Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blast her for her sabotage

The Evil One with her Evil Eye

Ut dixit poeta:

Without food quickly on a dish:
Without a cow’s milk whereon a calf grows;
Without a man’s abode in the gloom of night:
Without paying a company of story-tellers, let that be Nancy’s condition.
Let there be no increase in Nancy.

Without a coherent metaphysics...

... nightmares like this are the result.

This flyer, posted on the first-floor noticeboard nearest to Melancholicus’ office, is the first evidence that yours truly has found of an organised anarchist movement at the university.

It is not a surprise; all forms of extreme left-wing ideological nonsense will inevitably proliferate at such institutions, particularly among young students left so devoid of a solid philosophy of being by their modern upbringing that they resemble nothing so much as a blank slate, ready to be written on at will by every fanatical idealist who wants to change the world.

In Britain and other western countries, university campuses are fertile recruitment grounds for the jihadis for precisely the same reason.

Anarchism has been defined (in the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics) as “the view that society can and should be organized without a coercive state”. That such a notion is fundamentally and absolutely unworkable where human beings are concerned should be self-evident. The key word being ‘should’.

But, alas, this truth does not appear to be self-evident, for anarchism has a long history and shows no signs of abating yet. Thankfully its adherents have always been a fringe movement; God forbid that they should ever be in a position to realise their social and political goals. There may be much to deplore in contemporary government, in Ireland as elsewhere, but there is much to be thankful for too. Shall we sweep away government itself simply because its powers have been abused? It reminds Melancholicus of a graffito he saw sprayed over a road sign while driving back to Dublin last Sunday. The legend read “End corrupt state”. This could be interpreted simply as a call for the ending of governmental corruption. It is more likely an anarchist slogan calling for the eradication of government itself.

What fools.

Their hideous—and it is truly hideous—error proceeds from a peculiarly obnoxious heresy, namely the idea that man is perfectible by and through himself. According to the anarchist view, if society were free from the meddling interference and sometimes oppressive presence of the state, the lives of ordinary folk like you and me would be much the better off.

But consider for a moment life without government. There would be no laws and no police. Perhaps the anarchists wouldn’t see any problem with that, but the implications are terrifying.

Without law, without government, who among us could sleep soundly in his bed? Sweep away the government and society becomes a free-for-all in which bullies, gangsters and other criminals would rule by sheer force, and there would be no-one to protect the weak and the vulnerable from the depredations of the strong. The numbers of robberies, assaults, rapes and murders would skyrocket. That is a sobering thought for our licentious age, in which our contemporaries are not renowned for their restraint or self-control.

So government may be corrupt, but let us give government the benefit of the same laws that exist to keep us all safe from one another. The anarchist desire to sweep away all government reminds one of a scene in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons on the life of St. Thomas More. More’s future son-in-law, William Roper, is a hot-headed young idealist—much, we might suppose, as any hot-headed (but similarly thoughtless) young man seduced by the rhetoric of the anarchists. Roper is so zealous for his ideals that he would lay low all the laws of England to go after the devil. This is More’s inspired reply:

“When the last law was down and the devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat. This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I would give the devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

Give me socialism any day of the week over anarchism, and that’s truly saying something.

Hope springs eternal

With both banks and markets the world over teetering on the verge of catastrophe, there are not a few souls who fear for the future, and most justly so.

But the financial crisis is not doom and gloom for everybody; the socialists are giddy with excitement, for just as orthodox Jews look for signs presaging the coming of the Messiah and as the Mahometans (the Shi’i at least) look for prodigies announcing the nearness of the Mahdi, so too the socialists are always on the lookout for signs that the fall of capitalism is nigh, a fall which according to marxist dogma must take place come what may, and which is always—just there!—on the horizon.

So grave is the current crisis threatening the global economy that the socialists are sure the promised fall is finally about to take place. Whereafter, of course, they shall step up and usher in the socialist order.

This poster (once again unfortunately cut off since the socialist A3 sheet was too large for my bourgeois scanner to cope with) has appeared on the university noticeboards of late. Just take a look at all those jolly fellows in the foreground. One is not quite sure what’s going on in the picture, but the man nearest the viewer with his hand on his forehead looks like a lost soul, so he may be a defeated and bankrupt capitalist. The others, however, do not look anywhere near as sad. These must be the victors. With a defiant mien, they have their fists raised in the air—a gesture which identifies a socialist as clearly as a funny handshake identifies a freemason.

