My old friend Patrick Sheridan has set up a new blog Ad meliora advocatus…
He is obviously taking his time getting used to the WordPress system and is also figuring out what will be the “golden thread” that will give him a message to put out and make the blog last for years.
We all tend to be sensitive to antics of bullies and narcissistic trolls on the internet. Presently I notice some very nasty arguments being waged on Facebook about everything from politics and how Christianity should respond to issues like transgenders in the clergy.
Patrick has become Orthodox, and is growing a beard! His chin hair is even lighter than mine, but he is free to attempt what he wants. I hope he doesn’t go and Russify or Graecify his name! The important thing for him is to learn about their liturgy and spiritual tradition, and it will take many years. I hope he will seek the essence of what he is looking for rather than the mere appearance. I have long hair, which is untypical of the Church I belong to, but that is my free choice rather than some kind of acculturation. I once thought about Orthodoxy myself, when I was a student at Fribourg, through my friendship with Dr Ray Winch and Dr Jean-François Mayer – but it never happened.
I wish him luck and a sense of purpose and coherence. Before, it was a desire for the old Roman liturgy of before the various reforms from the 1911 Pius X breviary to the Pius XII Holy Week of the 1950’s. It is a theme I have shared with varying nuances, with friends here in France and the late Fr Frank Quoëx who was our MC at Gricigliano. Patrick was always unable to deal with conflict, as I am to a lesser degree. Finally, for him, the entire western tradition could only be discarded. Fortunately, he didn’t come under the influence of some quarters of the European alt-right for whom Christianity in general has to be discarded because it is not a viable political system!
I hope Patrick does find this “golden line” and a title for the blog. My own was inspired by the idea of promoting the Use of Sarum, which I found was not enough, when my real golden line is more philosophical, as a priest belonging to a legitimate Church, under the jurisdiction of a Bishop, but marginal in many ways. I discovered the link with the old medieval Goliards who were a weird species of wandering priests and monks who protested against the way the Church was going in those tumultuous days. Patrick’s theme will be very different. I do ask my readers to support him and give him ideas, but he will have ultimately to rely on his own resources, since no one else can do that for him.
Thank you for letting us know! Patrick Sheridan has had some excellent Tolkien posts in the past – which is not to suggest it should be a Tolkien-themed or -named blog, or have Tolkien near its centre of gravity (though it is to hope some Tolkien posts may be part of its ‘matter’). (Two Tolkien-named / -themed blogs I know and enjoy, have formally or informally diversified their ‘matter’…)
What Patrick needs is a “golden thread”, which in my opinion should be philosophical. In my own, I promote a new form of Romanticism in a vague sort of way. So did Tolkien in his time. Spreading out from that, there can be Patrick’s experience of conversion to Orthodoxy and his harmonising the requirements of his Church with his underlying philosophy, whatever that is or however it matures in time. I do think a blog has to come from within oneself as something creative, rather than “rants” or opinions on liturgical issues or other church matters. If he can get that sorted out, he might do well and avoid the mistakes of his liturgical like those of my old and now defunct blog dealing with the TAC and the Ordinariates and all the polemics from about 2010 to 2012.
I am happy Mr. Sheridan has found a home in the Russian Church. His old blog was what showed me how drastic many of the changes within Rome were, and just how non traditional the average trad Catholic calendar really is compared with what came before Pius X.
I am still a Russian Orthodox Old Rite kind of guy but I also love the Benedictine Breviary and much that has come out of our Western Patrimony. I could never fully turn my back on the Western Patrimony despite my immersion in the Slav Orthodox milleu.
I hope Mr. Sheridan grows deeply into Orthodoxy and finds peace of soul, but also that he always have an appreciation for what’s good and noble in the Western Tradition as well .
We all need a spiritual home of one kind or another. Patrick and I, and others with “high-functioning autism” (or Aspergers) need a lot of solitude and we do well to build our lives on a solid basis of self-reliance. I am very fortunate to belong to the ACC and its English diocese, where individualism (to an extent) is not discouraged under a pile of bureaucracy. This relative freedom is what we have in common with the more enlightened quarters of Orthodoxy.
