Sunday 30 November 2014

Figures of Advent

I thought this worth re-posting from last year, too...
On the advice of The Dumb Ox on Twitter, I recently bought Fr Alfred Delp's Advent of the Heart. I had not previously known of this heroic young Jesuit priest, who was arrested and ultimately executed by the Nazis.

This book contains both sermons he preached before his imprisonment, and also meditations which he wrote (while handcuffed and under watchful guard) and had smuggled out of prison.  It also has the texts of the Mass (EF) in Latin (and translated into English) for the four Sundays of Advent, as his sermons drew heavily on them.

I have read a few of these and found them profoundly moving.  I wish to write about the first: Figures of Advent, which was written in Tegel Prison, Berlin, in December 1944, some 9 months before he was killed: clearly knowledge of his approaching death lends a particular resonance to the theme of Advent.

He starts with the startling phrase (which is a recapitulation of sermons he has preached previously): Advent is a time of being deeply shaken, so that man will wake up to himself. He proceeds to draw to our attention three types calling out and touching mankind: the Voice Calling in the Wilderness, the Angel of the Annunciation, and the Blessed Mother.

His meditation on the Wilderness is clearly referring to Nazi Germany; but equally clearly to any time and place in this vale of tears, and he concludes: 'They call man to the potential of averting the spreading wilderness, which is about to fall on him and crush him, by means of the greater strength of a converted heart.'

He then moves on to the figure of the Angel; and conjures up the image of the quiet angels of the annunciation who 'speak their message of blessing into the distress, and scatter their seeds of blessing that will begin to grow in the middle of the night'. Again, this is no empty piety: this is written by somebody acutely aware of 'the terror of this time.' So he continues: 'to believe in the golden seeds of God that the angels have scattered and continue to offer an open heart are the first things we must do with our lives. And the next is to go through these gray days as announcing messengers ourselves.'

Finally, he turns to the figure of our Blessed Mother, 'the most comforting figure of Advent.' He reflects on the mythic prefigurement of the divine motherhood, and the wonder of its reality. 'The gray horizons must light up. Only the foreground is screaming so loudly and penetratingly. Farther back, where it has to do with things that really count, the situation is already changing. The woman had conceived the Child, sheltered Him under her heart, and has given birth to her Son. The world has come under a different law.'

I hope that this gives some flavour of the rich and moving quality of his reflections: really the whole thing cries out for quotation, and my comments cannot do it justice.

But I strongly recommend this as Advent reading, if you want, as he proposes, a true Advent of the Heart.

Happy New Year!

Today is the first Sunday of Advent 0f the start of the Church's year.

We are off to Ant's for the day, so no time to post, but did not want the day to pass unrecognised. SO here is a re-cycled post, slightly adapted.

Whilst the experts on the Pray,Tell blog are quick to proclaim that Advent is not a time of penance, I demur.   

Having discussed this a couple of  years with my friend the Part Time Pilgrim, I threw down the gauntlet again last year on Twitter, and this time we made some progress.  After a bit of to and fro, he explained that his concern with my position is that Advent should not be seen as the same as Lent.  I agree: the two are different.  Advent is a time of joyous preparation for the coming of Our Lord (memories of his first coming, and looking forward to his second, of course). But both of these considerations naturally lead us to listen to the words of St John the Baptist: Repent!

We think it important to keep our Advent Celebrations quite distinct from our Christmas Celebrations - though they are related, they are two different seasons of the Church's cycle, with different themes and moods.

So as ever, we will celebrate Advent by saying our prayers around the Advent Wreath, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel and having a reading as we add another character to our Jesse Tree. We will also say the wonderful collect from the traditional Roman rite of the Mass:

Arise in thy strength we beseech thee O Lord and come; from the dangers which threaten us because of our sins, be thy presence our sure defence, be thy deliverance our safety for ever more. 

For those who love Latin, or those who fondly remember my introduction to Liturgical Latin, here is the collect in Latin. too:

Excita, quǽsumus, Dómine, poténtiam tuam, et veni: ut ab imminéntibus peccatórum nostrórum perículis, te mereámur protegénte éripi, te liberánte salvári.

