From the Great Litany

Remember not, Lord, our offenses, nor the offenses of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.
Good Lord, deliver us.
That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to thy Holy Word.
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts.
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Year in Revue

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2017, the year of Are You Kidding Me With This Shit, has drawn to its close; some of my family have chosen theme words for 2018 (I guess it’s a custom like a New Year’s resolution?). I have selected the word blood-feud.

I generally do an arts review for the past year on New Year’s Eve, and this year is no exception. First up, much to my own surprise, is Kesha. She started making music when I was in college (in fact, we both went to the University of Maryland, though we never met), and I had always assumed she was just a forgettable, fun, kind of trashy singer who would have a few years of popularity and then fade. However, this year—after a lengthy legal battle with her ex-producer—she released a new album, and when I heard the single Praying, I was floored. Not only is it head and shoulders above her earlier work, it’s a good song in its own right: in particular, it showcases her remarkable vocal range, which I’d never guessed at before. The music video is compelling, too, featuring a lush mixture of Christian and Hindu religious symbolism, from Salvation Mountain, a dramatic example of American Christian folk art, to Holi, the Indian ‘festival of colors,’ which celebrates renewal, forgiveness, and the triumph of goodness over evil.

Though decidedly late to the party, I also have to give props to The Young Professionals, an Israeli pop-electro fusion band that I discovered thanks to a friend. Their music is fun and catchy, as pop should be, with a delicious Middle Eastern edge that sets it apart. Their music videos are deeply baffling; they’ve been compared to a high-end Milanese fashion show, and they’re certainly as bizarre as anything I’ve ever seen on a catwalk. But despite this, they are well-suited to the music, and their imagery is striking rather than repellent in its weirdness.

Another instance of me being late to the party would be that, thanks to Film Theory, I’ve just discovered Gravity Falls. I haven’t finished Season One yet, but I’m already a solid fan: it’s almost as good as Rick and Morty. In fact, there are some pretty persuasive fan theories that the two shows are secretly connected—theories bolstered by the fact that Alex Hirsch, the creator of Gravity Falls, is friends with Justin Roiland, one of the two minds behind Rick and Morty. (Falls has the added bonus of being something you could watch even if the kids are still up.) I’m not familiar with Hirsch’s other work, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for his name in future.

In writing, I am super excited that the lovely and talented Eve Tushnet has another novel in the works, which she kindly asked me to beta-read. It’s about 250 pages and I got through it in three or four days; usually when I’m reading or watching something, even something I like, I’ll take frequent breaks, because I have the attention span of a coked-up squirrel. Not this. Every page of her writing makes me want to read the next one. If you’d like to get a taste of her fiction RFN (and you do), I strongly recommend her novel Amends, in which a group of alcoholics are put into a rehab reality show. It’s one of the cleverest, funniest, most empathetic, and shrewdest books I’ve ever read: her characters are so well-crafted that I feel like I’d recognize them if we met in real life.

Lastly, but not leastly, I recently found out about Drew Magary, author of several iterations of The Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalogue. Apparently he’s been at it since 2012, and a friend of mine recommended it to me. Reminiscent of Mallory Ortberg or P. J. O’Rourke, Magary roasts the Williams-Sonoma Christmas offerings (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) not only with gusto, but with profound, nay, philosophical insight into the raving stupidity that would make any single product advertised seem worth the price.

Finally, as the custom is, I’d like to wish my ten biggest readerships, or at any rate my best guess at them, a happy 2018. This year it’s English, Russian, French, Ukrainian, German, Polish, Irish Gaelic, Portuguese, Hindi, and Indonesian.

Happy New Year
С Новым Годом
Bonne Année
Щасдивого Нового Року
Frohes Neues Jahr
Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
Bhliain Nua Sásta
Feliz Ano Novo
नया साल मुबारक हो
Selamat Tahun Baru

Catch you all on the flip side!

PS: I have been having some seriously strange formatting problems, hence the absence of pictures and mixture of fonts; advice is welcome.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Ethics of Compromise; Or, Wittering

The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavors to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defense;
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

‘I believe God prefers drunkards to a lot of respectable people.’
‘For God’s sake,’ I said, for I was near to tears that morning, ‘why bring God into everything?’
‘I’m sorry. I forgot. But you know that’s an extremely funny question.’
‘Is it?’
‘To me. Not to you.’
‘No, not to me. It seems to me that without your religion Sebastian would have the chance to be a happy and healthy man.’
‘It’s arguable,’ said Brideshead. ‘Do you think he will need this elephant’s foot again?’

—Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

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Melinda Selmys has hit it out of the park once again with her latest, which I propose to shamelessly misappropriate.

The priest that I actually confessed to did what most priests (in my experience) do if you come to them with an NFP hard-case: he said ‘I don’t know.’ But then he added that if I was willing to stay afterwards, one of the other priests might be able to advise. I waited, and eventually a very kind, older priest came over and listened while I explained my situation. His advice was, ‘Every day, you should try not to sin. But if you do anyway, know that you have done everything humanly possible. Put it in God’s hands.’ It was in many ways very helpful—being told by someone in authority that I really actually had tried as hard as I could made a huge difference in terms of shutting down the shame and self-accusation machine. It was also meant charitably: this was a priest trying to somehow steer a path between the demands of the teaching and the needs of the person in front of him.

This isn’t unlike the experiences I’ve had in the confessional. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of priests who’ve been severe with me about my sins, however grave; the Church is famously uncompromising in the content of her teaching about sex, especially sex between men, but the application of that teaching to actual penitents is eager to absolve and console, in my (perhaps extremely fortunate) experience. Some confessors have been much too lax, and many have given useless advice. But they’ve overwhelmingly been gentle and kind, and often they have been wise too.

Unfortunately that is not the whole story.

It was, however, problematic advice in practice. What it meant was that I was in a position where I couldn’t have a realistic discussion about what I actually wanted in my sex life1 … but provided I was responding to seduction, swept away by my passions, or just doing it because I felt pressure, it wasn’t really my fault.

It’s a problem, not just in NFP culture but in purity culture more generally. If your situation is in any way irregular—that is, if you are not having married sex primarily for the purpose of procreation, there is a more or less strong psychological incentive towards sexual expression that is not quite consensual. There’s a lot of understanding, a lot of leeway, for people who are just carried away by a desire that overwhelms them. But if you’ve arrived at a sober, rational, well-considered and empirically tested conviction that a sexless marriage would be a disaster, that pregnancy would be worse, and that NFP does not work for you … well, you’re out of luck. [...] Suddenly not only are you sinning, you’re veering into the territory of willful rejection of the truth. And into the near orbit of presumption. Until you repudiate the error of your ways, confession isn’t even an option.2 Of course most confessors have more sense than people in NFP forums and comboxes. They’ll point out that emotional factors are only one of the factors that can reduce culpability,3 that in an objectively hard case you probably don’t meet the criteria for full knowledge, that if you want to do the right thing but are finding it functionally impossible due to external circumstances this also impedes full consent, and so on.

And for a long time, for eight or nine years, this really was satisfying to me. It’s rigorously logical, yet leaves space for moral generosity and humility; it allows for the difficult combination of idealism and compassion, not only within the same philosophy, but within the same person. That’s nothing to shake a stick at. Plenty of moral traditions that have successfully retained the loyalty of millions for generations aim lower than this, while yet being less flexible. (Even contemporary secular morality, while it operates on different principles from Catholic morality, is far harsher with those who transgress its principles, demanding mass shamings, public and groveling apologies, even personal ruin as its penances.)

And then, one day, it wasn’t satisfying. It was still good. But it ceased to be adequate to the dilemma I was facing, because its proponents didn’t seem ready to grapple honestly with its consequences. I wanted to, but I didn’t know how to move forward.

But this is not the attitude that I generally find in Catholic chastity culture. Here, external circumstances are always the Cross that God is calling you to bear. Internal weakness, on the other hand, is natural. Everybody stumbles. It’s a dirty little secret that almost nobody actually practices the teaching. It’s understood that [...] if you’re actually rigid enough to follow the teaching as you profess it, well, probably that would be harmful. But nobody actually does that. What people do instead is engage in a kind of psychodrama where you are tempted, you resist, you try to get away, but temptation slowly reels you in. It’s not quite your fault. It’s the feeling. The music. Your drink. The weather. Before you know it, almost against your will, there you are having sex like all the normal, badly catechized people. But at least you know enough to feel bad about it in the morning. Then you go to confession in the morning. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

This means that you can have a sex life … provided you’re not too hung up on giving clear consent. Because if you insist too much on explicit consent, sober consent, or worse, premeditated consent, this interrupts the entire drama. It shines too much light on its fundamental assumption that it is acceptable, indeed better, to lose control of yourself sexually than it is to rationally think about what will be good for you and discuss it clearly with your partner.

The moral revisionist (Christian or otherwise) will protest against Catholic principles on these grounds, while the traditionalist will protest instead against Mrs Selmys. I’m not prepared to do either, because I don’t understand.

On the one hand, I certainly see the revisionist’s point. It would be idle to deny that beliefs like those of Matthew Vines, Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber, or Justin Lee are appealing; but this does not make them either false or insincere (as I have insisted for years and shall continue to), and one of the strongest criticisms of Catholic teaching from that perspective is the anguish that our doctrine of chastity normally imposes on LGBT people. Is that anguish universal, or inevitable, or proof that the Catholic faith is wrong? No. But that’s cold comfort at best, and rank hypocrisy at worst, when offered by those who are exempt from such suffering to those who are subject to it continually. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he have faith, and hath not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

But for me, that horror isn’t enough to alter my beliefs, for the simple reason that the central symbol of my faith is my God being tortured to death. That, you see, is what a crucifix is. The God who makes these demands of us did not spare himself their costliness.

Which leads me to the orthodox Catholic perspective and its problems.4 The premises are straightforward enough: the thing that matters most, in life and after it, is being united with God, who literally is goodness, beauty, and meaning; anything that impedes union with God is accordingly something to renounce and avoid, whatever else it costs us; therefore, the visible and tangible costs of doing the right thing are rightly to be regarded as trivial.

Where it gets problematic is, one of the things the Church insists upon is that the visible and tangible cost of an action is actually important. Morally relevant, even: whatever we think of Just War Theory, one of the standard criteria for the justice of a war is that there should be a reasonable prospect of success—meaning that if there isn’t, even a war fought in defense of one’s country is not just (since it would be sacrificing lives to national pride rather than national well-being). And the thing about being somebody who needs to ask forgiveness seventy times seven times is, it’s not good for you, and it’s not good for the people around you. Sometimes a compromise really would be healthier; just as, in a logically parallel case, it is much healthier to insincerely renounce one’s faith rather than be killed for it. The Church admires and celebrates her martyrs. But she also admires and celebrates the Kakure Kirishitan, the underground Catholics of Japan, who were forced to practice insincere apostasy or else be exterminated; and who survived in secret, without a single priest, for two centuries of longing and faithfulness, until they were reunited with the whole Church under the Emperor Meiji.

And anyway, the objection to the life of reasoned compromise is that it can harden your heart against God. I don’t deny that. But does a life of incessant failure to live up to perfection always keep your heart soft to God? I’m seriously asking.

If we’re virtue ethicists, it seems as though the life of reluctant but considered, frank compromise seems to draw nearer to full integration—it at least encourages our sexual behavior to be ruled by the brain rather than the, uh, little head. If we’re baptized Kantians, the life of the second, intending chastity even while anticipating failure, appears preferable; never mind the question of whether it’s psychological possible to intend something that you have no reason to believe you can actually accomplish. (Can an underweight guy who doesn’t work out sincerely intend to lift three hundred pounds?) But then again, if we are meant to have faith that God can do the impossible in us, what does that look like, if it doesn’t look like attempting what seems impossible? How many times ought we to attempt what looks impossible before we accept that, for whatever reason, God does not seem to be granting this particular grace?5

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I wittered there to passersby, and that has made small difference.

