Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Listing Barque

Poor old bishop Kieran Conry has just made a bit of a twit of himself (see almost every Catholic blog - eg Holy Smoke, Hermeneutic of Continuity).

He has fallen victim to what I call the listing barque syndrome.

Some years ago (1950s) it seemed that the barque of Peter (aka The Catholic Church) was leaning a little too far to the right. The Second Vatican Council suggested a few minor and moderate changes to stabilise the ship, but the main message was steady as you are. However, a few of the watch leaders over-reacted and rushed to the left, calling everybody to follow them. The crew, being largely obedient types, followed suit, with the inevitable result that the boat lurched to the left.

Some observant souls noticed this, and rushed to the right to counter the list; unfortunately, some went too far and fell off altogether (eg into sedevacantism). Seeing this, the watch leaders leaned further to the left, not noticing the thousands of souls behind them falling off to the left.

And every time anyone suggests that there is a problem, they say 'Look, we can't go back to the right, look what happens!' pointing at the unfortunate few who fall off the barque that side.

And thousands continue to fall off behind them on the left.

And bishop Conry is still telling us that regular confession is a bad thing because (conceivably) in the 1950s some people went out of habit... And of course adherence to the traditional Mass is very dangerous; whereas altar girls, innumerable extraordinary minsters, liturgical dance and so on are necessary correctives to the dangerous tilt to the right (which may have been almost discernible more than 50 years ago!).

I used to think that we needed to await the next generation of bishops for this silliness to pass- and by and large I think that's true. But the bishop of Lancaster has proved me wrong, at least in one case: most recently by his brave and necessary decision to sever links with (soi-disant) Catholic Caring Services, as despite all his efforts they are determined to follow an anti-Catholic path.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Family Jazz

Another entertainment is the family jazz band. With all the kids at varying degrees of competence on first or second instruments we can now line up with various combinations of flute, trombone, piano, cello, drums, electric violin and clarinet. At present they are working on You’ve Got a Friend in Me (from Toy Story) and are planning to do the Bare Necessities, the Pink Panther theme and one or two others over the Christmas Break.

I’m also teaching them to sing a carol or two in four part harmony (I take the bass, Ant the tenor, Bernie the Alto, and Charlie and Dominique sing the treble line.

Games and log fires

As the evenings are drawing in, we are spending more time by the fireside. Having no TV we have to make our own entertainment. At the moment, card games are very popular: our favourites are knockout whist and cheat. Cluedo is also popular, and once the kids are off school we’ll probably be playing more board games, especially Monopoly.

18th Birthday

It was Ant’s 18th Birthday the other day, and we were fortunate enough to get snowed in, so the kids couldn’t go to school. So they spent the morning building an igloo in the garden. It was most impressive: large enough to go inside, and it lasted for days. Grandma was giving Ant an iPod, so Bernie had spent the last few weeks collecting music form our cds and from itunes so that it was loaded with lots of stuff Ant would enjoy. It was a huge success. We bought her a day’s paragliding instruction, which she was hugely excited by (though she has yet to do it). As usual, all the kids had made her cards, and Anna did a wonderful cake.


Ant learned the other day that she is not to be invited to Oxford for an interview. This is naturally very disappointing and she was upset. However, she is always one to look on the positive side of things, and seems to be handling the disappointment very well: she’s decided that if she’s suffering it must be because it is good for her a this stage...

Carol Singing

At the weekend we had our annual carol singing expedition with a few other counter cultural families we know. We went round the streets singing rousingly all the familiar and traditional carols, with lanterns on sticks and kids wrapped up against the cold. People respond very positively and generously: we always collect for the local hospice.

Afterwards we have mulled wine and mince pies and a visit from St Nicholas for the kids...

This always makes it feel as though Christmas is nearly upon us, and is one of the highlights of the kids' year.


We always make a point of celebrating Advent as distinct from Christmas. So we won’t be putting up a tree or any decorations till Christmas Eve. In the meantime, we have a Jesse tree, an advent wreath and (re-used) advent calendars for the kids.

So at prayer time each evening, we have a reading about a character from the Old Testament, and his (or her) emblem is hung on the Jesse tree while we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel. We follow that with the collect from the appropriate Sunday Mass (Extraordinary Form: wonderful prayers) and our usual prayers around the wreath. then the kids open the window in their advent calendar.

Anna's Birthday

It was Anna’s birthday recently so at breakfast the table was awash with the cards the kids had made, as well as a few small presents they’d made and bought. I took the day off and we went for a long walk stopping for a pub lunch half way. Much as we love our children, it is important to have some time just for the two of us occasionally, and we’ve developed a tradition of doing this on her birthday, mine and our wedding anniversary.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A Busy Weekend

Lots going on this weekend, but still managed to fit in a few good walks - very cold, very windy but all wrapped up well, so enjoying the freshness. Also sang a Requiem Mass this morning (November being the traditional month to pray for the dead) - the kids are getting to know the Requiem chants very well now, and really enjoyed it.

Ant's 18th birthday coming up, so lots of things to do for that - but as she sometimes looks at this blog, I'd better not say too much about that...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Wrong Answer...

Elizabeth Buggins got it wrong. Despite the fact that her committee had examined 400 pages of evidence and considered experience from across the world, thair recommendation - that consent for organ donation should be explicit, not presumed - was not the answer that the Prime Minister wanted.

Ms Buggins said: "We found from recipient families and donor families that the concept of gift was very important to them and presumed consent would undermine that concept.
"We also found that it has the potential to erode trust in doctors, and we know that is very important to the levels of donation."

Instead, Ms Buggins said a rise in organ donations was more likely to be achieved by increasing in the number of donor coordinators who work with bereaved families, and the number of specialists who retrieve organs, and by launching public information campaigns.

However the Prime Minister is already preparing to ignore this advice and press on with what he has clearly decided is the right answer, despite the committee’s thorough investigation. He said: “"I'm not ruling out a further change in the law.”

Ms Buggins further added: "There is lots of fear out there that organs are taken from patients before they are dead - that is absolutely not true."