The Church is essential, but we have to learn not to expect everything from it (or other people in general) to avoid disappointment. We have to relay on ourselves and God, the essential philosophy of the seaman. When you’re at sea, you only have God and yourself. The world and the Church are like the sea, just as fickle and uncaring.
If we are at peace with ourselves, through long introspection and a life of prayer, then we will let go of bitterness and seek the essential. So, now, Patrick is an Orthodox. I am a cradle Anglican with some 15 years experience of Roman Catholicism. Rather than look for a “true Church”, we need to find our true selves.
Well said J.D. It really is astonishing how un-traditional most RC ‘traditionalists’ really are and Patrick has done sterling work in exposing what amount to, at best, carefully managed misunderstandings or downright dishonesty.
There was a superb comment on ‘Pray Tell’ opining “Much of what passes for traditional is actually modernism typed in red print and wrapped in lace. (http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2017/07/09/follow-up-is-summorum-pontificum-divisive/) I am sure most of us, including our esteemed blog host would, if we had the privilege of undoing the sins of our past lives, avoid these ‘traditionalists’ like the proverbial plague.
One side of me deeply regrets ever having been involved with RC traditionalists before returning to Continuing Anglicanism, which is something that may bear some superficial similarities, but the fundamental philosophy is totally different. The other side of me is thankful for that experience to situate myself as an Anglican with selective “pre-reformation” tendencies and a Romantic / individualist / transcendentalist philosophy of life.
I noted the Pray Tell comments. They all have it in for the Traddies, but for different reasons. I suppose that being a Roman Catholic is reason for accepting the Paul VI reforms. So, leave the RC Church and you don’t have to deal with the incoherencies. One great problem in our era is collectivism in its different forms, taken by Orwell to the reductio ad absurdam. The RC Church thought that 20th century totalitarianism would be a useful model to follow, just in case someone like Franco or Hitler would have felt it opportune to force everyone to become RC drones. Collectivism puts the corporate over the person, and the person has no rights, yet the collective intelligence is bestial. Both traditionalists and papalists (conservative and progressive) are collectivists.
We need another understanding of the Church, and Anglicanism seems to have learned to uphold the person and individual eccentricities. It wasn’t always the case, but it is in the fabric since the days when eccentric vicars could show creativity and be loved by their folk.
I would not like to go into “traditionalist-bashing” mode, but rather work towards a more enlightened alternative, be it Orthodoxy or the best of Continuing Anglicanism. As always with the toxic elements of life, observe but don’t absorb!
Collectivism puts the corporate over the person, and the person has no rights, yet the collective intelligence is bestial. Both traditionalists and papalists (conservative and progressive) are collectivists.
I find these statements a little hard to unravel. At any rate I don’t think they are right in an unqualified sense. I grant you that the promotion of the institutions of Church as a pyramidal structure, as we witness, are examples of the promotion of the corporate over individual persons.
However the “corporate” is not equivalent to “collectivism”. Collectivism can be understood as the union of intentions and will for a common purpose, which is the overall common good which cannot be a good unless it is a good for persons. Ergo, collectivism can be good, and does not necessarily mean the promotion of the corporate over the person.
To say that the collective intelligence is bestial is objectionable on several grounds. First, it is sweeping – it depends on the object; second, beasts are free of sin because they follow innate instincts, God-given, natural, and so this is no criticism as it is intended; third, we are beasts too, but with the complication of the ability to have ill-will; fourth, it is of the essence of humans to be a collective to advance and progress – we are social animals, so to speak , and the very notion of Eucharist is grounded in this reality.
Finally, to say ‘traditionalists and papalists (conservative and progressive) are collectivists’ is not to say much. Of course groups are collectivist. The ACC is a collective and is just as collectivist in its apostolate as the RCC. The very essence of Christianity, if the two greatest commandments, and the primitive Jewish Christian experience is anything to go by, is collectivist, even communistic. It is hard to conceive of any “church” which does not consist of at least 2 or 3 gathered in the Lord’s name.
