Thursday 29 December 2011

Biased, the BBC?...

I notice on the BBC News www frontpage:
The jury in the Stephen Lawrence murder trial retires to consider its verdict against defendants Gary Dobson and David Norris. (my emphasis).
So the BBC clearly knows the correct verdict...

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Home Made Cards

The kids always make their Christmas Cards.  Here are the ones they presented us with this year; each fairly characteristic.





And wishing all my readers a Happy and Holy Christmastide...

Friday 23 December 2011

Just in time

A young man in an 'irreversible coma' woke just in time.  That is, just before the doctors were about to remove his vital organs for transplant, thus killing him.  Lifesite News carries the story.

When the death penalty was abolished in this country, it was done because there was a political consensus that the risk of killing an innocent person, small though it was, was not a risk that a civilised country ought to take.  This young man was 'thought to be' 'brain dead.'

Of course he was not dead: his heart was beating, his body was functioning at some level.  But that is necessary for vital organ donation: truly dead donors are of no value, as the vital organs deterioriate too quickly once the circulation of blood has stopped. (See previous posts tagged Organ donation for a fuller discussion and links...)

It is that necessity for what are called 'heart-beating donors' which has led to the redefinition of death so that vital organs may be taken from patients who (until recently) any doctor would have certified as still alive.

This case, along with many others, proves how costly that utilitarian re-definition is in reality.

We have come a long way since then - but I would not call it progress.

H/t Blondpidge on Twitter


Thursday 22 December 2011

Everyone was so upset the baby turned out to be healthy...

Where on earth would one expect to come across such a comment?

When the healthy child survived the attempted abortion, was delivered alive, but allowed to die, because it was thought to be unwanted (though in fact the mother had been scared into having the abortion by medics telling her the child was severely handicapped).

Here's how the Independent reported the NHS Medical Director's reaction:
Richard Blunt, medical director of the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust, said that no attempt to resuscitate the baby was made, despite it appearing healthy, because Ms James was undergoing a termination. "If you do a termination late in pregnancy then [the foetus] comes out in one piece ... and that therefore it may be alive and kicking. This is the dreadful thing. [The foetus] did not have any major physical abnormalities, but it would require a post-mortem to establish any internal problems. Everyone was so upset it turned out to be healthy."

This was back in 1994 (the report is from 1996), but I don't remember coming across it then.

Read the full article, weep and pray...

What is Truth? The trahison des clercs...

A friend of mine works at Newcastle University, and he reports that recently the Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Brink, a logician by discipline, was considering refreshing the University’s Vision or Mission or some-such.

The story is that he wished to include in it a reference to truth, in relation to the aims of research.  Apparently the Faculties of Medical Sciences and of Science, Agriculture and Engineering were happy with this proposal and this characterisation of their work.

But the Faculty of Humanities, and Social Sciences was outraged that he could consider such an idea.  Surely he knew, as all (non-scientific) academics do that truth is simply a social construct, and that a University that claimed to be in pursuit of truth would be the laughing stock of academe (at least in Social Science circles).

This strikes me as the Trahison des clercs of our time.  ‘What is truth?’ asked Pilate, before delivering Truth to be nailed to a tree.

Professor Brink, both as a logician, and having heroically led Stellenbosch University in South Africa through difficult times, and witnessed himself the importance of the Truth and Reconciliation process there, knows a thing or two about truth.

The good news is that the Scientists, Engineers and Medics were mystified by their colleagues’ protestations.  As a doctor said on the radio the other day (discussing philosophy - no reference as I was driving at the time...) ‘It is hard to believe in the impossibility of communication when someone is calling you to deal with a Cardiac Arrest on Ward 6.’

The bad news is that the VC allowed the Humanities and Social Science gang to veto ‘truth’ in the mission statement.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

A new Catholic University for London?

The Benedictus Trust is planning to found a new Catholic University in London.

They have had recent coverage in both the Catholic Herald and the Sunday Times.

They plan to launch their fundraising campaign in the Spring.  See here for further details.

I am sure they will value prayers, as well as financial support...

Physical means to therapeutic ends?...

A general rule of thumb in medicine is to ensure a correct diagnosis before proceeding to treatment.

I have also heard wise medics say: the presenting problem is often not the real problem.'  that is why many are concerned at (for example) the self-prescription of Ibuprofen and other drugs: without a proper diagnosis, patients may be covering up symptoms of something that needs different, and possibly more serious, treatment.

