Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Identity theft

There’s a lovely cartoon somewhere, showing a policeman with a handcuffed Santa Claus, bent over the hood of a car. Saint Nicholas stands near, in full Byzantine episcopal regalia.

“All good, your excellency. I’ve arrested the man who tried to steal your identity.”

The original Saint (Bishop of Myra, within modern Turkey; born about 270 AD, died on the 6th of December, 343) was an exponent of tough love. His vermillion complexion came from beatings in the Roman prisons, under Diocletian’s persecution. His title, “Confessor,” means he kept the faith. He was among the surviving Christians, suddenly sprung under Constantine.

Nicholas was an orphan, but of wealthy parents carried off in a plague. Throughout his life he distributed his inheritance, discreetly, to persons in need. Most famously he learned of a single father, with three daughters and no money for their dowries, thus no prospect of respectable marriages, so that from sheer penury they were in danger of becoming prostitutes. Like a thief in the night, he came to the man’s window, and tossed in a bag of gold coins. (By another account, he dropped the bag down the man’s chimney.)

He gave presents to poor children. He would sneak his coins into the shoes of paupers while they were at prayer. He was very widely revered and adored.

Saint Nicholas (who “evolved” into “Santa Claus,” via his elided Dutch name, “Sinterklaas”) was present at the Council of Nicaea (325), where the Church disowned the Arian heresy. Arius himself was present to defend his rather complex, “simplifying” theological ideas. He was a rationalizer, heir to Gnostic thinkers who acknowledged Christ not as Very God, but as a kind of super-prophet, and who therefore declared the Trinity all bunk. (This would reprise as Islam, three centuries later.)

The doctrine of Arius was more subtle than that. He was trying to square the circle, or cube it, by making Christ the creator of the universe, but God the creator of Christ, thus “God the Father” the only full immortal, from the beginning. The Logos was not a person, Arius insisted, but instead the spirit of reason from this God, by which men could figure out everything for themselves. (This would reprise in the Enlightenment.)

Plus much more intellectual ducking and weaving, unsuitable to an Idlepost. In the Nicene Creed, we recite the formula by which Holy Church disowned not only Arianism, but all versions of Trinity denial, in a way that has now held solid through seventeen centuries.

But at the Council itself, back in the IVth century, a lot was on the line. While Arius was weaving his verbal and speculative tapestry, Saint Nicholas lost his temper. He went over to Arius in person, and decked him.

This was considered behaviour unbecoming in a bishop, and Nicholas found himself back in the slammer. He’d been stripped on the spot of his gospel book, and of his pallium (liturgical vestment), the two marks of his office.

We consult the Byzantine iconography to learn what came next. Notice behind Saint Nicholas the small figures of Christ, carrying the book, and of Mary, carrying the pallium. In the miracle, of which the Emperor Constantine must have been convinced at the time, Christ had come to Saint Nicholas in his cell, to ask him directly why he had behaved in such a violent way.

To which Nicholas had replied: “Because I love you so much.”

At which Our Lord and Our Lady restored to Saint Nicholas the marks of his office.

Nuremberg revised

It takes a while, sometimes, for news to reach me from Kampala, Uganda. But a correspondent alerts me, this morning, to the result of the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court, declared on Saturday, 12th June, 2010. It is big news indeed: signatories have agreed to make starting a war into a grave international criminal offence. Henceforth, anyone who starts one goes straight to The Hague, to be disciplined for his improper behaviour. This means he could face years of hearings. Surely, knowing that will stop aggressors dead in their tracks.

How relieved one feels, to know there will be no more wars.

As my correspondent mentions, this may seem a small thing in the labour of ages. But it is a first step, a “baby step,” decisively in the right direction.

I entirely agree, and look forward to further efforts by the United Nations, on behalf of the ICC. For I think they should also have laws against earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes.

Sigrid Undset

Yesterday’s harangue I wrote by way of topical preface to a more important point: gentle reader’s need to assimilate the works of Sigrid Undset. They are close to me at the moment, for I recently found myself “teaching” this authoress, of whom I cannot speak too highly.

But first, let me succumb to another aside. I put the donkey ears on “teaching” to this purpose. I do own a tweed jacket, though as a priestly colleague has pointed out, it lacks the regulation elbow patches. That is about the extent of my formal credentials as a pedagogue, yet by unlikely fate I have found myself “teaching” sometimes, at the “post-secondary” level, on a variety of topics — from development economics, to science and scientism in Hellenistic times, to the elements of typography, to the prehistory of modern journalism, to proper English Lit — and these days will do almost anything for money.

My father was also reduced to teaching, on several occasions — medicine, for instance — in addition to art, when it was discovered in a certain developing country that he actually knew some anatomy, and had access to a nursing textbook belonging to my mother.

From him, I learned to cite Hippocrates: “First do no harm.” The young, shall we call them, have almost invariably greater capacities for learning than will be revealed in modern schools. This is not only because their wee minds are therein seldom teased nor challenged. It is also because subjects are taught to them in a methodically lethal way, dispensed in cubes from the intellectual freezer, by teachers who, as a general rule, know nothing of the subjects themselves. (They have specialized degrees in “education.”)

I retain vivid memories of a Canadian high school where best efforts were made to kill my budding interests in poetry, theatre, music, art, biology, physics, math, &c.

There are, as George Bernard Shaw once counted, two basic methods of teaching. One is “education through art,” in which the student learns essentially through mimesis, by doing and making, gradually unfolding himself, as a flower to the sun in the moist air, feeding upon the nutrients beneath him — rich soils collecting through time. And the other is through torture. Each has its own standards. (I’m not against torture as a last resort.)

The expression “education through art” could easily mislead the literal-minded, who may not realize that science is an art. One acquires science by doing science, starting at the most rudimentary level, with small children, magically enthralled. Moreover, the various subjects are entwined. To master biology, for instance, one must learn to draw, in order to observe with precision. Physics, which naturally pairs with math, also pairs with music, which turns to pair with dance. The art of writing requires the art of reading, but vice versa equally so. And as throughout this world, while body and soul stay united, form has everything to do with content; meaning everything to do with style. Neither, and nothing, can be “prioritized”: until it comes time for the waterboarding.

“First do no harm.” God has set before every teacher this anciently humane instruction. Even if he should fail to do a student any good, at least do no evil. Do not repel him from the book forever; nor clutter his head with falsities. Even the torture should be carefully administered, leaving a prospect of some better way, and the happier alternative of following it.

