Saturday 31 March 2012

A Wizard Wheeze for April Fools’ Day

As the girls were all out, and Charlie more or less comatose (first day of the holidays and all that) I have spent the morning cleaning the windows.  My hope is that tomorrow morning, when the sun streams in through the previously murky panes with a dazzling new  brightness, I will be able to convince the family that somebody has stolen all the glass out of our windows overnight.

This plan is only slightly thrown into jeopardy by the fact that Anna (the redoubtable Mrs T) looked out every now and then to advise me to be careful, and not to fall off the ladder.  It must be pride that makes such advice, given with the best intentions by somebody who loves one dearly, so incredibly irksome...

Up the ladder, I was naturally reflecting on Lord Finchley.  Whilst I am not exactly a wealthy man (though anyone extrapolating from Anna's spending habits might conclude otherwise), I would quite like to give employment to the artisan in this instance.  However, the local window cleansing technician has one of those brushes on a long handle with a hose attached.  Thus he never leaves the ground.  The system is admirable for knocking the paint off one's window frames, but inadequate for removing the house martin mess from the panes (which tells you how long it is since last I cleaned them...)

The other imaginary companion to this tedious task was, of course, George Formby...

Thursday 29 March 2012

We're getting a reputation at the School...

Breakfast dialogue at the Trovato table today:

Self: Why are you wearing that?
Dominique: It's own clothes day: it's the last day tomorrow, but we have the end of term Service, so it's own clothes today.
Self: What's it in aid of this time?
Dom: Cancer research...
Self: Did you...?
Dom (interrupting): Yes, I went to reception, and they said as long as I gave a pound to some charity, I didn't have to give it to them.
Self: Were they curious why you didn't want to...?
Dom (interrupting): No, they're used to us.

If you don't know why we don't support Cancer Research, look at SPUC's Charities bulletin.  Cancer Research UK is, inter alia, a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities, which campaigned in favour of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, which Cancer Research UK also supports.

Monday 26 March 2012

What price Gay Marriage?

How much do you think a Tory party donor might have given to the Party in order to get his paper on gay marriage considered and acted on?

£200,000?  £250,000?  More?

Intriguing, isn't it?  From nowhere, this suddenly became a policy to which the Prime Minister was committed, and about which the only public consultation is to be 'how', not 'whether'.

Those of us wondering why this was suddenly so high on David Cameron's agenda were fascinated by the claims made at the weekend by Peter Cruddas, that a gay donor had bought access and influence...

Protect the Pope carries the full story.


It appears that Cruddas was referring to someone who submitted a paper expressing anger at gay marriage proposals (and Protect the Pope's post above has been updated accordingly). 

Which is curious, given that Cruddas said 'his voice has been heard.' Of course, believing practically any senior politician on practically anything is something of a triumph of hope over experience, so perhaps we are none the wiser.

The question still remains: what brought this to the top of Cameron's agenda?  None of the credible answers to that question are particularly positive...

Sunday 25 March 2012


Today in our parish Church, the statues and crucifixes were veiled in purple for Passiontide. 
I have always loved this, since I was a child.  

I was told - and I have no idea if this is true or pious legend, and nor do I care - that it was because of the final line of today’s Gospel (in the traditional Mass): 'Jesus hid Himself, and went out from the temple.'

What I do know is that it makes the symbolism of the progressive unveiling of the Cross on Good Friday particularly potent; and then on Easter Sunday, when the statues are all unveiled, the glory of the Risen Christ’s CHurch shines forth with a new splendour.

It is a sad reflection on the heady days of liturgical reform that in the drive to simplify the Mass, many churches abandoned this time-honoured tradition.  The irony is that the simplification left the liturgy so denuded of symbolism and ritual that people had to start to invent new things to fill the void.  Many of these were far poorer than the traditions they replaced, and some - such as putting sand in the holy water stoups during Lent - were quite wrong-headed.

But at least in our Church the Passiontide veils live on; poignant reminders of the sombre aspect of this season, but also hinting at the glory to be revealed at Easter.

Saturday 24 March 2012


Yes, it is now confirmed that three Trovati will be gracing the Chartres pilgrimage with their presence.  I will be going, along with Ant (our eldest) and Dominique (our youngest).

Both Bernie and Charlie are really sad that their exams at (respectively) university and school mean that they can't come this year.

Anna (Mrs T) is pleased that she has to stay home to look after Charlie (and her mum, and Goldie the dog).

For anyone who is wondering whether to go: make the decision, and go.

For anyone who doesn't know what I am on about, here's what I said about it on our return last year:

The Chartres Pilgrimage is a traditional annual event every Pentecost. Pilgrims assemble at 6.00 am in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and after a brief prayer in the Cathedral, set out to walk to Chartres: around 8500 of them, mainly young, mainly French, but with many other nationalities represented.

On the first day, we walk for some 15 miles, then stop for Mass in the woods and lunch, and then another 15 miles to the campsite where we spend the night.

The second day, Pentecost Sunday, is similar, with all-night adoration at the campsite for those who can't - or choose not to - sleep...

