Monday 30 March 2009

Careers and vocations

A chap called Ttony, with a stutter presumably (I wouldn’t mention it, but he seems to make a point of it) left a comment a while back which set me thinking.

I have to say, that I discourage our kids from thinking about careers much. I have, too often, seen kids pursuing either their parents’ ambitions for them (to be a doctor, typically!) or an amibtion they settled on early in life - and it going wrong.

But I am more than happy to get the girls to recognise that their vocation is highly likely to include being a wife and mother, or possibly a religious sister: something the schools don’t seem interested in discussing...

Indeed, Ant has taken to winding the careers people up by talking in such terms. I can't think where she gets it from!

Good Ol' BBC

In this article you will see the BBC in passing referring to 'droit de seigneur' as historical fact, when practically all scholars are agreed it is a relatively recent fiction.

This may just be laziness and ignorance, but I think it reflects something else: an assumption that those people back then, in medieval times when Christendom held sway, were ignorant, barbaric and hypocritical, while we today....

Sunday 29 March 2009

Just because they won't listen...

... is no reason to stay silent.

The Advertising Standards Agency is conducting a consultation on their decision (oh, sorry, it's just a proposal at the moment, I'm sure no decision has been taken prior to the consultation... of course I am...) to allow the promotion of abortions via television advertising, and the further promotion of the condom culture.

My Heart Was Restless tells you all you need to know about the proposals, and in particular how to respond.

These people don't seem to understand Open Systems Theory, a well-known way of analysing how actions may have results contrary to their intentions.

A classic example is using antibiotics to treat diseases. In the short term, it works (which is why we do it) but in the longer term we risk creating diseases which are resistant to antibiotics.

Likewise, the welfare system: in the short-term it prevents immediate, acute poverty, but in the long term it creates a culture of chronic poverty, handed on from generation to generation.

And so the condom: on each individual occasion of condom use, it may reduce (but certainly not eliminate) the risk of HIV. However, the promotion of condoms creates a culture in which young people (in particular) come to believe that recreational sex is normative and socially approved behaviour. This leads, (and has clearly and demonstrably led) to vast increases in early promiscuous sexual activity, leading to far higher rates of teenage pregnancy and STIs.

Likewise, the provision of 'sexual health services' free of any stigma (non-judgemental etc), intended (at best) to reach that small minority of young people who are promiscuous in every generation, has de-stigmatised and normalised what used to be rare and socially disapproved behaviour, contributing to the same problem.

And yet the establishment, in blind oblivion, and continuing to proclaim their rhetoric of 'evidence-based practice' ignore both the evidence (huge increases in STIs, ever-growing teenage pregnancy rates etc) and the sound theoretical explanations for that evidence, and instead say: the policy's not working: we must do more of the same...

So, in a triumph of hope over experience, I exhort you to take part in this consultation, and tell them why their thinking is so fatally flawed.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Ugandans proclaim Pope right - from experience

A group of Ugandan health and social workers, working in the field in the African country which has made the most progress in combatting AIDS has come out in support of the Pope.
Whereas the Lancet editor, in his ivory tower, has swallowed the pseudo-consensus developed by the AIDS industry...

Who do you choose to believe?

Friday 27 March 2009

Additions to the family

We have four new children in our family.

We spiritually adopted four children conceived on the feast of the Annunciation, and due to be born on Christmas day, but who are at risk of being aborted.

We do not know who or where these unborn children are, but we will pray for them every day from now to Christmas. Anna initiated this with the pro-Life group she has established in the parish, and Ant, Bernie and I have all joined and adopted a child each.

You could do the same. The idea was Bishop Fulton Sheen's and there's a www site explaining the details.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Lots of excitement

Ant is just back from a visit to Durham University, which she enjoyed greatly. She particularly liked the collegiate system and the loyalties and competition that engenders. I think St Andrews remains her first choice (after Oxford's lamentable poor judgement in not offering her a place), but Durham would be a very satisfactory second.