Here she is both right and wrong: there is such fear - and it is well-merited. The fact that a new definition of death has been created to allow the removal of organs from living people does not disguise (or excuse) that reality.

To their shame, Patient Concern on their campaign site, say “We also believe that giving general anaesthetic should be mandatory before organs are removed from donors who are still breathing.” I would prefer for them to campaign for no removal of vital organs prior to death - but that would bring large parts of the transplant industry to a complete standstill, as only organs from living donors are any good to them in many cases (see my previous posts on this).


Saturday, 15 November 2008

Those kids...

This afternoon Ant took the other kids down to the local river, and set up an abseil off the bridge for them. She went first, then realised getting back up was a problem: dangling over the river too far from the shore. I think Bernie lowered a second rope and helped heave her up. After that they sorted a system that worked and all four of them took turns descending as quickly as they dared to just above the water and then being hoiked up by their siblings. And to think, they could have been safely at home watching TV...

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Parents' Evening

Yesterday was Bernie’s parents’ evening at school. She was interested in what grades her teachers are predicting for her forthcoming GCSEs (not least because Ant got 10 A*s and 1 A - a good result, but one which, in theory at least, Bernie could beat).

What I found interesting was the different way Bernie, Anna and I interpreted what we heard. Bernie thought that they were all predicting her A*s except French (And I’ll get an A* in that too!) I thought we could reasonably expect a mix of As and A*s. Anna thought they were predicting mainly Bs.

How do we account for this? It seems to me, on reflection, that nearly every teacher said that if she carries on at the current level, she should get an A. If she lets things slide a bit, it will be a B; and if she works really hard, she could manage an A*.

And yet how differently we all heard it.

Anna and I talked about this, and are keen to support Bernie in her attempt to beat Ant - as long as she’s not too down-hearted if she doesn’t.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Death Sentence on top Liverpool Footballer!

See Fr Finigan's blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity for details:

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Original Jeeves...

I learned from yesterday's Times that P G Wodehouse named the immortal Jeeves after Private Percy Jeeves, who died in the Somme on July 22, 1916. Before the war, he played cricket for Warwickshire as a fast-medium bowler, and was much admired by Wodehouse.

It astonishes me that this is only the second mention of Wodehouse on this blog - must do better!

Monday, 10 November 2008

A rainy bonfire

We'd decided to have a bonfire last night - I'd been away for Guy Fawkes, and some of the kids had been out on Saturday night. But by Sunday, the rain was teeming down.

However, nothing daunted, we got a fire going (I had some dry kindling) and after some time (the kids standing round it, their hats and coats dripping, singing songs from the shows to keep their spirits up) we got a real blaze going - and the rain gave up.

It was a memorable and fun evening. Everyone else round here thinks we're mad...

Chant Workshops

I have learned of two chant workshops next weekend, one at Farnborough Abbey, 10.00 - 16.30 (£15) Music: Mass iv and propers for the feast of St Nicholas. Includes hearing Monks chanting Sext, None and Vespers liturgically. Contact:

The other at Lancaster Cathedral, 14.00 - 17.00 (free - tactical error if you ask me!) Music: Requiem Mass (to be sung at the Cathedral on Sunday 23rd @ 12.15) Contact:

The resurgence of chant, in its proper liturgical context, is one of the unsung (ha ha) triumphs of the counter culture really taking hold.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Bullying is OK now....

The BBC reports that the brains of bullies are hard-wired to enjoy the infliction of pain on others.

As this is a trait they may be born with, presumably bullying is OK now (or at least, that's the argument used by the homosexual lobby).

Another way to account for this is the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin: we are inherently damaged due to a primeval catastrophe involving our first parents turning their backs, willfully, on God's grace. Makes more sense to me,

Monday, 3 November 2008

All Saints' Day

For All Saints, the kids made cup cakes, each decorated in icing with the symbol of a different saint: crossed keys for St Peter, a boat radiant with fire for St Elmo, and so on. In the evening we sang the Litany of the Saints from the Liber Usualis, adding in our own patrons (where these weren't already included in the Litany. This was by candlelight, with every candlestick in the house in use, and images or statues of all our patron saints on display.

We always try to make something of All Saints Day, not least to counter-balance the secular idiocy of Halloween.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Poisonous tolerance

If you want to understand how our society and particularly our schools, have been largely robbed of the ability to transmit any sense of order, meaning and respect to the young, you need to look at the work of Carl Rogers and his like. These are the psychologists who brought non-directive (later called client-centred) therapy into the school system. So disastrous were their theories that they practically destroyed a large teaching order of nuns, and resulted in the closure of schools.

But the ideas are very seductive., and have been imported wholesale into our thinking about education, particularly in areas such as drug awareness, and sex ed. I got excited when reading Rogers’ Freedom to Learn: it seemed so humane and tolerant. But it is actually a poisonous tolerance that robs children of their ability to benefit from the knowledge, experience and accumulated wisdom of civilised society (and particularly, the Church). I discovered, thanks to The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog (link in sidebar) an interview with Wiliam Coulson, who worked with Rogers as his right-hand man for many years. This reveals how the approach works in practice and is fascinating, if tragic reading.
You will find the article at

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Half term

This week is half term and the kids have been having a great time. Charlie and Dominique have been on a retreat on Lindisfarne for a few days (their first) and enjoyed it immensely. Meanwhile, Ant and Bernie, along with Anna and I, went to visit another countercultural family we know who live in the Lake District. We walked up Blencathra which was stunning, with a dusting of snow on top, and fantastic views of the Lake District under a crisp blue sky.

Now we are all back together, Ant led the kids on an expedition today: I dropped them off a few miles away, they climbed a local hill, set up camp (including a tent for wind protection!) and cooked lunch - only slightly impeded by having left the can opener behind (they used a tent peg). Then they walked home with all the kit on their backs.

They are now all practicing their various instruments before curling up with hot chocolate beside the fire.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Pro LIfe Doctor Talks

This morning our local pro-life group were priviliged to have a talk by an eminent doctor. He was filling us in on the reasons for celebration and for concern following the weeks’ events in Westminster.

