The British Conundrum

Kind readers from the United States have asked me to explain what precisely is at stake in the forth-coming UK Election. Though the presenting issue is Brexit – as everybody can see – the election goes deeper than that.

Ultimately it is about the nature of British democracy.

How, in our system, does representative democracy (Parliament) relate to direct democracy (referenda). Are referenda (which some have claimed to be binding) merely indicative (and so subject to Parliamentary confirmation)?

The question is made the more acute when one party standing does so on a pledge to overturn the consequence of the Brexit referendum (Article 50 of the EU Constitution, initiating the process of withdrawal). It is further complicated by another party (the Scottish National Party) which proposes to use its position in a hung Parliament to seek to overturn another recent referendum (that on Scottish independence). Can the majority in a referendum ever be deemed to be conclusive? And if not, why not?

Better, you will say, to abandon referenda altogether. But the past cannot be undone.

Britain entered the EU by means of a referendum*, so logic would seem to demand that we would leave by one. But since the vote in 2016 has been undermined by Parliamentary means, it has been argued that the only way to ensure that Government is acting with the full consent of the governed is an election which delivers a Parliamentary majority to one side or the other. But what if that is not achievable?

Then God only knows.

*The confirmatory referendum undertaken by Harold Wilson  

A Tale of Two Countries

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States of America.

As the apostolic nuncio to the United States tells the American bishops to get in line with the Holy Father and show they are taking steps to hand on the “Magisterium of Pope Francis” to their flock, ten German dioceses have affirmed their solidarity with the projected ‘Synodal Path’.

 So the question arises: what does Francis want? Is he a proponent of centralised authority (as his ‘bombshell’ to the American hierarchy implies?) Or is he sympathetic to regional synodical authority (like that of the German project?)

The answer probably lies in the curious wording of Archbishop Christophe Pierre’s message. The Americans are being encouraged to ‘get alongside’ not the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (as evidenced, for example, by the Catechism); but the Magisterium of Pope Francis (as evidenced by Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si.) Pierre is stressing the personal authority of Francis and conformity to it.

The Americans, in the view of the Vatican are clearly ‘rigid’, and need to loosen up.

It remains to be seen whether the German, with their aspirations for women priests and same sex marriages, are too pliable, or not flexible enough. With this Pope you can never tell.

Through the Looking Glass

Things, as Alice remarked, simply get curiosser and curiouser.

It has now been reported that Francis has described critics of the Amazon Synod as ‘racists’. Nothing could more plainly illustrate the Looking Glass world he presently inhabits.

The racists, surely, are those who impose the myth of the ‘noble savage’ – and the theology of German liberals – on the unsuspecting peoples of the Amazon. This is the real and destructive colonialism. The manipulation of the synod has been flagrant and apparent. Indigenous peoples would never speak of themselves as the final document of the synod speaks of them.

They are being rendered pawns in the game of Western relativists, who seek to foist on them, in the name of diversity, a denuded and ersatz Catholicism. That this is allowed to pass as a ‘new evangelism’ further compounds the offence.

Pressing Matters

Why does Pope Francis put up with Eugenio Scalfari? It is a puzzling question. The veteran journalist has been given privileged access to the Pope twice recently. And on both occasions he has claimed that the Holy Father spoke in a way that all would call unorthodox and most would categorize as heresy.

The question surely is this: why does Francis permit it? And why is the Vatican Press Office left (ineptly) to pick up the pieces? The Holy Father could as easily (and more authoritatively) deny the assertions himself.

There are after all, a number of possibilities. That Scalfari is theologically naive and ill informed, and so unable to comprehend Francis’s subtlety of argument; that he is old and confused; that he was enthusiastically trying to foist his own opinions on the Holy Father; that Francis had (not for the first time) spoken imprecisely or carelessly.

But we need to have a word, as to which it was, from the only other witness who was present at the interviews. As in the case of the dubia, silence is not an option

The View from Lambeth

To view truth is to move away from a binary right or wrong attitude, a binary them and us, a battlefield of ideas and loyalties. St John Henry saw truth and loved it, despite the cracked pots in which it was held.

If you are an apostle of ‘inclusion’, everyone and every thing is grist to your mill.

As Francis has dragged S.Francis of Assisi. into his warped world of eco-ethics and multi-faith celebration, so these were the (nearly) last words of Justin Welby in a sermon preached about John Henry Newman at Vespers in Westminster Cathedral. Both traduce the saints to whom they refer.

Francis of Assisi sought to be reconciled with Muslims by converting them; and John Henry paid the price of a ‘parting of friends’ for his belief that Truth is binary. Both Francis and Justin. alas, are prepared to betray history in pursuit of principles which they hold to be self-evident. And in so doing they show themselves to be prisoners of their own time.

Let the saints be saints; not vehicles for Virtue Signalling.

Call My Bluff

In the culture wars which have ravaged Europe since the seventeenth century, the principal tactic of the Left (to use the term broadly) has been entryism. This has been particularly so in the Churches. More recently WOKENESS in the guise of ‘inclusion’ has sought to replace the Christian virtues of tolerance, hospitality and forgiveness. This was never more true than in the cases of women’s ordination and the approval of gay marriage. (Bishop Michael Adie’s assertion in the women priests debate that the innovation was ‘required by the tradition’ comes readily to mind.)

Seldom have orthodox Christians called the bluff of the liberals. They have been prepared to acknowledge that the innovations were church-dividing issues; but they have – with few exceptions – stopped short of dividing the Church.

Step forward the evangelical Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glen Davies, who called for gay marriage supporters to leave the church, provoking from liberals the expected response: ‘he seems to want to exclude people rather than to engage with them’.

What liberals want is endless conversation, dialogue without terminus. What they cannot stomach is a blunt recognition of their own apostasy. Davis has called their bluff: it is open to them to found a new church. What they cannot legitimately do is to claim fellowship in the Body of Christ, the Church Apostolic.

Mass Exodus

Stephen Bullivant has produced a wonderful book.  Mass Exodus is a masterly and authoritative analysis of the statistical decline of the Catholic Church in Britain and America (and in other parts of the Anglosphere).

Whilst Bullivant does not lay the entire blame on the effects of Vatican II, he persuasively demonstrates that the reforms often attributed to the Council were a major contributory factor.  With the legendary Peter Berger he agrees that there is little or no evidence that the use of Latin (or indeed Cranmerian English) was alienating for the laity. But both were axed with a clerical ruthlessness which is difficult to explain. With the legendary Mary Douglas he agrees that the removal of other cultural markers (such as fish on Fridays) weakened a sense of loyalty and belonging. God, he points out – in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – has no grandchildren. Converts are no more than a tenth of those abandoning the Church.

What the book does not say, because of the limits Bullivant has set himself, is that the numerical decline of the German Church is as disastrous and precipitate; but that in the Bergoglian Church German theology is in the ascendant.

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