Friday 28 February 2014

E F Masses in Lancs Diocese

Lancaster Diocese Masses in the Extraordinary Form
March 2014

Saturday March 1st  at 10.00 am
St David
Our Lady & St Wilfrid, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle

Sunday March 2nd at 6.00 pm
Quinquagesima Sunday
Christ the King, Harraby, Carlisle

Saturday March 15th at 10.00 am
Ember Saturday
Our Lady & St Wilfrid, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle

Sunday March 16th at 3.00 pm
Second Sunday in Lent
St Peter's Cathedral, Lancaster

Mass is also celebrated every Sunday at 9.00 am
at St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham.

Local Representatives: Bob & Jane Latin
Telephone: 01524 412987

Thursday 27 February 2014

Slippery Slopes

Whenever 'liberalising' laws are passed, or campaigns are pursued, and backwards folk like me point out the possible next steps and consequences, we are accused of a fallacious 'slippery slope' argument.

So it was with interest that I read Johamn Hari's piece in the Guardian online which is the start of a campaign to break the 'taboo' against incest.

I remember back when Section 28 was being debated, I thought it was probably unnecessary.  After all, we were assured, nobody would want to promote homosexuality in the classroom: this was simply the stuff of bigotry.  Yet what followed

When the Civil Partnership legislation was proposed, we were told that nobody would then campaign for same sex 'marriage'.  Yet what followed?

So incest (along with polyamory and all manner of other 'taboos') will soon be found to be acceptable to all but old bigots like me…

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

Monday 24 February 2014

My mother's carols

My sister has just managed to find a copy of a Carol book which has a couple of carols written by my late mother in it.

Here is one.  It is sung to the tune of Let all mortal flesh keep silence, but without the repeat of the first line of melody.  That apparently is how it was originally written (a Picardy carol tune) and the editor commissioned my mother to write a lyric that honoured that. (In the book, the editor notes: The association of this tune with a solemn eucharistic hymn in English hymn books should not prejudice its interpretation here: it is a French peasant carol and should be sung simply and more or less in speech rhythm).  

For myself, I find it almost impossible to sing the tune without the repeated first line.

Anyway, here is my mother's lyric: 

God in highest heaven seeing 
All man's bitter grief and shame
Laid aside his power, his majesty, his bliss, 
To the rescue swiftly came.

God the Son, the Word eternal
Made himself a man on earth,
Entering a world that he himself had made
Through the lowly gate of birth.

There the baby lay in a manger
For his mother had no bed
Thirty years went by, and still the Son of God
Had no place to lay his head.

Yet he did not rest till, testing
Every depth of utter loss,
He, the Lord, was hanging, nailed through hands and feet
Stripped and dead upon a cross.

Jesus, Master, King of glory, 
Teach us loving you alone,
With a joyous will to follow you in peace
By the road that you have shown.


Requiescat in pace

Sunday 23 February 2014

Preparing for Chartres

I have blogged a few times recently about the forthcoming Chartres Pilgrimage, and in particular suggested that people planning to go (especially those going for the first time) should think about getting out walking.  It is a serious walk, and so a bit of practice (covering a decent distance) in advance is a good idea.

However, today I want to focus on a different aspect: preparing to sing.

For anyone who has been on the Chartres pilgrimage will agree that the singing is a great part of it.  If you know Credo 3, you are off to a good start (and if you don't, that's the first thing you should learn).

Latin, of course, comes into its own on a big international occasion like this, and  singing the Credo at Mass is both a sign and source of unity.

However, the majority of those on the pilgrimage are French, and English speakers may find it useful (and enjoyable) to familiarise themselves with some of the most popular French hymns.

The first of these is Chez Nous (it starts at 30"):

Chez nous soyez Reine, nous sommes à vous
Régnez en souveraine, chez nous, chez nous
Soyez la madone qu'on prie à genoux,
Qui sourit et pardonne, chez nous, chez nous.

Salut, ô Notre-Dame,
Nous voici devant Vous,
Pour confier nos âmes
A votre coeur si doux.

Vous êtes notre Mère,
Portez à votre Fils
La fervente prière
De vos enfants chéris.

L'Archange qui s'incline
Vous loue au nom du ciel.
Donnez la paix divine
A notre coeur mortel.

Gardez, ô Vierge pure,
O Coeur doux entre tous
Nos âmes sans souillure,
Nos coeurs vaillants et doux.

Dites à ceux qui peinent
Et souffrent sans savoir
Combien lourde est la haine,
Combien doux est l'espoir.

Lorsque la nuit paisible
Nous invite au sommeil,
Près de nous, invisible,
Restez jusqu'au réveil.

Soyez pour nous la Reine
De douce charité,
Et bannissez la haine
De toute la cité.

A notre heure dernière
Accueillez dans les cieux
A la maison du Père
Notre retour joyeux.

If anyone is remotely interested, I'll translate this: leave a comment. (Though Chez nous is itself a difficult phrase to translate: Chez nous means something like 'in our homes', but with an intimate feel, so that hearths, or even hearts might capture the feeling more.)

The other great French hymn of the pilgrimage is Chartres sonne, Chartres t'appelle:

R. Chartres sonne, Chartres t’appelle !
 Gloire, honneur au Christ-Roi !
Je Vous adore, mon Seigneur et mon Dieu, (bis)
Dieu de lumière, Divine Majesté, (bis)
Vos créatures chantent Votre Splendeur. (bis)

Je Vous adore, mon Seigneur et mon Dieu, (bis)
Par la souffrance, sur l’arbre de la Croix, (bis)
Jésus, Vous êtes l’Instrument du Salut. (bis)

Je Vous adore, mon Seigneur et mon Dieu, (bis)
Sauveur du monde, Maître de l’univers, (bis)
Votre puissance soumettra les nations. (bis)

Je Vous adore, mon Seigneur et mon Dieu, (bis)
Dans la détresse, en Vous je me confie, (bis)
Je m’abandonne à Votre Volonté. (bis)

Je Vous adore, mon Seigneur et mon Dieu, (bis)
Vous mon Refuge, soyez mon Réconfort, (bis)
En Vous mon âme trouvera le repos. (bis)

Je Vous adore, Cœur Sacré de Jésus, (bis)
Faites que j’aime tout ce que Vous aimez, (bis)
Et venez prendre possession de mon cœur. (bis)

O Notre Dame, ranimez notre Foi, (bis)
Dans les épreuves, gardez-nous l’Espérance, (bis)
Vierge Marie, donnez-nous la Charité. (bis)

En pèlerinage, Saint Louis guide nos pas, (bis)
Devant nos marches, déploie ton étendard, (bis)
Autour de Pierre, forme notre unité. (bis)

O Sainte Jeanne, apprends-nous à prier, (bis)
Par ton exemple, sanctifie notre ardeur, (bis)
Sainte de France, sauve notre patrie. (bis)

Michel Archange, éclairez nos chemins, (bis)
Prince des anges, venez nous secourir, (bis)
De par le monde, terrassez le Malin. (bis)

Again, I will translate on demand.  

I should say that if you have no French, and no interest in learning any, you will still have a great time.  But for those who do have a little French, it is worth putting in the effort to learn these two hymns.

The melodies are not perfect, but once you have sung them at Chartres they will always bring that Chartres feeling back to you...

Saturday 22 February 2014

But when is Septuagesima? I hear you ask...

Joseph Shaw has just posted an interesting brief video on the season of Septuagesima, which you can find here.

In it, he does make it clear how to work out when Septuagesima falls, but it passes by rather quickly and in the midst of other information, so I thought it might be helpful to spell it out.

You start by finding Ash Wednesday, which is normally easy to establish from any Catholic diary, yearbook, or even Google.  Then you work backwards from that: the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is Quinquagesima, the one before that Sexagesima, and the one before that Septuagesima. 

From which you will readily see that tomorrow is Sexagesima.

So here is the hymn Attende Domine:

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Ad te Rex summe, omnium redemptor, oculos nostros sublevamus flentes: exaudi, Christe, supplicantum preces. 

Dextera Patris, lapis angularis, via salutis, ianua caelestis, ablue nostri maculas delicti.
Rogamus, Deus, tuam maiestatem: auribus sacris gemitus exaudi: crimina nostra placidus indulge. 
Tibi fatemur crimina admissa: contrito corde pandimus occulta: tua Redemptor, pietas ignoscat. 
Innocens captus, nec repugnans ductus, testibus falsis pro impiis damnatus: quos redemisti, tu conserva, Christe.

Hearken, O Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against Thee.

Crying, we raise our eyes to Thee, Sovereign King, Redeemer of all. Listen, Christ, to the pleas of the supplicant sinners. 

Thou art at the Right Hand of God the Father, the Keystone, the Way of salvation and 
Gate of Heaven, cleanse the stains of our sins. 

O God, we beseech Thy majesty to hear our groans; to forgive our sins.

We confess to Thee our consented sins; we declare our hidden sins with contrite heart; in Thy mercy, O Redeemer, forgive them.

Thou wert captured, being innocent; brought about without resistance, condemned by impious men with false witnesses. O Christ keep safe those whom Thou hast redeemed. 

Friday 21 February 2014

Trojan Horse in the City of God

I have just finished reading Dietrich von Hildebrand's Trojan Horse in the City of God. I have managed to resist the (frequent) temptation to post various paragraphs on my blog as I read it. But it really was a struggle. Time and again, von Hildebrand hits the nail squarely on the head.