The Marian Antiphon changes today from the Salve Regina to the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which we will sing until the Feast of the Purification (February 2nd).

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma redemptoris mater, 
quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris succurre cadenti
surgere qui curat populo.  
Tu quae genuisti, 
natura mirante, 
tuum sanctum Genitorem.  
Virgo prius, ac posterius, 
Gabrielis ab ore, 
summens illud ave, 
peccatorum miserere.

Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people, 
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth, 
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator, 
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth 
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(Translated by Blessed John Henry Newman)

(For those who prefer a more contemporary sound, try The Dogma Dogs: It's Lent - but note that this is not for Liturgical Use!)

So today we will be out in the frost, collecting holly for the wreath, up in the attic looking for the advent calendars, Jesse Tree book etc, and I will be singing the Alma Redemptoris throughout the day...

Anna's Jesse Tree blog, means that Ant, now living happily with her husband,  can be with us spiritually at the end of each day as we recall Salvation History.  Bernie is currently in residence, having finished her degree in the summer, and not starting her exotic travels till the New Year.

Monday 24 November 2014

Prayers Please

I have just received this message from Fr de Malleray, FSSP (Chaplain for the Non French Pilgrims to the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté Pilgrimage)

Dear Friends,

Please include in your prayers Fr Denis Coiffet, the current General Chaplain of the Chartres Pilgrimage.

Fr Coiffet has undergone treatment for cancer over the past months and was admitted into hospital in Paris several weeks ago. He is conscious and peaceful, offering up his sufferings for souls.
Born in 1952, Fr Coiffet is a co-founder of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (in 1988) and has been an indefatigable apostle, particularly involved in the French scout movement.
He has received the Last Rites and my confreres from Versailles visit him daily and communicate to him the prayers of the faithful and clergy.

No doubt that, despite his imperfect English, Fr Coiffet would be glad to know that English pilgrims to Chartres remember him in their prayers.

Cordially in Our Lady,

Fr de Malleray, FSSP (Chaplain for the Non French Pilgrims to the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté Pilgrimage)

Sunday 23 November 2014

What are the right mechanisms for censorship?

Oddly, in one respect (and in one respect only) I find myself more in agreement with Tim Squirrell and Niamh McIntyre than with Brendan O'Neill.

That is, I do believe that there is a place for censorship in a civilised society. We limit freedom of speech when it threatens the public good (such as shouting 'fire' in a crowded cinema) and when it incites to criminality (such as calling on people to riot) and rightly so. Until recently, recognising the dangerous potency of material inciting blood-lust and sexual lust, we placed limits on 'entertainment' that incited these, too.

Joseph Shaw makes the point that 'I would not accept an invitation to debate whether Jews should be massacred, for example, even to argue that they should not be, because this is not a topic which should be open for discussion, and having a formal debate about it legitimises, to some extent, the side in favour.' And again, I think he is probably right here. But a debate, and in particular a debate in a University, is the last thing that should be censored: precisely because it is a debate, and it is a University (as Joseph Shaw also points out, here.) Such censorship should only be exercised in extremis.

Free speech is one of those things, like democracy itself, which is a secondary good; making it into an ultimate good is heresy - or even idolatry, setting it up as a False God. 

Everyone, in practice, except the extraordinarily unreflective or the ideologically extreme, agrees with some censorship.

The question is, what are the right mechanisms for censorship, and ultimately, who gets to decide.

In a parliamentary democracy, the idea is that an elected parliament is the least worst solution to that problem. It is not ideal - and our current parliamentarians who seem dedicated to pushing the voting public into the arms of rabble-rousing populists by their unprincipled approach exemplify why - but it is certainly better than students whose intellectual development seems to be limited to slogans that can be printed on a Student Union T-shirt - and the Christ Church censors who caved in to their threats.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Scone College

'Have you at any time been detained in a mental home or similar institution? If so, give particulars.'
'I was at Scone College, Oxford, for two years,' said Paul.

Evelyn WaughDecline and Fall

And that is almost all I have to say about the idiocies emanating from Oxford's Student Union Women's Campaign and their friends.

The only other comment I have to offer is about language.

