Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

All Hallows’ Eve

In a dream I was dreaming, of a recent morning before first light, there were children with lanterns wandering the streets. The dream was already fading, when I came to write it down, but there remained several indelible touches. Chiefmost was my surprise, upon descending (as the eye of some camera or some bird) from a height into the streams of them. It was like Hallowe’en, with children of all sizes, the larger holding the smaller on their hips, or leading them by hand. And somehow I knew that every one of them was an orphan.

The children were dressed as priests and deacons, monks and canons, nuns and religious sisters. As I looked about, I spotted a wee bishop under his great mitre, an abbot standing in his oversized sandals, an abbess, a prioress; and many more, from curious eastern or perhaps ancient orders. And some were in sheepskins, and some in rags; a shepherd leading a little lamb; some dressed as brides, some dressed as grooms; some carrying tools, as carpenters or masons; and one a feudal lord, followed by his retainers, each with a cross. And they were carrying, too, many kinds of lanterns, and some of them staffs, and bells, sacks or purses; and one of them preceding a little group, swinging a censer. But all were children, come to beg alms.

They turned, it seemed, through every street, and in the manner of a dream I was both among them, and watching the sea of lanterns, from afar. On the ground, I could see them treading before me, and around me. Try as I did I could not see the faces, uncannily shrouded in some way. I wanted to ask, “Who are you?” and “Who are you?” I wanted to hug the sweet little souls, but a voice was telling me, don’t touch them.

By many dark houses they walked, but at some there were adults, standing on their steps and porches, or in their open doorways. And when a child approached, each grown man or woman bowed, deeply and gravely. At which the child would solemnly bless him, and then be on his way.

*

The model for my dream was of course Hallowe’en, and the figures in the costumes like Hallowe’en kids, and yet the scene was not merry as I remember Hallowe’en from my own childhood. What I recall was a mediaeval spectacle, of sorts, in which the roles of children and adults were reversed, and there was a joke in which everyone was sharing, while pretending to long faces. It was ghosts and goblins and witches and sprites, portrayed with an innocence that can still be glimpsed, in some of the safer neighbourhoods. (Taking children round Parkdale is too much of a risk.)

Something different has however emerged today, to replace that innocence. The new mock-spiritual Hallowe’en is like the new city, in its childlessness.

A sign posted by the door of a house in Toronto’s liberal, upmarket Annex district, explained this evolution to me, a few years back. The house was decorated for a Hallowe’en party, which was apparently for grown-ups only. The sign told children not to ring, because no candy would be offered. “Please respect our privacy,” it concluded.

*

No mock-spiritual event can be entirely without content: for even the elimination of religion is, by its nature, a religious act. Eternity remains eternity, even while vigil is transformed into feast. Our stance towards the eternal is expressed in symbols, which have meaning even when no longer understood.

From the start of modern, “American” Hallowe’en, the jack-o’-lantern was the reigning symbol. It originated in Irish folklore, and came to our shores with the poor immigrants. The tale is of quick-witted, drunken Jack, invited by the Devil to climb a tree, who first carves a cross in the bark so the Devil cannot get him. He’ll not go to Hell, but after a life of “sin, drink, and mendacity” he’ll not be getting into Heaven either. Dead, he is first refused there, then sent to the other place. But spotting Jack at the Gates of Hell, the Devil hurls a lighted coal at him, from the infernal fires. He was cold, our Jack, but being Irish and clever, he hollows out a rutabaga (the original for our pumpkin), placing the coal inside to keep it from blowing out. With this he to this day wanders about the cosmos, looking for a place to call home.

Lonely we may be, through all eternity, but I’m not sure we still rise to Jack’s condition. Would we be worth a missile of hot coal?

Gentle reader may find a few more details in Dante, on the fate of souls that not even the Devil can be bothered to entertain.

*

My dream, I might mention, ended in terror. As I was waking the curtain of night pulled away, and light was shed on the nocturnal vision. These were not living children, I was somehow told, but rather the souls of the dead, walking in the costumage of holy saints. They were the spirits of all those little folk, massacred in the abortion clinics, restored mysteriously to flesh. And back from limbo they had come, prowling the city, in search of their own faces.

And so I had been watching their processions through the city, to the homes of their mothers and their fathers, asking only to be recognized as their own.

On four hundred million

Red Chinese statistics are worthless, as intelligent statisticians know. The stupid rely on them anyway, arguing that nothing else is available. This is a typical manoeuvre of modern scientism: taking worthless information at face value, then constructing elaborate fantasies upon it. They call the result, “settled science”; then chastise the sceptics because they can produce no better statistics. In this way, any form of basic human intelligence can be condemned as “anti-scientific.”

The Communists have, eight or nine times since the Maoist revolution, completely “reformed” their statistical methodologies, starting again each time effectively from scratch. Therefore to compare their statistics over time, in order to extract trends, is, to write plainly, compulsively insane. And yet it is not clear whether false statistics are any less useful than true statistics. Which is my odd way of saying, neither is any use at all. They are just numbers. Whereas, in reality, every living person has a face and a name.

Bear this in mind, when considering the statistic I am about to provide; but not before I belabour gentle reader with further asides.

According to news reports, the Communists have just changed their “one child policy.” The source, so far as I can trace, is an item in Xinhua, their official news agency. It appeared yesterday. The totalitarian government will now allow all their female serfs to bear two (2) live children if they want. This should, by statistical principle, substantially reduce the number whose birth is prevented by contraception, abortion, and infanticide. Given known cultural propensities, it might proportionally increase, in particular, the number of female babies who escape murder.

To this day, China reporters rely, almost invariably, on their official handouts. They may, themselves, suspect they are all lies, but the modern journalist is comfortable with lies, so long as he can source them. I would want a great deal of further information before believing what they are handing on.

For one thing: this is news they have reported before, having been conned by the same sort of press releases, which seem instead to have announced only changes in the list of exceptions to that “one child policy.” This is China, after all, where in a sense nothing can be true, for like the statistics, the history itself may be rewritten day to day. Where do you start, when the past is no more predictable than the future? You start by lying.

Notwithstanding, the evidence that there has been a “one child policy” is overwhelming. And however it was actually imposed, upon whom, where, and by means of what punishments, it can be reasonably stated that, since the policy was originally announced in 1978, if not before, and as a consequence of its provisions, a very large number of Chinese children who would have enjoyed the light of day, have not.

Which takes us finally to today’s statistic. I have seen many estimates of the number of children whose birth or infancy was prevented. The lowest I have seen is four hundred million. As an old-fashioned hack, with a distaste for lying, and therefore seeking at least the possibility of truth, I would have expressed this as, “in the order of hundreds of millions.” And this in the hope that at least I was not contributing to the establishment of “four hundred million” as a journalistic cliché. Because such clichés are anodyne, helping to eliminate the pain of moral thinking. But let us grant that the (almost certainly false) number is in that plausible range.

*

It is a good question how to express this number in Roman numerals. I’ve never got the hang of them, over one million or so. I suspect the pagan Romans themselves, to their credit, never got the hang of them either. A million is CCCCIƆƆƆƆ, so I suppose one could copy that four hundred times. Alternatively, simply write M, four hundred thousand times, which for typographical reasons, I am loath to do. Each M equals one thousand babies. Or there is a trick with superscribed double bars, used as million multipliers, or other symbolic devices, reducing this to CD (which is four hundred) plus the selected graffito.