Melancholicus thinks they are dreaming if they believe the current economic turbulence will yield a socialist paradise, where orthodox marxism reigns supreme, but imagine for the sake of argument what would happen if they actually got their way. After the orgy of bloodletting, imprisonments and deportations that must always take place wherever socialists seize complete control, we would be left with a dreary world dominated by a tyrannical and super-intrusive state, a lifeless society devoid of mutual love or trust, or the incentive to do anything of any real value, a world in which anyone’s personal initiative in whatever field would most likely land him in a concentration camp, if he were lucky enough to avoid being shot. At its kindest, such a future might be like East Germany as portrayed in Das Leben der Anderen; in its less gentle incarnations it might more resemble Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Such a situation could not prevail in the Islamic world, however, for Melancholicus does not believe that the socialists’ cherished revolution would have even the remotest possibility of succeeding in areas dominated by a resurgent and self-confident militant Islam. In his more bloody-minded moments, Melancholicus would like to see the socialists and the Mahometan go head-to-head. Who would win? Melancholicus is of the view that the Mahometan would wipe the floor with the skins of the socialists, but given the leftist facility for causing death on a scale never matched by any other power (even the Third Reich), perhaps the outcome of our hypothetical fight may not be as predictable as at first sight.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Melancholicus is afraid.

And to tell the truth, he is more than a little depressed.

These are most uncertain times. It appears that the world is headed for a hyper-inflationary depression, which is bad news for everybody but particularly bad news for the economy of the United States of America.

There have been warnings and alarums aplenty since the current misery began in the wake of the subprime lending crisis. That such is more than merely gloomy forecasting may be seen from the recent and oftentimes high-profile collapse of many companies in divers places; the Canadian airline Zoom on 28 August, the British holiday company XL on 12 September, and recently in Ireland Fáilte Travel ceased trading on 11 July while Mayo-based tour company Great Escapes closed on 26 August. At the time of writing, Alitalia is at death’s door in a commercial crisis severe enough to warrant the prayers even of our Holy Father the Pope for the airline’s survival.

Over dinner on Saturday evening last, Melancholicus’ mother expressed grave concern for the stability of both Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland, the two largest banks on this island. Together with his brother and with and his sister (who is a certified accountant), he attempted to explain that nothing beyond a catastrophic event could possibly bring down either institution. But yesterday Melancholicus awoke to the news that Lehman Bros. Investment Bank had filed for bankruptcy protection in the largest such suit in US history, and he has since heard that both of the Irish banks about which he was reassuring his mother on Saturday can be expected to write off hundreds of millions of euro in bad debts over the next two years.

Which is unlikely to put them out of business altogether, but nevertheless.

Now, AIG has not been able to convince credit agencies of its solvency, so there may be further calamities just around the corner unless the US government should intervene.

Apparently, there will be no further growth in the US economy until at least 2010 (if even then). These economic woes would not be so terribly worrying to Melancholicus were he not getting married next year. Not only is he getting married, but since his fiancée is American, he will be emigrating to the United States. Which means he must find there a reasonably well-paying job in order that he might buy a house and provide for his wife and whatever children it may please God to send us.

Although Melancholicus is well-qualified in his field, the prospect of being able to land a secure position in the current economic climate is looking increasingly difficult. While he is tempted to say that this could not have happened at a worse time, he acknowledges that of course it could have—he could be sitting here with negative equity up to six figures hanging round his neck.

Which thanks be to goodness he is not.

But these events have left him in the meantime feeling not less gloomy than Eeyore.

There is at least some consolation: in the midst of the upset of the markets, oil is down to only $90 a barrell, so go fill your tanks y’all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dead in his tracks

The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
17th Sunday after Trinity

Melancholicus really, really wanted to go to St. Bartholomew’s this evening for choral evensong, but first of all there was the small matter of a precept of the Church to be obeyed, a precept mandating attendance at Mass on all Sundays of the year.

Today is also a feast for which Melancholicus has a special affection, so he was not averse to the idea of hearing Mass, even if said Mass were offered according to the rite of Paul VI.

Down he went to the local parish church, fine and early, ready to say his morning prayers before Mass began. Alas, who should he see setting up the sanctuary but Judas priest.

