Monday, 9 November 2009

Charlie's confirmation

On Saturday we got the early train to London, for Charlie's confirmation (traditional Latin rite) at St James's Spanish Place.

A number of good things about the day - above all, of course, the descent of the Holy Ghost on Charlie and the others. Also, the Saturday morning Mass prior to the confirmation (yes, we were there a couple of hours early...) which was Novus Ordo, but featured a single male altar server (who also read), communion under one kind, distributed by the priest alone to a congregation kneeling at the altar rails, who all received in the traditional manner, rather than in the hand.

Then the ceremonies themselves: noble and beautiful; adorned by wonderful singing, both chant and polyphony, and excellent organ playing. The bishop's homily, too, was good; taking as its starting point the current exhibition at the National Gallery on the Sacred made Real - you can see where that went. Seeing old friends is also a great part of the day - we ended up in the Pizza Express (as did nearly everyone else it seems) which was very convivial.

A couple of less positive aspects: the lady behind us who kept chatting in a louder than necessary voice about her shopping, her swine flu jab etc for an hour or so before the confirmations was not atypical of many, who seemed to forget this was a sacred occasion; there was less silence, and generally less reverence than one might have expected from a traditional crowd... And the LMS produced booklet looked hastily-done - didn't live up to the high standards of almost everything else.

But overall, a great day: please remember all those confirmed, and Bishop George Stack, in your prayers.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Dawkins' Hatred

I am not sure quite why Richard Dawkins hates the Catholic Church so much but his rant in the Washington Post has to be read to be believed.
Worth dropping by to offer a rebuttal or two...

Monday, 31 August 2009

A great summer

The counter cultural family had a great summer. I took August off (not so hard as a freelance: nobody is using me then anyway!) so we had time for wild camping (and surfing, sea kayaking, sand castles and walking) in the Hebrides and a lot of fell walking in the Lake District. Ant and Bernie both got good results in their A Levels and GCSEs respectively so they are pleased: Ant off to University in the autumn and very excited about that. And I managed to keep slow, in accordance with my spring resolution - so very little internet etc. A much better pace of life...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Irrationality of Dawkins...

Have a look at the transcript of a discussion between Richard Dawkins and David Quinn (with thanks to the CTS for alertineg me of this.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Terry's problem...

Many (eg Fr Finigan, James Preece, Damian Thompson et al) have posted about the odd fact of an employee of the Catholic Church charged with supporting marriage... attacking the Church's teaching on marriage.

I think the heart of Terry's problem is to be found in this revealing sentence: "We all have something to add and, ultimately, we all have to make our own minds up about the paradigm that works for us."

Here he reveals his philosophy: subjective and relativist. That is simply not compatible with Catholicism or any serious Christianity, for it denies the teaching authority of the Church, the authority of Scripture, the authority of Christ, the authority of God...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Sola Fide?

I was chatting with an evangelical protestant friend a while back and (I can't remember what I'd said to provoke it) he suddenly commented: 'Careful: that sounds like you can be meritorious!'

He said it in that jokey way we use when we correct someone who we know has used a turn of phrase that is inadvertently heretical. It didn't occur to him that I might think any action of a mere human could have merit, in the sense of contributing to his salvation. That was such a basic error, in his mind, that it was unthinkable that someone halfway intelligent could believe it.

For he has been brought up on the doctrine of Sola Fide - one of the great battle cries of the Reformation.

And why was it a battle cry? Precisely because Catholic teaching was, is, and ever shall be that in fact we can contribute to our own and others' salvation: we can perform actions of real merit. This Luther reacted against: even to the extent of altering the Bible (adding the word alone where St Paul says we are saved by Faith); and condemning the Epistle of St james as an Epistle of Straw!

Of course we are saved by Faith - but not by Faith alone. Without Charity, for example, we are lost. The Catholic belief is that we are saved by grace alone: everything is a gift from God. But one of His gifts is the honour and dignity of being able to cooperate with Him in our salvation, and in that of others.

The principle way in which we do this is by the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass, both for the living and the dead: this was at the heart of what Luther and subsequent Protestantism attack. Their Communion Services are explicitly of no merit: which is one of the many reasons why until very recently Catholics were not permitted to attend them: a discipline I believe could usefully be reinstated.

Sola Fide is strangely unBiblical: try to think how many times Our Lord points out that it is what we do (give these little ones a drink in my name) not just what we profess ('many shall say to me Lord, Lord...') that gains us entry to the kingdom of Heaven...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Prayers Please!

Of your charity pray for the repose of the souls of Geoff Wilkinson and his daughter Victoria, who died following a sailing accident on Sunday.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Pray too for Geoff's widow, Catherine, and their two surviving children.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Obligation, obedience and love

Further reflecting on this, I think that another reason for the obligation is that it offers us an opportunity to be obedient.

This is a very unfashionable virtue today, but one we are constantly told that Christ Himself exercised: obedient unto death...

I believe obedience is actually a necessary component of love: wives obey your husbands, for example. The submission of our own will to that of someone else is so hard for us -and so good for us.

Obligation or Love?

In a response to a recent post of mine on Holydays of Obligation, a reader has suggested that obligation is the wrong idea, as we should go to Mass out of love for Our Lord.

It seems unanswerable, but in fact I believe it to be profoundly misguided - and the reason is this:

The Catholic Church is a Church for sinners; for would-be saints who are very much 'work in progress;' and sometimes that progress is rather slow...

In her wisdom, Holy Mother Church has laid down certain minimum obligations to help us. Of these the Sunday (and Holyday) obligation is the most obvious.

Of course we should want to go out of love; but some of us don't always feel that way - and if we drift, we deprive ourselves of grace and others of our presence and support, and it is easier - far easier - to drift into sin almost unnoticed as we see things in an ever more worldly light.

I compare it to my marriage vows: of course I love my wife, and in my better moments would do nothing to hurt and everything to support her. But the reality is that there are times when I would gladly bean her with a frying pan or simply walk away. The vows help: they help me to stay true to what I really want, long-term, even when in the short term I might prefer something - or God forbid, someone - else. Yes, I should stay faithful out of love; and indeed, measured over the long term that is what I have done. But in the short term it has been the dreadful prospect of breaking the vows and shattering the marriage that has sometimes helped me walk away from temptation - and I don't think I'm unique in this.

By the same token, there have certainly been periods in my life when I have gone to Mass out of obligation - but that has kept me within reach of the Church - and led to reconciliation and further outpourings of grace to help me on my slow progress...

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Holy Pelican!

No, this is not something Batman says.

My kids were amused to read in the translation of the Adoro te, the words Holy pelican. Then I pointed out the door of the tabernacle in our church (which, alas, has no veil in front of it) which is carved with a picture of a pelican.

Why a pelican? Because the pelican was thought, in earlier times, to feed its young with its own flesh - and so became a perfect symbol for Our Lord giving his own flesh to us in the Blessed Sacrament at Holy Communion.

So naturally, tabernacles and hymns made use of this symbol.

It was only in a later, less pious more rationalist age that it was observed that the pelican was plucking insects or something out of its feathers to feed to its young, not tearing out its own flesh.

But we like the idea of the Holy Pelican!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Holydays of Obligation

Today being the traditional day for the celebration of Corpus Christi, I am moved to reflect on another Catholic distinctive which is being eroded: the obligation to go to Mass on the great feasts.

For reasons wholly opaque to me, our bishops have transferred Corpus Christi, the Ascension and the Epiphany to the nearest Sundays.

And so one more piece of our Catholic identity is whittled away...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

For I have sinned...

Another Catholic distinctive, of course, is sacramental confession.

Unlike some others, we believe that Our Lord meant it when he gave his apostles the power to forgive or retain sins in his name - and we believe that power is handed on to their successors, the bishops, and delegated by them to our priests.

And like other Catholic distinctives, it has been drastically downplayed recently. We are now told we only need go once a year, and then only if we are conscious of mortal sin.

That's a bit like saying we need only go to communion once a year: a completely minimalist approach. But communion is popular and confession is not, so we are encouraged to go to communion far more frequently - whilst confession is made to feel optional.

But if we believe confession to be a source of grace, an encounter with Christ who is dying to forgive us, why should we not go very frequently? As was the practice of so many saints...

Unless of course we are without sin of any kind, and without any lingering attachment to sin...

Monday, 8 June 2009

On Your Knees!

I was taught, as a young boy, that we genuflected (and knelt for communion) as a sign of our belief in - and reverence for - the Real Presence. In front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, we genuflected on both knees; and in passing an altar where the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved, we bowed.

This, of course, is distinctively Catholic (as is belief in the Real Presence) so of course it had to go. And so we are taught that these days a bow is sufficient as we pass the tabernacle, and standing is fine for communion.

In fact one school teacher had the idiocy to tell me that we no longer kneel before kings, and these things change over time, so we no longer kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. What a twit! The reason we no longer kneel before kings is that we no longer believe in the Divine Right theory - ie that they are practically God-on-earth!