One of my heroes, who in his old age became also a beloved friend, was J.M. Cameron, the noble St Mike’s perfesser. I asked him once, by way of starting a conversation, if, in his half-century of teaching, he had found any quality in common between all his best scholars. I expected him to take his time with this essay question. Instead, he replied at once:

“Yes. Without exception, they were all self-taught.”

That, I have come to believe, is the first thing to know about students: that none of them belong to you. That they are not “your” students, but persons in themselves. And there they stand, unreachably before you.

The mystery deepens, for as arguably the greatest of schoolteachers said (Plato or Socrates, take your pick), all philosophy is personal. Skills one may hope to implant, ideas to convey, but everything that is learned will be lived, and all instruction is intrinsically moral. To learn is a choice, which cannot be made by any man other. Wisdom cannot be received, except by one open heart. All philosophy, all, is personal. So many things were meant by this observation; it is a statement that keeps opening upon new vistas.

But to the pedagogical point: a classroom is a strange and awkward thing. It is itself quite incapable of learning, beat it as you will. For lecturing, perhaps, the bigger the better: for entertainment needs a crowd. But large or small, the classroom contains only human souls, who could as well be elsewhere. Each requires tutoring, and every transaction is finally one to one. It is the same relation within the classroom, between one student and another, where generosity of spirit prevails. It is always personal. Each takes his turn at instructing. Each, too, extends his understanding, in trying to share what he has grasped, so that teaching and learning are aspects of a single activity, a transaction with benefits on each side. Through a well-conducted class — which could meet anywhere — a matrix of enlightenment will pass, from soul to soul: candle lighting candle.

With a snorting and ungovernable passion, I abhor the bureaucratization of our schools. Let us not go there. I will thrash and rant. No human being is a cypher; each one is a special case.

The teacher’s primary function is to begin: to light the first candle. It is to communicate his own genuine enthusiasm for the subject at hand. Without knowledge of the subject, this cannot be done. The flame will not catch. It will splurt and gutter. For the love of a subject cannot be faked. And knowledge can only be acquired through love.

I think of Mother Teresa, who went into the darkest slum of Calcutta, with nothing in her pocket but her bus fare home. She had decided to found a new school, for the slum children who had no school, trusting God’s guidance. Under a withered tree beside an open sewer, she found a stick. In the dust she began to inscribe the letters of the Bengali alphabet. This attracted the attention of some local children. Together, they went on from there.

But I was going to tell you about Sigrid Undset. Perhaps tomorrow, or the day after.

Sexes & saxes

The Catholic Church is unique among institutions in the modern West, in taking women seriously — as women.

Parse that last sentence carefully and one will find less overstatement than one might have hoped for. I did not use “unique” to mean “exclusive”; and “modern” may be restricted to the last half-century or so. Focus, rather, on what is plainly intended: the italicized qualification after the long dash.

Many individuals, of both sexes, do in fact take women seriously (as women). In many jurisdictions, this is now against the law, but it happens all the same. Various other “faith groups” continue to recognize women as having their own distinct nature and identity — Orthodox Jews come first to mind, then Orthodox Christians. Lots of Evangelicals.

On the other hand, most mainstream Protestant congregations, so far as they have any members left at all, formally withdraw this recognition. Too, many “modern” or “liberal” or “recovering” Catholics (nominal ones who look upon Church teaching as merely quaint) reject the notion that women could be women. But the Catholic Church cannot always be held responsible for the views of those who contradict her. (Even if, in the long run, she probably can, as I argued here.)

Certainly, the post-Christian, post-rational “secular” authorities deny that women (or men) exist, and have gone to the trouble of eliminating “father,” “mother,” “son,” “daughter,” “brother,” “sister,” “uncle,” “aunt,” and any other terms that seem to imply a sexual identity, from all legislation — making much of it retroactively quite insane. Their attack on what they call the “traditional” (i.e. normal) family is unambiguous. For it was and remains highly sexed, whereas the new State-protected “alternative families” are invariably sterile. (Some wiggle-room is still left for “breeders,” however, pending the invention of new reproductive technology.)

A good test of this — fanatic denial of the blatantly obvious — may be conducted by using the word “priestess.” Those demanding female priests (an unCatholic notion if there ever was one) are likely as not to freak at the use of that word. They do not like the connotation, and will declare that it is “sexist.” They want females to be priests the same as men. It would defeat this intention to call them “priestesses,” as well as calling attention (among the historically informed) to the very conscious decision made by the early Church to avoid the cultural and spiritual implications of the priestess function within ancient and pagan religions. For priestess cults, and their reputations, were something early Christians wanted to get away from.

I would have to lose most readers, including possibly myself, with a fuller discussion of a matter not immediately relevant to the question of the irreducible identity of women. Which is to say, the womanliness of them. Suffice, it was long recognized — i.e. universally and for thousands of years, as opposed to by a shrinking, beleaguered minority in the last few decades — and would have been a point of agreement between, say, every kind of Gnostic, and credal Christians. The Gnostics today differ from the ancient Gnostics, by denying what is tangible. In other respects, however, the views of liberal and progressive Christians are identical with those of the heretics which the Church somehow survived in later, decadent Roman antiquity.

So perhaps “sexist” is the best term to bring out this distinction, or rather aggressive refusal to distinguish. A person, male or female, who takes it that women are women (and men are men) is today called “sexist.” This is, as I say, a concept that would leave our ancestors (including most early feminists) scratching their heads. There are two (2) sexes, and those who dispute this were long understood to be deranged. Even the concept of an hermaphrodite confirms this, for what is he or she but an unusual mixture of these two sexes? Similarly with such current initials as L, G, B, T, &c: for regardless of any self-assigned “orientation,” the actual persons are detectably male, or female, or some riff on those two basic themes.

That men and women may also have much in common — opposable thumbs come to mind — I take for granted. I like to contrast both male and female humans with other sexually-paired primates, though this is another distinction that is becoming controversial. God made them male and female, in my frankly religious understanding, but this does not mean He did not do the same for other species. It instead points to a deeper profundity: Yin and Yang created He them.

Let us not be distracted by pettifog in this matter. Those who oppose, or even propose to persecute “sexists,” themselves frequently maintain a distinction between the sexes, but it is glibly statistical, when not incomprehensible. Consider for instance an argument I heard recently, amounting to a complaint, that the ratio of male to female saxophone players is too high. Why would this be so? “Because we have a male-dominant culture, and saxes are traditionally associated with macho.”

