Thursday, 29 December 2011

Biased, the BBC?...

I notice on the BBC News www frontpage:
The jury in the Stephen Lawrence murder trial retires to consider its verdict against defendants Gary Dobson and David Norris. (my emphasis).
So the BBC clearly knows the correct verdict...

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Home Made Cards

The kids always make their Christmas Cards.  Here are the ones they presented us with this year; each fairly characteristic.





And wishing all my readers a Happy and Holy Christmastide...

Friday, 23 December 2011

Just in time

A young man in an 'irreversible coma' woke just in time.  That is, just before the doctors were about to remove his vital organs for transplant, thus killing him.  Lifesite News carries the story.

When the death penalty was abolished in this country, it was done because there was a political consensus that the risk of killing an innocent person, small though it was, was not a risk that a civilised country ought to take.  This young man was 'thought to be' 'brain dead.'

Of course he was not dead: his heart was beating, his body was functioning at some level.  But that is necessary for vital organ donation: truly dead donors are of no value, as the vital organs deterioriate too quickly once the circulation of blood has stopped. (See previous posts tagged Organ donation for a fuller discussion and links...)

It is that necessity for what are called 'heart-beating donors' which has led to the redefinition of death so that vital organs may be taken from patients who (until recently) any doctor would have certified as still alive.

This case, along with many others, proves how costly that utilitarian re-definition is in reality.

We have come a long way since then - but I would not call it progress.

H/t Blondpidge on Twitter


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Everyone was so upset the baby turned out to be healthy...

Where on earth would one expect to come across such a comment?

When the healthy child survived the attempted abortion, was delivered alive, but allowed to die, because it was thought to be unwanted (though in fact the mother had been scared into having the abortion by medics telling her the child was severely handicapped).

Here's how the Independent reported the NHS Medical Director's reaction:
Richard Blunt, medical director of the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust, said that no attempt to resuscitate the baby was made, despite it appearing healthy, because Ms James was undergoing a termination. "If you do a termination late in pregnancy then [the foetus] comes out in one piece ... and that therefore it may be alive and kicking. This is the dreadful thing. [The foetus] did not have any major physical abnormalities, but it would require a post-mortem to establish any internal problems. Everyone was so upset it turned out to be healthy."

This was back in 1994 (the report is from 1996), but I don't remember coming across it then.

Read the full article, weep and pray...

What is Truth? The trahison des clercs...

A friend of mine works at Newcastle University, and he reports that recently the Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Brink, a logician by discipline, was considering refreshing the University’s Vision or Mission or some-such.

The story is that he wished to include in it a reference to truth, in relation to the aims of research.  Apparently the Faculties of Medical Sciences and of Science, Agriculture and Engineering were happy with this proposal and this characterisation of their work.

But the Faculty of Humanities, and Social Sciences was outraged that he could consider such an idea.  Surely he knew, as all (non-scientific) academics do that truth is simply a social construct, and that a University that claimed to be in pursuit of truth would be the laughing stock of academe (at least in Social Science circles).

This strikes me as the Trahison des clercs of our time.  ‘What is truth?’ asked Pilate, before delivering Truth to be nailed to a tree.

Professor Brink, both as a logician, and having heroically led Stellenbosch University in South Africa through difficult times, and witnessed himself the importance of the Truth and Reconciliation process there, knows a thing or two about truth.

The good news is that the Scientists, Engineers and Medics were mystified by their colleagues’ protestations.  As a doctor said on the radio the other day (discussing philosophy - no reference as I was driving at the time...) ‘It is hard to believe in the impossibility of communication when someone is calling you to deal with a Cardiac Arrest on Ward 6.’

The bad news is that the VC allowed the Humanities and Social Science gang to veto ‘truth’ in the mission statement.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A new Catholic University for London?

The Benedictus Trust is planning to found a new Catholic University in London.

They have had recent coverage in both the Catholic Herald and the Sunday Times.

They plan to launch their fundraising campaign in the Spring.  See here for further details.

I am sure they will value prayers, as well as financial support...

Physical means to therapeutic ends?...

A general rule of thumb in medicine is to ensure a correct diagnosis before proceeding to treatment.

I have also heard wise medics say: the presenting problem is often not the real problem.'  that is why many are concerned at (for example) the self-prescription of Ibuprofen and other drugs: without a proper diagnosis, patients may be covering up symptoms of something that needs different, and possibly more serious, treatment.

Let us turn then to the issue of abortion.  95 - 98% of abortions (let us not quarrel about the precise number, it is big enough in either case) are performed for therapeutic reasons - that is reasons related to the mental wellbeing of the mother or of other existing children.

Yet the treatment is a physical one: destruction of the unborn baby (or foetus/embryo/, if you will).

That is poor medicine - as is evidenced by the fact that the same procedure frequently has to be carried out again and again on the same women.  The underlying problems are not being addressed.

The real problems are things like:

Some women getting pregnant when they do not want to, or are in no position to, raise a child

A society which teaches that it is better to have an unwanted child aborted than adopted;

Some women viewing pregnancy as a disease or a disaster or something to be feared, rather than a blessing (as many do, of course);

Some men demanding that women be sexually available to them 'without consequences;'

Some men putting huge pressure on women to have an abortion the woman does not in fact want;

Lack of social and societal support for women facing unwanted pregnancies;

and on and on.... (speak to anyone who works in pregnancy counselling for a long list).

Abortion, of course, solves none of these: how could it?

Doctors do themselves and women, not to mention their unborn children, a huge injustice when they collude with the pretence that abortion is the solution.  They should undertake a proper diagnosis, and then help women form a positive plan, with the necessary support, to start to address the problems surrounding their pregnancy.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I am going to cover myself in Vaseline...

... and pretend I am a slug, Charlie announced at tea tonight.

For a moment there, I was worried!

As an evil Christian...

... I will no longer be shopping at Tescos.

