arts, books, other reviews

art

GUSTAV KLIMT

Painting, Design and Modern Life

Tate Liverpool

30 May-31 August 2008

Admission 8

Apart from Liverpool or Everton playing football, the magnificence of two great cathedrals, and the Beatles heritage, there is now another good reason for going to Liverpool. It is currently the European City of Culture and is awash with good things. Ranking highly among them is this exhibition of the work of Gustav Klimt.

If you do not know the name, you will know the image of the golden lady. It is, so I am told, one of the most popular prints to hang on walls, from student lodgings to middle-class suburban villas. It is a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and was sold for a record S135 million in 2006. The painting had been stolen from the Bloch-Bauer family by the Nazis and had found its way into the collection of the Austrian state. After a protracted legal battle it was finally returned to the family and was sold. It is now in New York; and there it stays because it was not loaned to the exhibition. That is a huge loss but does not detract unduly from the pleasure and instruction that is to be had.

Gustav Klimt was born in 1862 and died at the end of the First World War in 1918. He was highly significant in the fin de siecle of Vienna. You can also see in his work influence from the work of Aubrey Beardsley who adorned a similar aesthetic milieu. Perhaps some of the erotic charge in Klimt originated in Beardsley. They both share an intensely felt and executed eroticism. Consider Beardsley s drawings of Salome for Oscar Wildes play and compare them with Klimt's rendering of Salome (Judith II Salome) painted in 1909. There is a similar decadent intensity and voluptuous sensuality. The Klimt rendition has a greater physical barbarity, hints of the influence of the labyrinthine world of Byzantine politics, where murder was a political tool. It is a powerful and disconcertingly dissonant work.

Klimt came from a poor background (his father was a gold engraver), and received his artistic education at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. It was a conservative education and occurred just as the explosion of modern culture and a radical change of sensibility hit the artistic life of Vienna. He became President of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession), which sought to promote the art of unconventional artists. There was no particular school of art that they wished to form, no artistic manifesto, but an eclectic mixture of styles and approaches. They were radical in their desire to break out from a stultifying artistic straitjacket of conservative conventionality.

Klimt broke away from his conventional academic artistic upbringing to become a part of the Symbolist Movement and connected with the art nouveau of Vienna. As well as Beardsley, post-Impressionists, continental and Symbolist influences, he was also markedly influenced by the art of Byzantium, and this is seen especially in his signature paintings in their use of gold and a technique that echoes mosaics and frescos of the Byzantine Empire. These paintings are lavish and vividly alive with colour and line. His articulation of figures (very like Beardsley) is gentle and flowing, an almost charming delicacy which is not overpowered by the richness of the whole. He was a good draughtsman (he was trained as an architectural painter, a discipline in which line is vital) as well as a highly original colourist.

Although the most famous of Klimts work is absent from this exhibition, there is much to enjoy. The sheer exuberance of the colour and detail is astonishing. There is a richness of pattern and design, dresses are great mosaics of geometric shapes and blocks of fresh colour. If you took away a face or the body of the sitter, you would still have a stunning abstract painting of intense interest.

He was one of the great painters of women. His life of affairs and liaisons does not bear scrutiny from the shockable, but what he captures in his art is passionate and results in some of the most erotically electric depictions of women committed to canvas. Look at the portrait of Eugenia Primavesi: there is a remoteness and allure in the pose and in the eyes. A certain coolness and detachment is offset by the limpid set of the hands, beautifully conceived. His paintings of women never degenerate into mere objects, never the lurid fantasies of lesser artists. His portraits are true to reality, some are explicit in their sexual depiction, but they are of women with freedom of will and decision. They are liberated in the paintings as they were being psychologically liberated by Freud, a Viennese near-contemporary

One of Klimts major achievements, the Beethoven Frieze, is represented by a full-scale reproduction. It was originally a series of wall paintings in a seminal exhibition in 1902, and it is emblematic of Klimts concern with the place of his art within a specific environment or milieu. Several of his paintings commissioned by patrons were conceived for particular rooms or settings and Klimt was part of a Viennese movement, Gesamtkunstwerk (a complete, aesthetically coherent environment). That is where the great strength of this exhibition lies. Not only are paintings on display but they are linked to the Vienna of his period through a series of themed rooms which echo the settings of his wealthy and cultivated patrons. Here can also be seen influences from William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose aesthetic signatures are so distinctive and attractive. Liverpool has pulled off a magnificent coup in this terrific, accessible and stimulating exhibition. The poster boy is shown off to great effect in his time and place as an artist of consummate and conspicuous skill. If we forget the ghastly Passion which kick-started Liverpool's year, this exhibition reaches great heights; and let us hope that the other cultural activities that Liverpool has to offer will match it. We will be fortunate indeed if any surpass it.