Language matters. And the language used in this instance has been very revealing of what passes for thought in some quarters. Consider the ugly circumlocution 'people with uteruses.' Consider  'cis-gendered.'

What these terms are for is to break down the normal understanding of human sexes. By normal, I mean the understanding that has been prevalent for centuries, and is still near universal today, except in small communities of a particular type of enlightened liberal, and is grounded both in a humane anthropology and biological reality.

So while it may seem like a courtesy to those who feel affronted by the fact that they are abnormal to use such terms, (and I include both 'heterosexual' and 'gay' in this list), I think it colludes with a set of assumptions about human nature that are, to say the least, unproven; and are in my view inimical to civilised society, which is founded on the normal family.

It is, in fact, the idea of normality that is under attack - and we cede that at great cost.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

How to combat such barbarism?

I have been pondering how to respond to the barbaric idiocy emanating from Oxford, from those who successfully campaigned to stop a debate. But nothing I could write could demonstrate the paucity of their thinking as clearly as their own utterances, which have been fairly widely covered. 

So how does one combat such barbarism? I think poetry might be the best answer. So here I re-publish various pro-life poems I have come across over the years. 

the mother 

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,   
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,   
The singers and workers that never handled the air.   
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,   
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.   
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?   
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you

Gwendolyn Brooks



The law's been passed and I am lying low 
Hoping to hide from those who think they are 
Kindly, compassionate. My step is slow. 
I hurry. Will the executioner 
Be watching how I go? 

Others about me clearly feel the same. 
The deafest one pretends that she can hear. 
The blindest hides her white stick while the lame 
Attempt to stride. Life has become so dear. 
Last time the doctor came, 

All who could speak said they felt very well. 
Did we imagine he was watching with 
A new deep scrutiny? We could not tell. 
Each minute now we think the stranger Death 
Will take us from each cell 

For that is what our little rooms now seem 
To be. We are prepared to bear much pain, 
Terror attacks us wakeful, every dream 
Is now a nightmare. Doctor's due again.
We hold on to the gleam 

Of sight, a word to hear. We act, we act, 
And doing so we wear our weak selves out. 
We said, "We want to die" once when we lacked 
The chance of it. We wait in fear and doubt. 
O life, you are so packed 

With possibility. Old age seems good. 
The ache, the anguish - we could bear them we 
Declare. The ones who pray plead with their God 
To turn the murdering ministers away, 
But they come softly shod.

Elizabeth Jennings


By the Babe Unborn

                If trees were tall and grasses short,
                  As in some crazy tale,
                If here and there a sea were blue
                  Beyond the breaking pale,
                If a fixed fire hung in the air
                  To warm me one day through,
                If deep green hair grew on great hills,
                  I know what I should do.
                In dark I lie; dreaming that there
                  Are great eyes cold or kind,
                And twisted streets and silent doors,
                  And living men behind.
                Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
                  And leave to weep and fight,
                Than all the ages I have ruled
                  The empires of the night.
                I think that if they gave me leave
                  Within the world to stand,
                I would be good through all the day
                  I spent in fairyland.
                They should not hear a word from me
                  Of selfishness or scorn,
                If only I could find the door,
                  If only I were born.

G.K. Chesterton


Unto Us...

Somewhere at some time
They committed themselves to me
And so, I was!
Small, but I WAS!
Tiny, in shape
Lusting to live
I hung in my pulsing cave.

Soon they knew of me
My mother --my father.
I had no say in my being
I lived on trust
And love
Tho' I couldn't think
Each part of me was saying
A silent 'Wait for me
I will bring you love!'

I was taken
Blind, naked, defenseless
By the hand of one
Whose good name
Was graven on a brass plate
in Wimpole Street,
and dropped on the sterile floor
of a foot operated plastic waste
There was no Queens Counsel
To take my brief.

The cot I might have warmed
Stood in Harrod's shop window.
When my passing was told
My father smiled.
No grief filled my empty space.
My death was celebrated
With tickets to see Danny la Rue
Who was pretending to be a woman
Like my mother was. 

