Railways and Theology

The latest from John Bruce is quite a jaw-drop. I’m sure quite a few keep a watch on his blog without making any ado – as is usually the case for me. In A New Angle On The Oxford Movement, we read about the coincidence between railways in England and the Oxford Movement. After all, it all happened in the 1830’s!

We read that some of the most fantastic buildings of the time were railway stations like St Pancras in London. Most of the other stations like Victoria, Paddington, Kings Cross and Waterloo are grandiose but more mundane. There had to be plenty of space and ventilation so that people wouldn’t be suffocated by the coal smoke and the steam from the mighty locomotives. I don’t know many gothic stations in England, to be truthful.

The Oxford Movement is a parallel tendency, a response to the industrial revolution, social upheaval, and the commercialization of society“. An aggiornamento? Really? I always thought that Romanticism was a reaction away from the Industrial Revolution rather than an adaptation to modern times!

I would mention that French Liberalism, also based on Romanticism and situated in the same time frame, had little to do with railways or The Machine. From that movement came Dom Guéranger, the monastic revival – and Ultramontanism. The Vatican has a private railway station, though I don’t think there are many trains running from it these days, even if Mussolini enforced the observance of Ferrovia dello Stato train times. However, a small railway still runs inside the Vatican to carry tourists. Most of the Parisian stations reflect the same Haussmann grandiosity as the church of Saint-Augustin next to the Gare Saint-Lazare. Perhaps John Bruce might consider visiting France and admiring the SNCF and the same institutional Church he spends his life defending.

This rather lovely building is from the end of the nineteenth century. It is (or was) a liquor factory making the famous Bénédictine of Fécamp. What a delicious drink to finish a meal! The grand hall of this place looks a bit like a church, and indeed my wife and I went to a concert there a few months ago. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the Direction of this distinguished firm gave generously to the Church.

There is also the High Court in London, which I always wished had been a church.

Would Anglo-Catholicism be a tad on the legalist side? Not just oof, oof, off, choo, choo!

Coming to the point, I see no connection between the Oxford Movement in England or Liberalism and Ultramontanism in France and the Industrial Revolution. Plenty with Romanticism and a new wave of philosophy and culture away from both the Ancien Régime and the Revolution.

I think that John Bruce is trying to convince us that our trashy Catholic Anglicanism is just a mix-and-match of the famous “private judgement” and therefore something to be shunned by “proper” Catholics. I won’t call the dear fellow names as I have done in the past, but will leave the reader to judge for himself…

Diese Zug ist für Bern, Zürich und Saint-Gallen. Bitte einsteig!

As for:

One feature of Protestantism, at least the Lutheran-Reformed version, is that it proved from the start amenable to state control. Anglo-Catholicism is, let’s face it, a version of state-controlled Protestantism that is not really compatible with Roman Catholicism. I don’t think Cardinal Law recognized this, and I don’t think Bp Lopes does, either.

I wonder what the poor man was smoking before he caught his train. Anglo-Catholicism, especially in the 1860’s and up to the twentieth century, tended to be something of a rebel in respect of Establishment control.

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10 Responses to Railways and Theology

  1. And of course, there are these verses of the Walsingham Hymn which are sung even by those Anglo-Catholics of an otherwise erastian persuasion:

    But at last came a King who had greed in his eyes
    And he lusted for treasure with fraud and with lies.
    Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

    The order went forth; and with horror ’twas learned
    That the Shrine was destroyed and the Image was burned.

    And here where God’s Mother had once been enthroned
    The souls that stayed faithful ‘neath tyranny groaned.

    And this realm which had once been Our Lady’s own Dower
    Had its Church now enslaved by the secular power.

    And so dark night fell on this glorious place
    Where of all former glories there hardly was trace.

    Yet a thin stream of pilgrims still walked the old way
    And hearts longed to see this night turned into day.

    Till at last, when full measure of penance was poured,
    In her Shrine see the honour of Mary restored:

    Again ‘neath her Image the tapers shine fair,
    In her children’s endeavours past wrongs to repair.

    Again in her House her due honour is taught:
    Her name is invoked, her fair graces besought:

    And the sick and the maimed seek the pilgrimage way,
    And miraculous healing their bodies display.

    Oh Mother, give heed to the prayer of our heart,
    That your glory from here never more may depart.

    Now to God the All-Father and Son, with due praise,
    And life-giving Spirit, thanksgiving we raise.
    Ave Ave Ave Maria!

