Dom Alcuin Reid on Traditionis Custodes

On my daily rounds of my bookmarked websites, I often find interesting things in The New Liturgical Movement. We are indeed far from the heady days of 2005, the year when Benedict XVI was elected and I joined the TAC. I am presently working on the Romantic roots of the liturgical movement and indeed the entire revival of Catholicism in the early nineteenth century. The article in question is Dom Alcuin Reid in CWR: Does Traditionis Custodes pass Liturgical History 101? by Gregory DiPippo. No sooner does he begin his article does he refer to Dom Alcuin Reid’s new article Does Traditionis Custodes pass Liturgical History 101 ?

Apart from the comments at the end of the NLM article suggesting that “rad-trads” are part and parcel of the liturgical tradition and that we can’t have anything without them, or that “rad-trads” don’t exist, the tone is pastoral and serene. Indeed, for my project of an extended essay for a Fellowship of the National College of Music and Drama, I intend to pick out the pastoral dimension of old liturgical rites such as we use in some of the continuing Anglican Churches like the ACC.

Why did this tragedy happen according to Dom Alcuin? He brings up the subject of “rad-trads”. The “rad-trad” phenomenon seems to form the basis of this step towards the repression of the old liturgy. Dom Alcuin’s argument is eminently pastoral: invite all Catholics into centres of liturgical life with kindness and charity.

Many diocesan bishops are taking a pastoral stance, because Papa Francis’ provisions are unworkable. It could be that the Roman Catholic Episcopate is no longer unanimous as it was in the 1970’s, and the Führerprinzip in regard to the Pope is a thing of the past. The idea of liturgical wars seems surreal in our time, but people will be frustrated and lose their desire to continue in that Church. A few Roman Catholics have come to join us in the ACC, and they have been made most welcome. A person’s faith and sense of vocation are precious, and often too fragile.

I too say that I am not a Roman Catholic, and I am not directly concerned. However I am concerned that Pope Francis has caused anxiety and alienation among many other calamities. It is a pastoral scandal. Dom Alcuin is a liturgical historian and a Benedictine monk. I have participated in an infinitesimal way in his work, notably my chapter in the T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy. What a difference between the cultured and erudite Benedict XVI and this bourrin (as we express it in French, meaning a course and unrefined man, an oaf)!

As Dom Alcuin quoted, Benedict XVI began his pontificate with an act of humility:

The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.

He is a true father in Christ, one of the greatest theologians and historians of the twentieth century. Like Benedict XIV in the 1750’s, he was a ray of light in the gathering clouds of obscurantism. He was pastoral and generous, unlike this philistine caudillo who took his place.

I would end by quoting Oscar Wilde. These words referring to art and culture, but which could also refer to piety and spirituality, would devastatingly describe this nincumpope:

The Philistine element in life is not the failure to understand art. Charming people, such as fishermen, shepherds, ploughboys, peasants and the like, know nothing about art, and are the very salt of the earth. He is the Philistine who upholds and aids the heavy, cumbrous, blind, mechanical forces of society, and who does not recognise dynamic force when he meets it either in a man or a movement.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

For a New Enlightenment

I write from the point of view of living in France, and refrain from criticising policies in the UK or anywhere else. I get sick and tired of hearing demagogues like Florian Philippot complaining about the erosion of individual freedoms in France through the imposition of a health pass (obtained by full vaccination, a test or proof of having contracted Covid within the last six months), when he would impose an authoritarian regime were he to be elected to the Presidency.

I have tried to give them a fair hearing, as those who speak for the thousands of people militantly demonstrating in cities like Paris, Lyons and Marseilles. The slogans are all about individual freedom. One thing that is missing is a viable alternative to combat the pandemic and relieve the pressure on hospitals. The minority of conspiracy theorists would deny the existence of the virus and claim that people are dying of other illnesses like flu, and that the pandemic is a fiction intended to bring about a New World Order or a New Reset, a universal world regime something like Communist China. I am afraid that such an idea, like most other conspiracy theories like shape-shifting reptiles disguised as the Queen of England, has no credibility.

What is the alternative to something that admittedly would be extremely difficult to implement and enforce? President Macron recently said:

Si nous n’avions pas le pass sanitaire aujourd’hui, on serait obligé de refermer, c’est-à-dire de faire porter la contrainte sur tout le monde. Avec le pass sanitaire, on la fait porter uniquement sur celles et ceux qui ne se sont pas encore fait vacciner.

If we had no health pass now, we would have to close down again, make everyone suffer from the constraint. With the health pass, we impose it only on those who have not yet been vaccinated.

It seems rather clear. The alternative is to go back to the lockdowns of last year. He did attract our attention to the limit of our individual freedoms, the responsibility we assume for other people is the classical social contract. We have to take our reasoning to its logical conclusion to be a part of an adult democracy. It is quite alarming to see the extent of the “anti” demonstrations, and the moral condition of this world. Oddly, the extreme-right populists are at one with the insoumis of the extreme-left. The emerging fanaticism is really quite worrying. I have the impression that it is merely a part of a new nihilist revolution leading to something very, very, ugly – just a hundred years after the Europe of the Dictators.

The freedom to refuse medical treatment is an old established ethic in Europe. A person suffering from cancer has the right to ask for palliative treatment against pain and let the inevitable happen rather than go on with chemotherapy. There is a limit to what medicine can do in relation to the quality of life. What about the health of a society? This is the worst pandemic we have has since the Spanish Flu of a hundred years ago which claimed twenty to fifty million lives. What we decide for ourselves is one thing. What about our families, work colleagues, friends and the people next to us on a train going to work?

The real issue is the capacity of hospitals to treat the victims of Covid compared with their patients suffering from other conditions, including those that are life-threatening. Where is our altruism? Many of our society just have no care for others. They are nihilists and live only for their own pleasure.

I am not a medical expert, but I have read points of view of epidemiologists and doctors, trying to compare them lest any points of view be politically-motivated. What seems most objective is that we are faced with the Delta variant (which seems to be slowing down and even diminishing like in the UK) and other vaccine-resistant variants and new viruses in the near future. There are two strategies: vaccinate all vulnerable persons and / or vaccinate as many of the general population as possible to obtain herd immunity. Either would relieve the pressure on hospitals.

