lördag 30 juni 2012

Altar rails

Northmoor, Oxfordshire by Sheepdog Rex

Northmoor, Oxfordshire, a photo by Sheepdog Rex on Flickr.

The negotiations between SSPX and the Vatican seem to have stalled. This is not good news. As soon as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass or Latin are mentioned, people tend to take up positions. There is a view amongst many traditionalists that the Novus Ordo rite is defective. It is counter-productive to express them, especially now that the Extraordinary Form is gathering momentum. It is better to be patient, firm and sensitive. When dogmatic views are put out, priests who might otherwise be sympathetic then shy away to avoid getting embroiled. Who can blame them?

So I tend to focus on the practicalities of the matter. This applies to Latin, silence in the Mass and all sorts of other things. You can put up a perfectly sound argument for altar rails on Health and Safety grounds!

A priest could in theory be sued for damages if someone fell off the sanctuary and got injured! The edge of the step should be clearly marked, for example, with bright yellow tape, if there are no altar rails to indicate the change of level. This is a good reason for putting them back without getting too involved in matters relating to the theology of the sanctuary.

How long will the Euro deal last?

I have never believed that the Euro would last beyond 2030. I thought that was a rash judgement. As it is, the odds are against it being around in its present form in five years' time.

What about the latest deal? It has brought about a rally, but how long will it take for the markets to realise that it is a proposal to pour money into a series of financial black holes? And will the German parliament ratify it anyway? My prediction is that the Euro problem will be back in the headlines by the end of the "summer".

Gregorian Chant replaced by dreary hymns

The post-Easter season has a series of chants that used to be familiar: Resurrexit and the Sequence Victimae Paschalae Laudes for Easter Sunday itself, Quasimodo for Low Sunday, Viri Galilaei on the Feast of the Ascension, Spiritus Domini and the Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus on Pentecost Sunday, Benedictus sit on Trinity Sunday, Cibavit eos and the Sequence Lauda Sion on the Feast of Corpus Christi, and finally Nunc sciovere on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul.

This year I have heard just a few of them, a situation not helped by the fact that the two Thursday feasts have been moved to the following Sunday. Frankly, I find it depressing and feel a bit short-changed. I suspect there are quite a few people around who take the same view.

This has nothing much to do with the old or new forms of the Mass itself, but when it is celebrated in the vernacular, that is usually the end of the chant, and if the Mass is a sung one there are dreary Protestant hymns instead.

There is no excuse for this. There are about four different Ordinaries that have to be learned, the Credo and Pater Noster are, or can be, always the same, and the same is true for the responses. The sequences are not too difficult either.

The Propers, which are different for each of the Sundays and feast days, are another matter. They form part of the readings and people should have sheets or books with translations in their own language. This is actually an advantage, since most churches have rotten sound systems and congregations often come from many different countries.

The difficulty with singing these chants is not the Gregorian notation, with neumes. They are easier to read than five-line notation with round notes. But if, like me, you can't sight-read and can't find a recording, then there is a problem. Some of the Propers, and especially the Graduals are tricky anyway. Tones 3 and 4 are always difficult - that is a widespread experience in all the choirs I have been in. I have sung solo at when the regular cantor was away. I was note perfect on the train on the way there (don't worry, the carriage was empty), and then made a complete mess of some parts of the Proper. Which is why it needs more people if possible so that the music is not dependent on a soloist.


The Proper for the Precious Blood, for example does not seem to be recorded anywhere. There are quite a few others which have not been recorded. When this happens the Proper may have to be sung to psalm tones and they have to be written out.

Usually this site provides recordings and the scores, but the set is not complete.
http://renegoupil.org/

There are some useful links from these sites
stmarymagdalenchoir.wordpress.com/
gregorian-chant-resources.blogspot.se/

And notation here
http://lphrc.org/Chant/

Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge told me they are willing to arrange courses  in Gregorian Chant outside the UK. They have good teachers available including one of the Solemnes monks. That is a good opportunity I think.
http://www.scholagregoriana.org/

Liber Usualis is here, all 116 Megabytes of it.
liber-usualis-1961.pdf

torsdag 28 juni 2012

How Una Voce is organised

Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce (FUIV) is an international organisation for promoting the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. It is made up of affiliated national organisations There are several types of structure. The three main ones are the federation, and two types of unitary structure, of which the English Latin Mass Society is the most notable.

