Thursday, 31 March 2016

A day in the country...

We had beautiful weather in southern England to-day, a marked difference to the ferocious storm we had over false Easter. Having had to run mundane errands in my home town this afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the fair weather and go deeper into Kent for the first time in ages. I left the car and went for a vigorous walk up a beaten track beyond bypass roads and urban developments into a countryside that could have been painted by Constable (if you could see past the barbed wire, that is). I feel renewed, despite everything, every time I go into the country for the first time in the Spring, almost as Frodo did when his eyes were uncovered at Cerin Amroth. During the next hour or so I passed a field of growing hops, an handsome country house, an old bridge, a beautiful mill and many a charming cottage, of flint and timber wrought, with actual, significant names as opposed to numbers. I sat by the river and listened for a while. The wind in the trees and the swift-flowing river brought the angelic chorus to mind as I tried to conceive of celestial melodies, countless choirs singing with voices, and the primeval liturgy unstained by traditionalists. Magna opera Domini!

As you can see, I'm going for a sort of Dr Evadne Hinge look with my hair.

Lefebvrism a pagan cult...

May my words and our thoughts be in the Name of God.

I've been told, by someone who knew him, that my attitude towards Marcel Lefebvre is glib. "You're too young to have known him," quoth he. Well, I am too young to have known Joseph Stalin as well but that doesn't make my opinion of the man of less weight or authority. Please allow me to explain.

Religion has, unfortunately, ever been the forum for those already apt to evil; cynical opportunists, charlatans, and other money-grabbing sybarites. It's not hard to understand why. People concerned about death, the soul, or just leading a good life in some cultural way, which are quintessentially religious provinces, are easy prey for the crafty and manipulative. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were two such evil men. So too is John Zuhlsdorf. But what about Archbishop Lefebvre? How did he fit into this grotesque catalogue of credulity and manipulation?

I had said that Archbishop Lefebvre was a charlatan. Maybe that is unfair and I am too hard on the man. Perhaps a more accurate picture would be that of a man, not very remarkable as ecclesiastics go, mediocre, a typical Pacelli appointee and perpetually compromised, in what conviction he had, by his diplomatic experience. That is not to say that he was without guile. His tyrannical and unloving way of dealing with, erm, let's call them "conscientious objectors" in the $$PX is well documented. He was unjust and indecisive, and clearly wallowed in the adulation of being, in his view and the view of the credulous, the sole saviour of the Church. His Ultramontanism, little more than a relic of his having been reared in a French monarchist household and certainly helpful in his rise through the hierarchy, was also, in my view, an inherent flaw. That he disdained Paul VI and held him to blame for many of the present ills of the Roman church is also well known, even if people choose to overlook the fact that his quasi-Sedevacantist views from the Society's inception until at least 1979 had more to do with this personal animosity than theological insight. It's more than obvious that Lefebvre swooned in John Paul II's presence, who, according to Rev. Anthony Cekada, gave him a "bear hug" at their first meeting and promised to treat the irregularity of the $$PX personally. One wonders what Lefebvre would have said to Wojtyla's frequent visits to synagogues and those scandalous Assisi gatherings. Would he have reverted to his old thoughts on neo-Modernist Rome or would he have just brushed the scandal aside, as a charlatan might? Who knows? As the Steward of Gondor said: "such ifs are vain."

It seems terribly fashionable in certain circles within Roman Catholicism to revere the late Archbishop, and to hold his contemporary followers in esteem; almost a litmus test of loyalty to the traditionalist cause. Why is this? Who sets this fashion? Where are the unseen party whips and why don't they make their purposes known? I find this invisible, insidious influence and unquestioning support for the Lefebvrists among traditionalists very frightening. Very tribal, very myopic, very superstitious. And this has less to do with the liturgical books of 1962 than my detractors care to think. It seems an almost pagan manifestation, a frenzied tendency in which people summarily abandon reason in exchange for a feeling, however fleeting, that they are involved in something profound, something universal that confers solidarity. Call that what you will; adherence to "tradition" (a point of view); resistance to "modernism" (an obsolete term); or, for the lesser minds, the ability to feel smug and important, which might obviate other social or sexual failures.

As such, the traditionalist movement seems such a mob to me. Why do men lose control of their faculties in crowds, riots, demonstrations and populist movements when they might otherwise be quite reasonable? I've been in conversation many times with traditionalists, who have told me in different ways: "Yes, Patrick, you're right. The 1962 missal is a load of old rubbish. Signum Magnum, Joe the Worker, Holy Week, all those things; they are an aberration of the Roman Rite." But they can't (or won't) admit the shallowness of their position. And this is, I think, largely because of the influence of Marcel Lefebvre, John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the traditionalist movement. Since 1984 traditionalists have assumed two external identification tags: one is the 1962 Missal, the other is the Society of [St] Pius X, so, if you like, one in space, the other in time. As a result, they are extremely sensitive to any suggestion that there might be criticism of either. This reinforces my belief that there is a demonic undertow to the traditionalist movement; a primitive, pre- or post-Christian ethos with little room for that sublime Pauline maxim: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
I have felt it myself. I was ever conscious of the pressure beating upon me from outside when I was involved in the traditionalist movement, and took part in events organised by The Latin Mass Society. This is chiefly why I gave it up; I was in fear for my mind, more than anything else! "One of us! One of us!"

To conclude these thoughts I would observe the most salient points. Traditionalism, be that schismatic or obedient, is what happens when a tradition has died. The liturgical books of 1962 are defective, and an aberration of the Roman Rite, and these are what have been enshrined in positive law and promoted by the $$PX. Marcel Lefebvre was a schismatic, dissident bishop who rejected an ecumenical council of the Roman church. He illegally consecrated four bishops, assisted by the openly Sedevacantist De Castro Mayer (despite the purge of the $$PX of nine priests, ostensibly on charges of Sedevacantism in 1983). If Lefebvre was praiseworthy, these things seem far more grave than aught else he might have said or done. And one last thing: his followers, particularly the four recently rehabilitated bishops, leave a lot to be desired. The lifting of the excommunications conspicuously did not apply to Lefebvre himself, and not one of them stood up for Lefebvre and objected to this. Their attitude seems to have been: "I'm all right, Jack. We're back in the club now." Not very good, not very episcopal. Why, then, are people so fascinated by these renegades?

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Who does this man think he is?

