First Signs of Life…

I got back from home last night after a trailer tyre blowout on the motorway. I had no spare wheel, so I had to dismantle the wheel in question and use a tyre from my launching trolley as a “jury rig” to get me home. I spent quite a while on the side of the motorway with the vehicles whizzing past to find a quick solution to get me off the motorway and a parking area near the toll station. That entailed the sacrifice of a plastic wheel, since I had not figured out a way to get the launching trolley tyre onto the trailer wheel. I would have been quite a picture, with torn trousers and hands dirtier than my feet as I battled with a temperature of about 30°C and pre-storm conditions! Fortunately I was well-equipped with tools, since I had to remove the bearing from the wheel, and separate the wheel rim into two parts to fit the tyre and inner tube. A bit more complicated than fixing a bicycle!

The week at the Semaine du Golfe was wonderful, and the weather was perfect, though the wind was wanting at times, causing participants to break out the oars. I have taken many photos and I have given my e-mail address to those who took photos of me, including a professional doing an article for a boating magazine. I’ll need a few days to get them all sorted out.

Here is Sarum (in the foreground) quietly laying in Port Anna on the final day.

A few days before, we were moored at Locmariaquer, and a lady was intrigued by my workmanlike vessel, so her camera clicked. I had got out all my papers because someone had asked me about what was on the programme. Ooh Aargh, me hearties!

There will be more photos coming and something of a description of the two parades and the days we spent in our flotilles. The organisation was amazingly good, the timing was perfect, as were the weather conditions. It was sometimes challenging in winds gusting up to force 6, when a few boats capsized. I just kept going, ready for those gusts, and managed to keep up with the faster boats.

Here is some footage of the Grand Parade last Saturday, showing the incredible number of boats being pushed along by the strong tidal current:

More coming…

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Enthusiasm

Fr Jonathan has gone and fired up my mind again between getting my “hard bastard” week in my boat ready, rebuilding rotten french windows and biting the bullet with a 8,000-word job last night that I wasn’t counting on. I started at 11 pm and finished it this afternoon having also been dealing with my van (that is another story of serious “bullshit detection” – and I’m getting it worked out). It was an early morning!

I read his new article Mystery, Morals, and Montanism. He description of Montanism immediately brought me to think of the monumental book by Monsignor Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm, which gave me the title of this posting. The first part of this work is dedicated to the various movements of the early Church including Montanism, and then the various movements in the Middle Ages among which the Franciscans were among the most orthodox and acceptable to the Papacy. He then goes on to discuss the movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth century like the Jansenist-inspired Convulsionaries of Saint-Médard. In a final part, he discussed the Methodist movement of John Wesley and various forms of Revivalism in the USA and England in the early nineteenth century. I last read this book when I was up at Fribourg, and leafing through it just now revealed a little greetings card from my liturgy professor which I was using as a bookmark. It made me understand a considerable amount about the Charismatic movement in the RC Church and elsewhere, and brought me to remember an otherwise intelligent priest in Manchester babbling away in no language that I could recognise at a prayer group.

Going through Fr Jonathan’s posting, we are brought to the same struggle between faith and reason. My Fribourg years brought me to a close understanding of Cardinal Ratzinger’s theology, and especially in the discipline called fundamental theology, the relationship between divine revelation, faith and reason. I warmly recommend Tracey Rowland’s Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, Oxford 2008. This book is beautifully written in an accessible style. Ratzinger has been one of the most profound thinkers on this theme of the synthesis of faith and reason. Faith without reason is as dangerous as reason without faith. It is not a compromise between two extremes, but a true synthesis of knowledge of God.

God is as immanent as he is transcendent. We participate in God through grace and θέωσις. We are God and God is us, in all, though God is absolutely incomprehensible and is more than our world or even the many universes that can be observed with our telescope-assisted eyes, let alone other worlds and universes that we don’t sense or know. God is indeed beyond the observational powers of natural science.