Let us turn then to the issue of abortion.  95 - 98% of abortions (let us not quarrel about the precise number, it is big enough in either case) are performed for therapeutic reasons - that is reasons related to the mental wellbeing of the mother or of other existing children.

Yet the treatment is a physical one: destruction of the unborn baby (or foetus/embryo/, if you will).

That is poor medicine - as is evidenced by the fact that the same procedure frequently has to be carried out again and again on the same women.  The underlying problems are not being addressed.

The real problems are things like:

Some women getting pregnant when they do not want to, or are in no position to, raise a child

A society which teaches that it is better to have an unwanted child aborted than adopted;

Some women viewing pregnancy as a disease or a disaster or something to be feared, rather than a blessing (as many do, of course);

Some men demanding that women be sexually available to them 'without consequences;'

Some men putting huge pressure on women to have an abortion the woman does not in fact want;

Lack of social and societal support for women facing unwanted pregnancies;

and on and on.... (speak to anyone who works in pregnancy counselling for a long list).

Abortion, of course, solves none of these: how could it?

Doctors do themselves and women, not to mention their unborn children, a huge injustice when they collude with the pretence that abortion is the solution.  They should undertake a proper diagnosis, and then help women form a positive plan, with the necessary support, to start to address the problems surrounding their pregnancy.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

I am going to cover myself in Vaseline...

... and pretend I am a slug, Charlie announced at tea tonight.

For a moment there, I was worried!

As an evil Christian...

... I will no longer be shopping at Tescos.

Their support for the Gay Pride March in London was bad enough.  Now, Christians who support the traditional Christian teaching on marriage have been branded 'evil' by Nick Lansley, Head of Reseach and Development for the Tesco Website.  He wrote: “I’m also campaigning against evil Christians (that’s not all Christians, just bad ones) who think that gay people should not lead happy lives and get married to their same-sex partners.”

The Iona wwwsite carries the story.

I have written to Philip Clarke, the CE, explaining why.

H/t Fr Ray Blake

Monday 19 December 2011

Are 98% of abortions in Britain illegal?

That is the case argued by Dr Peter Sanders

He made the claim on a Radio 4 Today programme interview/debate, and has substantiated on his blog.

It is a long post and well worth reading, but the summary is this:

So where does this leave doctors? Let me sum it up:
1.There is no evidence that continuing with an unwanted pregnancy poses any greater risk to a pregnant woman’s mental health than an abortion does and yet 98% of abortions are authorised on these grounds
2.The doctors who are authorising these abortions are not therefore doing so ‘in good faith’
3.These abortions are therefore unlawful under the Abortion Act 1967 and Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and those doctors who are carrying them out are committing a criminal offence 
4.Those doctors who are authorising them are knowingly and wilfully making false statements on legal documents and are thereby committing an offence under the Perjury Act 1911
5.These offences under the Abortion Act and Perjury Act both carry custodial sentences

His blog is generally worth a look, too.  See, for example, his comments on the BBC and Gay issues...

H/t Blondpidge on Twitter.

The Holy Shroud

According to scientists (at ENEA, Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies,Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) the claim that the Shroud of Turin is a medieval fake, is wrong.

They criticise the dating process, and in particular the withholding of data and the refusal to explore competing hypotheses.

They also raise several other problems with the medieval fake theory, which does not account for many of the unique qualities of the Shroud.

In short, the real science seems to suggest that there is no normal explanation for the creation of the image on the cloth, and certainly no likelihood that any medieval forger could possibly have created such an artefact: we couldn't even do it now with all the technology at our disposal.

H/t Protect the Pope

Organ Donation: another assault on life

I have decided to re-post on the subject of Organ Donation, as it is some years since I last mentioned this important and misunderstood subject, and I have rather more readers now than I did have then...

Until I researched it a bit, I had not realised that for hearts (and certain other vital organs) to be transplanted successfully, they must be taken from a living body, as they deteriorate beyond usefulness on death. And that in order to facilitate that, the medical profession has introduced the notion of ‘brain death’ to legitimise the practice.

This has disturbed many nurses and others, as they cannot believe that the donor is dead when his or her heart is beating, flesh is warm, and (in one case) when he put his arm around the nurse just before they were about to remove his heart.