A federation, such as Una Voce America, where several groups or associations or chapters come together to form a national federation is the most obviously convenient one because it allows the flexibility to draw together different independent groups across the Country. Thus there is UVSan Francisco, UCOrange County, and UVSan Bernadino, as well as UVAlbany, and UVBrooklyn, all within UVAmerica. This national federation structure mirrors the structure of the FIUV itself. Our Membership Committee is encouraging even very small groups to try to incorporate the potential for a national federation into their structures at the outset because it allows maximum flexibility for the future.

The LMS is probably unique in having an unrivalled national remit with a single membership and a single governing structure. It works well in England and Wales but would never work, for example, here in Ireland, where there are many groups, and would be hard to replicate except where the culture and circumstances admitted an obvious and agreed unity across the Country. There has never been any question of an Una Voce Wales or a Latin Mass Society of York, for example.

The third structure is the most common, which is that of an association, often called by the country's name, such as Una Voce Russia or Una Voce Japan, or often more limited in scope, to a region or a diocese, such as Una Voce Natal (Brazil) or Una Voce Seville (Spain). There is the possibility of creating a national federation of these groups to mirror the structure of FIUV or not, as the groups decide for themselves. This structure has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is more realistic when the group is small but it can also mean that when three small groups join FIUV we are unable because of our limit of three groups per Country to admit a fourth and it is often too late or too difficult to form a national federation for various reasons.

A mixture of the first and third structure is, I am advised, probably the ideal.

It may be best if local groups should try to entitle themselves and work at the most local possible level because, apparently, the Latin Mass Society of Ireland was anything but a unifying force, partly because it insisted that it was the only legitimate group in Ireland. If it had been Una Voce Dublin (which might have been more accurate) it could have cooperated more effectively with other groups in Ireland.

However, the structure and title of the group is entirely a matter for the members themselves. There are Model Statutes available for any group of people wishing to form an association.

onsdag 27 juni 2012

Promoting the Extraordinary Form Mass

To promote the Extraordinary Form Mass requires some kind of national organisation to co-ordinate activities. The English Latin Mass Society (LMS) would be a good model to follow.It is not a religious order or priestly association, though it has many members who are priests. Its main aim is to co-ordinate those activities by which lay people can assist priests in saying the Mass. The main ones are
  • Organising training for priests, for altar servers, and for singers, in particular, Gregorian Chant, talks and courses on the liturgy and on Latin.
  • Through local Representatives, providing encouragement and moral and material support for priests who say the Mass
  • Keeping members and the wider public informed of where and when Masses are taking place through the publication of a diary of events.
  • Inviting priests to lead special events such as pilgrimages, retreats, and days of recollection.
  • Maintaing a network of like-minded Catholics, both lay and clerical, through its local Representatives, local and national events, and its Magazine, Mass of Ages.
  • As required, representing the needs and views of lay Catholics ‘attached to the earlier liturgical traditions’ to our bishops and to the Vatican, as well as to the Catholic and secular media.
This requires at least a basic organisation consisting of a Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, with a minimum level of funds to cover essential expenses. One of the tasks is to compile some kind of register of people's skills: who can assist with administrative work, who can sing and what music they are familiar with, who can teach music, who can act as servers and Masters of Ceremony, which priests can celebrate Mass, etc. Much of it is unglamorous and basic foot-slogging work.

The LMS has always insisted on its loyalty to the Bishops and Holy Father, and has on the whole, been restrained in its criticism of the post-1965 changes. A failure in this respect is almost certainly one of the reasons why recovery of the traditional liturgy has been so slow: faced with strident demands and aggressive criticism of the newer liturgy, even supportive clergy have been inclined to back off.

måndag 25 juni 2012

British anti-Catholicism visceral as ever

British anti-Catholicism is as visceral as it ever was. An article by Eamonn Duffy has just demonstrated this nicely. Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge, has been studying primary sources. They reveal a very different picture from the popular view of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church as irremediably decadent, corrupt and oppressive. Perhaps I am wrong but decadent, corrupt and oppressive organisations do not produce architectural masterpieces such as King's College Chapel, nor musical masterpieces such as the works of Byrd and Tallis.

