappointed that the process has become so politicized, and that there is not sufficient consensus around a sane and tradition-rooted approach to the recognition of heroic and exemplary discipleship and holiness. If I were more confident that the list that will be finally approved would be consistent with the enunciated criteria, I would join my voice with those calling for the retention of proper collects. But that not being the case, the "commons" approach is probably best. But this is a settlement, a compromise, and represents, in my view, a systemic failure..."
It's a measure of how far the revisionists have utterly triumphed in parts of the Communion that they are now concerned to re-write the Sanctoral in their own image. We can guess pretty accurately in what way the calendar is being 'politicized' by those now in control of TEC: there are probably those who can't wait - for all the wrong reasons - for the demise of Bishop Gene Robinson and all the other boys and girls in the LGBT pantheon..

Of course, once you have abandoned the apostolic ministry, revised and infantilised the liturgy and remade the calendar of saints in your own image, then you really do have a new religion ...
And, rather like the Atlantic storms which are battering Britain at present, the Anglican ecclesiastical jetstream only sends the hurricanes in one direction. Watch this space once the women bishops' legislation comes into effect over here ...

Updated - The creeping culture of death

Reports indicate that Belgium is likely today to be the first country in the world to pass legislation extending 'the right to die' to everyone regardless of age - in other words to children. [See the report here in The Guardian; the BBC has a report [here] with - for some reason - an online form asking for views on the issue - please take time to complete it.] 

Make no mistake, this is a perfectly coldly 'logical' step to take when the once universally accepted moral prohibitions on the taking of life are dispensed with in the cause of an ill-defined, even well-intentioned 'compassion' and a dangerously sentimentalised view of human life itself which , wilfully and deliberately, takes no account whatsoever of continuing advances in palliative medicine and the relief of pain.
There will be those who will tell you that the Judeo-Christian tradition's prohibition on direct and intentional  killing [restated eloquently here] causes heartless and unnecessary suffering; however, its relegation to the history books of the future ( just look what these primitive superstitious people actually believed! History is written by the victors) will produce a moral and ethical wasteland where the most vulnerable in society will be robbed of security, dignity and life itself. Sometimes, our instinctive feelings of moral revulsion are more significant than the empty reassurances of  those whose reductionist and entirely this-worldly  view of human life will result in consequences which will not just be unChristian but barbarously and brutally sub-Christian.

These words of Fr Richard John Neuhaus in relation to the sinister circularity of the arguments of those who advocate so-called mercy killing spring to mind:  
“...In legal parlance, that is called 'the rational person test,' ... That's where somebody else says, 'Even though we have no idea what this person would want in this circumstance in which they cannot themselves tell us what they want, a 'rational' person -- meaning, myself -- in that circumstance would want to die.' So you move very quickly from so-called voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia. These legal and medical developments are not simply hypothetical: They're in the courts right now.” 
And, we could now add, well represented in our governments and legislatures.

As predicted, the legislation has been passed - in fact, by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions [see here] 
There is now a petition being organised and to be presented to King Philippe of the Belgians urging him not to sign the law [here]

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Synod and ACNA

Thinking Anglicans has this report from the General Synod on the implications of the recent appointment of  the Revd Dr Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and a member of ACNA, as one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral.

Unsurprisingly, this welcome and very constructive appointment has led to protests from TEC (and its ever vocal supporters in England) who feel aggrieved by any de facto recognition this might be thought to accord ACNA  as a legitimately 'Anglican' ecclesial grouping, despite - one must add - having driven them out of the Episcopal Church to begin with by their ruthless and unrelenting persecution of orthodox clergy, parishes and dioceses.  
Equally unsurprisingly, the Archbishop of Canterbury ducked - or deftly sidestepped - the question, denying that the honour accorded to Dr Baucum had any implications beyond that of the personal appointment itself. Perhaps we should simply file the episode and the resulting story under the heading of 'mutual flourishing.'

Of course, given the news [here] of TEC's substantial funding of the the Anglican Communion's indaba and reconciliation procedures (which has interesting implications in itself in terms of what we might perceive as the desired outcome of such conversations) U.S. Episcopalians may feel somewhat aggrieved that (s)he who pays the piper isn't calling the tune - not quite all of it anyway - yet ...

Statement from Forward in Faith

issued today [here]

The Act of Synod and
the House of Bishops’ Declaration

As part of the package of proposals regarding the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England, the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 is to be replaced by a House of Bishops’ Declaration and a Resolution of Disputes Procedure (to be established by Regulations made under a new Canon).

