Monday 31 October 2011

It is time to Stand Up for Ourselves: More from the Thomas More Legal Centre

Here is the text of the document that accompanied the letter quoted in my previous post:


A Catholic Mental Health Worker has been sacked by the NHS for gross misconduct. What was her offence? Treating elderly patients with callous disregard? Physically abusing mental patients? Ignoring patients who cried out for water? No, it was none of these. The charge against her is that she ‘distributed material which individuals may find offensive’.

Her ‘gross misconduct’ in fact arose from an amicable discussion with a colleague, NOT a patient, who worked as a receptionist organising abortion appointments. In the course of which she handed over the booklet Forsaken in which five women recount their experience of abortion and the mental problems they suffered afterwards. The colleague did not object to receiving the book and indeed is not being called as a witness by the NHS. The booklet contained no graphic images, and it was never suggested that it should be given to patients. The NHS objects to it because the booklet presents a ‘religious view’ of abortion, because one of the women talking about how she now views her Abortion regards it as a sin. Is the expression of a religious view now a sacking offence in Britain?

The Mental Health Worker’s case is being fought at the Central London Employment Tribunal on November 15th. Her legal representation is being provided by the Thomas More Legal Centre. In addition, we are planning to bring a case against the NHS in the County Court under the Human Rights Act for failure to respect the nurse’s right to freedom of expression, and her right to freedom of religion. Winning such a case would set an important precedent in defending the rights of Catholics to discuss their faith and beliefs with colleagues without fear

The Thomas More Legal Centre has a strong track record of dealing successfully with similar cases of discrimination through quiet representation of clients’ interests to employers who may have misinterpreted the law and failed to respect freedom of religion. The Centre has for example successfully represented a Catholic trainee Doctor who was told he would not be allowed to qualify unless he referred patients for Abortions, and also successfully represented two Catholic Nurses who were moved to an Abortion Clinic against their wishes. It has done this voluntary legal work supported by very modest funds to cover inescapable expenses of the charity. The Trustees have always felt that they should not make any public appeal for funds for the charity until a case arose which would have to go to court.

That time has now come. We are appealing for help from everyone who believes in the freedom for Catholics to say what they believe and keep their jobs. We need funds to meet the costs of legal representation and, as there are no certainties however strong the case, to cover the risk of County Court costs being awarded against our client (which could be up to £25,000). And we need prayer.

The Thomas More Legal Centre is pursuing the case in the confidence that the Catholic community will come together to support this Mental Health Worker. Because this is not just an injustice being done to an individual, it is a threat to the freedom of the whole Catholic community to express its beliefs.

Donations can be made by cheque (made out to Thomas More Legal Centre) to The Treasurer, Thomas More Legal Centre, Palmyra Chambers,
46 Legh Street,
WA1 1UJ; or by bank transfer to Yorkshire Bank, 34 Princes Street, Stockport, Cheshire, SK1 1RE; sort code 05-09-33, account no. 43102195 (Thomas More Legal Centre). If you are a UK tax-payer making a gift by cheque, please send a signed statement with your name and address asking for the donation to be treated as Gift Aid.

Thank you for standing up for Catholic freedom.

Richard Kornicki CBE

Chairman of Trustees


As I pointed out in my previous post, you can also donate via their www site.

Support Thomas More Legal Centre

I received this letter, via a friend, which I am delighted to publicise. The Thomas More Legal Centre do fantastic work on behalf of us all.

Dear Friends,

Please see the announcement below which will be covered by the Catholic press this week.

In brief, a Catholic mental health nurse has lost her job because, in a professional discussion with a colleague, she made available a booklet providing case histories of the mental health consequences of abortion. The booklet was deemed to be 'religious' and she was dismissed for 'distributing materials which some might find offensive.

The nurse's case is being supported at an Employment Tribunal by the Thomas More Legal Centre, of which I am the Chairman; it will be heard on 15th November. We also intend to bring a case in the County Court arguing a breach of her right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is not an isolated problem. An unrelated case reported last week concerned a man demoted for saying on his facebook page that he thought new laws allowing civil partnerships on religious premises were 'an equality too far'. His public sector employer deemed this a breach of their diversity policies and moved him as a disciplinary measure from a £37k post to one earning £21k per annum.