So what do our medical professionals do? Inject a drug that paralyses the donor - and then proceed.

The parallels with the murderous assaults on the unborn in the womb are extraordinary: the start of life re-defined contrary to the evidence, the injection of tranquilisers or anaesthetics prior to the killing...

A good source of information is the Anscombe Centre (formerly the Linacre Centre). In their article on criteria for death, they comment on the problems with the (relatively) recent notion of 'brain death' as the determining criterion: 

The Anscombe Centre's own view is that `brain death' protocols are insufficient for establishing the death of the body: we have become increasingly convinced by evidence suggesting that integrated bodily activity can continue after `brain death' has been diagnosed. There have been documented cases of `brain dead' patients maintaining bodily functions for months or even years: pregnant women have gone through pregnancy, children have grown up and passed through puberty, etc. 3 Moreover, it is well-known to transplant teams that heartbeating donors move when organs are taken, unless they are paralysed by drugs, and that their blood pressure goes up when the incision is made. It is worth noting that some anaesthetists recommend that the supposed `cadaver' be anaesthetised when his/her organs are retrieved. Most organ donors are unaware that their hearts may be beating when their organs are taken, and that they may be pink, warm, able to heal wounds, fight infections, respond to stimuli, etc.

(Link here, and see also their 'Definition of Death' comments)

In 2008 a government commissioned report, after studying a huge body of evidence, came to the 'wrong' conclusion that the consent of organ donors should be explicit not presumed: however, the political class did not want that answer, and are positioning themselves to ignore it.  The BBC, of course, will be involved in a campaign to soften up public opinion.  

We have another fight on our hands


Sunday 18 December 2011

Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

This is the collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the Extraordinary Form. It is also the prayer we say (this week) after singing O Come O Come Emmanuel around our Advent Wreath.

We know this one less well, as it is rarely said for the full week (depending, of course, on which day of the week Christmas is).  This year we do get a full week's worth, so I hope it will be committed to memory with the others...
Arise we beseech thee O Lord in thy strength, and come in might to our aid; that by the work of thy grace, that good to which our sins are a sore hindrance may, in the fullness of thy forgiveness, speedily be vouchsafed to us.

Vaclav Havel - RIP

Another writer whom I admired has just died: Vaclav Havel.

He was also, of course, the first President of the Czech Republic.

I have not seen any of his plays, but following references to his work by Tom Stoppard (another writer whom I enjoy - in good health when last heard of...), I bought and read Sorry in 1982.  It is actually two plays, both featuring a character Vanek who is at least semi-autobiographical (and was played in the Radio 3 productions by Harold Pinter, and on Play for Today by Michael Crawford).  Some five years later, I also bought and read (but never saw) Largo Desolato and The Memorandum.

All of these are powerful and haunting dramatic works.  His reputation as a writer was well-established - and rightly so - quite apart from his role as a dissident, and then a political leader.

Of his political contribution, I am not well-placed to judge, but he was clearly hugely important in the breaking of the communist tyranny in his country.

American Catholic carries an interesting speech by him here.

Remember him in your prayers.

Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine.

Hitchens on Abortion

A very interesting article by Jill Stanek on the late Christopher Hitchens and his views on (and experiences pertaining to) abortion (H/t Life Site News.)  I have quoted this passage from CS Lewis' Miracles before: 
What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.
It seems particularly germane to the issues surrounding the humanity of humans before birth - as recent lengthy but not very illuminating comments on Bones' blog have witnessed...

Saturday 17 December 2011


In all the fuss about Christopher Hitchen's death, the death of a far greater writer in the same week has passed almost without comment.

I refer to Russell Hoban.

Hoban was a highly skilled and highly original novelist and children's author.  His best known adult novel is probably Riddley Walker, a haunting post-apocalyptic dystopian novel, written in a fallen English with searing intensity and profound insights into the human condition.  Turtle Diary is a very gentle novel, made into a film with Ben Kingsley and Glenda Jackson, with a screenplay by Pinter (as an aside, I consider Pinter a far better screenwriter than playwright). Hoban's other novels are nearly always very rewarding, for his imaginative inventiveness and spare yet powerful use of language.  A few should have an X Certificate...