On the one hand, the government lost its nerve with regard to amending the Abortion Act, which saved us from an even more pr0-death set of policies (only one doctor required to certify the need for an abortion, abortion on unlicensed premises (ie every GPs clinic an abortion centre), nurses able to prescribe abortifacient drugs etc etc. This was probably due to the controversial nature of any changes, the Labour party’s current fragility and impending local and general elections, exacerbated by effective pro-life pressure.

On the other hand, with regard to embryonic research we now have in practice no real restrictions - as even the tentative one proposed lack substance as terms are undefined. So the creation of admixed (human animal hybrid) embryos is now legal. as is the creation of embryos as training tools for doctors wishing to learn IVF techniques and so on.

moreover simple concepts like parent have been so mixed up and complicated as to undermine any real meaning. Thus two lesbians may be the 'parents' of a child who may be genetically related to neither, and so on.

One of the key points was that this confusion is inherent in an approach that 'drives a coach and horses through the natural moral law.' So Aristotle, Plato and Hippocrates would all have been aghast at what we are doing: it does not take Christian revelation (or Moslem teaching) to enable any person of good will to see that we are embarking on foolish ways...

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Compulsory Sex Ed

The UK government is to announce its plans for compulsory sex education in schools in England today.

This is a great case of: the policy's not working so let's do more of it!

Despite (or because of) pushing condoms down our kids' throats at every opportunity, STDs in teenagers are soaring catastrophically, under-age abortions are up 10% and every other indicator is that the policy doesn't work.

Moreover, localities targeted for specific sex ed drives have fared worst (see my previous posts on the sex ed tag for details).

And of course it will be non-judgemental (again see my previous posts for analysis of the dangers of that).

Interestingly a BBC survey (BBC mark you, who are very pro sex ed etc) found that the vast majority of parents think sex ed should be done in the home: a totally healthy and correct perspective. That can be found here:

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Plan to live chastely?

Sign the pledge (in the side bar).

And have the additional satisfaction of telling those simple folk at CAFOD and their friends what's really important - even more so than energy saving lightbulbs...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Non Judgemental or plain dishonest?

The BBC reports ( that the Scouting movement in Britain will be offering information and advice on sex to Explorers (older scouts) who ask for it.

Ant is an active Explorer scout: and we both reckon that what will be offered is advice on how to obtain an abortion (for example) and where to get condoms, but not all the research data on the poor physical and psychological health consequences of early and promiscuous sexual activity.

This is because the unquestioned wisdom is that we must be non-judgemental.

I remember working for a student counselling organisation which had a non-judgemental approach. We were not allowed to take any kind of a stance on drugs, sex, cheating etc etc However, we did take a stance (including calling the police) if someone was about to, or in the process of, committing suicide.

From which it is easy to see that we judged suicide to be wrong - and therefore implicitly accepted illicit use of drugs, any kind of sexual behaviour and so on as acceptable.

An Australian poet whose name I can't remember (or trace - any clues?) once wrote: 'What we omit, we teach will not be missed.' (But see Update below)

Most research on children's development stresses the need for clear boundaries. By denying them these, the non-directive approach is gravely damaging - and when it comes to not telling kids about grave and immediate dangers implicit in a proposed course of action (such as sleeping around) it is downright dishonest.

UPDATE: It was James McAuley, A Letter to John Dryden)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Dawkins: pot or kettle?...

I've now finished the God Delusion, and it left me feeling underwhelmed.

In fairness, Dawkins is more coherent when describing what he does believe than he is in (as he sees it) demolishing what he doesn't.

Nonetheless, he can't hide the fact that he is guilty of precisely what he accuses the typical theist of, including:

1) dismissing over-simplified arguments of things he doesn't fully understand,

2) believing in a hypothesis as an act of faith with inadequate data to support it

3) being disrespectful of those who hold opposing views.

His cavalier treatment of many issues, his question-begging assumptions and his naivety about big philosophical questions make this a very inadequate argument from an eminent scientist.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Dawkins Delusion

I have been reading Dawkins' 'The God Delusion', and I have to say I am disappointed. I thought I would find an intellectual argument against God, which would sharpen my thinking. Instead, it is, so far, a very poorly argued set of prejudices. As a work by a serious scientist, it is very unscientific, both in approach and argument.

There are some things I like about it: he speaks highly of P G Wodehouse, so he can't be all bad. And I like his robust and intemperate approach - very refreshing in these times of political correctness: at least you know precisely where he stands.

But where he stands is such a silly place. He ridicules theists for assigning to 'mystery' things which are beyond our comprehension, but then does exactly the same thing himself, with the pseudo-scientific term 'singularity'.

I will return to this theme as I read - and reflect - more.

But one thing is clear to me: Cardinal Newman was right when he wrote:
“We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.”

Friday, 10 October 2008


It's now two months since grandma moved in with us, and it has not been uneventful.

She and Anna have a somewhat stormy relationship - all seems smooth on the surface but every now and then there is a major row.

I hate this, but neither of them seems to mind it. One of the dynamics is that grandma has to feel useful, so spends a lot of time cleaning, ironing, etc, and pointing out to Anna that if it weren't for her we couldn't cope (never mind that we coped perfectly well before she moved in).

Anna, of course, resents the implication that the house would be a tip but for her mum (though there is a little truth in that), and that she can't cope.

Also, grandma is very pro-Antonia, which can lead to her being unnecessarily critical of one of the others. It used to be Bernie who got the brunt of that, but now it is more frequently Charlie or Dominique. That's partly because Bernie has worked very hard at building her relationship with grandma - and showed great maturity in doing so.

So it's not always easy, but Anna and I are convinced it's the right thing to do - and when we step back and look at it, it is clear that grandma is much happier with us than she was on her own: she just doesn't always remember that herself...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Optimist or pessimist?

The week running up to Dom's 10th birthday party was funny. Every day grandma would point out that the weather forecast was for heavy rain on Saturday. Every day I would answer that the forecast was not always right and we could well have a sunny afternoon.