Both statements are lies, the first in a boring, but the second in an interesting way. Adolphe Sax invented the instrument (around 1840) to fill a hole between the feminine woodwind and the masculine brass sections in an orchestra. It was only after the fact that this gender-neutral horn itself selected for male players. And even feminists — who are seldom quite as obtuse as they pretend — can see that a woman playing a sax is making a “statement” in which she is paradoxically accentuating her “female sexuality.” The suggestion that this should be cancelled by sex quotas is thus demonstrably batty.

We could extend this by considering different aspects of masculine identity embodied in the voices of soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, and then broadening to draw comparisons across the wind range, through the historical development of the heteroglottal reed, but that would make our discussion too lascivious.

As “diversity” is much prized today, let me mention that I am a sexist myself. Or, if I’m not, nobody is. I share the unreconstructed view of my diverse parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and other ancestors, back to Eve and Adam, on the existence of, and distinction between, the two sexes. Only one of them can have babies. Only the other can impregnate. But let me add that this is not the only distinction, and moreover, a large field of distinctions would anyway follow if only from that elephantine biological fact.

Now, there’s a point to all this, and perhaps I’ll get to it tomorrow.

On parliamentary reform

A gentleman in Texas continues to heckle my effusions, pretending to correct me in small matters, such as my opposition to “democracy,” Darwinism, technological progress, the electronic media in which I operate and indeed, the whole modern world. He is an exponent of “Tea Party” values, which I find unpleasantly populist and liberal. Too, he persistently defends the American Revolution, and displays a bigoted resentment of British institutions, including our Crown. He has some sort of Yankee fixation on “George the Turd,” long dead and buried. Lately he has taken to calling me a “Thirteenther.”

The term will have to be explained. It originated during one of my rare appearances on television, when another guest called me, “A Man of the Thirteenth Century.” I took this for the finest compliment I had ever received in a public place, and added it immediately to my collection of Honours, the way Henry Tudor did with “Fidei defensor.”

This morning the gentleman pings to me photographs of the British House of Commons in session. These included nine in which the members were debating important public issues, and in which the chamber was almost empty. Two more were attached, in which they were discussing MPs’ pay, and expenses, and in these the chamber was packed to the gills.

Needless to say, this could hardly surprise me. Gentle reader will be acquainted with my view of politicians, by which my views on “democracy” are explained. Democracy, or more precisely, crass demagoguery, will produce such results every time. It makes no sense whatever to put political power in the hands of those who want it, and will beg for it, and think they can benefit from it, when in fact worldly power is detrimental to their souls. It seems perfectly obvious, at least to me, that the public interest would be better served by inheriting Lords. Unlike “the people,” nature will not always select for charismatic head cases; and anyway, those who must take on solemn responsibilities should be properly apprenticed to their trade.

Thus I’m delighted to see my Chief Texas Correspondent coming round to my Thirteenther view of Parliament.

As a traditionalist, I’d be entirely opposed to abolishing such a venerable (and mediaeval) institution. But it should not be allowed to drift out of hand. The truth is that, today, we have considerable work to do, rolling back many generations of parliamentary “reform.”

To be sure, the House of Commons should meet, but not so frequently as to become tedious. And the sessions should be filled with pageantry, including long magnificent rituals in Latin or, if necessary, Greek. I have always been thrilled by the Opening of Parliament, but attendees should be restricted to those who look well on a horse, and there should be a matching Closing of Parliament, of at least equal splendour.

Too, the great majority of seats should be assigned to “rotten boroughs,” in which members are elected by very small cabals: a dozen or fewer old borborygmatics, who can be relied upon to return one of their own, or one of their flunkeys. The sort who will sneer and jeer at any proposal for innovation, and snore ostentatiously during debates.

And if they do manage to pass something clever in the House of Commons, it will be promptly crushed in the House of Lords.

And if it somehow gets past them, the Queen shouldn’t have to sign it. Or even read it, if she’s not in the mood.

And no member of either House should be paid. Rather, each will need a lot of money to pay his own expenses: for the ceremonial will be grand, and his clothes alone will cost him a caboodle.

My one concession to modernity would be ashtrays everywhere in the committee rooms. These rooms should be small, with low ceilings, and poor ventilation, leaving even the smokers choking and gasping for fresh air, singularly eager to conclude their business. And a very attractive, high-ceilinged pub should be set right across the street, with beautiful and flirtatious barmaids, and the press strictly banned.

On sober second thought, it might not be necessary to ban them, since most would be languishing in the Tower, out of sight and mind from the “working men of England,” who have lives, and families, and jobs to be getting on with.

The rousing time

My Chief Far Eastern Correspondent (in Halifax, N.S.) writes to share Advent observations from the Prison Notebooks of the Jesuit martyr, Alfred Delp (executed in Berlin, the 2nd of February, 1945):

“Advent is the time for rousing. Man is shaken to the very depths, so that he may wake up to the truth of himself. The primary condition for a fruitful and rewarding Advent is renunciation, surrender. Man must let go all his mistaken dreams, his conceited poses and arrogant gestures, all the pretences with which he hopes to deceive himself and others. If he fails to do this, stark reality may take hold of him and rouse him forcibly in a way that will entail both anxiety and suffering.

“The kind of awakening that, literally, shocks man’s whole being, is part and parcel of the Advent idea. A deep emotional experience like this is necessary to kindle the inner light which confirms the blessing and the promise of the Lord. A shattering awakening; that is the necessary preliminary. Life only begins when the whole framework is shaken. There can be no proper preparation without this. It is precisely the shock of rousing while he is still deep in the helpless, semi-conscious state, in the pitiable weakness of that borderland between sleep and waking, that man finds the golden thread which binds earth to heaven and gives the benighted soul some inkling of the fullness it is capable of realizing and is called upon to realize.

“We ought not to ignore Advent meditations such as these. We have to listen, to keep watch, to let our heart quicken, under the impulse of the indwelling Spirit. Only in this quiescent state can the true blessing of Advent be experienced, and then we shall also recognize it in other ways. Once awakened to an inner awareness we are constantly surprised by symbols bearing the Advent message, figures of tried and proven personalities that bring out in a most forceful way the inner meaning of the feast and emphasize its blessing.

“I am thinking of three in particular: the man crying in the wilderness, the herald angel, and our blessed Lady.”

