The Thick Façade of Civilization

I have just discovered this wonderful article:

It comes as no surprise to find out that the author is a man of the sea and sails a yacht. Bernard Moitessier anchored his boat in French Polynesia and only returned to France to die.

I will be reading more of Ray Jason’s writings.

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Emerging Totalitarianism?

This seems to be a balanced article – Orwell, Huxley and the Emerging Totalitarianism. It is a subject that preoccupies me. I have read both 1984 and Brave New World, and have read William Shirer’s monumental The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a History of Nazi Germany. I have a profound sense of foreboding about the world we live in, and a feeling that things just won’t carry on in the same way. I know zilch about economics, but I do know that what passes for money these days is no longer value, but debt. National debts run into the kind of figures that we just cannot comprehend – something like the number of matchsticks needed to build a structure as big as a skyscraper or a modern aircraft carrier. Something is going to crack.

We see the threats in front of us: big money and complicit governments, Islamic organisations like ISIS capable of taking over whole countries and making them into a living hell. The term borrowed from Orwell – political correctness – is now used in mainstream commentaries by the press and people who notice the ever-increasing curbs on free speech. I am careful what I say on this blog, making a careful distinction between what people are and what they do.

I understood much more about the psychological dimension, apart from the habitual historic approach, when I read Political Ponerology (A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes) by Andrew M. Lobaczewski. This book is difficult to follow, and I have no way of discerning how much of it is quackery or pseudo science. The theme of psychopathy is cogent, if it is not seen as removing the subject’s moral responsibility in evil acts. A bunch of bad eggs, like the Nazi war criminals (including those who committed suicide and avoided judgement), were capable of poisoning an entire country and much of the European continent. We seem more or less to have the mechanism of a totalitarian hell. Hitler and Nazism were not alone. There was also Stalin’s Soviet Union, and many other dictators since then. In earlier times, it was men of the Church and the Aristocracy who were doing then what ISIS is doing now in Iraq and Syria: killing, enslaving and exploiting.

Are we also going to get it in the neck in our “democratic” countries, in the USA, England, Europe, Australia and many other places? We have had a cushy ride since 1945, and I wasn’t born then. I’m a baby boomer and had an easy time, and if there was another war and a call-up, I’m probably old enough to get put in the Reserves, Dad’s Army or something of the sort! I probably wouldn’t even have to cut my hair! That would be on the assumption that we are citizens of the country in the right and not belonging to the Axis of Evil. In the current situation with Russia and the Ukraine, I begin to feel about my native country as a German would have in the 1930’s. It’s all about big money and the west’s staggering burden of debt. Drug addicts get desperate when they don’t get their fix!

On the other hand, many prophecies of doom have failed and continue to attract derision and scoffing. I try to get information from “alternative” as well as “mainstream” sources, and I know no better because I have an innate mistrust in everything. The way things are going, I begin to draw inspiration from Bernard Moitessier and the freedom of the sea. Orwell and Huxley were not prophets. They simply observed their own times and extrapolated into the future. If it goes on the way it is doing, the result will be… The same process has been going on at least since the mid eighteenth century with the Industrial Revolution and the Machine. We may loath machines, but we use them. The system is a part of us all. Tyranny has been around since the dawn of history, and the Church was once as bad as the bankers, big businessmen and politicians rolled into one. Atrocities in Spain in the fifteenth century were no different from their counterparts in Iraq today. We secular and democratic moderns are merely looking at the stark reality of our own middle ages and our human bestiality.

Should humanity cease? God seems not to have reached such a decision. The nuclear holocaust we feared in the 1960’s and 70’s didn’t happen. No significant meteorite has ever hit the earth at least since the era of the dinosaurs. Hitler was beaten in 1945 and Soviet Communism collapsed in 1989. Anything collapses in time, as did the Church and the French Aristocracy. Many of us look forward to the collapse of capitalism and the possibility of a new beginning, painful as that would be to our way of life. Most of us would not be able to adapt to returning to eighteenth-century technology and farming! History teaches us about the plagues, wars and revolutions that separated the conventionally named eras.

If our world goes totalitarian, we will not have long to suffer. We internet users, intellectuals and thinking folk would be the first to be picked up and promptly bumped off. There would be no resistance, given the technology they have (and even what is accessible to most of us with computers, cell phones, etc.). We are deluded if we think we can escape.

Perhaps we can break out now, sell our homes and run away. There used to be places to go. Perhaps there still might be. We would still be confronted with ourselves and be seeking meaning to life. People in other parts of the world don’t want the people who once colonised them. We are left with the idea that we are better off where we are rather than elsewhere. We remain dissatisfied and break our hearts searching for meaning. God shows little inclination to change things.