Duffy has evidently pressed a button here. The torrent of visceral anti-Catholicism released shows that the emotion has as much grip on the conservative right as on the "progressive" left, where it turns up regularly in comments on the Guardian's web site.

The British founding myth is alive and kicking.

lördag 23 juni 2012

Which Bible?

Why is the Catholic Bible different from the Protestant Bible?

The New Testament canon of the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible are the same with 27 Books. The difference is in the Old Testament.

Around 100 BC in Alexandria, the Greek Emperor, Ptolemy II, commissioned 71 Jewish leaders to translate the Jewish scripture into Greek. The book translated book is called the Septuagint.

During the first century, the Septuagint was widely used in the Roman world. It was the translation used during the life of Jesus. The Septuagint is the Old Testament and scripture that Jesus refers to in the Gospels. It continued to be the Bible used after the resurrection and the Old Testament Bible of Christianity.

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Jewish leaders came together and declared its official canon of scripture at the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD, eliminating seven books from the Septuagint. The books removed were Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees (which tells the story of Hanukkah…so that means that you can only find the story of Hanukkah in the Catholic Bible), Wisdom (of Solomon), Sirach, and Baruch. Parts of existing books were also removed including Psalm 151 (from Psalms), parts of the Book of Esther, Susanna (from Daniel as chapter 13), and Bel and the Dragon (from Daniel as chapter 14).

The Christian Church did not change with the Jews. They kept all the books in the Septuagint. It is the same Old Testament used by Jesus and used by the Catholic Church today.

In the 1500’s, Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church. During this time he also changed the Old Testament. He rejected many tenets of Catholicism which could be found in some of the “rejected” books of the Septuagint (such as 2 Maccabees which provides some scriptural proof of the existence of Purgatory which Martin Luther didn’t believe in), so he decided to use the Jamnian Canon of Hebrew Scriptures instead of the Septuagint. These books are sometimes referred to as the “Apocrypha” by Protestants or the “Deuterocanonical” books meaning “also canonical” by Catholics. In fact, Martin Luther almost threw out the Letter of James from the New Testament because it talks about how important doing good works is to show that you are a follower of Christ. Anglican and Lutheran Bibles usually add these books today as an appendix. Many evangelical Bibles do not show the books at all.

The Council of Trent in 1546 reaffirmed what the early Church councils had proclaimed in the 4th century: the texts found in the Catholic Bible are all the authentic Word of God and comprise the complete canon of Sacred Scripture. Hence the Catholic Bible has 73 books.

Catholics should use Catholic translations when reading the Bible. First, it has all the books that Catholics hear at Mass. Secondly, the footnotes are based on Catholic interpretations, not Protestant teachings.

Catholic Bible Translations

There are several different English translations available for the Catholic Bible. The primary ones include:

• New American Bible (NAB) – This version is the most common American translation. It was written for an eighth grade reading level and contains the most “modern” language of the primary Catholic translations. The New American Bible is available in more versions than any other Catholic Bible.

• Douai Rheims – This is the oldest English translation available and is frequently compared with the King James version because of its use of “Thee”, “Thou” and other older forms of words. This translation is considered highly accurate but can be more difficult to read for some people.

• Revised Standard (RSV) – This was a joint translation project between American Protestants and Catholics with the Catholic Church completing the translation of the Apocrypha. This translation is considered the most accurate modern translation but still contains “Thee” and “Thou” when referring to God. This translation along with the New American Bible was approved for liturgical use in the United States.

• Revised Standard 2nd Edition – This version is almost identical to the regular Revised Standard but updates the language by getting rid of “Thee” and “Thou”.

• Jerusalem Bible – The Jerusalem Bible, completed in 1966, is very similar to the Revised Standard Version 2nd edition in that it is a modern English language translation. It was produced under the direction of the Dominican scholars at the renowned Ecole Biblique de Jerusalem.

