Sunday 31 May 2020

Please Open the Churches

It is Pentecost Sunday, and I went to Mass in my bathrobe.

I'm not proud of this. In fact, I stuck a mantilla in my head to make up for the bathrobe. But the bathrobe (a nice one by the way: silk, pretty pattern) was the outer manifestation of my inward thought which is that I'm sick of watching Mass on the computer instead of going to actual Mass.

The population of Scotland is roughly 5 million. The percentage of Scotland that is Catholic is 15%. The percentage of Catholics who ever go to Mass in Scotland on Sundays is roughly 19% of that. This means 142,500 people---and that's less than half the number of people who went to see Pope St. John Paul II in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow 38 years ago tomorrow.

Scotland was a very different place in 1982, that's for certain.

The percentage of Catholics who always go to Mass on Sunday is unknown, but I'd bet the Warrington Building Fund even they aren't all still watching Mass on computers.

When the Warrington FSSP began a lovely Marian procession, I rushed off to have a shower. When   I returned to the sitting-room, B.A. was still kneeling before the screen. I sat by the window and read some Wendell Berry until I heard priests and altar servers singing the Chartres Pilgrimage's "Chartres T'appelle." 

At that my attention wavered from book to screen to book, but then the organ introduction to "Chez nous, soyez Reine" began, and I was back in front of the computer. I can never hear "Chez nous" dry-eyed. I'm not French, I don't understand all the words, and I never heard it before I first went on the Pilgrimage of Christendom, but all the same it makes me cry.

Please, bishops, open the churches.

There is a lot of misunderstanding in the United Kingdom about Christianity, in part because the United Kingdom has forgotten much of what it used to know. A quick example is that in 1987, Harry Dodson of the "Victorian Kitchen Garden" could reminisce about a sharp-tongued cook remarking that "there is corn in Egypt" in the expectation that his viewers would know what he (and she) was talking about. (It's a reference to the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis.)

One misunderstanding is that all church activities are the same. For example, if COVID-19 is indeed spread by singing, then it is perfectly possible to have church services without singing. Some communities will feel this more keenly than others, but if the rule in Scotland changes from "Nobody is allowed in churches" to "Nobody is allowed to sing in churches yet because singing spreads COVID-19" then thousands of people--and the 142,500 Catholics I mentioned above are the bulk of church-attending people in Scotland--will be free at least to pray in a church.

Prayer without song may seem rather dry to Scotland's 19,000 Pentecostals, but the 142,500 Catholics who actually darken Scotland's church doors will cope. When I think of the Traditional Latin Mass I attended in person from late September 2008 to March 19, 2020, I cannot think of an ordinary activity, performed in public, LESS likely to get my chaplain sick.

When I think of the church I have attended for 11 years, I can see how easily our normal congregation of 70 - 80 could spread out safely, a metre between households. I know how happily we would consent to remain silent, for we are not strangers to the concept of the Low Mass. During the Low Mass, the server makes the responses on the congregation's behalf and there is no singing. Fine.

When there was no Communion of the Faithful, that last Sunday Mass in March, I heard not a single murmur of complaint. We knew that the Archbishop had said no communion on the tongue, and none of us were going to yell for communion on the hand.

I can't blame the various Anglicans, agnostics and opportunists in government for not understanding, on March 24,  that religious services are not in themselves dangerous, and that every religious denomination goes about celebrating in different ways. However, I do blame them very much for not understand this now. It has been over two months since the churches were locked, and as shops and services open up in England and Scotland, it is now clearly a violation of Christians' religious freedom to forbid us to enter our churches to carry out safe activities there. These safe activities surely include private prayer and watching, in silence and 2m apart, Holy Mass conducted at the altar.

The prohibition of Catholic worship must be particularly painful to the faithful in Scotland, where Catholics were treated as second-class citizens until after 1989. (In 1989 Glasgow Rangers signed Catholic Mo Johnson, and a number of Rangers fans burned their scarves in protest.) That the sectarian violence here never reached Northern Irish proportions is a miracle--and a testimony to the long-suffering of Scottish Catholics. For me the worst of this current business is not that the government wanted to shut church doors--that's an old story--but that the bishops have been so slow to open them. I am willing to concede that they've been as terrified as the rest of us, but it's been two months now. Surely the curve has been flattened?

Here we are, 72 days without episcopal permission for priests to say a public Mass in Scotland--something unprecedented even when saying a public mass could get you hanged, drawn and quartered. ("No, John Ogilvie, you must NOT return to Scotland. You must NOT celebrate Mass.") It's a scandal and it's particularly damaging for people like me, who need Mass not because we're good but because we're bad. Mass is not a fun activity like spinning; it's a very real dose of spiritual Vitamin D. Keep your volatile correspondent away from Mass long enough, and she might start to think there's something to this revenge-of-Gaia stuff.

In household news, we went on a marvellous country walk yesterday that tired us out and made sleeping easy. We ate lunch in a tree, and when I fell out of it I landed on very soft grass and was not at all hurt. We bought local bread and free-range eggs from a shop allowed to re-open as part of "Phase 1" and B.A. enjoyed a "Phase 1" coffee and traybake in its walled garden. At suppertime I picked lettuce leaves and radishes for our salad and put radish greens in the risotto. I was horrified by Royal Horticultural Society advice for lawn-keeping, as it recommended poisoning the moss.

We watched in a spirit of skepticism a documentary decrying animal husbandry as the most damaging thing to the environment ever. I am still of the opinion that ethical carnivores are more helpful than vegans, for we make more sustainable farming methods attractive to farmers. Also, pigs, sheep and cows are a lot more native to Britain than avocados and coconut milk.

Saturday 30 May 2020

The Scottish Summer

Scottish summer often begins in May, goes somewhere else in June, and returns for a few days in July. English theatre critics come to the Edinburgh Festival in August, bringing miserable weather with them, which they then write about as if Edinburgh were always like that. It isn't.

For the past two days, we've enjoyed warm, sunny, almost cloudless weather. On Thursday, we clipped the beech hedges and the rose bushes. I sowed a new drill of lettuce. I spent the entire afternoon in the garden, and when the sun moved to the west, we put out our folding chairs on the two landings of our staircase. At 8 PM the neighbours began to applaud the NHS and from the street behind our gardens, a bagpipe began to play. Bagpipers are a national treasure as it is, and this one was very good. He (or she) played a medley of tunes, and when he (or she) finished the clapping echoed off the walls of the houses.  The applause for the piper was even  heartier than the applause for the NHS.

The gardens of the houses on our street are dotted with inflatable pools, trampolines, tents. In the evenings we smell barbecues and bonfires. On Thursday evening we had a little bonfire ourself, burning sticks of dead applewood in the outside grill. The barbecue came with the house, and we've never used it before. The neighbourhood has been transformed over the past two months into a peopled place. Before it seemed more of a down-at-heels bedroom community from which people escape to central Edinburgh for jobs or recreation. The local cathedral was the shopping mall.

But yesterday morning I felt very depressed by the lack of Catholic friends arounds. We haven't seen Catholic friends in weeks. Most of all, I would like to visit another Scottish-Canadian couple, located near Dundee, but we don't quite have the neck to travel 50 miles by train. We are now permitted by civil authority to visit friends outdoors in groups of numbering no more than six, but only within five miles of our homes.

The cure for depression was not merely to sow more radishes but to go for a long walk in the countryside, and so we did, taking a route I couldn't remember taking before. We followed our usual river path to a village, followed a country road, and found an old railway route which is now a bicycle path. I wore a hat, but Benedict Ambrose elected to get sunburnt.

The afternoon sun was fierce--as it often is here in late May--and I tired out much more quickly than usual. All the same, I enjoyed it all very much and made tentative suggestions for future, even longer ways.  It would be interesting and satisfying to walk along the John Muir Way to Dunbar, for example, or to follow the entire John Muir Way across Scotland. B.A. is unsure he is strong enough yet to do that, but I am sure he could work his way up to that.

It occurred to me that our ancestors would find think walking across Scotland just for the sake of it, not to go to a market or emigrant ship, impractical and even sinful. However, modern British literature, not ending with Tolkien and Lewis, teems with celebrations of the British countryside and the joy of leaving the urban world and its discontents behind on foot.

American ancestress
Biologists make much of the fact that for most of our existence, the human race lived outdoors. On a cellular level, we are all supposed to be outdoors most of the time, and whoever B.A.'s and my earliest ancestors were, their descendants were shaped by northern coasts and countryside. Even my most eastern ancestors (that we know of) lived north of the 52rd parallel; I wonder if the Thirteen Colonies were a shock to the systems of my earliest American ancestors.

Shocker! Just found out from the internet that my Wisconsin-born great-grandfather worked for Allan Pinkerton, the detective. Goodness me. There's something for future biographical sketches.

Update: I meant to write about the most Sustainable BLT ever. This amazing sandwich was created on Thursday afternoon from Scottish organic bread, Scottish free-range bacon, English tomatoes (grown in Kent), and lettuce from our garden. Mine had a homemade aioli dressing made from locally grown garlic, a free range local egg, and olive oil from ---well--"European Union origin." I don't mean this to be virtue-signalling; this is localism-signalling. It was the most delicious BLT ever, too.