If some people think that they can demolish this vaccinial strategy and return immediately to normal life, they are deluded. They mention no alternatives, but there are several:

  • return to general lockdown when the hospitals are overloaded, just like in March 2020 and November of the same year. Would we who are vaccinated accept this constraint placed upon us by those who refuse to be vaccinated? Natural justice would seem to call for a “targeted” lockdown. If the spoilt brat won’t eat his vegetables, he won’t get his ice cream!
  • a programme of general compulsory vaccination. Just how would that be implemented? Troops of Waffen-SS rounding up people from their homes and carrying them away in vans and trains? The simplest answer would be to consult social security files (what happens to the medical secret?). Just think of the bureaucracy needed for that in a system that works like the engine of a very old car.
  • “let rip”. Simply remove all restrictions and leave the hospitals to assume the overload. Sick people would have to be “sorted” between those who are younger, more “viable” and have more chance of recovery. This presents a serious moral / ethical problem for doctors. Could we stand by and accept such a situation as has been seen in countries like India where so many died because of shortages of oxygen?
  • refuse to reimburse the medical expenses of those who refuse vaccination, contract Covid and fall seriously sick. An alternative would be to hike their social security contributions.

Consequences of any decision have to be assumed to the logical limit.

Just today, anti-vaxxers are appealing to the Constitutional Council to have constitutional law oppose the Government. This introduces an element of incertitude. If this blockage of the Government is successful, then it is confinement or “let rip” as I mentioned above.

The Health Pass seems to amount to a “targeted” lockdown that allows vaccinated people to live normally. It is intended to nudge less decided people to go and get vaccinated. This strategy worked because when M. Macron announced the Health Pass, large numbers of people went and got vaccinated. There are ethical principles of individual freedom (as we are not in Communist China or in North Korea), and how such a system could be prevented from being abused by a future dictator or unscrupulous demagogue.

How do we become adults? This is both a challenge to and an epitaph of our society. I have personally been vaccinated, not only to escape possible death from pneumonia but also to protect others with whom I come into contact. I have very little social life and I follow the masking rules in shops and other public buildings. Most of us here in France do so without constraint.

I am brought to think of Psalm 32 in the Book of Common Prayer:

Be ye not like to horse and mule, which have no understanding: whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle, lest they fall upon thee.

Great plagues remain for the ungodly: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, mercy embraceth him on every side.

Be glad, O ye righteous, and rejoice in the Lord: and be joyful, all ye that are true of heart.

A noisy minority is trying to cancel what can be done to help the situation without admitting the alternative (because they would not accept a new lockdown either). Are the bit and bridle the only way? If so, our world is a very sad place that can “work” only with a Hitler or Stalin in charge!

We of the majority who have taken this threat seriously from the beginning need to make our voices heard. That is why I am writing this little piece. We need to become mature and responsible adults. The vaccinations are far from perfect, and the decision of Pfizer and Moderna to hike their prices is revolting, crisis capitalism at its very worst. I hope the European Union will have the gut to appropriate the vaccines and strip away the proprietary patents.

Maybe the virus will just fizzle away. It seems to be doing so in the UK and it has flattened in France. Can we be sure that another variant even worse (with seven other demons) will not come and take its place? This is not the first time that I have compared viruses with evil spirits! We have vaccines, and we also have fasting and prayer. May the holy Mother of God deliver us from this plague, that we may return to holiness and virtue!

Being opposed to something is just no enough. We have to assume the consequences of the alternative (assuming that the pandemic is far from being over). Other than spiritual and theological considerations, I am just an “ordinary guy” who reads different sources and hears the sound of different bells in order to form a politically-free idea of what is going on. That wearing a mask or not takes on a political meaning is both pathetic and indicative that our contemporaries are spoilt brats in need of punishment and / or education.

Increasing numbers of thinking people are taking refuge in the countryside. I did so many years ago, because I know what can happen in France with their radicalised and mindless reactions. It can happen in any country as it happened in Germany, Italy and Spain in the 1930’s. If we abdicate our own intelligence, responsibility and spiritual life, then someone will take over and decide on whether or not we are worthy of life! The true Romantic upholds Reason as much as he extols Imagination and Idealism. May this leaven bring forth fruit in our sick world!

* * *

I have just received a private e-mail, which I will reproduce in such a way as to hide the identity of its author. The tone is moderate and represents attitudes in many sincere people.

This is just a quick email to say I think Covid has done more to divide people and destroy the social trust fabric etc than anything that springs to mind in my own experience. But I blame Covid only as a kind of material cause, because the efficient cause is squarely on leaders and their policies and the sustained alarmist character of much media reporting.

There is unfortunately a new orthodoxy, and we know what happens with orthodoxies: “heretics” get burnt. Whilst I don’t dispute about the whole phenomenon, I would disagree with the accusation that those who do not wish to receive injections are selfish. The compulsion over injections is ostensibly to combat the virus but is more immediately or directly aimed at helping political leaders and invested bureaucrats get out and beyond their own various policy approaches and initial assessments as they must know – although not admitting it – that on statistical fatality grounds the virus has not been able to land a glove on pandemics of the past. A more globally self-imposed disintegration I can’t think of.

A question people have to ask themselves, I suppose, is what type and degree of divisions and classes of people and movement does one think good for a tolerant free society, and whether public policies should be constructed from the more generous idea than the narrower idea. Here is where John Rawls’ theory of justice might inform our approach; i.e. whereby we choose the minimum criteria consistent with what we would want if we assumed we would be incarnated into the lowest rung or situation.

I responded:

It is hard to come up with a hard and fast solution. I have had the two jabs and I have little social life. That gives no absolute guarantee against catching it while shopping even though we are all wearing masks!

The problem with the French situation (…) is that Macron is playing a very delicate game to prevent an all-out revolution by a kind of “coalition” between extreme-right and extreme-left. Many of the protesters are “gilets jaunes” led by Florian Philippot who is much further to the Right than Marine Le Pen. Elect that lot and it would be like the regimes of Franco and Pinochet!

Perhaps the pandemic is a hoax and a conspiracy. I have not seen evidence that would convince me. Prudence forces me to assume the threat is real. The alternative to it being a hoax (with the justification for a revolution) is vaccination, “targeted” lockdown or lockdown decided by the usual indicators. The hype by the media is criminal. I chose the title For a New Enlightenment because of the need for information, evidence and knowledge. I am far from sure of the rational basis of the revolutionaries, and they would be more tyrannical than the present regime.

I fear that society is going to disintegrate, and the way is the catacombs in the practical form of remote country places and a form of work that makes such a life possible. Those who live in cities will relive 1789 to 1799, guillotine or no guillotine. There are lots of ways to kill people!!! I don’t think a tolerant and free society is possible any more, which breaks my heart. If people will not seek to think critically, then they have to be ruled by people like Hitler or Robespierre. Macron is no superman, but he seems to have the most balanced and pragmatic attitude in a political scene that has collapsed. If the only alternatives are Fascism and dinosaur Communism, then I would consider voting for him next year.

