Thursday, 27 August 2009

Health Care: ignoratio elenchi rules O.K.

Fr Gordon Reid enters the Great Health System Debate in a post on Saintclementsblog.

A commenter makes a perfectly sensible point:

"The NHS has problems, our system has problems. Trading one for another may or may not be an equal exchange."

But it is interesting (or depressing) to realise that whilst the debate (on both sides of the Atlantic) is often framed in these terms, this is precisely what no-one is proposing. The U.S. Government is not suggesting anything remotely like the British N.H.S. (the closest parallel seems to be with Switzerland) and even radical right-wingers in Britain don't want the U.S. system (Singapore is an example often mentioned at the moment) [and in point of fact the Conservative Party is committed to the present N.H.S., albeit with a few tweaks].

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Never glad confident morning again

Where stands (traditional) Anglo-Catholicism in England?

It is over a year since the Women Bishops vote in the General Synod. What has changed?

Nothing ... and everything.

There was much anguish in the aftermath of the vote. It is perhaps surprising how quiet things have been since then.

Parish life goes on. The Flying Bishops are still flying. Forward in Faith proclaims, "A Code of Practice will not do."

The General Synod has appointed a Legislative Drafting Group, and, in theory at least, all options are back on the table (despite the July 2008 vote).

There has been a trickle of departures for Rome, but no flood.

Reassuring voices say, "Something will be sorted out." Pessimists say, "It's all over." But they speak quietly, privately.

So, business as usual? Rumours of the death of Anglo-Catholicism greatly exaggerated?

There will indeed be Anglo-Catholics of a traditional kind in the Church of England for a long time to come: not just until the first women bishops appear, but beyond. In places they will even grow and flourish.

But something has changed - irrevocably. A thread has snapped.

There will be more departures, whether individual or en masse - to Rome or elsewhere, and some no doubt to Liberalism. Many who leave will be the young, gifted priests and laity who would have become the movement's leaders. Eventually a tipping point will be reached where qua movement Anglo-Catholicism will no longer be viable. It will still be present, but it will no longer count for anything.

This will be true, even if the great majority "stay". They may technically remain as Anglicans, but in their hearts they will have left: a sort of internal exile. The synodical route may end in tears, or the horse-trading and behind the scenes negotiation may produce (against expectation) a surprisingly good settlement. But few will be able to embrace the new dispensation with enthusiasm.

Until last year's vote there was still the possibility (however slender) of a different outcome. But no longer.

What was it that changed then? Why does it matter so much? One phrase sums it up:

Never glad, confident morning again.

The Lockerbie Bomber and Christian Mercy

Fr John Alexander offers on his Videtur Quod blog two thoughtful and thought-provoking posts on Crime and Punishment (Part One and Part Two) in relation to the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber. These were prompted by Fr Ed Tomlinson's post on Justice versus Compassion on The Saint Barnabas' Blog.

I commented as follows on Fr Alexander's first post:

Thank you for your thoughts, Father. I think you are absolutely right to put this question in a spiritual context, in particular the context concept of Divine Mercy and the Christian's calling to share in that mercy (both as recipient and co-agent of mercy with God).

As I said in a comment on Fr Tomlinson's original posting, the Coronation Rite (a much neglected treasury of wisdom) expresses the necessary balance well:

“Be so merciful that you be not too remiss; so execute Justice that you forget not Mercy.”

(Similar words occur in the Consecration of Bishops of course.)

But mercy, tho' attractive, is so challenging. It's the thing that I find shocks non-Christians most (many Christians too when they think about it). They can put up with woolly liberal "compassion", even if they disapprove, but liberal and rigorist alike are revolted by true Christian mercy, clear-eyed and decisive as it is: "I am under no illusions about the evil you have committed, but now I exercise mercy."

Some words of T.S. Eliot come to mind:

"Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft."

On a factual point, the decision in this case wasn't made by a court, but by the Scottish Justice Minister. This is the normal procedure, but it has unfortunately helped to muddy the waters (at least in Britain). People are more inclined to suspect the motives of a decision made by a politician (and other politicians to stir up such suspicions), than of a decision made by a court.

[Comment republished here for future reference.]

What to do on a strange Planet

Should you find yourself on another planet, and should you meet an intelligent being there, with whom (mirabile dictu) you find you can communicate, what do you do next?

You have no doubt often wondered about this. Here is the answer.

First you ask, "Has there been a Fall here?" If you receive the answer, "No," leave straight away before you mess things up.

But, if you receive the answer, "Yes," you go on to ask, "Has there been an Incarnation?"

If the answer to this is, "Yes," you make this request:

"Please direct me to the nearest Catholic Church."