His children's books include the wonderful Frances stories, the anarchic Tom and Captain Najork books, the delightful Twenty-Elephant Restaurant, and the very quirky Big John Turkle, Charlie Meadows et al.  'Bleak Outlo' is regularly quoted here, along with many other Hobanesque phrases.  And then, of course, there was The Mouse and His Child, with the unforgettable Manny Rat.

I started with the claim that he was a greater writer than Hitchens.  That is not to say that I think Hitchens a poor writer: he was, at his best, very entertaining and engaging.  He was, of course, a man of strong prejudices and some very silly views; but as a writer, he knew his craft.

But I would stake a large wager that Hoban will be read and enjoyed by both adults and children  long after Hitchens is forgotten.

The BBC report (linked above) quotes a Guardian interview in which he suggested that death would be a "good career move".  He added: "People will say, 'yes, Hoban, he seems an interesting writer, let's look at him again'."

Which of them will have been more surprised to meet his Maker, I couldn't hazard a guess; but may God in His infinite goodness have mercy on both their souls, and may they rest in peace.

Friday 16 December 2011


A recent post about Mass on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings, prompted a bit of discusion in the Comms box.

Part-time Pilgrim wrote:
What lies behind this is (I think) the idea - correct idea - that fulfilling your Sunday obligation is necessary to keep the third commandment but not sufficient. A more interesting question is: "What else should a Catholic do on Sunday to mark it as the Lord's day?"
A great question!

We also go to Adoration and Benediction, once a month (that's all that's on offer).  We also do 'Sunday Morning Religion' with the kids: typically reading and discussing a chapter of Sheed, Knox (Mons R, not the other chap) or something.

We abstain from work (and shopping of course), as best we can (though sometimes the kids remember urgent homework, and occasionally I have a work crisis that needs addressing before Monday, usually due to poor planning...) and often go for a family walk, and sometimes play games around the fire.

But other than that, we don't do a lot to differentiate.  I'd be intrigued to hear what others do.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Sex Ed: hazardous to your child's health

National Review Online carries a fascinating interview with Dr Miriam Grossman, about her new book: You’re Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child.

It includes, inter alia:

When teens are questioned about their last sexual encounter, more than half admit they did not use a condom. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who is aware of the insights this new century has brought us about adolescent brain development. Neither should we rush to increase the truckloads of free condoms delivered to our schools. Biology is saying the answer isn’t latex, the answer is time.
Towards the end, she comments on National (US) guidelines on sexuality for teenagers:

Later, readers are advised, “It is up to you to determine how much risk you are willing to take.” And: “Many teens choose to be sexually active and many choose not to. You have the right to decide exactly what behaviors, if any, you are comfortable participating in.”
Imagine if a nutritionist taught your child: “There are many types of diets. A diet low in saturated fats, carbohydrates, and sugars helps prevent obesity and cardiac disease. Some kids try to keep a healthy diet, others don’t. You have the right to decide what to eat.”
I don’t think this approach would be well-received. Yet this is what passes as sex education in our country.

All of it is worth reading, so go and have a look.

H/t Challenge Team UK on Facebook

Sexual identity: Nature or Nurture?

I was irritated yesterday to hear that Hamleys had succumbed to a Twitter campaign and had changed its traditional arrangement of toys. It used to be that Boys' Toys were on some floors and Girls' Toys were on another. So you might see, on the one hand, an array of cars, fighting heroes and action toys; or on the other, lots of pink fluffy things.

But this was terrible gender steroetyping, apparently; although, in fact, there were no security guards turning the girls away from the train sets (the only bit of Hamleys my wife remembers visiting as a child) or excluding boys from the Barbie aisle.

The campaign reflects the orthodoxy that masculine and feminine identities are largely social constructs. That is the belief that has driven the re-shaping of education in this country and the US for decades: removing all boy connotations from Maths and the Sciences, and all girl connotations from arts, humanities and cooking... And when that didn't work, disallowing choice, as the naughty children continued to choose the 'wrong' (ie gender typical) subjects when allowed to do so - as they still tend to do when allowed (eg at University level). So the praxis has had little effect on getting girls into maths and the sciences, as was the avowed intention. It may have had a huge unintended side-effect, one could reasonably argue, in turning large numbers of boys off a feminised education altogether (parallels with the feminisation of liturgy in the Catholic Church are of course wholly inappropriate and should not even be considered).

So the orthodoxy (despite the evidence, one could argue) is that gender stereotyping and other 'nurture' factors determine, or at least strongly influence, gender identity.

