lördag 24 augusti 2013

The tide is turning

At last, an increasing number of politicians and commentators are coming out against HS2, essentially for the reasons which have been repeatedly stated in this blog. The NIMBY lobby as at last lost its dominance in the debate to those who are arguing the real economic case against the scheme. It is not that the country cannot afford it. The scheme is just a bad way of spending the pot of money.

Some of the opposition is from the roads lobby, which wants a share of the cake. The sad thing is that nobody has even now come up with costings for what is really needed to increase the capacity of the railway infrastructure, which would be a combination of upgrades of existing routes and the construction of some new conventional-speed routes, essentially on the alignment of HS2, which at the southern end is mostly on the former Great Central route, but with a lot of expensive straightening-out to cater for the higher speeds. With a conventional speed railway, this new construction becomes largely a matter of replacing the track on the old trackbed, electrifying and installing an ERTMS signalling system. That is a far more cost-effective proposition than HS2.

torsdag 22 augusti 2013

Solidarity with hijab wearers

Women wearing the hijab in Sweden report that they are often treated abusively in public places. In response, some non-Muslims have taken to wearing the hijab as a gesture of solidarity.

Abusing people for any reason is wrong and unacceptable. However, Muslims are world-leaders when it comes to abusing other people, since the principle of intolerance is built-in to the Koran and Hadith. Good Muslims are required to kill the unbelievers, and some of them have always interpreted these texts literally.

Thus people who identify themselves very visibly as Muslims should not be surprised when other people react badly towards them. It is not right but it is understandable and explicable. There is a strong component of racism here because most Muslims have dark skins, but Islam is an ideology not a race, and that ideology is, in principle, fascistic.

This makes it ironic that it is those on the liberal left who are promoting this solidarity. The same people are criticising Russia for its perceived anti-gay legislation. Perhaps they should try organising a Pride parade in Ryadh? I wonder how they would get on?

onsdag 21 augusti 2013

HST cost could hit £73 billion

Treasury officials are privately warning that the cash cost of the controversial High Speed 2 rail line will hit £73bn. FT article

lördag 17 augusti 2013

A dystopian prediction

The burning of churches in Egypt this week needs to be seen in the broader historical context. This sort of thing has been going on for 1400 years.

It looks as if, in the next few decades, the confrontation between Islam and the rest of the world will reach a level of hostility that will make people wish for the peaceful days when Nazism and Communism were the main disturbing ideologies and events like the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia and the Soviet Gulags were nothing more than a slightly over-the-top exception to a relatively peaceful state of affairs. We need to wake up. Things look as if they are going to get an order of magnitude worse.

It also looks as if the only place in the Middle East where Christians can be secure in the foreseeable future is Israel.

fredag 16 augusti 2013

Collapse of Catholic Church began 1965

Statistics collated by the Latin Mass Society show unambiguously how the collapse of the Catholic Church in England began in 1965 and that the decline has continued steadily ever since. This will accelerate as priests now in their fifties and sixties retire and there are no younger men to replace them. An increasing number of parishes will now be without priests, a state of affairs that is unsustainable and will ultimately lead to a wave of closures.

Of course there are wider social factors behind this phenomenon but the liturgical and other changes that followed the Second Vatican Council must be a major cause. In my own experience of three parishes where I was a regular Mass attender, the exodus began not with the introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass but with the replacement of a Novus Ordo Latin liturgy with Gregorian chant by an English liturgy with hymns. At least one-third of parishioners would depart immediately, followed by a steady trickle after that. Some became refugees in neighbouring parishes but eventually there was no refuge to go to. At the same time, young people who had left the church as teenagers but thinking of returning in their twenties and thirties found a church they could no longer recognise. And so the decline has gone on, with the hierarchy in denial that there was a problem. Yet on the few occasions where traditionally-inclined priests such as the Oratorians have taken over moribund parishes, the Catholic communities have quickly come back to life.

fredag 9 augusti 2013

Voris - sloppy but right in principle

Church Militant protagonist Michael Voris has been taken to task by Catholic writer David Armstrong for being sloppy about the background to the practice of receiving communion in the hand whilst standing. Armstrong points out that in the Orthodox rites communion is normally received whilst standing, whilst the practice of receiving communion in the hand can be traced by to the times of the early church fathers.

Voris can be irritatingly sloppy at times but is not usually wrong in principle. We are talking about signification here. Customs and gestures acquire meanings. Voris understands this. The view is well supported by semiotic theory and contemporary understandings in cognitive psychology. He may or may not know this theory but he seems to have a sound overall grasp.

Eastern (Orthodox) Rite churches receive do indeed receive communion whilst standing, but it is distributed in both kinds, using leavened bread, with the priest using a spoon, and it is received, of necessity, on the tongue. In addition, Orthodox liturgies use their own set of symbols in order to establish the sense of reverence - in particular, through the presence of the iconostasis in front of the altar, the elaboration of ceremonial and the use of modal music with drones and quarter tones.

