Saturday, 23 February 2008

More on the Archbishop

I have rather moderated my views on the Archbishop of Canterbury's Sharia intervention after reading a couple of articles in last week's Tablet. They have some very interesting things to say, and things that one might be a little surprised to read in that publication. I was interested to note (as you can read in the second extract) that Rowan Williams gloried in precisely the thing I blogged on the other day; stating that he had a right to speak for other religions because of the Cof E's established status. Hm.

This is an extract from the article 'Quiet voice of modernity's enemy' by Theo Hobson.
Above all, [Williams] refused to combine Anglo Catholicism with a general liberal agenda. Indeed he revived the Anglo-Catholic suspicion of secular liberalism that dates back to Newman. The liberal state, in this view, offers itself as an alternative community of salvation; it tempts us into supposing that we can dispense with the Church, or at least water it down, and develop a more progressive form of Christianity. This leads to weak forms of Christianity that are unable to resist dangerous ideologies: most obviously, the liberal Protestants of Germany embraced Nazism. It is Williams' anti-liberal ecclesiology that is the root cause of the present controversy. In a sense it's not really about sharia law, or Islam: it's about the relationship between a Catholic conception of the Church and liberalism.
For Williams, authentic Christianity occurs within a clearly defined social body, an "ethical community" as he has sometimes put it. Without this, Christian culture will be dispersed by the cold winds of secularism. There is a need for strong resistance to the various negative spirits of the age: consumerism, celebrity, hedonism and so on, and this resistance can only occur within an alternative social world, walled off from mainstream culture.
Only from within a religious subculture can secular modernity be seen for what it is: dehumanising. He has referred to secularism's "unspoken violence", and to modernity as "an atmosphere in which people become increasingly formless, cut off from what could give their lives ... some kind of lasting intelligibility': He sees secular liberalism as a quietly nihilistic force that robs human life of full significance, as a demonically subtle tyranny that looks and feels like freedom.

This next bit is by Clifford Longley who these days (though perhaps not at certain times in the past) usually has something sensible to say and puts it well.

[The Archbishop] defended his intervention by de¬claring it to be the privilege of the established Church to represent the concerns of other faith communi¬ties. Clearly many of his critics inside the Church of England think his only business is to stand up for its own interests, indeed to act as a brake against the inroads of Islam rather than as a lubricant. But the real clash visible in the media this week was not Christianity versus Islam, but religion versus secularism. If Dr Williams analysed carefully much of the press comment, he would have observed that the rule of thumb was something like "the more Islamic they are, the more dangerous". To the secularist, however, this is just an ex¬ample of a more general principle - that all religions are dangerous; the more so, the more seriously their adherents take them. So the real question for Dr Williams is not how does British Islam live with British secularism, but how does the Church of England do so?
From Lambeth Palace the apparatus of the Anglican establishment may look solid and enduring. Establishment shelters Anglican¬ism from the full force of the secular prevailing wind. But the Catholic adoption agency issue last year was a significant straw in that wind. It signified that it is secular values, not those enshrined in the common law, that are be¬coming the dominant cultural determinant of British society. Those values are utilitari¬an. It is a world where ends justify means, where talk of the sacredness of life is scoffed at and human rights are the subject of mere fashion, human autonomy in the pursuit of pleasure is the only worthwhile value and no one is neighbour to another. It is indeed the job of religions - Anglican, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and the rest - to be a threat to those values. And not to apologise for it.
Good stuff, eh?

Monday, 18 February 2008


Archbishop Marini being taken into liturgical rehab.

Thanks to Owl of the Remove.

Life Matters

There is a substantial petition to the Prime Minister to allow MPs to vote according to conscience and not according to the party whip on the forthcoming Human Fertilization and Embryology bill.

UK citizens may sign it here.

Please do consider doing so.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Magari is a good Italian word; it means 'if only it were true', or something like that. I wanted to say magari when I read on Catholic News Agency about one Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, who looks to be a young man, (that's his picture on the left; does his crown look rather like an upended fancy flowerpot to anyone else?) who courageously addressed a major ecumenical gathering in Switzerland on the subject of the drawbacks of liberal Christianity. Hoping that CNA does not mind, I'll quote the short article in full.

Russian Orthodox bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegate for international relationships, said on February 15 that liberal Christianity is on its way to extinction.
"Liberal Christianity will not survive long and political correctness within the Christian environment is destined to die," said during a conference addressing the Ecumenical Council of Churches at Geneva, Switzerland.
The Orthodox bishop also criticized the words of the Anglican primate, Rowan Williams, regarding the "inevitability" of introducing the "sharia" (Muslim Law) in England.
"I would like to warn you about the perils of liberal Christianity," a trend, he said, that has sharply divided the Christian community in the last decades.
"Today we can't talk about Christian morality because the standards of 'traditional' and 'liberal' Christians are dramatically different and the abyss between these two branches of Christianity is growing," he added.
"We are hearing from some Christian leaders that marriage between a woman and a man is not the only possible option for the creation of a Christian family, that there can be other type of couples and that the Church should be 'inclusive' by recognizing such lifestyles and grant them a solemn blessing," Hilarion also said.
The Orthodox bishop also said that "we have heard that the human life is a negotiable value, to the point that it can be aborted in the mother's womb." "What has happened with Christianity? In a confused and disoriented world, “Where is the prophetic voice of Christians?" he asked.
Finally in a veiled criticism to the Anglican primate, Hilarion said that "it is not our duty to defend sharia, promote alternative lifestyles or secularized values. Our mission is to announce what Christ himself announced".
I think that it is certainly true that liberalism is sterile; I have very rarely found somebody converted to liberal Christianity; usually they have slid there from a more orthodox position. What I fear is that the liberals currently in charge would rather pull the house down around them than permit a more orthodox position to prevail.
We have a new Dean (=Vicar Forane) locally, and I have heard him speak perhaps half a dozen times during the last few months. On each occasion, whether preaching at a 'Penitential Service' or simply speaking to fellow clergy, the burden of his talk has invariably been about how universally awful everything was before Vatican II, and the only problem since is that we haven't wiped out the pre-V.II mentality nearly thoroughly enough. He's a kind man—he has even celebrated the Extraordinary Form, which he detests, for people who have requested it, and I've got to credit him for that. In fact on a personal level I quite like him (I don't think the compliment is returned, though). But I really would not want to live in a Church according to his design.
Certainly Pope Benedict has done wonderfully well to reverse the trend, but I suspect that the liberals are simply doing what I fear; they know that they are, for the most part, younger than the Holy Father, and that all that they have to do is wait……
Will Pope Benedict have safeguarded his most welcome reforms for the future? I pray and hope so. It has been so wonderful in these last couple of years finally to have hope and see things coming alive once more.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Lenten Fare

