Thursday, December 01, 2016

Does anyone want a harmonium?

A (more or less) working harmonium is Holy Trinity Church, Hethe, Oxfordshire is available for anyone who wants it. (Contact details here.)

Contact the parish to see it or collect it.

Holy Trinity is a lovely church, which thanks to an enterprising former Parish Priest has a very interesting 18th century chamber organ (in need of some restoration). For some reason it also has this harmonium, which takes up a good deal of space in the tiny choir loft.

Someone: give it a home!



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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Religious absolutism


Reposted from January 2015
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Some years I recall a fellow Oxford academic speculating about why Christianity and Islam, among world religions, were the ones used to justify the persecution of religious dissent. Perhaps, he suggested, it was because they were absolutist religions: they claimed an exclusive possession of the truth.

It wasn't clear how he imagined Hinduism and Buddhism worked; I fancy he was as ignorant about them as I was, and am. But it must have been a long time ago, because this conversation clearly predated the emergence, at least into the Western media, of militant Hinduism in India, and the persecution of Christians and Muslims by militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Burma.

So, so much for that idea. But the idea of religious absolutism has been wheeled out again in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Some forms of some religions are incompatible with Western democracies, we hear, but most are fine, and the difference can be expressed by the idea of religious absolutism. Absolutist religions: bad. Non-absolutist religions: good, or, at least, ok.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

First EF Missa Cantata in Holy Rood Church, Oxford

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Since the church was consecrated in 1970 I think we may fairly claim that this is the first time a Missa Cantata has been celebrated there.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Prior Cassian Folsom of Norcia retires

Fr Benedict, new Prior of Norcia
Fr Cassian Folsom, the founder of the Benedictine community at Norcia (Italy), has after 18 years as superior retired. The new Prior is Fr Benedict, of the community.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What could happen next?

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Proclaiming the Gospel: Dominican Rite
The letter of the 'four Cardinals' seeking a clarification of the meaning of Amoris laetitia raises the question: what could happen next? In terms of official process, Cardinal Burke has answered: a formal 'correction' of the Holy Father. This kind of thing is so rare in the Church that the way this could happen, and the implications it could have, are simply not mapped out by custom, but only by theological speculation.

The theoretical possibility of the condemnation of a reigning Pope for heresy, in such a way that has canonical consequences, is explained helpfully by Robert Siscoe here. Although this account seems sensible to me, I'm no expert and no doubt some will find fault with it. I don't want to get into the details, however: Siscoe's analysis can serve as a reference point, the view of a traditionalist, but definitely not a sede vacantist. My point would be: if this is what people like him think, then the hoops people are going to have to jump through to make such a thing happen are, for practical purposes, insuperable. Call a council of the Church? Get it to meet? Get it to denounce him? Get it to recognise such a denunciation as activating his loss of office? Elect a new Pope? We'll all be having snow-ball fights in hell before this happens.

But if that is so, what will happen? Or, perhaps better: what is happening?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Annual Requiem in St Benet's Hall

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Last Saturday the annual Requiem Mass I organise in St Benet's Hall chapel took place. St Benet's is the Benedictine house of studies and a Permanent Private Hall of Oxford University.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Is Brendan O'Neil a snowflake?

I'm reposting this from Facebook, with a little extra commentary.

Is Brendan O'Neill a snowflake? I challenged his Dan Brown version of history and got my comment deleted from his post. Funny thing is that he believes in an almost absolute freedom of expression, and I don't at all. I just think what you want to censor tells everyone else something about you.
He wrote:
The response of the old media to its waning influence over public thinking, and its displacement by new sources of information and internet chatter, has been extraordinary. Following Brexit and Trump they've behaved like those monks who raged against the invention of the printing press because they feared -- rightly, as it turned out -- that it would overturn their dominion over truth. Fifteenth-century monks feared the spread of heresy thanks to printing; now we fear the spread of fake news thanks to Facebook.
Sure, there's a lot of bullshit on the internet. I see it everyday. But so what? I still feel about the web what John Foxe felt about the printing press:
"[W]ith printing, writing, and reading, convince darkness by light, error by truth, ignorance by learning... [and] hereby tongues are known, knowledge groweth, judgment increaseth, books are dispersed, the Scripture is seen, the doctors be read, stories be opened, times compared, truth discerned, falsehood detected, with finger pointed, and all, as I said, through the benefit of printing."
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This is 'John Foxe' as in the notorious Protestant propagandist, author of the Book of Martyrs, who hastily re-invented the idea of post-Biblical saints (after the real ones had been expunged from popular devotions by the Reformers), in order to score points off 'Bloody' Mary. Yes, the book was called by 'Foxe's Book of Liars' by Cobbet, who ought to be a hero to people like O'Neil but perhaps he was off school when they covered him.
I asked him if he had any sources for his claims about '15th century monks' and was told 'Jesus wept. Read some history', so I posted a photo of p77 of Eamonn Duffy's Stripping of the Altars, which begins Duffy's magisterial demolition of the hoary old chestnut that printing was more useful to the radicals than to the religious conservatives. How does O'Neil respond to reasoned argument? He hits the delete key.
It was Catholics who had the secret printing presses and the samizdat bookshops in England in the Reformation period. That doesn't fit the establishment's official historical narrative. I don't think O'Neil sees himself as an establishment shill. If he has swallowed that, it can only be through ignorance. Perhaps he should take his own advice and read some history.

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Thus far FB. For my temerity in noting these events, I have now been blocked and unfriended by O'Neil.

The alliance between Catholics and libertarians is always strictly tactical, not strategic, as I've pointed out a few times on this blog. What is interesting is that O'Neil has behaved in exactly the way that what he calls the 'snowflakes' of the left have behaved, for which he has been lambasting them for years. They proclaim their openness to ideas, they talk about free speech, but when challended by actual, scholarly, arguments about something they hold dear, they throw their toys out of the pram.

Clearly, the idea that '15th century monks' were evil and oppressive is just too close to his heart for O'Neil to brook dissent. The funniest thing, really, is the idea that 15th century monks, or indeed monks of any century, somehow had a 'dominion over truth'. This is Dan Brown merging into Philip Pullman, on speed. Long before the 15th century there was a brisk non-monastic, commercial book-copying industry in London and the University towns. The monks were important in preserving classical learning in the early Middle Ages, but a funny kind of 'dominion over truth' that was: copying books they didn't agree with being more or less the opposite of Brenden O'Neil's social media policy.

For the record, I believe in censorship of pornography, blasphemy, and profanity, as far as my twitter feed goes, which is about the only thing I have any control over outside my own home, and I unfollow people who tweet those things into my timeline. Everyone is free to draw what conclusions they like about me from that.

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