France is sinking!

I have been thinking a lot about the present situation in France. Simply put, the Socialist government of François Hollande and Manual Valls has forced through a bill for a new law governing employment and labour. The employers would have more leeway to be able to adapt their workforce to their companys’ order books and economic conditions, in theory making it easier and less risky to take on new employees. The bill is rejected by the workers’ unions as regressive in terms of the rights of workers.

The extreme-left, almost discredited in modern Europe, is still active in two of their trade unions, the CGT (Confédération générale du travail) et the FO (Force Ouvrière). Recently, lorry drivers were told they could keep their overtime bonus, but that the bill would go through and become law in July 2016. The two trade unions are still blocking oil refineries, and it becomes increasingly difficult to re-fuel our vehicles and many fuel stations are dry. They now threaten the entire transport system and are hoping to call the already highly-privileged nuclear power station workers out on strike. They intend to hold the entire country to ransom unless the Socialist government withdraws and scrubs the bill.

Normally, when there is a general strike that impoverishes other sectors of work and the rights of ordinary people, the right to strike can be offset against the rights of others to live their lives normally. The police and military would be called in to break up the blockages, respecting the right to strike but not to hold us all to ransom. This time, the Socialists have nearly no credibility with the electorate, and forcing through an unpopular labour bill was an act of stupidity at one year from the next Presidential Election – or a Machiavellian piece of manipulation. Hollande sends in the goons to break up the extreme left unions and their blockages and the Socialists come out as heroes! We are between Scylla and Charybdis: sleazy Sarkozy, more of the same or Mme Le Pen and her Front National. Despite being “right wing”, their policies are also socialist! If they do nothing, we are left with only the possibility of a popular reaction against both the champagne socialists and the Commies – and then we need to see where the sympathies of the Army and police lie…

Le Figaro (centre right and conservative) has come up with a very interesting article giving some attempt at analysis. How is the government going to deal with this crisis of what seems to be becoming a general strike? The Commies are directly challenging the State, no less. They are counting on the State being too cowardly to do anything like sending in the police (which they have already done to free some of the fuel depots to allow tankers to collect fuel and deliver it to the petrol stations). There are only two things to do: abandon the labour reform bill or declare war against the Commies. But will they?

These unions have been around for quite a long time, and their ideology is the old Marxist theory of bringing the worker’s paradise out of the destruction of capitalism. The champagne socialists, like the Gaullist conservatives, seem to have a more “realistic” view of capitalism and the means of production.

The labour reform bill is unpopular, as is the Socialist government pushing it through. The Commies are unpopular as are their violent methods of protesting and stopping other people from working and living normally. The Commies have also committed acts of violence against the police and have destroyed public and private property.

The situation is serious and unpredictable. The government has to reassure the public of the advantages of the new labour law, but the government has largely lost credibility. Valls is promising a firm response (police / military?) but is he credible? Most of us are cynical. Valls perhaps takes himself for a new Clemenceau, known in his day as the “strike breaker”. When does a strike have the character of an insurrection? That seems to be what is happening in France. The beginnings of a civil war? It all smells of a wimp-out. Then the champagne socialists will have the rest of the population to contend with. It is beginning to look like the 1970’s in England, the endless strikes and the death of the coal industry in England, the fall of Ted Heath and the no-confidence vote that ousted Jim Callaghan in favour of Margaret Thatcher. Might history repeat itself in the land of the Froggies?

Surrounding events? The tourist season is nearly here. The European Cup is to be held in Paris in June 2016, and a pile of money has been invested in that for the whole thing to fail because there is no petrol for the cars and no trains, buses, metros or planes! Surely the socialists are interested in solving the crisis before the orgy of bread and circuses! France is going to be noticed by everyone else. The British will vote on Brexit in June, and the French crisis might get associated with the evils of the EU. Already, the arguments of getting out become increasingly convincing! A lot of people over here are going to go out of business because basic services have failed.

The government may send in the goons, and get their popularity score up if they play it the right way, breaking the blockages, putting the ringleaders in prison for breaking the law and the antiquated Marxist organisations closed down once and for all after a discrediting campaign. Hollande and Valls are between a rock and a hard place, the right-wing opposition and the dwindling hard-core communist ideologues.

The Presidential Election of 2017 may well be interesting to observe. The extreme right in Austria has lost narrowly and Donald Trump is unlikely to win in the US. Hollande and Valls would have to go for the left to get anywhere in France. Le Pen’s party seems discredited and no conservative figure seems to stand out. Further speculation seems futile.