Nevertheless, there appears to be a new religious ‘geist’ – the spirit of immediate and intimate community, and a re-discovery of mysticism, which begins with an effort that is very small and private and solitary. This spiritual awareness is quite radical, when compared to the corporate strategies of orthodox Christianity and anyone claiming to be ‘catholic’. Thus, a true conservative (as in going right back to the beginnings) or a true progressive (as in pushing for an evolution towards a fresh beginning) will be collectivist or individualistic in a very different way from the way these ideas are generally referred to.
We have to avoid slogans and clichés where we can.
I’m probably not too clear about these questions of personalism / individualism and corporatism / collectivism. We need to spend more time seeking good definitions of words. Even then, we won’t find anything satisfactory at a universal level, for everyone, all cultures, all stages of personal growth, etc. The interesting thing about philosophers is that their ideas could only fit for themselves. What became interesting is when ideas from one person to another began to collude and form a consensus. The creativity is personal and the “corporate” serves to preserve and perpetuate ideas beyond the death of that person. Mozart is remembered because we still play his music to this day.
To your last point, Goethe is interesting in his conversations with Eckermann about how Robert Burns drew on anonymous folk material to make distinct, crafted works – which were then take up into popular life.
For what it is worth, the online Oxford dictionary gives “The practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it” as its first definition of ‘collectivism’ (and lists, as synonyms, “state ownership, socialism, radical socialism”!).
Perhaps ‘bestial’ would apply well in terms of the behaviour of animals that live in herds, and not of Aristotle’s ‘politikon zoon – though living in a ‘polis’ would of itself not preclude giving a group priority over its members, and even doing so in what might be called a ‘beastly’ way.
I think the discussion of traditionalism and papalism in terms of collectivism would need to be a detailed one – e.g., I’ve seem Dom Gregory Dix described as a ‘Papalist’, while he seems quite uncollectivist in many ways if one thinks in terms of “giving a group priority over each individual in it”. (Then again, it is an ‘Anglo-Papalist’ I’ve seen him called: but where might, say, Fr. Hunwicke enter – or not enter – this ‘picture’?)
For those of us who have had close experience of both Traditional Catholicism as well as Anglo-Catholicism, the points that Fr Anthony are making seem perfectly evident.
Although superficially both groups seem to resemble each other, they are fundamentally different. I think that the main differences are ones of attitude and humanity. Rome is fundamentally legalistic, in much the same way that the Byzantines can be as well, and demand a high level of uniformity; both from the clergy was well as the laity. Anglo-Catholicism is quite different too the point that for both the Romans and the Byzantines accuse Anglicans of simply laxity in religious issues and practice; but that accusation is not completely true or just.
To take as an example. In both Rome and Byzantium a failed monk who under vows leaves that monastic life to either marry or feels that he no longer has a monastic vocation is finished. He has broken his vows and becomes an outcast. In Anglicanism, such former monks are released from their vows and return to the, usually married, priesthood. It is admitted that they did not have either a monastic or celibate calling, but that did not invalidate their calling to the priesthood. For both Rome and the Byzantines this is virtually an unforgivable laxity; personally, I think it is simply an example of the humaneness of Anglicanism.
Anglo-Catholics have always been Catholics who are more apt to consider human frailty over the law; hence, the wide-range of often very talented eccentrics who populated both Anglican rectories and monastic houses. Differences that would have found life extremely difficult or impossible in either Rome or Byzantium.
One other point to mention is that I have often found Catholic traditionalists to be bitter and often hateful; they attack everyone, modernist Catholics, Orthodox, and fellow traditionalists (the more conservative Orthodox are past-masters at this calling as well). In the Continuum such people are usually limited to a few, very few, clergy who have had bad experiences; but is seldom found amongst the laity. The difference in coffee hours between the two groups is startlingly obvious.
