Rigid Priests

There is a flip side of the article to which I linked yesterday. I have to admit that I hadn’t yet read the link Fr Blake’s gave to Pope Francis’ “remarks recently about priests of whom he is afraid“.

I was quite surprised. The Pope didn’t seem to be advocating “machine” priests or religious that would have a psychological profile good enough for NASA space training or the Navy SEALS. He seems rather to be underlining the human aspect of the priesthood.

Ideally, a priest would come from a stable Christian family, if such things exist outside the Diocese of Versailles (!). What he really seems to be getting at would be a dis-incarnate image of the priesthood, an “angel” in a cassock, completely perfect in every way. More to the point, it is all in the pinched demeanour of many priests I have come across in France, Italy, England and elsewhere. There is a kind of caricature of priestly manners and recollection, what the French call le balai dans le cul, the broomstick up one’s a***. I have seen this caricature of “holiness”, not only among traditionalist clergy but also in the “conservative” camp.

One might have the impression of neurosis, problems because of sexual repression – or simply the acting out of a caricature. Naturally, the Pope would say that “A priest’s path to holiness begins in the seminary“. Now where have I heard that one before? I think that seminaries are 89% of the problem!

That priests should relate to other human beings in a “normal” way and not as a “rigid authoritarian” would seem to make sense. Traditionalist and conservative priests would seem to see rigidity as a virtue, synonymous with fidelity to truth and a firm moral and doctrinal stand. More often than not, rigidity would seem to betray lack of empathy and humanity. I too have seen too much of that, a kind of cancer that takes over seminaries, any closed community and makes them cult-like, an exercise of power.

Be pastors, not officials“. This would be another clue. If the Pope is really waging war against the spirit of bureaucracy and the very “thing” that closes the gate of knowledge of God, then he is much more subtle than I imagined. The traditionalists are missing the point by saying that these sayings of the Pope promote an elitist notion of the priesthood.

The ideas he expresses of the priesthood are nothing new. They are unsurprisingly  Jesuit and Tridentine. The priesthood is all about selfless devotion and availability to one’s flock. The Bishop should be rarely absent from his diocese, because he is a father and pastor to his priests and all his people.

Then , the Pope comes to the screening process, and this seems to be the most incoherent aspect, since it subjects human beings to what is coldest and most impersonal. The only way to trust a person is to know him. Human intuition is much more accurate than all the scientific testing methods in the world. There have to be standards of physical and psychological health, but Fr Blake made the apposite point that those who do not pass muster for standard parish work might be called, even as priests and / or religious, in different ways. The tendency in the Roman Catholic Church is – if in doubt, throw it out. Tutiorism (follow the safest course) rejects a person if he might present the slightest risk. If the Church is to be risk-free, then it is a first circle of hell like the modern civil service and big corporate business.

When Pope Francis says “When a young man is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I do not trust them [him]”, I fully understand. This rigidity has nothing to do with being staunch and loyal, but rather mean-spirited and lacking in human empathy. I have seen such men at Gricigliano, despite the fact that it was a lot “cooler” in my day than later (as I hear reported). One such priest was caught out in America sexually abusing children, complete with sado-masochism and threats to his victims (keep quiet or else…). Qui veut faire l’ange fait la bête, as Pascal once said. Man is neither an angel nor a beast, and the problem is that whoever wants to act like an angel acts like a beast. The caricature is (or can be) a festering pot of full-blown evil. Things are never what they seem.

I have expressed my ideas about priestly formation. In the Continuing Anglican Churches, we don’t have the resources for seminaries. However, our priests are not ordained raw without any theological knowledge, spiritual formation or discernment. We have our processes which involves accompanying men through their reading, willingness and ability to make themselves useful in a parish and general care for others. Ideally, someone should study at university level, or at least read books on a set list and be examined on the content of their acquired knowledge. Apart from that, they are involved in their parish and we get to know them. About two years is usually enough to discern whether a man can be ordained and whether he is not a flagrant danger to us all. Nothing is without risk, and it is better to be mistaken twenty times than unjust just once. Our process involves consultation with a lot of responsibility being on the Bishop’s shoulders. We in the ACC in England have a Board of Ministry, and I am an examining chaplain with the job of finding out what someone knows, but also of helping him to develop a desire to learn and delve deeper into the treasures of the Church’s tradition and the Fathers.

