Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Great Antiphons: O Sapientia

As part of our Advent ritual, we always sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel around our Advent wreath.

The hymn is of course a metrical adaptation of (five of) the Great Antiphons; the antiphons for Vespers for the week preceding Christmas, sung just before the Magnificat.

The Great Antiphons start today.

I was going to blog about both the Great Antiphons and the hymn, but find that the Wikipedia entries on both cover all that I was going to say, and indeed more than I knew.

The entry on the Great O Antiphons is here; there is only one thing I would argue with, and that is the suggestion that the reverse acrostic, Ero Cras, is a coincidence. There is no place for coincidence in my theology...

The entry on O Come, O Come Emmanuel is here. I was fascinated to read Neale's original version; I had only known the Ancient and Modern version.

Here is the chant version of O Sapientia, the first of the Great Antiphons, sung at Vespers today.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Here is Arvo Pärt's setting (in German)

O Weisheit
O Weisheit, hervorgegangen aus dem Munde des Höchsten, die Welt umspannst du von einem Ende zu andern, in Kraft und Milde ordnest du alles: O komm und offenbare uns den Weg der Weisheit und der Einsicht, O Weisheit.

O Wisdom
O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, Thou encirclest the world from one end to the other, Thou orderest all things with might and mercy: O come to us and reveal the way of wisdom and of understanding O Wisdom.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

First Sunday in Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

Whilst the experts on the Pray,Tell blog are quick to proclaim that Advent is not a time of penance, I demur.  

I understand the concern with my position: that Advent should not be seen as the same as Lent.  I agree: the two are different, but there are similarities. Both Advent and Lent are characterised by a more solemn tone in the liturgy: violet or purple vestments are worn, and the Gloria is omitted; and both have a respite Sunday (with rose vestments): Gaudete in Advent and Laetare in Lent. 

Advent, of course, is a time of joyous preparation for the coming of Our Lord (memories of his first coming, and looking forward to his second, of course). But both of these considerations naturally lead us to listen to the words of St John the Baptist: Repent!

We think it important to keep our Advent Celebrations quite distinct from our Christmas Celebrations - though they are related, they are two different seasons of the Church's cycle, with different themes and moods.

So as ever, we will celebrate 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 from the traditional Roman rite of the Mass:

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. 

For those who love Latin, or those who fondly remember my introduction to Liturgical Latin, here is the collect in Latin. too:

Excita, quǽsumus, Dómine, poténtiam tuam, et veni: ut ab imminéntibus peccatórum nostrórum perículis, te mereámur protegénte éripi, te liberánte salvári.

(This, of course, changes with the four Sundays of Advent).

The Marian Antiphon changes today from the Salve Regina to the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which we will sing until the Feast of the Purification (February 2nd).

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, 
summens illud ave, 
peccatorum miserere.

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.

(Translated by Blessed John Henry Newman)

So today, we have been out in the frost, collecting holly for the wreath, up in the attic looking for the advent calendars, Jesse Tree book etc, and I will be singing the Alma Redemptoris throughout the day. Later, we will be singing the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent: Ad te levavi animam meam.

Anna's Jesse Tree blog, means that Ant and her family, in the North East, and Bernie, down south in Manchester, and Charlie and Dominique, at their respective universities, can be with us spiritually at the end of each day as we recall Salvation History.  

Pray for us all.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

All Saints' Day

Today is one of the great Feasts of the Church's year: the feast of All Saints.

We honour all those who have achieved their heavenly goal, known and particularly unknown; and we ask for their intercession as we, the Church militant, struggle on.

Here is Victoria's wonderful setting of O Quam Gloriosum Est:

O quam gloriosum est regnum,
in quo cum Christo gaudent omnes Sancti!
Amicti stolis albis,
sequuntur Agnum, quocumque ierit.

Oh, how glorious is the kingdom
in which all the saints rejoice with Christ!
Clad in robes of white,
they follow the Lamb wherever he may go.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

More good news from Lancaster

Our venerable bishop, +Campbell, has published a blog post in support of the pro-Life movement.  In it he writes, inter alia:
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the (1967) Abortion Act in Britain, we recall we’re citizens of heaven first and we have pro-life obligations to the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and the refugee.  But abortion is foundational. There’s no way around it. It’s the cornerstone issue for any society because it deals with the most basic human right of all – the right to life.
He also takes a passing swipe at the Tablet, which has further degraded itself (who knew that was possible?) by publishing an attack on Catholic teaching on abortion.  +Campbell writes:
Some Catholics – including some periodicals and newspapers who claim to use that name – seem simply embarrassed by the abortion issue.
The Tablet's editorial is behind a paywall - and even if it were not I would hesitate to link to it - why encourage them?  However, I have read it, and it is described in brief here, which also contains an excellent response from another of our good bishops, +Davies.