I am pleased that "Archbishop Cranmer" picked up on this as I had. The difference is, I didn't watch Mr Cameron's "Easter message." I have absolutely no interest in what he says about Christianity, which is mostly lukewarm, cynical, and politically-correct rubbish. Maybe I'm too old fashioned and live in a world of make-believe but I thought Her Majesty The Queen spoke to the people about such things? She is a sincere Christian for one, and it is not for naught that she is Supreme Governor of the Church by law Established, which might be a joke but is at least some relic of Christ at the heart of this nation. No, Mr Cameron can sod off with his silly rhetoric. I'd rather hear of God's lively oracles from His anointed than some elected, careerist politician.

Monday, 28 March 2016


The first thought that came to me when I read that pope Francis had tried to prevent a Rolling Stones concert on Good Friday was: "here we go, the ugly papal head is reared from mediaeval times to thwart the will of princes." I mean, it's quite rich coming from someone fanatically in favour of a fixed date for Easter to worry about Christian sentitivities on Good Friday. But there's more. You can't expect people to respect your religion when you go about presenting a version of Christianity that is completely unattractive, and divorced from your own patrimony. In a nutshell!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The party line...

The silence, censorship and obdurate, bone-headed conviction with which my, utterly correct, view of Marcel Lefebvre has been treated reminds me of the end of one of the late Sir Christopher Lee's best films, The Wicker Man. In a howling wilderness, beset by silent, deluded foes with vacant expressions, the sergeant implored them, tried to explain with reason the shallowness of their religion, and he was burnt at the stake anyway. I daresay if the unholy Inquisition still existed that would be my fate too, for loving truth rather than party lines.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Cut flowers...

Fr Andrew has put up an interesting Q&A over on his blog about the revival of local Western saints in the Orthodox Church. I agree with most of it, particularly his observations (which I have made myself, to my accustomed derision) about the dedication of churches to modern "saints," or even funny concepts such as the "sacred heart." This is evident in Ireland, especially, where dedications to saints like Kevin, Brigid or Colmcille are very rare, and even where there are such churches there is no actual cultus. A small exception tends to be made for St Patrick but his memory is defiled by the tawdry, drunken festival which makes of Ireland a universal embarrassment. As a child I was back and forth to Ireland all the time, mostly to the North where I have family. The first time I visited the South was when I went to an Irish dancing competition in Co. Clare with my mother, circa 1998. I went to the local cathedral for a Mass, which was not very memorable, but what was memorable was going into the cathedral shop afterwards. There I discovered a little green book, on the front of which was a stained glass window depicting my patron, St Patrick, called "Irish Saints." Up to that point the only image I had ever seen of St Patrick was this one (below), which presumably dates to the 19th or early 20th century (does anyone know?).

Even at the age of 10 years I found his green chasuble and benevolent expression rather saccharine and not at all like the author of the beautiful Breastplate. And I knew nothing at all about any other Irish saint. Not till I opened the little green book (which I still have), and read the words: "Ireland, as all her schoolchildren used to learn, was known in the golden age of monasticism as Isola sanctorum doctorumque - the isle of saints and scholars." I begged my mother to buy me this little book, which she kindly did. It was £4.99 (in those days Ireland was still not fully independent of England!). It was from this time that I started to discover the wealth of local saints, and not just Irish ones. My paternal grandparents moved to Cornwall at about this time, and lived in a village called St Teath on Bodmin Moor, named for the 5th century St Tetha the Virgin. There are lots of places in Cornwall named for old, forgotten saints; St Ives, St Austell, St Mawes, and many others that I don't remember. It reminds me of the Christian symbolism of The Lord of the Rings, not sledgehammer subtle like the Narnia stories, but absorbed into the fabric. Just like the memory and former cultus of a local saint is absorbed into the village. Even Barry, the publican of the White Hart Inn in St Teath, could tell me a thing or two about the patron of the village, and went to services in the village church.

This is exactly what I mean by the title of of this post. Orthodoxy in England (and later Ireland) was severed at the Battle of Hastings when the soldiery of the Bastard Duke marched under a papal banner and, after a series of church "reforms," the new prelates cast opprobrium on the old church, her saints and customs and replaced them with the new. But, like cut flowers, the semblance of true religion remained where people were in good faith and confessed the Holy Name of Jesus. Religion may have died, but it was still fragrant. There was still dignity in worship down to the Reformation, there was still faith, there were still lively saints, albeit blended with superstition and excess. The extent to which the people of England and Ireland were Papists was just an accident of history, and place of birth. Remember what Frodo said when he returned to the Shire about the hobbits and the ruffians: "But remember: there is to be no slaying of hobbits, not even if they have gone over to the other side. Really gone over, I mean; not just obeying ruffians' orders because they are frightened." It is precisely because these islands were fortified by the Orthodox faith that Christianity cannot ever, fully die out, and and ever and anon somebody like me, or Fr Andrew, is born and takes an interest in the faith of the fathers. Some of the Anglican divines were undoubtedly crypto-Orthodox. Matthew Parker and Richard Hooker spring to mind. On the Papist side one could well argue (as my own Church history tutor at Heythrop did) that John Henry Newman was also a crypto-Orthodox, somebody born out of time and place and yet hungered and thirsted after righteousness, as the scripture says. These islands were either accursed of God because of the sins of certain high ecclesiastics in faraway Rome, in which case nothing worthwhile can be said of aught between 1066 and the arrival of Greek and Russian immigrants, many of whom, like the Normans, disdained our old saints. Or, and this is my belief, God sent down the Holy Ghost in sundry churches to keep some faith alive, despite the schism and the general waning of knowledge in the westering sun of Orthodoxy. Who can see to the depths of Her Majesty's heart? Pious and reared in princely lore, is she cut off from the Church? No, her patron is St Edward the Confessor, whose relics are enshrined in the heart and foundation of this realm. Westminster Abbey may be England's Valhalla yet it is still a church. So I am wont to disagree with Fr Andrew on this point and tend to think that there was more to St Edward the Confessor than feudalism and his Norman mother.

Possibly the holiest place I have ever visited, this is one of the Celtic crosses in Glendalough, a serene and beautiful place in the Wicklow Mountains. St Kevin's Tower is in the background.

