We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Saturday, October 31, 2015


From "How Civilizations Die" (click hyperlink to read the whole thing):

To the processes of modernisation just noted must be added the profound impact of religion and secularisation, interacting in complex and previously misunderstood ways within societies. Secularisation, it appears, promotes infertility. As secularisation promotes and facilitates the supremacy of individual choice regarding reproduction within previously traditional societies it activates a “demographic contradiction—individualism leading to the choice not to reproduce—[that] may well be the agent that destroys” those societies, as the sociologist Eric Kaufmann suggests in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? (2010).

This is not an argument against the liberalisation of tradition-bound societies or for the artificial preservation of obviously non-viable tribal communities. Rather, it is part of Goldman’s case that such liberalisation can have devastating demographic effects that can only be comprehended if adequate attention is given to the spiritual dimensions of human reproduction, and such attention has not been paid by most of the prominent commentators in the field. He believes that “secularism in all its forms fails to address the most fundamental human need”—the deeply embedded human desire to achieve some form of immortality for themselves and their loved ones. The world that secularism offers is a purely immanent world of the here-and-now, stripped of any sense of the transcendent or the eternal. It appears that people are increasingly choosing not to bring new life into such a world.

Religions, on the other hand, in their different ways, “offer the individual the means to transcend mortality, to survive the fragility of a mortal existence”. Life is experienced as a journey full of challenges, joys and disappointments, and new life is embraced as part of a shared voyage through various stages that ultimately stretch beyond this world. Goldman recognises that such claims will mean little to convinced secularists, and that communicating the existential force of religious faith to such persons would be akin to “describing being in love to someone who never has been in love”.

For example, traditional political science, Goldman points out, regards religion as just another belief system, an ideology like communism or fascism, and is therefore unable fully to comprehend the existential grip that the longing for some form of immortality has on human consciousness. Nonetheless, without a comprehension of the power of this spiritual force in human societies, Goldman believes it will be impossible to understand how entire societies can lose faith in the future, turn away from having children and choose instead to accept oblivion. For example, across a range of modern societies the lowest fertility rates in the industrial world are now found in the atheistic former Iron Curtain states of Eastern Europe, while the highest rates are registered in America and Israel, where religion continues to play a major role in people’s lives ...

Civil society is a central concept in Goldman’s analysis, as it is within this realm that family life unfolds and is sustained. It is also a realm whose historical vibrancy characterises Western societies, while its absence or rudimentary level of development is a central feature of Muslim societies. Here he derives insights from St Augustine in The City of God, which, he emphasises, was written as the Roman empire collapsed through demographic decline, and the author awaited the rampaging barbarians that would soon lay waste to his civilisation. Goldman contrasts Augustine’s recognition of the role of civil society with the focus on the state by the Roman philosopher Cicero: Augustine “looked through the state to the underlying civil society, and understood civil society as a congregation—a body bound together by common loves, as opposed to Cicero’s state founded only on common interests”.

It is the strength and vibrancy of civil society, bound together at the most intimate personal levels, that ensure the continuity of a civilisation, and not the exercise of power by the state in the pursuit of its own interests, whatever they might be and however much it may claim to rule on behalf of the people. A theocracy such as that of Iran, despite its pretensions to be implementing traditional religious values, actually operates like any other totalitarian or statist regime, destroying civil society by its domineering presence in the life of the people, and suppressing, suffocating and dissipating the very social and cultural dynamism that any civilisation depends upon if it is going to survive and flourish. (An excellent description of how this process destroyed civil society under the highly intrusive rule of the Soviet communist state is contained in Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia, 2007.)

Goldman’s analysis leads to what he calls a position of “Augustinian realism” in foreign policy, which focuses on those societies that both preserve civil society and nurture within it the values that resonate within American civil society. The calculation here is simple: the principle that “civil society precedes the character of a nation [means that while America] can ally with, cajole, or even crush other states … it cannot change the character of their civil society”, and consequently it is a chimerical pursuit to attempt to do so by military intervention or massive amounts of foreign aid.

