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.
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.
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.
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.
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?...
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...
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.
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.
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.
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...
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Secretive (eg my wife doesn't know I'm writing this blog)
Mendacious (eg my name isn't really Ben Trovato - that comes from an Italian saying: Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato - if it's not true, it's well found (or made up, as we'd say.))
Superficial (I have an interest in almost everything, and can pass myself off as knowing a lot more than I do...)
Self-deluding (my wife probably does know about this blog by now...)
For the record, my kids aren't really called Antonia, Bernadette, Charlie and Dominique either... It would seem unfair to write about them under their true names, so ABCD seemed a good idea. My wife's not Anna either, but again the AB pattern seemed pleasing.