Letchworth Garden City is admittedly a long way from the slums of Buenos Aires; but here are some wise words from the sage of Letchworth which might well be addressed to a former South American archbishop:
‘The Pope is not an irresponsible tyrant who can do anything with the Church that he likes. He is bound on every side by the constitution of the Church. Some day a Catholic theologian ought to write a treatise on the limitations of the Papacy. This would do much good among Protestants, who are accustomed to think of us putting the whole system of our religion at the mercy of one man, and of such a man as Rodrigo Borgia.’
Quoted by Aidan Nichols in The Latin Clerk, the Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 2011, p258
[For Protestants read Liberal Catholics!]
News is just emerging of a series of bomb attacks on German Catholic bishops, their palaces and their limousines. Police in Baden-Württemberg have said that responsibility for the attacks – which have resulted in millions of euros of damage to property and minor injuries to an Auxiliary Bishop – has been claimed by an extremist Lutheran Group, the ‘Reformation Kreuzfahrer’.
The group was formed in response to claims by the German Bishops’ Conference that the time had come for a ‘healing of memories’. Martin Luther was, after all, claimed the bishops, a ‘Gospel witness and teacher of the faith’. Contrary to expectations, the Reformation Kreuzfarher were not best pleased.
Last July the same Lutheran splinter group took a page in Die Welt to denounce the bishops as ‘Reformation deniers’. Before throwing a home-made incendiary device into Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s twenty-five bedroom summer retreat (the ‘Eagle’s Nest’) on the Obersalzberg they nailed a copy of Luther’s 95 theses to the doors of the Frauenkirche in Munich..
Said police chief Gerhard Schlaeger: ‘After the attacks in Paris and Brussels we in Germany take very seriously any religion-related terrorist activity.’ Said Bishop Heinrich Strohm, president of the Evangelical Church of Germany: ‘Moderate Lutherans the world over will deplore these barbarous and cowardly attacks’.
Pope Francis, returning by Alitalia from a visit to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, repeated claims he has previously made. ‘I do not believe that religion is the cause of this violence,‘ he was reported as saying, ‘and anyway, Catholics are as much to blame as anyone.’
Fr Lombardi is thought to be at work nuancing this response.
Some American traddies, I am told, suppose that he is some sort of Marxist. And others (not only Americans) wish he would zip his lip. But Francis is undeniably popular. He has marketed the Mercy brand with conspicuous success. There are those in the media who suppose that, until Bergolio, compassion was unknown in the Catholic Church.
And yet…from time to time, and with (one is bound to admit) the utmost sincerity, he comes out with statements which seem retrospective, if not downright retrograde. And he seems genuinely surprised when Liberals take courage from his statements. Witness his denial that establishing a Commission on Women in the Diaconate meant that he was in favour of actual CHANGE.
What, asks the Tablet Tendency, is Papal Infallibility for if it is not a license to CHANGE things?
But Francis consistently disappoints them: he gives voice to the superstitions of the age…and then does battle with the Devil and all his works with an old-fashioned ferocity.
Francis – let us be clear – is neither a Marxist nor a Fascist. He is an unprincipled Populist: the Eva Peron en hoy dia.
- “Don’t cry for me, Argentina”
(See Torch Song below)
Conservatives in the culture wars which have engulfed most of Western Europe and the Americas for the best part of the last 200 years have always had a sense of the essential coherence of what they opposed. But they have been so concerned with individual issues – most recently with local skirmishes about sex, marriage and the family – that they have failed to see the Devil for the details.
Now the coherence of the Liberal Agenda is clearly emerging. ‘Gender ideology’ has at last made things plain.. The Liberal Agenda is a an assault on the past in the name of a utopian future; a rejection of the given in favour of the chosen; a preference for what man can make over what God has created. In that way it systematically reverses the premises on which all previous societies have been conducted and overturns every tenet and principle of the Catholic religion.
It is good to know that Pope Francis (with the no doubt indispensable help of his predecessor) has stated this so clearly.