+Davies also attacked the Tablet:

'Sadly there are journals which use the name "Catholic" but are not reliable guides to the faith and teaching of the Catholic Church.'
Damian Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Herald, asks (on Twitter) what the Tablet would have to do to get banned from Westminster Cathedral. However, I also note that so far it is Christian Today, and not the Catholic Herald, that carries +Davies' criticisms.

Nonetheless, the question is a good one: when will Westminster Cathedral set the lead and stop selling the Tablet?  And if it continues to sell it, why does it do so?

I haven't been to check, but I would be astonished to find that it is still being sold in either Lancaster or Shrewsbury Cathedrals, after the comments from the respective bishops - and I hope that all the churches in their dioceses (and, indeed, in others) follow suit. When good bishops lead, it behoves us all to follow.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Beyond the rhetoric

Those who style themselves pro-choice are fond of rhetoric. 

Some is simply silly (Keep your rosaries off my ovaries being a prime example).

But some sounds as though it might mean something. Who could argue with A woman's right to choose? But of course, that sentence is never finished. For most could argue with a woman's right to choose to kill a child.  And that is the choice in question.  Indeed, when people are audacious enough to offer other choices to women, as the Good Counsel Network does, they must be prevented, and the full weight of Officialdom will be brought to bear on them.

Listen to these women, who thought their only choice was to abort their babies, but who were offered an alternative:

 And of course, women who choose, as Clare McCulloch and her brave associates do, to offer such a choice to women in distress... why their choice is not valid at all.

And the reality of choice exposed by videos like this is that many women 'choosing' abortion are forced into it, whether by the circumstances of their life, or by the men in their life...  Some choice...

The other slogan that is particularly popular at present is Trust Women.  But of course, they are only to be trusted if they are doing what the abortionists and their fellow-travellers want them to do .  They are not to be trusted to offer support to other women in distress, to help them to find other solutions than the killing of their children. 

When confronted with reality, the rhetoric rings rather hollow...

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Silence of the Media

I quite enjoyed Damian Thompson's article in the Herald about the Catholic Cyberwars, though my regulars will realise I may have a slightly different take on this.

However, I think he misses a significant point: the reason the Catholic blogs have some traction in this country at least, is because neither the Bishops' Conference nor the Catholic Press are doing their job properly. And Thompson, as a director of the Herald*, really should reflect on that.

One of the striking aspects of the CES Scandal has been the near-silence of the media, both Catholic and secular. To be fair, the Catholic Herald has run a couple of pieces, but both very understated. For example, here Nick Hallett mentions the contradictory statements regarding funding, but does not press the point, still less do any investigative (errr...) journalism. Likewise, he writes: "sections of document appeared to have been lifted from materials produced by gay rights groups Stonewall and lgbtyouth Scotland." Had he taken the trouble to fact-check, he would not have written 'appears' - unless he is covering for the CES. There is no appears about it: the proof is evident for all to see.

But neither he nor any other Catholic journalist has pursued the questions in the way one would expect a journalist to. One would have thought this story was a gift to a journalist, with issues around funding, collusion with Stonewall etc, and the obfuscation and complete lack of openness and transparency of both the CES and CBCEW. So why are they asleep at their desks? 

In that enormous silence, 
Tiny and unafraid
Comes up along a winding road
The noise of the crusade...

(of Ben Trovato, Mark Lambert, et al).

(*amended later on 8.10.17 to report DT's role at the Herald accurately - had wrongly said 'editor'. Mea culpa and thanks to Bro Eccles for pointing out my carelessness)

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Talking of unanswered questions....

... we have never had a satisfactory answer about the funding of Made In God's Image. The CES has issued contradictory statements, but failed to explain the contradiction.

Not surprisingly, rumours persist that the CES accepted money from Stonewall.

That, of course, is one of the inevitable results of the policy of silence: people will fill in the gaps, and not always in the way one would wish.

That is one of the practical reasons the Nolan principles are so important. There are ethical considerations, too, of course, but perhaps we shouldn't set our sights so high...