I would certainly suggest that the Roman Catholic Church could do away with hot-house seminaries, have men study as lay students in universities, and then be initiated gradually into the priesthood in a small community of priests like the Oratory of St Philip Neri or a busy parish with a highly experienced and pastorally-minded parish priest. I have nothing positive to say about the Tridentine seminary such as figured in my own experience. Where I went, there was surprisingly little overt homosexuality, and most of us were level-headed and interested in many things outside clerical and liturgical garb and suchlike. There were some cliques, and something was usually done about it if it went “over the top”. Many aspects of seminary life are plain silly, and we have better things to occupy our precious time!

No Church can ordain just anybody, but more imagination is needed for the diversity of men and women who offer themselves for the priesthood and religious life. I welcome the initiative of the monastery for handicapped women, and men who are “under the bar” can surely be allowed to serve as priests in different kinds of chaplaincies and “niche” ministries. For that, you need a Bishop worthy of his calling in terms of interest in his job and empathy for those he has to look after. It is as simple as that!

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The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit : a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.

This verse leapt out to me as I read this pearl of wisdom – A Place for the Damaged. It resonated within me as I have not always been the strong and compliant type institutional Churches like in the priesthood. Cardinal Siri of Genoa once said, in the matter of choosing ordinands, that he would prefer to make twenty mistakes than be unjust one single time.

Fr Blake’s article is poignant. There are some French nuns who have Down’s Syndrome, normally those one would never allow to join a community, have a job or even live. The longer I live, the more I wonder what is “normality” in mental terms and what is “madness” or “mental illness”. I noticed the priesthood becoming very “elitist”, and was even more taken aback when hearing the same reflections from priests ordained around the time of World War II or before.

Screening has become rigorous in the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, and the smallest questions on psychological assessments are enough to dash the hopes of an entire life.

It is true that a priest is ordained for others and not for himself. However, should he be excluded for the simple reason that he has no ministry in a parish?

Many souls offer themselves for the priesthood and religious life. I have just been to a diaconal ordination in my diocese of someone who has been with us for a long time, but who does suffer from poor health. He would certainly have been rejected in the Roman Catholic Church. Many have been damaged through the vicissitudes of life.

Fr Blake does make the point that many saints like Theresa of Avila or the Curé d’Ars would not have made it through the modern selection system.

This interesting article is worth reading, as are the links to some of the things Pope Francis has been saying. This theme is a part of my New Goliards idea.

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Archbishop’s Doubts

Things go “viral” on the internet, and we quickly get things out of context. There are news stories of the present Archbishop of Canterbury having doubts about his faith on account of the atrocity that happened a little over a week ago. My first reaction was – He’s going to have a hell of a time looking for a job at his age! I then thought a little more about it and said to myself – Let’s think about this and not get carried away by sensationalism.

I am not very fond of this Archbishop and the way he presents himself. He is Establishment, but yet going according to a style that appeals to public figures, politicians and businessmen of our days. I have no axe to grind with the Church of England. Many years have passed since I played the organ for Evensong in an Anglican parish church in London. They introduced the ordination of women and every other possible way of trying to appeal to modernity and materialism. When the salt loses its savour… It is the first thing that comes into our heads when an archbishop doubts (publicly announces matters pertaining to his personal spiritual life) or vicars scandalise their flocks by announcing that they have become atheists.

Pope Benedict XVI visited the old Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in 2011, and he expressed his own feeling:

In such a place, no words are possible, just stupefied silence which makes one ask God: why? Why did You not say anything? How was He able to tolerate such destruction? I pray to God not to allow a similar thing to ever happen again.