His project is quite simply to expose, dissect and dispose of the false understanding of the Faith which has grown up in recent decades. As he puts it:

'it would be difficult to conceive a greater contrast than that between the official documents of Vatican ll and the superficial, insipid pronouncements of various theologians and laymen that have broken out like an infectious disease.'

He starts by analysing the false alternatives, with which we are repeatedly presented, labeled conservative and progressive. Instead, he puts before us the third choice, 'based on unshakeable faith in Christ and in the infallible magisterium of His Holy Church…. This attitude holds that the Christian morality of holiness… remains for ever the same.  It holds that being transformed in Christ, becoming a new creature in Him, is the goal of our existence.'

Thus he launches into his analysis of True and False Renewal, which forms the first section of the book.  He examines the meaning of the Council, false reactions to it, and the role of the Christian philosopher today. His analysis is clear and compelling, and one can only wish that many Catholic philosophers and theologians had as clear an understanding.

Part Two addresses the specific dangers of our time.  The names of a few of the Chapters gives you a clue: Historical relativism, Evolutionism, progressivism and progress, Science fetishism, Sham honesty…  He doesn't pull his punches:

'We have previously referred to the dilettante chatter that passes for thought in the ranks of many lay Catholic theologians who have been irresponsibly appointed to various Catholic colleges.  Their insipid discussions about God and the world, about whether God still fits our society, whether we still 'need' Him, are proof not only of the low level of their intelligence, but also of their dishonesty.

When they treat, in the most trivial way and from points of view that are totally unsuitable, questions of ultimate importance which have preoccupied men throughout history, they reveal an adolescent exhibitionism and pride.'

Part III is called The Secularization of Christianity.  So you know what that is about. (One of the lesser delights of the book is how well it is sign-posted: every chapter does what it says in its title, and within each chapter, each set of ideas is clearly labelled.)  

He starts this section by addressing the fallacy of 'the modern period' and moves on to address the fear of the sacred and immanentist corruptions, explaining how modernism saps the Faith of any truth, and leads to amoralism. But perhaps the most powerful points he makes are in the final chapter, False irenicism, in which he explains precisely why declaring anathemas is an act of charity. He concludes this chapter: 'False irenicism is motivated by a misconceived charity at the service of a meaningless unity.  It places unity above truth.'

The final section is called Sacred and Secular, and presents some principles for moving forward, given the crisis currently engulfing the Church. He discusses the purpose and the limitations (and indeed dangers) of dialogue with people outside the Church, and the dangers that secularism poses to genuine ecumenism. He points out the difference between religious vitality - the deepening of Faith - and change, which may pose as progress, but more often is not. 

He then goes on (and this may be my favourite chapter) to discuss the role of beauty in religion. Firstly, he disposes of aestheticism as a 'perverse approach to beauty' and then traces the relationship between reverence and the love o f beauty.  He also  analyses the grave error some fall into, when they suggest that beauty is opposed to evangelical poverty. He then discusses the need for beauty in the Liturgy, explaining how sacred beauty promotes our sanctification. He ends by pointing out the fallacy of those who would make the liturgy 'relevant' by conforming it to 'the style of life of our desacrilised age.'

In a similar way, he treats of the word of the Lord and the problems with modern approaches both to exegesis and translation of the Gospels. Chapters on Tradition and The Saints are in the same inspiring vein.

The final chapter, Epilogue, summarises the argument of the whole book in three sections: the need for transformation in Christ, the teachings of the false prophets, and the profound reasons for hope.

My edition (Sophia Institute Press) then has a biographical note, which is also fascinating. I had not known that he was so quick to see the problems of National Socialism when it arose, and so brave in denouncing them; at great personal risk, he managed to stay just one step ahead of the pursing Nazis. His anti-Nazi newspaper infuriated Himmler and Hitler, and orders were given to have him assassinated. He eventually made it to the USA where he lived and taught for the rest of his life.

There is also an Appendix: Teilhard de Chardin: a false prophet. If you encounter a Teilhard fan, this is essential reading.

So I have enjoyed this enormously, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone wishing to understand the state of the Church.  In particular, it offers a robust analysis of the flawed thinking of the liberal modernisers, along with an equally robust and inspirational presentation of the true Catholic counter-argument.

ACN Newsletter: Ukraine - Plea for Prayer

I have just received the latest eNewsletter from ACN, which I copy below.

Please support ACN with your prayers, and with donations if you can. Links to their Facebook, Twiter and Blog accounts are all at the end of this newsletter.