*

Do you believe in God? Perhaps this is a silly question. A better question might be: Do you trust Him? I have long suspected that even my “agnostic-atheist” friends believe in God. They can’t really help it. I might further suspect that their belief is presumptuous, given the outward denial that He exists; but words like that won’t necessarily help their case.

My late mother was an atheist of the first water. Of course she believed in God. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have been arguing with Him, for seventy years. She would have just “forgotten about the Guy.” Instead she had a grievance. As a young nurse in training, in Halifax of all places — a good hearted, literal-minded Calvinist, raised to say her prayers — she prayed ardently for one of her patients, a little boy with a horrible spinal injury. It was ghastly, and she was appalled by the excruciating pain from which the little boy suffered: quietly, even sweetly, but written on his face. Modern medical science (circa 1940) could do little for him.

He didn’t get better, so she prayed more. She got so she was praying “every day, every hour.” Still no result. Finally, the boy died.

Why, why, why, why?

We discussed this when seventy years had passed, and my mother was herself in great pain: fiendish arthritis, Parkinson’s, and a few other things, enhanced by combination. This after heroically beating off a cancer, through eight rounds of chemo. Curiously, mama did not much complain on her own behalf, beyond involuntary whimpering. She believed in “stoic.” (When the pain, and worse, the disorientation became insupportable, she would sing old hymns, from her choir-girl childhood, and recite the Lord’s Prayer.) She was still vexed, however, on behalf of the little boy. That is what had made her angry with God, and she was still rather annoyed.

It had begun just after his death; she prayed. She told God her views very candidly. “All these prayers I said for him, day and night, and You did nothing.” She wasn’t going to play the fool any more. She blamed God for not listening, for not being there, for not intervening when He was needed, for not even caring. She drew up her account, like Jefferson’s Declaration; finally she accused God of Not Existing. And then, of not answering to that, either.

She would even spite Him. She decided this on a walk: that she would be a good person, without His help. She would, in effect, show Him up. She would drop all these pointless prayers, and prove to Him, once and for all, that He wasn’t needed. For seven decades she kept this up, in the Gaelic manner, through thick and thin.

Oddly enough, this is almost exactly the way my mother put it. She was vividly aware of the irony, and towards her own end, when there was nothing left to do for herself, she just listened to a very young Catholic priest that I had “stuck on her.” (I caught this Father Michael once by her bedside in the middle of the night; the nurses told me he’d been on his knees on the hard floor, well over an hour. They worried that he’d cripple himself.)

I should add that mama always thought well of Catholics. It had something to do with the “absurdity” of their position. They were sticking to their guns the way she was. Moreover, as the sister of a woman who was believed by many to be a Christian saint, and with many impressive friends both Protestant and Catholic, mama had to admit that “belief” did, usually, improve people.

*

Unless the Lord. Unless the Lord build the house. Unless the Lord …

Those who build it labour in vain.

Father Delp’s hanging, from a meat hook, in a cold little cell on (happily enough) the Feast of Candlemas, 1945, was enriched by nine weeks of interrogation, and beatings; an offer of freedom if he’d quit the Jesuits and join the Nazi Party; and four months in solitary. His body was cremated, and the ashes dumped in a sewer. (This was standard policy for German “traitors” at the time.)

“It is the time of sowing, not of harvesting. God is sowing; one day He will harvest again.”

The Nazi judge who condemned Delp, predeceased him, in an allied air raid. In the grand scheme of things, one wonders if this was chance.

Certainly, Delp lived in a “rousing time,” yet in the letters he wrote, smuggled out of prison in the laundry during his last Advent, he does not clearly distinguish between his time, and ours. It often appears that he is writing not to his, but to our situation, surrounded as we are by a society that may or may not believe in God, but isn’t inclined to trust Him.

The German bishops who drafted defiant statements against the Nazis, re-drafted to tone them down. Delp’s contemporaries often criticized those who went “over the top,” and thereby courted trouble. Why did Father Delp himself feel the need, for instance, to decry so eloquently from a pulpit in Munich, the Nazi policy of euthanasia? It was phrased as a humane policy, using the same basic argument that is used today in support of euthanasia: to put suffering people out of their misery. What could be wrong with that?

The idea that suffering could be of any value is lost on most. Why should we trust God on this? That God who sent his only-begotten Son into this world, to suffer. “For God so loved the world.”

I sometimes think belief in God is entirely beside the point.

And then there is Baudelaire: “Everyone believes in God, though nobody loves Him. No one believes in the Devil, and yet his smell is everywhere.”

Vi Vil Vinne

Black Friday came early this year, to Ferguson, Missouri, with a major looting event that made the annual Walmart convulsion look almost tasteful. Yet while I do applaud people who avoid smashing glass, and stop to pay for their purchases, there is a generic similarity, such that the difference between looters  and bargain shoppers may not be outwardly apparent. In my own limited experience, one must wait patiently for the arson to begin, to distinguish one event from the other. I notice stores advertising discounts of 70 percent; what’s an extra 30? Patrons may become confused by nuance in such commercial expressions as, “Absolutely free!”

But shopping for bargains — something I’ve been known to do myself in e.g. secondhand bookstores — cannot be done with any likelihood of success, in an atmosphere of desperation. The person who is not psychologically prepared to decline any offer, is in a poor negotiating position. Unless he is willing to forego any good or service until the price is right, he is open to manipulation.

And “price” is a more subtle issue than is suggested in the sales flyers. This is so even in the restricted dimension of dollars and cents. Why, the ten-dollar book I obtained the other day — a bargain to me, for I would have paid twenty for this Compendium of the History of the Cistercian Order — was a trick of false accounting I played on myself. After adding the trolley fare, going out, and coffee stop with pastry in the course of walking home, I see that I had already spent sixteen. Moreover, I paid five for another book I wasn’t sure I wanted; and now that I examine it more closely I see that I have a disposal problem. Which leaves me a dollar over what I was willing to pay, before (remember, I am genetically Scottish) evaluating the time I invested.

The matter is of course more complicated than that. I enjoyed both the walk and the pastry. The latter was improved by the opportunity to peruse this anonymous work by a Trappist in Kentucky (published 1944). There were several moments during the walk in which extraordinarily beautiful effects of lighting were observed from winter-angle sun in back alleys. A full accounting could be done only by God, and I have no idea what the economists think they are up to in their pathologically reductive calculations.

