Saturday, May 29, 2010

Let us let the cat out of the bag ...

Wish it had been true, but I remembered wrong. Meaning, that although nearly right in intent - I had some misgiving - I was objectively wrong. Read it if you like, skip it if you like.

... Monthy Python has not been mocking the Divinity of Our Lord nor the Divine Motherhood of Our Lady, if I am right, but been irreverent about some stances of Latin Mass Society, by stating:

Holy Mass in Latin is the "Life of Bryan" Houghton.


If in a non-believer direct blasphemy is usually there to wound believers, and as such an act of hatred, there are circumstances when trying to shock is an act of caution from a shy inquirer, from someone trying to find an intelligent answer, but also testing whether the answerer has intelligence enough to see through the shock value.

If I guessed right, Monty Python members were surprised to hear certain things from Fr. Bryan Houghton, and wanted to know if we really mean them. So they restated them allegorically. That does not mean Life of Bryan is a perfect allegory of our stance as such, but that it is mainly an allegory of our stance, but interspersed with some cheeky comments of the usual anti-Catholic prejudice shared by shallow protestants and non-believers in England these days.

Now, there are some clues to Catholic doctrine here.

1) "Brian Cohen" lives a life parallel to that of Our Lord. And one which in achievement differs by scenes of distinguished ridicule.

Does that ring a bell to any Theologian?

1b) Is Cohen really a family name? In a way, yes it is: but it is a family name of people whose ancestors bore a similar sounding Hebrew title that the Vulgate Bible translates as Sacerdos.

Does that ring this bell to any Theologian?

Bryan Houghton, as much as Xavier de Beauvais or Gérard Calvet are in the eyes of the Church "sacerdotes". To us "kohanim" means primarily the Aaronite priesthood, but these men are with Christ priests according to the priesthood of Melchisedec - and it is easy to see that anyone familiar with a Jew could get a tip as "that is Cohen in Hebrew".

And to the Catholic Church the definition of Sacerdos - rendered "Cohen" here - is Alter Christus. And any of these men will agree that the human persons bearing that dignity do so "by no merit of their own" and in a way that sometimes simply parodies the original.

1c) A priest has three mothers: his own human mother, The Blessed Virgin Mary, and Holy Mother Church. If he is not a bishop himself, he is part of Ecclesia Docta, the Church-being-taught and as such under the Ecclesia Docens, the Church-in-mode-of-Teaching.

One of these priests had in effect been saying that Holy Mother Church as seen on earth during the Liturgic and Pastoral reform of the Seventies was disfigured severely. He truly thought modernist bishops a disfigurement, and he truly thought them a real part of Holy Mother Church, as long as Rome did not condemn them. You can look it up in Unwanted Priest (French translation: Prêtre rejeté): he did not side with Mgr Lefèbvre in 1988. His first name was Bryan. His last name was Houghton. Brian is very transparent for Bryan, Cohen is not at all for Houghton, but for his dignity of priesthood. And the "mother of Brian Cohen" is neither Bryan Houghtons earthly mother, nor Our Lady, but "Holy Mother Church" as seen on earth in the persons of modernist bishops - according to that double assessment Bryan Houghton made of them, he refused both the Sedisvacantist rejection of them and the modernist enthusiasm for their reforms, which he detested (read that chapter called L'Église du bavardage in the French translation). Monty Python's way of portraying "Brian Cohen's mother" is like a way of asking: "are you really serious about that"?

2) The Three Magi came to adore Our Lord, not just one of his Catholic priests. That is why we turn both priest and assistants to the east, to Altar and Tabernacle during Holy Mass. They brought gold frankincense and myrrh, that is why we use precious materials during Mass.

First scene is irreverend against the Magi by saying they had been tempted by a Missa versus Populum.

Then comes in Monty Python's irreverence, and the modernist bishops are (in a way not excluding traditional ones) put to task for non-poverty of Church, the modernist bishops especially for trying to preserve Church goers and tithe payers by modernising. But Monty Python does not, alas, refrain from being cheeky to Holy Mother Church as of pre-Vatican-II either, I am afraid.

Hence, "Brian Cohen's mother" has "her" moment of greed.

3) Fr. Bryan Houghton was really put to task for defending traditional Liturgy - by bishops, maybe too. He also tried to make a peace agreement between priests celebrating Mass of St Pius V and those who celebrate Mass of Paul VI: read the chapter about "La paix de Mgr Forester" either in his novel or in the extracts relating to his own life.

So, Brian Cohen tells people to be nice to each other, and was put to task by "his mother" symbolising the reaction of "Holy Mother Church" (the bishops Fr. Bryan Houghton obeyed).

