Friday, 22 August 2014

Jean Langlais: Messe Salve Regina

For the today's feast of the Queenship of Mary, Jean Langlais' Messe Salve Regina of 1954, with Maìtrises de Notre Dame de Paris, de Sainte-Marie d'Antony et de la Résurrection d'Asnières, L' Ensemble de Cuivres Roger Delmotte, Quatuor de Trombones de Paris, Georges Bessonnet, Orgue de Choeur and. Pierre Cochereau, Grand Orgue, under the direction of Patrick Giraud 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

James Foley - "It didn’t make sense, but faith did."

There is a report here which speaks of the Catholic Christian faith of the murdered American photojournalist, James Foley, a victim - it would seem to our shame - of a fanatical British adherent of the savage barbarism which is the 'Islamic State.' Perhaps his appalling death will at last alert the world to the monster we have allowed to grow unchecked, both in the Middle East and in our own backyards.

What follows is taken from a very moving letter written by Mr Foley to his alma mater, Marquette University in Milwaukee, following his earlier period of captivity in Libya, and now published on their website
"....Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.
I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.....
Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well.
One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”
I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.” “Jimmy, where are you?” “I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you. How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t. “They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked. “I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat. The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did."
May he rest in peace; our prayers are offered also for his family and friends.
















another colleague, for t

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"It is clearly the time for seeking and for calling" - Thomas Merton on Saint Bernard


St Bernard by Philippe de Champaigne

"...But now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. It is clearly the time for seeking and for calling, for often his presence is sensed before he is called. Now hear his promise: `Before you call me,’ he says, `I will answer. See, I am here.' The psalmist, too, plainly describes the generosity of the Bridegroom, and the urgency: `The Lord hears the crying of the poor; his ear hears the movement of their hearts.' 
If God is to be sought through good works, then while we have time let us do good to all men, all the more because the Lord says clearly that the night is coming when no-one can work. Will you find any other time in ages to come to seek for God, or to do good, except that time which God has ordained, when he will remember you?  
Thus today is the day of salvation, because God our king before all ages has been working salvation in the midst of the earth ..."
St Bernard of Clairvaux: 
from On Seeking Him With the Whole Heart - Sermon 75 on The Song of Songs 

Here is a very interesting recording of a monastic conference where Thomas Merton OCSO speaks about St Bernard, 'the last of the Fathers,' and his view of the 'real humanism'...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"You are in danger" - updated

The blog Rorate Caeli has a translation of  this report from a correspondent writing for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera
"August 9, 2014. 
The young ask for guns. The elderly approve. "Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future," says Amel Nona, 47, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul exiled in Erbil. The message is unequivocal: the only way to end the Christian exodus from the places that witnessed its origins in the pre-Islamic age is to respond to violence with violence, to force with force. Nona is a wounded, pain-stricken man, but not resigned. "I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive." He is very glad to meet Western media. "Please, try to understand us," he exclaims. "Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal," Archbishop Amel Nona continues, "but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home."
Without in the least wishing to impugn the motives and values of the vast majority of British Muslims, most of whom wish, like the rest of us, to live in peace with their neighbours and be free to practice their religion freely and  without fear of violence or discrimination, one has to admit that the Chaldean Archbishop, deeply scarred by the atrocities committed against his people by ISIS and others , may not simply be guilty of alarmism or scaremongering in order to promote the Iraqi Christian cause.

The dangers and tensions to a large extent inevitable in the welcoming into our country of millions of those with a different culture and faith (itself a legacy of the injustices, complexities and ambiguities of an imperial past, lest we forget) have certainly been exacerbated by the rise of  a fundamentalist form of Islam. We already know that the security services are deeply concerned by the numbers of young British Muslims seeking meaning and foreign adventure in allying themselves to the jihadist cause. * We should also be aware by now that the established policy of 'multiculturalism' (such is our recent transatlantic enthusiasm for the recognition of 'communities' of all kinds),  far from having encouraged a high degree of integration and harmony, has instead, very predictably given the natural desire of incomers and their families to live in a  familiar and friendly cultural environment, promoted the creation in many of our large towns and cities of parallel societies with sometimes rather tenuous links to British society as a whole. 
This, of course, has been a taboo and even toxic subject in the United Kingdom for a long time, our politicians, partly out of a fear of being accused of racism or Islamophobia - and, of course, either of inflaming the situation or of losing votes, until recently largely choosing to ignore rather than attempt to address and in some way ameliorate the social problems which have arisen.