If totalitarianism comes, whether it is the big money bunch or those who would have us return to the days of the Spanish Inquisition (with the boot on the other foot), there won’t be much we can do about it. That is where we thank God for the finiteness of our terrestrial existence and that something better awaits us elsewhere after “weeping and wailing in this valley of tears“.

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The Blood of the Martyrs

Here is a passionate article from a Continuing Anglican source: Aussie Military Strategist: We’ll Fight Radical Islam for 100 Years. The Australian news article itself is behind a paywall, butAuthor Capellane gives the gist of it.

Indeed our natural passions would call for all-out war against the barbarians of ISIS using modern technology and everything they used to do in Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden and others. I read in certain places the crazy thesis of complicity between the Americans and radical Muslims. Is the idea so insane? For the reader to inform himself and try to get an idea. Is the calvary of Irak and Syria the future of Europe and then the mighty USA?

When we see whole Christian communities exiled in rags, raped, martyred, force-converted to Islam and decimated, the rage boils and our feeling of empathy puts us in the position of Churchill as he took over from the appeaser Chamberlain and faced Hitler. We are confronted once again with pure evil that can leave no one indifferent. We may have to fight them on the beaches and hold together as our parents and grandparents did in World War II.

With whose army? That is the question. This should be a matter for the UN and perhaps an occasion for the USA and the EU to make our peace with Russia and Putin. The rag-heads are the real enemy, not Russia – but of course the enemy is among us too with our crumbling financial debt-ridden empires. I read things, I have suspicions, but I know nothing for sure.

Such is the barbarity that many Muslims are converting to Christianity. The great renewal of Christianity may come from there. It is a seed of hope in our dark times.

Who will take the decision to take the courageous leap like Churchill? They are coming into our countries like a poisoned leaven. I know very little about Islam, but I do know that there are peaceful and devout Muslims who are open-minded and modern in their acceptance of religious tolerance. Those who commit atrocities should have to pay for them with their lives as happened to the Nazi war criminals. It may indeed take a hundred years, but if we do not fight, we will come under their jackboot and they will put us to the sword and send us to their concentration camps.

Our enemy is within ourselves, and we suffer from the corruption and complacency of “political correctness” of our political establishments. As always, I speak up, not against what people are (race, religion, cultural background, etc.), but against what they do when they stamp out every principle of God and man, every respect of humanity.

May our governments and armed forces use modern technology to blow those barbarians to pieces in their bunkers with the least possible loss of life to our own servicemen! Let ISIS be killed by machines and computers as they deserve and the survivors executed on the gallows!

I am not an advocate of “muscular Christianity” as my readers know. I approach my faith through beauty and love, through the way of the Romantics. But here, enough is enough, and I ask myself whether I would have the courage to sacrifice my own life. Indeed, if love has no place in this world, I would rather be gone and elsewhere, my death having given meaning where my life did not.

Indeed, Christ said (John 12):

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

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Bits & Bobs

I have just learned of the death of Fr Jean-Marie Charles-Roux, the mysterious Rosminian priest who said the old Mass at St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place. He has just died in Rome at the age of 99 years. I went to confession to him a couple of times in c. 1981-82, a most odd experience! I never knew what to make of him.

John Beeler pays homage to my Orthodox Blow-Out Department, “one of the best information clearinghouses on Eastern Orthodoxy for Westerners, completely free of Orthodox spin. Anybody considering converting should read it“.

I am very clear that I don’t encourage conversion to anything, not even natural gas. Some feel that I betray my Christian duty by not proselytising. We live in the midst of a world that is neither Christian nor anti-Christian, just itself. Christianity has done itself too much damage through human sin and stupidity, for which the price has to be paid. We can only carry on in this spirit of compunction as subtle signs of contradiction, constantly on the verge of dismissing it all wholesale as irrational bosh. Yet the tweak on the thread (cf. Chesterton and Evelyn Waugh) is always there, reminding us that God is above human sottise and legalism.

I generally leave the Blowout Department to its own devices. It was designed to take the polemics away from other posts for which on-topic comments would be preferred. I enjoy letting people have access to a site that is uncensored and cannot be censored by those with vested interests.

We seem to be leaving the August doldrums as more people return to their homes from their holidays. We returned to wet and windy weather from the highly unstable climate of Brittany (Il fait beau tous les jours, plusieurs fois par jour – It’s good weather every day, several times a day). They say that in England the summer is definitely over and the leaves on the trees will start changing and falling in September. Who knows? We can still get an Indian summer. Yet we might be facing a bitter winter! I’m still counting on taking the boat out to sea a few times before wintering.