Perhaps it is time to “let rip” as they have done in the UK. Vaccinate the vulnerable and let the young catch the virus. Those young people who would suffer serious symptoms would be “collateral damage” and it takes about 90% to get herd immunity. Perhaps that is the way, but it doesn’t seem to be very ethical in terms of human life.

The mass of people unfortunately doesn’t have the intelligence to take the normal precautions we take as individuals. Perhaps the future is Chinese-style Communism and totalitarianism. We could hold out for a time, and then there is only death to look forward to. Perhaps it is check-mate. Orwell or Huxley?

Will the Mother of God help us? It isn’t automatic, but there are miracles in history.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Modernism and Integralism

In these ideological conflicts, the “other” is often grouped together into a homogenous block in order to condemn it more easily. One thing I have noticed about many traditionalists (I listened to a sermon by Bishop Donald Sanborn today in which he took on Pope Francis and Traditiones Custodes) is the use of the word Modernism as coined by the condemnation by Pope Pius X. When Modernists and Modernism are actually studied, one will find little more than a euphemism to describe an opposition to strict Scholasticism. There was a stream of so-called Liberalism that sought to demythologise the Scriptures and deny the possibility of miracles, as one would find in the works of Rudolph Bultmann (who was a Protestant) and Alfred Loisy among others. In fact, Modernism sought to come up with an apologia against Protestant Liberalism that would secularise and discredit Christianity as a spiritual religion.

Here are some old articles I have written about the subject:

If Modernism is simply not wanting to restrict theology to scholastic calculation, then I am a Modernist. However, the word seems to have little meaning, because we all live in “modern times” and have always done so throughout history.

Here is a fine article about Modernism: Christian Modernism by Bernard M. G. Reardon who also wrote Religion in the Age of Romanticism, Cambridge 1985. I quote an important section of this article:

The use of the word Modernism in restricted reference (hence the capitalization of its initial letter) to a movement of a theologically “modernizing” or liberalizing character in the Roman Catholic Church at the turn of the twentieth century has already been alluded to. But it should at once be said that to describe Roman Catholic Modernism as a movement at all is somewhat misleading, as it had little cohesion, and those to whom the designation “Modernist” has usually been applied do not in any sense constitute a school. As the most famous of them, Alfred Loisy (1857–1940), expressly stated, they were only “a quite limited number of persons” who individually shared “the desire to adapt the Catholic religion to the intellectual, moral and social needs of the present time.” But the exact determination of their overall aim differed from one writer to another, according to his particular interest. Thus the only satisfactory way of studying Modernism is not to attempt to impose upon it a schematization like that of Pius X, by whose encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis it was condemned in 1907, but to examine and assess each author’s contribution to the cause as a whole. The countries where Modernist tendencies were most in evidence were France, Italy, and England. Germany, rather surprisingly, was less affected, and in the United States it had no real following at all.

The task that, in one way or another, the Modernists undertook was that of presenting the world of their day with a defense of Catholicism, in both its doctrinal and institutional aspects, which could be accepted as intellectually plausible. In other words, what Protestant liberals had done for the Reformation tradition they would attempt for the post-Tridentine, and their procedure was often no less radical. Thus Loisy, in The Gospel and the Church (1902), approached the whole problem of historical Catholicism—its dogmas, its hierarchy, its cult—along evolutionary lines as a natural growth responsive to spiritual and social needs and determined by the continuously changing cultural environment. A direct reply to Harnack’s What Is Christianity?, Loisy’s book denied that the essence of Christianity could be located at any one stage or identified with any single element within its historical life. The entire historical life of Christianity, he maintained, alone provided the data for a true—because empirically grounded—estimate of what the Christian religion is. In this context, Catholicism will be seen to be justified—so Loisy argued—by the sheer fullness and diversity of its content. Similar arguments were used by the Anglo-Irish Jesuit George Tyrrell (1861–1909), notably in his posthumous work Christianity at the Cross Roads (1910).

The peculiar difficulty facing the Modernists lay in seeking to validate a form of Christianity that appeared fatally vulnerable to historical criticism. Indeed, they felt that the main pressure upon faith came from precisely this quarter, and the familiar type of Catholic apologetic, tied as it was to biblical fundamentalism, was incapable of meeting it. Moreover, the question of dogma also raised other issues, of a philosophical order. Catholic philosophy, by official direction, meant Thomism, although more often than not Thomism conceived in a narrow, unhistorical, and scholastic form. A more dynamic religious philosophy was wanted, according to Modernists like the French Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière (1860–1932), a disciple of Maurice Blondel (1861–1949), as well as to the Bergsonian Édouard Le Roy (1870–1954) and to Ernesto Buonaiuti (1881–1946), protagonist of the Italians and author of The Program of Modernism (1907). For a more dynamic philosophy they looked not to Kant, as Pius’s Pascendi had alleged, but rather to the voluntarist tradition of much nineteenth-century French thought and even to American pragmatism. Tyrrell and Laberthonnière both stressed the role of the will in belief and were disposed to understand doctrine in terms of an ethical symbolism. Le Roy’s account of dogma (Dogme et critique, 1907), in particular, represented it primarily as une règle de conduite pratique (“a rule for practical conduct”), without intrinsic speculative content. Thus the doctrine of the divine personality means in effect “Conduct yourself in your relations with God as you would in your relations with a human person.” The vindication of dogma, therefore, will rest on its capacity to induce the experience in which it is itself grounded.

However, the Modernist apologetic, whether historical or philosophical, won no approval at Rome, and the movement was summarily suppressed. In 1910 a specifically anti-Modernist oath was imposed on the clergy, or at least those engaged in teaching. The result of the Vatican’s action was to retard Catholic biblical scholarship, as well as practically all non-Thomist theological thinking, for many years to come.

Bishop Sanborn also kept a straight face as he affirmed that Luther invented Mass facing the people. This would not explain why Lutheran churches have eastward-facing altars, and any altars facing the people would have come from 1970’s Roman Catholic influence. Getting one’s facts right does help for being credible.

I don’t think I can now say much more that is not already in my old posting Modernity and Christianity. As a former student of Fribourg University, I wrote Reflections on Ressourcement Theology.