I once visited Oradour sur Glâne, a village near Limoges where the SS murdered the entire population in 1944 and only a few children escaped through the church windows. The evil remains in the air. You feel it in every part of your being, weighing you down and depressing you. I later visited the camp of Dachau when on a trip to Bavaria, Munich and western Austria in 1999. You either have to be very strong spiritually – or totally devoid of any empathy! How do we deal with evil? It is that much worse when we have personal experience of it.

I don’t judge Archbishop Welby for the ups and downs of his spiritual life. It is a common reaction amongst us westerners to wonder if the world would be more peaceful without religion, whether God cares for us in any way. We usually go through these thoughts, and then we bounce back sooner or later, aware of our duties as priests, sense of loyalty to our communities and our desire to reconnect with God after our falls and weaknesses. There is another element.

This is one of being a leader, a public figure. To what extent can we show weakness as bishops and priests, men of the cloth? Did not Jesus himself weep tears of blood before his passion and cry “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This is something we have seen over the years. I see in Pope John Paul II a very strong soul who withstood the evil that came over his native country in the form of Nazism and then Communism, almost without a break between the two. However, he presented a “weak” Christianity that would ask the forgiveness of those who were wronged by the institutional Church. I have on many occasions written my reflections of “strong” and “weak” Christianity.

The “strong” guys affirm our being completely convinced by our ideology. They carry guns and complain that some men are “beta males”, not the merciless leaders they are. Let go of any of that strength and power, and you leave the world to women and homosexuals! I know where the thinking goes, and it ends up in its extreme form in the form of jackboots and expressionless faces in SS uniforms. In the case of those convinced by Christian ideas, it perverts the entire mission of Christ.

The “weak” guys, at the opposite extreme, would be ineffective leaders, unconvinced of anything that does not further their ambition by riding piggyback on politically correct politicians. When the salt loses its savour, it is good for nothing other than being thrown into the bin, to paraphrase Christ’s words. What is really wrong with the Establishment Church of England is not so much “weakness” in the face of evil, but hypocrisy and intrigue behind walls and curtains. I sometimes get the impression of men like Archbishop Welby “dripping” with something very unpleasant. This is not merely doubts about the presence of God, but a kind of ruse to appeal to modern materialism – showing how the Church can be conformed to the world in the same old erastian mould. The problem is there, not in the over-simplification of the journalists.

I agree that it is out of place for a leader to be too outgoing with personal feelings. Some expression of our agony in the face of evil shows that we are not devoid of empathy and the human aspect of our vocation. Benedict XVI shed tears at Auschwitz. Who wouldn’t? He was perhaps a greater leader in doing so rather than by repressing his feelings entirely.

There is a point that comes out of this. It is the fact that God intervenes very rarely in human life, and our freedom for good or evil is without limit. God has intervened in history, and things do happen that we cannot explain, but the way God works is not according to human rational criteria. There is a lot of chaos out there, and our theological understanding has to become much more subtle. God is not our little keeper up in the sky, as he is portrayed in atheistic caricatures. We have to grow up and develop a larger “big picture” view, and that is hard.

People will go on lighting candles in churches for particular intentions. Yes, the Church assumed paganism and superstition! For some people, it is a way of bringing “positive vibrations” into the world, and that is better than those who do evil. Some of us have to go further and look far and wide, to the extent of acquiring scientific knowledge of some things (quantum physics for example) that can help us to some extent to understand the notion of God and ourselves.

I will never get down to the bottom of slick and smooth-talking ecclesiastics who make a show of empathy and care. I prefer to see the best in Archbishop Welby, as in Pope Francis or socialist politicians like François Hollande, but fear insincerity and an ulterior motive.

Another thing I discussed with my Bishop was how different people react to evil and death. Composers Edward Elgar and Vaughan-Williams lost their faith as a result of the “Great” War. Some of us might conclude that reality and life are futile and that all we can do is to be good people. However, many after the two world wars embraced Christianity. Numbers of church attendances soared in the 1920’s and again in the late 1940’s and throughout the fifties. Many demobilised soldiers, sailors and airmen entered monasteries or became diocesan priests. The number only started falling off from about the mid 1960’s with, I suppose, the cultural changes and anti-establishment reactions of most of us in those days.

