måndag 30 april 2018

The Journey East #9

To leave the Catholic church one has to send a completed form to the local parish. I did not want to send it without an explanation. Here is the main part of what I wrote.

Since the arguments on both sides have been rehearsed endlessly and inconclusively for 1000 years, this is not something that can be resolved by recourse either to debate or history. There is nothing I could add; more erudite people than me have tried. If the Orthodox Church is heretical, then so must be all the saints in the pre-schism Church.

The issues come down to theology, ecclesiology, and their manifestation in liturgy, devotional practice, church architecture, art and music; it seems to me that the problems which have afflicted the Catholic church over the past forty years have their roots far back in Catholic ecclesiology.

One attends liturgy to come into the presence of almighty God. Since the Orthodox liturgy, and its setting, creates the most favourable possible circumstances for that encounter, my conclusion is that I should accept the providential grace which has made this opportunity available.

fredag 13 april 2018

Britain’s new inter city trains

I am planning to discuss the new Hitachi inter-city trains in several pieces on this blog. I put it under the heading of  “vanity schemes” because they were clearly not the best value-for-money replacement for the HST fleet and came about due to the political influence of the civil servants within the Department for Transport who developed the project and then protected it at all costs.

These trains have many good points, in particular the quality of the finish and detailing inside and out, the smooth ride and surprisingly low noise levels when on diesel power. However, they also have many shortcomings, which are due to the specification produced as a result of the work of the DfT.  Hitachi has made the best of a concept that could have been better conceived.

There is a lot of poorly utilised space due to the length of the vehicles.This is noticeable in the uncomfortable seats misaligned with windows, inadequate space for luggage in a location where passengers can keep it supervised, and the need to “mind the gap”, which should not be necessary given that various forms of retractable step have been around on continental railways for about 20 years.

The Great Western 2 x 5-car formations are inefficient in terms of space, cost and staffing requirements. There is an unusually large gap between vehicles, which means the gangways are long and again, space is wasted. Acceleration is sluggish when starting on diesel power.

If the trains had been built as 23 metre, 72 seat loco-powered push-pull sets, close-coupled like mark 3 stock, the passenger experience would have been very much better and the cost very much less. Of course that means the electrification would have had to be completed as planned for the trains to run.

onsdag 11 april 2018

The death of civilised debate

The Guardian has been steadily reducing the number of articles on which comments are allowed. On the newspaper’s web site, which used to appear under the slogan “Comment is Free”,  attributed to its famous editor C P Scott, comment is now restricted to the most trivial of topics. As for the commenting opportunities that still remain; where, formerly, comment was normally open for three days, it is usually closed after a few hundred responses.

There are many reasons why this has happened. The newspaper has been a staunch defender of immigration, looks down on criticism of Islam and regards Islamic immigration as unproblematic. This was a widely held view, before Isis and the series of sexual abuse cases came to public attention. These called forth responses ranging from reasonable criticism to xenophobia and outright racism. On the other side, the reasonable criticism was attacked as racist or Islamophobic.

Then came Brexit, an issue which has divided the British bitterly. This is reflected in press attitudes. Both The Guardian and the Financial Times took a line strongly defensive of the EU, to the point that criticism was almost off-limits. The Mail, predictably, took a populist and jingoistic stance, whilst the Telegraph adopted a similar position, though tailored to its better educated and older readers.

There is a reasonable case for Brexit which has rarely been presented, not least because, on the whole, Brexit supporters themselves do not understand the potential benefits; this extends even to academic supporters such as Minford. Although the “remain” case is largely based on mercantilist thinking which was refuted by the classical economists, remainers took the stance that the Brexiters were all old, stupid, xenophobic, and malevolent. Thus, public debate has largely been reduced to assertion and name-calling.

On top of that there is a decline in manners, possibly aggravated by the anonymity of the internet. Disagreement is widely expressed by starting a response with “rubbish”, “nonsense”, “piffle”, or obscenities.

On top of that again is the alleged use of spamming factories, with the Russians and Chinese being blamed. They might well be responsible, but if they are, they are not responsible for creating the fertile ground in which they can gain influence and credibility. The guilty ones are the politicians and media people who want to project a particular view of the world whilst pretending that issues which affect the public at a daily level simply do not exist.

And so the forum for public debate is shrinking and coming under increasing pressure. It does not augur well.

söndag 8 april 2018

Happy Easter

Easter has finally happened. It seems as if Lent has been going on for months. I am going back to bed for another couple of hours as I did not get home till three.

I will say only that it is the first Easter Vigil which did not disappoint since I moved to Sweden in 2012. Thank you Fathers Nemania, Duschan, and Dragan, and the choir, who were singing solidly for over three hours and had to be back again at 8.30 this morning.

At last, an Easter Vigil which was everything an Easter Vigil should be.

onsdag 4 april 2018

Blessed Sacrament flown into church by drone scandal

A parish in Brazil has been criticised on social media after video showed a drone flying the Blessed Sacrament into the church. The act has been branded ‘sacrilegious’.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/04/03/parish-criticised-after-flying-blessed-sacrament-from-drone/

However, the entire cult of the Blessed Sacrament is questionable. It is of medieval origin, and whilst the motivation was pious, the command we were given was ‘take and eat’. The Anglican reformers emphasised the point in Article XXV of the Thirty-Nine Articles, which states that ‘the Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use Them’.

The objection is not that Christ is not really present in the Blessed Sacrament, but that He really is present. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (Ex 33:20). The practice does not exist in the Orthodox church. This is one of the reasons why I am hoping to be received into that communion.

söndag 1 april 2018

Calendrical anomalies

Today feels strange. It is Palm Sunday when everyone else is celebrating Easter Sunday. Yesterday was Lazarus Saturday which is my family feast day. Next week is Holy Week as we are still in Lent, which began about the same time as everyone else’s Lent but weekends do not really count.

It seems as if Lent has been going on forever, what with the cold weather and everything, and still snow on the ground. Next Saturday evening will be big, though.

Should employment be subsidised?

With increasing automation, it has been suggested that it will be necessary to subsidise jobs. Is there anything in this idea? There are u...