The immediate future in France is uncertain, but it can’t continue. For once, the fault is not that of the EU – unless the bureaucrats in Brussels were responsible for drafting the new law and are forcing the French to push it through come fire, dungeon and sword.

The next weeks, it will all go “boom” or will fizzle out as both ideology and state authority rot away. France would indeed become an Etat Poubelle (a dustbin state).

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Rade de Brest

rade-brest

I have written very little on my sailing this year. I have been out on the English Channel a few times, the last couple of times in quite “sporty” conditions with unstable gusty wind from a weather shore or a fresh westerly with a hearty chop. This kind of thing is necessary to hone seamanship and sailing skills – and banish complacency.

The time has almost arrived for my Swallows and Amazons moment, when I continue to make my childhood dreams a reality. I intend to sail on the sheltered waters of the Rade de Brest next month (13th to 17th June) and participate in a gathering of small sail & oar boats, the Route du Sable (18th and 19th June) – almost a whole week.

Here is a little foretaste of my treat from the famous French documentary weekly Thalassa, dedicated to all things of the sea. The documentary is in French, narrated by the inimitable Georges Pernoud. The first part is the natural beauty of this little sea, so different from the Golfe du Morbihan. The second part deals with the city of Brest, with its Naval School and its incredible dry dock facilities for repairing very big ships. Here it is:

I’m getting ready for it now, checking the boat’s condition and my equipment for camping on board. I have improved many things from last year on the Golfe du Morbihan. I have sleeping boards instead of trying to squeeze into the cramped space between my centreboard case and watertight hull compartments. I have two self-inflating mattresses for a little more comfort. I will use two dry bags instead of one big one for clothes and other things that have to be kept dry. The same plastic boxes will do for the galley and the “captain’s cabin”. My safety and navigation boxes will go into the lazarette – easy access for if I get into trouble.

Electrics and electronics. Some of my things (VHF and camera) are battery powered, and I have lots of spare batteries in waterproof boxes. I have an mp3 player and speaker which can be recharged from a 5-volt USB connection, as can my mobile phone. Recharging will be using two solar units, one with an accumulator and the other with a bigger sunlight surface. The chargers have to be kept dry, so I will only be able to use them whilst not under way. I may have to sail at night, depending on tides, so need to have running lights to be both safe and legal. Oh, for some moonlight! The idea appeals to me – but it would probably be by rowing as there is often no wind during the night in the summer. I now have a convex mirror so that I can see where I am going when rowing!

The Rade is a big place. According to my plans, I will only have the time to visit the north coast (the whole thing is about 12 miles across), spend the Wednesday night tied up at Brest marina (possibility of food shopping and a shower) and return to the River Aulne on the Friday to get to Rosnoën on the flood tide.

My plan is to leave Rosnoën on the Aulne on the ebb tide and get well out of the strong currents before the tide turns. Another hour or so would see me to Daoulas Bay where there is a nice mooring port and I can use my rubber dinghy to get ashore. My next objective will be to sail up the long river to the east of Brest on the flood tide and out again on the ebb. If everything goes to plan, I’ll go to the marina of the Château in Brest, pay my €16 for a berth and visit the town, do some shopping and get a hot shower on Thursday morning. To sail back eastwards, I’ll need to hug the shore as I’ll be against the tide for a while, and then go back to my little tie-up in Daoulas Bay, spend the night. On Friday morning, I’ll meet up with three other boats bound for the Route du Sable, and we will have lunch at Landévennec (where there is an old monastery) and take the flood tide to Rosnoën.

On Friday night, I’ll have the chance to get to my van, fire up my laptop computer on the car battery and store my photos and videos on my hard disk, and have both cameras empty for the Route du Sable that begins the following day.

My courtship with Brittany continues!

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Cutty Sark

cutty-sarkThe Cutty Sark will sail again, or at least an exact replica of her will. Here is the website – Cutty Sark Reborn 2 Sail. She was one of the greatest clipper ships ever to sail the oceans and transport tea from China and wool from Australia and New Zealand. Here is the Wikipedia article about her history. This is a refreshing change from the Chinese tycoon who wants to build a replica of the Titanic, with adaptations to modern standards of seaworthiness and safety.