EXCEPT when it comes to homosexuality (and various other things in the LGBT morass). These are of course innate and immutable. There is no possibility that, for example, gay teachers, or gay parents, or gay text books will alter, influence or confuse the gender identity of kids, nor that gay people are in fact socially constructed to feel as they do. No, no, no... that way heresy lies...

Monday 12 December 2011

The Miseducation of Women

I have just begun reading The Miseducation of Women, by James Tooley.

His fundamental thesis seems to be that the way in which we educate girls - treating them as the same as boys, and therefore inculcating in them expectations to be independent career women - causes demonstrable misery later in life and is fundamentally unjust.

Tooley is an academic, which, I suspect, makes this a brave book to have published, as his views will not be welcomed in academe...

I have only just started it, but can report that he writes extremely well, and I am enjoying it. Further reports to follow.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Even Trevor Phillips thinks they're nuts...

Trevor Phillips is the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

He has described the actions of the National Secular Society, about which I blogged here (Abuse in Bideford), as “nonsense on stilts”.

Collect for the third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday

This is the collect for the Third Sunday of Advent in the Extraordinary Form. It is also the prayer we say (this week) after singing O Come O Come Emmanuel around our Advent Wreath.

Bow down thine ear we beseech Thee O Lord to our prayer and by the brightness of thine Advent, lighten the darkness of our minds.
(This is corrected from a version I mistyped on first posting it!)

Saturday 10 December 2011

The Heresy of Understanding

I was lying awake thinking about consubstantial (as one does).

In particular, I was thinking about all those who complain it is too hard a word to cope with, in the corrected translation of the Creed. Which led me to wonder whether they find the word transubstantiation too hard, too.

We are often told that it will put the young people off...

My experience is that most children love long words and esoteric words: once they have been explained to them. So I think that is largely bogus.

I also notice that many of the people who thus complain are happy to use the complex word Eucharist rather than the simple one Mass. They will cheerfully talk about the ambo and the narthex, where I might say the pulpit and the porch... So I think that the whole simplicity thing is a bit bogus too.

But if not bogus, I think it is worse. People talk as though we should have texts for the Mass that are readily understandable at first hearing by the uninitiated.

I think that is verging on heresy. At the heart of our Faith is mystery: truths about God too great for us to comprehend. At the heart of the Mass is mystery: the Mystery of Faith. To presume to understand it all is therefore nearly heretical.

That is not to say that we should not seek understanding. As we study, and pray, and meditate, and reflect, we are drawn into the mystery. We will never (this side of the grave) fully comprehend, but we may make progress.

But to imagine that we can have a language that makes the mystery clear, is to invite a clarification that misrepresents the mystery. And that, I fear, is what we have lived with for some decades.

That is part of the reason why, despite 40 years of Mass in a simple vernacular, people now have a worse, rather than better, understanding of the Mass. Forty years ago, you would never have had people talking about receiving 'the bread' and 'the wine'; now such talk is commonplace. Forty years ago, people fell to their knees if a priest walked by carrying the Blessed Sacrament; now they are as likely to turn their backs to chat with their neighbour.

So what I believe the new translation offers is a chance, not for easier understanding, but for deeper, truer understanding. If I am right, and that becomes apparent, then the next step should be a return to Latin: the traditional language of the Roman Rite - for then we shall realise that instant understanding of language is more a barrier to deep understanding than a help...

Lynette Burrows on School Sex Ed

John Smeaton's blog carries the transcript of a talk by Lynette Burrows on Sex Education programmes in school. It is well worth a read. Here's a flavour: "Anyone who wants to talk dirty to little children is a danger to them."

Put nuns on the Pill

Our friend Scout, ever keen to educate the Catholics of the world from his or her position of unique enlightenment, has drawn my attention to a report in the Lancet. Actually, he or she links to the Guardian, which is slightly easier perhaps, but the Lancet article may be found here.

The point is that some Australian researchers report a link between the celibate life of a nun and a higher risk of contracting breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. Further, they note that the contraceptive pill is reported to reduce such risks (though in the case of breast cancer, at least, there has been much contradictory reporting of evidence over the years, so the case is perhaps not quite so clear cut.)

Therefore, Catholic Nuns should be put on the Pill.

I have a few observations to offer:

One is that I can't help thinking that some of the motivation behind this reporting is anti-Catholic and slightly puerile: ho ho ho nuns on the Pill - that'll show the Vatican!...

A second is that if the Pill is taken as a bona fide medicine, by a celibate woman, and therefore with no chance of it acting as either a contraceptive or an abortifacient, it's probably a non-issue; just as if I use a condom as an insulating material in an electrical circuit (as happened in The Day of the Jackal, if I remember correctly), that is not a moral problem.

A third (and Scout will love this one) is that the whole argument is premised on the assumption that nuns will want to avoid disease and live longer and healthier lives. That is not an unreasonable assumption; but there are other possibilities. The celibate life is overtly and deliberately self-sacrificial (that is one of the principal reasons it is so derided). St Bernadette, for example, saw her vocation as to suffer, and was by no means unique in this. So it seems to me quite possible that some (a few? many? all?) nuns may be quite happy to accept the cup that their Lord is offering them when they swear to celibacy, even including an earlier death.

But for the average Guardian reader, I fear that will be entirely incomprehensible.

Friday 9 December 2011

Abortion better for you than eating apples, study (almost) concludes...

The ever-wonderful BBC has been trumpeting the news that a new study has shown that abortion has no worse effects on a woman than carrying a pregnancy to term.

Leave aside the effect on the child (death) and the effect on anyone else (siblings, father etc) for a moment.

Let's just examine that claim. Because even the BBC admit in their report: 'The scope of the review excluded reactions such as guilt, shame and regret - although these were considered important - and also assessments of mental state within 90 days of an abortion.'

Although these are important, we will exclude them. Why?

For a comprehensive list of studies reaching rather different conclusions, visit John Smeaton's blog.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

The School's Verdict

If you have been following the Keeping Mum Saga (see various previous posts...) you will be interested to know thatI got a very civil note from the Head of RE today. He has reviewed the film, agrees it is inappropriate and withdrawn it from the syllabus. There: that wasn't too painful, was it?

Now if only schools with a Catholic Ethos were so responsive...

Ant hits 21!

This week we celebrate another milestone as Antonia turns 21. So that’s it: officially grown up. The first of our children to emerge at the other end from our slightly odd approach to parenting (at least by modern standards). So it is interesting to look back.

Ant is currently at University, where she is studying Maths to Masters level, and looks set to get a first class degree. She is also enjoying a lively social and sporting life. She also practices her Faith with commitment and energy, including co-founding the University’s pro-Life prayer group. She has a non-Catholic boyfriend who is teased by his friends because his girlfriend doesn’t sleep with him. She found a summer job in her first year and was so valued by her employers that they have asked her back every subsequent summer, increasing her pay each time.

Whilst I am (as you will have realised) very proud of her, I am not mentioning these things to boast, but rather because they are unexpected outcomes – at least according to the popular wisdom of the current culture.

I remember when we moved house, when she was 15. The headmaster of her new school was worried on learning that we do not have a television in the house, for religious reasons. He was concerned that we were raising her in a way that would be over-protective, leave her lacking the common ground with her peers to form effective social relationships and so on. By the time she left she had been voted by her peers as the girl they would like to have as head girl, and the head, who has the final say, interviewed her and two others and appointed her.

I have been told that by encouraging her to be modest, I was raising her in ‘a noxious environment’, in which ‘expressing her sexuality’ was ‘bad.’ Yet strangely, she is a mature, confident, and outgoing young lady, able to interact with men and women on equal terms and to have a long-term boyfriend on her terms.

So I stand by our approach, which may be counter cultural, but is actually a time-honoured method, built on the wisdom of generations and particularly on Catholic belief and practice.

Here’s a few things we did as we brought her up that may be at variance with societal norms:

  • We sat together as a family for our meals
  • We went for walks together on a regular basis
  • We didn’t have a TV
  • We read to the smaller children every night – a book worth reading
  • We allowed our kids to take a lot of risks (at the physical level) such as climbing trees, exploring the local countryside unsupervised, and taking up exciting hobbies and sports (rock climbing, sailing, etc)
  • We didn’t allow our kids to hang around in shopping centres or go to sleep-overs or parties where we don’t know and trust the parents concerned
  • We tried to ensure our kids have a lot of fun – more than their peers
  • We didn’t buy them much stuff – consumer toys etc
  • We encouraged them to pursue interests like music seriously
  • We (their parents) love each other and are committed to staying together no matter what…
  • We pray together every day

So I guess what I want to say is: dare to be different! It really can work!

