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The following video was made in 2014, but I saw it for the first time last week.

Leonora Hamill filmed this stag, named Chambord, in the Church of Saint-Eustache in Paris, which held Easter Day services for the parishioners of Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was devastated by fire during Holy Week on April 15, 2019.

Look how beautifully the stag blends into its surroundings:

It has a respectful look round the altar before leaving.

This is a sublime blending of God’s creation and His gift of aesthetics to mankind.

Some who have seen it recall the pagan deer deity Cernunnos, but, according to the YouTube comments, Ms Hamill filmed it to promote the Church of Saint-Eustache, located near Les Halles in the French capital. It is a church, by the way, and not a cathedral.

It is no coincidence that she chose a deer, as Saint Eustache — or Eustace, in English — was a Roman general named Placidus who saw a vision of a crucifix between a deer’s antlers. This was in the second century AD.

Upon seeing the vision of the deer with the crucifix between his antlers, Placidus changed his name to Eustace, which means ‘upstanding’ and ‘steadfast’.

Eustace wasted no time in converting his family and all were baptised.

Then, they underwent a series of dramatic trials of faith that were reminiscent of Job’s. According to Wikipedia (emphases mine):

A series of calamities followed to test his faith: his wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea-voyage, the ship’s captain kidnapped Eustace’s wife Theopista; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons Agapius and Theopistus, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith.

Although God restored his social standing and reunited him with his family, he died as a martyr for the faith in 118, when he refused to offer a pagan sacrifice:

There is a tradition that when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the emperor Hadrian condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox,[5] in the year AD 118.

He was part of the General Roman Calendar of saints until 1970, when he was removed from the list, presumably because his life’s story could not be fully authenticated.

Nonetheless, after his death he was venerated in many countries across Europe. He still is today in several of them and, fortunately, remains listed in the Roman Martyrology.

St Eustace is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, as is St Blaise. The list of the Fourteen Holy Helpers was devised in Germany during the Black Death in the 14th century. People sought their intercession in times of need. St Eustace was the healer of family troubles. The Catholic Church unceremoniously dumped several of the individual feasts of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in 1969, although Catherine of Alexandria’s optional feast day of November 25 was reinstated in 2004, possibly because Joan of Arc was said to have heard the saint’s voice.

Other individual feasts days of the Fourteen Holy Helpers were dropped, such as those of Saints Christopher, Barbara and Margaret of Antioch.

Back now to Eustace, who is also the patron saint of hunters, firefighters and anyone facing adversity. His feast day is September 20.

There was another saint who had a similar vision of a deer. His name was Hubertus, or Hubert. He lived near Liège and was the eldest son of Bertrand, the Duke of Aquitaine. Hubert was born in 656. Although he was an agreeable character, he loved hunting. He loved it so much that, one Good Friday morning, while everyone went to church, he went hunting.

According to the legend, recounted by Wikipedia:

As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”. Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”

Lambert was the Bishop of Maastricht at the time. Lambert was later canonised, as was Hubert.

Lambert became Hubert’s spiritual director, and the young nobleman renounced his title, gave his worldly goods to the poor, studied for ordination and made his younger brother Odo guardian of his infant son Floribert.

Sadly, Lambert was assassinated and died as a martyr. Hubert brought his mentor’s remains to Liège in great ecclesiastical pomp and circumstance.

One could say that Hubert put Liège on the world map. It was only a small village when he had Lambert’s remains brought there. Not long afterwards, it grew in prominence. Today, it is a renowned city. St Lambert is its patron and St Hubert is considered its founder and was its first bishop.

St Hubert’s feast day is May 30. He died on that day in 727 or 728.

His legacy, in addition to increasing Liège’s prominence, involves God. Hubert evangelised passionately to the pagans of the Ardennes region at the time. He also developed a set of ethics for hunting animals humanely, standards which are still used today among French huntsmen, who venerate him annually during a special ceremony.

His feast day is November 3. He is one of the Four Holy Marshals, another group of saints that also was venerated in the Rhineland. He is the patron saint of those involved in hunting as well as forest workers, trappers, mathematicans, metal workers and smelters. A few ancient chivalrous orders also bear his name.

In closing, those familiar with the German digestif Jägermeister should know that the drink’s logo refers to Eustace and Hubert’s respective visions:

I wonder if that label has ever converted anyone. It would be nice to think so.

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Over the past few weeks, I have written posts about Covington Catholic High School boys who were wrongly maligned and harassed at the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life in Washington, DC, on Friday, January 18, 2019:

A school chaperone’s role is an onerous one (January 18)

Covington Catholic: responsible media backtracked (January 20)

Covington Catholic: doxxing followed by support on a fateful weekend (January 20-21)

Covington Catholic: when the media narrative turned (January 21-22)

Today, I will look at the Diocese of Covington’s response as well as those from two archdioceses.

Instead of waiting to gather facts about the incident, the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky — and at least two archdioceses — were quick to condemn the high school students.

Diocese of Covington

On Tuesday, January 22, Breitbart posted ‘Catholic Leaders Refuse to Retract Slander of School Boys at March for Life‘. The diocese unquestioningly followed the media narrative from the weekend (emphases mine below):

The boys’ school and the Diocese of Covington joined in the feeding frenzy, hastily issuing a statement of condemnation of the boys as well as a public apology without hearing the boys’ version of the story.

“This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” Covington Catholic High School and the Diocese of Covington said in a joint statement. “The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”

We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips,” the statement reads.

Bishop Foys created his Twitter account a short time ago in January 2019. The tone of his first tweet contradicts the above statement:

His second was this retweet of a President Trump message:

Conservative network OANN host Jack Posobiec reported that parents wanted a swift apology to the students on the March for Life:

Perhaps Bishop Foys thought the diocese’s strong statement would avert a protest in front of a Catholic church in Covington on January 22. If so, he was mistaken. Fortunately, the weather was cold:

Catholics across the country were frustrated, if not livid, with the condemnation of the students, especially as lengthy videos showing their innocence appeared that weekend:

The Daily Wire article says, in part:

The commissars in charge of Covington Diocese are not the only members of the American hierarchy behaving shamelessly during this railroading of innocent young boys. As of this writing, Cardinal DiNardo, president of the USCCB, has uttered not a word in the boys’ defense, nor has he rebuked priests like Father Edward Beck (CNN Commentator) who doubled down on his condemnation of the boys even after evidence proved them innocent.

On January 23, Gateway Pundit‘s Cassandra Fairbanks tweeted:

Fairbanks’s article states:

The students claim that after some of the kids spoke to Fox News and other outlets, the Bishop informed the school that he doesn’t want them doing any more interviews. The school faculty agreed, claiming they are worried about their safety.

While no punishment was made clear if they fail to comply, the students want to cooperate and plan to do so.

One of the mothers Fairbanks interviewed had said at the weekend (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

“Like I said, the Bishop here is literally victimizing the victims twice. They’ve already been victimized by the media, now they are being victimized again,” she added. “There is blood in the water and they are making it worse. They’re feeding the piranha frenzy from the liberal media. I just want people to understand that they need to wake up and stop believing the fake news and defend the kids.”