When I was ordained a deacon at Gricigliano, I was asked to pronounce the Anti-Modernist Oath of Pius X. I did so sincerely, because I believed that Modernism was identical to the kind of theological liberalism in the nineteenth century that sought to secularise the Church and abolish the supernatural. Since then, I have discovered many things, among which was the intellectual sloppiness and ideology of Pius X and Cardinal Mery del Val (the author of Apostolicae Curae of 1896 – oh yes!).

One of my memories of Dr Ray Winch was his sympathy for what he termed as “true Modernism”, the attempt to defend the intellectual credibility of Catholicism by expanding the philosophical and historical basis of our studies. On this basis, he left the Roman Catholic Church and became Orthodox.

* * *

I touch upon the subject of l’Intégrisme or what Pope Francis calls the rigidity of the traditionalists. Oversimplifying, I would perceive it to be a very deeply rooted ideology in reaction to the French Revolution in an attempt to replace existing political systems in Europe and other parts of the world by the Church having authority over leaders of countries. This ideology would finally be called by the euphemism Social Kingship of Christ mentioned in Quas Primas (1925) of Pius XI. To be fair to Pius XI, he was more than concerned with the rise of Fascism and Nazism and sought to deflect people’s misplaced loyalty to their political leaders by embracing Christ as their King. However, words are all too often understood as euphemisms, in some cases meaning the opposite of what they say.

The tightening occurred when Pius IX had to flee Rome for Gaëta in 1848 because of the increasing hatred of the Church in a revolutionary movement to some extent influenced by that of France and various masonic groups like the Alta Venti dei carbonari. Towards the 1860’s, the paranoia and conspiracy theories became palpable and the “converted” (liberalism to intransigence) Pius IX led to the infallibilist movement largely led by the Jesuits. I have the book by August B. Hasler, How the Pope became infallible, 1979, and found that extremely fascinating.

After a relatively “cool” pontificate of Leo XIII (1878-1903), Pius X (Guiseppe Sarto) resumed the tightening programme against theologians who were not strict Thomists, because they would be perceived to be a part of the “conspiracy”. The condemnation of Anglican Orders, though under Leo XIII, was a part of this ever-tightening atmosphere.

Here are some old articles, especially about the Sodalitium Pianum of Msgr Benigni (not Bugnini!).

This “tight” Catholicism movement faded from the death of Pius X in 1914 and the two world wars. Pius XI, the Pope of between the wars, turned his attention to the survival of the Church in the face of Fascism. Pius XII was a diplomat and did his best to keep the Church out of the same trouble as the Jewish communities of Europe. Integralism (far-right politics under the control of the Church) was waning long before the election of John XXIII who had been in trouble as a young priest with accusations of Modernism.

Unfortunately many traditionalists have tried to continue and revive this inquisitorial movement. Bishop Sanborn, somewhere between sedevacantism and sedeprivationism, distinguished three main groups of traditionalists: the ones recognised by Rome, the Society of St Pius X and the sedevacantists. All hung on this bishop’s notion of Modernism with which pre-Vatican II Catholicism, as he termed it, had no basis of dialogue or compromise. Unfortunately, this version of traditionalism promotes a message that has no credibility with thinking people. We are back to the real theme of Modernism that was faced by Pius X as a great conspiracy bent on destroying the Church, when the reality was quite the opposite.

Personally, I have been alienated from traditionalist Roman Catholicism, even though I was in one of the more moderate communities of the Ecclesia Dei scene. I have spoken with clergy and lay people of all tendencies. This is not the way to ensure a future for Catholicism.

In a way, Pope Francis is not wrong, but his response to “rigid” traditionalists has no credibility. Attacking from the point of view of the liturgical rite is exactly the wrong response. The problem is one of political ideology and an excessively narrow methodology in terms of theological study. Also, Pope Francis, and probably the quasi-totality of his Jesuit order, are working from a perspective against which the Modernists sought to defend the Church, her orthodoxy and her spiritual life. Not all traditionalists are “rigid”, and this aggression against the situation of the old liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church seeks to punish all for the excesses of a minority, albeit a powerful clerical minority.

I have followed the history from the Enlightenment to the Revolution, the tendencies of French Romanticism to seek a hypertrophy of the Pope’s spiritual and temporal power. From then we have the excesses of Rome from about the 1860’s to the 1900’s, a period of masonic-inspired aggressive anti-clericalism in France and Italy, the attempts to defend intransigent Catholicism, the Ressourcement movement from the 1950’s perceived as the “fruits of Modernism” (where there was no connection between the two). Finally there was Vatican II, the excesses of the late 1960’s to the death of Paul VI and the three main traditionalist reactions. It is tragic that Benedict XVI abdicated, because he was bringing so much hope for a new current of Catholicism that was neither of the Left nor the Right, but spiritual and mystical.

Finally I returned to Anglicanism, but in its Continuing form. I am no longer trapped in these contradictions of incoherence. I serve the Catholic Church in a very limited way as a priest, contributing as much as I can to Catholic education and study.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

A Nihilist Revolution?

Incendie de Notre-Dame de Paris — Wikipédia

I was tempted to give this post the title A New Russian Revolution? – but it is not a question of Russia, either under Soviet Communism or the Putin regime. It is about my own country. The vandalism of a church is relatively but a small symptom, but an indicator of what seems to be behind an epidemic of arson and wanton destruction. The article has a number of links underneath it to such more serious incidents.

One commenter seemed to understand things rather well according to his world view that is not mine:

I think it’s much more likely to be people who consider organized religion, (or perhaps specifically Catholicism?) to be a scourge. I personally feel sad to see art desecrated, but I can somewhat sympathize with the impulse to repudiate what it stands for. As lovely as this structure is, it’s maintenance testifies to social value that no longer exists, if it ever did.

The desecration of this lovely old building is akin to the desire to pull down statues, I think. As stupid and pointless as that is, and as disrespectful of art, it speaks to a powerful impulse that lives in many people now, and manifests as a need to actively deny any form of membership that is based in the history of a group. The churches and the statues announce, “This is who we are, collectively.” The desecrators reply, “Collectivity is a pack of lies.”

“Tear it down!” is the unspoken, subconscious cry manifesting everywhere: Acceptance of the Covid lies tears down the economy, degradation of music and art tears down human feeling, materialism tears down human thought, political corruption tears down collective values. It’s as if the world we have known is a set of bowling pins and something has set the ball on a trajectory to strike them all down. Once the tear-down process is complete, will the psychopaths really be in charge of the rebuilding, as is their desire? I don’t think so – I think their plans are pipe dreams.

But how will people make sense of their existence? What a time to be alive!