Gardening update: Picked the last of the first sowing of radishes and some lettuce. Sowed another row and a half of radishes. "Gin and tonic botanicals" pots not doing at all well in the windowsill.  Watched an interesting "market gardening video" about growing micro greens in a backyard in Kelowna, BC.

Thursday 28 May 2020

An Afternoon Outdoors

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit an extensive walled garden very near our home. As we have passed it many times during the lockdown, I have often longed to go in. We first visited it together eleven years ago, so I feel very nostalgic about it. It's a good place to walk about and remember what I am doing in Scotland and why.

It is usually empty when we visit, and this time was no exception, except for the gardeners.  One suggested I look for the kingfisher down by the pond. I didn't find a kingfisher, but a large white heron rose into the air at my approach and flew from tree to tree in the near distance, shouting "Grak! Grak!" A more tolerant jackdaw stood on the opposite side of the pond, eating tadpoles. 

The greenhouses, full of impatiens, geraniums and pelargoniums, were positively toasty. 

Afterwards we walked to the high street by way of a local park. I have never been in this park before, so I was amazed to see an aviary. I didn't think public collections of birds still existed, but there they were: finches, cockatoos, and other bright creatures. They clung to the wire netting or to perches in their giant boxes. They looked healthy; I don't know about birds to guess if they are happy or not.  They are certainly in no danger of being eaten by birds of prey. 

Our next port of call was our very nearest farm shop, and we had an adventure getting there, as we missed the appropriate now-only-one-an-hour bus. We took another bus and walked through country trails and roads to get to it before it closed. The sun poured down, and the green fields smiled, and we agreed that our county is beautiful, beautiful. 

In the end I broke into a run to get to the farm shop before it closed, which probably would have looked funny had there been anyone but B.A. around to see it. We enriched the local business by £10, and then we sat on a wooden pallet to rest and eat organic chocolate. The farm--really a market garden with some sheep and chickens--was pleasant to look at, and I was delighted to see an "Eglu" in real life, not just online. 

We walked to a stop pertaining to the now-once-an-hour-bus, meandering through the trails on an ancient estate, admiring all the woodland ferns and flowers, and the work horses, riding horses and shaggy ponies in adjoining paddocks. One of the clear advantages to life in east coast Scotland over life in Toronto is that the countryside is so near by the cities. The cities here don't just go on and on and on, covering farmland with concrete, box stores and ticky tacky houses. 

That said, there are some horrid-looking new settlements crouched here and there among the grain and vegetable fields; we do our best to avoid looking at them on our walks. 

It was my monthly professional development day, so I was meant to be thinking, praying or reading about work. Were it not for the lockdown, I would have gone to Mass and then confession and/or spiritual direction, perhaps written to nuns or children about my work, or read something philosophical about work. 

My work has many challenges, which include trying to convince people who don't want their names associated with my organisation to trust me enough to give me statements. It also involves constantly bathing my brain in social, theological or philosophical horrors, presented by other news agencies in attention-gripping ways. It involves sorting out fact from opinion, real injustice from conspiracy theories, and striving to give the people I'm asked to write about a fair hearing. It also involves writing a story broken by another agency on Monday in a fresh, new way for Tuesday, without either committing plagiarism or writing "According to" seven times. 

I was appalled when I  discovered that one of my writing pupils thought that correct newspaper writing involved a flippant, slapdash tone, using short forms when ever possible, substituting "Bro" for "Brother," for example. However, newspapers are no longer a given in family homes, and it is possible he got this impression from novels.  It might be a good idea to buy a number of newspapers and cut out their articles on a given topic, so my pupils can see how each newspaper approaches the story in their own way. This will take some thinking: obviously my students' young minds must not be poisoned by contemplating the irregular love lives of epidemiologists. 

Another difficulty is spiritual. It is harrowing, as a Catholic, to second-guess bishops all the time. I sometimes doubt if certain bishops believe in Catholicism, but I do. One aspect of Catholicism is respect for the office of the bishop and, except in extreme circumstances, respect for the person of the bishop himself. Integralism points out that authority comes from above, and that St. Paul counselled Christians to be obedient to even their pagan masters. ("Obedience" and "pagans" should be in the Index, by the way.) How much harder, then, should we pray before reporting on bishops even as outrageous as the ones I am thinking of at this moment.  

I once knew a very good, very loving priest who used to get a laugh from his adoring congregation by poking fun at his bishop. I knew instinctively he was wrong, but I wasn't sure why until I started taking theology classes. He was wrong because he was the extension of our bishop. The chair he sat in was not his but his bishop's chair. 

Yes, we are in a terrible time, and yes, the mainstream media has woken us up from our long, complicit sleep. But when between them the heritage Catholic press and the alt Catholic press has destroyed Catholics' faith in every bishop, what then? 

And these are the kind of thoughts I had on my professional development day.

Gardening update: I thinned out the radishes a little yesterday evening, and we ate the thinnings at dinner. They were delicious.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

The Two Cities

Good morning. The clouds have dispersed, and the sun is here. An insect has eaten a hole in the largest leaf of the elder of our two courgettes, however, and I am steeling myself to thin out the jolly profusion of radishes in the trug. We will eat radish greens at lunch.

City of God v. City of Man

This morning I made my coffee and sat down with the last chapter of Integralism, "The Two Cities." The Two Cities are, of course, the City of God and the City of Man, as described by St. Augustine. The Church, including Christendom, is the City of God, and the City of Man (or "Babylon") is everything outside it, led by Satan. Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister suggest that the City of Man resembles the City of God only as far as a corpse made to dance on strings by a puppeteer resembles a living person. It is an effectively gruesome image.

Because the City of Man and the City of God are at war with each other, it is necessary for the City of God to protect its citizens, Fimister and Crean argue. Because men are fallen, it is also necessary for the Church to have recourse to temporal means to keep them on the right path. Much of the chapter is devoted to arguing this point.

St. Augustine

The chief witness is St. Augustine. In a letter to a Donatist, St. A revealed that he used not to believe that temporal power should be used to punish heretics but, having seen how fines imposed by temporal authority on the Donatists had turned them into happy Catholics, he now applauded the concept. St. Augustine thinks it is better when men "are led to worship God by teaching" but also thinks it better to bring men to it by threat of punishment than to allow them to go to hell in their own way.  "Let's face it," St. Augustine didn't quite say, "quite a lot of people are both stupid and wicked, and need to be saved from themselves, let alone the devil, and a whopping great fine is the only language they understand."

Children need threat of spanking to survive

I am reminded, by the way, of the capital crimes of my household when I was growing up, whose severity was underscored by the threat of corporal punishment. They almost invariably involved acute danger to life and limb. Playing in the front garden was absolutely forbidden under pain of spanking. This was to prevent us from absentmindedly dashing out in front of cars for balls, cats, etc. That many Scottish legislators hate the family and children can be shown from their support for a ban on spanking. (Actually beating children with a stick has long since been criminalised.)

Thus, Christendom was excellent for directing man and polities to their proper ends, for temporal authority served spiritual authority, and the Pope was well in his rights asking rulers to excuse men from military duties to become monks, etc.

Okay, (pre-)Boomer.

The leading opponent to St. Augustine on this matter is apparently Jacques Maritain. Surveying the wreckage of Christendom, Maritain apparently pronounced it all for the best. With Charles Journet, of whom I have never heard, he proposed a "secular" or "profane" Christendom.

"This they described as a society where the gospel, as taught by the Catholic Church, would in fact the principal source of inspiration for the citizens and the institutions of the society, without the Church herself enjoying by law any privileged place within it. Moreover, they held that such a 'secular Christendom' was not to be regretted as a second best, but would constitute a moral progress."

Crean and Fimister, however, suggest that this shows a lack of love of those who will be lost for all eternity.

"Since the Church is a Mother who wishes to save her children by all lawful means, it is more conformable to the nature of the Church as existing among fallen men, harried by "the rulers of the world of this darkness", to have temporal powers also at her disposal," they write.

Temporal power hopeless without spiritual aid

They also point out that the temporal power can't reach its own end without being united to the spiritual power. I find this convincing. I read an email today from Canada revealing that the elderly in long-term care facilities in both Ontario and Quebec have been living in utter squalor, abandoned by their paid carers. My first thought was that nuns would not behave like that.  I do not doubt that there have been abusive nuns in care facilities, but they have always been, at very least, clean, and they have strong spiritual incentives not to run away from the people they serve.

Crean and Fimister then trot out examples of a good many popes writing polite letters to various Christian rulers to ask that certain spiritual matters be served and hint out the not even Paul VI, who had been very influenced by Maritain (and, I'll add by the way, Simone Weil, shudder, shudder), denied  that "the traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies towards the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

Pius XI said something very prophetic about it in 1925, too, amid the wreckage: "If the rulers of nations which to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ." 

The list of "Theses" at the end of this chapter is short:

1. Two loves form two cities, which have unity from their head and which are necessarily in conflict.
2. Christendom is necessary to protect the Church against the city of the world.