That day, Bishop Foys addressed Covington Catholic’s students. I’m so disgusted by some of the remarks, I won’t even comment (emphases mine):

I am the shepherd of this Church. I have to present not only to the people of our diocese but also to the world the facts. Not the facts that someone has imagined or the facts that someone thinks or facts that people might determine from seeing a video. I encourage all of you, especially the students who were there at the march, to cooperate with the investigators. This is with the permission of your parents. We’re not going to have you do anything without the permission of your parents. And the teachers and chaperones who were there, I am asking you, too, to be cooperative with this …

I’m going to ask you, as your bishop, to stay off social media in regards to this situation at least until it is resolved. Because the more you say — pro or con — the more you exacerbate the situation. You have to help, especially yourself, by getting off social media. Right now anything we say — you or I — anything we say is questioned. The devil is real; trust me. He has taken this good thing, this March for Life, and turned it into a media circus.”

Bishop Foys then talked to the students about the statements that have been released by the diocese and the school, which have been criticized.

Some people think our first statement was too strong, but in my mind with what we saw and what we heard at the time, we had to say what we said and we meant it. If that behavior is genuine then we have to condemn it.

“We issued a second statement yesterday. Regardless of what you heard or what you’ve read or what you think— I am on your side. I want you to come out of this in a positive light.

“In our second statement I asked people to pray that we will arrive at the truth. The only way we can do that in an objective way is through a thorough and in-depth investigation … If there was some wrongdoing we have to own up to that, too. Father Michael [Hennigen, school chaplain] is right, it is the truth that will set us free.”

“Know that I stand with you, that I join with you in that ‘Spirit that will not die’ and that together we will work through this. Thank you and God bless you.”

As Bishop Foys turned the podium over to Mr. Rowe, he expressed his confidence in the principal. “Mr. Rowe has done a wonderful job here in his leadership. I have full confidence in him and he will continue to lead you,” he said.

In his final remarks before dismissing the assembly Mr. Rowe said, “Bishop Foys supports us — now we need to support him.”

On January 25, Bishop Foys sent a letter to the parents of Covington Catholic High School students. In it was an apology to Nicholas Sandmann and his family. Foys admitted he thought the diocesan announcement of the third-party investigation into the Lincoln Memorial incident would placate venomous critics and acknowledged that did not happen.

Sadly, it took until Wednesday, February 13, for the boys to be exonerated:

If the diocese paid handsomely for this report, they were robbed. The Daily Beast reported:

The Washington Post reports Wednesday that a team of Cincinnati private investigators spent hundreds of hours reviewing footage and interviewing witnesses before concluding that there was no evidence that there were “racist or offensive statements by students to Mr. Phillips.” They did not, however, speak to Nathan Phillips or Nicholas Sandmann, the two people featured most prominently in the encounter. After the results were released, the Bishop of Covington reversed the diocese’s earlier condemnation of the students, noting that “my hope and expectation expressed in my letter to you of 25 January that the results of our inquiry … would exonerate our students so that they can move forward with their lives’ has been realized.” The report doesn’t offer any guidance on how to prevent similar encounters in the future.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore

Two days after the Lincoln Memorial incident, the Archdiocese of Baltimore — hundreds of miles east, in Maryland — got involved:

That tweet received a number of indignant responses, which outnumbered positive ones.

A Catholic priest tweeted:

Boomer Catholic clergy pass judgment on Catholic high school students before investigating all of the evidence. Why aren’t there more young people at Mass?

Someone recommended the archdiocese delete their tweet:

Very sad that a prominent archdiocese would rush to judgment and gullibly swallow a contrived, libelous attack on young Catholics. You’d do well to delete this tweet.

Someone else recommended amending the tweet in light of new facts:

You are WRONG!!! Get the facts. Watch the videos. And CORRECT this tweet. NOW!!!

Another noted that clergy love only the elite:

Love how the Catholic Church stands with elites instead of its children.

A mother tweeted:

I’ve been preparing my teens that we’ll likely see more aggression towards Catholics. Who knew it would come from a hierarchy that can’t even keep their own accountable for their sins? Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

A Catholic man said:

Would that the hierarchy was this quick to deal with molesters in its ranks…🙄

On January 21 — Martin Luther King Day — the archdiocese issued a clarification:

The statement reads in part:

The Archdiocese of Baltimore wishes to clarify its message condemning what was widely reported as disrespect toward a Native American elder during the March for Life in Washington, D.C. We reiterate our condemnation of disrespect and denigration toward any person or group based on the color of their skin, their religious or ethnic heritage, or immigrant status. The circumstances of this confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial are now being reported as more complex and it will be the responsibility of school authorities, parents and others involved to determine the actual circumstances, responsibility and consequences. Regardless, it is deeply unfortunate that the annual March for Life was marred by this confrontation.

That made their Twitter readers even angrier.

Risky business, that. Donations can dry up in an instant.

One Catholic tweeted:

Then let me respectfully clarify my position on the annual appeal letter I just received …until you apologize to those boys for rushing to judgement and condemnation, I’ll set the letter aside and will recommend that all Catholics in this Archdiocese do the same

Another Catholic responded:

You’ll never receive another dime from me.

A third Catholic said:

This is why we refuse to give to the Hope Appeal.Your quick to condemn these young people w/o all the facts yet you covered up pervert priest for years.. Apologize now.

A fourth sent them back to Catholic catechism:

Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, specifically paragraph 2477 “Respect for the Reputation of Others” and the definitions of “rash judgment” and “calumny.” You owe those students an apology!

A fifth wrote:

Apologize and stop attacking the laity.

A sixth said:

This explains why the Laity is taking the lead. Because the leadership is not Catholic.

And, finally, a Venezuelan Catholic wrote:

Still waiting s not an . These is the perfect example of why more and my re people is LEAVING the church.

On January 23, the archdiocese tried again. Money talks. They probably got a lot of angry phone calls, emails and letters:

This was a guarded — let’s just say, lame — apology. The statement reads in part:

It has become apparent, however, that initial reports of that incident were at best incomplete. Those incomplete reports led many, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to speak out too hastily. We apologize for doing so. It is our hope that the young people involved were in fact acting in accord with the truth and values that are foundational to Catholic education. We also hope that this sad incident will give to all a renewed determination to respect the life and dignity of every person without exception.

Only three people were happy. Everyone else was scathing. Responses from Catholics follow. Interestingly enough, all of the following are from women.

One lady wrote:

Nick Sandmann turned the other cheek and you stabbed him in the back. For once could you put the well-being of teenage boys ahead of your own ambitions?

She added:

That was such a quisling statement.

Another lady said:

How about having the courage to unequivocally state that these boys did nothing wrong? So sad that pro-life Catholic boys can’t even depend on their shepherds to stick up for them in the face of persecution.

To which another responded:

Totally agree! A pretty lame statement.