A future Titanic will be for luxury cruises for the very rich. It always causes me pain to see enormous amounts of money blown for expensive hotel rooms, cars, cruises, etc. However, the new Cutty Sark, as described in the site, will have an educational vocation and will also promote the cause of environmentally-friendly sea transport. I like the philosophy of this project.

There are many replicas sailing the seas today. The Hermione (eighteenth-century French frigate) is magnificent. I saw her hull in dry dock in Rochefort some years ago. Two replicas have been built of the Bounty, commanded by the notorious Captain Bligh (quote from the 1962 film):

Now don’t mistake me. I’m not advising cruelty or brutality with no purpose. My point is that cruelty with purpose is not cruelty – it’s efficiency. Then a man will never disobey once he’s watched his mate’s backbone laid bare. He’ll see the flesh jump, hear the whistle of the whip for the rest of his life.

No one was whipped for real on either of the two replicas, one built in in 1960 and foundered off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy on 29th October 2012. Fortunately there remains another replica which was built for the 1984 film. She is seaworthy and is used for charters and sailing training. Anyone going to the Armada de Rouen on the Seine cannot fail to be impressed by this big gathering of tall ships, mostly used for training seamen and round-the-world regattas. Some come from as far as Russia, Барк Крузенштерн for example. This year, there is a big gathering of ships and yachts, Brest 2016. The ships will sail around the tip of the Finistère on the open Atlantic Ocean. My boat is too small for it!

I look forward to the building and launch of the new Cutty Sark, and yet another tall ship to grace the oceans. May God bless her and all who will sail in her!

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Fame at Last!

trinitarian2016-05A couple of days ago, my Bishop wrote me an e-mail to tell me that The Trinitarian, (the ACC Provincial newspaper) of May-June 2016, took an interest in his visit to my home and chapel at the beginning of this month. The Trinitarian article seems to be inspired by our Diocesan news article.

In itself, it is only news to those who do not use computers or internet. I have in my life been interviewed live on Radio Courtoisie, invited to various conferences here and there. However, there is something that really caught my eye. I was called Owen Chadwick!

Obviously an oversight, otherwise I am celebrating my one hundredth birthday this very day and writing this article from the hereafter, perhaps through a medium. Dr Owen Chadwick was a highly distinguished historian and Anglican cleric as was his younger brother Dr Henry Chadwick. They were among the leading lights of Anglican theological and historical scholarship of the twentieth century.

Actually, not a bit of it. My name is Anthony James Chadwick, am not to my knowledge related to either of these intellectual giants, and am a very ordinary guy blessed with the gift of the priesthood despite my unworthiness. I descend from a Yorkshire family of seafarers and businessmen, my grandfather with a distinguished military and wartime record. My father, still alive, practised as a veterinary surgeon in the north of England for many years in the farms of the Lake District and at his surgery in Kendal.

surgeryI am indeed flattered to have been mistaken for the great professor at Cambridge, but I am sure it was a slip of the printing press, a Freudian slip or I don’t know what. Anyway, I thank the Editor of The Trinitarian for thinking of my humble mission and my desire to encourage others to build chapels or fit them out in existing buildings in good taste for little financial outlay. There are indeed many fine places of worship in our Church both sides of the Atlantic.

If I know anything of church history and the Fathers, it is through the late Fr Guy Bedouelle OP of Fribourg University and having read some of the inspiring books written by my namesakes mentioned above.

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Brexit the Movie

Brexit the Movie is certainly worth seeing. It gives the case for the UK leaving the European Union and trading with the world like Switzerland, Norway and other countries than did not join up. The message is simple: take the regulating bureaucratic hands off our buying and selling and things will work through healthy business competition and freedom to trade. I know too little about international business and economics to give a critical answer to this exposé, but I have the impression that it is a tad one-sided. What is there to stop the unlimited domination of the biggest businesses through corruption as bad as EU or State cronyism? Small businesses do very badly under the present system, so would they do better with less European and national regulation?

However, the case is well made about the EU being a faceless bureaucracy of functionaries who are neither elected, known by the people or accountable. Unchecked, the EU has the potential of becoming a totalitarian government with no way of fighting against it like against the Nazis in 1944-45. I find that scary!

My own intuition is to go further than Brexit – Eurexit! The complete dismantling of the Brussels bureaucracy and the restoration of national sovereignty to each European country as before the days of the Common Market. I’m not keen on nationalism either, being something of an anarchist, but that is better than a western and modernised form of a “soviet union”, which it could become. Such a wish may come true given the refugee / migrant crisis which the documentary is careful not to mention (together with exposing the threat of ultra-nationalists). We can’t expect help from the Americans this time, but I do believe that Europe should begin to smoke a pipe of peace with Putin and Russia.

