A Monty Python Sketch?

Today, I watched an interview with John Cleese who is most known for his role in the Monty Python shows and as Q in the later James Bond films.

‘I couldn’t stop laughing… All these people in these silly costumes, all taking things so seriously. I thought it was a Python sketch.’

Making fun of the absurd is the very definition of humour and laughter. This reminds me of the discussion around humour in Aristotle’s book on poetics in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. The point of the murders in the abbey and the irrational work of the Inquisition was that someone was hiding a book of great moral authority to preserve an ideology, the sinfulness of humour and laughter.

William of Baskerville approached dogma and truth as a sceptic, seeing truth as fundamentally unknowable and mysterious: there is much in the world and in God’s word that Christians do not understand. In the view of the librarian Jorge all truth is known and all laughter is subversive of that truth, because it “foments doubt. Laughter can be a weapon against liars and those who deny the truth of God because it allows us “to undermine the false authority of an absurd proposition that offends reason”. The very basis of Monty Python is grotesque absurdity, which provokes our emotion of laughter. Aristotle would turn comedy into an appropriate object of philosophical inquiry. Laughter and comedy would be elevated from base entertainment to a form of art. We all find that laughter is good for us. However, there is a limit, where the rhetoric of conviction is replaced by the rhetoric of mockery. Nothing is taken seriously, even that which is most sacred. Jorge’s fanatical hatred of humour destroys the entire library and the abbey with it. This fanatical notion of dogmatic truth reminds us of Hitler’s Götterdämmerung and the epidemic of suicides when Nazi Germany was defeated. For the Romantic sceptic, “the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth”. Doubt and questioning are essential to advance in knowledge and our growth as human beings.

The ultimate expression of scepticism is atheism and materialism, but everything turns full circle. Atheism, or at least hard atheism, becomes another dogmatic religion with its orthodoxy and foundational truth.

What I most observed about this Coronation is that the rite and ceremony made no sense to most of the people watching it, precisely because of the yawning gap between rite and liturgy, and their secular lives without judging their morality or ethics. Even among practicing Christians, the notion of liturgy and sacramental mystery are alien to them. What is important is the word in human language designed to appeal to the rational faculties of the mind. Many people need noise and entertainment, interaction with other people and the community to foster the Christian ideal. Even myself, I watched the ceremony, and it struck me as a caricature, something like the ceremonies of any number of fake princes and vagante bishops. Then, as the most solemn gestures of the ancient rite came around, there was an extraordinary collusion of the humanity of King Charles, the Royal family, the Archbishop and bishops, the invited guests from other religious traditions. I noticed a deeply moved face in the King, a movement of conversion and humility. This is perhaps something John Cleese missed. It is something that passed underneath the radar of the masses.

The more intellectual atheists would try to come out with an apologia of their fanatical dogma or at least what they see as most probable and plausible. For them, get rid of religion, and man’s energy can be turned to improving this world. Christianity itself can be debunked as a spiritual philosophy and reused as a form of Marxist Socialism through Liberation Theology and versions of critical theory. For such people, belief in a god that intervenes in human life, fear of death and solitude are calmed and soothed, and priests can enter the competition against the socialist paradigm and gain control. The atheist is held up as someone who is fair, objective and sincere. The more cynical mind would compare heaven as a condition of afterlife with the notion of modern mass holiday-making and tourism. The atheist accepts annihilation at death with “humility” and thus better serves humanity here and now.

Our atheist will take advantage of the mystery of evil which cannot be avoided in Christian, Jewish and Islamic monotheism. There is no moral merit in being a good human being though fear of punishment or the enticement of reward. Religion is compared with modern business and commercial advertising, and the level drops even lower. So if there is no solution for the mystery of evil (why God allows evil), then the very notion of God is debunked. There is only a material universe and no reason for life.

A good argument against branding religion (re-ligare), faith and spirituality as absurd, is its enduring presence in human culture. It supports collective thought and a motivation for a person to care about another and see a transcendent dignity to be treated as sacred. Atheists are often as fanatical as religious fundamentalists with their dogma and foundational truth. Worse than Nazism, Marxist Communism killed millions of people in the twentieth century, all in the name of opposing the opiate of the people. It does not help the atheist cause to call believers idiots, sheep, gullible people, etc. André Gide said “J’aime les gens qui cherchent la vérité, je me méfie de ceux qui l’ont trouvée” – I like people who search for truth, but I am wary of those who have [or claim to have] found it).

Probably what has done Christianity (and other religions) the most harm is that fanatical and “we have the truth” mindset of the monastic librarian Jorge. The same attitude will make us reject atheism. It is not anti-rational to base everything on spirit and energy from which matter derives its existence. Many modern scientists are sceptical about Newtonian physics and the materialistic assumption.

What is needed is a new basis of our relating to Christ, to truth and our entire spiritual existence. That may seem to be a very modern thought. It is. German Romanticism in the closing years of the eighteenth century had a remarkable insight in this relationship between truth, reason and the human imagination. Friedrich von Hardenberg took the pen name Novalis meaning “the one who clears new ground”. This is not novelty for its own sake but a process of maturity and self-understanding. Philosophy (as in love of wisdom) is not passively accepted but as something to provoke our thought and human reaction. Like the fictional William of Baskerville, Novalis saw the value of irony and humour. We are called to raise ourselves to a state of critical self-understanding. Individuality is only developed in interaction with other individuals, but is not to be confused with collectivism.

The Romantic acts and thinks in the spirit of the Enlightenment, in that we challenge and criticise prejudices handed down from tradition. Unlike what the enlightenment philosophers believed, history and tradition have much to offer for a critical discussion of the present time. We cannot cancel culture – or history.

The Coronation didn’t make me laugh, but it seemed surrealistic until we were brought into contact with the human dimension of people of our time following this very ancient tradition. I was thus able to understand John Cleese and all those for whom traditional rites, history and culture are absurd. We are confronted with the equally absurd slogan cancel culture.

There is a very frightening phenomenon of cultural nihilism. It is important for us to seek to understand both sides. By my year of birth, I am a Baby Boomer, but fifty years ago, we reacted from the conservatism of our parents and grandparents born in the 1920’s and the 1890’s. Now, the new generations of young people are reacting the same way against the “conservatism” of the Baby Boomers! Perhaps their children twenty years down the line will react against them for the same reasons!

There is a deep mistrust of all institutions. I notice the people going to demonstrations against President Macron’s pension reforms, a simple measure to finance the ailing pension system for a little longer. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left politician in France, has created another scandal by defending the hoodlums, vandals and hooligans burning cars and even buildings in the cities. What do those people want? Anachism? But, history has taught us that anarchism and nihilism brought about the evils of the Russian Revolution. They are truly the Demons of Dostoevsky! They will oppose the Monarchy as much as all mainstream institutions.

The Coronation has drawn the hostility of those who would turn the UK into North Korea complete with re-eduction camps and cultural death. It has also drawn the ire of fundamentalist Christians who found that the ceremony was not exclusively Christian by condemning everything else. I have read some shocking things in Facebook entries, including people I know or have met.

Like the Enlightenment and Romanticism, King Charles has manifested his wish for freedom for all, including those who do not believe in any God or spiritual life. What better can he do for the entire people who have been entrusted to his moral and spiritual leadership. The nature of this freedom is difficult to understand and follow, and it needs a lot of work. We’re not there yet!

The late Sir Roger Scruton had a sober view of contemporary culture or the lack of it. I quote from the article to which I linked:

We in Britain are entering a dangerous social condition in which the direct expression of opinions that conflict—or merely seem to conflict—with a narrow set of orthodoxies is instantly punished by a band of self-appointed vigilantes. We are being cowed into abject conformity around a dubious set of official doctrines and told to adopt a world view that we cannot examine for fear of being publicly humiliated by the censors. This world view might lead to a new and liberated social order; or it might lead to the social and spiritual destruction of our country. How shall we know, if we are too afraid to discuss it?

I have precious little idea of what is going through the King’s mind, other than getting his act together and getting his family into order as a force for good and true nobility.

The other reflection I had was also my own question “Is this real?“. I am a priest and had the experience of a series of ordinations and initiations from the Minor Orders, the Subdiaconate, the Deaconate and the Priesthood. I have never hidden the fact that I was consecrated a bishop, though I have ceased to exercise it since 2005 for the reasons of being accepted into an institutional Church as a simple priest under the jurisdiction of a bishop, presently Archbishop Mark Haverland, Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church. I have been dressed in an alb, anointed, given vestments and symbols of the gift and Sacrament I was receiving and acclaimed to those present that something had changed in my life. The Coronation of a King has many parallels with the consecration of a bishop. I have seen the most sublime and the most absurd in churches and chapels. I was thankful that I connected with the reality of this Coronation and was genuinely moved.

Most people do not have the experience I have of being a man of the cloth. Their world is one of family life, work and entertainment – nothing wrong with that, but there is something more. Money and the “status” money brings is not the purpose of our lives. Even if someone is inclined to seek a spiritual philosophy, they are afraid to get sucked into a totalitarian cult and exposed to what is perceived as corruption and perversion in the clergy, the pornocracy. Those people have no idea of liturgical rites or what they mean. They will just pass them off as mumbo-jumbo and something irrelevant. This ancient rite of Coronation of a King will be as irrelevant to them as Mass or Evensong in the local church in their street. Some daring innovations were allowed without destroying the whole. A lady would bring a sword, and some African-Americans sang a piece of Gospel music. At the same time, the Coronation was explicitly and unashamedly Christian.

As Oscar Wilde said: A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

I do not want to live in a world where only money talks!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Defender of the Faith

I’m sorry to have been away from the blog for so long, but my thoughts keep turning. I need to do an update on my house which is radically transformed since when my electrician started work and I was putting in the concrete floor and hauling stuff from my old rented house. More of that in tempore opportuno.

A talk by Dr Gavin Ashenden was brought to my attention today.

This is an interesting reflection bringing out the paradox between an institutional Christianity in which people believe at an almost lower level than their faith in political parties. We remember that this is how Macron got in through populism and the complete flop of conservatives, liberals and radical socialists. My own intuition is hiding away in this little French village.