A second response rolled in:

Why was everyone so quick to judge the boys in the shortened video, but afraid to condemn the aggressive behavior of adults (towards kids!!) after seeing the full video? It boggles my mind. This is a cowardly, conforming statement, at best. We are lost.

I wonder if the archdiocese thought its tweets on Catholic schooling were somewhat misplaced the following week. I accept that it was Catholic Schools Week, but when Covington Catholic High School and the diocese weren’t defending their students, one wonders.

Even after Catholic Schools Week was over, the archdiocese was still at it. Meanwhile, Covington Catholic High School’s students were still under the cosh, as it were, awaiting judgement — for having done nothing wrong:

Two days later — after the Diocese of Covington found no wrongdoing on the part of the students — the archdiocese tweeted:

Oh so generously, the Archdiocese of Baltimore felt it could finally support the students. Pah.

Here’s the statement in full. Note what could be construed as a legal disclaimer in the second paragraph:

Citing the public release today by the Diocese of Covington of the Final Investigative Report into the January 18th incident at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Archdiocese of Baltimore joins Bishop Roger J. Foys, Bishop of Covington, in expressing its support for the students of Covington Catholic High School. The independent investigation, conducted by a third-party firm with no connection to Covington Catholic High School or the Diocese of Covington, found that “our students did not instigate the incident that occurred,” Bishop Foys said.

As previously related, the Archdiocese regrets communicating before all the facts were known about the unfortunate confrontation that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial with other demonstrators.  Furthermore, the Archdiocese of Baltimore again commends the students from Covington and across the nation who participated in the annual March for Life in witness of their active faith and defense of the sanctity of human life at every stage.

By then, Twitter readers must have been fed up. The tweet only garnered four responses: three negative and one positive.

First tweet:

At least you finally responded in the right way. My ongoing complaint and criticism remains: You act like pansies without a backbone unwilling to take a strong stance on any issue (esp Catholic issues) unless you have the support of a corrupted society. I keep praying for you.

Second:

didn’t support Needed an “independent investigation” in order to clear youths’ reputations. What a bunch of cowardly shepherds. Skulking under their skullcaps. Creeping behind their croziers. You should be embarrassed.

And finally:

When the ex-con fake vietnam vet got in this child’s face, his Indian friend yelled racial slurs at the white kids. The Indians then attempted a hate-crime by trying to disrupt a Catholic Mass. How sad you attacked these pro-life teens. SHAME!

The Archdiocese of Baltimore never should have said a thing.

The Archdiocese of Louisville

Closer to home, the Archdiocese of Louisville chimed in.

The Archbishop’s original statement of January 19 was replaced with one dated January 22:

Over the past few days, I have received many calls and email messages from people with many different viewpoints and seemingly opposite messages about the incidences involving Covington Catholic High School students at the March for Life. Many of these calls and messages have revealed the regrettable polarization in our Church and in our society

As many have noted, over the weekend, I joined Bishop Foys in a condemnation of alleged actions, not people. This post replaces that original blog entry with the additional information below from the Diocese of Covington.

I do not have jurisdiction in the Diocese of Covington. However, I have sought to act in solidarity with the Bishop of Covington, who is in a position to have the best information about what transpired and who has pledged an independent investigation of the situation. (See the statement from the Diocese of Covington below.) At this time, I am not going to get ahead of the Diocese of Covington’s independent investigation with additional comments.

I want to assure those who are concerned that I am confident that Bishop Foys and the school will reach out and respond to those who were impacted by these events and media reports

Whatever the investigation reveals, I hope that we can use this as a teachable moment, learn from any mistakes on the part of anyone involved, and begin the process of healing.

That, too, was pretty lame. The last sentence in particular suggests that, somehow, someone did something woefully wrong.

The Archbishop issued one further statement — a weak apology — on January 25:

I offer further reflections about the events at the March for Life involving Covington Catholic High School students.  Today’s letter sent by Bishops Roger Foys to Covington Catholic High School parents is a good description of what has transpired since the events at the March for Life.

Since I joined with Bishop Foys in condemning the alleged actions by Covington Catholic students, I apologize for what was a premature statement on my part based upon incomplete information. I very much regret the pain and disruption in the lives of the Covington Catholic community and in the broader Church and society.

I support Bishop Foys in his efforts to investigate fully what happened, to learn from mistakes, and to take any action needed to address the harm done to anyone from the events that occurred last Friday at the March for Life.

There is a great deal to be learned about the risk of responding to social media and media reports without additional analysis and especially the need to elevate our discourse and to foster the much-needed skills of listening, dialogue, and mutual understanding.

After the Covington Catholic High School boys had been cleared of wrongdoing, nothing to that effect was posted on the archdiocesan website.

One cannot help but think the Archbishop really wanted someone to be expelled. As if the boys hadn’t suffered enough — for doing nothing wrong.

If nothing else, this painful debacle proved the truth of the New Testament to the boys that followers of Christ will be persecuted.

It’s a pity that their own clergy had to join in that persecution: Pharisees, every last one of them.

I will look at the legal angles in another post.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the much-maligned students at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky:

A school chaperone’s role is an onerous one (January 18, March for Life, Covington Catholic High School)

Covington Catholic: responsible media backtracked (January 20, March for Life, Covington Catholic High School)

Covington Catholic: doxxing followed by support on a fateful weekend (January 20-21, Covington Catholic High School)

I meant to write about them last week, but that worked out just fine, because the story gradually progressed to a happy ending. On Wednesday, February 13, the Diocese of Covington has cleared the boys of any wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, the story needs telling in full.

To pick up where I left off, Monday, January 21, 2019, was Martin Luther King Day, so there was no school. No doubt, the boys who were harassed at the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life the previous Friday were delighted during that long, horrible weekend to hear from someone their own age, CJ Pearson, who rallied to their cause:

Pearson posted a video of two of the boys that Monday:

The Gateway Pundit was able to interview two students and two mothers under conditions of anonymity (names were changed). One of the mothers said the boys, who were performing their school chants — with permission — thought the Native American who approached them (emphasis in the original):

was on their side and drumming along to their cheer.

Clearly, this was traumatising for the families involved, especially when politicians and even their own diocese criticised the students:

The families also wanted to make it clear that there were no chants of “build the wall,” or anything else that could be seen as offensive. Mrs. Smith recited one of the Covington chants, saying that it could have been what Phillips heard.

Another mother whose son was present during the incident, who we refer to as Mrs. Adams, said that “it’s just terrible that they are being criticized the way they are.”

Mrs. Adams said that she is worried about the safety of the students on Tuesday when they return to school. The American Indian Movement Chapter of Indiana and Kentucky has called for a protest at the high school.

“I’m worried about their safety on Tuesday — people were threatening to shoot up the school,” Mrs. Adams said. “I’m worried about sending my child back.”

Mrs. Smith added that she “demands an apology and a retraction from the Diocese.”

The mothers had much more to say (purple highlights mine):

Mrs. Adams added that the worst for her has been the Bishop of Covington throwing them under the bus. “That is the worst thing to me,” she said, her voice shaking.