Source: http://whycatholicsdothat.com/why-is-the-catholic-bible-different-from-the-protestant-bible/

tisdag 19 juni 2012

Answers to Aziz - 4

Muslims often object to the notion of the Trinity, under the misconception that it is Pantheist.

Pantheism and belief in the Trinity are two entirely different things. Look it up. They stand in opposition to each other. Pantheism was widespread in Europe before Christianity. People believed in sacred groves, hills, streams, animals. The Christian missionaries were at pains to point out that Catholicism was a belief in ONE GOD with three persons.

The missionaries were so determined to stamp out the earlier pantheistic cults that they often built shrines, churches and chapels on the earlier sites, typically dedicated to Our Lady or St Anne.

But as I said earlier, it is not an idea that is easily expressed in words, which is why the Catholic church teaches its doctrines through the sacred liturgy - a unique symbol system presented as what can be regarded as a small-scale theatrical tableau.

The Freemasons operate in the same way. If you wanted to know what the Masonic belief system consists of you would have to become a member and attend the Lodge meetings. But since these are closed you will never get to know unless you join. The Catholic liturgy is open to all, so you are welcome to come and see. That is an invitation.

John 1:43-46

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."
44 Now Philip was from Beth-sa'ida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathan'a-el, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46 Nathan'a-el said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

måndag 18 juni 2012

Answers to Aziz - 3

The supposed difficulty of understanding the Trinity is only a difficulty if one attempts to present the explanation in words alone. But words are only one of many symbol systems. The story of the arts, science and technology is a story of the elaboration of signs and symbol systems. There is mathematics, algebra, musical notation, physics and chemistry diagrames, architectural and engineering drawings, maps and charts in all their diversity - the list is endless. It would, for instance, be impossible to navigate safely without a good charts, which show in a concise way what can never be put into words.

The Trinity is of this nature. To describe it in words is very difficult. Libraries have been written on the subject and it has been constantly disputed. However, the liturgy of the Christian (Orthodox/Catholic) church presents the philosophy of the Trinity clearly and concisely in a way that billions of people over the past two millenia have comprehended even if they could not write their knowledge down on a piece of paper in a few hundred words. The liturgy - effectively a small-scale theatrical tableau, and as such, a highly elaborated symbol system, is, amongst other things, a presentation of the entire philosophy of Orthoox Christianity - the Trinity, the Sacrifice of Calvary, the Resurrection and our life in the Risen Christ.

This means that anyone who has never attended a well-executed Catholic liturgy with an open mind is in the position of someone who has never read a book on the subject in question. Since these liturgies are free to all to attend without hindrance, perhaps it is really necessary, if discussion is to proceed intelligently, for everyone involved to acquaint themselves with what the Catholic church is actually saying, by attending some of its liturgies - and this is to be regarded as a welcome invitation.

Answers to Aziz - 2

How can you logically defend such a belief, the trinity, against pantheism? How can you for instance say that "There must also be God the Holy Spirit...There must also be God incarnate"? How do you define the word "must"?

And why would God give us reason and logic but at the same time contradict it by giving a theory about himself that few people can actually explain, and even then it is based on belief and not on human logic?


If God were not a Trinity he could not be all-powerful, since he could not act in the realms of the spirit and of the physical world. The latter is necessary also if he is to be actively merciful. That God is a Trinity follows logically from the proposition that God is all-powerful, which is also a logical proposition since a God that was not all-powerful would not be God, nor could he act mercifully in the physical world. For the latter, it is necessary for Him to become Incarnate, first in the person of Jesus Christ and now in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

"Must" means that something is necessarily so. It cannot be otherwise.

The proposition that God is a Trinity is not in principle so very difficult to understand - the Rublev icon illustrates the idea well enough. The idea of a Trinity with an active dynamic relationship between the Three can be likened to the relationship between the chemical bonds in a benzene molecule, an insight that came to the scientist Kekule in a dream. But even if it were a difficult idea, that would not make it untrue, any more than the ideas of Relativity or Quantum Theory are untrue because they are difficult to grasp.