If we do not take action, and establish some legal judgements setting precedents, the ability to express any Catholic moral view will effectively become unlawful.

Please help if you can, either by making a donation, or by offering a pledge against the need to meet any legal costs that might be awarded against us if we fail. Please forward this message to as many people as you think may be interested in helping, and please put it on any blogs you may be running. Please pray for our success.

With many thanks,

Richard Kornicki
Chairman, Thomas More Legal Centre

You can find out more - and donate of course - at their www site Prayers are also essential; perhaps in particular through the intercession of their patron, whom I understand to be the only member of the English Bar ever to have been canonised...

Sunday 30 October 2011

The Rhetoric of Abortion (iv)

The last couple of posts have actually been a digression. As so often, what I thought interesting and important was largely uncommented on by my intelligent and forebearing readers (and I always like to assume on these occasions that qui tacet consentire videtur - not that I have any grounds for so thinking, but it is so much more appealing to my vanity to do so...) and a passing comment generated the debate; and ever fond of digressions, I willingly allowed myself to digress...

But what I had originally intended to do, and the task to which I return now, is to examine some of the slogans used by those with whom I disagree.

Let us start with 'Every child a wanted child.'

It sounds so right, so self-evidently unarguable: but in fact I believe it to be flawed both in theory and practice.

In practice, we find a generation that has grown up believing this - or at least having it rammed down its throat - has been a generation arguably unparalleled in its poor treatment of children.

Parents deprive children of stable family life in the interests of self- fulfillment, liberation, or lust. Parents view children as fashion accessories, or lifestyle choices, and treat them accordingly: parade them when it is desirable to do so, and park them out of the way (in front of the TV, with the child minder, at the nursery...) when they are no longer needed to be shown. Parents shack up with other adults, not related to their children, exposing them to a high risk of abuse (for that is what the studies show, when they say most child abuse occurs in the home: most is at the hands of a parent's lover who is not the natural parent of the children - and a short reflection on the emotional dynamics of such dysfunctional households will reveal why that may be the case).

This practical reality flows from one of the theoretical flaws of the slogan. To proclaim that 'every child should be a wanted child' puts children and our relationship with them into the wrong category in our thinking. Children are not objects, to be wanted (or not), like handbags or iPads. Children are blessings, gifts, to be cherished and for which we should be grateful. We should not think that we are in a position to have an opinion (wanted or not wanted) about them. If we are married, that is a vocation to parenthood, in the natural way of things. If we have no such vocation, we should not behave, sexually, as though we have.

Another theoretical flaw is the conflation of the notion of a 'wanted' pregnancy with a wanted child. Many a pregnancy that was, at least initially, an unpleasant surprise (though again even that betrays a flawed way of thinking) has produced a child who is loved and valued. But the abortion industry thrives on hiding that truth.

So next time you hear that slogan, take the time to unpick it and expose the flawed thinking behind it - and in particular educate the young about this: for I think it will be our children's generation who will sort out this terrible business.

The Rhetoric of Abortion (iii)

Continuing the discussion on the rhetoric of abortion...

I have been characterised as wanting to sit and have a nice cup of tea and a cosy chat with abortionists. That is not quite what I was saying (though I have once had a fairly lengthy conversation in the street outside a clinic with one...). But in discussing rhetoric, I was thinking more about our declamations in the public square: when we are broadcasting (whether by internet, press, poster, tv campaign...)

Who is our audience when we proclaim something in the public square?

I think there are several:

Our fellow pro-lifers (and Left Footer, I think, made the point about the need to rally the troops - which is I think the most persuasive need for strident rhetoric);
The undecided masses, particularly those who have not thought much about the issue;
The politicians, who may have a position or may blow with the political wind;
Our ideological opponents;
Women who have had an abortion;
Women who may be tempted (currently or at some time in the future) to have an abortion;
The young, who may have a position, or may not - but are I think a different category from the undecided adult masses;
The medical professionals engaged directly or indirectly in the abortion business.

