Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Livin' the dream

Back in 1970 a band called Blue Mink produced one of the most gut-wrenchingly awful singles ever written.  It was called, Melting Pot.

The final stanza gives you an idea of the theme of the song:

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world and all it's got
And keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
And turn out coffee coloured people by the score

Another verse has the following sentiment:
Rabbis and the Friars
Bishops and the Gurus
You got The Beatles or the Sun God
Well it really doesn't matter what religion you choose

If you want to be scarred for life you can listen to the whole thing here, it is truly unpleasant.

Yet being mixed race and from a family with no religious or cultural affiliation and no real connection to any "homeland", I feel part of this Melting Pot. I can laugh ironically that I am livin' Blue Mink's dream, I am part of their lovin' "get along scene". However, deep down there is pain.  Racial identity, national identity, cultural identity have all been denied me. I have none of them.  I don't know what they feel like because they are not something you can feel in isolation.  They are communal feelings and there is nothing wrong with that.  The closest I can get is a tribal thing: same football team, same tastes in music, same politics, perhaps even same liturgical tastes!  However, these tribal things are shallow and consumerist, you ultimately choose your tribe, you don't choose your race, your culture or your nationality.

So here I am in one of Europe's more racially and culturally homogeneous countries and I envy them. I envy their sense of homeland, sense of self, sense of culture, their pride in their identity. 

It is not that I am somehow cross with my parents for marrying each other, that would be so very senseless and wrong.  It is simply that mudbloods like me with both parents deliberately rejecting their cultural backgrounds, have no identity but consumerist choice. If you remove traditional identities, all that is left is of your own choosing.  What bothers me is that the zeitgeist endorses this.  It is considered the only way to be. We are all to make choices and be consumers. A wider cohesive society where people have the same religion, a broadly similar gene pool, same affiliations to land and history are all looked on with horror as burgeoning Nationalism. And we can't have that, can we? Nationalism is always ugly.  Nationalism is for fascists, is it not?

And the latest and probably final part of the dream, the right to choose how you "identify" in terms of gender and sexuality rather that be what you were born, has been thoroughly endorsed through the process of cultural hegemony and it will become who we are.

Nationalism can get very ugly, but so can mass immigration, the lack of borders and the breakdown of social norms.  The consumerism we are left with if we have no cohesive, unchosen cultural identity cannot lead to anything good. It is a path to great suffering as it puts too much power into the hands of those who are in charge of the products by which we will identify ourselves.  We become open to manipulation and we all end up chasing the nebulous and the unfulfilling; hungering after a deep urge for REAL identity that cannot be satisfied and prey to the drugs we will be fed to stop us thinking too much.

We are livin' the dream or we are branded as nationalists and fascists, intolerant, backward, traditional, unreasonable and a threat to society.

Is there another way?

Where does being a Christian fit into all this?

Foxes have their holes and swallows their nests, but the Son of Man has no home to call His own. Perhaps homelessness and a lack of identity are our (super)natural state.  We must have a sense that worldly things are not truly who we are. We must make our home in Christ so He can make His home in us.  Yet our journey in this reality can not be a consumerist journey based around individual choice.  The world without meaningful borders, without races and without a religious identity grounded in community, is the world that is being imposed on us and it is truly a nightmare.






Saturday, 15 September 2018

Stop the bus ...

Bucharest offically has the worst traffic in Europe.  One of the traffic black-spots is the area round Arcul de Triumf  (larger than the French one and genuinely impressive) and I hazard to say whether this is helped or hindered by the policemen and their whistles. It can take an hour to travel the 6km to reach this spot.

An old of picture of the arch from when there was less new money and fewer big cars.


Travelling by road in Bucharest is an absurdity

Life is full of absurdities and most of the time I am reasonably content to let them do their thing and be what they are.  I can't change them so irritation is a waste of effort.  Indeed their worldliness is the key to our understanding them. They are part of our spiritual battles indeed they are part of the endless training (and penitential pack drill) for the genuine battles we invariably face. Detachment and love of God are everything. Our reaction to the absurdities of the world determines our fitness in the Church Militant.

Romania is full of absurdity and I love her for it.

What I find much more difficult to cope with are fixed mind sets and false mantras.  Indeed, it is the lazy thinking that leads these falsehoods to become part of our lives that I am currently struggling most with. It is assumed that I buy into these.  I don't. 

Here are a few of them:

  • everyone can fulfil their dreams
  • hard work achieves everything
  • we are on a journey towards greater self-knowledge and self-knowledge is what we should be seeking and what will allow us to fulfil our dreams
  • disappointment is self-inflicted
  • we are here to be useful in society
  • those who are not useful in society are lesser citizens (to be pitied, patronised or condemned)
  • progress is real and linked to self-actualisation
  • charity and tolerance mean we should respond with political expediency at the expense of tradition and received wisdom.
It is Modernism, isn't it?  I loathe it and know it to be wrong with every fibre of my being.

And here is the biggest problem, few are making a stand against it, few can see its dangers.  The most consistent voice in opposition to this is the Russian Orthodox Church.  Rome and Constantinople have embraced much of this.  However, does that make the Russian Orthodox Church a lone beacon of righteousness surrounded by schism?  Is she a lone voice crying in the wilderness or is she simply a mouthpiece of conservative, anti-western propaganda, a puppet of the Kremlin?  Am I just some pro-Russian, anti-Western, conservative  troll? What about God's promise to St Peter? What about Rome? Does everything need to split along pro-Western, pro-Russian lines.  Is everything bloc politics, even religion? What remains of religion when you take the politics out of it?

Detachment and love of God are everything.

But never mind, the Russians are coming! I've booked myself a ticket to see the Red Guard Chorus next month in Bucharest. I'll take my seat amongst ageing ex-Party members and the PSD elite for an evening high kitsch from some of the greatest lungs on the planet. My dad had a Soviet era LP of this stuff, it was my favourite record as a kid. Some things never leave you, some things we are attached to and we simply can't explain why. Sometimes absurdity is worth embracing.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

What IS going on? (UPDATE)

I am speechless and a little punch drunk with all the news from Rome, so I will report this to you without much comment. I don't think I've got this wrong but I've not seen anybody else pick up on it. According to Sputnik in Moldova (and I have to say I find them quite a reliable newsagency), the Ecumenical Patriarch is about to announce in a formal manner that Orthodox priests will be allowed to take a second wife, under certain circumstances.

You can read it here for yourselves (stick Romanian through google translate if you must): https://sputnik.md/religion/20180904/21652131/decizie-istorica-preoti-a-doua-casatorie-patriarhia-ecumenica.html

How can Orthodoxy undo itself like this?  Our common heritage is that priests do not marry.  In the Orthodox tradition a man may marry before he becomes a priest, BUT priests do not marry.  There is a sound scriptural basis for this.  How can Orthodoxy cease to be?

The Universal Church is under attack in all quarters.....