Fr Jonathan comes back to the theme of my calling him a Romantic. What is Romanticism? As Bernard Reardon said in his book Religion in the Age of Romanticism (Cambridge 1985),

Whoever sets out to discuss the Romantic movement will soon be faced with the problem of definition, for romanticism, like religion itself, is notoriously difficult.

Negatively, Romanticism is opposed to classicism, but classicism is also difficult to define. We do better to identify examples of each among the many philosophers, artists, composers and poets. What were the characteristics that marked them. Romanticism is also tied to a precise historical era: the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Traits and characteristics may be found by analogy in later periods including our own. I feel very much in tune with some of the traits of Romanticism but not all. Similarly Fr Jonathan cannot be called a “Romantic”, but he is free also to go through the smorgasbord of traits of both classicism and romanticism in his self-knowledge, as we all are. Like faith and reason, we need to find the synthesis which is above the dialectics of one thing against its nemesis. I also recommend a reading of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which discusses this difference between the Romantic and the Classicist.

It is a cause for rejoicing that my blog is a place for mature discussion, and that Fr Jonathan and I are both working to get people to think and contribute to discussions. I consider this very much as my priestly ministry other than offering the Mass and Office in union with the whole Church of God.

I have often written about so-called liberalism and modernism, aware that the most nuanced criticism and analysis are not found in papal documents but in the writings of historians and theologians. These questions are very subtle. There is something that really exasperates me (and I am not blaming my confrere in the priesthood for it) – that is some RC polemicist saying something like some “heretic” in the twentieth century is judged by Paul IV or Boniface VIII or Pius IX. This is historical anachronism and sloppy thinking. Problems need to be analysed for what they are. Historical comparison is possible, as we will see in Msgr Knox’s book, but phenomena are quite distinct and discrete for all that they have in common.

Reason is of paramount importance, since we observe in history and in our own times the result of faith without reason. My own epistemology and metaphysics are fundamentally Thomist, but my reading has taken me along new paths, where there is a development. Nothing is complete and perfect. Theology was defined by St Anselm of Canterbury as faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum). I am a very curious kind of person (a boy with Aspergers will dismantle all his mechanical toys to understand how they work) and I like to try to understand things. I loved the sciences at school, especially physics, because there was a reason behind everything. Likewise in theology, I like to try to understand as much as I can and as much as is accessible to the limited human mind. I believe that it is our duty to wake up and use our brains and minds, but it is also our duty to accept our limitations. Some things are just beyond us, and we can only accept this sense of awe and wonder at something that escapes us and is greater than we are. The sea gives me this experience when I go out in a boat.

Liberalism is also quite undefinable. If it is the aspiration to human freedom from slavery, oppression, etc., then liberalism is noble and great. Unfortunately, the word has been used to describe other ideologies and patterns of thinking. What is now means is something like the “critical theory” of the Frankfurt School, a sort of cultural Marxism largely based on nihilism and anarchism – deconstruction for its own sake. This way of thinking extends into every branch of life including politics and religion. It is expressed in a cult of ugliness and denial. It is also a form of anti-intellectualism, which is often recognised to be a form of post-modernism.

There is also the question of morality, right and wrong. Moral theology is also a complex and profound discipline. I would like to introduce my readers to the Belgian Dominican Fr Servais Pinckaers who taught at Fribourg in the 1980’s. I was privileged to be one of his students. One thing he impressed on us is that moral theology begins from foundational philosophical and theological principles rather than casuistry or legalism. This is of astounding significance. The moral act is judged by its finality and the question of whether it will lead the subject to happiness and holiness – the theme of the Beatitudes. Thus sexual questions are not merely understood in terms of whether human reproduction will result in wedlock, but also that sin brings man to unhappiness. Most of Fr Pinckaers’ written work is in French, but some has been translated into English. These subtleties are often lost on authoritarian conservative minds (again, no fingers are being pointed). His discussion of freedom is fascinating – a distinction between the freedom of perfection (a pianist who practices can become free to play music well) and the freedom of indifference, the notion of having a free choice between right and wrong, the good or the bad. This is where we see the difference between two “liberalisms”, one as a noble aspiration and the other a base ideology of nihilism and anarchism. Again, there is a Christian anarchism, an aspiration of the Russian soul expressed by Berdyaev and others, and the kind of anarchism that led to the Revolution of 1917 and so much evil and suffering.