We are in the Octave of the Assumption, and the Sarum Missal offers us sequences for each day of the Octave. Indeed, medieval English people had devotion to the Mother of God as did folk over here, especially in Brittany and Normandy. Through her we find our innocence and freshness, rest from the burden of our sins and worries. If most of what used to be good folk religion is gone, devotion to Our Lady remains in the churches and sanctuaries. It is a glimmer of light in the desolation of abandoned churches and the extermination of the Faith by Islam in the Middle-East. Ora pro nobis peccatoribus nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

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The Sea off Brittany

Nothing is more Breton than seafaring, whether it is “messing about in boats” or risking your life in a storm to earn your living as a fisherman. This is the sea at its most placid and pleasurable for a dinghy sailor.

Here is my boat, familiar to those who look at this blog. I flew the Banner of St George and the little flag we were given at the Route du Sable. I actually met a few sailors from that event!

sophiaI did not photograph my first outing, which was to the Glénans Archipelago where I had done a sailing course back in 2009. I sailed 9 nautical miles each way, two and a half hours to get there and four back in a rather disappointing wind. The navigation was simple, by hand bearing compass and dead reckoning.

The following outings were less ambitious. There were some lovely inland waters around Loctudy.

ansesThis one looks to the other side of the port of Loctudy.

port-loctudyLooking across the bay of Benoudet towards the point of Beg Meil.

beg-meil-from-boatBeg Meil has a special meaning for me, since my first time there and in France was in August 1966 with my family. The granite and silica sand on the beach is white and the water is transparent.

beg-meilWe treated ourselves to a trip to the Glénans on an old lug rig, on which we could help with manoeuvres. The skipper was a laid-back young long-haired fellow called Pierre, and he and I sympathised with each other. There was very little wind that day. We motored on the starboard tack and tried to sail on a port tack, but little progress was made. We furled the sails and continued under power.

old-lug-rigThere was the vessel at anchor (to the left of the modern yacht) as we were taken off by rubber dinghy.

anchoredWe spent a couple of hours on the Ile Saint-Nicolas, which we shared with other noisy tourists. There was none of the peace I experienced on Drennec (taken from Saint Nicolas). Still, I had sailed there a couple of days before, not what most tourists do! We were taken back to the mainland by motor launch.

drenecThis final one is of our beach at Loctudy, at low tide and a good number of boats on the water. The weather most of the time was mediocre, and there is a saying in Brittany. The weather is fair every day, several times a day!

loctudy-beach

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The Churches the Baroque Forgot

I am just back from Brittany and a fine two-week holiday of sailing and visiting. One thing we found surprising here in west Brittany is the good condition of the many fine medieval churches and a relative absence of baroque “accretions”. Perhaps my title is a little misleading because the first photo of this series, the Lady Chapel of Pont l’Abbé, is full seventeenth-century baroque. This church is full of surprises as many in this part of the country are. Perhaps Brittany remained poorer than other parts of France, and things happened more gradually. The architecture of the Breton medieval church is very “English” with the squared-off east wall and great window over the altar. In most parts of France, the east end of a church is finished off with an apse.

This little account with photos is incomplete and shortened, as we visited many more churches and chapels. One particularity of Brittany churches is the enclos, the close like round many English churches and cathedrals. It is a piece of land on which the church stands and surrounded by a wall. In many places, the wall has gaps and low wall over which a person can stride like a stile between two fields. This was originally to keep animals out of the church.

p_labbe_baroque_altar

Here is the east window of Pont l’Abbé over a modest baroque altar, crying out for riddle posts and curtains.

p_labbe_east_window

The pulpit is a complete catechism in carved wood, the quintessence of the Counter Reformation.

pulpit

The next day, we went to Quimper and visited the cathedral, heavily restored in the nineteenth century. I rather like the baldachino over the high altar which fits in well with the late gothic architecture. It is a pity to see a choir full of chairs and the ubiquitous table in front of the altar for facing-the-people celebrations.

quimper_choir

A close-up of the high altar.

quimper_high_altar

Most of the side altars were typical of the French nineteenth century, geared to particular devotions, but this one looks fairly fifteenth-century-ish.

quimper_side_altarSome days later, we visited a couple of extraordinary churches. One was Notre-Dame de Tronoën on the coast. It has one of the most sumptuous calvaries of Brittany shown here.