“ In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender’. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible! In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: ‘Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator’. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a ‘raw’ state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the ‘raw’ state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. ‘This is the age of sin against God the Creator’.” Address to Polish bishops in Krakow, July 27 2016.
Even if it lacks the elegance and precision of Benedict XVI, the statement is clear enough to satisfy traditionalists and infuriate liberals.
(see That Was the Book that Was below)
Andrew Brown’s* and Linda Woodhead’s** book That Was the Church That Was has finally seen the light of day. It is a racy read. The style is Andrew’s – a tongue-in-cheek amalgam of the orotund and the tersely demotic. The analysis, one suspects, is more Linda’s. The book covers roughly thirty years in the life of the Church of England.
This is a narrative peopled with caricatures. David Jenkins and John Habgood are dons in an ivory tower, with no conception of events in the real world. George Carey is a buffoon with an exaggerated opinion of his own abilities. Rowan Williams is a tragic wannabe saint lacking the courage of his own convictions. In the case of Jeffrey John he laid down his friend for his life and was fatally compromised thereafter. Justin Welby is an HTB clone with all the disabilities which that entails.
The book is a curious blend of sociological analysis, personal reminiscence and salacious gossip. Does it offer a coherent explanation of ‘how the Church of England lost the English people’? Hardly. The sociology is vitiated by its own presuppositions, which, not surprisingly, are those of the current liberal consensus.
Most of the last thirty years, it seems, were fruitlessly spent debating women’s ordination and gay relationships – matters which had been settled in the secular world with a minimum of fuss and controversy. They were hardly worth the attention a clerically dominated institution was prepared to give them. Nowhere in the book is there the slightest indication that these might have been issues of vital theological importance. The question on the campus tee-shirts – What would Jesus do? – is for these authors a matter of sublime indifference.
In Brown and Woodhead’s view, the CofE would have done better to concentrate on what it does best: baptising the status quo. Then it could get back to being a proper national church – like the Norwegians and the Danes.
*’a leading journalist’
**’one of the best sociologists of religion in the world today’
The results were revealed today of a major operation by the Metropolitan Police Historic Islamophobia Squad which has resulted in the naming of over two hundred offenders across Europe and throughout history.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, gave examples of those he called ‘the most dangerous criminals’, among them Don John of Austria and John Sobieski. Others cited in the report include Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and Louis Capet, aka Louis IX of France.
‘With help from our friends in Europol,’ the Commissioner went on ’we hope to bring Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity.’ Disinterment of their remains from tombs in Granada remained, he admitted, a matter of dispute with the Spanish government.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, assured the House of Commons that ‘this government will not rest until all perpetrators of historic Islamophobia are brought to justice’. In response to an intervention by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Home Office confirmed that no leniency would be shown to the man known as ‘Santiago Matamoros’ simply on account of his claim to be one of the twelve Apostles.
‘We must not be afraid to say the truth, the world is at war because it has lost peace,’ the pontiff told journalists aboard a flight from Rome to Krakow. [Speaking of the martyrdom of Fr Jacques Hamel.] ‘When I speak of war I speak of wars over interests, money, resources, not religion. All religions want peace, it’s the others who want war.’
The salient feature of this pontificate is its vulgarity. I use the word in its technical sense of ‘populist’, ‘of the people’. The salient dicta of this Pope are those of the vulgar consensus.
‘Who am I to judge?’ he asks, assuming the mantle of popular relativism: all opinions are of equivalent value. The underlying rationale of his Jubilee of Mercy takes up a similar popular sentiment: it is little more profound than Heinrich Heine’s deathbed quip ‘Gott wird mir verzeihen, das ist sein Beruf’.
But this latest airborne pronouncement is the most egregious. ‘All religions want peace, it’s the others who want war’. Like the populist ‘We all believe in the same God and we are all going to the same place’, it denies both the unique and particular claims of Christianity and the integrity and identity of other faiths and belief systems.
In the case of Islam it denies centuries of sanctified belligerence and of conversion by conquest.