The real bottom line is that the western world is in great danger for as long as we do not rediscover our Christian culture and ethos. With only secularism, consumerism, materialism and nihilism, nature abhors a vacuum. If our choice is between Shariah Law under a cruel Caliphate like in Saudi Arabia, Orwell’s Big Brother or some kind of replay of the goose-stepping and right-arm-up-in-the-air 1930’s, our future is bleak. We don’t have the classical ideas and classical culture of people in the 1930’s and the time of World War II. Perhaps I do, coming as I do from my quite establishment family and only two generations down from the Victorian era on my mother’s side – but my hair is grey and I’m getting on. I begin to see young people the same way as people from the 1920’s saw us, and therein lies the trap. The “good old days” were not always so good!

I think the lesson from seeing many goofy church leaders is to get our priorities in order. Our priorities are no longer standing in society, large and expensive churches and a place in the Establishment. It is living the Gospel way of life, being transformed by grace and our prayer – both liturgical and personal. Our Christian life needs to become more contemplative and centred on the spiritual rather than being aggressive “do-gooders”. We need to rebuild our spiritual resistance to the tribulations ahead that we fear so much.

I also believe that there will be many Muslims converting to Christianity once the Wahhabists and terrorists are defeated. I strongly oppose the idea that ordinary Muslims should be persecuted or “punished” for the atrocities. However, they will only accept Christ and convert if they see that it has made a positive difference in Christians. This is the true Crusade to fight…

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A vision of hell

Hell is the result of free will of those beings who are created by God. Many “apocryphal” sources attest its existence outside “official” Christian revelation and Church teachings. I tend to blur the distinctions between hell and what western Catholicism calls purgatory. Many lost souls will remain forever in hell because they refuse the light of God, but many will accept the help of those (called angels, guides, helpers, etc.) sent to guide and heal them. There is a way out for those who want it.

I came across a terrifying description of the fate of those who kill people and then commit suicide or get themselves killed by the police or the army. France has lived through the horror of what happened in New York in September 2001. The terrorists believe they will go to some kind of paradise for doing these heinous deeds. What is this “paradise”?

What Happens To a Suicide Bomber On The Other Side. Take it with a pinch of salt. It is not Church teaching or Revelation, maybe somewhat “new age”, but the experience of this person reveals something horrifying, and it corresponds with experiences of others including the children of the Fatima apparitions in 1917. Some saw the souls of Nazi war criminals spiralling down whirlpools to total annihilation (see this and its mention of Irma Grese), or an existence where they would “live” to experience their retribution.

The imagery is horrifying.

I could see severed arms and legs, heads with their jaws missing and blood and burned cadavers everywhere. The acrid stench of burned human flesh was everywhere. Right in the middle of the pile was a man wriggling, trying to free himself from the mess, but however hard he tried he sank back into the pile without the possibility of escape. Every so often he would sound out calling for his God and pleading for mercy but his prayer had no power. Instead, every time he uttered the name of his Lord he was confronted with the truth of his deed and how it was in opposition to what his religion had decreed. And now as soon as his prayer left his lips it was reeled back in almost instantly by the agony of his suffering victims which screamed back at him, and every time it did so he felt their pain and the consequences of his act. The image of a mother holding her mutilated child rising out of the pile and then sinking back again, a child clinging on to the dead body of its parents, the horror that consumed their whole being, a horse lying dying in the street, a young man staring in disbelief at his mangled body. All this played back in a feedback loop from which there was no apparent escape. It was an unending replay, made worse by the realisation there was nothing on Earth or under Heaven that could make this heinous crime undone.

A benevolent person would not wish such horror and suffering on his worst enemy. The damned brought it upon themselves, but yet the person who visited that “place” was stricken with compassion.

I looked at the miserable soul who was trapped in the pile of wriggling and smouldering limbs and felt a wave of sorrow and sincere compassion and then directed my love towards him. I was surprised by the light emanating from my hand and lighting the region. In the light I could see faces emerging from many more piles such as this. Lost anguished souls turning towards me with their hands outstretched, reaching for the light. That was all I could do, but I hoped with all my heart that in some way it would break the horrific loop and free these people, who in the end were victims themselves.