The documentary discusses trade and economics, which brought about the old Common Market in the first place. It is surely not all. There is European culture which was built on classical paganism and medieval Christianity, which together forged a kind of humanism that give ideas of the dignity of the person and human rights that correlate with duties. There are also traditions of constitutional law going back centuries with aim of protecting people against abuse and injustice. Our Magna Carta is the great example. The EU has done a lot to damage popular culture by regulating in the domain of food and cooking and the liberty we have of taking reasonable and calculated risks. Health and safety regulations are necessary to take reasonable precautions against accidents and injury (especially at work), but they have gone beyond the limits of common sense!

Whether there is opposition from the EU bureaucracy to religious practice is anyone’s guess. Perhaps someone who knows about modern EU ideas about religious freedom and issues of conscience would be welcome to comment.

There is of course the burning issue of the immigration of large numbers of Muslim refugees and economic migrants. The EU welcomes them probably because they are willing to work for less than indigenous Europeans – but we give them benefits to the tune of billions of Euros each year. We can’t afford it, and our social security systems will inevitably collapse. Individual countries are no longer free to determine their limits of legal immigration. There are two sides to the argument, as there is real suffering (used by the hordes of young men with their smart phones). The question is highly politicised, and a critical mass of people from other cultures will destroy indigenous European humanist and Christian culture. It can also be said that materialist / consumerist Europeans just gave it away and deserve to be introduced to Sharia Law! True, I am concerned not to get into trouble for saying “politically incorrect” things, but I am not attracted to the red-neck / nationalist mentality either.

Perhaps this issue should make us think more deeply, even though we have been brought up to think in terms of our nation and mother country (or Fatherland as the Germans say). I am English and am deeply nostalgic of many things that are ours. I was born in the north but became quite southern culturally. My mother was southern, but she married a Yorkshireman and went to live up north. I appreciate both the cosmopolitan sophistication of southerners and the down-to-earth plain talk and honesty of the north. We still have these things. The French too are different between Normandy, Brittany, Paris and area, Lyon, Marseilles and other areas. There are still the culinary traditions and local accents. In Germany too, Bavaria is a wonderful area, and I loved the countryside east of Munich and towards Austria when I went there in 1999. It occurs to me that we are made for smaller entities than our nation states or even counties or other administrative units. Some of us have moved around a lot and have been influenced by lots of different cultures, as is the case with me. Others, like the organ tuner I once worked with, was so parochial and narrow-minded in his “single-culture” in the north-east of England where they speak Geordie. We do well to put down roots somewhere, which I find very difficult.

I can understand the whole history of wanting to unite Europe like a kind of “United States” federation. There is the French-American model, and there is the Swiss model on a much smaller scale. I like the Swiss way of uniting very small states for some things like the Armed Forces, but leaving the Cantons to govern themselves in other matters. Europeanism essentially goes back to Napoleon’s imperialism, and, I suppose, our own imperialism which was not always very Christian or moral! Napoleon was a visionary even if he was something of a Hitler in an earlier era. The twentieth century brought two world wars because of alliances between certain countries. The idea of a Union to prevent war and solve all problems through diplomacy was certainly something from the early inspiration. One lesson to be learned is that you can’t legislate against perverse human nature!

What I now see fills me with foreboding. It has become a monster that eats money, our money and other people’s money. It is leading us to totalitarianism, and I hope and pray for the day when the EU will be dismantled and neutralised before it causes World War III and the destruction of us all. Certainly, I believe that the UK should get out and trade with the outside world, but I believe that all European countries should also do the same thing.

* * *

PS. I should mention that I live in France and find quite a lot of anti-EU feeling with quite a few moderate and even left-wing French people I come into contact with. If England leaves the EU, then I will have to apply for dual nationality or the old permis de séjour as I had in the 1990’s.

In any case, even if the vote of the British people is to leave the EU, the actual process will take longer than many of us expect to live. There would be sanctions and reprisals. Nobody ever leaves the KGB – one would imagine said by an actor with an exaggerated Russian accent. The whole question is probably academic anyway.