UPDATED:
And the Russian Orthodox Church declares the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to be uncanonical
 https://sputnik.md/religion/20180906/21687203/biserica-ortodoxa-rusa-preotilor-a-doua-casatorie.html
And they are right.

Meanwhile, the Eucmenical Patriarch is sending legates to Ukraine to prepare for the Ukranian Church to become Autocephalous.  The spiritual break-up of the Rus should not be dismissed lightly, this is a terrible thing and holier souls than me are saying it is purely politically motivated and should not happen. There is a terrible sadness in my heart over all this.

Orthodox schism does not seem far off .

Meanwhile here in Romania the Orthodox use the Gregorian calendar and so Catholic and Orthodox have been deep in commemoration of the Birth of the Mother of God, even the electronic billboards on the high street have been showing icons of the Birth of the Virgin.... and the Church is only One in Her. It is only with Her that the Enemy of the Church is defeated. Today is such a special feast.

The Antiphon of the Magnificat for today's Vespers is also the Orthodox Troparion, and may we never forget our common joy:

Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, was the herald of joy to the whole world; since from thee arose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, who destroying the curse, bestowed the blessing, and confounding death, brought us the gift of life everlasting.

And here it is being sung in Romanian:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYExemVu6dQ#action=share




Thursday, 30 August 2018

Resisting Evil

Jesus tells us quite clearly that we should not resist evil (Matthew 5:39)  In the Vulgate this is: non resistere malo. In the Douay it is rendered much the same.  In the more recent RSV (Catholic Edition) it is rendered: do not resist one who is evil.  Other modern translations say, do not resist evil people.  In my Romanian Bible (Orthodox) it is: Nu vă împotriviți celui rău. This translates best as: do not resist the evil one. So what are we not to resist?  Is it evil people or is it simply evil or is it the Devil?

The lines that follow these in Matthew Chapter 5 are about turning the other cheek so on first reading it would suggest that the more modern (non-Orthodox translations) are correct; it is evil people that we should not resist.  But this does not make sense.  We have beatified and canonised young girls and young men who died resisting evil men who were intent on raping them.  There are times when it is right to resist evil people even to death, provided it is done with the right heart.

So that means the alternative; we are not to resist abstract evil and or the Devil.  But you can argue there is no abstract evil, all evil has a created source, its source is supernatural and diabolical. Perhaps it looks like the Romanian Orthodox are right, it is the evil one we are not to resist.  Logically this makes sense because we can't resist the Devil, it is the height of pride to think we can, we must not try to resist him, for our own good we must not try.  To resist him is indeed to make him stronger, he will feed off our resistance, play with it, turn it on its head, confuse us, wear us out and laugh at us.

Not resisting the Devil is a state of the heart. It is a way of responding in evil situations involving people who are behaving in an evil manner without anger, hysteria, sarcasm, a desire for revenge, hatred, self-pity or spite.  It is about being a mirror to all that is good, beautiful and true.  It is about letting light into the darkness.  It is not about resisting the darkness, it is about filling it with something else. It is about allowing God in. This reading is now much more consistent with the "turn the other cheek" motif.

But the reality is we are confronted with abstract evil every day, much more so than we are confronted with genuinely evil people or directly with Old Scratch himself.  Abstract evil is overbearing smugness and Teflon coated resilience against the Truth.  Abstract evil bases its existence on a narrative that is a lie and it makes the lie real.  Abstract evil has no shame.  Abstract evil is invincible.  Abstract evil does not listen to reason.  The fruits of abstract evil are the very real sufferings of innocent people. Abstract evil can make itself manifest in real organisatons: from ISIS to NATO to the Church. The thing is, abstract evil (not forgetting its source) will wear us down most effectively; make us lose hope faster, make us lose faith, send us on false errands and battling for false causes. It is a massive distraction in the spiritual life. It turns us into political animals and away from behaving like the sons of God.

So what are we to do with abstract evil? Are we not fighting injustice by fighting abstract evil?  Are we not standing up for what is right?  Are we not making the world a safer and better place? What foolish little creatures we are! We can do no good! We cannot fight abstract evil because abstract evil is of the Devil's making and he is infinitely cleverer than us. In the same way that Frodo did not, indeed could not destroy the Ring, we can not destroy abstract evil, we have to let it destroy itself.  We may, like Frodo find ourselves having to lead evil to its destruction, but in such situations we must pray earnestly to be delivered from the Evil One. The state of our hearts is everything and our trust in God is everything.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Francis is Pope, get over it

Within the ranks of those unfortunate souls who have been elected Bishop of Rome, only a fool would say that any of them have been perfect.  Some have had scandalous and dubious morals and even openly homoerotic relationships (Julius III and Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte).  Some of them were not very bright but highly pretentious (e.g. Urban VIII). There have been countless who have indulged in ghastly nepotism, but with a dearth of nephews to be had these days this has been replaced by cronysim.  Some were openly political, favouring one European House over another.  Some were inept but holy men. Some were not very holy. Some were paranoid. Some made truly dreadful decisions. Some of them were utterly disliked by the clergy and often for very good reasons.  Some of them betrayed faithful Catholics, leaving them to the wolves for political expediency. There is nothing new under the sun.

THIS IS THE ROMAN CHURCH - Get over it and live with it or apostatise and form your own church , be your own Pope and leave us alone.

The Rock that is Peter is a MYSTERY.  It is not a fountainhead of scholarly erudition. It is not a thing of beauty.  It is rarely a diadem on the Bride of Christ.  It is the most bizarre, contradictory and scandalous office that has ever existed.  If it hadn't been initiated by God it would be the highest of blasphemies and the root of all evil. But what it is, I really don't know. I do not understand how it is that Peter feeds me, yet he does, because Christ commanded him to.

The true fruits of the Church are simply too astounding, too beautiful, and  utterly beyond purely human endeavour for the Church to be anything but the Bride of Christ.  Whether this happens despite or because of the Papacy, I wouldn't like to say.  Though if one looks at the witness of the Saints in the 10th Century and the utter, inept scandal of the Papacy in those times, one could certainly argue that saints happen despite the Papacy.

Those who think the Chair of Peter is currently vacant ought to wake up to history.  What is being destroyed is the myth of the Papacy and this is a good thing.  This is the myth that the successors of Peter are naturally or divinely "made" holy by the office.  Their path to holiness is the same as yours and mine.  The Bishop in White is first and foremost a faulted, frail, unworthy man.

Glory to God for all things!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Balkan Mezze

I've been back in Belgrade for a few days. I didn't do much.  It is not a time or a place for doing much.  I am back at work next week and I just wanted a complete break from anything which reminds me of my job.  This is the last year on my contract, I may renew it, but my heart is yearning to do something else and possibly something a bit more dangerous. Surely I don't have to be a teacher all my working life?  I am tired of teaching, even if I were in the best school in the world, it wouldn't be enough to stop the weariness with which I approach my work.