The third day, we walk the remaining 10 miles or so to Chartres, for High Mass in the Cathedral.

All the Masses are in the Extraordinary Form, and along the way, we pray rosaries (sung in Latin) and have meditations, confession, hymns and marching songs, and good old-fashioned conversation...

Those are the bare facts: what is much harder to convey is the experience: to be one of so many Catholics of so many nations, marching in honour of Our Lady, united in belief and worship (Latin is so self-evidently the way forward for the Universal [=global = Catholic] Church); to walk till it hurts and realise it is only lunchtime; to sing till your voice gives out, and realise there are five more decades to be sung; to turn over and over in your bed, and then be told (at 5.00 am) that it is time to get up; to be offered grace after grace...

Friday 23 March 2012

Why are abortion doctors so unethical?

According to the Telegraph,  the unannounced inspections of abortion clinics yesterday revealed that in several, piles of abortion forms were pre-signed.

Apart from noting that I am not surprised (and I shouldn’t think anyone else is, despite Andrew Lansley’s ‘shock horror' protestations) I think that this is worthy of comment.

For although I am not surprised, it is in fact a very grave issue.  Parliament has laid down stringent conditions; Doctors are bound by that and by the professional standards one expects or them; yet here they are flagrantly breaking both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Moreover, the lack of surprise itself is worth unpicking.  At a superficial level, it is simply because we all know that we have, de facto though not de jure, abortion on demand in this country.

But I think the more profound level is the intuitive understanding that a doctors who so compromise their profession, indeed their vocation, as to undertake abortions on the flimsy grounds allowed for by the Abortion Act, have already compromised their integrity.  They may genuinely believe  that what they are doing is good and  right, but to have reached that state of subjective certainty, they have had to abandon the ethics laid down in the Hippocratic oath.  So we are not surprised when they see other ethical considerations, such as breaking the law and denying women the protection and support which the law is designed to offer them, as simply bureaucratic details which can be conveniently brushed aside.

And astonishingly, they risk their professional lives in their arrogance: in theory (though I bet it won't come to this) they could be struck off by the GMC for this.  How could they do this?  Again, I think once people start playing God, they take on more and more characteristics of the role - to their ultimate undoing.

However, my fear is that this latest scandal will actually be used to promote the pro-abortion cause politically: the cry will be that the law is out of step with society, medical opinion and current practice, and so needs to be reformed.

We must pray for our doctors and our politicians, as well as for all other affected by the scourge of abortion.

A few Catholic Jokes

One of the great features of Catholicism is that we are allowed to have fun!  

But possibly not in Lent...  

I was going to post a few of my favourite Catholic jokes, but as I wrote the first sentence of this post, realised that it would be unseasonal. So I will do so after Easter.  Treat this as a teaser campaign!

Tuesday 20 March 2012

On the Mysteries of Light

I have been thinking about the Luminous Mysteries, or Mysteries of Light; that is the five new decades proposed for our meditation by the late Holy Father John Paul ll.

Many traditionalists seem to reject them out of hand: how dare anyone, even the supreme pontiff, change the Most Holy Rosary.  This is an easy view to caricature. (OK I give in: here it is. Q: How many traditionalists does it take to change a lightbulb?  A: CHANGE?!!!)

But there is more to it than that.  There is a sense in which that which we have inherited from immemorial tradition is time-honoured, and should be changed at our peril.  The Mass is an example that springs to mind.  It had developed over centuries, nurtured countless saints, was radically changed, and the benefits elude me (to put it kindly).

However, the Rosary is a different case.  Clearly it is a devotion, rather than a part of the Liturgy.  Further, the change is optional: anybody who wants to pray the Rosary the way it was always prayed is free to do so.  Moreover, even with the change, nothing has been taken away from the Rosary.  And there, the contrast with the changes to the Mass is very stark.  In fact this change to the Rosary is much closer in style to the changes to the Mass prior to the 1950s: additive rather than reforming.  Tradition has never meant complete stagnation.

Pope John Paul ll clearly had a deep devotion to Our Lady, and all he proposed to us was that we could, in addition to the traditional mysteries, meditate on some of the key moments of Our Lord’s life, between the Finding in the Temple and the Prayer and Agony in the Garden.

Having been praying the Mysteries of Light for some years now, and particularly this Lent, when I have been praying Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries everyday, I am coming to an appreciation of the new mysteries, and how they relate to the traditional ones.  Praying all four sets of mysteries takes one right through Our Lord’s time on earth, and helps one to see links and patterns.

So, whilst I have some sympathy for the view that one should not change the Rosary, I think that saying even the Holy Father cannot promote additions to it is over-stating the case: if you disagree with me, please say fifteen decades for me (if you agree, that will be twenty, of course!)

Monday 19 March 2012

Pictures for Mysteries

In a recent post I mentioned meditating on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary using Art.  A friend has given me a couple of wonderful books: one is the Annunciation and the other is the Crucifixion, as represneted in art. Both contain hundreds of images from the 5th century to the present.  