To my mind, entering any shopping mall or big-box store would be a substantial cost in itself, and if I had to elbow a thousand other customers to get at some glitzily-packaged item that could only disturb the aesthetic peace of my domicile — well, there are holes not worth digging. I see “poor people” struggling home with these huge packages, and it is hard not to pity their Sisyphean efforts. Or to feel heartbroken for their squalling little ones: being trained by parental example to believe that, say, a big-screen TV could be worth owning, regardless of the mark-down.

*

The old year is ending. With Saint Andrew we begin the new liturgical year, tomorrow, in the season of Advent. It is a season of joyful abstinence, fast, self-denial, gratuitous acts of charity, bejewelled by several glorious feasts, all in anticipation of the Nativity of Our Lord.

That is one way to live, and the other was heralded by Black Friday. Indeed: I spotted an editorial congratulating businesses for reducing the rush, by starting their sales on the very day of American Thanksgiving. To the depraved, post-Christian mind, I suppose the capitalists could display their public spirit by starting their Boxing Day sales on Christmas morning.

This is our world, and the challenge to all Christians is to be in yet not of it. With each passing year we should resolve to make fewer concessions to the depravity. This cannot be done without the fortitude of the Sacraments; but meanwhile, help is on the way.

*

While outwardly the Church appears to be collapsing, making more and more concessions to the progressive, materialist, populist, enslaved, “Black Friday” way of life, God is repairing her. My piece at Catholic Thing, Friday (here) was succeeded by a better piece today (here) on the unaccountable revival of Catholic vocations and worship in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Lately, I am getting such news from all over, and also witnessing it in my own tiny corner of “defunct” Christendom. It is a phenomenon of the last decade or so: an unexpected development of this XXIst century.

The call to priesthood, and more broadly to obedience and holy living, is being heard especially by many of the young. By no coincidence, this is closely associated with the revival of the Old Mass. To that, in its Latin, and its otherworldly beauty, the young are attracted, even as the old and weathered, in their constantly diminishing numbers, cling nostalgically to the Novus Ordo. The Church of twenty centuries is gradually recovering from the despoliation of the nineteen-sixties.  Christ is rebuilding His Church, even as liberal bishops make their last geriatric stands on behalf of the “Spirit of Vatican II.” Much remains to be endured, but the light is returning: the candle of reverence. Christ has not abandoned His Church.

The phenomenon is recent, but I am convinced it will not be snuffed out. One man of stalwart faith can easily prevail over a hundred who are chestless. As the alternative of serious Christian commitment becomes more visible, others will join. The persecutions that will inevitably come, from that world of ideological “progress,” will themselves help to fill our ranks. Our task becomes simpler when, as now, the Prince of This World reveals his nakedness.

(I think of those Norwegians who, in the darkest days of the Hitler occupation, painted a message on the road for our allied flyboys to read: “Vi Vil Vinne!”)

It is the eve of a New Year: to each of my readers faith, hope, and love. Fight the good fight, and for all the moral stench and darkness of our “secular” surroundings, do not doubt the light will prevail.

On managing

Professional, David?”

This was my boss speaking, thirtysomething years ago, when I was deeply implicated in “professional journalism,” editing an Asian business magazine, and allied tedious publications.

I had used the word carelessly, in the conventional way, to suggest that some of the habits and practices of the company were not fully “professional,” and might be amended to make them more so. But what I actually meant was things could be done to deliver “more quality,” as an end in itself, quite apart from any calculation of market demand, now that we’d aced the competition. I granted that my proposal was eccentric. I mentioned “ethics” at some point, thus digging my grave a little deeper.

Professional, David? … You can’t even spell the word.”

This was unfair. I had made a special study of the spelling of “professional,” carefully noting the double-S, which, for a mnemonic device, I associated with the Schutzstaffel, and imagined in Armanen sig runes.

We fell into a debate on the meaning of the word “professional,” which was promptly decided by rank. “Professional” turned out to mean an operation that proceeds smoothly; that is impersonal; that is free of temporal distractions and unnecessary costs; and in which everyone does what he’s told without thinking. (This last is called “teamwork.”) It is product-oriented, and the important thing is that the product should preserve market share, while remaining profitable. Let the philosophers decide whether it were any good. The product should rather be, in itself, smooth and mechanically predictable: anything warmly human in the packaging to be carefully faked by the experts in a professional advertising agency. Costs and benefits should be enumerable, and transparent to management at every stage. “Quality,” by contrast, “is purely subjective” — a question of fashion, for those specialists in hype.

“This is a business, not an art form,” I was told. (To be fair, this boss would himself have preferred to be an artist; but the art form would have been acting, and so he played his rôle.)

Now, ethics do come into this. A company that is flourishing will have clear “policies.” A lot of money could be lost if the company were caught cheating, on taxes or whatever; and secrets, as we know, can only be kept between two people if one of them is dead. Therefore, various “options” that might further streamline a profitable operation must be rejected on sight, as adding unconscionably to risk. But ethics cannot extend to any background worldview, that is agnostic on the fundamental human virtues, and thus essentially exploitative and sleazy.

As I have long observed, ethics are for people who have no morals.

I think “professionalism” came in, to the marketplace, about when craft standards were going out. It was discovered that a mass market had come into being, as a consequence of the technological innovations of some Industrial Revolution. Products were no longer made for specific buyers, but for demographic groups to purchase “off the shelf.” Souls could now be counted in the Gogolian manner, as “consumers” in terms of heads, eye-balls, little feet, &c. Broad-franchise representative democracy was a parallel development, and finally, the principles of marketing could be applied across the board. Far from consideration as an immortal soul, the individual could now be denominated as a capricious cypher: a one or else a zero at the “cashpoint.”

One thing I learnt from the marketing gurus: there must never be humour at the cashpoint. A financial transaction is a deadly serious thing. Jocular and amusing advertisements are permissible, but the cashpoint is no joke. It is the holy of holies for the capitalist, the place where his soul is weighed, and his worth determined. I was once told, by one of the moneybags, that I should lighten up about clowns in the sanctuary, during the Catholic Mass. But solemn he became when I suggested clowns at his cashpoints.

Words do change in meaning and flavour over the years. Like every other concept in our Western, breaking-news environment, “professional” descends from the experience of the Catholic Church. The original “professors” were of religion, and if I am not mistaken (and how could that be?) the word “professional” itself was coined, in English, at the tail end of the Middle Ages, to mean a person who “professed.” That would not have been a business man.