Anyway, the subject is the UK, a country that gives the impression of being almost as colonised by Indian and Pakistani people as our forebears colonised them in the great Empire. According to some sources I have seen, the only Christians who are growing their churches are American-style evangelicals with a shrill ideology. The churches that have lost out the most are the United Reformed and the Methodists. Even the Baptists are just holding their heads above water. The Church of England is more concerned with keeping good terms with political correct and “woke” ideology. In the midst of all that, King Charles, concerned as he is to take his responsibility for all his citizens, is reluctant to claim that his Kingdom is a Christian one. It is a bit like being an Anglican vicar in a heavily Muslim area and with less than ten people in his large Victorian edifice each Sunday.

During the Coronation, the King will take the Oath and solemnly swear to uphold and defend the Protestant establishment. Dr Ashenden makes the point of King Charles being a defender of faiths, all faiths except Roman Catholicism. Perhaps my readers could give their views on this point in their comments. He criticises King Charles for being too Jungian in his ideas of individuation and human life and spirituality. I too subscribe to a certain orthodox gnosticism like that of St Clement of Alexandria and Origen. I cannot relate to the literalism of evangelistic fundamentalism and monotheism. Dr Ashenden is a kind and mature person, and obviously devout in his commitment to the Roman Catholic Church. He does make the point that the future of Christianity seems to be something like the underground Church, struggling for existence like in the old Soviet Union, China or North Korea, or at least the Benedict Option as coined by Rod Dreher.

I suspect that the King wants at the same time to serve his country and its citizens, and to be a Christian by example of life. That seems all that any of us can do, giving transcendentals like beauty, truth and goodness to keep the candle alight in the darkness of our age. Perhaps as he works within the parameters of British institutions, a spark of divinity might shine through and inspire us in its humility and silence. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part.

The confused hubbub of the internet mob would chop his head off and declare a Republic as France did in 1793. Let them have Jean-Luc Mélenchon, North Korea with Kim-Jong-Un, Big Brother and social credit scoring! Add to that the Gulag, the KGB and the re-education camps…

The least we can do is to keep a time of quiet, pray for this King and the sick society he is called to rule through Parliament, the Government and all the political and legal institutions. Even though I live in France, I still hold a British passport which describes me as a British citizen. I name the King in the Canon of the Mass pro Rege nostro Carolo and offer the Holy Mystery for him, that he may be given strength to inspire and lead.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments


I have had a comment asking me why nothing was happening on this blog. Simply I bought a house, with money inherited from my late father. It is in a village between Mayenne and Le Mans, and the house has needed a certain amount of preliminary work before progressively moving in from my rented house near Ambrières les Vallées.

Those of you who frequent Facebook can find photos and commentaries. I have named the house Rievaulx after the great Cistercian abbey in the Rye Valley in Yorkshire. My home is not a monastery and I am not a monk, but I feel inspired by the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict. I am also a fan of St Aelred, the Abbot of that community in the twelfth century, and his writings on friendship. Please ignore the claims of certain contemporary identity agenda groups on St Aelred. Rievaulx was also a place where I was taken by my grandparents who lived at the time in Pickering. This Abbey has figured many times in my dreams.

My immediate objective is to clear my rented house and get everything here by the end of March, and then deal with the house progressively. This is not a modern house, but an old building, possibly medieval in origin and renovated in the 1920’s. Never rip anything out unless you have an immediate solution to replace it! Too many owners demolish things in a spirit of contempt, and then become discouraged. We need to be realistic. Also, I am something of a “hard bastard” and have less need for modern comforts. I am writing this in  10°C!

I beg of my readers a little patience before getting back to philosophical and theological subjects. Already, I have my office (scriptorium) fully operational and my library is taking form. I need to transport my pipe organ as I have done before. It’s all happening.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

Cancelling Humanity

I came across this slightly unusual view of tradition and modernity – The problem of religious traditionalists. When I first saw the title and the first lines of the text, I thought this was an apologia for the “cancel culture” aspect of the generic ideology known as woke. If you go to this link, you can even listen to this article as a short talk to accompany your daily chores in the kitchen or wherever.

There is a fine dividing line between fanatical self-identification with words believed to confer identity and purpose in life – and the nihilism of destroying everything in the name of equality. There is a notion of tradition in all religions and every human institution, above all the nation and the Patrie. There is no doubt that humanity would be so much poorer without these traditions, whether they are traditions with which we ourselves identify, or which we respect in other peoples of the world.

It is interesting to see the comparison made between Victorian churches in England and the old Roman liturgy in Latin. Anglican and Roman Catholic clerics are expressing their opinion that mission and growth are made impossible by the symbols of “stuffiness” and immobility. Would they think the same way about medieval church buildings and the Use of Sarum? Perhaps the nineteenth century image of tradition emphasises rigidity unlike a Romantic middle ages or 1970’s brutalism. Pope Francis has in the same way condemned lace on albs and fiddleback vestments, and mocked them as being in some way effeminate. Myself, I wear plain albs and surplices, but I don’t mind what others do.

The various examples given by “progressives” about Comper churches and the Chartres pilgrimage are quite heart-rending. What do they want? Something comparable with American Evangelical mega-churches? What makes people like Victorian churches or the Latin Mass? The “experts” would reply that they are mentally ill! What seems to be behind this criticism of traditionalists (for want of a better word) is the

contrast between a community-focused, immanent conception of worship and of God, with a transcendent, hierarchical and masculine conception.

There it is. But something isn’t right. Some of us men are not the butch stereotypes who beat their wives. Some of us consider gentleness, kindness and tolerance as virtues like forbearance and resilience. But, any masculinity has to be cancelled by toxic femininity. Not all women are the same, and some are virtuous and good. But when they are toxic, they can be really evil in a way that men find it difficult to imagine. We are up against an ideology like Marxist Communism or Nazism, just with different appearances and language.

Interestingly enough, the trappings of traditionalism are being re-used, pews sold to fashionable pubs, church music sung by choirs in a purely secular concert setting, churches re-used for sports centres or businesses. Everything is being privatised from culture to law enforcement. If Pope Francis warns us that tradition is not a museum, it is becoming precisely that. Anything beautiful is considered as unfit for liturgical use – so is given to a museum or sold to the highest bidder.

Read the article. Be on the lookout for ideas and opinions now emerging since the death of Benedict XVI. I thank commentators on YouTube and elsewhere for their scepticism, reserve and intellectual honesty. All the same, something seems to be happening over this new year as one era gives way to another yet unknown but suspected all the same.

There is little to nothing I can do about the general situation. I am committed to my obscure life in the country, in a house I have named Rievaulx, keeping away from cities and the ideologies. I am a poor sinner and an unworthy priest. All I can do is to pick myself up time and time again. I had an illuminating experience seeing a documentary about the Turin Shroud after hearing the opinions and rants about Jesus having been nothing more than a political revolutionary and concerned for merely moral issues. I found reason and science in the service of faith. Those who have faith have no need of having anything proven to them, and those who do not believe will not believe however much evidence you show them.

A friend wrote this on his Facebook page:

Are you a devout Catholic? Which scapulars do you wear? Do you have a miraculous medal on your rosary? Do you keep your rosary in your pocket at all times? Do you have a picture of the Sacred Heart on display at your home? Do you also have pictures of the Holy Family, the Divine Mercy, and Our Lady of Fatima? Do you have a holy water stoup by your front door? Do you recite at least five decades of the rosary every day without fail? Do you recite the Angelus three times each day? Do you recite the Divine Mercy chaplet? Do you attend daily Mass – or at least go to Mass on the First Fridays and First Saturdays of every month? Do you say grace before and after every meal? Do you examine your conscience every evening and say your morning and night prayers every day? Do you abstain from flesh meat every Friday – except for festive solemnities? Have you been on pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima, Rome, and Medjugorje?

Are you a better person for being so devout? Are you kind, generous, prudent, attentive, slow to anger, and forgiving? Are you empathic, compassionate, considerate, discrete, and slow to condemn? Do you live your life as in the presence of Jesus? Are you a peace-maker? Do you hunger and thirst after personal righteousness and social justice? Do you hope and believe that Jesus is your friend? Do you earnestly desire to be done with this life and be united with Him; but in the meantime are you focussed on realising the Kingdom of God in your own character, personal habits, and pattern of behaviour?

Do you realise that piety is no kind of substitute for an authentic spirituality? Do you understand that every popular devotion and religious observance is only valid and wholesome to the extent that it makes you a better person? Do you realise that it is not those who cry out “Lord! Lord!” and point to their religious practice who will be acclaimed by Christ as His friends; but only those who have lived lives full of real good works? Do you realise that it is those who perform their religion as a poet might declaim their favourite stanzas – with joy, love, and childlike simplicity – who will be saved; and that accumulating religious achievements and ticking-off checklists of piety is utterly without merit?

It is an old problem of Pharisaism, a “rigid observance of external forms of religion or conduct without genuine piety“. Pope Francis uses this word “rigid”, but too often in inappropriate contexts. We need to rediscover our culture as well as a spiritual life that is focused on the transcendent and desire for truth, beauty and goodness. Without nobility of spirit, culture will die, and humanity with it. The anti-Christian ideology is often called humanism, but there are different types of humanism.

Christian humanism is particularly present in the teachings of Pope John Paul II who was often accused of secular humanist ideas by traditionalists. To understand his thought, I would like to draw your attention  to a slim little book by Andrew N. Woznicki, A Christian humanism: Karol Wojtyla’s existential personalism. Wojtyla was up against the Communist regime in Poland after having suffered from the ravages of the Nazis. From this bitter experience came the insistence on human dignity, freedom and happiness. The Christian humanist movement has its roots in the Renaissance, and is badly understood. After all, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ in order to re-create or redeem humanity at the higher level of nobility of spirit. It is Christianity that gives meaning to reason, freedom, human rights, emancipation from slavery and oppression and progress. The very notion of secularity (the present world, saeculum preserved by God until Christ’s return) is inconceivable without our Christian humanist roots.