“I personally think they were targeted because they had the MAGA hats on,” Mrs. Smith said. “I think it’s a shame that people are saying that we shouldn’t have let them wear them. It’s a shame that you can’t support your president in Washington, DC.”

Trump “is the first and only president to come out to support the March for Life,” Mrs. Smith added. “To get blamed for this because they were wearing a hat instead of blaming the aggressors — it’s blaming the victims.”

“Like I said, the Bishop here is literally victimizing the victims twice. They’ve already been victimized by the media, now they are being victimized again,” she added. “There is blood in the water and they are making it worse. They’re feeding the piranha frenzy from the liberal media. I just want people to understand that they need to wake up and stop believing the fake news and defend the kids.”

The Gateway Pundit asked the families if there is anything they would like to say to the Democrat mob of adult journalists and celebrities that are coming after their children.

“I don’t think you could publish it,” Mrs. Smith said, taking a break from the righteous outrage for some laughter.

These students aren’t adults, these are kids — innocent children — and the adults should pause before they react when it’s children’s lives that could be ruined,” Mrs. Smith said. “And kids are so susceptible to bullying. I honestly thought, this kid could kill himself over this. What are they thinking? They could destroy this boy’s life, depress him, and he could end up committing suicide — and he did nothing wrong! These people, who are supposed to be adults, are jumping in and accusing him of terrible things — shame on them! Shame isn’t even enough of a word,” Mrs. Smith demanded.

Adam Smith noted that many of the children on the collage of photos that is being passed around the internet, looking for their names, are as young as 14-years-old. Many of them are freshmen.

“They’re really young,” he said. “They’re really going after kids. Half of us were just standing in the background and they’re looking for our information.”

Online scrutiny then turned to the Native American, allegedly a left-wing activist who appeared in a 2012 anti-police video, and thought to have been involved in a 2015 incident targeting a group of university fraternity members. In that incident, he also claimed he was abused, when it appears he instigated it.

Questions were raised about the timing of and his rank during his military service. Even the Washington Post had to correct one of their stories, retracting a mention of his service in the Vietnam War. Someone else unearthed his family history and past interviews with the media, which raised more questions about him.

Another Native American protester with him acknowledged that the two of them decided to join in solidarity with the group harassing the students.

That day, President Trump had a message of encouragement for the students:

One Trump supporter, whose Twitter account was later deleted, tweeted about the main target of the Left’s ire, student Nick Sandmann (emphases mine):

Imagine being Nick. One day you are on a field trip – next day the President of the United States got your back. That’s life in the Maga lane. The President understands loyalty better than many Bishops & ‘Catholic’ Teachers. Think about that. He fights for us. This is proof.

Things began looking up. Digital company INE Entertainment fired one of their employees who had tweeted a death wish towards the boys — and their parents. The Wrap reported:

Digital company INE Entertainment has fired a journalist who publicly wished for the death of several Covington Catholic High School students and their parents in a pair of tweets over the weekend. Aside from his job as a post-production supervisor at INE, Erik Abriss is a contributor to New York Media’s pop culture site Vulture.

“We were surprised and upset to see the inflammatory and offensive rhetoric used on Erik Abriss’ Twitter account this weekend. He worked with the company in our post-production department and never as a writer,” the company said in a statement to TheWrap on Monday.

“While we appreciated his work, it is clear that he is no longer aligned with our company’s core values of respect and tolerance. Therefore, as of January 21, 2019, we have severed ties with Abriss.”

The Wrap included the text of the offending tweet.

Tucker Carlson had a great segment on the journalists who ‘rushed to judgement’ about the Lincoln Memorial incident (also see YouTube). Note, there are neo-conservatives on his list, too:

A man helping the Covington families tweeted:

More messages of support rolled in from Patricia Heaton of Everyone Loves Raymond fame (also see her tweet), TurningPoint USA’s Charlie Kirk about his phone call with Nick Sandmann and Kyle Kashuv of Parkland, Florida, where the mass high school shooting took place a year ago on Valentine’s Day. He said:

The Media has bent over backwards to defend my Parkland Highschool liberal peers, no matter what outrageous things they have said. But now they have tried to ruin a highschool kid’s life, over fake news. What changed? The student was a Trump Supporter.

That day, the school’s principal sent an email to all parents. Gateway Pundit has the details. The message announced the beginning of an investigation into what had happened on Friday. One of the mothers was indignant (emphasis in the original):

“No apology. No explanation. No news on protests planned for tomorrow. No cancelling of school. Nothing,” she said.

The far-left radical activist group the “American Indian Movement” and Antifa have called a protest for Tuesday when the students are supposed to return to school.

The local Antifa group is urging “co-conspirators” to join them …

Two mothers that have spoke to The Gateway Pundit have both said they will not be sending their children to school tomorrow out of fear for their safety.

On Tuesday, January 22, Covington Catholic High School was closed. Gateway Pundit reported that parents received early morning phone calls with a recorded message from the principal (emphases mine):

A mother who received the call tells the Gateway Pundit that it was a recorded message from the principal saying that they decided to close the school after discussions with local authorities. They said that there were security concerns and no parents or children are permitted on campus throughout the day or for any evening activities.

The recording also asked that parents continue to pray for the school.

“It sounded serious, like they had some serious threats to call it off like that after they planned for it to be open,” the parent told TGP.

The parent also expressed frustration at the fact that they hadn’t cancelled sooner — as the threats were everywhere.

A local Antifa group and a far-left Native American group have called for protests at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the school — though the Natives have reportedly moved their protest to a church.

That afternoon, the Cincinnati Enquirer published Nick Sandmann’s full statement on the incident and the aftermath. I cited most of it in an earlier post, but there is more. He received many threats — and so did his family:

My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue …

Also:

I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened, and I stand ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation they are conducting.

The newspaper added:

This is the only statement that has been made by the Sandmann family. Any comments attributed to any member of the family that is not contained in this document are fabricated. The family will not be answering individual media inquiries.

That day, President Trump tweeted again about the incident:

As there are a number of other aspects to this story, I will continue next week.

St NicholasSt Nicholas Day is December 6.

In many countries around the world, especially the West, children follow the ancient tradition of putting a shoe or small stocking outside their bedroom door and parents quietly slipping a treat in it during the night.

It’s a beautiful tradition tied to a great saint, an early bishop of the Church, known for his faith, compassion and charity. Find out more below:

St Nicholas Day (much to learn about a man of great faith)

More on St Nicholas — feast day December 6

Some European countries have outdoor celebrations on December 6. The link below describes a festival in Germany that one of my readers attended in the early 1970s:

St Nicholas Day — December 6

St Nicholas is a great role model for children. It is worth telling them about the holy life he lived, how aware he was of others’ plights and how he turned desperation into dreams for many people.

Last week, I recapped the 2018 royal wedding, which included this …

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States gave an address. BT.com reported:

The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, the first black presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, gained worldwide attention with his address at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding on Saturday during which he evoked Martin Luther King and spoke of poverty and injustice.