Cut flowers are dead, and soon wither. I wonder what stage we're in now? If only the Orthodox churches of England put away ethnic isolationism and political prejudice they might attract more converts. I have no interest in Slavic culture! But like the crypto-Orthodox of the deep English past I yearn for the sacraments and the communion of the Church. Am I, a sinner with the little green book, to be thrown out to compost with the rest of my countrymen?

A contrast...

Princely dignity, tradition, and the "magic" of Her Majesty The Queen. I can honestly say that she never fails to bring a smile to my face, and not seldom a tear. Long may she reign!

This image reminds me of what Basil Fawlty said about putting out a trough of baked beans for the guests, garnished with a few dead dogs. Arch-heretic and low life Bergoglio in a shew of spurious humility.

Friday, 25 March 2016

25 years...

The number twenty-five certainly has a lot of symbolism this year. No, this is not going to be as insightful and inspiring as the Oxonian Clerk's latest article, qualities for which these days I have no aspiration, just a quick note on the contribution of one man; a Frankish clergyman called Marcel Lefebvre. He died twenty-five years ago to-day and is buried in a converted garage in Switzerland. It's also the anniversary of the 1983 letter of just grievance sent to him by nine priests of the priestly Society, among them the Reverends Anthony Cekada and Eugene Berry who both read this blog once upon a time (and, it's unlikely, but perhaps still do). I encourage you especially to read the Rev. Anthony Cekada's stuff over at Apposite for to-day's reading would be the text of the Letter of the "Naughty Nine," and the account (in Pdf) of the four year legal battle between the Nine and Lefebvre over property rights and such things. Even a cursory reading of these documents will shatter the myth of the "saintly archbishop," valiant, unshaken and constant to the end. No! Lefebvre was rather a snake in the grass, a complete fake, and as Ultramontane as most of the French prelates at the First Council of the Vatican. His considerably more hard line position taken from the Society's founding till the early 1980's, a position that could be described as "sedevacantist," can be better explained by his personal animosity towards pope Paul VI (of blessed memory) than genuine conviction. Then along comes a young, charismatic John Paul II, waves his magic wand and just watch as the dissidence and principle melt in a pot of Ultramontane credulity and hyperbole. What a sham! And woe betide anyone who disagreed with him! As Rev. Cekada says:
"Abp. Lefebvre made a regular practice of threatening priests with expulsion or actually expelling them from the Society, and then making no provision whatsoever for their support. By 1983, this was part of the archbishop's standard operating procedure — cross him and you were out in the street with no appeal."
That sounds personally familiar...

Contrary to the version of history made popular by Richard Williamson, aka: the reverend Party Line, this had nothing to do with Sedevacantism. Doubtless some clergy of the $$PX held sedevacantist opinions but this only became an issue in the early-1980's. Before the negotiations with (neo-Modernist) Rome, whose paragon was John Paul II, the $$PX was a very flexible, loose association of priests and lay people held together less by the charisma or will of Lefebvre himself as a common ideal, a common rejection of Modernism in the post-Vatican II Roman church. Liturgically, the $$PX had no real standard (there was no $$PX "charter," the society had no canonical standing). In France, for instance, you would walk into a chapel administered by the Lefebvrists and you would find a kind of hodgepodge of 1962 and post-1962. Contrast this with England and North America, where pre-1956 was the rule. Lefebvre himself seemingly had no preference, celebrating the reformed rites as they were in 1967. What was an issue, for the nine priests and their congregations and seminarians, was the increasing tendency of Lefebvre to change his mind on a whim on some disciplinary matter (and then turn mercilessly on anyone who disagreed with him); his lofty, narcissistic view of himself as if he were pope and magisterium; the validity of the sacraments administered by new priests, of doubtful orders, in the Society; and crucially the liturgical books of 1962. Charges of Sedevacantism were just a convenient means of silencing opposition. As to imposing 1962, Rev. Cekada further explains:
"Now not even the head of a real religious order like the Cistercians has the power to impose new liturgical practices on members — and Abp. Lefebvre was nothing more than a retired bishop heading a priests' association that had no canonical existence. He had no right to dictate liturgical practices to anyone. Apart from the legal issue, there was the principle itself. These liturgical reforms were the work of the Mason Bugnini. They were one stage in his program to destroy the Mass and replace it with the Novus Ordo assembly-supper. Knowing that, there was no way I and my fellow priests would use his Missal."
It is a tendency that has been evident throughout the history of the Roman church for a thousand years. A combination of political expediency, aggressive proselytism, modernising, and sniveling Ultramontanism. There were many people in history who knew what side their bread was buttered. Charlemagne was one, Alfonso VI of Castile was another. Marcel Lefebvre was just the latest, at least liturgically. The more "mainstream" a rite, the more a rite is aggressively promoted by Rome, together with the relative native conviction or goodness of the subject, the standard slips as people forget and are, in turn, forgotten. Put simply, as Ultramontanism rises, liturgy plummets. As dissidence wanes, so too does the standard. And this is what we see to-day. Twenty-five years on, what is Lefebvre's legacy? Is it a new liturgical movement, grounded in a burning zeal for truth, constancy and tradition? Is it the reconciliation of an internal schism? No, it's insincere morons like the one I met on the way to St Bede's Clapham Park once holding his 1962 missal and thinking himself so very pious and important. It's those ridiculous pseudo-canons of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, draped in blue. It's the scandalous strategy of carrot and stick, with every few years abortive hopes of a reconciliation with Rome. And probably most damaging of all is the infiltration and usurpation of the Traditionalist movement by neo-conservatives (that is, the superstitious types willing to accept the latest Roman defecation but simply "prefer" the "usus antiquior"). This was a process begun in 1984, with Lefebvre's negotations with Rome, and the decree Quattuor Abhinc Annos. Tradition, as a cause, was then cheaply discarded and the Ultramontane orthodoxy of the conservatives took over. These days concern about the bastardized rite of 1962 is dismissed as "liturgical fetishism." Or as Lefebvre himself might have said: "la foi, c'est moi!"

I'm afraid I don't have a good word to say about Lefebvre, a pernicious, lying, devious old queen, now in Hell. If he was buried in England I think I'd piss on his grave.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


I've always liked Annie Lennox, and Eurythmics. I first saw this music video when I was very little, when it was brand new. I've often wondered why I was so enthralled by it. I think it's because my mother told me that the travesti dancers were men. It seems strange, in hindsight, that she should do this. She went into a rage when she found out that my grandmother was letting me watch Hinge & Bracket, and the day I walked into the kitchen when she was cleaning the oven and asked: "mummy, how do gay men have sex?" she was not too pleased (she bashed her head on the roof of the oven, you see). At the time I was the only male dancer at my Irish Dance academy. And I despise my mother. It's clear to me now that I was ruined from a very young age, and that she had a lot to do with it.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A psychopathic culture...