Yesterday the General Synod welcomed the draft Declaration and Regulations and included the text of the new Canon in the legislation that will now be referred to the diocesan synods for approval. It also voted in favour, at the preliminary stage, of the draft Act of Synod that will eventually rescind the existing Act of Synod. We note that this will only come into force when the new Canon is promulged, thus ensuring continuity.

We welcome the fact that the new House of Bishops’ Declaration refers to the Sees of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough by name. It notes that they will remain in existence as one of the means by which episcopal ministry is provided to parishes that pass resolutions under the Declaration.

We welcome the following statement by the House of Bishops in paragraph 23 of its most recent report (GS 1932):

‘The title and role of the “provincial episcopal visitor” are currently set out in the 1993 Act of Synod. There is no reason why these – or the financial arrangements for the three sees – should change when the 1993 Act of Synod is rescinded, given the House’s wish for there to be continuity. As noted in paragraph 30 of the Declaration, the three sees and their occupants remain an integral part of the new dispensation.’

We welcome the fact that, once the new Declaration has been finalized, the House of Bishops will only be able to amend it if the amendment has been approved by two-thirds majorities in each House of the General Synod. This gives us assurance as we approach the new era that the legislation will initiate.

The Act of Synod has served the Church of England well. We are confident that the Declaration will enable us to flourish within its life and structures for generations to come.

X JONATHAN FULHAM                    LINDSAY NEWCOMBE              
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker                Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Chairman                                                  Lay Vice-Chairman

12 February 2014

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

C of E : Women bishops yet again

The Church of England has this press release reporting  on today's session of General Synod: make of it what you will:
The General Synod of the Church of England has today voted to pave the way for the legislative process to enable Women to become Bishops to be completed this year.
In a series of interrelated legislative and procedural items the Synod held four debates dealing with differing aspects relating to women in the episcopate.
The first synod discussion related to the House of Bishops draft Declaration and Disputes Resolution Procedure regulations - GS 1932.
Both the proposed declaration and accompanying regulations were drawn up by the House of Bishops at the invitation of the last meeting of the Synod.
The debate was opened by the Rt. Revd. James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, Chair of the Steering Committee, who moved “That this Synod welcomes the draft House of Bishop’s Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests and the draft Resolution of Disputes Procedures Regulations as set out in GS 1932”
The motion was passed by the Synod.
"The second debate dealt with the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure - GS 1925A - and Draft Amending Canon No.33 - GS 1926A. At its meeting in November the General Synod voted to dispense with a Revision Committee Stage for the new legislation so that the Synod could conduct the Revision Stage in Full Synod.
After debate the revision stage for both the measure and the canon were completed without any amendments being made.
The Synod then gave preliminary consideration to the draft Act of Synod to rescind the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 - GS 1934.
This motion was passed by 304 votes to 33 with 45 abstentions.
The final debate on women in the episcopate in this session took the form of a procedural motion suspending Standing Order 90(b) (iii) so that the reference of the draft Measure and draft Canon to the Dioceses under Article 8 of the Synod’s Constitution can be concluded within 3 months rather than the 6 months stipulated under the standing order.
After debate the motion, requiring a 75% majority of the whole Synod, was approved by 358 votes to 39 with 9 abstentions.
The legislation now goes to the dioceses for approval. Provided a majority approve it by the 22 May deadline the General Synod will be able to hold the final approval debate in July, less than 20 months after the failure of the earlier legislation to secure the necessary two-thirds majorities in November 2012. If passed the legislation would then go to Parliament for approval and could be in force before the end of the year."
Entertainingly, but probably unintentionally so, John Bingham at The Telegraph [here] in his report on the proceedings includes this comment: 
"...Members of the Church’s decision-making General Synod voted by a margin of nine to one to suspend its normal rules to speed up the process of changing ecclesiastical law to admit women to the episcopate.
It came as one member of the Synod was applauded as he warned bluntly that it “urgently” needs to ordain its first women bishops because it has effectively run out of male clerics who are up to the task.
He said that, with a string of bishoprics already lying empty and a growing backlog of appointments to make, the “shallow pond” of suitable male candidates had already been “overfished”...."
Clearly, it's now time to fish in the shallow (and definitely un-apostolic) pond of female candidates ... 

Is this really what the Church of England believes?