Friendship and revelation

But that's not all, for Fimister and Crean include a four page postscript explaining how rationalism is irrational. It has something to do with friendship, and I found it confusing.

I think the authors are arguing that when we look to God for our transcendence, we don't have to seek transcendence through friendship. Seeking transcendence through friendship is the wrongful use of friendship, which should be sought for its own sake. A higher form of friendship (going beyond family and chums) is society... and at that point I'm a bit lost.

At any rate, we know from reason and Aristotle that we should love our neighbour as ourself BUT, Fimister and Crean point out, without divine revelation we don't know who our neighbour is. If not for Christ, we would love only spouse, family, pals, and fellow citizens. Because of Christ, we know we must love our enemies, be kind to those in servitude to us, and not be indifferent to foreigners.

A last question for F&C

Not to be a jerk, but I am a bit concerned about the modern tendency of loving foreigners more than our fellow citizens. This is a question that has concerned me since I was mocked in the playground for not belonging to a nation 7,000 kilometres away by children born no more than 20 km from me.

I agree that indifference to foreigners is not ideal. However, what would a proportionate love of foreigners look like?

Perhaps the indifference Crean and Fimister are decrying is indifference to their ultimate fate. Earlier in their book they mention a papal defence of the native peoples of the New World in which the good pope denies that they should be treated like beasts and affirms that they have souls  (I can't find the page through the Index). Until recently Catholic missionaries have left those they loved to save the souls of foreigners. (Now it appears that they have other priorities, thus losing many souls to heretical American sects.)

But plastic

My last thought, though, is that another love of foreigners involves knowledge of how our activities affect them adversely. This is where Fr. Lonergan comes riding in on a horse called Cosmopolis. (And what an image that is!) Lonergan was very strict about people paying attention to realities, no matter how unpleasant they may be to the attention-payers. The reality that has long haunted me, and I really don't understand why we didn't think of this when Bakelite was invented in 1907, is that plastic outlives its use by at least 450 years. We throw away an awful lot of plastic. Where does it go?

On the one hand, we can say that our end is worship of God and there will be a new heaven and a new earth at the end of time anyway. But on the other, I cannot see how being knee-deep in plastic milk bottles will advance the worship of God among our descendants.

There is also the issue of the global supply chain. I also cannot see how keeping a number of peoples in miserable and disease-rife servitude as they grow our avocados, etc., advances the worship of God.  I really love avocados, but as a Christian I understand that I should love the good of Chileans more than avocado toast. This is one more reason why we should go local farm shops and do our best to grow our own food.

And on that note, we say good-bye to Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister and look forward to reading another book by Wendell Berry.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Mostly Unsurprising 1990s Soundtrack

Iris - Goo Goo Dolls

Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve

Wonderwall  - Oasis

Back in my Life - Alice DJ

Like a Prayer  -  Bigod20

Du Hast - Rammstein

Kreuzberg  - Bloc Party (2009, though)

Nautical Disaster - The Tragically Hip

Chłopcy - Myslovitz

The Two Swords

See Integralism Update below.

Good morning from our wee bit hill and glen house and garden. Today is a day of note for this morning I will plant the second courgette in the herb barrel, endangering the good of the thyme for the flourishing of the fiori di zucca. Yesterday was also a day of note, for I ate the first radish. It was very small but also very tasty.

Both days I made coffee and read Chapter 11 of Integralism, "The Two Swords." This is probably the most controversial chapter, for it argues that the Church has temporal as well as spiritual authority--although it observes that this temporal is most effective within Christendom.

There are a lot of distinctions in this chapter, and given the resistance of even some Catholic authors to claims of the Church's temporal authority, I was edified to see that "Objections from Non-Catholics" (which means Hobbes, Locke, Benito Mussolini and, er, Henri de Lubac [?]) were followed by "Objections from Catholics."

Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister believe that Catholics object to the doctrine of "the power of the pope over temporal things" because either they fail "to realise that by the nature of things it exists only within Christendom" or they fail "to grasp the nature of Christendom, which is not simply a collection of states, each of which acknowledges the true faith, but a single commonwealth." Each Catholic ruler is "obliged to prefer the good of the Church to that of their own province" because "the part must prefer the good of the whole to its own good."

They did not address, however, the criticism of Catholics who say that Christendom effectively died in the slaughter of the First World War, that it would be impossible to reestablish without extraordinary and almost unprecedented divine aid, and thus Integralism is a fantasy of barking mad traditionalists who shout "Don John of Austria is going to the war" out their windows when drunk.

Crean and Fimister also did not address in this chapter the intolerable corruption of certain Catholic bishops and the acute sufferings of Catholics distraught and humiliated by their abuse of the spiritual power they already have. Given the abuse of good priests by bad bishops, we can certainly imagine a bad pope removing a good Catholic emperor on some pretext so as to enthrone some appalling flatterer who will keep him in ermine, or larks' tongues, or dancing boys.

While I'm on the subject, certain bishops have been incredibly remiss in using even their spiritual power over Catholic leaders post-Christendom.

"A bishop, for example, should remind a baptised legislator of his duty not to vote in favour of a right to kill unborn children, and to punish a judge or a legislator with a proportionate punishment, such as excommunication, if he disobeys the commandments of God which the Church declares," write Crean and Fimister.

In Canada, this almost never happens--at least not publicly. If Catholic politicians are warned privately, it doesn't do much good. In fact, speaking as a Canadian Catholic, I am strongly tempted ever to vote again for a Canadian Catholic as successful Canadian Catholic politicians, no matter how promising, eventually bring scandal. There are innumerable depressing examples, but the most obvious is the late Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau, who decriminalised two crimes that lead instantly to the death of the soul, and yet had a massive state funeral in Notre-Dame Basilica.

I am willing to bet next week's meat budget that the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster hasn't even as much as alluded to the fact that another Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was baptised in the Catholic Church to that Prime Minister, let alone called him back from his current state of schism.

The authors of Integralism could justly point out that none of this is their fault and that it in no way nullifies their arguments. I would agree but then ask why we should study Integralism at all. Is this merely an intellectual exercise or thought experiment? Is it a way to better understand history, or is this something we should be working towards?

Again, the idea of bad bishops having temporal power over Catholics sends shivers down my Catholic spine. "Coercion of the baptised" (pages 232-235) sounds very solemn and defensible when linked to the Council of Trent, but not so much when linked to Uncle Ted McCarrick.

The entertainments of the chapter include a reference to Elizabeth I of England as "Elizabeth Boleyn" (page 239) and her excommunication and deposition (i.e. removal of the right to rule) by Pius V. But this is also, I think, an example of why (even within Christendom) the temporal authority of the pope over rulers should be used but rarely. Instead of Elizabeth Boleyn being removed as monarch, dozens of Catholics died horrible deaths. Yes, we honour the English Martyrs, but let's not pretend that it was not objectively horrible for a pregnant mother of four to be crushed under a door covered in stones.

I hope Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister are not wounded by these thoughts. Considered apart from the times in which we live, their arguments for the temporal authority of the pope over the rulers of Christendom and of bishops over the subjects of Christendom (and even of temporal punishments for Catholics in general) sound very convincing.  However, they are difficult to read given the abuse and neglect that can be laid at the door of many bishops of recent memory.

And now to plant my courgette.

Integralism Update: Oh, the excitement. Dr. Fimister has responded. He makes two points about the above.

1. "You miss the point on Chapter 11. It is because Catholics have despaired of Christendom that they think the clergy are the Church. The clergy are not less powerful in the Church since the fall of Christendom, they are unimaginably more powerful because they are no long scared of the laity. In the twentieth century the laity were afraid to expose the crimes of the clergy for fear of ruining the reputation of 'the Church'.  Under Christendom ... bishops were elected by the people. Morally corrupt popes were forced to abdicate by the Emperor."

2. "We lost England not because Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I but because his predecessors didn't (for worldly reasons) and the English Catholics didn't know what to do and compromised their faith. Eleven years of hesitation and the English speaking world was lost."

Gardening Update: The newly planted courgette is looking cheerful in contrast to its older brother, who seems unhappy in his pot. After 7 PM I built a wigwam and planted four Scarlet Emperor runner beans right in the Veg Trug. I live in hope.

Monday 25 May 2020

Yellow Poppies

This morning I sat down with my coffee and began Chapter 11 of Integralism, "The Two Swords". It is a long chapter, however, so I will not finish until tomorrow. Free time is as sweet and precious as it is rare to those in servitude.

I am still trying to download photos to my disdainful computer. It will be a pity if you can never see them because yesterday we came across a hedge with wonderful topiary cut into it: piglets, an enormous teddy bear or cuddly monkey, a locomotive, an elephant. We also saw yellow poppies flourishing wild and in gardens. In one garden a raised bed is home only to runner beans, and the cane frame for them is so elegant, it looks like a nave.

This morning I came across a Toronto Sun column about an Italian baker in Toronto who died just recently. The article is a wonderful tribute to a good man, and also an advertisement for localism. Here we have a craftsman, a tradesman, who owned and governed his own shop, had three children and a loving wife, was loved by his employees and customers, was known and respected by his neighbours. He also made excellent zeppole, which I know is a pleasure and an honour in itself.