But the Romans, generally, did not go there. Their preference was to leave very high numbers to the gods. They nevertheless proceeded on Domesday principles, for tax gathering, and to get some idea (district by district) of quantities of people in relation to livestock, crops, supplies of honey, butter, wool, or what have you. (Bureaucracy is not a modern invention.) Yet grand totals did not much interest them (as they did, to their shame, the Emperors of China); and even with the souls of engineers, they instinctively recoiled from treating people as numbers.

As did the Hebrews, whose God — He is ours, too, incidentally — took a dark view of headcounts, even, perhaps especially, when done for “purely administrative” purposes. Gentle reader may recall, for instance, the plague that followed King David’s pioneering essay in modern statistical analysis. Too, that even before he started, his census-taker, Joab, was wary of proceeding. He would do as ordered, up to a point, but let David know that he doubted the wisdom of counting all those heads. (See I Paralipomenon in your Douay Bibles, or I Chronicles in your KJVs; about the 21st chapter.)

Satan puts many ideas into the heads of our rulers, as surely we all realize by now. The destruction of children is surely among them. The destruction of children and others by class is surely a great evil; and the collection of statistics for manipulation, by class (starting from the notion of military conscription), is what we are to guess Satan had in mind, when putting his innovative census idea into the head of King David.

The modern mind, inured to statistics, cannot get itself around this. It cannot find a “problem” with counting, per se. It is slow to grasp that the problem is instead with why we are counting. Whose purposes are we serving? What evils advancing? Do we not trust God?

Our daily number, four hundred million, which may or may not approximate to the truth, is like other large numbers, hard to comprehend. Or rather, quite impossible, for the man of eight fingers and only two thumbs. Even a millipede would have trouble with it. Other large numbers come to mind: “six million” for instance, or “one million a year,” if gentle reader smoaks my allusions.

God, I often think, does not do numbers. He leaves them to do themselves. He alone might number the hairs on your head, but I cannot imagine how He would find the number interesting. Nature may count, to give us two and not three nostrils, but seldom does she seem obsessed with exact numbers, over a dozen or so. (The millipedes are an exception: she always counts the legs.) Above this, like the Romans, or this hack, she seems content merely with orders of numbers. Which indeed is what we are dealing with here, though perhaps unnecessarily.

And God might know the exact number, of Chinese souls missing from the current account. But I do not think the number would interest Him, any more than the number of hairs missing from the bald spot on a Jesuit monsignor. For in my understanding, in general, God does not do headcounts. He does names, hearts, and immortal faces. And each means the whole world, to Him.

Ave maris stella

After a storm-blowing day, figuratively but also literally, there is the making of tea, and the longed-for quiet in which to collect oneself. To be now warm, and dry, surrounded by my books; and kept, in the light and company of a candle. A hymn tune had been forming from dust in the air, but I could not place it; interwoven, it seemed, both plainsong and baroque.

Then it came to me, by slow deduction: that I was listening in my head to something by Monteverdi, that I had last heard decades ago. For with it the image came to mind of the interior of a beloved parish church, in England. Yet it could not have been that little place.

I am an illiterate: I cannot read music. Ashamed, I try to keep this to myself, together with the fact I cannot sing, either. I recall “songlines,” that come to me unbidden, and tease me, playing just beyond my ken. Perhaps I would have forgotten them, had they been written down and filed away; they remember me only from my own effort to remember them. The human mind makes compensations, and unmakes them; memory withdraws when it is no longer required. But it comes again out of the shadows, timidly when summoned. And tries, even when it does not understand what it has been asked.

Most certainly it was Monteverdi: famous Monteverdi. For on searching I found the hymn on disc: a John Eliot Gardiner recording from 1989. I had last played it, now I realized, when my children were very young.

It comes back to me in the memory of my flesh. My Down-syndrome child, listening with me; the sense of his presence in my arms and lap. One’s heart breaks sometimes, around such recollections: my child, Matthew, at age of two or three; so fragile and so perfect in his untutored love.

So I played the music on my little machine, just as I had then: the Ave maris stella. It has plainsong at the top, and the verses fall out of it, exchanged between choirs in alternating rhythms as a mystical dance. I love the music but not so well the recording, whose forceful instrumentation makes the Christian hymn too courtly. I had remembered it as choirs, only; with solos less poised. But it is still sublime.

We need to renew our appeal, to Our Lady, seen in the vision as star of the sea. For here we are in the chains of the guilty, in the darkness of the blind, weighed down, weighed under. Break chains, bring light, and purge us: O Mother Mary, meek and chaste. Lead us to thy Son.

That is what the song is saying: Prepare for us a safe journey. The words come out of the memory in a jumble, from a Latin that is untranslatable, following its own inexplicable thread.

It goes back at least to the eighth century, more likely to the sixth; and the melody to time hidden, within the envelopes of time. The hymn is associated with Saint Bridget of Ireland; the earliest manuscripts came to St Gall from there. And after a thousand years, it became the anthem — sung always in Latin, never in their native French — for the Acadian people of our Canadian Maritimes. For they, too, knew it could never be translated.

By then, the music had passed through the hands of a thousand composers, and re-composers, in churches by their tens of thousands. It is by now too much to assemble in mortal thought; too much for us to imagine. Yet ever, beyond the reach of our forgetting, all would of itself recombine. For always it was sung for one poor sinner, kneeling humble and broken in the stalls.

Non possumus

La Chiesa maestra non inventa la sua dottrina; ella è teste, è custode, è interprete, è tramite; e, per quanto riguarda le verità proprie del messaggio cristiano, essa si può dire conservatrice, intransigente; ed a chi la sollecita di rendere più facile, più relativa ai gusti della mutevole mentalità dei tempi la sua fede, risponde con gli Apostoli: Non possumus, non possiamo.

“The teaching Church does not invent her doctrine; she is a witness, a guardian, an interpreter, a mediator; and as to the truths pertaining to the Christian message, she could be called conservative, intransigent; to the one who asks her to make the faith easier, more adapted to the changing mentality of the times, she responds with the Apostles: Non possumus, we cannot.”

Non possumus: the expression goes back to the earliest days of the Church. It is what our first martyrs said, when the Roman authorities asked them to deny Christ, in order to save their skins. In their own minds, the Romans were being reasonable, the Christians blinkered and doctrinaire. “How can you say you cannot do what anyone can do?” Just spit on Christ briefly, and be on your way. But again the Christians would say: Non possumus.

To the death: Non possumus.

*

This magnificent quotation is from Blessed Paul VI, his general audience for Wednesday, 19th January 1972. The translation is my own little exercise. Gentle reader should be told, however, that like many of the bishops gathered last week in Rome, I do not speak Italian. I was trying to get a taste of their experience. They were presented with a long document, in Italian only, and told to show it to no one. They would have overnight to find any flaws.

Google translations are treacherous, as I’ve learnt the hard way. But given a dictionary, an Italian grammar, a few other reference books, and a month or so, I think I could get a good hold on a document the length of the final Relatio Synodi. The Fathers had a few hours.

Those who could read Italian would have noticed that more than a thousand amendments, proposed in the various linguistic committees over the previous three weeks, had been ignored; and that the content of the original Instrumentum Laboris had been largely reimposed, including paragraphs which had failed to get sufficient support for passage at last year’s preparatory Synod. In other words, the Fathers had been wasting their breath and jetlag for three weeks. And now, after whatever overnight fixes, the final document would be coming up for a vote on Saturday, paragraph by paragraph.