They are both fabulous books, and provide a rich source of images to choose from, to aid your meditation.  I say images, rather than paintings, as they include pictures of statuary, mosaics, stained glass windows and other media, as well as icons and paintings.

Looking at the Annunciation first; there are many favourites are here, of course, such as Duccio, and Fra Angelico, but there are also many new (to me) things to discover.  I was not familiar with Brice Marden’s Annunciation before (see image), but find it strangely compelling.  There are a few disappointments (there are only so many counter-reformation putti I can take, and Salvador Dalí’s Annunciation leaves me cold), but overall the selection is fabulous, and having them brought together chronologically is fascinating.

Turning to the Crucifixion, it is a similar story: Fra Angelico again turns in a fabulous image, and there's a wonderful Rembrandt etching I hadn't known before. Perhaps there are more pictures in this book which I dislike: but given the subject matter that may, of course, be a good thing.  Incidentally, Dalí’s Crucifixion (based on a drawing by St John of the Cross) is one of his works I really appreciate.

As far as I can see, they are the only two that Phaidon do (but I got bored of looking after checking for Visitation and Nativity, so if you want to prove me wrong: here’s your opportunity).  But they are both rich sources for meditation on these particular mysteries.

Sunday 18 March 2012

It's Our Church...

I heard a little of the Today programme this morning: two things, to be precise. 

The one that made me stop and think was a lesbian saying how ‘it’s our Church, and the sacraments should be available to all,’ or words to that effect.

That set my inner linguistic pedant going, with the following result:

When I say something is mine, I may mean any one of a number of things.  

‘My piece of chewing gum’ means a bit of chewing gum I can do as I like with: save, chew, discard, stick under the piano....

‘My dog’ means the dog which I own, but towards which, by virtue of ownership, I also owe some responsibility.

‘My children’ shifts that balance further: I have both authority and responsibility in this relationship, but not ownership.

‘My wife’ (well, perhaps I’d better pass swiftly over that one...)

‘My parents’ to whom I owe obedience when young, and respect always, and support when they are old.

‘My God’ to whom I owe everything, and over whom I have no authority.

So to say the Church is ‘Our Church’ is true in one sense: but we have to be precise.  It is not ours to do as we like with, nor ours to exercise authority over.  In those respects, it is not our Church at all, but Christ’s Church.  It is our Church in the same way that Christ is Our Lord: the one to whom we owe obedience and love.  So to move from ‘it’s our Church’ to ‘therefore we should be able to change it suit our views’ is a huge non sequitur.

I also heard our old friend Martin Pendergast saying he didn’t want a ‘gay marriage.’  Holy Matrimony, he opined, was too tied up with a patriarchal and possessive view of relationships, whereas his long-term relationship with Julian Filochowski (one-time Director of CAFOD) is clearly on a higher plane of equality and love...  Poor soul: he needs our prayers.

Laetare! and Mothering Sunday

Alas, no rose vestments at the Parish Mass this morning.  Father said the Parish doesn't own any - in tones of relief.  Would it be naughty to donate some?

However, Bernie pulled of a real coup de theatre by coming home (unbeknownst to her mother) late last night, and thus being here to greet her for Mothering Sunday along with Charlie and Dominique!

A propos this morning's Mass, why is it deemed better to have a lay person read the readings, rather than a priest who has studied Sacred Scripture to a high level at seminary?  This morning's readings were rendered almost unintelligible by a well-intentioned but clearly ignorant reader: saying concentrating for consecrating, for example (and many other similar slips), and dividing the sentences into clauses that emptied them of meaning.

However, the sun is shining, Mrs T has three of her brood at home, the breakfast table was covered with flowers and home-made cards (including from the absent Antoinette), so a suitable Laetare atmosphere prevails.


Mothering Sunday Challenge: Who did which card? Whose is missing?  Why?

Card A

Card B

Card C

Saturday 17 March 2012

The Ardship of Cambry

In Riddley Walker  (Russell Hoban’s masterpiece which defies description but certainly deserves to be read) language has been degraded, along with the rest of civilisation, in the aftermath of an atomic catastrophe.  

It’s a bit like reading A Clockwork Orange, in that you have to learn the argot as you go - only more so.  A particularly felicitous turn of phrase is the Ardship of Cambry.

Whoever takes on the job that Rowan Williams is leaving will discover the prophetic truth of that title, I fear.

(NB Archdruid Eileen’s prophecy is also worth a read: H/t Stuart at Echurch Blog

About Adoption: in which I am profoundly stupid and a ********* liability

There has been a bit of noise on Twitter about adoption and abortion.

According to one contributor I am profoundly stupid and a (expletive deleted) liability to the pro-life cause, because I insist (her word, not mine) that ‘adoption is a pro-life option.

She has been very vociferous about this over the last few days, but not given much reason for it.  