Being in Belgrade is easy for me; it is safe, easy to get to, very friendly, full of outrageously handsome men and has very good food.  It is an indulgence, a place of escape and indeed a place of sanity.  Though it involves a flight West from Bucharest, it is a city that looks both East and West.  Romania frustratingly only wants to look West.  I don't like what I see when I look West, indeed I think it is unhealthy to be Balkan and not acknowledge the influence of the East.  Earlier in the Summer holiday I thought about a ferry hop around the Black Sea, but Romania is the only country with a Black Sea coast and no ferries, the people of this beautiful land are simply not encouraged to look East.  I wonder if it is deliberate.

Being in Belgrade involved very long lunches and some cathartic reading.  My book of choice on my trusty e-reader was Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners, a history of the Popes.  It is an important read in these difficult times.  I certainly think you MUST read the first 3 chapters, they set the scene for the debates about the nature (secular and divine) of  the papacy.  They put the schism between the East and West in context and show how the political map of Europe evolved.  Reading it in Serbia where the Emperor Constatnine was born felt like being on an axle with everything spinning faster and crazier the further away you get. I didn't know he was only baptized on his death bed... it may explain a lot. There is much to study on Emperors, Bishops, clerics, faith, morals and political intrigue, the divisions were not clear cut then and they aren't now. We must know our history and also the peculiar Anglo-Saxon notion of the papacy that really didn't exist until Gregory the Great sent his mission to England (and invented England in the process). Indeed, from my reading of the book I'd say that it is the Anglo-Saxon notion of the papacy that is most significantly under threat in these times, it is the highest of ideals but very far from the reality of Rome.

Looking East, I also wish to draw your attention to an annual international conference on the traditional family taking place in Moldova this September.  I think Cardinal Parolin is representing the Catholic Faith at this gathering. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the World Meeting of Families in Dublin with the meeting in Cișinău. You can read about it here. My Romanian Catholic friends are poo-pooing this meeting because it is being very heavily endorsed by the pro-Russian President of Moldova, Igor Dodon. To me this shows a lack of understanding of the very Byzantine nature of politics in Eastern Europe outside the bulk of the EU: little Emperors who are the moral and spiritual voice of their people with the support of a fairly tacit clergy. These little emperors are naturally conservative, naturally pro-family and naturally against Western standards of decadence, they may be corrupt and unpleasant but they say things that we can not say in the West. Dodon has just taken a group of leading Moldovan politicians to Mt Athos on retreat, nothing like this could happen in the West. You can be as cynical as you want about his motives and indeed you may agree with Western commentators that say Putin has turned Mt Athos into an den of spies, but I say the word Carillion to myself and ask if the West really is as free of corruption as we wish to kid ourselves.

On the subject of things anti-family, I know I am not alone in thinking the rainbow flag is the new swastika.  There is a pop-up "Pride" shop on one of the main streets in Belgrade, it has some very nice, modestly dressed young people in it giving away all manner of rainbow key rings and pencil erasers.  As I said, Belgrade looks East and West.

One of the dishes I ordered on one of my very long lunches was a mezze of all things Serbian, and like in Romania, there was plenty of pork on the platter.  But there was a singular delight with one of the dishes, Duvan Čvarci, it is a dried shredded pork that looks like tobacco and is IDENTICAL to a Chinese dish that I would eat with my Grandma in Penang. Utter soul food, and how the Serbs managed to invent something identical to the Chinese, I will never know.... but it was another reason to feel very much at home and a surprising look to the very Far East.

Looking across the rivers to Belgrade's awesome brutalist Western City Gate.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

hanging out with the Orthodox

I had the good fortune to be able to tag along on an Orthodox pilgrimage yesterday and it gives me an excuse to blog about what a church community who are fully immersed in the sacramental life (note the small s) can look like in 2018.  I have been pondering the need for the Catholic Church to reconnect not just with the EF but with everything that goes with it, what I refer to as the sacramental life; the blessings, the Office, traditional calendar, relics, Saints days.  A healthy church has everything ordered towards God, not just the Liturgy, a healthy church has God breaking into every aspect of our lives, and I will define the sacramental life is basically anything where we bid Him welcome in a formal/semi-formal manner recognised amongst members of the same community. It involves the active participation of the laity. I am writing about my experiences because sometimes I feel living here is like living in a faint flicker of the world described in Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the Altars; the everyday lives of believers sans Protestantism. I am just writing a "postcard" it isn't a manifesto.


Romania must be about the most church going, God believing country in Europe.  I will not write here about the Romanian Orthodox church as a political entity; its wealth, power and influence.  I simply want to write about my observations of how the ordinary laity experience the faith. There is a misplaced view that a church bothering country will necessarily be a holy country. I doubt Romania is holier than anywhere else in Europe. Some things are unquantifiable and the holiness of a nation is one such thing.  However what is tangible is that here is the confession of faith cheek by jowl with everything that is anti-faith.  I will suggest that the full sacramental life offers genuine supernatural protection for the ordinariness of life of ordinary people, it doesn't make bad men good, that needs something else entirely.

Yesterday I tagged along with a parish pilgrimage from a very ordinary parish in a very ordinary apartment bloc dominated suburb of the city. There were 2 full coaches of pilgrims of all ages including several families. Once we were installed in our seats with a high degree of latin inefficiency and the coaches set off, Father got on the tannoy and we started prayers.  Orthodox prayer is highly repetitive and gloriously unsentimental and always beautifully balanced between adoration, praise, thanksgiving and petition.  But after that everyone got on with being ordinary everyday people out on a parish pilgrimage, furtively munching on packed lunches, chatting, snoozing and crossing themselves each time we passed a church.

Though I am definitely the wrong shape to be Romanian, I blend in with other middle aged Romanian ladies through wearing long skirts and not being suitably shod by health and safety standards for our first destination which was a monastery perched on a rocky outcrop and involving fairly nifty footwork and an arduous climb.  Pleasant surprise number one: the way up was a Via Crucis with Catholic stations with  inscriptions in Latin, German and English.  As we started to tire I was amused to hear my Orthodox companions arguing over the number of stations there were and hence the distance to the monastery. We reached the astonishingly beautiful wooden church at the summit where we ladies covered our heads and those women who were wearing trousers wrapped themselves in sarongs. The monks were young, good natured, welcoming and ordinary.

There was lots of icon kissing and touching of the iconostasis.  I love the way things are holy, even the material of the buildings is holy because of what takes place there.  Holy cards or even scarves are rubbed against icon and wood and there was some furtive taking of small stones from the path outside.  And the prayers of petition start in earnest.  Lists are made (for the living and the dead) and left near the sanctuary, candles are bought and lit and prayed over and left. It was a little piece of heaven.  It was impossible to get lost on the way down, the Țigane had positioned themselves along the route selling fruit from the forest or simply begging loudly but not obnoxiously.  Some pilgrims shared some of their food with the Țigane children and when one pilgrim accidentally knocked over a pot of fruit they were selling she paid generously for the damage. That was another pleasant surprise.

We descended and set off for several other monasteries (without a large climb) and the pattern was repeated. One monastery had a permanent Nativity grotto (yes, with Catholic statues). At one monastery a monk was on hand for anointing the pilgrims.  Some of the monasteries had goody sized relics and there were patient queues for veneration.