The Montanists lived in an entirely different culture from our own, but there are points of comparison. The hypocrisy of pastors and priests who molest children and women can be understood in this perspective. They think they are too holy to sin, so their sins are not sins! That is simplistic, but perhaps an expression of the mind that has no moral conscience or empathy for other persons.

Fr Jonathan has a good analysis of things and I have a tremendous amount of esteem for him as a thinker and a priest in our Church. His formation was very different from my own, and that makes for complementarity between us and our approaches. My formation is essentially Thomist, Ressourcement, German Idealism and Slavophile through my own reading. I had little formation in a purely Anglo-Catholic context.

Indeed, Christian life is one of joy, but also one of self-denial and asceticism, of obedience to natural law and the informed conscience. The concert pianist will spend many hours each day of gruelling work, but the result will be sublime music. If we suffer now, it is to rejoice in a higher reality.

Like Fr Jonathan, I look forward to the coming Feast of Pentecost or Whitsun, and join his intentions in praying and working for the unity of our Churches in Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit.

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Semaine du Golfe 2017

Every two years, I celebrate the feast of the Ascension afloat, like two years ago at the Semaine du Golfe 2015. The almost landlocked gulf (Golfe du Morbihan) looks tiny on the map, crowned by the cathedral city of Vannes and open to the sea. This makes for the very powerful tidal currents especially at the times of spring tides. Only boats with the most powerful engines can beat the current and even then, they have to go diagonally.

The Semaine du Golfe (English version) is a gigantic gathering of sailing vessels from three-masted ships to dinghies like mine. As of today, 1,429 vessels are registered for the event. Apart from the kick-off parade on Monday 22nd May and the final parade of Saturday 27th May, we will be divided into flotillas depending on the kind of boat we have. I will be in flotilla 2 which involves 223 (so far) small unballasted boats with centreboards that can be sailed and rowed. Some of us will have a small engine in reserve to help get around if there is no wind or we need extra power to get through the currents and whirlpools and keep steerage.

Many lessons were learned from two years ago, especially the engine and sleeping arrangements, together with good “oilies” to cope with squalls of rain that are threatened for the beginning of next week. Most of the week should be fair to good with winds of about 10 knots, which is ideal for an idyllic cruise, because this is not a regatta. People either go off to the campsite in the evenings or sleep on their boats. This is what I do with two planks between the lazarette and the rowing thwart, 2 inflatable mattresses and a sleeping bag. I have a better portable camping gas stove for heating up food and water and a port side compartment forward of the rowing thwart as my galley. My stowage areas are thus better organised. The greatest seamen like Cook, Bligh and Nelson insisted on a tidy and clean ship. The same goes for a big ship as for a small boat.

The sails during the day are exciting and we will be guided on different voyages than two years ago. Many of us will discover places we did not see in 2015. This event is extremely well-organised and led by the various flotilla captains in their motor boats and powerful horns – and are always available on VHF in case of need. The evenings and mornings are golden times of peace, solitude and quiet, when I can say my Office to the sound of the cuckoo and a distant church bell. I will be far from worries about the modern world, noise and fear – but in a place that is beautiful and still left to nature. This, it will be my spiritual retreat between the sailing, the socialising and the times of solitude and silence.

The boat is nearly ready, only clothes, washing bag and towels, and personal things still on my list. Everything else on my list has been ticked and checked. I still need to get perishable foods like ham, cheese and bread. Most of my fare will be dried pasta and tinned food. This is the life of a “hard bastard”, which does a lot of good and sorts out priorities in life. I see those with high expectations in life more critically. This is something that comes from my own effort and preparation.

