August 1, 2016
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July 4, 2016
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If we enter deeply into a spiritual epoch like the Oxford Movement, we find ourselves in the presence of men whose spirits still live and have power to move us. For the men who count in the end are not the successful men who rode on the crest of the wave of change, like Napoleon, but those who are indifferent to success or failure, who despise quick results and preserve their spiritual integrity at all costs. It is they who are the real judges of the world (‘The Spirit of the Oxford Movement’, chapter 1).
July 1, 2016
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Is it a lost art, buried under the avalanche of texts and phone calls and skypings and e-mails? It has certainly become rare. Perhaps it will never again be common. But I think that the wise will not wholly abandon it.
A pleasant letter I hold to be the pleasantest thing that this world has to give. It should be good-humoured; witty it may be, but with a gentle diluted wit. Concocted brilliancy will spoil it altogether. Not long, so that it be tedious in the reading; nor brief, so that the delight suffice not to make itself felt. It should be written specially for the reader, and should apply altogether to him, and not altogether to any other. It should never flatter. Flattery is always odious. But underneath the visible stream of pungent water there may be the slightest under-current of eulogy, so that it be not seen, but only understood. Censure it may contain freely, but censure which in arraigning the conduct implies no doubt as to the intellect. It should be legibly written, so that it may be read with comfort; but no more than that. Calligraphy betokens caution, and if it be not light in hand it is nothing. That it be fairly grammatical and not ill spelt the writer owes to his schoolmaster; but this should come of habit, not of care. Then let its page be soiled by no business; one touch of utility will destroy it all.
If you ask for examples, let it be as unlike Walpole as may be. If you can so write it that Lord Byron might have written it, you will not be very far from high excellence.
But, above all things, see that it be good-humoured (Anthony Trollope, ‘The Bertrams’, chapter 18).
June 30, 2016
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Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the bloodiest day in British military history. I wonder how many of the young men who went over the top on the Somme that Saturday morning in July knew that it was the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Too few: but those who gave their lives or limbs for Christian civilisation, however poorly understood, made a sacrifice which He surely did not spurn. If there are any souls of those who died on either side in that battle still in purgatory, may they rest at last in peace.
A week ago the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who fought on the Somme, and at Mons and Passchendaele voted. They voted to resist an anti-Christian empire that wishes to rule them. The vote was close, but it was clear. It may be that if five more years had gone by, the changing of the generations would have caused the vote to be different. But the vote was not taken in five years time, it was taken in the year of grace 2016.
Now we hear voices saying that the people must be made to vote again, till they get it right. How can the poor and the uneducated be expected to know what is best for them? A feature in the Guardian yesterday solemnly warns us that elections can be the enemy of democracy. Here at Laodicea we have supported suffrage by household rather than by individual; but given that the youth vote was in favour of ‘Remain’, and given that a larger proportion of such voters than of older ones are living in another’s household, then the margin of victory would have been even larger on Laodicean principles.
In any case, the vote has been taken, and has shown an impressive popular will to resist the propaganda and the vested interests of the godless rich, and the sense of having a heritage to defend. Of course the country cannot be healed by such a will or such a sense, without first turning back to the Precious Blood. But this is, at least, a chink in the darkness, a first unmerited grace (gratia operans) given to Britain. May the descendants of the heroes of the Somme be not unworthy of their sires.
June 28, 2016
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No man who has the truth to tell and the power to tell it can long remain hiding it from fear or even from despair without ignominy. To release the truth against whatever odds, even if so doing can longer help the Commonwealth, is a necessity for the soul (‘The Free Press’, XX).
June 27, 2016
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June 25, 2016
The European project and the catastrophic prudential judgements of the Second Vatican Council are derived from the same fundamental error: the Integral Humanism of Jacques Maritain. They are derived from Maritain’s theory not just logically but concretely and historically. Paul VI and Robert Schuman were directly inspired by Maritain and, in their key decisions and initiatives, were guided by his thought.
Dazzled by the success of the neo-pagan theologies of Teilhard de Chardin, Balthasar and Rahner in the conciliar and post-conciliar period and misled by the simultaneous eclipse of Thomism we often underestimate the degree to which Vatican II was Maritain’s Council. Unlike these pantheist theologies Maritain’s theory (as with all really dangerous errors) contains a great deal of truth. The foundation of Maritain’s theory is a basically sound observation about moral philosophy which Maritain called ‘moral philosophy adequately considered’.
Maritain’s point was that the first principle in moral reasoning is the last end but we cannot know our last end by reason alone. This is true in this order of providence because man has a supernatural end but it would be true in any order of providence because, if God can appoint an end to man other than that merely proportioned to his nature, then man is inherently incapable of knowing his end without revelation in any order of providence. Consequently, moral philosophy cannot attain the nature of a true science unless it is subalterned to divine revelation. This principle applies not just to ethics but also to politics.
Maritain’s second key claim (derived from the first) is that the knowledge that ‘every man is my neighbour’ is dependant upon this subalternation of moral reasoning to divine revelation. Maritain claims that essential elements in modern political life (specifically the ideas of inalienable human rights and universal franchise) are unjustifiable apart from this adequately considered moral philosophy and so apart from the Gospel.
All of this is (in my view) completely sound. The strange move is what Maritain says next. Maritain accepts that there is an obligation not just upon individuals but also upon the whole of society to accept the true religion and the one Church of Christ but he claims that because democracy and human rights imply the Gospel they implicitly fulfil the requirement for the state to recognise the Kingship of Christ. Nature alone generates individual states, super-nature creates a supranational order. A supra-national order committed to universal franchise and inalienable human rights would therefore constitute an anonymous Christendom.
The oft heard objection to the European project that ‘there is no European demos’ is precisely the point. The European Federation was not supposed to have a demos. The demos was supposed to be supplied (unofficially) by the Church. However, Maritain’s reasoning is inherently unsound. It is the straightforward fallacy of affirming the consequent (if x then y, y therefore x). Just because the affirmation of the Gospel entails that everyman is my neighbour does not mean that the assertion that everyman is my neighbour entails the Gospel. In fact the creation of “a European federation under the banner of liberty” did not create a new Christendom.
Making assertions unjustified without revelation but refusing to cite revelation as one’s source implies that the assertion is justified by reason. It implies that something which is the gift of grace is the property of nature. This is not the Gospel but the central claim of Lucifer in his rebellion against God. Accordingly the New Europe is not an anonymous Christendom but is rather Babylon. The ideas of the anonymous Christian and of an anonymous Christendom, though never asserted by the Council documents, were possibilities the supposed reality of which was assumed by many many council fathers and this assumption lay behind the catastrophic ecclesiastical policy initiated by the council which has now laid waste to the human element in the Church and to its creation Western Civilisation. St Gildas the Wise said that Britain is “poised in the divine balance which supports the whole world.” Britain has rejected the European project and may have mortally wounded it. May this mighty blow against the secular universalism of the post war period echo in the precincts of the Church and begin the task of reversing the imminent apostasy that has dragged so many souls to ruin in the post-conciliar wasteland.