Cancel Christian culture, and you cancel humanity. That is exactly the idea of the post-humanists who would replace us with immortal “conscious” machines and a hell on earth! It seems also to be in the ideas of many secularists just using Christian words to mean their ideologies.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Mirror

Resentment, bigotry, prejudice… When we hear people talking with bitterness and trashing someone who did not deserve such treatment, it is heartbreaking. I have lived through the death of Pope Benedict XVI – from a distance. I have also lived through years of seminary since the mid 1980’s and the conflict within Roman Catholicism. Latterly, I had computers and the internet, and previously I had libraries, a little radio with an earphone for discretion and talks given by my superior who also had a job in the Congregation of Oriental Churches. During my time at Fribourg, I had contacts and friends from whom I learned many things and was able to build up a bigger picture. Now, I have the internet and am able to listen to YouTube videos and read articles. I can also order books which I would not find in a bookshop anywhere near where I live. From the capital cities of London, Paris and Rome, to the university city of Fribourg, to the baroque theatre of Gricigliano – and now to the remote village in that area of France called the Mayenne between Normandy and Brittany… I am alive and informed. I am thankful for my slowness to judge and my sceptical attitude. I do not deny the existence of truth, but I reserve my judgement as I await more convincing evidence and seek a higher truth than what we can attain in this life.

Joseph Ratzinger as an intellectual, a bishop, a Vatican bureaucrat and Pope towered above me as did another personality who died at a very old age in 2022, Dr Francis Jackson who was organist of York Minster from just after World War II and through the short years I was at school just up the road from the Minster. These men were not merely pop stars to be fans of, but they inspired us. I still had men of that generation as theology professors at university, men for whom education was not mere indoctrination but conveying the art of critical thinking and fair debate. I would never dare to approach these men or presume in any way, I as someone so small and insignificant, but a spirit came down to me. I only have a tiny fraction of Ratzinger’s theological knowledge, and I come nowhere near Francis Jackson’s virtuoso musicianship. Interestingly, Ratzinger appreciated music and played the piano as an amateur.

Sometimes there are personalities and events that enable me to understand myself as never before. It is my psychoanalysis and therapy, not at the hands of an expensive professional in this domain, but in real life. God sometimes sends us events and persons for us to see ourselves like in a mirror. St Paul comes up with that enigmatic expression in a glass darkly from that famous Hymn to Charity:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. I Corinthians xiii 12

The “glass” is not necessarily a window to see what is on the other side, but a mirror to see ourselves. An old-fashioned term for a mirror is a looking-glass. We can know God when we know ourselves. I am very fond of the spiritual writings of Aelred of Rievaulx, especially the dialogue on spiritual friendship and the Mirror of Charity. A mirror in the bathroom is essential to spruce up our appearance, but this kind of mirror enables us to get our whole selves straight with ourselves and God.

The experience I have been through these last weeks consisted of spending a few days in Brittany with a friend who has a remarkable amount of knowledge is many fields. He is an architect and I got know him through dinghy sailing. He is very left wing in his political views, something I respect and only share some aspects. As for all of us, his is a complex personality. He emptied his sack (French expression) on the subject of Benedict XVI, revealing an “alternative truth” to which I could not subscribe. I was too “little” to relate to the great man, but so many who knew him would talk to me or I would read their writings. The views of my friend are quite similar to those of an American lawyer – The Death of “God’s Rottweiler”?

Always the snarling Nazi guard dog analogy! However, what came through was Ratzinger’s paradoxical inability to live up to the stereotype. Perhaps a clerical equivalent of Heinrich Himmler or Hitler himself would have brought about a more efficient Roman Curia. Just take the heretics out to the back yard and shoot them with a machine gun! We are faced with an utter contradiction between the Nazi stereotype and the shyness of the German intellectual and fatherly teacher with noble ideals.

So Ratzinger was unable to deal with the “gay mafia” and the cocaine-fuelled orgies going on somewhere. Our American lawyer laments that Ratzinger chased after “liberation theologians” instead of having the homosexual clergy taken out to be shot.

I would agree with the Ordinariate mess, after my time spent in 2007 in Portsmouth with the TAC bishops and the hope that this would be the core of a new movement in communion with Rome, drawing in elements from elsewhere and countering the fragmentation of continuing Anglicanism. The whole thing was badly handled both by Archbishop Hepworth and Rome, and nothing was clear between about 2010 to early 2012. Hepworth had no credibility through being a former Roman Catholic priest and being in a state of canonical irregularity. The Ordinariate could not be founded on such a base. The Ordinariates as they exist now are not my problem and I am not qualified to criticise them, but I do observe certain difficulties as expressed by men like Gavin Ashendon.

Ratzinger is criticised for his excess of authority and lack of authority. It is then refreshing to read Rod Dreher’s The Real Benedict XVI. Rod Dreher left Roman Catholicism to become Orthodox. He and I share the bitter experience of a failed marriage. The wonderful thing about writing is that life is not only about friendship and relationships, but being able to share goodness with all who read. This is what I feel about being a priest and my ministry being through prayer and writing. Oddly, it is the one thing I share with Ratzinger in the latter part of his life. He was not celebrating public Mass, visiting the sick, hearing confessions, managing a parish. He was the Pope. I was simply a deacon in a rural parish who could no longer live with the contradictions and wearing down of my morale. I was faced with the badly-informed choice I had made to become a Roman Catholic. This reality had hit me several times over the years from 1981.

I am writing this article not to reproduce what others, better qualified, have written. We find ourselves through empathy with others, feeling their sufferings – spiritual, mental and physical. I am thankful for the good health with which I have been blessed. I have pills for high blood pressure and my knees get achy in this wet winter weather – but compared with people much younger than I who are really sick in body and mind! I have lost noble-minded friends to sickness. Benedict XVI did not enjoy good health, and he suffered silently as he offered his life for his vocation as a priest and teacher. Dreher’s article is most revealing of truths he read from the better-informed.

The media is more odious than many of us can imagine. I bewail the ignorance, often factual ignorance, of journalists who think they know everything. Worse, some of them at least manipulate falsehood and make it truth in some kind of Orwellian paradigm. They would cover current events through the gloss of their ideological agendas. Simply don’t believe what you read in the media. Use the internet and Google words and combinations of words, and sometimes you can find alternative sources – which may also be glossed over with ideological agendas. Be critical as some of us were taught at school and university. It isn’t easy, and even then we are left unsure and confused, the truth escaping us through the fog of lies.

My interest in this man was not so much through his job. I was tempted to write to him in something like 2011 in view of being forgiven and regularised. I decided not to because I knew he could only say no, to refuse. Not to do so would be failing in his job. I could not return to a Roman Catholicism that tormented me for so many years. I perceived it as Catholic Christianity with a toxic and imprisoning ideological shell. Call it ultra-papalism, scholasticism, Fatima-fanaticism, merits and indulgences, whatever.

Ratzinger, the good professor he was, taught me the essential. The Church can represent our aspirations to the sacred, the transcendent, these very qualities that unit us to the Universal, the World of Ideas – or it can represent a parody that is entirely secular, political, meaningless claptrap. I am struck by this:

Ratzinger had ‘an almost girlish softness’,

which was quoted from another intellectual and legal expert. This is something I understand myself as someone who has been diagnosed with the variety of autism that used to be called Aspergers Syndrome. I cannot compete and relate to the incredibly complex system of the social life of most people. I sympathise with the idea that “If might is right…”, I have no place in this world. For me, might is not right. Love, beauty, truth and goodness are. I have seen this in the “mirror”. I too am naive about human nature, and having to admit that someone is evil is profoundly shocking for me. I have been “had” too many times. Now I live in the countryside and can be more discerning in my relationships with other human beings, not through pride or arrogance, but simply to defend what little I have left. Oh yes, this is something I can understand.

As for Ratzinger’s so-called conservatism, I wrote this ten years ago: Reflections on Ressourcement Theology. I read theology at Fribourg which has been reputed for this kind of work. It enabled me to distinguish between “Modernism” as secular ideology dressed up with religious vocabulary and a real desire to present Christianity in terms that are accessible to our contemporaries who are educated in a scientific and rationalistic frame of mind.

‘The point is to rescue the faith from the rigidity of the system and reawaken its original vital power, without giving up what is really valid in it.’

Exactly. How refreshing to read authors like Jean Daniélou, Louis Bouyer, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Marie-Dominique Chenu and Hans Urs von Balthasar! And Ratzinger. I can read the French authors in their own language, but unfortunately my German isn’t good enough for me not to need a translation.

We have to distinguish between renewal by going back to the Fathers – and this crackpot revolution that is suffocating everything, cancelling God no less!

Like Tyrell, I have sailed between Scylla and Charybdis (as I have done literally between the rocks in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc – use GPS and Navionics together with a good chart!), between what amounts to atheistic totalitarianism and the rigid parody of Counter-Reformation Catholicism. Both can sink the boat. In medio stat virtus. The notion of via media in Anglicanism is often mistaken for a lack of character or conviction, but is the place where truth is often encountered. Try it…

Ratzinger has become known for his idea of the “smaller, purer” church. Rod Dreher presents this idea of a Christian intentional community in The Benedict Option. I have not heard of such a community existing in Europe, and the Brüderhof seem to be something else. There are small churches like continuing Anglicans and traditionalists like the Fraternity of St Peter or the Institute of Christ the King. The clergy have a structured community life and the laity can go to their churches and help with catechism, the Scouts and the various parish activities. My time in Italy showed me the existence of old of very small dioceses like Gaëta and Montefiascone. Paul VI merged many of them together and they lost their parish-like intimacy. Many parishes these days are poisoned with bureaucracy and corporate management. Those old Italian dioceses had just a few parishes, a monastery or two and a tiny little seminary. Anyone could go and see the Bishop like a good friendly parish priest. Are there any of those tiny dioceses left in Italy, free to carry on their lives without ideological interference? In the Anglican Catholic Church, anyone can go and meet Bishop Damien Mead who is informal and fatherly, and I hope to meet my Archbishop this coming April in England. Our Church may be imperfect, but we don’t have that nastiness and intrigue, that lust for power and money!

We need to get away from that “we and them” of traditionalists and progressives, or even the idea that “we are the Church”. In Dreher’s words:

What carries the church through such times of uncertainty is the persistence of the faith of communities, in which the union of past, present and future is demonstrated and endures, beyond traditionalism and progressivism: in the reality of a life today lived by the Creed.