In the meantime, Charlie has been representing the school at a national running event, and came ninth in his leg of his race which he tells me was very good, though he's not sure how many were running, so it's hard to judge. Still, apparently he overtook 5 people and was overtaken by none, so it sounds ok. He's not home yet (it was an overnight trip) so I don't yet have the full details.

And I'm pleased as I have found a publisher who may be interested in a childrens' book I have written; and also an agent who is prepared to offer editorial advice and support who is sympathetic to what I'm trying to do.

And Bernie and Dominique have been having fun putting up the new tent we've just bought in the sales for this years' camping trips...

And Anna and I went to Dominique's parents' evening, which was very positive, too.

So everyone is in a state of high excitement.

Monday 23 March 2009

The abusers are in charge of safeguarding our kids...

TMAP is the Teenage Magazine Arbitration
. It proclaims: "TMAP is the magazine industry's self-regulatory body which ensures that the sexual content of teenage magazines is presented in a responsible and appropriate manner."

Which may sound reasonable (though the idea of self-regulation is perhaps a little alarming, not least in the light of the banks' self-regulation and its consequences; and for me the whole sentence is something of an oxymoron; and 'appropriate' is one of those words...).

But it is when you dig a little deeper into their website that you discover the philosophy of this panel. Under research, for example: "Is early sexual activity a bad thing?"

"Much is made of the notion of `readiness' as if there were a fixed time to have sex. There is no absolute logic about sex at any one age. Biologically, a young person is ready for sexual experience at the point at which they become physically mature but the age deemed socially appropriate varies through time and across societies. In the Middle Ages the legal age for marriage of girls in England was 12 and for men 14. In the Trobriand Islands adults do not mind if children engage in sexual play and attempt precociously to perform the sexual act, and adolescents may sleep with one another provided only that they are not in love with one another."

You get the drift.

Go and have a look, and then see if you think, like me, that such attitudes are abusive of developing kids.

You heard it here first!

The NACF news site publishes the Press release on Fit for Mission marriage preparation.

(Don't tell the Tablet!...)

I was kicking myself for not having saved Fr Tim's fisk on the attack on him by the Tablet before their lawyers charitably ordered him to remove his defence....

It seems to me that natural justice suggests he should have the right to reply line-by-line if that's how he chooses to defend himself.

Now I have discovered that Berenike had the nous to find it on googlecache and has posted it here

The idea is to take a copy, and then if the Tablet's litigious people get onto Berenike, we can make it dance around the internet with them chasing, which has the incidental pleasure, presumably, of them submitting regular invoices to the Pill for the work...

Thus not only does the Tablet's attack result in some rather fine rose vestments in Blackfen, but also... perhaps I'd better say no more.

You will of course already be aware from previous posts how keen I am to save The Pill from itself.

Catholics for Active Participation

I’ve been reflecting on Martin Prendergast and his bogus organisation Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support, on the basis of which he got invited on the the Today programme as a Catholic commentator - as ‘balane’, you understand.

I thought we should learn a trick or two from these dissenting types, who may not be as innocent as doves, but are sometimes as wily as the snake in the grass.

So I dreamed up Catholics for Active Participation. We could campaign for the right to participate fully, as envisaged by Vatican 2 and in the light of the Church’s sacred traditions:

by kneeling at the et incarnatus est
by saying we adore in the gloria
by kneeling for communion
by receiving from a priest or deacon
by singing in Latin those parts of the Mass proper to us
by singing plainchant as the music proper to the Roman Rite
by being allowed to make a personal, rather than collective, statement of believe at the Credo
... and so on.

We feel, of course, hurt by the majority of bishops’ failure to recognise and be sensitive to these rights; and we feel excluded by the cliques that have taken over our Churches: liturgical cliques, special minister cliques, women of a certain disposition cliques, and cliques who form bogus organisations that pretend to represent anything but their own damaged selves, and tag the name Catholic onto the front to get media attention.

Oh, I’m back where I started...

