lördag 27 maj 2017

Corbyn is spot-on

It is not often that I find myself in agreement with a left winger like Jeremy Corbyn, but he is spot-on in his analysis when he says that the Manchester bombing would not have happened if the western powers had not destabilised Libya by getting rid of Gaddafi, and that ISIS would not have risen to power if it had not been for the intervention in Iraq.

We would probably not, however, agree on the reasons. The project to turn these countries into western-style democracies were never going to succeed; their societies are too fractured and tribal for democracies to be able to work, and that is why they have always been ruled by dictators and tyrants. Fortunately, the attempt to get rid of the tyrant ruler of Syria was stopped in its tracks. Had Assad been got rid of, the consequences would have been immeasurably worse than the present situation, bad as it is.

Western countries need to stop the meddling.

fredag 26 maj 2017

Manchester - discussion shut down

It is noticeable that the newspapers have closed down web site discussion on articles about the Manchester bombing. On the Guardian site - the strapline "Comment is Free" now seems ironic - only the most trivial and uncontroversial articles are now open for comment these days.  The Financial Times was more open but has subsequently removed all the comments.

This leaves the field open for conspiracy theories and claims that the authorities knew about the bombing threat and just allowed it to happen, for the sake of having a pretext for imposing tighter controls and surveillance.

However, what we do know, since the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, admitted as much, is that the bomber was known "up to a point" to the British intelligence services and police. Which raises the question of why he was allowed through immigration control without detention and close questioning. This would be difficult politically, since detention of suspects is open to accusations of racial and ethnic profiling.

Perhaps the law needs to be strengthened so that whatever he was known "up to a point" for is made a chargeable offence. That, though, could mean that tens of thousands of people could end up in prison. However, in this case, it now turns out that Islamic terrorism was the family business, so one would have expected that the bomber would have been known more than "up to a point". But if these people are not put out of harm's way, the alternative is the frightening one of allowing them free, when resources are inadequate to keep them under effective surveillance

There is also a refusal to acknowledge the nature of the "extremism" and "radicalisation" which is behind this and similar incidents. Since they are not committed by extremist Methodists or radical Christian Scientists, their actions must be motivated by something to do with the nature of the particular faith when radicalisation leads them to commit acts of terrorism. Radical Catholic men, for instance, become monks and friars. But this beast is rarely named.

It is also why initiatives like "Prevent" are bound to fail; in order to be effective, the beliefs of what is now a significant minority would have to be openly challenged. This is an impossible task when the dominant belief in society is no belief at all, leaving it impotent when it comes to presenting counter arguments. The widespread belief in nothing at all also makes it difficult for people, including opinion-formers, to understand the power of beliefs and the risks of having a community within society which holds to beliefs which are potentially dangerous.

This incomprehension is a problem peculiar to western countries which have not previously had Muslim communities in their midst; if you talk to Christians from countries like Syria and Iraq, they will spell out what they have had to deal with for centuries.

If there is any conspiracy, it is one of silence based on fear of giving offence, of being confrontational and of being accused of racism. We will pay a heavy price in the end. Actions by the authorities will be useless. And there is a limit to what the public will tolerate. People are not fooled. As Morissey has said, the bomber was an extremist. Extremist what? Extremist rabbit? Morrisey was accused of making a dumb statement, but that accusation only serves to increase the gap between the pulsillanimous media and politicians, and what is plain as daylight to everyone else.

måndag 22 maj 2017

Cult of ugliness

Compare and contrast. The former seems to have been inspired by the latter, but which is the more elegant?
Fatima shrine.
German bunker, Jersey, built 1942.

Orthodox ordination yesterday

I attended an ordination yesterday, of a man who is probably the first-ever Swedish Orthodox priest. The bishop had come all the way from Paris. The parish, which is attached to the Patriarchate of Antioch, is a mixture of Swedes and Syrians, and the liturgy was in Swedish, Arabic and English. This of course,  contradicts the claim that the Orthodox are divided into national groups.

There was a party afterwards, in which the Bishop emphasised that the most important thing for a Christian was to hold to the love of Christ.

