Thursday 29 January 2009

the new fascism...

1 Accept 'gay marriage' or die... See this story on Lifesite

2 Accept the gay adoption of your grandchildren (for pc reasons) or never seem them again... See this story on Fr Finigan's Blog

How liberal they are towards those with the temerity to disagree...

Catholic Truth!

The CTS have just published the Traditional Latin Missal, and a booklet The Extraordinary Form of the Mass Explained, by Fr Richard Whinder. This is clearly a response the the Holy Father's Motu Proprio - and a very useful response too!

As I may have mentioned before, our kids (who go to the Traditional Mass one week in four, typically) prefer it to the Novus Ordo. While the Mass may be less accessible, God is more so....

Wednesday 28 January 2009

England's Catholic Bishop...

Yes, Bishop O'Donoghue has done it again: stood up and spoken (this time to the Newman Society in Oxford) like a Catholic bishop.  Among other things, he says: 'And if you hear any Catholic say or teach something that goes against the teaching and discipline of the Church, as safe-guarded by the Pope, politely, but firmly, challenge them, be they a lay catechist, teacher, deacon, priest or even a bishop,' and 'To counter the rejection of the past, I want you to sacrifice the modern compulsion for novelty and fashion through embracing the Tradition of the Church, which is nothing more than the source of God’s revelation, along with Scripture.' And much else besides. Click the link above to read the lot!

Friday 23 January 2009

The Psychology of Piano Lessons

The other week, Ant, Charlie and Dom had a terrible series of piano lessons (they all go together and have lessons one after the other). Ant and Charlie were furious with Dom (who went first) who put Mrs Dragonbreath in a bad mood, by saying she hadn't practiced the second half of one piece as her dad (ie me) had been away. Mrs D (apparently predictably) went off at length about how Dom doesn't need me to help her practice etc practically reducing Dom to tears... she was then hyper critical of them all.

So this week, Ant and Charlie talked with Dom on the way to piano about what to do and say to put Mrs D in a good mood. Apparently it worked brilliantly, and when I collected them, Mrs D was singing their praises!

Thursday 22 January 2009

Dangerous step-fathers?

There is an interesting article in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal (Life and Death: The blame game
Iona Heath, BMJ 2009;338:b7), on the physical abuse of children. It points out that in primates between a third and two thirds of infant mortality is the result of infanticide. It is normally the result of the father being injured or incapacitated and a new male taking up a dominant role - including attacking the children of his predecessor. Striking parallels with human behaviour: but of course no western government has the guts to tell women that having children by one man and then shacking up with another reduces her kids' life expectancy...

Not all 'life-styles' are in fact equally valid...

Sunday 18 January 2009

Chocolate and God

This involves getting the teenagers in the parish together (lured by a chocolate fountain, personal invitation etc) to debate ‘does God exist?’ with the Diocesan Youth Co-ordinator (who is a fantastic, young, orthodox priest). One aim is to stimulate them to think more deeply about their faith (and their doubts) and to arm them with the more sophisticated arguments they need as they encounter ever more hostile peers and teachers... Another is to foster some friendships and lay the foundations for a continuing series of activities (including outdoor adventure type stuff) to help them grow as friends, have fun together, and reinforce each other’s Faith - with spiritual input as a regular part of the mix.

Family Days

One priority is to provide support for parents, and to get their kids actively engaged in the parish, particularly around the time of First Holy Communion. Too often, in our parish, that is the last time we see some of the kids (and their parents) so we need to establish links before and during that process, to help them maintain their Faith.

We will do this, at least in part, by having Family Days, where the teenagers will take responsibility for organising fun and Faith-focused activities for the kids, whilst the parents get to know each other, and benefit from a short input from a priest - or even another parent.

This is all very much at the ideas stage, and so will doubtless develop over time. I may occasionally post on it, as things get going.

Kick-starting things in the Parish

This weekend we had the diocesan youth co-ordinator in the parish, and we invited him and a number of other parents to dinner on Saturday night. Our Parish Priest (who is relatively new to the parish) has been shocked that there is nothing in place for kids or families. Most of those we invited couldn’t come (it was all at rather short notice) but those of us who were there identified two different priorities which we will try to act on. One is Chocolate And God, the other Family Days. I will post on each of these separately (I try to avoid long posts except when I get carried away!)

Saturday 17 January 2009

Let's ruffle a few more feathers...

Following my comments on homsexuality, it is worth noting that the same principles (understanding God's purpose for sexuality and doing that through the teaching of the Church) apply mutatis mutandis to heterosexuals.

Thus contraception is disordered, sex outside marriage is disordered, masturbation is disordered, using pornography is disordered, divorce is disordered.

And this is not easy teaching either: if one's husband or wife leaves one, one is not free to shack up with someone else.  Even if one's spouse 'marries' someone else.  That's what we mean when we say 'for better or for worse... till death us do part.'  If one is scared of conceiving, one may not contracept, for this denies both the true gift of self and the purpose of God.  And so on...

So if I'm homophobic for my views on homosexual behaviour, what does all that make me?  Hetero-phobic?  Promisco-phobic?

The positive side of all that is that we are all made for chastity: and therein find out something of the meaning of love - including that it is always sacrificial.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

And the winners are...

After several seconds reflection I can announce that I choose to pass the award on to the following lucky bloggers (most of whom probably don't know I exist, but whose blogs I lurk on regularly...)

An Award!

OK, it's not the kind of award that Fr Z wins (who can compete with him?) but I'm very grateful for the tribute. Madame Evangelista awarded it for reasons she explains in her comments.

As I understand it, the rules are:

* Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass the award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

(see below)

* Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received the Award: Madame E's profile is here, but I understand she has no public blog...  

* Each Superior Scribbler must display the award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains the award.

* Each Blogger who wins the Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honour!

* Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

So my 5 awards go to:

wait for it...

Actually, you will have to wait a bit longer: this needs some thought!

A visitor

Over the weekend we had one of my sisters to stay.

She's 11 years older than me, so was quite a grown up when I was a kid. She was also largely responsible for my adherence to the Faith. She had rejected it, and was into all sorts of drugs and the associated life style. So almost inevitably she got pregnant as a teenager, and our doctor got her to sign for an abortion (freshly legalised in the UK). My mother tore up the papers, and my parents welcomed her back into the family, and my lovely nephew (now a young man) is the result.

People sometimes think I am anti-abortion because I am a Catholic. True in a way: but it would be equally true to say that I remain a catholic because the Church is relentlessly pro-life - and my nephew who had a death sentence passed on him, is alive only because of my mother's faith.

Anyway, it was lovely to see my sister: she's still fairly anarchic and the kids were awe-struck by her. She played a lot of duets with Charlie, and drank lots of red wine, and a good time was had by all...

Fiddler on the Roof

On Sunday evening, we watched Fiddler on the Roof. It is one of Ant's favourite films (she loves musicals). I was struck afresh by the tensions between the traditions which kept the Jewish community together and the legitimate aspirations of the younger generation for some say in their own future.

A powerful and thought-provoking film: and some great songs!

Monday 12 January 2009

Homosexual parenting

As the impact of the government's Homosexual Orientations legislation takes full effect on Catholic Adoption Agencies (and I note the bishop of Lancs is the one taking the lead in terms of a truly Christian and pastoral response) , readers may be interested in this:

More on homosexuality

Mme E wrote a long comment to the most recent post, which deserves a full reply. Her comments in italics, mine in normal type.

Thanks for posting this, I read it with great interest as it's a subject I am struggling to come to terms with in the church.

Yes, it is certainly one of the areas where the Church comes into conflict with contemporary wisdom (or is that just contemproary ideas..?) A sign of contradiction...

"the homosexual has no moral right to campaign for acceptance of homosexual behaviour which is intrinsically disordered." It's this idea that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered ('objectively disordered' is the other phrase sometimes used by the church) that I really don't understand at all. I can't see any basis for it being considered disordered in the natural world. My cat is gay (although now he's been neutered he's just a bit fat eunuch rather than trying it on with the tom down the road), I find it hard to believe that is the result of nurture. Although, as you say, the natural world is fallen because of original sin.

Your definition of the purpose of sex to include love (bonding) doesn't seem at all inapplicable to homosexuality. If sex has to include procreation then that also rules out quite a lot of heterosexuals who may find themselves infertile. That's also very harsh.

A couple of issues here: one is that love is a broad term. We are all called to love. But the sexual expression of love is a very specific aspect of that. It is the sexual expression of love by a homosexual with someone of the same sex which the Church (and indeed all of Christian tradition, based on the Bible) says is against God's plan.

And the purpose of the sexual expression of love is clearly procreation and love. Theology and biology agree here: clearly sex is designed by the creator to be the uniting of the male and the female. There is a complementarity about that union which is lacking in homosexual encounters `(I don't want to be more physically explicit than that...). The case of a married couple who cannot conceive is clearly quite different: what they are doing in the marital embrace is precisely what God intended: and of course there is always the possibility of a miraculous conception (there are precedents!)

I find the claim that a person is not homophobic because they do not 'fear or hate' homosexuals somewhat undermined by choosing to compare homosexuality to cancer or pedophilia should a genetic cause be found. As for having gay friends, that doesn't wash; I have met racists married to spouses of a different race.

I may not have made myself sufficiently clear: I was using this comparison solely as an indicator that a genetic pre-disposition (if such a thing exists with regard to homosexuality) is not an indication that homosexuality is natural and therefore right, as the gay lobby claims. And clearly while I find pedophilia abhorrent, I neither fear nor hate those with cancer: both my
parents died of it, as it happens... So I think your point here misses the point.

On the broader question, 'am I homophobic?', I think it depends precisely on how you define your terms. If homophobia is the fear or hatred of homosexuals, I am not (and only I or those close to me are really in any position to judge that). If by homophobia you mean believing homosexuality to be disordered, then I clearly am. But my view is that the gay lobby tries to fudge that distinction to make conversations such as this impossible...

On the other hand, the church definitely teaches that homosexuality is wrong. I suppose my real issue at the heart of this is, what kind of God would say that homosexuality is wrong? I don't think it's an unreasonable question. For example, I have heard many catholics say that they do not believe God would place anyone in a fiery hell because a loving God wouldn't do that. But that's just as much a subjective definition of the parameters of God's love than my question. (I don't know whether you are one of those catholics who believe hell is a 'condition' rather than a place of fiery torment, am just citing it as an example).

I think here you touch on the most profound of all the philosophical questions about God. How do we believe in an all-loving all-powerful God who allows any kind of pain or distress? Many wiser people than me have wrestled with this one. But if one can believe in a God who was prepared to suffer death on a cross...

On the specific issue of 'what kind of God would say that homosexuality is wrong?' I think how one phrases the question does predispose us to view it a certain way. I prefer to look at the love of a God who has created the astonishing gift of sexual intimacy as the special way in which married couples can bond to share in the creation of new life and deepen their love to enable them to stay together to nurture and cherish that new life.

The gift is so powerful and wonderful that it is constantly under attack by the devil, and like all powerful things, when corrupted becomes very dangerous (as does Faith itself - see history, passim, for examples of that...). For that reason, it is important that we are clear about when and how the gift should and should not be used. So the kind of God who says that homosexuality is wrong is the kind of God who wants what is best for us: who loves us.

The challenge to the person afflicted by a damaged sexuality (whether homosexuality, pedophile attraction, temptation to infidelity, addiction to pornography etc etc ...) is to overcome these desires. There are certainly many Christian homosexuals who do so, and I am sure many of them will enter Heaven long before I do.

Saturday 10 January 2009

On Homosexuals and homosexuality

Homophobia is a label invented for the purpose of making it impossible to argue against homosexuality.

However, I refute the charge: I believe homosexual practices to be wrong, and I am not homophobic: I have neither fear of nor hatred for homosexuals, and I have homosexual friends who know of my views, and who will vouch for the fact that I neither fear nor hate them...

So where do I stand?

I believe that human sexuality is designed (and I use that word advisedly) for procreation and love (babies and bonding) and further that that is self-evident to anyone prepared to look at the issue without prejudice.

But what about people born gay?

I do not have sufficient expertise to know whether homosexual attraction, or the tendency for it, is sometimes innate or always acquired (there is certainly lots of anecdotal evidence that nurture has a lot to do with it, in the form of weak or absent father-figures and early homosexual abuse).

However, even if they discover a ‘gay gene’ which proves that there is an innate tendency, that in itself tells us nothing about whether homosexuality is good or bad. There are genes pre-disposing one to cancer, for example.

This is believed by Catholics to be the result of Original Sin, that primeval catastrophe which allowed Satan some measure of dominion over this world and introduced disorder in to a good creation. The failure to teach about Original Sin properly is one of the major contributors to the catastrophic decline in Christendom.

The gay argument ‘This is the way God made me,’ rings hollow when one considers that it could also be applied to pedophiles or babies doomed to die soon after birth. Only the notion that there is some damage in the system adequately accounts for this - and therefore could also account for homosexual tendencies.

But surely what consenting adults do in private is their own affair?

Surely not! No man is an island, and private actions and attitudes have public consequences. At the most basic level, the ‘gay life style’ is an unhealthy one: the life expectancy of the practicing homosexual is relatively poor, and his demands on the health system disproportionately high. But also, those who argued for private tolerance are now arguing for public enforcement of a whole ‘gay’ agenda, including educating children to accept their view of morality and sexuality, and initiating the persecution of those who disagree with them.

Having said all of which, it is important to remember to love people rather than to hate them. It is important to remember that my sexuality, too, is damaged: the temptations of the flesh assail us all, and we should recognise that the homosexual is not unique in this. But just as I have no moral right (should I wish to do so) to campaign for free love in order to justify my indulging my lust for women other than my wife, so the homosexual has no moral right to campaign for acceptance of homosexual behaviour which is intrinsically disordered.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Celebrating the Epiphany

Apart from Mass (see previous post) we celebrated the Epiphany with a fabulous bonfire in freezing conditions. We roasted potatoes for our tea in it, and had tea by candlelight. Despite all the admonitions of the Health and Safety people, we still have candles on our Christmas Tree every year, and light them for the major feasts.

Then of course all the decorations had to come down - do bishops have to remove their decorations on the preceding Sunday, I wonder? Come to that, when they go to the theatre do they prefer Twelfth Night (or the Nearest Sunday) by William Shakespeare?

The cribs, of course, stay up till the Purification.

Low Mass for the Epiphany

Since we moved to the depths of the country a few years ago, we rarely get to a Low Mass. There is a Missa Cantata once a month which we go to, as it's only an hour away, but other than that we go to our local (NO) Parish.

So it was a real treat to go to a Low Mass. I was struck once more by the whole no-nonsense approach You turn up. A few others turn up. The priest turns up. You all pray, adore, offer the sacrifice, receive Our Lord, give thanks... What more could be necessary?

The kids like it too - the elder ones report that it is easier to pray at a Low Mass than a Missa Cantata (when we are all in the Schola), and also easier than in the NO Mass, where there is so much hubbub.

It does strike me as an irony (and a tragic one at that) that the NO Mass should have been introduced when it was.

We finally have the technology to make the production of Latin - English (and Latin - Polish, Latin - Spanish and so on) leaflets almost effortless and we have more multi-ethnic congregations than ever before; so we abandon a universal language.

We live in a culture where noise, comment and music bombard us at all times; so we abandon sacred silence.

We live at a time of decreasing respect even for other human beings; so we abandon the notions of sacred space and sacred gestures.

We live in a world that is determined to attack the notion that 'male and female he created them,' so we erode all the distinctively male roles in the liturgy.

But we have it on good authority that the gates of hell shall never prevail...

And it was great to be allowed to celebrate the Epiphany on the traditional day.

Monday 5 January 2009


As a treat for the last night of the holidays (it's not really, but tomorrow night we'll be travelling to an EF Mass for the (real) feast of the Epiphany) we watched Casablanca. I'd been given it for Christmas, so you can see the strength of my will power that it had remained unwatched until today.

We put up the big screen and hitched up a projector and speakers to my Mac, so it was a proper film showing (this is what we do to make up for no TV!)

The kids, who had been shocked that I could read How to Live For ever without shedding a tear, were astonished to find the tears rolling down my cheeks during the film... But they seemed to enjoy it, too. As did Anna's mum, and Anna herself, of course.

I hadn't seen it for years, and was a little worried that it might not be as great as I had remembered. But it was greater.

And another...

Again minus one, so another picnic today. This time we went for height - a 7 mile walk with 670 metres of height gain - and the most stunning views from the top. The hill we were on was snow- (or deep frost-) covered on the north side, but not the south. The sun was out and the sky blue. And all the hills about were similar: white on one side and dark green or golden brown on the other. And as we descended, the sun started to get lower bathing everything in a golden glow: truly magnificent.

The kids, of course, slid most of the way down...

Memories (and indeed families) are made of this.

Sunday 4 January 2009

A great walk

As the temperature was about minus 1, we decided it would be a good day for a picnic. So having prepared a few sandwiches and a couple of flasks of hot drinks (coffee for us, chocolate for the kids) we set off soon after noon.

We drove to a nearby valley with a lake at the top which feeds a stream which in turn feeds a lake at the bottom, some two miles away. And up the valley we walked. And skidded. And slid. The path had iced over in several places and was sufficiently steep and smooth for the kids to slide down it (they had wisely put on their waterproof overtrousers for the walk).

Every waterfall in the valley was full of icicles and wonderful sheets of ice. Ice crystals filled the gaps under stones. The lake at the top was frozen solid - and this time Bernie had brought her skates with her, so was able to skate around, whilst the others simply charged about and slid as far as they could.

Then we climbed a hill into the sunshine for lunch, before beginning a long and slippy descent. All the kids fell over several times, occasionally by accident. All - including Ant who being 18 now is technically an adult - spent a lot of time sliding down the ice on their bottoms. All had a great time.

A wonderful walk which will feature in all our memories for a long time.

(Not the) Epiphany..

One of the things which is a recurrent irritant to me is the decision by our bishops to move Major Feasts (Epiphany, Ascension) from the traditional days to the nearest Sundays.

As with so much else, the results are the opposite of the intentions. Think of Saturday evening Masses, allowing girl altar servers, extraordinary ministers of communion, communion in the hand, and under both kinds... In every case the bishops thought (presumably) they were reaching out and would include more people.

Instead, our Catholic identity is eroded, our sense of the sacred is undermined - and Mass attendance plummets further...

Perhaps it is time to strip away these modern accretions and return to the purer liturgy of earlier times: say the timeless Latin Mass.

We're off to an Extraordinary Form Mass on Tuesday to celebrate the (Real) Feast of the Epiphany.

Saturday 3 January 2009

The Listing Barque (part two)

The point I should have made in part one is simple: Satan does not mind in the least which side of the barque we fall off.

I am very aware that for reasons of temperament and history, my personal risk is to fal off to the right - but still I fly to that side of the barque, and see the real danger as the list to the left.

And I know many people with the mirror image response: their personal danger (it seems to me) is to fall off on the left, but they are so concerned about the dangers of the right, that they lean ever further to port...

Making our own entertainment

Having no TV, and with these long winter evenings, the kids get adept at providing entertainment for themselves and us. With visitors, they really go to town.

So every New Year's Eve they do a show, written in rhyming couplets, by one of the dads, with - traditionally - very strained rhymes, with lots of dressing up and songs.

This year, we were treated to Harry Potter The Musical: all seven books in one fifteen minute performance. The songs included (to the tune of America from West Side Story):

That rotter Snape has killed Dumbledore!
What did the Draco boy stumble for?
And what did Dumbledore mumble for?
Now there is no Albus Dumbledore!

I liked the way he was so kind.
I liked his razor sharp clear mind.
I liked his humour and weird speech
I liked the fact that he didn’t teach!

We all remember our Dumbledore!
What was that wizard so humble for?
What did he take that big tumble for?
Now there is no Albus Dimbledore!

and (to the tune of Singin’ in the Rain)

I’m reelin’ from the pain
Just reelin’ from the pain
What a horrible feeling
I’m wounded again
I’m just like the clouds
So dark up above
The pain’s in my heart
And I’m empty of love
Let the evil spells chase
Every one from the place
Come on with the pain,
I’ve a frown on my face
I’ll limp down the lane
To a tragic refrain
Just reelin’
and wailin’ from the pain...

Goldie played both Fluffy ( a three headed dog - so she had two ballons attached) and a Hippogriff (with some gold wings from the dressing up box) and the kids were even more imaginative when it came to their own costumes. A splendid time was had by all, from the 7 year-old to the 18 year old... (not to mention the audience, ranging up to 85 years old!)

Friday 2 January 2009

New Year

We had some counter cultural friends to stay over for a couple of days to see in the New Year with us. All the kids (seven) were done up in leather armour with wooden swords for most of the walks... It was a great sight to see them skating about on a frozen pond in all their kit! Other more responsible parents were at the edge of the pond, warning their children how dangerous it was going to be when the ice cracked, We tested the ice and then let the kids run riot on it. (We did have a rope, space blanket etc in the rucksack just in case, but were confident with the ice several inches thick that we wouldn't need it).

Back at home we played charades, and other similar games which all could join in with, and once the smaller kids were in bed, taught Ant and Bernie how to play bridge, which they both enjoyed.

It's always good having other Catholic families to stay, as they join in with family prayers, grace before meals and so on, which is good for their kids and ours, in terms of making it demonstrably a normal thing for fun people to do...


We have had a great Christmas. We decorated the tree on Christmas Eve, (to the sound of the Carols from Kings College on the radio) so that it was fresh for the next day.

We also decorated the house on the evening of Christmas Eve for the same reason, and went to the evening vigil Mass, where Ant and Bernie played in the makeshift orchestra for the Carols before Mass. Apart from the dreadful 'clapping' gloria, the music was good.

Christmas day itself was a peaceful day.n Most presents and cards were home made and delightful, and the food delicious, without being so over the top as to leave us all stuffed. We took Grandama for a walk after lunch, but may have overdone that, as she was pretty tired fo the rest of the afternoon. I think sharing the house with the family is still a bit of a strain for her.

One gratifying thing is that the kids have really enjoyed each others' (and our!) company over the holidays. We have played lots of card games and board games, gone for numerous walks, long and short, and visited various counter-cultural friends...