The whole experience was totally ordinary and organic; nobody thought they were doing anything special.  It is simply normal to put yourself out a bit for God, become a bit hot and uncomfortable (we are in the middle of another fast for the Dormition/Assumption), there was no overt piety but plenty of genuine prayer and a common undertsanding of what was going on.




Friday, 10 August 2018

The Immortal Dr Grantly


“Good heavens!” exclaimed the immortal Dr Grantly, “Good heavens!”

The ever present Mrs Grantly was at his side, she’d long since given over saying “What is it, Archdeacon?”.  It all seemed so unnecessary, of course she would be told soon enough and it seemed best to let him marshal his thoughts in his own time rather than press him with any immediacy.
Immortality has been kind to Dr Grantly.  He is still the master of Plumstead Episcopi and lord to Mrs Grantly and Archdeacon Emeritus of Barchester.  The Bishop of Barchester toleraltes him, the Bishop is a tolerant man, he tolerates everything. Dr Grantly has little time for the Bishop, but most of the time he is left to himself in the little world of Plumstead Episcopi and little can trouble him from there.

We are with him as he journeys through Barsetshire in his ageing but stately Rover 75, immortality has made his driving only slightly erratic.  He is taking the old road to Barchester  There is a nice new dual carriage way but he finds he cannot take it without anger rising in his veins.  It pays no respect to the old boundaries and from there it is possible to see those infernal wind farms polluting the once majestic rolling hills in this most English of counties.  “Mechanised virtue signalling from delusional, deranged liberals who have no idea about proper care of the land or the environment”, he would say.  Mrs Grantly has heard this litany often and prefers not to trigger it.  Sharp readers will note however that Dr Grantly has kept up with the times, he is familiar with terms like “virtue signalling” and he finds himself very taken with some Canadian fellow on You Tube who says some good things, but whose name escapes him for now.

Let us return to Dr Grantly words. He has now mastered his thoughts sufficiently to speak to Mrs Grantly about the mater that had been so bothersome to  him. “I have had my Twitter account shut down for hate speech”, exclaimed the Archdeacon Emeritus.  “Hate speech”, the term was hurtful  to him and he couldn’t for the life of him remember hating anyone.  Loathing, yes.  He was good at loathing, but always with good reason and always for the good of God, Queen and Country.  Hate was altogether too strong for the Archdeacon Emeritus and he was saddened that he could be labelled a hater.
But readers will know that Dr Grantly isn’t the only immortal.  “The Jupiter” still thunders and Tom Towers is ever young and ever more potent.  They have changed with the times and are not now know by those names, but they are there and very much in control of this country.  As Dr Grantly will tell you, “those Whig lunatics who have the temerity to call themselves Tories cling to power through sheer weight of their own incompetence” need more than a little help from “The Jupiter” and the gods of Mt Olympus.

What has transpired to raise the ire of Dr Grantly?  What indeed!  Only that his old College has fallen, indeed Oxford itself has fallen.  The hallowed hall of Lazarus had been used for a “blessing” of a “gay marriage” between two souls who thought Jesus was a good guy but were far more into their Eastern philosophy.  A yogi had performed the ceremony. Dr Grantly didn’t like speaking in inverted commas, but he was determined that “gay marriage” would never be a phrase that would  become a reality through sheer stint of usage, he would never submit to that.  He had tweeted something along those lines to his large number of followers, but “The Jupiter” had got wind of this and now he could tweet no more.

But our clerical songbird was not defeated.  He’d received a e-mail from a kindly admirer congratulating him for being male, white, heterosexual, privileged and a Christian and hence the public enemey of Cultural Marxists everywhere.  Dr Grantly liked the sound of that, it stoked the fire in his belly, he would not be returning his laurels of immortality any time soon.  Canterbury had fallen, Barchester had fallen, Oxford had fallen but Plumstead Episcopi would never fall. 

He put his foot purposefully on the accelerator, the Rover 75 purred in submission and the good doctor made his way to Barchester.

With apologies of Anthony Trollope and Fr Hunwicke (whose blog gave me the idea for this post).

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Catholic Web

Many, many years ago (before the blog), I was working at a Catholic School that was not doing very well.  It could not recruit pupils or staff and Catholics preferred to send their children to non-Catholic schools in the area.  The beleaguered headmaster spent all his time sitting in his office, not talking to anyone and endlessly sifting through the websites of other schools, Catholic and non-Catholic to see if he could learn some tricks, to see what it was that they had and we didn't.

I do wonder how much you can tell about an institution from their promotional material.  I remember when I was applying for university, the "good" ones all had dreadful, dull , monochrome prospectuses because they didn't have to try.  It was the less successful intuitions that had to spend a bomb on marketing. But marketing has moved on a bit from the late 1980s.

However, whilst I have the time (I'm waiting for the water to be turned on in the apartment bloc) I've decided to trawl the official websites of the Catholic Church in various countries.  I want to see if they in any way reflect the health of Catholicism in those countries and also if I were a "seeker" and looking to explore the faith, how effective a tool they'd be for encouraging me to join the Church.  I am also interested in how much Catholic identity around the world is linked to obsession with the Holy See and the Bishop of Rome.

I have given them marks to cover their Catholicity and their appeal, I am highly subjective, this is not scientific.

First off: Germany
 http://www.katholisch.de/startseite
The masthead shows Communion in the hand (sigh).  The website is glossy and slick, but there are links to Saints and Holy Days, it feels Catholic. There is a somewhat disturbing section at the bottom linking to "pictures of cats that look like schmaltzy holy cards".
7/10; it isn't out and out Lutheran, and it seems to have no hidden agenda and it does appear to be Catholic

Next: Malta
 http://thechurchinmalta.org/en/
This website seems to be nearly entirely associated with the roles of the bishops.  Perhaps they don't see the need to have a website that reflects more than this, perhaps they should.
4/10

Next: Uganda
https://uecon.org/
Like Malta, a  country with a strong Catholic presence.  You can tell from the website.  It is the least slick of all the websites I looked at.  It simply shows the Church in Uganda.  It is a strong witness, stuff the quality of the design. Very little about Rome.
8/10

Next: Malawi
http://www.ecmmw.org/new/
Unlike Uganda, a country with a minority Catholic population.  The website is much more slick.  I liked it.  It is very welcoming. It is very much the website of the episcopal conference, it is very much about the bishops, but it does a much better job than the Maltese.
7.5/10

Next: Romania
 https://www.catholica.ro/
A country with a small Catholic population.  The website makes some attempt to cater for both Greek and Roman Catholics. It very much looks towards Rome.  As a vehicle for showing the beauty of the Catholic faith and making it look appealing, it fails. Again, it is very much the website of the episcopal conference: scripture and tradition are sidelined (should they be?).  I think they could do a lot better. I fear the Romanian hierarchy are "managing decline". Compare to the Orthodox equivalent (which really doesn't not need to try, and which is extremely old school) but it gives a feel for the Faith and is a much more rounded site; http://patriarhia.ro/  Incidentally the Romanian Orthodox plough their money into a media station called Trinitas TV, it is their equivalent to EWTN and it is slick, interesting and one of my main sources for trying to learn the language.
4/10 for the Catholic site