I walked through the vast killing field of misery, sending waves of light and hoping that through some mysterious way they would do some good and relieve some of this monstrous misery. While I was doing so I was praying inside my heart that people would learn and understand the key tenet of their religions, which was love and not hate.

No one escapes from karma (the law of acts and consequences, action and reaction). We are all accountable for what we do in this world, and we do not escape God’s judgement, or rather our own judgement on ourselves which will be that much more severe. We reap what we sow. Our salvation begins not only with faith and recognition of truth in Christ but love, compassion, altruism, goodness and everything that is beautiful and filled with light.

What is hell in the absolute? It may be a parallel universe or an Nth dimension. It also invades this life and is seen through any kind of hatred and lack of empathy. It was not created by God, but is the result of our own refusal of love, hatred and sin, of our own freedom to refuse goodness, beauty and love. I don’t believe it is eternal for all its “inmates” but can be for those who continue in their refusal. I blur the distinction between purgatory and hell, and have every confidence that there is always hope of salvation, perhaps even of the Devil itself and the wicked angels as Origen surmised, perhaps, if there is a change of heart, repentance and loving approach to God. I cannot believe that anyone is beyond all hope of grace, even someone like Hitler or Vlad the Impaler, or the terrorists in Paris who blew themselves up, killing others.

Christianity isn’t about “avoiding” hell (as if God would throw someone into hell for any reason) but about love, compassion, being filled with light and beauty. Grace is given freely and we give freely to God and other people, to our planet and all the life it contains. Many deluded Christians paint a picture of our life being a matter of obedience to authorities, books and codes in order to avoid hell (as if it were the “normal” fate of most).

Our world once again experiences the hell of war and terrorism. Hell is a matter of people refusing the humanity of other human beings, destroying and mutilating. Those who have chosen hell in this world will suffer it after their bodily death. They wanted it and chose it, not God.

Some readers might ask me why I look to such “unorthodox” sources on this subject rather than rely purely on Scripture and Church teaching. Catholicism remains profoundly marked by the Augustinian legacy in Calvinism and Jansenism: hell is the “default” fate of all humans unless one is arbitrarily predestined and elected by God. If that is so, we can only knuckle up to a vision of the Church that is no better than Islam with its laws and its book. We need a different picture, and actually one that can be even more terrifying, but one that is yet more radiant when love reigns. We are even brought to the idea that sin is not some kind of “black mark” that can be forgiven cheaply and for the asking. It has to be atoned for and expiated in full – and that goes for us all to differing degrees.

I read something in Bonhöffer about “cheap grace”. Indeed it is the bane of modern Christianity!

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A favourite film quote

One of my favourite World War II films of my childhood is The Guns of Navarone. I think most of you know the story of the Greek island and the two massive German guns stopping any allied ships from getting through, and they were destroyed by the heroes played by Gregory Peck and David Niven. It still is one of my favourites. In those days (1961), they tried to bring the highest and most beautiful of humanity from the war, still fresh in the memories of my parents’ generation.

In our own days, whilst we are so afraid, we can find some consolation in this short dialogue from this film:

Cohn: Do you think they’ve got any chance at all, sir?

Commodore Jensen: Frankly, no. Not a chance in the world. I should be very surprised if they get even halfway to Navarone. Just a waste of six good men. However, I suppose that doesn’t matter, considering how many have been wasted already. I’m glad it’s not my decision; I’m only the middleman… Still, they may get there, and they may pull it off. Anything can happen in a war. Slap in the middle of absolute insanity people pull out the most extraordinary resources: ingenuity, courage, self-sacrifice. Pity we can’t meet the problems of peace in the same way, isn’t it? It would be so much cheaper for everybody.

Cohn: I never thought of it in just that way, sir. You’re a philosopher, sir.

Commodore Jensen: No. I’m just the man who has to send people out on jobs like this one.

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What makes Jerry tick?