Opposite my grandmother's house in Ireland is a field. At the end of this field there is a river. Some years ago the local Sinn Féin man knocked at my grandmother's house because there was nobody else about. He needed help because one of his horses had foundered in the river, and was in peril of drowning. If for no other reason that a horse was in danger, she decided to help. She waded into the river to comfort the horse, whereupon the horse got its strength back and climbed the bank, and was saved. Ever since then the Sinn Féin man has been a faithful friend of my grandmother, despite their differences. One day a caravan was parked on the field and was left there. The next day two more caravans came, and the next day two more, and before my grandmother was even aware, four "Traveller" families had settled on the field opposite her house. Now, my grandmother doesn't own the field but she certainly didn't want a lot of "Travellers" tearing it up, making a noise like elephants and plummeting the value of her house. So she besought them to pack up and move on. I think she was told to "feck off." She contacted the Gardai, who wouldn't help. Then one day the Sinn Féin man knocked at the door to ask after her health. She explained the situation, but by no means asked for his help. Nevertheless, the Sinn Féin man went to speak to the Travellers. I think they told him to bugger off too.

One day, when the Travellers were away, some men came and set light to one of the caravans, and waited. When the Travellers returned, one of the arsonists said to them: "if you lot don't move on, the next time you'll be asleep inside!" It goes without saying that the Travellers packed up and left, and haven't returned.

The reason I have related this story is because I've been reading a lot about Nazis and their policies towards gypsies, travellers and other vagrant types. I could have told you stories from personal experience, about being intimidated and beaten up by "traveller" types on my paper round as a boy, but I thought the story of the kindly protestant lady and the Catholic man, united in their common hatred of these low, thieving scoundrels better illustrates my point. I don't have a good word to say about Travellers. Their loathsome way of life, their culture of ignorance, incest, and bullying, lewd drunkenness and sponging, make me sick to my stomach. They are a blight on every field, they defile every roadside. They are rightly shunned by decent members of society. And yet people react with horror when they read that the Nazis held them in dire contempt too, and forced them into concentration camps. I'm afraid I don't share that horror. I think that if Nazi policies, which in most respects were not very attractive, had any justification at all then dealing with this plague would have my support. You can't tell these vagrants to "move on" indefinitely. They're just going to move to another field, opposite somebody else's house who doesn't want them there, and maybe next time there won't be a handy vigilante type to force them out with petrol and fire. What then? Is the innocent, law-abiding elderly woman supposed to live in fear of burglary and constant menace?

Grandmother's story was so compelling it actually softened my view of Sinn Féin somewhat.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

To take my mind off religion...

"And you thought you would like to feel that powerful, withering love that shatters both the body and the soul? You do not answer. Then afterwards came Egypt, Antinous and Adrian. You were the Emperor, I was the slave." Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal, attributed to Oscar Wilde.

That time of year again...

Pius XII, liturgist!

About three weeks ago I was at a dinner party. It was sensible Christian company, of course, and I remember I intimated the fecundity and profundity of my prayer life to the persons present. "I usually address God," said I: "with impertinent familiarity. I am wont to say, 'you know how it is,' or 'you know the score.'" And that's it! I don't pray the office; I don't believe in liturgical solipsism (a comfortable safeguard against laziness and hypocrisy). I rarely even make the Sign of the Cross, although I sometimes do so over meat if I am not sure of its history from abattoir to the supermarket. I don't follow the liturgical kalendar. I don't fast. I don't give alms. I sometimes read the Bible; I'll recite Psalm 90 every so often, and I sometimes sing hymns to myself. I don't ever go to church and that is because all the churches are apostate or corrupt in some way. Christianity, or more accurately "churchianity," has become so repulsive to me. And to-day is one of the reasons why.

Years ago, I remember very clearly being rebuked by a Roman Catholic woman for my position on the liturgical books of 1962 (which hasn't changed at all), for not "offering up" to God my "sufferings," or sense of scandal, in imitation of Christ (such arrogance!), for the sake of personal loyalty to the Roman church. I can only describe this scenario as looking across a sundering gulf at an alien creature. Her position was, I now understand, entirely superstitious. What was really wrong with the 1962 missal? Surely it was sanctioned by the church? For a woman who loved to quote Ratzinger's pseudo-profound: "truth is not subject of a majority vote," I found her condescending remonstrance hard to accept. She seemed to expect me to abandon my conviction on the liturgical books of 1962 and just toe the party line. Not only is this completely unfair, it makes no sense. The liturgical books of 1962 have absolutely no intrinsic value. They represent a complete departure from the Roman liturgical tradition, and they are objectively an aberration. This is as true as the sky is blue, the grass is green, the bus is red. So why would attendance at services celebrated 1962 fashion be virtuous? Why would participation in something objectively wrong in terms of doctrine and praxis be worthwhile? Is the Church an hospital for the sick? Are the sacraments, the services, the scriptures, the saints not the God-given means by which alone we can become by Grace what He is by nature? Or is the Church some arbitrary correctional facility for suspect persons in which "loyalty" is tested by humiliating regimens in grotesque surroundings? "Swallow this crap, or you're not one of us!"

Leaving aside the question of whether even attempting to imitate Christ's Passion is a noble thing, I just could not get this woman to understand my position, so I gave up trying. "No, I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't share your view," was the only polite way of ending the pointless debate. And not only has nobody ever furnished me with a proof from some lofty Roman decree that the 1962 missal was never juridically abrogated, this woman also conspicuously failed to furnish me with scriptural or patristic proof that this business about "offering up" scandal has any justification. You can't think: "I can see that what I am involved in here is sacriligious, blasphemous and defective," and "offer it up!" What on earth do you say to that? O Lord...

Oh, what's the bloody point?

Photo courtesy of The Saint Lawrence Press.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

"Merciful to peril..."

Ted Nasmith's dramatic rendering of the duel between Morgoth and the Gnomish King Fingolfin.