In the event it rained - and we feel back on plan B - to hold the party indoors.

It was less than ideal, having 16 ten year olds in a relatively confined space - but Ant worked wonders to keep them all busy and happy.

Afterwards I reflected on the fact that grandma had had a miserable week expecting rain to ruin everything, while I'd had a hopeful week, knowing that even if it rained we would survive.

I remain an optimist, even though she was right this time...

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Dominique's 10th birthday

It was Dominique's 10th birthday today, so we had a party. All her friends had been invited to come dressed either as a cowboy or an india, and Ant ran a series of games and activities for the two teams. Anna had made a wonderful cowboy wagon birthday cake, which went down very well and all the games had cowboy or indian themes. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain so we had to stay indoors for most of the afternoon - just one outside trip for a tug of war, which the cowboys won.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

In loco parentis?

I've just learned (from another parent) that the kids' school is going to allow the local health authority to implement a programme of vaccination of girls against the HPV virus.

This starts tomorrow, apparently, and both Ant and Bernie are in the target age ranges.

We have been told nothing about this officially. Given that the school can't give a kid an aspirin without written authorisation (though as we know they can whisk a girl away for an abortion without ever telling the parents, before or after) one suspects double standards again.

As HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and we are bringing our girls up to be chaste, we will be opting out - but we are only able to do so because we found out and have been able to brief the girls!

Split the nuclear family at your peril...

I was reading the other day about (yet another) father who had killed his kids and then himself on the break-up of his marriage. Clearly this is a great evil. But to understand it I think we must understand the huge damage done when one (whoever that one is) attempts to split the nuclear family. There is something akin to a nuclear reaction - with devastating consequences.

Friends of mine who have split up, who used to love each other, are now filled with rage towards each other. They deceive themselves into thinking it is better for the kids that they split, rather than the constant bickering. But the kids see it differently - and I think in their hearts, the parents do too. But the nuclear reaction of negative energy released by the splitting of the family has created a force that will take truly supernatural power to overcome. So remember them in your prayers.

But the broader point is this: once a couple are married, are committed to each other, have promised to stay together, have made love (and particularly once they have had children) they have created a bond that ties them to each other - a bond so strong that attempting to break it releases a huge amount of dangerous energy - damaging all involved. And there are very many very damaged people around as a result...

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Kill the Useless

Baronness Warnock - who chaired the Human Fertilisation and Embryology committee that culminated in the Warnock report - has revealed quite how corrupted her thinking really is.

This aging ethicist proclaimed on a BBC interview that not only should those who are useless and costly (because of Alzheimers) be allowed to choose assisted suicide, but also that - being useless and costly - they should want to die.

To their credit the Alzheimers Association were quick to condemn her ignorant and hostile remarks.

Mary Warnock was made a Baronness after giving the required answer in the Warnock Report - that anything goes.

And so the enemies of humanity march on...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Attack on our children

The relentless drive to sexualise our children continues: "A sex education booklet aimed at six-year-olds has been published by a UK sexual health charity,' reports the Times and the BBC. The 'charity' concerned is FPA, (formerly the Family Planning Association.)

Sexual health is one of those terms that means different things to different people. To fpa it means: 'the capacity and freedom to enjoy and express sexuality without fear of exploitation, oppression, physical or emotional harm”. A strange definition of health...

Note in particular that it is the fear of harm they seek to eradicate, not the harm itself. Their philosophy and policies lead to huge amounts of physical and emotional harm... but as long as nobody fears it...

Their 'services' of course are contraception and abortion, and their top current campaign is to extend the abortion laws to Northern Ireland, against the wishes of the people there.

And these are the people seeking to 'educate' our kids - our six year old kids! - about sexual health.

Ours are, of course, already excused from such education (see my earlier posts about that - follow the Sex Education tag for details.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Taking Organs from the living...

I've been asked for more information on organ transplants, brain death, and so on.

A good source is the Linacre Centre (who have a link in my sidebar). In their article on criteria for death, they comment on the problems with the (relatively) recent notion of 'brain death' as the determining criterion:

The Linacre Centre's own view is that `brain death' protocols are insufficient for establishing the death of the body: we have become increasingly convinced by evidence suggesting that integrated bodily activity can continue after `brain death' has been diagnosed. There have been documented cases of `brain dead' patients maintaining bodily functions for months or even years: pregnant women have gone through pregnancy, children have grown up and passed through puberty, etc. 3 Moreover, it is well-known to transplant teams that heartbeating donors move when organs are taken, unless they are paralysed by drugs, and that their blood pressure goes up when the incision is made. It is worth noting that some anaesthetists recommend that the supposed `cadaver' be anaesthetised when his/her organs are retrieved. Most organ donors are unaware that their hearts may be beating when their organs are taken, and that they may be pink, warm, able to heal wounds, fight infections, respond to stimuli, etc.

(from see also

The Times has reported that even this flawed measure is to be ignored in the drive to harvest spare parts from people who may (or may not) be dead. See


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Re-defining Death

I have been reading a lot about brain death and organ transplants recently. I had not realised that for hearts or livers to be transplanted successfully, they must be taken from a living body, as they deteriorate beyond usefulness on death. And that in order to facilitate that, the medical profession has introduced the notion of ‘brain death’ to legitimise the practice.

This has disturbed many nurses and others, as they cannot believe that the donor is dead when his or her heart is beating, flesh is warm, and (in one case) when he put his arm around the nurse just before they were about to remove his heart.

So what do our medical professionals do? Inject a drug that paralyses the donor - and then proceed.

The parallels with the murderous assaults on the unborn in the womb are extraordinary: the start of life re-defined contrary to the evidence, the injection of tranquilisers or anaesthetics prior to the murder…


Monday, 8 September 2008

Head Girl

Ant has just been appointed Head Girl of her school. This is quite funny, as the head, when he interviewed her for admission a few years ago was very concerned at our weird way of bringing our kids up - particularly the de-humanising policy of not having a TV. I wonder if he remembers that now, and whether he's drawn any conclusions.... Probably not.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Devil in Marriage Preparation

I’m working on a group that is preparing a new marriage preparation programme. It’s going really well, but I have been very interested in one difference of opinion. Some of us, including me, believe that as part of the programme, we should mention that Satan hates marriage and will attack it. We believe people should understand that it is a spiritual battle they are engaged in. Others are very concerned about this, and feel that we risk alienating people or instigating fear.