Next: Serbia
http://kc.org.rs/
I find this one very depressing.  The Catholic presence in Serbia is very small.  This website seems mainly devoted to Rome and the Bishop of Rome.  If I look at it and ask the question "why be Catholic?", this website does not answer that question directly or indirectly. Nothing beautiful or sacramental and the Church Triumphant hardly get a look in. It is slick, but in a horribly "nu-Jesuit" kind of way.
1/10

Next: Singapore
 https://www.catholic.sg/
 This is one of the best.  It meets the needs for seekers, it is pastoral, you feel the episcopacy is there for you.  The Faith feels alive. I actually felt hope viewing it, there is an underlying orthodoxy and a quite confidence in the faith. It is educational and is not obsessed with Rome. A minority Catholic population doing it right.
9.5/10

Next: Archdiocese of KL, Malaysia
 https://archkl.org/index.php/en/
Nearly as good as Singapore.  Again it gives me hope.  It is pastoral and full of faith and  not obsessed with Rome.
9/10

Next:England and Wales
 http://catholic-ew.org.uk/
Everything I dislike about a website of an episcopal conference. The heirarchy seems more interested in their roles as NGO do-gooders rather than shepherds of their flocks. Dull and depressing.
1.5/10

****
Question:  does a healthy Church have very little interest in the Papacy?

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Illiberal Christian Democracy

These are interesting times in Europe, there are at least two nationalistic, Christian professing leaders who are stirring up much discontent in the EU, those being the leaders of Poland and Hungary.  The EU must change and I support their dissent even if I don't particularly admire their politics. It is Hungary's Victor Orban that interests me here.  Last Saturday, he was speaking to ethnic Hungarians in Romania and he spoke of a need for "illiberal Christian democracy" to affirm and strengthen the identity of the nations of Europe.  You can read about it here.  A quote from the Reuters article I have linked to:

Orban said .....there was an alternative to liberal democracy, which he said worked in undemocratic ways in Western Europe by being intolerant of alternative views.
“Christian democracy is not liberal...It is illiberal, if you like,” Orban said.
Unlike liberal democracy, he said, Christian democracy rejects multiculturalism and immigration while being anti-communist and standing for Christian values. 

I am broadly supportive of this, he is correct to state that liberal democracy is extremely intolerant and indeed undemocratic in its treatment of dissenting voices. I for one, do not see political liberalism as anything but the child of the French Revolution and hence the precursor of Bolshevism.  I know other, more learned authors see liberalism as rising from Christian roots (see here), but I remain unconvinced.  Humanism, from which liberalism springs is a result of the Enlightenment and had Catholic and Protestant founders but it is not quintessentially Christian. Christianity is illiberal.  Liberal thought involves the erection of specific political identities which must all be tolerated equally irrespective of their actual reality but it is careful that the identities it nurtures are broadly supportive of its own ends and its own ends are amoral and unChristian. Liberal thought is not that far from Cultural Marxism....

I have two criticisms of Orban.  Firstly I'm not convinced by the whole notion of Christian Democracy (liberal or illiberal). The greatest of Christian leaders have all been Monarchs and true Monarchy coupled with Democracy has yet to be tried.  The best of  Christian monarchs were around long before the existence of democracy.  Take for example Alfred the Great's treaty with the Dane, Guthrum in 886,  it sought to "estimate Englishman and Dane at the same amount in law, and to facilitate trade exchanges between the two kingdoms. Englishmen living under Danish occupation  were not to be recognised as second-class citizens and Danes occupying English soil  were to be regarded as folk with whom free Englishmen could do business on equal terms"-  from Saxon Kings- Richard Humble. At first glance this looks liberal but it isn't, sovereignty and seriously conflicting religious identity and intolerance are maintained, this is a business charter and a jolly good one.  It could not have sprung from democratic ideals and needed imposing by a shrewd Christian monarch.

Secondly, I struggle with "Christian values".  For Orban and indeed many Christians in Europe, Christianity is synonymous  with Christian morals.  This is a dangerous myth and will lead precisely nowhere.  Christianity is much more than a set of moral norms and indeed the moral norms are powerless without true Christianity.  The great itinerant prophet of this Christianity without Christ is Jordan Peterson.  Why he is the darling of so many Catholics, I fail to see.  What he says, needs to be said, but he is an empty prophet and will only bring more confusion.

The thing is, Christianity is Sacramental and it is from the Sacraments (big and small s, I am talking about much more than the big 7) that morality (and culture) come.  It is the encounter with Christ through the sacramental life that we become moral and cultured beings.  The biggest threat to Christianity in the West is the erosion of the sacramental life and this has been facilitated by forces both within and without the Church. The link between the sacramental life and politics needs exploring further.

And here is a thing that amuses me greatly.  There is one tribe where the sacramental life is still amazingly strong and it is the Christian Slavs. Irrespective of their creed (Catholic or Orthodox) or nationality it is the Slavs who doggedly stick to the sacramental life.  I feel that the EU (and NATO) actually fear pan-Slavic brotherly unity more than anything else and do their best to stoke the disunity and distrust between the Slavic nations. If the Slavs, coupled with the believing and highly sacramental Romanians and the Hungarians united in support of their outward and inward profession of the sacramental life, then I believe Europe has a Christian future and by example, they will re-Christianise the West of this weary continent.  This is completely different animal from the burgeoning and unpleasant Nationalism that will undoubtedly overrun the continent as the leftist, federalist, "spirit of 68" wallows in its own catastrophic failure. I for one do not wish to see the pendulum swing towards ultra-Nationalism. It is only through Christianity that is thoroughly sacramental that Europe will find something of its former strength intellectually, morally and culturally. The sacramental life needs priests and the East of Europe is breeding them quite effectively.


 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Liturgy (again)

Any visit to the UK always entails a trip to the second hand bookshops and last week I purchased a book by Aidan Nichols O.P called Christendom Awake.  It was published in 1999 and seeks to find ways in which European culture could be effectively re-Christainised and re-energised. I bought it because the subject matter interests me and because the author has one of the most beautiful prose styles in the English language, one knows that in reading him your brain will be gently re-ordered and your intellect seduced and you can allow these things to happen because he is so thoroughly orthodox.

The world is a very different place from what it was in 1999 and the book is a bit dated but it says some interesting things and I will return to it in future posts.  From the book, I found myself reading the following famous quote from the envoys of Valdimir the Great on the actual anniversary of the definitive Baptism and Christianisation of the Kievan Rus.  Vladimir had sent his envoys out in about the year 988 to look at all the neighbouring religions, they had previously dismissed German Christianity as being without beauty, but this is what they saw in Constantinople at the Church of the Holy Wisdom:

We knew not whether we were on heaven or earth for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere on earth.  We cannot describe it to you: only this we know, that God dwells there  among men, and their service surpasses the worship of all other places.  We cannot forget that beauty. 