And in practice, it means that when (as is inevitable) dribs and drabs of information seep out, and pesky people like me start to comment on them, energy and attention are focussed on seeking whom to blame and excoriating people for the leaks, rather than focussing on the real questions, such as: have we actually got this wrong? What should we do to put it right?

If those questions had been addressed earlier, we might not now be in a situation where backtracking risks a real loss of face, and, (far worse) where some schools reading the cues that Stonewall et al are the authorities on these issues, have developed and imposed immensely harmful policies of trans affirmation.

And still the rumours about funding persist: did Stonewall fund the distribution of Made in God's Image? If not, who did? And if nobody did, why did the CES proudly announce that they had "received funding to cover the printing and distribution of a hard copy for each school"?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Too little, too late

If it is true that Made in God's Image is to be revised, to bring it more closely into line with Catholic teaching, that is good news. And if that is the result of bishops realising the deficiencies of the document, and demanding that such changes be made, that is more good news. On top of the restoration of (some of) our holy days, it suggests that the bishops are moving in the right direction.  However, due to the culture of silence that pervades the CBCEW, we don't actually know...

But in the meantime, great harm is being done. Several Catholic schools, such as Sacred Heart, Hammersmith (the school my sisters attended many years ago) are now adopting trans-positive policies. Is there a connection between this and the CES's apparent endorsement of the Stonewall agenda? It seems probable. Note the head mistress' language on the topic: 'Every child at our school is made in the image of God...' Whilst a self-evident truth, the use of that phrase in this context suggests the baleful influence of the scandalous CES document.

This is very bad, for both theoretical and practical reasons. At the theoretical level, Stonewall's philosophy is antithetical to Catholic truth. You cannot serve both God and Tatchell...

But at the practical level, not only is there the issue of corrupting the consciences of young people, but further, of laying the Church open to serious claims of harm in the future. For the affirmation of young people in transgender identities is something that the professionals are very wary of, and they are also wary of Stonewall's passionate advocacy of this approach.  I have quoted this previously, but I unapologetically quote it again, and in more detail, as it is so important. It comes from a meeting hosted by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health:

Peter Tatchell’s human rights rallying call after lunch felt incongruent after we had seen the sobering reality of what is actually done to the bodies of young people who ‘persist’ in gender dysphoric feelings. It was out of place in an event specifically about children and which was otherwise encouraging of alternative viewpoints. Who would dare raise any objections to the ‘affirmation’ approach after his tirade against ‘transphobia’ 
The presentation by Mrs Terry Reed, Trustee of the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) in the morning similarly jarred in its certainty that transgenderism has a biological cause, during an event where professionals consistently emphasised the uncertainty in both the explanation for, and the treatment of, gender dysphoric youth. 
It begged the question of the place of advocacy groups at a medical and clinical conference such as this. Three of the breakout workshops after lunch were led by such groups, GIRES, Mermaids and the Intercom Trust, all groups certain of the need to ‘affirm’ trans-identified children.
For, as the report also notes: 
 There were also questions about the huge jump in referrals of teenage girls to the Tavistock, the group most likely to both suffer associated mental health problems and to progress to adult services. Absent an agreed etiology for ‘gender dysphoria,’ the question implicitly raised about these young people is: are they really ‘trans’ or are they simply non-conforming young people who have been presented with a new way to conceptualise their problems and a new tribe to join which provides them with acceptance and approval? 
The issue was inadvertently touched on by Professor Stephen Whittle of the Manchester Law School, showing slides of young people with slashed arms and commenting that this “didn’t happen in my day because it wasn’t presented as a possibility” and that “now kids learn quickly from social media.” It is only political sensitivities which prevent us from considering the same explanation for the sudden unprecedented number of teenage girls who bind their breasts and identify as boys. 
Professor Katherine Johnson, Reader in Psychology at Brighton University, showed slides of interviews with young people which were revealing of what a ‘trans’ identity means for teenagers: “Cis people think you should conform” said one interviewee. The binary of ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ has come to represent ‘conformity’ v ‘non-conformity’ in the minds of young people: is a trans identity now the only way for teens to distinguish themselves as not conforming? In which case, what self-respecting teenager would want to identify as ‘cis’?
And perhaps more troubling still:
One of the leading researchers in this area, Thomas Steensma from VU University, Amsterdam, confirmed in his afternoon presentation that there is ‘no true data’ to support an ‘affirmation’ approach above one of ‘watchful waiting’ and that only a minority of gender dysphoric children persist in those feelings. He stressed the ‘need to be balanced and honest,’ admitted that ‘we don’t know a lot,’ advised that ‘we should keep all possibilities open’ and suggested a less prescriptive approach.
(Source: the whole piece is well worth reading.)
So the experts don't support the 'affirm' approach which Stonewall advocate, and which now some Catholic Schools are imposing on parents and children. 

