fredag 30 juni 2017

Dreadful music at Mass last night

I have pretty much given up on my local Catholic parish (there are alternatives) because the music is irredeemably dreadful. It is not that good quality music is never sung, though there was none on this occasion, despite it being the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, one of the most important in the calendar.

The real dreadfulness is the hymns. Last night's Mass began with Cecilia #132 ("Nu stiger sång mot paradis" - I have never heard it before), then came #96 ("The church is one foundation", music by S S Wesley) for the Offertory, #145 ("Jag vet till vem jag satt min tro" - I have never heard that before, either) at Communion and  #5 ("Now thank we God" music by Cruger) to finish up with.

The overall effect of that selection is a sound which is expressly and intentionally not Catholic. That is not the worst of it, because the hymns squeeze out the music which properly belongs to the Catholic liturgy; for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, these include the Introit Nunc sciovere, the Communion antiphon Tu es Petrus, and some setting of the same text, such as that by Palestrina or Byrd.

Before the Novus Ordo Mass came in, these would have been sung as a matter of course. They still should be; according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Latin texts and Gregorian settings remain the recommended first choice. Unfortunately, the guidelines are normally ignored.

In this instance I would not have known what was going to be sung and was not interested, as I had not planned to attend the Mass myself. I had guessed that I would have just become angry at having to sit and listen to it all, which is not a suitable disposition at Mass. As it happened, my fears were proved correct. I had arranged to meet a friend outside the church afterwards and saw the notice giving the list of the music.

It is particularly sad in the case of my own parish, as competent musicians are available and willing to sing the right music. One has to ask what is going on here?

måndag 26 juni 2017

The Power of Silence by Cardinal Sarah

Cardinal Sarah is the Guinean cardinal who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship. He is also the author of The Power of Silence: against the dictatorship of noise, published by Ignatius Press.

The Cardinal has a lot to endure. Last year he put forward the suggestion that priests should return to the practice of ad orientem celebration of Mass. The response from most of the bishops was to advise priests to take no notice. The same line was also pushed by the Vatican; Sarah has run into strong opposition from the liberal wing, some of it verging on the racist.

As a prominent Cardinal he is in the running for Pope. However, given the composition of the College of Cardinals, his election to the papacy is improbable. If he were elected, he could be expected to pick up where Pope Benedict left off but he would then would run into the same problems that Benedict faced.

This is another demonstration of the critical state of the Catholic Church, which seems to be heading for a split as radical as that which happened at the Reformation. This time, the cleavage will be between the wealthy liberal church of the developed world, and the conservative church of the less developed nations. The Catholic church of Europe and the USA, is however, in a state of approaching rapid decline as priests retire and cannot be replaced due to the 40-year dearth of vocations. In some ways, the situation of the Catholic church today is more perilous than it has been since the Great Schism, since we have so changed the liturgy as to deprive the Mass of much of its signifying power.

The Cardinal's book, is, therefore, suitable reading for the times we are passing through, and thoroughly to be recommended.

måndag 5 juni 2017

Nothing to do with Islam

Following the incident in London on Friday night, there are still journalists and politicians who attempt to distance the present round of terrorist attacks from Islam and to blame them on Britain having made itself a target by interference in the affairs of Muslim countries.

The policies of UK and US governments have indeed aggravated the situation and spread the problem by destabilising, in particular, Iraq and Libya. However, since similar incidents have also been occurring in Germany and Sweden, which have done nothing but help fleeing refugees, and in the latter case, been very supportive of the Palestinian cause, that explanation does not hold water.

These is also concern about the guilt-by-association that is now affecting Muslims in general. Clearly, the large number of lapsed Muslims are not responsible, any more than those Muslims - probably the majority - who follow the peaceful parts of their religion's teaching.

The difficulty here is that Jihad is a fundamental precept of Islam. There have been some, throughout history, who have taken this to mean violent Jihad, to that extent, the present spate of terror attacks are not un-Islamic.

We should give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that the majority of practising Muslims are either unaware of this or understand Jihad in its metaphorical sense. However, in the present circumstances, they do have a duty to study their religion more deeply and evaluate it critically; in fact all of us have that duty. If they then chose to walk away, they need to have the assurance that they will not be hounded by the fervent believers who choose to hold to their faith, and society needs to offer them all the protection they will need.

Also, in the present circumstances, one has to question the wisdom and sensitivity of individuals who go about in clothing which identifies them as Muslims, thereby indicating that they are in a sense supportive of the actions of the terrorists; they are not obliged to wear the badge.

söndag 4 juni 2017

Orthodox Whit Sunday

It was not my original intention today, but my plans were put out by a variety of circumstances so I ended up going to the Orthodox church this morning.

I have been experiencing a "pull" towards the Orthodox church for much of the past year, though it dates back for several years. A conjunction of events in 2013 was the initial trigger but the thing bubbled up again last autumn, after the Pope's visit to Sweden; I wrote a piece on the subject on this blog but it disturbed me in a way that has niggled ever since.

It is a considerable blessing to have a congregation locally which celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Church Slavonic. The parish is Serbian, but the services are also attended by Russians and a few Swedes who are spouses and converts.