Like last time, there will be photos of the event, many memories to share with those I saw two years ago. There will be the legendary Roger Barnes in Avel Dro who also sleeps aboard in better conditions of comfort than I with four feet more in hull length. There may be other English sailors from the Dinghy Cruising Association.

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Superfluity of naughtiness

– “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1. xxi – Epistle for the fourth Sunday after Easter).

It always brings a smile to my face as I remember my choirboy days when we would snigger on hearing this epistle. The word “naughty” or “naughtiness” has a different meaning today than in the days of the King James Bible and the Prayer Book. In our time, we speak of naughty children as those who are mildly misbehaved or getting up to mischief, playing practical jokes and so forth. We will say sternly to a dog that has just chewed our favourite slippers “naughty boy (girl)”. If we are overweight, our attention might be caught by an advertisement for sweet desserts with the words “naughty but nice”. The word also has a smutty association with jokes about sex told in pubs or at football matches by lewd men. It hasn’t always had this mild and amusing meaning.

In older times, naughtiness meant true malice and wickedness. A modern translation of the pericope might read something like “excess of wickedness”, which would not simply be smuttiness or a lewd notion of sexuality, but all the moral issues endemic in humanity throughout history. The sins of thought, word and deed are many. Some are committed through weakness, and others with full commitment of the will and knowledge of the seriousness.

All the same, the words evoke lewd levity and a certain joy in the Lord’s House.

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Liberalism

Another blockbuster has appeared on Fr Jonathan Munn’s blog – The Twelve Theses of John Shelby Spong.

I too have toyed with the ideas of Bishop Spong, Tony Equale in Australia and the religionless Christianity of Bonhöffer. The latter at least lived and died under Nazi oppression and the complicity of the Lutheran Church in Germany, and gave his life for his faith.

What is liberalism in theology? I qualify the word because other forms of liberalism mean different things, for example political and economic liberalism. Liberalism was born in the wake of the French Revolution and one of its main progenitors was Fr Félicité de Lamennais who was a priest from a well-to-do Breton family in Saint Malo. To resume, Lamennais was more interested in politics than theology and advocated the separation of Church and State, since the State was hostile to the Church. Such an idea was unheard of in Rome, and Gregory XVI condemned the idea as madness. There was a movement in the French Church to accept the Republic and principles of human rights, especially freedom. Hence the term liberalism: promoting freedom. Such ideas seem perfectly reasonable to us nowadays, but were dangerously new then.

Liberalism in the Lamennais group led to supporting the Ultramontanist movement opposing forces like Gallicanism and Josephism in Europe, and sought to centre authority on the Pope in Rome as many of the monarchies were toppled. As the liberal Pius IX returned from Gaëta to Rome in 1848 in the midst of considerable unrest in France and Italy, he turned to a highly intransigent and authoritarian position. The answer seemed to be to claim infallibility and universal jurisdiction in the line of a pope like Boniface VIII who was one of the first popes to claim temporal jurisdiction.

Out of this grew another liberalism, especially around the Kulturkampf in Germany. I’m not going to go into the history of all this, because the reader can do his own research. What I am suggesting is that a theologically liberal movement grew in Germany, to some extent influenced by idealistic metaphysics and the last whiffs of Romanticism. A considerable amount of time was spent in biblical studies, and it began to be fashionable to attempt to demythologise biblical and New Testament narratives and read everything in the light of (the then) modern science and philosophy of men like Darwin, Nietzsche and Marx. Thus we had men like Adolf von Harnack and Rudolf Bultmann. John Henry Newman was aware of a similar movement in England among biblical scholars and the influence of Enlightenment philosophy. This is the kind of liberalism that gave birth to the ideas of men like John Shelby Spong.

