Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Thank you, America

It's proving rather difficult to get anywhere near the blogging platform these days. But I cannot let tomorrow's Thanksgiving celebrations in the USA pass by without acknowledging them. In Europe it remains deeply fashionable to hold the US in contempt. There is an odd kind of American conservative who even does this, convinced of the inferiority of American culture as opposed to the European.

But the problem is wrongly posed. America is in some senses only an extension of Europe, a sometimes strange and a sometimes successful experiment undertaken by Europeans for reasons we all know about. Those who first celebrated Thanksgiving were Europeans on a trip which had only just lasted slightly longer than a journey on Ryan Air. They were hardly the first European settlers though; the Spanish were there some time before them. What am I saying in fact? Well, that European culture is American culture. It belongs to America inevitably.

Of course, I don't mean to downplay America's essential otherness in comparison to the European thing. Its deliberate setting aside of so much of the old continent's ways partly explains why it belongs to what is known more broadly as the New World. But where can I flee where I will not find myself? The traffic back and forth between the US and Europe has been constant for good and for ill.

Even now, America has perhaps a greater chance of preserving what made the civilisation of Europe so distinct: its Christianity. While significant parts of Europe promise in the next few decades to become as lost to the Church as the African and Middle Eastern dioceses in partibus infidelium, the US seem to offer up case after case of the invigoration of Christian life, a renewal in contemplative communities, courage in the public square. Arguably the heterogeneity of its current episcopate has allowed it to begin to escape from the sickman blues of Vatican II more quickly that a local church like England and Wales where parochialism and cronyism are still ingrained.

And then there are all the things which make me smile about the US. The ubiquitous air conditioning, the easy cuisine, the help-yourself-to-my-fridge hospitality, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Kansas City, Santa Fe and Washington DC, the muppets ...

the redundant expressions like 'How can I help you today?' (as opposed to tomorrow, I suppose?) and the sudden uppitiness of the shop keeper when Englishmen innocently ask if he has anything 'cheap' for sale.

I suppose when one spends one's formative years in a country, as I did in the US as a young man, it marks one deeply in ways that one cannot change. I'm sure that is true for me. But, still, it is en pleine connaissance de cause - as the French say - that I'm deeply, deeply thankful for the US, for the funny, irritating and delightful companions of my American sojourn, and to everything from its glorious landscapes to it crappest tin-pot beer, for being there and for being that irreducibly annoying, inexorably pleasing country strung somewhere between here and the other side of the planet, its heart free of irony and its waistline slung amicably a little lower than it ought to be.

Which reminds me of a true American anecdote with which I will finish.

Pat had been some kind of ranger in a vast American country park. For all I knew, he was friends with Yogi Bear. In any case, he was a blood-red American, and one time over coffee he asked me with pride and a rhetorical flourish why America had never been invaded.

'I don't know, Pat, so go on and tell me,' I replied.

'It's because we all have the right to bear arms' he said, beaming a smile and with just a small glimmer of stars and stripes in his eyes.

'That's interesting,' I said, 'but it does make me wonder, Pat: have you ever seen the sea?'

He looked at me totally puzzled, so I pressed him further, 'Surely you're aware that the US is bounded on either side by oceans that are thousands of miles wide.'

'Hmmmm,' he conceded, 'but we'll be ready for anyone who ever crosses them!'

Perhaps the conversation has been embellished in the remembering. No matter. What else is remembering for? But I like to think he is somewhere there still, slurping his coffee and making sure his guns are ready for when the invaders arrive! I meanwhile am free in my mind to wonder freely down all the lovely roads I remember from Virginia to New Mexico.

God bless America! And today of all days: God bless, America.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Friday, 4 November 2011


Ttony's going. I hope it was nothing I said, yet I fear that it was. Indeed, he says it was. Oh dear. I don't follow your logic, Ttony, but I sympathise enormously.

Well, good bye, old chum. Hope you'll come back one day. And in honour of your last post, here's another in keeping with the cold and chilly season that is settling in right now

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

So no agreement [updated AGAIN!] ...

This story already has a bizarre life. It was posted on Rorate Caeli yesterday afternoon, but then disappeared. I picked it up when someone sent me the link to Ignis Ardens, a traditionalist forum based in the UK, which among other things regularly publishes the newsletters of the SSPX's district superior, Fr Paul Morgan, in GB. The forum post there contained a link to the November letter published on the SSPX's GB website which I verified as valid yesterday afternoon. As of 2 November, the link from Ignis Ardens has gone dead.