This is important, as there is evidence that between 80 - 95% of children with Gender Identity Dysphoria find that these feelings decrease or disappear in time - unless they are put on puberty blockers, in which case (in the one study I know of) 100% went on to physical surgery. As children as young as 12 are being treated with puberty blockers, you can see that the risks of affirmation are serious and irreversible.

What do we know about trans-regret?Unfortunately, the research cannot be done, as it is politically incorrect. That in itself shows the way in which this agenda is being pushed for political reasons, not on the basis of any evidence. It is shameful that Catholic Schools - and indeed the CES - should have been swept along by Stonewall propaganda, rather than consulting the medical and psychological experts in the field; and even more damningly, without consulting the truths about human nature and human well-being of which the Catholic Faith is the guardian.

It will not be long - inside ten years, I dare wager - before troubled young adults are bringing actions against their schools and the Church for putting them on a path to transitioning that has permanently damaged them, physically and mentally. Apart from the huge injustice to the children (and also their peers, corrupted by this false ideology), this will be yet another blow to the credibility of the Church in this country.

Our bishops need to be aware of this likelihood, and take much more decisive action. Quietly amending Made in God's Image will be too little, too late. Please write to them, in charity as ever, and ask them to address this issue as a matter of priority.

And pray for them, as ever.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Power of Silence (3)

In this third post, I consider a further aspect of Silence. In the first, I reflected on its positive powers; in the second, on the evils of imposed Silence with regard to the truth. In this one, I am concerned with Silence from our bishops and their agencies (one may also read across from this to silence from our Holy Father).

When the scandalous document Made in God's Image first came to my attention, I wrote to several bishops and the Director of the CES, as did others. Their responses fell into three categories (with one exception). Most simply did not reply. A few told us that we were writing to the wrong person. And from the remainder, we got the famous Q letter (see here and here).  Given that Q addresses none of the issues raised, I think that counts as Silence - a refusal to engage with the issues.

Given that I thought this important, I wrote again to +McMahon as head of the relevant bishop's committee, and received an assurance that he would discuss the matter with the head of the CES. That could be read as a sincere next step, or a brush-off. So I wrote again, asking for an assurance that when he had done so, he would communicate the outcome: as the issues are important, I should be told if I am wrong, or changes should be undertaken if I am right. The response (you guessed it) Silence.

In the meantime, I heard that several bishops had refused to allow Made in God's Image to be issued in their dioceses. But oddly, I could find no public reasons for that. So I wrote to them, asking about that, and asking whether my making a noise about all this was unhelpful in some way I didn't know, and whether I should, therefore desist. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I have been silent about this for a while: I was awaiting responses to these various letters.)

Three of them have not replied; one, my own good bishop, has done so. He did not address my questions head on, but instead referred me to +McMahon.

So how am I to read all this Silence? If several bishops believe the document is not in conformity with Catholic teaching, why will they not say so? Surely considerations of a facade of unity are less important than the corruption of Catholic teachers and children by wrong teaching?

It may be, of course, that their are tactical reasons for their silence, as they seek to address the issue behind the scenes. But I specifically asked if I should shut up about this, and not one of them said I should.  So I interpret that silence as tacit permission to keep making a noise about it.

And now a rumour reaches me that the CES has announced to the bishops that the document will be revised and reissued. Is that true? If so, does it concede there is something wrong with the first iteration? If so, teachers deserve to be told.  But d'you know what? There will be Silence.


With all respect to their Lordships, this is a very unwise path to tread. Whilst I understand the positive Power of Silence as alluded to by Cardinal Sarah (see the first post in this series), the Silence of teachers when error is promulgated (or of leaders when evil is perpetrated)  is not discretion, but dereliction.

Episcopal silence has already done tremendous damage in this country, and the culture of Silence (I had almost written omertà) has facilitated the unfortunate Conry episode,  the deception of the faithful about the leadership of CAFOD, and countless cases of abuse; quite apart from the silence about all the difficult parts of Catholic teaching over the past 50 years (with a few honourable exceptions).

Pray, then, for our bishops, that they may all be worthy successors to St John Fisher.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Power of Silence (2)

Yesterday I posted about the power of silence in its most positive manifestation. Today, I am concerned with another aspect: the power of imposed silence.

One of the reasons I am troubled by Made in God's Image, and the ideology it implicitly (and at times explicitly) pedals, is that it imposes silence.  There are certain things that may not be said; and in particular, certain truths that may not be told.  For a resource for Catholic Education, that is a very serious charge; so here is why I am making it.

The language of Made in God's Image pre-supposes certain things that Catholics do not believe, and stigmatises the expression of beliefs that Catholics do hold. Right at the start, we read: 
Homophobic bullying is bullying that is based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about lesbian, gay or bi people. Homophobic bullying may be targeted at students who are, or who are perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bi. It can also suggest that someone or something is less worthy because they are lesbian, gay or bi. 
This is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly, it reifies, or treats as real, categories such as 'lesbian, gay or bi people.' This is language (as indeed is the very term homophobic) that has been wrought to further the ideology of organisations such as Stonewall, and LGBTYouth Scotland whose work is copied and pasted into this document in large quantities. Yet the Church does not categorise people in this way. 

More worrying still is the idea that any expression of negative attitudes, beliefs or views about lesbian, gay or bi people is bullying, and therefore a disciplinary offence. Likewise suggesting that someone or something is less worthy because they are lesbian, gay or bi becomes a disciplinary offence. 

Thus it becomes impossible to say things like: 
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (CCC §2357)

I find it particularly interesting that serious medical professionals, meeting to discuss these issues, should find the interventions of pressure groups problematic: 
Peter Tatchell’s human rights rallying call after lunch felt incongruent after we had seen the sobering reality of what is actually done to the bodies of young people who ‘persist’ in gender dysphoric feelings. It was out of place in an event specifically about children and which was otherwise encouraging of alternative viewpoints. Who would dare raise any objections to the ‘affirmation’ approach after his tirade against ‘transphobia’ 
The presentation by Mrs Terry Reed, Trustee of the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) in the morning similarly jarred in its certainty that transgenderism has a biological cause, during an event where professionals consistently emphasised the uncertainty in both the explanation for, and the treatment of, gender dysphoric youth. 
It begged the question of the place of advocacy groups at a medical and clinical conference such as this. Three of the breakout workshops after lunch were led by such groups, GIRES, Mermaids and the Intercom Trust, all groups certain of the need to ‘affirm’ trans-identified children. (Source: the whole piece is well worth reading.)
Yet it is precisely to such pressure groups that the CES has turned for advice and it is their definitions and their case studies, designed to silence any debate or dissent ('Through discussion, make clear that all of these scenarios are homophobic in different ways'
  - p22)
 that they are touting in Made In God's Image

Having recently read Gabriele Kuby's well-researched book, The Global Sexual Revolution, I am much clearer than previously that this muzzling of opposing viewpoints, the imposition of silence on those who disagree with the new (im)morality, is part of a very deliberate and all-pervasive strategy, which is called 'gender mainstreaming.' 

If you have not read Kuby's book, you should. Pope Benedict XVI said: 'Mrs Kuby is a brave warrior against ideologies that ultimately result in the destruction of man.'  She highlights the Yogyakarta Principles (YP), which seek to overturn the established morality of Western Civilisation (that of all the Abrahamic religions, for example) and replace it with a new hedonism, based purely on subjective feelings of identity. 

It is, perhaps, typical that the YP wwwsite states 'The result was the Yogyakarta Principles: a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. ' Whereas the (referenced) relevant line in Wikipedia reads: 'These principles have not been adopted by States in a treaty, and are thus not by themselves a legally binding part of international human rights law.[2] '

Kuby explores the purpose and methods of those behind these Principles, including their explicit intention both to obfuscate their own goals, to prevent genuine research into these issues (see here, for example) and to silence, or failing that to criminalise, those who disagree with them.

It is in this context that I believe that the bishops in our country have gravely erred in admitting Made in God's Image into our schools: a document that both misrepresents reality, and imposes silence on those who would present Catholic teaching. This is all so much bigger, more organised, and better funded (by the UN, EU, Gates, Soros, etc etc) than I had realised initially.  That is why I believe I cannot keep silence on this issue.

