Evangelii gaudium bullshit. (Or, life in a land of relativistic subjectivism.)


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I’m a pretty regular Catholic churchgoer.

It gives me a lot of challenges in my mixed up mind and the list of what’s wrong with the Catholic church would fill this blog from now to kingdom come (thy will be done) were I to put my mind to it.

Most of all (and we’ll not even go into child abuse and the horrors that we read about in that Irish convent last week) is its refusal to wake up to 21st century life, thinking, logic and relevance.

Yet still I go.  And get great community spiritual benefits from it.

However, it’s the sort of guff below that really sets my teeth on edge.

It’s a part of the Catholic Printing Press of Farnsworth’s weekly newsletter that is distributed in churches throughout the UK, to churchgoers of every level of intellect.

I’ve written over 2,000 posts on this blog so I think I’d count myself in, at least, the top 50% of the UK’s most literate/reasonably well read population.

But if anyone can explain to me why this sort of self important pomposity should be published to a church of mixed ability readers then I’d be interested.

(I showed it to a couple of my fellow parishioners last Sunday and they hadn’t a Scooby what it was on about.)

What does inculturating mean?

What does relativistic subjectivism mean?

What percentage of the population is aware what a pluralistic religious landscape means?

And what, to the ordinary Catholic, does Evangelii Gaudium mean anyway?

If it means Joy of the Gospel why not just call it Joy of the Gospel?

Get a bloody grip.

Manchester by The Sea: Movie Review


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About one third of the way through this, quite long (137 minutes) movie the swelling strings and organ of Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings and Organ in G Minor start to stir and build through 8 minutes and 35 seconds.

Unlike traditional screenplay music the classical piece, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, does not subtly grace the background, it grabs you by the throat and dominates the proceedings to the point, almost, of discomfort.

(Some reviewers feel it is heavy-handed, I felt it was well judged.)

The fact that it is in a minor key and is achingly melancholic bursting with sadness, despair and grief absolutely encapsulates the mood of Lonergan’s creation.

I found these lyrics written for the Adagio and they could in fact be the inspiration for Kenneth Lonergan’s Screenplay although I very much doubt he has seen them…

So turn away!
Turn away, turn away

I am alone, I am alone!
I am alone
I am alone
I am alone

Go turn away, go turn away
Turn away, turn away
Turn away,
Turn me away

Alone!
Damned!
Go home!
Gone in darkness
Light, surpasses

All ….
All, is one now!
All, is gone now!
All, is gone
Truthfully
Truthfully
Truthfully
I am gone.

I don’t recall a Hollywood movie so built around grief and that grief is etched into every pore of Casey Affleck’s face. Surely he is a shoe in for best actor at this year’s Oscars.

Lucas Hedges, as his orphaned nephew who Casey Affleck, as Leo – a dead end Janitor – suddenly becomes guardian to after the death of his brother, plays a nuanced role as the troubled teen who can at least find solace in school, sex and band practice; even if his band is dire.

(Actually, there are also a lot of laugh out loud, mainly awkward, moments in it which were entirely unexpected to me.)

It’s  essentially a two header between them although Michelle Williams plays a strong support role, albeit brief in screen time.

To be honest, even calling it a two-header is to downplay the importance of Casey Affleck in this movie.  In truth it is really a study of him alone with supporting characters used ostensibly as dramatic devices and props.

The trailers do not reveal the depth of the storyline, which is devastatingly sad, and for some almost too much to bear.  My wife sobbed almost uncontrollably throughout the third act.

But despite all this, personally, it didn’t quite capture my heart.

Maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind.  It’s a great, albeit slightly one dimensional, movie with a brilliant central performance and a strong screenplay with a good ensemble supporting cast, but that’s not enough to make it the movie of the year.

That said, I would strongly recommend it.

Silence: Movie Review. The latest Scorsese filming masterclass. (With some reservations.)


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To follow up The Wolf of Wall Street with this movie demonstrates that no director has the sheer vision and chutzpah of Martin Scorsese. We are talking chalk and cheese in extremis here.  Not even P.T. Anderson or Alejandro Iñárritu can match his range.

As each movie goes by he lays greater and greater claims to be the greatest movie director of all time.

But Silence will not be, by any means, top of the popularity list.

Because this is film making borne of extreme passion (clearly the source novel connected with him).

This is a cinematic therapy session, a philosophical 15 rounder and languid, arthouse fare that few will love.

It’s a beast of a movie, weighing in at 2 hours and 41 minutes.  There is no action.  No soundtrack (music) to speak of.  No sex.  In fact hardly any women.

And it’s about the tension of religious powerbroking in 17th century Japan.

For many reviewers I’ve read (and my wife’s view) it’s just plain boring.  And I can understand, but don’t agree with, where they are coming from.  It is incredibly slow.