Sunday 22 March 2009

Life with grandma

Mothering Sunday seems a good time to reflect on life with grandma.

It is some time now since she moved in with us. I had not realised quite how difficult Anna would find it, having her mum living with us. It feels to her as though she is being watched, critically all the time.

Grandma finds it tough, too: we don't do things the way she would. She also finds it very isolating living in a small village in the middle of nowhere, and feels she has lost her independence, as she has to rely on Anna to drive her anywhere if she wants to go out.

However, she does see people who love her every day, and takes a lot of interest in the children and all their doings. So while she may complain at times, I am convinced she's much better off with us than she was on her own, when she could go for days without seeing a soul to talk to. She may have forgotten it, but she used to get very depressed and lonely on her own.

And although Anna and I can find it trying, at times, to have her always in the house, I am quite convinced it it the right thing to have done: not least as an education for the children.

Mothering Sunday

The kids honoured Mothering Sunday by making a rich variety of cards for Anna, and for her mum, too. Also various flowers, photos, cakes and plants were given.

Anna and I spent the afternoon gardening as Ant had instructed me to keep Anna out of the way so that a cake could be duly de=corated. I have yet to see the result

Laetare - an extraordinary Mass

We went to Mass at Lancaster Cathedral this morning. It was the monthly mass in the Extraordinary rite (aka Tridentine). Canon Shield was wearing rose coloured vestments in honour of Laetare Sunday. A visiting choir of just four sang Taverner's Mass: The Western Wind, With just one voice to a part they filled the cathedral with beautiful music. They also sang the chant propers, which they didn't pull off quite so well.

However, it was a wonderful Mass.

Friday 20 March 2009

Performing kids

Dominique was in a show doing ballet this evening - just got back in a state of high excitement - apparently it had gone very well. I had to miss it due to a choir practice, but Anna, Ant and grandma all went and said it was very good.

And tomorrow Charlie is in some dramatic improvisation for his drama class. Not sure what that one's about, but I think it's a three-line whip.

They're all a bit like me - doing loads of stuff to an OK standard, rather than concentrating on excellence in one area.

Renaissance man is my excuse...

Thursday 19 March 2009

Presumptuous, me?

Ant tells me it's a little presumptuous of me to imagine the Holy Father has been consulting my blog to help him make the decision about Westminster...

A visit from the Vatican

Those who voted in the poll about the qualities needed by the next archbishop of Westminster will be pleased to know that a Mystery Visitor from the Vatican has been looking at your views!

How did I miss that?

Avid readers of this blog (if such there be) may have noticed that I'm a Wodehouse fan.

Recently, I was re-reading Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, and in the closing pages came up short. I read this: 'they had both, in another age, known a man named Bertie Wodehouse-Bonner.'

I must have read Scoop at least three times before, and have no recollection of this reference! I'm astonished.

PS A prize of four Marian anthems (.pdf files) to anyone who can name either of the characters who had known Bertie Wodehouse-Bonner without looking them up.

PPS No, don't cheat! If you want the anthems anyway, just tell me.

In good conscience?...

What does it mean when one calls oneself a Catholic?

Consider this quotation: "I’m an active Catholic." "Well, as a Catholic, I believe in God and see the mistakes by men in the name of God. Some positions of the Catholic Church, on birth control, against abortion, against homosexuality, in defence of celibacy, and other examples, only reinforce that the Church seems to be out of tune with people’s thinking, and people’s will, not God’s will, for God never mentioned any of that. Men wrote about that, and said it came from God. "

What has happened that somebody who is so at odds with the teaching of the Church still calls himself an active Catholic?

(Incidentally these are the words of an abortionist. See John Smeaton's blog for the full details

Wednesday 18 March 2009

A Lazy Afternoon

A terrible combination: an afternoon of 'working at home,' a boring task to do, bright sunshine... So Anna and I took Goldie for a walk and had a great chat. Then settled down at the Mac, did a few emails, a blog or two, and then Ant got home - and suggested taking Goldie for a walk as it was such a lovely afternoon. So we did that and had a great chat. I finally got to the boring work project at 8.00 and have just finished it at 9.30. But it was worth it!