However yesterday, she has explained herself a bit: “Where to begin? It's not an option anyone would freely choose with an intended pregnancy. The idea would be unthinkable.” she tweeted, and then: “I can't begin to imagine the agony of a woman who gives her child up for adoption.” and finally: “I am pro life. I am not pro suffering.”  Another commentator wrote: 'Offering adoption for unwtd pregnancy, in reality, does not buy time, but reinforce need for abortion. IMNSHO .'  Another comment offered was : Pushing adoption to those that who do not see abortion as a moral evil, with hope future hope that it will buy time for mother to change mind is, it flawed reasoning and lends weight to abortion option. IMO. (sic). Note the jump: Nobody was claiming that adoption should be pushed: merely that it should not be ruled out a priori as 'not an option.'  But that's Twitter...

If anything is profoundly stupid, I think it is comments of this nature.  I am always wary of people making absolute statements, unless we are really dealing with absolutes (as I posted here).  Good for rhetorical effect, perhaps, but poor as intellectual arguments.

So why do I differ from these people?

Because clearly, both as a matter of theoretical analysis, and as a matter of historic fact, adoption is a pro-life option. Many children who might otherwise have been aborted have in fact been given up for adoption.  I know a number of people who have been adopted and a number who have adopted.  So those claiming it is not an option are, quite simply, wrong.

I suspect what they mean is that it is not helpful to mention adoption as an option to someone facing a crisis pregnancy (or possibly it is not helpful to mention it in the course of debates about abortion).  I have more sympathy with those views; but I revolt when it is expressed in absolutes: ‘adoption is not an option.’

It is not an easy option, nor a quick fix: but nobody is saying that it is.

It may be that in many situations, mentioning adoption might be unhelpful.  But to have it as a mantra, an iron law, strikes me as stupid. In some cases it may be a helpful thing to discuss.

In my initial counselling training (some 30 years ago, now, for voluntary work in another context), we were taught that helping people in a crisis to identify a number of options is generally helpful: people feel  powerless when they believe they have no choices.  That made sense to me.

I have since counselled literally hundreds of people and undergone further training in a range of counselling and therapeutic techniques, and that experience bears this view out.  I have also been closely involved in the pro-life movement for decades, founding a branch of one pro-life group in London, working at a national level, and supporting my wife in establishing another pro-life group where we now live. I have spent a lot of time with pro-life counsellors: so one commentator's view that my position is purely academic was way off the mark.  But that's Twitter...

One of the pressures women are under when contemplating an abortion is the terrible time pressure that can lead to a quick decision which is regretted for life.  If at the moment of crisis, they see their choice as: abort now, or be burdened with a child for life, that is pretty stark.  If they see that there is a third option, however difficult to contemplate, which removes the immediate time pressure, that could, in some cases, be helpful.  Indeed I know of cases in which it has been. I think the counsellor with the woman is best placed to judge that, not commentators on Twitter.

Further, I was called patronising for mentioning it, but sometimes women have decided not to have an abortion, with the intention of pursuing the adoption route, but then ended up deciding to raise their baby themselves.  Given that it has happened, I cannot see why it is patronising to mention it in the context of this discussion.

Of course, I am not advocating counselling a woman with a problem pregnancy along those lines, but that does not mean the issue is not discussable in principle.

Another problem with the way the  'not an option' argument has been proffered has been the offence and upset it causes to those who have been adopted, or have given children for adoption. I know at least one person who was understandably extremely upset about this; and I see no good reason for causing such upset.

I don't particularly mind being referred to as a ******* liability, but I do think that Tweeters of good will have a responsibility not needlessly to cause distress to others.

And there's something else.  At the heart of the abortion industry is a series of lies. Two of the worst are: it's not really a human being, and an abortion will make it as though you were never pregnant.  By discussing adoption, both of these lies are implicitly, or even explicitly, confronted.  The expectant mother is able to contemplate what it might be like to give her child away: a terrible prospect.  Implicit in that is, how much worse to kill it...  

I think we owe it to expectant mothers to confront these lies before they make the fateful decision to kill their child.  Because someday they will wake up to them, and that will be terrible indeed.  And even more terrible if they have spoken to pro-life people and fling at us the accusing question: 'Why did you never tell me...?'

As I have had cause to mention before, I think Twitter is a very poor medium for any intelligent debate, (which is why I have chosen to take up the discussion here) which may mean I have misunderstood or misrepresented others.  As ever, I am open to correction.

But for me, the bottom line is that anything which:
a) does not contradict charity or truth and
b) which may help save the life of an unborn child, and 
c) save the expectant mother from living with the reality of having had her own child killed...

should be available as an option: and setting up absolute rules that limit the scope of counsellors in this vital work is profoundly unhelpful and misguided.

Feel free to tell me where I've got it wrong: but this is my blog and I will not publish profane language on it.

Friday 16 March 2012

A Bogus Consultation

The Government's Consultation on Same Sex Marriages is clearly bogus.

They have already decided what they intend to do, and the consultation is a cynical attempt to make it look as though they have some sort of mandate to do it.  They have not. Nor do they have the power, the competence nor the right to abolish marriage and replace it with a meaningless romantic construct.

