Thursday, March 27, 2008

Felix ego

The most recent post (before this one) to appear on Infelix Ego was published on March 4th, which is almost a month ago. Accordingly, Melancholicus feels he owes his readers some explanation of his absence, and an apology for having tried their patience with such prolonged inactivity.

In his first post of 2008, Melancholicus expressed himself uncharacteristically optimistic about what changes to his life the new year would bring. It seems this optimism — unlike that of the ’sixties and Vatican II — was not altogether unfounded. For a strange sensation has crept over Melancholicus in the last few months, so slowly at first that he failed to notice it, but growing in strength and intensity such that by now he cannot help but be aware of it.

This odd sensation feels almost like ... like ... yes, I remember now ... like happiness.


Happiness and Melancholicus go together like chalk and cheese, like oil and water, like salvation and perdition, like Islam and peace. Can it really be that Melancholicus is happy? The very idea seems somehow immoral.

Melancholicus even thought of starting a new blog, with the title Felix Ego to reflect his much changed circumstances, but that would not have been fair to his readers, and much less to those fellow bloggers who have so generously linked to him over the past three months. And happiness is a fleeting emotion anyhow, a fickle thing, ephemeral as the morning mist and which vanishes again just as quickly. So this journal shall remain and, workload permitting, continue to be updated on a regular basis. Nor shall its author change his name, for regardless how gay (in the pre-modern sense of the word) and elated he may at present be, his temperament is still two parts melancholic and one part phlegmatic, so he shall always be Melancholicus.

As for the reason for this unwonted happiness... well, we shall now come to that.

Much of this month Melancholicus has spent in the United States. This is the first time he has been back to the US since his departure from the seminary in 2005. But on this occasion he went not to Nebraska, but to Tacoma, Washington.

The purpose of this journey to the ends of the earth — for one can hardly travel further west than Washington, except perhaps to Alaska — was to visit a friend. Specifically, a lady friend. Melancholicus shall not embarrass her by mentioning her name, but her temperament is three parts melancholic and one part choleric, so we are perfectly matched.

Melancholicus may on occasion be overly prolix, but he is not a gushy person (at least not on Infelix Ego), so he will refrain from informing his readers how he regards his lady friend as his sun, moon and starlit sky, and all that sort of thing. Suffice it to say that she loves him, and he her.

There is as yet no betrothal; nevertheless, Melancholicus feels that it is not jumping the gun to say he believes we shall one day be husband and wife, perhaps even next year or the year after. Time will tell.

To those who have followed the details of Melancholicus’ personal life as they have from time to time been revealed on this blog and who fear he may be making a terrible mistake, he wishes to give the reassurance that his beloved is not the same person as a certain L. of whom mention was made in a few posts of November and December last. That is now ancient history, and that chapter of Melancholicus’ life has been definitively closed, never to be re-opened. The answer of St. Francis Xavier, whom Melancholicus implored for guidance, was unmistakably clear.

But Melancholicus has in these developments been so blessed by almighty God that he is replete with heartfelt gratitude, and he will end this post by saying, with the psalmist (117:22):

a Domino factum est istud, et est mirabile in oculis nostris — ‘this has been done by the LORD, and it is marvellous in our eyes’.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


What a hoot.

Melancholicus saw this film for the first time last Saturday evening. He found it most amusing, if a little violent in places. But the reason he brings it up on Infelix Ego is that he wishes to ask his American readers — particularly his former colleague MM — if people in small-town Minnesota really do talk like that.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Something must be done about the dead-eyed scum

Lest the visitor be alarmed at the strident, militant and even threatening tone to the title of this post, Melancholicus wishes to assure his readers that dead-eyed scum is a common enough expression in Ireland, denoting a particularly extreme form of soulless and feral youth, of the sort sensible folk cross the street to avoid since on several occasions the same have been known to strike with lethal force in the absence of any provocation whatsoever.

First let us define our terms. The dead-eyes are not the same people colloquially known in Dublin as skangers, or in Britain as chavs. There is of course considerable overlap, but it would be a serious misrepresentation, if not altogether libellous, to claim that all such persons are murderous sociopaths completely devoid of human feeling and conscience.

With the acceleration of the social breakdown fomented by the 1960s, society in Ireland (as elsewhere in the western world) has become increasingly lawless, violent and dangerous. This is indisputable. It is a fact, borne out empirically by every statistic one might use to measure the extent of law and order — or lack thereof — in the social fabric. The numbers of violent assaults causing bodily harm have far outstripped the levels of similar crimes in the mid-twentieth century. Murder and manslaughter were once so uncommon in Ireland as to be an occasion for nationwide shock and a nine-days’ wonder whenever they occurred. Today, murder is so routine as to be unremarkable.

Except every now and then there takes place a crime of such meaningless brutality that it shocks even the jaded denizens of twenty-first century Dublin.