But as I still believe that the Blessed Sacrament is literally God-on-earth, I continue to genuflect, kneel for communion etc.

It's harder with the kids: I don't insist they kneel for communion (though they happily do at EF Masses) but at least genuflect before receiving, and certainly genuflect rather than bow at the tabernacle etc.

We must reclaim a sense of the sacred, and a pride in our Catholic identity - the decades of convergence with Protestant practice have been disastrous for the Church.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Slowing down

One of the many benefits of the Chartres pilgrimage was the opportunity to slow down. For three days, we had no internet, no radio or tv, no newspapers, no external stimulation beyond meditation, prayer (especially the Holy Mass) and conviviality.

I am trying to extend that peace into the rest of my life, so will be cutting down on blogging somewhat - both reading and writing - but not giving up all together, of course (I might get cold turkey...)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Back from Chartres

What an experience! Despite blazing sunshine, blisters, sleepless nights etc...

For anyone who has not been, it is hard to convey both how tough and how rewarding the pilgrimage is.

The Masses in the woods, and the final Mass in Chartres Cathedral, are of course highlights; but so are so many other moments: seeing the endless procession wending its way through the French fields, singing Chez Nous; unexpected meetings and rapid friendships -and the renewal of old ones; being amongst so many young committed Catholics, all marching in honour of the BVM; sudden moments of grace - in a meditation, a rosary, or the song of a bird...

If you've been you will know how inadequate that brief summary is; if you have not been: put it in your diary for Pentecost next year!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Half term and Chartres

Half term has been busy as ever, and I'm off to Chartres tomorrow, so no time to blog...

Saturday, 23 May 2009

What is it with CAFOD?

I think it's time for the bishops to undertake a root and branch review of CAFOD. After the faithful found out that they had been bankrolling the former director living with his ex-priest, activist and dissident boyfriend for years, and that Cafod was ambiguous, to say the least, in supporting Church teaching regarding condoms, we now learn that the new director, despite earning a significant salary, is living rent-free in the house of a Labour MP - the expenses of which are being paid by the tax-payer.

Surely it is time to clean out Cafod!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Open Letter to Fr Jenkins at Notre Dame University

Dear Fr Jenkins

I read your eulogy of President Obama with interest, particularly your justification for inviting and honouring a man so at odds with Catholic thinking. You are reported* as saying, inter alia:

"As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.”

I would like to point out that I 'think or act differently than [you] do in social, political and even religious matters.' For example, I would not have chosen to honour anyone with President Obama's record and intentions with regard to the unborn, and I would have listened to the bishops and faithful who urged second thoughts on the invitation...

Therefore I would appreciate the opportunity to enter into dialogue with you, address your students en masse, and receive an honorary degree. I am not as rich or famous as President Obama, but am sure that you will exercise a preferential option for the poor, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

For the record, I have a lovely English accent and would have many instructive things to say to you and your students.

Your etc

Ben Trovato

* Thanks to Laurence at That the bones you have crushed may thrill for the transcript.

Monday, 18 May 2009

It's not the same...

Charlie has announced he wants to watch Shaun of the Dead, as some of his friends have and said it was very funny.

So I hired it and watched it myself first. I did think it very funny in parts. But the language is appalling.

Bernie, who has been watching my deliberations with wry amusement points out that there are no words in it that Charlie will not have heard (and probably hears frequently) at school.

However, my contention is that it's not the same. For me to allow him to watch the film would be parental sanctioning of his exposure to such language: that sends a different message from the fact that there are foul-mouthed kids at school.

A similar argument applies to classroom discussions of sex and perversion: it's one thing to hear about these things behind the bike sheds, but I really don't think the teachers should be legitimising such discussions.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Another Prendergast - any relation?

Does anyone know if Terry Prendergast, the disgraceful head of Marriage Care (once Catholic Marriage Advisory Service) who has been speaking out in favour of homosexual relationships, is related to Martin Prendergast, the ex-priest homosexual activist?

Praying for the dead

Another distinctive feature of Catholicism that has nearly been lost in the ecumenical soup is praying for the dead.

Because we believe that the Sacrifice of the Mass, in particular, and other prayers and works of charity may be offered to speed our dead through Purgatory, we have a long tradition of praying for the Holy Souls.

However, under the influence of a cruel Protestantism that insists that once someone is dead, there is nothing we can do for them, Catholics are increasingly inclined to treat funerals as eulogies and services to comfort the survivors, rather than occasions of prayer for the dead person.

So one of the key parts of our identity as a Catholic family is to pray for our relations and friends who have died: every day, without fail.

Of your charity...

...Pray for the repose for the soul of Anne Marie McCreadie who, along with her unborn child, was killed by a car which mounted the pavement and struck her yesterday.

Requiem aeternam dona ea Domine
Et lux perpetua luceat ea.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

No Seks Please

I wasn't really amused (well ok the baser part of me was a little amused, fnaar fnaar) by the news that a Polish monk had written a sex manual.

A few reasons. One is: what on earth does he think he's doing? St Paul says somewhere: Let such things not even be mentioned among you, as becomes saints.

I'm not in the 'sex is dirty' camp at all. On the contrary, it is a great blessing for married couples.

But sex guides? I'm convinced we don't need them, and that they are more likely to do harm than good.

We don't need them, because the natural way to learn about sex is with your spouse. And history proves that we're pretty good at learning those lessons: particularly in faithful and loving relationships.

And they do more harm than good because reading about sex is an artificial, and ultimately voyeuristic, activity: the first step on the road to pornography.

And doesn't the good monk have anything better to do with his time? Pray?...

Friday, 15 May 2009

Prayers Please!

A parishioner who is 24 weeks pregnant was hit by a car today.

Please remember her and her child in your prayers.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Mass in the House

As Ant is on study leave, she decided to come to early morning Mass with me. We found that it was being said in the front room of the presbytery, as some works are due to be carried out in the narthex.

The works hadn't actually started, though a couple of things had been moved form the narthex into the body of the church. But for the three of us in the congregation that would not have been such a huge convenience. My theory is that our PP likes to say Mass in the house. After all he was ordained up at just the right time...

I dislike it, for many reasons. One is my fixation on the importance of sacred space (this blog and others, passim); another is that way it is used to break the laity of habits like kneeling etc. Another is the dreadful 70s folksiness of it... And of course, mass is said on a table rather than an altar: meal rather than sacrifice...

Still, Ant and I formed a majority and knelt at the right times. The third congregant would, I suspect, also liked to have kneeled, but without a kneeler or any aid to get her up again thought it too risky, I guess...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Exam Season

Exams are upon us. Both Ant and Bernie have serious exams this summer (A levels and GCSEs respectively) and both are now on study leave. And to their credit, both are working, without my having to chivy them along.

Long may it last!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

... and the victims are the children...

The terrible paedophilia case in Scotland has some horrific features. One of which was that parents trusted the CE of LGBT Youth to look after their kids: a trust which he abused terribly.

They clearly believed the rhetoric that such an individual is just like us but with a different orientation, and to be suspicious of his motives for being around kids would be terribly homophobic. My heart bleeds for them, for they are victims of a sick society and are paying a terrible price.

Meanwhile, Camilla Cavendish, in The Times, has dared to point to research which concludes: 'the presence of a step-parent, which is the best epidemiological predictor of child abuse yet discovered.'

But our society continues to proclaim (through its loud silence on any moral standards, the indoctrination of kids at school, the frequent articles in the press, and soap opera story lines vindicating and normalising such a lifestyle and condemning the tyranny of marriage) that shacking up with one partner after another is fine, LGBT campaigning and recruitment is fine, and that to sugest anything else is wicked and judgemental.

And in both cases, the children (and ultimately the whole of society) are the victims.

Bernie's 16th

Bernie is 16: it's official!

She had a bundle of friends over for the night, camping in the field behind the house. We'd run power out to the tent (something we've never done before ) so it was lit with fairy lights etc. It looked lovely, but must have been bitterly cold.

Anna had mad a wonderful cake, as ever: this one shaped and decorated as a tent.

I have to say that for years I was dreading the teenage years, but so far, both she and Ant (18) have been extremely civilised. If I were superstitious, I'd touch wood at this point, as Charlie's 13th birthday is nearly upon us.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Where the LBGT Agenda Leads?...

I note from the BBC that the Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland has been convicted of sexually assaulting a three month old baby and other children, and was at the centre of a paedophile ring.

It is no surprise that those who champion deviancy exemplify deviancy - and at its most depraved. There is a particularly vicious, or even Satanic, circle here: inclination leads one to justify deviance, and that leads to advocacy, which leads to further deviance (and support from other like-minded perverts) and so on.

The minute one leaves orthodox belief about the sanctity of human sexuality, one opens the door to the devil...

Of course, LGBT Youth Scotland have instantly sought to distance themselves from their disgraced CE (who has now resigned) and express their shock and horror; but I for one believe there is a direct link between the philosophy they subscribe to and the behaviour exhibited by their erstwhile CE.