Ukraine - Plea for Prayer

Dear Friends,

Thanks to you, Aid to the Church in Need has stood with the faithful in Ukraine for many years. Please will you remember those whom we continue to help in your prayers at this crucial time.

The situation in Ukraine has now escalated to violence and bloodshed, but I write to you to relay Auxiliary Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk’s personal request in a telephone call to ACN, asking us to pray for peace in Ukraine and expressing his gratitude, on behalf of the people, for our solidarity at this time.

Bishop Stanislav brought us news that every day at 3pm the rosary is being said. He also told us that on Wednesday night the Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was removed from one of the chapel tents on Maidan Square just five minutes before it burnt down during the general fighting. So the statue was saved and is still there. The Bishop said: “It is a sign of hope for us”.

In a further communication today, upon hearing the news of the announcement of early elections, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki expressed his hope that “On these victims, on this blood that was shed, will grow democracy”. The Archbishop stated: “We are experiencing a great solidarity with the faithful not only from the neighbouring countries, but also from the whole world. So many are supporting us with their prayers, by remembering us and also through humanitarian aid. These gestures of solidarity are very important and dear to us.”

Please stand in solidarity as we all pray that a solution is reached that will bring true freedom and lasting peace to Ukraine.

Yours in Christ
Neville's signature
Neville Kyrke-Smith
UK National Director

P.S Follow our posts on Facebook and Twitter and read our latest news on the situation in the Central African Republic

Wednesday 19 February 2014

The Rush to Judgement

Pondering further on my recent posts about Fundamental Attribution Error and Projection,  I find that the phrase The Rush to Judgement keeps recurring in my mind.

It seems that we cannot help this: that our minds make judgements all the time, and frequently outside the operation of our will or even our conscious awareness.

But our will and awareness do have a role to play. We may not be able to stop our minds from indulging in Fundamental Attribution Error, or Projection, at least in the short term, though I suspect with a bit of mental discipline, awareness and practice, we could reduce them dramatically over the longer term.  However, I do believe that we can take responsibility for what happens next: that is what we do with them.

One of the first things must be to choose to attend to them, and to evaluate them.  A fundamental evaluation is whether we are judging actions or people.

The first of these, judging actions, we may be required to do. If an untruth or an injustice is propagated, it may be our duty to oppose it.  Even here, however, we should proceed with prudence: our judgements are not infallible, and there are many occasions when it is better to keep silence than to speak.

But the second case is the more dangerous: when we rush to judge people: to ascribe motivation to their  behaviour, and moral qualities to them.  This is surely where the injunction Judge Not! comes into play.  We are clearly forbidden from judging their moral worth (the state of their soul). That is God's prerogative, and we have no competence or rights in that regard.

The trickier area is judging their moral competence.  That is to say, if somebody repeatedly tells untruths, or commits injustice, or proclaims ignorance as truth,  we may need, for our own protection, to note that fact.  If they are doing so in  public arena, to the harm of others, we may also need to address it publicly: first with them directly, if that is possible and practical, and secondly, on occasion, by public refutation.  But here, I think, is where we have to be careful.  I think that our public criticism should normally be limited to refuting each error, rather than labelling the person.

There are various, significant, risks underlying this distinction   One is that our judgement may be inaccurate, partial, or just plain wrong: as noted above, we are not infallible.  A second is that once we have proclaimed something publicly, we are more committed to it, and will tend to protect that judgement (both internally in our heads, and externally in the world) even should new evidence become apparent, or the person change his or her behaviour. A third is that such name-callling is less likely to provoke a metanoia in others (which we may claim is our intention) than to provoke a defensive reaction in which they dig into their position, and attack us. That is, of course, very satisfying, as it proves (to us at least) that our judgement was correct and they were beneath contempt…. and so it cycles on.

What was it Our Lord said about calling our brother a fool?

Monday 17 February 2014


As I further my explorations of the recesses of the human mind (hem, hem) I  continue to be intrigued by projection. Whilst I am not a Freudian, I think that he was onto something here.

A friend of mine, who is a psychologist, is fond of saying: All feedback is projection.

Anyone who knows me will realise that I don't like the absolutism of such statements. Nonetheless, I see what he is getting at.

When I criticise someone, I am likely to notice and comment on those things that irritate me most.  Sometimes, that is because they contravene some profoundly held beliefs and values.  But at other times (the theory is) it is actually a projection of my own internal distress at some aspect of myself that I find unacceptable.

So it does intrigue me when I see people on Twitter calling each other out for offences that it seems they are prone to committing themselves - and doing so without any self-awareness whatsoever.