Mr Curry, along with the gospel choir, brought a flavour of the American bride’s homeland with the speech at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

… along with a tweet:

One of my readers, longtime Episcopalian blogger, underground pewster, wrote a sharp analysis of the sermon on May 23: ‘Bishop Curry: All You Need is Love’.

It is a must read, especially for fellow members of the Anglican Communion. As pewster has probably put a lot of work into this, only a taster follows.

The first part of Curry’s sermon is about love. Before I go into pewster’s analysis, my perspective is that, if he had preached this 50 years ago, most of us would have found it novel and engaging. It’s very much of that era, especially with a timeless Martin Luther King Jr quote at the start:

The late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once said and I quote: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.”

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power – power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved.

Now on to underground pewster’s analysis (emphases in the original):

I think he is equating two different types of love.

“Oh there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it – it actually feels right.”

Uh oh, following “it feels right” can lead you into all kinds of problems.

“There is something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love, and our lives were meant – and are meant – to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.”

It would have been helpful if he had defined what type of love he was talking about, and that is one of the major weaknesses of his sermon. 

I agree. How many times have we heard this type of thing before, especially conflating different types of love? As pewster explains at the beginning of his post (emphases mine below):

While there is nothing wrong about preaching on love, it requires a deeper exposition. The love of God and the love of Christ for the world, God’s love for the Church, and God’s intended love between one man and one woman are things that most Episcopalian Bishops are incapable of communicating. No one expected Bishop Curry to talk about complementarianism, and no one expected any major digressions into his favorite themes, so his sermon appeared benign if not great to most of his viewers. It had to sound benign you see, because he could not say the words that he really wanted to say about his novel ideas about what makes up a Christian marriage in front of an audience of two billion people because those words are so unbiblical that the effect on his sect would be ruinous.

Most traditional Anglicans, including Episcopalians, understand exactly what pewster means by ‘unbiblical’, but, in case there is any doubt, he clarifies it at the end of the post:

Maybe we haven’t supported enough liberal causes, maybe we haven’t marched in enough gay pride parades, maybe we haven’t celebrated enough gay marriage ceremonies in the Church, maybe we have been sending those e-mails from The Episcopal Public Policy Network into the Spam box, maybe we haven’t performed enough abortions, maybe we haven’t brought enough lawsuits against faithful Christians, or maybe we have been critical of the Episcopal sect in print and on social media.

And you know what they call people who go against the zeitgeist, those who disagree with Bishop Curry and his unbiblical agenda, an agenda that he was afraid to verbalize in front of an audience of billions?

“Haters!”

True.

There was another bit from Curry’s sermon which did not escape pewster’s notice (emphasis in the original, mine in purple):

It was only a matter of time where the power of this version of love will be used by the Bishop to try to stir people to political action,

“Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.”

Wait a second! God revealing himself, and dying for us was the number one world changing event in human history.

Exactly!

The second half of Curry’s sermon was all about fire. Recall that the following day was Pentecost Sunday, but the bishop did not mention that. He went into a long description, citing Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (ugh), of how fire shaped human history. Curry ended with this (emphases mine):

Fire makes all of that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history. And he then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love – it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.

Dr King was right: we must discover love – the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.

My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

Fire is the main symbol of Pentecost. One of the mandatory readings for that feast is Acts 2, the account of the first Pentecost, excerpted below:

2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

The Holy Spirit isn’t just for Pentecost or Confirmation. He is here to guide us all our days. Therefore, as I wrote in a comment to pewster, this is a summary of what I would have said without describing all the human uses of fire:

With all the preaching about fire, couldn’t he have mentioned that May 20 — the morrow — was Pentecost Sunday?

I would have done a sermon on the divine gifts from the Holy Spirit that can enrich a Christian marriage.

It’s not that difficult and would not have gone off track.

Then again, sadly, we are dealing with today’s Episcopal Church.

Curry’s sermon exemplifies the weak theology we so often see not only in the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion but also in other established churches, including the Catholic Church. We are infested with unbiblical messages, especially many that, like Curry’s, ‘sound nice’.

The truth of the matter is that biblical Christianity offends. That said, its challenges can — and should be — presented in a winsome way, to encourage people to live in a Christlike manner.

It’s a shame that yet another cleric missed yet another opportunity — this one on a grand scale — to tell that truth.

Is it any wonder Anglican churches are closing in so many English-speaking countries?

This year, I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer: first Anglican Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’ for a violent era

Percy Dearmer on the effect of Edward VI’s reign on the Church of England

Percy Dearmer on the Second Prayer Book’s Calvinistic bent

Percy Dearmer on the Third Prayer Book and Elizabeth I

Percy Dearmer blamed Calvinists for sucking the life-blood out of Anglicanism

Percy Dearmer on the Fourth Prayer Book and the King James Version of the Bible

Percy Dearmer on historical background to the Fifth Prayer Book, 1662

In that last post about the tumultuous events leading to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Percy Dearmer emphasised the joy that Anglicans felt on being able to use their once-forbidden Prayer Book again. In fact, demand was so great that it was reprinted five times that year.

Consensus was that a new Prayer Book was needed. The one in use dated from 1604.

Atmosphere during the Restoration

Even after the Restoration, memories of Charles I’s beheading and the oppressive Puritan Interregnum were still fresh in the minds of the English people.

The new Parliament passed laws ensuring that Puritans and other non-Conformists — called Dissenters during that new era — and Catholics were prohibited from holding public office and more.

In Chapter 10, Dearmer explains (emphases mine):

their worship forbidden by the Conventicle Act of 1664 under a final penalty of transportation, their extremer ministers refused permission to come within five miles of a town by the Five Mile Act of 1665, and their conscientious members debarred, in common with Papists, from all civil, military and naval office by the Test Act of 1673.

This was because many new Parliamentarians had returned:

to their native villages at the Restoration, to find the church smashed, the trees felled, and the home of their ancestors destroyed.

Although Dearmer, who wrote in 1912, was appalled by these draconian laws, he did acknowledge that:

The Puritan ministers also, who were ejected, were, after all, themselves intruders; for there had been a worse ejectment of Anglicans before. Above all this, there loomed in men’s minds the indelible memory of the martyrdom of King Charles.

Continued Puritan interference

The Puritans were not going to give up easily, however.

Before Charles II set sail for England in May 1660 — he had been in exile in the Spanish Netherlands — a delegation of Presbyterian divines (learned and pious theologians) went to meet with him at The Hague:

and asked that, as the Prayer Book had long been discontinued, the King should not use it when he landed. They also asked that his chaplains should give up using the surplice.

The new king replied:

with his usual keenness of wit, that he would not be restrained himself when others had so much indulgence.

Once Charles II was in England, the Puritans continued putting pressure on him and Anglican bishops, asking:

that the Prayer Book might be made like the liturgies of the Reformed Churches.