* * *

Here are two blog posts that give us no hope, but at least give us other points of view:

A question to ask is whether the whole question is trade and economics, and then whether the UK outside the EU could limit the excesses of capitalism and evils they bring on humanity. I am not inviting debate in the comment column of this blog, simply that we reflect and inform ourselves the best we can.

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If you want a Vision of the Future…

I was brought to consider the dreadful epitaph of humanity written by George Orwell towards the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four by the article Is Modern Man Irremediably Cut Off from Tradition?

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

The thought is devastating if we think of it for long enough. History has brought us to this vision of hell, or perhaps history was pointless from the start. Many do write about the current godless and hopeless ideology as the end of history, from which no redemption is possible. Has man fallen into a new original sin and cancelled the Redemption by Christ? Earlier today, I brought up the ideas of Nietzsche in an article: his ideas of strength over compassion and empathy, the emptiness of nihilism and man’s final despair and the Wagnerian Götterdämmerung brought to an end with a cyanide capsule and a shot in the mouth with a pistol.

I refuse that step to hell!

For many years, I have heard Romantic aspirations of some in the traditionalist world, and the New Liturgical Movement article is no exception. I go from the idea that there is nothing we can do about geopolitics and conflicts between superpowers. Perhaps they will bring us to a third and nuclear World War or Orwell’s nightmare vision – shared between bloodthirsty jihadists and the liberal oligarchies of the west. Perhaps some small groups can slide under the radar to begin a new middle age as in the vision of Berdyaev. It happens every time a monastery is founded or when a little “bit of church” comes to light like ours or many others in the world. Individually, we are still free in our thought and do our labours of love: a chapel or a shrine in the corner of our homes. We still love music and art, the little parcels of beauty not conserved in museums but very much a part of our lives. For as long as this is so, our human faces will escape the boot.

It is also an argument I have produced in favour of the Use of Sarum and the colourful and bright churches of the English Renaissance. Using the Tridentine rite is also an exercise in archaism or “archaeologism” in the eyes of some. Preferring Beethoven, Mozart or Bach to some oof-ta, oof-ta blaring out of someone’s car waiting at the red light in a town is also archaism, or preferring to live in an old house rather than something modern and practical. We are told that we can’t go back in time or history. That is true, but we can rediscover our roots and base our lives in the present and future on them.

Even if Orwell’s dystopia descends on us, or some jihadist caliphate, some will survive. Human ingenuity is limitless even in chaos or the madness of modern warfare. There is always a way through adversity. It was possible in penal times in England under psychopaths like Topcliffe the priest-hunter, through the Terror in France and in Soviet Russia in the Stalin era. Churches survived and the faith persisted. When push comes to shove, at least we would die for something and not for futility.

Modernity is facing its crisis as events seem to reproduce the end of the Weimar Republic in 1933. Most of us are sick and tired of our current caricatures of democracy and the endless lies. We may wonder if a demagogue who would blow everything away and give a new start would not be a good thing. In itself, I hardly see Donald Trump as a herald of high culture and the new middle age, but rather the reign of unbound wealth and totalitarianism. Prometheus Unbound! Propaganda works in two directions about whether the UK should leave the EU and what would be the consequences from the most alarmist to the most banal. There’s nothing we can do other than voting, but we can keep our spirits alive through prayer and tending the garden of our traditions and identity.

I am not sure that all the presuppositions of this NLM article correspond with reality, or whether we really grasp what things must have been like in the “old days”. Few of us are called to a monastic life, but many of us may be called to frugality, simplicity and a refusal of the consumerist mould. We can get out of town and set up a business rather than seek some soul-destroying employment. It isn’t easy, but it is part of our ingenuity and resilience, our determination to be ourselves. The old monastic rules can be a great inspiration to us as lay people and secular priests.

I once read the idea of Joseph Ratzinger about small communities of faith. Today we debate whether he meant this as an ideal or simply how things would end up with the invading secularism and the end of parish life outside big cities. In my reckoning, I see the small community as an ideal, little family-like churches in places of worship that are once again labours of love and human craftsmanship. If we are priests, we can celebrate Mass and put everything we have into it. Whether we are priests or lay people, we have the Office which can be said or sung in Latin or our own language. This great invisible network of prayer and the Eucharist rebuilds the Church from the base, and the crisis in the “mainstream” institutions seems no longer to have any relevance or importance for us. The true Pontiff is Christ, who is in the midst of every praying community that desires his presence.