All belief has a foundation in faith rather than in  certainty, otherwise it would not be a faith. But orthodox Christian faith is not based on UN-reason.

Answers to Aziz - 1

First you say that God is All-Powerful, and then you say he do not manage to become something "that is against his nature". This is contradictory to your belief and reason.

First, Jesus (peace be upon him) was a dependent, limited and finite being. God is an independent, unlimited and infinite being. How can something be both dependent and independent, limited and unlimited, finite and infinite at the same time? That's like saying a square circle or a straight turn. It's contradictory and do not exist as such.

If God does not go against His nature and attributes and become something like the devil, then how come this is supposedly true for the statement that He become a man - a creature contradictory His nature and attributes?

This is exactly what Muslims are saying. God do not go against His attributes and nature, and this must be applied to ALL attributes. You cannot say that God become something finite but at the same time claim that God is infinite, for the reason I already mentioned.

First, it is in the nature of God to be a Trinity – ie Three in One. This is a necessity if God is to be all powerful. There must be God the uncreated – that is given. There must also be God the Holy Spirit, for if there were not, God could not act in that realm. There must also be God incarnate, for if there were not, God would be unable to act in this world, which He wishes to do as part of His mercy. Otherwise, the world would just be left abandoned to its fate.

That God is a Trinity is already apparent in the Old Testament.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1 : 26). Note, in OUR likeness. We are again given the intimation that God is a Trinity in the visit of the three under the appearance of angels, to Abraham at Mamre (Genesis 18). From then on, we are shown God as Father, Son and Holy Sprit. We read constantly of God alive and active in the world, in His appearance to Moses in the burning bush, in the manna he fed the Israelites with in the desert, and in the rock that gave water when Moses struck it in the rock at Kadesh.

Thus it is in God’s nature, in the Second Person of the Trinity, to be able to limit himself through the taking of physical form, and incarnate Himself as a human being, IF He wants. He will then act according to the laws of nature and become limited by the very own laws that He Himself has created. That is entirely logical. "God can as you say not act against the nature that He Himself has created. He is absolutely logical and He he can NOT therefore turn a square into a circle. Then it is no longer a square.

The Devil already exists. God can not become a PERSON that already exist. Neither can He become a person (every person is 100% unique) that has already existed here on earth, though we are eternal human beings. (our soul is eternal).

Neither can God act in a way that contradicts his very own nature. To be evil or false is contradicting God`s nature. God is TRUTH and LIFE.

God manifested as a human being 2000 years ago, a true man, Jesus Christ. Now a true human being is someone that fully obeys God by his own free will. In this, he differs from Satan, the fallen angel, who now for ever will be the incarnation of disobedience towards God. Jesus Christ, the human being, obeyed God The Father fully as a human being by His own free will. Jesus Christ also differs from Adam, who disobeyed God and brought about the Fall. For this reason Jesus is called by the Church the “New Adam”. He is how we all were meant to be, the example to be followed. Though God has created man true and good, because of evil we have an inclination to commit evil and false acts/thoughts.

God became a known and visible human being for a reason: to show us what God was like, in a way that we could all apprehend and try to follow.

fredag 15 juni 2012

The excesses of the Inquisition

Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London

I have been involved in a discussion with a Muslim who has quoted the Inquisition as an example of Catholic misbehaviour. I had to remind him to check his sources. It should not be forgotten that the origin of most of what was and is said about the Inquisition is the Protestant polemic "Foxe's Book of Martyrs", published in England in 1563 under the title Acts and Monuments. This was not, to say the least, a neutral account but was part of the ongoing attack on Catholicism which had been in progress in England since the 1520s. That attack was primarily a land grab by the aristocracy and had very little to do with religion.

The church in England had for long held land for its support, on the basis that it was the church that provided what are now regarded as the functions of a welfare state. This was not a situation that was acceptable to the aristocracy, which had succeeded in ridding itself of the obligations that went with the land allocations following the Norman Conquest. Eventually, the English peasantry was evicted in its entirety, in the two great land thefts known as the English Inclosures and the Scottish Clearances.