In itself, it seems to be the cry of a nihilist. Perhaps this person would welcome a planet-killer asteroid or an all-out nuclear war. At the same time, the person recognises the existence of human feeling, thought, collective values, life itself. What is in the mind of a young man emptying fire extinguishers and breaking windows in a medieval church? Is it fun? Is it an expression of anger? Mental illness?

Vandalism is an old problem and is found in all periods of history. With some research, we would probably find that legal and police authorities have profiled those who have been charged and convicted of vandalism. It is commonly associated with gang culture in inner city deprived neighbourhoods. Buildings and vehicles are often victims of riots as presently done by the more extreme elements of the Gilets Jaunes and those who oppose the Passe Sanitaire here in France.

Vandalism to churches, if it is not for self-entertainment, would seem to be motivated by hatred of religion, or hatred of Christianity by fanatical forms of Islam. Legal authorities in different countries vary on the ways they deal with vandalism. In Singapore, one might get three years imprisonment and a caning. Most western countries will not send a vandal to prison for more than six months, which is complicated in the case of most offenders who are still minors.

In history, one particular form of vandalism is iconoclasm, theologically motivated by the condemnation of images from the early Church to the Reformation and, more recently, the liturgical reforms in the Roman Catholic Church from the 1970’s.

Vandalism was a characteristic of the 1871 Paris Commune. In that year, the Tuileries Palace was burned down, and Nietzsche himself saw in this act a fight against culture. What would justify something so senseless? Why turn on beauty and works of scientific achievement? Why the wish to destroy man’s knowledge of history and what we can learn?

When the Nazis were defeated, the Allies systematically destroyed the symbols of the totalitarian regime.

The destruction of Nazi symbolism was something that was necessary in 1945 as part of the exorcism of something so evil and dreaded, which had taken so much human life over its twelve years of tyranny. This time, it is a reaction against evil that caused this wave of vandalism, often by spectacular means such as explosives. At the same time, is there something in common between someone who attacks a church and Allied soldiers who destroyed Nazi symbols? The question seems blasphemous, but perhaps the vandals of today believe they are doing some good by ridding the world of symbols of what they perceive to be repressive religion.

Coming back to the comment I quoted, there is a feeling that human society and its institutions have become so corrupted that complete destruction is needed before the construction of something completely new. The UK has suffered the double-whammy of Brexit and Covid. We no longer have any confidence in politicians. Art without form and music without harmony and beauty are so destructive. Materialism and consumerism take away our taste for thought and reading. In the Church, secularisation and liturgical deconstructionism have destroyed spirituality and mysticism. Why not do a “hard reboot”, press the computer’s “off” button and cease all activity before restarting ex nihilo? It is a tempting thought. Perhaps press the “off” button and throw the computer off the cliff into the sea – suicide!

We are faced with the mystery of evil. Few theologians and mystics have got anywhere near this terrifying reality other than Jacob Böhme. His thought was very much at the root of German Idealism and Russian philosophy. Böhme saw a struggle of opposing principles, of light and darkness. The struggle of God between his love, anger and wrath are visible throughout the Old Testament, and coincided with the Reformation themes in Luther and Calvin. The opposition is within the divine essence as it is within us all who are created in his image. God himself is tormented. The church vandal is tormented. However, German Idealism at the root of Romanticism gives the key to discerning one thing through another. Light is discerned against darkness, good against evil, the spirit against matter. Creation and Redemption are continuing, and this is the most fundamental meaning of the Church and the Sacraments of Christ.

This may to some extent explain the torment of nihilism, the immaturity of the person who has not yet discerned goodness, truth and beauty against his own nothingness. If we stop at the torment of our spiritual vacuum, we can only seek to destroy, self-harm and ultimately commit suicide. This is something we will understand in the ultimate perversion of the German spirit as it was twisted by Hitler’s ideology. They committed suicide rather than face an alternative and a more human world view.

Ultimately, though we may feel like taking vandals and flogging them and laying their backbone bare as Captain Bligh would have put it, we need to bring the power of the Idea and the Imagination back to the world. Only light can fill our darkness.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Consecration to the Heart of Mary in solidarity with all Catholics

I have discovered that some traditional Roman Catholics are intending to use a special prayer of consecration to the Mother of God in the midst of their concerns. The original version, specific to Roman Catholic use, is found here. Those of us belonging to other apostolic Churches are repelled by some of the terms used.

I therefore propose (unofficially) that some may like to use the formula I have modified in solidarity with those who are concerned for Catholic Christianity in this post-humanist and godless world. We share the same concerns for souls in distress, for the liturgical tradition, for doctrinal orthodoxy and morals according to natural law and revelation, especially the sanctity of human life.

* * *

Feast of the Assumption, 15th August 2021

O Mother of God, Mother of the Church, we come to thee in this bleak hour. The forces of evil, enemies of thy beloved Son, rear their heads with overweening audacity. Our families are under relentless attack, the unborn are slaughtered by the millions, our children are scandalised and corrupted, vice is glorified and sanctioned by law, our most fundamental liberties are being speedily curtailed. Good is now called evil, and evil good (Cf. Is 5:20).

Nor is this lamentable situation confined to the secular world. In our beloved Church, founded by thy Divine Son, the cause of Truth and Justice is often brushed aside; priests who stand up for the moral law are silenced and besmirched; religious communities devoted to traditional observance are pressed to compromise or written off as outdated; the Sacred Liturgy handed down by Tradition is under overt attack. In this hour of fierce trial and impending persecution, we entrust to thee our woes. Thou hast assured us that, in the end, thy sinless Heart would triumph. This promise consoles us, and we are ever mindful that we must make ourselves worthy of such a victory by the sanctity of our lives.

Our Lady of Victories, on this day, as we honour thy glorious victory over death and look up with joy to the eternal crown of victory which rests upon thy beloved head, we are filled with confidence that thou dost not forget thy beloved sons and daughters, still labouring in sorrow in this vale of tears.

In many revelations and apparitions to innocent souls, thou didst request that the entire world, and especially those countries still under the yoke of totalitarianism, should be consecrated to thy resplendent Heart. As we look around us, it is all too clear that our societies live more and more as if there were no God. We are saddened by the plight of our beloved Churches in which prominent Catholics are allowed with impunity to reject the most formal teachings of our faith without condemnation and even with approval, while faithful Catholics who defend the moral law and cleave to the sacred rites and traditions of our Fathers are forced to the margins. In this hour, Most Powerful Virgin, each one of us approaches with filial confidence thy sinless and Maternal Heart.