As a teenager, I would have felt it beneath me to marry a baker, let alone become one, which just showed how very little I understood about anything. It's a pity that, choosing instead to harp on the ethnic groups we belonged to, my teachers never encouraged us to talk about our parents' trades and professions and learn to respect them all. "Smart" kids were funnelled into universities as if merely going to one was our golden ticket to prosperity. However, there is no point crying over the past or being overly romantic about the baking trade.

That said, I think it should be well rubbed into children from a young age that there is nothing shameful or low-class about learning a classic trade and, one day, beginning one's own business. I realise now that many tradeswomen--beauticians and hairdressers--are in serious trouble, thanks to the Vile Germ. However, under ordinary circumstances (and despite these ones), many of the trades thrive and thrive.

Sunday 24 May 2020

The Margarine of Unreality

Happy Sunday after Ascension Day! I have had a busy day. First I read and marked up student stories. Then I taught the students over Skype. (Subjects: theme, tone and mood.) Next I put my computer on the prepared sofa table, plunked a mantilla on my head and watched Sunday Mass in Warrington.

Once again we had a splendid homily, and when freedom of worship is restored to British Christians, I hope the Warrington FSSP continues to record their liturgies so that we can continue to enjoy their sermons. Today the honours fell to Fr. Henry Whisenant, who revealed that he had been teased about the "cucumbers of servitude" but was nevertheless going to talk about another food item: margarine.

Fr. Whisenant does not like margarine, but he was more interested in what the late, great Fr. Vincent McNabb, OP had to say about the stuff, which was that it was a very poor substitute for butter. Fr McNabb could not understand why something as simple, ordinary and wholesome as butter was being put aside in favour of congealed vegetable oil. Fr. McNabb also had a lot of trenchant things to say about then-modern life in London, and I suspect he would have approved of Fr Crean's and Dr. Fimister's Integralism. 

Fr. Whisenant somehow managed to move smoothly from the consideration of the unreality of margarine to the unreality of COVID-19 news, and I really sat up then.

One of the worst parts of my job is trying to makes sense of COVID-19 news because it is, just as Fr. Whisenant indicated, difficult to grasp. I'm hit with torrents of verbiage which blinds me as I grope around for some solid facts to report on. Today, for example, a researcher is worried that he won't be able to test the vaccine for COVID-19 on Britons because the number of people with COVID-19 is dropping rapidly. What? Shouldn't that story be "COVID-19 dropping so rapidly, vaccine not needed"?

Opinion, opinions, opinions, but not a lot of facts for your poor scribe. My own opinion (and hope) is that COVID-19 will disappear to wherever SARS went by September at the latest. A nice heatwave or two in July might do the trick. But do not report this as news because I really have no idea. I certainly don't want my own parents out gallivanting yet.

One piece of news (or "news") that interests me very much right now is an allegation that the British government would be quite happy to open the churches to private prayer, and it is the CBCEW that is lobbying like mad to keep them locked. England must be a much more pious place than Scotland, for the last day B.A. and I found a church door open, we were the only laypeople within shouting distance; no dangerous, infectious hordes.  But please don't report the CBCEW lobbying as news either, for I haven't verified it yet.

After Mass I watered my plants, and then B.A. and I went for a walk in our nearest countryside. It was very beautiful, and localism must really be getting to me for after pondering that our neighbourhood is certainly much more beautiful than the fields and villages of southwestern Poland in early March, I declared that it is even more beautiful than Italy.

I then remembered that I have an Italian lesson today--but that's not the point. The point is that after two months of lockdown I'm turning into the sort of British person who moans about "the horror of abroad" and says "East, west, hame's best"---and I'm not even British. (A somewhat related point: I discovered today that poor Elodie Belloc, born in Napa, California, affected an English accent after marrying Hilaire. How sad.)

After this walk I sat down with Integralism, Chapter 10. It is only 14 pages long and deals with "International Relations." It declares the unity of humanity but opposes the creation of One World Government, as you can imagine. It's not gung-ho about nationalism, either, in that it states that to attain his natural end, man needs only his family, his friends, and his city.

Presumably by "city" Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister include the countryside around the built-up community. And, indeed, when I think of our own wee bit hill and glen, I consider that--with a few adjustments--it would be possible to keep our neighbourhood fed, housed, clothed and shod just with whatever we could produce ourselves within 15 miles. The adjustments would  involve a return to coal as our principal fuel, mind you, and we'd still need to import citrus fruit. However, our neighbourhood existed 1,960 years before artificial refrigeration, so my guess is that we'd cope even without limes for our gin and tonic.

Crean and Fimister blow subtle spitballs at the EU, and as the EU was conceived by such Christian Democrats (and Catholics) like Robert Schuman, about whom the latter wrote his first book, it must be a great disappointment to him.  In comparing the Holy Roman Empire to the Unholy European Union, F&C write:

"At the difficulty with such institutions lies in their tendency either to seek to repress the proper autonomy of the temporal commonwealths, violating the principle of subsidiarity, or to usurp the spiritual functions of the ecclesiastical hierarchy or both. [...]  It is hundred times more manifest in the behaviour of the secular supranational entities of modern times who, refusing to acknowledge that supernatural basis for human fraternity, tend, because there is no separate and autonomous temporal common good of the whole human race, to suppress and absorb the naturally occurring particular commonwealths of which they are composed, in order to take the latter's natural bias for themselves."

This sentiment ends in a reference to Footnote 71, which contains a very long suggestion by Pius XI about what a "genuine 'League of Nations'" could look like.

There is also in this chapter a lovely passage by St. Augustine. In it he points out that the very rich man who enjoys waging war is nowhere near as happy as the man of "moderate wealth" who "is contented with a small and compact estate, most dear to his own family, enjoying the sweetest peace with his kindred neighbours and friends, in piety religious, benignant in mind, healthy in body, in life frugal, in manners chaste, in conscience secure."

Sadly, B.A. and I did not win last night's lottery, so no small and compact estate for us yet, unless you count our 700 square feet of flat and approximately 500 square feet of garden.

The chapter eventually goes to Warfare, and thus we have the four conditions of a Just War laid out: right intention, legitimate authority, just cause and suitable conduct in battle. There are two kinds of just wars--defensive and offensive. Violence is supposed to be restricted in intention to combatants, and "some harm to non-combatants, proportionate to the good to be achieved, may be foreseen but not intended."

Missing here is an absolute prohibition on sexual assault and rape of women, children and POWs, which Fimister and Crean may think is out of the scope of this admittedly short chapter. However, rape in warfare is so prevalent and universal (at least where women are the victims) that I think its prohibition should always, always be stressed.

I was surprised to discover in this chapter that Fimister and Crean believe being willing to fight "even against overwhelming odds" is within the definition of a Just War. This seems to pertain only to a defensive war, however. The authors conclude this section with Pope John XXIII's opinion that, thanks to the atomic bomb, war is no longer "a suitable way of restoring violated rights."

The chapter itself ends with a return to the argument that it is always wrong to convert people by the sword and adds that the unbaptised state of a nation is not sufficient excuse to invade it.

To return to yesterday's discussion, I received an email from an American deeply upset that Fimister and Crean do not seem to support the existence of serfdom. On one hand, this American reader may be trolling me. On the other, he may like to know that Fimister and Crean do support the hiring of servants to work the land "paying them in exchange for their labour a proportion of the fruits of that labour." There is, however, no suggestion that the servants can be forced to continue working for that employer.

And now I must call my Italian tutor.

Update: I had a most amusing conversation with my Italian tutor, to whom I tell everything. Some people tell their priest everything. Some tell their hairdresser everything. But I tell my Italian tutor everything--albeit with seriously messed up grammar and most definitely the worst accent to emerge from Signora Angelini's Italian Ontario Academic Credit (OAC) class trenti anni fa.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Never Touch Another Man's Tools

Good morning from Scotland. It's not a particularly good morning in our bit of it, though, as the sky is cloudy, the wind is blowing furiously from the west, and there is a sprinkle of rain. The rain is good for the vegetables, but I fear the wind is not. Fortunately, the apple tree will protect the trug.

Today I applied myself to Chapter 9 of Integralism, "Political Economy." It is very interesting because it talks about property, work, what money is for and usury. It frowns upon rapacious capitalism and socialism alike and finds something debased in trade. 

"Trade may be an honourable activity but is far more open to corruption than the direct sale of intrinsically useful goods by the producer, because skill in facilitating exchange may yield riches independently of the real value of the things exchanged and the desire for money has no natural satiation," say Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister. 

That reminds me of an article I read today about the massive sums spent by very rich men in the company of very thin and pretty women in very expensive nightclubs. The complaint of the woman who participated in this social scene was not that the thousands of dollars spent and collected should have been spent on the poor rather than on Cristal champagne, but that the pretty women did not themselves make any money. The pretty women were merely the "fuel" that led to the enrichment of the club owners and the entertainment of the other very rich men. They didn't even get to  profit by marrying the men. However, the author admits that she found being part of all this quite fun. 

