Page 16, 24th October 2008

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Page 16, 24th October 2008 — The last archbishop?

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The last archbishop?

Keywords: Religion / Belief

Stuart Reid Charterhouse

Bits and pieces this week, even some frivolity, because I am in training for next week, when I hope to advise the good folks of America how to vote (or not to vote) in what is being billed as the most important presidential election in the history of the world.

So: last Thursday I attended a delightful party at The Cardinal public house in Westminster for the launch of Reginald Cardinal Pole by Michael Hutchings. I left before chucking-out time, but I have it on reliable authority that the evening ended in an orderly fashion.

Flutchings's life of the great English churchman is published by The Saint Joan Press, and the lovely illustrations are by Madeleine Beard, I have not read it yet, but the most immediately striking things about the book is its subtitle: "The Last Archbishop of Canterbury-.

To ecumenical ears that may sound a bit aggressive — what my youngest boy would call "harsh" — but the sad fact is that there has not been an Archbishop of Canterbury since Pole died in 1558. Matthew Parker, who succeeded him, was consecrated bishop using the Edwardine ordinal, which the Church did not and does not recognise.

Even so, Dr Rowan Williams should be accorded his title as a courtesy. He is by law the Archbishop of Canterbury. and he is a good man — tentative, tortured. diligent, and often agonisingly wrong. He leads a Church that is heretical, but is all the same a channel of grace, and provides this nation with an established Christian religion.

Was it not Newman who said that the Church of England was a bulwark against errors greater than its own? (I ask because Google refuses to answer...) The truth of Michael Hutchings's subtitle remains vitally important, however. If the Church of Rome is not the one true Church, it is nothing (and worse than nothing). Catholicism is not a lifestyle choice, and Catholics have a duty in charity to pray for the conversion of their separated brethren and their friends who are atheists and agnostics.

Fittingly, Mr Hutchings's book ends with a set of prayers for the conversion of England.

My friend Harry Mount, a distinguished contributor to this newspaper and an acclaimed classical scholar, last week introduced me to a new Americanism, new to me anyway: "stand-up guy". It has nothing to do with comedy. It means reliable fellow — someone who will stand up and be counted — and 1 like it a lot. Pope Benedict XVI is a stand-up kind of guy.

Harry is very fond of "swell", too. So am I. It has a nice F Scott Fitzgerald feel to it, with just a hint of P G Wodehouse, and I think we should be amused by its presumption. It was often used by the late William F Buckley Jr, Catholic. conservative, controversialist, and himself a swell guy.

When it comes to Americanisms, you can make as much a fool of yourself by refusing to use them at all as by using them too often. You should be safe if you use them with irony — though not, if possible, with heavy irony.

The late Frank Johnson once pointed out that every time a new word or phrase crossed the Atlantic, the Times letters page would carry howls of contrived protest. "In what field, of medicine, pray. does a 'spin doctor' toil?", and so on.

Newspaper style books used to ban Americanisms, but they can't very well do that these days because corporate American is the only language most of their target readers understand.

But people can get a bit too het up about Americanisms. An immensely distinguished Catholic journalist of my acquaintance, for example, once asked an immensely gifted Catholic writer, also of my acquaintance. how she was, and she replied: "Good, thanks."

The MCI gently chided her. The word "good", he said, suggested virtue, and he had been asking after her physical well-being, not the state of her soul. What she meant surely was "well".

"Sure," said the "feisty" young writer. "Whatever. I am well good."

Perhaps I am making that last bit up, because the woman I speak of was in awe of the 1DCJ — as we all were, and are — but I do think &would be useful if we were to chill about the misuse, or new use, of "good".

Michael Clayton, one of the few films I have enjoyed in recent years, has a wonderful scene in which two very creepy hit men break into the flat of a troublesome lawyer they have taken a contract on and inject him with poison.

A couple of minutes later, one of the baddies feels the lawyer's pulse, to make sure he is dead. He is. "We're good," he says to his companion. That's what I call good writing.

/went to see Unrelated at the weekend, on the recommendation of just about every critic in the land. The experience was like visiting the dentist, but without the elements of surprise, excitement and uplift you associate with, for example, root canal work.

No doubt Joanna Hogg, the director, would say that it was her purpose to make us uncomfortable, but you can feel uncomfortable sitting on the Northern Line, and if you are as old as I am you can do it for nothing.

Ms Hogg caught the emptiness and banality of privileged English holidaymakers very well, but to what end? There were no laughs, no insights. You just sat there in misery and embarrassment. If you ask me, misery and embarrassment are best left to the French and the Italians.

I can't say I wasn't warned. A young friend of mine went to the film a fortnight ago (after I told her I'd heard it was good). She is pretty hip. and certainly not one to mind a few helpings of misery and embarrassment (or even "occasional nudity and bad language").

Here is her verdict, as sent to me in a text: "God. Just saw Unrelated. Excruciating. Needed it like a hole in the head."

Was there nothing good about it? Well, I was quite impressed by an old geezer who plays the piano and by the note of false hope at the end. but there is a limit to the amount of smug satisfaction you can take from the false hope of others, isn't there?

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