United together with all Catholic communities of various institutional Churches around the world and who are attached to Tradition, we consecrate to thee ourselves, our families, our communities, our priests, our bishops, our metropolitans, patriarchs and the Pope, and the whole world. We consecrate our world to thy Immaculate Heart. We entrust to thy maternal intercession all those whose lives and whose souls are in danger: the unborn, the youth, the elderly, the weak and handicapped, the persecuted and the slandered, the famished souls who search in vain for the clarity of truth and the purity of divine worship. We ask thee to look down with thy merciful eyes and to save one and all.

In a very special way, we consecrate to thee all the priests and faithful who remain devoted to their ancient liturgical traditions. We ask thee to protect every priest in whose heart thou hast sown the resolve to persevere, to give him the grace and the courage to stand firm in the midst of whatever persecution he may have to undergo. We entrust to thee all the traditional religious communities and secular priests, that they may be unshakeable in fidelity to their charisma, immoveable in their dedication to doing the truth in charity (cf. Eph 4:15) for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

O Woman clothed with the sun, upon whose head rests a crown of twelve stars and under whose feet lies the moon – symbol of change and instability – (cf. Apoc 12:1), abandon us not in this hour which we know is thy hour. Spread thy immaculate mantle over each of us, our families and communities, and protect us from all harm. Keep us ever faithful to the practice of the true faith and to the Mass of our Fathers. Lead us to that heavenly home where, with thee and all the angels and saints, we may forever be the Praise of the Glory of the Most Holy Trinity (Cf. Eph 1:12). Amen.

Sub tuum praesidium…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Terrific Interview

This is a terrific interview of Robert Moynihan. He thinks this new challenge will cause the movement for the traditional liturgy to awaken and grow.

He talks quite a lot about Annibale Bugnini, the bête noire of the liturgical reform. The Christian name today makes us think of a cannibal in the Hannibal films! We should read Louis Bouyer’s work, especially when he challenged Bugnini’s approach.

Watch the interview, several times as necessary. I found it fascinating.

Why do I continue to feel concerned about a Church to which I no longer belong? It is an analogy of the “brave new” secular Anglicanism. It occurred to me that this dialogue is still replete to the theme of conversion to the “true church”. The facts show that Roman Catholicism is no more true (or at least exclusively true) than Orthodoxy, Old Roman Catholicism and continuing Anglicanism. We are called to conversion to God through prayer, spiritual life and repentance from our sins. The Episcopate and the priesthood exist in several institutional churches, and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church subsists in them all. Indeed we are each day called to conversion to the Church, in whichever institution it might subside. I feel quite repelled by the traditionalist RC institutes, but they do uphold a spiritual view of Christianity. However, they are shrill about matters which could be dealt with by kindness and care for persons in different situations in life. We seek conversion and to be better Christians  in the Old Roman Catholic and continuing Anglican Churches. We are called to conversion where we are.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Fr Claude Barthe on Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio

Fr Claude Barthe is a French traditionalist Roman Catholic priest. I have read several of his books and I greatly esteem his capacity for rational analysis. I last saw him in 2009 at a conference in Versailles about the developments around Anglicanorum Coetibus in November 2009. At the time, I believed Archbishop Hepworth’s narrative and the French traditionalist priests were very warm in my regard. I was already out of communion with Rome under the John Paul II pontificate. Fr Barthe has an interest in liturgical studies, and particularly reflects on the situation of Christianity in today’s world. In his book Trouvera-t-il encore la foi sur la terre?, he mentions the thought of Georges Bernanos who wrote the famous Journal d’un Curé de Campagne. These words are most characteristic of the young parish priest already dying of cancer:

Ma paroisse est dévorée par l’ennui, voilà le mot. Comme tant d’autres paroisses ! L’ennui les dévore sous nos yeux et nous n’y pouvons rien. Quelque jour peut-être la contagion nous gagnera, nous découvrirons en nous ce cancer. On peut vivre très longtemps avec ça.

“My parish is devoured by boredom, that’s the word. Like so many other parishes! Boredom is devouring them before our eyes and we can do nothing about it. Perhaps one day the contagion will reach us, we will discover this cancer in ourselves. You can live with that for a long time”. Bernanos found that this boredom was not limited to parishes or even the Church, but it is all around us, and in ourselves if we do not take care for our souls in this world of conformity, technocracy and bureaucracy.

The Roman Catholic Church is becoming a clone of the Anglican Communion. You can make what you want of that boring fact.

I was sure that Fr Barthe would have something to say sooner or later about Pope Francis’ motu proprio. Traditionis Custodes une nouvelle guerre liturgique ? Un entretien avec l’Abbé Claude Barthe is found on the website of Paix Liturgique and apparently also in Présent. An English translation is now available in Rorate Coeli. Italian Bishops and Cardinals were the origin and moving force behind Traditionis Custodes (an Interview with Fr. Claude Barthe)

Something I will say, full of cynicism and sarcasm, is that it would be useless at this stage to ask permission in the RC Church to celebrate according to the Use of Sarum!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Godless Church

This morning, thanks to Dr William Tighe’s e-mails of news links, I read this interview of Benedict XVI by a German newspaper – Benedict XVI laments lack of faith in German Catholic officialdom. This expression of his thought is quite powerful, and it is something I have felt in my own life: an organisation that fails to recognise a person as such, but as a number, a cog in the machinery of mass humanity. It is certainly what would inspire a poet to write the words of William Blake :

And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic Mills?

Institutionalisation is a constant in history. In the case of the Church, it was the Peace of Constantine in 313 when it received official status in the Roman Empire. This process has sapped the spiritual and specifically Christian content of the Church over the centuries, but some spontaneity continued to exist at a local level in parishes and other small communities. We live in a time when the Church, not only Roman Catholic but Anglican too, loses credibility in terms of a spiritual testimony.

One thing I have noticed in my own experience is that we have to be perfect in every way, completely “stable” and free from any canonical irregularity. It is all about one’s institutional profile, originating from the right kind of family (preferably a source of money). It isn’t just me. I noticed this for others in seminary as they ingratiated themselves with superiors and the little hierarchies of authority. Life in a community has constraints and necessary limits of freedom, as in society at large. It is just a question of degree and balance between rules and their reason for existing.

I no longer have any contact with the French Church. I observed little groups of conservative-looking priests in discussion after a ceremony at Pontmain. I certainly did not expect any of them to run up to me, in civil dress, shake my hand and tell me wonderful things. Why should they, any more than any stranger in the street? I was once a part of that world but no longer. They and I live in different worlds, different universes. What about the German Church of which Josef Ratzinger was an Archbishop? It seems to be as impersonal as any social security agency treating its subjects according to criteria and how well each person would fit into which category.