I was going to analyse the Consultation document, but awoke to find that The Thirsty Gargoyle has done a far better job that I would have done, here.

It is also worthy of note that the survey can only be completed once from one computer: so those of us married couples with only one computer will find that one of us is excluded.  Likewise, those who have access to several, or to iPads etc, have multiple votes.

Laurence 'The Bones' England has produced another fascinating bit of analysis, showing who is actually funding the LGBT lobby, here. Does that explain why it is such a priority for a government which (one might imagine) has more pressing concerns to address?

Finally, the assurance offered to pacify religious people that they will not be required to conduct Same Sex Marriages are worth precisely the same as the assurances we were given in '67/68 that nobody would be forced to participate in abortions against their will - that is absolutely nothing.

For the agenda here is not about equal legal rights -that has already been achieved with Civil Partnerships - it is about culture change: legislating for equal esteem and approval.  And while the Church (and the other Christian denominations, and religions) continues to witness to the truth, the battle will continue.

UPDATE: An important, if rather unpleasant, question that has not been addressed is that of consummation of so-called same sex marriages.  Cranmer has blogged on it: unpleasant reading but a very important subject.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Hands off the Altar!

An excellent post from Fr Bede Rowe on why we should not treat the altar as a table, casually resting our hands on it, putting things on it for convenience's sake and so on.

This relates very much to my previous posts (here, and here, and here, for example) on the sanctuary as a holy space.  The altar is a sacred object.  Unless we behave accordingly, we undermine our belief that it is in fact so.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Protesting too much

Readers will remember that article in the Journal of Medical Ethics which pointed out, (correctly), that the moral status of a new-born infant was the same as that of the same infant immediately prior to birth, and argued (incorrectly) that as we now accept abortion, we should likewise accept ‘post birth abortion.’

I blogged about it here.

Thanks to the indefatigable and always interesting Stuart at Echurch blog  I have been enjoying (?) the authors’ open letter.

Clearly, it is quite wrong of anyone personally to abuse the authors and threaten them.
It is true that it is hard to know precisely the correct response to someone advancing an ethical argument for infanticide; outrage and anger are both appropriate, I think, but they should be directed at the arguments and the culture which produces them (modern ethics) rather than the individuals.  Hate the sin, love the sinner, remember? 

However if the response was, in some quarters, intemperate (to put it mildly) I do think the authors  protest too much.

In the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF) which is the national exercise run by HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England and Wales) to judge the quality of research undertaken at Universities, in order to allocate core research funding to them, there is, for the first time, to be a lot of emphasis on ‘impact.’  While the meaning of impact is somewhat unclear, it does seem to me unthinkable that academics publishing at the moment will not be giving the concept some thought.

So when Giubilini and Minerva claim: ‘we had no idea that our paper would raise such a heated debate,’ I am left scratching my head.  Part of me, if I’m honest, wonders if heated debate was precisely the impact they wanted - it just got rather more heated than they liked.

They claim their article was about logic: ‘It was meant to be a pure exercise of logic: if X, then Y.’

As the paper has since been removed from the online publicly available version of the Journal, I can’t check the precise words they used, but I seem to remember their saying ‘we prefer the term after-birth abortion’ or words to that effect.

That strikes me as rhetoric: it is not logic, which is what they claim the paper was about.  Rhetoric serves a different purpose from logic: to influence or persuade.

So their claim that ‘we never meant to suggest that after-birth abortion should become legal’ raises the question: what where you trying to persuade people of?

Their further claim: ‘Moreover, we did not suggest that after birth abortion should be permissible for months or years as the media erroneously reported,’ does seem to concede that they were in fact suggesting that after-birth abortion should be permissible for some period of time; which was clearly how many who read the article interpreted it.

They continue: ‘What people understood was that we were in favour of killing people.  This, of course, is not what we suggested.’ Yes, it was.  They can only use this arguement because they are busy re-defining ‘people’ to mean ‘people whom we deem worthy of life.’

They further write: ‘We did not recommend or suggest anything in the paper about what people should do (or about what policies should allow).’  That is clearly rubish.  Their discipline is ethics.  That is what ethics is about.  The kind of stuff published and debated in ethical journals filters through into ethics committees in hospitals, universities and professional bodies.  They then lobby in parliament.  The doctors say ‘we’re not ethicists: that’s an important debate, but it is held elsewhere.’  Where? In journals such as this.

If some sections of the public protested too much at this outrageous article, (or more precisely, protested in the wrong way) I think it is also true that the authors protest their innocence rather more than the facts sustain.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Mark Dowd Wrongs King Canute (and Archbishop Nichols)

It was, of course, entirely predictable.

Once the Archbishops wrote their letter, we knew the The Tablet would dissent - and it did.  We also knew that QUEST and its allies would have a hissy fit - and they did.

Mark Dowd is quoted as saying: “Probably the Archbishop resembles King Canute standing on the shores with the waves coming in. It’s really a question of the tide of history turning and there’s very little that can be done about it.”