When one considers that complexity, then perhaps once more we can consider how appropriate demonising rhetoric is. (And remember it is that, precisely, which I am questioning - I have no problems with calling abortion what it is: the killing of unborn children. My problem is with calling those who do it murderers).

And there's another consideration: what does it do to us?

Some while ago, Larry D, over at Acts of the Apostasy, launched his Adopt a Priestess project. Since I have been praying daily for a specific woman who thinks she is a Catholic priest, my own attitudes have shifted. Not on the inadmissability of women to the priesthood - but on how I view the deluded women. Whilst they may be strident, hostile to most of what the Church is and does and so on, I see that they are victims of Satan's deception, and that for any one of them Christ chose to hang on a tree, in the hope that they would accept redemption. I therefore launched the Adopt an Abortionist idea; with the same ends in mind.

So before calling someone a child murderer, perhaps we should pause and pray the Our Father, and consider how our Father - the abortionist's father and mine - would want us to speak of the abortionist in the public square, and to what end.

Monday 24 October 2011

The Rhetoric of Abortion (ii)

As concerned human beings, our order of priority of concern in the case of abortion is typically:

1) the unborn child, an innocent, whose life may be ended prematurely merely because of other peoples’ attitude towards him or her (‘unwanted’)

2) the mother, who may well be in state of extreme distress, and

3) (if at all) the doctors and other medical staff involved.

But I wonder if, as Catholics, it should not be reversed. For whilst saving innocent lives is important, saving souls is more so; and the soul of the innocent unborn child is not in peril. The soul of the mother may be, of course, but the subjective guilt and responsibility may be largely (or entirely) mitigated by the existence of external pressures (and internal ones, too); but the souls of the doctors and medical staff seem to me to be in most danger: they do this regularly, which risks a real hardening of heart.

We know that is not irreversible, either; both from first principles (there are no limits to God’s grace) but also in reality: consider Bernard Nathanson and the many other doctors, nurses and clinic staff who have done a 180 degree turn on the issue of abortion.

Bearing all that in mind, perhaps we should think carefully about our own intentions, and, to come back to the point of this post, our rhetoric...

Always remembering that the real enemy is Satan, who was a liar from the start and a murderer to boot; and anything we do which colludes with his agenda is outlawed a priori.

Saturday 22 October 2011

The Rhetoric of Abortion

I am pretty familiar with the rhetoric of abortion - you know the kind of thing:

A woman’s right to choose

Keep your rosary away from my ovaries

My body - my right to choose

Imposing your morality on me

Every child a wanted child

I’m not pro-abortion but I am pro-choice

However, I encountered a less frequently-heard one the other day, which I thought worthy of comment (I may re-visit some of the others in future posts). The one I want to look at today is that by opposing abortion, I am ‘forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term.

I suppose I am, yes. In precisely the same way that by preventing my kids from committing suicide, I am forcing them to stay alive - and what’s worse, to die either a violent death, as the result of an accident, by illness, or by old age. How cruel of me!

We need to see beyond the rhetoric and be ready to expose the fallacious thinking that underpins it: in this case that carrying a pregnancy to term is in some sense a bad thing; and that allowing a natural process to take its course - and disallowing a deliberate intervention to change that - is in some way forcing something on someone.

But by the same token, we need to be careful of our rhetoric. We must make our case clearly, robustly and unapologetically, but rhetoric that simply demonises others (‘child murderer’, for example) will neither convince them nor third parties: and is in breach of charity, as it makes an assumption about their knowledge, free will, active intention etc that we are not entitled to make.

Friday 21 October 2011

Disobedient Laity

Along with the new translation, we have had the re-introduction of some gestures and the reiteration of others.

Our parish priest has reminded people several times of the obligation to make a sign of reverence before receiving; he has preached on the triple striking of the breast during the confiteor, and reminded people that they should be bowing their heads at the et incarnatus est in the Credo.

Yet, the vast majority of parishioners do none of these things.

Why is that?

Thursday 20 October 2011

Listen to the Children

Children, we are told, want more and better sex education. That is presented as an irrefutable argument by 'progressive' campaigners.

And yet, in every survey ever, children do not want their parents to divorce. Do we hear the 'progressives' campaigning to restrict or outlaw divorce?

Could it be that people listen to - and value - children's views only when they coincide with their pre-determined agenda?

There's another problem too: children - like the rest of us - tend to want things that will make them feel good in the short term. But a parent who succumbs to a child's request for chocolate instead of sandwiches for their packed lunch is not a good parent. We need to listen to children, but to make adult decisions.

A toddler may really believe that sweet food is better for him than savoury: our job is to educate his understanding to conform to reality. A teenager may really believe that her crush on her boyfriend is love. Our job remains the same. A fourteen-year old 'coming out' may really believe he is mature and understands himself. Our job remains the same. A young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy may really believe that an abortion is her right, that her unborn child is no more than a part of her body that can be removed, and that will make everything the same as it was before. Our job remains the same.

Otherwise we end up with adults who really believe that what they want (at a moment in time) and what is right are the same thing - a common version of that being that a divorce is the best thing for their children, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Good News from Europe (for once)...

"Europe’s top court has banned patenting any stem-cell process that involves destroying a human embryo."

The ruling also produced what looks like a good definition, too, of the “human embryo” as meaning "any human ovum after fertilisation, any non-fertilised human ovum into which the cell nucleus from a mature human cell has been transplanted, and any non-fertilised human ovum whose division and further development have been stimulated by parthenogenesis".

While the judgement does not go far enough (destructive experiments on human embryos are still permitted) it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Sunday 16 October 2011

The Non-Judgemental Fallacy

The much vaunted 'virtue' of being Non-Judgemental is of course fallacious and self-contradictory. To adopt a non-judgemental approach (say to counselling) is to make a judgement that such an approach is appropriate, is likely to be helpful, is probably better than a judgemental approach.

Further, it is nearly always, in practice, a pretence. People are happy being non-judgemental about the issues they do not feel strongly about. But if someone were proposing murder, re-introducing slavery, setting up racially discriminating schools, canonising Hitler... would a non-judgemental approach be sustained? I suspect not. So what one really says in adopting a non-judemental approach is that in this case, by my values, the stakes are not very high.
Moreover it rests on unproven, and potentially flawed premises: that the free and autonomous choice of an individual is the best in any situation. But who can say that a woman considering aborting her child (for example) is acting free from external pressures? Or even that she is, in the truest sense, 'of sound mind' when she is in shock at discovering she is unexpectedly pregnant? There is plenty of research on the impact of such shocks on people's ability to think clearly. And even if she is free from any pressure, and of completely sound mind, if her decision involves taking the life of someone else, how can one, morally, refrain from passing a judgement on that decision, and (in most circumstances) communicating that judgement to her. Such silence is complicit and a failure of charity.

Finally, it is probably a lie. It implies that all outcomes are of equal merit; and that an individual has the right - and indeed the ability - to take decisions individually regardless of the impact on others.

The Christian approach has always been different. Of course we listen with charity to people in distress. We may well help them to express and think about their crisis through questions and paraphrasing, and the other tools of the skilled listener. We strive not to judge them, their motivations or the state of their soul. But we do make judgements on actions, proposed and real, and those judgements are based not on our preferences and prejudices, but on the teachings of Christ and His Church. And in most cases, if we are in conversation about such issues, we have a moral duty to help the other party understand those judgements.

Enculturated Sign of Peace

People sometimes think that I do not offer the Sign of Peace, when I attend Mass in the Ordinary Form. They are quite mistaken. However, as turning and shaking people's hands, at that point in the Mass, would be quite alien to my traditional Catholic culture, I have enculturated it.

I kneel and adore, praying that the adoration of the Body and Blood of Our Lord on the altars of the world may be a sign of peace to the whole world (thrice).

Saturday 15 October 2011


Following a link from James Preece's blog to a thought-provoking piece by Theodore Dalrymple, and then another link from there, I came upon another Dalrymple piece, The Rush from Judgement. For all those who think that being non-judgemental is the ultimate virtue, I think this is essential reading. Being Non-judgemental is appropriate in some very specific situations. But fundamentally, as Dalrymple puts it (after some powerful testimonies from his experience as a doctor), "It is the judgment that, in the words of a bitter Argentinean tango, "todo es igual, nada es mejor": everything is the same, nothing is better. This is as barbaric and untruthful a doctrine as has yet emerged from the fertile mind of man."

Thursday 13 October 2011

Great news from the Vaughan

The Vaughan School today announced the appointment of Paul Stubbings as headmaster. Mr Stubbings has been at the Vaughan for more than 20 years, most recently as deputy head, and has the confidence of parents and a demonstrable commitment to the Vaughan's distinctive Catholic ethos. This will be hugely reassuring to parents and bodes well for the future.

H/t Linen on the Hedgerow where you can find the full story and formal announcement.

Deo Gratias!

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Under one kind (again)...

Fr Z reports on the latest developments: Bishop Morlino of Madison asks his priests to move towards a rarer distribution under both kinds, with reasons, here.

As Fr Z says: brick by brick...

The National Catholic Fishwrap throws a nutty (as Fr Z so eloquently puts it) here.

As I say: the knees jerk as predicted...

Why I feel strongly about this, here.

Monday 10 October 2011

Sexual Identity and Desire

Fascinating post on Sexual Identity and Desire over at Joyful Papist. Interesting comments thread, too.

Under One Kind...

A few weeks ago I was cheering because the bishop of Phoenix was restricting the number of occasions on which the laity could receive Holy Communion under both kinds (in accordance with Canon Law).

But I didn't make it clear why I was cheering.

There are several reasons I object to the change whereby communion under both kinds became common amongst the laity in Europe and the USA, and prefer the traditional practice in the Western Church to the modern practice. (Let's leave the East out of this - beyond saying I think interfering with their time-honoured practice would be a bad idea too!)

Here are some:

The reasons I have been given for the change from the traditional practice strike me as largely bogus;

The change also seems to me to be part of a larger agenda, with a trend (towards less reverence) that I think has been profoundly damaging;

The change has been used to engineer a number of other changes I dislike (eg queuing and standing for Holy Communion, proliferation of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion);

The change has resulted in all the faithful (or at least all who receive under both kinds) handling the Sacred Vessels - and these are now treated, more often than not, as merely some more cups to wash after Mass;

The change is a huge part of the hermeneutic of discontinuity: jettisoning whatever our forefathers did in favour of any novelty dreamed up by a liturgist;

I have seen no positive benefits resulting from the change;

I believe that under the old dispensation, the average Catholic was much clearer about the fundamental truth that we receive the entire Christ: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity under either kind - now I fear many think that you only receive the Body if you only receive under the appearance of bread. (I also think many think you receive bread and wine, to hear them talk, but that's another matter...)

But, but, but... the Well-Informed Liturgist splutters, at the Last Supper, Our Lord [except he wouldn't call Him that, he'd bandy the Holy Name around as though it were a brand of washing powder he was trying to flog] gave the Cup to everyone!

Indeed He did. But who was there: only men! Is that an example you wish to emulate, W-I Liturgist? Further, everyone there was a bishop: shall we extend Holy Communion only to the episcopate?

Let us look a little further into the example of Our Lord: take the great Eucharistic Miracle, the feeding of the 5,000, which is clearly preparatory catechesis for the Blessed Sacrament. All were given... bread.

And all the pre-figurement in the Old Testament: You gave your people bread from heaven and so on. The form of Bread is clearly the universal symbol.

And then there is the small matter of the practice of the Church (in the West) for centuries. As usual, my assumption is that that has not been defective...

What will be interesting to see is whether the Holy Father and the Bishops reverse this change. One bishop is showing that it can be done - but also that it needs a lot of catechesis. But given some of the other changes that are being rolled back, I am hopeful that in time we will get there.