Monday 5 December 2011

The Rhetoric of Abortion (v)

My more regular readers (or reader) will have noticed a pattern on this blog. Frequently I start a post, or series of posts, in one direction, and get distracted and end up digressing all over the place.

As on the blog, so in my life...

However, every now and then, I do try to return to my original intentions, so here is part 5 of my occasional series on the Rhetoric of Abortion.

And here is a fine example I came across on Mumsnet: And an aborted foetus is not a casualty. Because it's not a person. Because if it was a person, than its rights would conflict with those of the person carrying it. And so it's not a person until it leaves the woman's body.

I have to admit to being impressed by the elegance of the circular logic employed here. But the bit I want to focus on is that word foetus.

On the Mumsnet pages about dos and don'ts in pregnancy, you read early on: remember that unborn babies are remarkably tenacious. And so it goes on throughout the page. From the moment of conception, right through pregnancy, the (wanted) child is referred to as an unborn baby. Yet on the page debating abortion, it is suddenly a foetus, or an embryo.

This is not unique to Mumsnet, of course. The National Health Service plays the same trick: on the pregnancy advice pages, we read:

there are some foods you shouldn't eat during pregnancy because they could:
  • cause food poisoning, or
  • harm your unborn baby
Yet strangely, when we look at the abortion advice pages, we find:

Vacuum aspiration, or suction termination, is a procedure that uses gentle suction to remove the foetus from the womb.

Note not only the change from unborn baby to foetus, but also from 'your' to 'the.'

What is going on here? In both popular discourse (Mumsnet) and professionally written medical advice (NHS) the way something is described is conditioned entirely according to our intentions towards it.

If we seek to nurture it and look after it, it is your unborn baby. If we seek to kill it, it is the foetus.

How can the status of another life be defined by our attitudes towards it?

People get annoyed when one draws parallels between abortion and the Holocaust or slavery: yet here the parallel is very clear: we deny the humanity of the one we seek to oppress.

When challenged, pro-abortion advocates are quick to point out that embryo and foetus are the correct medical terms for the different stages of development; as indeed they are.

But we don't normally insist on the correct medical terms unless we have a reason to do so. We rarely talk about our cranium; or describe a pain in our abdomen. Head and stomach are the normal modes of discourse. So clearly, something is going on.

And my contention is that it is exactly analagous to the mother being shown an ultrasound of her baby (when it is wanted, and therefore a baby) but not of her foetus (when the intention is to kills it.)

It is what George Orwell so clearly articulated as double-think: the capacity to believe two contradictory things at the same time - and not notice that one is doing so. And that is the necessary piece on mental gymnastics that the medical profession has to perform, day after day: which is why I think that abortion is so profoundly damaging to the profession, as well as to everyone else involved.

So when you hear people talking about an embryo or a foetus, consider stopping the conversation in its tracks and insisting that this point is at least considered. After all, what are they afraid of: seeing the humanity of the unborn child on the ultrasound?...

Sunday 4 December 2011

Mass on Saturday Evening or Sunday Morning?

Yesterday, Stuart of eChurchBlog tweeted (he's @eChurchBlog) I so much prefer to go to Mass on a Saturday evening than Sunday mornings...

I responded, somewhat tongue in cheek: But which does God prefer?... (Shades of the old traditionalist joke: you worship God as you want to, we'll worship Him as He wants us to...)

However, he is not one to leave it there, and my ducking his question about what I thought by saying that it's not my opinion which counts was not enough for him.

So I thought I'd better post on it: it will take a little longer than Twitter allows.

So what do I think? My instinct is that Sunday morning is the better time for Mass. That is the time-honoured practice of the Church and that alone carries a lot of weight for me.

I certainly understand that in cases of necessity, a Saturday evening Mass can mean that one can fulfil one's obligation when one might otherwise not be able to do so - and have indeed taken advantage of that innovation myself.

And I actively like Midnight Mass for Christmas or Easter.

I am also aware that today (and quite frequently) I am going to Mass on a Sunday afternoon, which again is not very traditional: however it is the only time on a Sunday when an EF Mass is celebrated within 60 miles of where I live.