When I was a teenager I worked for a new coffee franchisee, and I know perfectly well that he built his business by hiring bubbly teenage girls and sending us out to flirt with construction workers. According to my grandmother, I was not pretty but I was striking; I was certainly successful at catching and sustaining the loyalty of construction workers et alia to our coffee shop. I very much enjoyed that job, and cheering up caffeine-addicted blue-collars and librarians with my smiles strikes me as a much better use of my youthful charms than being groped by stockbrokers in a club. Ick.  

But now that I have horrified you all by contemplating my youth and beauty as intrinsically useful goods, I will contemplate a theme of Integralism that reoccurs in this chapter, and it is that every employee should want to work for himself and should be paid enough so that he can.

"The desire of each labourer should always be to obtain the ownership of his own means of production, as self-movement is always more consonant with the dignity of man's nature, for 'God made man from the beginning and let him in the hand of his own counsel' (Ecclesiasticus 15:14)," say  Fimister and Crean. 

Having read Wendell Berry on sustainability and localism, of course I like this idea. It makes sense to me that anyone who is an employee should eventually become his own boss. For example, a man who loves carpentry but works in Starbucks would strive to save enough to set up his own little carpentry business. (I was going to write "who works in a factory" but there's not much manufacturing going on around my readers because almost everything is made in Asia now.) Men in domestic service used to dream of saving up enough to buy their own pub. Hacks dream of writing best-selling books, or of setting up our own magazines. 

Sometimes there are helpful windfalls, too. The wonderful Harry Dodson of Victorian Kitchen Garden worked as a gardener for the ruling class most of his life, and then his final employer--who could no longer afford the upkeep--signed over the garden to him, at which point Harry worked for himself. 

It makes sense too that a young person would be an employee, learning skills on the job, of the emancipated ex-employees until he too could afford his own tools and shop. However, this system leaves out an enormous number of people, including Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister, as Fr. Crean is part of the Dominican Order and Dr. Fimister is employed by a seminary. Fr. Crean is not an employee, per se, but Dr. Fimister certainly is. That said, if we all buy their book directly from a bookshop (and not Amazon), there is a chance that Dr. Fimister may himself be emancipated. Oh, I do think that worth the price of the paperback, at very least. (Many may find the cost of the hardback a tad stiff.) 

Another way we may help emancipate Dr. Fimister is to encourage him to debate John Zmirak of The Stream online and sell tickets to the event.  Yesterday to my great surprise, I discovered that Mr. Zmirak is a bitter opponent to Integralism and says very rude things about it in his inimitable way. In fact, he calls it "Catholic Sharia" and much prefers the way the United States of America was set up. 

As a matter of fact, I am acquainted with Fr. Crean, Dr. Fimister and Mr. Zmirak, so when I say I would look forward to a debate among them all, it is with their best interests at heart. 

The title of this blogpost is taken not only from sentiments expressed in "The Victorian Kitchen Garden" but from another English show called "The Detectorists". It occurred to me that it is an expression of the great desire that Fimister and Crean underscore as pertaining to the dignity of man. In order to work for himself, a man certainly need his own tools, and if another man takes away his tools, he'll be forced back, or deeper, into servitude.   

I'm saying "he" and "man" a lot because I assume in the Integralist system women's labour is ideally employed in the house, garden and workshop, and she ideally never has to work for anyone outside her family. The reluctance of families to allow their daughters to work for other people, or at least any  people, can be understood when we contemplate your humble correspondent, age 17, being sent out with coupons to entice construction workers.

That said, most women in my family within living memory all worked outside the home until we married, and usually afterwards, too. Apparently one of my ancestresses operated a ferry during the U.S. Civil War, but I have a vague recollection that she was either a widow or her husband was away on the battlefield.

Friday 22 May 2020


From an email from a reader with a Canadian great-grandmother:

"You might tell your readers that the first American to respond to your reminiscences did so by saying that Canada ought not to exist, and if he had ever been president it would have been invaded and subdued in the blink of an eye."  

From the point of view of a free and sovereign people, this was an extraordinary thing to say, so I indicated that my country would not, in fact, have been subdued in the blink of an eye but would have put up a protracted defence, one in which women and children took an active part. 

The answer to this was, "Just freeing you from your unwanted British overlords, Ma'am."

Extraordinary. However, it is not unprecedented for I was once told by a fellow student in Boston that the USA allowed my country to retain her independence "on sufferance." 

I wonder if anyone ever says this to Mexicans? At any rate, I highly recommend no-one ever say this to a Pole, for he would be duty-bound to punch you in the snoot. 

I found the concept of "theatrocracy" in Chapter 8 of Integralism, "Forms of Polity." Chapter 8 impresses upon the reader that this really is not a beach book. It is, rather, a text book, and if you are a student of either Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister, the way forward is to write down all the theses on cue cards and memorise them for exams. However, the book is also a good training for minds gone soft and squidgy from the internet. 

The entertainments of this Chapter are few, unless you find the appalling strangeness of Thomas Hobbes entertaining. I should not have invited him to dinner parties myself. There is much discussion of monarchy, aristocracy, democracy and mixtures of all three. "Theatrocracy" turns up right at the end, and it is great fun for reflection. 

"Finally, Plato coined the term 'theatrocracy' to describe a city where poets had corrupted the judgements of the citizens by vicious music. We may borrow that word and use it more generally to describe a state of affairs where men are ruled by those who possess the means of mass communication, and who by dint of frequent repetition cause them to believe whatever these rulers desire, even the most absurd or shameful things," write the authors. 

This is quite obviously our current state of affairs, and I remember my dear mother lambasting me for the amount of time I spent seeking manufactured entertainment. Entertainment is addictive, and indeed a useful carrot for tempting the undisciplined through dull but worthy or necessary work. However, entertainment also lulls the mind into a state of receptivity. This was not terrible when the primary form of entertainment was Sunday sermons (and in Edinburgh of the 1960s, both Catholics and Protestants went to more than one church service on Sundays, for there was as yet nothing else to do). However,  the primary form of entertainment is now "vicious music," if not internet p/r/on or spectacles published on Youtube or Netflix.

Meanwhile, I believe America's about-face on homosexuality was caused by the television show "Will and Grace" and by the film Philadelphia. Tim Curry in Rocky Horror was nothing on Tom Hanks in Philadelphia when it came to winning hearts and minds. Ru Paul's Drag Race is currently teaching children to throw off the shackles of gender conformity, modesty and taste. 

But I would be remiss if I did not talk about The News, especially as I work in The News. I read The News every day, so that I can pass along the most pertinent information to pro-life, pro-family readers, and I find sorting out truth from falsehood a difficult and dispiriting task lately. Whenever I read the MSM coronavirus "news," it tempts me to the heretical despair of believing that the truth cannot be known, for it is drowned in a torrent of supposition, rumour, error, and calculated self-interest. 

For the record, I do not believe either B.A. or I will either die or become very ill of coronavirus, and while obeying the temporal authority, I refuse to live in fear anymore. I still believe that the elderly, the asthmatic, and those who work in hospitals and care homes should be particularly cautious, however. I don't envy those who live in either London or New York.   

Another interesting word that leapt out at me was "Suffrage", for I was longing to know if I would still have the vote in the Integralist state. The answer is no, for I have a husband. In short, the idea is that, the building block of society being the family, heads of families represent themselves, their wives and/or their minor children. (Widows can be heads of families and, so, I imagine, could the adult orphaned sibling left in charge of his or her minor siblings.) Unmarried adult children do have the vote, which means that, in one sense, women lose the vote when they marry, but in another means that their vote is joined to their husbands', and the husband votes on both his and her behalf. 

I am sure this is all very galling if you hate your husband. However, life itself is a burden when you hate your husband, and the franchise isn't much of a comfort. 

But it is 10 AM, so I must say good-bye to Integralism and go back to The News. 

Thursday 21 May 2020

Dawn in Indiana

Alas, our discussion of Integralism, Chapter 8, "Forms of Polity" will have to be deferred until tomorrow because I have been sitting with the book since 8 AM and am only on page 150. It's not the book: it's me. My mind is distracted by many thoughts, overwhelmingly about the young Welsh farming family forced to sell their prize-winning herd of cattle to settle their late father's ex-wife's claims to his estate.

Wendell Berry's On Farming and Food arrived this week, so I am thinking about farming again. The Prince of Wales has also appealed to the country to take up work as farmhands to bring in the crops.  I love the idea of city folk sailing out to the countryside to rescue the harvest like the "little ships" to Dunkirk to rescue the British Army. I even had a look at the relevant webpage to volunteer to work weekends, but that doesn't appear to be an option.

I have also been thinking about the concept of understanding the United States of America, the subject having been raised in the combox.

Paradoxically, I first visited the United States before I was old enough to understand anything except hunger, satiety, discomfort and amusement. At the time, I had rather more family there than I have now. I am not sure which state that was, but it was probably Indiana or Illinois. I have stayed in Indiana and Illinois more often than in any other American state, if we don't include my two years in Massachusetts. Usually I travelled in the back of a car through New York or Michigan to get the midwest, so it is just possible I have been more often in upstate New York than in Indiana.

Driving through Detroit in the late 1970s and early 1980s was rather thrilling. ("Kids, lock your doors!")

Multiculturalism was strongly enforced in my elementary school, but oddly American ancestry, like Newfoundland or other Maritime province ancestry didn't "count." A difficulty is that Canada tends to define itself as "Not American" and has never forgotten the Fenian raids of the 1860s, let alone the War of 1812. Canada also felt rather uncomfortable sitting between the Soviet Union and the USA during the Cold War, and watching American invasions of other neighbours was a mixed blessing for the adults. I noticed that in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century cartoons Canada no longer existed, and we learned about Manifest Destiny at school.

Most Canadians are not fans of the Manifest Destiny concept.

My family watched American news over both Canadian and American TV channels and read it in American magazines, like Time. We also took Scientific American and National Geographic. We read Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden. We watched "Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights, "The Flintstones" if we came home from school for lunch, at "Batman" at friends' houses, as we weren't allowed to watch it at home. We studied American History in Grade 8 before an exciting trip south along the eastern seaboard to Washington DC, and I studied American History once again in Grade 12.

The availability of American periodicals, music, films, television, food and all kinds of other things originating in the USA in Canada may be why newcomers have difficulty discerning the differences between the two countries at first. A newcomer would have to be told that 35% of all music played on the radio has to be Canadian and to see the big banners in Indigo to identify our authors. We don't provide guides to constitutional monarchy in the airports, and our various unsuccessful rebellions weren't as bloody or exciting as either the American Revolutionary or Civil wars.

However, I am running out of free time so I will trot out my most recent memory of Indiana.

In short, I was travelling from Buffalo to Minneapolis-St. Paul by train and, joy of joys, had a berth in a sleeper car. But it was summer, and at some time rather early in the morning I woke up. I looked out the window, and I thought I must be imagining things because the city we were passing through looked very familiar. I may have actually pinched myself. I looked and wondered, recognised and doubted, and then the name of the city appeared on a sign.

It was my grandmother's city.

How's that for a coincidence? I hadn't been there in 15 years.

At any rate, I don't know if I understand the United States as well as a non-American who, like the British Tim Stanley, has made a special study of it. But my relations fought in the War of Independence, the Civil War and the War in the Pacific all the same, and because of this I retain a fondness for the place. As a reaction to a crisis in my then-young life, I fled to Chicago, and whenever I now go to USA on business, I tell B.A. not to bother having me shipped east or north if I should perish but to put me with my people in the friendly earth of Illinois.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Do We Take Our Passports?

Good morning! It is a beautiful day, promising to remain fair and to become warm. There are no snails menacing my lettuce and radishes, and my repotted courgette has survived the night. So far so good.

This morning I applied myself to Chapter 7 of Fr. Crean's and Dr. Fimister's Integralism. It is entitled "Law," and although some of is great fun, some of it is heavy going. Here is the sentence upon which I almost foundered:

"Government being natural rather than conventional, the temporal polity is a juridical person in natural law with same sort of obligations towards God and towards His revealed will as the individual man" (page 140).

I think perhaps a definite article has been left out and perhaps a preposition, too. Meanwhile, I think this juridical person must be a king or queen, but I am not entirely sure. What I am sure about is that this sentence is in a paragraph about the Common Law and that the authors like Common Law better than Civilian Law. More on that anon.

Natural Law

The entertainments of this chapter include definitions of natural law, divine positive law and human positive law. Divine law and natural law take precedence over human positive law, and so pharmacists must not sell pessaries and registrars must not record same-sex so-called marriages. The entertainments also include Fimister & Crean siding firmly with Feser & Bessette on the death penalty, whose book they endorse in the footnotes. Provocatively, they quote CCC 2267 (1997) in the footnotes  without including the recent Argentine embroidery.


Another interesting argument is that even if you disobey a law that is unjust, you should still accept the punishment. This point is made on page 132, and footnote 40 leads one to St. Thomas apparently agreeing with it. The possible illustration that came to mind was that a young American man in 1968 who objected to the law compelling him to be drafted to fight an unjust war against the North Vietnamese should have gone to prison rather than chosen to flee to Canada. I may be wrong about that, though. A more personal example is that a pro-lifer who refuses to budge from in front of an abortion business when told to disperse by police should, if charged and found guilty of an offence, accept the punishment without a murmur instead of running away. Again, I may be wrong. As you can see, I am rather dubious about unjust laws having any rights over innocent people.

(I will add, however, that being jailed for pro-life witness is considered an honour amongst pro-life witnesses, whereas running away is not. A segment of a video of a pro-life demonstration in which two of our comrades can be seen sedately walking away while police dragged others along the pavement never failed to rouse mirth amongst the Metropolitan Toronto Students for Life who watched it.)


There is a section on custom, for which I wish there were more examples than that of how the understanding of a British Prime Minister came about. I was alarmed to see that custom, including a majority of people simply disobeying a law which is not enforced, has the force of law. The Code of Canon Law says that "legitimately observed customs obtain the force of law after thirty continuous years." This seem to means that we are stuck with altar girls, communion-in-the-hand, and the various novelties that crop up in the celebration of the Novus Ordo of the Latin Catholic Mass.

Change to the Law

Here the authors seem to agree with the dictum of Hilary White that "Change is Bad."


Equity is when you may set aside temporarily positive human law for something all sensible people will see is a greater good. The authors' example is breaking traffic regulations to take a dying man to hospital. The  Canadian pro-lifer example is often entering, uninvited, your neighbour's property to rescue a drowning child from his swimming pool. (That this is the Canadian pro-lifer example underscores to me the Canadian and American horror of trespassing, one not shared by the Scots. Scots seem to trespass in every conceivable outside space, often using their incontinent dogs as an excuse. I am surprised more of them are not shot when they travel to the USA on holiday.* "Get off my land" is engraved upon my own heart and doubtlessly on any number of American gravestones.)

Common Law versus Civilian Code

This section is hard to understand, but it gets darkest before dawn, for at the bottom of the tricky page 140, the authors feign sorrow for the existence of the Civilian Legal System, while clearly loving it, for it affords them the opportunity to point out the superiority of Anglo-Saxons to the French.

In short, Common Law recognises God as the author of law, and Civilian Law thinks that the state is God.  "The subject of the Common Law has liberties empowering him to do everything that has not been positively forbidden by reason or statute. The temporal power constituted by natural law is limited by natural or divine law," say Fimister & Crean.

In contrast, "the subject of the Civilian Code...has 'rights': a list of things he is allowed to do by the 'State'. For everything else he must ask permission," Crean & Fimister observe.

The example the authors use brought great joy to my heart because it explains why, when we holiday in Italy, our Italian hotel or landlord has to register us with the police, and where it is we have to take along photo ID on a walk. In short, the police countries governed by the Civilian Code get to know all about the people in them, whereas in countries governed by Common Law, the police have to have a very good excuse even to ask you your name.

So to answer the title of this post, we don't have to take passports when we walk about the United Kingdom, but we DO when we walk around Poland, Italy, and France. Drivers' licences probably work those who have them, but we don't. Take it away, Vera!

*Update: That was tongue-in-cheek but, unfortunately, this does happen.

Monday 18 May 2020

The Christian Prince

Happy Victoria Day! In Canada this weekend is sometimes called the "May Two-Four Weekend" both because Victoria Day falls near May 24, the late, great Queen Victoria's actual birthday, and because it is traditional to travel one's holiday cottage (if one is lucky enough to have one) with a "two-four" of beer.

In celebration of Victoria Day, I have the day off from work and an excuse to eat delicious croissants from our nearest independent bakery. Lo, I was up early this morning to take my exercise there, and I was first in the queue outside the bakery door.

Also in celebration of Victoria Day, I will mention The Elements of Organic Gardening at Highgrove, Clarence House & Birkhall by her direct descendent, HRH The Prince of Wales (with Stephanie Donaldson). The Prince of Wales has had a deep and abiding concern for Creation for 30 years now, and it is very interesting to see how one can run three royal estates on organic lines.

I try not to factor in how much all this must cost HRH, a multimillionaire in his own right, and whether or not the gardens pay for themselves. I think he has some very good ideas. I would not go so far as to refer to Nature as "She" or "Her," however, as he does in this book. But I think he and Pope Francis could have some good conversations about the stewardship of the earth, if HRH's Spanish is up to the task.

Does Britain have a Christian Prince?

Whether HRH is himself a Christian prince in name only is beyond the purview of this blogpost. Certainly HM the Queen is a Christian queen albeit one who has sworn an oath to uphold the Protestant religion:

[Anglican] Archbishop of Canterbury [in 1953]: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

Queen: All this I promise to do. 

Thus, HM the Queen is not the sort of Christian ruler envisioned by Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister.

HM the Queen very properly visited Pontiffs until the Revolution of Tenderness wearing a black mantilla, for the privilege wearing of  white to visit the Pontiff belongs solely to Catholic queens. The hue and cry when former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's very unpopular wife Cherie wore white to visit Benedict XVI went up from the UK Catholics like a flock of startled birds. Cherie, to the disgust of the orthodox, wrote that her youngest child was conceived because she was too embarrassed to bring her birth control method on an overnight trip to Windsor Castle, lest the servants unpack it again.

Why bring up poor Cherie and her contraceptive device ? Well, I have read Chapter 6 of Integralism, which is entitled "Temporal Authority (II): Its Scope," and it occurs to me that in the Catholic realm the authors envision, Cherie's device would be illegal and her husband would have had to become a Catholic before becoming PM, not after he had safely retired.

Incidentally, the snarls over Cherie's regal white turned into groans when Tony converted to Catholicism. Both events happened before I got here, so I was startled by the deep antipathy of my new British Catholic chums for the former PM and his wife. Interestingly, the dislike pertains to their traditional spheres of influence. Cherie is disliked for her birth control advocacy, and Tony is disliked for getting 185 people killed in that dodgy campaign in Iraq.

But now I really must get down to Integralism's Chapter 6, which is surprisingly short, given the list of 20 theses at the end. And it is really a lovely chapter, for after it instructs godless authorities in their responsibility to direct their subjects to God, it describes the duties of the Catholic ruler or (as I prefer to think of him/her) the Christian Prince.

But first here is Integralism's warning about what is going to happen to us if we carry on in our Broken Britain way:

Comprehensively secular societies are ... inevitably of short duration, and prepare the way for their own replacement by new cultural and social forms imbued with a greater vigour and religiosity (whether of an authentic or a distorted character).

My own pet fear is that when self-worshipping China takes over, B.A. and I will be put on a Highland reservation to do  folk dances for tourists. Someone replied that this sounded fun, and I said it would not be fun, it would be against our human dignity. We will instead flee to the most Catholic state we can find. I am informed that the country most closely approaching this in its constitution is the Dominican Republic.

Temporal Rule Outside Christendom

Fimister and Crean state that the temporal ruler (however heretical) must "remind his people of their duty to worship the one God." As a matter of fact, George VI did do that 76 years ago this coming Saturday, for he requested that the following Sunday be observed as a Day of Prayer. That Sunday coincided with the rescue of the British Army from Dunkirk, a miracle comparable to that of the Vistula in 1920.

To quote Beowulf, þæt wæs gód cyning.

Interestingly, Fimister and Crean side with error having rights in the temporal realm, stating that "no monotheistic cult may be forbidden, unless it involves elements contrary to natural law." However, this has nothing to do with tolerance but entirely so that inherents of those religions can make a free choice of Christ, as F&C make clearer when they talk about the Catholic state.

Even outside Christendom, leaders are called to prevent errors contrary to truth about God, "human nature, virtue and the goal of human life, as far as these things are knowable by reason..." All "external actions contrary to natural law are of themselves apt to be prohibited." I wonder what F&C mean by "apt".

Meanwhile, temporal authority binds subjects "not only under pain of a penalty, but in conscience and under pain of sin."

I wonder what this means in relation to the lockdown. If the primary end of man on earth is to worship God, and if this is most properly done through personal presence at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and if the personal presence at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been declared an offence by temporal authority, is it a sin for me to present myself at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Complicating this intolerable paradox is that Catholic bishops have instructed priests not to permit the presence of the Faithful at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ...  Dear heaven, I will have to start reviewing the steps of the Highland Fling.

But "[t]emporal authority confers the right to oblige act in view of the common good" say Fimister and Crean, which leads me to conclude that there is nothing to stop temporal authority from banning the manufacture of single-use plastic and other horrible things contrary to the good of nature and stewardship of the earth.

Meanwhile, temporal authority can take children from parents if the parents are abusive or neglectful. F&C recommend placing the removed children with families as "orphanages and similar artificial institutions"are in no way equivalent, let alone superior, to families.

Also the EU had no right telling British farmers how to farm or British fisherman how to fish or British craftsmen how to craft. It's all there on pages 112-113. The "principle of subsidiarity" got a heart symbol from me.

Temporal Rule Inside Christendom

Christendom is a great place to live if you're Catholic, I gleaned from this part of the chapter. You can live there if you belong to the Orthodox or Evangelical traditions, but you can't take public office or attempt to convert anyone to your sect. Jews can live there, too, under the same conditions, and the chapter is very clear that Jew-baiting is not allowed:

"Since the law of Christ forbids both hatred and suasion toward baptism by temporal threats, the unbaptised must be placed by law at no disadvantage save that which is necessary to preserve the Catholic harmony of the realm, and outrages against them must be severely punished."

Fimister and Crean approach St. Thomas Aquinas' attitude towards "other non-Christian cults" with some caution.  In short, they argue that monotheists who are neither Christians nor Jews may be admitted to live and worship in the Catholic realm unless their cult is "practised by bodies which have a history of violent opposition to Christianity or of aggressive proselytism."

Who could that be?

However, it looks like milder, more peaceable sects of Islam could live and worship in the Catholic realm, enjoying, like the Jews, freedom from abuse and coercive attempts to convert them.

"The reality or even the appearance of coercive proselytism must be assiduously avoided,  nor must a power to police the interior acts of its subjects be inadvertently attributed to the temporal power which impedes the right of all men to discover and embrace the true religion," the authors state.

The non-Catholics are, of course, allowed to educate their children and bring them up in their own faith, but they are not allowed to encourage them in such blasphemous outrageous as stealing consecrated hosts.

This post is almost longer than the chapter. I shall now take a cod liver oil capsule and plant out my princely courgette.

Update: One answer that I'm afraid of is the response to the question, "In the Integralist state, who holds the franchise?" I suspect the answer is "Heads of families" as the basic unit of the Integralist state is the family. This would mean that some women (e.g. widowed mothers of children) have the franchise whereas some men (e.g. unmarried men, or men without issue) might not. It's an interesting idea.

B.A. and I argued about Integralism for half an hour, and it seems to us that unless a large number of Integralists all astonish  a lukewarm Catholic populace by immigrating to their state and persuading them to vote in an Integralist leader, it seems very unlikely that there ever will be an Integralist state again.

Sunday 17 May 2020

A Splendid Saturday Walk

(Thoughts on Chapter 5 of Integralism are in the post below.)

Eventually it dawned on me that British temporal authority had given permission to its subjects to take automobiles to the countryside to take their exercise there. We don't own an automobile, so now we pay to get to the countryside by public automobiles trundling along for such essential services.  The Spectator's Melissa Kite, who objects to people taking automobiles to the countryside, would shake a fist at us. However, she doesn't live in our county, so we are spared the sight.

What we did yesterday was take the country bus to a small town well-known to us both and walked to the coronavirus outpost of another local farm shop. This farm shop is much superior to last week's in that it is devoted to organic vegetable, fruits and eggs, and the farm grows a wide variety of produce. It is not attached to aristocratic pleasure grounds, but we didn't care, as the area has its own charms, including a mill and a dovecot.

The mobile shop has also been placed quite near a rural outlet of our favourite North Berwick pastry shop, which was open. Thus, after I sat down at a garden table and filled in an order form for vegetables, and after the loud and friendly Englishwoman running the place went off to pick them for us, Benedict Ambrose and I went to the pastry shop down the road and addressed the be-masked young ladies behind the counter.

Outside the pastry shop little knots of households (mostly young couples or siblings in their 20s) were enjoying their treats while sitting on the long green grass under the bright sun. Inside the pastry shop, B.A. and I ordered our first takeaway cappuccinos since I don't know when. I also ordered a pastry stuffed with frangipani and B.A. asked for a piece of pecan tart. We paid for these delicacies (£11-something all together) by debit card and sat on a bench beside a stone wall, contemplating the fields on the horizon as we munched and slurped.

When we had paid (about £23) by debit card and packed our eggs and produce into our knapsack, we set off on our way home along a river. It is a route we know well. It goes through the small town where we first alighted, under a bridge with the most amazing acoustics, and past a ruined castle once owned by the family of the Historical House. The journey ends at a bus stop in the next town, one very important in Scotland of the Middle Ages and still splendid to look at. The views of the green and yellow fields and of the great chain of hills are stunning at this time of year, and our path was edged by wildflowers of a wide range of hues. When we were good and tired, we sat and ate our packed lunch, half-hidden from the nearest cows.

As I walked along contemplating the awesome beauty of our Scottish county, I experienced what my light reading calls "Maximal Happiness." It was enhanced, rather than diminished, by the thought of dying of the Vile Germ alone in a hospital, an object of fear to doctors and nurses, without the comfort of the Last Rites or the presence of a friend. If ever in danger of such a fate, I will draw upon the memories of recent and historic walks through the Scottish countryside with Benedict Ambrose and feel happier.

It seems to me that we are much more likely to get the nasty virus from Tesco, anyway. Usually we can walk that route without seeing another human soul, but this time there were a number of other people (and their dogs). However, we could all keep a "social distance" on the path (usually by moving towards the river bank or up the hill) in a way we simply can't in the aisles of a supermarket.

While I'm on that subject, there is nothing to stop a priest from saying Mass on the back of a flatbed truck in a large field while behind him Catholics stand in 2 metre square spaces. If we can queue for 40 minutes to get into a supermarket, we can certainly queue that long to wait to take our place in our assigned square for an outside Mass. This field does not have to be in the countryside. It could be the nearest football field, large park, or carpark. Free tickets could be obtained and checked. The Masses could all be said at the same hour to dissuade travel from one parish to the next. It can be done; why isn't it done?

But to return to our splendid Saturday walk, we got to our bus stop in the mediaeval town eight minutes before the bus arrived. We were then whisked at almost incredible speed back to our own high street. There we discovered that the neighbourhood's best chippie was shut, so B.A. went to an untested one even nearer home. He came back with a fish supper and a scampi supper, and we consumed them with white wine and the last two episodes of The Victorian Kitchen Garden.

It was a wonderful day despite the pandemic and my overset plans to be in Poland this weekend.

This morning went very well, too, as my gardens indoors and outdoors are thriving, and Fr. de Malleray had a splendid homily, as usual. I must ask him about the 10,000 people who watch the Warrington Mass on Sunday: does this mean those watching live or does it include people who watch the recording after the fact? How many viewers watch from Britain? How many from abroad? There are not a thousand Trads in Scotland, as far as I know; are there so many in England?

As usual Fr. de Malleray did not avoid controversy, seeming to acknowledge that there are a lot of bad bishops around but we have to defer to their authority anyway.

Apparently the way to increase our chances of having good bishops is to pray for them and to raise them up properly from infancy in the first place. I favour orchestrating fake kidnappings in which they think they are being offered the choice between infidelity and death. If they choose infidelity, they are sent to monasteries for a year to repent, and if they choose death, they are made bishops. I suppose, though, that such fake kidnappings would be wrong for many reasons, all of which are probably enumerated in a chapter of Integralism.

By the way, I would never have spoken so freely about bishops in my twenties, let alone in my childhood. I strongly remember refusing to write a column for a Canadian Catholic newspaper about reasons the Canadian bishops had to apologise. I was in my thirties then and said something pious and noble about never wanting to attack the bishops. Now that I am in my forties, I am simply bewildered about how and what to write. Embarrassingly, I once wrote about how Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, surely wasn't guilty of homosexual misconduct. He publicly confessed shortly afterwards.

After watching Mass from 200+ miles away, I made brunch. We had delicious streaky bacon from the local butcher and omelettes fines herbes made from Scottish free range eggs and herbs grown by the farm shop. One thing that has actually improved during the lockdown is the quality of our food.

Gardening Update: The first flower has appeared on a broad bean: white and black. Six sweet peas have sprouted so far. The second courgette has grown since this morning. I am amazed. Tomorrow I will repot the first courgette, which is really quite tall now, outside. Tomorrow is Victoria Day in both Canada and Edinburgh, and the traditional Toronto day for planting out. That, of course, is irrelevant to Scottish gardens, except that if the danger of frost has passed in Toronto, it assuredly has passed in Edinburgh, too.

May We Shout at Boris?

Screenshot of Daily Mail May 11/12 article
Good morning and happy Sunday! I apologise to anyone eagerly awaiting my thoughts on Fr. Crean's and Dr. Fimister's chapter on the origins of temporal authority in Integralism. It is thirty pages long, and I finished it just now.

I am glad the authors provided an overview of each chapter in a list of "Theses" because readers like me who have not read the political philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas profit from a repetition of the key concepts.

Chapter 5 is thirty pages long and, as I said, while elegant and clear, it demands an attention span and depth of thought not encouraged by two decades of online reading.

The principal argument of this chapter (for anarchy-leaning me) is that temporal authority is willed by God and that it would be necessary even if there had been no Fall. The chapter usefully begins, however, with a distinction between Aristotle's concept of man's earthly goal and liberalism.

According to Aristotle, man's greatest good is carrying out the virtues of, firstly, "speculative wisdom"  and, secondly, "practical wisdom  and character". The highest action of the first is the contemplation of God. The second are ideally "practised in the company of friends, supported by a healthy body and by the minimum sufficiency of material goods, as a free citizen of a free and self-sufficient city where all the citizens know one another, a city possessing peace within and security without." So far, so Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

I am trying to imagine an Edinburgh in which everyone knows everybody, including the shifting sands of foreign students, and failing. In fact, it is hard to imagine everyone in my eight-flat building, let alone everyone in this street, knowing everybody in it. "We keep ourselves to ourselves" is an expression used in the area, which sounds very selfish, when you think of it. I suppose we are now keeping ourselves to ourselves with a vengeance, aren't we? A Royal Wedding or Royal Birth or even  a commemoration of World War II may be an excuse for street party in London or even Glasgow, but not here. Alas.

Liberalism, on the other hand, claims that "political authority exists principally to secure for each person the greatest possible exercise of liberty compatible with the freedom of others." Despite its defence by such great names as John Stuart Mill and John Rawls (whom I seem to remember from an MA thesis I once proofread), our Catholic authors pronounce the idea that free will, or free action, "is itself the highest human good" is "absurd."

"...[A] creature's free action as such cannot be its highest good, since this action can be evil. It is quite conceivable, and indeed often the case, that human beings freely render themselves miserable," state Fimister and Crean.

"Alas!" I replied with my pencil.

My next scribbles are a ? followed by another ? because I don't understand why adult human beings would have needed ruling if we lived in an unfallen world and were unfallen ourselves. Aquinas says that any social life needs someone to oversee the common good.

But when I think about it, Our Lady, who was sinless, was ruled by St Joseph, and moreover, Our Blessed Lord, who was God, permitted Himself to be subject to both His mother and His foster father. Goodness gracious, no wonder St. Joseph has nothing to say in the Gospel.

Thus, from the example of both Our Lord and Our Lady, it is quite clear that there is such a thing as the authority of a husband and a father even in the perfect society of the Holy Family. Dr. Fimister and Fr. Crean may use this argument for free. I am still not sure why Our Lord and Our Lady needed ruling, but apparently they did. Yes, it's all very well to say Herod, but a single angel would have been more than a match for him. In related news, Herod had a particularly horrible death.

The authors' write of the separation of temporal and spiritual power, including the thought that "it is very desirable and the pope not be subject, even de facto, to any temporal sovereign." However, he is a temporal sovereign, I point out. He used to be the temporal sovereign of the Papal States, and he continues to be the head of state for Vatican City.

Our current pontiff is not popular among some of my friends in Rome, and the first time B.A. and I were in Rome following his election, we were rather stunned by how freely our pals criticised him over a restaurant lunch a stone's throw from the Colosseum. I kept thinking some Scarpia-like figure was going to arrest us all and throw us in a dungeon.

My next thought was to wonder to what extent the pope should interest himself in temporal affairs, especially given the as yet unproven rumour that Pope Francis made a donation to Hilary Clinton's campaign and the regular appearance of such non-Catholic personalities as Jeffrey Sachs in the Vatican. Sometimes Catholics worry that the spiritual power of our bishops is subjecting itself to temporal power, instead of the other way around, as Fimister, Crean and Aquinas would prefer. But in Malaysia, I noted in the margins, the temporal authority supports rather vigorously the celebration of the Islamic Ramadan.

(Question: Is it better to live in Malaysia than in the United Kingdom?)

"Since Pentecost ... all temporal rulers must be subject to the authority of the Catholic Church," write Fimister and Crean, paraphrasing Aquinas, who said "To [the Roman Pontiff] all the kings of the Christian people are to be subject as to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself."

"But what if he's a bad pope?" I scribbled.

When I was at university, the answer to this was that however wicked in his personal life a given pope, he at least never messed around with the doctrines of the faith. We assured each other that messing with the doctrine of the faith was a step too far even for popes like Alexander VI.

(Amusingly, having just asked B.A. which is the pontiff  most notorious for his vices, he replied "Alexander VI,  but he never touched doctrine.")

I don't think I can do this chapter justice with a blogpost. There are too many concepts. Perhaps the best thing I can do now is write the questions that I wrote in the margins as I read.

Is temporal authority as we currently experience it in Britain, almost completely indifferent to spiritual authority,  like the licitness of a pagan marriage?

Could English Catholics have legitimately overthrown Elizabeth I?

Is not advising Catholics to put up with a tyrant analogous to telling a beaten wife in the confessional that she should put up with her husband's bad behaviour?

Did Henry IX ever actually renounce his claim to the thrones of England and Scotland and acknowledge the rule of the House of Hanover?

And now I must prepare to watch Mass online. Interestingly, in the situation of closing churches to private prayer, it would seem that the officially Protestant state took advice from Cardinal Vince Nichols in this matter, reversing a previous decision to allow Christians to pray privately in our churches. Given the idea that the primary temporal end of man is to contemplate God, and given that it is unproven that private prayer in a church opens citizens to infection, one really needs to scribble several question marks around all that.


Update: After reading this chapter, I am still uncertain as to whether or not we may shout at the Prime Minister (or even at the "wee Jimmy Krankie woman") although I suspect not. I am absolutely sure that we must never shout at the Queen.

Update 2: Marking up a book with your thoughts can be dangerous if your husband is also reading the book.

"The husband's authority over his wife does not depend on his wife's continued consent to it," read B.A. aloud. "Sad face."