That was enough for Vladimir, and so the Rus were baptised and the rest is history.

As Aidan Nichols points out "this is not aestheticism, it is religious ontology". It is what we should expect from the Liturgy, it is our very being.

My brief return to the UK enabled me to take in several Masses of the 1962 Missal, and whilst these would be more akin to the German liturgy dismissed by Vladimir's envoys than to the beauty of Constantinople, it got me wondering about the revival of the Older Roman Rite and its success.

Has it been successful? Is it producing fruit? Is it closer to heaven?

It is easy enough to answer yes to all these questions, especially the last one.  However,  I wish to address the negatives as this is something those who love the older rite are not addressing. WE have to admit, it is simply not producing the fruit it should. There is a divisiveness that is not a good thing and a somewhat unappealing attitude amongst traditionalists that they are somehow the bastions of all that is good and holy.  Loving the Old Rite comes with a massive chip on the shoulder as to being a persecuted breed of moral and intellectual superiority.  Yet as long as traditionalist can produce the odious invective against the current papacy and the renaissance of liberalism in the Church and ENJOY their own invective and misery to the extent that they do, I remain unconvinced that the Older Rite per se will save souls. [ see: 1 Peter 5, the Remnant etc]. I've met too many good Catholics amongst those who have no love of the Old Rite to think otherwise and I've witnessed enough nutty, spittle flecked hatemongering from lovers of the Old Rite to be thoroughly disheartened.  The fuel for Traditionalists within the Catholic Church reeks of Protestantism.  It is a self-serving club of righteousness, a display of virtue-signalling and arrogance.  There is a way of being critical and we MUST be critical of liberalism and modernism in the Church, but doing so without the non-lovers of the Old Rite on board is a non starter.

It worries me that any modern day equivalent of Vladimir's pagan envoys entering an Old Rite Mass would feel like they were entering a club of smug esoteric exclusivity rather than heaven on earth.  The thing is, I think the choreography has taken over from the content in the minds of many of its adherents, it is now an aestetic with its own music and ballet blanc of serving boys, and sadly not everything is directed towards God as it should be. 


Thursday, 19 July 2018

1930 or 1968?

Regular readers will know my distinct fondness for Pope Pius XI.  His papacy covered a difficult time: the old moral order was breaking down, alternative family structures were being mooted, there was a lot of open promiscuity that was being celebrated in literature and film, political ideologies were providing some with intoxicating and daring visions of a "better" future and eugenics was all the rage.  Yes, the 1920s and 30s were no different from the 1960s.  Pius XI addressed the needs of the faithful and gave much needed solace to Anglicans who saw their world shattered by the Lambeth Conference which accepted contraception.  He produced the masterful encyclical Casti Connubi in 1930,  I suggest you read it.  He sounds like a Pope!  It is paternal, gentle yet forceful and he says NOTHING new, he is simply reiterating Tradition from Holy Scripture through to the fairly recent writings of Pope Leo XIII. It is a massive comfort and it is a beautiful document and it states quite clearly that the Catholic Church cannot accept contraception.

I cannot say the same for Paul VI's Humanae Vitae from 1968.  To me it is a dry and cold and sadly lacks that paternal touch or the deft linguistic skills of the earlier Pontiff.  Part of me just wishes he'd simply said that nothing has changed since Pius XI's or Leo XIII, since St Augustine, since the Apostles.  Part of me wishes it had never been written.  The Church was already a fractured mess (isn't She always?).  I knew priests that had blessed packs of hormonal contraception at weddings back in the 1960s.  I know that priests themselves often spearheaded the backlash to Humanae Vitae.  The resentment was profound.  It is not a pastoral document, or if it is, of comes from one way out of touch with his clergy.  Clergy intoxicated by the "spirit of Vatican II", or by the modern and changing world in general would simply not cope with this document.

Yes, Paul VI had a much less united clergy than Pius XI.  But a document was needed in the late 1960s that would lovingly meet the clergy and help them be CATHOLIC and proud to be CATHOLIC, I do not think HV managed to do this, so hence is it is a symbol of notoriety and dissent even today 50 years after it was written. It is a doucment that tries to speak to too many people; scientists, clergy, couples, doctors. I think it disempowers the married couple by trying to speak to so many others.

Quick use of the search function on several Papal documents turns up the following when searching the word "conjugal" which is a bit of a key word in the whole sexual ethics department:

P. Pius XI's Casti Connubi
conjugal union - 2 mentions
conjugal honour- 2 mentions
conjugal faith - 13 mentions
conjugal happiness - 1 mention
conjugal act - 1 mention
conjugal chastity - 1 mention
conjugal integrity -1 mention
reciprocal conjugal aid - 1 mention

P. Paul VI's Humanae Vitae
conjugal love - 2 mentions
conjugal morals - 1 mention
conjugal acts - 2 mentions
conjugal rights - 1 mention

P. Francis's Amoris Laetitia
conjugal union - 8 mentions
conjugal love (and charity) - 22 mentions
conjugal life - 3 mentions
conjugal act - 2 mentions
conjugal friendship - 1 mention
conjugal pact - 1 mention

You will draw your own conclusions from this. My first conclusion is that that there is simply not enough about conjugal anything in HV. My second is that today we are in a world that speaks of conjugal love like it has always been a "thing", but conjugal love is a minefield and ought not to be spoken of.  This is because it is so hard to ascertain if love really is there in all purity.  Conjugal faith is the thing!  It is from this that an understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage, of life itself, of  continence, of purity, of each other, of welcoming Christ into the marriage, all spring.

It seems to be something that has been forgotten.

To put it more simply, the icon of the transmission of  life ought to be Ss Joachim and Ann (parents of the Mother of God), theirs is the ultimate story of God centred human love and conjugal faith.


 Sadly, these days, the icon below is closer to most people's idea of what it is all about, but just see what is missing compared to the picture above:


E

Love you,
Off to the UK for a while so you won't hear from me
Te pup


Monday, 16 July 2018

Uniates and Ordinariates

I am back from my road trip with my parents round Transylvania.  As family outings go, it was true to form and I am glad it happened.  One day my dad will not be around to say at the top of his voice in English that everyone can understand: look that man has lit a cigarette or look, those children have not got off their mobile phones that whole time they've been sat down or look, that man has lit another cigarette. One day I will miss being embarrassed by my parents.

Transylvania has disquieted me somewhat.  It is stunningly beautiful, but its core is most definitely, unlike the rest of Romania, Central European and not Eastern European.  I'm always slightly uneasy in Central Europe.  I think it is the fact that the buildings tell a story, a story about the interplay of Protestant and Catholic.  And it is a tale which neither side has won.  Religion for the most part in Central Europe feels like a museum piece. Now that Transylvania is Romanian and there are newish Orthodox churches everywhere and the only people who go to church in any great numbers are the Orthodox it is easy see the Orthodox as some sort of victors in all of this. It is easy enough to look on the rest as history, as some sort of museum piece.