Before I was interrupted by ghosts of past resentment and foiled hopes I had a mind to complete my series on Death. I contributed to the thread over on Fr Anthony's blog. I can't imagine that Fr Anthony consciously did so but in his response he actually laid the foundation for this very post, which is to bring in some Tolkien. I don't know either way what Tolkien thought of capital punishment as it existed on the law books for most of his lifetime. There is nothing in his letters that broaches the subject, albeit there are many discussions of mortality. I am inclined to believe that he supported it, in principle, because, together with outlawry (for another post?), it is presented in his works as quite normal. We see this in the execution of Maeglin's father Eöl in Gondolin. But for the murder of Aradhel, his wife and sister of the King, he might have obtained mercy; but the next morning, plain his guilt and obstinacy in evil, he was taken to the walls of the city and cast over a precipice of black rock and, so ended. "And to all in Gondolin it seemed just," says the chronicler. You might say this is a "cruel and unusual punishment," to be thrown over a high precipice, with death coming either of shock or a broken body, but since the Gnomes are presented as the highest, noblest and the wisest of the two kindreds, this may go some way to understanding Tolkien's view of capital punishment. Having said that, this execution took place in the context of a grievous war, and under the shadow of Morgoth. This is very important relative to what Fr Anthony said of disincarnate beings exerting an horrible influence on the living. I shall come back to Eöl and his son later.

The execution of Eöl. Maeglin turns away in the foreground.

We also see the death penalty in the ultimate fate of Morgoth himself. "Morgoth," for those of you who don't know, is Tolkien's Diabolos, the primeval "dark lord" and spirit of rebellion and strife, who is presented as a terrible tyrant and master of evil magic. In antient days the Valar, that is the angelic host faithful to the will and purpose of God, made war on him, captured him and brought him perforce into the West for judgement. There are conflicting accounts of this. Connoisseurs will no doubt have read the first account given in chapter four of The Book of Lost Tales, which, in my view, is the best of all. It contains a very moving account of Melko's [an antiquated name for Morgoth] trial:
"Now is the court set upon the slopes of Taniquetil and Melko arraigned before all the Vali great and small, lying bound before the silver chair of Manwë. Against him speaketh Ossë, and Oromë and Ulmo in deep ire, and Vána in abhorrence, proclaiming his deeds of cruelty and violence; yet Makar still spake for him, although not warmly, for said he: ''Twere an ill thing if peace were for always: already no blow echoes ever in the eternal quietude of Valinor, wherefore, if one might neither see deed of battle nor riotous joy even in the world without, then 'twould be irksome indeed, and I for one long not for such times!' Thereat arose Palúrien in sorrow and tears, and told of the plight of Earth and of the great beauty of her designs and of those things she desired dearly to bring forth; of all the wealth of flower and herbage, of tree and fruit and grain that the world might bear if it had but peace. 'Take heed, O Valar, that both Elves and Men be not devoid of all solace whenso the times come for them to find the Earth,' but Melko writhed in rage at the name of Eldar and of Men and at his own impotence. 
"Now Aulë mightily backed her in this and after him many else of the Gods, yet Mandos and Lórien held their peace, nor do they ever speak much at the councils of the Valar or indeed at other times, but Tulkas arose angrily from the midst of the assembly and went from among them, for he could not endure parleying where he thought the guilt to be clear. Liever would he have unchained Melko and fought him then and there alone upon the plain of Valinor, giving him many a sore buffet in meed of his illdoings, rather than making high debate of them. Howbeit Manwë sate and listened and was moved by the speech of Palúrien, yet was it his thought that Melko was an Ainu and powerful beyond measure for the future good or evil of the world; wherefore he put away harshness and his doom was this. For three ages during the displeasure of the Gods should Melko be chained in a vault of Mandos by that chain Angaino, and thereafter should he fare into the light of the Two Trees, but only so that he might for four ages yet dwell as a servant in the house of Tulkas, and obey him in requital of his antient malice. 'Thus,' said Manwë, 'and yet but hardly, mayst thou win favour again sufficient that the Gods suffer thee to abide thereafter in an house of thine own and to have some slight estate among them as befitteth a Vala and a lord of the Ainur.' 
"Such was the doom of Manwë, and even to Makar and Meássë it seemed good, albeit Tulkas and Palúrien thought it merciful to peril. Now doth Valinor enter upon its greatest time of peace, and all the earth beside, while Melko bideth in the deepest vaults of Mandos and his heart grows black within him." The Book of Lost Tales, Part I, Chapter IV.
Without discussing in too much detail the discrepancies between this old account and that given in The Silmarillion, there are themes common to both: Manwë's clemency and trustful character, the somewhat impetuous Tulkas, whose character typifies "righteous anger," which may countenance apparent evils (such as war) in the eschewing of moral compromise; and so on. But in neither account was Manwë's clemency any help. In fact, his clemency was an inherent fault and his judgement against the common voice. "Would that he might be slain," were Oromë's words, and neither Ulmo nor Tulkas were deceived by Morgoth's pledges of truce and friendship. It's said that Manwë could not see to the depths of Morgoth's heart and believed that his evil was cured. It's tempting to view this fault as mere naïveté but it behoves us to remember that Manwë was the greatest spirit of wisdom and prudence in Arda, and that in his beginning Morgoth had been even as he. Manwë hoped, against hope, for peace and amity in the end, and as for trying to understand Morgoth, who on earth could? He remained fixed in a monstrously potent will to withhold his mind, which, physically expressed, took shape in the darkness and shadows that surrounded him. Only Fëanor is said to have "looked upon [Morgoth] with eyes that burned through his fair semblance and pierced the cloaks of his mind." His sojourn in the duress of Mandos was for his meditation, reclusion, and in earnest of true repentance. Manwë's judgement, as it afterwards proved, had been "merciful to peril."

Cosmogonical music and violence. God and the Devil.

After ruining the bliss of Valinor and stirring rebellion among the Gnomes, Morgoth escaped the vigilance of the Valar, destroyed the Two Trees, murdered the Gnomish King, stole the jewels at Formenos, and fled back to his old strongholds in the north of Middle-earth. The Gnomes waged a long and grievous war upon Morgoth to avenge the King and recover the jewels, but came close to annihilation. When at last the Valar intervened by supplication of Eärendil and unroofed the pits of Hell, we are told in The Silmarillion that he was: "thrust through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void." This is incomplete and actually gives the false impression that this was some rather hasty dispatch. Connoisseurs might again like to consult The History of Middle-earth, wherein it states:
"Morgoth was thus actually made captive in physical form, and in that form taken as a mere criminal to Aman and delivered to Námo Mandos as judge - and executioner. He was judged, and eventually taken out of the Blessed Realm and executed: that is killed like one of the Incarnates. It was then made plain (though it must have been understood beforehand by Manwë and Námo) that, though he had 'disseminated' his power (his evil and possessive and rebellious will) far and wide into the matter of Arda, he had lost direct control of this, and all that 'he,' as a surviving remnant of integral being, retained as 'himself' and under control was the terribly shrunken and reduced spirit that inhabited his self-imposed (but now beloved) body. When that body was destroyed he was weak and utterly 'houseless,' and for that time at a loss and 'unanchored,' as it were. We read that he was then thrust out into the Void. That should mean that he was put outside Time and Space, outside Eä altogether; but if that were so this would imply a direct intervention of Eru (with or without supplication of the Valar). It may however refer inaccurately to the extrusion or flight of his spirit from Arda." Morgoth's Ring, Part Five, p.403.
Morgoth was executed because the previous policy of mercy, of imprisonment and hope for rehabilitation, had been both dangerous and futile. To invert the Beatitude, he was without mercy and so obtained none. But leaving aside questions of whether certain deeds merit punishment by death in Tolkien, what is important here is the state of the immortal soul prior to death and the fate of the soul after death. Morgoth was thrust out into the Timeless Void, but that was only the "terribly shrunken and reduced spirit," or what was left in his incarnate self. The greater part of his native spirit had passed into the physical stuff of earth. Treebeard called this "the Great Darkness," and alluded to regions of Fangorn in which that had never been lifted. Morgoth's execution was therefore an end to "Morgoth," in one sense, but not an ultimate end. Morgoth's "shadow" would remain to guide his servants, wheresoever they might be, and to influence those already apt to evil. The Númenóreans come swiftly to mind, but don't let us forget Eöl the Dark Elf and his son Maeglin. Maeglin, whose mother was a Gnome of the House of Fingolfin, was by birth under the Doom of Mandos, a doom of strife, dispossession, treachery and suffering. But the evil of his father was of another kind. Eöl was a Sindarin elf of a high kindred of the Teleri. He hated the Gnomes, despite his "mixed marriage," and shunned the sunlight, preferring the company of Dwarves to his own kind. He also appears to have been skilled in enchantment so that when Aradhel, his wife, became lost in the woods, he set his bonds about her so that she could not find the way out. He lived a lonely, ascetic life in the woods. His malice can only be explained by "the Great Darkness." Like that of Saeros in Doriath, who was contemptuous of Túrin Turambar, or later of Hardang in Brethil, who would fain have put Húrin to death in his sleep. As Manthor said to Húrin: "Of one thing I must warn thee, though it may not please thee. Hardang is a lesser man than his fathers, but I saw no evil in him till he heard of thy coming. Thou bringest a shadow with thee, Húrin Thalion, in which lesser shadows grow darker."

Eöl welcomes Aradhel to his abode.

They all died, of course. Some were murdered, some took their own lives. Eöl was executed; Maeglin was cast out over the walls of Gondolin, as his father had been. A fitting end. But what became of their souls? I have written before about necromancy in Tolkien here and here, so I will not go into too much detail. Fr Anthony raised a very cogent point about the mediums. At the point of death, I believe that some souls resist the summons of God and the Devil and remain pain-ridden, haunting the wilds, coming up through fissures in the earth, and shrieking with the voices of death. Many inpatients and outpatients under psychological care could be easily described as possessed by devils, and doing the will of Satan in spite of themselves. These are people already apt to evil from birth. Some have committed very grievous crimes, and are dangerous to even speak with. I once watched an interview Ted Bundy gave shortly before his execution. It was a chilling experience, and I was almost deceived. But then I remembered that he just lied through his teeth and that his bewailing his crimes, and blaming them on violent pornography, was just a last, cynical attempt to preserve his life. Should he have been put to death in that evil mood? What became of his soul? One would think it were Hell-bound, but who knows? It is perilous, indeed forbidden, to contact the dead, and so many people who attempt this have already fallen in some way; from Christianity to paganism, for example. I don't think we should rule out the possibility that the spirits of evil men exert influence on the living, having found no rest in God and violently resisting the current of Hell. Having said that, the world must be better off without such people and, in my opinion, maintaining their lives is merciful to peril.

Art: Ted Nasmith.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Stupidity and tribalism...

It was with great reluctance that I watched (part of) this video on the history of the $$PX in England. I was reluctant because whenever I look at images of liturgical celebrations under traditionalist auspices from years ago, or old liturgical books, I am assailed by contrary feelings of regret and loathing. The reason being that they shew up, not in black and white as the decrees of the Roman dicasteries do and which anyone with a little Latin can read, but in technicolour the utter stupidity, tribalism, and the fundamental treachery to religious integrity which pervades over the modern traditionalist movement and its adherents - well-represented by people like Gabriel Sanchez.

Look at these screenshots, from Holy Week 1983, and tell me that the Society of [St] Pius X celebrated Holy Week 1962 fashion at Sts Joseph and Padarn before Lefebvre sold out to the Papacy in 1984.

The celebrant clearly blessing palms at the Epistle corner in a violet cope, contrary to the rubrics of the 1962 missal which state that he should do so facing the congregation, at a table separate from the altar, in a red cope.

Eh, what's this? Not just folded chasubles, but black folded chasubles, reserved for the morning of Good Friday! You can't use those anymore! They're forbidden!

There are other images in the video, people I recognise who took part in these rites and whom I wouldn't want to meet again, knowing their hearts and minds. I called this post stupidity and tribalism because this is the essence of the traditionalist movement post-Quattuor Abhinc Annos. The pope waved his magic wand and the traditionalists lost their way when they did obeisance to him. It was a case of: "put aside your dissidence and become respectable, and you can only really do that by being more like me, your rightful lord and master." So they cheaply discarded the tradition they upheld to that point and consigned their cause to the dustbin of history, in almost perfect imitation of what Rome herself did consecutively throughout the 20th century, in 1911, 1920, 1942, 1956, pick any year. The consecrations that took place four years later are of almost no importance. Lefebvre himself was a charlatan with no integrity, which is not a malicious assertion but based on what I have been told by people who knew him, and can be seen from his treatment of those who opposed his aliturgical will in 1983.

And modern, mainstream traditionalists just love the Lefebvrists and revere the man himself. Why? Is it a contest on who can be the most sycophantic or faithless? I have been accused of ignorance by them for pointing things like the above screenshots out, not to mention articles I have written such as this one, in which I have, with watertight research, demolished the reason for their existence. They themselves will not discuss these things. And in my experience, if you do bring these things up among them, you're erased, declared an unperson. These people prefer not to remember the days when they had substance. God only knows why. Perhaps they prefer tat and superstition to tradition and faith, but I'd like to know how any of them sleep at night.

My voice...

I hope this works. Moments ago I tried to embed this as an MP3 file on Blogger, which didn't work, so I am shewing up my technical incompetence by referring you here. This afternoon I made a recording of that part of George Orwell's The Lion and The Unicorn, which I quoted in the last post. I said in jest recently that some of you may be dying to know what I sound like. Well now, if this works, you will find out. And you may also judge whether, in the words of that young man from America I met recently, I do, in fact, sound "slightly posh."

UPDATE: I am trying to turn this into a YouTube video via Windows Movie Maker but, despite having the file in both m4a and mp3 format, which are compatible with Movie Maker, I can't do it. So once again I must admit my technical incompetence and appeal to more experienced readers. Any ideas?

Friday, 11 March 2016

Can anyone help?

I really am a technological dinosaur. Something happened on my desktop computer which caused my mother to uninstall the whole thing. I don't know what she did but I had to "realign" Google Chrome to a different version by right clicking its "Properties," and slavishly following the instructions of an online forum. But now I cannot use Windows Media Player and there doesn't seem to be a solution in any online forum for Microsoft that matches my problem. Every time I try to play a file (such as the audio file I uploaded earlier to-day), this message comes up.

If I click "yes," I am taken to the Windows website. If I click "no," nothing happens. I have tried downloading the Media Player from the Windows website but it still won't let me play audio downloads or CDs, and this same box comes up. I have followed the instructions given on the fora but none of them have worked. Does anyone more technically astute have any ideas about why it isn't working?

The hanging judge...

This quote was too long to put into my previous post but I shall post it here. It is from George Orwell's The Lion and The Unicorn, which I encourage you all to read.

"And yet the gentleness of English civilization is mixed up with barbarities and anachronisms. Our criminal law is as out-of-date as the muskets in the Tower. Over against the Nazi Storm Trooper you have got to set that typically English figure, the hanging judge, some gouty old bully with his mind rooted in the nineteenth century, handing out savage sentences. In England people are still hanged by the neck and flogged with the cat o' nine tails. Both of these punishments are obscene as well as cruel, but there has never been any genuinely popular outcry against them. People accept them (and Dartmoor, and Borstal) almost as they accept the weather. They are part of 'the law,' which is assumed to be unalterable.

"Here one comes upon an all-important English trait: the respect for constitutionalism and legality, the belief in 'the law' as something above the State and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate incorruptible.

"It is not that anyone imagines the law to be just. Everyone knows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. But no one accepts the implications of this, everyone takes it for granted that the law, such as it is, will be respected, and feels a sense of outrage when it is not. Remarks like 'They can't run me in; I haven't done anything wrong,' or 'They can't do that; it's against the law,' are part of the atmosphere of England. The professed enemies of society have this feeling as strongly as anyone else. One sees it in prison-books like Wilfred Macartney's Walls Have Mouths or Jim Phelan's Jail Journey, in the solemn idiocies that take place at the trials of conscientious objectors, in the letters to the papers from eminent Marxist professors, pointing out that this or that is a 'miscarriage of British justice.' Everyone believes in his heart that the law can be, ought to be, and, on the whole, will be impartially administered. The totalitarian idea that there is no such thing as law, there is only power, has never taken root. Even the ingelligentsia have only accepted it in theory.

"An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is 'just the same as' or 'just as bad as' totalitarianism never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread. In England such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them. In proof of which, look about you. Where are the rubber truncheons, where is the castor oil? The sword is still in the scabbard, and while it stays there corruption cannot go beyond a certain point. The English electoral system, for instance, is an all but open fraud. In a dozen obvious ways it is gerrymandered in the interest of the moneyed class. But until some deep change has occurred in the public mind, it cannot become completely corrupt. You do not arrive at the polling booth to find men with revolvers telling you which way to vote, nor are the votes miscounted, nor is there any direct bribery. Even hypocrisy is a powerful safeguard. The hanging judge, that evil old man in scarlet robe and horsehair wig, whom nothing short of dynamite will ever teach what century he is living in, but who will at any rate interpret the law according to the books and will in no circumstances take a money bribe, is one of the symbolic figures of England. He is a symbol of the strange mixture of reality and illusion, democracy and privilege, humbug and decency, the subtle network of compromises, by which the nation keeps itself in its familiar shape."

I have quoted this, with an honest tear in my eye, from my Penguin copy of George Orwell: Essays, pp.144-145.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Death, part two...

"Hanging is too good for him, said Mr. Cruelty." John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress.

This news is stale now but I am hardly surprised at pope Francis' position on Capital Punishment. "The commandment ‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty," he says. Actually, the commandment says: "thou shalt do no murder," and reiterated by Christ himself in Matthew 19:18, which has a totally different meaning, and I'd like to know at what point this general, prescriptive, Bible-in-basic-English translation supplanted the old rendering, but the significance of this change is here for all the world to see. I myself was not aware of the old rendering until I first read the Book of Common Prayer, as late as my university years. We've all heard the trite objections to capital punishment. Examples of unjust and botched executions are the most common. Now, tenderness, and even a sense of outrage, about these things are feelings that I share myself, especially where justice, competence and due process have been wanting. But are these absolute arguments against capital punishment? As a matter of principle, I am very much in favour of capital punishment and I tend to think that people who are repulsed by the idea perhaps don't believe as much as I do in the immortality of the soul, or are perhaps too naïve to realise the unrepentant intractability of hard criminals. It's like watching nature programmes with my mother. She always cheers on the fleeing antelope and becomes visibly distressed when it is tackled. And I can't understand this! Should the cheetah go hungry? Would my mother force feed carnivores tofu, as Linda McCartney did her malnourished dogs, to spare the creature further down the food chain?

But I digress. There are many reasons I favour capital punishment. For a start, it is clearly sanctioned by the Holy Bible:
"For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Romans 13:4.
It is also just. Look at this man:

I cannot get over his eyes. Ted Bundy had the same shallow, yet menacing, expression. If eyes are the windows of the soul then these are windows into nothing.

His name is Ian Brady. In the mid-1960's he and his accomplice Myra Hindley lured five small children onto Saddleworth Moor where they were sexually assaulted and murdered. Now, Hindley may have fooled that old charlatan Lord Longford with her sob story about conversion to Christianity before she died but Brady has demonstrated no remorse for his crime and is still very much alive. Declared "criminally insane," and garlanded with so many "rights," he lives in Ashworth Prison where he has access to television, three square meals, and a bath every night - all at taxpayers' expense. His victims, however, remain rotting out on the moors. Is this the exemplar of justice? The maintenance of this man's pathetic life? The Moors Murderers were apprehended shortly after the abolition of capital punishment under the revolutionary Labour government of the mid-1960's*. When confronted with calls for the return of the gallows, the Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, a man who did more to ruin this country than either Mrs Thatcher or Mr Blair, airily dismissed them with such arrogance as can scarcely be believed. "I will not change my policy in the shadow of recent events, however horrible," he said. One could well ask, what would change his mind? No prizes for guessing, nothing would.

People say that in such cases as the Moors Murders calls for capital punishment are emotive and vengeful. And well they might be, particularly from the victims' families. But surely one of the purposes of a stern penalty (where it exists) is the prevention of personal revenge? As a civilization, one of the bargains (if you like) we make with our rulers is the relinquishment of the right to seek personal vengeance, and consequently the endless blood feuds that come of that. In return, we ask for our rulers to wield the civil sword and to make "him that doeth evil," as the scripture says, fear the law and to impress upon society the moral lesson that no evil deed will go unpunished. So contrarily, capital punishment is not itself vengeful, it is impartial. And it is not without mercy either. The fact that the hangman said* to the felon before the drop: "God have mercy on your soul," is an indication that the State refers the matter to a higher court in the hope that he, however personally vile or grievous his crime, might be saved, if he truly repented. The alternative, under our enlightened, "civilized," society is for a murderer to go to a prison in which he is likely to be attacked, or even killed, by his fellow inmates (or commit suicide, as happened with Harold Shipman), in the false hope that a brutal prison can help "rehabilitate" him, which seems to be a false hope shared by pope Francis with his silly rhetoric. By eviscerating justice in this way, by going "soft," we have guaranteed personal vengeance and the old blood-feud from savage ages; petty justice carried out by the low against the lower. So much for civilization!

To be continued...

*Actually, the death penalty was severely restricted following the 1957 Homicide Act so there was little possibility of a death sentence for Brady and Hindley anyway.

*UPDATE: See the comments. Fr Anthony Chadwick was kind enough to correct this mistake, written hastily in an afternoon. It was, of course, the judge, and not the hangman, who told the man convicted: "God have mercy on your soul."

Monday, 7 March 2016


And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. Hebrews 1.10-12.

For many years, Paul Daniels was a face to which I could never accurately put a name or even guess what he did. But I have found out to-day that he has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. His decision, at about age 77, to just let the disease run its course strikes me as utterly decent, humble and even heroic. I agree entirely with Mr Hitchens when he says that he grows weary of seeing in obituaries stories of men engaged in "battles" against diseases, confronting daunting machines that make disturbing noises, going bald, sterile and incontinent as a result of chemical therapies, &c. And why? To extend life? It reminds me of the objection an atheist friend of mine brought against the Raising of Lazarus. "Why," he said: "did Christ raise Lazarus from the dead, only for Lazarus to (presumably) die at some later date?" That cynical question, worldly-wise as atheist objections so often are, naturally missed the point. But I say that one could rephrase that question with regards to most people engaged in hopeless battles, inasmuch as they are not themselves the battlefield, against ravaging diseases like cancer. Why bother undergoing painful, humiliating treatments when death will come in some other guise later on? Perhaps they feel that they will miss out on some sin or pleasure (no distinction there)? Perhaps they never took the holiday of a lifetime in Las Vegas? Or maybe they just can't bear to part with their money? Who knows. I can't imagine it comes of an underlying desire to attend church more regularly, go on pilgrimage or do penance in a hair shirt!

And this is, of course, the heart of the matter. People who wish to extend life, like the Númenóreans, have lost faith in the life eternal. People who wish to perfect life on earth, like the Gnomes of Eregion under the tutelage of Sauron, have despaired of the life eternal and chosen the bonds of death. These are the people who chant the mantras of death; "we will beat cancer!" and "make poverty history!" The very same who, come funeral time, turn up in football shirts of the deceased's favourite team and balk at the idea that they themselves will one day pass from this life to the next. To them, the sound decision to let a disease run its course is madness, incomprehensible defeatism. Life is the greatest of all possessions, indeed the greatest of all "rights." Everybody knows that. A man's soul? Well, some old-fashioned and sentimental people still believe in those and attempt to preserve them with as much care as this generation does its appearance, but we're too sophisticated, what with our iPads and all-inclusive foreign holidays, for that taboo idea. Live every day as though it is your last; you only live once, and blah, blah, blah.

The more I think upon these matters the more I think of Tolkien. In Tolkien's legendarium, Death is the universal pervading principle. In one of the most apposite passages of Akallabêth, Tolkien describes how, as a result of their fall, the Númenóreans believed and did as we so often do to-day:
"But the fear of death grew ever darker upon them, and they delayed it by all means that they could; and they began to build great houses for their dead, while their wise men laboured unceasingly to discover if they might the secret of recalling life, or at the least of the prolonging of Men's days. Yet they achieved only the art of preserving incorrupt the dead flesh of Men, and they filled all the land with silent tombs in which the thought of death was enshrined in the darkness. But those that lived turned the more eagerly to pleasure and revelry, desiring ever more goods and more riches; and after the days of Tar-Ancalimon the offering of the first fruits to Eru was neglected, and men went seldom any more to the Hallow upon the heights of Meneltarma in the midst of the land." The Silmarillion, Akallabêth, p.318.
I will not belabour the obvious parallel between the Númenóreans, the decline of their religion and our own time but to come back to Paul Daniels and his decision to let nature appoint his lot rather than fight tooth and nail against it, I wonder whether this decision was based on his religious principles? It seems far more Christian to me than so many others.