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1To dispose in advance of one tasteless response to this remark, to the effect that what a person wants out of sex isn’t morally relevant: I see nothing wrong in a woman wanting certain things from her sex life, certainly not any more than a man wanting certain things from his sex life. There are other moral factors to consider than what we want out of sex; I even assent that what we simply want may be the least weighty factor; it doesn’t follow that it can be ignored, either in moral theology or in daily life. Moreover, it bears saying that I have a vague impression that such dismissiveness of desire is directed at married women more often than at men (in any state of life), which doesn’t square with St Paul’s teaching that a wife rightly has authority over the body of her husband—and seems a little sexist in differing ways towards both sexes, if that has anything to do with it.
2This is due to the, oh, mechanics of Confession (side note: I’ve found Catholic sacramental theology easiest to understand as being like the rules to an RPG; plenty of nerds will happily read six hundred pages of role-playing mechanics to make sure they aren’t confusing a warlock with a sorcerer). The formula of absolution is not magical; it is the concrete manifestation of God’s forgiveness of the penitent—which means that repentance, in the Greek μετάνοια (metanoia) or change of heart, which by its nature includes an intention to leave one’s sin behind, is required. This is not an arbitrary requirement, imposed by God as a way of making things more difficult for us: rather, the purpose of divine forgiveness is a restored union of life between the sinner and God, and the defining characteristic of sin is that it mangles that life; that life and that mangling cannot coëxist, not permanently anyway. Incidentally, this is also (probably) why our Lord commanded us to forgive up to seventy times seven times: because forgiveness, in a sense, operates of itself, and since we cannot read hearts we must always be ready to forgive, or else, when a sincerely penitent person asks us for forgiveness and we refuse it, it will be we rather than they who have broken the relationship.
3This again refers to mechanics. For a sin to be what theology calls mortal sin in technical terms, it must meet three requirements: grave matter (i.e., doing something serious in itself), full knowledge (i.e., understanding not only what the moral law says but why it says it, and being aware of other relevant facts), and full consent (i.e., deciding to do it anyway without being controlled by passions, addiction, forgetfulness, threats, or whatever else). If one or more of these conditions isn’t met, then the sin in question is what is called a venial sin: not that it doesn’t matter, but that it doesn’t kill the divine life placed within us through the sacraments.
4Problem here is not a synonym for inconsistency or falsehood or anything of that kind. A problem is to be solved; the proper response to inconsistencies and falsehoods is, rather, unmasking.
5We know, if only from the uniqueness of the Immaculate Conception, that God does not grant every grace to every person.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Confiteor in Leather

We build in vain unless the LORD build with us.
Can you keep the City that the LORD keeps not with you?
A thousand policemen directing the traffic
Cannot tell you why you come or where you go.
A colony of cavies or a horde of active marmots
Build better than they that build without the LORD.
Shall we lift up our feet among perpetual ruins?
I have loved the beauty of Thy House, the peace of Thy sanctuary,
I have swept the floors and garnished the altars.

T. S. Eliot, Choruses from ‘The Rock’

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It’s been a strange year—not unlike 2013, though less skull-crushingly awful (for me personally). I can’t tell whether my spiritual life is cyclical in an ascending-Mount-Purgatory sort of way, or whether I’m just in a rut. Probably the latter.

Diagram of Purgatory from Dorothy Sayers' introduction to the Purgatorio.

I’m entangled in a great many things that I should leave behind; most of them have to do with a leather bar here in Baltimore that I go to a lot.1 Now, before you flip your lid, gentle reader, allow me to assure you that Fifty Shades of Grey has as little to do with my life as it does with yours, and that in my (limited) experience, men and women in the leather world are some of the most sweet-natured people on earth. Kind of like people who work at Hot Topic. That’s a big part of why I am thus entangled: that bar is full of my friends. I like them, I like being with them, I feel lonely and bored when I'm away from them too long. And, like most millennials, they have to work so much to make ends meet that hanging out with them while they’re both off work and awake is a challenging, rare prospect.

There are less creditable motives, obviously. I like getting drunk; I like looking at men in leather, or out of it for that matter; I like fooling around with them. I have no desire to paint myself as some kind of compassionately conflicted saint—or rather, I have a great deal of desire to paint myself that way, but it wouldn’t be true, which is what matters.

Take that, pedestal.

All the same, as shabby a witness as I am (how credible, exactly, is a guy who will dance around in a jockstrap and a harness but won’t eat meat because it’s Friday?), I worry that there’s no other Christian presence in the lives of a lot of these guys; and that does matter to me. Messiah complex, probably. Foolishness, certainly: it’s neither my job nor my business to save anybody, and God is perfectly capable of reaching them without my assistance or my embarrassment. Is it better to be a scandal, or not be there at all?

Theologically that question is easy. Better not to be there. God can reach them as he pleases. Living in sin is destructive, by its nature; they are not (as far as I know) transgressing their consciences, whereas I am, and I should cut that shit right out. We know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal.

Yet I can’t get St Paul’s other strange words out of my head: I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. That can’t apply here—can it?

I loathe easy answers, and perhaps that’s the problem. I have a deep-seated mistrust of any answer that dissolves one of the parameters of a paradox; my whole life, I’ve found paradoxes to be built into the fabric of the universe at every level—scientific, social, theological, personal—and accordingly look for them everywhere.2 Maybe I’m more addicted to paradox than I am to truth? Or maybe I’m looking for the wrong kind of paradox here, more invested in a romantically dark conflict than in illumination and harmony. It wouldn’t exactly be the first time I made a bad decision.

Jesus embraced whores. He didn’t pay them, though. How do I become that person instead of this one?

Christ and the Samaritan Woman (St Photini)

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1It ain’t to hand out tracts.
2What confirmation bias?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Courtesy of Deep Heaven, Part VII: Decorum

A brother who had sinned was turned out of the church by the priest; Abba Bessarion got up and went with him, saying, ‘I, too, am a sinner.’

—The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, trans. Benedicta Ward

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me … Verily, when I preach the gospel, I make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

The First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, IX.xiii-xv, xviii

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After a long intermission, I’d like now to conclude my series on the Anglican patrimony, the specially English spirit that the Ordinariates bring into Catholicism. Finding the root of that patrimony in precision, and moving from there to magnanimity, irony, hierarchy, republic, and largesse, I turn to the final quality on my original list, what I have chosen to call decorum.

It was difficult to come up with a name for this quality (decorum is by no means a satisfying one), because it’s rarely exhibited and still more rarely spoken about in American culture, and I don’t know that it’s much more commonly discussed in British culture. Nevertheless its flavor is quite distinctive; its peculiar blend of humility and sensitivity and tact is, to my mind, a uniquely charming and obvious expression of mutual submission among Christians.

A vulgar way of putting it would be that decorum means never pulling rank; a marginally smarter, still vague way of putting it would be that decorum means taking no advantage of the powers you possess through hierarchy. But, because decorum (as I here use the term) is so unfamiliar, it may actually be easier to approach through a negation.

For many years, I’ve been bothered by the use of the Filioque in the Creed1 at Mass. Now, to be clear, I confess and indeed insist quite fervently on it, from a doctrinal point of view—I don’t see how anyone could admit that the Son is the image of the invisible God and the express image of his person without admitting the Filioque too; and it seems like the most natural way to interpret our Lord’s saying that As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. But the manner in which the Filioque was made binding upon the Church is, I believe, deeply objectionable; the high courtesy of the Church should have forbidden it. Let me explain.

The Nicene Creed, as the name implies, originated at the First Council of Nicæa in 325, and was altered slightly at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, to give a more explicit confession of the deity of the Holy Ghost. It was further agreed, at the Council of Ephesus fifty years later, that it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa. This could be read simply as a proscription of heresy, but it was taken back then, and for some centuries afterwards, to include a ban on any and all rewording of the Creed as it had been inherited from Constantinople; or, at minimum, that additions to the Creed had to be approved by the whole Church, gathered in council.

The reason the Filioque was put into the Creed at all was to strengthen the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity against Arian and Semi-Arian theologies,2 which remained popular among many of the Christianized Goths who ruled formerly Roman territories like Gaul, Spain, and much of the Balkans. Its earliest attestation in the Creed probably belongs to the Council of Toledo in 589, and was likely aimed at the Visigothic ruling classes of Spain, who long remained Arian. The Popes refused the interpolation, not doctrinally but liturgically, for centuries: in 810, Leo III, who pointedly declined to be pressured even by Charlemagne, had the Creed inscribed in its traditional wording in both Greek and Latin on silver plates and posted publicly in Rome. It wasn’t until the eleventh century that the Bishops of Rome finally introduced the Filioque into their recitation and chanting of the Creed.

Now, I am a fervent believer in the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy: when Protestantism had become intellectually and spiritually untenable for me, I considered Eastern Orthodoxy for a time, but ultimately I went to Rome, not despite but because of her understanding of the Petrine office. The Orthodox appeal to councils, lacking a defined reference point for which councils are to be considered authentic, was finally unsatisfying to me. Both the inner logic of epistemic authority and the actual words of Christ to Peter seemed to me to demand a single locus of authority and unity. So I do believe the Popes had the power to insert the Filioque without summoning an ecumenical council.

However. That doesn’t make pulling rank attractive behavior, and authority in Scripture pretty much always means authority to serve and to suffer for others, authority to wash the feet of the rest; God did not exempt himself from that model of leadership. It was a breach of courtesy of the first order that the Popes added the Filioque without resorting to a council; and courtesy, reciprocal submission, taking no advantage of one’s powers, is the spirit of decorum. Decorum would not deprive its fellows even of their ego, if it could help it; to cause pain or offense to another, even for a good and necessary reason, is dismaying to the decorous mind (though, if the mind is committed to precision as well, it’s still ready to do dismaying things when it has to).

For our powers (whatever they are) were not given to us for our own benefit. They were given to us for the practice of largesse, exchange, mutual self-gift. That’s why we’re annoyed when people pull rank in whatever way—not because they’re transgressing their rights (or if they are, what they’re doing is bullying, not pulling rank), but because they’re transgressing the delicate, usually unspoken code of respect that is a narrower and lovelier thing than simple justice. It’s offensive for the same reason honesty without tact is offensive.

And what makes this quality specially English, you may ask? Well, by way of illustration, look at the royal family: legally, the Queen of England has a quite fantastic amount of legal power, of which she makes no use whatever. And why? because there would be a revolution? because no one would listen? because she lacks confidence? No; I tell you with full confidence, she doesn't exercise her power because she is an Englishwoman.

Decorum thus embraces and perfects the other qualities of the Anglican patrimony I’ve addressed: the precision which adheres only to the truth; the magnanimity and largesse that delight in giving; the hierarchical and republican sensibilities that delight in respecting; and the irony that delights in the contrast between all these ideals and the actualities of humanity, yet laughs with affection rather than scorn. All these paradoxical brilliances are caught, dimmed, and harmonized in the stained glass of the decorous mind.

Nativity window, Chester Cathedral, England

Ere by the spheares time was created, thou
Wast in his minde, who is thy Sonne, and Brother;
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceiv’d; yea thou art now
Thy Makers maker, and thy Fathers mother;
Thou’hast light in darke; and shutst in little roome,
Immensity cloystered in thy deare wombe.

—John Donne, Annunciation ll. 9-14

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1The Latin word Filioque literally means ‘and from the Son,’ and refers to the Catholic doctrine that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son as well as the Father, in distinction from the Orthodox assertion that He proceeds only from the Father. This was at first a contrast between Latin and Greek styles of theology, eventually becoming a quarrel, and finally one of the principal reasons (or pretexts) for the Great Schism, which arose in 1054 between the Patriarch Michael Cærularius and Pope Leo IX—or, more exactly, his successor Victor II. The papal excommunication of the Patriarch was delivered after Leo’s death, and was thus canonically invalid (since the cardinal who delivered it was there as a legate of Leo IX, not in his own right), whereas the Patriarch’s responding excommunication of the Pope and removal of his name from the communion diptychs (intrinsically dubious though these actions were, since there was little precedent for Constantinople to judge Rome and plenty of precedent for Rome’s claims of universal jurisdiction) would therefore have applied to Victor II, who acceded the next year.
2Arianism was the doctrine that the Son was not God, properly speaking, but the highest created being and the one through whom God the Father made everything else. Semi-Arianism was a version of this theology which stressed the resemblance between the Son and the Father, an attempt at compromising with the theological accent of the orthodox party without actually surrendering Arian belief. Although condemned at both Nicæa and Constantinople in the fourth century, Arianism long flourished in many parts of the Roman Empire, and was brought by Arian missionaries to the Germanic peoples of northern Europe, among whom it throve for centuries; it was only effectively stamped out in the seventh century.