"Do you think you are the Messiah or something?!" is a reaction not far from typical in certain communities to anyone doing a Christian thing in a measure out of the ordinary, humdrum and usual (according to their standards). Since Catholic bishops started being ecumenical with these communities, some Catholics may well have reacted like that to Fr. Houghton, and that might have included his ecclesiastical superiors.

Sadly, I do not exclude that Monty Python also there said about what they thought Our Lord was doing: but that does not seem to be the red thread of the film.

3b) Fr. Bryan Houghton was in opposition to Rome, as far as its directives were perceived. He gallantly said, the fault is not with rome, it is the episcopal conferences who disfigure the Roman directives as actually given. He also was therein kinder to Rome than Mgr Lefèbvre in their respective assessments of "Rome".

Hence the scene "What have the Romans ever done for us" among the zealots, where Brian Cohen is the one enumerating the most benefits.

3c) Fr. Bryan Houghton more or less co-founded the Latin Mass Society which was basically saying no to the new directives from Rome. But he obeyed the strict minima of Roman legislation, by renouncing his parish to celebrate the Mass according to Received Liturgy.

Hence: Romani ite domum, originally with a solœcism, hence also the fact that Biggus Diccus gives a lecture in Latin and Brian Coehn improves his Latin by taking the lecture.

4) Fr. Bryan Houghton saw the farewell to his parish as a cross to bear. Of course he looked on the bright side of it, more time for piety, but he was also in a way humbled, and it may have been a cross for him at times.

But if so: that - he would have said - is precisely what the Christian life is about. You see, Christ did not die on the Cross to spare us from suffering all along our earthly pilgrimage, but so that we may follow Him and take our small humble crosses on our poor little shoulders.

Unlike Mgr Lefèbvre, Bryan Houghton was not "thrown to the lions" of public opposition and mediatic calumny, but if asked, he may very well have replied that that is a kind of crucifixion too.

Hence the scene in which Brian Cohen is not thrown to the lions, but gets crucifixion: meaning gets a cross to bear, as we Christians often do.

5) In the sacrifice of the Mass (the one Fr. Bryan offered in both Bury St Edmunds and Viviers), Christ is truly present as both priest and victim, but he dieth no more, since he is truly risen.

He is there to draw us to him and make us like him.
Which does not mean we all have to die on a cross to be saved.

Hence the last scene, where there are a row of crosses and crucifieds (meaning us Christians), but no one is actually dying, all are rather living quite comfortably, they even sing (which we Christians do in Holy Mass).

5b) Eloi, Eloi, lema sabactani was not a cry of pure despair, but a quote or reference to a Psalm which continues very hopefully, meaning that Christ on the cross did not consider his sufferings apart from the good they do for us from then on, unto this very day.

If we Christians are supposed to "always look on the bright side of life" and consider that "every cloud has a silver lining" we are only following in the steps of one who did just that when very exasperated after real mockery. One who did not consider his mockers as such externally worth more attention than rowdy cattle, but who consoled his mother and his disciple by referring to a Psalm.

Hence the song the "crucifieds" (i e Christians) are singing. The chorus begins with Always look at the bright side of life, and one of the verses includes the consolation that every cloud has a silver lining - a saying as familiar to us as Eloi, Eloi, lema sabactani was to Our Lady and to St John, and maybe too the secret conscience of Our Lord's mockers.

Which is why I find Life of Brian less objectionable than Éliette Abécassis' novel Qumrân.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Bibliothèque Universitaire
Paris XII/Créteil
29/V/2010

5 comments:

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Unfortunately the lyrics are a bit of their atheist confession too - fittingly enough one of the bad doctrines the same Fr. Bryan Houghton was fighting against.

So, if you like to know the answers to those idiotic lines, which I had forgotten when laughing those three days in 2007, and when writing this essay above, do not forget to read: Unwanted Priest a k a Prêtre rejeté by Father Bryan Houghton.

PS: I am not sure he was a better and more faithful priest than Mgr Lefèbvre, I am only sure he was more overtly friendly to contemporary Rome. Whether it was good or bad, time will maybe show ...

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Shows some films are better remembered at long distance than actually seen.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

But if some people insist on preaching atheism aggressively, let them consider this first.

It is from G K Chesterton

... sigh ...

I had hoped to show that the Holy Grail of "Spamalot" (which I have not seen) was about esoteric things like Masons, Priory of Zion, Templars ... sects which, not having a grip on the populace indeed spam a lot.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Oh, just to clarify one thing, Fr. Bryan houghton, even if he was targetted by this film, certainly never saw it. He was one of those people who thought a priest should not read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch TV, so obviously he did not see the film.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Houghton, of course.