The Spectator Podcasts. Have the health & safety bishops betrayed the people of God? Damian Thompson & Gavin Ashenden.

Press here for the link to the podcast.

_1 Spectator

Damian Thompson writes:-

“Last week I was sent a copy of a devastating 7,000-word letter accusing the Catholic bishops of England and Wales of grossly mishandling the coronavirus crisis by lobbying the government for a complete shutdown of their own churches, even for private prayer. The author called herself (or, more than likely, himself) ‘Fiona McDonald’ – and used a heavily encrypted email service in order to avoid being tracked down. 

McDonald claimed that the bureaucrats of the Bishops’ Conference were sending out misleading and even untruthful messages about the church lockdown, claiming that it was forced on them by the government. It quoted a letter from Richard Moth, the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, which contradicted this. Writing to his priests, Bishop Moth reported that ministers only agreed to the blanket closure of churches after Jim McManus, the Catholic bishops’ healthcare adviser, begged them to do so.

As you’ll hear in this week’s Holy Smoke podcast, McDonald really stuck the knife into the Church’s officials, producing document after document calling into question their integrity. They brushed it off with an assurance that they were monitoring the situation.

But today’s Holy Smoke isn’t just about a dispute between Catholics (which, I’m told, is about to get spectacularly nastier).The Church of England, too, stands accused of bungling its response to the Covid19 pandemic – and in much the same way, subjecting ordinary clergy and worshippers to the diktats of bureaucratic control freaks.

I’m joined again by Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen, who hopes that this fiasco will force both Anglican and Catholic churches to reform themselves after the pandemic is over.”

Spectator podcast link

The self-isolation of fact from value:- the consequences for a culture suffering from split personality syndrome.

Between last week and this week, everything has changed. It has been like moving from one world to another, without warning or preparation.

Last week I could go where I wanted whenever I wanted. This week I am suddenly under what feels like house arrest. Last week I could shop for anything and find anything . This week I am concentrating on toilet paper and paracetamol, neither of which can be found. Luckily I’m having a bit more luck with milk and bread.

So this is the new normal. House arrest, quarantine, whatever you call it. It’s not total of course; a very English kind of quarantine; as well as occasional food shopping, there is also one bicycle ride a day.

Part of me has always lived in fear of the state growing too powerful and imprisoning people. It happened often enough in a variety of states in the 20th C. But I always thought the threat to liberty in Europe would come from a political idea, not a virus.

So this is doubly strange. Not only didn’t I expect the house arrest but I approve of it in principle. I can see that it will be the cause of a great deal of anxiety for all those whose income stream is wrecked by it. But the trade-off might be worth it. Thousands of lives saved versus thousands of pounds lost?

If the only way to contain a virus and stop it killing people is to restrain peoples’ movement, then the price is worth paying; we accept the restraint.

But what is also strange is a sudden shift in values. Now that the pandemic has struck, our public preoccupation has moved from feelings to facts, from values to Viruses, almost from imagination to science. We straddled two cultures that didn’t relate to each other with clumsy awkwardness, and have toppled from one to the other.

Concern about living with two cultures that didn’t really understand each other, the divorce between arts and science, stretches back a generation.

In 1959, a novelist called CP Snow, delivered a powerful and prophetic lecture. He was worried about two different worlds growing up within one society; two worlds that could not understand each other. He said he had carried out a small experiment.

He had asked some of the people he met who were not scientists if they had any understanding of the second law of thermodynamics and could explain it to him simply? They looked at him blankly.

And he asked some of the scientists he knew when the last time was that they had read a play by Shakespeare?

It turned our that none of the artists have the faintest idea about the second law of thermodynamics and none of the scientists had ever read any Shakespeare.

Snow said that we were heading for a schizophrenic society which would lack the ability for one half to understand the other, and that we were storing up a great deal of trouble for ourselves. Facts and values would be divorced from each other, and we would suffer for it.

In that divorce, cultural ideas lose touch with science and facts, and facts or science might develop a life of their own without values.

Our public conversation for some time now has been about the unbridgeable gap between the idea of gender and the facts of biology. There was a great reluctance to face up to the fact that there was a danger in separating our mental maps from biological science.

It all seems a bit of a luxury now.

Suddenly, in the face of a pandemic what we are obsessed by is how to test for the fact of Coronovirus infection. And how to make a real antidote to the virus. It’s all about facts now because it has become a matter of life and death.

Science wasn’t doing particularly well without values either. `For example, we just took the invention of plastic and poured plastic in unbelievable quantities into the oceans where it began to poison and strangle marine life, and then as we ate the fish, found that we had ingested the plastic ourselves.

The wet market in Wuhan in China seemed to be a particularly unpleasant example of economics without values. We treated the animals spectacularly cruelly and without any concern for welfare or intrinsic value.

And lo and behold, we had poisoned ourselves again, this time with a virus that jumped species and began an assault on our respiratory system. This one managing the feat that some scientists have been petrified of for a while, It combined ease of infection with power to kill.

If the price for overcoming the virus is being imprisoned by the Government or scientific pressure groups for a while in a place, under quarantine, it’s one I am willing to pay. I don’t like it, but I can cope.

What I couldn’t cope with before was the prospect of a Government or pressure groups imprisoning my mind. Not telling me where I could or couldn’t go, but trying to tell me what I could or couldn’t think.

If you constrain my body, I become uncomfortable. If you constrain my mind, I may go mad.

As Robert Fisk interviews the Dr at the Douma clinic in Syria who claims the injuries were caused by dust, Gavin Ashenden questions our own Establishment’s reliance on propaganda.

Every so often something happens to you which propels you into a different world. It’s not usually a better world, and it is accompanied by a sense of shock.

Philosophers have called it a ‘disclosure moment’. We, the public, talk about ‘the penny dropping.’ They come as small pennies, and huge ones. Mine today dropped with a thud that felt ominous.

It’s about Syria and the newspapers. Continue reading “As Robert Fisk interviews the Dr at the Douma clinic in Syria who claims the injuries were caused by dust, Gavin Ashenden questions our own Establishment’s reliance on propaganda.”

Welby’s Will-To-Power:   Pride & Ego- Sanity & Sanctity, in the Saga of George Bell.

 Welby pic

The facts are on the whole well known. Lord Carlile, having been forbidden by his terms of reference to judge the innocence or guilt of poor Bishop Bell, did allow himself to tell the world that Bell would never have been found guilty in a court of law.

Peter Hitchens was almost apoplectic with surprise and frustration at Welby’s intransgence.

Continue reading “Welby’s Will-To-Power:   Pride & Ego- Sanity & Sanctity, in the Saga of George Bell.”

‘Operation Opra’: Secular self-righteousness – a mixture of morality, hypocrisy and revenge.

JEP 18.1.18

There was something magnificent about Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe awards.


She commanded the whole room, perhaps as she stood there with the cameras on her, she commanded the whole media-connected world; by turn chat show host, enraged mother figure, avenging angel, future president even. She combined a range of roles all at once that dominated the stage she stood on, and the imaginations she had burst in on. Continue reading “‘Operation Opra’: Secular self-righteousness – a mixture of morality, hypocrisy and revenge.”

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