Their support for the Gay Pride March in London was bad enough.  Now, Christians who support the traditional Christian teaching on marriage have been branded 'evil' by Nick Lansley, Head of Reseach and Development for the Tesco Website.  He wrote: “I’m also campaigning against evil Christians (that’s not all Christians, just bad ones) who think that gay people should not lead happy lives and get married to their same-sex partners.”

The Iona wwwsite carries the story.

I have written to Philip Clarke, the CE, explaining why.

H/t Fr Ray Blake

Monday, 19 December 2011

Are 98% of abortions in Britain illegal?

That is the case argued by Dr Peter Sanders

He made the claim on a Radio 4 Today programme interview/debate, and has substantiated on his blog.

It is a long post and well worth reading, but the summary is this:

So where does this leave doctors? Let me sum it up:
1.There is no evidence that continuing with an unwanted pregnancy poses any greater risk to a pregnant woman’s mental health than an abortion does and yet 98% of abortions are authorised on these grounds
2.The doctors who are authorising these abortions are not therefore doing so ‘in good faith’
3.These abortions are therefore unlawful under the Abortion Act 1967 and Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and those doctors who are carrying them out are committing a criminal offence 
4.Those doctors who are authorising them are knowingly and wilfully making false statements on legal documents and are thereby committing an offence under the Perjury Act 1911
5.These offences under the Abortion Act and Perjury Act both carry custodial sentences

His blog is generally worth a look, too.  See, for example, his comments on the BBC and Gay issues...

H/t Blondpidge on Twitter.

The Holy Shroud

According to scientists (at ENEA, Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies,Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) the claim that the Shroud of Turin is a medieval fake, is wrong.

They criticise the dating process, and in particular the withholding of data and the refusal to explore competing hypotheses.

They also raise several other problems with the medieval fake theory, which does not account for many of the unique qualities of the Shroud.

In short, the real science seems to suggest that there is no normal explanation for the creation of the image on the cloth, and certainly no likelihood that any medieval forger could possibly have created such an artefact: we couldn't even do it now with all the technology at our disposal.

H/t Protect the Pope

Organ Donation: another assault on life

I have decided to re-post on the subject of Organ Donation, as it is some years since I last mentioned this important and misunderstood subject, and I have rather more readers now than I did have then...

Until I researched it a bit, I had not realised that for hearts (and certain other vital organs) to be transplanted successfully, they must be taken from a living body, as they deteriorate beyond usefulness on death. And that in order to facilitate that, the medical profession has introduced the notion of ‘brain death’ to legitimise the practice.

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

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

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

A good source of information is the Anscombe Centre (formerly the Linacre Centre). In their article on criteria for death, they comment on the problems with the (relatively) recent notion of 'brain death' as the determining criterion: 

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

(Link here, and see also their 'Definition of Death' comments)

In 2008 a government commissioned report, after studying a huge body of evidence, came to the 'wrong' conclusion that the consent of organ donors should be explicit not presumed: however, the political class did not want that answer, and are positioning themselves to ignore it.  The BBC, of course, will be involved in a campaign to soften up public opinion.  

We have another fight on our hands


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

This is the collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the Extraordinary Form. It is also the prayer we say (this week) after singing O Come O Come Emmanuel around our Advent Wreath.

We know this one less well, as it is rarely said for the full week (depending, of course, on which day of the week Christmas is).  This year we do get a full week's worth, so I hope it will be committed to memory with the others...
Arise we beseech thee O Lord in thy strength, and come in might to our aid; that by the work of thy grace, that good to which our sins are a sore hindrance may, in the fullness of thy forgiveness, speedily be vouchsafed to us.

Vaclav Havel - RIP

Another writer whom I admired has just died: Vaclav Havel.

He was also, of course, the first President of the Czech Republic.

I have not seen any of his plays, but following references to his work by Tom Stoppard (another writer whom I enjoy - in good health when last heard of...), I bought and read Sorry in 1982.  It is actually two plays, both featuring a character Vanek who is at least semi-autobiographical (and was played in the Radio 3 productions by Harold Pinter, and on Play for Today by Michael Crawford).  Some five years later, I also bought and read (but never saw) Largo Desolato and The Memorandum.

All of these are powerful and haunting dramatic works.  His reputation as a writer was well-established - and rightly so - quite apart from his role as a dissident, and then a political leader.

Of his political contribution, I am not well-placed to judge, but he was clearly hugely important in the breaking of the communist tyranny in his country.

American Catholic carries an interesting speech by him here.

Remember him in your prayers.

Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine.

Hitchens on Abortion

A very interesting article by Jill Stanek on the late Christopher Hitchens and his views on (and experiences pertaining to) abortion (H/t Life Site News.)  I have quoted this passage from CS Lewis' Miracles before: 
What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.
It seems particularly germane to the issues surrounding the humanity of humans before birth - as recent lengthy but not very illuminating comments on Bones' blog have witnessed...

Saturday, 17 December 2011


In all the fuss about Christopher Hitchen's death, the death of a far greater writer in the same week has passed almost without comment.

I refer to Russell Hoban.

Hoban was a highly skilled and highly original novelist and children's author.  His best known adult novel is probably Riddley Walker, a haunting post-apocalyptic dystopian novel, written in a fallen English with searing intensity and profound insights into the human condition.  Turtle Diary is a very gentle novel, made into a film with Ben Kingsley and Glenda Jackson, with a screenplay by Pinter (as an aside, I consider Pinter a far better screenwriter than playwright). Hoban's other novels are nearly always very rewarding, for his imaginative inventiveness and spare yet powerful use of language.  A few should have an X Certificate...

His children's books include the wonderful Frances stories, the anarchic Tom and Captain Najork books, the delightful Twenty-Elephant Restaurant, and the very quirky Big John Turkle, Charlie Meadows et al.  'Bleak Outlo' is regularly quoted here, along with many other Hobanesque phrases.  And then, of course, there was The Mouse and His Child, with the unforgettable Manny Rat.