"...We are part of a culture which dehumanises and devalues many people. Gender-based violence does not happen in a vacuum but is part of an exploitative culture in which poverty, inequality, oppression, anxiety and fear all play their part....."  [see here , from GS 193, Gender-Based Violence, A report by the Mission and Public Affairs Council, presented to the Church of England General Synod yesterday]

The first sentence is undoubtedly true. The first part of the second sentence is indisputable, but do the writers of this report seriously believe that the 'exploitative culture' in which we live in Britain is mainly caused or defined by 'poverty, inequality, (and) oppression?'
We have a media wholly dominated by a left agenda, a Government which is increasingly prescriptive in terms of its equalities legislation, and a Church (largely - and rightly, perhaps -  disregarded by both as irrelevant due to its declining influence) which produces  - unchallenged - the essentially 'marxist- feminist'  analysis of western society which seems to underlie this report. 

There are many problems in today's society - the growing lack of respect for life both at its beginning and end, the disintegration of traditional family life, to the detriment of young men particularly, cynical and unprincipled advertising which encourages uncontrolled greed, and probably most of the other deadly sins to boot, to the detriment of kindness and continuity and community, a failing state educational system - propped up by all political parties and vested interest groups  - in which underhand selection occurs, based, not on academic ability but parental ability to buy into expensive school catchment areas, a culture of egoism and entitlement which affects both those on (sometimes obscenely) high incomes and those in receipt of welfare, a contemptuously intolerant, secularist and democratically unaccountable mass media forcing its own agenda on an entire population ........ the list, of course,  is far from exhaustive and in no particular order .... 

And the Church of  England seems to believe that our problems lie not so much in our contemporary culture's complete disregard for and wholesale abandonment of the Ten Commandments and two thousand years of a Christian social and moral tradition, not to mention a biblical anthropology which emphasises the truth of original sin, but in the context of  "an exploitative culture in which poverty, inequality, oppression, anxiety and fear all play their part..... "

Why focus on these few words in a fairly unexceptional, conventionally 'progressive' report? They sum up very well the condition of a Church which is in thrall to the very culture and system of thought it affects to despise. Roll on the utopian Revolution, sisters and brothers!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Flooding - for some, not so much catastrophe as opportunity?

Photo: Western Daily Press

The floods only just across and down the Severn Estuary from here in the Somerset levels have filled large column inches in the press and  prompted a great many prayers from those not so affected and a huge outpouring of sympathy for those who are trapped and suffering.

What we are not told - not so much anyway - is that there has been lurking in the back of the minds of civil servants, and those who staff the largely unaccountable 'quangos' of which our country has become so fond, a conscious decision to abandon large areas of low lying and reclaimed farmland to the advancing waters. There are several reasons given, including the supposedly prohibitive cost of maintaining sea defences and dredging activities (actually chicken feed in comparison to, as one commentator has pointed out, the recent banking bail out),  claims that such an abandonment of land historically (monastically, even) reclaimed from swamp and sea is in the interests of wildlife and ecology in the face of climate change, and. indefensibly, the essentially false choice between the protection of urban and rural environments.

It's currently fashionable, but only partly accurate, to claim that this hidden policy is encouraged and reinforced by an EU directive, yet many know that these ideas have been common currency in British government circles for a very long time indeed - the problem is no one has bothered to consult those most closely affected, those who stand to lose land, livestock and livelihoods because of the extremely low priority given by our urbanised political culture both to agriculture and the interests of those who live and work in the countryside.
Meanwhile as the rain falls and the waters continue to rise, the Westminster politicians squabble ..... 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

C of E General Synod

The Church of England's General Synod begins its three day session tomorrow in London. Given its politicised agenda and the proliferation of self-serving advice on offer [see here] it's not surprising the provinces of Canterbury and York (they are not alone in this) give the impression of suffering from a collective nervous breakdown. 
Synods - in the contemporary rather than the historic sense -  notwithstanding (and someone will have to stand before the judgement seat of God and account for their intrusion into the life of the Church) our day-to-day work - the offering of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, the pastoral care of those in need - reality, in other words - goes on .... under the circumstances, clear proof of the grace and mercy of God in the face of the absurdities of our fallen human nature...

Sancta Civitas

La nouvelle Jérusalem (Tapisserie de l'Apocalypse, Château d'Angers, 14th century)

Sancta Civitas, the oratorio of 1925  by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a setting of verses from the Book of Revelation - performed here by Andrew Staples, tenor, Matthew Broock, baritone, the Winchester Cathedral Choristers, Winchester College Quiristers, The Bach Choir and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Hill

The critic and foremost authority on Vaughan Williams, Michael Kennedy, regards the work as a homage to Bach from the twentieth century and describes it as 
"a gigantic fresco. The word 'mystic' is often applied to Vaughan Williams. Sancta Civitas is its justification. In it, by means of words which excited him, and in pursuit of a faith which he held but did not define, he reached out to 'the ultimate realities' in music...."