Regina Caeli: Ora pro nobis.

What David Cameron and I have in common...

We've both had a bicycle stolen recently.

That's actually a serious point: I am, I suppose, naturally inclined to be conservative (love of tradition, individual freedom and enterprise, family values etc) but the modern Conservative Party is not...

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

ThoughtCrime UK

It is interesting that out of the very small number of people (22 since March) on the (UK) government's list of personae non gratae in this country, some are believed to be terrorists, intent on killing and destruction; others hold differing views from the PC lobby on human sexuality. Sure, I disagree with some of their ways of expressing their views, and indeed some of the substance of their views, too.

But it seems to me that the day is getting ever closer when those expressing what Christendom has always believed will find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Why Protestants needn't fear Our Lady..

As those who know her will testify, whenever you ask her anything, she always replies, as she did at Cana: 'Do whatever He tells you!'

And of course her example is the same: "May it be done unto me according to thy will.'

So what is there to fear?

A good weekend...

Ant, Charlie and Dom were away for the weekend, camping with some friends; Bernie opted to stay at home as she had some work to do for her Art GCSE coursework. So I had a fairly free Saturday, and was able to mend my bike and dig the garden.

I guess we'll never know what that old tease Voltaire meant at the end of Candide, but I always find gardening very therapeutic. Particularly in our case, where the garden we inherited had been neglected for years, then transformed into a building site while we had some work done; so it is now a matter of reclaiming yard after hard-fought yard. But we make progress.

On Sunday, after Mass (where our PP once again preached (on unity and loyalty) in a way that shows why he should be a traditionalist, if only he hadn't been brainwashed at seminary...) we went to our friends to help pack up the camp, have a picnic lunch, play rounders, mess about, chat, eat drink, and get home very late indeed.

The kids had (ours and theirs) had all survived th camping, despite the cold; and they all get on really well, so a good time was had by all.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Protestant Problem with Our Lady? They don't adore God

The reason protestants can't distinguish between our love of Our Lady and our adoration of God is that they don't adore God properly; that is to say, they do not offer sacrifice.

We offer the sacrifice of the Mass: and that is completely beyond anything that protestants can offer to God. They can only offer praise: so when we praise Our Lady, they see us offering to her what they offer to God, and think we are idolatrous.

False ecumenism and Catholic distinctives

The 'Churches Together' meeting the other day really reinforced my sense of the Church standing apart, as I posted at the time. This has led to interesting conversations with Ant, who also attended and was struck by the same things.

One of the problems associated with what I have termed false ecumenism is the degree to which it has led us to play down any differences between Catholic belief and practice, and that of Protsetants.

However, given that Protestants, at least initially, defined themselves by protesting against various aspects of Catholic belief and practice, that seems to me to be something of an own goal.

So I have decided to post an occasional mini-series on those things which are distinctively Catholic: many of which I believe we should particularly celebrate, cherish and value.

I'm thinking here across a whole range of issues, of different types: devotion to Our Lady (this being May) and even the use of terms like Our Lady and Our Lord; doctrines such as purgatory and original sin; the seven sacraments and adoration; the authority of the Holy Father, the magisterium, and tradition; salvation by grace, operating through faith fruitful in good works; the Catholic priesthood including apostolic succession, Catholic morality, Friday abstinence, the Catholic feasts and seasons of the year, and so on and so on.

For one of the causes of the current crisis in Catholicism is a loss of identity: that is one reason that so many were so dismayed at the abandonment (or 'moving') of many Holy Days of Obligation - one more Catholic distinctive abandoned - one more part of our identity eroded.

Apart form anything else, I far more enjoy a conversation with a Protestant who is clear about what he believes and where it differs from me: then we can have a real discussion and one or other, or both, of us may learn something: and I believe that is genuinely more respectful.. But when we are afraid to offend, and use mealy-mouthed equivocations in the name of promoting unity, we don't achieve unity but a luke-warm dpseudo-compromise... and we know what God does to the luke-warm...

So let us reclaim our identity and dare to be different, that by proclaiming the truth in love, we may embark on the true ecumenical challenge, of converting the our separated brethren to the one true Church of Christ, that all may be one.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Amen! (non-liturgical!)

It was the school concert last night, and as ever I was impressed by the huge array of talent and genuine musical quality throughout. Bernie and Charlie play in the orchestra, which is the mainstay of these events: at their best yesterday, they were very good indeed, but a couple of times they fell apart a bit, which is not typical.

Many of the solos and ensemble performances were excellent as well - as they always are: there is a number of very talented and dedicated children in the school, and the school does a lot to encourage music.

However, the singing, which in the past hasn't always been a strong point, was the highlight. Solos, duets, the chamber choir and the full choir were all extremely good - and much better than sometimes in the past. The choir sang Amen (you know, the one that goes A--a--men, A--a--men, A--a--men, Amen, Amen, and breaks into some jazzy/gospelly stuff after that. It sounded wonderful, and for the first time I really enjoyed it: because it was in its right setting. I've only ever heard it before in a liturgical context, for which it is wholly unsuited. But in a non-liturgical setting it was fabulous.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

'Churches Together'? The Church Apart

Yesterday I went to a 'Churches Together' forum meeting, to discuss Issues in Human Embryology. There were three main speakers: a Catholic (from the excellent Linacre Centre), and two non-conformists.

The difference was stark. The non-conformist who had chaired a working group on the issues for the Methodists, URC and Baptists, was extraordinarily incoherent, morally and intellectually. A sample of her line of argument (though I flatter, calling it an argument...): 'We accord human status to the human embryo, but just as we treat children differently from adults. so it is appropriate to treat embryos differently from foetuses and from born children. So it is OK to experiment on them and kill them.' The other chap was not much better, equivocating and 'on the other handing' a lot.

The Catholic, Stephen Barrie, was by contrast intellectually and morally coherent, as well as compassionate and appropriately humourous. He laid out the ethical principles underlying the Catholic teaching on these issues, and explained them clearly and patiently. The contrast was extraordinary - and made me proud to be Catholic.

What the audience made of it was hard to read, as there was no open discussion, only written questions submitted and screened (mine weren't put to the panel...).

But for me, the difference was between well-intentioned people with no real coherence, and an individual teaching as one who had authority: the authority of the One True Church.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Why You Love the Tablet: Poll Results

Finally, the long-awaited results of my market research exercise on behalf of the Tablet.

90 people voted (that's probably more than my readership, so well done to those of you who followed the old precept: vote early and vote often!)

1 person voted (I hope tongue firmly in cheek) for the attack of Fr Tim. At least on Tabletista voted, possibly several times, unless she got her friends to vote too, as the implausible suggestion that it covers the whole range of Catholic opinion received a handful of votes.

But the winner was 'I prefer my dissent to have a pseudo-intellectual air'; this is bad news for the Tablet, as it doesn't suggest any change: just keep on doing what you do best. Unfortunately, while that's the winning idea, it hasn't served you too well...

I was wondering if anyone might suggest my questions were biased or prejudicial: and indeed in the comments some other suggestions were made (see below) but they suggest I was on the right lines:

'I find it's particularly good as a lining for a cat litter tray.'

'My cats prefer to cxxp on the New Statesman or the Guardian, but they are not dissimilar to the Tablet.'

'I love the fact that I can judge the orthodoxy of a priest by asking about the tablet. If he loves the tablet, his theology will be more liberal than I can stomach. If he has reservations or dislikes it, then I can safely listen to his homilies....'

Another poll will be along in a while, when I can think of something equally intellectually challenging.

After all, I wouldn't want to fall into the ways of journalism (see previous post!)

The Distorting Mirror

I've just been on a media training course: great fun, culminating in a day in a TV studio being interviewed several times and watching the results.

One of the things that struck me was how dreadful a profession journalism is. The journalists and broadcasters running the course were drumming home two things: one is that if it isn't 'a good story', it isn't news; the other is that it must be told simply as people will not attend to anything for very long.

By 'a good story', essentially they mean it has to be conflict-ridden; and by 'simply' they mean in short words, short sentences, and a short time overall.

All of which I knew already, but hearing it in such stark terms - and working with people whose professional skill is to package information in that way and discard information which doesn't fit that model - made me reflect again on what a distorting mirror our media are.

This distortion, in favour of over-dramatising and over-simplifying, is then amplified by the media culture; it struck me anew that a particular type of person is drawn to work in the media (or possibly that working in the media results in one becoming a particular type of person); and that is typified by the BBC culture,w here they all associate so much with themselves and their types that they genuinely do not see the bias that they bring to everything: they are genuinely outraged when any one suggests that they have any bias: yet to the outside observer with a different set of prejudices, their bias is obvious, persistent and consistent.

As a father, one of the things i have worked hard at is protecting my kids from being damaged by the prevalent culture: hence counter-cultural father. A key part of my strategy has been to minimise their reliance on the mainstream media as sources of information and comment. We have no TV, we don't have a paper every day, we listen to the radio news infrequently; we do talk about news and current affairs (a bit) at home and discuss it from our perspective. We watch films rather than TV (among other reasons, films demand a longer attention span: TV's crazy pace is one of its stuctural problems!), and choose them with some care, watch them together and talk about the implications of the stories, including the moral implications and the attitudes underlying the characters and their decision.