Whereat Melancholicus was most downcast and lamented interiorly; whereat a most bitter internal conflict raged in his soul, which resolved itself through his rising from his seat and departing from the church again in rage and grief, after which he resorted to the scenic car-park by the golf course as a peaceful place to say his private prayers.

For worse by far than the heathen and the publican is a faithless priest.

Mass, of course, is still unheard. Which means stopping off this evening at Sacred Heart church in Donnybrook once again for the holy sacrifice rather than at St. Bart’s.

Choral evensong really is so very beautiful, and it will go unheard by me again!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

On this day

Has it really been seven years?

About 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001, most of them in New York city.

They must be few who have not been affected to some degree by the events of 9/11. Although Melancholicus did not know anyone in the World Trade Center personally, his sister works for an insurance management firm whose New York branch was located in the south tower; the staff of the Dublin branch were distraught to hear that 175 of their colleagues had perished. Later, as a seminarian, Melancholicus knew a priest who had lost a friend in one of the towers.

This was a day on which the world changed, and not for the better. But if one good thing might be said to have come out of the attack on the twin towers it is that the west is beginning to wake up, slowly and painfully, to the fact that Islam is at war with us. But too many of our political leaders still make fools of themselves by repeatedly offering exculpatory excuses for the behaviour of our deadliest enemies—it’s nothing to do with religion, violence is un-Islamic, Islam is a religion of peace, yadda yadda yadda.

Melancholicus only hopes that it will not take a further event on the scale of 9/11, or worse, before the connection between terrorist behaviour and the violence of the Qur’an is finally accepted.

May the souls of the departed through the mercy of God rest in peace on this, their seventh anniversary.


The new academic year has begun at the university.

It always comes as a shock after the quiet of the summer months; one becomes used to the peace, the silence, always being able to find a space in the car park and not having to queue with a horde of loud-mouthed, bespotted and hormonally-driven adolescents for one’s sandwich and coffee.

Now that the term has begun, it is almost impossible to park one’s car if one arrives on campus any later than 8.30am, and in making one’s way from one building to another one must thread one’s way through vast crowds of gormless-looking youth. No offence intended to any students that might be reading this; Melancholicus was once himself a student (in fact the greater part of his adult life thus far has been spent in study) and he is merely voicing his discontent at the rude shattering of the summer calm. Of course he knows that you’re not all gormless. At least for the most part.

But please do try to attend your lectures regularly, and be punctual, for goodness’ sake. I am tired of having to distribute the same handout and announce the same particulars three lectures running because there is ALWAYS someone who missed it the first (or second) time around.

Once the students return to the campus, so do the inevitable student events; the round of balls and parties and plays and games and frivolous debates and all that sort of thing, which are advertised by typically objectionable posters and flyers stuck up on walls, pillars and noticeboards all over the house. Some form of sexual imagery or innuendo is invariably included in these advertisements; it is as though those who advertise these events feel they MUST include some gratuitous sexuality so as not to appear staid or stuffy. Melancholicus is at a loss to understand why the female cohort of the student body is not mortally affronted by the content of some of these posters, as the attitude to women evinced therein is the attitude of the playboy, the pimp and the pornographer. Speaking of pornography, the annual ‘porn debate’ is likewise in the offing. I say annual, because the students have a porn debate every year. Melancholicus has never attended any such debate, since the arguments (if one can call them such) propounded both pro and contra at such a thing are sure to proceed from mere opinion and personal view rather than being grounded in any coherent philosophy of being—and, consequently, not worth listening to. Then there are the socialists, ever active on campus and, most cult-like, preying on the lonely, the vulnerable, and those who otherwise slip through the cracks. These have pasted up a flyer inviting all comers to the inevitable public meeting so beloved of left-wing activists, proclaiming “Why You Should Be A Socialist”, replete with a beefy and somewhat intimidating young woman in dark glasses raising her fist in the air in the classic image of incipient socialist violence.

Now that the Arts Café has completed its renovations and re-opened afresh (with vastly inflated prices, whereat Melancholicus shall no longer buy his coffee there) throngs of students once again sit out in the courtyard till all hours, laughing raucously and for the most part talking nonsense. How does Melancholicus know they’re talking nonsense? Because his second-floor office looks down on the courtyard and the noise rises up and filters in through his window. Roll on November, with its long hours of darkness and its pluvial weather, which will help to keep the students indoors, for he has enough of listening to their indecencies. Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!