Finally, Rubricarius sent an interesting post to read, which insinuated that Catholic traditionalists are to some measure, play acting. Personally, I have always felt that those who are truly play-acting are those western converts to Orthodoxy who get to dress up in exotic costumes, usually 19th century Russian peasant outfits, and have their Sunday morning visits to either Holy Russia or sail to Byzantium. At least Catholic traditionalists are in some measure loyal to their own traditions, albeit in a very mutilated 1962 version.
Anglicans – and as-it-were ‘Anglicanized mere Christians’ – have a tremendous boon in the traditional Anglican recognition of the visible Church (as including the Orthodox and those in communion with the Pope), though this is not always appreciated by those so recognized! (And, as, for example, Lewis points out in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, with reference to Hooker, “in the long run, the autonomous Church-Nation is undoubtedly to coerce Anabaptists, Papist recusants, and puritans” – with more or less ferocity and bloodshed, and for centuries after Hooker’s time, in England).
Words are essential tools that can express lofty thoughts and show forth incredible beauty, but words can be treacherous. They can convey what we do not wish to convey, or, perhaps worse, they can bind our thinking to keep us from thoughts our vocabulary will not express. This is never more true than in making categories of things or of thoughts. Names are precise. Fido is a particular dog distinct from all others, his name indicating him and none other. Dog, however, is a category into which we put Fido and other Fido-like creatures, an extraordinarily useful word and concept, but one that lacks precision. It isn’t easy sometimes to define the doggishness common to Shepherds, Poodles, and Chihuahuas, let alone the multitude of other breeds, nor is it obvious just why wolves, coyotes, and foxes are not dogs. All categories have this problem of imprecision, combining things that are markedly different, and getting fuzzy around the edges where the category ceases and things are excluded.
It’s even more so when we are thinking of categories of thought. In politics, for example, I think of myself as a conservative, but have little in common with most American ‘conservative’ politicians in either attitude or policies, while I am sympathetic to many ‘progressive’ ideas and programs while strongly rejecting much of what they consider central. None of the categories existing actually manage to include me.
Thus I totally reject an “individualism” that is not strongly limited by the “collective”, and just as totally reject a “collectivism” that attempts to squelch the individual. Both tendencies need to be in the forefront of human existence, in constant tension, sometimes leaning one way and sometimes the other. That tension defines human history, and an overemphasis of one side or the other is guaranteed to produce very messy problems. That’s what is wrong with ideologies of all sorts. In attempting to overdefine one’s thoughts something vital is missed and the necessary balance is destroyed.
Such apparent dichotomies dominate theology. The Godhead is both one and three. Jesus is fully God and fully man. We are saved by faith without works and yet faith without works is not salvific. Predestination and Free Will are both Scriptural truths. What is obviously bread is indeed His Body. Baptism makes us Christian and yet many have been baptized and are not Christian. These and many more are essential to a Scriptural and Catholic faith, and the labels we put on tend to be efforts to solve dichotomies. When we think we have solved them, we have entered heresy.
Thanks for this! Its food for further thought moves me to a sort of little reading list by reminding me of things:
Owen Barfield’s Poetic Diction, a very interesting study about language working metaphorically – and the future life of such metaphors (including ‘dead metaphors’);
a discussion by Fr. Robert Hart on the Anglican Continuum blog of a quotation by St. John Chrysostom on extremes and balance, which I have not looked up, but probably should – it was so interesting (reminding me of Aristotle, but also of C.S. Lewis making use of similar ideas and imagery);
Eric Voegelin’s use of imagery of poles and tension and Platonic imagery of being in the middle (metaxy), not least with reference to human experience of order, and mystical experience – he is also interesting in discussing the history of organic imagery, especially with reference to ‘the body politic’.
Fr. Hart was drawing (in various places) on St. John Chrysostom’s On the Priesthood (or Six Little Books on the Priesthood), which, in Book IV, chapter 4, looks at two examples of how “it is necessary for him who is going to fight with both these enemies, to be fully conversant with this middle course” where opposite extreme errors are involved, but where appropriately commending is also involved (W.R.W. Stephens translation).