I've been away this week and largely out of touch with the news. When I went away there were attempts to smear Pope Benedict over abuse cases in Germany. I return to hear attempts to blacken him over a priest in America. I read Archbishop Nichols's piece in The Times which is a decent and vigorous defence of the holy father but was subsequently shocked at hearing Bishop Conry of Arundel and Brighton describe the Vatican as "paranoid" in an interview on the 6pm news on Radio 4. It appears that criticisms about this bishop are not unfounded. On a previous occasion I interpreted a statement of his as an example of foot in mouth syndrome- we can all make mistakes and utter the wrong words when under pressure. Now, however, it really does appear that he is either bad or barmy. I am appalled that a bishop should show such open disloyalty to the holy father and I feel sorry for the Catholics of Arundel and Brighton. In the context of the abuse of young people the text about it being better that he scandalising "little ones" be cast into the depths with a millstone about his neck is frequently aired. It seems as if this bishop is no less a cause of scandal. With such friends what need the Pope or the Church of enemies?
I recall, from the days of my youth, the hymn "Hail Glorious Saint Patrick" sung to the tune "Clonmacnoise" arranged by RR Terry. It was number 136 in the old Westminster Hymnal and a thing of rare beauty. Alas - in my opinion - the organist was prevailed upon to substitute the more frequently heard alternative tune "because" the parish priest said, "it is the one all the Irish know". Am I the only one, I wonder, who finds the favoured tune with its repetitions of "Erin's green valleys" somewhat mawkish? I have tried to find a recording of the Terry tune but without success. Perhaps someone in the blogosphere can help?
The other day I was approached by a young man outside Westminster Cathedral. He was carrying "The Big Issue" magazine and had he not called out to me I'd have been off like a shot. He asked if I could spare some change so he could get something to eat. I was so relieved at not being asked to buy the wretched magazine that I dug deep into my pocket and found some money for him. I have to admit that although I have never read that magazine it always gives me the creeps when I see people selling it. I wonder why?
I was rather pleased at hearing that there would be a programme about the sacred music of Anton Bruckner on BBC 4 this evening. I had no idea who the presenter, Simon Russell Beale, was and I was not particularly interested in the other composer being covered, namely Johannes Brahms, but one can't expect everything. Indeed, with that presenter, I found there is not much point in expecting anything. We heard repeatedly that Brahms's "Requiem" was "very personal" and that Bruckner's music was inspired by his Catholic faith- again repeatedly. What those assertions actually meant in practice we were left guessing. In fact I got the distinct impression that Mr Beale knew next to nothing about music or, indeed , about religion. Why the BBc doesn't have someone half decent fronting these programmes I cannot imagine.
To anyone unfamiliar with Bruckner I say get a load of this!
We learn from The New Liturgical Movement that Pope Benedict is to consecrate the Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona on 7th November. While there, last September, I was able to enjoy the view seen here from my hotel window. It is an extraordinary building- unique and original. Antoni Gaudi, the architect, spent the last years of his life entirely devoted to the project. He lived on site, dying in 1926 after having been knocked down in a street accident on his way, as was his custom, to daily mass. In spite of interuptions, the church has been under construction since 1882 and now appears largely complete- although there was still lots of scaffolding to be seen when I was there. There was much that I found attractive about the building. Gaudi's is a far from facile modernist style being rooted in a peculiar appreciation of medieval architecture. An interesting feature of the crypt was the presence of many of the architect's experimental models (see below). A word of advice to the holy father: watch your wallet in Barcelona!