John Grainger

 

film

MORAL TALES

Eric Rohmer

A few years ago, one of our leading seminaries received unwelcome attention when it was discovered that the works of Joanna Trollope were on the college reading list. I don't remember whether the row focused on alleged dumbing-down or whether commentators thought seminarians should be introduced to something grittier - Bridget Jones perhaps. And yet, the classic writers on pastoral care often argued that good fiction should be read by the clergy because the best novelists understood and laid bare the secrets of the heart.

Maybe Joanna Trollope does as much, but, like most literature, her writing is conventionally dramatic - her goodies and baddies are clearly signalled and her plots have satisfying endings. Parish life rarely has satisfying endings though. Thankfully there are some dramatic works whose close observation of real life might delight and teach even the most jaded seminarian. These dramas are the films of Eric Rohmer.

Rohmer's films are not films as the Pub Landlord would understand them - there are no explosions and they are in French. But they show human nature in a way few other works do - in every one I have seen, I have winced to see a character do the kind of thing I know I would do myself.

One reason why these films are so true to life is that the characters don't always understand their own motives and they can't see too clearly ahead. In the love triangles which feature in the films, people struggle with their desires and fears, and they don't always behave very well. The characters' desires are further complicated by the philosophical and moral ideals they try to live by. And there are no crowd-pleasing endings - as in real life, characters live within the limits of who they are, not what is dramatically satisfying.

Rohmer's work falls into three collections of films plus a few others. The first collection, the six Moral Tales, is to be released on DVD in the UK this summer. Of these, Ma nuit chez Maud {My Night at Maud's, 1969) was Rohmer's breakthrough and is archetypal. A contemporary film when it was made, today it charms with Renault 5s, zinc-topped cafe bars, and that slightly down-at-heel look of provincial France before prosperity and 'MacDo'. The characters talk and smoke and there is almost adultery.

And there is the Church. Religion is very important to Rohmer. In Ma nuit, the protagonist sees his girl during Mass but we are shown more of the new post-Vatican II liturgy than the girl herself - a hint at Rohmer's values. Indeed, at the end of the film it is the Catholic couple whose marriage turns out well, if rather dull, and the exotic, modern Maud who is left unhappy, if not quite alone. Ultimately, despite the absence of conventional dramatic certainties, Rohmer has placed his characters within a Catholic Christian worldview. That is part of his realism and his appeal, though for those who cannot bear too much reality there is always Joanna Trollope.

Owen Higgs

The first three Moral Tales are available through Artificial Eye, 17.99. The remainder are promised for July/August as part of the complete set. Amazon sells the Eric Rohmer Collection at 23.48 and Tales of the Four Seasons at 24.98.

 

music

SYMPHONY NO. 2; POUR UNE FETE DE PRINTEMPS; 
SUITE IN F

Albert Roussel
Royal Scottish National
Orchestra, Stephane Deneve

Naxos 8.570529, 6.00

There was an enthusiastic review in this magazine for the recent Naxos recording of the Third Symphony and the ballet Bacchus and Ariadne by Albert Roussel (1869-1937). Now the Royal Scottish National Orchestra follows that triumph with another recording of music by this most unjustly neglected French composer, showing once again that under their conductor, Stephane Deneve, they are superb interpreters of Roussel's work. This time praise may be a little more cautious, but that is due to the programme chosen rather than to the performances.

Roussel was a late starter in music, and he achieved his mature and highly individual style slowly. This disk shows us something of that process. In his First Symphony he was decidedly under the influence of Debussy. It is an attractive work, and we may hope that the Scottish orchestra will give us a new recording of it, but Roussel quickly realized that to continue writing in this way was not for him. The Second Symphony (1919-21) is a product of the time when he abandoned musical Impressionism to find his own voice. By general consent he did not achieve his aim satisfactorily in the Symphony, and it has never achieved a place in the orchestral repertoire. Even admirers of Roussel's work tend to find its dense and gritty textures tough meat. The performance here is good, but it is unlikely to find many friends for what, frankly, is one of Roussel's least attractive compositions.

The short tone poem, Pour une fete de printemps (1921), actually a discarded movement from the Second Symphony, is more appealing, but stylistically it looks back to Roussel's earlier Debussy-based idiom and it is of no great significance in his output.

However, the third work on this disk, the Suite in F (1926) is a different matter. This is one of Roussel's greatest works, where he at last found his unmistakable compositional style. The features one associates with his maturity - clarity of thought, rhythmic verve, contrapuntal skill, harmonic freshness, moments of ravishing tenderness, orchestral brilliance - are brought together in a work which could be by no other composer. Here he looked to the model of the Classical orchestral suite and wrote three movements based on those found in the traditional suite.

The opening 'Prelude' is almost relentless in its forward momentum, yet without wearying the ear. The following 'Sarabande' opens with a quiet melody accompanied by rich and highly individual harmonies. It moves though a more disturbed central section before sinking back to the original theme by way of haunting Roussel chords. The final 'Gigue' is fun throughout. Opening in the wrong key, there follows a perky tune which is passed about the orchestra. The brass section makes 'wrong note' comments before the trumpet enters with a solo full of pawky humour. Eventually the two themes are combined to bring the movement to a rumbustious close. (William Walton shamelessly pillaged this movement - without acknowledgement -for the finale of his Partita for Orchestra, even down to the trumpet tune.)

The Suite in F is an orchestral tour de force, and it is a disgrace that it has not become a regular part of concerts in this country. My only reservation with the Naxos disk is not with the excellent performances but with the recording, which imparts a slight fuzziness to the orchestral detail. Some time ago the Suite in F was recorded under Jean Martinon, and that performance has the crystal clarity of sound which Roussels mature music requires. But at bargain price, the Suite in F alone justifies buying the disk. May we look to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and their conductor for recordings of Symphonies One and Four, and then even more Roussel?

Bernard Tovey

 

 

RESTORING THE ANGLICAN MIND

Arthur Middleton

Gracewing, 100pp, pbk 85244 695 9, 7.99

Arthur Middleton (priest and scholar of this parish) is a frequent and eloquent contributor to these pages. His familiarity with the Anglican temper, its history, its theological foundations is second to none. He has written with authority and clarity as a good teacher and communicator. His work as a lecturer gives him an intellectual grasp of his material and a skill in its exposition. His work as a parish priest means that his scholarship is earthed and fixed in a community of faith, in an ecclesial context that has practical implications and application as well as theoretical authenticity. Many of us have benefited from his insights about the great figures and themes of an Anglican heritage, both here and in his other books, or in his parish, or in the retreats and conferences that he gives. It is a highly valued ministry that is all too rare nowadays.

He brings all his learning and his keen intelligence and clear thinking to this book. It is short but brimful with good things, with wise words, with determined and solid conclusions. His learning is worn lightly, the breadth of his reading is distilled, his command of his material in such a narrow compass is astonishingly compelling.

For some observers of the ecclesiastical scene in England (and Wales and Scotland), the concept of an Anglican mind' is an oxymoron, and the cover of this book does nothing to dispel such an assertion. It is a photograph of bishops at the last Lambeth Conference (and we might suspect that as the next one looms on the near horizon, the Archbishop might well be wishing that it had been the last) and they are a motley crew. Beneath the Primatial Cross of Canterbury sits that great mind, George Carey, who presided over the greatest decline in the Church of England since the Black Death carried offa third of the population. There is such a breadth of opinion represented in that photograph that it is impossible now to speak of an Anglican mind. These divisions may currently be focused on the ordination of women (still an unfinished and contentious issue) and the vexed question of homosexuality (which manages to bring out the worst in everybody, from sanctimonious clap-trap to deeply unpleasant and repellent prejudice), but they extend beyond these so that fissures not only continue to deepen but increase.

This multi-polarity was entirely inevitable once the golden thread of a commonly recognized ministerial order was altered, and sacramental uncertainty and impaired communion entered the Anglican vocabulary. It may also have something to do with the end of Empire and what we are witnessing is the break-up of an Anglican imperium. This is much-travelled ground and Arthur Middleton takes us across familiar, all-too-familiar, territory but does so with assurance and authority. The politics ofthis mess of pottage are not overlooked and none could doubt Arthur Middleton's position. But what engages him more is what lies (and does not lie) behind the public disputes. He mourns the loss of the Anglican theological method which has produced results that are all too obvious and nothing short of chaotic.

The classic formulation of Anglicanism as that delicate test of orthodoxy, its claim to distinctiveness and its distinction in some eyes, is the interplay of scripture, tradition and reason, but that is no longer the ground of current Anglican dialectic. There is sufficient evidence available to indicate that traditional Anglican methodology, its way of doing theology, no longer commands widespread support. There is a woeful ignorance about Anglican history and a wilful determination to dismiss its relevance. How many reports which spew out of Church House are buttressed by patristic writing or support from the Caroline Divines? Too often these reports are self-referential, footnoting one another as if they had the authority of Augustine or Jerome.

Fr Middleton rightly bemoans the shockingly inadequate response to Cardinal Kaspers address to the House of Bishops. Although one bishop of orthodox persuasion described it as a statement of classic Anglicanism, securely based in Scripture and within the Tradition, with rigorous reasoning both in its content and its method, the more common reaction was that this was Roman Catholic and nothing to do with them. It beggars belief. It is suggested that when Cardinal Kasper addresses the Lambeth Conference (no one can say that he has not gone the extra mile in the ecumenical quest) he will say that it is time the Anglican Communion decided whether it was Catholic or whether it was a liberal Protestant church. I would put my money on them saying the latter. And the way of liberal Protestantism ends in nothingness. Liberal Protestantism is well on the road to the abandonment of the faith delivered to the Apostles.

General Synod, in its relentless fidgeting to do things to justify its existence with an overly determinant bureaucratic structure, is clearly uninterested in any ecumenical dialogue that means anything or goes anywhere apart from a Good Friday procession of witness. Warm words (although not about Our Lady in the latest Synod debate on the most recent Anglican-Roman Catholic document) mean nothing at all when the actions that they sanction frustrate ecumenical progress and set back Christ's own call for the unity of his Body, the Church.

Of course, in an age of sound-bites rather than an engagement with sustained argument, where concentration span seems governed by the television remote control, where the reading age of the best-selling tabloid newspaper is pre-teen, much of what is written in this book will be dismissed and disdained as old-fashioned, stuck in the past: 'what has the past to do with us?' This book is an admirable reproach to that way of thinking.

In a key passage, Fr Middleton identifies 'the revolutionary innovation that has rendered the Church of England in particular and the Anglican Communion in general dysfunctional,' and writes of 'a changed attitude towards the authority of Holy Scripture. Many are now of the opinion that the Bible is a guide in some areas of life but not in all. Where it conflicts with current sociological and political presuppositions the innovators ignore it as a relic of a culturally conditioned and antiquated world view. Hence for them the authority of the Bible is questionable and so too the teachings of the Apostles and the practice of the Catholic Church through the ages. Gender has ceased to be an issue because the revolutionary changes the innovators seek to inflict upon the Church are matters of human rights and social justice, and Anglicanism today is more enlightened than earlier generations of the Holy Catholic Church in discerning what God's Church needs. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is what frees us from the past and enables our thinking and actions to be consistent with the will of God. The proponents of such innovations see themselves as being 'prophetic' and will resist all opposition in their determination to implement them and demonstrate the Tightness of their views.'

Alexander Fawdon

 

A FALLIBLE CHURCH: LAMBETH ESSAYS

Edited by Kenneth Stevenson

DLT, 160pp, pbk

0 232 52730 X, 10.95

What is the Anglican Communion for? Traditional Anglo-Catholics have long preferred to ignore the question. An ecclesiology which is built upon the notion that Canterbury and York are neither more nor less than Provinces of the western Church which happen sadly (and temporarily) to be separated from the patriarchal See to which they rightfully belong has no room for a multiplicity of churches overseas being 'in communion' with them, as if to create a parallel global catholic church.

It is this profound unease with the whole notion of an Anglican Communion which has lead to an unease among Anglo-Catholics in engaging with the politics of the current crisis in the Communion: faced with a decision to ally with either North American liberalism or Nigerian fundamentalism, it is the instinct of most orthodox catholic Anglicans to say, 'neither of the above.' (Orthodox evangelicals, needless to say, will see things somewhat differently)

This volume, assembled in preparation for the Lambeth Conference, seeks to offer some reflections and observations in the light of the question with which I began, and even to suggest some answers. John Gladwin, the Bishop of Chelmsford, contributes the first essay. Gladwin sees Anglicanism as treading a middle path between the over-prescription Roman dogmatism on the one hand, and the confessional tradition of the Reformed churches on the other. The Anglican Communion operates on a wide and generous playing field, says Gladwin, bounded only by the Scriptures, Creeds, dominical Sacraments and the historic Episcopate, locally adapted. The practical consequence of this is that Anglicanism puts a high premium on the local: the 'break with Rome' is seen as fundamentally about the triumph over the local church over the centre.

Gladwin seems to argue that it is the diocese rather than the province which ought to be the locus of this authentically Anglican ecclesiology. Is this good news for those who, in the search for provision for those unable to accept the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Church of England, look for the creation of a number of new or additional dioceses? The logic is not clear. The more fundamental question is whether this 'doctrine of the local' can ever deal satisfactorily with the sort of issues (which concern fundamental matters of faith and morals) which now divide the Anglican Communion.

Terry Loudens essay on the Anglican Church in Ghana examines what it means to be an African Anglican' today. For David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, the Episcopal Church of the Sudan shows us in the West what it means for a church to be driven by the mission imperative, and to view all questions of order and discipline - such as the ordination of women - only in the light of a 'Kingdom agenda.'

James Jones (Bishop of Liverpool) contributes a piece which was met with both dismay and delight on first publication: in it, he repents of his actions in the Jeffrey John affair, particularly his putting his signature to an open letter calling for him not to be appointed Bishop of Reading. The essay contains some - again, depending on your point of view - daring, or fanciful, exegesis of the relationships in Scripture between David and Jonathan, and Jesus and the Beloved Disciple.

The contributions in Part II of the book are historical and analytical, rather than anecdotal. Graham James (Bishop of Norwich) makes probably the most significant contribution to the volume. His essay combines a useful and thought-provoking survey of the history of the Lambeth Conference since the first was held in 1867, with a plea for a deeper grasp by both the leadership and general membership of the Anglican Communion of the Communion's history and accumulated teaching. Yet (as with Gladwin and localism), his analysis prompts further unanswered questions. From where does Anglicanism derive the authority to teach what it teaches? And how is that teaching authoritatively handed on?

Norman Doe surveys - magisterially, as is to be expected - the place of Canon Law in the shared life of the Communion. Here is a gift to be offered in future ecumenical dialogue, suggests Doe. Mark Chapman sees the genius of the Anglican Communion to reside not only in localism (again), but in a comprehensiveness which resists the notion of a 'fixed and easily demonstrable truth.'

Finally, Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth, writes of the Anglican Communion in terms of a 'theology of limits.' As in the Gladwin essay, the limits are broad, but they are there: they are wide enough to encompass Dr Giles Fraser and the Bishop of Durham. This (writes Stevenson) is something to celebrate.

This is an important book for those seeking to answer my question 'what is the Anglican Communion for?' That the answer is not much clearer by the end is no reflection on the contributors.

Mark Moore

 

THE FELLOWSHIP OF ANGELS

The English writings of Richard Rolle Edited by Henrietta Hick

Gracewing, 80pp, pbk 978 0 85244 123 7, 5.99

If The Cloud of Unknowing is the austere jewel of medieval English mysticism, Rolle is that writer's unruly but charming companion. The Yorkshire hermit, attached to no spiritual order and by reputation too popular with the ladies, has suffered much by comparison. If we seek a guide to contemplative prayer, he is not the best, being too spontaneous even ill-disciplined.

Mrs Hick, however, is keen to present the warmth and immediacy of his more general teaching on the Christian life, his love of Scripture and the Psalms in particular. Translated into modern English, and generally in short extracts, it is plain to see why he was so popular as a teacher. There is a joy in his vision of the Christian life, an observant fascination in God's creation and in what it may teach us about how to live our lives, and a deliberate nurturing of the imagination so as to enter into the great moments of salvation history.

Especially effective is her translation of his Lay Folk's Mass Book, which in simple verse couplets (rather an awkward form it has to be said) describes what is happening up at the altar, and how the lay person should respond while it is happening. While the Gospel is being read, in Latin, he states, 'Stand and say in this manner all you may see written here: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. O true God of most might, be God's word welcome to me, joy and living Lord, be to thee.'

The editing and translating seem to follow the same tradition of spontaneity and lack of discipline, which can be a little frustrating in reaching the exact words of Rolle; but that is perhaps to be too fussy; there is no question that this book does much to make a difficult but utterly charming English teacher more accessible, six and a half centuries after his death - probably from the Black Death, in 1349, after a number of happy years as a hermit and spiritual director to a convent of Cistercian nuns near Hampole.

John Turnbull

 

 

A MOST HOLY WAR

The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom Mark Gregory Pegg Oxford, 253pp, hbk 978 0 19 5171310, 13.99

One cannot read a history book for long before coming across an 'ism'. 'Catharism' is one of the 'isms' most favoured by medieval historians. But Dr Pegg says there was no such thing. 'Woolgathering by scholars, especially in relation to heresy' is one of the index entries in this bold and brilliant book. Looking up the reference we I discover that the only evidence for a medieval 'Cathar Church' is the 'Charter of Niquinta' which was probably forged by a seventeenth-century scholar from Toulouse, Guillaume Besse. 'Everything about the Charter of Niquinta', writes Pegg, 'resembles a. fiction by Jorge Luis Borges, a quixotic addendum (and libraries of extravagant exegesis) displaces reality with fantasy'

Dan Brown enthusiasts will find little comfort here. Pegg meets one, 'a handsome, late middle-aged woman', at the top of Montse-gur, one of the 'Cathar' strongholds, who asks him whether he 'feels the sacred aura too'. By contrast, on another trip he encounters 'a rose-soused sixty-something Englishman' (perhaps an ex-pat member of Forward in Faith) who tells our historian that 'they deserved it...the bloody heretics.'

A myth about the Middle Ages is that it was an 'Age of Faith'. Certainly popes and bishops were much more involved in diplomatic and military affairs than is now the case: every one of the armies which made their way south during the Albigensian Crusade (1208-29) had at least a couple of bishops at its head. But it is misleading if it suggests a well-instructed and fervent laity, as in modern Catholic countries like Poland and, at least until recently, Ireland. That was the product of the Counter-Reformation. Still, as Pegg shows, such was the sort of society that Pope Innocent III was aiming to create in thirteenth-century Europe - and one of the chief policy instruments for achieving it was crusading.

The Albigensian Crusade was unprecedented in being the first crusade against heretics. There had been crusades in Europe before, against the pagan Slavs for example, but here was an army summoned by the Pope to fight against a Christian ruler. The ruler in question was Raimon VI, count of Toulouse (1156-1222), and Innocent wanted a crusade against him because he did not think Raimon was doing enough to stamp out heresy in his lands. The oddity is that Raimon agreed: he himself had asked for a crusading army to be sent to his lands in 1177 to help him to do just that. Of course, things were not quite that simple, since Raimon hoped to use this army in his territorial dispute with Henry II, King of England, who had acquired a claim to his domain through his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, formerly married to the French king.

But who were the Albigensian heretics if, as Pegg argues, the naming of them as 'Cathars' was a medieval scholarly conceit prompted by the discovery in 1100 by Yves, the Bishop of Chartres, of a fifth-century letter from Pope Innocent I to the bishops of Macedonia? They referred to themselves as good men and good women, and Pegg, who has no more affection for medieval Catholicism than Dan Brown, rather takes them at their word. (Strange that such a self-consciously iconoclastic writer should be so uncritical.) In building up his picture of them, Pegg stresses the importance of ritual, around codes of honour and courtesy, rather than belief. Nevertheless it was not only manners that maketh a good' man or woman - as Guilhem, Bishop of Albi, discovered in the public square of Lomb-ers. Here in 1165 he debated with members of 'the sect of Olivier' who expressed some very definite religious views of quite a modern liberal Protestant kind. They were as follows: no priesthood (consecration at the Mass 'could be performed by any good man, cleric or layman'), no sacraments (not even baptism was necessary for a Christian life), no bodily resurrection of Christ, no Old Testament. So no wonder that this verdict was pronounced: T, Gaucelis, bishop of Lodeve, by the command of the bishop of Albi and his assessors, do adjudge those who call themselves good men' to be heretics.' Pegg disagrees with the bishop and in a way that reveals his bias: 'These beliefs, widespread among ordinary Christians before the crusade, were never thought of as heretical. The Son of God, after all, believed them too.'

But once Pegg withdraws from the public square himself and goes back to writing history he is superb. His narrative brings out brilliantly the truth of Marc Bloch's verdict: 'The Middle Ages...lived under the sign of private vengeance.' The tragedy is that popes and bishops, instead of consistently opposing this spirit of malevolence, tended to legitimize it by some of their pronouncements. For example, the great canonist Gratian defined a just war as one 'waged by authoritative edict to avenge injuries', and Innocent's own claim that heresy was treason against Christ made it the greatest injury of all. It is hardly surprising, then, that Simon de Montfort and his fellow barons from northern Europe behaved with such savagery towards the inhabitants of Languedoc.

But perhaps we should not place too much emphasis on the influence of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, for this was a society that was endemically violent. Pegg quotes part of a song in praise of war by the troubadour Bertran de Born, lord of Autun: T see many a beggarly baron suffering war and turmoil and anguish. I care little about their grief and less about their hurt. War pleases me because I see courts and gifts and pleasure and song all enhanced by war.' This was the flip-side of the codes of honour and courtesy of the good men. So maybe those 'bloody heretics' did deserve it. They were after all very bloody.

Simon Heans

 

 

TO RWANDA AND BACK

Liberation Spirituality and Reconciliation

Mary Grey

DLT, 222pp, pbk

10 0 232 52664 8, 12.95

William Wordsworth started it. I mean the practice of intellectuals taking their holidays in countries which have been through political upheavals of one sort or another. He went to Paris for the French Revolution and wrote a poem about his experiences. Mary Grey went to Rwanda and has written this book about hers. 'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very heaven, wrote the youthful William. Mary is no longer young - she tells us she is now a grandmother - and she certainly did not discover bliss in post-genocide Rwanda. However, the reader of this book is continually reminded of the young Wordsworth. That is because it is written under the influence of that same 'blisswasitinthatdawnitis' to which William briefly succumbed.

Mary was brought up in a traditional Catholic working-class family in a County Durham mining village, the oldest of seven. Then came Oxford and Vatican II, and the Fifties schoolgirl 'initiated into the 'Nine Fridays' to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and even the Nine Tuesdays to St Antony', became the academic theologian, liberationist, feminist, environmentalist of today.

All of these concerns are well represented in this book, with the result that anyone picking it up in the hope of finding out about the recent political and religious history of Rwanda will be disappointed. The introduction is typical. Having begun by telling us that the journey she

made to Rwanda 'will haunt me forever', she goes on to describe her reaction to the election of Pope Benedict, thereby letting slip what really haunts her. I agreed to review this book because I too had some Wordswor-thian moments in my youth, but I soon found myself losing patience with its author's self-obsession. And the theology here, such as it is, seems to be based on a rather poor pun. After telling us (in fact herself) 'to trust that God will make room in your heart and energies for the next involvement' (so her husband, whose forbearance when it comes to choosing their annual holiday destination is gratefully acknowledged in the preface, won't be relaxing by the pool next year either) she gushes about her great joy' at being 'part of the kin-dom, the kinship of sisters and brothers and all forms of life in the planet.'

Carole Caplin found another upwardly mobile Catholic girl very susceptible to her brand of paganism, and here is Mary Grey offering us a full-blown pantheist spirituality. One can only hope that Dr Grey rediscovers the devotions of her childhood, not just for her own sake, but so that her long-suffering husband can get a proper holiday, unconnected with her literary projects. It would be his first in thirty years, so she says. He deserves it, don't you think, Mary?

Simon Heans

 

 

COUNTDOWN TO CHAOS

The secular threat to society

today

Pamela McCallum

St Paul's, 60pp, pbk 978 0 85439 737 2, 4.25

A pupil at Dora and Bernard Russell's school, a niece of the Nobel Laureate, philosopher and mathematician, and brought up in a context of open hostility to Christianity, Pamela McCallum's journey back to faith has been a strong and forceful one. This short and readable book is a diatribe against the destructive power of secularism in our contemporary culture.

A diatribe is not a rant or whinge, but a clear, purposeful condemnation, modelled on the witness of the Old Testament prophets. Insufficiently nuanced I think for clergy or professional theologians, it has an energy and clarity that will it make a source of encouragement to many dispirited lay people.

Nigel Anthony

Arthur Middleton appointed Honorary Fellow of St Chad's College

As the citation put it 'The Governing Body of the Council of St Chad's College, Durham, having particular regard for your exemplary contribution to the life of this College as Acting Principal and Tutor, noting your ongoing scholarship in the field of theology, and recognising your generous Service to the Church, is pleased, under its Seal, to appoint you, Canon Thomas Arthur Middleton, as an Honorary Fellow of St Chad's College, with all the powers, rights, privileges and advantages belonging or Appertaining to the office.' He is pictured here wearing the Fellow's academic hood.

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