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Our problem is summed up ....

rather well in this article by Graham Cunningham at The Imaginative Conservative: he is for the most part addressing political issues, but for traditional Christians, 'Catholics' and Evangelicals alike, the problem he identifies is writ large: 
"Moreover, journalists, scriptwriters, film-makers, comedians, creators of advertising copy, etc. (society’s unofficial teachers)—are typically just the kind to have taken to this student radical chic in a big way. Grasp this and you begin to account for the huge (unelective) power of liberal political correctness in Western democracies and understand how, once established, it became self-perpetuating. It would be a rare apostle of “reactionary” conservative self-reliance and individualism who would think to apply for a job at the BBC or MSNBC.
The, often seemingly apolitical, trickle down of politically correct “radical” group-think into every corner of the Western mind—into the cultural water supply—is the great flaw in our pluralist democratic system—of competing political parties, with alternative political philosophies, each taking their turn at the national helm. The Left bias in our education system never alternates with a Right bias and nor does similar bias in the arts, film and television drama, talks shows, comedy shows, documentaries etc. If conservative values like self-reliance and personal responsibility are in a secular retreat, this is not because these voices are absent. It is because the wider public has pre-absorbed a mental paradox that—whilst we in the West do cherish our Left/Right pluralism—Left equals kind (if perhaps sometimes naive) and forward-looking whereas Right equals selfish, atavistic and, well, just plain wrong. And once this paradox has become entrenched, politics will always be refracted through its prism. With the result that voices—battling against this head-wind—will come across to that wider public as shrill or anachronistic. "
What no one has done, of course, is come up with any coherent strategy with which to counter the modern cultural elite's clear - but always vehemently denied - bias (politically left-liberal and culturally hostile to religious faith and traditional Judeo-Christian morality) - the steady 'drip, drip' of ideas through the largely politically and culturally monochrome mass media which, perhaps more than anything else, is responsible for the continuing decline of the Christian faith here and elsewhere in the developed world. There are no other voices heard, or if they are, their words fall into the stony ground of cultural incomprehension.

But perhaps there is a tiny glimmer of hope: 
"...Mass media “news” may seem as intrinsic to modern life as electricity and motor cars—but maybe not. Everything changes. And maybe the post-internet generations are starting to get their (still highly selective) take on the world, at least from a less monolithic source. It may be that even the TV is losing its mass mind-bending power over the young, at least compared to their parents and grandparents. Having so many alternative gadgets to play with, they are less and less likely to watch it and especially “The News” and “Current Affairs”. But overall, the power of the Media-Academia Complex is likely to remain undiminished for a very long time to come. Its power comes ultimately from the illusion it creates that you can sit back and soak up all you need to “know” about the big wide world without actually having to be all that curious about it. If conservative intellectuals want to win hearts and minds, it is to the psychology underpinning this now ubiquitous mass-mediated liberal folklore that they must address themselves...."

Friday, 7 February 2014

Oceanography and moated palaces - the week's news round up -

While the country continues to be battered by storms ....

The United Nations attacks the Vatican [here together with Rome's response]
- not so much for the wrongdoing of abusive clergy but, it would seem, for upholding Catholic moral theology ( a comment from Tim Stanley here] I wonder whether the U.N. would be so bold in reprimanding some of its member states for far more egregious examples of the views it objects to. This has, of course, nothing to do with a move to deny the Vatican its observer status .... and drive religion from the international public square.... 
It's instructive to read the National Secular Society's comments on all this [here]

Fr Hunwicke, in inimitable style, takes on the 'spirit of the Council'  liturgists [here] This is my quote of the week, "... it is the same desire to ensure that ordinary Catholics are cut off from their birth-right, severed from the historic sources which might otherwise feed their Faith. As a rather Anglican devil - but one very deep in the Lowerarchy - Screwtape - once put it, "It is most important to cut every generation off from all others."
Screwtape as an Anglican - hmm-  ...  a very modern and distinctly .... 'unpatrimonial' Anglican,  if so ...