Spike Milligan

A baby's view of abortion

I came as tomorrow
Swaddled in innocence
To your warm womb
Without your choice
Or mine
Destined to up date
With time
Our human tree
But before love
Grew into flesh and words
What is unfinished creation-
A precipitation of blood
Became my transcendence. 

yoonoos peerbocus


I hope any publishers whose copyright I am infringing will be mollified by the fact that I am bringing these poets to the attention of a wider audience - and that all of these poems are already available freely on the internet.

Monday 17 November 2014

Oh, that was it...

I have just remembered one of the things I had meant to include in my previous post. (One of the many characteristics I share with ++Nichols is forgetfulness....).

But I read this passage in Sheed's wonderful To Know Christ Jesus, and it seemed very à propos:

They were a strange lot, these eleven; and they would be succeeded by men stranger than themselves. He who had foreseen Peter's denials and the flight of the men he had chosen, also foresaw popes like Benedict IX and John XII, foresaw whole hierarchies moving into heresy or cowering before rulers; he foresaw you and me. Yet this was his choice - the gifts of truth and life should come through these men and their successors; in union with them, we are in union with him all days until the end of the world.

If you have not read Sheed, you should! (If you have, you should re-read him...)

More hopeful reflections

I blogged a bit about some reasons for hope yesterday, but got distracted by domestics while writing (domestic issues, not domestic servants, since you ask). So the thoughts were not as well formulated, or as comprehensive, as I had planned.

So today, whilst occupied with other duties, I remembered several other points I had intended to make, and indeed some of the pithy and engaging ways in which I was going to put them across.

However, now I finally have the time to sit and write, all those words, they seem to slip away. 

Still, I will do what I can to articulate them - and as with yesterday's post, this is as much a memo to self as anything else.

But I really do think that there are more reasons for being hopeful than I mentioned yesterday.

One is simply that the battle lines are much clearer now. There are more bishops unmistakably on the side of orthodoxy, and others more clearly taking up mistaken positions. That in itself is an improvement, I think, on the more confused state of affairs over the last decades.

There is also the fact that the confused generation of those who lived through the turmoil of the changes of the 60s and 70s are no longer the only, or even the dominant, voice in the Church.

There is the rise of the strongly orthodox leadership from the less privileged parts of the globe, forged in the fire of real faith and real persecution, who see the dilettante posturing of some liberal bishops in North Western Europe and the US for what it is.

There is the growing number of young people committed to orthodoxy, unscarred by old battles, who look at tradition without jaundice and see much that is good there.

There are even in the decadent NW Europe, and US, several courageous bishops who really believe, and who are leading their flock, despite the opposition of some of their peers.

There are countless good and holy priests and religious, quietly getting on with their vocations.

And there is a growing body of laity, increasingly connecting with each other, supporting and encouraging each other, whether formally through some of the new movements or informally through friendships and even the samizdat of social media; families who are finding that they are not, in fact, alone in striving to raise their kids as Catholic in a rather more comprehensive way than is normative in the average parish.

And, as Mother Teresa remarked, we are not required to win - only to remain faithful...

And the gates of Hell shall not prevail.

Sunday 16 November 2014

So what hope is there?

In my most recent post, I said that my next would be on hope.

In the absolute sense, of course, Hope is foundational to Catholicism.  But I was being more specific than that, and thinking of the current crisis in the Church in this country.

Of course, our hope is always grounded in the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord, His Redemptive Work, and His promises to us. We know that the victory has been won, and that whilst the skirmishes continue, there is no doubt about the outcome. Our job is to make sure that we are on the right side, and to bring as many with us as we possibly can.

Nonetheless, when we find ourselves in a crisis where a number of the hierarchy have forfeited our trust, and many priests and even bishops seem to be in de facto schism with the Church, it is easy to be disheartened.

So it helps me to take stock of our reasons for hope, even in such times.

As well as the fundamental ones already mentioned, I think there are many more we can consider. For example, it is easy to imagine that the problems we face are unprecedented; but in fact the reverse is the case. A brief consideration of the Arian heresy, universally, or the Reformation, locally, will serve to remind us that bishops can go off the rails.

(Someone had a go at me recently for failing to trust the bishops 'appointed by the Holy Father.' I thought that odd. In the light of both history, and indeed the recent +Conry scandal, it is clear that bishops can and do go off the rails; moreover, to imagine that the Holy Father appoints bishops other than based on the information he receives from those who know the candidates, seems odd to me. It is not St John Paul I think was remiss in the appointment of +Conry...)

But to return to my theme, in both the crises I mentioned, it was the lay faithful who kept the Faith.

Moreover, what we face now is not, in fact, as grave a crisis as either of those. We have several bishops in England and Wales who are  trustworthy, and who do work tirelessly to pass on the Faith as they have received it.

Also, it is not outside the wisdom of Providence that we are born in this place and in this time. Rather than lose heart, we should give thanks for everything, always.

Moreover, it is not my responsibility, as a lay man, to govern the Church in this country. My priorities start with my personal salvation, my responsibilities of state as a husband and father, and my professional, parish and social relationships. Beyond that, of course, I do have responsibilities in the wider Church: but the fact that I do not see how to get the Church in E&W back on track should not weigh too heavily upon me.

If I discharge my immediate responsibilities with Faith, Hope and Charity, then I am in fact doing the larger part of my duty. If I want to do more, all well and good, but I should not lose sight of those first priorities: and they are things that I can have a direct impact on.

So whilst I will continue to decry the sorry state of the CBCEW, and to ponder what can usefully be done, I will try not to allow that to distract me from what I should really be doing: in the sure and certain hope that salvation is won for me, and freely offered, if I just accept the graces being poured out on me.

Now, I had a talent buried around here somewhere; perhaps I'd better try to dig it up and put it to work.

Friday 14 November 2014

So what do I make of ++Nichols?

A number of my friends has (sic: tpot - ed.) been contacting me recently to ask what I make of Cardinal Nichols, in the light of my recent posts (see here). Do I think he is apostate? Do I think he is just a coward?

The answer, clearly, is 'Who am I to judge?' That is a correct answer, in this case. I have no access to the inner workings of his mind; and it is not, in any case, my job to judge his intentions or his moral qualities. Another honest answer is that I do not know.

However, what I do know, and what I believe we are entitled, and possibly obliged, to reach a judgement on, is whether I think his speech, actions and omissions provide leadership which we should follow. I do not think that they do.

I have no notion whether he is a good man; I believe he is not a good Bishop. That is, I do not think that he is discharging the responsibilities of his office well. I do not know why that may be the case, and that is not my business. 

What I have concluded is, in any case, a grave judgement to reach, and I do not reach it lightly. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task, 'to preach the Gospel of God to all men', in keeping with the Lord's command. They are 'heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers' of the apostolic faith 'endowed with the authority of Christ.' §888 There is lots more, besides.

It is, of course, a high and difficult vocation, and I am sure that those who are elevated to the episcopacy are subject to diabolic attacks far beyond those visited upon ordinary laity; so bishops need and deserve our prayers and support.

Nonetheless, it seems abundantly clear to me that ++Nichols simply does not meet the description of his role found in the Catechism. His famous: 'Who knows what's down the road?' does not preach the Gospel, but obfuscates it; and it seems to me to be typical of many of his utterances, both in public and in private correspondence. He is gravely implicated in the +Conry scandal and others, and seems happy to pass those off simply with platitudes about praying for everybody. He seems to operate as a politician, rather than a spiritual leader.

What, then, should we do?

In the first instance, we should continue to pray for him, and for all our bishops.

But I think the time for embarrassed silence about episcopal failings (if ever that was appropriate) is past. It was that which allowed the +Conry scandal to go on for so long, damaging so many people. It is the same virtue-turned-to-vice (ie loyalty and discretion turned to collusion) that allowed the clerical abuse scandal; and it continues to eat away at the Church with every blind eye turned to priests and bishops behaving scandalously. 

We, too, have a duty to preach the Gospel, and if anyone teaches a Gospel different to the one we have received from the Apostles, we cannot collude by our silence; even if motivated by loyalty or a fear of scandal.

So I don't need to know why ++Nichols is so keen on the militant LGBT agenda of the Queering the Church lobby; or why he thinks it acceptable for CAFOD to operate against Catholic teaching; or why he thinks 'Oh dear, let's pray,' is a sufficient response to the +Conry scandal; or why ...  (but you can read my previous posts for the full litany). 