And roll on exam time, too! Melancholicus loves the exams. Not out of malice—he has sat enough exams himself for one lifetime—but the proximity of the exams renders the students quiet and studious and otherwise inoffensive. December is always a quiet month. ’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Caption contest

With thanks to Jihad Watch, Reuters and Michelle Malkin.

Why all the fuss about this place?


If there is one word guaranteed to set the ageing renewalists aglow with gushing enthusiasm, it is Taizé.

Taizé is the centre of their religious universe, as Mecca is to the Mahometan.

Melancholicus was tidying up his room the other day and came across a newsletter from the local parish, the front page of which promoted this phenomenon with warm approbation. Melancholicus reproduces this blurb here for the benefit of his readers, and has taken the liberty of inserting a few barbed and sarcastic remarks in red.

Taizé «that little springtime»

The above description was given by the great Pope John XXIII [there is no doubt that John XXIII was very popular, but popularity hardly suffices to make one great. Ah, but silly me, John XXIII is great because he convoked Vatican II and so is the source of the wonderful renewal we are now experiencing in the Church today] referring to the Ecumenical Community of Brothers based at Taizé in France. The community was founded by Roger Schutz a Swiss Lutheran over fifty years ago. The community was visited by the late Pope John Paul II as well as the present Pope, who visited it as a Cardinal. Both praised it as venture to reach out to all people and particularly young people [emphasis mine] who visit the community in their hundreds [what, not thousands, as has oft been claimed?] and join the community of brothers in their prayer life and sharing of the Christian message. Brother Roger died in 2006 [there is considerable divergence of opinion as to whether Brother Roger died in 2005 or 2006. Maybe there were two Brother Rogers, one of whom is rumoured to have been a closet Catholic. Perhaps one of these Brother Rogers was the public figure and the other was kept hidden away in a dungeon out of sight. If we come across any photographs of Brother Roger purporting to have been taken in 2006, perhaps we should look closely at his ears] and has been succeeded by Brother Alois as head of the community of around one hundred brothers of various nationalities and denominations [the fact that these 'brothers' come from a large variety of sects—some are even Catholic!—is seen as one of the most wondrous aspects of this place. It is the ultimate ecumaniacal paradise].

If anyone wants to know more about this unique community they are invited to meet Brother Alois and some brothers who will be in the Pro-Cathedral on Friday 25 April at 8pm. They may even be tempted to visit Taizé and experience their very moving prayer gatherings and meet others who have been touched by this «little springtime» in the church [sic].

If you are on the web why not log on to: taizedublin@gmail.com [which is an e-mail address, not a URL]

Melancholicus missed Brother Alois’ visit, but has not lost any sleep as a consequence. I suppose the fellow was generously fêted at the pro-cathedral, and I dare say that in the run-up to his arrival parishes all across the diocese were active in love-bombing “the youth” (or what little youth they have left) in an attempt to bestir their interest in meeting this towering celebrity. For some reason that Melancholicus cannot quite fathom, the henchpersons of newchurch always seem to regard Taizé as especially relevant and appealing to “the youth”. Is this simply because as a phenomenon Taizé is a radical novelty, something totally untraditional, and hence buys into the patronising notion that young people are so shallow they will prefer the new simply because it is new?

What makes Taizé particularly dangerous—and hence totally undeserving of the promotion it receives from our parish clergy and religious—is that it is probably the one place on earth which most tangibly embodies the ecumenical lie. I refer to the notion that the unity of the Church does not actually exist, hence we have to go in search of it, along with our “separated brethren”, who are viewed by adherents of the lie as equal partners in the search for this “lost” unity. To put it simply, if Taizé is so cool, what’s so special about being a Catholic? The Taizé people aren’t Catholic (or if they are, they haven’t told us yet), but in spite of this they are praised to the skies by our fathers in God, as though Taizé holds the key to the cosmos. What lies at the bottom of this ecumenical search for “unity” is not unity at all, but universalism. Our young people are exhorted by the wild-eyed hippies that run parishes and religious orders to make pilgrimages to this place, effectively placing it on the same level as Fatima or Lourdes or even Rome itself, and in so doing, whatever faith they might beforehand have had in the singular importance of the Catholic Church is lost entirely.