As readers of this blog will know, I do not like the culture of fear: but that is partly because we are taught to fear the wrong things (social disapproval, or remote risks, for example) rather than those things we should fear: sin and evil.

But also I believe that without a proper understanding of Man’s fallen state and the reality of spiritual warfare, we cannot make sense either of our own struggles, or of Our Lord’s triumph and what redemption means.

Friday, 5 September 2008

More Discord...

Another reason why I think the Accord project is seriously flawed is the assumption made, without any evidence, that Faith schools are socially divisive.

I believe that people strongly and positively educated in (say) the Catholic Faith are able to be more understanding of and more compassionate towards those who are different from themselves. Look at how people of strong Faith can work in the missions in any culture on earth with compassion and courage.

It is those who are insecure in themselves who are scared of others. and who form the gangs and cliques that are so divisive.

It's a bit like the flawed argument for co-educational schooling: that only by raising kids of each sex together can we foster good understanding between the sexes. But time has shown that not only is co-education bad for education, it has also done nothing to enhance the quality of relationship and understanding between the sexes.

Raising manly men and women who are confident in their identity as women is a much surer way - and that may well be done better in s (good) single sex environment.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Dishonest Accord

According to the BBC "The Accord coalition is made up of religious leaders, humanists and teachers who have come together to call for, not an end to, but a change to faith schools." (See New Pressure over Faith Schools:

But when you read that they want to:

A) ensure that teachers in Faith Schools are not selected on the basis of their Faith
B) ensure that pupils in Faith Schools are not selected on the basis of their Faith
C) ensure that religious education in Faith Schools is 'an objective, fair and balanced syllabus for education about religious and non-religious beliefs'

you realise that what they want is the destruction of Faith Schools.

For how could a school be a Faith school if the teachers, the pupils and the teaching are none of them inspired by a Faith?

Accord would be more honest to admit that it seeks the end of Faith Schools.

Their dishonesty does them no credit at all.

Friday, 29 August 2008

New research links cycle helmets with abortion

In an astonishing new study, it has been suggested that women who wore cycle helmets when girls are more likely to have abortions than those who did not.

Apparently, the theory is that those who wear cycle helmets are more likely to have been raised in a prevailing ethos of fear.

That has long term consequences. Fear of losing a boyfriend may make girls scared to say no to a boy’s demands for intimacy. Also, the notion that with the right protective gear you are safer may lead such girls to think that condoms provide a secure protection against pregnancy (when all the data proves they don’t - particularly for young users).

Further, the girl whose world view is one of fearing the future is exactly the one whom the abortionists can most readily seduce into their mills.

Girls whose fathers are sufficiently counter-cultural to laugh at cycle helmets, and who view life as an adventure to be engaged on courageously and prudently, seem to grow into more secure and robust teenagers and adults, able to tell boys where to get off, or even cope with an unplanned pregnancy in a positive and life affirming way.

The research was conducted in a novel fashion: by arguing from first principles. It is not peer reviewed and has no scientific validity. In fact it is pretty fraudulent (aka a joke). But I hope it made you think!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Tradition in Ireland

I've had a note from the Convenor of St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association asking me to link to their new blog.

In general I've avoided a long blogroll of all the usual suspects, but I thought this was a bit more off beat and definitely worth a look, so I've added it to the sidebar.

He also asks me to mention that there will be a Traditional Latin Mass for the Holy Year of St. Paul in St. Paul’s Church, Emo, Co. Laois, Ireland, on Saturday, 30th August, 2008, for which the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin has granted, under the usual conditions, the Plenary Indulgence for the Pauline Holy Year.

Another post that might be of interest is a report of their recent walking pilgrimage for vocations:

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Helmets and risk

I mentioned I don't wear a helmet when cycling and don't encourage my kids to either. There are various reasons for this. One is probably sheer cussedness (aka pride). But there is more to it than that.

I think that there are a number of cultural agendas at work which I choose to counter.

One is the preference of the authorities to keep us living in fear. The populace is much more malleable and prepared to accept much more dictatorial government when it is scared. So to convince us that everything (even cycling!) is a high risk activity increases the power of the politicos.

The press collude with this. Their love is drama - that's what sells papers and news bulletins. So dramatic accidents are great for them - which is one of the reasons why most people in this country have a much greater fear of accidents than the statistics warrant. (the same is true of crime, particularly violent crime).

Then of course we have the commercial interests. Cycle helmet manufacturers would sell far fewer of their products if we weren't all indoctrinated to believe that cycling without a helmet is the equivalent of ordering a pint of hemlock at your local.

Finally there is the general consumer mentality: no longer can you tuck your trouser leg into your sock and hop on your bike. You have to put on your lycra cycling shorts and top, your special cycling shoes, your helmet and so on. (Have you noticed how all casual activities have now been deemed to require huge amounts of specialist clothing and kit?)

So I eschew all that.

We do assess and mitigate risk. But I think the risk of my kids being scared of life and unable to cope with a few knocks is far greater than the risk of their getting brain damage by not wearing a cycle helmet.

And experience suggests I'm right. The kids are always falling out of trees, off bikes, from swings and so on. They have far more petty injuries than their peers. They are also braver and tougher (in the sense of putting up with a scratch or a scrape) and most significantly have far fewer serious injuries: they learn (the hard way) to take reasonable care.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Enjoying cycling...

We were out cycling the other day in the local hills - off road, but on a decent lane. As usual, we were in t-shirts shorts and sandals, and we passed numerous other cyclists, al lycra-clad, with helmets, often sunglasses and occasionally knee and elbow pads. Their bikes, of course, all had disk brakes, independent front and rear suspension and more gears than I've had hot dinners.