Bishops both Italian and non-Italian had one more chance to look at the text, now slightly revised but still exclusively in cumbersome Italian. So far as I can see, from translations since available, each one of the paragraphs contains multiple complex and arguable propositions. Any one of them might be hiding, and on past experience might well be hiding, clever legalistic tricks, designed by the liberal draughting committee to spring open doors that for twenty centuries the Church has kept methodically locked and bolted. For this has been the usual method of the “reformers,” since Vatican II: planting deceitfully ambiguous language in Church documents, or half-truths that can provide escape hatches later on.

(It is a tradition that goes back to the Serpent in the Garden.)

And those who spotted them could themselves expect to be impugned for “legalism,” and “paranoia” — for obsessing on the letter over the spirit of the law — a criticism the Holy Father is constantly repeating. And this when, in fact, their Church had always previously required them to observe not “either/or,” but both the letter and the spirit. What were they to do?

I could understand the temptation to drink a bottle of wine, then simply vote Yes, ninety-four times.

Or if it were me, two bottles, and then No, ninety-four times.

Three days after that vote, I was still trying to decide whom to trust, to get a correct understanding of it. On this fourth day, I have given up. I have concluded that the document is as was intended. It is like a banana republic constitution, that makes little clear, leaving everything significant open to “discernment” — i.e. lawless tyranny.

There are some eminent and well-connected pundits; they say different and sometimes contradictory things. None of these could be present in the hall, when the questions were thrashed out, to no purpose; let alone in the back chambers, where the official text was actually composed. The account of Roberto de Mattei is the boldest, providing some facts not reported elsewhere. (It is here.) As an old journalistic hack, I take note when facts are stated boldly: the reporter is either right, or he is wrong. If wrong, he can be corrected. This is not possible when what we have is only interpretations, synthesized from other interpretations. One cannot correct bafflegab.

If de Mattei is correct, another coup was attempted, much like last year’s. The draughting committee, itself in a great rush, and dominated by very liberal papal appointees, whose basic honesty was already in question, tried again to impress their predetermined template.

Friday morning, in the hall, and in the presence of the pope, dozens of the Fathers rose to speak. The Holy Father was made to understand that the document as written would not pass. As the day progressed to night — and the possibility of a catastrophic conclusion to the Synod became clearer — select curial “conservatives” were allowed to overwrite parts of some of the most controversial, “liberal” paragraphs. This had the effect of reducing attempted heresy to murk, that might mean anything. It suited the Kasperites almost as well as what they had originally draughted; they were gloating afterwards.

But now both sides could declare victory — one to have opened, and the other to have stopped up the holes — leaving the pope with the free hand he had from the start, to act unilaterally, in due course (as he did recently with his “fast-track” nullity process, creating a de facto “Catholic” arrangement for quick and easy divorce).

And so it came to be, that in the hall, Saturday, the Fathers voted Yes to the paragraphs, ninety-four times.

And then the pope spoke to them, in what was widely reported to be a bad mood. The Synod was meant to advise him, freely, and yet he had gone to the trouble of stacking it with forty-five of his own, overwhelmingly liberal nominees, to guide that advice towards what he wanted to hear. The most controversial paragraph, No. 85, dealing with the divorced and remarried, required as all the others, 177 votes. Even with the stacking, and after the last-minute sludge had been inserted, it barely passed with 178. He made quite a few remarks, calling into question the motives of those who had resisted his spirit of innovation: very low blows against his most distinguished cardinals. He then received the customary standing ovation.

The document as a whole is written in post-modern gobbledegook: a compound of sociological bosh with ecclesiological cliché. It is the opposite of inspiring. At a time when the Church is desperately in need of a great trumpet blast in defence of the full Catholic conception of the family, it confines itself mostly to “relationships,” weaseling through the ground for invisible prey. In my opinion it is trash.

If there is good news, I find it in the fifty or more Fathers of the Synod who seem still to comprehend the statement of Pope Paul with which this essay began; and which has been indeed the view of the Church, since the Apostles. It is morally, intellectually, and spiritually wrong, to tamper with Christ’s own doctrine; to look “jesuitically” for ways to get around or through the teaching of twenty centuries, which is Christ’s teaching. Yet all the faithful Fathers can do is resist, from a delicate position. They can oppose the shameful works of the many ill-formed liberals now spreading rapidly through the hierarchy of the Church, and acting deviously to advance an agenda that is “post-Catholic,” based on a modern and false account of “mercy.” But they must stop short of observing that their pope is appointing them.

*

Or to put this another way, I am hopeful. For it is only when an evil becomes perfectly visible, that it tends to be addressed. And that is just when, on past experience, the Holy Spirit intervenes — God, the Holy Spirit; not some verbal pretence — to prevent utter ruin and damnation.

In the course of digging out that vaguely remembered quote, I came across another translation. This was on a website that cannot be sufficiently praised. It is called, The Denziger-Bergoglio (and may be found, here). It is the effort of a few learned, anonymous priests, first in Spanish and now in English, to retrieve the actual Magisterium of Holy Church.

The tactic is to take various innovatory statements from Pope Francis and, using “Denziger” and other standard reference works for search, juxtapose them with authoritative statements of Church teaching through the centuries. In this way the scale of the breach with Catholic tradition is revealed. I recommend the site to every gentle reader. With all references capably linked to sources, it is an opportunity for all of us to more thoroughly catechize ourselves. At a time when Catholic Truth is under attack, not “from the peripheries,” but from Central, it gives us something useful we can do.

For paradoxically, the very recklessness and foolishness with which we are confronted, creates this opportunity. In the face of the challenge, Catholic teaching must be recovered and revived. Our task is to learn first ourselves, and then teach; to find what the true teaching is, and proclaim it; to bring it back into action, in our lives.

This is an exciting prospect, after fifty years of moral lassitude “in the spirit of Vatican II.” For as we soon discover, we still have within our reach, the most profound instruction that this world can ever know; and it remains the very means to our salvation.

At a time of encroaching darkness, let us know the Truth, that the Truth shall make us free.

____________

POSTSCRIPTUM. … I was not there, of course, but I have received, overnight, a couple of corrections to the above account from people who were. They challenge the (otherwise admired) Roberto de Mattei’s account of the Synod’s conclusion, one as “frothing,” the other as “fantasy,” and both as “fiction.” In particular, I am told that many of the “modi” were incorporated in the final text, voluntarily by its writers, and that non-Italian-speaking bishops knew the arrangements in advance and got plenty of help in translation from the Synod staff. They do not dispute that, “We’re still facing a mess, but it’s not because of the imaginary process he described.”

Other correspondents suggest that, from the number of toys thrown out of their prams, since the Synod, at least some of the liberals’ plans must have been frustrated.

Hae nobis propriae sedes

If the Viking priests from the age of the Orkneyinga Saga (composed eight centuries ago, about matters through centuries before it), returned suddenly to their old haunt on Papa Stronsay, they would have lively conversation with the current inhabitants. As they could not speak English, nor these new monks Old Norse, the chatter would be in Latin. The Mass they would celebrate together would also be in Latin, of course, and the Vikings would have no difficulty in following it. For it was their Mass, too.