The nine surviving Anglican bishops replied that maintaining the status quo — holding on to existing elements of ancient Greek and Latin Liturgy — would give the Catholics less cause for complaint. (The Puritans had moved far away from ancient liturgy, parts of which were in the Anglican Prayer Book.)

In October 1660, King Charles declared that a conference would take place the following year to discuss a new Prayer Book.

The Savoy Conference

The Savoy Conference convened on April 15, 1661. It lasted over two months.

It was so called because the Bishop of London, Gilbert Sheldon, lived at the Savoy Hospital and held the conference in his lodgings there. (Today, the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre stand on the site.)

In attendance were 12 Anglican bishops and 12 Presbyterian divines. Each side also had nine assistants, called coadjutors.

The Puritans expressed their usual complaints about the use of the word ‘priest’, the frequent participation of the congregation in prayers, kneeling for Communion, the use of wedding bands in the marriage ceremony, commemorating saints’ feast days, the Catholic nature of vestments and even the use of the word ‘Sunday’.

The Anglicans were not having any of it:

The Bishops replied to such criticisms as these by referring to Catholic usage, and to a Custom of the Churches of God, agreeable to the Scripture and ancient, and to the Catholic Consent of antiquity.

Dearmer gives us summary statements from both sides.

The Puritans said:

To load our public forms with the private fancies upon which we differ, is the most sovereign way to perpetuate schism to the world’s end. Prayer, confession, thanksgiving, reading of the Scriptures, and administration of the Sacraments in the plainest, and simplest manner, were matter enough to furnish out a sufficient Liturgy, though nothing either of private opinion, or of church pomp, of garments, or prescribed gestures, of imagery, of musick, of matter concerning the dead, of many superfluities which creep into the Church under the name of order and decency, did interpose itself. To charge Churches and Liturgies with things unnecessary, was the first beginning of all superstition.

If the special guides and fathers of the Church would be a little sparing of encumbering churches with superfluities, or not over-rigid, either in reviving obsolete customs, or imposing new, there would be far less cause of schism, or superstition.

The Anglicans said:

It was the wisdom of our Reformers to draw up such a Liturgy as neither Romanist nor Protestant could justly except against. For preserving of the Churches’ peace we know no better nor more efficacious way than our set Liturgy; there being no such way to keep us from schism, as to speak all the same thing, according to the Apostle. This experience of former and latter times hath taught us; when the Liturgy was duly observed we lived in peace; since that was laid aside there bath been as many modes and fashions of public worship as fancies.

If we do not observe that golden rule of the venerable Council of Nice, ‘Let ancient customs prevail,’ till reason plainly requires the contrary, we shall give offence to sober Christians by a causeless departure from Catholic usage, and a greater advantage to enemies of our Church, than our brethren, I hope, would willingly grant.

The Anglicans won.

The one thing both sides did agree on was including Scripture readings from the Authorised — King James — Version of the Bible.

The Savoy Conference ended on July 24, 1661.

Fifth Prayer Book, 1662

On November 20, 1661, a committee of Anglican bishops was appointed to revise the Prayer Book.

They completed their work on December 20. The Convocations of the Archbishops of York and Canterbury approved the Fifth Prayer Book.

On February 25, 1662, the new Prayer Book was annexed to the Bill of Uniformity.

After passing both Houses of Parliament, the Bill of Uniformity received royal assent on May 19.

The legislation then became the Act of Uniformity, and the Fifth Prayer Book — the Book of Common Prayer — was made mandatory for public worship in the Church of England. And so it remained until 1984.

Dearmer concludes:

It is sometimes said as a jibe against the Prayer Book that it is part of an Act of Parliament.

Yet:

our present Prayer Book was not one whit less the work of the Church, whose rights and liberties were most carefully safeguarded at every stage. The troublous century which we call the Reformation Period began with tyranny and oppression, but it ended with the establishment of constitutionalism in 1662; and the royalist Parliament which enforced the settlement, did at least represent the people.

The next entry will concern the 1662 Book of Common Prayer itself.

In the early 21st the worldwide migration situation has produced Church-related anomalies in Europe, including the UK.

One of these has been the marriage of convenience, as a Workpermit.com post from 2006 describes. In 2005, a set of rules was introduced in the UK to put an end to this practice designed:

to get around immigration controls and require immigrants to obtain a special certificate of approval, or COA before they can wed in the UK.

However, Mr Justice Silber overturned these laws in 2006 because they violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Consequently:

The overturning of the marriage laws due to unfair discrimination against immigrants on religious grounds leaves the door open for hundreds of people from overseas getting married in the UK.

The test case involved in overturning by Mr Justice Silber, involved a foreign national from Algeria and an EEA national who was legally living in the UK. Once Mahmaud Baiai and Izabella Trzanska from Poland were refused permission to marry, they launched the challenge.

Mr Justice Silber said the case raised issues under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to marry and found a family.

“The rules were incompatible because they discriminated against immigrants rights subject to immigration control on grounds of religion and nationality,” he declared.

Oddly, the rules overturned did not apply to Church of England members:

even if they are illegally in the UK.

This meant that the Anglican Church could conduct marriages of convenience. By 2008, as The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

the number of bogus weddings performed by Anglican priests has risen by as much as 400 per cent in some dioceses over the last four years.

Foreign nationals have turned to the Church because it is exempt from rules that require all foreign nationals from outside the European Union to obtain a Home Office certificate of approval to marry in a register office.

That year, Church of England bishops warned their clergy to be vigilant when evaluating immigrants wishing to marry in an Anglican ceremony:

the Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, urged priests to be wary of migrants looking to get married who have obtained a common licence – a preliminary for church weddings involving foreign nationls.

“The new regime does not apply to marriages by banns, common licence or special licence, which probably explains the substantial increase in demand for bishops’ common licenses,” he writes.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is significant abuse of the availability of Church of England marriage in order to try to gain some immigration advantage.

The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, has also written to churches in his diocese with guidance on how to tighten measures.

The diocese of Southwark, which covers Greater London south of the Thames, has seen the number of applications for common licences rise from 90 in 2004 to 493 last year.

In 2013 the Coalition government (Conservative/Liberal Democrat) produced new rules to end marriages of convenience. From page 4 of the PDF:

Notices of marriage following civil preliminaries or civil partnership in England and Wales involving a non-EEA national who could benefit from it in immigration terms will be referred to the Home Office for a decision as to whether to investigate whether the marriage or civil partnership is a sham. Non-EEA nationals will only be able to marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales following civil preliminaries, except in limited circumstances.

Perhaps something similar should be done in the case of conversions by refugees to Christianity.

On June 5, The Guardian reported that the Catholic bishops in Austria are suspicious of the number of sudden converts to Christianity among refugees from war-torn countries. The paper reported in 2014 that the same phenomenon is going on in the Lutheran Church in Germany.

Clergy with a rosy view of the world will say that this is a tremendous opportunity to revive the Church in Europe.

The Austrian bishops view the situation differently. In 2015:

the Austrian bishops’ conference published new guidelines for priests, warning that some refugees may seek baptism in the hope of improving their chances of obtaining asylum.