Above all we encourage the kids to think about things themselves, to challenge received ideas and opinions, and to do so from within a framework of beliefs, opinions and attitudes which we set, rather than those who think the key attributes of reality are conflict and simplicity (and a BBC worldview)...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Our New Charismatic Friends

A while ago, and somewhat against my prejudices, we went to a Charismatic day run by a group called something like 'For Christ's Sake.'

I have always had some reservations about the Charismatic Renewal. I like their ardour, but find their approach to liturgy hard to take; further some Charismatic Catholics seem more loyal to the Charismatic Renewal than to the Church.

In many ways, the day reflected my prejudices: lots of enthusiasm and positive thinking, and a Mass I found very difficult: I incline more to Latin, Gregorian Chant, and reverence than to hand waving, bass'n'drums and very active participation in that Charismatic interpretation of those words. And as for their taste in music...

However, we liked the couple running it, and yesterday they came round for the day, with their three boys.

We enjoyed the day enormously. Their boys, younger than ours, knew how to play (not something we always find in visiting children); they settled in well with our four, enjoyed playing in the garden and going for a walk, ate their food in a civilised fashion and so on. Immediately we were inclined to recognise their parents as doing a lot right.

Meanwhile we were chatting with their parents and were hugely impressed: people of real faith, orthodox and committed to evangelisation. Delightful people without that 'holy' veneer that can be so off-putting, but a more profound and reflective faith. The father works as a jobbing builder, but not a great deal at present: there is so much to do for their community. So really, they live by charity, relying on Providence to run their missionary work and support their family. They strike me as more counter-cultural than us, which I particularly like.

Which leaves us with a real dilemma: we are keen to support them and the work they are doing, but I can't see us going to any more of their Masses; nor do I yet feel we know them well enough to explain why without risking hurting them and being misunderstood....

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Lightning Trip to Scotland (part two)

Then we drove into town and quickly realised parking was going to be impossible, so drove back out and parked by the beach.

A leisurely play in the park, a walk on the beach, and an exploration of the Cathedral were all conducted in high humour (Bernie's camera in overdrive) despite the raging gale blowing in from Siberia (normal for the East Coast, in my experience). However by now we were beginning to get cold: not least Bernie in a pair of borrowed shorts of Ant's, as she'd melted a creme egg in the pocket of her only trousers...

So we decided to go into town and buy a couple of things and warm up in the shops, then went to the Castle, only to find dogs were not allowed. So walked all the way back to the car to leave Goldie there for a while (open windows, shade, freezing breeze: don't worry!), and returned to town for a cafe lunch and a trip around the castle.

The castle is fantastic! Of particular interest is the mine and counter-mine: in 1546 the Earl of Arran was laying seige to the castle and decided the best way to attack it was to dig under the walls, thus causing them to collapse. The defenders saw what was happening, and sank their own holes to intercept the enemy's attempts to undermine them: and managed to do so. You can now go down the counter-mine and see where it joined the attacking mine.

We then returned to the car, and played on the beach with Goldie till Anna and Ant finished their Open Day. They had had a great day too, so we returned home tired but happy - stopping for fantastic fish and chips en route.

Lightning Trip to Scotland (part one)

Ant had an invitation to St Andrew's University for an Open Day,as she has the offer of a place there. She was keen to have another look round, and Anna and I had never been to St Andrew's so we were both keen too. Only one of us could accompany her, so we decided the other (and I of course was 'the other') would look round the town independently: with the rest fo the kids of course.

So we drove up on Tuesday, starting bright and early (after a hectic rush of packing etc as we'd been out walking allday Monday and hadn't got around to it on getting home).

We stopped at Linlithgow Palace on the way, and were fascinated by this large and complex site and its history.

Then arrived at a campsite above the beach at St Andrews and pitched our tent. That is a whole family activity and must make a good spectator sport, but luckily nobody was watching. A wonderful pasta supper followed by a walk on the beach, preceded an early bed. But not much sleep. It was bitterly cold, people in the next tent had both a crying baby and a TV or radio without which they didn't seem able to live, and so the long night passed. Dominique and Charlie woke fully at 5.30 - and so did the rest of us.

However, we had a lovely day in St Andrews. Ant and Anna hurried off across the beach into town for their Open Day, while we struck camp.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Chartres Pilgrimage

I made a passing reference to 'going to Chartres' in a recent post. I was referring, of course, to the annual Pentecost pilgrimage from Notre Dame de Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres: a three day walk covering some 75 miles, in the company of thousands of (mainly) young Catholics passionate about their Faith, with Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Traditional, Latin) throughout.

Ant and Bernie have done it numerous times, Charlie once, and me twice; this year it will be me, Charlie and Dominique.

As anyone who does it will attest: at the time it is gruelling and you wonder why on earth... and from the moment it ends you can't wait to get back!

Regina Caeli: Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Easter Gardens

Ant made me this Easter Garden. The glass is significant: we've been off alcohol for Lent... The smaller kids had made more traditional gardens, with real flowers etc.

A Great Day Out

Yesterday being a Bank Holiday, and everywhere heaving with tourists, we took off for a remote walk.

We drove to a valley some 12 miles away, climbed into the hills for a couple of hours, past mountain lakes and streams, till we got onto a summit at noon for the Regina Caeli. Then had a long and leisurely ridge walk, eventually, after a picnic lunch, dropping down onto the hills above our village, saying the rosary, and so home after about six and a half hours..

We did pass a few people on the way, but it was mainly memorable for the singing of the skylarks, the fabulous views, and the sight of a herd of wild deer.
And the conversation: one of the great things about walking is the chance to chat with everyone at some stage in the day about everything and nothing, And the kids form and re-form different groupings to talk and play with each other. So at any moment one or two fo them might be walking or talking with me or Anna or both, and two or three will be playing with each other, or discussing the meaning of life or singing their favourite songs. Today Bernie had her new camera with her, so was taking millions of pictures, too.

Somewhere en route, I decided that I would take Charlie and Dominique to Chartres: just because Ant and Bernie can't go this year (exams) is no reason to deprive the little ones....

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter Day and Tudor Faith...

The day started with our traditional Easter Egg hunt in the garden. I placed the tiny foil-wrapped (and a few slightly bigger unwrapped) eggs before the kids were up, and had to stop Goldie, our retriever, from collecting them all back in. She thought that mean of me...

The kids, however, were enthusiastic, and charged around collecting them from the various niches nooks and crannies where I'd hidden them.

They were less enthused when they found at the breakfast table that the egg by each of their places was also rather small. This was Anna's joke: she'd found some small but humourous and relevant eggs (and had larger ones in reserve). It was only when the larger ones were duly produced that Ant (18!) admitted how disappointed she'd been at the sight of the small eggs. After a chocolate-free Lent, that seemed pretty harsh! And she was cross with herself for feeling that way, and desperately trying to put a brave face on it...

After Sung Mass (EF, chant, wonderful) we went to a local National Trust house: Rufford Old Hall with Grandma for a picnic and to look round the Hall and gardens.

Built in 1530, the house includes a magnificent Tudor Hall, with hammerbeam ceiling and much else of interest. The kids love the armour, of course, but also things like the engraving of the five wounds of Christ high in the ancient oak woodwork: the emblem of the Pilgrimage of Grace, organised to resist Henry Vlll's rejection of the Old Faith.

Sang the Regina Caeli at evening family prayers: after weeks of the Ave Regina Caelorum, that's a real sign that Easter has arrived.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Great Condom Con Part Six: Victory!

The good news is that the victory has already been won. Easter is the anniversary of that victory. There are still skirmishes, and these are literally of vital importance, but there is no doubt which is the winning side.

This is borne out in experience. Pope Paul VI in his role as universal pastor, published the counter-cultural and truly prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae. How much more accurate his prophecies have turned out to be than those of the Condom lobby and the associated abortion advocates.

Young people can be chaste, despite the pressures under which they are placed. More and more are seeing chastity as a positive virtue, and recognising the lies of the condom propagandists.

In Uganda, the message of abstinence and fidelity has been heard and heeded, and the relentless march of HIV in sub-saharan Africa has been drastically slowed there, compared to their condom-promoting neighbours.

Hope indeed: but there are still many battles to fight, and we need to be fit to fight them: spiritually and mentally, armed with truth and charity.

Regina Caeli:
Ora pro nobis Deum.

Friday, 10 April 2009

The Great Condom Con Part Five: the Need for Blood and Death....

Some two thousand years ago, on this day, God’s blood was shed as the price of redeeming humanity from death.

On Palm Sunday two children viciously attacked two others, leaving them, stripped and dangerously wounded, for dead (fortunately they have not died).

This Holy Week, thousands of unborn children have been killed.

Satan always needs blood: he hates life, he hates love, and he particularly hates life-giving love.