Pray for our schools, the teachers and the children; as well as for our bishops, and the CES who have been the dupes of this powerful propaganda movement.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Power of Silence (1)

I am reading Cardinal Sarah's book, The Power of Silence. And very powerful it is, too. He reflects on silence and the sacraments; on silence and music; on how we are driven out of paradise, and out of ourselves, by sin, and need to rediscover our inner selves; on how the words that we do not say become prayers... and much more besides (and I'm only a third of the way through).

It is no coincidence that I have been blogging less, recently.

And in my self-imposed silence, I have been reflecting on why I blog and what I should blog about. There is much about which I should (and will) keep silent. But that is not everything.

My other reading recently has included Daniel Mattson's personal testimony, Why I don't call myself gay, and Gabriele Kuby's The Global Sexual RevolutionThese have reinforced for me the urgency and the importance of combating the errors contained in Made in God's Image (follow the CESScandal tag for the whole sorry story).

Interestingly, my silence has brought greater clarity to that; and greater anger. The wickedness that risks being inflicted on our children is even more clear to me than it was before; but I am also clear that I must turn my anger on that wickedness, and not direct it at people.  That is a tricky balance, and I find it all to easy to rail against the CES or the bishops. 

I am still struggling with finding that balance, but I will certainly return to this fight, and will continue to do so until some resolution is reached...

Friday, 22 September 2017

Pro-Life at Freshers' Fair...

It is that time of year again: when new undergraduates are turning up at University for the first time, and are presented, at Freshers' Fair, with a huge array of clubs, societies, sports, causes and activities which would like them to get involved.

Rightly, various pro-life groups take stands at Freshers' Fairs around the country. It is an important opportunity to get young people to think about the realities of abortion, and the implications of those realities for their own behaviour. And, of course, to recruit the more sane students to the pro-life cause.

But in more than one case, I am hearing reports that the pro-life groups are being subjected to inquisitorial meetings by the Student Union reps. This is after they have gained permission for, and frequently paid for, their stand.

The SU reps have, for example, quizzed them on their counselling - is it non-directive, and is it BACP accredited? And they ask them to remove the models of the developing child from their display, in case they should upset anyone.

The models, of course, are both medically accurate and entirely inoffensive, as the attached pictures (from Life's successful London roadshow) make clear. Of course, if someone has had an abortion, she might find them disconcerting or upsetting: but that says more about the reality of her abortion than it does about the models.

But my questions are: do these same SU Reps ask all other organisations who offer advice about non-directionality and BACP accreditation?  And do they ask any other stalls that have images that might upset someone (say the Amnesty group, or the Anti-Hunting group...) to remove them?

And to ask the questions is to answer them. We know that these are prejudicial demands made of pro-life groups for political reasons. And that is unjust.


Pray for all the brave pro-life students, volunteers and workers who run these stalls; whilst the majority of students seem interested and prepared to engage in a civilised way, even when they disagree, there are a few ideologues out there whose compassion for women is so great that they feel the need to abuse women who run these stalls for the crime of disagreeing with them. It can be extremely stressful.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Praise where it's due...

I have been following the reaction to Jacob Rees-Mogg's television interview, in which he declared for the teaching of the Church on two of the hot-button issues of the day, with some interest.

Initially, some of us were hugely enthusiastic: here was a Catholic politician who did not duck the issues, and had the courage to say things that he knew were likely to be used against him, in a context in which he was never going to get a fair hearing. That was so refreshing after years of hearing 'I'm a Catholic, but...' from assorted politicians,  and the tactical silence, ambiguity, or downright apostasy from many Catholic prelates and priests.

But then came the criticisms: his arguments were weak, in some cases mistaken, and ceded too much ground, and so on.

I think both responses are appropriate, in the right balance. First and foremost, I think, we should applaud his big-heartedness: his sheer courage in saying what could well end his political career, and what he knew would open him up to the kind of shameless pillorying, mocking and misrepresentation that he has already begun to experience, and which I predict will not abate as long as he is in the public eye. That takes guts, and guts are admirable. His heart is in the right place, it seems, and it is our hearts - what we love - that finally determine who we are and how we will be judged. If he loves Christ and Christ's teaching, then he is on the road to salvation.

However, that does not mean that we should not look at the substance of what he said, and perhaps lament his muddle-headedness (though read on - I have more to say in mitigation, as it were, of this charge).  Joseph Shaw makes a number of valid points in his pieces on the subject, here and here.

However, and this is a big however, unless one has been in the hot seat in a television studio, on live tv and with hostile interviewers, one may not fully understand the situation in which he found himself.