While I've seen worse, I've seen better tooBut even if the Taizé community were a normal Catholic religious order—which it isn’t; as they say in Yorkshire, it’s neither nowt nor summat—Melancholicus would still object to its relentless promotion by the doyens of the new religion, and that simply because of its second rate tat. Take a look at their crucifix, for instance. Gaudy, garish colours; badly-proportioned figures with spindly limbs, evoking more than a whiff of the grotesque; mediocre artwork of a fairly middling standard; the odd shape of the thing, and not least, its propensity to be copied and mimicked in churches and parishes without number all over the world. Look at the photo of the sanctuary of the chapel here at the university where Melancholicus earns his living (in this post below), and you should notice a familiar-looking object adorning the wall behind the Lord’s board.

comfortably seated on the Taizé kneelerNow look at this thing, by which I mean the object she’s sitting on. They call it the “Taizé kneeler”, but it isn’t a kneeler really, is it? It’s actually a kind of stool. The weight of the body in this position is borne not by the knees (as in classic kneeling posture) but by the buttocks, hence the Taizé version of kneeling is really nothing other than sitting. At best it can be described as lazy man’s kneeling. The goal of this posture is not to abase oneself in humility before the majesty of God, but to achieve ‘relaxation’ à-la New Age, with a veneer of prayer. This attitude is fed by the Taizé style of prayer, in which mantras are chanted over and over with the aim of soothing the participants, inducing emotion or a kind of trance-like stupor more reminiscent of a guided relaxation session than genuine prayer.

And as for their music, well, I cannot praise it. Chemical weapons have oft been described as “the poor man’s atomic bomb”. In that vein, we might describe Taizé singing as the poor man’s gregorian chant. Melancholicus has never cared for it, even in the days before his discovery of Tradition. It has always seemed to him to be contrived and vaguely embarrassing. Why have Taizé chant when, with a little effort, one can have the real thing? Why be content with hamburger when one can have filet mignon?

Far from being a “little springtime”, Taizé, much like Focolare, the neo-catechumenal people and various other fads of the hour, is a weed rather than a flower in the vineyard of the Lord. Some weeds are quite attractive, sporting pretty petals and flowers of pleasing hues. Those unlearned in botanical matters may mistake these weeds for something the Gardener has carefully cultivated, when in reality they are invasive intruders, having installed themselves without His assistance, limiting the growth of other plants by blocking out the light and by using up nutrients from the soil. They have pretty flowers, emit a delightful perfume, wave pleasingly in the breeze, and look to all appearances like a well ordered flowerbed—but the vine, starved in soil rendered barren by their aggressive proliferation, begins to die. Weeds do not serve the Gardener; neither do these ‘movements’—least of all Taizé, which isn’t even Catholic—serve the Church.

Portrait of a terrorist

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme Jihad UK, broadcast last Monday in the wake of the convictions of three British Muslim men for terror offences, here. Unfortunately Melancholicus is unable to embed the BBC media player in this post, so readers will have to activate the thing themselves after clicking the link.

The objective quality of the coverage is really quite good, in spite of the BBC’s institutionalised reverence for all things Mahometan. Nevertheless, the BBC still cannot bring itself to name religious ideology as the inspiration behind jihadi violence lest the reputation of Islam itself be besmirched.

Instead, the blame is laid on a variety of external factors; the seductive lure of foreign jihadi groups, the youth and impressionability of young British Muslims and—that perennial scapegoat for Mahometan aggression—western foreign policy.

It was interesting—and certainly refreshing—to hear comments such as “platitudes such as Islam meaning ‘peace’ won’t cut it here”—but the reporter failed to go the full distance and inform his audience that Islam does not mean peace at all; it means submission.

Particularly interesting, even revealing, is this comment by Hanif Qadir of the Active Change Foundation in describing the motivation of young Britons who give themselves up to the jihadi cause:

“These people who carry out terrorist activities, they’re not evil individuals. It’s because they’re most human, unselfish and often self-sacrificing kind of individuals, that will jump in when they see unfairness, and when they see injustice being done to a person, or to a race or to a community. It’s often these type of people that want to get involved.”

For all it seems to exculpate those who participate in terrorist attacks, this remark nevertheless rings true to a large extent. Ah, the idealism of thoughtless youth! The misplaced zeal that leads young persons to become socialists and that which leads them to become jihadis is ultimately the same. Young persons are often gifted with a self-sacrificing desire to make a change and be of service to something important—or at least something that they consider to be important. What that something is, however, makes all the difference. The foolish, idealistic young that are seduced by an evil, twisted ideology such as socialism—or Islam—will end by becoming evil and twisted themselves. That is simply the way of things. One’s character cannot remain untainted by one’s acts.