But the major difficulty, of course, lies not so much with the British Muslim community as with contemporary western secular culture which, while in effect discouraging positive social integration,  has turned its back on our own faith, history and culture, preferring to pursue the philosophical dead-end of relativism whilst creating a rootless social climate of hedonistic consumerism. 
Moreover, the Church (that is Christians of all traditions and most particularly their leaders) can't be absolved from its own responsibility over the last half century or so for the virtual disappearance (save in a purely ceremonial, constitutional, or vestigially nostalgic sense) of the Christian faith from the lives of most British people. It is not so much an Islamic take-over which should concern us, but that, in culture as in nature, vacuums have a habit of being filled ... and as we know from recent European history, given the right conditions the most evil and fanatical ideologies can easily gain a foothold even in the most outwardly civilised of societies.

Liberal secularists, of course, place their hopes in the belief that immersion in the globalised 'culture' of the western world will gradually, within a few generations, result in the complete assimilation of those of other faiths; that, to put it crudely, the appeal of a combination of Harvey Nicks and the satisfaction of unbridled sexual appetite will prevail over that of the mosques as it has over the churches.
Time will tell. 
But it would, however, be a little premature to write off all religious faith as a thing of the past. The human spirit seems naturally to crave ideals which are nobler and more self-sacrificial than that offered up to us by the interests of international economics and the prevailing atomised narcissism of our elites. If so, given the present downward cultural trajectory of the West, the Archbishop of Mosul may prove more prescient than we think ...  
We have been warned.

* Update 20.08.2014 
See here for a very alarming insight into the problem we face now in Britain.
From The Telegraph:
"Islamic State jihadists have released a video in which a militant speaking English with a British accent beheads a man they claim to be an American journalist.The journalist, claimed by Islamic State to be James Foley, has been missing since he was seized by armed men in Syria in 2012.The terrorist group, formerly known as Isis, released the graphic video of the beheading, saying it was conducted in retaliation for US air strikes in northern Iraq.The killer then issued a threat to President Barack Obama that a second journalist would be killed unless air strikes are called off.White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of US citizen James Foley... the intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity..."










Monday, 18 August 2014

"Increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians" - letter to the Prime Minister

Over the weekend the (Church of England) Bishop of Leeds, it would seem with the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has written to the Prime Minister with a scathing critique of British Government policy towards the Middle East, and particularly with regard to Islamic extremism and the plight of the Christian minorities. 

Today comes the news in an interview (courtesy of the BBC Today programme - here beginning at about 2 hours, 50 minutes) that those Syrian rebels who were to have received the backing of Western Governments have, in effect, ceased to be a significant force in that country, and that organised resistance to the Assad regime now lies either with Al Qaeda affiliates or with groups who have an even more extreme Islamic ideology. The choice all round in Syria seems to be between different kinds of barbarism. Perhaps the West should have thought more carefully before destabilising the undoubtedly unpleasant Assad Government, a regime which had the one merit of  encouraging its minorities to live together peaceably. 

Foreign policy, we have always been led to believe in Britain, is best - and is at its least destructive - when conducted pragmatically, rather than idealistically and ideologically without thought for the wider consequences. Unfortunately, following the United States all too slavishly, we have adopted over the last decades, a naively almost Wilsonian attitude to foreign affairs (paradoxically revived in the U.S. by those calling themselves 'neo-conservatives') with uniformly disastrous results. At least it is now very clear indeed, for those with eyes to see, that 'democracy', without an established societal tradition of restraint and equality under the law, rapidly turns either into a persecuting tyranny of the majority or complete and bloody anarchy: in either scenario it is minorities (and in the Islamic world, it is usually Christian minorities) who bear the brunt of violence and oppression.

The full text of  Bishop Baines' letter is available here at the Guardian website, but these are 
its salient points: 
"1. It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach.
Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK government's response to both the humanitarian situation and what Islamic State is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe. Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is – particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect. 
 
The Church internationally must be a primary partner in addressing this complexity. 
2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yazidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?  
3. As yet, there appears to have been no response to pleas for asylum provision to be made for those Christians (and other minorities) needing sanctuary from Iraq in the UK. I recognise that we do not wish to encourage Christians or other displaced and suffering people to leave their homeland – the consequences for those cultures and nations would be extremely detrimental at every level – but for some of them this will be the only recourse. The French and German governments have already made provision, but there has so far been only silence from the UK government. Therefore, I ask for a response to the question of whether there is any intention to offer asylum to Iraqi migrants (as part of a holistic strategy
to addressing the challenges of Iraq)? 
 
