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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Separated at birth...

I was watching the BAFTAs the other day (coz my little sister made me) and I was astounded to discover that Richard Curtis CBE producer of such saccharine classics as Notting Hill and Love Actually and Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus founder of the greatest empire the world has ever known are actually the same person! I'm off to find out if Ben Elton looks like Marcus Agrippa.

The Cardinal says it like it is!

'Don't vote for pro-choice MPs, they can't receive communion, abortion is murder, an unspeakable crime....' I'm sure everyone knows about this already but it would be churlish not to applaud.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Clarificatory: in response to comments to Living Scotland post - the Mass will be at 5pm, followed by the talk (so 6.15 or so). Drinks to follow around 7/7.30pm. St Andrew's Church is on Belford Road, just past the Dean Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art. It's about fifteen minutes' walk from Haymarket Station.

Map here (NB The red circle here is a bit far to the south east - St Andrew's is in the corner of Belford Road and Ravelston Terrace. If you change to 'arial' view you will see it as terracotta-coloured amidst greenery.)

As the map should make clearer, it is also handy for Queensferry Road. The only bus that goes along Belford Road is the very infrequent 13 (and the free Gallery bus!), whereas lots (37, 41, 47 etc) go along Queensferry Road.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

FInally added links to Ebomania and Mark's 'Rise and Pray' - in the Scottish blogs section. Also updated link to the Scottish Christian News Monitor and Ukok's (Catholic Mum) blog. But you'll have to look in the sidebar cos I can't be bothered putting links in this post as well.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What happened in Moscow?

Can anyone out there work out from the news reports exactly who was throwing the punches in Moscow on Sunday? I should say that I don't think it was as such a good thing that Peter Tatchell and that bloke from Right Said Fred were punched; indeed quite the opposite. It also need hardly be said that it is difficult, given Vladimir Putin's other policies, to see the Russian government's general opposition to homosexual activity as evidence that a moral commonweal is being constructed east of the Urals. I would nonetheless like to know who was responsible for the violence. The BBC rather unhelpfully lumps all the anti-protesters together as 'right-wing and orthodox extremists', or 'Orthodox extremists and nationalists'. (In another report, they're 'ultra-nationalists and members of the Russian Orthodox Church', which is a little clearer.) The Telegraph goes with 'nationalists and extreme Russian Orthodox believers', but if you click on the 'in pictures' bit, you'll note that, while a bloke in a T-shirt punched Mr Tatchell, a wee lady in a headscarf ... threw some water at him. Pravda (no, I don't have that much confidence in full and fair reportage from them, either) omits to mention the violence, but has some amusing lines about 'bellicose babushkas'. In short, fairly obviously - does anyone out there know if the violence was the preserve of the 'nationalists', or did the Orthodox get in on the act? Or do right-wingers identify themselves as orthodox Orthodox in Russia? (And what did the Polish media say about it all?)

Also note the 'funny' headlines on the right of the Pravda page. I'm not quite sure what it is they say about modern Russia, but I'm sure it's significant.

A Call to Liberal Arms

I was pootling around the Guardian Education website (the online equivalent of procrastination by flicking through back issues in the library), and found this piece by Mark Ravenhill on the need for liberals to fight to impose their values on the world. The context is distaste at institutions which allow students to opt out of elements of drama courses on grounds of conscience (e.g. a girl, presumably an orthodox Jew or a Muslim, who was excused classes which would involve physical contact with chaps). On the one hand, refreshing honesty. On the other hand, a worrying absence of philosophical underpinnings. Liberals 'had come to see their own values as simply common sense and the inevitable result of human progress'. Well, that indicates a thorough thought process... On a third (Beeblebroxian) hand, Be Scared, Very Very Scared by liberal intolerance revealed and unashamed. Rousing conclusion: 'Liberals are going to have to fight hard. There should be no opt-outs when it comes to culture. We believe in our values.' (Contrast, on a slightly different frontier, Geoffrey Alderman on the proposed academic boycott of Israel. (Which, for the record, is apparently not the sort of thing that Mr Ravenhill is actually that keen on.))