The real question is knowing whether he and other liberals had the idea that you can construct a “Christian” way of life for materials, namely people with no religious faith, spiritual aspiration or metaphysics. The question would come up with Bonhöffer and his “religionless” Christianity, something one just cannot get a hold of. Perhaps it was meant to be like that. Nazism seemed to destroyed everything by the time of its defeat in 1945, and the Church had sinned by going along with it instead of the way of martyrdom, so the bill had to be paid. I don’t think I would have liked to live through that era! Maybe worse will come in the future…

Some of the Modernists (condemned by Pius X) believed that there had to be a way to oppose this theological liberalism other than from the point of view of Aristotelian and Thomist metaphysics. Alfred Loisy was a biblical liberal like the Germans, but George Tyrrell’s view was altogether more mystical and reliant on spiritual experience than pure intellectualism. Rome lumped them together, unjustly.

Already, in the nineteenth century, some of the intransigent Roman Catholic polemicists were observing that there was nothing more intolerant than a liberal. This theme extends to this day, and back to the ideologies of the French Revolution, when the middle class sought to take the place of the aristocracy. The oppressed became the oppressors. We find this in politics (the anti-Trump “snowflakes” in America, etc.) and in theology and Church politics. This tends to be an observation of conservatives, but objective evidence of this can be observed.

Spong continues the line of Harnack, Loisy and Bultmann. There is little in the way of new ideas. He merely updates the language a little to make the message relevant. Some of the ideas proposed are quite attractive, and are not wrong at face value. For example, the tenets Fr Jonathan lists in his posting:

Tenet 1: (Relevance) To be of value, religious faith must be relevant to our lives and consistent with our knowledge in other areas.
Tenet 2: (Fallibility) No one source of information is infallible.
Tenet 3: (Foundation) The foundation of Liberal Theology is Scripture, Reason, Tradition and experience and they shed light on each other.
Tenet 4: (Humility) Whatever we believe today, we always have more to learn from others.

All that seems reasonable – as long as it is not a euphemism for something hidden. In the first tenet, we have to be able to relate to our faith from the midst of our culture. Maybe a single source can express truth, but its version of truth may be incomplete. Is not tenet three an expression of traditional Anglican fundamental theology, the famous three-legged stool of Hooker? For the last tenet, do we not learn from others to enrich our knowledge and experience? Frankly the problem is not here.

I have never been that interested in Spong. His theories are not original. He seems simply to have lost his faith and wants to “salvage” Christianity for philanthropist or political purposes in a purely secular and materialistic world. Great! (word exclaimed with sarcasm)

What clearly is at fault when we discuss theology is language. Words, even in old Greek and Latin change their meanings over the centuries. Concepts have become distorted, and we need to seek for a historical understanding of human language. Though I believe in God, the notion of God is often misrepresented by human language and the meanings of words. This goes right the way across the board. We also have to develop a sense of allegory and analogy, the use of poetic language in the Scriptures and Patristic writings. This will lead to the narrative of Genesis, creation and the Fall. I am not afraid to sail close to the wind. The worst that can happen is that the boat stops and gets caught “in irons”. You shove the rudder over and push the boom in the other direction, until you have a beam wind, and then sheet in the sails and you’re on your way. But, I’m not on about sailing but understanding human language. Much of life can be seen in analogy like sailing a boat!

Taking Genesis absolutely literally is a stretch for the intellect and common sense. If it is understood allegorically, and then compared with narrative from Gnosticism and ancient mystery religions, we may find an entire illumination and an “aha” moment. Everything falls into place when nothing is read literally. This is why I don’t get as steamed up as some conservatives. Biblical inspiration is situated at another level from a human being with pen and paper writing down a dictation!

I appreciate Fr Jonathan’s suggestions of weaving into the narrative our notions of science and theories like the multiverse. Some people believe in aliens visiting earth. These beings, if they are not hallucinations, may simply be from another universe on a different “frequency” from our own – and therefore do not need to travel at multi-light speeds from planet to planet. Perhaps, because we have no empirical proof. It is a hypothesis.

We require God to unblock the streams of living water which is achieved through our Baptism for only good can beget good. Our fallen nature cannot redeem itself. It requires the Divine assistance to bring Good into the world. Good begets good. Thus our world can be seen as interference patterns of waves of good and evil passing over the face of the waters of our Universe. That’s not inconsistent with the current theory of the Multiverse and our universe being a Ten Dimensional Membrane floating about in an Eleven Dimensional Existence – if that theory hasn’t been discredited yet.

To describe evil, we often speak of light and darkness. St John’s Gospel and epistles are full of the themes of light and darkness. This is another analogy. We must integrate this notion into our thought, even if we have Aspergers!

Again, I’m not bothered about Spong with his warmed-up ideas plagiarised from others and presented as original. Intellectual honesty does require a citation of sources, unless we are being plain about just analysing and turning things over in our own minds and actually being original.

Fr Jonathan’s thought and mine converge in the appeal to eastern mystical theology about the metaphysics of the Redemption. We can move from a legalistic or economic analogy to a notion of participation in the Godhead through deifying grace (energy). We Christians have been victims of Nominalism and literalism, and this has opened us up to the ridicule of those who accuse us of accepting nonsense like children believing in Santa Claus. Liberalism finds its root here, and so our only way out is to move away from literalism and do something about our philosophical and scientific understanding to be able to oppose the materialist.

Even in the domain of ethics, Spong’s agenda is clear, that of defending homosexuality and normalising it, making it an issue. Perhaps homosexual relationships lived in due discretion might be tolerated case by case, and the persons concerned encouraged to replace the “pseudo marriage” with a pure platonic friendship (cf. St Aelred of Rievaulx) in the most profound understanding of this term. There are pastoral ways of dealing with the issue, but homosexuality per se does not have the legitimacy or finality of heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman.

There are objective standards of right and wrong, and this is the case in all religions and cultures, even considering differences and variations. In our discussion, morality as opposed to conventional ethics is secondary, the effect of a cause. That cause is belief in God, a life of prayer and progress in holiness. If you are a materialist, there may be standards of right and wrong, but they can be so easily adjusted for pragmatic considerations.

Finally, considering the issue of life after death, I notice that Tony Equale denies it or at least denies the disincarnate spirit his personality and memories. There are different perspectives in Christianity and different world religions. The evidence lies heavily on the side of the continuation of consciousness beyond bodily death and that there are consequences for an evil life. I do think the traditional Christian narrative is correct, truthful, but incomplete. We need the influx of other religious and philosophical traditions, and the input of science, especially quantum physics. Spong’s notion of extinction at bodily death is nothing different from materialism and atheism.

We have to be careful about our use of words, about the concept of liberalism. Fr Jonathan introduces another theme close to my heart, a mature notion and understanding of the narratives and myths of Christianity that confer greater credibility for the enquiring mind. We don’t fight liberalism with fundamentalism and literalism but by making careful distinctions and being more rigorous in our use of words and language.

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The dialogue of reconstruction continues

Pruning the Rose-tinted spectacles by Fr Jonathan Munn.

I love the eloquence of his writing and his vast culture not only in the sciences and mathematics, but also in art and beauty. He quips at me for “cruelly” accusing him of Romanticism. We all have our “classical” rationalistic tendencies, as I have, but he certainly has an attitude to the world that would involve the imagination, a love of nature, freedom of spirit and a yearning for something out of the common. That being said, we are in 2017, not 1817, but there are certain parallels between the two years two centuries apart.

The Romantics did tend to look with nostalgia at the medieval period, because it preceded the Renaissance that brought the classical spirit and rationalism, stifling the elevation of the human spirit and the whole person – the heart.

I ought really to point out that the hankering for a “golden age” is shallow and delusional. But, that doesn’t mean that we have to accept everything that is modern because it is modern. I remember a visit to the chapel of Pusey House in Oxford with Dr Ray Winch, and he brought my attention to the Comper baldachin over the high altar. Why something in classical style in a Victorian reproduction of a medieval church?

Dr Winch’s conjecture was that it is what might have been had there been no Reformation in England and architecture evolved as it did in France and other countries. I was introduced to a notion of retro-futurism, on which I have written. In about 1880, you build a copy of a fifteenth-century collegiate church of modest size, and then you fast-forward to about 1580 in the hypothesis that there was no Reformation in England. Another example of retro-futurism is doing a pastiche of what we thought things in the twenty-first century would look like as imagined in the 1960’s. The reality is more conservative than the imagination. I was always fascinated by Jules Verne with his prodigious imagination in the world of science and technology, a kind of modern Leonardo da Vinci.

I did something like the same thing. As I was fitting out my chapel, I was almost “obsessed” with the Arts & Crafts aesthetics of William Morris and others up to about 1914. Itself, it was an exercise in retro futurism with the medieval era as the inspiration but a new idiom that produced Art Nouveau and a reaction from the Victorian aesthetics of the age of the machine. It all added up even if it was pastiche and “fake”.

I think we would be in for a big surprise if someone transported us back to the 1520’s somewhere in southern England. Yes, we would get the Use of Sarum, but probably very sloppily celebrated in a forest of popular religion and devotions, something like the Roman rite in a southern Italian parish in the early twentieth century. There would be other aspects like the absence of medical care and sanitation. I would imagine that people smelled like pigs except when they had a swim in the river, perhaps. So 1520 is hardly a golden age, but that era was building beautiful churches and the Reformation and Counter-Reformation hadn’t happened.

We can’t go back in time, but we can take the best from different historical eras, just as we do when we play the music of long-dead composers or look at paintings by dead artists. The Romantics did not recreate the middle-ages, but they did seek human values of before the Renaissance and the downward slope of human spirituality to materialism. They found principles for art and architecture which they would develop and interpret, rather than inventing something entirely new and founded on rationalism. Thus, the notion of retro-futurism, which is imperfect as everything human is imperfect.

Like in our children’s fairy tales and fantasy cinema for adults, we live a moment of magic and wonder. It is perhaps in these moments when God is most present and we relate to a world outside our own. This for me is the essence of Romanticism as in the books of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.

Christianity is something of a fairy tale, not because it would be false or untrue, but because it appeals to those childlike instincts for myth, beauty, wonder and a vision of heaven. I would say, let it be so, and I have no care for postmodern brutalism and so-called “realism” which speaks only of man’s base instincts.

I am thankful that Fr Jonathan has written as he has expressed himself, because as always, progress is made in our new movement which seeks to be above liberalism and conservatism.

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John Bruce has another go…

See Money And Numbers

I don’t know what Mr Bruce means by “recently”, because it is a long time since I concerned myself with his ongoing narrative about continuing Anglicanism and the Ordinariate. I have just left off and done other things.

My most obvious thought is that so few people care about any kind of religion, even the Roman Catholic Church and its papacy. See Damian Thompson’s It’s 1978 all over again. The bottom line is “… they will look in vain for the meticulous, expensive and even-handed coverage squeezed between the ads for bourbon and Buicks in my vintage magazines. Time, like the rest of the world, has moved on“. This sets intra-church polemics in perspective, at least for me.

For the record, I might come over as angry from time to time, but I tend to empathise with the people around me, even good honest and morally upright people, who have other things than religion to occupy their minds. The “official” RC parishes have difficulties in getting any kind of market share. I know something about business, because I am self-employed – but my status is simplified for low incomes. I keep work and religion separate! I am not angry about being mentioned again, but am rather flattered that Mr Bruce would bother remembering the nobody I am.

I belong to a church that has to concern itself with temporal matters, as I heard in our recent Synod meeting and the Bishop’s council meetings I attend (I have just been re-mandated for other three years). We have a bank account and figures of income, expenditure and the budget for the coming year. It’s all very professional, and we do what is required by the Charities Commission in England. We are actually quite mainstream, and no fly-by-night operation. But, all the dreary stuff is but a means to the end, the end being our mission, worship of God and outreach to anyone who is attracted to our way.

Indeed, we need to heed the message of Christ about prudential decisions, and not doing anything without counting the cost. On the other hand, a person offering his very life in martyrdom is pure gratuity. Gratuity is a major part of the Christian way, and Biblical references could be found – look them up for yourselves.

Mr Bruce’s messages seems to be that the Ordinariate is not viable, and should be dissolved and the people and clergy told to join the mainstream Roman Catholic structures. Continuing Anglican churches are just written off at a stroke with the casual wave of a hand. What happened to religious freedom? Can these people and clergy not decide for themselves according to their consciences rather than being managed by someone playing board games? Fortunately, Mr Bruce isn’t the one in authority, and I would be surprised to hear that the RC Archbishop of Los Angeles consults him for advice.

I haven’t read Deborah Gyapong’s interventions, so can’t judge. I was simply surprised to find my own name in the same sentence as her so long after the disappearance of the blog on which we both wrote until 2012. Even if you plan churches using businesslike methods, there are large businesses and small businesses. In the former, you have a board of directors, consolidated and audited accounts, shares, the whole shebang. In my business, I am a sole trader and have only my turnover to declare for income tax and social contributions as it is done in France. My diocese has very detailed accounts, and everything is declared to the proper authorities, and we are credible. Our treasurer is doing things very professionally and wisely. It’s not an easy job!

What about the Parable of the Talents. We are not in it to collect paying customers and rake in the money. We have to cut our cloth according to what we have. We have small churches and home-made chapels, showing the dedication of people prepared to do voluntary work for nothing. We are no less a Church because we don’t have what the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has. We just have to live within our means and look to the essential – that is certainly harder than laying on the laurels of some “mega-church” outfit.

No one has the guarantee of perennity or lasting into the future a hundred, fifty or ten years. Each one of us is called to die one day, and mortality is something we have to live with – conflicted with our instinct of wanting to go out knowing that we made a difference. Again, the Parable of the Talents. But, that difference may be something invisible and intangible, spiritual and personal.

I am thankful that the Church is not a business like Mr Bruce’s vision or what prevails in the bureaucracy of the Church of England that axes parishes and schools for simple questions of financial viability. When a church ceases to be financially viable, the building may have to go to pay the debts to the bank, who knows what else, but it would be hoped that some spiritual life or common prayer might survive somehow. Maybe “orphaned” churchgoers might go to another parish that is still going, or perhaps they are too alienated to go anywhere, too hurt, too “used” and burned-out. This is also a part of religious freedom which is a universally recognised human right.

I can’t judge on the Ordinariate, because I don’t bother myself with it one way or the other. As a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church, I am confident that our ministry and reunion with other continuing Anglican Churches has many years and good days ahead of us. I am optimistic even if I share concerns about our perennity and viability.

Maybe we’ll disappear and die off. Then again we might survive and prosper in the future.

I was taught in canon law that the positivism applied in civil and penal law does not apply in canon law. There are principles of interpretation (by the Legislator) that require that the end of canon law is the salvation of souls, a totally different finality of the temporal common good and order that secular law upholds. It is the same as an ecclesiastical entity. It is not a business with the end of being profitable, but needs money and material goods to fulfil its supernatural mission and vocation. The question of viability becomes relative, and some of us have to make do with very little. That is also a part of the Parable of the Talents.

Otherwise we are going into some kind of “prosperity Gospel” or Protestant work ethic, which is as foreign to Catholicism as to any kind of Christianity that has not suffered institutional corruption.

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