Ratzinger finds that the German Church is no longer about faith and religion but about politics and social issues.

Many people are involved in decisive positions who do not support the internal mission of the church and thus often obscure the witness of this institution.

The “official church”

insinuates an inner contradiction between what faith actually wants and means, and its depersonalization.

It has become a machine. In the 1980’s when I contemplated returning to the Church of England, I discerned the tendencies that would become ever more pronounced in time. I would have to prove how I would be identical to mass humanity and its criteria rather than be dealt with as a person. Without doubt, it is not as monolithic as I feared and there are expressions of faith and mysticism.

Josef Ratzinger as a young professor “asked a young bishop who was a friend of his to contribute a text to be published in the Catholic magazine Communio, in which the bishop described his work at the bishops’ conference”. He read the text and expressed this critical idea:

The manuscript he sent us, however, was obviously written by his section and was in fact the language of the apparatus, not the language of a person. Unfortunately, this experience was repeated many times later.

How is the balance found? How can the Church be in the world and not of the world?

Benedict expressed this astounding idea in an essay he published in 2019:

A world without God can only be a world without meaning. For where, then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal nor any sense. Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist. Only if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of man also have meaning.

If the Church loses its spiritual purpose, then only power, money and sexual libido have any importance. The spectre of Nazism rears its ugly head, because it is an image of depravity and hell going far beyond earthly politics or ideologies. Should this bureaucratic organisation go the way of anything that has lost its fitness for purpose? Close it down and sell off the buildings? Perhaps. Perhaps the Church needs to be modelled on the communities in the catacombs before the Edict of Milan of 313.

We are brought to think of the Roman Catholic traditionalists and continuing Anglicans, like John Wesley and the first Methodists of the eighteenth century. They were and are a challenge to the bureaucratic notion of the Church that exists for no more than its own sake.

Should a Church not be organised? The Anglican Catholic Church to which I belong is organised. It has administration, financial reports, secretary’s reports and everything needed to keep some internal coherence. We are attentive to the danger of potential sexual predators in the clergy, hopefully without being too paranoid about it. We make sure that our places of worship meet certain rules about safety so that no one has an accident through our negligence. All associations and businesses are run according to similar rules, according to their finality. A business earns money. A sailing club promotes sailing. A church promotes faith and prayer, together with communion between the souls who attend church services and other common activities.

At the same time, I don’t see my Church as bureaucratic. Bureaucracy needs definition, and this is not easy. Generally, we can find several definitions:

  • an administrative system within the social structure of modern, mass society
  • a hierarchical arrangement between the parts of an organisation in which the pyramid order is based on division of function and authority
  • a power-wielding organisation with a hierarchy of ranks, the statuses and functions of which are planned in advance and in which the official activities of personnel are supervised by the next higher rank, up to the apex of control
  • a large-scale formal organisation that is designed to coordinate the activities of many individuals in the pursuit of administrative tasks.

We recognise here the structures of the government of a country or very big business corporations, or in the Vatican or the levers of power in the Church of England. The defining word would seem to be impersonality and dehumanisation. The governing principle is Groupthink and the extinction of personal talent. In my work as a translator, I deal with many texts about corporate management. Some forward-thinking corporations are discovering that they do better to respect individual persons and welcome their contribution of skills and values. The Church is always fifty years behind the cutting edge of secular society!

One tendency I notice in modern Churches is a kind of Jacobinism. It characterises what has just happened when Pope Francis issued his motu proprio Traditiones Custodes. I suspect, unconventionally, that it is not a swipe against traditionalists as such but the beginning of a purge of diocesan bishops who are sympathetic to communities under their oversight wanting to use the old Latin liturgy – and critical of the bureaucratic model of the institutional Church. I have read many commentaries on this story, and this is the theory I suspect might have some basis in fact. The Pope is gambling, and he knows that he is going the way of all mortal flesh. It is a bit late for a Pope to be declaring this kind of internal war in the Church. Now he has done so, we can expect this little Napoleon or Robespierre to meet his Waterloo! How long will that take?

What happens in those big “mainstream” churches is not really my problem. At the same time, they affect the credibility of Christianity in the world among souls seeking a spiritual and idealistic way of life away from bureaucracy and materialism, the Machine. I think the big institutional Churches will empty out and run out of money. It makes anyone sad to see churches sold off today, cathedrals tomorrow. What a waste and what an epitaph to centuries of history! Like Non-Conformists of yesterday, our little Churches and communities will try to witness to the credibility of Christianity in spite of human evil, both corporate and individual.

Like in the early Church, I celebrate Mass in an upstairs room of a house, hidden from the world. I just try to keep going, knowing that I am not alone but in communion with fellow Christians in England, America and many other parts of the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Roman Catholic Woes

I am one of relatively few who has swum the Tiber both ways, return journey. I left the Church of England and returned to Anglicanism via the Continuum. I experienced the traditionalist world at first hand. I knew the most toxic and fanatical elements, and I have also known gentle and beautiful souls who sought sanctity and the beauty of holiness.

I was also able to discover my own difficulties in relating, because my experience was analogous in the community as in marriage. I have (Aspergers) autism which essentially means that I cannot deal with the cut and thrust of hypocritical and insincere people negotiating for power, money and sexual domination. I live on “another planet”, and found refuge in a Church where I was not expected to take extreme political positions or adopt the “one true church” ideology.

Pope Francis has decided (the writing was on the wall for a good while) to line up his sights on the traditionalists, defining them by their liturgical use. It is ironic, since many traditionalists used their liturgical rite and other symbols (like the cassock) to promote extreme political views like the intégrisme favoured by Pope Pius X at the beginning of the twentieth century. I lived in the traditionalist world from 1981 when I was received by a priest of the Society of St Pius X. The following year, I went to France hoping to escape the crankiness of many I found at St Joseph and St Padarn in Holloway Road. Many would call this kind of rigorism and fanaticism a form of Jansenism (Jansenism and Jansenism Revisited). I would call it the madness of mass humanity as happened in Nazi Germany when ordinary people hung on every word of Hitler and Göbbels. Over the years, I separated from this kind of sectarian religion and learned about alternative theories and views about truth and consciousness. Eventually, I would discover Romanticism and noble souls like Thomas Mann. Many others too have taken the road of silence and attend Mass and prayers, but avoid the indoctrinating socialisation on the steps outside the church door. This silent minority is also being punished because all they want is a Christian life with the old rite but without having to adopt a clear identity other than being simply Catholic.