Thus there was a powerful incentive in England to demonise the Catholic church. The excesses of the Protestants in England were far worse, first under Henry VIII and then under Elizabeth, when Catholics underwent a persecution as cruel as anything that happened to Christians under Communism. Remember that Foxe was writing four years after Elizabeth came to the throne, when the battle for hearts and minds was in full flow and those in power were anxious to blacken the reputation of the Catholic church in any way they could.

Recent scholarship by Eamon Duffy and others has shown that most of what was said is false or greatly exaggerated. It is also wrong to judge actions that took place 400 years ago by standards that are the norm today in the secular liberal democracies of northern Europe. Following the death Henry VIII, there was a Regency, the king, Edward VI, having come to the throne in 1547 at the age of 12. Those in real control were anxious to retain the valuable church property they had been given as a reward for the king's support. When Edward VI died in 1553, Mary became queen. She was anxious to reinstate Catholicism as the national religion but the aristocrats were frightened that they would lose what they had gained. An ongoing battle was fought against Mary's efforts, even though they had general popular support.

Thus the execution of the Protestant bishops at Oxford, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley (illustrated) was as much from political as religious motives and the Queen's Consort (King Philip II of Spain), was opposed to the decision. When anyone quotes the alleged excesses of the Inquisition, they are unwittingly taking sides in an ancient English battle.

The story has an important postscript. That battle is far from over in England itself. Following the seizure of church lands, there was great poverty, since the equivalent of a welfare state had been dismantled. This was the start of the public sector welfare system which continues to run today, unchanged in its essentials.

Amongst the church lands were those belonging to Westminster Abbey. These soon proved to be extremely valuable and fell into the hands of an aristocrat by the name of Grosvenor, whose descendant, the Duke of Westminster, owns them today. It comprises much of Mayfair and Belgravia. The Duke is the richest man in Britain, wealthier by far than even the Queen. He is a Knight of the Garter and for many years had a hign position at the Ministry of Defence, despite a complete lack of talent and ability.

This means that there is still, in England, a powerful movement trying to resist the Catholic church. Mostly it operates through the structures of Freemasonry. It is no accident that many of the British Royal Family and aristocrats such as the Duke of Westminster are leading Freemasons.

This may seem like a digression, but the point is that sources must be, first known, and second, checked for impartiality.

onsdag 13 juni 2012

Does the state really create no wealth?

Rörö färjeläge - Ulrike
A friend of mine suggested that I watch a video, the main point of which was to demonstrate that the state was a leech on the body of the productive economy and that taxes should be cut to a bare minimum and the state cut down to size accordingly. It argued that public sector workers do not create wealth.It is a widespread view. Frankly, the video is not worth wasting the ten minutes it takes to watch it because the view it presents is a familiar part of the contemporary discourse. The Taxpayers' Alliance has been saying much the same thing, stridently.

It ignores that fact that without a stable civil society, no wealth could be created. Thus public sector workers are part of the wealth creation process. The state provides the infrastructure and security without which no wealth is created. Even the lollipop ladies mean people can got to work instead of having to take their children all the way to to school. The ferry in the picture runs day and night throughout the year, free to those who travel on it. Arguably, a charge should be made to go on it, but it could never make a profit and if it did not run, almost nobody could live or work on the island it serves. The expanding state reflects, in part, people’s expectations and on the whole they are not unreasonable ones but part of civilised life.

The video, like those who forward the point of view it was presenting, completely ignores the role of rent. It referred to a hypothetical restaurant owner, Roger, who was squeezed by the high taxes he was having to pay, such as the business rate. It did not mention how much rent Roger the restaurant owner was paying to his landlord, but it is well established that when the business rate is cut or abolished, rents rise to absorb all the benefit. The actual businesses gain nothing. It goes to the landlord. It should not be forgotten either, that mortgage interest is in reality rent. If one looks closely, it can be seen that something like 60% of the UK economy consists of what is actually rent, under one heading or another

The most valid argument made by the anti-state party is that “taxes on labour create unemployment and work is done abroad”. By this is meant that taxes have a "deadweight cost". But taxes on wages and production are not the only possible source of public revenue. A tax on the rental value of land has no deadweight cost. An ad valorem tax on the rental value of land would be taking out of that part of the private sector which does not create any wealth. It is the only tax of which this can be said. Other taxes, on tobacco and alcohol are imposed precisely because they have a deadweight cost.