The gentle reader who does not already know about the Transalpine Redemptorist presence in Orkney may inform himself (here, and perhaps also, here). For it is more than the “romantic story,” of a genuinely counter-cultural adventure. In some sense one might say that the living centre of the Catholic Church is now more on that bleak, and beautiful island of Papa Stronsay, than in the heart of today’s pagan Rome. This seems especially so in light of the recent Synod; as to me, after reading the current pope’s latest remarks at the conclusion of it — full of his characteristic slights and insults towards traditional practitioners of the Catholic faith.

I know that many faithful are hurting, or quite understandably angry; that they feel violated and betrayed. That is why I am writing like this, reminding that Christ will bind wounds; that He will not betray us.

Christ goes where He is wanted, and under present circumstances that is far, far away, “to the peripheries” — or rather, let us cut the cheap sociological blather and say, “to the ends of the Earth.” He is in love with the bright-eyed peoples of Africa; and with those suffering under murderous tyrannies in Asia and the Middle East. By contrast in Europe, and here in the Americas, in our life of fat and consumption, we now have little use for Him; and so He leaves us to find our own way, progressively, downward.

Yet in many rural and remote places, and even sometimes in little neighbourhoods within the huge, fraught cities of these once-Christian realms, His Church is flourishing. The numbers may be tiny in proportion to the general population, but wherever that old Latin Mass is sung, there are vocations, and there is revival. Where it is not, the Church is dying out; and yet here, too, where the Mass of the Ages, and through it the teaching of the ages, is no longer made available, individual novus-ordo Christians still wait and humbly pray for relief.

Christ is there, forever in the Eucharist; and wherever it is taken by the shriven with real faith and the childlike understanding, the power of the Redemption is felt. (And where it is taken by appropriation, unworthily “by right,” the power of Judgement is visited instead.) He is present in the sincerity of all private prayer and petitions, extending from that Mass, and every good and virtuous deed, done in the communion of the Saints. Christ is crucified, dead, and risen; He is alive. Try as they will, His detractors will ever fail to kill Him.

This is simply how things are, and how they always were and will be. Within every cell of the true Church is the relation between that small Christian soul, and this Tremendous Lover. (See here.)

We have often before been abandoned by priests and bishops, with their own private agendas, or strutting their fake “humility” for the adulation of crowds. We have had bad popes; we have had every sin of which men are capable, done in sacred places. This is the world, and this is what men are: fallen. Let them seek forgiveness, and pick themselves up; do what they can to rectify the damage they have caused, the pain they have gratuitously inflicted. Let them open their eyes before Our Lord closes them forever. It makes no sense to choose the road to Hell.

There is nothing new under the Sun, and I see that Saint Peter Damian’s Liber Gommorrhianus, or “Book of Gomorrah,” from ten centuries ago, is once again circulating, in English translation. (Can be ordered here.) It is from another age, when clerical corruption, including rampant sodomy and pederasty, was threatening the integrity of holy orders. Damian was an ascetic, at home in the remote Italian hills, but as I recall from a previous translation of this book, he can be unpleasantly modern in his forensic descriptions of what priests and monks descend to, when they become depraved. He turns, with a form of mercy that is excoriating, upon the most common crime: then as now, the satanic tampering with adolescent boys.

He provides, too, the context for this corruption, through cross-allusion to simony and careerist self-advancement (his Liber Gommorrhianus ought ideally to be read alongside his Liber Gratissimus) — directing fearless, full-bore attacks on the princes of the Church who make themselves comfortable, and hide the crimes. The book made its author extremely unpopular, and the defence of him, by Pope Leo IX, though brave at first, became increasingly lukewarm. But the scandals it exposed were quietly acknowledged and gradually addressed. The shame that this saint had helped to reawaken slowly triumphed over the filth of this eleventh-century liberalism.

This is not the whole story of Petrus Damiani, some of whose miscellaneous writings on the spiritual and contemplative life are also known to me through the excellent translations of Patricia McNulty (1959, here). These are precious, very positive works, curiously contemporary with that saga of conversion in the northern wilds. This lonely Benedictine would likewise be at home with those monks on Papa Stronsay, so far away from him in space and time.

It was beloved Benedict XVI, incidentally, who through his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, brought the Transalpine Redemptorists back into full communion with Holy Church. They were a product of the SSPX reaction against the liberal innovations that followed from Vatican II, and the account of their relations with Rome is complex and often vexed. So it must be in a generation when the Vatican bureaucracy is more easily alarmed and scandalized by the persistently faithful, than by the faithless and glib. But that generation is already passing into ashes.

Our task is to keep our moorings in the true and unchanging Magisterium, clinging, as it were, “to our guns and our Bibles,” or to distant treeless islands as the case may be. For wherever Christ is — however cold, windy, and wet — we are at home in the breast of Our Saviour.

Wrong how?

It seems that Tony Blair and I were wrong about Iraq — at least, according to Tony, who made a less than complete confession to some other talking head on the weekend. Jeb, the brother of Dubya Boosh, says something similar from time to time, by way of securing his reputation as a wimp in his own run for the U.S. presidency. In the clear light of retrospection, maybe they wouldn’t have thrown that particular rock into that particular hornet’s nest from that particular angle. All the same, they’re glad we got Saddam.

They may speak for themselves. (I permit it.) But speaking only for myself, given better information from the intelligence agencies (and so forth), I’d do it all over again — the way I wanted it done in the first place.

Gentle reader knows my opinion of “democracy,” and might trust I would not have spent thousands in blood and billions in treasure trying to install “democracy” in Iraq. Let the politicians apologize for that mistake. No: I would have picked a plausible Arab Strongman, who understood the regional facts of life, in just the way we had remodelled them: “You’re with us, or you’re with them, and we have the missiles.”

In other words, proceed from the “invasion” phase to the “surge” phase, without the long intermission.

Call me a bloodthirsty warmonger, but I thought the operation was military in nature, and the quicker it were over, the better. This, moreover, because, as I was aware then, and am even more aware now, the Western television audience has a short attention span; and voters, though enthusiastic at first, tire of foreign wars quickly. Focus, therefore, on wiping out anything that looks like an enemy in short order; then leave a few discreet bases scattered about to repeat the operation when and where required. Do what you can to avoid “collateral damage,” but don’t fuss it: more lives are saved by a drama that, so far as humanly possible, observes the Aristotelian unities.

This is hard nasty geopolitical stuff in a fallen world. One does not waste punches, nor bluff. I admired President Bush because, while supposedly inarticulate, he was able to communicate the notion, “You do this, and we do that.” By showing that he meant it, to Kabul and Baghdad, he had, by May of 2003, everyone’s complete attention. America was the hyperpower, and everyone understood. (Twelve years later, that hyperpower has folded.)

More lives are saved by clarity and simplicity. The Daesh were able to flourish because so much wiggle room was supplied to them. Tony is right that the movement technically originated on the Syrian side of the border; but that was so largely because it had been driven there. The Daesh began to amount to something with Saddam’s surviving assets, mostly in capable personnel. For, whether or not sporting “ABC” weapons, Saddam did have international terrorist connexions, and considerable experience in manipulating them. He did have a plan for what to do if the Americans invaded; and though he may be posthumous, himself, it is still working.

I would go so far as to say that he outsmarted people like our Tony. For the Americans and British and all their other allies have gone home. And his Sunni-faction Daesh are still very much in business.

Put this another way: Why did we stop at the Syrian border? There were several unanswerable reasons to cross it in hot pursuit, of which only the first was to hunt down and kill escaping enemy forces.