The real enemy is atheism and the nature of its totalitarianism, Stalin and the Gulag, the spectre of Orwell’s 1984. It is like the cow contemplating its fate at the slaughterhouse. Our salvation is not measured in terms of wealth or poverty but the person of Christ. A few of us are beginning to understand this prophetic view, turning away from the masses to find the true nobility of spirit as expressed by men like Thomas Mann and Rob Riemen. We miss the lovely gothic and baroque churches, many of which will be lost or transformed beyond recognition, but the real treasure is within us and approached with faith, hope and love.

We Anglican Catholics are sometimes unkindly called Angry Catholics, because some of us react with anger and resentment to the injustice we have suffered. Anger is sometimes justified. Christ became angry as he chased the money-changers out of the Temple. What is very soul-destroying is lasting resentment. We have to find a way to move on. My time with the Institute of Christ the King had a similar effect on me as my failed marriage. Resentment can lead to mental illness, even a kind of diabolical possession. I have seen it in others and it is a warning to me. In terms of the Church, I have found a home in the Anglican Catholic Church and my faith has not changed. In personal terms as a single man again, I am about to buy a house in Champgenéteux (Mayenne) after having rented for two years, thankful for my late father’s legacy. It is time to be grateful and rediscover innocence and beauty. I will name the house Rievaulx in honour of the great St Aelred of that Abbey and the part of England where my paternal roots lie.

Resentment and obsession must be banished from our lives. Like Rod Dreher, I failed to find a home among traditionalist Roman Catholics. The priests like Fr Montgomery-Wright and Fr Jacques Pecha, parish priests of old, have died and their churches were closed down. Bouloire is very fortunate to have been entrusted to the Fraternity of St Peter. Dreher became Orthodox, and I hope and pray he has found his spiritual home there. I was accepted into the TAC by Archbishop Hepworth in 2005, and I am grateful to him for giving me a legitimate mission as a priest. That all fell apart in 2012 because he misrepresented the Ordinariate project and found himself deposed by those TAC bishops who did not go to the Ordinariates individually. I then found the pastoral welcome and friendship of Bishop Damien Mead of the ACC in England, and I was transferred to the Metropolitan’s Patrimony under Archbishop Mark Haverland simply for the sake of canonical coherence. Without that opportunity, I would have had to conclude that I was not called to the priesthood by the Church. I would have found a new way somehow after a time of spiritual healing.

Yes, back in 2005, I felt the personality of Benedict XVI as he became Pope and essentially remained a university professor who could be approached by his students with their questions and doubts. I joined the TAC and lived through a story of failure and disappointment shared between Archbishop Hepworth and Pope Benedict for different reasons. Archbishop Hepworth felt it to be necessary to create illusions to fill the emptiness until his downfall. Benedict did his best, but abdicated through his genuinely poor physical health and his coming up against a wall. Like Dreher my own marriage was in a bad state by 2013 and nothing could repair it other than my capitulation and destruction of my personality. I am thankful that we had no children, and she and I will be divorced this year. I am glad that it had to be two years of separation so that I bear no resentment or ill will. For me, it is a legal process to bring about the conclusion. She will have to assume her life as I assume mine.

Ratzinger must have gone through intense sufferings, partly through the fault of others and through his own choices and inaptitude to assume such a weight as the Papacy. I feel for him and offer to God my own break from the Institute of Christ the King and the RC Church and from my marriage (of doubtful validity). This is why I cannot assume the judgement stance of my sailing friend who has never been in clerical circles and has his own idea about God or gods. We will remain friends and my hand remains outstretched. We will see each other at the Semaine du Golfe even though he is in Flotilla 2 and I am in Flotilla 3b. We all get together on the Ile d’Arz where there will be crowds, food cooking and traditional Breton dancing and folk music. Our boats will be moored like horses at the saloon in the Wild West! Enjoying ourselves is also a part of being human.

I recognise my own life in the humble expression of Rod Dreher. Why am I not in England or America doing real parish work? Simply, I do not have the money for it and the events of my life have kept me in France. This is something I accept with both happiness and sadness. My life is one of a hermit, but without the discipline and rule of a real one! I still have to heal from the old wounds and learn to be myself, not the caricatures and parodies projected by other people.

The esteem of Christianity is now so low. The general feeling is that the scandal that has occurred in the RC Church (sexual, financial, corruption, etc.) cannot be eliminated without doing away with Christianity. And replacing it with what? Islam? Atheism? Neo-feudalism à la Soros and Schwab? Out of that lot, I would prefer the Borgias!!! Less flippantly, the Church will lose its worldly prosperity and embrace poverty, not in the fashion of liberation theologians but in truth and humility. We have to seek integrity instead of trying to make ourselves acceptable to the media and “mass humanity”. The catharsis will have to be complete, and it is happening. We have to turn away from power, money, sexual lust, false appearances, fraud and illusion.

My own vocation seems to resemble that of Fr Guy Gilbert, le prêtre des loubards. So I thought as I went into a bar with my friend and was taken for a rocker on account of my long hair. I explained that my musical tastes were very different and that I was a priest. That profoundly shocked the young men who were quite drunk and drawing false tattoos on each other’s backs. Douarnenez is fundamentally a working class fishing town and quite bohemian. I would certainly not be successful at trying to convert these guys to Christianity! For what? Maybe, they would ask questions and approach an answer in some unconventional way. At least it would be sincere. Being unconventional and eccentric have been positive things in my life. My identity is not someone else’s cliché. The idea of the юродивый – Russian for “fool for Christ” comes into my mind. I don’t care what others think. I felt close to those guys in the bar getting drunk and expressing their enjoyment, whilst I was not drunk and preferred to keep my lucidity. I find the same solidarity when meeting men who live on their boats. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is not about having no money but no vanity, nothing to lose. My mind returns to the article I wrote in 2014 on Sexagesima Sunday Libenter suffertis insipientens : cum sitis ipsi sapientes. In particular I think about Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and that wonderful expression of Sebastian’s sister Cordelia. Can we bring them Christ’s love without getting anything in return? There is the spirit of Christ and the future of the Church.

I return to the criticisms made by my friend. Was it wrong of Ratzinger to pursue proponents of Liberation Theology, those who wanted the Church the other way up, without the poor depending on the condescending charity of the wealthy? Do we have to “cancel culture” in order to restore justice to those who suffer from poverty and the indifference of the privileged? As with many things, there has to be a via media, a preferential option for the poor whilst promoting culture – which does not make anyone poor. Suppose they sell the Vatican to give the money to the poor (housing, creation of jobs, social care, etc.), someone has to buy the buildings. Only plutocrats could afford them. What would they use them for? Would they not be the next lot of oligarchs to take to the guillotine? So, perhaps you “cancel” them, destroy the buildings in the same way that Hitler wanted Germany destroyed when he knew that his defeat was complete – a blazing Götterdämmerung! This kind of thinking is diabolical.

The Christian way is to withdraw from the world, but not to go and live in a cave. There are the heroes (not all Christians), those who lived on top of columns, Bernard Moitessier sailing the fury of the Southern Ocean in a yacht, generations of monks in the desert, mountains and the woods. I admire the monastic vocation but I could never accept its collectivism and totalitarianism, as the Abbot of Triors admitted to me. Could Benedictine monasteries be any other way. I believe that innovation would be possible in the way of balancing the individual person and the community, encouraging creativity and inspiration – but I know of no such community. Perhaps someone reading this might enlighten me… The dream of a Benedict Option will remain nothing more than a dream unless someone comes up with original ideas and makes it work in spite of human sin.

Returning the Dreher’s appraisal of the late Pope is characterised by modesty and generosity of spirit.

If he really had been the “Panzer Kardinal” or “God’s Rottweiler,” the Catholic Church might be in better shape today. In fact, he was a kindly old German professor, a lover of prayer, music and gentleness. He could absorb the hatred of his lessers because he didn’t take himself too seriously.

I leave you with that lovely quote from St Paul:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed… (2 Cor. iv)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Year Resolution

Some people have the custom of making New Year Resolutions, usually things for better health like giving up drinking alcohol or smoking. Others resolve to keep a tidy home, be better organised at work, many things. How long do such intentions last? Perhaps our resolutions can turn to our inward beliefs and values.

I was shaken by a conversation with a good friend who loves sailing and is an artist. He discussed the death of Pope Benedict XVI. For him, Josef Ratzinger was a reactionary and God’s Rottweiler, and did much harm by opposing and persecuting the proponents of Liberation Theology. The version put out by the media does not correspond with the image that came over to me as a Roman Catholic deacon and a Continuing Anglican priest. My friend denied the existence of any kind of afterlife and all that exists is this world in a dead universe representing our (lack of) existence before birth and after death. Perhaps I am putting words in his mouth, especially as he considers consciousness and energy to be creative of matter. We have remained friends and we seem to respect each other in spite of the gut-wrenching feeling of “What if he’s right“.

For him, Jesus existed, but his life and mission were purely moral and bringing about the kingdom (whatever that would have been) of this world. Jesus the political revolutionary, the proto-woke activist. I have seen elsewhere the kind of theory that suggests that he sought to promote liberation of the poor from the oppressor, he survived the crucifixion (no mention of the Centurion piercing his heart with a spear – which he would not survive if he were still alive), he was taken out of the tomb alive, he married Mary Magdalene and had children, he went to live in India since the south of France was still dominated by the Roman Empire. He might even have been a convert to Buddhism. I have read the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail of Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln , and the highly entertaining novel of Dan Brown on the same theme, the Da Vinci Code. We all love a good mystery and a conspiracy theory for dessert. But, the sober thought is depressing if that is true, that Jesus was no more than a political activist and that the atheists have won. Perhaps there is a form of theism that believes the same thing, whilst admitting something that gives some meaning to life and humanity.