I started with the claim that he was a greater writer than Hitchens.  That is not to say that I think Hitchens a poor writer: he was, at his best, very entertaining and engaging.  He was, of course, a man of strong prejudices and some very silly views; but as a writer, he knew his craft.

But I would stake a large wager that Hoban will be read and enjoyed by both adults and children  long after Hitchens is forgotten.

The BBC report (linked above) quotes a Guardian interview in which he suggested that death would be a "good career move".  He added: "People will say, 'yes, Hoban, he seems an interesting writer, let's look at him again'."

Which of them will have been more surprised to meet his Maker, I couldn't hazard a guess; but may God in His infinite goodness have mercy on both their souls, and may they rest in peace.

Friday, 16 December 2011


A recent post about Mass on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings, prompted a bit of discusion in the Comms box.

Part-time Pilgrim wrote:
What lies behind this is (I think) the idea - correct idea - that fulfilling your Sunday obligation is necessary to keep the third commandment but not sufficient. A more interesting question is: "What else should a Catholic do on Sunday to mark it as the Lord's day?"
A great question!

We also go to Adoration and Benediction, once a month (that's all that's on offer).  We also do 'Sunday Morning Religion' with the kids: typically reading and discussing a chapter of Sheed, Knox (Mons R, not the other chap) or something.

We abstain from work (and shopping of course), as best we can (though sometimes the kids remember urgent homework, and occasionally I have a work crisis that needs addressing before Monday, usually due to poor planning...) and often go for a family walk, and sometimes play games around the fire.

But other than that, we don't do a lot to differentiate.  I'd be intrigued to hear what others do.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Sex Ed: hazardous to your child's health

National Review Online carries a fascinating interview with Dr Miriam Grossman, about her new book: You’re Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child.

It includes, inter alia:

When teens are questioned about their last sexual encounter, more than half admit they did not use a condom. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who is aware of the insights this new century has brought us about adolescent brain development. Neither should we rush to increase the truckloads of free condoms delivered to our schools. Biology is saying the answer isn’t latex, the answer is time.
Towards the end, she comments on National (US) guidelines on sexuality for teenagers:

Later, readers are advised, “It is up to you to determine how much risk you are willing to take.” And: “Many teens choose to be sexually active and many choose not to. You have the right to decide exactly what behaviors, if any, you are comfortable participating in.”
Imagine if a nutritionist taught your child: “There are many types of diets. A diet low in saturated fats, carbohydrates, and sugars helps prevent obesity and cardiac disease. Some kids try to keep a healthy diet, others don’t. You have the right to decide what to eat.”
I don’t think this approach would be well-received. Yet this is what passes as sex education in our country.

All of it is worth reading, so go and have a look.

H/t Challenge Team UK on Facebook

Sexual identity: Nature or Nurture?

I was irritated yesterday to hear that Hamleys had succumbed to a Twitter campaign and had changed its traditional arrangement of toys. It used to be that Boys' Toys were on some floors and Girls' Toys were on another. So you might see, on the one hand, an array of cars, fighting heroes and action toys; or on the other, lots of pink fluffy things.

But this was terrible gender steroetyping, apparently; although, in fact, there were no security guards turning the girls away from the train sets (the only bit of Hamleys my wife remembers visiting as a child) or excluding boys from the Barbie aisle.

The campaign reflects the orthodoxy that masculine and feminine identities are largely social constructs. That is the belief that has driven the re-shaping of education in this country and the US for decades: removing all boy connotations from Maths and the Sciences, and all girl connotations from arts, humanities and cooking... And when that didn't work, disallowing choice, as the naughty children continued to choose the 'wrong' (ie gender typical) subjects when allowed to do so - as they still tend to do when allowed (eg at University level). So the praxis has had little effect on getting girls into maths and the sciences, as was the avowed intention. It may have had a huge unintended side-effect, one could reasonably argue, in turning large numbers of boys off a feminised education altogether (parallels with the feminisation of liturgy in the Catholic Church are of course wholly inappropriate and should not even be considered).

So the orthodoxy (despite the evidence, one could argue) is that gender stereotyping and other 'nurture' factors determine, or at least strongly influence, gender identity.

EXCEPT when it comes to homosexuality (and various other things in the LGBT morass). These are of course innate and immutable. There is no possibility that, for example, gay teachers, or gay parents, or gay text books will alter, influence or confuse the gender identity of kids, nor that gay people are in fact socially constructed to feel as they do. No, no, no... that way heresy lies...

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Miseducation of Women

I have just begun reading The Miseducation of Women, by James Tooley.

His fundamental thesis seems to be that the way in which we educate girls - treating them as the same as boys, and therefore inculcating in them expectations to be independent career women - causes demonstrable misery later in life and is fundamentally unjust.

Tooley is an academic, which, I suspect, makes this a brave book to have published, as his views will not be welcomed in academe...

I have only just started it, but can report that he writes extremely well, and I am enjoying it. Further reports to follow.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Even Trevor Phillips thinks they're nuts...

Trevor Phillips is the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

He has described the actions of the National Secular Society, about which I blogged here (Abuse in Bideford), as “nonsense on stilts”.

Collect for the third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday

This is the collect for the Third Sunday of Advent in the Extraordinary Form. It is also the prayer we say (this week) after singing O Come O Come Emmanuel around our Advent Wreath.

Bow down thine ear we beseech Thee O Lord to our prayer and by the brightness of thine Advent, lighten the darkness of our minds.
(This is corrected from a version I mistyped on first posting it!)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Heresy of Understanding

I was lying awake thinking about consubstantial (as one does).

In particular, I was thinking about all those who complain it is too hard a word to cope with, in the corrected translation of the Creed. Which led me to wonder whether they find the word transubstantiation too hard, too.

We are often told that it will put the young people off...

My experience is that most children love long words and esoteric words: once they have been explained to them. So I think that is largely bogus.