Mind: the idea of doing things well, does not come into this discussion at all. Saint Cecilia was, I should think, a capable as well as inspired musician. Again, craft standards preceded the “professional” ones, and what once came from the choirs of our Church was in no way inferior to the congregational karaoke we usually hear, today.

Nor, strictly speaking, would this XVth or XVIth-century “professional” have been an “employee.” The nature of his obedience was different in kind: to God in Christ Jesus. For that matter, the “managerial revolution” — which has brought us everything from Twinkies to Bergen-Belsen — was still some centuries off.

The survival of ancient, monastic ideals, in the modern, cubicled office environment, should be easy enough to discern, once we realize that the ideals have been twisted approximately 180 degrees, so that what was down is now up, and what was up is now down.

Opposing the “professional,” in still-current usage, is the “amateur.” We all know the etymology, from those who do something for the love of it. But this has come to mean, people who do things in an “unprofessional” way, which is taken as untrained, unqualified, inexperienced, and klutzy. Whereas, under the old regime (Catholic and mediaeval), Love was acknowledged as the great Teacher, and those who acted from love would (immortally) succeed.

By now, gentle reader should realize how backward I am. While I have no hope whatever in our capacity to wormhole into the past, I am given to invidious comparisons.

All this by way of expressing my lament, upon discovering a notice in the lobby of my apartment building, that the magnificent and beloved “Scottish harridan” who was the superintendent of this place (she thrilled to be called that behind her back) — the Cardinal Burke of Maynard Avenue; the lady who from sheer uncompromising will, inviolable common sense, strident intolerance for evil, and blank indifference to all professional creeds, raised this to a paradisal island of peaceable humanity in the midst of Inner Parkdale — has been “retired.” And that her singular authority has now been transferred to a “professional management team.”

Where is the High Doganate to move, I wonder?

Hunwickean in Parkdale

The best Catholic blogger in the world is — I think, at present — a gentleman who came into the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic quite recently, through the Anglican Ordinariate. His blog is entitled, Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment (and may be found here). It is a daily fund of liturgical information, encompassing the history and theology of the Church, delivered with the sort of authoritative wit we once associated with Oxford, and still might since he apparently resides there. (I know the man not, personally, construing what I can from his blog.)

More than any other link on the Internet, Hunwicke is responsible for my recent silences. I post this only to call attention to him, and send my readers thence on days when I discover myself too gobsmacked by “events” to know what to say, so sit here pondering, stupidly.

His learning aside, I wish to call attention to Hunwicke’s “attitude.” One might almost describe it as a “totally engaged, droll aloofness.” There is no question that he cares passionately about what he is teaching. Notwithstanding, he stops short at what can be homiletically taught. Yet what can be taught he lays on “with a trowel” — that useful tool of gardener and builder. (See his recent post in which he suggests our Pope, now that he has everyone’s attention, might want to do the same in an encyclical triumphantly affirming Catholic teaching on the family.)

As to Hunwicke’s “style,” I can easily imagine readers who would not like it. Some will think it flippant, which is their constitutional right. It is unmistakably intelligent, and so requires full attention. Latin and even Greek phrases are wantonly sprinkled, and not all of them are translated. Most controversially, the man is satirical. He is gently so, but post-modern man is almost allergic to genuine satire, as opposed to the sarcastic parody by which it has been displaced. Satirical humour in the broader sense — float like a butterfly, sting like a bee — is generally avoided, as not obvious enough. It is also frequently condemned, where it cuts to the quick of truths we are avoiding.

Let me trowel that point for a moment. To my mind, the difficulty goes back to the Reformation. Before that, people would be occasionally burnt at the stake for heresy. Or rather, since we are all heretics at one level or another, for preaching heresy, persistently and contagiously and in spite of the third warning. Whereas, after the Reformation, people were burnt mostly for satire, instead: for not taking statesmen and the state’s churchmen seriously enough.

The remarkable freedom with which mediaeval man (including woman) satirized the hypocrisies and other moral failings of monks, nuns, priests, bishops, even popes and anti-popes, is a matter of record to those who can read. (May I suggest Piers Plowman, for starters.) To this day, there remain traces in certain political constitutions of Europe, in old Hapsburg realms and those of the Holy Roman Empire, wherein the freedom to satirize is specifically affirmed. (See constitutions of Germany and Italy.) For this was among the mediaeval rights of man. What you weren’t allowed to do is question the long-received doctrines and dogmas of Holy Church. Powerful men you could mock, including clerics; but Christ you could not mock.

Wherever the Reformation succeeded, this formula was effectively reversed. Lèse-majesté became the unutterable crime: affronts to the divine right of kings, and more generally to the dignity of persons in high stations. The powerful in both church and state became practically indistinguishable from their public offices, and their dignity was to be defended at all costs. The viability of each State depended upon it: Catholic as well as Protestant, in due course.

Later, of course, we had the Enlightenment, in the spirit of which one could be guillotined for the look on one’s face.

By now, in our post-modern account of civil “freedom,” we confuse persons and things, and are irreverent alike to God and man, Truth and folly. Under the “dictatorship of relativism,” one is as good as the other, and the question comes down only to what you can get away with, under the latest, quite irrational, frequently satanic, unwritten and indefensible doctrines of “political correctness.” Or in other words, we are still in the Enlightenment.

Hunwicke is an unreconstructed mediaeval man, as we all should aspire to be. Truth matters to him; the reputations of persons, not so much. Yet still he doffs his hat to the authorities, in the time-honoured mediaeval manner; doffs, as it were, what is lawfully owing to the office or chair, regardless of the clown who may be sitting in it; doing obedience, when necessary, with humour. (My hero Saint Thomas More was like that: going to the block with a little joke to the axeman.)

The true Christian must preserve his humour. Or rather, preserve his sanity, which is the same thing.

What Hunwicke conveys goes to the heart of the Catholic faith. It is the liturgy, the sacraments, the Real Presence, communicated throughout our world in “live time.” The doctrine and discipline are embodied in this way, put into words of divine music, and acted through, in this very Presence. To understand our own dogmas — which differ from the pestilent unstated dogmas of our world — one must pray them. One must understand them in relation to Christ; not in relation to any other master. The function of homily — from the Greek for “discourse” or “prattle” — is to direct attention back into the Mass, to expound the meaning of the Mass, to explain what it is saying, what Christ is saying, through His Mass. That is the centre of Catholic life. Everything else in Catholic life returns to that centre.