tronoen01

Bell towers in Brittany have to be small with many gaps to allow the heavy west winds from the North Atlantic to pass. Many of these these bell towers are supported by the chancel arch.

tronoen02

This enormous altar reminded me of Coventry Cathedral. It was not originally an altar but a kind of offering table situated outside the church. It is too long for this sanctuary and is out of all proportion.

tronoen_high_altar

This is the piscina as found in most medieval churches, a shelf for the cruets and the hole through which water flows directly into the earth.

tronoen_piscina

This side altar looks medieval, and unfortunately had a big chunk broken from it at some time.

tronoen_side_altar

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Don’t Proselytize

I follow on from yesterday’s article with some stuff that is being sent out by e-mail. In particular, there is a link to a posting by the Young Fogey, our odd friend by the name of John Beeler – who estimates that I have no vocation to the priesthood because I don’t think exactly like he does (perhaps my growing hair has something to do with it, infatuated as he is with the 1950’s, the short back ‘n’ sides and Brylcreem gunk). I hardly idolise the reign of George III, but I do approve of the gentlemen’s hairstyles of the period (no wig)!

Anyway here is his article Cafeteria Catholicism of the right?

This article links to Fr Longenecker’s article The Rise of Conservative Cafeteria Catholicism. I won’t comment on this one, but a second article is doing the rounds by e-mail – Is Proselytism Solemn Nonsense?

Pope Francis, it appears, eschews proselytism – and thus directly opposes one of the prime tenets of conservative Roman Catholicism. We come back to the Kripkean dogmatism I discussed yesterday evening, inspired by Fr Jonathan Munn’s article, and the stages of bringing about a totalitarian theocracy not far removed from what some of the more fanatical Islamists want.

I have no interest in defending the Pope because he is Pope, or for any pretended infallibility, but for once I agree with him:

Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.

I go a little further and observe that the more Christians proselytise, the more the credibility of their message will go down in the eyes of the more critical and scientific among us. I haven’t taken much interest in Pope Francis since he was elected in March 2013, and I have by and large felt rather apathetic. I pray for him at Mass, but that’s as far as it goes. I generally find Jesuits as boring as watching paint dry!

What about the command from Christ to preach the Gospel to the world? It is a difficult one, but what is sure that we have forgotten how to communicate by means other than the spoken word. Beauty is out of the window, as in the days when the Puritans were smashing stained glass, organs and altars. The conservatives know only verbal persuasion – as a prelude to compulsion once they get the political means to do so. Pinochet and Franco were quite useful for that kind of thing. Not a few Catholic Monsignori ended their lives on the gallows in 1946 for crimes against humanity!

I agree with the Pontiff as he prefers attracting people to the Church rather than forcing them, albeit through modern marketing and hard selling methods. One great mistake was getting rid of the Church’s liturgical tradition. Another was to alienate art, music and culture – so that all that is left is the spoken word.

I don’t know what the Pope is up to, not that I really care, but what he says here makes sense. At the same time, what is he doing to open up non-verbal means of communication to draw people to Christ and God’s love? There, I am less convinced.

The Church and Diocese to which I belong are not in communion with Rome, but we are in communion with the wider Catholic Church. We do care about Christ’s commandment and the duty of the Church to build and civilise, but also how we do it. Like most other Christians, we are on the defensive and fighting for survival in the face of justified criticism.

The essential of my experience in Europe simplifies things somewhat. Christianity, and monotheism in general, has discredited itself through fanaticism and the desire to impose itself as the only truth. Because of this and its own incoherence, it is no longer possible to give the world Christ’s message without all the baggage that discredits the three monotheist religions. I used to speculate as a seminarian that it was almost as if the Redemption was undone, that the Good News was no more, and the “tea break” was over. I fully understand the reaction of the post World War II period when priests were ashamed of their bishops who had collaborated with the Nazi occupation. They sought to make amends by sharing the lives of ordinary working men and removing the symbols of privilege like the cassock and Roman hat. I sympathise with them. Many of them turned to politics, but a few remained in the “workshop of Nazareth”.

I see many parallels between our time and the end of the eighteenth century, except for the executive suits of politicians and bankers replacing the powdered wigs of the guillotined aristocracy. I return to Berdyaev and his vision of a long and hard dark night during which Christians must expiate and suffer. Even worse than martyrdom is the feeling of helplessness, absence of meaning and purpose and the foreboding of a world without a future history. We have work to do on the virtue of Hope!

Let us be sincere with ourselves. We have ourselves to evangelise before we can start on other people, lest the other sees our hypocrisy. We yet have a timber yard to take out of our eyes!

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