I also notice that many of the people who thus complain are happy to use the complex word Eucharist rather than the simple one Mass. They will cheerfully talk about the ambo and the narthex, where I might say the pulpit and the porch... So I think that the whole simplicity thing is a bit bogus too.

But if not bogus, I think it is worse. People talk as though we should have texts for the Mass that are readily understandable at first hearing by the uninitiated.

I think that is verging on heresy. At the heart of our Faith is mystery: truths about God too great for us to comprehend. At the heart of the Mass is mystery: the Mystery of Faith. To presume to understand it all is therefore nearly heretical.

That is not to say that we should not seek understanding. As we study, and pray, and meditate, and reflect, we are drawn into the mystery. We will never (this side of the grave) fully comprehend, but we may make progress.

But to imagine that we can have a language that makes the mystery clear, is to invite a clarification that misrepresents the mystery. And that, I fear, is what we have lived with for some decades.

That is part of the reason why, despite 40 years of Mass in a simple vernacular, people now have a worse, rather than better, understanding of the Mass. Forty years ago, you would never have had people talking about receiving 'the bread' and 'the wine'; now such talk is commonplace. Forty years ago, people fell to their knees if a priest walked by carrying the Blessed Sacrament; now they are as likely to turn their backs to chat with their neighbour.

So what I believe the new translation offers is a chance, not for easier understanding, but for deeper, truer understanding. If I am right, and that becomes apparent, then the next step should be a return to Latin: the traditional language of the Roman Rite - for then we shall realise that instant understanding of language is more a barrier to deep understanding than a help...

Lynette Burrows on School Sex Ed

John Smeaton's blog carries the transcript of a talk by Lynette Burrows on Sex Education programmes in school. It is well worth a read. Here's a flavour: "Anyone who wants to talk dirty to little children is a danger to them."

Put nuns on the Pill

Our friend Scout, ever keen to educate the Catholics of the world from his or her position of unique enlightenment, has drawn my attention to a report in the Lancet. Actually, he or she links to the Guardian, which is slightly easier perhaps, but the Lancet article may be found here.

The point is that some Australian researchers report a link between the celibate life of a nun and a higher risk of contracting breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. Further, they note that the contraceptive pill is reported to reduce such risks (though in the case of breast cancer, at least, there has been much contradictory reporting of evidence over the years, so the case is perhaps not quite so clear cut.)

Therefore, Catholic Nuns should be put on the Pill.

I have a few observations to offer:

One is that I can't help thinking that some of the motivation behind this reporting is anti-Catholic and slightly puerile: ho ho ho nuns on the Pill - that'll show the Vatican!...

A second is that if the Pill is taken as a bona fide medicine, by a celibate woman, and therefore with no chance of it acting as either a contraceptive or an abortifacient, it's probably a non-issue; just as if I use a condom as an insulating material in an electrical circuit (as happened in The Day of the Jackal, if I remember correctly), that is not a moral problem.

A third (and Scout will love this one) is that the whole argument is premised on the assumption that nuns will want to avoid disease and live longer and healthier lives. That is not an unreasonable assumption; but there are other possibilities. The celibate life is overtly and deliberately self-sacrificial (that is one of the principal reasons it is so derided). St Bernadette, for example, saw her vocation as to suffer, and was by no means unique in this. So it seems to me quite possible that some (a few? many? all?) nuns may be quite happy to accept the cup that their Lord is offering them when they swear to celibacy, even including an earlier death.

But for the average Guardian reader, I fear that will be entirely incomprehensible.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Abortion better for you than eating apples, study (almost) concludes...

The ever-wonderful BBC has been trumpeting the news that a new study has shown that abortion has no worse effects on a woman than carrying a pregnancy to term.

Leave aside the effect on the child (death) and the effect on anyone else (siblings, father etc) for a moment.

Let's just examine that claim. Because even the BBC admit in their report: 'The scope of the review excluded reactions such as guilt, shame and regret - although these were considered important - and also assessments of mental state within 90 days of an abortion.'

Although these are important, we will exclude them. Why?

For a comprehensive list of studies reaching rather different conclusions, visit John Smeaton's blog.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The School's Verdict

If you have been following the Keeping Mum Saga (see various previous posts...) you will be interested to know thatI got a very civil note from the Head of RE today. He has reviewed the film, agrees it is inappropriate and withdrawn it from the syllabus. There: that wasn't too painful, was it?

Now if only schools with a Catholic Ethos were so responsive...

Ant hits 21!

This week we celebrate another milestone as Antonia turns 21. So that’s it: officially grown up. The first of our children to emerge at the other end from our slightly odd approach to parenting (at least by modern standards). So it is interesting to look back.

Ant is currently at University, where she is studying Maths to Masters level, and looks set to get a first class degree. She is also enjoying a lively social and sporting life. She also practices her Faith with commitment and energy, including co-founding the University’s pro-Life prayer group. She has a non-Catholic boyfriend who is teased by his friends because his girlfriend doesn’t sleep with him. She found a summer job in her first year and was so valued by her employers that they have asked her back every subsequent summer, increasing her pay each time.

Whilst I am (as you will have realised) very proud of her, I am not mentioning these things to boast, but rather because they are unexpected outcomes – at least according to the popular wisdom of the current culture.

I remember when we moved house, when she was 15. The headmaster of her new school was worried on learning that we do not have a television in the house, for religious reasons. He was concerned that we were raising her in a way that would be over-protective, leave her lacking the common ground with her peers to form effective social relationships and so on. By the time she left she had been voted by her peers as the girl they would like to have as head girl, and the head, who has the final say, interviewed her and two others and appointed her.

I have been told that by encouraging her to be modest, I was raising her in ‘a noxious environment’, in which ‘expressing her sexuality’ was ‘bad.’ Yet strangely, she is a mature, confident, and outgoing young lady, able to interact with men and women on equal terms and to have a long-term boyfriend on her terms.