For that is what the Church is saying, and as Joan of Arc put it: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” (It was she, too, who stated with such beautiful clarity, that she did not know whether God loved or hated the English, only that they’d be kicked out of France.)

The effort to complicate the matter requires much complicated resistance. Father Hunwicke has a genius for disentanglement. It would be worth “following” him, if only for the entertainment of watching how he does it. By all means go there before here. And then for godsake go to Mass, and apply what you have learned.

And with a light heart, for what is in the news doesn’t matter, and the dignity of worldly power is a big joke.

Wrath revisited

One should not write at all when one is very, very angry. Several past Idleposts have been deleted on that ground. Much better, I admit, to delete before posting. But best not to write them at all. I count it as a serious character flaw, on my part, that in such situations I seem unable to take to drink, and indulge immoderate writing, instead. Yet even drink can provide no reliable cure: for I have known several angry old men who were not improved by alcoholism. Supplicatory prayer would then be the last resort.

It is worse if one pretends that one is not angry, for the purpose of making one’s anger count. Indeed, one of my most reliable sources of anger is people I catch doing that: who strike the Olympian pose when their motive is quite obviously the settlement of a personal score. To the crime of unconscionable wrath is added the vanity of being above it. Lucky am I, that as one of nature’s hotheads, I am almost incapable of pulling that off.

For the combination of anger and self-esteem is lethal.

This is a general observation: that while the Seven Deadly Sins may be formidable, each of them in its own right, their combination can provide real throw-weight. Add pride to any of the six others, and one has constructed a ballistic missile, aimed infallibly at one’s own soul.

There is such a thing as righteous indignation. There are occasions when it needs to be used. But it is not a weapon for amateurs.

11/11

Poppy sales have been recovering — I refer only to the artificial kind — for so violent has been the history of the last century, that we can count on fresh reminders to wear them. Today, once again, at eleven o’clock, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month — before our War Memorial in Ottawa, where a Canadian soldier was recently slain in the name of Allah — we will again observe a moment of silence. And once again the first verses of a rondeau will be read, which ends: “Take up our quarrel with the foe, / To you with dying hands we throw / The torch; be yours to hold it high. / If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders Fields.”

I like to supply that last stanza, because by omitting it our politically-correct masters of ceremony break faith with those who died.

Outside an old high school, there was a long plaque (since removed) listing the names of students who’d gone off to Europe, 1914–18, and not come home: a few dozen boys, and a couple of nursing sisters. My grandfather showed it to me, when I was young. He said, “Those are just names, but I can put a face to every goddam one of them.”

War is not nice, and “niceness” is our current religion. I’m against both, myself — against war, and against saccharine sentimentality — if they can be avoided. Often they cannot. I have some considerable respect for pacifists who will put their beliefs on the line: who will serve in the ambulances and so forth. And, nothing but contempt for the rest. I am also against nationalism and jingoism and populism — the very ingredients of the Great War, and through the Wilsonian idiocies of Versailles, the cause of many wars, later; and all of them “total wars,” as the consequence of modern demagoguery.

Men are sinful; and while frightful technology and mass mobilization have increased the scale of the carnage, barbarism is nothing new. Armed with modern equipment, acolytes of Power from the distant past might have equalled our accomplishments. There will always be quarrels to take up with such foes.

My grandfather danced across France, and up Vimy Ridge. I keep his side satchel on my closet shelf: “H.R. Warren, #340976, 25th B’t’y, C.F.A.” This is so I may read that each time I reach for a jacket, to go outside. Inside the little satchel I have stuffed my father’s leather and canvas flyboy helmet, lettered, under a cartoon, “J.F. Warren, Ape-Shape.” He flew Spitfires, “for his late majesty King George VI,” against the German Modernists.

Both had to lie about their age, to get to the front quicker. Their recruiters winked: wars are for fighting.

The people have spoken

I see that Americans are well satisfied with their politicians: over 95 percent of incumbents re-elected. Perhaps I should be more gentle in my criticism of a system that can bring such torpor and contentment, and is not so unlike monarchy after all.

For note, that in this fast-changing world, some things do not change; that some jobs stay safe, from year to year and decade to decade.

One wonders why politicians go to the trouble of awarding themselves such extravagant pensions, when they could just leave their names on the ballot, indefinitely. Retirements cost the taxpayer money: for now, instead of the one politician, we must in effect pay for two. With term limits, who knows how many we must keep, in the style to which they have become accustomed?

Think of all those presidential libraries the poor Americans have had to build, when Jimmy Carter is still alive and kicking. The ancient pharaohs did not visit so many pyramids on their constituents.

Indeed, why should we bother with elections, once we have established that so-and-so has the most recognizable name? We could wait, and have another election after he dies. Or better, cancel that, and simply pass on the seat to his eldest child.

Fox News: “A complete rejection of Obama, his agenda and leadership.” …

Oh, please.

All the souls

I will tell you a Church  “reform” I would like to see. But now I will be using this word as a synonym for “restoration,” and not as the world is currently using it. I would like to see Latin restored as the normal as well as normative language of the Mass, for many different reasons. But for today’s purpose, I will give only one reason. It would contribute to the restoration of parishes; which in turn would contribute to the unity of the Church.

“The Eucharist is not a private business,” Joseph Ratzinger (as he then was) explained, in a memorable homily. (It was for Corpus Christi, and is reprinted in the first volume to be issued of his Collected Works, in English translation, just out from Ignatius Press, page 405.) It is not the meeting of a club, a gathering of like-minded people, or those who enjoy each other’s company. Indeed no institution in all human history comes close to the Catholic Church, in the diversity of her members. That is no accident, but the intention with which she was entrusted by her Founder from the beginning. She is there for all souls; and He meant, all souls.

In the good old days, of the first centuries, when we were being persecuted by the Romans — and in a way closer to what is now happening in the Arab than in the Western world — we established our churches wherever there were Christians, above ground when possible, underground when not. In these good old days, when the Church was digging in, principally around the Mediterranean Sea, including Anatolia, Egypt, North Africa — we settled upon a very particular and controversial practice. There was to be one (1) church in every town, or within any other given jurisdiction or “parish.” Note that number carefully, which is different from two, three, or any other number. For there were to be no “niche” churches, adapted to specific classes or ethnicities or enthusiasms or groups of any other sort.