It follows therefore that America should not waste its time seeking to democratically transform intrinsically ruinous states, but should focus instead on pursuing and nurturing alliances with “people who are linked to [American] civil society—our mother country England, for example, as well as the Christians in the global South”, including Australia.

Common loves.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

More thoughts

For not all "Uniate" movements were the result of Catholic machinations. Bulgarian "Uniatism" was at least partly instigated by Constantinopolitan Greek Orthodox imperialism via-à-vis the Bulgarian Church. And the numerically tiny but by no means spiritually and intellectually negligible Russian Catholic Exarchate in Russia on the eve of the Revolution was a spontaneous movement from within the Russian Orthodox Church itself, largely among intellectuals and people of some substance, including several Orthodox priests, who were less than satisfied with the condition of their Church, reduced to little more than a department of the state since the time of Peter the Great, but refused to abandon their native religious heritage for that of Latin Catholicism.


From here. Written in 2005. Saving parts here, from potential destruction in the 'memory hole'.

On first consideration, the suggestion seems absurd that Byzantine Catholicism might be a real ecclesiastical option for American Episcopalians and other Anglicans seeking a fuller expression of their own catholicity. Why would Episcopalians, struggling with issues of parochialism, universality, unity, and the boundaries of legitimate diversity, even consider a tradition which has its own version of these problems, in addition to looming issues of ethnicity and inculturation within the American context? Surely for catholic-minded Episcopalians the only two real options are Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, either in their traditional forms or in slightly marginalized structures, such as a revised form of “Prayer Book” Roman Catholicism or Western-Rite Orthodoxy. All of these, of course, are genuine alternatives which a number of Episcopalians, in their search for more theological cohesion, have chosen. I, however, would seriously like to suggest the option which is the obvious subject of this essay–Byzantine Catholicism ...

The ideal situation with regard to Anglicans and the restoration of full communion would be, in my opinion, the creation of an entire “uniate” Anglican Ritual Church, similar to that the Eastern Catholic Churches. Since, however, this seems unlikely in the near future, the next best option, it seems to me, would be the assimilation of former Anglicans to a Catholic Church which is like them in ethos and is in full communion with the Holy See.

Of all the Byzantine Ritual Churches, my own, the tiny Russian Church, probably fits the cultural bill the best. The Russian ethos and the English ethos, even in their attenuated American forms, are very much compatible with one another. Russian Catholicism, moreover, is largely a “convert phenomenon” and does not suffer from the ethnic problems that other Eastern Churches frequently experience. Moreover, since it is the youngest member of the family of Byzantine Catholic Churches and did not go through the painful experience of Latinization, it has maintained the Byzantine Orthodox heritage perhaps more fully and more integrally than some other Byzantine Churches have been able to do. Ever since the 2nd Vatican Council, the Holy See has, in fact, repeatedly called upon all Eastern Churches to recover, where lost, their authentic traditions.

In any case, out of love for the unity of the Church, both Anglicans and Byzantine Catholics have had experience in living as “bridge communities,” striving to unite diverse, and seemingly divergent, elements and drawing them into “wholeness” and communion. Isn’t this in fact what the struggle for “catholicity” really means? The possibility of Christian communities bringing together and synthesizing the Anglican experience of living within the mainstream of Western culture and intellectual life, the Eastern tradition of theology, spirituality and worship, and real communion with both the Latin Church and the Petrine centre of Christianity bristles with truly exciting possibilities!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Eyes Wide Shut

Time for more thoughts out loud about organized religion. And other forms of incompetence. Sure to piss someone off. (No flame wars, please.)

Last night I was lured to see a film that, given its provenance, would have been shot -- and, hence, should have been screened -- in standard Academy ratio:

Academy ratio: 1.375:1.

What I got was a projected Blu-ray, in a perfectly square format, which produced sharp anamorphosis along the vertical axis, as the sides were forcibly squished in. After thirty minutes, I left.

I'm sure everyone else was perfectly happy. This is the curse of those who know, while those who do not know are supremely content in their blissful ignorance. It is all-too-easy to apply the same principle to liturgy: "However, as I have argued many times before, the average Catholic in the pew would hardly know the difference." Those who protest are labelled non-constructive "squabblers."