My own Alma Mater is to confer an honorary degree on the Presiding Bishop of TEC [here] - presumably for services to deconstructionism (in more senses than one.) It's only to be expected, I'm afraid, in the 'all at sea' culture in which we now live. 
This reaction, however, is far more concerning and, of course, is the reason Anglican traditionalists can expect little in the way of support from Lambeth. GAFCON - and Forward in Faith - please note. So, Dr Welby,  'compassion and intellect' seem to trump orthodoxy, rather than be defined by it, as one of your predecessors more than implied... ?  And, "becoming ordained?' - well, maybe there's hope after all ....

A civilised Reflection on Death from Peter Hitchens [here
"...The older I get, and the more death I experience directly, the more I try to stick to the rule that one does not speak ill of the dead. I’m not sure it applies when undoubted monsters die, but otherwise I can see the point of it. If you wouldn’t have said it while they were alive, when they could answer back, you shouldn’t take advantage of death to say it when they can’t respond and when their families and friends are full of grief. And in any case, my view is that they have gone before an all-knowing justice which (to put it mildly) needs no help from me, and which I both fear and hope that I shall sooner or later face myself..."
The C of E evicts the Bishop of Bath & Wells [here]  
In keeping with the spirit of the age, incapable of distinguishing between personal prestige and the custodial duties of institutional memory, such swan-haunted, moated palaces are regarded as unsuitable houses for mere clergy persons - far better they be turned into administrative offices or, even more appropriately, eventually sold off to multi-millionaire pop stars or, like most country rectories, the moneyed middle classes. A poor reflection on the regard of the Anglican laity (of a certain kind, anyway) for the Church herself perhaps ... a kind of enforced egalitarianism, but only for the 'employees?'

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Communists in the flames ....

An Orthodox  church in the capital of Montenegro has sparked controversy, according to the BBC,  by depicting in a fresco Tito, Marx and Engels languishing in the flames of hell, while churchman are seen being devoured by what looks as if it could be the monstrous Leviathan of the Communist State.

One fails to see how this is particularly controversial, even in the Balkans, given the malign actions or influences of the trio depicted. Where would we expect Christians in that region, even those filled with the most charitable of intentions, to envisage them to be? Purgatory - or whatever one might choose to call it in the East - would perhaps be an option, yet these are those who are directly, or indirectly through their writings and activities, responsible for the slaughter of millions ....  

Of course, there are still - even now - those (in quite unexpected places, even in the West) who probably see them as somehow part of the glorious pantheon of the left, presumably along with Blessed Vladimir and Josef (seen behind Tito, Marx and Engels in the fresco?) not to mention Leon, Che and Mao Tse-tung.

It's not really my kind of religious art, possibly not my theology either, but one would have to be very stupid indeed not to understand the feelings of those who commissioned and installed it 

Thanks to the NLM for the story

Education, children and the State

In the midst of the manufactured pre-election furore in Britain at present over political patronage and Ofsted, where the Secretary of State for Education has been accused of plotting to appoint like-minded people to positions of influence -exactly what the last Government did on an industrial, even Gramscian, scale (all of which could remind us of the actions of 'liberals' in another walk of life - correction: in what areas don't 'progressives' act like this?)  - comes another spirited debate on government plans to extend the school day and drastically reduce the length of holidays.

This raises several interesting questions: given the largely 'progressive' bias of British education over the last few decades (not to mention the resistance of the present educational establishment to change) in what way can it be thought a good idea for our children to spend even more time being indoctrinated in the worship of the contemporary secular gods of 'equality and diversity,' and less time with their families, having what used to be known as a normal childhood and, given good fortune,  being encouraged to experience situations and ideas which may be outside the narrow educational curriculum but essential for the development of a well-rounded personality... ?

Add to that the extremely heavy handed and illiberal approach of the state school system (the imposition of fines without any system of appeal) towards parents who dare to take their children out of school on vacation [here], we have to ask the question as to the desirability of the increasingly unhealthy intrusion of modern government into our lives: does the State now believe it owns our children? 

It beggars belief that this is happening under an administration which is at least partly, if debatably, 'conservative' and, one might think, likely to be open to more traditional ideas of the raising and education of children and young adults. 
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that modern conservatism (now almost exclusively 'economically' - that is, classically liberal - rather than philosophically conservative) is as inimical to Christian ideals of education as is the secularist left. For our political masters of right or left, education seems to have become merely another means by which the national economy can be helped to compete more efficiently in the global market place. 

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Saturday, 1 February 2014

For Candlemas

after the inevitable and curiously inappropriate advertising, T. S. Eliot reads 'A Song for Simeon'

T. S. Eliot - A Song For Simeon by poetictouch

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

T.S. Eliot