Kids' Books...

Now that Ant and Bernie are both away at University, the time seemed right (to Anna) to rearrange the kids’ rooms. So Charlie and Dominique were ‘promoted’ to the larger bedrooms previously occupied by their big sisters, and Ant and Bernie ‘demoted’ to the smaller ones previously occupied by their siblings.

A large part of the thinking behind that is that there is room in the larger rooms for a desk, meaning that Charlie and Dom will have somewhere to do their homework, rather than the kitchen table.

Needless to say, this all causes uproar. Ant and Dom were fine about it, but Bernie didn’t want to sacrifice her room, and Charlie didn’t want to leave his 'cupboard' (as he called it in an impassioned plea). But Anna was relentless.

My role in all this was largely to ensure no bloodshed ensued, to move the necessary furniture and light fittings about, and above all to sort the books.

For of course, over the years, books have migrated around the rooms, to the extent where the other day we bought a second copy of one that had apparently disappeared. This seemed a great opportunity to sort through them, identifying duplicates to go to the second hand shop, and getting all the titles by one author back together again.

The first stage of this was to separate all the childrens’ novels from the non-fiction and poetry, and then to lay all the novels out on Dom’s floor, in alphabetical order of author. That’s a great way of reuniting series (Narnia, Swallows & Amazons, Harry Potter etc) and finding the duplicates (Heidi, Little Women, Black Beauty and so on...)

An incidental pleasure for me is finding unlikely neighbours: what would Harper Lee and C S Lewis have made of each other, for example?

The next phase is for Charlie and Dom to decide which they want on the shelves in their rooms, and then divide the remainder as best we can between the empty shelves in Ant’s and Bernie’s new rooms. Doubtless there will be howls of protest when they return at Christmas, but as half-time residents, they only have half a vote each, so we can easily out manoeuvre them!

Sunday 9 October 2011

Excellent Archbishop's letter on opposing Gay 'Marriage'

Archbishop Mario Conti has issued a letter pledging that the Catholic Church will campaign actively against proposals to distort the meaning of the word marriage to include homosexual relationships. Among other things, he writes:

... a mandate to govern does not include a mandate to reconstruct society on ideological grounds, nor to undermine the very institution which, from the beginning, has been universally acknowledged as of the natural order and the bedrock of society, namely marriage and the family. In terms of law, its support and defence have been on a par with the defence of life itself. We weaken it at our peril.

Read the whole letter here.

We Sacrifice...

Even more than the Adoremus (see last post) one of the things one really notices in comparing the traditional Roman rite (EF) with the old translation of the Ordinary Form, is the lack of sacrificial language.

Personally, I regret the change in the offertory prayers. In the traditional offertory, there is constant reference to sacrifice: that was all lost in the old translation. Now at least we find the word oblation has been used instead of gifts, which introduces a sacrificial dimension...

This is one of the things that distinguishes a Catholic understanding of the Mass from most protestants' understanding of The Lord's Supper. We believe that we are participating in the re-presentation of the Son's sacrifice to the Father, not just a memorial of it.

For that reason, in the heady days of the 60s and 70s when people really believed that wholesale rapprochement with Protestantism was possible, sacrificial language was played down. Alas, the only result seems to have been a loss of Catholic understanding.

So now the Holy Father, in his wisdom, is re-establishing by word (eg the new translation) and practice (eg his manner of distributing Holy Communion) proper Catholic belief. Ad multos annos!

We adore...

One of the things I found most lamentable and most reprehensible in the out-dated translation of the Mass was the omission of the words 'we adore' from the Gloria.

It is wonderful to have them back.

Compare the Latin, the old translation and the new here:

Latin: Adoramus te

Old translation:

(that's right, nothing at all!)

New translation: We adore you.

I call that an improvement.

Thursday 6 October 2011

No right to Abortion!

Some politicos at the UN and various NGOs are trying to bully many countries into 'acknowledging' that abortion is a universal Human Right.