His motivations are not the issue: what is at issue is that people risk being misled into thinking that homosexual relationships are compatible with the Faith; that Humanae Vitae is optional teaching; and so on. Here, the laity has a responsibility to stand up and say that the Cardinal is wrong, if that is the effect of his silence and ambiguities. For a bishop has no authority separate from the Roman Pontiff (CCC 883), and the Holy Father is, of course, as he has assured us, a loyal son of the Church, and therefore, of course, loyal to its teachings as expressed in the Catechism and elsewhere.

I should say that I have asked my own bishop if I had got this all wrong, or if there were any reasons of prudence or charity that meant I should hold my peace about all this: he did not answer those questions directly, but referred me to the Cardinal in his role as Chair of the Conference. So I asked the Cardinal the same questions: he too did not answer them (or indeed any of my questions) directly. 

So I am thrown back on my own judgement. I feel as though I asked my spiritual fathers for bread and was tossed a stone.

This seems a bleak place to have arrived at: but there is always hope - and that will be the subject of my next post.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Nichols contra mundum

Today I was flattered to be asked to compère the finals of The Pastoral Challenge, in which one man takes on leading figures from the history of the Church, to see who can come up with the most pastoral responses to a range of topical questions.

Ben (as question master): A member of your flock asks you about homosexual relations, and whether the Church will ever sanction gay marriage. How do you reply?

Paul, Tarsus: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Ben: Sorry, Paul: that's not quite the Pastoral tone we seek these days. Who else?

Basil, CaesariaHe who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers...

Ben: No, no, no! You're really not getting this. Who can show them how it's done?

Nichols, Westminster: Who knows what's down the road?

Ben: That's more like it. So one point to Nichols, rest of the world nil.  On to our next question: Someone suggests that those living in open and manifest sin should not receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. How do you handle that one?

Paul, Tarsus: Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

Ben: Oh dear, oh dear...

John Paul, Wadowice: Anyone conscious of grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.

Ben: I'm sorry, you're still not getting the hang of this. Any other approaches? What might you say to such a person?

Nichols, Westminster: Hold your tongue!

Ben: The perfect Pastoral response! That's Nichols 2, the rest of the world nil.  And so, on to our third question. One of your flock asks you about personal sin, and whether it is something we should worry about.

Matthew, Capernaum: The Lord said: If thy right eye is an occasion of thy falling into sin, pluck it out and cast it away from thee; better to lose one part of thy body, than to have the whole cast into Hell. And if thy right hand is an occasion of falling, cut it off, and cast it away from thee; better to lose one of thy limbs than to have thy whole body cast into hell.

Ben: I'm still not quite hearing that Pastoral note we are looking for. Anyone?

Nichols, Westminster: I think all that talk of sin was a misguided attempt to motivate people.

Ben: We're heading for a whitewash here: it's Nichols 3, the rest of the world, nil. And finally, on a more self reflecting note: someone suggests that you may have betrayed your Lord. How do you respond?

Peter, Bethsaida: (weeps, bitterly).

Nichols, Westminster: I honestly can't remember.

Ben (enthusistically): The perfect response, yet again. So a complete whitewash there, with Nichols of Westminster routing a world team with a score of five:nil.

Friday 7 November 2014

Still banging on about Brook

I continue to ponder the iniquitous Brook, about the evils of which (or should it be of whom?) I have recently blogged here and here.

In their statement in defence of their perverse Traffic Lights Tool, they say both that: 'Most young people under the age of 16 do not have sex' and also that 'The tool includes sexual activity as ... a green activity in the 13-17 age category, ... because there is a spectrum of normal behaviour.'

Maybe I am over-literal, but if most young people are not having sex, in what sense is it a normal behaviour? It can only mean, it seems to me, that Brook regard it as normal, in the face of the statistical evidence to the contrary. And by normal, they mean acceptable, and probably desirable (see their wwwsite for details of their Sex+Positive Campaign).