Just such a crime took place last weekend. Two men were set upon by a gang of youths in the Dublin suburb of Drimnagh and stabbed fatally with a screwdriver. The two men were friends, construction workers from Poland who had been in Ireland for less than nine months. The youths who attacked them — I should say who murdered them — were dead-eyed scum.

Melancholicus has no wish to make light of this incident, much less present it as a pretext for amusement. He urges the Catholic-minded among his readers to pray for the repose of the souls of the two unfortunate victims. Nevertheless, some words about dead-eyed scum are here in order, that the reader might have a clear idea of the sort of creatures we are dealing with, as well as their habits and typical behaviour.

The dead-eyes are amoral, wild, feral, and in their behaviour totally ungoverned and ungovernable. I say “amoral” rather than “immoral”, since the dead-eye has no conception of right and wrong. He may have an intellectual knowledge that if he should commit such-and-such an act, the police will be looking for him. But his conscience does not trouble him with wrongdoing, since he has no conscience. The dead-eyes are consequently incapable of remorse. They are also incapable of taking responsibility for their own acts, and this makes them especially dangerous. Dead-eyed scum are found everywhere — even the smallest rural hamlet has its share of them. Only yesterday, while buying bread and milk in a local grocery, Melancholicus encountered two specimens of this genus, who could not have been more than fourteen years old but whose very presence exuded malice and intimidation. There was a queue in the shop; the dead-eyes promptly skipped the queue as soon as they were finished choosing their snacks and sodas, but no-one objected, neither the other customers waiting in line nor the sales girls at the tills. Nobody considered his place the in the queue to be worth dying for. While he waited, Melancholicus studied the all-too-familiar features of these dead-eyed scum — the ubiquitous hoodie, the flat, vacant, expressionless visage, the dead eyes (hence the name), the absence in this face of anything that might indicate the presence in the brain behind it of thought, or morality, or conscience, or knowledge of right and wrong, or of any cognizance at all of (much less regard for) any other creature save itself and the appeasement of its own base appetites. And God forbid that they might catch you looking at them; people have died merely because their glance happened to fall in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

The favourite pastime of the dead-eyes is what is euphemistically called “anti-social behaviour”. This behaviour is engaged in without either fear or respect for the law. The dead-eyes fear nothing and no-one. They respect nothing and no-one. There is in their minds no regard for authority, for law, for established custom, for persons or property. They do not fear the police. On the contrary, the police fear them.

The acts of the dead-eyes are random, destructive, and singularly devoid of purpose and meaning. Pawel Kalite and Marius Szwajkos died for nothing. There was no reason for their deaths, and no meaning to the motiveless snuffing out of those poor men’s lives. They were not killed because they had wronged the dead-eyes who encompassed their slayings; nor were they killed for reasons of robbery. They were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the dead-eyes decided to lash out.

They had been approached by these feral youths who had asked them to purchase alcohol for them in a nearby off-licence. The two men declined, whereupon their fate was sealed. The scumbag who inflicted the fatal blows on the pair did not do so at once; he had time to retrieve the screwdriver from his house, and to return to where he had left the two men and catch up with them before they had retreated to safety. Thus his acts were wholly pre-meditated. He never seems to have stopped for a moment to think about what it was he intended to do with that screwdriver. But now, two innocent men are dead.

During his days as a seminarist, Melancholicus spent some time on parish apostolate with a certain priest of a certain diocese in the north of England. One day during his apostolate he visited the local prison, spending some hours in the company of young offenders, many of whom had been convicted of serious and violent crimes. It was a sobering experience, as Melancholicus was startled to notice how wild and feral most of these young men were, and how totally lacking in sympathy, empathy and conscience. Violent crime was a matter for boasting, for raising one’s status in the pecking order of one’s peers in prison. One of the prisoners (a youth of eighteen) had on his person a copy of his criminal record, which he proceeded to show to Melancholicus with all the pride and delight wherewith a schoolboy shows off a prize-winning essay. Melancholicus will not recount the dismal record of the fellow’s egregious trespasses, which were without number, save to say it was not pleasant reading. Some of the imprisoned youths were sad and dejected, but their sorrow stemmed not from guilt, or from remorse for the horrible things they had done to other people, but simply because they were in prison and hence deprived of their liberty. They were all guilty, but not one of them felt guilty. Inasmuch as any of them was sorry, he was sorry only for himself. The victims of his violence never received a second thought.

This is the sort of person to which Melancholicus refers by use of the term dead-eyed scum. He will not labour the point, since he is sure that his readers understand by now what he is trying to say. We must not fall into the same error as the socialists, and imagine that this violence can be explained by recourse to economic factors — poverty, inequality, unemployment and the like — as though this somehow excuses such monstrosities, even if it were true. Nor must we make the facile mistake of blaming a “lack of youth facilities” or “boredom”, or even alcohol and drugs for the evil behaviour of certain youths, as some have sought to do. We are Christians, and we recognize through bitter experience the evil of which fallen human nature is capable when not assisted by grace, or when grace has been rejected.