I do believe that the future is the freedom of the spirit forever – but if we take responsibility for our own beings and those we love. There is not only the Church and prayer, but also our inventiveness. If we turn our minds to it, we can find ideas for a small business to get out of the “machine”, and with that live in the country. Perhaps we can offer crafts or linguistic skills – anything. We can build a little chapel in wood or convert an outbuilding like I have done, like my Bishop has done with the help of a few friends. If too many of us do it in the present conditions, we may find the “machine” getting back at us with crippling taxes and social contributions, and all sorts of unrealistic regulations and official standards. The movement will have to be slow, and involve those who can hold the course.

By way of analogy, I mention my passionate love of dinghy cruising. Our ports are full of big white yachts, many of which never put to sea. Mooring charges, by the foot, are exorbitant and owners soon tire of their status symbol. A cruising dinghy is parked for free on its trailer at the owner’s home. It can be towed anywhere and launched for free. An owner who is a good handyman can do all the maintenance very cheaply. The boat can sail in very shallow water and go places no yacht can go. You can’t cross oceans in dinghies, but perhaps not all of us want to sail oceans. The magic is in the smallness and accessibility to the less privileged in conventional society. I already mentioned simplicity and frugality which bring us our personality and freedom. It is ours for the taking…

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Beware of the Anglo-Catholics…

I have been away from the blog for nearly a week, dismantling a pipe organ, moving it and installing it in another church. It was hard work and that re-installation was followed by a visit to another church in the same region for a few small repairs, regulation and tuning. I hadn’t done any organ work for a long time, but it is like riding a bicycle.

Harrison & Harrison of Durham gave me a good (though brief) grounding back in 1976, mostly on the tuning round with the short-tempered and foul-mouthed fellow I was assigned to work with as assistant. I’ll call him Tom. I remember that person particularly by his hatred towards Anglicanism and especially the high-church (yes some can be found in the north of England). He was (is) a Primitive Methodist and plays the organ in his chapel – rather well as a pupil of Conrad Eden, one-time organist of Durham Cathedral. He cussed and swore when pipes refused to respond to the reed knife, when all that was needed in the case of a reed was for the pipe to be taken out, carefully cleaned, put back and left to cool down (from being handled by human hands) and tuned on a second time over that particular stop. I was not a particularly devout Anglican at the time, but it was the Church of my family and my country. Tom was an asset to the firm because he was an excellent tuner, one of the best, and no apprentice would be allowed to cause trouble. It is difficult to work with a man who is rude, foul-mouthed and bigoted, and who hates the values of the young man holding the notes for him.

Harrison’s is still going in Durham, and they have built some of the finest cathedral, parish church and concert organs throughout the twentieth century. The word is craftsmanship and pride in one’s work. Humour in an organ building workshop is crude, and the slightest weakness of someone was exploited to the full. Tom had been married for quite a long time and had no children. The workshop foreman would mock him saying “Married for fifteen fuckin’ years and firin’ blanks, man“. It is easy to understand how this kind of thing turns a man bitter. Tom destroyed my vocation as an organ builder, and I left after only three months. I had been good at woodwork at school, and I went on a couple of years later to do a course in harpsichord making – which interested me much less than organs. I wanted another mentality in teaching a young man to do the job well, and not that of the men in the workshop whose outlook on life was much different from mine. Three months with Tom , nevertheless, gave me the ability to dismantle an organ methodically, load it up into a removals van, put it all back together and finish off with regulation of the mechanism and tuning. Tom would lay the scale of the middle octave of the Great 4-foot principal by ear, and would often do it several times before tuning the rest of the organ from that octave. I use an electronic instrument made by Korg, and then check it over by listening to the beatings in the fourths and fifths – the division of the Pythagorean Comma into twelve as required by the equal temperament. I then do the rest of the organ as I learned from Tom. Well, something remained from my first vocation!

I now leave the subject of organs to consider that attitude of Tom. I am uncertain of his background, but I would suspect that he came from one of those honest and straight living working families of northern England, the Salt of the Earth as we often call them. I also came from a hard-working family, but one with more liberal and rational values. I came to love beauty for its own sake, music, church architecture. My brief apprenticeship to this man showed the contrast between my liberalism and his bigotry. There was something of a class difference in his resentment of my coming from an Establishment background but yet with sensitivity. He was also an organist, but with a bigoted attitude, paradoxically despising beauty. To this day, I find my memory of this man perplexing and confusing.