Certainly, when someone criticises me for some wrong doing, one of my first instincts is to look at that individual's behaviour; and astonishingly often, it seems to me, I can see them doing precisely what they are criticising me for.  That is not to say that I am innocent of the behaviour; sometimes I recognise myself in their comments, and sometimes I don't (and I am aware we are not the best judges in our own case).  But the notion of projection also seems to have something to offer here.

And as usual, seeing it so clearly in other people, leads me to conclude that I may well do the same, and do so without realising it.

Strange thing, the human mind...

Sunday 16 February 2014

A Family Picnic

So the sun was shining in between the snow showers, and therefore it was deemed a good day for a family picnic.

We were right; by the time the sausage rolls and pasties were warmed in the oven, the flasks filled variously with coffee and hot chocolate, the crisps, apples and bananas assembled, and the water bottles filled, the snow showers had stopped.
Looking back down the valley where we passed the deer

So we drove into the hills, and walked. The first part is along a long glacial valley, with a misfit stream, some murrain, and frequently (as today) some red deer. We were walking south, into the sun.

Following that is a long ascent up a cleft between two fells to a high mountain pass, or Hause.
The view at the Hause

We stopped at the Hause for our picnic, to recover our breath from the first serious uphill pull of the day, and admire the magnificence of the view.

Then we shouldered our packs again, and turned to the north west, for the second (and final) serious ascent of the walk. It was steep, but worth it for the superb panorama at the top. (I think the kids manage to do clever things with their phones to take 360 photos, but my technical skills are those of a middle aged dad…)
The second ascent...

Once over the top, we were on north facing slopes for the descent, which meant the snow was still drifting thickly for the first half mile or so.
Descending from the final summit

Then we dropped below the snow line, with the sun still on our backs, and into the valley to recover the car.

Anna admiring the Misty Mountains

Fundamental Attribution Error

I have been reading a little, and thinking a little, about Fundamental Attribution Error (see, for example, here).  It is fascinating: the basic premise is that we tend to attribute more direct intentionality to human behaviour than is in fact appropriate.  That is, someone does something, and we think that tells us something about their character, and attribute characteristics to them. So, for example, someone cuts us up in the traffic queue, and we assume firstly that the act was deliberate (ie we exclude the likelihood of simple mistakes) and secondly that they are selfish (ie we exclude the possibility of other influences on their behaviour, such as being late for a train).

All this was ringing a faint bell, and then the penny dropped:
If any human acts may loosely be called causeless, they are the minor acts of a healthy man; whistling as he walks; slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property
Chesterton, of course, in the second chapter of Orthodoxy.  

And of course, once we have attributed characteristics  to somebody, our old friend confirmation bias means that they tend to stay attributed.  Once someone has decided (to take an example purely at random, you understand) that Ben Trovato is bad, he can continue to collect evidence to that effect, and (in particular) to interpret my sayings and doings through a hermeneutic of suspicion, and prove (to his own satisfaction, at least) that he is right.

Clearly, that is very visible to me, as I have a different bias, in my own favour. But the more interesting part is really this: the realisation that if it is clear to me that others do this, then the likelihood is that I do it too.

And once one starts reflecting on that, the potential for learning and understanding is intriguing, to say the least.

And it sheds an awful lot of light on Twitter...

Friday 14 February 2014

Synthetic outrage

The Telegraph's article the other day was very critical of certain pro-life counsellors for lying to the women they were counselling about the possible sequelae of abortions.

Leaving aside, for now, the debate about whether they lied (or were misinformed, misrepresented and all other possibilities) I want to focus on something else.

The brouhaha which the Telegraph created was founded, I can only assume, on the presumption that lying is a bad thing to do.

Yet, the information on which the article was based was obtained by lying: and not only by lying, but also by clandestinely filming people without their knowledge or consent.  And remember how upset the press were when it was alleged a pro-lifer was filming people without their knowledge or consent.

Another puzzling aspect of this is that some pro life people, in their (understandable) desire to distance themselves from the counsellors who were the targets of this sting, were quick to say the journalists had done nothing wrong.

Which leads to various questions:

If it is all right for journalists to lie, why is it wrong for counsellors to do so?

Is some of the subsequent outrage, particularly in the press, in fact somewhat synthetic?

Of course, there are various possible answers to the first of these questions (though only one credible one to the second, in my view).

It could be argued that journalists' freedom to pursue the truth is so important to a civilised society, that on occasion their use of lies in their investigations is morally permissible. But then, surely, a pro life counsellor could reasonably argue that the goal of saving a child's life is so important…

Or it could be (and indeed has been) argued that it is the political harm done to the pro life cause, that is the reason that this is so bad.  That is as maybe, but I think the ethical issue is much more foundational (and, to be honest, if we are going to talk of the political savvy of the pro life movement in general, I fear there is little positive to say).

However, I do think that the pro-life movement should hold itself to higher ethical standards than journalists; and that includes not only the counselling of women, but also the way in which the disagreements, inevitable within so large and diverse a movement, are debated.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Ben gets it wrong again

One of the more difficult things in life is to admit to having been wrong.

Not just a little bit wrong, but stridently so.

I had the privilege of having dinner yesterday with a distinguished doctor; a Catholic of unimpeachable ethics, and a good chap to boot.

We discussed heart transplants, and he told me that I was wrong.

Given that I have blogged (and as I say, stridently) on this, on more than one occasion, it is important that I correct this error.

He is very clear that brain stem death is an acceptable and reliable indication of death; that the heart may continue to beat beyond death if a patient is on a ventilator, and that the removal of that beating heart is ethically quite acceptable. Indeed, if it is done to save another life, it is clearly a moral good.

Once the brain stem is dead (which is verifiable) there is no prospect of any recovery. The brain is irreversibly damaged, and consciousness is forever gone. This is most common in people with severe trauma to the head (eg as a result of road traffic accidents) and whilst their heart may be kept going by extraordinary technical means, they really are dead.

I raised the query about the need to anaesthetise before removing the beating heart (which I have to confess is the bit that really brings me up short) and he said that is done as there may still be nerve activity from (eg) the spinal cord that might cause movements, which could impede the operation (as well as needlessly distress the medical staff).

The other instances that have caused concern have been where doctors have failed in their duty of diagnosis etc.  Clearly that is very wrong, but it does not call into question the practice of heart (or liver etc) transplants per se.

I am now going back over my old posts about this, adding an update, directing people to this post, to minimise any further risk of misleading people.


I should make it clear that we were discussing the situation in the UK. I understand that different and more dangerous ideas and practices may be prevalent elsewhere, including the US.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Teach First: Think Later (if at all...)

I have not been watching Tough Young Teachers, despite a a strong interest in the topic, for a number of reasons (like being away a lot, not having a TV, stuff like that).  However, I know that it tracks teachers on the Teach First programme, who are placed in schools after an intensive summer course, and gain their pgce that way, rather than in the more conventional way. 

As they say on their www site: 'We work with primary and secondary schools where more than half of pupils come from the poorest 30% of families in the UK, according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI).' Hence the Tough Young Teachers title.  However, what I wish to comment on isn't really related to the fact that this was a Teach First programme, because I think the issues which concern me are more widespread.

As I say, I didn't watch the programme, but I did read Tom (always entertaining and often thought-provoking) Bennett's review of the programme. He wrote, inter alia:
Sex, desire and relationships: one of the most important topics in the human experience. Naturally in schools we make sure it gets taught and discussed in a professional way, with trained specialists and....nahhh, let's just dish it out to whomever's free on the timetable and chuck some worksheets at them. That's bound to be good enough. Poor Nick did something that I have seen so frequently from new teachers that I can only assume they train them to do it in teacher college: he got them to brainstorm all the sweariest words they could. The intention appeared - and always appears - to be to somehow 'get it off their chest' and out of the way. The outcome is, of course, a train crash of [expletives deleted by BT] written on the board as the class literally shake themselves to death with excitement.
 I find this as worrying as Tom does amusing. 

Who could conceivably think that this is a good idea? Even by their own odd notions of education, this is wrong-headed.  What learning objectives does such a filth-fest support? Where is the evidence base that this is a sensible thing to do with a mixed class of adolescents?

The intention, I can only assume, is to signal to the children that we can talk freely about things that are normally embarrassing. Or to put it another way, that we can talk freely about things which modesty and social convention teach us should not be part of normal conversation. Or to put it a third way, to de-sensitise them.

What actually happens, of course, is that the children who know the most risqué and deviant words, and the ones who have been watching pornography, are rewarded. They are the ones who can say the most original things, and (if they are lucky) break through the teacher's assumed nonchalance and provoke a blush or a stammer.

The most depraved kids are thus given the power, permission and platform to corrupt the rest.  The expletives I deleted from Tom Bennett's review included two that I was not familiar with. I really don't need my kids being taught this sort of vocabulary, and still less introduced to the ideas it expresses.

This 'liberal' approach is actually very doctrinaire. Those of us who take seriously our responsibility to preserve our kids' innocence are over-ridden by this ideologically-driven approach. Never mind that we have no TV, teach them custody of the eyes, and so on: at school not only will they be introduced to depravity, but also to the notion that this is all normal and acceptable.

Doubtless, people will argue that we must teach our kids about this; and that I am naive not to realise that most kids are watching porn, and so on.

Yet most is not all, and I do not see why the innocent should be corrupted and the perverse rewarded.

And as I have blogged before (here and going further back in the archives, here) what evidence there is, suggests that even getting them thinking about and discussing sex may increase the likelihood of early sexual experimentation.

My other reflection is how bad this is for the teachers: individually and as a profession. Either they don't want to talk to kids about sex (which is a normal and healthy reaction) and are being made to do so, overcoming any scruples they may have. Or they do want to talk to kids about sex, in which case they are the very last people who should be doing so.

Sunday 2 February 2014

The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Introit

Further to this morning's post I thought I should post the Introit for today's (EF) Mass,  as a Feast Day Treat.

(You need only listen to the first four minutes or so: after that he repeats, but with organ accompaniment, which I deprecate!)

While I was Fisking Fr Butler...

While I was Fisking Fr Butler, Anna, the redoubtable Mrs T was being much more productive.

The first batch of marmalade of 2013. Judging by the number of Seville oranges still in evidence, at least one more batch is to be made.

There is something quite lovely about home-made marmalade and jam.

Just out of shot are the chains by which I attach her to the kitchen sink, to assure myself both that my love for sweet conserves is indulged, and that I am not interrupted in the serious task of blogging.

The Purification of Our Lady

One of the joys of tradition is that one does not have to keep inventing new stuff all the time.  So without further apology or justification, here is last year's post on today's feast (with only minor improvements).

Today is the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, also known as the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It is also known as Candlemas:

It marks the occasion on which we meditate in the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: that extraordinary visit of the Holy Family to the temple, to be met by the prophet Anna and Simeon, the priest.

There is so much to meditate on: the humility of Our Lady (of all people) being ritually purified;  the devout Jewishness of the Holy Family; the idea of Our Lady offering God back to God, and being entrusted with God by God; and the extraordinary prophecies of Anna and Simeon.

Today also marks the end of the Christmas season: our cribs will be taken down this evening, and we will sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater, for the last time. Tomorrow, we start singing the Ave Regina Caelorum.  That is sung daily until compline of the Wednesday of Holy Week.

Ave, Regina Caelorum,
Ave, Domina Angelorum:
Salve, radix, salve, porta
Ex qua mundo lux est orta:
Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa,
Vale, o valde decora,
Et pro nobis Christum exora.
Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.
Hail, by angels mistress owned.
Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn
Whence the world's true light was born:
Glorious Virgin, Joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in heaven they see;
Fairest thou, where all are fair,
Plead with Christ our souls to spare.

Saturday 1 February 2014

The Butler Affair

With my usual journalistic flair (and regular readers will know how highly I esteem that profession), I have obtained a leak: a copy of the letter from Fr Butler to the Tablet in its entirety, as opposed to the somewhat abridged version they actually published (and for once, I have some sympathy for their editorial approach).

Given that it was intended for publication, I do not think that it is out of order to publish it.

Brace yourselves: I quote it in full, with my pithy and pertinent comments interpolated in red (I will try not to be as prolix as Fr Butler).

Dear Sirs,

                        Re: Revised Translation of the Roman Missal

‘It doesn’t get better’ is a very apt heading for Martin Redfern’s letter  (9 November 2013) on the Revised Translation of the Roman Missal.

I am Chairman of our Diocesan Commission for Liturgy and have had much discussion with clergy, both within the diocese and without. Most priests have got on with it but grumbled about it. Not only grumbled but also changed or avoided some words and phrases that they found somewhat difficult to say with meaning. Some avoid words like ‘dewfall’, ‘oblation’, ‘consubstantial’, ‘many’ (and prefer ‘all’), some refuse point blank to use the Roman Canon ever again. Others reject the Sunday Collects and have returned to the previous translation’s Book of the Chair. Another has said that he has returned fully to the previous translation ‘in order to preserve his sanity’ – clearly ‘all is not well in the state of Denmark’! All is not well indeed, when members of the clergy tamper with the liturgy on their own authority: cf Sacrosanctum Concilium §22.3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority. Strangely, given his later appeal to SC, this does not seem to trouble Fr B.

What has gone wrong?

At the end of Vatican II in 1965, there was a final statement from the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, In Spiritu Sancto, read out to the assembled Bishops by Archbishop Felici, declaring the Council closed and enjoining that “everything the council decreed be religiously and devoutly observed by all the faithful.” Yet I do not hear Fr. B. complaining that we do not use Latin in the way SC mandated (§36.1).

This prompted me to turn to Sacrosanctum Concilium to see what it was that referred particularly to matters of translation (Articles 34 and 36): This is rubbish. §34 is not about translation at all. It is about the revision of the Sacred Rites.

*34: The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity, they should be short, clear and unencumbered by any useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.