The motu proprio Traditiones Custodes is a clear expression of the Pope’s policy of reversing that of Benedict XVI which was to “mainstream” traditionalists and grant them a particular liturgy in the legitimate diversity of rites that those of religious orders and some dioceses like Lyons and Milan. The official text and its English translation is found here. I won’t go through it all here. Quite simply, those who want the old rite have not only to accept the mainstream status quo but also to identify with a self-defined traditionalist community. This is the crunch point of belonging to an ecclesial institution and not being able to accept things like the new rite, the ordination of women (in the Church of England). It is an agonising choice. We choose marginalisation or leaving institutional Christianity altogether.

Personally, I returned to Anglicanism to find an ecclesial spirit that was generally much less fanatical, though upholding traditional rites in archaic English. Being mostly alone as a priest, I was allowed at an unofficial level to adopt the Use of Sarum, which I continue to use. I probably belong to that category of people called geeks or enthusiasts for anything that is out of the ordinary. I have many friends who as laymen collect church plate and vestments, making them available for the priests they support. Some of my friends became Orthodox, even if it meant embracing the Byzantine Liturgy and a whole different Christian culture. It was the only way they could remain coherent.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit, the very force that promoted ultra-papalism in the nineteenth century around Vatican I and the pontificate of Pius IX. It is all about obedience, blind obedience, Der Führerprinzip which Hitler “borrowed” from the Church. It is all about authority. Benedict XVI has a different attitude as a German, placing Tradition and custom above authority. Authority has to be accountable, something we are reading about all the time in the political world of prime ministers and presidents of republics. The ultra-papalist Pope is accountable to no one, and that is the very weakness of a system that has destroyed its own credibility.

In a piece of his writing, a friend of mine has pointed out that, like in current British politics, the blame has to be put on an enemy, the “rigid” traditionalists. They are the ones to blame, not the pedophile clergy or the money embezzlers. This is not entirely just, because, at least in theory, sex-abusers and crooks are severely sanctioned in Rome. Unfortunately, the bias seems to be in favour of liberals who are far from liberal or concerned with other people’s freedom. Like in society in general, Catholics are becoming polarised in the extreme positions and “cancel” each other. This new motu proprio comes over more as a punishment than a real pastoral attempt to win the unity of the faithful in Christ.

The impression I have is the story of Charlie Chaplin’s Dictator, in which the Jewish community in Tomania is tolerated for as long as Hynkel is negotiating for a loan with the Jewish banker to finance the invasion of Osterlich. The loan is refused and Hynkel declares his persecution of the Jews with the repeated word “Straff, straff!” (German word for punishment).

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not accusing the Pope of being like the Nazis, but there are profound human characteristics in common which make comparisons possible.

For many years, I have thought that the Roman Catholic institution (like the Church of England) need to go to the end of their self-destructive logic and face the consequences. I share many ideas with Rod Dreher in terms of seeking to live a Christian and priestly life differently. Personally, I am not persecuted, but I am already in the catacombs. I have come to terms with certain realities. I am canonically irregular for Rome and I would not be acceptable to the traditionalists because I am not of the right Apostolic succession or I am unorthodox. I am elsewhere, and I legitimately function as a priest because I am under episcopal jurisdiction.

I won’t go calling Pope Francis names or saying that he is some kind of anti-Christ. That kind of talk is sterile and hateful, and not based on real evidence. We can be prophetic and apocalyptic, as nihilistic as we want. But that will bring no good. I sense and observe many of the things Dostoyevsky found in late nineteenth-century Russia: madness, nihilism, negativity. This is what brought me to Russian philosophers and the inspiration they found in German Romanticism. There is another side to humanity from this ugliness.

I am realistic to come to terms with the fact that this century may well resemble the past one, not with the same symbols and caricatures, but with the same ideologies deep down. Those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The victory has already been won by Christ. Our tiny little communities, identifying with Roman Catholicism or Anglo-Catholicism (or Old Roman Catholicism for that matter) may go the way of all mortal flesh, but we will have tried. I and many others are not concerned for ecclesial respectability or status. We have been down the road of contradiction for so long already.

Our duty now (at least mine) is to know what liturgy really means to us. We need to go to the heart of everything and not remain at the superficial level of appearance or worldly politics. It is not unlike my own campaign to revive the Use of Sarum, a new Romantic medievalism and a way out of the present dualism of extremes. In worldly terms, it is hopeless, and we will have died before anything moves. Our vocation is to sow seeds without any hope of reaping a harvest. That harvest will be for others.

I leave this subject with the words of the repentant Cardinal Altamirano in the film The Mission:

Your Holiness, the little matter that brought me here to the furthest edge of your light on Earth is now settled. The Indians are once more free to be enslaved by the Spanish and Portuguese settlers. I don’t think that’s hitting the right note. Begin again… Your Holiness, I write to you in this year of Our Lord 1758 from the southern continent of the Americas, from the town of Asunción, in the Province of La Plata, two weeks march from the great mission of San Miguel. These missions have provided a refuge for the Indians against the worst depredations of the settlers and have earned much resentment because of it. 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.

These final words resound in my mind, remembering that the Church was in the pockets of those anti-religious rulers like the King of Portugal. I have in my own time known priests who died from broken hearts. Cardinal Altamirano utters the words of his own salvation or damnation:

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

And in the depth be praise

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways.

I had the immense privilege and joy of having lunch with Dr Gavin Ashenden who is presently in France and lives only an hour from my home when he is over here. We first met in Oxford in 2018. What I discovered in him was a rare depth of spirit, akin to that of Russian philosophers like Berdyaev who lived through the end of the old Russian Empire and the bloody Revolution of 1917. We live in a new time of nihilism, extreme polarisation and encroaching totalitarianism. The foreboding signs are there for all to see.

I draw your attention to a dialogue between Dr Ashenden and Rod Dreher:

The tone is sombre as the way ahead for us all seems to be the collapse of civilisation and the catacombs. I also listened to The Christian Mental Health Crisis involving Damien Thompson, also a profound mind. We have lived through the Covid crisis differently, the more extroverted people suffering the most from their deprivation of their habitual level of social life.

Dr Ashenden has a rare degree of profound thought and knowledge of philosophy. He has my esteem and my beginning of a friendship. I also praise him for his honesty of mind, even letting go of many certitudes. Whether we are Anglicans, Roman Catholics or Orthodox, we live in hope, not certitude. We are called to be faithful confessors of the Faith.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment