Thursday 19 April 2007

Me - ahead of the times...?

For years I have annoyed those around me in Church (and embarrassed my family) by proclaiming 'I believe...' when the new translation required 'We believe...'

I did this for a few reasons - one is my inherent tendency to be counter cultural; more importantly, however, was a sense of outrage at the translators having the audacity to translate 'Credo' as 'We believe.' The official text of the Church had never changed, in other words, it was only in English-speaking countries that this innovation hade been introduced. The third reason was that I had been given good reasons for 'I believe' (eg in Mons. Knox's Creed in Slow Motion) whereas the reasons for 'We believe' had always seemed entirly bogus.

However, it now seems as though I am to be vindicated: the new translation reverts to 'I believe' and will be in force from Advent this year (I understand) so I am now officially ahead of the times...

(The new translation is better on almost every count - have a look at it on Fr Finnigan's valle adurni blog ).

Wednesday 18 April 2007

Which Pope am I?

I took this quiz to discover which 20th century pope I was.

Why don't you? (see link to quiz below)

Thanks to the Hermeneutic of Continuity site for the recommencation.

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?

You are Pope Pius XII. You're efficient and dedicated, but not very approachable.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Screwtape on Humanae Vitae (4)

This is the last of the Screwtape letters published to mark the 25th anniversary of Humane Vitae in Catholic Family newspaper in the UK some years ago (and re-printed with the author's permission) For previous ones, look earlier in the blog....

My dear Hogwort

I seem to remember that this correspondence started because you felt that Slubgob over-rated the importance of the campaign against Humanae Vitae. I trust that you now realise how critical it is in its own right, and also how much you young tempters can earn from the skill with which is as been executed.

Over the last twenty five years, we have managed to cause such havoc within the Church, that serious thinking has been almost abandoned by very many. Hearsay, opinions and feelings count for more than the teaching and traditions of the Church.

Using people’s reluctance to obey Humanae Vitae as a bridgehead, we are on the verge of storming the citadel. It has even got to the stage where people see sex as so indispensable that the idea of a celibate priesthood is simply outside their understanding. (You will notice in passing, how important a part of our plan it has been to undermine devotion to She whom we don’t name; and to all the virgin saints, who give the lie to that particular deceit.)

Again, it reflects another of my favourite strategies: the idea of what’s natural (that wonderful word). Since their Fall, celibacy is of course unnatural to them. As it is not particularly attractive, we can easily persuade them that the ‘unnatural’ is bad. And of course the what comes naturally to them (since that first great victory) is anything but chastity, charity, faith, hope...

It’s as though they haven’t known from time immemorial that we’ve damaged their nature from the word go, and as though they were wholly unaware of the supernatural destiny that awaits them: here, we hope!

However, do not slide into an over optimistic view of things. Despite the excellent work that we have done, there is still a large number of people loyal to the papacy, and as always, that particular office is one we have not been able to corrupt.

The other thing we should realise is the danger of pushing too far too fast. In the past, (for we should learn from the past, however much we prevent them from doing so) whenever we have had the Church on its knees, He has always intervened. Sometimes quite spectacularly, He produces those great warriors they term saints, whose existence is an eternal pain to us. So until that day when we are ready to storm Heaven as well as Earth, we need to proceed with some caution. He has guaranteed that He will protect His Church while He has power to do so, and so far He has always been true to His Word.

So our strategy must be the attack on individuals, to draw them away from the Church. The same old thing, you may be thinking. Well, on one level, yes. But again do not fall for the snare we set for them that new is better. However, we have used the dissent from Humanae Vitae to launch a development of the strategy, and this is the final point I make about it. We have now managed to persuade a few influential people that Humanae Vitae is wrong (as it is difficult), that therefore there must be something wrong with the Church to have proclaimed it and stuck to it so steadfastly, and that therefore what is required is a new version of the Church.

Thus we have developed a sub-culture apparently within the Church that is actually motivated largely by a desire to re-create the Church according to our designs. We know, even now when all is going well, that they will not wholly succeed. But we can hope that a number of people will lose their faith in the process.

So to summarise: our attack on Humanae Vitae is a part of a larger attack on the whole body of the Church, an attack which works at many levels, and involves a number of powerful strategies. The fact that sex is of no interest to the diabolic intelligence is irrelevant. Slubgob is right to make you study it, and if you have not learnt all these lessons from his tuition, then the fault must lie with you. Slubgob is, of course, above criticism.

If ever you doubt the importance of the Humanae Vitae battle, remember this: those loyal to it are so much further from our grasp than the rest. Many are developing the alarming characteristics of saints. Look at them if you dare: they are the foot-soldiers of the Enemy on Earth.

Your affectionate mentor


Saturday 14 April 2007

Birthday Party

Today was Bernie's 14th birthday so we had a few friends round for her party.

I had been observing that her friends parties were getting more and more extravagant: swimming, ice-skating, laser quest, go ape high ropes course (at £20 er kid...)

So we had a party at home. Ant and I devised an afternoon consisting of a number of outdoor competitive games, by which the kids, working in two teams, accumulated cash (Monopoly money) to buy kit to construct something.

The teams decided which activities they wanted to compete in so that tehy wouldn't feel forced to do things. In the event they chose to do all of them. These included designing a team logo and painting it on each others' faces, then having a treasure hunt, three legged race, and so on.

Then they had to build a roman style catapult, to hurl a water balloon further than the other team.

This was followed by a perty tea with cake.

All the kids took part with gusto: make-up disappeared beneath face-paint, and teenage dignity beneath gales of hilarity.

On leaving many said what a great party it was: sometimes allowing teenagers to be kids can really work (though you do have to be careful to get it right)

Monday 9 April 2007

Tree house progress

The latest treehouse is progressing.

Already the little ones like to play up here - it's a bit precarious, but we do risk!

Ant assures me it will be safe eventually...

More cake

And and Bernie have been at it again! This time it's a spring cake.

PS I don't know why some photos are presented on their side on blogger - they're all the right way up on my Mac.

Easter fun

As well as the liturgical aspects already referred to, we have had a lot of family fun at Easter.

The day started with a candle-lit breakfast and the giving of Easter eggs (only one for each kid - but see later...). The table was decorated with an Easter tree hung with eggs decorated by the kids, as well as a profusion of daffodils.

After that we had an easter egg hunt in the garden: I had hidden mini-eggs all over the place: wedged in craccks in trees, in the flower beds, in various dens and tree houses, in cracks in the walls etc. This is an eagerly-awaited anual tradition!

We then took Anna's mum out for a trip and picnic - the first of the year featuring chocolate, as the kids have been off it for Lent.

Back home, Bernie and I went out on our bikes with Goldie, while the other kids played in the garden; Anna did some gardening, while her mum, who had come home with us made a cup of tea. Then we had an Easter bonfire, with toasted marshmallows.

Lamb for supper (of course) and a delicious Easter cake, made and decorated by Ant.

After supper we performed Aichinger's Regina Caeli (for part polyphony: Charlie and Dom Soprano, Dernie Alto, Ant Tenor and me Bass) which only left Anna and her mum as an audience - they were very appreciative, though Goldie was not. She's not a very musical puppy...

After washing up and evening prauers, the llittle ones went to bed, and Ant and Bernie watched part of a film on DVD as an Easter treat.

Oddly enough, in this counter-cultural family, that is classed as an extremely enjoyable day.

Shame about the Boat Race on Saturday, but I'm getting over it.

Sunday 8 April 2007

Good Friday and the Easter Vigil

We went to both the Good Friday Liturgy and the Easter Vigil celebrated according to the traditional rite. Both were extremely moving and beautiful.

Highlights included the Reproaches sung to an arrangement by Victoria.

The kids' reactions ranged from genuine appreciation (Ant and Bernie, the teenagers) through interested observation (Charlie, 10) to surviving it pretty well (Dominique - but she is only 8...)

As they all play the piano and other instruments, they appreciated the music as a huge improvment on the all-join-in-never-mind-the-quality approach of our normal parish Masses.

The Latin isn't a problem either - with parallel English texts, there is no difficulty in following what is going on.

All in all a wonderful way to celebrate Holy Week.

Saturday 7 April 2007

Wrap-around childcare

New research by academics from Oxford (as reported in the Times) has shown that children in nursery care for long hours from an early age are more likely to have behavioural problems than others. What a surprise!

I predict the (UK) government will ress ahead with plans to make more such care available and to pressurise mothers into availing themsleves of it. When that goes wrong, they will say what we need is even more childcare froman even earlier age...

Friday 6 April 2007

Screwtape on Humanae Vitae (3)

(For the first two, see earlier posts)

My dear Hogwort

In my last letter, I outlined the first strand of our attack on Humanae Vitae, and explained the principle underlying it. The approach is simple: ‘if the Law is hard or unpopular, it must be wrong’.

I hinted that there was more to the strategy than that, and here we come to the most elegant (though not the most important) part of the deceit. Along with that stupid idea, we've managed to introduce another, even more absurd
one. The way we present it to them is simply: ‘what goes on behind bedroom doors is nobody else's business.’

You may find this harder to believe, but they swallow that one, too. I know that you, like me, can see the absurdity of the idea: as though the Enemy who created them and holds them in being could avert His eyes; as though all the virtues or vices that they develop in this most intimate sphere have no impact on their character or moral well-being, as though... well the list goes on.

The most exciting part of all this, from a strategic point of view, is also the subtlest. Pay attention to this, as it is a technique you can use many times in many contexts, and as long as your victim is unaware, he will nearly always fall for it.

We start by introducing the idea in a way that seems obvious. So we take the notion that human sexuality is a private affair, and by a sleight of hand extend the notion of privacy to include the Enemy. We deliberately do not allow them to work through the logic of that, for then even they might see how stupid it is. If they do start to think about it, whisper ‘prying priests’. A slogan like that will quickly get rid of any further serious thought.

The elegant part of the strategy comes next: once they have accepted the initial deceit, we can then work backwards, and get them to reinterpret their theology (such as it is) to fit in with their new convictions. Thus we start by saying 'what goes on behind bedroom doors is nobody else's business.' Once they believe that, we can get them to deny the teaching
authority of the Church - for the Church clearly teaches something different. But surely, I seem to hear you say, they'll realise that if the the Church teaches differently, then to be a Christian means accepting the Church’s teaching.

Not for a second. I find it hard to put across to you youngsters how easy it is for a competent tempter to prevent most humans from thinking such things - or indeed anything. By simple mechanisms, such as bombarding them with noise all the time - whether music from the radio, or constant television, or simply inane and unthinking chatter among themselves, we have almost abolished most humans' ability to think clearly about one subject for more than twenty seconds.

There are some, of course, who do think. These we attack with pride. The idea is that they know better than the Church . We encourage them not to study the Church’s teaching as humble children seeking to understand it and explain it to their brothers. Instead, we tempt them into the role of critics, looking to pick holes in the teaching, and re-write it as they think it should be.

One popular theologian was fairly orthodox until his dissent from Humanae Vitae. From that we led him to question the teaching authority of the Church, and he has now followed us so far that he doubts the existence of life after death. And the final irony is that when the Church points out that he is no longer teaching Christianity, he genuinely feels persecuted!

The strategy goes a stage beyond this, but I will leave that till my next letter.

Your affectionate mentor


Thursday 5 April 2007

Maundy Thursday - in Latin

Just got back from Maundy Thursday Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite (AKA Tridentine).

What with the incense, the ringing of the bells during the Gloria, the wooden rattle replacing the bells during the Consecration, and the procession and stripping o f the altar after Mass, it was a liturgy the children found really interesting. No need to send them off to Childrens' Liturgies when they can be nourished - and intrigued - by the richness of traditional liturgy.

Anna and the teenage girls all wore mantillas - the traditional black lacy veils with which women without hats always used to cover their heads in Church. The girls like them - Anna wears it more as a gesture of modesty and submission.

A Good Walk

The walk yesterday was fantastic! It was like a summer's day, and we went far from the crowds taking a path which may or may not have been a right of way - but in the open country, not farmed land, so I assume we had a right to roam.

We diverted from the planned route to explore an old quarry and slate mine, which had a satisfying cave, leading to a water-filled tunnel going deep into the hillside. It had the most wonderful acoustics. All the kids (and I) yelled and sang down it. Goldie was not quite sure about it...

Then we continued our diversion to the top of a hill we had been going to go around, and had our picnic at the summit. Once up there, it seemed a shame to lose height so we took a ridge path to the next summit and then dropped down to a pass to regain our original route.

We stopped by a mountain lake to cool our feet, and eventually made our way back down to the valley to where we'd left the car. Although the car park was packed, there had been long stretches where we'd hardly seen a soul.

Over the course of the route, we kept forming and re-forming into little sub-groups, so everyone spent some time with everyone else, whether singing and telling stories and jokes, having more serious conversations or simply walking in companionable silence.

Ant and I got a little sunburned, but all agreed (even the little ones) that it had been a marvelous day out.

Wednesday 4 April 2007

Why walk?

Yesterday we went out for a walk as a family for about 4 hours (coverd about 7 miles in the hills with a picnic stop. Today we are planning something a bit longer - all day and around 12 miles, going over some serious hills/small mountains.

The smaller kids were asking why, and that seemed a good question. There are many answers. One is simply that Anna and I enjoy it (as do all the kids in fact, though only the elder two admit it before the event...). But beyond that, we value time together as a family away from distractions and pressures. Moreover, we have found over the years that one can have a very different quality of conversation while walking than sitting in the house. The time and space, the opportunity for long silences that don't feel forced, the fact that we are looking outward together at the beauty of creation, rather than into each others' faces (or not) create opportunities for talking about difficult issues in a relaxed way. Also it's a great way of keeping fit (it makes me laugh that people subscribe to gyms, drive there in cars, run on a treadmill with the TV on and an iPod in their ears, and then drive on to the next place...) We walk or cycle whenever we can for local things - and I guess we're as fit as we need be and much fitter than most.

And then the kids have such a great time: telling each other stories, singing songs, rolling down grassy banks, playing long imaginative games. And of course, it's a very economical and eco-friendly way of spending time in the holidays. It's a valuable lesson for the kids to learn how much enjoyment one can have from each others' company, with no gadgets, gimics, games or other consumable items (other than Anna's wonderful picnics, which are always a highlight!) And then they sleep so well at night.

So despite the protestations of the little ones, we're off for a major hike today!

Tuesday 3 April 2007

Screwtape on Humanae Vitae (2)

Here is the second of these letters, originaly published in Catholic Family, and re-published here with the permission of the author. (For the first, see Feb postings)

My dear Hogwort

Your last letter displayed in many ways a lamentable ignorance of some of the basic principles of tempting. I find it hard to believe that anyone who has already completed two terms at the College - under the excellent tutorship of Slubgob himself - could write such drivel.

There is no sense in which we ever want the human vermin to enjoy themselves. Wherever there is pleasure, our job is firstly to persuade the humans to use it in ways that draw them away from the Enemy, and then to reduce the pleasure to the lowest level we can.

An obvious example is alcohol: we exploit the enjoyment of alcohol either to make a man dependent on it (an alcoholic gains no pleasure from either his craving or its fulfilment) or to cultivate a puritanical hatred of alcohol: and of those who drink it. Again, there is no enjoyment in that. The things we want to avoid are the moderate enjoyment of drinking, combined with the discipline of stopping after a few drinks, and the virtuous mortification of unhating abstinence (temporary or permanent).

I particularly enjoy corrupting through wine, given the astonishing value placed on it by the Enemy in choosing it as a sacramental element.

You should by now have realised the parallel with sex. We can encourage licentiousness to great advantage. In reaction to that we can stimulate a puritanical hatred of sex. And we can reduce the element of pleasure to a bare minimum in both cases. What we want to avoid is simply what the Enemy demands: absolute fidelity within monogamous life-long marriages that are open to his creative power on the one hand, or virtuous celibacy on the other.

However, the sex aspect of our campaign against Humanae Vitae was not the issue I wanted to focus on in this letter. I simply felt that I had to respond to some of the crass things you wrote in your letter to me.

What I do want you to think about is the overall strategy and its success. One of the greatest triumphs has been simply the spreading of so much confusion and muddled thinking within the Church.

One of the strongest arguments we use against Humanae Vitae is that people simply do not obey it. Believe it or not, that argument carries a great deal of weight, even among otherwise orthodox believers.

That triumph is due to some excellent spadework done by senior strategists over the last fifty years. The fact is that it never occurs to trained theologians that since Our Father Below's first great victory, men have been liars, adulterers, murderers, hypocrites... and that none of these facts causes anyone seriously to question the prohibitions. Our job is to make sure that they never ask themselves why what people do is suddenly the source from which the Divine Law may be deduced.

The amazing fact is that - incredible though it may seem - they rarely come anywhere near asking such a question.

There is more to it than this, but this is sufficient for one letter.

In the meantime. remember to send me the outline of your first assignment, for my comments: if I'm to help you I must have access to all your work.

Your affectionate mentor


You are wonderful! (or are you...?)

Recently, we went to a talk by a charismatic (I think - he waved his arms in the air during Mass, which is usually a clue!) speaker.

He was pretty good: orthodox in almost all he said (that's good in my book) except for one thing: he got us all to turn to our neighbour and say: 'You are wonderful!'

His view was that most of us don't hear those words often enough (as children or as adults) and therefore suffer from low self esteem, and that as children of God, we should be confident of who we are. He told us that he said this or a variant to each of his children every day.

Both Anna and I had problems with this, for slightly different reasons. Anna simply found it too bogus: "what if you're not! The people next to me don't know me - and if they did would know I'm not wonderful."

I was as concerned at the flawed theology and psychology. Theologically, if this is meant to represent what the Father would say to us, I think it's wrong: a much more authentic message (especially to say to your children each day) would be: "I love you!" That one is true of us, even when our children are less than wonderful - likewise it is a true representation of waht the Father says in all eternity to His children.

Psychologically, I have problems with the whole self-esteem movement, from which I think this type of thinking comes: Maslow, Rogers et al. I heard a great series of talks (on tape) by William Coulson, who was Carl Rogers' right-hand man till he recanted, and he warned of the dangers of TMP (too much psychology) and particularly applying therapeutic responses (eg to low self esteem) in a simplistic way without proper training or diagnosis. This seemed to me a classic example of that problem.

Easter Holidays

The holidays are here so we are very busy. We have taken our boats down to the sailing club and the kids have had their first sail of the year (Ant has been counting down the days till the start of the season for some weeks). Our wooden Mirror is still at home as it needs some repairs, so we'll try to get to that.

The treehouse progresses: photos to follow. We've been out for a few walks with Goldie (and are off again today for a good walk). We've started digging the garden and put some clematis in near the front door, where there was an empty patch.

I've also started teaching the kids to sing the Regina Caeli - a polyphonic setting by Aichinger ((1564 - 1628): Charlie and Dom sing the soprano line, Bernie the alto, and Ant the tenor; I sing Bass. The little ones are always a bit reluctant to practice, but now they've learned some of it, they are really enjoying it. I hope to have it ready for Easter day.