You have to pay entry to all the Lutheran churches.  They feel like museum pieces. Communist suppression and Saxon migration back to Germany have left only small populations of Lutherans about.  The Catholic Church was brutally suppressed too by the Communists and it shows and there are some aspects of this that I wish to write about in this blog.

But as we drove along the back roads well away from the tourists Mum kept saying (and she should know): gosh this is just like Ireland 60 years ago. She wasn't just referring to the hay stacks, the horses and carts and the general bucolic idyll.  She was referring to the Orthodox church. It is very clerical, very much part of the status quo and quite rich.  Please God, it doesn't decay completely and rapidly like Catholic Ireland has done.

Getting back to the Catholic presence in Transylvania,  firstly, the majority of functioning Roman-Catholic Churches are Hungarian speaking.  They don't seem particularly well attended.  They are not always that easy to find.  We were staggered by the following Catholic Church in the town of  Dumbrăveni. It is simply the largest "functioning" Catholic structure I have seen in all my time out here and the main feature of the central square in the town. Expand the picture and you will see why I wrote functioning in inverted commas.  It is close to falling down. The interior is little better than the exterior, there are significant cracks in the arches in the nave and the general dustyness has you thinking of Miss Haversham.

It turns out this is an Armenian Rite Catholic Church.  The Armenian Rite Catholics number less than 700 in Romania and are supported by an Ordinariate.  There are a total of 3 priests covering the entire population of which this is one of only 3 churches.  The Armenians were suppressed by the Communists and before that in this region they were "forcibly" Catholicised and Magyarised.  Inside the statues are all of recognisably Latin saints, the notice boards are all in Hungarian and utterly indecipherable to yours truly. You could quite easily think that no other rite other than the Roman Rite took place here.  One assumes that such a magnificent building was a result of the Armenian loyalty to the Hungarian Kingdom. One wonders how it will ever keep going.

Having left my parents to digest their lunch on a shady park bench in the very pleasant town of  Mediaș, I went off to explore by myself and was thrilled to see this:
The street commemorates Servant of God, Cardinal Iuliu Hossu and there is a rare functioning Greek-Catholic Church at the top of the street. The Greek-Catholics (lay and clerical) punched above their weight in their opposition to Communism.  I have even heard Orthodox referring to them as the Martyr Church.  They simply saw annihilation as the only way forward rather than submission to Communism.  Here is a useful list of the Catholic Bishops who resisted the Communists in Romania.

And here my disquiet grows. History may say that the growth of the Greek-Catholics (Uniates) was a political thing: Byzantine rite souls who wanted the protection of Catholic Monarchs and States. I remain unconvinced that this is the whole story.  If the Supremacy of Rome means something then it means EVERYTHING. It is something that (like Newman) you turn to in the fullness of faith.  She is the Eternal Bride, She is the love of the Son. I do not believe the Uniates would have accepted martyrdom in such large numbers if it were simply just some political rejection of Communism that was fuelling them.(Though politics does have its own secular martyrs). No, they were martyrs for the Truth. They believed in the supremacy and authority of Rome and of the Bishop of Rome and that is why they were willing to die and suffer as they did.

But now we have a Pontiff who doesn't seem to believe in what these souls were willing to die for, a Pontiff who sees the Uniates in purely historical terms with a right to exist but not as bastions of some Eternal Truth about himself.

I am tired, my head hurts, I wonder about the whole Catholic Church and what she is and what she has become.......

Here is a nice picture postcard of not too touristy but ever so pretty Transylvania to cheer you up, best not think about religion....

Sighișoara


Sunday, 8 July 2018

Thoroughly modern

What follows is a real life example of the educated Catholic laity. I wonder if Bl JH Newman would approve?

Here is a link to a highly educated and thoughtful piece arguing for Equal Marriage from the Catholic and Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Thomas Tugendhat. I suggest you read it.  It is well argued, caring, considerate and thoroughly modern.  The MP is quite able to separate the views of the Church to which he belongs from what he sees as the apparent need to vote for Equal Marriage back in 2014. It takes a modern mind to be able to do this.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales obviously think he's kosher, they gave him £5,330 of our money, as declared in April of 2018, and available to read on this site. But the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are also thoroughly modern.

I am not writing to criticise the MP for Tonbridge and Malling and I am not about to have a hissy fit about the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.  This post is about modernism and how it is slowly destroying the Church because it is slowly destroying good souls within the Church.  The enemy is Modernism, the enemy is an idea and it is more damaging than any Pogrom.

If you are a Modernist and a Catholic you keep God in your parlour.  The parlour is that nice room where you invite the priest for tea and where the piano lives and where the children's toys don't. Most of the time you are not in the parlour, it is an occasional room and as such always manages to be reassuringly tidy, comfortingly homely and thoroughly traditional. The mess of the world needs something else.... but definitely not God.

The rest of the world needs care and compassion and respect for people whose views are different from our own.  It needs legislation to protect minority interests and self-styled minority identities.  The world needs humanism (based on Christian ideals of course but not essentially Christian), it does not need God.... well so say the Modernists.  One wonders why  bother with having faith at all except for one's own sense of well being, belonging, self-styled identity and tradition. The modernist Christian simply needs his parlour. It has a door on it which sometimes he can shut.

If you are not modern, your logic is somewhat different.
God pervades everything. His mystery is life itself.  It is beautiful. I cannot ever deny God either to myself or to others.  God is not a set of rules and regulations, He is Love and He is unchanging.  I cannot reimagine God so that He fits the age in which I live.  His Law, His Truth, Christ is Eternal. As an un-Modern, I must translate the Eternal into language and actions that can be currently understood and do this everywhere and in all that I do. Doing this is the direct oppsite to reimagining His Truth for the needs of the modern world and modern man.

**************

I have a good friend out here who is a self-styled homosexual (you know I don't style anyone as homo or heterosexual myself), that is his definition of himself.  We rarely discuss religion, unless he asks, (he does't have the necessary vocabulary), though he knows my stance and knows I am a world away from supporting his lifestyle or beliefs.  He has a tremendous sense of justice and compassion, I saw him carefully and patiently helping a particularly ripe and dirty homeless man carry his worldly belongings and giving him some cigarettes..... nobody could deny the goodness of his act, he simply relates with the outcast and does not want them to feel outcast.....  I feel he is open to the Truth and deep down, he knows the Truth. If I leave God in the parlour and agree with my friend that gay marriage is OK for him but not OK according to God and the Church, am I doing God's work or the Devil's?

**************

Oh, and before you ask, from what I've seen Orthodoxy is not faring much better than Catholicism, there are modernists getting accepted into Orthodox thinking too..... it won't take too long bring it down, the ecumenical movement will see to that.