So I stand by our approach, which may be counter cultural, but is actually a time-honoured method, built on the wisdom of generations and particularly on Catholic belief and practice.

Here’s a few things we did as we brought her up that may be at variance with societal norms:

  • We sat together as a family for our meals
  • We went for walks together on a regular basis
  • We didn’t have a TV
  • We read to the smaller children every night – a book worth reading
  • We allowed our kids to take a lot of risks (at the physical level) such as climbing trees, exploring the local countryside unsupervised, and taking up exciting hobbies and sports (rock climbing, sailing, etc)
  • We didn’t allow our kids to hang around in shopping centres or go to sleep-overs or parties where we don’t know and trust the parents concerned
  • We tried to ensure our kids have a lot of fun – more than their peers
  • We didn’t buy them much stuff – consumer toys etc
  • We encouraged them to pursue interests like music seriously
  • We (their parents) love each other and are committed to staying together no matter what…
  • We pray together every day

So I guess what I want to say is: dare to be different! It really can work!

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Rhetoric of Abortion (v)

My more regular readers (or reader) will have noticed a pattern on this blog. Frequently I start a post, or series of posts, in one direction, and get distracted and end up digressing all over the place.

As on the blog, so in my life...

However, every now and then, I do try to return to my original intentions, so here is part 5 of my occasional series on the Rhetoric of Abortion.

And here is a fine example I came across on Mumsnet: And an aborted foetus is not a casualty. Because it's not a person. Because if it was a person, than its rights would conflict with those of the person carrying it. And so it's not a person until it leaves the woman's body.

I have to admit to being impressed by the elegance of the circular logic employed here. But the bit I want to focus on is that word foetus.

On the Mumsnet pages about dos and don'ts in pregnancy, you read early on: remember that unborn babies are remarkably tenacious. And so it goes on throughout the page. From the moment of conception, right through pregnancy, the (wanted) child is referred to as an unborn baby. Yet on the page debating abortion, it is suddenly a foetus, or an embryo.

This is not unique to Mumsnet, of course. The National Health Service plays the same trick: on the pregnancy advice pages, we read:

there are some foods you shouldn't eat during pregnancy because they could:
  • cause food poisoning, or
  • harm your unborn baby
Yet strangely, when we look at the abortion advice pages, we find:

Vacuum aspiration, or suction termination, is a procedure that uses gentle suction to remove the foetus from the womb.

Note not only the change from unborn baby to foetus, but also from 'your' to 'the.'

What is going on here? In both popular discourse (Mumsnet) and professionally written medical advice (NHS) the way something is described is conditioned entirely according to our intentions towards it.

If we seek to nurture it and look after it, it is your unborn baby. If we seek to kill it, it is the foetus.

How can the status of another life be defined by our attitudes towards it?

People get annoyed when one draws parallels between abortion and the Holocaust or slavery: yet here the parallel is very clear: we deny the humanity of the one we seek to oppress.

When challenged, pro-abortion advocates are quick to point out that embryo and foetus are the correct medical terms for the different stages of development; as indeed they are.

But we don't normally insist on the correct medical terms unless we have a reason to do so. We rarely talk about our cranium; or describe a pain in our abdomen. Head and stomach are the normal modes of discourse. So clearly, something is going on.

And my contention is that it is exactly analagous to the mother being shown an ultrasound of her baby (when it is wanted, and therefore a baby) but not of her foetus (when the intention is to kills it.)

It is what George Orwell so clearly articulated as double-think: the capacity to believe two contradictory things at the same time - and not notice that one is doing so. And that is the necessary piece on mental gymnastics that the medical profession has to perform, day after day: which is why I think that abortion is so profoundly damaging to the profession, as well as to everyone else involved.

So when you hear people talking about an embryo or a foetus, consider stopping the conversation in its tracks and insisting that this point is at least considered. After all, what are they afraid of: seeing the humanity of the unborn child on the ultrasound?...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Mass on Saturday Evening or Sunday Morning?

Yesterday, Stuart of eChurchBlog tweeted (he's @eChurchBlog) I so much prefer to go to Mass on a Saturday evening than Sunday mornings...

I responded, somewhat tongue in cheek: But which does God prefer?... (Shades of the old traditionalist joke: you worship God as you want to, we'll worship Him as He wants us to...)

However, he is not one to leave it there, and my ducking his question about what I thought by saying that it's not my opinion which counts was not enough for him.

So I thought I'd better post on it: it will take a little longer than Twitter allows.

So what do I think? My instinct is that Sunday morning is the better time for Mass. That is the time-honoured practice of the Church and that alone carries a lot of weight for me.

I certainly understand that in cases of necessity, a Saturday evening Mass can mean that one can fulfil one's obligation when one might otherwise not be able to do so - and have indeed taken advantage of that innovation myself.

And I actively like Midnight Mass for Christmas or Easter.

I am also aware that today (and quite frequently) I am going to Mass on a Sunday afternoon, which again is not very traditional: however it is the only time on a Sunday when an EF Mass is celebrated within 60 miles of where I live.

But I think, if I am fair, that part of my disinclination (and I won't put it more strongly than that) to go to Saturday evening Masses, is that in my experience many who go then do so in order to leave Sunday free for other activities - and that does strike me as problematic. And clearly that is a prejudice based on a small sample, and does not by any means hold good for all who attend then. But, as I say, if I am to be honest, I think that is at least half of my reservation.

Collect for Second Sunday of Advent: Stir Up Sunday

This is the collect for the Second Sunday of Advent in the Extraordinary Form. It is also the prayer we say (this week) after singing O Come O Come Emmanuel around our Advent Wreath.

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the ways of thine only-begotten Son; and with minds undefiled to pay to thee the homage of our service.

The opening words lead to this being called Stir Up Sunday, (at least in our family - I have heard others have a different Stir Up Sunday). Anyway, it is the day to stir the Christmas Pudding mix...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Keeping mum about Keeping Mum

It is now nearly three weeks since I wrote to Charlie and Dom's school about Keeping Mum.