4. Following on from this, I note that the bishop of Coventry tabled a series of questions to HM government in the House of Lords on Monday 28 July. All but two were answered on Monday 11 August. The outstanding questions included the following: "The lord bishop of Coventry to ask Her Majesty's government what consideration they have given to resettling here in the UK a fair proportion of those displaced from Isis controlled areas of northern Iraq." I would be grateful to know why this question has not so far been answered – something that causes me and colleagues some concern.
5. Underlying these concerns is the need for reassurance that a commitment to religious freedom will remain a priority for the government, given the departure of ministers who championed this. Will the foreign secretary's human rights advisory panel continue under the new foreign secretary? Is this not the time to appoint an ambassador at large for international religious freedom – which would demonstrate the government's serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence?"
At The Spectator, however, Damian Thompson [here] - while broadly welcoming Bishop Baines' intervention-  adds this qualification. Reluctantly, one has to admit  he has a point: 
"...For decades, the Anglican and Catholic Churches have ignored the growth of the domestic Islamic extremism that has seen British Muslims travel to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis. They have warned us (rightly) against Islamophobia without considering the possibility that many Muslims hate the Churches with unwavering intensity. Archbishop Rowan Williams supported the extension of Sharia in this country. His attitude was one factor in persuading the only C of E bishop who did draw attention to the Islamist threat, Michael Nazir-Ali, to resign the see of Rochester and work full-time to protect Christians abroad...." 














 to addressing the cha

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A cultural war against the Christian faith

When confronted with news stories from around the world of death and exile inflicted upon our brothers and sisters in the faith, it's difficult to justify over-blown allegations of 'persecution' against Christians in Britain.
What we do have to face, however, is a cultural war against Christianity - the removal of Gideon Bibles from rooms in the Travelodge budget hotel chain [here]  is just the latest episode in a long line of similar incidents. 

Of course, we're British; we don't like to make a fuss - God forbid, we might even  be thought to be taking religion too seriously - but the airbrushing from our culture of any visible manifestations of Christian faith seems now to be the aim of many in our political, legal, media and commercial elites, not to mention those who run our massive state bureaucracy. They should be resisted if the present cultural attrition is not in time to turn into active persecution.  At the very least we should think very carefully indeed before giving our custom to any commercial organisations which take this attitude, and we should certainly not invest in them.

The prevailing disparagement of anything which is even mildly suggestive of Christian faith may even go some way to explain the West's appallingly slow reaction to attacks on Christians in Iraq and elsewhere - Christians simply don't qualify for our sympathy or our support. Those who rule over us, often so maladroitly, and who influence our lives in so many ways, are simply embarrassed by our cultural and religious heritage - that is, if they are aware of it at all .... 

This is Tim Stanley on the latest Travelodge foolishness
"..... The white, middle-class, over-educated liberals who cry “diversity!” at every damn opportunity make the following specious arguments:
1. “Britain isn’t Christian anymore.”Yes, it is. We have thing called a state church and the Queen is the head of it. If you don't like it, go and live in France.
2. “Fewer and fewer people call themselves Christian.”But if we’re playing a numbers game then Britain is still far more Christian than anything else: 59 per cent are Jesus believers, 4.8 per cent are Muslims.
3. “People of other faiths will be offended.”Really? By a Bible hidden in a drawer?! And more disgusted by a religious book than by the hard core porn you can watch on the TV (for a small price)? The only people who are going to be actively offended by finding a Bible in there are Wahhabi terrorists. And you probably want to discourage that kind of clientele anyway.
4. “You’ve got to cater for everyone.”Yet surely that is an argument for increasing the amount of religious literature available in the hotel room? I suggest a small library: the Koran, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a Buddhist prayer wheel etc. Oh, and a Marilyn Manson LP for the Cthulhu lovers out there. (All hail Cthulhu, by the way. His day is coming.)
Given that there is no sound, logical reason for removing all the Gideons, we are at liberty to infer a motive. And it could be as simple as this: Travelodge succumbing to the anti-Christian mood of elements of the British political and commercial establishment. Maybe they’re afraid of being sued by a cranky atheist professor, maybe they’re run by the same liberal poindexters who gave us airport multi-faith prayer rooms and prayer-less assemblies (because who wants to expose children to things like morality and poetry?). Whatever the cause, they’re now contributing to the creeping crud of cultural disintegration......  "







Thursday, 14 August 2014

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

"But if not ... "

