A Caucus Race

At last the Dodo said, ‘everybody has won, and all must have prizes.’

The Man Booker Prize was this year won jointly by Margaret Attwood and Bernardine Evaristo: two feminist writers, one black one white. Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani were jointly awarded the Turner Prize, after writing to the judges asking to be considered as a group.

Said Will Gomperz, BBC arts editor, ‘Maybe annual awards like the Turner Prize and the Booker Prize … are reaching their sell-by date: an anachronism from a bygone binary age of winners and losers.’

But a discerning observer will notice that something else is happening. Aside from the sentiment, expressed by many, that ‘art is not competitive’, is the question of discrimination. Now that all consideration of craftsmanship has been eliminated from the adjudication of art works – one unmade bed, after all, is much like another – all that remains is the meaning or significance of the work.

The world being what it is, this will naturally take the form of social relevance or political correctness. There can, of course, be no adjudication between different forms of virtue signalling. Your truth and my truth are self-evidently equal.

On those grounds a Caravaggio, a Gainsborough or a David Hockney are all incomparable. And their creators, like the competitors for the Turner Prize, might as well combine to say as much. The paragone of Renaissance artists is obviously now a dead letter, getting in the way of the true and unfettered expression of the self.

Comparisons are odious and discrimination is a crime.  Everybody has won and all must have prizes!

Women and the Church

Some would claim that the final document of the Amazon Synod – at least in its conclusions about the role of women – was a foregone conclusion. Its content was decided about five years ago. But Pope Francis seems to be hedging his bets.

He commented that the final document of the Synod “falls short of explaining women’s full role in the Church”, particularly “in the transmission of faith, in the preservation of culture. I would just like to underline this: that we have not yet realized what women mean in the Church… rather, it focuses on the functional aspect, which is important, but is not everything.”

The he went on to speak of a re-convened Commission on Women in the Diaconate. with a fresh and expanded membership.

So what are we to conclude? That the diaconate is to be seen as distinct from the other two orders, and is definitely not included in the prohibition of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis? Or that the three orders continue to be seem as a unity, and a female diaconate, distinct from Holy Orders, is to supplement them?

Clarity is needed. For Francis must realize that in the current state of things the creation (or ‘revivial’) of an order of deaconesses will not lessen pressure for women deacons equivalent to men. The political pressure comes not from the Amazon, but from Western churches whose sights are set on women in the priesthood.

Accedens autem Helias ad omnem populum ait usquequo claudicatis in duas partes si Dominus est Deus sequimini eum si autem Baal* sequimini illum et non respondit ei populus verbum.

*for Baal read Pachamama.

Compare and Contrast

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

(Translates:
Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, hanc tuis fidelibus voluntatem, ut, Christo tuo venienti iustis operibus occurrentes, eius dexterae sociati, regnum mereantur possidere caeleste.)

AND

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace
that we may cast away the works of darkness,
and put upon us the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;
that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge both the quick and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal,
through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost,
now and ever. Amen.

(cf:
ἡ νὺξ προέκοψεν ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤγγικεν ἀποθώμεθα οὖν τὰ ἔργα τοῦ σκότους ἐνδυσώμεθα δὲ τὰ ὅπλα τοῦ φωτός)

’nuff said!

Many Happy Returns?

Tomorrow (the first Sunday of Advent) is the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction, throughout the Church, of the Novus Ordo.

So what is there to celebrate?

A precipitate decline in Mass attendance? The virtual destruction of a centuries old musical culture? The replacement of Latin by a less than elegant vernacular? Doctrinal dilution?

Though it is true that none of these was a necessary (or even implied) consequence of the Second Vatican Council, it is nevertheless the case that the misguided ideologues who seized the reformist agenda after the Council have a lot to answer for.

Prayer for them (living or departed) – if necessary in the truncated argot of the new liturgy – is incumbent upon every faithful Catholic.

Addenda anyone?

Fr Antonio Spadaro, in an article in La Civilta Catholica, reveals that the Holy See – in a spirit of openness and generosity – is ready to receive suggestions from whatever quarter for new clauses for inclusion in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

CCC, says Spadaro, ‘is henceforth envisaged as a do-it-yourself manual of doctrine and ethics. It should not be left to Pope Francis (after exhausting trips hither and thither) to come up with ad hoc revisions on the airplane home. It is time that the whole people of God shouldered responsibility for doctrine and catechesis.’

Politics and Religion

The Chief Rabbi, Dr Ephraim Mirvis, has (justifiably) castigated the Labour party for failing to deal with institutional Anti-Semitism in its midst. No sooner had the Rabbi’s statement been made public than the Muslim Council of Great Britain, predictably, made an equal and opposite claim.

“Muslims are a diverse community and realise different Muslims will make up their own minds on who to vote for. But the way that the Chief Rabbi had shared his experiences and insights, has highlighted the importance of speaking out on the racism we face, whilst maintaining our non-partisan stance. 

As a faith community, we commonly are threatened by Islamophobia. This an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit. It is abundantly clear to many Muslims that the Conservative Party tolerates Islamophobia, allows it to fester in society, and fails to put in place the measures necessary to root out this type of racism. It is as if the Conservative Party has a blind spot for this type of racism. 

But distinctions need to be made.

Anti-semitism, in this and other countries, has had a long and varied history. It is inevitably coloured by recollections of the Russian pogroms and Nazi death camps. Which caused so many Jews to flee to England for security and tolerance. The fantasies of a Jewish plot for World domination have proved, on examination, to be febrile and unfounded. No tenet of Rabbinic Judaism encourages or sanctions violence.

Islamophobia, by contrast, is a relatively new phenomenon. Its very name is a recent construct, about which there has been no little controversy. It has arisen in the West largely in response to actual violence by terrorists claiming Muslim allegiance (the Twin Towers, the Charlie Hebdo incident, and countless others). There can be no doubt that one interpretation of Islamic texts sanctions such outrages.

It is a sad fact, however, that no political party in the United Kingdom respects the core beliefs of religious people, be they Muslim, Jewish or Christian. On major issues like abortion, euthanasia and sexual ethics the consensus of the political class (Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat) is far removed from the precepts of any of the ‘Abrahamic faiths’.

This is no time to jockey for victim status between them. It is a time to make common cause in the name of all that is holy.

Vox populi, vox Dei

Above is the official CofE prayer for the forthcoming General Election. It makes claims on behalf of participatory democracy which no Christian can or should make – that it reveals the will of God: ‘as we discover your will for our country’.

Adolf Hitler achieved the Chancelorship by democratic means. Does this mean that the Nazi regime was God’s will for Germany? Nearer home: Is a government in the United Kingdom which upholds and enacts abortion on demand until birth, permissive euthanasia, same sex marriage and transsexual equality revealing the will of God? What is God’s view on nuclear weapons? And in what way can it be said to be decided at the ballot box?

Before the Church of England accelerates its Gadarene stampede to catch up with the zeitgeist, it should at least consider that the democratic process may as well (and often does) result in plain contradiction to the Word of God.

This in not a prayer, but an incitement to civic duty.