Who was that?

Listeners to the Today programme this morning were treated to comments on the Holy Father by "Martin Prendergast, from the charity Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support and Dr William Oddie, the former editor of the Catholic Herald."

Funny that the BBC did not mention that Martin is a former priest (ie someone who has either mistaken or abandoned his vocation, by definition), a homosexual activist, who has been living for 25 years as 'partner' (there's a terrible euphemism) with Julian Filochowski, ex-Director of CAFOD, the Bishops' rather flakey international aid agency...

Incidentally Dr Oddie had all the facts and reason on his side.

CORRECTION: His name is Pendergast.

Self esteem or narcissism?

Good post on Witness to Love about Self esteem, following an excellent interview on Radio 4 of all places (which I also heard and intended to post about - but now I don't need to!)

Catholic Marriage Prep Course

A rumour has reached me that the CTS is hoping to publish a new marriage preparation course. And the good news is that it comes from the Fit for Mission bishop of Lancaster. So if it's anything like as good as the other material in that brand, we've something very positive to which we can look forward.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Pope a Catholic! Shock Horror!

The BBC reports that the Pope is taking the opportunity of his visit to Africa to reaffirm Catholic teaching (which, oddly enough, is backed up by the real experience on the ground) that condoms are no answer to the AIDS problem - in fact promoting condom use may make it worse.

How extraordinary (to those of us who live in the UK at any rate) to find Catholic leader who unashamedly proclaims the truth, in season or out of season (and I suspect it will be open season on the Holy Father again, now!)

Musical Kids

Charlie and Dominique were playing the piano in the local music festival the other day. Neither won his class, but each did well. The winners in each class were truly exceptional, and clearly practice far more than our kids.

We take a reasonably light touch towards music: we want them to learn instruments and enjoy them, for a variety of reasons, but we do not expect any of them to become professionals (knowing a few professional musicians, I am not sure I would wish that on anyone!). So we insist they practice regularly if they want to continue having lessons, but only for a short time each day (charlie and Bernie often play for a lot longer just for fun, which I take to be a good sign).

This light touch approach has got both Ant and Bernie to grade 7 or thereabouts on a couple of instruments each - and still enjoying them. It will be interesting to see if Ant keeps up either or both when she heads off to University this autumn.

And, just for fun, we occasionally convene the family jazz band and busk our way through things like the Muppets theme tune.

Monday 16 March 2009

Reviving the Tablet - Music Cd

Another of my genius ideas to help that sickly organ, the Tablet, to reverse its decline: perhaps they should give away a free CD of music with every edition. I'm sure their readership would fall over themselves for a CD containing, for example: Kum Ba Ya (It had to have pride of place!), Lord of the Dance, Eagles' Wings, Shine Jesus Shine, The happy clappy Gloria and so on.

With luck they'd have to delve deeper into history after a while, as they ran out of all the new rubbish, and they'd issue CDs with Faith of our Fathers, Praise to the Holiest and so on. And eventually, via Palestrina, Tallis and Byrd, get back to real Church music: Lux et Origo, Credo 1, the chant for the Requiem etc.

Don't hold your breath though - and if you've not voted in my 'Why you love the Tablet' poll yet, now is the time to do so (and read the comments for more enlightened suggestions).

The kids take off

After Mass on Sunday, Ant, Charlie and Dominique decided it was spring and that they needed to go for a walk to who-knows-where and have lunch cooked on a camping gas stove. So they raided the fridge and just took off (complete with Goldie, our retriever) for the next few hours. Poor old Bernie had some homework to do, so stayed at home: her choice and a good one. I love it when the kids sort themselves out like that: autonomous and responsible.

Family Prayers

Recently, we have taken to saying the night prayers of the Church for our evening prayers as a family. the kids all really like them, and we end with a Marian antiphon. Normally that's the Salve regina, but from Septuagessima till Easter it's the Ave Regina Caelorum, and during Eastertide we'll sing the Regina Caeli.