At some point, Deo volente, a choice will have to be made, probably in about twelve months time. Or possibly not. I am not going to rush things. It is necessary to learn more, which will mean a lot of reading to be done.

As a non-Serbian, to be received into the Serbian church would seem strange, not to say perverse. It would take a lot of explaining. To join the Russian Orthodox would make slightly more sense, especially given the international reach of that church these days and the status of its Patriarch as a world Christian leader. Both, however, have political associations, which is the underlying problem with Orthodoxy as a grouping of national churches, not to mention the Church of Euphorbia.

There is a Swedish Orthodox church in embryo, attached to the Antioch patriarchy, now based in Damascus and under the protection of the Bishop in Paris. However, the Swedes have their liturgy on a Saturday and their church is out in the country. So from a practical point of view it would work less well. In any case it makes little difference to go to liturgy not understanding all the words in Church Slavonic or not understanding all the words in Swedish; the Serbians and Russians probably do not understand it all, since Church Slavonic is roughly as close to Russian as Latin is to Spanish or Italian. Either way, one needs to study the readings in English beforehand, and now that the priest has kindly given me a calender, I can have a look during the week.

How much more will the British tolerate?

The British are phlegmatic, tolerant and slow to rouse. Thus there was no great reaction after the terrorist attack in July 2005. The murder of Lee Rigby created a sense of outrage, but nothing more, since it appeared to be an isolated incident. Two serious incidents within a fortnight are another matter.

Since the first major terrorist incident in 2001, authority has tried to persuade the public that Islam is a religion of peace, that these were isolated events, or the actions of deranged "lone wolves", having nothing to do with Islam, or to reassure that the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack were infinitesimally small.

These assurances are are beginning to wear thin. They no longer convince. If government does not act effectively, people will take the law into their own hands. What, however, would effective action look like? What sort of effective action would not amount to rough justice for a lot of innocent people? Given the difficulties of keeping large numbers of people under constant surveillance, preventative action would involve taking many thousands into preventative detention, an action that would lead to further radicalisation. That in turn would eventually lead to the need to screen tens or even hundreds of thousands. Such measures are not acceptable in a liberal society with Enlightenment values.

Things will get ugly. The Manchester and London murders (yesterday's was the second in four weeks) will no doubt help to attract recruits to the unlovely English Defence League; retaliatory action will quickly follow the next Jihadi attack.

Thinking Muslims ought to take the opportunity to reconsider their position. Is their religion really the peaceful doctrine they have always believed it to be? Is it not time to distance themselves from it? What do they imagine is the effect on the wider community of going about with clothing that advertises their allegiance to Islam when appalling things are being done in the name of their religion?

onsdag 31 maj 2017

In the Holy Month of Ramadan...

In Afghanistan, "Scores of civilians have been killed after a massive explosion in a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul left 64 people dead and wounded more than 300, the Afghan interior ministry said on Wednesday."

In Iraq, "An Islamic State car bomb that targeted families eating ice-cream after breaking their Ramadan fast has killed at least 17 people and wounded 32 more in southern Baghdad."

In the Philippines, "Police and security services have imposed a night-time curfew and increased their presence in a second Philippine city following reports that Islamist militants fighting fierce battles in Marawi might pose as civilians to sneak out and open a new front. More than 90% of Marawi’s 200,000 population have fled a week of street clashes and aerial strikes. Many have relocated to Iligan City, 24 miles to the north, where authorities have implemented a 10pm to 4am curfew."

Also in the Philippines, "The CCTV monitor was showing a live feed of gunmen in the hospital lobby. From the safety of another floor, Jan Yamit, a 23-year-old health worker, watched in horror as the militants shot a police officer and then a security guard before storming into the building.

“I can’t explain what I was feeling. I was nervous. I am pissed by those kinds of people. They kill defenceless people,” he said of the attack in Marawi, a city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

He and his brother, who worked as a lift operator in the building, sneaked from one room to another. Eventually, they found a wooden plank and made a bridge from the third floor to a neighbouring building.

“Those who were killed were Christians,” he said.

The attack on Marawi, a mainly Muslim city of 200,000 people, by the Islamic State-linked Maute group this week has led to a fierce three-day battle, with the army deploying attack helicopters and special forces. At least 46 people – 15 members of the security forces and 31 militants – have been killed. On Friday, the Maute held its positions on bridges and remained hidden in buildings, despite heavy overnight artillery and airstrikes."

 In Egypt, at least 26 people, including children, were killed and 25 wounded in a gun attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo.

And this was just the first week of the Holy Month. Into the second week, we now have 7 dead and 21 critically injured in London - less than a fortnight after the Manchester attack.

söndag 28 maj 2017

Our values will only prevail if we speak up

"After Manchester, our values will only prevail if we speak up for them." So writes Guardian correspondent Nick Cohen this morning.

Except that our values have not prevailed. The article is not open for comment. In fact, very few articles in the Guardian are open for comment any more. The essential contradiction having now been realised, the portrait of its renowned editor, C P Scott, together with the strapline "But comment is free", has been removed.

Comment is free no longer.

Dreadful music at Mass last night

I have pretty much given up on my local Catholic parish (there are alternatives) because the music is irredeemably dreadful. It is not that ...