An interesting post, for these dog days of summer, on the perils and difficulties of living in a disintegrating culture -  from Anthony Esolen [here
It's a particularly timely article for those Anglicans, myself among them, who wish to live in a tradition and culture which, in the opinion of many, now no longer exists ... 
"... During the early and dark days of World War II, when the British army at Dunkirk had the sea behind them and the Germans before them, they sent a message back home consisting of three words: But if not. 
It was a brilliant message, because even if the Germans managed to intercept it and decode it, it wouldn’t have done them any good. “But if not” … what?
But the army knew that their countrymen would understand. It was more than a message regarding strategy.  It captured the heart of the war itself, a battle for the survival of European culture and civilization against the diseased fantasies of the Third Reich. 
The reference comes from the story of the Hebrew youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in captivity in ancient Babylon, who refused to bow down in worship before the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar.  The king summoned them before him in a fury and demanded their submission, lest he cast them into the fiery furnace.  
Their reply was manly and direct:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. BUT IF NOT be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. 
The British people then roused themselves to action—ordinary men, anyone with a boat and a heart that beat warmly for God and country.  They crossed the channel in defiance of the enemy and rescued more than three hundred thousand men.
The incident reveals more than a common language.  It reveals a common way of life, and a common view of life.  The sterling words of the old King James Bible, a work of the highest culture, had long come to inform and vivify the ways of ordinary people. 
That message could not now be sent, either to England or America. It would be incomprehensible.  That is not because the culture has changed.  It is because it has been destroyed, and the most energetic destroyers have been the very people whom we charge with its care: teachers, professors, statesmen, and artists.
Thomas Molnar had this to say about it:
Culture has come to mean … anything that happens to catch the fancy of a group: rock concerts, supposedly for the famished of the third world; the drug culture and other subcultures; sects and cults; sexual excess and aberration; blasphemy on stage and screen; frightening and obscene shapes; the plastic wrapping of Pont-Neuf or the California coast; to smashing of the family and other institutions; the display of the queer [that is, bizarre], abject, the sick.  These instant products, meant to provide instant gratification to a society itself unmoored from foundation and tradition, accordingly deny the work of mediation and maturation and favor the incoherent, the shapeless and the repulsive...." ...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

'Ladies of the night' and other news

Baroness Warsi resigns over the British government''s stance towards the Gaza crisis and the disproportionate (if in some ways historically understandable) response of Israel towards Hamas aggression.
If Baroness Warsi, as a self-described 'moderate' Muslim, finds the policy of Mr Cameron's administration inexplicable, how sad it is that 'moderate' Christians in the same government find it impossible to press even for the resettlement here of Iraqi Christians who have been subjected to 'extremist' Muslim atrocities. Kudos (for once) to those C of E bishops who are campaigning for granting them asylum here.

In all kinds of ways over the last few decades our foreign policy has indeed been 'morally indefensible.'
Part of the legacy of the catastrophe of the Great War is, of course, our complete subservience to Washington - all part of the twentieth century 'deal' - brokered during two world wars - for struggling (at times alone) to save the liberal world order. We can (and do) talk about our shared values interminably, but history shows us that national interests and the realities of global power always take precedence over sentiment and even a common belief in freedom and the rule of law.

A new religion: this video has been doing the rounds on social media to the accompaniment of a certain amount of hilarity.
When, however, will we all wake up to the fact that, although words and rituals may appear (broadly) the same, the way that those words are used, and the manner in which rituals are being reoriented, clearly point to the fact that we have embarked upon C.S. Lewis's 'different religion,' or, as it is now claimed, 'the balancing of centuries of narrow assertions and faulty theology about the divine and its holy and creative work?' [here - the text of this quite extraordinary address from one of the leading heresiarchs Primates of the Anglican Communion will explain the heading to today's blog post]

The advocates of this different religion are with us, soon to be or already wearing mitres and poised to .... well, take over what remains of a once  glorious tradition ... the lamps are going out indeed .... will we see them lit again in our lifetime?




The Ordinariate in Wales is taking part in the 'Called to be One' national event with an afternoon presentation and discussion in Cardiff on September 6th,. The details can be found here - one wishes one could give a similar link to the Welsh Bishops' Code of Practice, a creature which has had an astonishingly long gestation period for something presumably intended to be so short-lived - or am I now giving way to cynicism? ....

When simply upholding the Church's theology and discipline is perceived as unjust discrimination - see here  - another indication of the state we're in ...