My first thought was that we were almost certainly having more fun than they were. I like the wind in my hair - I hate having a helmet on. But on second thoughts, I think they were having a different type of pleasure to us. Their pleasure, I imagine, at least in part, consists in having all the right gear - almost ostentatious consumption.

I still prefer our way of course.

A cry of horror went up on the Catholic Dads blog when I revealed we cycled without helmets. I will address this business of risk and fear in another post.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

A Typical Walk...

We went for a walk today, and Charlie and I were half way across a stream when the others declared they were stopping for a chocolate break before crossing. SO I continued and Charlie tried to turn. The result was that he fell full in the stream and was soaked. This was some miles form where we'd left the car, of course. So he had to strip off and wear Bernie's shorts. She wore her sweatshirt round her middle like a skirt. Charlie then decided to throw his boots over the stream so that if he fell in again they wouldn't get wet. One of them made it over, the other bounced back into the water. So he and Bernie shared her sandals for the remainder of the walk.

It's this kind of thing that really builds solidarity between the kids: being able to recognise another's need for help and provide it at some cost - and also being able to see that your sister is prepared to do that, and practice the difficult virtue of gratitude...

Saturday, 23 August 2008

A Break in Scotland

The holiday in Scotland was a huge success. We spent the first few nights in formal campsites, but the rest of the time we were wild camping, right by the sea. So we had fantastic views, total privacy, and a real sense of self-sufficiency as a family - which meant mutual interdependence.

The kids loved it -and so did we.

We were without Ant for most of the time, as she had gone off to be Bosun on a tall ship, taking a load of troubled kids form Manchester sailing as some kind of developmental experience.

It was really good for Ant to meet people from a very different background, many of whom were frequently in trouble with the law. And I suspect it was good for them to meet Ant. Apparently they loved her reading them bedtime stories.

Meanwhile, Bernie, Charlie, Dominique, Anna and I (not forgetting Goldie) had a fabulous time, walking, cycling, seal watching, site seeing, swimming and playing in the sand. Also washing up in the stream, washing in the stream, and so on. The kids were great company and we all enjoyed each others' company throughout.

The Mass on Arran was ... well perhaps we'd better draw a veil over that.


We picked up Ant's results on the way to our holiday, and she has done very well - A in A Level Maths, and As in all her AS levels (which are the first half of A levels). So on track for her aspiration to apply to Oxford... But it's still something of a lottery even if you get an interview and get straight As - about a 1 in 5 chance, I think.

While we were away we also got Bernie's results for the GCSE modules she's taken - A*s and As; The full exams are next year (as are Ant's remaining A levels). We were particularly pleased, as Bernie can find the academic stuff harder than Ant, and also Ant is quite a hard act to follow...

Thursday, 14 August 2008

In search of midges

As soon as we've collected Ant's results, we're off to Scotland, camping, We thought that we weren't sufficiently mortified living a life of luxury at home, so we're abandoning Anna's mum (more about her later, doubtless) and going camping on Mull or Arran or one of those islands... Needless to say we haven't booked anywhere.

However we are confident of rain and midges, so doubtless we'll have a fantastic time wherever we go.

Ant and I have spent the last day or two converting our boat road trailer into a bike trailer to carry all six bikes behind the car. Hope they make it to Scotland too!

While we are camping, Ant is going on a voyage on a tall ship, supervising a group of disadvantaged youths who are being taken on holiday and as a character building experience.

We meantime will make the other three do forced marches in the rain, sleep in a wet tent, and eat half-cooked food in midge infested campsites. I can't wait...

I think by the end of the next 10 days we'll all have more character than we know what to do with.


Today Ant, like many teenagers across the country, gets her AS- and (one A-) level results. Naturally she is a bit nervous about these, but whatever they turn out to be will be a cause of thanksgiving. good results for the obvious reasons, bad results: well read the book of Job...

She is bright and has worked hard, so we hope the results are good - not least as she has set her sights on Oxford, and will need straight As in at least three of the four A levels she's sitting. WHile she's only sitting one A level this year, the AS results conribute significantly to the final results, so poor results in them could sabotage her ambitions. But I'm confident that wherever she finally goes to University, she will have a great time and make a great contribution.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A rainy day...

.. so the children painted the bathroom. That is, Anna and I had put a base coat on sea green below the horizon, and sky blue above with a few clouds in the sky. Today the kids added the decorative elements: an octopus, a light house, a ship or two, various fish and birds, and so on.

The sunset on the final wall has yet to be painted...

It looks fabulous: very much like kids' work - bright and cheerful. And the absolute antithesis of the wonderful posh houses you always see in magazines and on TV,

They are enjoying both the process and the result -and it's been a great way to keep all four of them entertained and working as a team on a very wet day.

Rape: a counter-cultural view...

A recent court ruling in the UK has judged that the fact that a woman has been drinking should never be taken into account when awarding state compensation for a rape. Previous rulings have also disallowed the fact that a woman was wearing provocative clothing from being considered.

I think these rulings are wrong-headed and damaging - to women.

Before I go any further, of course I am opposed to rape and would never seek to justify it in any way. It is a violent and degrading crime and men who commit it have no excuse.

However, that does not mean that a woman never has any part in the responsibility for what happens to her.

Again, i should clarify, as politically correct thinking will lead people to jump to conclusions about what I am saying. I do not mean that all, or indeed any, women who are raped have provoked the crime in any way. However, I do think that one cannot exclude that possibility a priori in every case, even to the smallest degree.

Further I think that to fail to teach young women about the risks of drinking excessively and dressing provocatively is lunacy. If any of my daughters were to dress provocatively, drink too much, and then get raped, I would certainly feel that the rapist deserved everything the law could throw at him. But I would also believe that my daughter had some responsibility for putting herself in such a situation; further I would believe that I had failed in her upbringing and I too had some responsibility.

None of which would excuse the rapist; but to fail to acknowledge that women have some responsibility in this arena will lead parents to fail to educate them properly.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Requiem Mass

The other day we had the privilege of singing a Requiem Mass for someone whom we did not know.

He had died, and asked for a traditional requiem - but his home parish refused. His family found a priest prepared to sing the traditional Requiem Mass, but his home parish refused even to allow that.