Melancholicus was prompted to a reflection on these matters by reading the following piece by Martina Devlin in today’s Irish Independent:

Polish deaths were result of yob culture

By Martina Devlin
Saturday March 01 2008

In its mindlessness, its recklessness, its vicious and unprovoked excess, it is behaviour which leans disturbingly close to a Clockwork Orange society.

The screwdriver murders of two Polish construction workers who came to Ireland to earn a living was not racist. No, it was wanton violence -- carried out for no other reason than the thrill of inflicting harm.

And while it happened in Dublin in this case, evidence of such yob culture is visible the length and breadth of Ireland. Village or city, it makes no difference.

"Ultraviolence" was dystopian chronicler Anthony Burgess's account of this gratuitous aggression, this ferocious hostility. Ultraviolence just about describes what happened in Drimnagh, when a group of teenagers assaulted and murdered two passing men.

That they were Polish was, I suspect, incidental. Ultraviolence requires the dehumanisation of victims, but targets can be drawn from any nationality or sector.

Thuggery on the scale we have just witnessed is an affront to every one of us -- a signal that civilisation has started forgetting how to be civilised. It acts as a reminder that we should not wring our hands, condemn the incomprehensible and then mentally cross over to the far side of the street.

Above all, we should not fall into the trap of defining that frenzied confrontation in Drimnagh as a racist attack; to do so is is to start constructing reasons for it. If that happens, on some level we lay the groundwork for rationalising and subsequently making excuses for the bloodshed. Once you label it racist -- distasteful though racism is -- you can field experts to discuss changing demographics, community interfaces, pressure-points and economic insecurities.

They will remind us how Irish society has altered radically in a compressed space of time, with one in 10 of our population now drawn from overseas.

It's inevitable the native population should feel threatened and not wholly surprising some may choose to express it through violence, goes the subtext to this interpretation of the double murder.

We must stop right there. Yob culture is not based on racism, nor should it be viewed as an explanation for its existence. Yobbery may contain strands of racism but this particular brand of bigotry is not among its guiding principles; those are brutality, disrespect for the rule of law, a lack of parameters and the complete absence of any fear of consequences.

It is a social disorder, one which can and should be tackled. Ignore it -- and the Clockwork Orange society takes a step closer.

Some of the criminality we are experiencing is drink-fuelled, some drug-enflamed, and some is the upshot of an abdication of parental control.

Ireland has always had a drink culture, and the tradition of the Saturday night brawl after heavy alcohol intake is no new phenomenom.

But it used to be a case of fist fights. Then broken glasses or bottles became part of the equation.

Now it's knives -- or in the circumstances that engulfed Mariusz Szwajkos (27) and Pawel Kalite (26), the stomach-churning image of a screwdriver to the head of one man and the throat of another.

If such behaviour continues to escalate, we will be condemned to a CCTV society where constant monitoring is the only way in which citizens feel safe outside their homes.

Inevitably, emotions are running high about these murders. People feel frustration, anger, fear, shame. We are alarmingly aware of how all of us are at the mercy of this lowest common denominator element. Many of us have witnessed hooliganism in our neighbourhoods, and been loathe to remonstrate with the perpetrators. With just cause.

Tough questions need to be addressed. How do we inculcate respect for authority? How do we restore a certain level of discipline without allowing free rein to the "hang 'em, flog 'em" brigade? How do we persuade certain parents to take responsibility for their children's behaviour?

There are a number of possible solutions. We could reduce some of the effects of excess alcohol consumption by raising the legal drinking limit to 21.

Most adults, let alone teenagers, are incapable of handling drink at the current binge levels. We should also move away, in media and advertising terms, from presenting the pub as the focal point of any community.

Local authorities could consider diverting some of their funds into amenities specifically aimed at young people.

Let's get them off the streets and offer them something to do, even if it's no more than a room where they can play board games and share soft drinks.

Finally, for a demonstration of dignity and compassion in the wreckage of tragedy, we need look no further than the words of a sister to one of the victims.

"My family do not wish to blame the people of Ireland and would prefer to think this attack could have happened anywhere in the world," said Gosia Szwajkos. Let's honour Mariusz Szwajkos and Pawel Kalite by taking to heart some lessons from their deaths.

Requiescant in pace.

Ireland recognises Europe's newest Muslim state

From RTÉ:

Ireland recognises Kosovo independence

Friday, 29 February 2008 19:55

The Government has recognised the independence of the Republic of Kosovo.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern made the announcement, saying he was aware that the independence declaration was painful for Serbia.

However, he stressed that Ireland's recognition of Kosovo was not an act of hostility toward the country.

The minister added that he hoped Serbia and Kosovo could move toward a brighter future together in Europe.