Ratzinger: “It was characteristic of the Eucharist, then, in the Mediterranean world in which Christianity first developed, for an aristocrat who had found his way into Christianity to sit there side by side with a Corinthian dock worker, a miserable slave, who under Roman law was not even regarded as a man but was treated as a chattel. It was characteristic of the Eucharist for the philosopher to sit next to the illiterate man, the converted prostitute and the converted tax collector next to the religious ascetic who had found his way to Jesus Christ.”

This was, in our current fashion idiom, “transgressive” on the part of the Church. People resisted such seating arrangements, and as we may recall from the literature of that age, the right-thinking types considered it contra naturam and a scandal. Not as big a scandal as the theological one, however: the very idea that God could have a Son, so weak and hapless as to allow himself to be crucified in plain public view. (When the Muslims mock our Christian account of Jesus, they use exactly the arguments the old Romans used.)

One “scandal” at a time, however, and today’s (holy) “scandal” is putting the variety of people all in one Church, generally, and specifically all in one locality into one local church — and inside that, celebrating the Mass in one liturgical language, transcending all ethnicities. To the many objections, even from within, the answer from the bishops was, and should be: “You’ll live.”

Christian community was built in this way; by which I mean, the thing itself in flesh and blood, not abstract slogans and theatrical postures. Christendom spread, through the many and multiplying local churches, and on the mystical breath of common liturgy. Christians were not to be atomized. We might call this the Old Evangelization, in contrast to the latest marketing ploys. The people were bound together not by worldly affiliations, but in Christ. (St Paul and St Luke cast so much light on this.)

There is an apparent paradox here, that is not a paradox. Our post-modern “liturgists,” in that “Spirit of Vatican II,” tell us that the liturgy is all about community; and about “creativity,” “freedom,” “participation,” and other vogue words of this nature, each taken at current face value, after catastrophic intellectual inflation. They stand, to my mind, in opposition to the Word. The New Mass has been filled with talk, more talk, responses, more talk, and “audience participation,” with feelgood popular karaoke hymns. (As Ratzinger observed, the liturgy itself is the first thing to set to music. To insert sung hymns into a said Mass is to throw them at the liturgy.)

By comparison, the Old Mass was full of silences. The music — the glorious, ancient heritage of Catholic music, which the “liturgists” sabotaged by gratuitously changing the scanning of texts — was participative in a quite different way. To the words of the liturgy, embodied in the poetry and music of the Mass, the congregation listened. It spoke through them, in common prayer. It was meant to be beautiful, to raise people up, not to degrade them; the highest possible standard for God, not the lowest common denominator of the congregation. The people participated in this way; they were steeped in bottomless profundities which — said or sung — echoed through interior contemplation. Not a passing variety show, a kind of spiritual vaudeville with the latest happy-clappy tunes, but the same ever anew, unfolding in the harmony of the seasons — yesterday, today, and forever. The congregation participated not volubly, but reverently. Seldom, when spoken by the priest, was the whole Canon of the Mass pronounced aloud: it sufficed to pronounce the first few words of each section of prayer. The congregation was following, humbly and intently, repeating the rest of the prayer not in a showy, but in an interior way. It was drawn out of itself, and it participated in that drawing out, its focus upon the Cross, and thereupon what is true, immortally.

In short, the community was being formed, not in itself, but in Christ. All the souls gathered in Him.

So far as I can see, all the changes made to the liturgy, in the chaos of the 1960s and ’70s, sabotaged this action. Consult the reasoning, and one sees that it was sabotaged intentionally. (A decent, if rather fey attempt is being made to roll some of this back: to correct at least the “reforms” that were directly in conflict with instructions from the actual Vatican II.) The congregation is distracted by the sound of its own voice. Its attention is turned to the priest, facing, then mirrored back onto itself; not priest and people together in one single attention to the liturgical East. There is all this “we are the people of God” pomposity: the arrogance of the “democratic” mob, celebrating its own vulgarity. Distraction has been piled upon distraction. By contrast, to pray, with all one’s soul within the sacred chant, and polyphony — and to pray the silences, in rhythm with the whole Church — is a profound participation. (Again, read Ratzinger, and discover through his works all the real authorities on the liturgy, spread as they are through twenty centuries, and not just the conceited, bureaucratic “experts” of a decade or two.)

A community, in Christ, is formed in this way; a local community within the universal community. The liturgy itself is forming this community: in the practice and very presence of Christ. Something so deep cannot possibly be casual; nor altered by whim from week to week.

The old Protestant insistence, that services be conducted in “a language understanded by the people,” may be taken in stride. Anyone in possession of an American Catholic Missal, published before Vatican II, will note that the Latin is translated to English in parallel columns, in case anyone is wondering what is going on. And, since they would be attending every Sunday, at least, they would eventually get the hang of it. There were people allergic to Latin even before 1962, of course, but they’d live.

Now what happens if, as in any large city today, we have people whose native language isn’t English? Or who, even though they have more or less adapted to the civil lingua franca in these parts, remain sufficiently “multicultural” that they attend (when they attend at all) ethnically-themed Catholic churches? Or Masses in different languages within the same church, which similarly divide the Catholic faithful into ethnic ghettos, setting natives and immigrants apart? Gentle reader may begin to see where Latin comes in: for it was and must necessarily remain the lingua franca of the Western Church; as Greek is of the Eastern, including that part of the Eastern in communion with Rome. Hardly are these the only languages, and the Mass could be sung in many more, but wherever the Catholic Church has travelled, and it has now travelled the whole world, Latin is the language of first resort.

I’m not touching here questions of schism, except indirectly. Rather, I observe that an attribute of the One Church, is oneness. Arrangements may be slightly adjusted from province to province, diocese to diocese, even parish to parish, but in each case and at any location, visibly, one Church. (It is the more painful that the contemporary, faithful Catholic must often cross parish boundaries to attend a church where heresy is not being preached from the pulpit.)

Have conditions changed in the world today? But of course: things are rather different than in the first centuries. But the fact of variety has not changed, nor has the fact of the Church. And with regard to the important matter of human ontology and immortal life: no Catholic is a “niche” Catholic.

As ever in these idle essays, I invite gentle reader only to think of this; to think things through. The points I make are those which strike me as obvious and incontestable, even though the same reader may see them as irretrievably subtle and easily contested. But again, think it through, and in its context: the fallout from all the disintegrative liturgical innovations done in the name, not of Jesus Christ, but of the “Spirit of Vatican II.”

Galatians, towards the end of chapter three: “There is neither Hebrew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”