29 April 2014


Satire and irony are among the few weapons that the Little (and impecunious) Man has. This is what infuriated the Anglican bishops when Dom Gregory Dix used the weapons perfected by Swift and Newman and Knox as weapons against persecution. Did a bishop try to prevent Anglo-Catholics from having the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday? Dix would assure them that we would certainly not go to the extreme of using a disgusting Peruvian Jesuit innovation [the Three Hours Devotion, which 'moderate' bishops and clergy rather liked]. He characterised Archbishop Fisher's creed as "God is nice and in him is no nastiness at all". He made clear how risible the Anglican episcopate seemed to him in 1947 when they sent a Loyal Address to George VI in which they referred to the then Princess Elizabeth with the words "We have watched her growth to ... well-developed womanhood". He commented that "Even when the stately summer of the Carolines was over, the Whig Grandee bishops of the eighteenth century and the 'Greek Play' bishops of eighty years ago still had something for which the genial energy of a business-man in gaiters does not always quite compensate". When the paranoid preoccupation of many bishops was to prevent their clergy at all costs from practising Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Dix wrote "that even the best and most energetic of bishops will one day have rest from his labours, and the lance of his successor often delivers the diocese from the menace of some different windmill". They couldn't take that sort of approach, and his 'tone' was much lamented. Unsurprisingly, an Evangelical opponent wrote, after his death, of his "mischievous, maverick, learned perversity" as "charming, beguiling and bewitching".

Dix formed two generations of militant Anglo-Catholics. It was not surprising that we used similar weapons to his when we were resisting the heteropractic innovation of Ordination of Women to Major Orders; we had a rather jolly journal called New Directions in which, under the editorship of the clever and witty Sarah Lowe, the effective weaponry of Satire and ridicule again successfully evoked criticism, from the Great and the Good, of our 'tone'. It is our experience that a good rule-of-thumb is: when people criticise your 'tone', you are almost certainly getting things right.

But journals require resources. We may not have the wherewithal to print and to publish our laughter; our ironic mockery of the trends of thought, the intellectual fashions, which dominate both the secular and ecclesial worlds. This is where the blogosphere has been a mighty liberation for the Little Man. For example: faced by The Tablet, a powerful, respected, elegant and well-resourced platform on which trendy voices are enabled to show well (advocating Women's Ordination and unsound liturgical texts and the abolition of Catholic teaching about ethical matters and all the rest of the 'liberal' package), the Little Man, in the conditions of thirty years ago, would have had no resource except to write humbly to the Tablet's Editor and hope that, to demonstrate 'balance', his letter might graciously be granted an airing. If he poked wicked fun at the editorial policy of that periodical, calling down a great gale of public laughter upon its solemn and lofty pronouncements, his letter would probably be spiked! But now, with manageable financial outlay, he can write a blog! Those who have 'non-mainstream' views on Liturgy or Vatican II or anything else are no longer silenced or restricted to the smudgy pages of small fanatical newsletters with slender circulations. The grip of powerful hands - whether of newspaper barons or of the Tablet trustees - on the means of communication has been dramatically loosened. People feel free. People are free.

Which is not to everybody's liking, because it brings challenge and exposure to some complacent dinosaurs which had been accustomed to roam through the landscape unchecked. One priest, who has for long enjoyed a regular column in the mainstream Catholic Press, handing down from on high to the hungry masses the pure nourishment of Vatican II, so disliked what a brother priest ... a blogger ... wrote about him, that he threatened to sue him (evidently I Corinthians 6:1-6 is not part of the Spirit of Vatican II).

I suggest that, from Newman's to the present day, Satire and Irony have been the most notable charism which we from the coetibus Anglicanorum have brought into the life of the Catholic Church. And now you are lucky enough to have the Ordinariate to renew and replenish that gift, precisely (isn't Providence wonderful?) at a time when technology has created a free market for opinions. We are the right people at the right time and bearing the right gifts! I invite expressions of your gratitude to us!!


Eamonn Whelan said...

Laughing out Loud

Fr. Christopher George Phillips said...

Such a beautiful phrase, "People are free."

Your freedom, Father, brings delight to many. Keep going, and let freedom ring!

Peregrinus Toronto said...

Thanks for sharing some of the Dix tricks. What a delightful wit and wonderful scholar. Dom Gregory would be very at home in the Ordinariate and we need a Benedictine community.

I know a couple of former Anglicans who are Catholic monks. They are Ordinatiate friendly . . . something more to pray about as we pray for vocations.

Liam Ronan said...

Here here! Well put, Father.

Matthew Livermore said...

Thank you Father! I found The Shape of the Liturgy recently in a second hand book shop and have been enjoying it a lot.

Mike Cliffson said...

individual gratitude herebye expressed

William Tighe said...

"we had a rather jolly journal called New Directions"

"Had" is correct, as it has now become a vapid and Quislingite publication which seems to have nothing better to say than "better together;" gone, for sure, and that down the memory hole, is the more stirring cry of "a code of practice will not do."

William Tighe said...

And then there is this:


which goes well to reenforce the point of my previous posting.