I had a prompt and civil initial response: an answerphone message from the head of RE assuring me that he would look into it.

Charlie has now had two RE lessons since and it has not appeared again. But apart from his teacher asking Charlie if he agreed with me (he said he did) we have heard no more about it.

I was expecting a reply to my letter (and one may yet come: I do understand that teachers are very busy) but I am pleased with the outcome anyway; no prevarication, no demonising of me or Charlie, no attempt to justify the use of an inappropriate film - simply putting the matter right and carrying on.

Of course, this is not a school with a Catholic Ethos...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Abuse in Bideford

Poor old Councillor Bone. His colleagues on Bideford Town Council have been forcing him to his knees, holding his hands together, and threatening to beat him up if he didn't say the Lord's Prayer. Today he goes to the High Court to seek an end to this practice.

Oh, hang on a second, I've just re-read that. In fact, the Councillors have been saying a prayer at the start of the Council meeting, in accordance with a time-honoured tradition (also observed in our own Parliament). There is no requirement for Councillor Bone (or anyone else) to be there, let alone participate; the register of those present at the meeting is taken after the prayer. However, this is so offensive to his sensibilities that he has made a bit of a fuss. The Council has considered his point of view and voted, twice, to maintain the practice. One might call that a democratic process.

BUT (ta-daa!) enter the National Secular Society, and Councillor Bone's terrible predicament is now to be resolved by the High Court.

I listened to Keith Porteous Wood, the Executive Director (now there's posh!) of the NSS on the radio, and there was something about the quality of his indignation and detestation of all things Christian that made me wonder... and sure enough 'Wood is in a civil partnership with Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society,' according to Wikipedia. (Well, that's cosy isn't it: they can discuss their vicitimisation over the morning latte.)

Somehow, militant secularism and the militant gay agenda often go hand in hand - and I know which I believe to be in the driving seat.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I have been doing some follow-up reading after that stress management course I went on. (Perhaps I should reassure my concerned readers that I am not suffering from stress; I went on the course because my work involves working with people under great pressure and I was interested to learn how I and others might better support them).

One of the b0oks I am reading, recommended by someone recovering from a breakdown himself, was on mindfulness. It cites lots of research evidence that spending a short time in meditation each day has many and significant benefits with regard to health, resilience and happiness.

Needless to say, the meditations it offers are of a secular kind, but it does have the grace to acknowledge that this is ancient wisdom found in most serious religions.

The concept of mindfulness seems to be about living in the present moment, neither worrying about the past, nor the future. Regular practice of this actually changes the brain for the better, apparently, leading to the kind of serenity one sometimes meets in people who have.... spent a lot of time in meditation (who would have thought it?)

Of course, this is strong in the Catholic tradition; confession helps us to draw a line under past failings. And Our Lord has instructed us to pray for this day's daily bread - not for our pensions and a secure and wealthy retirement... 'Lord for tomorrow and its needs, I do not pray...'

But what struck me most was that the discipline of putting time aside for prayer each day (not rushing through prayer while driving to work, for example, as I sometimes do when time is tight) is very important; in particular, a mindful rosary. I find that the practice of inserting a short interjection after the Holy Name in each Ave is very helpful: one that keeps me mindful of the mystery I am praying. I can't remember where I first read about this, possibly St Louis de Montfort, but it is a wonderful practice.

And now I have the research to prove it.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

One That Got Away...

By modern medical standards, this child is a failure. She should have been identified and killed before birth.

Yet one can see the joy she brings to her mother's life - and doubtless countless others'.

Pause and say a prayer for the many others who were not so lucky, and for their mothers, many of whom will doubtless feel the knife twisted in their hearts as they read this story.

H/t John Smeaton.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli

Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,

Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,

Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem

Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore

Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

V: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae
R: Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto

Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven

The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,

Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,

While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,

Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth

Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(Tr Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman)

V: The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
R: And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Celebrating Advent

Although the first Christmas Trees have gone up in some houses in town, and indeed the town's Christmas decorations are up, we are just starting to celebrate Advent.

We always keep our Advent Celebrations and our Christmas Celebrations separate - though they are related, they are two different seasons of the Church's cycle.

So we mark Advent by saying our prayers around the Advent Wreath, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel and having a reading as we add another character to our Jesse Tree. We will also say the wonderful collect Arise in thy strength we beseech thee O Lord and come; from the dangers which threaten us because of our sins, be thy presence our sure defence, be thy deliverance our safety for ever more; and we'll sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

This is the pattern until Christmas Eve (the collect changes each week, of course: we use the Sunday collect from the Extraordinary Form of the Mass). Only then will we start to decorate the house, put up the tree and so forth.

Which means I've been out in the rain collecting holly for the wreath, up in the attic looking for the advent calendars, Jesse Tree book etc, and singing the Alma Redemptoris to myself throughout the day.

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Barbaric Suggestion

Imagine that you are pregnant. You have carried twins nearly to term, and then the medics tell you that one of the twins may have a heart condition, which may be fatal, or may require several operations throughout his or her life.

You are likely to be extremely upset, probably overwhelmed by emotion.

Then the medics suggest that one option is to terminate - well not the pregnancy, obviously, that euphemism won't work here... - to terminate the twin with the heart condition (which has somehow changed from a possibility to a certainty in people's thinking).

What you most need, probably, is time. Time to adjust to the new situation, time to work through the storm of emotions, time to think about the future, time to consider what the medical indications really mean, with all their 'mays.'

What you cannot have is time: a decision is needed. If we are going to terminate we need to get on with it.

There is something barbaric about offering such a decision to someone at such a moment.

A poor woman in Australia was placed in that position. As a result of a decision she took, both of her children are now dead, and she probably doesn't even know if either of them actually had the suspected heart condition.

I am quite sure she is bitterly regretting that decision, and I have nothing but prayers and sympathy for her.