Another was to win the Assad family over to “cooperation” with the USA, or failing that, to let them join their old Ba’athist allies in extinction.

To which end, many logistic problems could have been resolved by coming at them from two sides: from the Mediterranean as well as from the Persian Gulf. For Assad’s Hezbollah confederates — the Shia Iranian proxy — were also in need of inartistic pruning.

This last would in turn not only have improved everyday life in Beirut and Damascus; it would have clinched the “you’re next” message to Tehran. It would have mightily impressed our old NATO friends in Turkey; and have left Israel with one fewer front line to lose sleep over. And all for a fraction of the cost of the four lost years before General Petraeus and company “surged.”

Gaddafi never needed replacing. After all, when he’d had a good look at what Boosh had done about Saddam, he became quite reasonable, happily surrendering his own nuclear programme. Mubarak might still be in power, too, as the conditions for the Arab Spring (power vacuums) would not have coalesced. And I daresay the ayatollahs of Iran would be welcoming our nuclear inspectors, by a treaty less negotiated than dictated. There would certainly be no ever-mounting tide of refugees on European shores; and several million Christians would still be living in comparative peace in the locations where they were born.

“Peace through strength” is an old adage; or by way of preparation, “Peace through war.” Instead, we have been working on the idea of peace through shuttle diplomacy which — have you noticed? — always ends in failure. It is a failure by which vastly more lives are lost, or ruined, than by the success of prompt and decisive military action.

This, anyway, is where I disagree with Tony; yet still agree, in principle, with the proposed solution to the terrorist problem of that Dubya Boosh. It was, if gentle reader will recall, that each and every sovereign state will “deal with” (in the sense of, extinguish) the threats originating within its borders. Or, failing that, get a visit from the USMC.

Questions for ye bishops

Further to yesterday’s effusion, and to round out my comments for a week through which I have tried, Lord have I tried, to avoid “news,” “views,” and unpleasant speculation from the Synod at Rome; … well, I’ve been chatting with some fellow hack on a phone, and he said he had some questions for the bishops. “So have I, so have I,” it occurred, and the first seven questions come to mind were these:

1. Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?
2. Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
3. Are you walking daily by the Saviour’s side?
4. Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
5. When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white?
6. Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright?
7. Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

If I had a single criticism it would be that the old guys have nae clew on this topic of “the family.” They give a poor impression of old celibates altogether; especially the Aryans. They have missed the whole point, and it was left to some Romanian woman (here), and to some Russian with a beard (here), to remind them what’s what, and how it fits together.

’Tis not just from the beginning of the Christian faith, but as Christ said to Moses from the start of this world: the man and the woman, created He twain. And it is by this arrangement that His world is peopled. The family is not about young divorcees and old perverts, Your Eminences, nae; it is about the bairns. And more, if ye be patient, … gentle reader. It is about the childers of thy childers, playing in the dust when thou art old:

I was told by me aunt, I was told by me mother,
That going tae a weddin’ is the makins of another;
Well, if this be so, I will go without a biddin’
O kind providence, won’t ye send me tae a weddin’ —
    And it’s O dear me, how will it be,
    If I die an old maid in a garret?

I can cook and I can sew, I can keep a house right tidy,
Rise up in the mornin’ and get the breakfast ready:
There’s nothin’ in this wide world would make me heart so cheery
As a wee fat man to call me his own deary —
    And it’s O dear me, how will it be,
    If I die an old maid in a garret?

Vigilate & orate

Among my favourite pop-Protestant hymns is “To Be a Pilgrim,” as sung by the empyreal Maddy Prior. This partly at least because she sings the salty original words of John Bunyan, and not the fey Edwardian rewrite that is to be found in Vaughan Williams’ English Hymnal. Bunyan did not hesitate over terms such as “hobgoblin” and “foul fiend”; and can carry a pronoun through three stanzas. (In the churchy version, “he,” the Pilgrim, migrates to “we,” and “I,” as if Annibale Bugnini had been advising the Anglicans about the year 1906.)

Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend,
Can daunt his spirit;
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
To be a Pilgrim.

A delicate Catholic question might be raised whether the Pilgrim’s confidence in being saved is a presumption upon Our Lord, or a manifestation of the theological virtue of Hope. The prose understanding would require the former, the poetical understanding the latter interpretation. I note that the passage is cast in verse.

It happens I was reading last night a collection of prayers by the late Thomas Dekker (c.1572–1632): playwright, pamphleteer, invincible Cockney, and all-round pioneering journalistic hack. It is entitled, Foure Birds of Noahs Arke, and I have a delicious facsimile of the little book, reset in hot metal (edited F.P. Wilson, 1924). The original was written and published in 1609, during the worst of the plague outbreaks in Jacobean London, when all the theatres were closed, and all the acting companies fled upcountry — or onto the Continent, where they first found that peasant German audiences could be enchanted by the works of such as Shakespeare, reduced to a kind of mime-show.

Dekker is among my beloveds, even though the two of us would not have got along; for we are hyperbolic in opposite ways. His prayer book is a prize, the more to be appreciated by anyone familiar with his plays. The man is salt-of-the-earth to start with, and quite often a rogue, but in offering prayer-texts for the common folk in their so several walks of life, he drops and loses his bag of conceits. Nothing could be plainer; the Faith that rings through those prayers is shorn of affectation.

We think of Bunyan as the finest face of the old Puritanism, but in his allegorical “excess” (for the modern reader, who has been alienated from allegory), he is Catholic in spirit. Too, he is so by his rigid adherence to Biblical teaching, which takes one ever home to our same common Christian place. But he is so, too, in the comparison that emerges to a writer like Dekker, who is strait-laced and po-faced when providing his moral instructions, setting the pleasures of this world in too strict opposition to the pleasures of Heaven — if he has a fault. Bunyan, by comparison, could belly-laugh like a Catholic, and took it for granted that, for instance, people joy in a little earthly splendour.

He (Bunyan) is all of one piece, where Dekker will race from one cliff-edge to another. But that starkness is also Dekker’s strength:

“Christ the Sonne of GOD, is the Pellican, whose blood was shed out to feed us: the Physician made of his owne bodie a medicine to cure us; looke upon him well, and beholde his bodie hanging on a crosse, his wounds bleeding, his blood trickling on the earth, his head bowed downe (as it were to kisse us),”

… and what follows is a vision of worldly corruption to curl your toes. All set in almost casual juxtaposition to the unheroic, quotidian life of the city.

Whereas Bunyan is our holie knight and Pilgrim. Combine these two aspects of the old English puritanism (itself a product of the later Middle Ages), as if uncrossing one’s two eyes, and the old Catholic Christianity seems fully restored: of an otherworldliness that can still be strangely comfortable in its own skin; that is secure and balanced on its both legs.

We are not “universal tourists” in the decadent manner, but Pilgrims all. We must revolt against a post-modern world that stands, not on the one leg or the other, but on nothing and nothingness. And I should think, together on our march to Heaven’s Gate in Jerusalem Wall — with both Bunyan and Dekker in our re-assembled, universal (“catholic”) entourage.

The universal tourist

There are men I would trust with my life; men I would trust with my bags; men I would not trust with them; and those who need hanging. Using the hundred or so adult inmates of the Greater Doganate for my statistical sampling, I’d say it is one of those Pareto curves, in the common “rule of thumb” ratio, of 1:4:4:1. But only until I had thought about it. Take in the rest of the street, and the distortions become more apparent, towards the gibbet end. That is city life. Were I on a small yacht, however, sailing through the Roaring Forties in the Southern Ocean, I would want to be crewing exclusively with members of that minority first class.