According to that letter, the consensus of the SSPX's superiors was that no agreement with Rome is currently possible (see: (now a dead link). It is a report which I have not seen anywhere else:

Hence the stated consensus of those in attendance was that the Doctrinal Preamble was clearly unacceptable and that the time has certainly not come to pursue any practical agreement as long as the doctrinal issues remain outstanding. It also agreed that the Society should continue its work of insisting upon the doctrinal questions in any contacts with the Roman authorities.

I'm fascinated. It really isn't for Fr Morgan to be making such an announcement before Bishop Fellay has made it... or is something else going on here?

Watch this space ...NEWS NOW IN:

Rorate Caeli relays a press communiqué from SSPX Headquarters today:

Following the meeting of the Superiors of the Seminaries and Districts of the Society of Saint Pius X in Albano (Italy), on October 7, 2011, several comments have appeared in the press on the response Bishop Bernard Fellay [Superior General of the Society] would give to the Roman proposals of September 14, 2011. It is recalled that only the General House of the Society of Saint Pius X is entitled to make public an official communiqué or authorized commentary on this matter. Until further notice, reference should be made to the communiqué of October 7, 2011.

Curiouser and curiouser...

Is there a 'Collaborationist Catholicism' at work in England?

After this post was written, and after several bloggers (Ttony, James Preece and John Smeaton) had taken Francis Davis to task for his appalling treatment of Fr Leon Pereira and his championing of Jon Cruddas, Davis removed all the relevant posts from his blog The Principled Society.. What he needs to do in fact is to issue a full apology to Fr Pereira on his blog. Justice and charity demand it.


Let me begin by defining my terms. By 'Collaborationist Catholicism', I do not mean the kind of Catholicism which one might have witnessed under the Vichy Regime - the government led by Marshal Pétain in France from 1940-1944. By 'Collaborationist Catholicism' what I mean is a Catholicism which behaves towards civil power like the Vichy government behaved towards the Third Reich. I mean a kind of Catholicism which thinks that 'resistance' is futile, naive and 'not very constructive'. By 'Collaborationist Catholicism' I mean a kind of Catholicism which would praise its own kind for being conciliatory - not like that nasty American Catholicism which is so divisive. By a 'Collaborationist Catholicism' I also mean a kind of Catholicism whose adherents very often give the impression that they secretly agree with some of the key values of their political overlords, no matter how hypocrtical this makes them.

I ask the question because I, like James Preece and Ttony, have been surprised at the defence given to the egregious Jon Cruddas by Francis Davis. Though Davis has taken down his CV from his blog, he is according to other sources a Fellow of Blackfriars, Oxford [UPDATE: apparently, so a source informs me, he is no longer so], and he even sits on a HEFCE Panel. What, then, does he think he is doing by indulging in this sub-critical attack on Fr Pereira?

But let me come back to my point: is this not a sound example of 'Collaborationist Catholicism'? Fr Pereira bucks the conciliatory trend which Davis would prefer Catholics to take. Davis never makes clear quite what glorious achievements the conciliatory action of Jon Cruddas has brought about. Personally, I have my doubts; just take a look at his voting record. One wonders if Cruddas has ever thought of thinking for himself at all. He appears not to have bothered thinking for the unborn in any discernibly Christian way.

And one must wonder why Davis comes to Cruddas's defence with such cringe-making enthusiasm. A perusal of Davis's blog shows he has been championing Cruddas's cause recently, but then never does he provide any evidence - it bears repeating - of what is so miraculously beneficial about the service Cruddas renders to his country. It is intriguing that Davis thinks Cruddas is an example of an MP defending justice 'in extremely trying times'. Could this be a reference to Cruddas's support for the squalid Iraq war, or perhaps for his vote against the requirement for children born through fertility treatment to have a mother and a father?

Yes - the Collaborationist Catholic says - all you résistants are naive fools. You should look to how successful and close to power Jon Cruddas is and marvel at his wonderous star. Because look what Cruddas has achieved by being so close to power: he has consistently voted with his party! And, in any case, Cruddas is a fighter for justice, as all the unborn children in this country will no doubt agree.

Truly, this is 'Collaborationist Catholicism' - craven before corrupt authorities, happy to cover its collaboration with the mantle of constructive conversations, delighted to label as hopelessly naive those who believe in firmer resistance, and entirely, utterly, callously careless of what it loses by being so conformist.