    • Isn’t it incredible to see the collusion between Anglo-Catholicism and the movement for the Separation of Church and State promoted by Fr Félicité de Lamennais. Pope Gregory XVI in Mirari vos of 1832 condemned Lamennais’ call for the separation of church and state, even when the state was revolutionary France. Perhaps John Bruce would like a Church ruled by President Trump! His very own Ultramontanism came from Liberal inspiration, which is ironic. It was the same movement everywhere, and its name was Romanticism.

      Just for the sake of clarifying words, Liberalism meant something different in the early 19th century than now. Then it meant the liberty of conscience and the freedom of the Church from an anti-religious state like revolutionary France or Italy and Germany in 1870. Theological liberalism came later with men like Bultmann and Harnack with their biblical criticism. Even the Modernists were orthodox in their faith and only wanted to adjust apologetics to scientific discoveries. What is called “liberalism” as opposed to “traditionalism”, “orthodoxy” or “conservatism” only came in from the aftermath of World War II. Present-day “liberals” are far from liberal!

  2. ed pacht says:

    Interesting that the beginning of modern Anglo-Catholicism is dated from Keble’s Assize Sermon which was directly aimed against state control of the Church.

  3. Fr. Michael LaRue says:

    A rather deft way of avoiding the theological foundations of Anglo-Catholicism, similar to the way Foucault tries to do it. Mr. Bruce strikes me, like Foucault, as a most unhappy person.

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thinking rashly out loud, I wonder if we could see a reverse of the process whereby the Church after 313 often adopted the already existing form of the Basilica – when Gothic flourished, did other buildings from refectories to (law) courts to… I know not what all (e.g., barns?) reflect the form of the Gothic Basilica-style Church – which industrial engineering and architectural developments enabled to be extrapolated further in the Nineteenth century (railway stations, distilleries, the Crystal Palace)?

  5. Andrew says:

    The only thing Mr. Bruce’s blog shows is his vast ignorance of things both Anglican and Catholic.

    • ed pacht says:

      That’s a charitable way of putting it. It’s not uncommon for those who once knew more to let it be covered up by rage and prejudice. One of the most common temptations of controversialists is to revise what knowledge they have in order to support their claims, and then to believe their own revisions. I’ve seen that in operations more times than I can count, and, indeed, have succumbed to that temptation myself. It hurts to realize that one has been doing that. I’m sure Mr. Bruce believes the things he’s saying, but I’m afraid his attitudes make me doubt the veracity of any statement he might make. In fact he (like other similar persons) has caused me to question and ultimately discard assumptions I had made when he asserted the same thing. I’m afraid I react instantly that. in such a case, there must be something wrong with the assertion. No, it’s more than mere ignorance. It’s a remaking of truth into what one wants it to be for one’s own purposes.

  6. jimofolym says:

    I have often wondered about Mr. Bruce’s ponderings. After all I spent almost 20 years of my youth at St. Mary of the Angels (long before Mr. Bruce entered the doors thereof! I think I imbibed the essence of late Anglican Catholicism in the Episcopal Church venue, before it was trashed. That led me to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and not to Rome (which is another story).

    It is interesting that Bruce’s blog does not permit comments online. That should be a clue!

    • The big unknown is knowing what sort of Anglican he was. I think he would have been perfect in the 18th century, because his notion of religion is entirely civic and assimilated to prosperity in business. Religion is a means of controlling people through their sense of morality, the perfect Thought Police! I never find any truly philosophical or spiritual thoughts in his blog. With this desire of power over other people, but fortunately without possessing it, there is some kind of problem. Without knowing what that problem might be, he is obviously for collectivism over the person, for a totalitarian notion of religion. I am a liberal in the oldest meaning of that term.

      His last couple of posts are his rants about women beastfeeding their babies in church. Many churches have baby rooms or other places to cover such needs. Perhaps he would tell the mothers to pay a wet nurse to look after the baby and still get to church to make sure the full amount is paid into the collection. I have rarely come across this degree of clericalism in a layman!

      • Just one final note in view of The Outlook Going Forward: I suggest our friend could buy a house in the Auxerre region here in France (a long way from where I live) and enjoy the crumbling churches with no priests and just a few embittered ladies with left-wing ideas, all pukka Roman Catholics. Either that or North Korea or Saudi Arabia where he will also find few priests and none of that pesky Ordinariate.

        I am intrigued by “At this point, barring new developments, I intend to report on legal developments as they affect St Mary of the Angels, but what I do with the blog beyond that is very much up in the air“. Who knows? It will certainly be less entertaining once St Mary of the Angels gets demolished and he can admire the new car park in its place. Perhaps he might become an atheist and set up a blog with Richard Dawkins…

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