There was a fair sprinkling of Church of Sweden clergy but none of the dozen or so Catholic priests in and around Göteborg came; in fact, apart from myself, there were only two other Catholics present. I wonder if they were invited or knew that the event was occurring?

fredag 12 maj 2017

80 years ago today - 12 May 1937

The 12th of May 1937 - 80 years ago today - was the day of the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It was commemorated by this attractive postage stamp, at a time when the British Post Office issued just one or two commemoratives a year.

söndag 7 maj 2017

Tridentine Mass hanging on

I went to the Tridentine Mass this morning. It was better attended than usual. We are fortunate in having a choice of two - one in town on Saturday evenings, and another on Sunday mornings at a Franciscan house about ten minutes out on the commuter train. The Saturday evening one draws about fifty, the Sunday morning one about a couple of dozen. Both are said by dedicated priests; the celebrant for the Sunday morning Mass is in his mid-seveties and had a stroke earlier in the year. It is a great effort for him to say it, as well as a Novus Ordo Mass earlier in the day.

To have two Tridentine Masses most weeks looks good, but in truth it is hanging on by a thread. The overwhelming majority of Catholics are uncomfortable with Latin and want their Mass in the vernacular, with plenty of the Lutheran hymns that most of them were brought up with; this, the prevailing form of Mass, is hardly even recognisable as Catholic. Those of us who prefer the traditional form find it hard to accept that we are at the margin of the margin but that is the reality. It will be a miracle if the Tridentine Mass is still around in these parts in five years time.

lördag 29 april 2017

Things we Catholics do #2 - Eucharistic devotion



Eucharistic devotion is the practice of worship of the consecrated host which is really and truly the Body of Christ. It takes several forms.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the use of the consecrated host as an object to meditate upon, rather as Buddhists might contemplate a mandala or Orthodox Christians an ikon. The host is placed in a monstrance, a container with glass windows at front and rear. It is held in position by a clip called a lunette. Monstrances come in two main patterns. The Gothic pattern resembles a reliquary. The monstrance on the altar in the photograph is the more common sunburst style, which seems to date from the Baroque period and may have originated in Peru, since the Incas had a sun-god cult and depicted their deity as a sun.

Benediction is a short service with hymns and a short period of contemplation of the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. The hymns usually sung are to texts composed by St Thomas Aquinas: O salutaris hostia, and the last two verses of Pange lingua, Tantum ergo, and Psalm 116 with the antiphon Adoremus in aeternum. Benediction usually includes some kind of litany such as The Divine Praises.

Blessed Sacrament processions. These usually takes place on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The priest carries the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, and walks either under a canopy called a baldacchino, with four bearers or under an ombrellino (an umbrella-like canopy) carried by a single bearer. These are flanked by torch-bearers and preceded by a thurifer carrying a censor with incense.

The Feast of Corpus Christi is a feast in honour of the Blessed Sacrament. It was instituted in the thirteenth century in obedience to the vision of a nun, the Blessed Juliana of Liege, a Praemonstratensian (Norbertine) Canoness. This was at about the same time as St Thomas Aquinas was developing the doctrine of Transubstantiation; he composed the text for the liturgy for the feast day, including the long sequence Lauda Sion Salvatorem and the processional hymn Pange lingua. The introit to the Mass is a beautiful Gregorian tune to the text Cibavit eos. The feast is celebrated on the first available Thursday after the Easter season, ie the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. These days, unfortunately, the feast day is usually moved to the following Sunday, which breaks the connection with Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper, and it is rare to hear the Latin texts with their special and characteristic tunes. This is particularly sad as these post-Vatican 2 changes have lost us a quintessentially Catholic feast.

None of these devotions would have been possible for practical reasons if the Latin church had not adopted the practice of using unleavened bread for the eucharist and they could therefore not exist in the Orthodox churches. They are a medieval development and grew up after the Great Schism. Whether we should really be following them at all is a question that we might usefully consider. Our Lord's command was to take and eat my Body and drink my Blood. Chapter 6 of St John's gospel makes it clear that these were not symbolic; that is why we are told the Jews were shocked at this teaching. However, eucharistic devotion is a big step beyond eating and drinking. As number XXV of the Anglican articles of faith puts it, "The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them."

Whether the Anglicans are right about this is another matter, but it is worth remembering that the practice is not followed in any of the other ancient apostolic churches so they might just have a point.

Corbyn is spot-on

It is not often that I find myself in agreement with a left winger like Jeremy Corbyn, but he is spot-on in his analysis when he says that t...