Here he displays as much ignorance as he does stupidity.  If the tide had been turning, then Canute would have looked as though he was commanding the waves.  And that's the least of Dowd's stupidity.

Canute stood on the shore not to try to turn the waves back: he was far wiser than that.  He commanded the waves to turn back precisely because he knew that the would not.  He was demonstrating to his sycophantic courtiers that there are limits to what a king can do.  

Let us hope that Archbishop Nichols has also realised that there are limits to what an archbishop can do: he cannot command the truth to reverse itself.  If he resembles Canute in that way, then we can only applaud - and support him with prayers, of course.

H/t Deacon Nick at Protect the Pope

Sunday 11 March 2012

Meditating on these Mysteries - in Art

As I continue on my journey into the mysteries of the most holy Rosary, I was delighted to discover a series of articles at Crisis Magazine, on praying the Rosary through Art.  (I should give a H/t to whoever it was on Twitter who pointed them out, but carelessly, I have not kept the link and can't remember: apologies, if you are reading this: feel free to take the credit (and add any observations) in the Comms box.)

As ours is a religion of Incarnation, use of visual imagery to stimulate prayer and meditation is both apposite and valuable.

There are pictures and commentaries on:
There are none on the Luminous Mysteries (and I’ll come back to that).

Many of the works of art are familiar, some are new (at least to me).

And some I like, but others are not my favourite representations of a particular mystery (Poussin’s Assumption, for example, really doesn’t do anything for me).

Which leads to a new game: collecting one’s favourite artistic representations of each mystery: and that, of course, means one can add in the Luminous Mysteries, should one wish to do so.

Anyone with particular favourite paintings of any of the mysteries, feel free to add them in the comms box.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll list them all...

Saturday 10 March 2012

The Tablet's Homophobia

At the very moment when the bishops of England and Wales are finally confronting the reality of the debacle with which they have apparently colluded: that is the normalisation of same-sex sexual relationships, and are finally starting to do what they should have done from the first, that is explaining Catholic teaching with regard to human sexuality, The Tablet has seen fit to publish (and I dare guess to commission) three pieces designed specifically to undermine that teaching.

The three pieces are trailed as ‘by leading Catholics.’  They are by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, Martin Pendergast and Tina Beattie.

Three leading Catholics?  Only in the Tablet’s view of the world!  

Fr Radcliffe is certainly well known: where he is leading Catholics may be a matter for discussion.

Martin Pendergast is only known for being the ex-priest homosexual activist who has been in the news mainly on account of his lover being, for many years, the head of CAFOD; an irregular situation of which many in the hierarchy were aware (and even apparently approved) but assiduously kept from the laity who fund CAFOD under the impression it is a charity run by faithful Catholics and in line with Catholic teaching (both, to say the least, very moot points: see my posts tagged CAFOD, passim.)

Tina Beattie: well, what can one say?

Their arguments are every bit as cogent and Catholic as you might expect...

But my question is this: which is homophobic?

To say to the gay lobby: here is the teaching of Christ’s Church; here is where your true happiness, peace, and indeed salvation may be found.  To explain that from natural reason, empirical evidence and the teaching of Christ himself, we know that the good they seek will never be found in homosexual activity?

Or to say: get on with it chaps, it’s all about Love, isn’t it?

I think the latter is profoundly homophobic: running scared of the gay lobby, and sacrificing their well being on the altar of false charity.

As I write this, I am thinking of the people I know afflicted with homosexual desires: both those who resist heroically, and on whom this contemptible issue of the Tablet spits, and those who have succumbed to disease, despair or death.

What will it take for the Bishops to recognise that the Tablet should not be allowed to pass itself off as a Catholic paper?

H/t Chrysostom on James Preece’s blog.

Friday 9 March 2012

Calvin on Tables rather than Altars

Further to my last post, and prompted by Ttony's love of sources, I dug out my copy of Michael Davies' Cranmer's Godly Order, and on p179 (I'm a quick reader), discussing the Protestant changes in 16th century England, I find:
The replacement of altars by tables was another step directly in line with the liturgical policies of the Continental Reformers, the final product of which is well summarised by a description of the Communion Service at Strasbourg after 1530 when Bucer's influence became dominant. "So, Mass, priest, and altar are replaced by Lord's Supper, minister, and Holy Table, and westward replaces the eastward position of the celebrant." (1)  Calvin taught that since Christ has accomplished His sacrifice once and for all, God "hath given us a table at which we are to feast, not an altar upon which any victim is to be offered: he hath not consecrated priests to offer sacrifices, but ministers to distribute the sacred banquet." (2)
(1) D Harrison, The First and Second Prayer Books of Edward Vl 
(2) J Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion

As Michael Davies points out - indeed it is the leitmotif of his trilogy - the parallels are frightening.

Sacrificial Altar or Altar Table?

I went to an EF (traditional Latin) Mass today at a Church I had never previously visited. (It was actually the funeral Mass for Christine Ackers: May she rest in peace).