On 17 February, the Kosovo assembly passed a resolution declaring it was an independent democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law.

A number of countries have already recognised Kosovo's independence, including the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

This is bad news. Ireland can be counted on always to act precipitously on occasions like this, revelling in her seat atop the free and democratic moral high horse, or perhaps hearing in Kosovo’s independence from Serbia an echo of her own independence, after a protracted and bitter struggle, from the British Empire nearly a hundred years ago.

But this analogy is false. Ireland is not, and has never been, a part of Britain. British rule in this country has always been that of an external and occupying force. Kosovo, however, is and always has been part of Serbia. Ireland has never been viewed as a sacred heartland by British people, the loss of which would result in a calamitous crisis of cultural identity, but Kosovo has always been such a heartland for the Serbs. And it is useless for Dermot Ahern to say that Ireland’s recognition of the breakaway province is “not an act of hostility” toward Serbia. The Serbs, stung to the quick by these events, will view it as a hostile act, no matter what Mr. Ahern might say.

The Kosovar declaration of “independence” from Serbia is an illegal act. It is not an assertion on the part of a sovereign nation of autonomy from a hostile foreign oppressor who has no right to be there in the first instance; it is the revolt of an internal province without any authority in law to make such a declaration. Of course the problem which confronts the Serbs in their attempts to keep Kosovo within their borders is that they blotted their copybook during the Miloševic years through innumerable atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated against the ethnic Albanian majority by Serb paramilitaries. But for western governments to focus their attention solely upon Serbia’s past track record in the sphere of human rights is to overlook the principal issue, which is a question of whether a local region within a sovereign state should have a right to dismember that state on its own authority and to establish itself as a new sovereign state in violation of the laws of the original state and against the consent of the government thereof. If we recognize Kosovo’s independence as legal, we must also recognize the independence of the Basques from Spain, and require that the Spanish do so too. And what of the Bretons in France? Or the Lapps in parts of Scandinavia? What of the Kurds in Syria, Iraq and Turkey? The latter definitely want their own state, and have been violently agitating in that direction for several decades. Why will Dermot Ahern not support their cause? The principle, after all, is the same. What of the aboriginal people in Australia, or the native Americans in the USA? And what of other places which contain substantial ethnic or religious minorities — shall we insist, for instance, that Great Britain grant independence to an Islamic Republic of Bradford, complete with theocratic rule and sharia courts, should this ever be requested?

Personally, Melancholicus strongly opposes any recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. Quite aside from the weighty political considerations already referred to, we would do well to remind ourselves of the religion to which most of the Albanian majority in Kosovo belongs. It is not a European religion; it is not Christianity. It is Islam. Shall we then recognize as an independent state a province the population of which is nearly 90% Muslim? Doubtless, in time, they will be seeking admission to the EU, and to admit Kosovo thereto would be even more problematic than admitting Turkey.

It is all very well for Kosovo to describe itself as a “democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law”. These are doubtless the magic words which bewitched Mr. Ahern as well as every other western government that has so hastily recognised the independence of this break-away province. Time will reveal how well Kosovo will live up to its own self-description. Democratic? That may be so — for the moment. Has this region ever truly known the democratic process? Will it be capable of preserving it now? Or will the KLA establish a military dictatorship on the pretext of safeguarding Kosovo’s fragile democracy (whereupon the latter shall cease to exist)?

Now, secular: methinks they protest too much. Why should Kosovo draw attention to itself by using the word secular? Is this an attempt to hide the 500-pound Islamic elephant in the room? Melancholicus does not hold out much hope of Kosovo actually living up to this article of its “constitution”. The Wahhabis doubtless have their eye on the province. During the troubles there which prompted the intervention of KFOR, Kosovo (like Bosnia before it) was infiltrated by mujahideen from Arab countries whose purpose was not merely to help the Muslim natives militarily against the Serbs, but to accelerate an Islamic revival along extremist lines. This is the worst legacy of Slobodan Miloševic’s policy towards the rest of what was once Yugoslavia. The Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo were once exceeding lax, secular and European; they are not so any more.

And as for multi-ethnic: there are two main ethnic groups in Kosovo, the Muslim Albanians and the Christian Serbs. The Albanians constitute at least 90% of the population, and this figure is probably rising continually since Kosovo has witnessed a steady exodus of Serbs since 1999. At this rate there will be no Serbs left in the near future. Consequently, this “multi-ethnic” badge is a sop to western liberals, with their romantic notions of multiculturalism and social harmony. Those Serbs remaining in Kosovo today are afraid, and they have every reason to be. Shall the KLA, once Kosovo is secure in a universally-recognized independence from Belgrade, not exact its revenge on the Serbian community for the atrocities of 1999? Shall the Serb minority not be persecuted by their angry (and Islamic) Albanian neighbours? Shall the Serbs be entitled to equal rights, equal legal standing, equal economic and educational opportunities and religious freedom? On the example of other states with a Muslim majority, we may take leave to doubt it. On the contrary, the Serbs will be reduced very quickly to the status of subjugated dhimmis within Europe’s newest Muslim state.

Melancholicus does not recognize the independence of Kosovo, but as his opinion does not count for much on the stage of world affairs, this is hardly worth saying.

Pope rules out any role for 'female theology'

This is the actual title given to an article in Ireland’s biggest-selling daily broadsheet, The Irish Independent. Melancholicus has not been able to find the article online, but he quotes the piece in full for the benefit of his readers from today’s paper. Has has added his own comments in red:

Pope rules out any role for 'female theology'

Malcolm Moore

The Vatican has cracked down on feminist interpretations of the liturgy, ruling that God must always be recognised as Our Father [and rightly so, since Christians dare to call God "Father" on the example and invitation of the Lord Jesus Himself].

In a move designed to counter the spread of gender-neutral phrases, the Holy See said that anyone baptised using alternative terms such as "Creator", "Redeemer" and "Sanctifier" would have to be re-baptised using the traditional ceremony [what breathtaking ignorance it is for this writer — or is he being deliberately misleading? — to portray the Holy See’s concern for safeguarding the integrity of the sacraments as merely a mealy-mouthed move "designed to counter the spread of gender-neutral phrases". For baptism to be validly confected, it is absolutely necessary that the form used mention the persons of the Most Holy Trinity by name. To say, "I baptize thee in the name of the Trinity" is insufficient, nor is it at all possible to substitute other appellations intended to denote some aspect or function of the Godhead. The Church has the option of modifying at her convenience the form of certain of the sacraments, but baptism is not one of these, since the Lord Jesus Himself clearly commanded His disciples to baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Mt. 28:19). This is a Dominical precept, which cannot be changed by any ecclesiastical authority, however elevated, for any reason whatsoever. Those persons unfortunate enough to be "baptized" in the name of Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier (or some such) are not in fact baptized at all.].

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith said yesterday: "These variations arise from so-called feminist theology and are an attempt to avoid using the words Father and Son, which are held to be chauvinistic." [it is amazing how quick some are to follow the feminists with their gender-neutral newspeak, and at the same time how slow to obey the command of the Lord Jesus to baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This is because they fear man (or should that be woman?) more than they fear God. Furthermore, how is it "chauvinistic" to use the proper terms in the first place? Everyone — feminists included — has, or at least had at one stage, a father. Why can almighty God not be addressed as such, especially as His divine fatherhood has been revealed to us by His Son? And speaking of the Son, how can the feminists reasonably let themselves off the hook here, when the Lord Jesus became incarnate as a human being — a male human being — in the words of the Creed, AND WAS MADE MAN? Or are we now going to make like Katharine Jefferts-Schori with her "mother Jesus"? Hate to spoil it for you honey, but mother Jesus had a Y-chromosome.]

Instead it said that the traditional form of "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" had to be respected [with good reason; baptism cannot be validly confected without it. How many times do I have to say this??].

The alternative phrases originated in North America and started to become popular only in the past few years.

The new phrases are particularly popular in the Church of England [!]. It was recently reported that guidelines to bishops and priests advised them to avoid "uncritical use of masculine imagery" [who issued these guidelines?].

The Catholic Church and the Church of England are split over feminist issues [The Catholic Church and the Church of England are split over a whole lot more than merely "feminist issues"]. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Pope, met in Rome last year, but admitted that the ordination of women priests was a "serious obstacle" to closer ties [in the same vein as John Cooney, this tendentious writer omits to mention that the Anglican Communion itself is internally split over feminist issues, and much more besides].

The Pope, who wrote the latest ruling, has been a strong opponent of feminism in the Catholic Church [since so-called "Catholic" feminism seeks to replace the Christian religion with a goddess-worshipping neo-pagan cult I'm hardly surprised the Pope is "a strong opponent" thereof].

In his book, The Ratzinger Report, he wrote: "I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion" [first of all, The Ratzinger Report was written not by Joseph Ratzinger but by Vittorio Messori. Secondly, what feminism promotes in its radical form is another religion. This is indisputable. It's not merely the Pope's opinion].

Thank goodness it ended there. What the dickens, we might ask, is “female theology”? Theology is an intellectual discipline, a branch of study, and therefore does not admit of adjectives like male and female, which can be applied only to living beings. Surely the fellow who scribbled this careless piece really meant “feminist theology”. If such be the case, why didn’t he say it? Could it be because everyone hates feminists and therefore his readers would not have responded to his headline, had he used that word, in the emotional manner in which he clearly intended them to? Much better, for our writer’s purposes, to concoct a headline that evokes the image of a sexist, chauvinistic Pope (who, let us not forget, is a former Hitler Youth) patriarchally oppressing suffering womyn in the most hidebound and reactionary fashion.

This story contains a great deal of feminist spin, yet the central issue concerns feminism only peripherally. Perhaps the writer has taken the slant he has in order to uphold the secularist image of the Church as a backward and sexist institution, but in any case he shows very little understanding of the actual issues involved. Instead, he has diverted the attention of his readers (most of whom would hardly know any more about the matter than he does) with this emotionally-charged red herring.

One thing which particularly alarms Melancholicus is the revelation that invalid baptismal forms are increasingly being prescribed for use in the Church of England. He would like to know more about that. Are Anglican converts to Catholicism required to submit to conditional baptism before their reception into the Church? If the Church of England continues to play fast and loose with its baptismal formula, conditional baptism of all converts may quickly become the rule. Catholics and Anglicans are separated by many things, but Melancholicus has always consoled himself with the thought that at least we all have our baptism. It looks like this may be changing now. Shall Anglicans, alas, arrive at such a pass whereafter Catholics shall have nothing in common with them at all?

John Cooney on 'denominational migration'

From today’s Irish Independent comes another annoying piece of lightweight journalism from the egregious John Cooney. There are so many problems, mistakes, erroneous assumptions, smart-arsed remarks and other howlers in this piece that one scarcely knows where to begin. Melancholicus has added his own comments below in red.

Roaming Catholics: More conversions than ever before...

By John Cooney
Saturday March 01 2008

The appointment this week of the Venerable Dermot Dunne, a former Catholic priest, as Dean of Christchurch, one of Dublin's two landmark Anglican cathedrals, highlights a growing trend of "denominational migration".

Up until recently it was regarded as a social stigma, even a badge of shame, for a Catholic to convert to Protestantism, or for a Protestant of whichever strand -- Anglicanism, Presbyterianism or Methodism -- to embrace the Roman Faith.

Indeed, much of the history of 20th century Ireland, especially since the foundation of the State in 1921, was bedevilled by the decline of the minority Protestant population, mainly as a result of the Catholic Church's strict mixed marriage regulations requiring children to be raised as Catholics [in this regard we might remark that in some parts of Northern Ireland it is still seriously believed, even today, that the decline in the Protestant population of the Republic of Ireland after partition was caused by an orchestrated campaign of genocide by the Irish government, and that Protestants were done to death in extermination camps after the manner of the Third Reich!].

Memories still linger, particularly in the West of Ireland, of the crusades by Protestant evangelicals in the mid-19th century to provide soup-bowls to the starving Catholic poor on condition that they committed their souls to the Bible as propounded by the anti-Romanist preachers since the 16th century Reformation [Melancholicus is actually quite impressed by the 'soupers', since the Church of Ireland throughout its long history made practically no effort to convert the popishly-affected majority of the population].

When introducing Dean-elect Dunne, and his English wife, Celia, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, admitted that it was no great shock to him that at a time of change within each of the Christian traditions, individuals are finding their expression of Christian faith in another tradition.

Noting that last year Mrs Anita Henderson, the wife of the Anglican Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, Dr Richard Henderson, was received into the Catholic Church in Ballina, Co Mayo, Dr Neill said the important thing is that "we do not go seeking people from other denominations to attract them into our own." [classic ecumenical niceness!]

Noting that proselytism was something unfortunate [!] that happened in previous generations, he added: "The freedom and acceptance of change and the way that ecumenical relationships remain strong when people change from one denomination to another is not causing great pain," he insisted. "I do not see this as anything like triumphalism. We are all part of the Christian Church."

The reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s spawned a new era of ecumenical détente among previously feuding Christians, but 'the Restoration' policies pursued by the late Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, [here we go, stick the knife in! Can't pass up any opportunity to attack the Holy Father now, can we Mr. Cooney?] have put the brakes on the pace of the church unity movement on issues such as shared Eucharist, Rome's continued non-recognition of the validity of Anglican Orders, the compulsory celibacy of Catholic priests, and Rome's refusal to ordain women and its consequent alarm over the ordination of women and gay men to the Anglican episcopacy and priesthood [There are a number of issues here, which we will treat seriatim:

  1. First of all, the so-called "shared Eucharist". The Church of Ireland, in common with certain other branches of the Anglican Communion, offers an open table to other Christians "in good standing" in their own denominations who wish to receive communion at an Anglican service. This is a novelty in the history of Anglicanism, which traditionally did not offer the Eucharist indiscriminately to all and sundry, never mind to stubborn papists or to the adherents of sects. The reader should study the exhortations printed in the communion rite in the Prayer Book for an exposition of the classic Anglican position. Now that the novelty of an open table has been introduced in these unbelieving and ecumaniacal times, is it not presumptious, to say the least, to expect other Churches to espouse the same novelty as a matter of course? Shall we not do better to regard this innovation for what it is, namely an aberration that shall disappear when a measure of sanity begins to return to the churches of the Anglican Communion?

    Furthermore, the Eucharist is an expression of communion with those with whom one shares it. How can such communion be pretended when it does not in fact exist? "Eucharistic sharing" ignores the very real divisions and disagreements between Christians, preferring instead to generate a warm and fuzzy but no less false feeling of unity, a fake and artificial unity which is not grounded in reality. "Eucharistic sharing" is on this basis actually a form of spiritual prostitution. Suppose, gentle reader, that your next-door neighbour should offer to you his wife (or her husband, if you are female) for your good pleasure. If you are decent and a gentleman, you would of course decline. Would you not also be greatly affronted if your neighbour then expected to be allowed take the same liberties with your own wife as he offered you with his? In such manner do we behave when we offer the Eucharist to those with whom we are not in communion, or if we avail of such an offer from them.

    Finally, those who engage in indiscriminate "Eucharistic sharing" are also guilty of failing to discern the body of the Lord. There is a world of difference between the Roman Catholic theology of the Eucharist and the Anglican theology of the same. This means in effect that the Roman Eucharist and the Anglican Eucharist are two completely different things. No Roman Catholic who knows his faith would ever be prepared to receive the Eucharist at an Anglican service, except out of malice or unbelief. No Roman Catholic priest could, unless he had lost his faith or valued the approval of men more than the approval of God, offer the Eucharist to Anglican communicants, except under those few exceptions granted by canon law.

  2. Now to deal with what Cooney calls "Rome's continued non-recognition of the validity of Anglican Orders". Actually, he has this sentence backwards. He ought to have said "Rome's continued recognition of the invalidity of Anglican Orders". Cooney simply assumes that Anglican Orders are "valid". But what does "valid" mean in this context? Can Cooney not tell us why Rome perceives a difference between its own orders and those of the Anglican church? As with the Eucharist, there is an unbridgable gulf between the Roman Catholic and the Anglican theology of orders. Cooney misleads his readers by treating this most serious question as a simple matter of reciprocal courtesy, as though there were no reason beyond a snooty sense of superiority for Rome to withhold "recognition" of Anglican Orders. He does not inform his readers that Rome recognises as valid the orders of the Orthodox and Old Catholic churches, even though these bodies are not in communion with the Holy See, and that if only the Anglican churches possessed the same orders as these bodies, Rome would have no hesitation in recognising them also. Despite the definitive judgement of Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae, there are many today, including Catholics, who continue to insist with John Cooney that Anglican Orders are fully valid in the Catholic sense. Of course the situation has been muddied somewhat since 1896 by the introduction of the so-called "Dutch Touch", namely the ordination of Anglican clergy by Old Catholic bishops whose orders are not in dispute, and the Anglicans themselves have long since fixed the defects in their ordinal which, according to the Holy See, caused a fatal interruption of the apostolic succession in the sixteenth century.

    For more on this contentious question, the reader will find a useful collection of resources here.

  3. Melancholicus shall pass over the issue of clerical celibacy, since he has said enough about it elsewhere. Instead, he shall move on to what Cooney calls "Rome's refusal to ordain women", as though this were simply an issue of sexism. But this question is related to that on orders above; once again, the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches have two radically divergent theologies of ordination, and they cannot be regarded as though there is no difference between them. The Roman Catholic Church believes it has no authority to confer the sacrament of holy orders on women. This is because the sacraments were instituted not by the Church, but by Christ, and the Church has no authority to change them in accordance with the fads of the hour. Of course, true to his tendentious approach throughout this article, what Cooney neglects to tell us is that the ordination of women to the Anglican priesthood and episcopate has caused enormous rifts everywhere in the Anglican Communion wherever such ordinations have taken place. Thus this matter is not reducible to a simplistic view of Rome as sexist and authoritarian, and Canterbury as inclusive and enlightened.

  4. As if to seal the deal, Cooney feels compelled to thump the drum of the homosexualist lobby. Once again, hidebound reactionary Rome is unfavourably contrasted with open and enlightened Canterbury, as the latter, knowingly and with approbation, ordains gay men (and gay women) to the priesthood and episcopate. Although the Roman hierarchy is likewise full of ring pirates, as a spate of scandals over the past decade or more has revealed, homosexuality is frowned upon by hidebound reactionary Rome, which Cooney would like us to believe is horrified by all expressions of human sexuality. Once again he fails to mention that the Anglican Communion is at this moment bitterly convulsed over the issue of the ordination and marriage of practicing homosexuals, far more bitterly than any controversy generated by women's ordination.]


At the same time as the re-imposition of Rome's doctrinal authority [ooooh, evil authoritarian Rome!], increasing numbers of Irish Catholics have adopted 'Protestant' attitudes on issues of personal conscience such as birth control, cohabitation and divorce [there are many Anglicans, and other protestants likewise, who also reject birth control, cohabitation and divorce. Once again, Cooney attempts to reduce these matters to a simple question of backward, reactionary Rome and a modern and enlightened 'protestant' attitude] -- and are out of tune with the Sistine choir [this guy is far too enamoured of his own wisecracks to be a credible journalist. Is that why he has opted to write about issues of religion rather than something more "serious" such as politics?].

One option for disaffected Catholics is to join the Church of Ireland. It is estimated that 10pc of its 125,585 members in the 2006 census were born Catholics. This represents the highest figure for the Church of Ireland in the Republic since 1936 [This is true. Membership of the Church of Ireland is certainly growing. The figure Cooney provides includes only those who live in the Irish Republic. More Anglicans live in the north than in the south. Altogether the Church of Ireland has about 390,000 adherents, though this is still a lot less than the nearly 700,000 or so that belonged to the Church at the time of its disestablishment in 1870].

Dean Dunne is but one of several ex-Catholic priests in the Anglican ministry. Another notable [!] recruit is a former Dublin priest, the Rev Mark Hayden, now Rector in Gorey, Co Wexford, who describes his spiritual journey in his book, Changing Colours [First of all, Rev. Hayden's book is called Changing Collars, not Changing Colours. Cooney clearly hasn't read it. But Melancholicus has, since he used to know the author somewhat during the latter's appointment as a curate in Greystones, before he left the Church. In 2007, in the grip of a deep melancholic despond and, partly for that reason (among numerous others), disenchanted with the Irish RC Church, Melancholicus actually flirted with the idea of becoming an Anglican. Knowing of Rev. Hayden's departure some years earlier and finding that he had written a book about his journey, Melancholicus eagerly obtained a copy (in a Catholic bookshop!), looking forward to a learned and convincing vindication of the Anglican religion against the errors of popery. If he expected such, he was singularly disappointed. Rev. Hayden's book is not about theology at all, but more an exposé of its author’s human weaknesses and unfortunate misunderstandings. For such a defence, Melancholicus would have done much better to read Hooker, Andrewes, Cosin or Jeremy Taylor. Hayden's reasons for becoming an Anglican were so poor in comparison. In fact, he might have become any kind of protestant; there is nothing particularly Anglican about him. In the end, reason and conscience prevailed, and Melancholicus is still popishly affected to this day].

"I was a devout Mass-going Catholic, but I could not take the 'one shoe for all sizes' doctrinal hard-line from the Vatican, as the fate of many distinguished theologians from Jacques Dupuis to Charles Curran amply demonstrates," he says. "I also felt alienated and unwelcome in parish churches which were dominated by poorly read, loud-mouthed Catholic conservatives whose ignorance of theology was matched only by the emptiness of their unthinkingly conformist rhetoric." [wow, don't we have some issues here!]

Clearly, Rome and Maynooth are losing bright luminaries [!] to the more liberal Church of Ireland. 'Denominational migration' has winners and losers.

Melancholicus knows nothing about Dermot Dunne, but for Cooney to describe Mark Hayden as a ‘bright luminary’ seems to be begging the question. If Rev. Hayden really regards clowns like Curran and Dupuis as ‘distinguished theologians’, it doesn’t say much for his own intellectual prowess, his powers of discernment or his judgement of character. Rev. Hayden seems to be carrying a lot of anger and baggage from the past. He should, for the good of his physical, spiritual and emotional health, just let it go. I know he had some bad experiences at the hands of uncharitable persons prior to his departure from the Church, but come on, Mark, be bigger than that! Don’t bare your wounded soul and the emptiness of your unthinkingly fuzzy theology in the pages of the national press: get a blog! They're free you know, and you can say what you like about your nasty loud-mouthed conservatives without fear of rebuke.

But as for losing such ‘luminaries’ to the ‘more liberal’ Church of Ireland, there are not a few Irish Anglicans who are none too happy about such migrational trends. The quality of the traffic seems to be all one way, so far as Melancholicus can see. In most instances, the Anglican Church gives Rome her brightest and best people, and we give her our dross, our rejects, our cast-offs and our nincompoops in exchange. She sends us Bible-believing, serious, moral, upright Christians, the very best that the faith of their Church has formed, persons who know how to reason and defend the Christian faith against the assaults of an aggressive secularism. From our ranks she receives religious illiterates, persons whose motivation for abandoning the Roman communion is neither conscientious nor scriptural, but often because they wish to pursue a lifestyle of loose morals. They break with Rome over such issues as contraception, abortion, divorce and remarriage, sodomy and suchlike, and they have the temerity to think that the good people of the Church of Ireland will give them a sympathetic hearing. For there are not a few Irish Anglicans who deplore the entrenched and institutionalised liberalism of their Church, and how unscriptural it has become in its normalisation of what were once considered grave immoralities. So who is the winner really?

Alas, Mr. Cooney, you have become a parody of yourself!