This is particularly interesting given that as far as I know Mr Ravenhill is not as such an aggressive secularist. His plays are apparently full of immorality (but how this is portrayed, I don't know); but I once read quite an interesting article by him about - indeed, encouraging - religious drama. That was also interesting (I'm sorry, I'd use a different adjective if I could think of one more appropriate) given that it revealed a very pagan misapprehension of Our Lord's natures: 'If you are a believer, he is the son of God and therefore half human and half divine.' Ummmm... if God were like Zeus. Which He really, really isn't. (That reminds me that I was going to write to Mr Ravenhill to point this out. Via his literary agent. Is that sensible?) Curious to see this well-intentioned but very first-century fruit of ignorance.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Political Wing of the British People

Blair and Reid will soon be gone. However, they seem to be determined to do as much further harm to the constitution as possible in their last few weeks. I am deeply suspicious of the new 'Ministry of Justice' as are the judiciary it seems. Far more outrageous though is this suggestion of permitting British police to stop and question anyone without demonstrating reasonable suspicion. Everyone thinks new Labour abandoned 'socialism' years ago but, in the sense of believing that all rights are ultimately vested in the state and merely conceded on loan to the subject, New Labour is thoroughly and dangerously socialist. It should not be forgotten that Labour was never officially a Socialist party until Blair changed Clause 4. The old version read:

"To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."

The evil Webb who wrote it meant nationalisation by 'common ownership' and 'popular administration and control'. However, it is open (and was possibly designedly open) to an entirely different interpretation. When the worker privately owns his own means of production there is obviously no need to secure for him the full fruits of his labour. If 'common ownership' and 'popular administration and control' are understood to refer to cooperatively owned productive and regulatory guilds independent of the state, then all that is required is to fulfil the terms of Clause 4 would be legislation to insure that when more than one family or individual is required to efficiently execute some economic activity the additional persons employed would have to be given ex-officio some share in the ownership of the enterprise. The paradigm would be something like John Lewis. Better still, if usury were re-criminalised there would be no need for such regulation. No one would long sell their labour to another when they could easily buy their own means of production. There would be no other way to acquire more capital than to labour and so the non-labouring owners of capital would be unable to price the labourer out of the market for the means of production. A cooperative and family based market economy would arise naturally without the need for the dead hand of the state.

Anyway, the new Clause 4 reads,

"The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few. Where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe. And where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect."

Which is obviously mostly platitudinous tosh but which does contain two positively objectionable phrases. 'Tolerance' is defined by the OED as "The action or practice of enduring or sustaining pain or hardship". If we are talking about the action then of course whether tolerance is a good idea depends on the circumstances in each instance. An evil may be permitted if its proscription would result in a greater evil, not otherwise. A habit of permitting evil of course is a vice. The practice of tolerance is therefore quite unsuitable for elevation to the rank of a general principle. There is no need to tolerate other cultures and races because they are good things and don't need to be tolerated. If a culture has bad elements then there may be a question of tolerance or not depending on the likely side effects of intolerance. Again this is a matter of particular prudential decisions not of a habit or settled practice. Far more scary is the demand for "a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few." As relative power, wealth and opportunity are always by definition in the hands of the few this can only mean that the majority should entirely deprive the minority of any power wealth or opportunity whatever. This might simply be bad drafting but I'm not so sure. Tony Blair once described the Labour Party as 'the political wing of the British people' and Jack Straw while home Secretary criticised a judge because "he has completely ignored the will of the people and public opinion as to what the criminal justice system is all about." Such comments suggest that if this was a draftsman's slip it was a Freudian slip.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

National Socialist Self-Discovery

Monday, May 21, 2007

Academic dress envy

You get a PhD in Finland, you get a sword. I so did my research in the wrong country!

Ruthless dictator grills

Remember Jafar? Well, he's picked himself up, moved on, and is now earning an honest living two tramstops north of the computer at which I am sitting. The only late-night food in the area. Still. Sad to see that the skills of political immigrants are not being fully exploited. I'm surprised the sort-of left wing press, the kind ranting on about endangered democracy and human rights in Poland, calling for UN intervention to protect victims of the dykwakwatura (from dyktatura and kwak, referring, as some of our readers will have already worked out, to the "ducks", or Kaczynski brothers). You may wish to peruse the following EU Parliament resolution.

Para L - whereas the Polish Ombudsman for Children has stated that she is preparing a list of jobs for which homosexuals are unfit,

Shocking, isn't it? It's not like there's any conflict between the psychological and legal/everyday understandings of homosexual attraction, is there? After all, if a bloke were to prove that his attraction to 14-year-old boys was homosexual, and not paedophile, then that would be okay. Neither the courts, nor public opinion, would have a problem with that. Which would be as it ought to be.

Para M whereas in June 2006 the State Prosecutor's office ordered checks on the funding of LGBT organisations in connection with "criminal movements" and their presence in schools, in order to find traces of criminal activities, without any result,

How dare they order checks and then not find ay criminal activity? In this sort of situation they should manufacture results to justify the action.

Para 1 Affirms that the EU institutions and Member States have a duty to ensure that the human rights of people living in Europe are respected, protected and promoted, as provided for by the ECHR, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Article 6 of the TEU, Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin(5) and Council Directive 2000/78/EC;

I told you, there's a major human rights crisis in Poland. Never mind China, never mind Turkey, look what the Polish clerico-fascist dictatorship is doing to poor little homosexuals who are just trying to get on with living their lives like ordinary people and don't want to cause any hassle to anyone.

Good grief.

Para 13 Asks the Conference of Presidents to authorise the sending of a delegation to Poland on a fact-finding mission, with a view to obtaining a clear picture of the situation and entering into dialogue with all the parties concerned

Paid for by whom? To what end? Same-sex sex is legal in Poland, has been since the 1930s or so (presumably with a break under the friendly German regime in the early 40s), there is no legal discrimination, or discrimination that is legal, against anyone engaging in, or expressing a preference for, this sort of thing. What more do they want? You don't see marches of people demanding approval - let's face it, they are not looking for tolerance, they are demanding approval - for sex with inflatable women, or in black sheets, or contraceptive sex, or ......

This post has evolved spontaneously. No aspersion is being cast on the straightness of the former Grand Vizier.

Motu Proprio Big Fat Juicy Morsels

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos to CELAM:

... the Holy Father has the intention of extending to the whole Latin Church the possibility of celebrating the Holy Mass and the Sacraments according to the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

The project of the Holy Father has been already partially proved in Campos, where the pacific cohabitation of two forms of the only Roman rite in the Church is a beautiful reality.

Let’s ask the Lord that this project of the Holy Father could be realized soon for the unity of the Church.

Cause of Pius XII moves forward . . .

Fr John Zuhlsdorf carried this story some time ago, but as Boeciana, Cleopatra and Aelianus all had more important things to worry about than blogging, and I have a 336b/s connection most of the time and a cookie clash problem (let's get off blogger, friends) I can't be bothered posting. This says something, as I am the biggest internet addict and normally will sit, if not happily, for whole minutes waiting for some pointless page to download. Anyhow, for those who didn't see this story when it was fresh, here it is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Sacred Monster of Thomism

A nice short biography of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange by Fr. Thomas Crean (a fellow Dominican). I am not happy with his conflation of Garrigou and Maritain's differences over Integral Humanism and their quarrel over Vichy. The men themselves may have confused the issues but we do not need to. In general however an excellent introduction to Garrigou-Lagrange.

Monday, May 14, 2007

'Pope shows more signs of swinging to the right' - 'He also raged with equal fire against Marxism and capitalism alike'

A bizarre article from the International Herald and Tribune. It seems that 'left' and 'right' are now defined exclusively in terms of hostility or endorsement of relativism and Catholic personal moral teaching. The Pope can equate Capitalism and Marxism as evils and still 'move to the right' because he says preaching eternal salvation is the Church's central function, paganism is a bad thing and child murder and auto-sterilization are not on.

Doctrinal Infantilism versus Spiritual Childhood

Reading an approving summary of a recently published history of late twentieth century ‘Catholic’ theology it struck me that there is something tremendously irresponsible and childish about the ‘new theology’ the movement which has seized control of the Church in its aspect as a human institution since the Council, and which has brought such misery and spiritual destruction to the faithful. Universities are after all places of education for late teens and early twenty somethings, it is hardly surprising that something indefinably juvenile should infect the thought and attitudes of academics who have spent their entire lives in such institutions. The ‘new theology’ is a new gospel for academics. And, unfortunately, because it is the empirical natural sciences with their intrinsic provisionality and not the settled demonstrative sciences of Aristotle which enjoy today the cultural power and prestige which goes with the name of science, novelty has ceased to be a criticism and has become an intellectual virtue. Such an attitude is always a temptation of youth and now the formers of youth are surrounded by it not only because of the presence of youth itself but because of the scholarly air they breath.

God became man in Jesus Christ and the small number of crucial metaphysical concepts which would be necessary for a purely natural theology were greatly augmented by this first and greatest of all miracles. Person, nature, substance, form, species, procession, relation – these terms required irreformable definition if the Church was to fulfil her mission to guarantee for the faithful the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. In order to teach all nations a substantial metaphysics, physics, psychology and anthropology were required, the identification and terminological stabilisation of the perennial philosophy was revealed as a hypothetical necessity for the proclamation of the self-manifestation of God to man in Christ.

For the followers of the via moderna, the innumerable bastard offspring of Christendom’s decline, the creation of yet another philosophical system, a new philosophy, is the ultimate achievement of an intellectual career. For the Church it cannot be this way, there may be multiple schools which we may choose to call philosophies but there must be one horizon, one core perennial philosophy which ensures that the words with which the Magisterium defines the teaching of Christ retain an unalterable meaning though all generations. This one horizon is inseparable from the via antiqua, it is embodied in Pius X’s twenty four theses without which, as he taught, the “students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church.”

This means that sacred doctrine and theology cannot conform to the model of the empirical sciences and it cannot be the ambition of each (or any) Catholic theological academic to create their own ‘theology’ with which to win a reputation and impress their colleagues. This makes a true theologian a stranger and an illegitimate figure in the eyes of his colleagues in the secular academy. It was too much for the creators of the nouvelle theologie. They strained against the restraints imposed upon them by the Church’s defence of Scholasticism they schemed and lobbied, and to their joy they broke, the anti-modernist apparatus which held them back from conformity to the world. Thus they have procured the ruin of innumerable souls.

The fathers fought and raged to establish a clear vocabulary in which the articles of faith could be unchangingly professed without ambiguity or mutability. Their struggle is the heroic intellectual epic of the early church. Scholasticism is the fruit of their effort as much perhaps more than it is the fruit of the Scholastics themselves. The new theologians looked back at the early church and they saw confusion and perplexity they saw all the things they wanted so much and which the curias of the pre-conciliar popes denied them. They fought to bring confusion and perplexity back to the church and they claimed the patronage of the fathers in doing so. They conveniently ignored the fact that the fathers themselves inhabited that confusion and perplexity only as part of their struggle to bring it to an end, they ignored the fathers’ anger and intolerant zeal for truth. They appealed to the spirit of ecumenism to excuse all this. The true explanation is that any resemblance to the project of the fathers and of the new theology is derived from the fact that the latter are undertaking the same task as the fathers but in reverse. They seek to untie the bonds the fathers made and unshackle the errors the fathers cast into the abyss.

Perhaps the style of scholastic theology in the 1950s was a little desiccated and more appeal to sacred art and to the fathers in addition to the scholastics was needed. Instead, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been transformed into a game for academics and emptied of all meaning and so emptied of all power. This movement does not require development in a new and more fruitful direction. Instead, it must be unmasked for what it is, modernism. Finally, it must be uprooted and destroyed, cast into the fire from whence it came.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Motu proprio news from tomorrow

Pretty pointless article; I'm just enjoying the paradoxical date-stamps.

Monday, May 07, 2007

If I Were A Butterfly

The ever-interesting Eve Tushnet posts the comments of one James A. (not concerning If I Were A Butterfly):

... This reminded me a lot of Epictetus the Stoic's comments on praising God (from the Moral Discourses of Epictetus): 'For what else can I do, a lame old man, than sing hymns to God? If then I was a nightingale, I would do the part of a nightingale; if I were a swan, I would do like a swan. But now I am a rational creature, and I ought to praise God. This is my work; I do it, nor will I desert this post, so long as I am allowed to keep it, and I exhort you to join in this same song.'

I finally realise that this is the (good) point that If I Were A Butterfly is making. Either I was a stupid child, or it's not making it very well. I suspect a bit of both.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

St Triduana

Without wishing unduly to perturb the scholar in question (who reads this blog on a regular basis), for anyone who has actually met the world’s foremost expert on St Triduana, the resemblance between her and the Saint herself as depicted in this window from St Magnus’s Cathedral on Orkney is… well… eerie.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Why PR is Evil

The Scottish elections are still up for grabs but one thing looks certain, there will be more than 100,000 spoiled ballot papers. There are further problems because of the mismanagement of postal votes and the computerised voting system. The essential problem however is Proportional Representation which created the necessity for computerised voting systems in the first place and has generated the spoilt ballot papers.

Proportional Representation seems appealing because it ‘makes every vote count’ but this is a misleading slogan. By defintion, in any given vote the minority parties' votes in parliament never count and by employing PR we take the decision about whose voice should be heard out of the hands of voters and give it to politicians. In fact, we disproportionately favour the party which comes third in any election, which is absurd. P.R. gives hugely disproportionate power to third parties who are able to keep themselves in power almost indefinitely because their support becomes essential for the formation of a working majority. Politicians should be preoccupied with the common good of the whole people. Thus, they should be able to convince anyone to vote for them. P.R. leads politicians to appeal to classes or ideological groups instead of the whole people. P.R. weakens local party organisation and centralises power in central H.Q. because they are the one’s who decide who belongs to the list and in what place. This in turn breeds a smug and eventually corrupt metropolitan political elite. Finally, as the present elections have made abundantly clear, P.R. hopelessly confuses the electorate and leads to an unacceptable number of spoiled ballot papers.

The use of P.R. is another example of the British, whose system of democracy has been a resounding success for centuries, succumbing to a national loss of nerve and adopting a failed system invented by foreigners which doesn’t even work for them. However bad our political elite may be they look lily white in comparison with our European neighbours. Political corruption is endemic across Europe and P.R. is the most noticeable unifying feature of their political cultures. Let us never forget that P.R.’s greatest contribution to history was bringing Hitler and Mussolini to power.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's All Worth It

A student has actually written 'pheasant' for peasant. My academic life is complete.

Why you shouldn't vote SNP on Thursday

1. Scotland has no legitimate grievances against England. James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne not vice versa. Whatever nationalist legend may say the 1707 act was passed quite voluntarily by the Scots Parliament. There were more Scots fighting for Cumberland at Culloden than fought for Charles. The Wars of Independence don't count they were too long ago and the Scots have invaded England plenty of times before and after. (North Sea Oil and the Poll Tax don't count either it was the SNP who put Thatcher in power in the first place by bringing down the Callaghan government).

2. Scotland has profited disproportionately from the Union. Scots have occupied positions of political, economic and cultural power in Britain in far greater numbers than their proportion of the UK population. For example, the present UK Prime Minister and his likely successor (and present Chancellor of the Exchequer) are both Scots, as is the Home Secretary and the leader of the third largest party in Parliament and his predecessor. As part of the United Kingdom Scotland has a seat on the UN security council, is one of the big three in the EU, for more than a century was part of the most powerful state on earth and is still part of the second or third most powerful state on earth.

3. Multi-Ethnic States are a jolly good thing which teach us the difference between the nation and the state and teach us to let our hearts flutter at the sound of another people's anthem as well as our own. Ethnic nationalism and Civic nationalism are good and wholesome things but they go bad when they coincide, such states oppress their minorities and try to unify their volk by invading their neighbours (See the French and the Germans). The Poles, Ukrainians and Jews were particularly loyal to the Hapsburgs because they protected minorities from the bullying majority populations in their territories. When good old Blessed Kaiser Karl encountered a crowd celebrating the outbreak of WWI under his balcony he told them to bugger off and be ashamed of themselves.

4. When Multi-Ethnic states are destroyed the fragments tend to justify their existence by breeding hatred of each other and encouraging terrorist groups and civil wars in each other's territory (See partitions of Ireland, India and Yugoslavia and collapse of Ottoman Empire).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy Three Hundredth Birthday United Kingdom!