Monday, 4 August 2014

August 4th

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 3 - known as his 'Pastoral Symphony,' but in the view of many, this work, written in 1921,  is RVW's war requiem, a distillation of his experiences in the Royal Army Medical Corps and, later, as an officer in the Royal Artillery during the Great War...
Roger Norrington conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A chilling phrase

As we approach the centenary on Monday of Great Britain's entry into the Great War, I noticed this rather chilling phrase on the much misunderstood but very sane (see his recent comments on Gaza)  Peter Hitchens's Blog :
"Having lived all my life in a world that was largely sensible and reasonable, I sense that the bad times are on the way back."
In all kinds of ways, we can observe the freedoms and the Christian values our fathers and grandfathers fought to defend being discarded, and the achievements of a once great civilisation being dismantled around us. The irony is that this collapse has not been caused by any kind of external threat but by a massive loss of confidence from within - more then that, even a hatred of the culture which has produced us. 
La trahison des clercs certainly, but one senses that its roots go further and deeper even than that.  
"..... The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on out traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil. The "reasonable" people's failure is obvious. With the best intentions and a naive lack of realism, they think that with a little reason they can bend back into position the framework that has got out of joint. In their lack of vision they want to do justice to all sides, and so the conflicting forces wear them down with nothing achieved. Disappointed by the world's unreasonableness, they see themselves condemned to ineffectiveness; they step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party.
Still more pathetic is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. Fanatics think that their single-minded principles qualify them to do battle with the powers of evil; but like a bull they rush at the red cloak instead of the person who is holding it; he exhausts himself and is beaten. He gets entangled in non-essentials and falls into the trap set by cleverer people..."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 'Who Stands Fast?'










Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Two quotations from Edmund Burke

"...Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters..." 
Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791)
 When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770) 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

For the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War: George Butterworth - 'The lads in their hundreds..'

As we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War over the next few days, this is George Butterworth's setting of A. E. Housman's 'The Lads in their Hundreds' from 'A Shropshire Lad,' a song given added poignancy as Butterworth himself was one of those who would 'die in their glory and never be old.'
It is sung here by Roderick Williams, baritone, with Ian Burnside, piano.



The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair,
There's men from the barn and the forge and the mill and the fold,
The lads for the girls and the lads for the liquor are there,
And there with the rest are the lads that will never be old.

There's chaps from the town and the field and the till and the cart,
And many to count are the stalwart, and many the brave,
And many the handsome of face and the handsome of heart,
And few that will carry their looks or their truth to the grave.

I wish one could know them, I wish there were tokens to tell
The fortunate fellows that now you can never discern;
And then one could talk with them friendly and wish them farewell
And watch them depart on the way that they will not return.

But now you may stare as you like and there's nothing to scan;
And brushing your elbow unguessed-at and not to be told
They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man,
The lads that will die in their glory and never be old.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Doublethink

"... the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth..... "
George Orwell: '1984'  
cf. 
"..In a letter sent to Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said he hopes the vote to allow the ordination of women bishops would not prove a stumbling block to future “full communion” between the Anglican and Catholic churches.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the Most Rev Justin Welby admitted in the letter that the vote at the General Synod earlier this month to allow women bishops was a “further difficulty” as far unity is concerned.
In the letter to Francis and other church leaders from around the world, the Archbishop said: “We are aware that our other ecumenical partners may find this a further difficulty on the journey towards full communion.
“There is, however, much that unites us, and I pray that the bonds of friendship will continue to be strengthened and that our understanding of each other’s traditions will grow. It is clear to me that whilst our theological dialogue will face new challenges, there is nonetheless so much troubling our world today that our common witness to the Gospel is of more importance than ever.”
Archbishop Welby referred to regions of the world currently affected by conflict, poverty and unemployment and said that the Anglican and Catholic Churches “need each other as we, as churches empowered by the Holy Spirit, rise to the challenge and proclaim the good news of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and strive for closer fellowship and greater unity.”  [here]
One can respect someone when he says what he really believes. Clearly, by his wholehearted support of the recent decision of the Church of England's General Synod to proceed to the ordination of women to the episcopate, the Archbishop of Canterbury believes - without even the slightest hesitation - that the recently invented Anglican 'tradition' of women bishops and clergy is of infinitely more importance than unity with the ancient Churches of East and West. 
That, however, is not what he says ... is it?

For the modern Anglican 'liberal' (and no one now becomes an Anglican (Arch)bishop in the west without being such to all intents and purposes) ecumenism is an excellent goal and an engrossing hobby but, regardless of the dominical command, in terms of theological substance it is as light as a feather when weighed in the balance alongside the demands of the zeitgeist. The uncritical adoption of the modern rights and equalities agenda means that the goal of full and visible unity - "full communion" - has been postponed to an indefinite and indeterminable future. And those who are in support of this generation's radical breaking and remaking of Anglicanism know that very well. 