As I reminisced about these things, I was looking for various words of Google and was quite taken aback to find Anglo-Catholicism and Homosexuality. The article needs to be read in full before returning to my few reflections. Strictly speaking, homosexuality means one or several sexual acts between persons of the same sex. It can also mean a tendency to prefer one’s own sex to the opposite sex. It can also be a euphemism for a man not conforming to the model of the masculine heterosexual, notably in matters of competition and a despising attitude in regard to anything “artsy-fartsy”. In the space of a hundred years, we have gone from Victorian moral values to the “anything goes” of today, which in its turn has become an aggressive agenda that now persecutes its erstwhile persecutors. It has paralleled feminism in its equal and opposite reaction against the old morality and order.

Why has there been an association between men who do not conform to the competitive alpha male stereotype and Anglo-Catholicism?  I prefer to put the question in this way, because men in the Victorian era like Newman certainly disapproved of homosexual acts on account of their adhesion to Christian and biblical moral teachings, and certainly never had any experience of such. I find this point expressed strongly in the article, which made it stand out in my esteem. In the late Victorian era, it was no longer considered merely as a moral deviation or a sin, but a type of person. These were the days when the great British Empire was pillaging and killing “inferior” races in places like Tasmania and Africa, blasting Indian rebels away from cannon!

By about the 1880’s, homosexual behaviour became subject to ever-heavier legal penalties, which extended the law to cover all male homosexual acts, whether committed in public or private. It also began to be seen as a mental problem needing treatment. As the law and public opinion became increasingly hostile, men who departed from the alpha stereotype developed a sense of collective identity. In the days of Oscar Wilde, in London, it became a sub-culture, which collected around pubs, clubs, meeting places – and churches. Some individuals in this sub-culture were attracted to transvestism and effeminacy, but not all. Higher class values predominated, since bigotry reigned in the working classes.

In the Victorian era, nearly everyone went to church on Sundays. Anglo-Catholicism was a way of showing difference from the mainstream of the Church of England but yet staying within the established Church. It represented an emphasis on beauty in worship, a sense of tradition and, above all, freedom from respectability and a puritan spirit based on classical and rationalistic conventionalism. It all colludes with the Romantic movement of the very early nineteenth century.

There is something that is highly significant in the mid nineteenth century, the romantic friendship between two men without any sexual meaning. The “stiff upper lip” of the late Victorian era considered such a particular friendship (as described by Aelred of Rievaulx in the twelfth century, for example) to be as bad, or an occasion of sin, as physical homosexual acts.

Victorian Anglo-Catholicism met with vehement hostility from representatives of the Broad Church and the Evangelicals. The reasons were similar to those they expressed against Roman Catholicism. Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875) made his name both through his delightful books for children like The Water-Babies and his hostility to the Oxford Movement and Newman. Some of Kingsley’s criticisms of foppery, effeminacy and the ways of liberals resound in a similar way to those of modern-day American conservatives. Kingsley promoted Christian ‘manliness’, and eschewed clerical celibacy. I suppose that after my experience of Gricigliano, I appreciate my decision to take up sailing a few years ago and adopt a more “English” style in the liturgy! On the other hand, I can’t stand football or other competitive sports, and I wear my hair long (most gays have short hair).

The article gives a nice historical overview from the days of the slum priests and men “doing time” in prison for Ritualism to our own days. I see the story not so much as an “evolution” from darkness to light, or whatever, but rather as a golden thread of what remains today from the Victorian era. The way I see it is the bigotry of conservatism as it was then and still is now in some quarters, and the opposite and extreme reaction, each trying to prove itself to itself and the world.

What I am about to say may come as a shock to my conservative readers, but it goes with my general way of seeing the world. I don’t care what people do in the bedroom with the curtains shut, in private and between themselves. It may be sinful, but it engages only the consciences of the persons involved. It is only the business of a priest if that or those persons approach the priest for confession. Even then, a priest has to be gentle and show empathy, so that the penitent may make progress in a pilgrimage of life and love of God.

For men – or women – or men with women outside of marriage – to enter into a deep friendship is only a good thing. It builds the human person. I have already written on this subject in Aelred of Rievaulx and Friendship and De spiritali amicitia. Such a relationship, unlike marriage, is something personal and private, which has no need to prove itself to anyone. Marriage, on the other hand, is a public institution. It constitutes the basis of society on the family from natural procreation. It is good if marriage can be built on friendship and love, but that hasn’t always been the case – as in the days of arranged marriages. A man may often cease to be “romantically” enamoured by his wife, but yet will continue to be faithful (not have sex with anyone else) and not intend to leave home.