The Mass was celebrated at the Church’s original stone altar, facing East.  In the sanctuary was also the modern wooden altar at which Mass is, presumably, normally celebrated.

Perhaps because of the style of the two altars, I was struck more strongly than ever before by the different symbolism.  The new altar looked like a table.  The old altar, while it clearly could serve as a table, did not look like one.  It was partly the stone, and partly the orientation of the altar, the reredos, and the orientation of the priest, but it seemed to me so much more clearly to suggest sacrifice.

That difference, between the stone altar (primarily a place of sacrifice and only secondarily a table) and the wooden altar (looking primarily like a table) seemed to me to sum up a lot that has gone wrong with Catholic worship and catechesis. 

Of course, the Mass is a sacred banquet; but first and foremost it is a sacrificial offering.

Wondering if I was completely wrong (again) I looked in the Catechism.  To my delight I found in §1181 ‘sacrificial altar’ and in §1182 On the altar [...] the sacrifice of the Cross is made present [...] the altar is also the table of the Lord.

Please can we have our sacrificial altars back?

Thursday 8 March 2012

On these mysteries...

During Lent I have been working hard to keep my mind on the rosary while praying it.  It always seems dreadful when one reaches the final collect and prays ‘..that by meditating on these mysteries...’ and one realises that one has not been meditating on these mysteries at all.

So I have been using the practice of inserting a short clause after the Holy Name in each Ave, relating to the particular mystery.  I try to use a different clause in each Ave, which makes ten for a mystery (I think I read this in St Louis de Montfort, or somewhere like that).

Thus in the Annunciation one might pray: ‘...and blessed is the fruit of they womb Jesus, whose coming was announced by Gabriel.  Holy Mary...’ for the first Ave, then ‘...and blessed is the fruit of they womb Jesus, who became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Holy Mary...’ in the second Ave, and so on.

The result has been that I have been much more focused, and also enjoying the rosary far more.

I have also been praying all four sets of mysteries each day, which has led me to notice many links between them which I had previously missed (particularly with regard to the Luminous Mysteries, which still feel new to me).  Things like the occasions on which the Father’s voice was heard to confirm Our Lord’s authority (the Baptism and the Transfiguration).

I have also been making links between the seven sacraments and the mysteries of the rosary:

Baptism: at Our Lord’s baptism; 
Confession: the Proclamation of the Gospel and the Call to Repentance; 
Holy Communion: the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper; 
Confirmation: the Descent of the Holy Spirit; 
Matrimony: the Wedding Feast at Cana; 
Holy Orders: the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper; 
Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick): The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord (and his promise to the penitent thief on the Cross) (?)

Wednesday 7 March 2012

More on divorced and 're-married'

A commenter, Elizabeth, left an interesting and thoughtful comment on a post of a few days back, which I thought deserved a full reply.  I have italicised her comments: my replies are in normal text.

Pope John Paul has a very good explanation of Church Teaching on this in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. 

That's Familiaris Consortio, and I agree it is an excellent exhortation.

I think it should be read by everyone who is in this situation (Second Marriage), and everyone who is voicing an opinion on the subject.

I am slightly wary of the expression 'Second Marriage' in this context, as it risks implying that a Catholic with a living spouse can validly contract a second marriage; which is not the case.  I do agree that all interested in this issue would do well to read Familiaris Consortio, particularly §84. The late Holy Father manages to convey both the importance of extending understanding and charity to those in such a situation, and also the importance of maintaining the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage, and the objective evil of this situation.

One of the big problems in the Church today is the expectation that everyone should go up and receive Communion. 

I quite agree: this leads to all sorts of problems.  When I see how few people go to confession, and how many to communion, it strikes me that there is an imbalance; and it clearly places significant presure on those who, for whatever reason, are not able to receive, either on a specific occasion, or for continuing reasons.

If someone does not, it really is no one else's business.

Absolutely right.

When there is a family with children involved then parents have a duty to raise those children as best they can.

Indeed - the late Holy Father makes the same point in Familiaris Consortio.

If someone decides to stay in this kind of marriage for whatever reason, and respects Church teaching with regard to Holy Communion, they should be left alone.

Here I think I differ. Familiaris Consortio §84 again: 'The Church... cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by a sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage.'  If by 'left alone', is meant 'people should refrain from making unpleasant remarks', I do agree. But the Church has a duty to continue to proclaim the Gospel and call people to repentance, even when that is uncomfortable.

Often people have strayed from the Church got themselves married to someone who is divorced and then when children are born realize how much the faith means to them, and how much they want to pass it on to their kids. People do fall from grace, we all do in various degrees. 

People in second marriages have enough heartache without fellow Catholics piling on more. Imagine being unable to reconcile the two things you love the most, and having a torn conscience. Sometimes living together as brother and sister is not an option because one partner finds that too hard to accept.

Indeed: it is a very heavy cross.  However, if a Catholic is in such a situation, high on his or her lists of concern should be the salvation and sanctification of the person with whom he or she is living.  Ultimately, that must mean working to remedy what Pope John Paul called 'the broken sign of the Covenant.'  