And as for the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch, in a re-united Church along modern Anglican lines, they could look forward eagerly to being granted some kind of a Code of Practice so they might (if they can jump through the required hoops)  keep their quaint and outmoded views alive - for the time being ... as long as the culture allows ... for in the long term the 'new religion' will allow no competitors ...


Sunday, 27 July 2014

O God of our pilgrimage ...










O God of our pilgrimage,
who hast led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Saturday, 26 July 2014

'Trojan Horses' - who are the Greeks bearing gifts?

There are a couple of disturbing reports about the possibility of the Birmingham 'Trojan Horse' affair being used by our society's triumphalist 'equalities' fanatics to attack faith schools in general and to impose under the guise of 'British values' what can only be described as an LGBT (etc - one can hardly keep pace ...) wish list on both state-funded schools, and to seek to coerce the parents of the children attending them.
If this report from the Christian Institute is accurate and can be verified (the 23 June's official statement from the Department of Education is here  - the shortness of the period of the consultation is alarming) then we should be very concerned indeed both for the future of Church Schools and for civil liberties themselves. 

So, we have yet another vivid illustration of the authoritarian bankruptcy of the contemporary culture of relativism - something itself which, one would think, would appear to run contrary to 'British values'.... to anyone remaining with a sense of history, that is ...

Meanwhile, the repressive stupidity of student unions (those who run them have never been exactly the brightest, just the most voluble) continues apace [here]

And, read this (and the book it reviews) also on Spiked Online
... For Siegel, a defining feature of modern liberalism is its attachment to what he calls the clerisy – a technocratic elite which he identifies with academia, Hollywood, the prestige press, Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Despite its professed attachment to equality of opportunity, this elite holds the mass of the American public, what Siegel refers to as ‘the middle class’, in contempt. The clerisy sees itself as superior to the rest of the population on meritocratic grounds.
As the reach of the state has burgeoned, the clerisy has taken on an increasingly important social role. ...
It explains a lot, not only about the complex contemporary American scene but also about the ill winds which blow across the Atlantic - always now, it seems, from west to east ... ecclesially, culturally, ethically, morally ....

This is also a well-established theory that the collapse of the Roman Empire came about, not so much as a result of the migration of peoples, but as a consequence of a top-heavy, over-regulating and demoralising state bureaucracy. Ultimately, what it became wasn't worth defending.
We all have our views as to who the modern 'barbarbarians' might be ...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Some good news this week .... and then there is the usual stuff ....

It's good to able to begin with some good news - Meriam Ibrahim and her family have been allowed to leave Sudan and have arrived safely in Italy for an audience with Pope Francis [from the BBC here]
"Lasting less than half an hour, the meeting was "calm and affectionate", the statement noted. “The Pope thanked Meriam and her family for their courageous witness of perseverance in the faith.” It added that “Meriam thanked the Pope for the great support and comfort she received from his prayers and from so many others believers of good will.”
The Pope's personal secretary, Msgr. Yohannis Gaid, served as interpreter for the meeting.
Toward the end of the encounter, the Holy Father greeted members of Italian government who accompanied Meriam and her family on their trip to Italy.
With this gesture, the Pope wanted to show his closeness, concern and prayer for all those who suffer for their faith, especially for Christians who are enduring persecution or restrictions upon their religious freedom. .." [ZENIT]
An article at MercatorNet by Carolyn Moynihan [here] speaks of the 'muddled iconography' of women bishops: another unfortunate by-product of Canterbury's recent mania for doing theology on the hoof, often amidst acrimonious and fevered 'political' lobbying,  and always by way of obeisance to the spirit of the age: 
"..... No reasonable person disputes that women are able to do the “job” of an Anglican bishop: the liturgical role, preaching, teaching, administration, sitting in the House of Lords – whatever it takes. Of course they can. The objections have always been theological: for evangelicals, the teaching of St Paul about the headship of men over women; for Anglo-Catholics, breaking with the 2000-year-old tradition going back to Christ himself, who called only men to form the foundation of his church – a break which would put paid to eventual reunion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Coming from a Catholic perspective, my understanding is that the sacramental character of the priest as an icon of Christ is the heart of the matter. According to St Paul the church is the body of Christ, who is its Spouse and Head. There’s a whole cluster of anthropological and theological concepts at work in this aspect of Pauline theology (and other parts of the Bible) which would take a book to tease out, but they boil down to the fact that the whole church, men and women, is feminine (receptive) in relation to Christ, and that the priest in his key sacramental role represents Christ, who gives his whole life for and to her.
Anglicans, of course, are free to write the rules for their own church. However, they ought to be confident that this theological tradition is not arbitrary, but reflects the biological and metaphysical reality of the sexes .... "