The problem with many conservatives is that they feel they have to prove themselves to themselves and the world. They feel that they have to be angry and vindictive. It is the same thing with homosexuals and feminists. It is the story of Orwell’s Animal Farm and the tyranny of the pigs after the revolution. I don’t mind if people want to love each other, have same-sex friendships and even engage in physical activities that result in sexual orgasm. I do mind when they usurp the public institution of marriage (and the sacramental institution from the point of view of the Church). Same-sex couples cannot procreate by natural means, and “making” children by other means is quite repulsive.

In my reaction to this article and my own experience, we do not have anything to prove to ourselves or others. I have got far beyond worrying what other people say about me, whether it is because of wearing the cassock or wearing my hair long. We have to be ourselves, something we can learn both from Quentin Crisp and Oscar Wilde. Above all, we are in the presence of the sign of contradiction, an affront to conventional moralism and respectability in favour of knowledge, daring and genius. This was one of the fruits of the Catholic revival in the Anglican world and English Roman Catholicism in the Victorian era. I am grateful and in admiration of those who put their Anglican Holy Orders to use to serve the Priesthood of Christ and the vision of the Saints, and here I think of Father Mackonochie of St Alban’s Holborn among other heroic figures of the mid to late nineteenth century. This was another aspect of the Romantic aspiration as it parted company with excessive rationalism and dreariness.

It seems simplistic to put homosexuality at the base of anything that revolts against conventional “masculinity”. I have also written on this subject. I wouldn’t even attribute this temperament to homosexuality, but rather to the higher level of life than the hylic and the psychic, as the Gnostics would have put it. A part of this spiritual elevation is beauty and art, a sense of the aesthetic, which predisposes us to Christianity as a Mystery – and not a code of law, a book or a human institutions making all the rules and doing the policing. If this notion of Christianity is effeminate or lacking in manliness, so be it. The spirit of Anglo-Catholicism is that of the Romantic, exactly the spirit of Christ as he rebuked the Pharisees and forgave sinners. Read the famous letter of Oscar Wilde with its amazing intuitions even if they are somewhat tainted by self-pity.

We should not forget that many who are attracted to Catholic ceremonial and liturgy are not the urban aesthetic stereotype. Some are very ordinary people. Likewise, not all homosexual men are aesthetes, and many aesthetes are not Anglo-Catholics or even religious.

The article describes the Protestant and “conservative” Roman Catholic ideology with great lucidity. There is the old idea that revived among conservative Roman Catholics during the run-up to the Ordinariates that consists of seeing Anglo-Catholics as a supply of Tiber-swimmers for their “true church”. The Protestants colluded in the same idea from the other end of the ideological spectrum. The “stiff upper lip” did us a lot of harm. It was the way I was brought up like my father before me. The role of the will was exaggerated as in Nietzsch’s philosophy of the Ubermensch. Strength over pity. Hitler took the ideology to the uttermost limit, far beyond the original thought of Nietzsche. This is another subject on which I have written – Nietzsche, Christianity and Weakness the weakness of Christianity through compassion and pity. This is central to the message of Anglo-Catholicism.

Something else is vital for understanding Anglo-Catholicism, at least in England. It was not a conservative or “traditionalist” movement, but was actually liberal and quite radical. Much of its theology developed along the same lines as the Modernism of men like George Tyrrell. I remind the reader that Modernism developed as a reaction against liberal Protestantism that sought to continue in the late eighteenth century latitudinarian tradition.

This influence as it rubbed off on me in my days in London colluded with the way I reacted to the with-it culture of the late 1960’s and early 70’s at Wennington. Respectability had become something so dreary and stereotyped like the Victorian and modern notions of masculinity and manliness, characterised by competition, violence and philistinism. The Church I belong to, the Anglican Catholic Church, was, from its origins in 1977, much more based on American conservatism than English Anglo-Catholicism. Our Diocese has adapted itself remarkably over the years to the noblest and best of English Anglo-Catholicism.

I have seen mincing “queens” in some of the “spiky” high churches in London, but they are a very small minority. Most clergy and lay folk I have come across were people who acted naturally and were themselves, without any embarrassing affectation. That is how we are in the ACC. We endeavour with God’s help to live honest and moral lives, but it is always the same thing – taking the beams out of our own eyes before taking the straw out of the eyes of others.

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