The video went on to talk about how the private sector "creates jobs". Thus both "left" and "right" both subscribe to Job Creationist theory. Yet jobs are not “created” by anyone. Given the opportunity, people will find a way to work and provide themselves with livelihoods and become entrepreneurs. They should not have to wait for anyone, either in the private or public sector, to come along and give them a job. But work opportunities are hard to come by. Why? This is a question that does not receive the consideration it needs, not from either end of the political spectrum.

The idea that only the private sector creates wealth is misleading in another way also. Not all the private sector creates wealth. A large chunk of the private sector, including the so-called banking "industry", is merely sucking up land rental value. On the other hand, there is a fashion to lament the loss of industry. Some of this is due to the high taxation levied on labour and production, but to emphasise manufacturing is to ignore that fact that private sector service jobs are a valuable source of foreign exchange eg engineering consultancies, tourism, education, scientific research.

How big should it be?
Along with this view there is an idea that there is some optimal proportion of the economy that should be in the public sector, a figure of 30% being mentioned. However, there can be no magic figure for the optimum proportion of an economy that should be in the public sector. It might be no more than around 20%. But if one takes the view that the state has to stand aside and allow people to care for themselves, people must have the opportunity to do so. In what passes for a free market under what is confusingly described as the capitalist system, people are locked-out of work opportunities. What does this mean in practice? Look now at what the government spends taxpayers’ money on.

      £ billion

      Pensions    137
      Health care 125
      Education    29
      Defence      43
      Welfare      55
      Police/Law   15
      Transport    11
      Interest     50
      General      12
      Other        60

Source UK public spending information

In round figures this is about £540 million. Of these, those in bold, and those only, are essential government functions. This amounts to about £160 billion. The remainder of the expenditure is on things which people could reasonably be expected, and would probably prefer, to provide for themselves, if they could afford it. They are transfer payments.

Thus more than two-thirds of government expenditure is not expenditure at all, it is for the relief of poverty ie compulsory state charity. Labour likes this because it makes people dependent. The Conservatives like it because it means that the most privileged classes can retain their privilege – it is just a matter of containing the poverty to acceptable limits. Those in the middle are becoming increasingly squeezed by this giant poverty-relief exercise.

What can one conclude from this? That neither those on the "Left" or the "Right" are seeing anything like the complete picture. One has to ask if they really want to.

måndag 11 juni 2012

Practical advantages of Tridentine Mass

Most of the advocates of the Tridentine or Extraordinary Form (EF) Mass tend to focus on theological and aesthetic aspects. But what receives little attention is the simple practicality of the older form.
  1. Most churches have acoustics sound systems that are bad to indifferent. It can be difficult to hear what is being said in any language, including one's own. Most of the more widely spoken languages have dialects which further impair understanding and are also associated with the prejudices that people have about those from other places. This raises issues which have no place within the Catholic church.
  2. The standard of reading by lay readers is generally poor. Clear, reasonably slow reading is exceptional.
  3. Priests tend to be reasonably good readers but only in their own language. If they are celebrating in another language, then too can be difficult to understand.
  4. Congregations can come from many different countries.
  5. The music is liable to be unfamiliar, precluding visitors from participating.
  6. The service can be unduly prolonged.
This causes problems with the Ordinary Form Mass which do not arise with the Extraordinary Form.
  1. In the EF form the priest recites everything in Latin. The people can follow silently in books or reading sheets in their own language.
  2. The use of a language not in daily use eliminates the associations carried by familiar words and phrases.
  3. The music is standard. Most people were familiar with it and would quickly become so again.
  4. The Sanctus is sung whilst the consecration prayers are recited.
  5. The Mass is the same wherever one goes in the world.
  6. The priest is not facing the congregation and is therefore anonymous, which reduces the influence of prejudices that people can have about the appearance of others.
 These are important practical advantages.

fredag 8 juni 2012

Destruction by design

Deptford High Street
Deptford High Street

Acton 1970
South Acton awaiting redevelopment 1971

People have been discussing the BBC programme "Destruction by design", which talks about the fate of old working class Deptford at the hands of Lewisham Council's redevelopment machine. I worked for Lewisham Council from 1978 but the damage had been done by then. I am not able to view the programme but I assume the surviving street was Albury Street. This was exceptional as the houses dated from 1710 and of the highest quality.