Now, there are few circumstances in which statistics are of interest to me, but this might be one. From my (necessarily) limited observations, I do not think the curve applies universally, any more than the waves are the same upon all the world’s seas. Call me politically incorrect (and you’d better not because the term is now marked as discriminatory), there are cultural and subcultural variations which, though fluid, alter the proportions.

Among the more absurd myths, of contemporary public thinking, is that people are basically the same everywhere; that you can put them all on some standard curve. This may be, or not, true of human nature, in some (imaginary) pre-cultural condition, but the living creature has more range. Better and worse can be got out of him, and this is where “culture” deeply matters. To say that “one is as good as another” — the premiss of current multicultural policy — is, whether knowingly or not, to serve dark forces.

Some vexation comes from the leftwing convention of using words, for the purposes of propaganda, in the exact opposite of their original meanings: in this case, “diversity” is used to describe enforced conformity. Such words are then used as if they were things, so that reality is entirely negated. But it is important, as one discovers living in Parkdale, to ignore fools and the mad.

The original terms have many meanings, each of which depends on context, but at some primary level the acceptance of “cultural inequality” distinguishes right from left, the conservative from the liberal, the reactionary from the revolutionary, or as I like to put it, the friends of Jesus from the friends of Lucifer. This, and not folderol about “free markets.” Men are trouble — we are all trouble — in the more ancient view; and it is hard work indeed to get anything good from us. Success does not come by laissez-faire. And anything that is done to raise civilized standards, creates a cultural distinction.

Read no more than the Koran, and the Gospels, and gentle reader will see that even after discounting the range of individual temperament, the human product cannot be the same. Look through centuries of comparative history, and the point is illustrated. Mohammed, and Christ, are not interchangeable prophets. There is some overlap in their teachings, but the centres of the resultant cultural and spiritual realms are radically displaced. Many of the differences are both unsubtle, and consistent over time. Either may be judged at its best, or at its worst; but neither are they like at the extremes.

Having put God aside, for one hypothetical, pragmatic moment, we might judge only from the behavioural effects. The same is possible between any two “cultural constructs,” at a given scale; and prior to the post-modern triumph (itself a manifestation of culture), there was little hesitation in making the comparisons at every level of sophistication. Read any old Baedekers to see what I mean; note that they were written by more intelligent authors than those who supply the copy for the glitzy tour guides of the present day.

We are almost all wealthy tourists in the West, in the last couple of generations, but the conditions of the journey have changed: less than one in a thousand is an old-fashioned traveller, exposed to anything outside his quotidian sweep of experience. We fly from one resort to another for aptly-named “vacations.” We have Internet, too. It is for this reason, perhaps — the reduction of the human to the incurious, pleasure-seeking beast — that the post-modern, smug, ignorant, addled, and vacant “universal tourist” makes up the overwhelming majority on all our voting rolls.

I am making, once again this morning, an extremely obvious point, and to a plain purpose, crossing all boundaries of politics and religion. No scoring system will ever work, and no policy prescriptions could be based on it: for what I have written is far too general.

My point is rather the reverse. Neither can policy prescriptions be based on the opposite, and entirely absurd position, that cultural differences are of no consequence, and can be overlooked. Yet this is exactly what is done by all of our progressive parties.

Drinking note

There are at least two tables, within pubs in the Greater Parkdale Area, where, notwithstanding I was once quite welcome, I am not today. Some think this is because of my opinions, which are those of a rightwing fanatic and religious nutjob. But no: it is because I am willing to express them. This is a form of incontinence, one might argue; and like other forms, it may accord with increasing age. Yet I do not think that silence is invariably golden.

To hear me tell it — and whom else were you expecting, gentle reader? — it goes like this. In years past, I would sit quietly and ignore nonsense, especially political nonsense, spoken by my fellow imbibers. I can still do this. Many of the most ludicrous remarks, on any passing issue, are not actually opinions of the speaker. He simply echoes or parrots the views of the media and his own social class. I’ve been absorbing this “background music” for years; why revolt now? The noise is anyway not arguments but gestures.

Say, “Stephen Harper,” and watch the eyeballs roll. Say, “George Bush,” and still, ditto. Say “Richard Nixon,” however, and you don’t get much of a rise any more, for memories out there are short, very short.

(A Czech buddy, in the olden days, once performed this experiment in a pub. “I just love that Richard Nixon!” he declared, in his thick, Slavic accent, loud enough to afflict the Yankee draft-dodgers at the next table, who’d been prattling about Watergate too long. “Gives those liberals heart attacks,” he added. … Some bottle-tossing followed from that, and we were all banned together, so ended up as friends.)

On the other hand say, “Barack Obama,” and they will focus like attentive puppies. Or, “Justin Trudeau” to the ladies, to make them coo.

It is a simple Pavlovian trick, and might be done in reverse in a rightwing bar, except, there are no rightwing bars in big cities.

Yet everyone knows there are rightwing people, even in Greater Parkdale. And they are welcome anywhere they want to buy a pint, the more if they’re buying for the whole table. The one condition is that they must keep their “divisive” opinions to themselves.

My weakness is for retaliation. I will ignore “background music,” but will not sit quietly being needled, when the remarks are addressed specifically to me. I might endure a cuteness or two, from someone perfectly aware of my opinions, but by about the third time I find the Leftoid checking for my pulse, I’m inclined to show it.

This is never expected. If it’s a man, he will generally go pale, silent, stunned. If it’s a woman, she may burst into tears. And yet nothing I said required raising my voice; nor uttering anything factually untrue. It is instead the use of plain language, with which the post-modern cannot cope. Raised as he has been in a bubble, he may never have been contradicted before.

What interests me, as a “sign of the times,” is that the needling is, in every case, both rude and open. It is like the rocks thrown at the Jamarat, in Mecca. It seems not odd, when everyone is doing it. The malice is like that of the Palestinians, directed towards the Jews. It happens every day; everyone expects it. Only when the Jews defend themselves, does outrage suddenly boil over. How dare they respond in such a “disproportionate” way? How dare those Jews strike back, when all we were doing was knifing them?

I mention this by way of qualifying something I wrote yesterday: “His acceptance speech last night was sort-of sweet; it showed him still quite damp behind the ears.”

Perhaps “sort-of sweet” gave the wrong impression. In the speech, our prime minister-elect congratulated himself and his colleagues on what he imagined to be their moral superiority:

“We beat fear with hope. We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together.”

The rest of the speech extended this theme: what good people Liberals are; and by easy inference, what bad people the Conservatives they defeated. There was nothing gracious or magnanimous for relief. Yet it sounded so sweet, so innocent, so naively “damp behind the ears.” The young cherub actually does not realize that he is promoting: fear, cynicism, and negative, divisive politics. That he is expressing himself in a passive-aggressive way.

Had Harper won, as he might have had he had the wit to make the campaign shorter, he would, as in the past, have avoided this kind of moral posturing, simply because it is ugly and crass — as it would have appeared, coming from his mouth. He would have spoken well of his opponents, and congratulated them on a good fight. He would not have continued kicking the opponent he had defeated — because he is an adult, and has some decency. For that matter, Martin, Chrétien, Mulroney, Pearson, would not have done it either. (Of the elder Trudeau, one could never be sure.)