Admitting persons for baptism who are during the official procedure classified as ‘not credible’ leads to a loss in the church’s credibility across the whole of Austria,” the new guidelines say.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Vienna explained:

There has to be a noticeable interest in the faith that extends beyond merely the wish to obtain a piece of paper.

Austrian priests now informally evaluate potential refugee converts during their one-year ‘preparation period’. The Archdiocese of Vienna has recorded that 5% to 10% of potential converts drop out of the process prior to baptism.

In England, however, Anglican clergy are eager to not only ask no questions but to combine the conversion process with helping to ease the refugee application process.

The Guardian interviewed the Revd Mohammad Eghtedarian, an Iranian refugee and convert who was later ordained. He is a curate at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral. Eghtedarian says that refugee status and religious affiliation are intertwined.

Liverpool Cathedral has a process which involves registering refugee attendance, which helps their asylum applications. A candidate for Baptism must attend the five preparatory classes. A baptised refugee seeking Confirmation must attend a dozen courses.

Hmm. It sounds very minimal.

The Guardian asked Eghtedarian about the sincerity of those candidates. Even he acknowledged that ‘plenty of people’ were converting for convenience!

In large part, only a cursory examination exists. The Cathedral will also provide a ‘letter of attendance’ to immigration authorities, if requested.

The article said that the Church of England does not record conversions, regardless of background, because it could be a ‘sensitive’ issue.

It seems the Austrian Catholic bishops have approached the conversions of convenience issue more sensibly than the German Lutherans, who resent that immigration court judges ask refugees to discuss their newly-found beliefs in detail in order to assess their sincerity.

It is the responsibility of clergy to do a thorough examination of heart and mind during the conversion process rather than let false converts through the doors for Baptism and Confirmation.

Church of England clergy should pray for divine guidance on the matter rather than deceive fellow Christians, other citizens of our country and our government.

Admittedly, some of these converts are sincere. However, if ‘plenty of people’ are not, then the whole thing is a sham.

If marriages of convenience rightly rang Anglican bishops’ alarm bells, then conversions of convenience should, too.

Peter Smith.jpgNot a day goes by in Britain now without a warning from pro-EU Conservative government ministers about Brexit.

We’ll have a recession. Well, that’s probably on the cards, anyway.

The stock market will crash. That, too, is possible — Brexit or not. It won’t just be in the UK, either, but also in Europe and elsewhere in the West.

The latest is that house prices in Britain could plummet. For under-40s living in London and the Home Counties, that comes as welcome news.

The bottom line is that no one knows exactly what is going to happen. And most of what actually happens is unlikely to have anything to do with our position in or out of the European Union.

The Most Revd Peter Smith, Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Southwark (encompassing South London to the South Coast of England), has criticised the government’s Project Fear — as Brexit supporters call it.

The archbishop is the first senior cleric — Catholic or Protestant — to express empathy with Brexit, although he says he is still undecided.

On May 19, he gave an interview on the subject to Vatican Radio, which has the full audio.

On May 23, The Catholic Herald published an article on the interview, which is well worth reading.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Archbishop Smith, the vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales … criticised the Remain campaign for attempting to “scare” the electorate into voting to stay in the EU when they go to the polls on June 23.

He dismissed as “ludicrous” the bleak economic forecasts predicted by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the event of a Brexit win.

“When we joined the European Union many decades ago, the chief arguments were about trade, that we would be better off and it would help the economy,” said Archbishop Smith …

The euro hasn’t worked particularly with the poorer countries in Europe – Greece, Portugal, Spain to an extent. It is not working with the euro and all of us are glad that we didn’t go into the euro because of the different economies on the continent of Europe.”

“I am very sceptical of the arguments the Chancellor makes. When he does a budget each year very often by the end of the year his forecasts are all over the place.

“When you look at the budgets even after 12 months very often the Chancellor is wrong because you can’t pin the economy down like that because it is so involved with the world economy which goes up and down.”

He added: “Most people are completely puzzled. They don’t know what the real arguments are and then they hear these scare stories like the Chancellor saying in 14 years’ time we will £4,000 plus less (worse off).

With great respect to the Chancellor of the Exchequer I think it is ludicrous. He doesn’t know, and we don’t know

He did not think much of the Leave campaign’s rhetoric either:

Archbishop Smith said that “The real difficulty is that there has been no clarity on either side of the argument” and that “there hasn’t been much argument at all.”

“There has been a lot of emotional speculation and so on,” he said.

Outside of Brexit: The Movie, he is right.

Archbishop Smith makes good points, especially as a party of one. It must be lonely being the sole major cleric to see the benefits of Brexit.

J C RyleThis post continues my series on hell. If you haven’t read about Origen’s unorthodox views on hell which are currently infecting the Church, please do so.

J C Ryle (1816-1900) was undoubtedly one of the greatest Anglicans who ever lived.

Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, his parents expected him to enter politics. However, Ryle felt called to the priesthood and was ordained in 1842.

He was very much an evangelical preacher, firmly opposed to the Ritualism in the Church as characterised by the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement of the time. Although he had firm religious convictions which he expressed in no uncertain terms, in private, he was known for his kindness and warmth.  He also preached to the working class, bringing many to the knowledge and love of Christ Jesus.

One of Benjamin Disraeli’s last acts as Prime Minister was to appoint Ryle to the post of Bishop of Liverpool, a brand new diocese.  There, Ryle presided over the construction of 40 new churches, raised clergy salaries and instituted pension funds for them. He was also responsible for the building of the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool.

Ryle retired only three months before he died at age 83 in 1900. Today, he appears to have more of a following in the United States among orthodox Protestants than he does here in England.  He published several works on the four Gospels as well as on the Christian life.

(Incidentally, Ryle’s second son, Herbert Edward Ryle, served as Bishop of Exeter, then Bishop of Winchester before being appointed Dean of Westminster in 1911.)

If only the Church of England had many more clergy like Ryle today. He wrote:

My chief desire in all my writings, is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and make Him beautiful and glorious in the eyes of men; and to promote the increase of repentance, faith, and holiness upon earth.

And:

Every professing Christian is the soldier of Christ. He is bound by his baptism to fight Christ’s battle against sin, the world, and the devil. The man that does not do this, breaks his vow: he is a spiritual defaulter; he does not fulfil the engagement made for him. The man that does not do this, is practically renouncing his Christianity. The very fact that he belongs to a Church, attends a Christian place of worship, and calls himself a Christian, is a public declaration that he desires to be reckoned a soldier of Jesus Christ.

You can read his views on the Christian life and his analysis of English Puritan clergy. GraceGems has an extensive collection of Ryle’s sermons and books which you can read online.

Ryle’s written works include commentaries on the gospels. What follows is an excerpt from Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on Matthew. It is from his commentary on Matthew 26:14-25. Emphases mine below.