Just today, in the midst of the for and against of Roman Catholics and others about Ratzinger, I read this article by Gavin Ashendon, What Pope Benedict can teach us about New Year resolutions. It is a thoughtful article, and it brings us to that fundamental question of whether it is all about revolutionary politics or a transcendent Kingdom, what we Romantics would call the Blue Flower, but which is none other than God and a mode of existence that is beyond the material laws of this world. We should not forget that Christians have often been in history the only ones to consider looking after the sick and the poor, and to campaign for their welfare with kings and other state authorities. The famous film Mission after the book by Robert Bolt also teaches us that thin dividing line between the Church’s service to the poor and oppressed – and bloody warfare against the oppressors. There is another line in the Scarlet and the Black, set in the darkest days of World War II in Rome. A priest expresses his desire to join the resistance and kill Nazis. Msgr O’Flaherty reminds him that they are there to help the victims of war, not to add to the killing. This is the essential difference between the teaching of the Gospel and revolutionary politics. It is too subtle for many, but I feel it profoundly.

During my time in Rome, I met several souls in the corridors of the Angelicum and the seminary where I was living. It was the Pontifical Nepomucene College, and the Czechs were still under Communism and persecution. I heard many heroic stories as well as tales of treachery, such as a seminarian sending radio messages to Communist agents with the names of the seminarians in the College. What a sad place to live, with the dourness of the American community I was with as a first-year seminarian and the spiritual refugees training for the priesthood to serve the Underground Church. It was only later, during my time at Fribourg, that the Iron Curtain came down.

What was that dreadful darkness in the eastern countries, other than replacing the spiritual Kingdom and eschatology by the imposition by force and violence of a caricature of that Kingdom on earth. Totalitarianism is expressed in both Fascism (and Nazism) and Communism, and I can only lament the similarity between the two. It is the kingdom of hell, the dystopia, what C.S. Lewis called the Abolition of Man. In those sad corridors of the Eternal City, which brought me anguish and stress, I heard among some almost a desire for death as expressed by Novalis, which I quoted in my eulogy to Benedict XVI:

In Tautropfen will ich hinuntersinken und mit der Asche mich vermischen. — Fernen der Erinnerung, Wünsche der Jugend, der Kindheit Träume, des ganzen langen Lebens kurze Freuden und vergebliche Hoffnungen kommen in grauen Kleidern, wie Abendnebel nach der Sonne Untergang. In andern Räumen schlug die lustigen Gezelte das Licht auf. Sollte es nie zu seinen Kindern wiederkommen, die mit der Unschuld Glauben seiner harren?

Two figures emerge from the mists of my memory. They had been seminarians with the Society of St Pius X and sought their vocation in the official Church. Their names were Jean-Michel Duport and François Crausaz. Both died at a young age from some form of cancer and are now in another world, so we hope and believe. I walked with both from the Via Concordia to university each morning, and we tried to understand the incomprehensible. How easy it would have been to reject and deny everything! And find oneself in a much worse predicament! Of the three convittori, Fr Alain Contat, who speaks his native French so beautifully and clearly, lives and teaches theology and philosophy in Rome to this day.

You must be optimistic! – they tell us. If there is nothing other than this world, we could concentrate on improving this world by means of politics and activism, working to help the poor. But that is an illusion. Human nature is geared towards aggression, competition and power – money being the means to these ends. Being obsessed with catastrophe and evil is also not the way. Where are we in all this? What direction will history take? A kingdom of peace? A dystopia much worse than Stalin, Hitler and Orwell’s imagination? Is our civilisation about to collapse? Many left-wing and environmental activists and Christians are fearful of this prospect. It has happened before in history, and there is no reason why it should not happen again.

I am very concerned about the denial and ridiculing of Christianity and the advent of a new puritanism: veganism, an exaggerated reaction to climate issues, the Great Reset. There is a kind of psychosis growing, even if these issues do need to be addressed. The archetypes of this transposition from eschatology to this material world were well understood by Josef Ratzinger. As I mentioned, I never met him. I once (1986) saw him cross St Peter’s Square dressed in a simple black cassock and a beret. In itself, that would tell me nothing. But, in Rome, people talk – and that’s an understatement. He has spoken many times, written articles and scholarly books. I share his ressourcement theological view, which is neither Scholastic, nor is it “Modernist” for want of a better term. He based his belief and knowledge on the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, especially St Augustine. His philosophy and metaphysics were Platonic rather than Aristotelian. I warmed to reading his writings.

When I read Gavin Ashendon’s “He compared the current era to that of Pope Pius VI who was abducted by troops of the French Republic and died in prison in 1799“, I came back to my own thought of a need for a new Romantic movement, a way of thinking that seeks to restore imagination to humanity and the Sehnsucht for the Transcendent. In the nineteenth century, Romanticism made the revival of Christianity possible. Romantics like Byron and Shelley were atheists but their views and poetry represented a break from the arid Rationalism of the eighteenth century.

Ratzinger’s prophetic view of the Church was perhaps something like our little Continuing Anglican Churches, isolated monasteries and parishes, an Underground Church like in Russia and the Warsaw Pact countries. The clericalism and the corruption would be stripped away and the beautiful churches and much of our Christian culture would be lost. It is happening. I am an isolated priest with absolutely no pastoral ministry, but I did make choices in my life that were not very wise.

Wherever politics tried to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic. (Truth & Tolerance: Belief and World Religions).

Everything is said in two brief sentences. These are not the words of a snarling guard dog! His philosophical knowledge made him understand the same things as Orwell, Huxley and so many of us since those far-off days when those two men died. Significantly for me, Gavin Ashendon mentions Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which my friend (mentioned above) and I watched. We saw the shortened version of the Fellowship of the Ring. I have since bought the DVDs of the long version, and I prepare myself for some very long sessions. Then, I will have to read the books to get Tolkien’s most profound philosophical insights. Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose is entertaining as a film, but the book is a complete education on medieval philosophy with some clear moral teachings. Tolkien will be that much more challenging for me. Perhaps the three books for Lent… Talk about New Year resolutions!

A long defeat? I once asked a priest what he thought of the idea that man was not progressing but rather regressing physically, intellectually and spiritually. As a traditionalist, he blamed it all on Original Sin and confirmed me in my question. I have many doubts about such a simplistic viewpoint, and I even suspect the Gnostic point of view that the Original Sin is not in creation, but in God himself. This will be blasphemy for many, but I do wonder as did Jakob Böhme and those who followed his thought and writings. Is this degeneration built into everything? Is there no final victory of Christ, consequence of the Resurrection and its eternal “validity”. That was another question I asked as a seminarian – Was the Redemption only of limited duration of effectiveness? The question is unthinkable to most Christians, and I am highly reserved about it myself. We are dealing with mystery, the unknown and a lack of evidence, either empirical or as a result of logical deduction.

Our feelings and thoughts go right the way back in history to the persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire, and throughout the earthquakes of the Reformation, the French Revolution, Communism and Nazism and the growing Beast among us right now. The sense of growing weakness is expressed in the Maranatha! – Come, Lord Jesus! of St John. We yearn not for death but the recapitulation of all things in Christ, an end to this degenerating world of sin. Even the more scientific among us there is an end to everything – unless history is cyclic as we find in eastern philosophies.

One thing I notice in our contemporaries is a waning of the use of reason. I am fortunate to have had an education, a real Bildung in the way of learning to reason and debate. I say this in all humility, thanking my late parents and teachers. Where do we see these things, even among educated politicians, like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, both of whom among others went to Eton. At a popular level, what is there other than small-talk about football? The ladies have other subjects, often just as boring to outsiders. I am astounded by the ignorance of journalists when they describe Benedict XVI as having been a Nazi (other than being conscripted in the Hitlerjugend on pain of severe sanctions) or having been a spiteful man. They did not research their subject but went by idées reçues. The same kind of intolerance as during the Kristallnacht is returning. The braying crowd shouts Cancel culture, unaware that they call for their very abolition as human beings. On the other side, multi-billionaires are preparing their new feudalism on almost the entire world population – if they get away with it.

Joseph Ratzinger also said (quoted from Gavin Ashendon):

To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say Yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover.

It is this faith and hope that confers a right reason on us, the capacity for love, kindness and tolerance. These are definitely my own values, which make me pass for a weak person, without will to be competitive.

If might is right, then love has no place in the world. It may be so, it may be so. But I don’t have the strength to live in a world like that. – Fr Gabriel in Mission.

Keep out of politics. Carry the Blessed Sacrament and let the bastards shoot you. It is the death of a martyr. The atheists and materialists would ask “What’s the use? There is nothing after death. You cease to exist”. Even that would be preferable to such anti-humanism and bestiality. Christ said many times in the Gospel that self-sacrifice is preferable to politics and violence. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

I remain a Christian in spite of the temptations. Christianity, in spite of the sins and shortcomings of many of its clergy, remains a force for good. This is the purpose of my life, expressed in little things for which I will not become powerful or famous.

May you all go through your values and become aware of this inestimable gift to be called to be good, do good and encourage good in others. Happy New Year 2023!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Benedict XVI (1927-2022)

Last New Year’s Eve, I read the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s death about two hours after it occurred. I was struck by the date being the very last day of the year 2022 in which Queen Elizabeth II died, as did my own father. I listened to an old recording in the car this morning of an interview with Dr Francis Jackson who was organist of York Minister from the day he succeeded Sir Edward Bairstow in 1946. He too died in 2022 at a very advanced age. These three men – Pope Benedict XVI, Dr Francis Jackson and my father who was a northern English veterinary surgeon – were first and foremost gentlemen. They were reserved in their speech and judgement of the things around them and were slow to judge and condemn. They were noble and highly competent in their respective fields, theology, English cathedral music and veterinary medicine.

Concerning Pope Benedict XVI, I followed the news of his Pontificate for the entire time since 2005, the year when I joined the Traditional Anglican Communion from being a more or less “retired” vagus cleric. I was already out of the Roman Catholic Church when John Paul II was still reigning. My problem was not the Pope but my immediate situation, my mental health, the fragility of my faith and inability to deal with some of the more narcissistic and toxic of the clergy I had to deal with.

