Saturday, March 29, 2014

’50s London, and Americans’ images of Britain

A new favorite, from about 30 years ago, a stylized musical about ’50s London:

Much like another favorite made around the same time and set roughly in the same era but in an imaginary version of America, more surreal with many deliberate anachronisms (the ’80s as I would have liked them to be; all that and Diane Lane at 18):

Anyway, Absolute Beginners has its seeming time-travelers too (Patsy Kensit’s character) but seems to get the music mostly right. It was slightly more conservative than in the States, with more remaining from the ’40s, with cool jazz too. Trad jazz was a thing then there. Some copies of early rock from the States too. You had “It’s Trad, Dad,” the cool jazz at the coffee bars, Teddy Boys, the Cunard Yanks bringing over records of early rock, and some would-be American greasers, the rockers, but they weren’t around yet in this. Mods were a few years later, completely creatures of the mid-century so their devotion to modernity was self-limiting/self-destructive.

Of course it’s pepped up and stylized because it’s a musical (the ballet moves are like West Side Story), but London then was a happening place. I understand the provinces were another story. Not to rub it in but after the war the country was poor.

Piccadilly Circus in ’49 looked like 10 or 20 years earlier.

Anyway, it reminds me. Like the lag you see here, not necessarily bad, just different, in some ways life there used to be a step back. 25 years ago you had only about four TV channels and about four or five radio stations, mostly controlled by the government. Chances were there was no shower, just a tub. I imagine the Internet has changed the media part; can’t have a BBC monopoly now, and I don’t think Britain is Red China in that respect.

But Britain of course isn’t as quaint as Americans who’ve never been there think. Most of our mental pictures of the country come from TV and movies, often period dramas such as “Downton Abbey,” which has passed me by. From “Harry Potter” (’50s muggles and magical medieval school, I guess - never read or saw it; I went to school in England and none of that happened) to those PBS costumers, Dickens, the Beatles, “Monty Python,” and punk, I think the American image of Britain is typically at least 30 years out of date!

One thing about being Catholic in England a quarter century ago: in London and Oxford you could find high-church if you were looking for it, seemingly more easily than in the States. “Reform of the reform” before that was a thing. My parish does what the Brompton Oratory did then, only with more now that the traditional Mass is more easily available.

I love the swing era, the transitional early ’50s vocal pop segue-ing from boogie-woogie to early rock (my sweet spot and where ’58 London in Absolute Beginners was), and early rock, like Pat Buchanan does, who grew up then. I like the catchy light pop from around ’60 too, not what music critics like. The Beatles are puzzling: very good at what they did, and their early music is a well-done example of the continuation of the ’50s, so why were they a powerful instrument of evil? Some metal is good: with its bombast the snobs hate, it’s music for the masses in a good sense, truly of the people (fey hippie folk-pop never was - by the way I also like the Kingston Trio and the Serendipity Singers, for example; the beautiful sound of the good ’60s, not the Sixties). And don’t forget cool jazz including bossa nova: Dave Brubeck, Vince Guaraldi, and Stan Getz, for example. The ’50s included the Fifties (things like the Fonz) but were so much more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Et Verbum caro factum est. Everything else is commentary. Mary of course is not eternal but is the Mother of God.

Where God and the flesh meet is the flashpoint of all rebellion, all heresy. Lucifer and his angels wouldn't minister to man. Then man said no to God. All of man's rebellion breaks down into three categories: who Jesus is, what the Eucharist is, and sex. The rest - infallible vs. fallible church - follows from that.

  • Catholicism, including Byzantine Catholicism, and Orthodoxy: Delatinization good and bad. Modestinus hits another one out of the park. Their true-church claim is anti-Western. Ours isn't anti-Eastern.
  • Ukraine aftermath. Filled up the car at Lukoil this past Saturday to celebrate with the Crimea.
  • I have to give liberal high church, the Episcopalians, credit. If I were living mostly in my head and decided to try to invent a church, it has a lot of appeal. Credal orthodoxy, the same sacraments, and high-church, just like us (and not like Catholic liberals). But women are beautiful, so let's ordain them, and be nice to gays by having them marry. Trouble is, reality doesn't work that way. You don't get to invent a church. You receive the one handed down to you from Christ and the apostles. And besides, like lots of things the elite invents, meaning to appeal to the masses, it doesn't. (Sort of like how folk-pop has never been the music of the masses.)
  • The rise of secular religion. Picking up where Clyde Wilson's "Yankee problem" article and Bottum's own First Things article about the fall of mainline Protestantism left off. Exactly. The Cathedral/political correctness/secular humanism is Anglo-American Calvinism without Christ. English-speaking Calvinism lost its faith at the "Enlightenment": the Pilgrims' denomination is now among America's most liberal. America's still Protestant; the North just doesn't go to church anymore.
  • American St. Patrick's Day has passed again. From what I can tell from the Drexel and Penn kids here, it's merging with Mardi Gras. You can search the blog for yearly "everything you thought you knew about Ireland is wrong" posts. (For example, the church and the Irish nationalist cause aren't synonymous.) American St. Pat's is about Catholics succeeding here, so even though I'm not Irish, besides it being about a saint, it's my holiday too.
  • My parish is partly Italian, having sort of merged with an Italian national one (still open for one Mass on Sunday as a "worship site"), so at our monthly coffee hour (one of Anglo-Catholic alumni's contributions to our parish culture?) we had St. Joseph's pastries, sort of a cross between doughnuts and cannoli. Jesus' stepfather; in the East a forgotten man. I wonder why. It's too bad that St. Joseph's Day is eclipsed in America by St. Pat's, because it's so close after, like me-too/also-ran. Besides Italian parishes' festas - St. Anthony, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Assumption, etc. - Italian-Americans have a secular holiday far away from the big green party, Columbus Day. I celebrate: I stand on South Broad Street in South Philly for the parade, and from the grand marshal's car Jerry Blavat makes a crack about my hat. Tradition.
  • Fred Phelps. I learned from Cracked that he was once a respected civil-rights lawyer. I can't name a conservative Christian who took him seriously. He always struck me as being just like a liberal trying to make fun of conservative Christians. So like others I've thought that maybe he was a false-flag operation, or as another blog put it, he was a live-action version of an Internet troll. Actually, I remember when secular culture was mean to homosexuals and conservative Christians taught mercy because "they have a problem." Now we're demonized for believing they have a problem. Sunshine Mary: why are we bowing to the demands of 1.7% of the population anyway? Such as demanding to preach in a big American Catholic holiday parade. They are allowed to march. They just can't preach. Like the Russian law they were so bent out of shape about, setting off more media putdowns of the Russians: you may live in peace; just don't try to indoctrinate our kids.
  • That apocryphal high-school principal's speech ending political correctness/identity politics at his school, actually a column, not a real speech. Well and good, a reset to normal America around 1960. I don't care what color you are; you are here to learn math. That said, the paleoconservative's/Dark Enlightenment's rebuttal: family and ethnic ties are normal. (Normal people are loyal to family, ethnicity, and town; liberals say they love humanity but really hate people, so they fetishize the alien and hate their own kin.) Trying to take them away from students is really a kind of liberalism: making cogs for the state. So I'd say the gist of this column is only a relative good, not an absolute one.
  • The Lutheran Satire: Frank the Hippie Pope. Our conservative Lutheran cousins nail the problem. The only part where they're wrong is the end. Vatican II happens to be right there, and the church doesn't declare who is going to hell; mortal sin means risking hell. More. As Christopher Ferrara says, stay Catholic, no matter what happens in Rome. The nature of the papacy is that the Pope can't change the teachings of the church, so this low-church media clown isn't really my problem. I go to my Mass and send Peter's Pence once a year, and that's that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Крым: the Crimea is Russia again

Очень хорошо! Wonderful! Поздравляю! Congratulations!

That went down like I thought it would.

Well-meaning Catholics including those who remember the Cold War and the heroic Ukrainian Catholic Church resurfacing after 40 years underground support the rebels in Kiev.

The Ukraine joining the EU and NATO would be like California seceding from the Union and Red China further turning it against us, even conducting military exercises there. Is Obama so phenomenally vain and stupid as to start a nuclear war with Russia over a piece of land nothing to do with us?

I've read something from Patriarch Svyatoslav supporting the rebels, which is understandable. I'd welcome a conservative, even authoritarian (as Slavic states tend to be), Slavic state, partly Greek Catholic, in the remaining Ukraine. That said, I understand that the clergy of all of the Ukraine's "Catholic" churches - Russian Orthodox, nationalist breakaway Orthodox, and Ukrainian Catholic - have asked the Ukrainian and Russian governments not to go to war (and indeed Russia has not), have prayed literally in the street to try to keep the peace, and have been ministering to the wounded. Acting in a Christian manner. The people I knew from Kharkov and Simferopol were Russian. Hooray for Russia and, I hope, hooray for the new Ukraine, its own Slavic state, not a U.S. and EU pawn.

Russia isn't Communist anymore. Sure, the Crimea and Transdniester have Soviet flags and statues of Lenin but they're also nominal Orthodox. They miss the USSR because it's what they grew up with and of course they're proud that Russia was a superpower. (It still is, which is why Obama can't tell it what to do. Putin has nukes and an empire: hands off! As the Germans learned in the war, don't f*ck with Russia.) We don't import anything from the Ukraine. The U.S. government should STAY OUT OF IT.

Why the hell did the U.S. under Clinton sign a treaty to defend the Ukraine's sovereignty? Haven't the Western pols learned anything from World War I? Entangling alliances caused an unnecessary, immoral war.

Like with World War I, the liberals want to wipe out a conservative nation's power. The liberal Protestants in America wanted to KO Catholic Europe; the fundamentalists were doves. Now Obama wants to get Russia. That's why the U.S. government backed the putsch in Kiev. Joke's on them if the new Ukraine is neo-Nazi. (Historically understandable. The western Ukrainians, the Greek Catholics, welcomed the Germans as liberators. I've met two Ukrainian veterans of the German army.)

The eastern Ukraine is Russia. The center, including Kiev, is Russian-speaking but wants to be independent, like Austria to Germany. The west speaks Ukrainian and is Greek Catholic. It isn't Russian. Stalin stole it during the war.

The Crimea just self-determined. It is Russia and always will be, unto ages of ages. Amen.

I only have a problem with "the melding of Realpolitik and religious language" when it causes schisms. I'm a big-picture Catholic. We aren't trying to break up Orthodoxy. Bring back the WHOLE Orthodox Church, including mighty Russia, the big NYET to the liberal agenda. These are estranged TRADITIONAL Catholics. Promoting Ukrainian Catholic nationalists instead is shortsighted; Uniatism all over again. That's why I'm pro-Russian to this day.

Friday, March 07, 2014

This our sacrifice, and more

  • From the Anglican History project: This Our Sacrifice. Classic Anglo-Catholicism, fitting the Book of Common Prayer into the traditional Mass, or how to do the Mass in English (It’s Not About Latin™) and what the ordinariates should be like (the British in that have been Novus Ordo for decades). It works even though Cranmer was a heretic (his consecration prayer isn’t allowed in the Catholic Church), because he was credally orthodox and a master of English prose. (Even though he edited and replaced collects because of his Protestantism, they’re not heretical and are gems to read and pray. My diurnal has them alongside the Roman Rite ones.) Benedict the Great’s reform of English Novus, his greatest accomplishment (at last, a church official acknowledged there was a problem with English Novus), is so close to it that the few times a year I’m at Novus I say the BCP things such as the creed from memory. My way of thanking A-Cism for giving me the pre-conciliar ethos. Other than that I don’t miss the Prayer Book because I know where it came from, so I’m not in the ordinariate. I still want to visit Mount Calvary, Baltimore, though. (The only English that Catholics are attached to is the English with a long Catholic tradition: the prayers of the Rosary, the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.)
  • This got Archbishop Robinson and me into a talk about Dom Gregory Dix. I admit I’ve not read The Shape of the Liturgy; he’s one of those people the liberals latched onto like John XXIII but maybe he doesn’t deserve that rap of derailing the liturgical movement and getting the church on the Novus track. He was never a reformer/wreckovator in practice: as an Anglo-Papalist monk of Nashdom he celebrated our Mass, in Latin. (Anglo-Papalists were would-be Catholics but they defended Anglican orders. Now they’re the British ordinariate.) Robinson explained that Dix’s motive was good: he was targeting Cranmer’s Communion service in order to defend our Mass. (Msgr. Barnes: The English experience of BCP could hardly be more different from that in North America. There, Anglo-Catholics would look to the Prayer Book to defend them against the liberal ascendancy. In England, Anglo-Catholics had the Prayer Book used AGAINST them. That’s why Novus was a badge of orthodoxy for British would-be Catholics.) The title comes from his idea that the liturgy’s shape matters even more than the words (one ancient liturgy still in use, the Nestorian, doesn’t have the words of institution, which is no problem), so Cranmer’s service was wrong (well, yes: writing a new liturgy from scratch is un-Catholic even if not heretical); not necessarily bad but of course you can see the problem right away of relativizing content. The liturgical revision in his name, after he died, was blowback.
  • Fisher More College. In Fort Worth, Bishop Olson has suppressed our Mass at a traditionalist Catholic college in the official church. (By the way, almost all American Catholic colleges are private, not controlled by the diocese.) The story as I understand it: the bishop did it because the college had become “extremist,” whatever that means, and, says ex-FMC chancellor Taylor Marshall, financial mismanagement (president Michael King made a real-estate investment that didn’t work out, costing FMC a lot of money). The people defending the bishop say he can do this even under Summorum Pontificum because SP only frees up private Masses. I never heard of that. My first reaction was that SP frees up our Mass, period, so Olson has no right to do this. I don’t think King’s a crook; all investments are risky. He’s explained himself, answering Marshall, and anyway, why is that an excuse to suppress our Mass? The Fraternity of St. Peter were the school’s chaplains and allegedly withdrew due to the “extremism”; the FSSP deserves respect so that accusation, if it exists, has a lot of clout. (And FMC brought in Fr. Gruner* and John Vennari to speak.) So what is “extremism” that would justify a crackdown (again, he has no right to stop our Mass, thanks to the Pope)? I’d draw the line at sedevacantism right now or for the past 50 years or so, saying the council was heretical or not a valid council, and saying that the Novus Ordo is heretical (although the old English paraphrase comes close) or invalid. Saying the council and Novus were mistakes that harmed the church is allowable, and what I believe. Otherwise things like this from the Latin Mass Society (It’s Not About Latin™: allow our Mass in the vernacular and Catholics’ objection to it would fall like a house of cards) are triangulation or divide and conquer: beat the trads by splitting us up (“at least I’m not like those rad trads”). I still think this crackdown is foul. As Modestinus notes, mainstream American Catholic colleges have gotten away with dissent for 40 years. Is this crackdown part of the Francis effect? (He’ll end up like Paul VI and the mainline: the mainstream cheers for him but will push him aside; he’s a flash in the pan, the liberals’ last hurrah in the official church.) Hunker down. Without Benedict backing us, it will be a bumpy ride. (*He says things that need to be said and that official churchmen don’t, but Fátima isn’t strictly speaking part of the faith. I’m about doctrine, tradition-driven papal minimalism based on our doctrine, the Mass, and the office, not chasing even approved private revelations. I also don’t need sedevacantism, the Siri theory, the imposter Paul VI theory from Bayside, or the theory that Benedict is still the Pope to explain the mess in the church. We don’t worship the Pope. No matter who is in the See of Peter, the church is the church.)
  • By the way, IF Pope Francis or someone else retracted Benedict’s Novus and SP, and there were no Eastern Catholic or ordinariate church to go to, I’d go to the SSPX. I’d miss the normality of parish life like 50 years ago but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We have our Mass because of the SSPX. Fellay for cardinal; Lefebvre for saint.
  • Low-church Francis opens his mouth again, about “civil unions,” a way the state now pretends the same sex can marry each other without calling it that. He admitted the possibility, which isn’t heretical. The Pope can’t change the teachings of the church; he wasn’t suggesting changing the matter of a sacrament to redefine marriage like the secular media wanted to hear. He’s appealing to civil liberties to leave homosexuals in peace, which is fine. That said, in the culture wars, saying what he did was bad judgement, a hallmark of this Pope.
  • Why did the Sixties gut the church? Why did the council, the false “renewal,” happen? It wasn’t the hippies; they were a minority and too young, and not interested in the church. (They were mostly consumers of popular music. All the real work in the ’60s, good and bad, was done by people who looked like me.) It was the generation before them. The golden era’s blind faith in progress did it in: make the church all shiny, space-age new.
  • This old lie from ecumenism grinds my gears. Recently Orthodox Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) repeated it: “Actually, Vatican II in many way brought the Roman church closer to Orthodoxy.” Are you blind and deaf? Witness the Orthodox Liturgy: your Tridentine Mass, to your lasting credit. Witness the Novus Ordo. The reasons for that line about the council and Orthodoxy: collegiality, the vernacular in services, and the chalice for the laity. To which I say so what? The church can’t change teaching on the Pope or anything else; as Benedict the Great suggested before he was Pope, we can envision what I believe in: a loose communion run by tradition (Orthodoxy) but with the Pope’s share in the church’s charism of infallibility. (That part about the papacy is the only thing keeping the two sides apart.) The vernacular is fine (witness Anglo-Catholics’ translation of the Tridentine Mass) but Orthodox often don’t use the vernacular. Everybody develops a liturgical language (for American Protestants it's the King James Bible). Greeks use medieval Greek; Russians Slavonic. And the way the Orthodox (and Greek Catholics) and the Novus Ordo do the chalice for the laity are worlds apart. No sale. That line is left over from when ecumenism was fashionable. The world is less churchy now and everybody in the churches knows they won’t get back together. Still, you are an estranged part of us, not Protestants, so corporate reunion is our goal, with your rite intact (because of our true-church claim, we accept individual converts and unias, but they’re not our main goal). (The archbishop was a vagante whom the OCA graciously took in as a retired bishop, but they’ve made it clear his liberalism doesn’t speak for them.) Reminds me of this gem from Fr. Hunwicke (in which he also rubbishes the Celtic Christian myth in time for St. Patrick’s Day): Remember those happy heady days when “Orthodoxy” was the “sexy” version of Christianity? Eastern Christianity had more romance and less menace and “rigidity” than Rome ... because it came from further away. Sadly, when we got to know them better, we discovered that the Orthodox were, if anything, distinctly more “rigid” than Rome, particularly on questions like “Intercommunion.” As a friend once put it, if the liberals took Orthodoxy seriously it would be an embarrassment to them, because the liberals can’t blame the Pope for the Orthodox being Catholic.
  • For the foreseeable future, the best we can expect with the Orthodox is common charitable work and witness against abortion and homosexualism. Like how I understand all the churches, official Orthodox, nationalist breakaway Orthodox, and Greek Catholic, have tried to keep the peace in the streets and minister to the wounded in the Ukraine.
  • Jesus saves, Mary prays; save souls; happy Lent and feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas.