Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Freedoms Against Liberté: The Need for Silver Frames

Liberté, égalité, fraternité is freedom without law, the levelling of society to the lowest common denominator, and the 'Brotherhood of Man' without the Fatherhood of God.

From The European Conservative 

By Harrison Pitt

Without the safeguards of law, freedom would be no blessing. Our societies would be Hobbesian in the true sense: liberty would give way to nightmarish anarchy.

here is no word in the political lexicon more worn out by time, and perhaps fate, than ‘freedom.’ Clearly, it is an important value. Few political thinkers or actors on the stage of world history would have claimed to oppose it. Even the Nazis had a perverse sense of Freiheit, understood in terms of the liberty of the racially pure Volksgemeinschaft to self-actualize through violent glory. The Soviets, too, believed that their utopian project would liberate man from the conditions which, under capitalism, had served only to alienate and enslave him. So how should freedom, one of our noblest, most time-honoured values, be properly understood?

Even the most ardent libertarians rarely argue that freedom is an absolute value. We are not free to drive 80 mph through suburban neighbourhoods. We are not free to abuse children on the grounds that they are legally registered as ours. We are not free to lace a product we manufacture with toxic chemicals because the expense of picking safer ones would be too dear. Freedom under law, which necessarily places limits on personal liberty, is a defining feature of most Western countries. Without the safeguards of law, freedom would be no blessing. Our societies would be Hobbesian in the true sense: liberty would give way to nightmarish anarchy, day-to-day life being defined by brutish, nasty contests in the crude exercise of force, exploitation, and deceit.

At Oxford in the summer, a well-known conservative philosopher from the Netherlands gave an insightful, nourishing lecture on the innumerable guises under which the cause of freedom has been advanced since the late 18th century. His basic argument was that devotion to an abstract “liberty” is an inherently unstable foundation for enduring social order, for there will always be a tendency on the part of those within it to ensure that in practice this order lives up to the purity of its organizing principle in theory. Liberty being a shape-shifting, notoriously indeterminate concept, there is almost nothing that cannot be justified in the name of progressing “just another step further” to win the prize once and for all. Or at the very least until the next generation of self-regarding activists dreams up ways to continue this liberal tradition of treating their own era as a laboratory in which to perfect the ideal of freedom, forever struggling to seize yet more and more rights.

I found myself nodding puppyishly throughout the whole of Andreas Kinneging’s speech—until, that is, he drew what seemed to me to be an unwarranted parallel between the French and the American Revolutions. These two late 18th century explosions, contended the Dutch philosopher, kick-started this corrosive modern process whereby freedom, venerated as an abstract universal value, came to be seen as the pure foundation of all legitimate political order. Once viewed in this way, the cry for true liberty, for radically improving on one’s predecessors, was always going to serve as a pretext for perpetual revision, chaos, and upheaval in any society which continued to dance to the musical phrases of these 18th century radicals.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are content to preserve what customary freedoms they enjoy as portions of their birthright, rather than risk the kind of wasteful, ferocious revolution that a fanatical emphasis on purity would demand. But subtle arguments of this sort lack moral force in a culture still swimming, increasingly drowning, in the rough seas of liberalism. Tradition is the lifeboat, but it is exceedingly difficult to get people excited about this unassuming refuge when, as good progressives, they welcome every tempest as the outward manifestation of deeper teleological currents intent on carrying us towards the promised land.

Still, the question should be posed. What if freedom is not viewed as the foundation, but instead regarded more humbly as a precondition for a flourishing social order? What if, moreover, liberté is not understood in the way that the French revolutionaries certainly claimed to understand it, as a universal, undivided good, but rather valued as a set of particular, customary, clearly defined freedoms core to a nation’s identity? This is the difference that Kinneging neglected to acknowledge between the French Revolution and its American forerunner. Sedition they had in common, but otherwise these revolutions had distinctive, mutually incompatible characters. Conservatives today, including those of us in Britain who still struggle to make peace with 1776, must not lose sight of the fact that Philadelphia is not Paris. 

There is a reason why the United States Constitution—ratified, eleven years after the Declaration of Independence, in 1787—is still with us. Despite the scars inflicted by slavery and civil war, it has survived. The French, however, are on their fifth republic since the original was proclaimed in 1792. Sir Roger Scruton hints at an explanation: “The U.S. Constitution was designed to guarantee to the people what they had once enjoyed,” he writes in Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition. “It was the residue of an already established practice rather than a recipe for a new order of things.” The French, by pursuing the latter course of remaking the world from scratch in 1789, got addicted to adding new ingredients to their revolution, stubbornly rejecting everything tried and tested to pursue utopia, chief among the ingredients being blood. The Americans, meanwhile, appealed to specific forms of liberty—definitive freedoms which man in a certain sense possessed by nature, but which the English especially had a solemn right to exercise as a matter of custom. 

What Scruton did not say is that America might have turned out more French if Thomas Jefferson had gained control over the agenda. The Declaration of Independence, written mainly by Jefferson, is a fine piece of political prose, poetry even, but it would make for a very poor constitution. That lofty, assertive ode to “the laws of nature” and “unalienable rights” is certainly spirited, but it provides no stable framework for the U.S. to endure as a nation and no detailed understanding of what the abstract ideals of freedom and equality should really amount to in practice. Thankfully, George Washington had the presence of mind to appoint Jefferson as Minister to France in 1785, keeping him well away from the vital work being done at the Convention in Philadelphia. The Constitution drafted here in 1787, not the Declaration of Independence, is the real genius of America. Without its influence, which grounded what Jefferson had dreamily exalted, the United States would have been as unstable as France has proved to be in the centuries subsequent to the violent break with its heritage. This less poetic, procedural document reconnected the fledgling republic to its English roots and put a more detailed, conservative, particularist aspect on what for Jefferson had been transcendent, radical, universalist truths, “self-evident” to all rational minds.

Liberté can take us almost anywhere when unmoored from the real world and left to the universe of abstract fantasy, the one best-liked by Leftist intellectuals. The Polish political philosopher, Ryszard Legutko, reflects upon this problem at length in The Cunning of Freedom, defining “negative” liberty as the kind which leaves everyone free to rejoice: “There is no one else to hinder or stop me from doing what I want to do” or “force me to do something I do not want to do.” To achieve this ultimate ideal of liberté, people must repudiate everything which makes a claim on their spirit from outside, anything unchosen being not only disposable but vicious according to the liberal purist who prizes maximal autonomy above all else. In Conservativism: A Rediscovery, Yoram Hazony lists the ugly consequences that result from insisting that individual liberté is the ultimate value from which all principles in life justly flow:

[Men] are free to abandon their wives, leaving them to raise their children alone. Children are free to abandon their parents in old age. Business enterprises are free to abandon their employees and relocate their jobs to foreign lands. Communities are free to teach a condescending disdain for their forefathers in the schools. The mentally ill are free to roam the streets, abusing alcohol and narcotics without appropriate care.

But what if the value of freedom is not singular and absolute, but rather plural and limited? What if we force “liberté in the French sense of the word to give way to “freedoms,” a limited set of rights of the sort we find articulated by and crucial to the Anglo-American tradition?

The U.S. Bill of Rights is superior to the French Rights of Man because it drew upon pre-existing customary freedoms, selected wisely which of these should be safeguarded as preconditions for (not perfect guarantees of) human flourishing, and then defined them precisely. The French Revolutionary equivalent, meanwhile, takes the form of a vague, exhaustive wish list. More or less every form of liberté spelt out in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is granted as a kind of secular blessing, only then to be undermined by recantation, ambiguity, or otherwise equivocal language. To pick one of several examples, take article 10: 

No one should be disturbed for his opinions, even in religion, provided that their manifestation does not trouble public order as established by law.

As with many of the other articles, here the law grants a basic freedom to French citizens while also claiming the right to withdraw it. And of course, as the revolutionary spirit intensified, the belief in showing tolerance to those with dissenting opinions—“even in religion,” as the document rather snobbishly puts it—became synonymous with aiding “enemies of the people” in the minds of those who controlled what “public order as established by law” actually meant. Thus, what could have been a French version of the American first amendment was in the end torpedoed by vaguery. Furthermore, despite supposedly enjoying universal, binding status, it turned out that the natural freedom and equality of mankind could in fact be overturned by a simple majority in an artificial institution—the National Assembly which wielded the law like a bludgeon—created only five minutes ago.

In other words, in trying to have everything the French gained nothing but instability and chaos—despite the fact that the Declaration starts, hilariously enough, with the confident assertion that “the future claims of the citizens, being directed by simple and incontestible principles, may always tend to the maintenance of the Constitution, and the general happiness.” On the contrary, it was so abstract and unspecific in its articulation of what gaining freedom really meant in practice that it empowered the various factions then in existence to interpret it for their own purposes, each of them claiming to be the true representatives of the spirit of the revolution, going to war first with royalty, then with aristocrats, and finally with each other, transforming France into a blood-stained republic characterized by lawlessness, mutual hatred, and violent tyranny. Such a sorry fate might have been avoidable if only the French had opted for a constitution laying down the civic rules, rather than inviting the worst kind of ideologues to invent them along the way to utopia. This is exactly the sort of unbridled obsession with liberty which the conservative philosopher, to reintroduce the Dutch gentleman with whom we began, rightly attacked in his Oxford lecture.

But the Americans, though bizarre in thinking that a head of state intoxicated by his own merit would be better than a royal one raised with a sense of duty, were guilty of no such conceit. The Bill of Rights is highly specific and the constitutional process by which its provisions can be amended is so exacting as to be virtually impossible. According to the American understanding, liberté does not come from the generosity or largesse of an all-powerful state; rather, freedoms are inherited as a perk of membership of an historical community and warrant continued protection under the law for two reasons. 

First, they strike us as vital preconditions for human flourishing, whether individually or collectively. The first amendment right to free speech, for instance, is not just one value among many; it is the value which enables Americans to improve their other values. It is necessary for course-correction. If we are not free to point out and criticize abuses or deficiencies around us, they will get worse, threatening the long-run stability of the social order and the happiness of the people who live within it.

Moreover, the second amendment, popularly dismissed today as the creation of gun-loving cowboys, effectively follows from the right to life, the most basic of all freedoms since without it we have nothing else. Guns, according to the American mindset (and partly the British mindset as it once existed, before we decided to become a nation of state-loving ninnies), are the blunt means by which men can ensure that their basic freedoms are more than an empty promise. Once armed, they can guard them, whether from hostile fellow citizens or the threat of government tyranny itself.

Finally, we have the amendments concerning rights to private property. These are key to human flourishing because they enable citizens to enjoy a basic minimum of personal security, safeguarded by the blessing of due process. By engendering social trust, too, they add to the common good.

Second, the amendments in the Constitution deserve protection because they carry the authority of tradition. The freedoms contained in the U.S. Bill of Rights grew out of its British predecessor, passed by Parliament in 1689. They were not invented in a fit of metaphysical speculation, but drawn from loyalty to established customs that had proved themselves workable over the course of a century—and which, in actual fact, had roots deeper even than that, stretching well back into the distant past of the English-speaking peoples.

All of this served to frame that which, if left to Jefferson, could have become a very dangerous experiment in political idealism. No one recognized this better than Abraham Lincoln, though he has often been accused—not least by those in the American south still resentful about the civil war—of glorifying the Declaration in disregard for the limits of constitutional propriety. 

Lincoln did admit one time that he had “never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.” His hatred of slavery stemmed not only from the fact that it violated the principle of human dignity, but that it forced many good men into “open war” with the rousing sentiments of 1776 which had proclaimed the birth of America. The slave-holding southern states accused Lincoln of overstepping the bounds later put in place by the Constitution. Rather than observing these procedural limits, complained the Georgian politician Alexander Stephens, Lincoln was exploiting the Declaration and its high-minded language about liberty to neglect the Constitution and to assert a moralistic, anti-slavery agenda in defiance of the traditions, rights, and sovereignty of independent states. In the end, these states seceded in outrage, sparking civil war.

True, Lincoln was somewhat Jeffersonian in applying the notion of liberty and equality as “self-evident” values—detached from any specific form as laid down by constitutional law—to the injustice of slavery. After all, the constitution alone had done nothing to forbid the heinous practice. Everyone now acknowledges that abolition was a necessary moment in which an appeal to liberty as a high-minded ideal, abstracted from particulars on the ground, simply had to be made, even if it meant downgrading the customary limits with which basic freedoms have been associated in the Anglo-American tradition.

Indeed, Lincoln felt forced by the moral abomination of slavery to give primacy to the Declaration. He deployed Biblical allusion and poetic imagery to argue that America’s founding document was, in the final analysis, marginally more significant than the Constitution: “The Declaration was the word, ‘fitly spoken,’ which has proved an ‘apple of gold’ to us.” The Constitution of 1787, Lincoln went on, is “the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal it, or destroy the apple; but to adorn and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple—not the apple for the picture.” 

But this does not mean that Lincoln regarded the apple of gold and its silver frame as in conflict with one another. Unless properly encased, he would have admitted, the apple of liberty is prone to being corrupted by all sorts of poisons. In fact, the American south wildly overstated their constitutionalist case against Lincoln, as Veronica Lademan of this parish has forcefully argued

Lincoln understood that, for slavery to be truly and fully destroyed, he must attain this end through the institutions that give political shape to American society. It was in this spirit that he exhorted his fellow Americans, saying: “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”

Lincoln, it turns out, was not a naïve, unconservative idealist, but a wise statesman who appreciated that freedoms should be grounded in tradition and law if they are to have enduring value. French odes to liberté qua liberté either get us nowhere or end up necessitating a fresh revolution whenever there are enough people with the sharpness to notice that the status quo is not perfect.

But this leaves us with a tough question. Do there exist rights so fundamental, moral emergencies so grave, that even conservatives would be obliged to act in a manner more French than English to pursue justice? The obvious example is the basic right to life of unborn babies, the closest thing we have to legal racist slavery in our own time. Would it be mistaken for, say, American conservatives to smash the silver frame of constitutional safeguards to protect every soul in the country against abortion? Evidently, reliance on particular, customary structures—on existing legal freedoms, as opposed to some higher, idealized vision of liberté—is not always and everywhere enough to stamp out evil or injustice.

Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, it is. And while we should ponder potential exceptions, from slavery in the past to abortion now, those of us born into the Anglo-American world should feel grateful to have been spared the trouble of spending each generation elaborating the perfect meaning of human liberty and, in seeking everything, risking the real freedoms that belong to us as if by magic. Holding on to these gifts costs nothing but love, gratitude, and resisting the temptation to sacrifice them for the mirage of purity.

King-Father Norodom Sihanouk 1922-2012

What an interesting life HM the King-Father led! Besides being deeply involved in Cambodian politics for 70 years, he was also a film director, and composer.

From The Mad Monarchist (15 October 2012)

The former monarch and "King-Father" of Cambodia, His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, died on Sunday, October 14, 2012 in Peking at the age of 89. No other figure was more dominant, more controversial or more constantly involved in Cambodian national life for the last hundred years than this late King. Today, some still hold him responsible for the many horrors Cambodia endured during the Khmer Rouge regime, others hold him blameless but more see him as the one national figure who, whether he made the right or wrong decisions, was always looking out for the welfare of his country rather than himself. It can certainly be said that no other Cambodian monarch has had a reign to match his and he certainly proved himself to be a tenacious survivor and the author of the greatest political 'come-back' story of modern Southeast Asia.

Bishop Challoner's Meditations - November 29th


Consider first, how our Lord, coming for the last time to visit Jerusalem, a few days before his passion; 'when he drew near, seeing the city, he wept over it, saying: If thou also hadst known and that in this thy day, the things that are for thy peace! but now they are hidden from thy eyes. For the days shall come upon thee; and thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, and beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee; and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone; because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.'

Our Lord in this his last coming to Jerusalem is accompanied by crowds of people, bearing branches of palms in their hands, and welcoming him with hosannas of joy; but his attention is engaged by the melancholy object he has before his eyes of that unhappy city, and of all the evils that were coming upon it, which he bewails in this pathetic manner. Not that the beating down of stone walls, or the destroying of houses, was a matter worthy of the tears of the Son of God; nor yet that men, who are all doomed to die, should die a little before their time; but the miseries which he lamented were of another kind, viz., the blindness and the hardness of heart of the inhabitants of this city so highly favoured by his visits; their extreme ingratitude and their obstinacy in sin; and that final reprobation and eternal damnation, which they were quickly drawing down upon their own heads, by their repeated abuses and wilful resistance of those extra-ordinary graces which he offered them at this time of their visitation. Christians, beware lest the like abuses of divine grace should draw down the like judgment on you also.

Consider 2ndly, that you have at present your day as Jerusalem had then. This is your day; a time of mercy and grace, in which the son of God daily visits you by many gracious calls and inspirations. His sacrament and sacrifice, the fountains of your Saviour, are now continually open for you, together with all manner of helps for your salvation. But what use do you make of this your day? For it is short and will be quickly at an end, and then the day of the Lord must take place. Have you a right sense and knowledge in this your day of the things that are for your peace and for your true welfare? Do the things of God and eternity make a true impression on your souls? Is the conduct of your life regulated by them? Or are not these great truths, through your own fault, hidden at present from your eyes? O take care lest you pass by unregarded this time of your visitation, as Jerusalem did. The days shall suddenly come upon you also, when your spiritual enemies shall cast a trench about you, and straiten you on every side, and beat you flat to the ground; when the sorrows of death shall encompass you, and the perils of hell shall find you, and the grace of God, which you have so long abused, shall leave you in the hands of your enemies.

Consider 3rdly, how our Saviour, after weeping over Jerusalem and denouncing to it its final desolation, entering into the temple, began to cast them out that sold therein, and them that bought, saying to them: 'It is written, my house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves,' Luke xix. 45:- giving us to understand by this proceeding, that the profanation of the house of God, and of sacred things, the love of gain more than of holiness, and a gross neglect of prayer and other religious duties, is the high road of blindness of spirit, and hardness of heart, and consequently to a dreadful and eternal reprobation. Christians, take care, lest imitating in these particulars the guilt of the Jews, you draw upon your heads the like punishments. The soul of every Christian ought to be the temple of the living God, 2 Cor. vi. 16, and in that quality the house of prayer. O take care you never be so unhappy as to turn this house of prayer into a den of thieves, by shutting out from hence the fear and love of God, and letting in sin and Satan.

Conclude to attend in this your day to the things that appertain to your peace, and not to neglect the time of your visitation; lest by a want of corresponding with grace, you be so unhappy as to fill up the measure of your sins, and suddenly to fall, when you least expect it, into the hands of the living God.

29 November, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

The Blessedness of the Merciful

1. Let us meditate now on the mercy of God, which is infinite even as His justice is infinite. "His mercy," says St. Thomas, "does not subtract from His justice, but is the fullness and the perfection of that justice." (S. Th., 1, q. 21, a. 3 ad 2) All the merits which we can acquire in the sight of God derive from His gratuitous gift of grace. God's mercy and justice, therefore, are fused together in a wonderful harmony which claims our gratitude and fidelity.

References to the mercy of God are numerous in Sacred Scripture. “You, Lord, are good and forgiving,” says the Psalmist, “abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.” (Ps. 85:5) “Blessed he the Lord,” we read elsewhere, “my rock, … my refuge and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer…” (Ps. 143:2) “Goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” (Ps. 22:6)

When we leave the Old Testament and open the Gospel, we discover that it is a record of the goodness and mercy of God. We have only to recall Christ's forgiveness of the Magdalen when she wept at His feet for her faults; the merciful judgment which He passed on the poor adulteress; His loving glance in the direction of St. Peter, who had denied Him; the grace so miraculously granted to St. Paul on the road to Damascus; and the parables of the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, and the good shepherd who went to search for the lost sheep. Finally, there are the consoling words to the repentant thief: "This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." When we read this chronicle of infinite goodness and mercy, we should experience a boundless hope and confidence. It does not matter how great our sins or our ingratitude may have been. Once we have repented, God is ready to forgive us and to receive us with open arms.

2. Since God is so merciful to us, however, He requires us to be good and merciful to our neighbour. “Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt. 5:7) St. James adds a stern warning. “Judgment,” he says, “is without mercy to him who has not shown mercy; but mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12) If we hope to receive God's mercy, we must show compassion to those who are poor or unfortunate in any way, even to the greatest sinners. In the presence of so much need and misfortune in the world, avarice, miserliness, selfishness or indifference cry out to God for retribution. If we are not prepared to give, nothing will be given to us. If we refuse to forgive, neither shall we be forgiven. If we do not love, neither shall we be loved.

3. Let us remember that we have often made ourselves God's enemies by our sins. We were often in need when we were deprived of divine grace. On these occasions God was merciful to us, for He granted us His forgiveness and His friendship. These gifts of God place an obligation on us to behave in the same way to those who are in need by assisting them willingly and generously, and to those who are unhappy by consoling them as far as possible.

Let us remember the great principle which Jesus Christ has given us. “Even as you wish men to do to you, so also do you to them… Do good to those who hate you… Do not judge, and you shall not be judged; do not condemn and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven, give, and it shall be given to you…” (Cf. Luke 6:30-38) “With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you.” (Mt. 7:1) So it will be on the day of death when we shall have to appear before the Supreme Judge.

Let us be generous throughout life in giving help and consolation to others. It is more blessed to give than to receive, as the Gospel says. By giving we shall find a little happiness even in this world, and shall be certain that one day the most merciful Judge will pardon and embrace us.

Eastern Rite - Feasts of 29 November AM 7531

Today is the Feasts of the Holy Martyr Paramon and 370 Martyrs in Bithynia, the Holy Martyr Philomenus and Our Father Acacius, of Whom Testimony is Found in the Ladder of Divine Ascent.

The Holy Martyr Paramon and the 370 Martyrs with him suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 250 during the rule of the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of the Eastern regions, Aquianus, had locked up 370 Christians in prison, urging them to abjure Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols.

They subjected the captives to beatings, hoping by torture and the threat of death to persuade them to renounce Christ and worship the pagan gods. One of the local inhabitants, Paramon by name, openly denounced the cruel governor and confessed his faith in the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They beheaded Saint Paramon after fierce tortures, together with the other 370 martyrs.

Troparion — Tone 4

Your holy martyrs Paramon and Philoumenus and those with them, O Lord, / through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God. / For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries, / and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. / Through their intercessions, save our souls!

Kontakion — Tone 4

Urged on by the commandments of God, / with patience, you cleansed your souls from all defilement. / You reached perfection as spiritual athletes; / you renounced sacrifice to idols. / Imitating Christ, you were slain with a spear, / most blessed Paramon and Philoumenus. / Always fervently intercede with Christ on behalf of the world.

The Holy Martyr Philoumenus suffered for Christ in the year 274, during the persecution against Christians by the emperor Aurelian (270-275). Saint Philomenus was a bread merchant in Ancyra. Envious persons reported to the governor Felix that Philoumenus was a Christian, and so he came before a judge.

Saint Philomenus did not renounce Christ. For this, they hammered nails into his hands, feet and head, and they forced him to walk. The holy martyr bravely endured the torments and he died from loss of blood, giving up his soul to God.

(The Troparion and Kontakion are the same as for St Paramon, above.)

Saint Acacius of Sinai lived during the sixth century and was a novice at a certain monastery in Asia. The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his Elder, a harsh and dissolute man. He forced his disciple to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, Saint Acacius meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. Saint Acacius died after suffering these torments for nine years.

Five days after Acacius was buried, his Elder told another Elder about the death of his disciple. The second Elder did not believe that the young monk was dead. They went to the grave of Acacius and the second Elder called out: “Brother Acacius, are you dead?” From the grave, a voice replied, “No, Father, how is it possible for an obedient man to die?” The startled Elder of Saint Acacius fell down with tears before the grave, asking forgiveness of his disciple.

After this, he repented, constantly saying to the Fathers, “I have committed murder.” He lived in a cell near the grave of Saint Acacius, and he ended his life in prayer and in meekness. Saint John Climacus (March 30) mentions Saint Acacius in The Ladder (Step 4:110) as an example of endurance and obedience, and of the rewards for these virtues.

Saint Acacius is also commemorated on July 7.

Troparion — Tone 8

By a flood of tears, you made the desert fertile, / and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance. / By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe! / O our holy father Acacius, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!


IN LUMINE FIDEI: 29 NOVEMBER – TUESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT: Lesson at Matins – Isaias ii. 1‒3 The word that Isaias the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And in the last days the moun...


IN LUMINE FIDEI: 29 NOVEMBER – SAINT SATURNIUS (Martyr): Dom Prosper Guéranger: Christmas begins to glimmer on the horizon. The last Sunday after Pentecost has given us the closing instruc...

29 Movember, The Chesterton Calendar


There is a noble instinct for giving the right touch of beauty to common and necessary things, but the things that are so touched are the ancient things, the things that always, to some extent, commended themselves to the lover of beauty. The spirit of William Morris has not seized hold of the century and made its humblest necessities beautiful. And this was because, with all his healthiness and energy, he had not the supreme courage to face the ugliness of things; Beauty shrank from the Beast and the fairy tale had a different ending.

'Twelve Types.'

29 November, The Holy Rule of St Benedict, Patriarch of Western Monasticism

CHAPTER XLVIII. Of the daily manual labour

30 Mar. 30 July. 29 Nov.

On Sunday, let all occupy themselves in reading, except those who have been appointed to the various offices. But if any one should be so negligent and slothful, as to be either unwilling or unable to study or to read, let some task be given him to do, that he be not idle. To brethren who are weak or delicate, let there be given such work or occupation as to prevent them either from being idle, or from being so oppressed by excessive labour as to be driven away. Their weakness must be taken into account by the Abbot.

30 November, The Roman Martyrology

Prídie Kaléndas Decémbris Luna sexta Anno Dómini 2022

November 30th 2022, the 6th day of the Moon, were born into the better life:

At Patrae, in the Peloponnesus, the holy Apostle Andrew. He preached the Gospel of Christ in Thrace and Scythia. He was arrested by the Proconsul Aegeas, and first imprisoned, then heavily flogged, and, lastly, crucified. He remained alive upon the cross through the second day, and taught the people. He besought the Lord not to suffer him to be taken down from the cross, and then a great light from heaven shone round about him, and when it faded away he gave up the ghost.
At Rome, the holy martyrs Castulus and Euprepis.
At Constantinople, the holy Virgin and martyr Maura.
Likewise, the holy Virgin and martyr Justina.
At Saintes, (in the sixth century,) holy Trojan, Bishop (of that see,) a man of great holiness, who, albeit he be buried in the earth, yet showeth by many works of power that he is alive in heaven.
At Rome, (in the fifth century,) the holy Confessor Constantius, who manfully withstood the Pelagians, and bore much at their hands, the which contendings have gained him a place among the holy Confessors.
In Palestine, (in the sixth century,) the holy Confessor Zosimus, who was eminent for holiness and miracles in the time of the Emperor Justin.
V. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
R. Thanks be to God.

Monday, 28 November 2022

Being Catholic in a Different Way…Is Like Being a ’Little Bit Pregnant…or in the Case of the Synodal Way…a Little Bit Protestant..

Dr Ashenden is spot on in his analysis of the German 'Synodal Way' or as I refer to it, the German Way Out of the Mystical Body of Christ.

From Gavin AshendenMTheol, PhD 

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), has explained what he wants the German Synodal Path to achieve. “We are Catholic,” he said at a news conference. “But we want to be Catholic in a different way.”

It may be that Bishop Bätzing has not come across the old German proverb “du kannst nicht ein bisschen schwanger sein“ – “you can’t be a little bit pregnant“. And that is a shame because there is a theological equivalent, which is that “you can’t be a little bit Protestant“.

“Being Catholic in a different way” is of course a euphemism. We use euphemisms when we want to say something that we know will be unacceptable; so we dress it up in a way that will soften the impact.

Bishop Bätzing wants the ordination of women to the priesthood. In the face of criticism from the Vatican, which has said, as St John Paul II did, that the matter is closed, Bätzing said that reform issues are not “closed because the church in Germany wants to and must provide answers to the questions being asked by the faithful,” he insisted.

“As far as the ordination of women is concerned, for example, (the Vatican’s) view is very clear, that the question is closed. But the question exists and it has to elaborated and discussed,” the bishop said. “All these questions are on the table and all attempts [to] cancel them will not have success.”

Bishop Bätzing then, like Martin Luther, wants to be a little bit Protestant. But as Luther found, initially to his surprise, you can’t be a little bit Protestant.

In the face of the theology that lies behind the different forms of ministry, there are two different theologies of what priesthood is and two different Christian anthropologies. Bishop Bätzing has changed his mind and wants the Protestant version.

The problem is that when he says that the German church is aware that these questions exist and that that the Church must provide answers to the faithful, it has not occurred to him that his duty as a bishop is to teach the Catholic faith and provide Catholic answers.

It would be very interesting to pursue the question as to how that has come about, but that is not the present task. 

But all the outcomes that the Synodal process is intended to facilitate challenge the settled teaching of the Catholic Church. 

It’s not as though the Church has not been here before in some respects? Montanism, which started in the late 2nd century, wanted women priests. Montanus was accompanied by two prophetic women Prisca and Maximilla, whose trademark was ecstatic prophesy. They claimed “the spirit” was moving them. This charismatic and heterodox movement split the church and caused substantial difficulties. Tertullian thought that Montanus began authentically, but gradually lost the plot, or succumbed to different spirits.

Discernment is not an easy business and there is a hint of laziness and perhaps even self-indulgence lying behind Bishop Bätzing words. He wants to give a certain part of the German laity, highly secularised and deeply influenced by feminism and libertarian sexual culture, the answers they want to hear.

But this is Protestantism. It is fuelled by being rooted in whatever passing spirit of the age thrusts itself into the minds of the sub-catechised and semi-converted. It rejects the teaching and the mind of the Catholic Church. One reason why so many protestants have become Catholic is that having been raised in a culture of Enlightenment rationalism, birthed in the sixteenth century and still running hot and fast today, they read the sub-apostolic fathers and discovered how the apostles built a Church that reflected the mind of Christ.

And as St Paul often reminded his converts, it was this immersion in the mind of Christ rather than the spirit of the age that was the mark of the true Church – one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Bishop Bätzing wants to provide a certain German audience with answers that will destroy that. But everyone agrees that continuing to insist on providing answers that will change centuries of Catholic teaching will lead to  schism and will fracture what was “one”. Same sex unions are not and never have been hol. Procuring abortions in the name of feminist rights is not and has never been holy. Wanting to be Catholic in a different way is not being Catholic; and everything the synodal process proposes would be anti-apostolic. 

How is this the work of the Holy Spirit, congruent with the mind of Christ expressed consistently over the millennia?

It might be answered by the German bishops that there is precedent in the early Church for their approach. There was a disciple who when faced with the demands, teaching and wisdom of Jesus wanted to be Catholic, but in a different way. The problem is – and it ought to cause bishop Bätzing to get back on his knees if that is where he does his theology – is that it was Judas Iscariot.

Advent Uncensored

I detailed the censorship (or emasculation) of another Feast in The Differences Between the Feast of Christ the King and the NO 'Solemnity of Christ the King'. (This was originally published last year.)

From One Peter Five

By Timothy Flanders

Advent always reminds me of my Novus Ordo red pill moment. Years ago I discovered three texts around Advent that finally pushed me over the edge. The first was the collect for St. Nicholas.  This prayer petitions God, through the intercession of St. Nicholas to save us “from the flames of hell.” This was censored because “hell” is offensive to “modern man.” The reformers explained that some texts of the Roman Rite that were “shocking for the man of today, have been frankly corrected” (Lauren Pristas, “The Orations of the Vatican II Missal: Policies for Revision”).

The second text I found censored by the New Mass was the Postcommunion from the Second Sunday of Advent. This one petitions God to “teach us to despise the things of earth, and to love those of heaven.” The reformers explained that “[a]n adaptation was imperative that…took account of the modern mentality[.]” (Ibid.)

Finally, not even the Holy Innocents were spared by the reformers. In the collect for this feast on December 28th, the phrase “mortify in us all the evils of sin” was censored. I was examining these things in the original Latin, and I realized that this was not simply a poor translation, but an intentional censorship. When these texts were translated, as the official documents explain, they needed to be censored even further because some of them were “contrary to modern Christian ideas” (Comme le prévoit, 24).

When I discovered that Advent and Christmas were censored, that’s when I understood the whole breadth of destruction. As Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote, “The new liturgy is without splendor, flattened, and undifferentiated…truly, if one of the devils in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters had been entrusted with the ruin of the liturgy, he could not have done it better” (The Devastated Vineyard, 71).

The Advent of our Fathers

After I came to know that the New Mass was by and for “modern man,” I decided to choose the Mass of our fathers instead. Overall the theme which was the biggest target for Advent censorship was the Four Last Things. I think in many ways even the whole Church crisis for two hundred years can be boiled down to a suppression of the Four Last Things. These truths form an essential part of the Gospel, and their censorship explains why conversions have slowed and reversed completely in Euro-America.

This theme is shown clearly when the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent continues the theme from the Last Sunday after Pentecost: the end of the world. To its credit, the New Mass retains this Gospel. But this should set the tone for the whole season, showing us that the Advent season celebrates two Advents of our Lord: one has already passed, and the other is yet to come. The first is the Advent of good tidings of great joy (Lk. 2:10). But we must remember that even at the first Advent, King Herod…was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Mt. 2:3).

These contrasting reactions connect the first Advent to the second. For once again the just are beckoned to lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand (Lk. 21:28). But the wicked at His coming bewail themselves because of him (Apoc. 1:7).

Therefore in overcoming sin, we must face the full truth of Advent. For the sin within us causes us to mourn His coming and flee from Him. It is at the Confessional that we fully welcome His Advent. The sin within us wants to separate the Advents and make the first only joy and peace and no judgement. The Confessional combines the two Advents so that they are not separated and censored. This is why the traditional Advent hymns all speak of both Advents.

First, at Vespers I of the First Sunday of Advent, Creator Alme Siderum chants to Him “Whose coming is with dread / to judge and doom the quick and dead.” Then at Matins, Verbum Supernum beseechs the end times Judge that “We be not set at Thy left hand / Where sentence due would bid us stand.” Then at Lauds, Vox Clara Ecce Intonat sings of the time “when again He shines revealed / And trembling worlds to terror yield.” The traditional hymnody brings together the two Advents with a cleansing fire of judgment for the pious soul. But the greatest Advent hymn, in my view, is the one you’ve never heard at Advent.

Day of Wrath

The hymn Dies Irae is now mostly heard at the Requiem Mass, but it was originally composed for Advent. It is the perfect meditation to cure us of our censorship and present us with the whole salutary truth which inspired our fathers to save their souls. This might be scary, but the take the hand of the Blessed Virgin Mary and let her lead you through the whole truth:

Day of wrath and doom impending

David’s words with Sibyl’s blending

Heaven and earth in ashes ending


Oh what fear man’s bosom rendeth

When from heaven the Judge descendeth

On whose sentence all dependeth

This throws into relief the destruction of the Last Days, and makes us remember the words of our Lord: he who endures to the end will be saved (Mt. 24:13). If we cannot endure the Annus Horribilis 2020, how will we endure the Four Last Things?

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;

Through the earth’s sepulchers it ringeth;

All before the throne it bringeth.


Death is struck, and nature quaking,

All creation is awaking,

To its Judge an answer making.

This recalls the fullest picture of the last judgement given by the Lord in Matthew, when He says Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire for as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me (Mt. 25:41, 45). This is the part about “helping the poor” that Liberation Theology doesn’t want you to hear.

 Lo, the book, exactly worded,

Wherein all hath been recorded,

Thence shall judgement be awarded.


When the Judge his seat attaineth,

And each hidden deed arraigneth,

Nothing unavenged remaineth.

Every Sunday I say in the creed that our Lord will come to judge the living and the death. But here I must ask myself: how differently would I live my life if I truly internalized this dogma of the faith?

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?

Who for me be interceding,

When the just are mercy needing?


King of Majesty tremendous,

Who dost free salvation send us,

Fount of pity, then befriend us!

This recalls the passage from St. Peter: if the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (I Pt. 4:18). Then comes the recalling of the first Advent:

Think, kind Jesu! – my salvation

Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation;

Leave me not to reprobation.


Faint and weary, Thou hast sought me,

On the Cross of suffering bought me.

Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Here the hymn begins to transition from the horror of the Final Judgement to the true hope in God’s mercy. This guards against the excess of despair and scruples as well as the presumption of “dare we hope.” We must fear God and hope in Him. Not either/or.

Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution

Grant Thy gift of absolution,

Ere the day of retribution.


Guilty, now I pour my moaning,

All my shame with anguish owning;

Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!


Through the sinful woman shriven,

Through the dying thief forgiven,

Thou to me a hope hast given

The sin of despair is “conforming our mind to a false opinion about God” (ST II-II q10 a1). Despair is a sin where we accept a lie about God, that He will not pardon penitents. Presumption is the opposite sin where we accept the lie that God will absolve unrepentant sinners. This hymn gives us the remedy for both with the right amount of fear and the right amount of hope:

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,

Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,

Rescue me from fire undying.


With Thy sheep a place provide me,

From the goats afar divide me,

To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.


When the wicked are confounded,

Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,

Call me with Thy saints surrounded.


Low I kneel, with heart’s submission,

See, like ashes, my contrition,

Help me in my last condition.


Ah! that day of tears and mourning,

From the dust of earth returning

Man for judgement must prepare him,

Spare, O God, in mercy spare him.

When we take Advent uncensored from our fathers and meditate on the Four Last Things, we come to realize just how great is the mercy of God. Then when we celebrate Christmas, we give thanks for His most excellent love for us, He Who has sought after us by becoming man. And the Logos was made flesh and made his tabernacle among us (Jn. 1:14 Greek text). Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes (Apoc. 21:3-4). Therefore let us face the Lord with fear and hope, so that we may greet Him rightly when He comes.