I was familiar with Cardinal Ratzinger’s career and theological reflections. I never met him, but I always heard of him as a gentleman, a profound scholar, kind in his pastoral duties. However, he would have been no walk-over and there were theological positions that were unacceptable even with room for interpretation and dialogue. I wrote in a Facebook posting:

What will happen now in the RC Church is not my problem, though I have my fears. There will no longer be that “ghost” in the closet to resist the “onward” movement of secularism and nihilism. Now the “progressives” can have their way and the spirit of Synod will do the same thing as years ago in Lambeth Palace and that big building behind Westminster Abbey. The years go by without pity except for the blissfully ignorant youth. I have been inspired reading many of Ratzinger’s reflections and serious theological writings. He was a man of intellectual integrity and a true Romantic and Idealist in his discreet way as a Roman Catholic cleric, something unusual for Vatican functionaries and big bosses. May he rest in peace, and may his spiritual and intellectual legacy continue to inspire us all. Ruhe in Frieden, Eure Heiligkeit.

Benedict XVI and the present Pope came from different cultures and experiences of life. It is often assumed that all Germans who lived from that period between the wars were Nazis, authoritarians and “Rottweilers”, nasty snarling dogs defending their property. The very word “dog” implies “dogmatic”. Most people consider “being dogmatic” as bullying and unwilling to dialogue and interpret where things were not binary and either true or false. This image of the Nazi authoritarian was entirely the creation of the media and the disciples of “relativism”, cultural deconstruction and atheism.

Our dualist and binary contemporaries would see Ratzinger as a traditionalist or a so-called Modernist. Both views are wrong. This is something I can understand through having read theology at Fribourg University and in a very ressourcement kind of faculty rather than the strict Scholasticism of traditionalist seminaries. I had contact with Germanic culture and its piety of a very different kind from French, Spanish or Italian popular religion. I did not meet the man, but I had some contact with the kind of mould that made him. I visited Bavaria and Munich in 1999 and immediately felt at home, of course with the exception of the Dachau concentration camp which I also visited, that horrifying and heart-breaking monument of man’s inhumanity to man.

I went a little far calling Ratzinger an Idealist and a Romantic. In both notions, I refer to Germans like Goethe, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel, August Wilhelm Schlegel, Hölderlin and Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis). For these men, truth was the Blue Flower, the transcendent, for which we yearned but never entirely possessed. I detest the attitude that claims to possess the truth and to be the way every person must follow on pain of damnation! The Platonic foundation of philosophy and theological thought is far more profound than Aristotle’s seemingly heartless rationalism. Ratzinger was more of a Platonist through St Augustine than a Scholastic or Thomist. In Romanticism, it is the highest spiritual faculty of man that gives reality and truth rather than being simply an abstraction from some external being. It is almost quantum science from a period that predated our modern science. Things are what we make of them. Transcendence and mystery are higher than we are in our rationalism. The transcendentals of truth, beauty and goodness were far more important to Ratzinger the Platonist than to the presently triumphant Jesuits. Ratzinger was no Nazi snarling guard dog!

My main message in this posting is that neither the progressives nor the traditionalists have got it right. This struck me as I read some of the comments to my little epitaph of a posting.

I think your fears are unfounded. It’s important to remember that Ratzinger was an architect of the reforms, and while very systematic and cautious, he trusted the Holy Spirit enough to resign and for Pope Francis to be appointed. He was never a ghost to resist change, he was a faithful servant of God who prayed earnestly for Holy Mother Church. That’s it.

That’s it. What? The tin lid is slammed down and there is no appeal. My commenter upbraids me for my seemingly traditionalist view, and that Benedict XVI was simply a man of the institution, the mainstream. His outreach to the traditionalists was a failure, but the whole issue is unimportant to the mainstream majority. Perhaps… The commenter admitted having a personal issue with “Rottweiler”-style bullying by priests who apparently neglected their “true” pastoral duties. He represents the point of view shown by Andrea Grillo (he mentions Cardinal Arthur Roche), the well-known liturgy professor with what seems to me to be quite an arrogant attitude. I did make the point (or implied it) that the consequence of prohibition (alcohol, drugs, etc.) is the black market and murderous cartels. Does a country impose a ban on Muslims practicing their religion because terrorist acts and atrocities have been committed? Abusus non tollit usum. Some people misusing and abusing something that is not bad in itself does not warrant its complete abolition and repression. Such repression is a direct cause of radicalisation, what happened with the traditionalists under Paul VI. The present pogrom seems to be more sectarian than the measures implemented in the 1970’s by Paul VI.

After my criticism of arrogant bureaucrats of the mainstream, I have been quite shocked by some opinions expressed by traditionalists. This one in particular:

The hermeneutic of continuity has died with its author. The fact that continuity had to be constructed was itself proof that it did not exist. Ironically, traditionalists and progressives are now free to agree: Vatican II was an unprecedented rupture and revolution. The more radical phase of that revolution will presently be propelled forward more violently by Francis and the St. Gallen Mafia that put him into power. The death of Benedict XVI is a dark omen indeed.

Priggish Catholic commentators are insisting that no one say anything negative about Benedict, yet they themselves incongruously call for his immediate canonization and publish obsequious praises so disproportionate that they reek of self-adulation for discerning Benedict’s supposed saintliness. These commentators seem to have forgotten that this pope lived almost ten years after resigning–allegedly for lack of strength of mind and body–thereby leaving the faithful to be ravaged and devoured by the wolves that he himself, as shepherd, told us were there. Benedict, who abandoned his post to the detriment of the universal Church, needs our prayers, not our praises.

I have always understood Ratzinger’s hermeneutic of continuity as an expression to mean something similar to John Henry Newman’s development of doctrine. A book I recommend is Owen Chadwick, From Bossuet to Newman, Cambridge 1957. It contrasts the attitude that made Protestantism: there should only be what was in the “Primitive Church” – and the idea that things that were unknown in the very early history of the Church can be legitimate today because they are are understood to have been implicit then. Ratzinger wanted to contrast the understanding of Vatican II continuing the Church in its prior history to the idea of destroying everything and building something new – the hermeneutic of rupture. Hermeneutics is a method or theory of interpretation, especially of biblical texts. All ideas are subject to interpretation, including what I am writing here. Do traditionalists generally accept interpretation of Vatican II? Not usually, because they would take the choice of cancelling it to restore the status quo of the Church under Pius XII. Ratzinger, as a theologian, archbishop and Pope was considered as a Modernist by the traditionalists.

Did Pope Benedict betray the Church by abdicating? The writer of this comment represents a very severe and judgemental opinion. Different reasons were given for this abdication. I suspect that he could not handle conflict, even though he did when in charge of the former Holy Office. He had become more of a public figure, and was a reluctant Pope from the beginning. I suspect. There are conspiracy theories. There are allegations that he mishandled child abuse in his archdiocese all those years ago. Did someone dig up enough dirt to make him abdicate on pain of the whole Papal office to be taken to the cleaners? On the other hand, I would not be encouraging people to ask for his canonisation. The Papacy is banalised as are canonisations, like the ringing coin in the coffer and the soul springing from Purgatory.

Is Christianity all bunk? I don’t think so, but I wonder if institutional Christianity has any credibility left. Christianity survives in individual persons. The social or community dimension is secondary. I would be unable to handle being Pope, but I’m not ever going to be elected! That is certain. Perhaps he should have stood and fought without regard to his own safety, but that might not have been the issue. We outsiders are too simplistic. What I saw in Ratzinger was a timid and introverted intellectual who wanted to keep to a via media position and allow traditionalists to remain in the official Church and be free from repression. He occasionally celebrated a Tridentine rite Mass for the Fraternity of St Peter in Germany, and did it very well and exactly. Again, he was a gentleman, not a militant, and did not even believe himself to be apt for the Papacy – but he was the one to be elected in April 2005. I too reject santo subito (make him a Saint quickly) but I would not accuse him of cowardice or betrayal.

There are things I have not understood well like his continuing to live in the Vatican or have himself styled as Pope Emeritus. In his place, I would have gone back to Germany in the style of a simple priest and found a monastery willing to let me retire there and protect me from the press, etc. As I have said, I was “through with” the Roman Catholic Church when John Paul II was still alive and my own life became very unstable until I found my tiny niche in Continuing Anglicanism. Marriage broke me, and I am slowly recovering because every aspect of my life was poisoned. Perhaps I should be silent now, but what good would that do?

When he abdicated, I wrote a few reflections at the time. Views on Benedict XVI. Like many others, I was confused and had mixed feelings. I tried to get some understanding from informed sources like Damian Thompson and Rod Dreher. As now, I lived remotely and no longer had anything to do with the bustling clerical world of the Institute of Christ the King. I too was “retired” but I had never been in charge of anything. I cast my mind back to April 2005 when a friend from my days at the Angelicum in Rome was with me in the Vendée. We all had become frustrated with the way things had become with the increasingly frail and infirm John Paul II. It made no difference to me personally, but I am concerned for others as a member of the human race and a priest. Benedict XVI represented a degree of hope for the traditionalists, those who needed hope for themselves but denied it to others as I found around the Ordinariates in 2009 to late 2012.

It is certainly the definitive end of an era of “two Popes”, but Francis will continue to be marked for a time until he in his turn dies and the Conclave rigmarole begins again with this or that new rule. Roman Catholicism in the future will follow the trajectory of the Anglican Communion, above all the stifling bureaucracy and suppression of individual creativity. It will be collective and corporate without the professionalism of business corporations. Inclusion of minorities will be a figure of speech to promote the ideology of something resembling Chinese Communism. It is no longer a church and is Christian only in name.

Some of the comments on this posting were quite toxic. I have the advantage of being more or less forgotten, though the blog statistics show a fairly constant level of traffic. There are traditionalists who would like to revive the Inquisition’s torture chamber and garrote vil. None will ever have the authority to do anything or stage a failed putsch like neo-Nazis in Germany. I remain  influenced by Dostoevsky‘s Grand Inquisitor and the message of human freedom at a spiritual and noble level. Like Churchill said:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

Secular government (like the French Republic) seems to offer the best balance between the tolerance of religions and a social contract. It isn’t perfect, but what is?

Pope Benedict XVI is abdicating was another one of my articles from 2013. We were all sedevacantists!!! We had no idea who would be elected to replace Benedict XVI. This “end of an era” seems to reflect that of 2013. Normally the death of the Pope precedes the Conclave to elect his successor. If Benedict XVI was wrong to abdicate, he suffered his Karma by watching his work undone and being “cancelled”. I don’t really believe that, but realise that the real explanation is above my pay-grade.