To counter this, a group of distinguished human rights lawyers and advocates, scholars, elected officials, diplomats and medical and international policy experts met at San Jose, Costa Rica on March 25th 2011 to adopt and sign the San Jose articles.

The nine articles make explicit the falsity and illegality of the claims that there exists any universal right to abortion, with the aim of providing those countries being bullied with the information, backed by prestigious names, to resist the bullying.

For more information, and details of the articles, go to the San Jose Articles site.

More tofu, Bishop?

All the talk about cafeteria Catholics has made me push the metaphor to its limits - and perhaps beyond.

We, of course, are restaurant Catholics. That’s not a statement of snobbishness (though I am perhaps something of a snob) but a reflection of a philosophy.

First and foremost, we accept the Table d’hote. Isn’t Host a happy word in that context? One thinks of the Eucharistic Host, of course, and of the Hosts of Heaven, and our Heavenly Host, the Lamb himself.

And the good things the Host offers us at His table are not necessarily those which we would choose, but those which He knows, in His infinite love, are going to be best for us. Remember this is a restaurant and the word restaurant is very rich in this context: restaurer in French means both to take refreshment and to restore.

And then the wine: the cup of charity which we are offered to drink, which both warms and consoles, but also may contain our death: Can you drink of the cup?... Not that it is a poisoned chalice, but because Greater love has no man...

The bishops, then, are head waiters, and the parish priests (pastors if you are American) are waiters, each with a table to serve. Their job is to distribute the goods which the Host has determined are best for the people. The Holy Father, of course, is a sort of kitchen boy - servus servorum Dei - passing on the instructions from the Host to the waiters.

But sometimes we forget this. Too often, we don’t like the wholesome fare offered us, and want to pick other things from a menu to which we have no right. We look across at our neighbours and imagine their food is nicer than ours, not realising that their needs are different. We behave like spoiled children.

Then, there are priests who think their job is to entertain those at their table, not to nourish and restore them. Or they indulge people’s taste for sweets and neglect to point out how they rot their teeth. Or they set up their own skunk kitchens and offer a gloopy mess instead of nourishment.

And the bishops, God bless them!... Some are fantastic, supporting priests and people in their part of the restaurant: translating the menu, helping us to understand the nutritional value of the goods placed before us; encouraging and exhorting, educating and leading by example. But others have fallen for various fads. ‘Have some more justice and peace with your tofu. Don’t worry about those boring vegetables, those strong spices, those unpalatable strong meats....’ Not that there’s anything wrong with justice and peace, or tofu, come to that, but an unremitting diet?...

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Hope or Fear

John Smeaton links to an interesting story at the Daily Telegraph about a mother who was told to abort her unborn daughter as she would not survive birth.

The woman declined: I just said: 'no way.' I didn't want an abortion. I wanted nature to take its course.

The baby survived and has just taken its first steps at the age of nine months.

It seems clear that the woman had no hope of the baby surviving: "We bought a moulding kit to make prints of her hands and feet. We also got two identical blankets - one to wrap her in when she was born that we would keep and the other to bury her in.

It was heartbreaking having to tell the children. They were so quiet.

Every day we wondered if today would be the day she died inside me."

We do not know the future; the medics who thought they did - and who put this woman through the trauma of having to go against their advice and refuse an abortion, then live with the false certainty that her baby would die before or at birth - should be ashamed of themselves.

Incidentally, because the baby survived and her condition was properly diagnosed, they were able to check the rest of the family, and found two of them need monitoring. Their lives could well have been jeopardised had the medical advice to abort been followed...

When we allow ourselves to be driven by fear, as these medics were, and as the mother so easily could have been, we risk doing terrible things. It is not for nothing that Hope and Love, along with Faith in a good God, are the most profound values in Christian civilisation.

Monday 3 October 2011


Every now and then, I look back over past posts, and occasionally I come across something I feel was neglected... This was from 2007, when even you weren't reading this blog...

Prophets of Doom
I read this quotation recently:

"Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice." G. K. Chesterton.

It cast some light on my resistance to the prophets of gloom whose current demon is Global Warming. Whilst I am prepared to believe there is a problem, and certainly that we should not pour filth out into the atmosphere without heed to the damage we do, there is something about the fiercest prophets of doom which repels me. And it is precisely as Chesterton points out: focusing too much on these issues takes our attention from the real dangers.

Which is why it is particularly sad to see so many religious leaders jumping so whole-heartedly onto the green bandwagon.

Looking back over my life, I have been assured that many things (nuclear anihilation, over-population etc etc) were the deadliest threat facing us, complete with graphs or data proving that unless drastic action were taken we would never survive until the millenium. And yet here we are...

Scared or Sacred? Latin in the Liturgy

At Mass yesterday, we sang both the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei to ancient chant melodies. Or rather, we sang the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Lamb of God. Because, for some reason, they were sung in English.

I've nothing against English, of course. In fact, I think it a wonderful language and enormously expressive, both of precise meaning and of emotional subtlety and ambiguity.

But I also love Latin, and in this case think that latin would have ben vastly preferable. At the most basic level, it works with the music (which was written for the Latin texts) and the English doesn't. The number of syllables and the rhythm of the language are both wrong for the melodic line. It jarred.

But what worried me was that until recently, our Parish Priest has been quite happy with singing the Agnus Dei in Latin. I am wondering if he has been got at. I know there are some elderly people in the parish who hate the Latin: they claim it is too hard, and that it alienates the young.

In fact, Liturgical Latin is not that hard. If at the time one is accustomed to saying Holy Holy Holy, one sings Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus, it doesn't take an Einstein to work out that Sanctus might mean Holy. And then the brain gets to work: Oh that's where the word Saint comes from. And suddenly life is enriched a tiny bit.

As for alienating the young, I see no evidence of that. Most children I know find language fascinating. Schools can kill that of course, but left to themselves, kids love this stuff.

And the Church teaches that we should all know our parts of the Mass in Latin. A universal language makes sense for a universal Church; and I can never forget the glory of singing the Credo in Latin with people from countless countries at Lourdes or Chartres.

So why are some of our priests and older parishioners so scared of a sacred language? My personal theory is that is in part a result of the massive re-education to which they were subjected in the 60s and 70s. But the younger generations don't have that hang-up -and neither does the Holy Father.

Saturday 1 October 2011

All Change...

This weekend marks several changes. Dominique, our youngest, celebrates her 13th birthday, so we now have no pre-teens for the first time for 21 years. Ant is already at University, and Bernie leaves this weekend for her University, so we will be effectively a 2 child house for the first time for fifteen years. I turned 50 recently and Anna is about to do so. And so life goes on.

All of which has had me reflecting on change and the need for stability.

In human life, we see that both are important. Change is a sign of life: we grow, we develop, we learn and so on. Stagnation is the antithesis of that. On the other hand, we also need stability: some unchanging foundation which gives us the security to embrace necessary change. Our Lord is that rock of stability - the stone rejected by the builders - and he delegated that function in part to Peter - the Rock on which the Church is founded.

Getting that balance between change and stability right is a challenge. Some on the traditional side of the Church are suspicious of any change at all - and indeed that is my tendency. Others see a need for relentless change and innovation.

For what it's worth, my view is that it is important to recognise what should and what shouldn't change - and whether some things fall into neither category.

So, for example, I should change. I am a sinner and am called to be a saint. The same is true of you, of course (as far as I know, my readership is exclusively sinners...)

On the other hand, the teaching of the Church, founded on Christ's authority and inspired by the Holy Spirit, is unchanging, and those who seek to change it are dashing themselves against a rock.

And yet, somehow, it is always easier to demand that the Church change her teaching, in those areas that clash with one's own self-will, than to change oneself.

And the other tricky bit is all those things which fall in neither camp: things which are not required to change, but are not required to be unchanging - such as the way we celebrate liturgy.

Again, my own view is that those who desire relentless innovation were given to free a rein in the latter half of the last century, and the Church now has to re-establish strong connections with her traditional practice. But it would be a terrible irony if the intransigence of traditionalists makes that more difficult rather than easier...