'The Beatles and the Dawning of a New Age' [here] from Crisis Magazine makes a few interesting points about that decade of radical change and the triumph of youthful narcissism, the 1960s .
Of course, what no one then envisaged was that the apostles of adolescent rebellion would still be strumming their guitars and wearing their blue jeans into their 70s .... we now live in a world way beyond satire ....
"...Seemingly, the first thing to be “killed” was Christianity. This was the year of Lennon’s pronouncement that: “Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that.  I’m right and will be proved right … We’re more popular than Jesus now.” The contemporary press report went on to note that the Beatles had been reading, amongst other books on the subject of religion, the revived Gnosticism of the just published and best-selling, The Passover Plot by Hugh J. Schonfield—the new beliefs and repackaged heresies then flooding the West were being embraced with little or no critical faculty by Lennon and others. In contrast, Christianity was to be accorded no quarter; instead, the “prophets” of the age had decreed that that religion’s time had come and gone..."
After the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 (an event for which Russia undoubtedly bears a large responsibility for supplying sophisticated weapons to those of its allies seemingly incapable of moral, military or political sophistication) the war of words continues, somewhat eerily recalling the slide to war in 1914. 
The question no one appears to have asked is why a scheduled international flight was permitted - as if in peacetime - to pass over a region of such instability - if not exactly a war zone as such, then one which could explode into wider conflict at the slightest provocation. Reports seem to indicate that Ukrainian military aircraft had already been shot down in the same airspace by the same separatists later responsible for the MH17 atrocity.
Amid the escalating rhetoric, Peter Hitchens argues very sanely for restraint [here]

And the endless Israeli / Palestinian conflict continues  to stir up its partisans on both sides here in Europe. As an indication of just how intractable this situation is one could do worse than listen to this week's  'The Moral Maze'  on BBC Radio 4
 Listen and try not to despair ...











Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mosul: media bias is a national scandal

Cranmer rightly takes to task the senior presenter of Channel 4 News, Jon Snow,  for his blatant lack of balance:
"...It is quite shocking, though perhaps not at all surprising, that the aging abbot is abusing his position as lead presenter of Channel 4 News to focus on Israel's Gaza offensive, thereby "providing cover" for the murder, torture, rape and systematic eradication of Christians from Iraq and the whole Middle East. They have lived there for 2000 years. Their trauma is nothing short of a holocaust, but the Western media, when they mention it at all, relegate this "religious cleansing" to the level of an anecdote, and move swiftly on to the latest homophobic outrage or the manifest evils of Israel's Nazi Zionists.
Ten years ago, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are around 400,000, most of whom are fleeing to the Kurdistan region for safety and refuge. Under Saddam, 60,000 Christians lived in Mosul. Now there is none. Nuns are being kidnapped and raped, priests tortured and beheaded, and ordinary Christians imprisoned in ghettos and forced to convert or die. Ancient churches are torched and monasteries desecrated. It's the same story in Syria, Egypt and Libya.
What is this hell if it be not a holocaust?
The Islamic State is marking Christian homes with an Arabic 'N' for 'Nasarah' (denoting Christian), just like Hitler used the Star of David to categorise Jews destined for the concentration camps. "Never again", we cried. And yet we stand idly by, spluttering about Putin, transfixed by Tulisa or mesmerised by the Downing Street catwalk.
The mainstream media aren't much interested in Christians - other than the homophobic bigoted ones who won't bake a cake. And our political leaders are so obsessed by the minority vote, and the FCO so consumed with religious equanimity and moral relativity, that they'll all bend over backwards to help the Iraqi Kurds, save the Bosnian Muslims or intervene to "prevent a bloodbath" in Libya...."
The editorial bias of our broadcasters is rapidly becoming a national scandal. As we have commented before, only those stories which tend to fit the liberal social and political agenda are now given much prominence on the airwaves. 
We - very properly - criticise Vladimir Putin's Russia for its repressive control of the media, yet can we really say the general public in Britain are given a wide and unbiased picture (as far as humanly possible) of what is going on in the world?  Yes, our broadcasters are largely free and unfettered, but their output seems always to be filtered through the highly selective lens of what is socially and politically acceptable to the 'elite' opinion-formers of the contemporary West to the detriment of any real and sophisticated analysis and concern for the level of public understanding of the issues. 
It was always so, of course; yet those like Jon Snow and his successors would have been the first to deride the deference accorded to 'establishment' views in the past. Now the 'anti-establishment' has become the establishment, that objection seems to have been conveniently forgotten and deference to the prevailing culture re-instated as an unquestionable good. 
This is a complex world - to portray it in terms of 'good guys and bad guys' - as is happening more and more - seems not only childish, but irresponsible to say the least. Just give us 'the unvarnished facts' as they may best be ascertained, and leave commentators, politicians, and us, the public, to make the value judgements. The contemporary blurring of news and comment, added to the media's evident desire to shape events rather than 'merely' report them, is a disaster in terms of our freedom to make informed judgements on the issues of the day - a disaster for freedom itself, perhaps ... 
Editorial decisions, of course, have to be made, yet broadcast output tends to suggest those decisions are increasingly made as a result of the inherent and, perhaps, even partly unconscious political bias of journalists rather than what might be regarded as 'newsworthy' by the general population or the disinterested (that is. objective) observer. The public deserves better - so does our much vaunted concern for truth.