But the medics, who apparently are devastated at what they have done... what did they think they were doing as they injected poison into the heart of a baby capable of being born alive?

And how could they think that offering a woman in a state of shock such a choice under such pressures of time and emotion is a responsible or humane thing to do?

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Day of Reckoning?...

Today was interesting. It was the day Charlie was scheduled to have RE, and following the initial prompt and courteous response from the school to my initial complaint, I had heard nothing.

So I was wondering whether they would continue showing Keeping Mum. I didn't think they would, but didn't know that for sure.

So I had talked it through with Charlie and agreed that if they did, he would have to excuse himself and go to the school library to work (referring the teacher to me, if there was a problem with that).

In the event, they did not show any more of it. Instead they had a period of revision. Charlie asked his teacher if he'd seen my letter (it had been addressed to the head of RE, not the individual teacher), and the teacher replied that he had. He asked Charlie if he felt the same as I did (I had told Charlie in broad terms the content of the letter, but he had not seen it). Charlie said that he did. And there the matter rests for the present.

I am sure I will receive a full response from the school in due course, but have to say that so far their response has been pretty good.


I see that people have been looking at this page again recently (Sept 2013) so thought it would be helpful to point you to what happened next: here)

Tragic killing of 'wrong' twin

The ever-wonderful BBC reports that doctors in Australia gave a lethal injection to a healthy unborn child, which was meant for its twin. The twin who was believed to have a congenital heart condition, was subsequently killed via an emergency caesarian section.
(Victoria) State Premier Ted Baillieu: "I don't think it's appropriate for anybody to draw any conclusions other than this is a horrible tragedy."
I disagree. I think there are many more conclusions we could appropriately draw. One is that doctors should not be killing children in utero.

Another is that the rush to say we should draw no conclusions is an indication of the complete moral bankruptcy of the philosophy of those who think this is anything other than barbaric.

A third is that the mother, and all involved, need our prayers.

Q: Down's Syndrome? A: Lethal Injection

Both Fr Finigan and Rorate Caeli carry reports of the chilling and dispassionate advice to obstetricians and gynaecologists from their governing body, the Royal College, on the killing of unborn children who are suspected of abnormalities, by lethal injection prior to abortion, because, as the College puts it so clearly:failure to perform feticide could result in a live birth and survival, which contradicts the intention of the abortion.

I was listening to Wendy Savage talking on the Today programme a couple of days ago about the rise in births by Caesarian Section. She made the point that the research suggests that a lot of this is a result of defensive medicine: doctors fearing litigation.

Who can doubt that the same arises when there is any suspicion of any abnormality in an unborn child?

Who can doubt that doctors will not inform people when they are mistaken?

Who can doubt that many perfectly healthy children are killed and their parents never told?

Who can doubt that children with Down's Syndrome deserve extra love and care, not potassium cyanide?

Who can doubt that since the 1967 Abortion Act, medical ethics have taken a nose-dive?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Interesting article on Same Sex Adoption

Mercatornet carries an interesting article by psychiatrist Rick Fitzgibbons on the risks of same-sex adoption, currently being conducted in the UK and the USA, driven by an ideology that places the wants of adults above the needs and rights of children. Dr Fitzgibbons cites plenty of research as well as his own clinical experience. The comments are worth reading, too.

Catholic French Scouts, anyone?

I have just received an email from Fr. Hervé Tabourin the leader of a scout troop from Riaumont. (It is fair to mention that the translation of the linked page to English is slightly idiosyncratic and not totally illuminating, but you get the idea)

Anyone who has done the Chartres Pilgrimage will remember the hugely impressive Riaumont scouts.

He is planning to bring a group to England and is looking for somewhere in the South East (between the Channel and London) for them to camp for Low Week (15 - 21 April 2012). [Have just checked my diary, and those dates, which he gives along with the description la semaine après Pâques, seem to be the week after Low Week; if you're interested I'm sure we can seek clarification...]

So if you know of anyone with a field (or large garden!) in that area who would welcome these traditional French Scouts, (eg if they've done the Chartres Pilgrimage) please contact him: +336 74 34 85 29

If you have any questions, and do not feel up to dealing with these in French, feel free to forward them to me and I will happily liaise.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The School Responds

I got home yesterday to find an answerphone message from the head of RE, to say that he had received my letter, was looking into it, and would get back to me. Prompt and courteous: just as I had expected.

I find, on re-reading my posts about the last time I had to write to the school, that I had not finished the story. In their written response, as I noted here, they assured me they would correct the text for next year.

In fact, they went much further: Dominique told me that the very next RE lesson, they were asked to take out their handouts and correct them, and had the reasons for the correction explained simply and clearly.

That is why I am optimistic about the outcome of the current issue. Their reasonableness, responsiveness, and genuine concern for parents' views and wishes are in marked contrast to some allegedly Catholic schools (or rather, 'schools with a strong Catholic ethos', as they prefer to call themselves), where the (soi-disant Catholic) teachers see the (Catholic) parents as the ideological enemy...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Why we don't homeschool...

A comment in my comms box recently asked why we don't homeschool, which is an excellent question, and felt worthy of a post of its own.

My late father always used to say 'There are two reasons for everything: the good reason and the real reason.'

So I will be quite honest and say that the real reason we chose not to homeschool is because my wife point-blank refused to countenance the idea.

At the time, she wasn't Catholic; but even though she was received into the Church some 15 years ago, I think her refusal would be as strong.

However, with hindsight, there are some good reasons for not homeschooling (as well as many excellent reasons for homeschooling - some of the best Catholic young people I know have been homeschooled, and all that stuff about not being socialised is rubbish, in my experience).

However, I do think that there is some value in having children in schools who are Catholic; it opens the eyes of friends and teachers - and even sometimes those who are hostile to them - to the fact that it there are still believing Catholics about.

Ant and Bernie have both survived school and gone onto University with their Faith intact - and one of Bernie's friends is now keen to convert.