I have been involved with the media training of many academics, over many years. Even on their own topics, in which they are experts, and in a training session that is not actually live, they often talk rubbish or explain their own research inadequately and at times incorrectly, when they are first quizzed by an interviewer who is only moderately challenging.

If the interviewer then leads them off-piste, as it were, onto a broader topic about higher education - something they know a great deal about, but for which they are not so prepared - they frequently talk even greater quantities of rubbish. And these are intelligent experts, used to teaching demanding undergraduates.

Simply put, there is something about the different context and the pressures of a live interview, that make it hard to marshal one's thoughts and express them coherently and accurately in live-time.  In fact, they are trained not to answer questions that are not directly related to their own research. But that is not an option that was open to Rees-Mogg: a politician who does that looks evasive, and on these subjects, the conclusion will be drawn that he holds the views deemed unpalatable but is too scared to say so (as in the Tim Farron affair).

So I think, firstly that Rees-Mogg was courageous in his stance; secondly that some of what he said was wrong; but thirdly that while we should of course seek to promote a better understanding, we should not blame him for that. I notice that on Facebook, a number of intelligent Catholics are trying to find better answers to the questions he faced, and struggling to do so - and that without being subject to all the pressures he was under.

Say a prayer for him, and for all who have the courage to stand up for the Faith in the public sphere: it takes courage and is likely to be thankless in this world; so pray they have the perseverance to ensure that it is rewarded in the next.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Seven Sorrows Mass

It has just been announced that Fr Daniel Etienne, a newly-ordained priest, will be saying a Low Mass at Sizergh Castle on the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, Friday 15th September, at 7.00 pm.

It is hoped that Fr Etienne will also give First Blessings after the Mass.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Abortion after rape

Today, Jacob Rees-Mogg scandalised the world (apparently - or at least that part of it that comments on social and main stream media) by saying that he disapproved of abortion in even in a case where the woman is pregnant as a result of rape (see here).

The howls of outrage, the astonishment,  and the terms in which it was expressed ('barbaric' and so on) were so intense, you might have thought that he was advocating killing innocent children, rather than standing up for them.

The rape question always comes up, of course. Let us pass over the fact that it is used by those who want to legitimise abortion in all circumstances; and the fact that we know that hard cases make bad law. Let us look it squarely in the face, on its own terms.

If one accepts what science (specifically biology and genetics) tells us - that is that a new and distinct human being comes into existence at the moment of conception - then even if it were proven that a therapeutic abortion might ease the distress for a woman pregnant as a result of rape, it is unjustifiable.

There is no circumstance in which killing an innocent human being in order to ease the distress of another human being can be justified.  We do not have to apologise for that truth.

Having said that, we can then look at some of the other aspects of this hard case. 

Firstly, of course, we deplore the terrible evil of rape, and the trauma that results. But in fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that abortion eases that trauma or that carrying a resultant child to full term makes it worse. The evidence we have, as a SPUC post on the topic makes clear, points in the other direction.  And that post is notable, too, for the additional distress caused to the victims of such terrible crimes by those who appropriate their suffering to push for the liberalisation of abortion laws, as described by some of the women interviewed. It is truly wicked to subject women to a second assault on their bodies and their dignity by invading their bodies to abort their children. There is no evidence whatsoever medically or psychologically to justify this, and there are many women who will testify that, whatever one might imagine, having the baby was the one positive thing to come out of that traumatic experience.

Secondly, note the dishonesty of the way in which the debate is often conducted. This hard question is used as a tactic, almost one might say as emotional blackmail, to break down the absolute opposition to abortion that a principled person has. But the person using it has never (in my experience at least) any interest in restricting abortions to such hard cases.

Thirdly, and related, is the rhetorical dishonesty that then follows: 'You mean, you would force a woman to carry her rapist's child?!!' Timothy Brahm, of the Equal Rights Institute dismantles that particular rhetorical device here.

And finally, there is the underlying question of justice and compassion. These must apply not only to the victim of the rape, but also to the child. Justice or compassion applied to either one, without the other, is no justice, and no compassion. And no good will come of it.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Of your charity...

Of your charity pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor.

It is understandable that when someone we love or revere dies, we want to imagine that he or she has gone straight to Heaven.

However, the Catholic Church has always cautioned against this approach; instead, we assume as a default position that people need our prayers at this time.

I am just finishing reading the autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, and she recounts some extraordinary visions that bear witness to the power of praying for the dead.