They need our sympathy and our prayers. Pope John Paul says they should not lose hope.

Indeed.  The hope, of course, is that they should eventually be fully reconciled to the Church once more, and able to receive Our Lord in a state of grace; and by their heroic virtue assist the sanctification of their children and their children's other parent - as well, ideally, as their original spouse.

I would only add that my original post was prompted by calls which fly counter to what the late Holy Father wrote: calls to admit to Holy Communion those whose 'state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.'

All the quotations in my comments are from Familiaris Consortio, §84.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Sad Stories

I have a friend who is ill.  It is a debilitating and degenerative illness: she is getting worse, and it makes her increasingly irritable.  She is, of course, aware of this.  Her husband, a professional man with a responsible job, has left her for another woman.  She is alone, now, and getting increasingly ill.

I have another friend.  She has four children.  Her husband, another professional man with a responsible job, has left her too.  She is alone, now, struggling to cope with the children, and all that entails.

Both of their husbands, of course, had promised to stay with them for better or for worse; to give up all other women for them, and so on.

Why do I mention this?

Because I believe that in both of those cases (and doubtless in many thousands of others), the husband would not have left if divorce and re-marriage were not acceptable in modern society.

This is the problem when hard cases are allowed to drive the law in a permissive direction: innocent people suffer - and it is almost impossible to turn the clock back.  The fantasy that such changes only affect those who would otherwise be stuck in a bad marriage is quite false.  Every marriage is at least potentially weakened by such laws.

And of course, not only the abandoned women (or abandoned men), but also the children, are the victims - and ultimately we all are.

That is one reason why I believe any move to mask the dreadfulness of divorce and 're-marriage' in the Catholic Church would actually be uncharitable: it might ease the pain for many, but would have the unintended consequence of increasing it for many more, for generations to come.

Monday 5 March 2012

Women in the Sanctuary (or the exclusion thereof...)

Back in September I posted a few times about why I thought it inappropriate to have women in the sanctuary during the Sacred Liturgy.  The most recent post is here, and there are links in it to the previous ones on the same topic.

So I was very interested to read a new post on Rorate Caeli, where there is a position paper on this very topic, in the context of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Moreover it is written by Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, and philosophical blogger at Casuistry Central, so is understandably very good.  It has also sparked a lively discussion in the ComBox.

If you are interested in a traditional perspective, whether you are pro or contra, this is certainly well worth reading.

CORRECTION: Dr Shaw has pointed out (see the comms box) that the paper I referred to is one of a series which he is co-ordinating; they are being published anonymously under the name of the Una Voce Federation, and are joint efforts.  I apologise for the error.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Off to Oxford

Bernie and I are off to Oxford this weekend. I'm picking her up from her University, and she's visiting friends who are studying there, while I have a reunion of old friends, some of whom I haven't seen since student days.

I am also looking forward to Mass at the Oratory, my late mother's parish church, and of course to a few hours in the wonderfully refurbished Ashmolean.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Human rights or personhood rights?

In their attempts to justify abortion, and more recently, infanticide (re-branded as post-birth abortion - you really can’t do satire any more...) ethicists and others rely a lot on notions of personhood.

The idea being if someone isn’t a person, you don’t need to accord them the rights of personhood.

I think this is a problematic approach for many reasons.  One is that the whole notion of personhood is contested, and is necessarily subjective - a matter of opinion.  But on the basis of it, they are prepared to kill.

A second is that I dispute that it is a relevant discussion.  The minute one person (or group of professionals, or even society) starts to decide who else is or is not ‘a person’ we open the doors to all sorts of inhumanity.  Indeed, it is only done for that reason: we know well enough what a human being is.

Notice the shift in language: from person to human.  Because actually, what we believe in is human rights, not personhood rights.  These are rights attributed to human beings.  A human being is a category that can be empirically proven: whether by its provenance (the fruit of human sperm and human ovum) or its DNA, or a number of other objective processes.

The only purpose of the personhood debate is to muddy the water, and justify the unjustifiable.  Even then it fails.  Let us say, just for the sake of argument, that I am unsure whether an embryo is a person at 18 weeks; or that I am unsure if the brain-damaged child is a person; or that I am unsure whether the lad in a coma after a terrible accident is still a person.  If unsure, then my moral duty must be to err on the side of prudence.  To take an analogy, imagine that I am a scrap-metal dealer, about to crush a car.  Someone says he thinks he saw an arm waving from the car window.  I don't think there's a person in there - but surely I have the moral duty to err on the side of prudence and check.  To proceed and crush the vehicle without checking would surely be wrong.  So if there is a human body in front of me (whether in utero or not) and I am unsure whether it has person status, I should err on the side of doubt: the fear of the catastrophic injustice if I am wrong should stay my hand...

But all that is by way of digression.  In fact, the fundamental principle applies: all human beings have human rights, and once we start to decide arbitrarily  that some are non-humans, it is our own humanity we damage: and the results will be catastrophic, for us, for them, and for human society as a whole.