I came in halfway through the redevelopment performance when I began training as a planner in 1965. Planners were taught to do the sort of thing that was described in the programme - design destructive redevelopment schemes with relief roads. It was a standard examination project for membership of the Town Planning Institute.

In 1964 I went to day release planning courses at Brixton and Hammersmith Schools of Building, now part of South Bank and Thames Universities. There was a revolt amongst the students who questioned what they were being asked to do. That was probably the start of the reaction against urban redevelopment. I then studied landscape design at Newcastle between 1967 and 69. Those of us on the course who thought about the matter at all were more than uneasy about what was going on, not least because we were living in the middle of a Victorian area of the city which was being literally knocked down all around us.

My first job after that, in 1969 was at the London Borough of Ealing, which was then busily knocking down a good quality early Victorian area in South Acton, which turned into an instant slum as soon as it was finished. I did not get on with my colleagues who thought they were doing a wonderful job. It was two years of conflict.

My second job was at the London Borough of Haringey, which was following much the same policy, producing schemes such as the notorious Broadwater Farm - though the latter involved no redevelopment. A few colleagues there were more dubious about the policy and were thinking about the concept of infill ie demolishing pockets of housing that were in poor condition and replacing them with new terrace houses. I designed a house type which could be used as "matching infill", based on the same Victorian house plan. This was very difficult but not impossible, due to modern building regulations and car parking standards, but could have been achieved.

Landscape detail
 Infill redevelopment in Tottenham, 1975

At the same time I was living in Stoke Newington where Hackney Council was following the same policy of "rolling redevelopment", the aim being to bring the borough's entire housing stock into council ownership. They picked a bad target, the Mapledene area of Dalston, where local residents were sufficiently articulate to oppose what the council was planning. They fought back, marshalled a counter-attack and at the public enquiry, they demolished the council's feeble arguments for redevelopment. This was in 1973, and it was the landmark case which put a stop to the kind of thing that was happening in Deptford.

Dalston flats
 Hackney old and new 1970

My final job, at Lewisham began in 1978, when the council put in hand a programme to clear up the mess left-over from the redevelopment programme. But the effects of the misguided policies live on.

söndag 3 juni 2012

The Trinity

Rublev Trinity
This icon by Andrei Rublev was painted in the fifteen century. It depicts the three angels who came to visit Abraham at the Oak of Mamre. But it is also taken to be a representation of the Trinity. All the figures wear blue robes, but the figure on the left is clad in a concealing robe, representing God the Father who is hidden from sight, that in the centre is also clad in brown with a gold strip, representing earthly things and kingship, whilst that on the right is also clad in green, which in the Orthodox tradition corresponds to the Holy Spirit.

This has a bearing on a discussion I had last week with a Dominican. We started by talking about ecumenism and that went on to the notorious "Filioque clause" which was supposedly the cause of the split between the Western Latin Rite Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches which owe their allegiance to Constantinople or Moscow. Who is right? Does it matter anyway?

I have always pictured the Trinity as a dynamic movement between the Three Persons - something like the formula for benzene which came to the nineteenth century scientist Kekulé when he sank into a trance-like state whilst staring into a fire. This is the triangular relationship implicit in the Filioque, rather than a linear relationship expressed in the Orthodox formulation of the doctrine.

Rublev, working in the Orthodox tradition, presents the relationship between the three Persons of the Trinity as dynamic. That is not what one would expect.

The fact that God is in the world and makes his presence manifest, above all in the Blessed Sacrament, tells us immediately that there are at least two divine Persons, and that implies automatically the existence of a third, the Holy Spirit. It cannot be otherwise.

Cult of ugliness

Compare and contrast. The former seems to have been inspired by the latter, but which is the more elegant? Fatima shrine. German bunker, J...