Given certain facts about me and about the world, this augurs strongly for Eastern Christianity after all. I can now assume the position of the blissfully ignorant, as I don't know a troparion from a kontakion. Instead of marching out of church in a huff, I can simply rest content in what it is not.

That is my new pattern for happiness: At least, it is not that. “Pray as you can, not as you wish you could.”

Not that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world.

It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.

It’s the task of the shepherds to recognize it, and warn the flock against this danger.

“Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” ...

Now we need Rome to tell the world: “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”.

Not only us, the Catholic laity, but also many Christian Orthodox are anxiously praying for this Synod. Because, as they say, if the Catholic Church gives in to the spirit of this world, it is going to be very difficult for all the other Christians to resist it.

Estate sale!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nowhere Man

The Pocket Scroll:

And I just couldn’t handle it. So I left.

It’s not simply that I couldn’t handle this particular misbehaviour on the part of my fellow worshippers. It’s not just that I’m judgemental and ask questions like, ‘Are these people even here to worship? Why do they come to church if they can’t be reverent?’ (I am and I do.) No, I like to think that my better self would control my feet and keep me in my seat.

Instead, it’s the result of years feeling like I’m on an ecclesiastical fringe. By and large, those Anglicans whose theology I am nearest worship in the manner currently least appealing to me. Anglicans at large, in fact, enjoy liturgical experimentation so much that it is often easier for me to worship with non-Anglicans than to watch the latest Anglican travesty performed right before my eyes with no consciousness of tradition, scripture, and good taste. Sadly, high Anglicans have a tendency either to say nothing at all in the sermon or to do things like deny the virginal conception and Annunciation of the BVM when I turn up.

The Killing Joke

Opus Publicum:

This is not to say that I believe the Catholic Church is a joke. It is, rather, the most serious institution ever put on this good earth. That is why it is so terribly depressing to witness those charged with her care, and the care of over a billion souls, treat it poorly. In fact, they treat it so poorly that the Church at times looks like the worst-run NGO on the planet with an intramundane, conventional moralist at the helm. It is little wonder that most Catholics living today have lost sight of the Church’s eschatological horizon and treat the Church’s intellectual patrimony as little more than a rickety bulwark against the rank nihilism which dominates contemporary culture. What else is Catholicism “for”? A once-a-week aesthetic experience; some fleeting guilt over looking too long at Internet pornography or using condoms and the pop psychological chat-in-the-box to rectify it; and a momentary flash of metaphysical superiority that is quickly tucked away by time Monday morning rolls around—that is not what Catholicism truly is; but it is what it has become after more than half-of-century of capitulation to the ways and means of liberalism. What comes next is almost too horrible to contemplate.


Joe Boot:

A final irony in all of this is that the British state’s counter-extremism proposals seek broad, invasive powers (asking Britons to simply ‘trust the state’ with a suspension of their civil liberties) to deal with a serious problem that it has created through its own stupidity – the suicidal social experiment of multiculturalism, which has proven an impossible disaster, leaving us with citizens who engage in terror and now, as well, with state coercion. Historically, British values certainly included hospitality to other peoples willing to live under the rule of Christian law, but such values never embraced polytheism! The subversive idea that all beliefs, gods, cultures and practices are ‘equal’ is as dangerous as it is false, and it is only recently, in the face of the rise of political Islam in our back garden, that Westerners are discovering just how false it is. A people with a strong faith and confidence can absorb large numbers of aliens, gaining their allegiance and converting them to their cultural beliefs, as the United States has ably demonstrated in the past. In 1840, when Lord Macaulay was describing what had taken place in North American colonies planted by England, he said: “Our firm belief is that the North owes its great civilization and prosperity chiefly to the moral effect of the Protestant Reformation.” However, when the faith of a dominant majority is undermined and wanes, militant minorities are able to sway and manipulate a whole nation.

The Anglosphere has lost its faith and is no longer able to absorb other peoples and win them to its culture.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Tome of Communalist Self-Adulation (2021)

Not that I care but ...

So today ...