Running out of ideas for suitably penitential lenten recipes? The Diocese of Arkansas has come up with a quantity of suggestions, which you can sample here.

Having looked at the recipes with more attention today, I can confirm that most of them are truly penitential: I wasn't aware that Americans are still quite so attached to canned food. All but a few recipes seem to involve combining one can with another. There is a recipe for chowder, which involves combining a can of potato soup with a can of salmon. Now that's penitential!

It reminds me of my aunt's (God rest her soul) story of an American visitor to her home; this would be in the 1960s, I should think. She went down the garden to pull some carrots, and her visitor accompanied her. Up came a fine carrot, which she placed in her trug. She heard an intake of breath at her side, followed by an appalled 'you're gonna eat that?'.

Meanwhile, in Algeria…

A Catholic priest in Algeria has been sentenced to a year in prison for praying with Christians in Cameroon.
Middle East Concern reports that Father Pierre Wallez is the first victim of legislation approved in March 2006, prohibiting anyone from leading a religious ceremony anywhere without permission from the government in Algeria.
Algerian Archbishop Henri Teissier told Vatican Radio: "the most surprising thing is that the conviction was issued simply because the priest visited a group of Christians in Cameroon. He had not celebrated Mass, but was only joining them in a prayer. It was December 29, a little after Christmas."
A tribunal has now modified the sentence to parole. But Christians in Algeria are concerned that their religious freedom is under threat.
Freedom of worship is purportedly guaranteed by the constitution of Algeria, but in recent months Christians there have faced increasing harassment and a hostile campaign in the media. In the same trial that sentenced Fr Wallez, a Muslim doctor was sentenced to two years imprisonment for using medications supplied by the Catholic Church's Caritas charity.
On 12 February three believers accused of insulting Islam were due to appear in court for sentencing. The case has been postponed to a later date, but delays often happen in such cases. The group been told they will be sentenced to three years in prison and fined 5,000 Euros.
Recently the government cancelled residency permits for Latin American Catholic priests working with Portuguese speaking African Christians in Algeria as migrant workers. Further requests made by the Catholic Church for visas for priests and other staff to visit Algeria are being systematically refused.
Middle East Concern say that Algerian Christians have requested readers' prayers
H/T Independent Catholic News

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Rowan Williams and Islam

I can't help feeling that most people have rather missed the point in the recent controversy about Rowan Williams and Sharia. Damian Thompson isn't one of these; in his typically acerbic style he has compared the Archbishop with Prince Charles, especially in the light of the latter's desire to be a defender 'of faith' rather than 'of the faith'.
Now, let's establish that I am not one of those who follow the tabloid line about the ArchImam of Canterbury. That's plainly nonsense and in some cases amounts to malicious misrepresentation. But there must have been some purpose behind what he said, and, entertaining though it may be to think it, I don't think that he is trying to deflect attention from the bigger issues at the up-and-coming Lambeth Conference.

Though I would identify myself as being rather a traditional Catholic, I have always had an abiding affection for the old C of E: I have never been a member of it, so my affection can come without cost or pain: evensong in a dark cathedral, the choirs, the dignified presence on state occasions, and many other things.
As my Anglican friends will know, however, there is one thing that gets right up my nose, and that is the Anglican claim to pastoral responsibility for all people living within their territory, irrespective of whether they belong to any other faith. When I was a curate (ah me! I was a pale young curate then!), the local vicar went as far as to describe my boss and me as his 'delegates for the Romans in Xville'.
With Damian, I think that the Sharia comments of the Archbishop were aimed along these lines. Since he thinks of himself as the spiritual leader of the whole country and all people here, of whatever faith, he feels that British Moslems, too, are put by the Establishment (and therefore God?) into his tender care, and therefore he should do his best for them, as for any other members of his flock.
There are times when I think that as Catholics we continue to live in something of a ghetto, for many good historical reasons; we tend to restrict our work to our own people a bit too much. But I think that the Archbishop, and the same principle down the line into the parishes, goes too far in the other direction.
I really do not see that 'Establishment' confers, by law, on all Anglican clergy the right of entry to all peoples homes. This point of view was advanced to me by a vicaress of my acquaintance. I do not see that it confers a sort of universal pastorate on the C of E clergy, which comes across as at best patronising and at worst infuriating.

Finally, I wonder whether the Moslem clergy find this intervention on the matter of Sharia touching or irritating.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


How about this for a screensaver?

A touch of the surreal, to make you wonder whether you've been overdoing the fasting……

H/T to The Deacon's Bench

I'll be posting again soon, D.V.

p.s. Doglovers of the world unite!