The traditional liturgy, of course, captures the full range of emotions and resonances of this time: ranging from the Dies irae to the In paradisum, and with the wonderful prayer Tuis enim fidelibusDomine, vita mutatur, non tollitur.

The premature emotional beatification of people immediately after their death is not only theologically suspect, but risks denying them the prayers they may need at this stage of their journey towards heaven.

So pray for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, that he may speed through purgatory, and enjoy the fulness of redemption in the company of Our Lord, Our Lady and all the angels and saints, in Heaven.

Good News

It is excellent that our bishops have chosen to reinstate the Feasts of the Epiphany and the Ascension as Holy Days of Obligation, on their correct days.

Not only does this bring us into alignment with Rome (and with our separated brethren in the Anglican Communion) but also with our forefathers, which I see as equally, if not more, significant.

Joseph Shaw has written about this, (including the importance of celebrating Feasts on their correct days) here.

I was slightly puzzled at first by the decision not to restore Corpus Christi to its traditional day: the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (given that it is a celebration of some of Maundy Thursday's key events, but removed from the shadow of Good Friday).

However, it was heartening to learn (from Stephen Morgan - @trisagion on Twitter) that the reasons for this were that the bishops had noticed a growth in Corpus Christi processions on Sundays, and did not want to do anything to discourage that.

Whilst one might disagree with that judgement, the grounds on which they are acting are also very heartening. It is not that long ago that some liturgists (and some bishops) were waging war on that kind of popular expression of the Faith, so it is heartening to know that those days are behind us.

All in all, very good news for the Church in England and Wales, and their Lordships are to be heartily congratulated.

And remember to pray for them.

Monday, 21 August 2017

On Discernment

In all the talk around the more revolutionary interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, the word discernment comes up.

It came up yesterday in a twitter conversation I was having on the topic with @thirstygargoyle - he had responded to my previous post about Jurisprudence and Imprudence by tweeting: It's important to note, I think, that Amoris deals with how to pick up pieces afterwards, and proposes an *augmented* internal forum. By which I mean, it proposes that discernment is guided by a priest, and is not a purely solitary exercise.

I asked: What is the discernment aimed at discerning? That is what nobody has (yet) explained to me... That the previous marriage was null?

To which he replied: It will vary from case to case. There'll be a huge range of variants.

We chatted on for quite a while, but really got no further in terms of what is being discerned.

And that worries me.

For I think that some interpreters of AL may help people to 'discern' that their previous marriage was in fact null, so they are free to treat their new union as a real marriage. Others may help people to discern that in their particular situation, it would be impossible to separate, so they too could treat their new union as a real marriage. And so on.

@thirstygargoyle makes the point that Familiaris Consortio suggests that 'the situations of individuals who had remarried after divorces were different and needed to be treated differently.' But nowhere does Familiaris Consortio or any other teaching document of the Church suggest that 'differently' might mean acknowledging a second union as legitimate when a first valid marriage endures. Yet that seems the direction of travel of many interpreters of AL.

For what it's worth, my view is that discernment should be a process that leads the individual to realise the incompatibility of living with a second partner as a spouse with the life of grace; and therefore implies a penitential path which is aimed to a resolution of the irregularity: that is to say, a cessation of the adultery. For such is the path of mercy. And whilst someone is determined to persist in adultery, such a determination de facto means they are not in a position to receive Holy Communion. That is not necessarily a judgement that they are in mortal sin; but if they are not, then they are in a state of ignorance with regard to the teaching of the Church that is also incompatible with full (and therefore eucharistic) communion.

I think the underlying problem with some interpreters of AL is that they do not really think any harm is being done by those in second unions. If the first marriage is truly over (say the other spouse has abandoned the one in discernment irrevocably), then what's the problem?

The first problem is precisely there: the first marriage is not truly over, even if the other spouse has abandoned the one in discernment irrevocably. In such a case the marriage still endures, and that means that the second party is not free to enter a new union (that's rather what we mean when we promise 'for better of for worse, till death do us part.')

The second problem is that sin harms us and others. Any sin. Every time. Even when culpability is reduced, sin is still evil, and still harmful. The abortionist who truly and sincerely believes he is helping a distressed pregnant woman is still doing something evil, even though his culpability may be minimal or non-existent. The adulterer is no different.

So any process of discernment that is not aimed at ending the adultery is the opposite of mercy. And any sexual intimacy in a second union , where the first is valid and endures, is adultery, as Our Lord clearly taught.