Scorsese’s lifelong editor, the mighty Thelma Schoonmacker, has either been over-ruled in many places or is complicit in its sheer lack of pace.

Certainly it could be cut in places where some repetition is evident and probably unnecessary.  That said, its pace is its schtick.

The central premise about religion being the root of all the shit the world had to deal with then, and has to deal with now, is highly topical and that’s what makes it an essential movie of our times.

It even-handedly plays out the battle between Buddhism and Khiristianity (sic) and leaves the viewer to decide if religion is the root of all evil or that some religions have more merit than others.  Given Scorsese’s Catholic upbringing this is an impressive feat.  I know not whether he remains a believer or an abstainer, but either way this could have made for an overplayed hand either for or against Christianity.  The fact that the movie is neither is to his huge credit and gives it it’s real moral backbone.

It’s roundly well performed, the cinematography has a lot of merit and the overall production values are excellent.

But this is not entertainment as such; this is a slog.  A reason to appreciate cinema.  It’s notable that StudioCanal is behind it.  Surely the greatest contributor in recent times to arthouse cinema.

There are no laughs in this.  None AT ALL.  But it is a venerable movie. And I loved it on many levels.

And put it this way, it sparked a pretty intense post movie debate about the merits of religion then and now.

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We were in Shoreditch, London at the weekend and found this great place called Dinerama.

Here’s what they say about themselves…

Dinerama is back roofed and winterproofed every Thu/Fri/Sat from 5pm to late. Tuck into Street Feast favourites Smokestak, Breddos, Yum Bun and Fundi, plus new heroes Farang and loads more. Head upstairs for Hot Wine and Frozen Toffee Vodka from Dick’s Magic T-Bar, proper cocktails from The Zephyr Lounge and tiki drinks in all the colours of the rumbow in the House of Bamboo.”

It’s a kind of warehouse/ popup venue with bars, DJ’s and lots of food.  It’s great fun.

This couple (Mandy and Reggie) were being married and I thought this image, shot through the reflection from inside the venue, as it poured with rain, was just magic.

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So much so that I got a whole bunch more…

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When National Socialism got found out.


After the Nazi’s had put 1,000 people, mostly Jews, into living quarters this size.  And there are over 90 of them at Birkenau. And worked tens of thousands of them to death…

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In living conditions like this. (6 – 8 people would have shared each of those ‘beds’  in three levels of ‘bunk’)…

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Or gassed them by the million in places like this…

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They didn’t even have the courage of their convictions to face up to it.  They were shamed into doing this to the gas chambers of Birkenau…

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In one fell swoop they essentially admitted that everything they did and believed in was a lie – not a cleansing of the earth for the promulgation of a pure bred race, but evil and cold blooded murder of over 6 million innocent human beings.

When the Church is gone…


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“You’ll miss it when the church is gone” was the Yahoo headline that caught my eye this afternoon.  It referred to this article by Madeleine Davies who is the deputy news editor at the Church Times.

She references caustic and patronising remarks by Barbara Ellen in The Guardian in which she, along with many others, sneer at the anachronism that is Church life in the 21st century.

Except it isn’t anachronistic.

I know because I am a churchgoer, albeit not one of resolute faith and not one with an unblemished attendance record.

Like many, I am the product of a childhood of well-meaning indoctrination.  In my case into Roman Catholicism.

I often read, on social media channels with unhidden glee, the defamation of this particular doctrine and it saddens me.

Firstly it saddens me that the excesses and undefendable actions of a minority of our clergy has tarnished the faith as a whole.  I also, particularly on visits to Italy, squirm at the absolute lack of inhibition when building our altars of early centuries bling.

Ancient papacies (nay, possibly even recent ones) stink of hypocrisy and political pap.  But not, I think, the current one.  And not, as I gathered from my recent trip to Poland, that of John Paul II who is a giant of a man.

The conservative leanings of the Catholic hierarchy towards old rhetoric and the strict adherence to creationism in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary make me uncomfortable.

It doesn’t sit well with my education and lifetime of reading.

But, and it’s a big but, Madeliene Davis is absolutely right about the role of the church in today’s society (all churches, faiths, religions) because, even though they gradually reduce in number and become cheap boozers or flash penthouses, those that remain are at the heart and soul, yes soul, of their communities.

They tend the aged, they democratise the community and in some I know of they can be outstanding boozers, social clubs, restaurants, cafes.

They and their members (and clergy) provide irreplaceable social services and are hubs of charitable activity.

Madeliene Davis is right.

Even without the religious needs that churches satisfy they make an immense contribution to our society and I am proud to declare that although I am one of the worst drummers in musical history my community tolerate me, provide me with a regular gig and in some instances actually rather like that a drum, a mandolin, a violin and an organ can sometimes make sweet music.

Shalom brothers and sisters.