Charity and civility alike require that these “innocents” be admonished — in the hope that, eventually, they will acquire the first glimmer of self-knowledge.

To my mind, it is often wrong to let the moment pass. We should prick their bubbles. Stop trying to play “nice” with people who do not play “nice” with us; stop conceding their self-conceits. This might even be a moral imperative: to stop confirming the crazed in their delusions.

The triumph of drivel

“While Mr Trudeau is the product of two political families — his father was prime minister — he came to politics late, after working as a snowboard instructor.”

A friend in Washington ping’d me this webpage snip from the New York Times this morning, together with his condolences. It captures, perhaps, more adequately than the editors realized, the mindset of our prime minister-elect.

We are in a new political era, not only in Canada I’m afraid. I think of Obama in USA, Trump and Sanders rising; Corbyn across the water; the various “national front” and regional separatist parties now topping the polls in Europe; governments like Syriza’s re-elected in Greece.

What do they all have in common?

Ideologically, one might say they are all over the map. Moreover, self-serving malice and incompetence are normal in politics; it would be unreasonable to present either as an innovation. I am not looking for the kind of commonplace that applies to politicians in all places and times.

Yet we were once dealing with a class of political tradesmen who had clawed their way up the ranks. They arrived in office with some notion of how things work. In the case of Canada’s outgoing prime minister, there was some appreciation of economics, or accountancy. Much as I despised his Liberal predecessors, they also knew what a budget was, and could discern differences between large and small numbers. The elder Trudeau, genetically half-Scotch like me, was a notorious tightwad with his own money; his contrasting extravagance with the public purse showed that he was at least sharp enough to tell them apart.

By extension, these “old style” politicians were also mentally fitted out with clues to what other departments of government did, or tried to avoid doing. There was a certain “professionalism,” a painfully-acquired knowledge of the ropes, and how to pull them. Prime Minister Chrétien, for instance, I despised as a man, in a personal way, given dealings between us; but I could admire him as a political craftsman. Many others, likewise, including Harper most of the time. Cynical or sleazy they might be, but some knowledge of “the system” was de rigueur. The elder Trudeau had spent most of his adult life preying at the edge of the Dominion bureaucracy; he (alas) knew what he was doing when he went in to ravage Canada’s justice system.

Now we have “airheads.” The term is perhaps over-colloquial, but I think it best expresses the quality our new leaders share, wherever they might fall on the old left-to-right spectrum. While some (like the younger Trudeau, or Bill Clinton’s wife) come from political families, or have had (as Corbyn) a life-long obsession with madcap political schemes, the connecting bits are missing in their overview of governance. Mrs Clinton’s embarrassments with email make a good example. The shocking thing is not that she broke secrecy regulations that have landed lesser government officials in gaol. It is that she truly did not know any better.

The Trudeau boy is a generation younger. In addition to snowboarding, his experience includes nightclub bouncer, and teaching high school in Vancouver. To many (me for instance), his father was a devil in human flesh, his mother demonstrably insane, yet the lad was not really exposed to politics until it came into his head, or into the heads of Liberal Party organizers, that thanks to his family connexion, he could probably get elected to Parliament, in Montreal. This happened in 2007; he now has approximately eight years of bewilderment under his belt. His acceptance speech last night was sort-of sweet; it showed him still quite damp behind the ears.

I don’t think he is especially malicious. He has plenty of old-school party advisers to surround him like bodyguards along his way. Indeed, through a leak we discovered they were already dividing the spoils of government contracts, as victory in Quebec came into view. The lad himself has the media savvy of the selfie generation, and can more or less handle the bofferball questions from a sympathetic press. His sincerity shines when it comes to a small range of policy enthusiasms, such as the legalization of marijuana and brothels, and he is visibly convinced that peace is much nicer than war. His promises of “hope and change” may be content-free, for the time being, but I’m sure he “believes” in the drivel he is mouthing. I expect he will prove more used than using, as his government agenda falls into place.

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by “drivel.” I could write, “lies,” but these are only possible to those who have criteria for the truth. Drivel is what people talk who have no such criteria. “Bullshit” is the interchangeable term. The fact that what they’re saying may be true, or untrue, is of no significance to them. It is enough that it sounds plausible. The truthful man knows when he is lying; the post-modern neither knows nor cares. He can believe himself “good,” as drivellers will do, because truth doesn’t come into it.

The old-style politician told knowing lies. The new-style politician does not know what “lies” are. He uses the term rhetorically, against anything he does not want to hear. The old-style politician would back down when confronted with the truth. The new-style politician does not know what you are talking about. He assumes you are only trash-talking him.

“The people” believe in drivel, too, as they have just proved. As I’ve mentioned before, the overwhelming majority of the general, voting population have been morally and intellectually debilitated — “idiotized” is my preferred term — by post-modern media and education, and by spiritual neglect within (often broken) post-modern homes. Large vested interests can lead them by the nose, even while they imagine themselves victims of conspiracy.

For his very numeracy, the outgoing Harper seemed like a Machiavellian conspirator to them. He lacked the warm, mooshy qualities that the “compassionate” politician learns to fake on television. The media told them that Harper was a manipulator, a cold hard calculator, a baddie, a blue meanie trying to keep taxes down for his friends — even though he didn’t have any.

According to polls, only a tiny minority “trust” the honesty of the media; and yet almost everyone today is supersaturate with the products of that media and entertainment industry — in which our new political order is subsumed. Verily: the idea that the media can’t be trusted is a constant media meme. But again, the category of actual “lies” is absent. The people mean “untrustworthy” in another sense; in the sense of, “conspiring against us” — the black hats against the white hats, in that Hollywooden manner.

There are no conspiracies; or rather, none can be successful for long. Those with some knowledge of the world will appreciate the aphorism, that a secret can be kept between two people, only if one of them is dead. (Or if they are married: according to the traditional definition.) Conspiracies fade in the morning light; the perpetrators must fall back on armed tyranny, or nothing.

It only appears that there are vast rightwing conspiracies, or leftwing conspiracies for that matter, because an other-worldly conspirator is at work. He was known as the Devil in former Christian times. He is the primary exploiter of the idiotized — who do not even know he exists.

Hence one of my mottoes from Baudelaire:

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

A reminder that things were already going steeply downhill in 1845.

And by the way, the Blue Jays won last night, 11–8.

Game on

Two events to mention in the Greater Parkdale Area, today.

By far the most important, in the view of most citizens, will be the baseball game at the former Sky Dome (can’t remember what they call it now), between our Blue Jays and the strangely-named Kansas City “Royals.” As monarchists, we are pleased when any Yanquis genuflect, though puzzled given republican tendencies in the rest of that country.

On looking it up, I discover that the name derives from the American Royal, a livestock show and rodeo in that Missouri port, dating back to the nineteenth century. Now all I need to know is why they called that “the Royal.” …

Aha, goddit. … Rivalry was being offered to the (rather older) livestock show (less rodeo) of the (English) Royal Agricultural Society. … There is a “Royal Welsh Show,” too, which includes falconry and racing events such as four-in-hand that must resemble a rodeo; so why not also a “Royal American Show”? All my Loyalist ancestors approve.