I think we are all preoccupied with what happened in Paris last Friday, and in Syria, and Lybia, and Irak. We are up against people doing what human beings have done throughout history, from the historical Count Dracula or Vlad the Impaler to Ivan the Terrible, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. Since last Friday’s atrocity occurred in Paris, we should not forget Robespierre whose own end was poetic justice.

ISIS sings the same tune Hitler did, promising Utopia in the end – Terrorism researcher is a fascinating article. Why indeed show films of children cutting off men’s heads with knives, crucifying people and torturing? Does it not occur to them that what they’re doing makes us hate them like the Nazis in their own time! The more I read, the more I come to the conclusion that this degree of evil and depravity have nothing to do with religion, even Islam, but something further down in the darkness of fallen humanity.

This degree of brutality, like at Auschwitz and other such symbolic places, is the norm throughout history. It would almost seem to be man’s natural state, however much we affirm our civilised Enlightenment culture and protest that we would never do such a thing. The French Revolution was no less cruel and brutal. If they believed in freedom, brotherhood and equality, why did they have to kill so many people? The Russian Revolution may have killed more than 80 million people.

The incredible thing about Daesh / ISIS is that it is attracting a lot of people. Would they be defeated by blowing them to hell in Syria and Irak? What’s stopping them from multiplying in Africa or staging a full-scale revolution in France or England or Spain?

Order out of chaos? Haven’t we heard that one before. It was exactly Hitler’s line. Create an apocalyptic scenario, frighten the hell out of everyone, and then offer the alternative – whatever that is. It also occurs to me that Islam is only the ingredient from which the new monster is made. I know little about Islam, but there are different groups. Those who are violent tend to belong to the Sunnites and the Shiites. There are also contemplative groups or denominations called the Sufis and others, who are also Muslims but wouldn’t hurt a fly. I have often thought I would like to visit Morocco and Tunisia with people like some of the folk I met in Marseilles in the 1990’s. Hitler used the old Nordic pagan mythology, but that was not what Nazism was all about. It was just the foundational myth. Yes, the Koran contains some horrible things, but so does our Bible!

Jihadist terrorism is a new form of Nazism as it is a new form of Robespierre’s revolution or of the Marxist workers’ paradise. To us westerners, they are sadistic psychopaths and totally degenerate. Our judgement of them obviously doesn’t matter to them. They believe they are fighting for a new world, or at least the duped young recruits are brought to believe like in a cult. They show “warriors” playing with children. Hmmm. I have also seen the films of Berchtesgaden where Hitler also played with dogs and children.

I think this interview has a lot of insight. I note how little speculation there is in regard to some kind of American conspiracy behind so-called proxies to topple Assad in Syria. Such an attitude without all the facts seems to be wise. Could ISIS be defeated like Germany in 1944-45 by force of arms and immense courage and idealism on the part of the Allies? Can something be done to help Muslims to make their religion truly peaceful? In an ideal world, they could be offered the Gospel of Christ, and why not? As long as the Christianity in question isn’t more of the “same”. Following the defeat of Daesh in any given country, the west is going to have a huge job in mustering the support of Syrian and Irakian refugees who would go back to their countries to rebuild and educate.

I go much further, and say that such a conversion of heart could also touch us in the west and bring us to also to re-evaluate our commitment to Christ and the Gospel of peace, love and care for all.

May the coming war be one, not of vengeance and gratuitous killing, but a true crusade for Christ and the way of man’s freedom and happiness.

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Writing memes

After a buzz through Facebook and the usual blogs, it is interesting to see articles that criticise those who write memes. I often do so myself, latching onto a blog or news article that fires my imagination. However, I try to give an original view of it, adding to the wealth of the internet, rather than simply reproduce someone else’s work, which would be plagiarism. The word meme (pronounced “meem” in English) would be defined as an idea or information that spreads from person to person via the Internet. Though most definitions do not say so, the word is strikingly similar to the French word même meaning “same” or “even” according to the context. Respectively, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – The more it changes, the more it is the same thing – and,  Même si les intentions du gouvernement étaient libérales – Even if the intentions of the government were liberal.