The overall presentation of the Latin Rite Catholic liturgy is very different. The altar is open to view, the music is much simplified, and much of it is in an ordinary major or minor key.

In the Latin Rite, the reception of communion kneeling and on the tongue has been the practice for at least 1000 years, in which time it has come to acquire the meaning "reverence". To jump back to the practices of 1000 years previously was never how the church operated, since to do so would be to ignore the meanings that the practice had acquired in that period. Within the contemporary ie mid 20th century context, reversion to the earlier practice has the connotation of a reduction in reverence.

How that practice was perceived in patristic times is of interest but irrelevant in the contemporary context. The overall liturgy at that time would presumably have been closer to the Orthodox model. It does not do to pick and mix, especially down to the lowest common denominator.

tisdag 6 augusti 2013

Why must the liturgy be "contemporary"

Defenders of the type of music that was performed at World Youth Day argue that we are in the modern times and need to be contemporary.

"Contemporary" is a term so vague as to be meaningless. However - we are no longer in the modern time. The presentation of WYD was as dated as a Gary Glitter song or a computer running DOS. We are in the Post Modern time, and have been for the past thirty years. Post Modernism itself arose out of the ruins of Modernism, whose theoretical basis was dismantled in the 1960s by anthropologists such as Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. In the past two decades we have had huge advances in understanding in linguistics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Building on this, philosophers such as Catherine Pickstock have demonstrated the unwisdom of tampering with the liturgy, and this is confirmed by empirical observation of the contemporary success of the Orthodox church, spectacularly in Russia.

Culture needs fixed points and the liturgy is one of them. A familiar and trivial example is the design of the Marmite jar, which has scarcely changed since the product was launched. It is now owned by Unilever, who employ advertising agencies who, unlike contemporary "liturgists", have to sell things and do so by using all the knowledge currently available. You can be sure that if they thought it would sell more Marmite, Unilever's advertising agency would have recommended a re-design, but they did not.

The Catholic church previously had what in the commercial world would have been described as a strong brand image, an identity sustained by bringing into play all the arts. No commercial agency would lightly throw away such a strength.

There is of course no reason why other forms of music can be used for worship - but they need to be outside the context of the Mass. As regards the music of the Mass itself, it is governed by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and Sacroscantum Concilium. To breach this norms is disobedient and a lapse in discipline. It is unfortunate that there seems to be tacit approval of this at the highest level, but that is an ancient problem and does not make it right.

lördag 3 augusti 2013

The dreadfulness of the World Youth Day music

The dreadfulness of the World Youth Day music has been widely commented on in conservative Catholic circles. Latin, and the modal Gregorian chant music that go with those texts, are both a sign of the unity of the Catholic church and a means by which that Catholicity are maintained. They also provide a direct link to the Jewish antecedents of Catholicism. Protestant metrical hymns were consciously composed IN OPPOSITION to the music of the Catholic church and has no rightful place in the Mass. There is a need for firm guidance on this matter. If people want to sing it, they should be given the opportunity in some kind of extra-liturgical non-denominational Songs of Praise type event.

A few look enviously at the Orthodox churches which seem to have escaped this damaging nonsense, which has been going on now for forty years. That is understandable but to join the Orthodox camp would be illogical, when the Orthodox churches have long abandoned one of the markers of Catholic universality ie the use of a shared common language.

WYD is unfortunate as it makes it more difficult to argue for Catholic music at a local level when it seems as if WYD type music is approved at the highest level.

There is a bitter battle ahead, I am afraid, and things are going to get worse before they get better. This is something we in the Catholic church have to stay inside and fight for.

In the meantime, I would suggest praying the Rosary regularly in Latin.

fredag 2 augusti 2013

Has the church been too intellectual?

Speaking of the Brazilian church’s failure to keep its flock from straying to evangelical churches, challenging the region’s bishops to be closer to their people to understand their problems and offer them credible solutions, Pope Francis said this...

At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people... without the grammar of simplicity, the church loses the very conditions which make it possible to fish for God in the deep waters of his mystery.Read more in the Washington Times.

I would argue that Pope Francis is right in his diagnosis and that it is actually a consequence of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council - possibly based on a misinterpretation of the Council documents - that people are straying.

If you compare the Tridentine Mass with the Novus Ordo Mass as usually celebrated, it both cut-down and more wordy, especially when it is in the vernacular. The effect is to engage, primarily, the surface areas of the brain, where language is processed. A side-effect is to block the non-verbal channels which give access to those parts of the brain concerned with the the overall persona. The logical conclusion is that the church needs to return to a liturgy where the emphasis is on the overall action and not primarily on the words and a superficial understanding of their meaning. This would explain why the Orthodox churches have had such success in retaining both intellectuals and the mass of the people. Freemasons clearly have a better appreciation of this, since they realise that their ceremonies are the principal means of transmitting their philosophy.

Croydon tram accident ‒ no charges

It has been announced that no charges will be brought in respect of the accident in 2016 when a tram was derailed and overturned at Addisco...