There is a war on, prepare for your call up, prepare for battle.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Love Letter to Belgrade

Dear Belgrade,

We have hardly got to know each other, but I think I love you. From the moment the plane touched down in between planes from Russia, Iran and the Ukraine and from taking the bus into town with a friendly group of Iranians (actually I've never met an unpleasant Iranian, but that is for another post), I knew I was somewhere different.  Serbia, you think for yourself.  You have a wonderfully independent spirit.  You are proud and you are beautiful.



On a personal level, I have enjoyed being amongst people who are tall, skinny and have that whole Celtic thing going on. Romanians tend to be stocky, but you are mostly lanky, with slender arms and and an athletic gait, I felt some distant connection in the gene pool with my Irish heritage.  Your food is Balkan with a touch of Hungarian and the mixture works, it is different from the Romanian take on the same heritage, but equally enjoyable.  Actually you cook fish better and I prefer your zacuscă, but please don't tell any Romanians I said so, they cannot take criticism, even when it is done in jest. Oh, and you are so friendly and full of laughter.  I like the balance between the sexes, the men neither dominate or are subservient to matriarchs (which can so often happen in Balkan countries).  Nothing depresses me more than seeing young boys clinging to their mothers and wimping out, refusing to grow up and become independent.  I saw a lot of good parenting and strong fathers. And your men just seem a good 20%  more masculine than anywhere I've even been in my life..... the feminisaton of the Western world is odious, don't follow the crowd.

History is never far away.  I was very conscious of being around war veterans.  I know that look in their eyes. It is hard to describe, but war trauma makes you aware of other realities and you see extra dimensions in the the things around you.  I have seen that look many times, form working with the homeless in Manchester to living around the retired Majors and Colonels in rural Wessex: Malaya, N. Ireland, The Falklands, The Gulf.... the look is the same and so many of your men and women have it too.

OK so the young adults I saw seem like young adults everywhere: metrosexual, gym-body-beautiful, tele-marketeers, borderless Europeans with no sense of history or culture, totally self-absorbed.  Groups of people talking about themselves to each other in American English, but never actually breaking into real conversation or dialogue. Thoroughly depressing.  But all  capital cities are like this.  I do not hold it against you Serbia. Just don't let them be your future.

Belgrade, you still make things.  You sill have a leather industry and make beautiful book bindings, belts, jackets and shoes.  You also seem to have a remarkable supply of tie shops and milliners; your own.  Please, Serbia, THINK before join the EU.  These small artisans will go to the wall, like they have done in the UK, in Romania and elsewhere. They will be replaced by European business interests flogging poorer quality goods which are actually made in China. The EU is of no benefit to its citizens, be warned and see from the farce over Brexit, how difficult it is to leave once you enter.  The EU is a pimp and he will treat you as a third class whore, like he does Romania and Bulgaria... he will entice you with promises and sweeteners but your lovely people will not see any benefits and you will be broken and subjugated.

The thing is, Serbia I fear for your future.  Your PM is so openly pro-EU and so in the model of what the EU wants you to be and how the EU wants you to think... please retain you independence.  Your relationship with Russia is interesting and precious (because you are no vassal), don't let it be taken from you.  You have the right to be friends with whosoever you want.

And it was so nice to be breathing NATO free air....

And I got back to Bucharest last night to a chocking wall of cigarette smoke, 4G addiction and endless graffiti and I knew I was home.  Belgrade, we enjoyed each others company; kindred spirits, kicking against the world and all her illusions.  But I know to whom I belong, Romania is my home, for better or worse.

But we will meet again,

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The NHS

So the NHS is 70 years old.  I for one won't be raising a glass to celebrate its good health.

In order to help students out here to get into British Universities to study medicine, they have to know about the NHS.  But it is not the NHS that they need to know about, but the myth of the NHS.  They need to know the creed and the creation myth; the hubris and the arrogance surrounding the bloated, idolatrous, self-perpetuating panacea.  In helping the students I have to tow the party line and say uncritically, how wonderful it all is. I'd been hoping to leave  Great Britain- the myth behind me when I moved, but I am still having to behave like her loyal servant. This is not what I want to be doing with my life.

Yes, it breaks my heart when I see the elderly begging on the streets of Bucharest, holding their medical referrals. These letters say so many Lei are needed for operations that would greatly improve their quality of life.  They do not have the money, they are genuinely wretched. Yes, part of me is glad that the NHS exists, and nobody in the UK has to suffer like this.

I am aware my response to the NHS is emotional rather than rational; they were directly responsible for the death of my husband, my own treatment under them was a farce that was only rectified when I sought help from the private sector and much of my childhood was sacrificed on the altar of NHS. My parents were both loyal servants to her and their jobs meant difficult hours and deep personal involvement with dying patients who always came first. People say a good reason why priests shouldn't marry is that they would never have time for their families.  The same argument could be used to advocate compulsory celibacy amongst  doctors.

And I am also aware that those who defend the NHS also use highly emotive language and personal stories of how marvellous its staff are and how grateful we should all be for her.

So let's try to look at the bloated leviathan critically and ask ourselves if indeed the reality is worth defending.

The UK has a health system whereby the patients do not have ownership of their own medical records.  They are the property of the Secretary of State for Health.  The State ultimately decides the treatment and the services you will receive based on your locality, your lifestyle choices and your age. I seem to be in a minority that actually find this sinister. Is is not sinister to you? The State can be highly moralistic with alcoholics and drug addicts and refuse treatment until they "improve", yet it bends over backwards for all types of sexual immorality and the medical complications that arise from that. The NHS is now completely in charge of all aspects of life from conception to death; compulsory screenings and vaccinations, check-ups, wellness clinics, dietary programs..... the NHS makes us believe that we cannot survive without her.  She has all the hallmarks of a cult rather than a public service. And all the time we do actually become more reliant on her as we forget how to care for ourselves and for each other.  She feeds our dependency on her.

She must be the largest employer in the UK , massive amounts of money ride on her performance and management/mis-management.  She is subject to the absurd rules of the internal market so it is impossible to know the true cost of anything. She will also be subject to the fashions and whims of the powerful pharmaceutical industry.  She is desperately inefficient. She is an organ of the State and therefore does not have the best interests of the individual at heart.

I am not advocating the abolition of the National Health Service.  Something is needed that treats all irrespective of ability to pay... but was life really that bad before she existed?  The generation that was around before she was born are  getting old.  They will talk of a lady in the parish who had a starched apron and without any qualifications knew about hygiene and would act as midwife and layer-out of the dead for a penny or whatever could be afforded.  She was not a figure of adulation, she was no angel (as modern day nurses are sometimes referred). But she did her jobs and there were no complaints and families were very much in charge of their own lives. They will also talk of children from poor families needing urgent medical care and it being the duty of more affluent, educated members of the parish to help fund this and see that it happened.....

The NHS is symptomatic of the breakdown of society, of a lack of autonomy, the lack of power of the family as a unit, and of the breakdown of community decision making. The NHS also takes away our responsibility to live in as quietly and unobtrusively healthy way as possible for our own good... I do not like her and I cannot defend her as she is.


The NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it. -quote attributed to its founder, Aneurin Bevan