So he had to be buried from a distant parish, in order to have the send-off he had wanted.

In the circumstances the priest singing the Mass wanted to do the very best for him that he could, so he contacted our choir and asked if we could sing the Chant for the Mass. Fortunately enough of us were able to turn up to make a decent sound: and we all knew most of the music, having sung the Mass for the Dead in November.

There is something truly wonderful about the Chant for the Requiem Mass: partly the music itself, and partly the knowledge of the generations who have been laid to rest to its accompaniment (including my late mother) and the fact that it is certainly what I will be buried to.

The children all sang too - a fantastic part of their heritage!


The summer holidays are always a great time for us as a family. My work dries up in August, so I have a lot of time to spend with the family. We walk a lot, go climbing, swimming and sailing.... This year we are also going camping for a week which we are all looking forward to. That will be our only holiday away from home, as the budget doesn't allow anything more: we prefer to spend on hobbies (like sailing) through the year, rather than save everything for a trip abroad for a fortnight...

The result of that is we spend a lot of relaxed time in each others' company. Long walks are particularly good for this: we tend to walk in pairs and threes, but these are constantly in a state of flux, so that by the end of a day's walking, everyone has had a chance to talk with everyone else - and to be silent with them too.

We find this really allows the kids (and us) to slow down and reconnect with each other. Today we saw a herd of wild red deer on our walk, which made it particularly memorable. The little ones were engrossed in some imaginative game for most of the walk, so scarcely noticed we had made several hundred feet of height gain before reaching the lake that was the turning point. Sometimes it can be more of a struggle than that, but they have realised that they enjoy themselves much more if they enjoy themselves... smart kids!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Too much psychology

I have been listening to a series of talks by WIlliam Coulson.

He was Carl Rogers' right hand man for many years. Rogers introduced the world to client-centred counselling, and championed the spread of psychology for normals. Inter alia he was responsible for the destruction of parts of the Catholic education and religious set-up in the USA, where he helped many nuns to 'liberate themselves.'

Coulson recanted and his talks are an analysis of the failings and dangers of Rogers' approach. He clearly has a huge regard for Rogers, which makes the talks all the more compelling.

Coulson's basic thesis is that the value-free approach advocated by Rogers is profoundly dangerous for kids, whose values are not yet formed and who need guidance; and also for adults who do not have a properly formed conscience. He is particularly wary of teachers who have been introduced to some of these ideas, have a superficial understanding of them, and play amateur psychologist in the class room: values clarification, circle time (as run by some) etc... Too much psychology is his view: try teaching the kids to read write, do sums, and learn the laws of civilised behaviour...

His talks are powerful, passionate and fascinating.

More on this later, probably...

Major upheaval... grandma moves in. She's got to the stage where living alone is increasingly difficult, and the recent death of her (only local) friend did not help.

It won't be easy: Ant loses her bedroom and has to share with Bernadette, which no teenage girls would think a great idea... And Anna's relationship with her mother has never been the easiest, so how they'll get on in one house is anyone's guess.

I have a civil relationship with her, but I was the last person she'd have wanted her daughter to marry. And she'll find the noise, untidiness and dog all very trying.

On the positive side, it will be very good for her to be living with the family: on her own she could often go for days without speaking to a soul: now she will see us and the kids (whom she likes) every day, so get a lot more interaction on a regular basis.

Also it's good for the kids to have her here: she is so different from us, that they wil learn a lot, and more fundamentally, they will learn the importance of the family: how we are there for each other, even when it's not convenient or easy; and in particular that we look after the elderly (I hope they remember this when I'm senile!)

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

More irresponsibility

After the walk, we took our friends rock climbing - not to a climbing wall but on a rock face in the open air. This despite the fact that none of us are professionally trained or qualified, we had not done a health and safety risk assessment and so on. But we know what we are doing (more or less) and I continue to hold my heretical belief that such spontaneous and (potentially) risky activities are good for kids - particularly teenagers.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Irresponsible again

The other day some counter-cultural friends came round. We went for a walk and found several ways to cross a river. Ant carried the little ones through the river, her trousers rolled up; Charlie and their boy climbed along under the sub-structure of the bridge feet dangling over the river, and the rest of us took the conventional option of walking over the bridge.

Irresponsible parenthood as usual: there was a possibility somebody might have had an accident... They could have fallen into the water! Or into the nettles! How could we be so reckless? In fact a good time was had by all.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Romeo and Juliet

We took Bernie, Charlie and Dominique to see Romeo and Juliet the other night. Although Dom is only 10, she enjoyed the play as much as the rest. I had taken her and Charlie through the plot in advance, so that it wold be easier for them to follow; Charlie had opted out of that as he preferred to hear it fresh -and he seemed to follow it fine. I sometimes think we underestimate our kids’ abilities to understand this kind of stuff: but Shakespeare is such a great dramatist that even if a few words and phrases are not understood, the dramatic power of the whole is unmissable. We followed that up by watching the DVD of West Side Story: a great re-telling of Romeo and Juliet in a modern setting, with fabulous music. Charlie was disappointed that Maria didn’t die at the end - after all, Juliet had to!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Picking a University

Ant is now at the stage of trying to decide which Universities to apply to. It’s very different from my day, when there were fewer universities, fewer applicants and so on. I never visited any of them until I was interviewed, whereas Ant and her peers are expected to go to a range to see what they are like.

It strikes me as a slightly bogus exercise, and (along with student fees) encourages a consumer mentality which I sure is not the healthiest way of looking at Higher Education.

Reading all the prospectuses, it is hard to distinguish between them: does she choose an institution dedicated to excellence in research and teaching, or one dedicated to excellence in research and teaching and engagement...?

She’s looking at Sheffield this week as it has the best climbing wall in the country. It seems as good a criterion as any...


I have finally got around to adding a blogroll. If you want to be included let me know -and I will critically evalutate your blog and add it if it passes my exacting criterion!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Recreation or procreation, that is the question...