Between the positions of the traditionalists and men like Grillo and Roche, something like what I encountered at Fribourg in the 1980’s, I see no sense in Roman Catholicism. People will continue to throw money at it, but decreasingly. I am anxious about the future, some kind of Orwellian dystopia, darkness that will continue longer than the time we have left to live. Maybe Benedict XVI shared this foreboding and became aware that he could do nothing about it, even in that extremely influential position and office. What I don’t know, I can imagine and conjecture, compare with my own experience. He has died and has either ceased to exist or is experiencing something that was beyond his wildest imagination. I prefer to believe the latter without any evidence I can directly experience.

I end this reflection with a quote from Novalis (Hymnen an die Nacht 1):

Abwärts wend’ ich mich zu der heiligen, unaussprechlichen, geheimnisvollen Nacht. Fernab liegt die Welt — in eine tiefe Gruft versenkt — wüst und einsam ist ihre Stelle. In den Saiten der Brust weht tiefe Wehmut. In Tautropfen will ich hinuntersinken und mit der Asche mich vermischen. — Fernen der Erinnerung, Wünsche der Jugend, der Kindheit Träume, des ganzen langen Lebens kurze Freuden und vergebliche Hoffnungen kommen in grauen Kleidern, wie Abendnebel nach der Sonne Untergang. In andern Räumen schlug die lustigen Gezelte das Licht auf. Sollte es nie zu seinen Kindern wiederkommen, die mit der Unschuld Glauben seiner harren?

Aside I turn to the holy, unspeakable, mysterious Night. Afar lies the world — sunk in a deep grave — waste and lonely is its place. In the chords of the bosom blows a deep sadness. I am ready to sink away in drops of dew, and mingle with the ashes. — The distances of memory, the wishes of youth, the dreams of childhood, the brief joys and vain hopes of a whole long life, arise in grey garments, like an evening vapour after the sunset. In other regions the light has pitched its joyous tents. What if it should never return to its children, who wait for it with the faith of innocence?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

On this Christmas Eve

As I wish my readers a happy Christmas, whether they are with their families or alone with the Mystery we contemplate, I have been corresponding with Edward Jarvis who has written two books on the more illusory aspects of independent Catholic ministry in its various forms. Both he and I share a critical point of view about the “true” (institutional) Churches in this world. It is very difficult to see clearly

He and I hope to work together on a book in a constructive spirit.

Should we write something that aims to help those who explore their calling outside of the big ecclesiastical structures, or something aimed at removing some blinkers and debunking some myths about independent churches – or both? Or maybe something focusing on the sacramental aspects, the clerical state, and the old valid-licit confusion?

I keep an open mind. Who would be our audience? Who are we writing to? I have the same hesitations as when discussing details of the Use of Sarum. We have to see the forest in spite of the multiplicity of trees. I am unclear. In a message back to Edward, I wrote:

* * *

There has always been a link between religion and culture, like Buddhism fitting into Chinese civilisation and Confucianism. Christianity, at least in the early days was an odd man out. It had to graft itself onto existing cultures and even take them over like a cuckoo takes over the nest of another bird, getting rid of its eggs before laying its own. Christianity was easy corrupted from its noble ideals and became a kind of “parasite” and then took advantage of the decadent Roman Empire to build the prestige of the Papacy and its power over national kings and princes.

The Church has always existed as this über-political power and the isolated missions, monasteries and communities.

I have been interested in the “intentional community” idea, but they are extremely diverse in their ideas and ideologies. I fear that many are climate fanatics, woke and “cancel culture”. Many are obsessed with one issue like permaculture, so you spend you life farming and gardening, nothing else, giving up personal transport and the greater world view. This will give you an idea https://diggersanddreamers.org.uk/ You either have to buy in at more than the price of a house in the UK, or join what amounts to a cult with a guru who simply needs guys to work for their feudal lord. The serpent eats its own tail. Alternatively, The Oozlum Bird flies around in ever-decreasing circles until it disappears up its own arsehole. In that safe but insanitary situation, it showers shit and sarcasm over its pursuer.

In brief, I don’t know which community I could relate to, perhaps none in existence. At the same time, it would provide the cultural context in which Christianity could prevail. That’s how monasteries work, but they are by definition totalitarian. You leave your personality behind at the door and you obey Big Brother! There is a genuinely spiritual notion behind that idea – as long as the Abbot is a gentleman, with a noble intention. However, if he has a toxic personality… You’re stuck with him. Like in a marriage to the kind of woman I have had to deal with. They gaslight and are never satisfied. Human evil is an insidious poison.

One intuition that came out of some of the independent clergy was the “niche ministry”. The niche can be anything from music, art, sports, sailing, charitable work, anything. The outward expression of Christianity, priesthood and liturgy, takes second place. It is a bit like the post-war Worker Priest movement in France, the Abbé Pierre and Emmaüs and many others who sought to bring Christ into the rough and tumble. Some got too far into political activism, and again, the ideal gets corrupted. I have crewed for Fr Claude Barbarit, a diocesan priest in the Vendée, who has dedicated his life to taking young people to sea and lifting them out of their nihilism. Rather than creating an artificial society in an “intentional community” you relate to people as they are without expecting them to convert to anything. Eventually some ask questions about the goodness and kindness of the person who has dedicated his life, and if that goodness is attributed to Christ, the message can pass credibly.

Obviously, such a notion is going to have little to do with church buildings and beautiful liturgy – or ugly liturgy for that matter. Much of the inspiration comes from 1930’s Existentialism and Dietrich Bonhöffer’s outrage at “official” Christianity supporting the Nazi regime in the hope of its share of some of the spoils. We begin to arrive at Christianity that is much further stripped away than even the woke bureaucracy of the Church of England and the RC institution. We arrive perhaps at the only thing that makes us continue as Christians rather than go away as cynical materialist nihilists – the Person of Christ. That leaves us in the Underground Church, something like bishops and priests behind the Iron Curtain (a new one is being run up on the infernal sewing machine as I write).

My thoughts are not entirely clear but they are forming in this direction. It isn’t a universal solution for all, but it is an attempt to be truthful. Christianity needs to graft itself onto expressions of truth, beauty and goodness, in whatever form they take. The narcissistic self-proclaimed prince-archbishop has no place in all this. The camel has to go through the eye of the needle!

I would like you to reflect about all this and try to bring something concrete out of it, something “visible” and “tangible” without being a caricature of itself. The book we could work on can be in the spirit of understanding why some (myself included) go into independent ministry or attached to small churches like continuing Anglicanism. You have a man with a strong ideal and a will to get out of the money-noise-nihilism world, and then is beaten down because he is not participating in the competitive rat-race of money and power. What does he do when he finds himself stricken with a “perpetual canonical irregularity”? The theme is inseparable from the feasibility of Christianity in this world and our ability to discern the “points of entry”, man’s receptiveness to the life of spirit. Christianity cannot be political activism, but a spiritual leaven and the “sign of contradiction”. My mind joins that of Pope John Paul II in many ways, with his experience of both Nazism and Communism in his native Poland.

We should do something to give courage and positivity to the shipwrecked sailors rather than beat them down for the sake of Church institutions that have thrown away their own credibility. I have lived outside the UK for a long time, and I experience the Angst of seeing the way things are going, to the point of restricting people’s right to travel. Our resistance has to be interior, our spiritual lives turned towards martyrdom in the Greek etymological meaning of that word.

Please let me know what you think of all this, to encourage me to be clearer. Read Thomas Mann and Rob Riemen, the latter influenced by the former. Mann went into exile. Bonhöffer gave his life. The book and the film The Mission seemed to show a lot of understanding. In the words of Cardinal Altamirando:

So, your Holiness, now your priests are dead, and I am left alive. But in truth it is I who am dead, and they who live. For as always, your Holiness, the spirit of the dead will survive in the memory of the living.

The noble souls of these Indians incline towards music. Indeed, many a violin played in the academies of Rome itself has been made by their nimble and gifted hands. It was from these missions the Jesuit fathers carried the word of God to the high and undiscovered plateau to those Indians still existing in their natural state and received in return, martyrdom.

The priests in question were not martyred by the Guarani but by the Portuguese colonising armies (the king of Portugal at the time was anti-clerical and a Freemason, just interested in power and money).

Fr Gabriel concluded:

If might is right, then love has no place in the world. It may be so, it may be so. But I don’t have the strength to live in a world like that.

Nor do I.

I’m sure we could concoct something out of all that. Watch this space….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Call for a New Christianity

I regularly receive e-mails from Dr William Tighe giving links to various bits of news and views about the Church and the moral state of the modern world. I was particularly struck by this title of an article Pope Francis allies claim Western Christianity ‘no longer works’. In a certain way, most of us living in towns, villages or remote places among ordinary people, not enthusiasts of closed associations, only relate to the Church through our inner life and set of beliefs and values.

What occurs to me is that those boring Jesuit cardinals, Pope and conniving groups are concerned first and foremost for their jobs. They are men of the institution and its bureaucracy and channels of command. My own experience is one of being a priest but unconnected with my Church except in a more interior way. I am subject to a Bishop, an Archbishop, and I maintain my canonical link through doing the right things, avoiding the wrong things and holding to a human relationship like in a family. Our Church (the ACC) has secretaries and people who manage churches and their finances, but the bureaucracy is far from stifling as it is in the big “mainstream” Church institutions like the Vatican, Lambeth Palace and your average diocese.

For the Jesuit Cardinal to call for decentralisation is quite remarkable because he is sawing off the very branch he is sitting on. Is he really calling for the bureaucracy to be folded up and local Christian communities to carry on quietly with as little Roman interference as possible? Very often, these agendas are other agendas in disguise, and motivated by political ideologies like Marxist critical theories. The Jesuits are specialised in “taking a knee” to the Chinese Communist Party!

Should Christianity be based in Beijing rather than Rome, Buenos Aires or somewhere in Africa? It is much easier to transform Christianity into a Marxist ideology than stamp it out. This is hardly news, and tongues have been wagging for decades about Liberation Theology and the use of Christian terms and vocabulary to promote the Revolution and empty all spiritual content from the message of Christ.