At the end of it all, it is disquieting to know that even though Britain may not have the largest Muslim population in Europe, it certainly has the most radical. Britain has been a breeding ground for jihadis for years. In this respect, Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan is required reading. Melancholicus does not quite agree with her stance vis-a-vis the invasion of Iraq, but her social commentary and her diagnosis of the malaise currently afflicting British legal and political life is right on the money.

But that such a programme can be aired on the BBC at all is progress in itself; it must surely indicate that Britain is beginning to wake up to the fact that a significant proportion of her Muslim minority, including those born and raised on British soil, does not identify with her culture and institutions, and is intent on turning her into an Islamic state.

And why? What is the cause of their alienation?

Is it really because of poverty and hopelessness, as is so often claimed?

If so, why are university campuses such fertile recruiting grounds for the jihadis?

Is not the problem rooted in something much simpler than the interplay of complex socio-economic factors?

Could it be a matter of theology, perhaps?

Is it not the Islamic religion that ultimately drives the jihadis?

This programme is perhaps the closest the BBC has ever come to making the link between Muslim violence and the Islamic religion.

Will they ever get there? Melancholicus somehow doubts it. Political correctness is so deeply engrained in the minds of the British intelligentsia that he cannot see it being dislodged any time soon.

The splendour of the new rite?

Last Sunday, XVIIth after Pentecost or in the Novus Ordo calendar the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Melancholicus resumed the practice of fulfilling his Sunday obligation.

This was a consequence of his having been to confession the previous day, whereafter he decided (somewhat grudgingly) to make a clean sweep and obey the precept mandating Mass attendance on Sundays and holy days.

Having consumed a full bottle of wine while watching three episodes of The Wire (season 4) on Saturday night, he was unable to rise in time for the 8am Novus Ordo in the local parish; but this being the site of Judas priest’s denial of the miracle of the loaves and fishes five weeks before, he was not minded to return thither in a hurry.

Last Sunday was also the first Sunday on which choral evensong was offered again in St. Bartholomew’s after the summer hiatus, and driving back to Dublin in the afternoon Melancholicus intended to call into that Anglo-Catholic sanctuary to enjoy its exquisitely beautiful evening office.

And he would have done so, but for a persistent and annoying nagging of conscience which saw him instead stop off, with a sigh, at Sacred Heart church in Donnybrook for evening Mass.

This is a beautiful church; the liturgy, however, was decidedly less so. Mass proceded in much the same manner it has always done. There were no egregious clangers; no formal heresy was preached, no doctrines of the Church were denied, and there were no violations of liturgical norms beyond the institutionalised abuses one invariably finds at even the cleanest celebrations of the new rite. Melancholicus was also able to receive holy communion with a clear conscience. But rather than being relieved that the Mass passed off so well, and being pleased with his relief, Melancholicus was overcome with sadness and heaviness of heart. Sadness that it has come to this; sadness that the public celebration of our holy religion is reduced to the level of the horizontal; sadness that the awesome sacrifice of calvary is obscured, at least in practice, by the atmosphere of a touchy-feely community meet. Nobody seemed to regard the Mass as in any way remarkable, save for a few devout old ladies who still remember the old religion and what this most august and sacred mystery means. Sadness at the sheer unbeauty of it all.

How does Melancholicus presume to judge the attitude of his fellow congregants? Well, as far as exterior demeanour may provide a window onto one’s disposition of soul, the congregation in Donnybrook was typical of congregations all over the western world, wherever conciliar religion has taken hold. There was a great deal of conversational hubbub before Mass began, and again after it had ended. Hardly a soul bent a knee before the tabernacle. Melancholicus was particularly scandalised by a large group of persons who gathered and hob-nobbed in the nave after Mass had ended, talking and laughing volubly as though they were in the lobby of a hotel. The demeanour of not a few for the reception of holy communion is best not discussed; suffice it to say it makes one sad and angry.