And whilst Simon Blake, the Chief Executive, seems at the Select Committee to suggest that Brook in no way encourages under-age sex, that claim also rings false. 'Most young people under the age of 16 do not have sex. Those that do need appropriate help, advice and support from well trained professionals.' But it is quite clear that such 'appropriate help, advice and support' is in fact the provision of condoms, the reassurance that their behaviour is normal, and the facilitation of abortions when the contraception fails - from which Brook, of course, makes substantial profits. And consider this, from their advice pages on their website: 'If you are under 16 and you are having sex, it is less likely that you will get into trouble if there is not a large age difference between you and your partner, you both consent (i.e are happy to have sex) and there’s no evidence of any exploitation.'

Likewise, Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said: 'What I was saying was that it's really, really important that a dictatorial-from-the-front lesson on what one should and shouldn't do is less likely to have an impact and I think we've got to start from where children are, their reality.'

That is almost the battle-cry of those who are trying to sexualise our children. It has a surface plausibility - until you consider whether they would apply it to behaviour of which they really disapprove. I would wager my mortgage that neither Hayman nor Blake would say of, say racism, or homophobic bullying: Those that do need appropriate help, advice and support from well trained professionals, or still less: it's really, really important that a dictatorial-from-the-front lesson on what one should and shouldn't do is less likely to have an impact and I think we've got to start from where children are, their reality.

We are only non-judgemental (in that sense) when we think no judgement is necessary.

Frankly, these people are unknowingly the stooges of the Evil One: they need our prayers, our pity, and our strongest possible opposition.

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.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Further ruminations on Brook

I posted recently about the evil that is Brook.

I have a few further thoughts to offer.

One is the disingenuousness, if not downright duplicity, of Simon Blake, the Chief Executive, in the select committee hearing to which I referred.

Frequently, the assumption was made in the conversation that delaying the onset of sexual relations was one of the goals of SRE. Simon Blake behaved as though he agreed with that; but it is in fact no part of Brook's agenda or intention, as their own material makes quite clear. But making that equally clear in that company on that occasion did not suit Blake's political intentions for that meeting, so he remained silent and nodded along, as though he agreed. That struck me as dishonest.

Secondly, I was pleased to see that Sarah Carter of the Family Education Trust had been invited to the Select Committee to give oral evidence; she raised the issue of the Traffic Light Toolkit to which I had referred, and that was subsequently reported by the BBC, the Daily Telegraph, the Independent, the Daily Mail, and the Mirror.

Her comments prompted a very defensive response in the Select Committee from Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association. He said, inter alia:
There's no one in our community who feels we should be trying to sexualise children, or any of those kinds of things.
What we want is children to develop healthy and safe relationships and it's really important that teachers are provided with the necessary training in order to do that.
However, it strikes me (and not only me) that the second part of that statement negates the first: because the philosophy and approach used to develop what he and his ideological allies believe to be healthy and safe behaviours involves sexualising children; not least because they think that 'consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability' is normal behaviour for thirteen year olds.

I think he realised he was on a sticky wicket, as he then tried to distance himself and his organisation from Brook's traffic lights, saying that it was difficult for him to be accountable for every piece of information linked to in the PSHE Association's supplementary guidance, which has many links within it. 

Brook themselves are also on the defensive over this, releasing a statement saying that the tool was not meant for SRE. But that does not explain why it is linked to on the website as a resource for teachers of SRE... Nor does it explain why behaviour that is 'red' for 9-13 year olds is 'green' (rather than at least amber) for 13- 17 year olds.

Of course, Brook have an agenda, and even if the traffic light tool is not used in schools, it is part of a process of shaping expectations and understandings to make underage sex accepted; and will doubtless be followed by a call to 'de-criminalise' it - a call that is to reduce the age of consent, which of course exists precisely to protect children from abuse and the very sexualisation which this lobby claims not to want, but behaves as though it wants very much indeed.

Now is a good time to keep the pressure on Brook: Write to your MP, letting him or her know about this. Write to your schools, expressing your concern and asking about their programmes, and specifically whether the Brook Traffic Light approach to safeguarding is used. If your children are in a Catholic school, don't assume it is any better. Write to your bishop and the CES and ask for concrete assurances.

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.