There is the problem of the relationship between a religion and culture. Village Christianity is crude and mixed with superstition, as it was in Renaissance England and suppressed by the Reformers. Christianity cannot breathe in a world of nihilism and materialism any more than a fish in air or a human under water without breathing apparatus. Perhaps this thought is in his mind. Alternatively, we can make Christianity express nihilism and materialism. For what?

Christopher Dawson wrote, “Every human culture must possess some spiritual dynamic, which provides the energy necessary for civilization. It is the religious impulse which supplies the cohesive force which unifies a society and a culture. A society which has lost its religion becomes sooner or later a society which has lost its culture”. Perhaps this view is outdated because Christianity has to be fitted into other cultures. And if Christianity is “over” and we need a “new Christianity”? That seems quite illogical, because something that is “over” is simply dead, a goner, deceased. Call it what you will.

Replace it with what? The neo-feudal dystopia? The “great reset” of the conspiracy theorists? Islamic totalitarianism? Perhaps even the repeat performance now going on in Germany?

If Christianity is over, then you simply close it down, sell its assets and apologise to the world that it ever existed! Then the Pope has to go into an old folks’ home and lots of bishops and cardinals are going to become job seekers and look for overpriced bedsits in cities! As it is, churches are bought by those who could make use of them in one way or another, not an easy thing, especially for homes and business premises.

So we have to give Christianity a new image? Nihilism and materialism? Political activism for all those issues calling themselves new? Bureaucracy like in modern business or government? The Idiotocracy of “groupthink”?

Fr. Tomáš Halík praised Pope Francis and the “synodal process” for seeing the crises as “not a failure of some individuals” but as “just a symptom” of “a sickness in the whole system.” Halík called for a reshaping of the whole system [sic] of Christianity in order to move forward.

OK, well just shut it all down and disperse all assets. Get honest jobs! Just tell the world that Christianity was only ever a fairy tale for children! Slam the lid on it. It just goes on and on.

What would I propose? Do away with the bureaucracy and “groupthink”. Let everyone go the way he wants, including traditionalists, monastics and those with a more spiritual view of Christanity. Tell the world that Leviathan is dead and that priests and lay people have to assume their independence. In our day, it means an Underground Church like in Soviet Russia, Eastern Europe and China. What does it all mean for each of us? It has to be something within each of us, and expressed to others through beauty, witness of life, symbolism and art. I keep banging the drum about a new Romantic Movement, but even that is deluded. We live in a world of advertising and propaganda. I always tell cold callers that I only buy what I need and actively look for, and not as a result of advertising. It is the same with Christian ideas and beliefs – commercial advertising just won’t cut it.

The contemplative approach needs to be encouraged, and each of us can choose among the diversity of monastic rules and writings from the Fathers and the Saints. In post-revolutionary France, monasticism had a tremendous influence on parish life. I saw some of the last remnants in the 1980’s and 90’s. Most of the old priests of Opus Sacerdotale are no longer with us, but they provided much of the inspiration behind the founding of the Institute of Christ the King in the old Villa Martelli at Gricigliano near Florence. Many of them had been country parish priests.

“Pastoral” does not mean bureaucracy and political activism, but celebrating beautiful Masses and the Office, visiting the sick, catechising the children, encouraging vocations and family life, getting round the parish and people’s homes, taking part in village life. It all sound so idyllic and simple. But, the priest had to be appointed by the diocesan Bishop, and that now means the bureaucracy and management. The tension and clash of opposites are engaged, and the parish suffers.

Christianity is now like a man with water in his cupped hands. As he opens his hands, the water flows away and cannot be recovered. I have written much on esoteric and inner Christianity, the disciplina arcana like in the early days when Caesar persecuted Christians for their “infidelity” to the pagan gods. Our communities need to assume their marginality and hide behind closed doors if necessary. We will see more churches and cathedrals neglected and left to rot, demolished or transformed into other uses. We can do nothing about it unless some of us have the money to buy a church – and then maintain it – and not be surprised if no one wants to come to services. Some of us priests are on our own and try to be faithful to our Mass, Office and a worthy life. Our Church, the inner and spiritual Church, the sacramental and liturgical Church, is not over. That is the Church that is indefectible. As for the Jesuit cardinals, it is of no concern to me what they do. Qu’ils mangent de la brioche! – Let them eat cake! May they assume their ideologies or return to Christ, the true Bread of life.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Go Forth and Multiply

I find it quite ironic that we are informed that the world is being suffocated under the weight of eight to ten billion humans in this world. The biggest populations seem to be in China, India and the African continent, most of those people being desperately poor. If we listened to the Climate Crisis Fanatics, we would be tempted to recommend re-opening Auschwitz and the gas chambers! The idea is absolutely unacceptable and repugnant to a Christian in the same way that we oppose abortion and euthanasia.

Those of us who are of a national-populist bent are worried about some “great replacement”. We are talking about mass immigration of refugees, mostly from Islamic countries and escaping tyranny. It is possible that terrorists find a way into the western world by this means. At least that is what the media tells us. I read this article by someone I esteem for his Romantic worldview – The Children of Men. Its author, Michael Martin, evokes the film that appeared in 2006. The full film is not available on YouTube, so you will need to buy the DVD or find it on something like Netflix. The theme is the sudden onset of total human infertility and the consequences, until a miracle happens at the end of the film with a woman becoming pregnant and having a child. In the meantime, there is the harrowing view of women hankering after children to such an extent that they would treat dolls as their babies!

Unlike the film, it seems to be happening gradually, either because couples don’t want children or are medically infertile. The biggest barrier to large families of six to eight children is economic with current financial expectations. Whatever, retirements and deaths exceed the birth rates in the west. Who will support the retired majority as we baby-boomers arrive at that age and there are fewer people working and paying into state and private pension funds?

Many things are to blame, like the banalising of sex and the high failure rate of marriages (including my own!). We have consumerism in the place of hard work and thrift. My 95-year old neighbour, a farm girl, was still washing her clothes in the lavoir in the 1980’s! Fortunately, she has a washing machine at home now. Who would like to go back to the life of peasants and factory workers in Victorian times? Perhaps it is a wet dream to oligarchs like Klaus Schwab and Bill Gates… I write with a high degree of sarcasm as I enjoy food to eat, a clean house to live in, heat and electricity and things like my car and computers both for work and leisure. We don’t have the right to virtue-signal and be hypocrites.

Pope John Paul II called our ways a Culture of Death. As I see signs of the encroaching dystopia of AI, trans-humanism and what would amount to an ideological revival of Nazism, I wonder if it would not be preferable to live in an Islamic world – like Christians living in Algeria and Morocco. We have many nationalists and traditionalists expressing their fear about the Great Replacement. Perhaps an Islamic culture could flourish out of the ashes of our secularised Christian culture. I have always been inspired by Fr Charles de Foucault, the solitary monk in the desert who was martyred by Islamic zealots. Perhaps this is our future and vocation as Christians of an Underground Church, perhaps preferable to the dystopias portrayed in fiction by Orwell and Huxley. Perhaps…

People become very angry with this present polarising of the world between Russia and China on one side and the USA, the UK and Europe on the other. That makes for radical politics and terrorism. Radical Muslims like cutting throats too! It leaves little optimism for humanity and the idea of living and dying to leave a legacy (financial, cultural, anything) to future generations.

We don’t have the right to give up. My own marriage was childless, probably because of some medical condition of infertility, unless I was being lied to. That is entirely possible, but now irrelevant. The response is nihilism and despair or seeing things in a new and different way. I often mention the book Nobility of Spirit by the Dutch philosopher Rob Riemen. He emphasises the quality of culture, not merely civilisation. I quote a brief review of this book:

In the pages of this slim, powerful book Rob Riemen argues with passion that “nobility of spirit” is the quintessence of a civilized world. It is, as Thomas Mann believed, the sole corrective for human history. Without nobility of spirit, culture vanishes. Yet in the early twenty-first century, a time when human dignity and freedom are imperiled, the concept of nobility of spirit is scarcely considered.

Riemen insists that if we hope to move beyond the war on terror and create a life-affirming culture, we must address timeless but neglected questions: What is a good society? Why art? Why culture? What is the responsibility of intellectuals? Why anti-Americanism? Why nihilism? Why the cult of death of fundamentalists? In a series of three essays, the author identifies nobility of spirit in the life and work of Baruch Spinoza and of Thomas Mann; explores the quest for the good society in our own time; and addresses the pursuit of truth and freedom that engaged figures as disparate as Socrates and Leone Ginzburg, a Jewish Italian intellectual murdered by Nazis.

“The forces now aligned against humanistic values are manifold,” observes George Steiner in the foreword to the book. In this imaginative and compelling volume, Riemen addresses these forces and speaks to every reader who believes in the power of classical ideas to restore Western civilization’s highest values.

If I can do something to contribute towards a new Renaissance, a new Christian Humanism, then perhaps my vocation to be a Catholic (generic meaning of the word) priest will have been fulfilled. There are going to be momentous changes in our world and our civilisational claims will be challenged. As our populations diminish, masses of people from the more populated parts of the world will come and replace us. Sometimes, their intent will be hostile, sometimes benevolent. Most will go to the cities where they will find housing and work (or social benefits). We can speculate as much as we want, but the sheer complexity of everything will make anticipation very difficult. Will they colonise us and reduce us to slavery in revenge for the way British and French imperialism treated them?

For those of my generation, the best is to find a way of earning a living remotely, especially by computer and internet (for as long as those last). Live in the country. Learn farming and permaculture. Prepare for that return to a former age where populations were also sparse because of infant mortality and disease. If we are priests, parish life is over. There is no longer that rooting in village life. People in villages are nice and friendly enough, but they are generally uncultured and, for them, the Church is finished. Mass, whether traditional or modern, would be as alien to them as classical music or the far side of the moon!

I am both pessimistic and optimistic. People will once again be attracted by beauty, truth and goodness – and to the God who is the source of these transcendentals. Christ’s message of love and kindness will once again shine above tyrannical ideologies, cruelty, hatred and evil.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments