cult of mediocrity

Napoleon Bonaparte is the great tragedy of Arthurian Republicanism. The French Revolution overthrew the useless Teutonic parasite that was the Second Estate of the Ancien Regime. Alas for Henry IV! If the heretic king of Navarre had not decided to accept the Mass in exchange for Paris, if Philip II had not insisted that his daughter – the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia – marry a Habsburg, the French Republic might have been founded in 1589 on the basis of the Holy Catholic Faith instead of the pestilential errors of the ‘Enlightenment’. And yet, a wonderful opportunity presented itself when the Corsican general sought to make peace with Pius VII and to restore the meritocratic monarchy swept away by the Sicambrians, Welches and other savages from the woods and swamps of ancient Germany. The foul Talleyrand persuaded the First Consul to recognise Catholicism not as the one true religion but merely as that of the Consul himself and that of the greater number of the French people. A still more wonderful opportunity presented itself when Bonaparte sought the purple and the blessing of the Pope to do so. Napoleon then committed two further terrible errors: he took the title ‘French’ and not ‘Roman’ Emperor and he made his office hereditary. Thus, he tied his laurels to a mere nation and fell back into the blood superstition of the barbarians.

As Beethoven declared “He, too, then, is nothing better than an ordinary man! Now he will trample on all human rights only to humour his ambition; he will place himself above all others,–become a tyrant!” If only Napoleon had restrained himself then the Church might have been forever liberated from the dead weight of the deposed ‘aristocracy’ endlessly demanding that the Lay faithful waste their energies labouring to restore the Ancien Regime instead of the Kingship of Christ, the privileges of the descendants of Alaric and Attila instead of those of Holy Mother Church. If only Napoleon had remained faithful to the Republic then Leo XIII might not have had to expend himself trying to get the obstinate French royalists to rally to it. As Belloc saw “When you have reconciled these two things – I mean the high Stoicism of the Republic and the humility of the Church (for they can co-exist) – then you will have the perfect state.” Of course, St Hippolytus foresaw that the Antichrist would restore the Roman Empire to the government it enjoyed at the time of Augustus, so if Napoleon had done all these things he would no doubt have proved to be the Antichrist in person and not merely a warm-up act. But this does not mean that these priceless acts would not have been in themselves the right things to do. As Pius VII taught as bishop of Imola,

“Strive to attain to the full height of virtue and you will be true democrats. Fulfill faithfully the precepts of the Gospel and you will be the joy of the Republic.”


Alyoshenka (appropriately enough) bought me The Brothers Karamazov a while ago. I am not very good at novels. Napoleon once said novels are for women while history is for men. Usually therefore, I have to find some long journey devoid of internet access and make sure I only have the novel with me and so have to read it. Ideally this then provides me with sufficient momentum to finish the thing when I get back. I was making a transatlantic flight a few weeks ago and I had ordered the most negative revisionist history of the American Revolution I could find to read on the way over. Alas! It did not arrive in time so, as it was at the top of the pile, I took The Brothers Karamazov instead. To be more specific, I took The Karamazov Brothers translated by Ignat Avsey for Oxford World’s Classics. Knowing no Russian I have no idea if this is a good translation, it certainly reads nicely. OUP is usually seen as a rather respectable publisher. I don’t know anything about Mr Avesy but I am pretty sure he is a theosophist. He not only translated the text he also provided the notes. I was already very suspicious when… on page 82 …in the course of an attack on the Church and an encomium of ‘Orthodoxy’ Fr Paisy (a minor character in the novel) remarks “The star will shine forth from the East”. There then follows a lengthy endnote by Mr Avesy. After correctly identifying Fr Paisy’s words as an allusion to Matthew 2:2 Avesy goes on to explain:

“It has been said that the current of culture arises in the East and moves West, eventually dying in the Americas. [fairy nuff] Thus Rudolf Steiner [uh-oh…]  claimed that, on the death of the Atlantean age and civilization [come again?], the Arians, under the leadership of Manu [wow], migrated to India, forming the pre-Vedic Indian culture. When that culture itself became decadent, a new culture was founded in Persia by Zoroaster or Zarathustra (the name means ‘Morning Star’ [how reassuring]). That culture was, in its turn, succeeded by the cultures of the Middle East, particularly those of Egypt and Babylonia. Following the decline of those cultures, the cultures of Greece and then Rome arose. Since the fifteenth century AD the Northern European or Germanic/Anglo-Saxon culture has emerged the culture which is still dominant today [thank you Mr Himmler!].”

Remember this the OUP edition of the greatest Russian novel. This is full-on National Socialist mumbo jumbo delivered as sober fact. Avesy then mentions that some Russians think that when the Californians have finished with Western Civ. it might get round to being their turn before giving us some references:

“See Rudolf Steiner, Occult Science and Lectures upon the Apocalypse; the several works of Valentin Tomberg (privately printed in Riga, 1936-9 repr. by Candeur Manuscripts, Spring Valley, New York, 1977-9); Maria Schindler, Europe a Cosmic Picture (New Knowledge Books, Horsham, Sussex, 1975-6) …”

Rudolf Steiner is, of course, a famous purveyor of mumbo jumbo but Valentin Tomberg has a special interest as the occultist for whose Introduction to the Tarot Hans Urs Von Balthasar wrote his sinister forward. In the light of this connection I would dearly love to know if the Maria Schindler cited here has any connection to the Schindler dynasty of creepy Balthasarians. Given the ease with which Balthasar and his followers have managed to infiltrate allegedly respectable Catholic theological circles I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at a spot of kindred occultism in the endnotes of an Oxford World’s Classics volume.

So! Occultism and Nazism with Balthasarian connections – a long haul flight well spent methinks…

The Prior General of the Community of St John P. Thomas Joachim has announced that there exist “convergent and credible testimonies concerning the failures in chastity of their founder” Marie Dominique Philippe. Apparently these failures regard between five and ten adult women to whom he gave spiritual guidance and with whom he was romantically involved but do not extend as far as sexual intercourse. In an interview for La Croix the Prior General has rejected comparisons with Marcial Maciel.

I remember attending a lecture by Fr John Saward many years ago in which he pointed out that there have as yet been no saints raised on the Novus Ordo. One of the attendees was very annoyed by this comment and indeed it is still relatively early days. Nevertheless, we were promised the wrath of Almighty God and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul if we overthrew the Missal of St Pius V and it is hard not to suspect that is what we have received. The very idea of jettisoning a patristic rite of apostolic origin in favour of the work of committee of academics and officials in the nineteen sixties only needs to be expressed for its absurdity to be seen. There is an urgent need to recover the powerful feeling of the Fathers that ‘novelty’ is a dirty word. In this regard I am reminded of the thirteenth canon of the Fourth Lateran Council which has been so spectacularly ignored over the last eight hundred years,

“Lest too great a variety of religious orders leads to grave confusion in God’s church, we strictly forbid anyone henceforth to found a new religious order. Whoever wants to become a religious should enter one of the already approved orders. Likewise, whoever wishes to found a new religious house should take the rule and institutes from already approved religious orders…”

There are many extremely sensible disciplinary provisions in the Councils (such as the prohibition of Nicaea against the translation of a bishop from one diocese to another) which might have done much good to the Church if they had been observed. St Pius X is of course a great and glorious pontiff but the decision to codify canon law and the reform of the Roman Breviary seem to reflect an unfortunate conception of the proper relationship of the Holy See to tradition which bore evil fruit later in the century.

I spent a week listening to the lectures of Marie Dominique Philippe once and I am afraid I was not impressed. He seemed to think no one had really understood a word of St Thomas until he came along and, as he had now surpassed the Angelic Doctor in many important respects, there was not much point in approaching the Angelic Doctor except through him. He had taken Maritain’s ideas about the supposed distinction between the Individual and the Person and run with it. He held that the end of the person was the knowledge of God but the end of the individual was reproduction. I expressed scepticism about this idea to one of the Priests of the community who insisted it was a wonderful insight which was very helpful in understanding the challenges of celibacy. That seemed unlikely to me.

I bumped into quite a number of friends and acquaintances at Saint-Jodard one of the them was a novice in the contemplative sisters who (unbeknownst to me) was about to leave. She complained that all they did was pray the five offices of the Novus Ordo breviary that the last of these (Compline) was often substituted by a lecture or reflection of the founder. They spent an awfully long time listening to his lectures and she had noticed considerable divergence between what struck her as the authentic doctrine of St Thomas and what she was being told. She wished there was some productive work to be done. She wasn’t sure she could cope with a lifetime of these lectures. I pointed out that Fr Philippe was rather elderly and thus a lifetime of his lectures did not seem very likely. She grabbed my arm with a rather desperate look in her eyes “No! There are tapes, there are thousands of tapes!”

Many new orders were founded in the Tridentine period, particularly in the nineteenth century. They seem to have done a lot of good. Nevertheless, they have fared very badly in the post-conciliar period. The Jesuits would be the most spectacular casualty of an enforcement of canon thirteen of Lateran IV. They have of course been dissolved before and it is not inconceivable that it could happen again. It is certainly much easier to read Dominus ac Redemptor with sympathy when one reflects on the state of the Society now and the many unfortunate theological positions such as implicit faith, the third degree of obedience, the ‘black is white’ doctrine, scientia media, indirectism, the denial of the real distinction between essence and existence etc. which the Society has sponsored and which have done so much harm to the Church. In general the sponsorship of theological systems by religious orders has been a shelter under which many errors have grown up. This is particularly true of the Franciscans (whose rule was the last to be approved before 1215) who were obviously straying from the charism of the Seraphic Father by engagement in such activities. Nevertheless, it was the Jesuits who were in the forefront of the effort to prevent Benedict XV enforcing the Twenty Four Theses (admittedly written by a Jesuit!) promulgated by St Pius X in the last month of his pontificate.

The Rules of St Basil, St Augustine, St Benedict and St Francis have vast centuries of sanctity to commend them to the Church. To join a community based on one of these is to know that whatever the failings of individuals the foundation is sure. It is dispiriting to realise one has taken a wrong turn and have to retrace one’s steps and start again but, in the end perhaps, salutary.


Don Reto Nay is a priest of the Swiss Diocese of Chur. I heard of his reputation for preaching the faith with wit and wisdom but without fear or favour long before I met him. He is a scholar and a polyglot of considerable stature but it is as a faithful priest that he is renowned. I first heard of him as the chaplain to the Legion of Mary in Rome from a friend who had assisted in their mission of evangelisation at that time and who was full of inspiring stories about the zeal that had overtaken its members and the moving conversions of many ordinary people to whom they had preached the gospel in the Piazza Navona and elsewhere in Rome. Later (not having remembered the name of this priest) I unknowingly got to know him in person and witness his inspiring work with students and the pro-life movement in Austria. As is inevitably the case when someone preaches the gospel without compromise he has aroused powerful opposition on various occasions. For the last years he has worked as a Parish Priest in Switzerland and pursued his missionary work through the medium of on which he regularly posts powerful sermons (which have been re-posted here on a number of occasions).

All the powers of Hell have once more raised themselves up against Fr Nay, this time because of news’ attacks on the German Bishops for their endorsement of the morning-after pill. It is alleged that these bishops have done no wrong because they only endorse the pill in case of rape when it is not abortifacient. There is no non-abortifacient morning after pill and the necessary professional ultra-sounds and blood tests to ensure it would not harm an already conceived child are most unlikely to occur and may not be entirely reliable. None of these precisions (which anyway are probably fatal to their position) have been made by the German Bishops. news has been robust in its criticism superimposing swastikas on images of the prelates. As St Thomas says (IIaIIae, 33, 4 ad 2) “It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly” and the staff of are not subjects of the German bishops anyway. The parish council (a body with inappropriately sweeping powers in Switzerland) of Don Reto’s parish have de-selected him as their Parish Priest and the diocesan Bishop has confirmed this. I would ask the readers of this blog (as Sancrucensis has) to pray for this loyal and worthy priest that, while he endures the (inevitable) hatred of the world, he may not be impeded from pursuing his charism of evangelisation.

ChocolateLong-time readers having stated their dissatisfaction  about the increasing seriousness of this blog and the preponderance of hardline doctrinal posts, coupled with the absence of shoe-post and the like – and given that even an unnamed male person did express some concern about the increased ‘blokishness’ of Laodicea – it seems I must try and rectify this to some extent in the future.

So here my first attempt:

Given it is Lent, some of us may – as a side effect – be living more healthily than during the rest of the year. Probably female are more likely than male Catholics to have given up chocolate, sweets and the like, and may be suffering from scruples about their side thought that, in addition to being a good and pious thing to do, this will result in them loosing weight, and thus be partly motivated by vanity. The good news: As I have just heard (as a scientist I should check if there is actually empirical evidence for this, but I am lazy, so I won’t) if you are eating lots of unhealthy, sugary and fatty things for a while, your body becomes unable to absorb all the nutrients of the more healthy stuff you eat. As a consequence, as soon as you cut out these unhealthy things, you may well gain, instead of loose, weight. Which makes your fasting really a spiritual, not a self-seeking thing.

From another perspective, the message would seem to be that the more unhealthy the food you eat, the more you can eat of it. So at the end of Lent…


Some time ago a colleague of mine welcomed a delegation of students from an Arabian country to our city. She was both impressed and bewildered by that encounter: For her, it was fascinating to have first-hand contact with people involved in the Arabian Spring, but talking to them she also felt like encountering an entirely different world. As one of the most bewildering aspects she mentioned those people’s religiosity: not only that they were religious, but also the way they were religious: ‘This is just not comparable to Christianity’, she said, ‘they just thought they were right, and everyone else was wrong. And then their missionary zeal to have everybody believe as they do!’ – What a lowering thought that we have known each other for over a year and a half, and I have not got across to her that that is what we (with better justification) believe as well…


Last weekend I had a conversation with two atheists so far away from both the Church and Protestantism that they base their views on Christianity entirely on secular news coverage. Nevertheless, quite magically, conversation at one point touched ecumenism.They started comparing the situation between Catholics and Protestants in Germany to that of the Christian-Muslim-Jewish conflict in the Near East (‘religious intolerance’), which I strongly denied. Of course, they said, normal people did not think like this, but those in charge in the Catholic Church… This mildly blew a fuse in my irenical mental lookout and made me say that, au contraire, many Catholic priests and bishops in Germany were so intent on ‘ecumenism’ that they were countenancing all sorts of compromises, and sometimes right-out betrayals of Catholic doctrine, that I was often annoyed with it.

It took us several minutes to establish that this was what I actually wanted to say, so great was their disbelief.

I felt quite satisfied afterwards.


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