It seems to me that one of the areas where I am most at odds with contemporary culture is human sexuality.
The wisdom of the world seems to be that sex is for recreation. I believe it is for procreation.

By that I do not simply mean for conceiving children, but also for participating in the creation of true - and permanent - love. And that those two are inextricably entwined.

How we convey that to our kids in the culture we live in is one of the biggest challenges of all - but convey it we must.

Otherwise - well look around you to see the consequences of the other view: rampant STDs, abortion, aids, young men driven to suicide by their gay identity, marriages falling apart, kids raised in unstable and emotionally crippling circumstances...

People sometimes think the traditional rules around sexuality - those which, strangely , the Catholic Church continues to proclaim - were there to oppress us and stop us having fun, and sprang from a celibate clergy's hatred of (or jealousy of) sex.

But the reverse is true: the rules are there to protect us (from, for example, rampant STDs, abortion, aids, young men being driven to suicide by their gay identity, marriages falling apart, kids raised in unstable and emotionally crippling circumstances...) and are the fruit of the Church's divine origins and centuries of wisdom.

The poor Anglicans shattered twenty centuries of Christian consensus in 1930 when they first permitted contraception: and now they are reaping the fruits of that, because they have nowhere left to stand.

A Radical Idea

Childcare 'beyond' poor parents, the BBC news site reports (
"A quarter of parents on low incomes are unable to work because they cannot afford childcare, research conducted for Save the Children suggests. Some 28% of families, with children under 18, earning less than £15,000-a-year after tax said they could not work because childcare cost too much."

Here’s my radical solution: one parent works, the other looks after the kids.

Of course, that does suggest two parents living together with their kids’ best interests at heart, so I suspect I’m way off the page, as usual...

Still harping on about that mentoring

I had a look at the website of the organisation which was invited into Dom’s school to establish the mentoring scheme. They organise a lot of mentoring of young people by volunteer adults, who are trained and supervised. Supervision includes regular discussions with an experienced mentor to ensure that what they are doing is appropriate and that they are OK themselves. But the kids at school who are being trained in mentoring have no such support. That is clearly at odds with their own best practice, let aline the guidelines of such organisations as the British Psychological Association, or any of the Coaching standards organisations.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Mentoring (again)

As part of her mentoring training, Dominque has written a list of Danger Topics. These include drugs and ‘sexual.’ these are not thing which would have crossed Dom’s mind when considering issues which new (5-year-old) kids a the school might discuss. So the question arises for us - how was this list arrived at? Dom explained, when Ant laughed at the idea of 5-year-olds having drug problems, that they might be talking about their parents’ drug problems. Again that raised all sorts of questions in my mind. Why should any 10 year old child be expected to be able to cope with other kids’ parents’ (and step-parents’, mum’s boyfriends’ etc) problems?


The CTS (Catholic Truth Society - English publishers to the Holy See and of devotional etc books) have picked up on my mention of their booklet on Patience and asked me to review their As they say in their email to me, ‘It’s got some downloadable publications on it, plus it’s got a great range of Catholic books, DVDs and other things.’

I am happy to do so. I have read and benefited from a number of CTS booklets, from lives of the saints (and others - I’m currently reading their booklet on Chesterton) to practical booklets on modern life, and of course lots of exposition of Church teaching.

The www site is well worth a visit: not only does t provide a quick and easy way to review and order their extensive range of excellent publications, it also caries a ‘latest news’ feature of particular interest to Catholics in the UK.

All in all the CTS are an excellent organisation;my only reservation in recommending them is a slight lack of attention to detail in some of the booklets: whilst the substance is normally extremely good, a number of them could benefit from good editing and proof-reading to remove infelicities of style which at least irritate and sometimes confuse the reader.

I wage a one-man campaign against the widespread use of plural pro-nouns referring to singular nouns... but perhaps that is the subject for another post. Suffice to say, some CTS booklets commit that, and many other, errors of syntax, style or grammar.

Nonetheless, if you are looking for sound Catholic material covering a huge range of topics, their site is the place to go.

Mentoring in school

Dominque has been asked to be a buddy or mentor at her junior school, for smaller children. We were pleased at this: it is something which she will take seriously and do well, and will be good for her too.
However, at the weekend she brought home the booklet which she had been issued on completion of her training as a mentor (something we had not been aware she was being required to undergo). This had been delivered by an outside ‘expert’ brought into the school.

We learned that in the name of confidentiality, she had been told that while normally mentoring conversations were confidential, there were some which must be reported to an adult: if a child revealed that he was the victim of violence, bullying or abuse, for example; so far so good.

The adult nominated for child protection issues was named, and the fallback was to talk to the class teacher. Under no circumstances were you to reveal anything to your parents or family members (or a whole host of other people). This was printed in bold to make it carry more weight.

We have several problems with this:

One is that many of the problems which beset our society are the result of the breakdown of communications between parents and children. To have the school teaching our daughter not to talk to us is abhorrent to us.

Another problem is the implicit message: your teachers are more trustworthy than your parents.

A third is the demands this might place on a young child: Dom is only ten; she would take this commitment seriously. But why should she be put in a position where she is potentially distressed and not allowed, a priori, to talk to her mum, her dad or her big sister (Ant, to whom she is very close) about it?

Further, all this was done without our knowledge, let alone consent.

So we rang the school and were pleased that they understood our concern, and agreed that we could tell Dom that she was always able to talk to either of us, or her biggest sister, in confidence, about anything that might arise. Further the head said that she would talk to all the mentors to the same effect: she had been unaware of this particular element of the mentor training. (If I were ungracious, I would wonder why she should be ignorant of such a thing in her own school....)

And there were more problems with the mentoring training - but I’ll post again on those.

A short delay...

I was relieved to see, on re-reading the post about my intermittent blogging, that I had not committed to post more frequently, as it is now several months since I put anything on this site. However, I have now re-discovered my user name and password, and have been prompted by a couple of things to post again. One is an email form the CTS asking me to review their www site, which I shall shortly do. The other is an issue arising at Dominique’s junior school which is worthy of comment. So watch this space - but don’t hold your breath!