Lanty McHale’s perceptive dog

When the world was very young, Malcolm was a simple innocent. Even then he thought there was something peculiar about the doings at the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham.

Now, don’t get Malcolm wrong. He’s no great believer: weddings, funerals and the occasional ordination are stretching his limits. He visits religious buildings (of all faith and none) as assiduously as he then drifts into the nearest pub to recover. It’s entirely for the architecture, artwork and history, y’know. Worship, as far as he is concerned, should be ritualistic and theatrical. West End production values involve the language of the 1662 prayerbook terminated by a thundering, all stops out, Bach or Buxtehude voluntary. Am Dram hell is the touchy-feely, make-it-up-as-we-go-along, evangelical stuff, with non-optional dancing and hand-waving.

In short, Malcolm has his limits. He never recovered from mass at Chartres being celebrated by a guy with a guitar. Similarly, even in the simplicity of pre-adolescence, the Walsingham smells-and-bells, with acolytes in lace surplices, prancing round holding aloft a ceremonial umbrella (as Malcolm distantly recalls, this was termed a “baldachino”) seemed a trifle OTT. There also seemed to be an unwonted amount of embracing and bodily contact.

When, a few years on him, he remembered that the cats around the place were named Faggot and Dyke, he got the message.

Religious dissent

Once upon an age long ago one lot of Christians incinerated the other lot, depending on the relative local take on”consubstantiation” versus “transubstantiation”. Bewildering as that now seems, it is as nothing compared to the present alignments. At one end of the Anglican “communion” (as if they could share anything!) are the misogynists, convinced that no woman might touch the sacred chalice. At the other are the homophobes, equally intent on enforcing Leviticus 18:22. Both conceive they are on the wrong end of some “liberal” persecution and conspiracy.

Pipped by the papacy

All but the most unworldly pontiffs have been political: the recent run has merely advanced the art to new levels of professionalism. Into the froth of rampant Anglican paranoia gently drops Joseph Alois Ratzinger. He pacifically murmurs, from St Matthew:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

And off the disaffected scurry, not bothering to read the small print. Apparently, too, making sure to trouser the goodies accumulated over recent centuries from the gifts of the faithful.

So, Malcolm, how does this relate to Lanty McHale and his hound?

It so happens that Malcolm was leafing through James Joyce’s Stephen Hero, and came across:

“Put this in your diary”, he said to transcriptive Maurice. “Protestant orthodoxy is like Lanty McHale’s dog: it goes a bit of the road with everyone.”

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Filed under History, Homophobia, Norfolk, Religious division

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