3-5 pm: Imagining a New Prayer Book: A Forum with the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers

The 2015 General Convention called for a plan for revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that will “utilize the riches of our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship.” Join us to explore the possibilities and challenges for Prayer Book revision. What should change? What should be added? What should we keep? We’ll consider how a new prayer book can enable the Episcopal Church to gather and form faithful disciples in the 21st century, and how our common worship can express and shape our participation in the mission of God.

A book for all and (consequently) for none.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


The more I read about the process of liturgical reform, in both Anglican and Roman Catholic circumstances, the more I see the following scenario repeated again and again:

Those who actually know and devote decades to making a meaningful contribution have their work go swiftly down the drain.

Those who do not know and spend about fifteen minutes making up their mind in a split committee vote always carry the day.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Basis

From my perspective, the best English prayer book ever proposed was 1923. It should be the proper basis upon which any future revision should emerge.

This book is the initial draft of the ill-fated 1928 Prayer Book of the Church of England. It is the result of a long process extending back 20 years to revise the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Initially the revision was only to concern rubrics, so as to reduce tensions between the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parties of the Church which had, on occasion, resulted in embarrassing trials in secular courts. However, the enormous social upheaval caused by the Great War (World War I) brought about demands for greater changes, both in language and theology. These were largely voiced by Anglo-Catholic clergy who had served as chaplains in the war and in urban slum parishes, and found that the lay-people they encountered had great difficulty relating to the 1662 BCP, and that it had significant limitations. This book was the initial result, and, unfortunately, it largely ignored those who initially fought for changes. This draft resulted in responses for further changes by certain groups: a "Green Book" from strong Anglo-Catholics, an "Orange Book" from moderate Anglo-Catholics, and a "Grey Book" from a more liberal group. Note that Evangelicals had no response; they generally preferred no change in the 1662 book.

I would have said "fortunately, it largely ignored" the revisionists: twenty plus years of work and down the drain it went. I don't believe any of the alternative books contain much of enduring value.

However, the 1928 deposited book is available now in print once again.

What this volume has that no other does is all the new Lessons for Mattins and Evensong. It means, of course, that the 699 pages of the Prayer Book are supplemented with an additional 1129 pages of Lessons (plus Tables). As others have noted, it is questionable whether the modern binding supplied will hold up under this immense weight. It possesses only a single ribbon for marking one's place. But, nonetheless, there it is.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Invincible ignorance

No one need concern themselves with my animadversions, particularly on one of the best kept secrets in the known universe (to be revealed in Advent 2015): the actual texts of the Ordinariate Use mass. I have had to rely upon the reports of others.

If the following is indeed true, then there may be some grounds of hope after all (the only variants that interest me being bolded below):

We have identified three basic variants of the Ordinariate Use Mass, each with a different tradition or liturgical background, although it is possible to use other hybrid versions. The three are:

  • a Prayer Book inspired variant, including all the Cranmer texts (Collect for Purity, Summary of the Law or Decalogue, Prayer Book intercessions followed by the penitential rite, Comfortable Words, offertory sentences, Prayer of Humble Access and Thanksgiving after Communion (using the offertory prayers from the Ordinary Form and the Roman Canon), but all in traditional sacral language;
  • an English Missal inspired variant, including the Asperges, the prayers at the foot of the altar, the traditional offertory prayers, the Roman Canon and the Last Gospel), everything celebrated ad orientem at the altar (with deacon and subdeacon, or rather two deacons)
  • a Dialogue Mass, with the prayers at the foot of the altar prayed by priest and people not priest and server, the Liturgy of the Word celebrated at the sedilia, modern-style prayers of the faithful, the offertory prayers of the Novus Ordo, most probably (con)celebrated facing the people where the church architecture is suitable.

There is even a slimmer Low Mass variant (also known as the Parish Church form) which would resemble the Prayer Book variant but without all the optional extras, such as the Summary of the Law, the Prayer Book intercessions, the Comfortable Words, the sentences, and celebrated mid-week with a shorter Eucharistic Prayer (based on EP II of the Ordinary Form).

The Ultramontane variants are fine for those who want them. But, all in all,

... the proof will be in the pudding.