Charlie and Dominique both seem secure in their Faith, at present; and as regular readers will know, I have recently had to take the opportunity to educate their school about some basic issues...

So while I was disappointed at Anna's refusal to consider homeschooling, if I had my time again, I am not sure I would want to homeschool: for our kids, the other option has worked, and possibly benefitted others beyond our family.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Here we go again...

I had been following the saga at Bonus Pastor Catholic College with some interest, initially via James Preeces' blog, and subsequently via Bonus Pastor Exposed.

And then on Friday, Charlie came home to tell me that they'd started watching Keeping Mum in RE, as they were going to write an essay on the treatment of Religion in the Media. (see Bonus Pastor Exposed for clips showing how unsuitable Keeping Mum is - but beware: it is unsuitable! Alternatively, my letter below itemises why I disapprove.)

Charlie and Dominique are not at a Catholic School, as there is not one locally (and our experiences at the Catholic School the bigger girls went to before we moved would not make me rush to another - but that's another story...). Nonetheless, I feel it is incumbent on me to point out that we do not believe Keeping Mum is something he (or any other adolescents) should be watching at school.

To their credit, the RE Dept have been very understanding and responsive when I have raised concerns in the past (see here for my concerns and here for their response)

So here's the first draft of the inevitable letter:

Dear Mr X

I am writing in my capacity as critical friend to the RE department - and also concerned parent.

I have learned from Charlie that his class has just started to watch Keeping Mum, with a view to studying how religion is portrayed in the media.

I have serious concerns about this film being shown in school:

  • It blasphemes the Holy Name of Jesus
  • It makes repeated use of the F*** word (and does both of these in a context of casual irreverence)
  • It shows a young woman interrupted having sex in a van; showing her topless, and again being watched by a voyeur as she undresses, again showing her topless
  • It shows the mother being seduced by her golf instructor, including unedifying lines such as: ‘You want our First Time to be in a car: that’s the kind of thing my daughter does, for f***’s sake.’
  • It has an ethos of sexual behaviour that is casual and promiscuous (‘And I know why - you’re not getting any’ says the daughter to the mother.)

From our perspective as parents trying to raise our children to be virtuous, all that poses serious problems, breaching as it does several commandments, and the traditional practices of custody of the eyes and custody of the ears, which are how we train our children in the virtue of purity. In Catholic theology, human sexuality is sacred.

I know that ours is an unfashionable, and even counter-cultural, approach, but looking at our children, I don’t think it has damaged them too much: to be honest, I am proud of the way they are turning out.

I recognise that the children may hear this sort of language in the playground, though I lament the fact. I am sure that it would not be countenanced in the classroom, any more than a girl appearing topless would be. So I fail to understand why this is appropriate in a film shown to the students.

I have been told that it is a recommended resource for the syllabus; but that, in my understanding, does not make it either compulsory or desirable.

I suspect that if you asked other Christian parents whether they wanted their adolescent kids to watch blasphemous, profane and sexually titillating material, some others would have reservations.

But we were never consulted or informed, and perhaps that is my deepest concern. If the teaching staff really deem this suitable, their project for our kids is very different from ours: and I really don’t want to have to start quizzing Charlie and Dominique about what they’ve been taught in order to undo damage (as I see it) that may have ben perpetrated by well-intentioned but (in my view) misguided teachers.

I have every confidence that you will take our concerns seriously, and understand them, and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

I am confident that the response will be swift and courteous - and it may well be positive. It could scarcely be worse that Bonus Pastor's...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Faith Schools are the Answer, not the Problem

I just came across this post by Sarah Johnson posted in 2007 (because she has just added a further note about the same issue to her rarely-updated blog). It is well-worth reading, in the light of the shenanigans at the Vaughan, and now Coloma Convent (the subject of her more recent post).

She makes a strong case for the validity of considering parental volunteering as part of the selection criteria, and points out how diocesan-imposed changes or challenges are largely based on perception rather than reality.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sola Scriptura Alert

I saw this on the Facebook page of a friend of a friend, and love it!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Feeling stressed? Try Faith, Hope and Charity

I attended an interesting training course the other day on stress management. As well as looking at reducing the pressures we work under, we were encouraged to increase our resilience - which was defined as our ability to cope with pressure without a stress response.

The first thing discussed was the obvious need to look after oneself physically (diet, exercise, rest, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake etc.) when the pressure is on.

But then we discussed the research on what was called 'positive affect'- a sort of emotional and cognitive optimism.

It struck me that most of the evidence supported the three theological virtues.

Faith was highlighted by the need to find meaning - to have something to believe in. Viktor Frankl was cited, the Austrian therapist who lived through the Nazi concentration camps and wrote Man's Search for Meaning, to explain how some people managed to hold onto their humanity in the midst of the brutalising regime. Other examples were cited (Clarence Adoo, for example, a world class trumpeter who was paralysed from the head down in a car accident, and attributes his positivity to his faith as a Salvationist).

Hope was the leitmotif of the day: a well-founded optimism seems very important. One interesting study looked at nuns, who on entering their convent some 50 years ago, had written a letter to explain why they wanted to be nuns. All had Faith, of course, but some letters were highlighted as having lots of 'positive affect indicators' which I heard as hope-filled; whilst others were more negative on that scale (young women focusing on atonement for past - or others' - wrongs). The study said there was a clear co-relation between the hope-filled letters and a nun's long-term health and longevity - decades later.

Charity was also important: again and again the research evidence showed that people who maintained good relationships with others, who went out of their way to perform acts of gratuitous kindness, who thought well of others and so on were more resilient under pressure. Those who withdraw into themselves are less so.

Clearly, from a Catholic point of view, there is much more that could be said (and in terms of the nuns' study, I am also aware of the saintly nuns who have seen their vocation as a vocation to suffer). Nonetheless, I was interested how the secular research did seem to coalesce around these three virtues, as well as a prudential view of physical well-being.