For some 1900 years after Christ’s sacrificial death, there was unanimity amongst Christians on the evils of contraception.
The Church of England, in unbelievable and cataclysmic folly, broke that unity at the Lambeth Conference in 1930.

For let us consider the heart of the contraceptive act. At the moment when a couple are giving themselves to each other in the sacramental way designed by the Creator to share in His creative act, they say Not Thy will but my will be done. And at that moment of self giving, they are saying ‘I give myself to you (but not fully.)’

Such desecration and lying has consequences. It damages us. Most particularly it damages our capacity to love. It also damages our capacity to sacrifice our immediate desire for more noble aspirations.

The link with the dreadful attack on Palm Sunday may not be immediately clear, but I believe there is likely to be one. That dreadful attack had chilling echoes of the murder of james Bulger by two ten year old boys some 16 years ago.

His killers were the children of women who had been unable to hold their own lives together. Alcoholic, addicted to drugs, their relationships failing, they were unable to raise their children in love and security and James Bulger paid the price. These mothers were victims of the condom culture; that culture which says I want what I want, regardless of the consequences for myself and others. Such a culture is incapable of instilling character in an individual.

When such tragedies happen, the cry often goes up: ‘blame the parents.’ For of course they have a heavy responsibility. But perhaps the cry ought to be: ‘blame the grand parents.’ For the parents often turn out to be victims too. And the truth is we should blame ourselves: all who collude with this culture of death.

And Satan laughs.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Great Condom Con Part Four: The Culture of Condomania

Of course to push condoms in this kind of non-judgemental way (see previous post) requires a special sort of person. It also has a corrupting effect on those who do it. I’m not merely talking about fpa and Brook (about whom more later), but teachers and health professionals.

Consider, for example, the NHS’s ‘educative' website (nb not for the fainthearted - or the pure hearted come to that), which apart from promoting the philosophy of ‘sex as fun’ (One thing's for sure, the risk of picking up or passing on a STI is no reason not to have sex,) is also full of inaccurate information: ‘You don't need to sleep around to get an STI - anyone who has sex without a condom is at risk.’ That of course is simply not true: chaste couples are at no risk of STIs, but clearly the notion of a chaste couple is simply inconceivable to our helath educators.

The NHS even encourage kids to write and distribute porn films: 'Create your own story for a 70s porn film, starring whoever you like, and then send it to your mates to spread the word about condoms.' All paid for with tax-payers' money intended for health care.

And then there are Brook and fpa: these are people who, set up as charities, make their living primarily from promoting sexual licence, then seeking to limit the consequences of it, particularly by the large scale provision of abortions. See their www sites for details of how depraved they are. And these are the people continually deferred to and held up as the arbiters of wisdom by policy-makers!

It is surely no coincidence that when Brook arrives in an area, the levels of STIs and abortions are more likely to increase than decrease; just as South Tyneside, targetted as an area of intense sex education saw a rise in abortions and STIs.

Another side effect is that we no longer trust medics and nurses. We expect our professionals to have high ethical standards. If my accountant colludes with my attempts to evade paying taxes, I have less respect for him, not more; if my lawyer gets me off the hook when he and I know I was actually guilty, I have less respect for him, not more. And if my doctor takes a non-judgemental approach to something which I know to be wrong, guess what... And doctors wonder why, as a profession they are less respected than ever before.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Great Condom Con Part Three: Open systems theory and unintended consequences

I have had occasion before to write about open systems theory. But it is less well understood than it needs to be. The basic premise is that in an open system (any natural or social system, for example) actions lead to (often unforeseen) reactions, which may modify, negate, or accelerate the impact of the original action.

One fascinating example of this is the wearing of bike helmets. It seems that drivers respond differently to cyclists with or without helmets, giving those without helmets a wider berth. Thus, paradoxically, wearing a helmet may not actually make you safer: you may be more likely to be knocked off (though it is also likely that you will come to less harm if you are wearing a helmet when knocked off).

The promotion of condoms and ‘safer sex’ (note the change from the original ‘safe sex’...) follows the same pattern. In order to reach those they want to reach, the health and education people insist that we are non-judgemental. And as the policy doesn’t have the impact they hoped for, they insist we get more and more explicit, and push it at younger and younger kids.

The result is to take out any positive pressures (eg social disapproval, stigma etc) that may incline children (because that’s what many of them are) to restrain their urges; and vastly to increase curiosity and acceptability around sexual experimentation and promiscuity.

There are other unintended consequences, too: we trust the health professionals less, and a whole industry grows up around ‘sexual health services’ which may not be in society’s best interests: and that’s the subject of my next post in this series (cue The Archers theme tune...)

The Holidays are Upon Us

And so far we have had a lot of fun: trying to kick a football over the river, and then having to lob stones and sticks at it to get it to the other side... and then trying again. (Goldie was no help: she swam out out it, pushed it aimlessly with her nose, and then swam back. "fetch," we all yelled, but she knew better...); Dom going on a pony trek with a friend, and then inviting the friend over for the day, plauying consequences, sardines, and going swimming; working on the long-intended treehouse; making Easter cards; practicing the plainchant for Easter Sunday; bouncing on the trampoline and digging the garden.

It will all slow down a bit now, as we enter the solemn end of Holy Week.

Monday, 6 April 2009

The Great Condom Con Part Two

The failure rate of condoms is hard to assess accurately, for all sorts of reasons. However, everybody admits that they do, on occasion, fail: and this often has tragic consequences.

Anyone who has worked in pregnancy counselling will know quite how often an unplaned pregnancy is the result of condom failure. And as a woman can only become pregnant on a relatively small number of days in her cycle, but can be infected with HIV on any day, then condoms are clearly a risky strategy.

Some failure is down to mechanical failure (splitting etc) but it seems that most is due to user error. And guess what, kids are not the most proficient users.

So encouraging the kids to be ‘responsible’ by using condoms is, to say the least, a very questionable policy.

‘But, but,’ the condomaniacs will howl, ‘we must, because some are going to have sex anyway, and condoms certainly reduce the risks, even if they don’t completely negate them.’

That’s a bit like saying ‘some teenagers are going to get drunk and drive at high speeds, so in order to reduce the risks, we must take a non-judgemental approach and issue them all with crash helmets....’

Of course, a drunk teenager, driving recklessly but wearing a crash helmet is safer than one not wearing a crash helmet, but for some reason even the health and safety brigade haven’t gone down that path (yet...)

Because actually we know about the law off unintended consequences: and it is to that I will turn in my next post in this exciting series.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Great Condom Con

I was visiting my nephew, Xerxes, the other day. Over dinner, he and his girlfriend, Yolande, revealed a tragedy early in their relationship. While still at college, they had suffered a condom failure, so, obviously, had to have an abortion 'as we weren't ready for children.' So little Z, paid the price of his or her life.

And the tragedy is that X & Y thought they were being responsible. They have been taught long and hard that:
a) sex is a necessary part of any affectionate relationship between a boy and a girl
b) it is pretty necessary for teenagers regardless of affection
c) using a condom is safe and reliable: and therefore responsible...

...and less openly, but in the mix:
d) abortion is of course available as a backup should (per impossibile, of course) a condom fail.

Over the next few posts I will elucidate why this is such dangerous teaching and why individual condom failure is so high, and further why promoting condom use is a recipe for tragedy and disaster.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Risk and risk aversion: The Countryside Ban

The BBC reports that children are not being allowed to play out of doors enough, due to parental fears of risks.

Of course, not allowing your kids to grow up confident and independent is far riskier.

And of course, it is the media,including the BBC, which fuels parents' fears way beyond reasonable levels.

When I was a kid in a big city, I was allowed to play out in the local parks and streets - and my kids are certainly allowed to wander the countryside pretty much at will. And the evidence is that the risk has remained pretty constant - and low -over that period, but the perceived risk has grown disproportionately.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Careers and vocations

A chap called Ttony, with a stutter presumably (I wouldn’t mention it, but he seems to make a point of it) left a comment a while back which set me thinking.

I have to say, that I discourage our kids from thinking about careers much. I have, too often, seen kids pursuing either their parents’ ambitions for them (to be a doctor, typically!) or an amibtion they settled on early in life - and it going wrong.

But I am more than happy to get the girls to recognise that their vocation is highly likely to include being a wife and mother, or possibly a religious sister: something the schools don’t seem interested in discussing...

Indeed, Ant has taken to winding the careers people up by talking in such terms. I can't think where she gets it from!

Good Ol' BBC

In this article you will see the BBC in passing referring to 'droit de seigneur' as historical fact, when practically all scholars are agreed it is a relatively recent fiction.

This may just be laziness and ignorance, but I think it reflects something else: an assumption that those people back then, in medieval times when Christendom held sway, were ignorant, barbaric and hypocritical, while we today....

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Just because they won't listen...

... is no reason to stay silent.