Anyone wanting the sheet music for the chant for any of the Marian antiphons is welcome: send me your email address and I'll send you a .pdf of the music as soon as I get around to it.

Saturday 14 March 2009

New Poll: Why you love The Tablet

Here it is: the poll you've always wanted.

As part of my continuing drive to assist the ailing Tablet, I am - freely and at no cost - undertaking this market research exercise for them.

Please vote in the poll in the side bar.

Next Archbishop of Westminster - Poll Results

I've decided to close the poll on the qualities required of the next Archbishop of Westminster. Not least because I've another poll I wish to run shortly (watch this space).

I do not claim these results represent anything much - just an insight into the kind of people who look at this blog and choose to click on silly unrepresentative polls (not of course that I wish to belittle my readers, without whom etc...) So it is interesting that a few people voted for inane or silly answers...

Reviving The Tablet - Recipe Page

Ever eager to help this struggling organ, I suggest a recipe page.

Oecumenical Stew a la Pill

Slow roast doctrine over a griddle of dubious early texts. Marinade overnight in a sauce of mild dissent with just a soupcon of dessicated feminism. Flame rapidly with pseudo-intellectual comments from a leading modern theologian, and critical insights from low-church Anglican prelates. Serve liberally, accompanied by shredded dogma, with a drizzle of JnP sauce. A gentle red goes well with this (Chateau d'Ushaw 1974 is a fine vintage!)

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Ad slogans for The Tablet

As part of my charitable concern for this ailing organ, I thought it might be helpful to generate some advertising slogans. My creative team have been hard at it and so far have come up with:

The Tablet - from a moral swamp to the moral highground in the flick of a platitude.

I'm sure they would welcome further constructive suggestions... Any ideas?

Monday 9 March 2009

Reviving the Tablet...

I fear that The Tablet's current strategy for increasing circulation (threatening those who offer it free publicity with copyright actions) may not work too well.

So I wondered: what might help its circulation?

In a spirit of free and friendly advice, I came up with a few ideas. Here's the first.

Dear Pill (a problem page - after all vox populi...)

You can imagine the kind of thing...

Question: Dear Pill
My other half has been to a Latin Mass and said it was prayerful. What should I do?
Distraught of Blackfen

Answer: Dear Distraught,
Do you have any children? If so, it is important to note that if it is necessary to protect them from serious abuse by a parent, cannon law does allow for separation, and even civil divorce.

Question: Dear Pill
How can I trust the bishops, when they don't admit women to full and equal participation in the Church? And they've never publicly denounced Humanae Vitae!
Raving of Ealing

Answer: Dear Raving
We sympathise with your pain, and while at this time the bishops are bound by the current ruling, we ask you to be patient. Work by feminist theologians has thrown up interesting questions concerning an all-male leadership. You must follow your conscience.

Question: Dear Pill
How can I trust the bishops, when they don't implement Summorum Pontificum?
Concerned of Wandsworth

Answer: Dear Concerned
You must recognise that the Bishops have authority over the local Church in all things liturgical, and submit to their wisdom about what is good for the whole ecclesial community. Don't be divisive!

Question: Dear Pill
My Parish Priest has introduced Latin Masses. Help!
Sincere of Longbenton

Answer: Dear Sincere,
Find a couple of others who think this is a bad step and invite us up to do a daring expose of the split in your parish!

Friday 6 March 2009

A successful teenage pregnancy strategy?

The Family Education Trust reports: "A year ago, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) cited South Tyneside as an example of what could be achieved by fully implementing the teenage pregnancy strategy. The latest figures, however, show a massive 37.5 per cent rise in South Tyneside in 2007, with the result that the area now has its highest teenage conception rates since 2000."

Why am I not surprised?

As I have said before, we need a campaign aimed at reducing promiscuous teenage sex, not one simply aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy. As long as teenagers are promiscuous, they will do enormous damage to themselves and each other, both physical (STIs) and emotional (and spiritual, come to that), and yes, the girls will get pregnant... It's not rocket science!