What seems to be the most reprehensible is when ideas are rehashed without critical thinking. For example, we get the meme saying that there would be peace in the world if religion were outlawed and we were all atheists, or if the American Air Force sent a plane to destroy Mecca with an nuclear bomb. Of course, the atrocity in Paris is going to provoke a lot of more of less thought-out ideas. Were the Daesh terrorists targeting religion? Apparently they were targeting people who like football, heavy metal rock “music” and people enjoying a quiet meal and a drink in a fashionable district. Was the atrocity a message or something like a Nazi reprisal by which the SS would go and kill the entire population of a village like Oradour sur Glâne? The Nazis were doing that sort of thing in 1944 when they knew they were losing.

Another meme going around is the idea that within a year or twenty years, Europe is going to be under Islamic totalitarianism like Saudi Arabia, all the cathedrals and churches demolished and public executions in the streets. For a start, most European countries have now shut their borders. So, when I go to England next weekend to go to Richard Mulholland’s diaconal ordination, I will have to show my passport and have my vehicle looked at when I return to France. For me it is a minor inconvenience because my journey will be entirely within the law.

Bring back compulsory Christianity for all, seventeenth-century Protestantism or fourteenth-century Catholicism! Is that what we want or think would make a difference? The atheists were taking hundreds and thousands of people to the guillotine in the 1790’s, and that was in the “City of Light”! We go round and round in circles with what kind of society is best for us. Another idea going round is that it isn’t the Muslims we have most to fear, but people who will be microchipping us and bringing about something like Orwell’s Big Brother or Huxley’s Brave New World. Are we not already in such a world?

War now seems a foregone conclusion. Daesh alias ISIS, Al Qaëda, Hezbollah and all the other wild-eyed head-chopper units will have to be defeated like the Nazis in 1944 and 1945. There is no way that this kind of darkness can be man’s normal state where only hatred and the cheapness of human life reign. The only thing now is Russia, France and the US keeping out of each others’ hair – or more precisely their hi-tech guided missile sights. Can’t we all cooperate and concentrate on this cause without which there will never be peace in this world?

I am concerned with these matters, and they trouble me. What can I do? Buy a rifle or a shotgun? Join the French Foreign Legion? Only yesterday I was reminded again to prepare for the worst happening in the summer of 2016. Should I leave Europe? Go where? It seems to me that I have done the best thing possible – live in the country far away from the cities. That being said, when the Nazis occupied France in 1940, they got as many people as possible out of their houses and either killed them, sent them to the camps or into cities. What can a man with a gun do against that kind of force? Yes, I have seen the classic French film Le Vieux Fusil. I refuse to fret about it, because I have a Christian view of death. Anything can happen in this insane world, and we can only hold on until the evil is defeated by those who can do it, and some era like the 1920’s or the 1950’s and 60’s comes about. We will bury our dead, wipe the tears from our eyes and rebuild our cities – and commit the same errors over again twenty years down the road.

News reporters get information and report it, sometimes truthfully or through the lens of the ideologies of their paymasters. Bloggers make comments, and those comments get more comments. Most comments have some insight. Others are plain daft. I’m not at my best all the time, but I try to contribute something wise and useful in this building or rebuilding of our culture. I think we will get our world war, whether or not it goes nuclear and kills millions. Some of us will die and some of us will live through it in some kind of determination to leave something to our children or other people’s children. The prospect is frightening, but we must not be afraid, to quote John Paul II. I have every reason to believe that this kind of evil can make Hitler look like an innocent choirboy, but it will not finally prevail. If we are Christians, the worst it can do to us is to kill our bodies!

I encourage bloggers to keep writing and expressing their intuitions even when they don’t have new facts like a journalist. Even if there are ideas that seem asinine and frustrate us, they can still add to the thinking and criticism – and this is all part of fighting the war. I am too old and not fit enough to be a soldier, and I would be a danger to my unit, but I am as committed as any other to the cause of human life, freedom and dignity, and ultimately to the true understanding of divinity and spirit.

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