But I think, if I am fair, that part of my disinclination (and I won't put it more strongly than that) to go to Saturday evening Masses, is that in my experience many who go then do so in order to leave Sunday free for other activities - and that does strike me as problematic. And clearly that is a prejudice based on a small sample, and does not by any means hold good for all who attend then. But, as I say, if I am to be honest, I think that is at least half of my reservation.

Collect for Second Sunday of Advent: Stir Up Sunday

This is the collect for the Second Sunday of Advent in the Extraordinary Form. It is also the prayer we say (this week) after singing O Come O Come Emmanuel around our Advent Wreath.

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the ways of thine only-begotten Son; and with minds undefiled to pay to thee the homage of our service.

The opening words lead to this being called Stir Up Sunday, (at least in our family - I have heard others have a different Stir Up Sunday). Anyway, it is the day to stir the Christmas Pudding mix...

Saturday 3 December 2011

Keeping mum about Keeping Mum

It is now nearly three weeks since I wrote to Charlie and Dom's school about Keeping Mum.

I had a prompt and civil initial response: an answerphone message from the head of RE assuring me that he would look into it.

Charlie has now had two RE lessons since and it has not appeared again. But apart from his teacher asking Charlie if he agreed with me (he said he did) we have heard no more about it.

I was expecting a reply to my letter (and one may yet come: I do understand that teachers are very busy) but I am pleased with the outcome anyway; no prevarication, no demonising of me or Charlie, no attempt to justify the use of an inappropriate film - simply putting the matter right and carrying on.

Of course, this is not a school with a Catholic Ethos...

Friday 2 December 2011

Abuse in Bideford

Poor old Councillor Bone. His colleagues on Bideford Town Council have been forcing him to his knees, holding his hands together, and threatening to beat him up if he didn't say the Lord's Prayer. Today he goes to the High Court to seek an end to this practice.

Oh, hang on a second, I've just re-read that. In fact, the Councillors have been saying a prayer at the start of the Council meeting, in accordance with a time-honoured tradition (also observed in our own Parliament). There is no requirement for Councillor Bone (or anyone else) to be there, let alone participate; the register of those present at the meeting is taken after the prayer. However, this is so offensive to his sensibilities that he has made a bit of a fuss. The Council has considered his point of view and voted, twice, to maintain the practice. One might call that a democratic process.

BUT (ta-daa!) enter the National Secular Society, and Councillor Bone's terrible predicament is now to be resolved by the High Court.

I listened to Keith Porteous Wood, the Executive Director (now there's posh!) of the NSS on the radio, and there was something about the quality of his indignation and detestation of all things Christian that made me wonder... and sure enough 'Wood is in a civil partnership with Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society,' according to Wikipedia. (Well, that's cosy isn't it: they can discuss their vicitimisation over the morning latte.)

Somehow, militant secularism and the militant gay agenda often go hand in hand - and I know which I believe to be in the driving seat.

Thursday 1 December 2011


I have been doing some follow-up reading after that stress management course I went on. (Perhaps I should reassure my concerned readers that I am not suffering from stress; I went on the course because my work involves working with people under great pressure and I was interested to learn how I and others might better support them).

One of the b0oks I am reading, recommended by someone recovering from a breakdown himself, was on mindfulness. It cites lots of research evidence that spending a short time in meditation each day has many and significant benefits with regard to health, resilience and happiness.

Needless to say, the meditations it offers are of a secular kind, but it does have the grace to acknowledge that this is ancient wisdom found in most serious religions.

The concept of mindfulness seems to be about living in the present moment, neither worrying about the past, nor the future. Regular practice of this actually changes the brain for the better, apparently, leading to the kind of serenity one sometimes meets in people who have.... spent a lot of time in meditation (who would have thought it?)

Of course, this is strong in the Catholic tradition; confession helps us to draw a line under past failings. And Our Lord has instructed us to pray for this day's daily bread - not for our pensions and a secure and wealthy retirement... 'Lord for tomorrow and its needs, I do not pray...'

But what struck me most was that the discipline of putting time aside for prayer each day (not rushing through prayer while driving to work, for example, as I sometimes do when time is tight) is very important; in particular, a mindful rosary. I find that the practice of inserting a short interjection after the Holy Name in each Ave is very helpful: one that keeps me mindful of the mystery I am praying. I can't remember where I first read about this, possibly St Louis de Montfort, but it is a wonderful practice.

And now I have the research to prove it.