And ... over at the BBC ..... the flagship Newsnight programme has replaced the formidable Jeremy Paxman, perhaps the only prominent Corporation figure who could be regarded as (possibly) even  slightly to the right of centre, with Evan Davis, whose own hardly carefully hidden agenda has been on sniggering display on the Radio 4 Today programme for several years now. 

Oh, for the days when we simply didn't have a clue where our broadcasters' sympathies lay ... and for the days when they would have been simply too professional to allow any emotional involvement to show ... and too grown up to wear their hearts on their sleeves in order to win cheap and easy approbation.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Re-reading Pope Benedict in the light of what is now happening in Mosul ...

Given what is taking place place in Mosul and other places throughout the world - and the West's lack of response to it -  was this such a terrible question to have raised? We should feel ashamed at the way this address was misrepresented ... and for the smugness and complacency of our secularised culture which, as it has - in all essentials - sold out to relativism, finds it has no answer to unreason and murderous fanaticism:
"....In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.....  
......In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought - to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss". The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur - this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures....."  
Pope Benedict XVI: 'The Regensburg Lecture'

Please pray for the Christians of Mosul.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Agreeing with Giles Fraser ...

I won't say with everything Canon Fraser writes in this article - there are far too may ritual genuflections to the fashionable liberalism of The Guardian's target readership for that - but in the main thrust of his argument he is on the side of the angels ...
"One of the main things that many atheists (and some believers for that matter) fail to register about Christianity is that it's not so much a metaphysical account of the nature of the universe, nor a codification of ancient moral principles, but primarily a romance, a sort of love story... 
...If I had to sum up the nature of this love story, I would say that it is about someone coming to find you, someone seeking you out. And at their initiative, without you having had to dance or impress for it, they tell you that you are loved and cared for in ways that you do not actually believe to be true. They see something in you that you do not see in yourself. Maybe it's a fantasy. Samuel Beckett was right about that possibility in Waiting for Godot.  
But, nonetheless, unless something like the Christian romance is true, I believe myself to be totally lost. Deep down, I want someone to come and get me. Yes, I am embarrassed to put it in so crudely needy a way – and one can dress this up in sophisticated philosophical language – but that would be only to obscure what is driving the whole drama. Christianity is about making peace with a fundamental dependency.
So why am I telling you this? Because I think it helps locate some of the emotion behind a great deal of Christian resistance to the assisted dying bill and, in particular, the principle of personal autonomy that often accompanies it in argument. My life, my choice etc. I guess the idea here is that the individual can be relied upon to act in his or her own best interests – and if they don't, well, then at least they have no one to blame for that except themselves. And that sounds a bit like hand-washing to me. With the Christian romance, however, autonomy is precisely the problem and not the solution. Here Christianity is at its most countercultural.
I understand why we want to hedge our exposure to otherness, keeping everything under our control, determined by our own choices – because other people can let us down, hurt us, manipulate us. But there are some things, perhaps the most important things, that we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot successfully pay someone to love us, for instance. Which is why the priority given to personal autonomy and life controlled by my own choices seems like a certain sort of locked-in syndrome, a refusal of the idea that there is anything bigger than me.
In contrast, the logic of the romantic is that the centre of gravity in human life has to be outside of oneself to be meaningful. If it's all about my choices, then human life has withered to the dimensions of my paltry imagination. Some will believe the control held out by autonomy to be liberating. I think it's about trying to limit our exposure to that which is beyond our control.
If I ever got so low as to be close to suicide, I don't want anyone respecting my choice. I want them to come looking for me and to try and love or bully me out of it – even if I am lost to a settled decision for self-destruction.
I would be secretly very unhappy if my children didn't attempt every trick in the book to overrule me. The thought that they would go "OK, Dad, it's your choice" feels like a terrifying form of abandonment..."