The Advertising Standards Agency is conducting a consultation on their decision (oh, sorry, it's just a proposal at the moment, I'm sure no decision has been taken prior to the consultation... of course I am...) to allow the promotion of abortions via television advertising, and the further promotion of the condom culture.

My Heart Was Restless tells you all you need to know about the proposals, and in particular how to respond.

These people don't seem to understand Open Systems Theory, a well-known way of analysing how actions may have results contrary to their intentions.

A classic example is using antibiotics to treat diseases. In the short term, it works (which is why we do it) but in the longer term we risk creating diseases which are resistant to antibiotics.

Likewise, the welfare system: in the short-term it prevents immediate, acute poverty, but in the long term it creates a culture of chronic poverty, handed on from generation to generation.

And so the condom: on each individual occasion of condom use, it may reduce (but certainly not eliminate) the risk of HIV. However, the promotion of condoms creates a culture in which young people (in particular) come to believe that recreational sex is normative and socially approved behaviour. This leads, (and has clearly and demonstrably led) to vast increases in early promiscuous sexual activity, leading to far higher rates of teenage pregnancy and STIs.

Likewise, the provision of 'sexual health services' free of any stigma (non-judgemental etc), intended (at best) to reach that small minority of young people who are promiscuous in every generation, has de-stigmatised and normalised what used to be rare and socially disapproved behaviour, contributing to the same problem.

And yet the establishment, in blind oblivion, and continuing to proclaim their rhetoric of 'evidence-based practice' ignore both the evidence (huge increases in STIs, ever-growing teenage pregnancy rates etc) and the sound theoretical explanations for that evidence, and instead say: the policy's not working: we must do more of the same...

So, in a triumph of hope over experience, I exhort you to take part in this consultation, and tell them why their thinking is so fatally flawed.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Ugandans proclaim Pope right - from experience

A group of Ugandan health and social workers, working in the field in the African country which has made the most progress in combatting AIDS has come out in support of the Pope.
Whereas the Lancet editor, in his ivory tower, has swallowed the pseudo-consensus developed by the AIDS industry...

Who do you choose to believe?

Friday, 27 March 2009

Additions to the family

We have four new children in our family.

We spiritually adopted four children conceived on the feast of the Annunciation, and due to be born on Christmas day, but who are at risk of being aborted.

We do not know who or where these unborn children are, but we will pray for them every day from now to Christmas. Anna initiated this with the pro-Life group she has established in the parish, and Ant, Bernie and I have all joined and adopted a child each.

You could do the same. The idea was Bishop Fulton Sheen's and there's a www site explaining the details.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Lots of excitement

Ant is just back from a visit to Durham University, which she enjoyed greatly. She particularly liked the collegiate system and the loyalties and competition that engenders. I think St Andrews remains her first choice (after Oxford's lamentable poor judgement in not offering her a place), but Durham would be a very satisfactory second.

In the meantime, Charlie has been representing the school at a national running event, and came ninth in his leg of his race which he tells me was very good, though he's not sure how many were running, so it's hard to judge. Still, apparently he overtook 5 people and was overtaken by none, so it sounds ok. He's not home yet (it was an overnight trip) so I don't yet have the full details.

And I'm pleased as I have found a publisher who may be interested in a childrens' book I have written; and also an agent who is prepared to offer editorial advice and support who is sympathetic to what I'm trying to do.

And Bernie and Dominique have been having fun putting up the new tent we've just bought in the sales for this years' camping trips...

And Anna and I went to Dominique's parents' evening, which was very positive, too.

So everyone is in a state of high excitement.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The abusers are in charge of safeguarding our kids...

TMAP is the Teenage Magazine Arbitration
. It proclaims: "TMAP is the magazine industry's self-regulatory body which ensures that the sexual content of teenage magazines is presented in a responsible and appropriate manner."

Which may sound reasonable (though the idea of self-regulation is perhaps a little alarming, not least in the light of the banks' self-regulation and its consequences; and for me the whole sentence is something of an oxymoron; and 'appropriate' is one of those words...).

But it is when you dig a little deeper into their website that you discover the philosophy of this panel. Under research, for example: "Is early sexual activity a bad thing?"

"Much is made of the notion of `readiness' as if there were a fixed time to have sex. There is no absolute logic about sex at any one age. Biologically, a young person is ready for sexual experience at the point at which they become physically mature but the age deemed socially appropriate varies through time and across societies. In the Middle Ages the legal age for marriage of girls in England was 12 and for men 14. In the Trobriand Islands adults do not mind if children engage in sexual play and attempt precociously to perform the sexual act, and adolescents may sleep with one another provided only that they are not in love with one another."

You get the drift.

Go and have a look, and then see if you think, like me, that such attitudes are abusive of developing kids.

You heard it here first!

The NACF news site publishes the Press release on Fit for Mission marriage preparation.

(Don't tell the Tablet!...)

I was kicking myself for not having saved Fr Tim's fisk on the attack on him by the Tablet before their lawyers charitably ordered him to remove his defence....

It seems to me that natural justice suggests he should have the right to reply line-by-line if that's how he chooses to defend himself.

Now I have discovered that Berenike had the nous to find it on googlecache and has posted it here

The idea is to take a copy, and then if the Tablet's litigious people get onto Berenike, we can make it dance around the internet with them chasing, which has the incidental pleasure, presumably, of them submitting regular invoices to the Pill for the work...

Thus not only does the Tablet's attack result in some rather fine rose vestments in Blackfen, but also... perhaps I'd better say no more.

You will of course already be aware from previous posts how keen I am to save The Pill from itself.

Catholics for Active Participation

I’ve been reflecting on Martin Prendergast and his bogus organisation Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support, on the basis of which he got invited on the the Today programme as a Catholic commentator - as ‘balane’, you understand.

I thought we should learn a trick or two from these dissenting types, who may not be as innocent as doves, but are sometimes as wily as the snake in the grass.

So I dreamed up Catholics for Active Participation. We could campaign for the right to participate fully, as envisaged by Vatican 2 and in the light of the Church’s sacred traditions:

by kneeling at the et incarnatus est
by saying we adore in the gloria
by kneeling for communion
by receiving from a priest or deacon
by singing in Latin those parts of the Mass proper to us
by singing plainchant as the music proper to the Roman Rite
by being allowed to make a personal, rather than collective, statement of believe at the Credo
... and so on.

We feel, of course, hurt by the majority of bishops’ failure to recognise and be sensitive to these rights; and we feel excluded by the cliques that have taken over our Churches: liturgical cliques, special minister cliques, women of a certain disposition cliques, and cliques who form bogus organisations that pretend to represent anything but their own damaged selves, and tag the name Catholic onto the front to get media attention.

Oh, I’m back where I started...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Life with grandma

Mothering Sunday seems a good time to reflect on life with grandma.

It is some time now since she moved in with us. I had not realised quite how difficult Anna would find it, having her mum living with us. It feels to her as though she is being watched, critically all the time.

Grandma finds it tough, too: we don't do things the way she would. She also finds it very isolating living in a small village in the middle of nowhere, and feels she has lost her independence, as she has to rely on Anna to drive her anywhere if she wants to go out.

However, she does see people who love her every day, and takes a lot of interest in the children and all their doings. So while she may complain at times, I am convinced she's much better off with us than she was on her own, when she could go for days without seeing a soul to talk to. She may have forgotten it, but she used to get very depressed and lonely on her own.

And although Anna and I can find it trying, at times, to have her always in the house, I am quite convinced it it the right thing to have done: not least as an education for the children.

Mothering Sunday

The kids honoured Mothering Sunday by making a rich variety of cards for Anna, and for her mum, too. Also various flowers, photos, cakes and plants were given.

Anna and I spent the afternoon gardening as Ant had instructed me to keep Anna out of the way so that a cake could be duly de=corated. I have yet to see the result

Laetare - an extraordinary Mass

We went to Mass at Lancaster Cathedral this morning. It was the monthly mass in the Extraordinary rite (aka Tridentine). Canon Shield was wearing rose coloured vestments in honour of Laetare Sunday. A visiting choir of just four sang Taverner's Mass: The Western Wind, With just one voice to a part they filled the cathedral with beautiful music. They also sang the chant propers, which they didn't pull off quite so well.

However, it was a wonderful Mass.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Performing kids

Dominique was in a show doing ballet this evening - just got back in a state of high excitement - apparently it had gone very well. I had to miss it due to a choir practice, but Anna, Ant and grandma all went and said it was very good.

And tomorrow Charlie is in some dramatic improvisation for his drama class. Not sure what that one's about, but I think it's a three-line whip.

They're all a bit like me - doing loads of stuff to an OK standard, rather than concentrating on excellence in one area.

Renaissance man is my excuse...

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Presumptuous, me?

Ant tells me it's a little presumptuous of me to imagine the Holy Father has been consulting my blog to help him make the decision about Westminster...

A visit from the Vatican

Those who voted in the poll about the qualities needed by the next archbishop of Westminster will be pleased to know that a Mystery Visitor from the Vatican has been looking at your views!

How did I miss that?