I thought the Kansas City baseball team were called the Athletics, but silly me. That one apparently moved to Oakland, California, forty-six years ago. We all know what Gertrude Stein thought of Oakland. And now we all know that my own interest in baseball fizzled at the age of fifteen. My heart does, however, still rise to some results in “the insect game,” as my Chief Texas Correspondent calls it. He refers to the noble game of cricket: descended, I think (though nobody else does), from the old Roman Harpastum, played with something the size and density of a softball.

As we are reminded by the current Rugby (Union) World Cup, being played over there, the ancient Romans and Alexandrian Hellenists also played a masculine bladder-ball game, involving more gladiatorial collision. The description in the Deipnosophists sounds very much like rugby à quinze. Galen thinks it might be good exercise; Martial mentions it in an epigram; Cicero somewhere describes a freak accident when the follis (football) came through the window of a barber shop, surprising the barber, who then cut the throat of the customer he was shaving. (Well, I share Cicero’s taste for sick humour.)

Nothing is new under the sun, except, the prospect that the Blue Jays will be taken by the Royals in four straight, which would sadden my countrymen, but delight me, as it would prevent the Jays from winning or losing the so-called “World Series” — with all the riots and property damage that implies. Long story short: game three of the qualifying series happens tonight, and if the bat of our swaggering José Bautista (a legal Hispanic immigrant) isn’t swinging correctly, Toronto’s windows may yet be saved.

On the other hand, repairs after public violence and bloodletting are good for the GDP.

*

There is also a “federal” (i.e. Dominion) election today, which will give my fellow citizens something to do with their time while waiting for the big game to start.

Had the baseball match been last night, instead, I’d have been cheering fulsomely for the Jays, knowing that victory would make people feel good about themselves, and thus vote for Harper, swinging perhaps thirty close Ontario seats, and keeping the Conservatives in power. As it stands, the glumness and anxiety are likely to push them the other way, so that we wake up tomorrow morning with little Justin Trudeau (son of the Antichrist) elected to the prime minister’s office. Which would be all very well if you happened to live in another country.

No point in voting here in inner Parkdale, where the contest is only between the two Cloud Cuckoo parties, and no politician even partially sane (Rob Ford comes to mind, in the moments when he is off crack) will long flourish. Too, this is so in the heart of every modern Western metropolis, outside the USA, where there is no competition, and all the mental and material underclasses vote for one and the same godforsaking party. (I find it takes at least three to divide this constituency effectively.) The Trudeau child has already won the hearts of Canada’s sentimental female electorate, so the only question is how many men will be voting.

I could explain to gentle foreign reader how sad this all is, but hey, you don’t need to know. All I can do is express my envy for you, being at a distance; and recoil in my usual way from the poisoned fruits of “democracy.” Alas, they ask voters for photo-ID up here (unlike down there in the Natted States Merica), which makes stuffing the ballot box damnably hard.

Shipshape & Bristol fashion

Just before attaching him to the helium balloon, that will carry him eastward towards China, I should like to explain to some gentle readers why a certain beloved Pope Benedict, who knew a certain Cardinal Kasper to be an heretick, did not have him defrocked and excommunicated, but rather left him in position as a (prominent) bishop in Holy Church.

I have mentioned previously that in my humble, though authoritarian opinion, there are worse heretics that Kasper among the cardinals today. He has often boldly stood various orthodox Catholic red lines, which migrant liberals were trying to cross. That is a long footnote I am not going to write this morning, however. O Lord am I not.

One of the things I have come to understand by perusing Catholic media in Germany, Switzerland, the Low Countries, northern France — is that guys like Kasper are actually conservative, compared with their laity. I’ve seen polls to suggest that large majorities of nominal Catholics wanted stuff like gay marriage yesterday, and can’t imagine a reason for not offering communion to anyone who walks in off the street. Once-Catholic Ireland gave us a plain taste of this, when “same-sex marriage” was put to the vote there. Wail as we might about the failure of Catholic discipline and education, this is among the hard current facts of life.

Mafella Mercans should not take any comfort from an invidious comparison. As we know perfectly well, a substantial majority of nominal Catholics on this far side of the ancient western sea, think like the northern Europeans. The Nancy Pelosis and Joe Bidens and little Justin Trudeaus who serve as nominal Catholics in very public places are, moreover, not unrepresentative of these airhead masses. I have myself mixed with the effectively lapsed “nominariate” on many social occasions. When those liberals claim that they speak for the majority, they are, for a change, not lying. And of course Pope Francis is extremely popular with such people who, giving him only half attention, conclude that he is a “nominal” too.

Nor is this situation new. Long before, decades before, finally becoming a “Dogan” myself, I was vividly aware of it. Indeed, upon my own definitive conversion to Christianity, in 1976, this knowledge kept me from the Catholic Church. Every Catholic I knew was lapsed, back in that day — including each of the priests I consulted in England. It was why I found myself praying with the (beloved) high-church “Anglo-Catholic” fruitcakes, when not with the (beloved) low-church Evangelical nutjobs, in the carefully niche’d Anglican communion. A convert does not want, after all, lukewarm broad-church tea. (Soon after I discovered, however, that there were also some Catholics discreetly hidden within the Roman communion.)

I make this point at tedious length, because the full tedium must be appreciated. My fellow orthodox “holy rollers” tend easily to overlook the great white shark in our swimming pool. The masses in Africa may be drawn to the life-giving truth of the Catholic faith; the dwindling congregation in the modern West expect, when they whistle, that the faith will come to them. It is why the fatuous image of the “field hospital” rather appeals. It is the Holy Father’s way of saying, “I hear you whistling.”

Pope Benedict XVI, and John Paul before him, were not stupid men. They were trying to put a Church back together which, in “the spirit of Vatican II,” had all but fallen apart. The Hippocratic principle, first do no harm, was before them daily and Sundays. Both put up with a great deal of nonsense, that neither would have tolerated through breakfast in other circumstances.

Bishops like Kasper had to be endured, to avoid provoking open schism in such long-established Catholic realms as Bavaria and Flanders. Both popes worked with a “gradualist” strategy, in which the proclamation of a new and orthodox Catechism played an important part. The idea was to resume actually teaching the faith, with ever-increasing precision and energy, and let the heterodox die out. Only in the most extreme cases, of open defiance, did the gauntlets go down. Hans Kung, for instance, was too much for them.

To be sure, these were judgement calls, within a whole strategy that was a judgement call. It was like the classic accounting strategy, of eliminating a deficit not by cutting expenses, but by constraining their growth while revenues grow faster. This requires not only delicacy but patience. Had we continued to get popes in the mould of Wojtyla and Ratzinger, it had some chance of working.  Instead we now have a pope in the mould of Bergoglio, whose basic instinct is to blow the bank.

But we will see what is coming. For the opposite strategy, unthinkable at the moment, in the way in which War is unthinkable, may in the end prove the only sensible course. It would be for some future, muscular pope, to lay down the law from Rome, in unmistakable terms, and save the Church as she was saved in the course of many previous centuries — by the kind of “reform” that is designed to cut all the rot away. Rather than “pastorally accompany” the nominals farther and farther from received Catholic doctrine in faith and morals, we would “pastorally accompany” them to the door.

Or to vary the metaphor yet again, save the ship by dropping the deadweight overboard. (See Matthew, 18:6.)

As I say, this is unthinkable — not to the traditional Catholic mind, but to the unmanly sentimentalism of the post-modern. “Shape up or ship out” is not what we say to our sensitive, delicate flower children in this age of effeminate degeneration — unless, of course, we want them to shape up.