The priest nowhere departed from the rubrics, but his adherence to the Cult of Man was so much in evidence it was impossible not to be aware of it. The atmosphere of casual informality was totally out of place; Father spoke like a therapist rather than a priest, warm and fuzzy and with the same disconcerting false friendliness that Melancholicus has observed among store clerks in the United States. One enters a store to buy a pack of cigarettes, or some such; upon which the assistant immediately starts tonguing one’s brown eye with startling vigour (I speak figuratively, of course). Thus, whether consciously or not, Father came across as a man pretending to be everyone’s best friend; he didn’t quite pull it off successfully, however, and the result was vaguely patronising in a certain indefinable manner. What was clear, however, was that the focus of attention was entirely on the interaction between cleric and congregation. God was referred to almost as an aside, when He was mentioned at all. There was a homily after the Gospel; it was bland but otherwise inoffensive. At least this is how Melancholicus used to rate homilies he heard at the Novus Ordo that were not openly heretical, before he woke up to the fact that bland homilies are indeed offensive, though for what they omit rather than what they contain. Last Sunday the lectionary prescribed the reading of Matthew 18:15-20. There is so much that could be said on this text; alone it would have given the apostolic fathers sufficient scope for several dozen sermons. But in church last Sunday we were presented with Jesus as manager, with an analysis of his method of conflict resolution, as though Our Lord were some first-century Judaic Cyrus Vance rather than the Son of the Most High God. While this improbable talk was in delivery, Melancholicus glanced at his watch, aware that he could still make it to St. Bart’s in time for evensong if he left Sacred Heart right away, which led to the bizarre circumstance of his actually hoping that Father would say something heretical so that he could leave. But the excuse never presented itself; the homily was merely the rhetorical equivalent of tinted steam, and Melancholicus ended up staying for the rest of it. After which we had the usual platitudinous bidding prayers—all for justice and world peace and that sort of thing—and announcements of parochial events, wherein we were told that the term of the parish pastoral council had expired and so they were looking for new members.

This is all of a piece with the praxis of the conciliar church, in which the proliferation of a lay-heavy bureaucracy is seen as evidence of growth and vitality. In fact it is nothing of the kind. A tumour in ones lungs may exhibit growth and vitality by trebling its size and spreading to other parts of one’s body, but that is hardly a matter for rejoicing for a person so afflicted. Likewise, Melancholicus cannot find it in himself to approve of the malignant growth that is parish pastoral councils, which do nothing but create busywork and talking shops and divert the most active members of the parish, both clerical and lay, away from the Church’s real mission which is the salvation of souls.

There was nothing especially hateful in the liturgy of the eucharist, but one needed a strong Catholic faith in order to remember what one was doing there. Father read the eucharistic prayer as much to the congregation as to God. After the consecration, we had that improbable hiatus “Let us proclaim in song the mystery of faith” sung to the tune of a ditty. Then followed the extremely tiresome rite of peace in which our Lord’s presence on the altar was forgotten in a miasma of glad-handing and more false friendliness redolent of the store clerk. Finally, though the congregation was not especially large, and as only two extraordinary ministers had come forward, Father informed the congregation that we could do with some help in the distribution of holy communion. Which meant that any person of any faith or none who happened to be present could assume the role of extraordinary minister at their good pleasure. Two persons did so—both women, as might be expected, and they raced up to the sanctuary with unseemly haste; one of them—a young and rather striking blonde—did not even stay until the end of Mass; having enjoyed her few minutes of glory, she took advantage of the opportunity to beat the traffic by rather conspicuously leaving the church before the dismissal. After all was said and done, almost nobody remained to make a thanksgiving for their holy communion; the congregation broke up in a noisy clamour and the doors were choked by fleeing Mass-goers attempting to reach their cars before the rush.

This is the sort of thing that transpires when the church service is all about US instead of being all about God.

It is the Cult of Man with a vengeance.

And so, even though he received Jesus in the most holy sacrament of the altar into his soul in the setting of a tolerably clean liturgy, Melancholicus was saddened, and did indeed wonder if he had done the right thing, or if he ought not to have just gone to evensong in the first place. It is admittedly difficult to discern the notes of the Catholic religion in what goes on in so many churches today, even when no formal heresy is preached and where the abuses are restricted only to those that have become commonplace and accepted.

Melancholicus does not expect the celebration of each and every Mass to be flawless to a perfect degree. But he does expect that the liturgy should evoke a sense of the sacred.

Alas, there was precious little sense of the sacred to be had in Sacred Heart church.