*36, #2: The use of the mother tongue is frequently of great advantage to the people in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments and other parts of the liturgy, the limits of its employment may be extended. How odd that he omits 36.1: Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

            #3: … it is for competent ecclesiastical authority mentioned in art. 22,2 to decide whether and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used. How odd that he puts a full stop there, when the sentence actually continues: 'their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See.'

            #4: Translations from the Latin text intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent local authority

The above quotations from the same document contain the words ‘mother tongue’ and ‘vernacular’, both of which are rendered as ‘vernacula’ in the Latin document.

If we consult Oxford’s Lewis and Short (Latin Dictionary) we find that the word ‘vernaculus,a,um’ is translated as ‘of or belonging to home-born slaves’; Again, he quotes selectively to make his point.  The full Lewis and Short entry includes Native, domestic, indigenous, vernacular, i. e. Roman (the class. signif. of the word) in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary we find ‘vernacular’ defined as ‘the native language or dialect of a particular country or district; the informal, colloquial, or distinctive speech of a people or community. Now also, homely speech.’

‘Vernacular’, therefore, does not mean choosing the variety of English that is of scholarship and academe. I think that it would be closer to the reality if we were to think of the English that we learned from our mothers’ knees rather than the high flown, scholarly, Latinate vocabulary with which the Revised Translation of the Roman Missal is now unhappily afflicted. Both his etymology and his reasoning are flawed here, including his arrogating to himself, and away from the competent authorities, the right to decide what the text means.

Of course, it is not the fault of the translators that brought about this sorry mess. It is ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’ that is at fault: a document that is now a laughing stock among academics and scholarly linguists. An unsubstantiated assertion.

The document had the intention of creating a specific and recognizable language for the Liturgy – somehow a language set apart – but, of course, we already have a language that is suitable for Liturgical discourse, it is known as the Queen’s English with its enormous vocabulary, capable of describing all things to all men. And that is what the new translation uses: rather more richly than he likes, it would seem. Dewfall, oblation and consubstantial are all found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Whether he is ignorant of, or deliberately ignoring, the whole notion of hieratic language for formal worship, I don't know. But he is unwise to pose as an expert without addressing it.

‘Liturgiam Authenticam’, therefore, is a Latin document that should be quietly removed from the Vatican bibliography and never spoken of again. ..because I don't like it, he could have added.

The notion of ‘competent local authority’ is a subject that is being given much attention these days by the Bishop of Rome, so there is no need to discuss it further. Doubtless, when we next have the excitement of translating Latin documents into English that is ‘understanded of the people’, it will be Anglophones who undertake the task. The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority (to use the phrase actually used in Sacrosanctum Concilium) is precisely the authority he is defying: it was that authority that said that this translation is now the only one authorised for use in this territory: cf CBCEW’s Decree of Publication For England and Wales which states ‘From this date forward (27th November 2011) no other English language edition of the Roman Missal may be used in the dioceses of England and Wales’. Signed: Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Rev. Marcus Stock, General Secretary. (H/T Protect the Pope blog)

I do hope that we can make use of the 1998 Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales translation (at least for a trial period and perhaps in paper-back form). In the meantime, I feel that it is legitimate to use our previous Missal, since what we currently have was conceived in error (neglecting to follow the rules from Vatican II’s Sacramentum Concilium and the type of English to be used), and it was not born of  the competent local authority (and therefore lacks any authority). This is more rubbish.  'I feel' is no grounds at all for such disobedience. He has not shown that this translation 'neglected to follow' any rules at all. Nowhere does Sacrosanctum Concilium say a translation must be 'born of  the competent local authority.' This translation rests on the authority both of the Vatican and the CBCEW.

I add a footnote, by way of a quotation from Father John O’Malley’s “What happened at Vatican II”: ‘On November 14 (1962) Cardinal Tisserant, the presiding president of the day, put Sacrosanctum Concilium to a vote on whether to accept the schema as the base text. … The outcome of the voting astounded everybody – a landside in favor, 2,162 votes, with only 46 opposed. .. The next year, on December 4, 1963, the council overwhelmingly gave its approval to the revised text ofSacrosanctum Concilium, and Paul VI then promulgated it. The final vote was even more of a landslide: 2,147 in favor, 4 against.’ Given that, I suggest Fr B. read the whole thing, including the bits he doesn't  like...

The current Revised Translation of the Roman Missal has already been labelled a failure; it is also illegitimate. More rubbish.

I remain, Sirs, yours very sincerely, but very mistakenly...

(Rev. Michael J Butler)
Liturgy Commission, Diocese of Brentwood This is very troubling: it makes it look as though this letter were written ex officio. However, I have heard that his Bishop, +McMahon, has made it clear to all his diocesan priests that that was not the case, and that (as we know) the bishops' decree that the new translation be used exclusively for vernacular celebrations of the Mass remains in full force.