Avid readers of this blog (if such there be) may have noticed that I'm a Wodehouse fan.

Recently, I was re-reading Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, and in the closing pages came up short. I read this: 'they had both, in another age, known a man named Bertie Wodehouse-Bonner.'

I must have read Scoop at least three times before, and have no recollection of this reference! I'm astonished.

PS A prize of four Marian anthems (.pdf files) to anyone who can name either of the characters who had known Bertie Wodehouse-Bonner without looking them up.

PPS No, don't cheat! If you want the anthems anyway, just tell me.

In good conscience?...

What does it mean when one calls oneself a Catholic?

Consider this quotation: "I’m an active Catholic." "Well, as a Catholic, I believe in God and see the mistakes by men in the name of God. Some positions of the Catholic Church, on birth control, against abortion, against homosexuality, in defence of celibacy, and other examples, only reinforce that the Church seems to be out of tune with people’s thinking, and people’s will, not God’s will, for God never mentioned any of that. Men wrote about that, and said it came from God. "

What has happened that somebody who is so at odds with the teaching of the Church still calls himself an active Catholic?

(Incidentally these are the words of an abortionist. See John Smeaton's blog for the full details

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A Lazy Afternoon

A terrible combination: an afternoon of 'working at home,' a boring task to do, bright sunshine... So Anna and I took Goldie for a walk and had a great chat. Then settled down at the Mac, did a few emails, a blog or two, and then Ant got home - and suggested taking Goldie for a walk as it was such a lovely afternoon. So we did that and had a great chat. I finally got to the boring work project at 8.00 and have just finished it at 9.30. But it was worth it!

Who was that?

Listeners to the Today programme this morning were treated to comments on the Holy Father by "Martin Prendergast, from the charity Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support and Dr William Oddie, the former editor of the Catholic Herald."

Funny that the BBC did not mention that Martin is a former priest (ie someone who has either mistaken or abandoned his vocation, by definition), a homosexual activist, who has been living for 25 years as 'partner' (there's a terrible euphemism) with Julian Filochowski, ex-Director of CAFOD, the Bishops' rather flakey international aid agency...

Incidentally Dr Oddie had all the facts and reason on his side.

CORRECTION: His name is Pendergast.

Self esteem or narcissism?

Good post on Witness to Love about Self esteem, following an excellent interview on Radio 4 of all places (which I also heard and intended to post about - but now I don't need to!)

Catholic Marriage Prep Course

A rumour has reached me that the CTS is hoping to publish a new marriage preparation course. And the good news is that it comes from the Fit for Mission bishop of Lancaster. So if it's anything like as good as the other material in that brand, we've something very positive to which we can look forward.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Pope a Catholic! Shock Horror!

The BBC reports that the Pope is taking the opportunity of his visit to Africa to reaffirm Catholic teaching (which, oddly enough, is backed up by the real experience on the ground) that condoms are no answer to the AIDS problem - in fact promoting condom use may make it worse.

How extraordinary (to those of us who live in the UK at any rate) to find Catholic leader who unashamedly proclaims the truth, in season or out of season (and I suspect it will be open season on the Holy Father again, now!)

Musical Kids

Charlie and Dominique were playing the piano in the local music festival the other day. Neither won his class, but each did well. The winners in each class were truly exceptional, and clearly practice far more than our kids.

We take a reasonably light touch towards music: we want them to learn instruments and enjoy them, for a variety of reasons, but we do not expect any of them to become professionals (knowing a few professional musicians, I am not sure I would wish that on anyone!). So we insist they practice regularly if they want to continue having lessons, but only for a short time each day (charlie and Bernie often play for a lot longer just for fun, which I take to be a good sign).

This light touch approach has got both Ant and Bernie to grade 7 or thereabouts on a couple of instruments each - and still enjoying them. It will be interesting to see if Ant keeps up either or both when she heads off to University this autumn.

And, just for fun, we occasionally convene the family jazz band and busk our way through things like the Muppets theme tune.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Reviving the Tablet - Music Cd

Another of my genius ideas to help that sickly organ, the Tablet, to reverse its decline: perhaps they should give away a free CD of music with every edition. I'm sure their readership would fall over themselves for a CD containing, for example: Kum Ba Ya (It had to have pride of place!), Lord of the Dance, Eagles' Wings, Shine Jesus Shine, The happy clappy Gloria and so on.

With luck they'd have to delve deeper into history after a while, as they ran out of all the new rubbish, and they'd issue CDs with Faith of our Fathers, Praise to the Holiest and so on. And eventually, via Palestrina, Tallis and Byrd, get back to real Church music: Lux et Origo, Credo 1, the chant for the Requiem etc.

Don't hold your breath though - and if you've not voted in my 'Why you love the Tablet' poll yet, now is the time to do so (and read the comments for more enlightened suggestions).

The kids take off

After Mass on Sunday, Ant, Charlie and Dominique decided it was spring and that they needed to go for a walk to who-knows-where and have lunch cooked on a camping gas stove. So they raided the fridge and just took off (complete with Goldie, our retriever) for the next few hours. Poor old Bernie had some homework to do, so stayed at home: her choice and a good one. I love it when the kids sort themselves out like that: autonomous and responsible.

Family Prayers

Recently, we have taken to saying the night prayers of the Church for our evening prayers as a family. the kids all really like them, and we end with a Marian antiphon. Normally that's the Salve regina, but from Septuagessima till Easter it's the Ave Regina Caelorum, and during Eastertide we'll sing the Regina Caeli.

Anyone wanting the sheet music for the chant for any of the Marian antiphons is welcome: send me your email address and I'll send you a .pdf of the music as soon as I get around to it.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

New Poll: Why you love The Tablet

Here it is: the poll you've always wanted.

As part of my continuing drive to assist the ailing Tablet, I am - freely and at no cost - undertaking this market research exercise for them.

Please vote in the poll in the side bar.

Next Archbishop of Westminster - Poll Results

I've decided to close the poll on the qualities required of the next Archbishop of Westminster. Not least because I've another poll I wish to run shortly (watch this space).

I do not claim these results represent anything much - just an insight into the kind of people who look at this blog and choose to click on silly unrepresentative polls (not of course that I wish to belittle my readers, without whom etc...) So it is interesting that a few people voted for inane or silly answers...

Reviving The Tablet - Recipe Page

Ever eager to help this struggling organ, I suggest a recipe page.

Oecumenical Stew a la Pill

Slow roast doctrine over a griddle of dubious early texts. Marinade overnight in a sauce of mild dissent with just a soupcon of dessicated feminism. Flame rapidly with pseudo-intellectual comments from a leading modern theologian, and critical insights from low-church Anglican prelates. Serve liberally, accompanied by shredded dogma, with a drizzle of JnP sauce. A gentle red goes well with this (Chateau d'Ushaw 1974 is a fine vintage!)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Ad slogans for The Tablet

As part of my charitable concern for this ailing organ, I thought it might be helpful to generate some advertising slogans. My creative team have been hard at it and so far have come up with:

The Tablet - from a moral swamp to the moral highground in the flick of a platitude.

I'm sure they would welcome further constructive suggestions... Any ideas?

Monday, 9 March 2009

Reviving the Tablet...

I fear that The Tablet's current strategy for increasing circulation (threatening those who offer it free publicity with copyright actions) may not work too well.

So I wondered: what might help its circulation?

In a spirit of free and friendly advice, I came up with a few ideas. Here's the first.

Dear Pill (a problem page - after all vox populi...)

You can imagine the kind of thing...

Question: Dear Pill
My other half has been to a Latin Mass and said it was prayerful. What should I do?
Distraught of Blackfen

Answer: Dear Distraught,
Do you have any children? If so, it is important to note that if it is necessary to protect them from serious abuse by a parent, cannon law does allow for separation, and even civil divorce.

Question: Dear Pill
How can I trust the bishops, when they don't admit women to full and equal participation in the Church? And they've never publicly denounced Humanae Vitae!
Raving of Ealing

Answer: Dear Raving
We sympathise with your pain, and while at this time the bishops are bound by the current ruling, we ask you to be patient. Work by feminist theologians has thrown up interesting questions concerning an all-male leadership. You must follow your conscience.

Question: Dear Pill
How can I trust the bishops, when they don't implement Summorum Pontificum?
Concerned of Wandsworth

Answer: Dear Concerned
You must recognise that the Bishops have authority over the local Church in all things liturgical, and submit to their wisdom about what is good for the whole ecclesial community. Don't be divisive!

Question: Dear Pill
My Parish Priest has introduced Latin Masses. Help!
Sincere of Longbenton

Answer: Dear Sincere,
Find a couple of others who think this is a bad step and invite us up to do a daring expose of the split in your parish!

Friday, 6 March 2009

A successful teenage pregnancy strategy?

The Family Education Trust reports: "A year ago, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) cited South Tyneside as an example of what could be achieved by fully implementing the teenage pregnancy strategy. The latest figures, however, show a massive 37.5 per cent rise in South Tyneside in 2007, with the result that the area now has its highest teenage conception rates since 2000."