But a government campaign to encourage virtue is unthinkable - not least because they politicians know their own behaviour wouldn't stand scrutiny, and it would imply the adult population would have to behave better, and it would be ridiculed by those who work in the media: their behaviour and their commercial interests tend in a very different direction...

Monday 2 March 2009

Our Royal Blood...

Charlie and Dominique and I were reading St Luke Chapter 3 on Sunday. It ends with a genealogy of OLJC.

They said how much fun it would be to trace our genealogy, so I triumphantly produced my (very snobbish) granny's book (The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal) which shows our family tree, traced back to King Edward 3rd (1312 - 1377).

They were hugely impressed, and enjoyed spotting many of the kings whom they've come across in history lessons at school in the parallel lines to our ancestors'.

It was good to make this link from the biblical genealogies (which can sometimes seem a bit dry) to our own, and to show how interesting it was to see Christ's family tree, including David, Noah and so on.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Schizoid CAFOD?

CAFOD (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development - supported by the Bishops of England and Wales) has a policy statement available from its www site which states clearly:

"It is important that people understand that abstinence and being faithful to one life-long partner in marriage, when both know they do not have HIV, are the surest ways to avoid infection through sexual activity," and further: "that CAFOD neither funds nor advocates the supply, distribution or promotion of condoms."

This is all, as CAFOD proudly proclaims, because "CAFOD seeks to exercise a role consistent with its Catholic character."

All well and good, the Catholic in the pew (who funds CAFOD on the basis of its being Catholic) might think.

But on the same site, we find another document (HIV Prevention From the Perspective of A Faith-Based Development Agency by Ann M. Smith, Jo Maher, Jim Simmons, Monica Dolan) which states, inter alia:

"abstinence can be used to mean:
Delaying the age of first sexual encounter. Evidence suggests that the abstinence aspect of ABC campaigns has been most successful among young people, for whom delaying the age of sexual debut was an important risk reduction strategy
Not having sex until the person is in a more stable relationship
Choosing to have sex only within a long-term committed relationship
Not having sex until marriage
As a mutually agreed and free choice (one of a number of possible options) by and between HIV discordant couples
As a preferred option for a specified period in a person’s life ."

Be Faithful "might mean fidelity to:
A single, mutually faithful partner, whether in marriage or in a long-term committed relationship
Serially monogamous relationships (provided a degree of stability exists within these relationships. What this means for individuals will vary, depending on current practices and alternative possibilities)
A strategy of reducing the number of partners
A strategy of reducing the instances of casual sex
A strategy of consistency in condom use if this is a person’s risk reduction option, given that condom failure is more often attributable to their inconsistent or incorrect use."

"The available evidence suggests that condom promotion has been particularly effective for identifiable groups at highest risk of HIV infection (e.g. sex workers) and who may have few if any other options for reducing risk.[snip] Thus an important component of this third strand of a nuanced ABC must be that C also stands for Choice. An imperative that becomes “Choose what you can change today; choose what you want to change for tomorrow” is informed by sound epidemiology and also compatible with the gradualist theological understanding referred to earlier. "

Is it me, or is there in fact a degree of promotion of condoms in the foregoing?

And is not 'abstinence' so proudly touted in the first policy document given a wholy new - and wholy unCatholic - meaning in the second?

I'll be choosing other Catholic charities for my alms this Lent...

Red Nose? - blood on your hands!

John Smeaton's blog points out why we should boycott Red Nose Day. Despite their denials, Comic Relief funds are, in part, used to support organsations which promote abortion.

Give your money to someone who will do good with it, not (even in part) evil. SPUC maintain a valuable register of charities showing which fund unacceptable activities.

We are pulling Dominique out of school for a day, rather than have her participate in the school's day of fundraising for Comic Relief. This is quite tough on her (she's only 10) but in conscience we can do nothing else. As ever,it provides an opportunity to educate...