This is the relevant reading (ESV):

Judas to Betray Jesus

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

The Passover with the Disciples

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.[b] 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

The first part of Ryle’s commentary discusses Judas then concludes with the following. Note how Ryle relies on Scripture to make his point about the importance of avoiding everlasting hell:

We ought frequently to call to mind the solemn words, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” “We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Our daily prayer should be, “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me.” ( Proverbs 30:8). Our constant aim should be to be rich in grace. “They that will be rich” in worldly possessions often find at last that they have made the worst of bargains ( 1 Timothy 6:9 ). Like Esau, they have bartered an eternal portion for a little temporary gratification; like Judas Iscariot, they have sold themselves to everlasting perdition.

Let us learn in the last place from these verses the hopeless condition of all who die unconverted. The words of our Lord on this subject are peculiarly solemn: he says of Judas, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born”. This saying admits of only one interpretation. It teaches plainly that it is better never to live at all than to live without faith and die without grace. To die in this state is to be ruined forevermore: it is a fall from which there is no rising, a loss which is utterly irretrievable. There is no change in hell: the gulf between hell and heaven is one that no man can pass. This saying could never have been used if there was any truth in the doctrine of universal salvation. If it really was true that all would sooner or later reach heaven, and hell sooner or later be emptied of inhabitants, it never could be said that it would have been “good for a man not to have been born.” Hell itself would lose its terrors if it had an end: hell itself would be endurable if after millions of ages there were a hope of freedom and of heaven. But universal salvation will find no foothold in Scripture: the teaching of the Word of God is plain and express on the subject. There is a worm that never dies, and a fire that is not quenched ( Mark 9:44) Except a man be born again,” he will wish one day he had never been born at all. “Better,” says Burkett, “have no being, than not have a being in Christ.”

Let us grasp this truth firmly, and not let it go. There are always persons who deny the reality and eternity of hell. We live in a day when a morbid charity induces many to exaggerate God’s mercy at the expense of his justice, and when false teachers are daring to talk of a “love of God lower even than hell.” Let us resist such teaching with a holy jealousy, and abide by the doctrine of Holy Scripture: let us not be ashamed to walk in the old paths, and to believe that there is an eternal God, and an eternal heaven and an eternal hell. Once [we] depart from this belief, and we admit the thin end of the wedge of skepticism, and may at last deny any doctrine of the Gospel. We may rest assured that there is no firm standing ground between a belief in the eternity of hell, and downright infidelity.

We do need to guard against adopting unorthodox beliefs, those which go contrary to Scripture. As Ryle says, once we begin discarding one fundamental tenet of Christianity, we are unlikely to stop there. We depart on the road to questioning more and more of the Bible and discarding more doctrine. Where does one end up then? In a sorry spiritual state wherein we question whether we are saved.

Notional doubters or sceptics who claim they ‘want to believe’ but somehow cannot, would do well to study the New Testament. If they cannot bring themselves to do that, they should pray for the divine grace to enable them to do so:

I believe; help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

More on hell next week.

Yesterday’s post discussed Frenchmen who converted from Christianity to Islam.

Today’s entry looks at the much smaller numbers of Muslims who convert to Christianity in France, thanks to a September 25, 2015 article in the newsweekly Marianne, the online versions of which can be read here and here.

The number of Muslims finding new life in Christ is infinitesimal. Conversion is seen by many Muslim communities as apostasy punishable by death. Where death is not involved, persecution — vandalism and shunning — is not unknown. The experience of the Hussain family in Bradford is a sadly enduring example of this. It’s a dangerous and lonely undertaking.

Marianne was able to interview two converts.

‘Meet God in joy’

Ali, whose baptismal name is Jean-Marc, works as a security guard in Paris’s La Defense business district to the west of the city. He is a retired policeman.

Ali-Jean-Marc is married to a Muslim who is aware that their children will be baptised in the near future. However, she is aware of the religious journey her husband has been taking over the past three years. Of this journey, Ali-Jean-Marc says:

It’s been a long road.

He knows that his Muslim colleagues talk behind his back. His younger brother has fallen out with him. But Ali-Jean-Marc doesn’t care:

By baptism I am saved. I am saved, cleansed of my sins. I want to meet God in joy, to die in peace. This is my new life.

He said that, in recent years, he’d become troubled by the lack of a ‘Creator who controlled the universe’, so he started searching the Internet for information on Christianity and the Gospels. What he found surprised him:

‘Love your enemies!’ He shakes his head: ‘It’s good, it’s strong, it’s the opposite of Islam.’ Then he adds, ‘I do not wish to insult Muslims. If they believe in [the power of] stones, I respect that, as long as they don’t throw them at me.’

Another aspect of Islam that bothers him is the inequality between the sexes.

So as not to trouble his wife, he does not discuss religion with her.

After reading the Gospels on the Internet, Ali-Jean-Marc sought more information from a Christian association for Muslim converts, Notre Dame de Kabylie, led by a fellow convert, Moh-Christophe Bilek. (Kabylie is a region in Algeria.)

The organisation’s home page asks for prayers for Moh-Christophe, who had surgery on a heart valve during the summer and is in a special rehabilitation clinic at this time.

Early morning Christian radio programmes

Fortunately, Marianne was able to interview Moh-Christophe well before he had to be rushed to intensive care in June 2015. In the early 1960s, he began listening with fascination to early morning radio programmes on Christianity. He made sure not to turn on the radio before his father left the house at 5:30 a.m. to work in a factory. By 1962, at the tender age of 13, he had fallen ‘in love with Jesus’.

Today, he works not only with Muslims converting to Christianity but also with Christians whose children are fascinated by Islam — and jihad.

He told Marianne of the appeal of Islam for young Christians or those without religion: anti-materialism, utopia through the ummah (Muslim world), dreams of saintliness and finding a point of reference in life.

Moh-Christophe emphasised that, whereas conversion to Islam is done by taking a simple vow in front of two witnesses anywhere, conversion to Christianity — particularly the Catholic Church — involves a good grounding in the Gospels and a long, deep spiritual journey.

Fearful clergy, robust laity

Moh-Christophe deplores the fact that Catholic priests dissuade Muslims from converting:

Priests, more interested in inter-religious dialogue, discourage our conversions. They don’t want to get Muslims’ backs up.

It is estimated by people like Moh-Christophe, sociologists and other researchers into these new converts that 90% lie below the radar for survival. Some move to another community to begin a new life, sometimes changing their names. Others outwardly appear to be Muslim and keep their Christian practice private. Above all, they ensure their relatives abroad never find out about their conversion.

Marianne concluded their investigation by saying that Catholic laity and clergy are at odds about how to handle conversion.

Lay people want an organised programme of open evangelisation: dedicated stalls at local markets (ubiquitous in France) complete with volunteers on hand for discussions, pamphlets and copies of the Catholic catechism.

However, French bishops are very reluctant to go down this route — even though French Protestants are evangelising! As, of course, are Muslims.

Let us pray that Catholic clergy in France wake up soon and find some bottle. (‘Courage’, for my American readers).

After all, Jesus did give us the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We can also pray that Mo-Christophe recovers soon. His people need him.

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