Why am I not surprised?

As I have said before, we need a campaign aimed at reducing promiscuous teenage sex, not one simply aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy. As long as teenagers are promiscuous, they will do enormous damage to themselves and each other, both physical (STIs) and emotional (and spiritual, come to that), and yes, the girls will get pregnant... It's not rocket science!

But a government campaign to encourage virtue is unthinkable - not least because they politicians know their own behaviour wouldn't stand scrutiny, and it would imply the adult population would have to behave better, and it would be ridiculed by those who work in the media: their behaviour and their commercial interests tend in a very different direction...

Monday, 2 March 2009

Our Royal Blood...

Charlie and Dominique and I were reading St Luke Chapter 3 on Sunday. It ends with a genealogy of OLJC.

They said how much fun it would be to trace our genealogy, so I triumphantly produced my (very snobbish) granny's book (The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal) which shows our family tree, traced back to King Edward 3rd (1312 - 1377).

They were hugely impressed, and enjoyed spotting many of the kings whom they've come across in history lessons at school in the parallel lines to our ancestors'.

It was good to make this link from the biblical genealogies (which can sometimes seem a bit dry) to our own, and to show how interesting it was to see Christ's family tree, including David, Noah and so on.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Schizoid CAFOD?

CAFOD (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development - supported by the Bishops of England and Wales) has a policy statement available from its www site which states clearly:

"It is important that people understand that abstinence and being faithful to one life-long partner in marriage, when both know they do not have HIV, are the surest ways to avoid infection through sexual activity," and further: "that CAFOD neither funds nor advocates the supply, distribution or promotion of condoms."

This is all, as CAFOD proudly proclaims, because "CAFOD seeks to exercise a role consistent with its Catholic character."

All well and good, the Catholic in the pew (who funds CAFOD on the basis of its being Catholic) might think.

But on the same site, we find another document (HIV Prevention From the Perspective of A Faith-Based Development Agency by Ann M. Smith, Jo Maher, Jim Simmons, Monica Dolan) which states, inter alia:

"abstinence can be used to mean:
Delaying the age of first sexual encounter. Evidence suggests that the abstinence aspect of ABC campaigns has been most successful among young people, for whom delaying the age of sexual debut was an important risk reduction strategy
Not having sex until the person is in a more stable relationship
Choosing to have sex only within a long-term committed relationship
Not having sex until marriage
As a mutually agreed and free choice (one of a number of possible options) by and between HIV discordant couples
As a preferred option for a specified period in a person’s life ."

Be Faithful "might mean fidelity to:
A single, mutually faithful partner, whether in marriage or in a long-term committed relationship
Serially monogamous relationships (provided a degree of stability exists within these relationships. What this means for individuals will vary, depending on current practices and alternative possibilities)
A strategy of reducing the number of partners
A strategy of reducing the instances of casual sex
A strategy of consistency in condom use if this is a person’s risk reduction option, given that condom failure is more often attributable to their inconsistent or incorrect use."

"The available evidence suggests that condom promotion has been particularly effective for identifiable groups at highest risk of HIV infection (e.g. sex workers) and who may have few if any other options for reducing risk.[snip] Thus an important component of this third strand of a nuanced ABC must be that C also stands for Choice. An imperative that becomes “Choose what you can change today; choose what you want to change for tomorrow” is informed by sound epidemiology and also compatible with the gradualist theological understanding referred to earlier. "

Is it me, or is there in fact a degree of promotion of condoms in the foregoing?

And is not 'abstinence' so proudly touted in the first policy document given a wholy new - and wholy unCatholic - meaning in the second?

I'll be choosing other Catholic charities for my alms this Lent...

Red Nose? - blood on your hands!

John Smeaton's blog points out why we should boycott Red Nose Day. Despite their denials, Comic Relief funds are, in part, used to support organsations which promote abortion.

Give your money to someone who will do good with it, not (even in part) evil. SPUC maintain a valuable register of charities showing which fund unacceptable activities.

We are pulling Dominique out of school for a day, rather than have her participate in the school's day of fundraising for Comic Relief. This is quite tough on her (she's only 10) but in conscience we can do nothing else. As ever,it provides an opportunity to educate...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Teenage pregnancy

The most recent stats for teenage pregnancy in the UK show a rise. This despite (or possibly because of) the government's strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy,which they claimed was working. Actually, the stats that suggest it was working were almost certainly wrong, as they do not include 'morning after' abortion pills which end pregnancy in the early stages. But now, even with the huge numbers of those pills not being counted, the figure has still gone up.

This is because the government is not addressing the real issue. What we need is a 'teenage sex reduction strategy' rather than a teenage pregnancy reduction strategy. And what we are getting is precisely the opposite. the latest government contribution is a booklet telling parent NOT to tell their kids that under-age sex is wrong, but rather to go with them to get their contraceptives, if that's what they want... And guess what, not only will pregnancy rates continue to rise, despite not counting those early abortions, but so will sexually transmitted diseases, not to mention the emotional and psychological damage done to these kids, from which the government, the schools and all responsible adults should be protecting them.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Ivan Cameron RIP

Pray for the repose of Ivan Cameron, and for his grieving family.

In a rare moment, political hostilities were suspended in the House of Commons, as everyone expressed their condolences.

Did it occur to none of them that Ivan, who brought such love and joy, as many testified, to all who met him, is precisely the kind of child they strive to abort?

What doublethink.

Saturday, 21 February 2009


Anna and I treated ourselves to a DVD over half term. We watched it in a couple of installments in the evenings, once the kids were in bed (or on their way there at least...). It was Black: an Indian film about a girl who is blind and deaf, and her extraordinary teacher. The first half is based on the childhood of Helen Keller; the second is largely fictitious.

It was a very powerful and moving film, slipping intriguingly between Hindi and English languages (yes, we had the sub titles on!) Well worth watching. You can see the details here.

Going Tudor

Dominique is studying the Tudors at present, and after half term they are having a Tudor banquet. So today, she has spent a lot of time with Grandma and Ant putting together a most convincing tudor costume. Much of the rest of the day has been spent with Anna, looking for tudor recipes on the internet and baking some (Tudor?) bread. She and Charlie did take an hour or two out in the afternoon to play tennis in the field (not Real [Tudor] Tennis, alas) while Ant, Anna and I took Goldie for a walk in the woods. Bernie was at the pictures with friends (Slumdog Millionaire) which she enjoyed. The bigger girls (inc grandma) are off to see Oklahoma! tonight, so I will have a quiet night in once I've put the little ones to bed.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Stem cell research

"It is little realised but invariably true that every media stem cell story involving patients concerns adult cells; and every story about embryonic stem cells is about their potential, or animal experiments - not patients. Embryonic stem cells remain far too dangerous for clinical testing. Cross-infection and rejection are potential problems, but the biggest hazard is that embryonic stem cells form tumours. Biologically, they have much in common with cancer stem cells." From an excellent article by Dr Neil Scolding, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at Bristol University, in Standpoint magazine, quoted on the Life site.

Scolding goes on to explain why embryonic stem cell research should soon be a thing of the past -a nd also why it should never have been practiced or allowed in the first place.

Still on half term...

Some friends came round yesterday - a couple of families (or at least a couple of mums and some of their kids - - dads were at work, poor souls). We had a chaotic lunch, then a walk. After that the kids spent a lot of time making puppets, and then (after copious home-made pizza) played rounders in the dark. As so often, the kids and mums said that they rarely had such good fun. Our kids certainly know how to play...

Today, Anna, Bernie, Charlie and Dominique went out to meet some other friends. Ant and I stayed home - and took Goldie for a long, fast walk over a local hill. Amazing how quickly we were able to go without the others. Then she worked all afternoon and I dug the garden.

Kids all doing various music practice now, before tea (fish of course: it's Friday).

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Against hypocrisy

I am glad to see that the Pope has made it clear to Nancy Pelosi that Catholic legislators have a particular responsibility to uphold and further the rights of all, from conception to natural death.

Ms Pelosi, like all those who use their faith as a political badge but pick and choose which bits of it they actually adhere to, strikes me as hypocritical.

If you don't believe it, stop pretending.

Half term continues....

Another good walk yesterday - up in the hills where there are still deep snow drifts in some sheltered parts. Snowy picnics are particularly memorable, and as it was a longish walk (5 hours or so) there was plenty of time for everyone to talk to everyone... I find that walking as a family does provide a great opportunity to spend time together in conversation, and even in silence. Bernie and I spent some time talking about her A Level options and how she might choose between them, in a very relaxed, no-pressure kind of way that was simply different from trying to have that kind of conversation at home when one or other of us would have something else that needed doing at any moment.

Today, I got the whole lot of them gardening: digging stones out of anew bed and importing topsoil from the lane behind the house where the rain has washed it over the winter. Again, there is something about working together that is very satisfying: as is getting a visible result from just a few hours' work.

Off to c aconcert tonight, and friends coming tomorrow. Life is just one social whirl...